At some point this morning, we’ll hear about lines and pairings at practice in Dallas. I’ll be watching for the location of Nail Yakupov, who looked good with phenom Connor McDavid in a small sample size in Nashville. Todd McLellan spent training camp and game one using Nail in a lesser role and some may feel that was unwise. For me, I think Yak needed to know he had a role on the team, he wasn’t going to get jostled around (as he had in the past) and that his chores were well understood.
Nail is a more confident player now to my eye. I’m not going to get into whether or not Dallas Eakins was good or bad, but sometimes in youth we have to experience things, get outside our comfort zone, in order to see things in a new light. Todd McLellan appears to have established some rapport with Nail, and also given him a role on the team that he owns.
If Yak lines up with McDavid and Benoit Pouliot this morning, and things fail to click? Nail has that job back on the Anton Lander line, there’s no worry about a HS or playing with lesser forwards.
PLACE AND CHASE
I’m noticing the Oilers forwards—even the skill guys—are doing more of a dump and chase these days. Actually, it’s more ‘Place and Chase’ with Yak and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being the best so far at the discipline. Finding that sweet spot where the winner of the race to the puck is actually in doubt is an interesting strategy. The great thing about establishing it? If the Oilers place and chase enough, it will allow for more carries into the zone under control. Why? Edmonton will be less predictable, for the first time in God knows. Yak looks like he has this portion of Todd McLellan’s game down, he’s learning the lessons put in front of him. It was never (imo) about not buying in, Nail Yakupov has always been eager to please. It was (again imo) about the way the lessons were delivered and the message getting through—not just for now, but for the long term. Communication is a difficult thing. I believe McLellan may be a very good fit for Nail Yakupov, and vice versa.
PETER CHIARELLI’S BOSTON BLUE PERIOD
Peter Chiarelli took over the Boston Bruins (as GM) on May 26, 2006. The Bruins final game of the 2005-06 season featured the following pairings:
- Brad Stuart—Mark Stuart
- Brian Leetch—Milan Jurcina
- Todd Gill—Andrew Alberts
That’s a mixture of ancient, slow, inexperienced and Brad Stuart. Chiarelli had a very active summer, and by opening night 2006-07, the blue had a different look:
- Paul Mara—Brad Stuart
- Zdeno Chara—Andrew Alberts
- Jason York—Nathan Dempsey
Only Brad Stuart and Andrew Alberts remained (the Oilers blue didn’t get that kind of treatment!) as Chiarelli added two substantial pieces and changed the look of the blue line in one summer. By March 1, 2007—after the trade deadline—the Bruins had morphed again:
- Zdeno Chara—Aaron Ward
- Andrew Ference—Andrew Alberts
- Bobby Allen—Dennis Wideman
The quick-change artist turned it over again, this time giving the roster a veteran look while also allowing Boston to get a look at two younger players (Allen and Alberts didn’t work out long term).
PETER CHIARELLI’S EDMONTON BLUE RECORD
Let’s start by going back and looking at Edmonton’s pairings at the end of the 2014-15 season. This is the Todd Nelson crew that lost 6-5 in Vancouver April 2015:
- Oscar Klefbom—Justin Schultz
- Martin Marincin—David Musil
- Keith Aulie—Brandon Davidson
It was a ragtag group to be sure, Jeff Petry had already been sent away. Now, let’s look at the opening night lineup for 2015-16 and compare it to the massive turnover (four out of six) in Boston in Chiarelli’s first year:
- Oscar Klefbom—Justin Schultz
- Andrej Sekera—Mark Fayne
- Griffin Reinhart—Eric Gryba
Three men returned from the previous season, with Chiarelli keeping an entire pairing plus the veteran Mark Fayne. I believe (others don’t agree, believing instead the big changes will occur in free agency next summer) we’re going to see some in-season changes to this roster.
Matt Irwin? We’ll see today. Mark Fayne? Yes, I do believe we’re going to see a change out there at some point in time. It should also be noted that Chiarelli acquired and then traded Paul Mara in less than a season, so we might see some movement on the new players, too.
This isn’t settled, nor should it be. I will say it’s early for a big deal but the opportunities sometimes arise at unusual times. This is an interesting year.