Darnell Nurse Injured for up to 12 Weeks

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The Edmonton Oilers announced new details about Darnell Nurse’s health on Monday. The second-year defencemen will miss as much as the next 12 weeks of action after undergoing surgery on his leg.

Assuming that Nurse takes the full 12 weeks to recover, that puts his return date to the lineup near the start of March, with the game against the New York Islanders on March 7 as the exact outer marker. In some ways, that’s not a terrible time to get a player back; the Oilers will still have more than 15 games left in the season, which would mean that Nurse effectively functions as a trade deadline addition. 

Still, there’s no question that this is bad news.

Nurse’s play had been erratic in his rookie year. He started strongly, but after a promotion up the depth chart he quickly showed he wasn’t ready for that increased responsibility. This year, he’s been kept in a third-pairing role and for the most part has excelled. His shot metrics are quite strong and while he’s still prone to the occasional defensive gaffe he’s been much more polished in front of his own net. 

Particularly encouraging is the fact that he’s played well with very different partners. Edmonton’s third pair has seen both Eric Gryba and Matt Benning on the right side for extended periods, and despite vastly differing skillsets Nurse was effective with both players. 

Nobody ever wishes injury on an NHL’er, but that’s especially so for a young player who seems to be coming into his own. 

From a team perspective, this isn’t great news, but it could be worse. 

The return of Brandon Davidson and Eric Gryba will go a long way toward replenishing Edmonton’s depth, which has been tested with all of the injuries on the blue line. Davidson in particular should be able to slide right into the third pair LD role without missing a beat. For much of the summer, the question was how the Oilers would fit all of their left-shot defencemen on to the roster, but with first Davidson and now Nurse hurt it actually looks like they have just the right amount.

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Then there’s the fact that the team’s stopgap players have actually performed pretty well. 

Matt Benning has been shockingly good after being signed as a free agent, and I don’t think it would surprise anybody if he relegates Gryba to the pressbox on a lot of nights, particularly since he brings a puckmoving element that is still in short supply on Edmonton’s back end.

Yet the depth goes beyond that. Dillon Simpson recently became the 10th defencemen to dress for the Oilers in this young season and didn’t look out of place; I doubt the team will hesitate to turn to him again if injuries warrant. Jordan Oesterle, David Musil and Griffin Reinhart all have yet to play a game with the big club and every member of that trio has been pressed into service at one point or other over the last few seasons. 

From a personal and development perspective, the loss of Nurse is a major negative. But in terms of winning games over the next few months, the Oilers have to feel good about their ability to fill his spot in the lineup. 

  • bcoil

    Last year this would have been devastating but thanks to Peter’s summer work and the development of our young talent in the AHL we have some depth on the defensive corps.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Sucks.

    But you’re right that the stopgap players have exceeded expectations. Credit to management for going into the season with too many options for the bottom-pairing: Davidson, Fayne, Nurse, Benning, Reinhart, Gryba, Russell, Simpson, Musil, etc.

    Most of us thought they were too crowded here (and obviously it would’ve been better to be crowded in the top-4), but the depth is paying off.

    PS: Matt Benning 4ever!

    • Boom or Bust

      This clueless troll is just bored guys…he should be pitied more then anything….he has no one to talk to on flames nation…the other night they killed Winnipeg…there was 36 comment.thats all!!! Most were from the same 10 people….thats got to hurt…he just wants to be heard…poor little confused guy!!

  • TKB2677

    As much as people aren’t a huge fan of him as a player, I am sure glad that Chia signed Russell for 1 year. I don’t think he fills ultimately what the Oilers need, I think he plays a little too much and moving forward, I don’t see him as a fit. But having a vet that can play is really paying off.

    Moving forward, once Davidson gets up to speed, I wonder what the pairing will be?

    Like I said, I think Russell plays too much. So I would much rather Russell be in the 3rd pairing and one of Benning or Davidson in the second pairing. I thought Benning actually played really well so I would go with Sekera and Benning, then Russell and Davidson.

    • MacT's Neglected Helmet

      Totally agree.

      It’s hilarious how much attention Russell is getting. You can debate his effectiveness, but he’s an NHL dman. And those are pretty valuable when you have as many injuries as we’ve had (Davidson, Gryba, Fayne, Nurse).

      Put another way, would you rather have Russell on this roster or an extra $3M in Katz’ wallet?

      And if you’re now thinking, “Yea! But what if they give him a longterm contract???” then my advice would be, “fine, let’s argue about it then”.

      • TKB2677

        What people who hate on Russell forget/ignore is Russell is allowing the young players to either be in the minors or play 3rd pairing minutes. Nurse before getting hurt was on the 3rd pairing which is exactly where he should be and it was paying off. They weren’t playing Gryba 18 mins a night, he was 3rd pairing. When injuries came and the likes of Simpson had to come up, he started in the minors and was allowed to play 3rd pairing mins and did well.

        While Russell isn’t great, he’s a serviceable NHLer which for this seasons allows guys to be more properly slotted. How many years have we all seen the Oilers being so thin on defense that as soon as an injury happens, a player like Simpson who might be getting close but isn’t completely NHL ready, is brought up to play and the Oilers have to play a kid who’s not ready for it, 18 mins a night in his first game and he gets his head kicked in. I have thought that Simpson in his first 3 games was pretty good. BUT he played just under 8 mins the first game, just over 11 mins in the second and not quite 14 mins the 3rd game. Right where he should be.

  • btrain

    This is brutal but it has got me thinking. What to do if all the D are, by some miracle, healthy and playing well when Nurse returns? Who do you pull out? Now here is a thought, what do people think of throwing him on the wing? With his skill set, he could potentially be a great power forward. Unlike many power forwards, he also has fantastic speed and agility to go with his size. Anyway, just a thought. He looked pretty good on that 2 on 1 with McDavid during the outdoor game when he buried the feed. Perhaps like Burns and Byfuglien, this would help further develop Nurse’s offensive instincts for when he returns to the point. May be a good way to ease him back from injury as well. A Lucic McDavid-Nurse line sounds pretty intimidating to me!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_ls3dgcXbM

  • madjam

    Nurse probably out for the year unless we make playoffs , by the time he gets ready to re enter and conditioning into the NHL . To bad we lose a lot of truculence and physical play from him not being in lineup . Only positive is savings from his bonus clauses ,that he is unlikely to get now .

  • T Ambrosini

    Not great news but there are a couple of young men who are looking to take up the slack. Hope Davidson is ready to go and we see more of Dillon Simpson. The former will be working to get back into the mix, the latter looking to show he is ready for steady employment in the NHL.

    Depth is a good thing