With the 2016-17 season in the books, I wanted to take a minute to write a letter to my beloved Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to give him some homework and words of inspiration to take into the summer.
This is a hard letter for me to write because I think you know how much I love you. You may not RT or favourite any of my Nuge-related tweets, but I know for a fact that you’ve seen some of them. Ever since the day you were drafted, I believed that you were going to be a big part of turning this franchise around and that you had the ability to be a real difference maker on the ice. Hell, I even made you a #NugeForCalder video that was viewed more than 10,000 times on YouTube and I wasn’t even working here yet. That’s love.
Listen, I’m not going to sugarcoat this – you didn’t have a great year. You know it and I know it. That being said, I’m not one of the people that have already forgotten the better times. Two seasons ago, you set a career high in goals with 24 and also hit 56 points for the second straight year, and some people were talking about whether or not you should be named as captain. At 24 years old, you’ve already hit the 50 point mark three times in your young six-year career, and I think it’s something you should be proud of, but that doesn’t mean you can just rest on your laurels. You have to get better.
- You need to lock yourself in your parent’s basement and practice your shot accuracy. You led the Oilers in shots on net in the first round and finished the playoffs tied for second, but you couldn’t cash in. I want 1000 shots per day all summer long, okay?
- Can we talk about face-offs? Because you’re not very good at them. Now, I’m not going to say that you’re horrible because there are some good players on either side of you in terms of faceoff win% percentage, but settling for mediocrity isn’t the answer. Hire a coach, get a friend to drop pucks, lock your bedroom door and work on your forearms. Just do what you have to do to get better.
- Have you volunteered to play on the wing? I assume Petey (pretty bird) is going to do everything he can to get rid of 💩 this summer and that means the 2L/R spot will be open for experimentation if anyone struggles. With the way the silver fox loves loading up centremen on the wings, I wonder what you would look like riding shotgun with Connor or Leon? If Joe Pavelski can play on the wing then so can you, and I’d bet that you’d do a damned fine job of it too.
- I know people have told you since your first day in the league that you need to get stronger, but I want you to start working on your skating again. I remember your rookie season when your edgework and speed was one of your biggest assets, and I think you got away from that shifty style that made you so tough to defend. Now that the upper body strength is more line with where it needs to be I want to see you darting in and out of traffic again. Cool? Cool.
- I know you’re super into horses, and that’s cool to have hobbies, but you’re getting paid some major cheddar to play hockey and that has to be your focus. I spoke to a family friend that is in the world of breeding and selling horses and they told me how much work it can be and how much time it takes to do a good job. While it’s great to have hobbies you need to focus on what pays you $6 million per year. Besides, horses will still be a thing when you’re retired. Think about it.
Now, before you start feeling down and think that your #1 fanboy has turned on you I want you to know that it’s just not true. The improvements you’ve made on your two-way game have not gone unnoticed, and your willingness to accept a new role when Connor got to town showed a level of maturity that I don’t think I would have been able to manage. The way you shut down Thornton/Pavelski in the first round of the playoffs was a big reason that the team was able to move on, and there’s a place on this team for that kind of play. The problem comes when the points stop, and that’s what I need you to work on.
Most importantly, I want you to know that you’re still my special little man on this hockey team and I truly hope that I haven’t watched you play your last game in Oiler silks. If Swag Daddy Chiarelli can keep the budget in check then having Connor, Leon, and yourself up the middle is depth that any team would want to have. I know that you can do this. You’ve got the skills to pay the bills, and if you can show the kind of love for hockey that you do for your horses then that’s the kind of boost the team needs so that we can start planning parade routes.
I’m not saying you have to be “the guy” anymore, but you have to play like you still want to be the guy. Otherwise, you can call Taylor and ask how cool it was to watch the Oilers winning playoff games rather than playing in them.
I believe in you and now I need you to believe in yourself even half as much as I do.
Peace and love,
NUGENT-HOPKINS’ CAREER SO FAR