Darnell Nurse is a somewhat unique talent on the Edmonton Oilers roster. He brings size, speed and the ability to transport the puck out of the defensive zone, plus a physical edge that borders on 1970’s mean (1970’s mean being good). I’m waiting to see him take that next step, while those who study early results for successful top 4D suggest we should have seen more progress by now. Is Darnell Nurse going to be a third pairing defender for his entire career, or is there something more? (Congregation).
DARNELL NURSE 2016-17
- 5×5 points per 60: 0.81 (3rd among regular defensemen)
- 5×4 points per 60: 0.00 (zero points in 4 minutes)
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 51.0
- Corsi Rel 5×5 %: 0.8
- DFF Elite 5×5 %: 47.4
- DFF Elite Rel 5×5 %: -0.4 (24 percent of TOI v. elites)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 85 shots/5.9%
- Boxcars: 44gp, 5-6-11
- (All numbers via Puck IQ, Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com and hockey-reference)
RE 17-18: 55GP, 4-12-16 (.291)
- Do you think Nurse is making progress? I do, this past season saw progress in a lot of areas. It’s difficult to know how much better he’ll get, some believe he should be more established by now.
- Was Oscar Klefbom better at 21? Klefbom was ahead at 21 in my opinion, it’s difficult to make exact comparisons because of the McDavid factor. We will attempt to drill down on this subject (McDavid) over the next few minutes.
- How crazy is it? In 2016-17, Nurse with McDavid posted 57.7 percent Corsi for 5×5 in 188 minutes; Nurse without McDavid delivered 47.9 percent Corsi for 5×5 in 433 minutes. Source. That’s one world away.
- What kind of opposition did he flourish against? Nurse’s numbers are fascinating. Against elites, he was 47.8 percent DFF 5×5 in 158 minutes. That’s in the same range as Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell, and his rel number is close to even in that regard (-0.4 percent). That’s a pretty good number. If you check the Puck IQ numbers with Nurse with and without McDavid, looks like 97 is zooming Nurse. Information here, and I did reach out and received confirmation from the giant brains at Puck IQ on same.
- How bad is it? Basically, Nurse/McDavid against elites performed very well, but Nurse cratered without 97. They are 56 percent in 43 minutes together against elites, Nurse is 43.7 percent in 115 without McDavid against elites. That’s all DFF 5×5 via Puck IQ. Lordy. Important to remember Nurse is still a young blue, so going up against elites without McDavid is not the kind of situation we should expect to see a 50 percent DFF result.
- What about middle opposition? He struggled badly, going 46.3 percent DFF 5×5 in 288 minutes. His rel number (-4.3) was the worst on the team. Nurse performed very poorly against mid-level without McDavid (36.3 percent DFF). Important to remember the gap for all players when 97 is off the ice, that is the challenge being faced by Edmonton and Nurse. Still, this is mid-level opposition. The Oilers simply have to perform better in this discipline with McDavid off the ice. If Nurse is going to emerge as a useful top 4D, this number has to be better.
- What about gritensity? The lower levels saw Nurse perform at a high level. He was 59.4 in 215 minutes of DFF 5×5 against gritensity and his +2.4 rel number reflected success. He played very well with and without McDavid. I think we can say he should be expected to succeed against this level of opposition.
- Who was he playing with? Matt Benning was his partner a lot in all three disciplines.
- What can we say for sure? I think we’re safe to say this duo flourished with McDavid at all levels, including elite. The time away, elites and middle, is the heart of the problem for Edmonton.
- Leon signed today! And that may mean he’s 2C, which means (hopefully) a more competitive “middle” as Puck IQ calls it.
- Will Darnell Nurse be the next young blue to move into the top 4D? Matt Benning played against elites 31 percent of the time, Nurse 24 percent. That’s a reasonable gap. It doesn’t mean it stays that way but the people who really stare at these things tell me that kind of tremor becomes the fault line. NHL coaches want to win, full stop. Whatever helps them get there is the key.
- What will Nurse do this coming season? Ideally he can help that second pairing bridge the gap until Andrej Sekera returns.
- Is that the logical ‘next step’ for Nurse at this stage? Nurse is through draft+4 and is through two seasons as a regular in the NHL. In 2015-16, he was unable to play a feature role successfully. In 2016-17, especially early, Nurse showed he could be a productive third pairing defenseman. That doesn’t mean he’ll stall there, and you would like him to play successfully against ‘the middle’ more than 288 minutes this coming year. Certainly you would want a better possession number in those moments, and I understand part of that has to do with the other men on the ice with him.
- What does he need to work on? Read and react, watching for the late breaking pass/trailer, the usual stuff. He made a famous defensive play in the playoffs when pushing an Anaheim Ducks forward into the crease. The Duck lingered forever, but the fact Nurse placed him there, and couldn’t remove him, was problematic.
- What will his contract look like? Five years, $3.2 million AAV, something like that. Nurse isn’t expected to bring a massive amount of offense, but is held in high regard by the organization. He will receive a good contract.
- You don’t project much offense. Nurse isn’t going to get power-play time and I’m projected some injury time, so his point total is solid. He brought more a year ago than we might have expected, perhaps he’ll do it again. I have him increasing slightly in offense.
- Is he part of the McDavid cluster? Yes. That’s an important thing to keep in mind. The Oilers, now and forever, believe in chemistry. We saw evidence of that today and we’ll talk about it the day Darnell Nurse signs his contract. These guys clearly want to stay here.
- How do you know? The biggest item was McDavid signing an eight-year deal. That was massive in my opinion. A major commitment from the player, and that obviously comes with the expectation that Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl will be part of it. That’s my opinion, anyway.
- Do you think Nurse will emerge as a top 4D? I think he has all of the tools and has played 115 regular-season games. I’m not sure when he will emerge as a top 4D but do believe it will happen. He’s one year younger than Matt Benning, so we have to keep this past season in context.
- Why this song? It’s about faith, it’s about stepping into the light and finding your way. Darnell Nurse is right there, so close. I think we can be safe in saying Darnell Nurse will be an NHL player for a long time. The only question left: Where does he land on the depth chart? We wait.
RUNNING RE 2017-18 (DEFENSE)