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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – RNH playing himself out of trade talks?

My friends, it’s that time of the week where we all gather round as a Nation and learn a little something about hockey and life. As always, I’ve sent your Oilers (or unrelated) questions to our panel of wise men and waited for the pearls of wisdom to get spit out. If you have a question for the mailbag, you can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Enjoy.

Oct 24, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

1) Henry asks – To your eye, what is Darnell Nurse doing this season that he maybe wasn’t doing a year ago?

Jason Gregor:

Just a more calm overall game. He doesn’t panic with the puck on his stick and is making more plays. Now when he enters the offensive zone he is making plays and not rushing or panicking. I chalk it up to more experience and maturity.

Robin Brownlee:

Playing with more confidence. Making better decisions about when to rush the puck and when to move it. Playing with usual tenacity but more under control defensively. Just showing more polish in almost every area.

Lowetide:

He’s a year older and a year stronger. Nurse was thrust into a prominent role at 20 and it probably hindered his development in year one. Year two he settled in and played well until injured, was less consistent when he came back. This year, he’s more relaxed, passing is stronger, he’s making more good plays. It takes time.

Matt Henderson:

I thought he was doing pretty well last year, but this season he’s passing a little better. It’s more heads up as he reaches his own blue line and making more passing plays than puck transport. At least, that’s how it feels to me without actually looking into the numbers.

Cam Lewis:

The most noticeable thing is calmness and maturity in his game. In the past, it seemed like he was trying too hard to make big plays, largely when it came to throwing a huge hit or making a pinch to join the rush. Now he’s looking composed and making the game to come to him. The tools have always been there for Nurse, it was just a question of figuring the game out at the level.

Chris the Intern:

He looks faster, his hands are better, his shots are harder. He has the same amount of grit and toughness, he jumps in the play a lot still but he seems more successful at it this year. He is all around a better player than last year and it’s amazing to watch his development.

Baggedmilk:

I think ol’ Darryl is figuring out how to play in the NHL and it’s giving him confidence. To me, he’s making smarter choices on the ice than what we saw last year and that’s very encouraging. He’s also doing a good job of picking his spots to jump in on the play and that’s been a noticeable improvement. I think there’s still a ways to go before he maxes out, but this season has been encouraging.

Nov 3, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) skates with the puck against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Mitch asks – Do you think the recent offensive upside to RNH’s game stops the trade bait rumours or cements his imminent departure from the team?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t think 15 games changes anything either way for any player. However, RNH has answered the challenge of his coach to think more offensively and be creative. He is valuable and until the Oilers get some more proven NHL scorers, not hoping a prospect can score, then I see no reason to even consider trading him.

Robin Brownlee:

Neither. People outside-the-know will talk no matter what — “he’s terrible, get rid of him or he’s playing great, now is the time to trade him.” Good teams don’t trade away productive centres unless there is a significant return to fill an area of need. If RNH continues to play as he is now — as he did early in his career here — maybe he is the guy to drive the second line and McDavid and Draisaitl can stay together. Lots of possibilities.

Lowetide:

It depends on several things, mostly to do with the cap. Edmonton no doubt wants to keep Nuge, but the cap number next summer will have a lot to do with it. If the club signs Patrick Maroon, as an example, that might squeeze Nuge out.

Matt Henderson:

I hope it stops them. He hasn’t looked this good since before he blew up his hand and needed his knuckle reconstructed. The only thing that might prevent him leaving will be an unexpected trade of Lucic later. It’s going to be about money when RNH goes.

Cam Lewis:

15 games isn’t much of a sample size, but RNH has always been sort of an underrated player. I always thought the idea of dealing him, unless it was to actually get a better player, was dumb because it’s so difficult to find good centres. But if he goes ahead and puts up a 60-point season with excellent two-way play, it won’t be easy for management to let him go. Then again, who knows with Chiarelli.

Chris the Intern:

I honestly don’t even know anymore. Chiarelli is such a wild card and has become unpredictable. If Nuge is still on the trading block come next off season we BETTER get something worth it in return or I will riot.

Baggedmilk:

I really hope so. That said, if you look at who the Oilers need to re-sign, who’s unmoveable, and who’s been given a gift of a contract by Chiarelli then something has to give. Do the Oilers walk away from Pat Maroon and Ryan Strome to keep Nuge? Personally, I would but I don’t know that that will happen.

Oct 19, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Patrick Maroon (19) celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

3) Ryan asks – Pretend that you’re Peter Chiarelli for a moment. Would you rather have Maroon or Lucic as your top line left winger next season? How do you think that scenario shakes out?

