I find myself melancholy these days, as it does seem we’re finally nearing the Hemsky sail, 613 games into his NHL career. He’s 30 years old, hasn’t played a playoff game since 2006 and in the impressive history of the Oilers stands well back in the career numbers (8th in points, 451; tied for 9th in seasons, 10). Ales Hemsky is an absolute pleasure to observe on the ice, I hope he stays but things aren’t looking too good this morning. If he does stay through the early part of this season, I think there’s a chance they get to ‘contract talk’ stage but there would have to be a lot of team success for that to happen.
I still think Hall figures out a way to convince the powers that he should play tonight, and if he does that should mean a huge lift for the club. If they can win tonight–and that’s a massive ask–then there’s a chance they could roll into Chicago Sunday with a 6-10-2 record. That’s no screaming hell, but miles better than 3-10-2, and with people getting healthy maybe good times are ahead of us.
And of course Chicago has been a treat for Oilers at times since 2010, so there’s that too.
The great thing about the MacT-Eakins tandem is they make good decisions and have the courage of their convictions. I don’t agree with all of it (that 4line is not good, and the MacIntyre-Gazdic pickups still have me reeling) but the way this Yak City item has been handled is just about perfect. The sequence of events:
- Yakupov doesn’t find the ice for the last 10 minutes in Florida, as Eakins clearly identifies who he trusts (seriously, have a look at the guys who played the last half of the third Tuesday night–that’s the heart of the team).
- NYC media like Brooks begin having a lash at trade possibilities.
- Eakins is seen on the ice at practice talking to Yakupov, leading many media members to suggest he will be a HS in Tampa.
- Eakins tells media after practice that “Nail Yakupov is not being shopped, he’s not going anywhere and I wanted him to hear that from me, look me in my eye, and let him know that we’re attached at the hip.”
- Craig MacTavish drove the point home later on, saying “we very much believe Nail will evolve to become that dynamic, electric player — become one of the most entertaining guys in the game. I told that to Igor. And I told that to Yak. Development is very rarely a straight line. It has ups and downs.”
- Later, we get the player-agent side of it from the great Larionov: “First, it’s nice to hear that from the coach. It’s nice for Nail to hear that from the coach. It makes a big difference. A guy like Nail, he needs support. It’s nice of the coach to step forward to make statements like that for his confidence.”
And at the end of the day (hi Chris Pronger!) we get a strong indication about what mature, intelligent management looks like. In past years, there have been times (hi Sheldon Souray!) when things got out there onto the mean streets of msm when it harmed the hockey club and painted the organization as ill prepared, petty and losery (is that a word? I’ve used it several times, and so it must be). The story is here and we should remember this moment, because when Yakupov is flying into Manhattan to score 3 the wisdom of the last 36 hours will receive its own reward.
Jordin Tootoo has been placed on waivers, Oilers have been connected to him since the Nashville days. I don’t think they should pick him up, and ordinarily this would be a pretty easy call. However, the Gazdic procurement combined with a losing record, issues around ‘grit’ and ‘toughness’ and the agitator gap might mean MacT makes this move. We’ll see, but, as the kids like to say nowadays, there’s a non-zero chance this happens. One thing that may keep the Oilers away? $1.9M cap hit this and next season.
They have to run with the Dube now, I don’t think there’s much choice. Run him tonight and again on Saturday, and if he wins both roll him out onto the mat in Chicago too. This team is so far back there’s no longer a dust trail, and despite that weak goal late on Tuesday night he’s the best available. The man could use a shutout, but he won’t get it tonight. Book it.
Jeff Petry is not the most popular player among Oiler fans, and I think we knew (and talked about) this possibility. However, I can’t see one damn thing wrong with the guy that a consistent partner and some better decision making wouldn’t cure. Among the chaotic group called Oiler blue, Petry has been head and shoulders above the maddening crowd:
5×5 Corsi for % (via Extra Skater)
- Justin Schultz 47.9
- Jeff Petry 45.6
- Andrew Ference 45.2
- Nick Schultz 44.7
- Ladislav Smid 42.6
This is the group who have played through good times and bad, and excludes both injured (Belov), demoted (laundry list) and recent hires (also laundry). Schultz is injured now, and the team looks a lot less chaotic during 5×5 play. I like Justin Schultz a great deal, and like Yakupov I think he’s going to be an important part of the team for a long time. However, he’s going to need less playing time when he returns because there’s too much crazy out there when he’s swinging.
Do you remember back in September when I mentioned that a perfect balance photo was at the ready? But the Oilers weren’t balanced so I couldn’t use it? The story is here and the quote went “the Edmonton Oilers don’t get the “balance” seal of approval again this year. And it’s been about a decade.” I think the club has a nice opportunity in the coming weeks to improve their center depth, and they should (if they are serious) aim high.
A Russian with experience? Another Gordon? If the Oilers enter 2014-15 with Nuge, Gagner, Gordon, Acton they’ll have the kids a year older and that’s a good thing. If they could grab a high end center to play in front of Nuge? Music!
High end. HIGH end. A lot of things would come together with a 4C depth chart of Nuge, Grabovski, Gordon, Acton/Lander. Move Gagner over (and give him the Hemsky slot on RW) and the top 9 might be:
Something to think about, although the opportunity may have gone with Grabovski playing so well in a new town.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Game day and lots to discuss on TSN 1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Jeff Chapman, Copper and Blue.
- Corey Pronman, ESPN and Hockey Prospectus.
- Kyle Alexander, Raw Charge.com
- Kirk Luedeke, Redline Report and NEHJ and NYHJ.
- James Mirtle, Globe and Mail.