Ryan Nugent-Hopkins won’t turn 20 until April, but he’s shown us plenty in the months since he was drafted. RNH is proving to be outstanding at puck retrieval, passing and getting out of tight places. If his season long slump (not only is he not scoring, the Nuge isn’t hitting the net) continues we’ll have to re-think his offense but it’s clear he has a nice range of skills even as a teenager. If the Oilers ever get out Shawshank, I believe they’ll one day bask in a warm place with no memory.
- I must admit I didn’t think much of Andy first time I laid eyes on him; looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over. That was my first impression of the man.
My pre-draft worries over the Nuge began with this: he looked like the paperboy who delivers the Gazette. In early June of 2011, I wrote the following about him: “it’s a crapshoot. Ten years from now, the best player in this draft might be RNH, or Larsson, or Landeskog, or Huberdeau or Couturier. Hell, it COULD be Mika Zibanejad. The back story tells so well and the skill set sounds like a dream. I’m not certain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the best player available, but I don’t know that he isn’t either. If MBS likes another better, so be it. However, these long days from the entry draft everything points to a match made in heaven.” The fall arrived and the Nuge was facing all kinds of questions: is he strong enough? big enough? can he skate fast enough? Can he play in the NHL and still have time to deliver the Gazette?
- His first night in the joint, Andy Dufresne cost me two packs of cigarettes. He never made a sound.
The kid’s rookie season was ridiculous, especially on the PP where he posted a 20-assist season in 62 games (most PP assists by a rookie forward since 2007-08 when Nicklas Backstrom had 22 and Patrick Kane had 21). His patience and ability to elude checkers was a thing of beauty, he had a sixth sense about pressure and of course he was not well known to the NHL world. It was a wonderful season.
- Get busy living, or get busy dying.
The Nuge is something else. I hope he gets that shoulder straightened out before the fall, because his long term health is far more important than the current state of affairs.
Michael Parkatti has a great blog (Boys On the Bus) and he’s doing excellent work; it’s a must-see for Oiler fans. His post-game breakdowns are scary as hell but informative. Consider this from last game, in reference to shots for/shots against:
- Parkatti: Have a look at the curious nights by the men who started on the 2nd line. Gagner and Hemsky ended the night tied for a team worst -12. This is, of course, now the 9th time in 16 games Gagner has ended in the bottom 3 skaters for Corsi. But the young Russian who started on their wing somehow ended the night +4, for the 3rd best Corsi rate on the team. At some point it seems like Hartikainen was slotted onto the second line whereafter the entire trio got scalped at even strength.
It’s kind of a mystery. Tyler Dellow tweeted out last night that he’s going to do a post on it, but also tweeted this:
Well, we’re not alone anyway. It looks as though this is a pretty big problem. I wish Frank Mahovlich were 25 years old, or that Dustin Penner was being traded back to Edmonton. One seems as likely as the other, however. I think the following are contributing factors to the Gagner-Hemsky elevator shaft:
- Lack of chemistry with the gifted Yakupov. Hemsky can’t find him because the Rocket Russian can’t stand still and find some quiet ice. This is short term, but is having an impact.
- Too much individual effort. All three players (Sam, Ales and Nail) like to carry the puck but all three are also terrific passers. A little more passing and a little less one on four is in order. In the immortal words of Billy Ashley, the pitchers are reading this line.
- Attention to detail. Hemsky’s reverse pass the other night should have had a good result, but this Oiler defense is often a grenade without a pin. I think–especially in their own zone–a north-south approach to real estate is in order. Icing the puck isn’t a terrible result, and Ales had room to skate on that play.
- Small sample size. Tyler mentioned this in his tweets that we’re not yet at game 20, and that’s an important factor in all of this mess. The scoring chance metric shows this trio doing much better than the Corsi, and so we can hope that this thing trends back to the median.
- Inexperience: All three LW options (Nail, Hartikainen, Paajarvi) are younger options. If the Oilers had Scott Hartnell or even Dustin Penner I think the results would be better at this point in time.
The trio isn’t horrible offensively.
- Gagner 1.83
- Yakupov 1.44
- Hemsky 1.31
These are not world beating numbers, but another point for each and we’d be talking about a pretty good year (Gagner would be tied with Hall for the team lead with an assist or goal) and once again it’s early.
- Gagner 8.72 (leads team)
- Hemsky 8.43
- Yakupov 5.48
Gagner is last year’s Nuge so far, posting 16, 2-7-9 early season numbers with the man advantage. Hemsky is almost as impressive (16, 4-2-6) and Yakupov (16, 3-2-5) has been impressive (his shot is ridiculous) with the man advantage.
There’s a lot of chatter about the Oilers being out of this thing already, but I’m not buying. Yet. I do believe Steve Tambellini could help things by adding a defenseman but the availability of useful help may not be strong at this time. Even if they don’t make a move, the Oilers should have enough to get on at least one very good run here in the next few weeks. Will it be enough? Don’t know. There are a lot of “middling” teams in the west right now, owing (I expect) to the quick training camp, injuries and schedule. I don’t think we should be talking draft lottery just yet.
Taylor Hall (Oilers Street Fighting Man) is out today, I don’t think they’ll win. Time to cheer like hell, ladies and gents.