Jason Gregor:

Don’t see a scenario where Lucic isn’t here. He has NMC so he it is unlikely he agrees to a trade. Maroon is looking good, but his tenure in Edmonton depends on how much money he is willing to sign for and for how long. Would you sign him for longer than three years? I’m curious how the Oilers approach it, especially with Maroon off to a very good start.

Robin Brownlee:

Depends on how much money and term Maroon wants to stay. Don’t want to see a contract as long as Lucic got. Straight up, I take Lucic.

Lowetide:

Lucic has a no movement. The conversation stops there.

Matt Henderson:

That’s not even a choice. I would take Maroon every day of the week. However, if he hasn’t signed a deal by the trade deadline they might be better served in trading him. Lucic’s deal is bolted to the floor of the Oiler dressing room. It’s going to take a miracle, three fingers of gin, and some smooth jazz to get someone else interested in that contract.

Cam Lewis:

Lucic isn’t going anywhere. That decision was made in July 2016. The key now is to find the next Patrick Maroon.

Chris the Intern:

This is a tough question. Right now I’d prefer to have Maroon, however long term I feel like Lucic could be the way to go? Maroon isn’t proven long term yet which is the challenging part. Who knows, he may be able to sustain a 25-goal season for the rest of his career? Or he could become a one-hit wonder like many other guys in the NHL.

Baggedmilk:

I mean, Maroon is doing the same job at a lower cost but how much will a new contract for him look like? Even so, it may be a moot point considering that Lucic’s deal is basically a brick shit house that can’t be moved until the next round of compliance buyouts rolls around.

Apr 12, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) and defensemen Andrej Sekera (2) along with San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski (8) looks for a loose puck during the second period in game one of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Mark asks – I noticed some fans think that Sekera will magically fix the defence when he comes back, but how long do you think it will take him to get up to speed once he does return?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t think the defence has been that bad actually. He will help it, but unless he is a magician I’m not sure how he makes Klefbom play better since they won’t play together. The Oilers defensive zone has been fine for the past few weeks. The team, outside of the top-two lines can’t score. That is the reason they are under .500 at the moment.

I agree it is unrealistic to expect Sekera coming off ACL surgery to jump right back in. The good news is he can return and play with Russell, and they don’t need him to play 21 minutes a night. With Nurse/Larsson pairing playing well they can face the toughest minutes and the 2nd and 3rd pairings can split the second toughest so Sekera can be eased in.

Robin Brownlee:

Who said that? His return will help for sure, but I haven’t head people talk about him as the one, big answer. Coming back from knee surgery is trickier because it keeps players off skates longer than, say, a shoulder injury, but I suspect Sekera will have his game legs back within 10 games.

Lowetide:

That specific injury is difficult and takes a lot of time to recover from completely. We might not see the real Andrej Sekera this season.

Matt Henderson:

I bet it takes at least two weeks before he starts looking normal. And even then, it won’t be for entire games. Here my issue with thinking Sekera will fix all. As bad as Klefbom has had it, he isn’t keeping the bottom six from scoring.

Cam Lewis:

The defence hasn’t been bad I don’t think. But replacing Gryba with Sekera, even if he takes a while to get up to speed, is a pretty massive upgrade. He’ll also make Russell much more effective. With Nurse’s emergence as a top-four defenceman and Sekera’s return, the blueline suddenly looks pretty deep.

Chris the Intern:

My positiveness often gets me into trouble with these questions. I want to say that he’ll save the day the second he jumps onto the ice but in reality it could take him 5-10 games to find his groove again. It’s not impossible for him to come back and make an impact immediately but it’s unlikely.

Baggedmilk:

I bet it takes him at least a month+ to start looking like himself. He had some major surgery and it’s going to take a while to get himself back to where he needs to be. I hope Sekera can summon some Eastern Europeon demon that can speed up the process, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s even possible.

Edmonton Oilers Ryan Smyth celebrates a goal by teammate Jason Smith (not shown) against the Annaheim Ducks during the second period of NHL hockey action at Edmonton’s Rexall Place on Thursday, January 18, 2007.
(CP PHOTO/Jimmy Jeong)

5) AJ asks – Name a player that has never won a Stanley Cup, past or present, that you wish would have won.

Jason Gregor:

Good question. There are many. But I will pick Fernando Pisani, because if he did then that means Wanye and all of Oilersnation would have celebrated like never before and then the Decade of Darkness would have been just a bit easier on Oilersnation.

Robin Brownlee:

Ryan Smyth.

Lowetide:

Ryan Smyth. Not close.

Matt Henderson:

Ryan Smyth.

Cam Lewis:

I would love to see Joe Thornton win one. On a different note but in a similar vein, I’m much more devastated now that Roy Halladay never won a World Series.

Chris the Intern:

A lot of guys come to mind but since we’re on the Oilers train right now I have to say Smytty. How amazing would it be to watch Captain Canada lift that cup and bring it back to Edmonton?

Baggedmilk:

Everyone is saying the guys I would have picked so I’m going to go ahead and say Dwayne Roloson. That 2006 run would have been perfect had it not been for the play that shall not be named. He really stole the show that spring and he deserved a ring for it.

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  • Reinman

    Yea, this is the best example of how Chiarelli has destroyed the future of this team. We are at best an average team, and next year we will likely not even be able to hang on to what we have now. Lucic and Russell deals destroying our budget and the Reinhart deal ruining our pipeline of young cheap talent. Se different from when Chia arrived and we had so much potential and options. I think Chia may have single handedly assured Connor will never raise lord Stanley in Edmonton. His small moves have been pretty good, but his dealing with top assets has been miserable. Sad to think both Russel and Lucic are declining too. Lucic’s style doesn’t fit witht he current NHL game, and Russell is just getting bad. 10 Million dollars. Joke. Then we will trade away RNH for Cal Clutterbuck to fill in our hole on the right side and call it a day. After all, that is what a RW cost these days.

    • camdog

      RnH won’t get traded if he keeps playing like this. RnH is the only skilled player that was liked by the coach and GM when they arrived in town. The cap will move up. Problem is the skill on the wing may continue to suffer until the prospects are ready for the big show.

        • ed from edmonton

          Pool Party and Little Y to name a couple. Both could be productive top 6 players within a year (best case scenario I would say). That would allow the likes of Caggulia and Sleppy to play bottom. If so the lack of speed on the bottom 6 that is a really problem look a lot better.
          I see that Tyler Benson is playing again and is north of PPG in the dub. Still at least 2 years away, but at least something to be positive about.

  • camdog

    The 3 players I’d say have brought it game in game out this season are RnH, Nurse and then Gryba. In the past I’ve been negative about Gryba’s game, but this season he’s been reliable and consistent. Of course this comment/observation needs to be taken with a grain of salt because if Gryba’s in your top 3 of player playing up to their abilities that’s not really a good thing.

    • IRONman

      Nuge is huge. Oilers did way better last game. Yes they are missing assets to win cup but I see a lot of good. 25,93 and 83 are growing. Benning is built for this fast NHL. Lucic had good effort last few games. He was never fast. Wish we had sekera back.

    • ed from edmonton

      This could become a real topic if Nurse continues to trend north and Klef south. At this point Nurse has replaced Klef as the number 1 LHD . The OIl LHD could look like Nurse/Sekera/Russel/Klef which is very impressive. Could we see PC’s philosophy of trading from a position of strength to address a area a weakness cone into play.

  • ed from edmonton

    RNH and Nurse are the two good new stories of the 1st quarter. However, the cap stress that Oil will likely face next year may force to Oil to do something, How this work’s itself out remains to be seen.

  • Serious Gord

    The first question begs another: why has Klefbom regressed so much.

    2. What if the oil are out of the playoffs by the trade deadline and RNH has continued his solid play? Chia could bag a ton of assets- with low cap implications that could really set the table for a couple seasons to come. Therefore if he continues to play well it may in fact INCREASE the likelihood he gets traded.

    3. If the team does fail to make the playoffs and the fans (continue to) single out lucic as a bad deal/ disappointment he may well want to waive the NTC to get out of town. That noted I think maroon is playing worse than lucic and am mystified that he remains on the first line.

    4. Sekera May well help settle down Klefbom when he returns even though they won’t play on the same line. So there may be some benefit there and as he improves his game it will improve team morale by reducing the burden on the other defense especially on the PP.

    5. Easy – the greatest player to never have won one – and the true pioneer of the expansion of the league: Marcel Dionne.

  • Nuge hasn’t solidified his spot 15 games in but right now he’s one of the last people who should be traded. Usually cap dumps are saved for the summer so he should be safe for now. I do think Chiarelli is considering the possibility of keeping him on the team if he continues to play well. Defense hasn’t been that bad and while Sekera won’t magically stop all of our problems there’s no doubt he can stop some of the bleeding. He’s an important vet to the team and provides a good amount of offense from the backend.