Word today from Derek Roy’s agent that it’s crickets in regard to negotiations between his client and the Oilers. Makes sense, the Oilers won the lottery and have a new GM, changing things in a very real way for the organization. I think it’s reasonable to suggest that the Oilers opening night depth chart at center will be:
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- Connor McDavid
- Anton Lander
- Boyd Gordon
And that brings us to Mr. Nail Yakupov and his future. After signing a two-year deal just after the season, things seemed to be going in a good direction—and that was news. Yakupov’s Oilers career is three years old and I don’t remember one month in the 36 without worry, but the new deal and the possibility of Roy’s return as his center offered hope for player, management and fan base.
- Yakupov: “I feel amazing now. I was waiting for a centre for three years. It’s the first time I’ve had a really good centre and I’m really happy for it.” Source
The boxcars were better for Yakupov in 2015, that’s for sure. In October-December, Yakupov was 0.8 5×5/60 and 2.4 5×4/60. January+, he was 1.53 5×5/60 and 5.38 5×4/60. That’s a significant difference for sure, with the power-play number especially impressive. However, the possession stats went the wrong way: Yakupov’s Corsi for % 5×5 before New Year’s was 47.59%, and after it was 45.48%. Clearly, Craig MacTavish felt things were heading in a good direction:
- MacT: “No denying Yak has turned the corner. Our growth is going to be internal growth and incremental growth, and Yakupov is part of that. I don’t think it’s good strategy to trade developing players. Yak has been rewarded with a 2-year contract.” Source
I think the plan was to bring Roy back (we heard rumblings late in the season) but we’re now left with the depth chart above and some decisions. One of the things we can probably agree on is that Jordan Eberle will be playing with one of Nuge or McDavid this coming season—with RNH the likely center for No. 14. That leave McDavid and Anton Lander as Yak’s options. Nail didn’t get much done with Lander (no points and a poor Corsi in an hour’s work—sample size alert!) so I think it might be McDavid at pivot for the young Russian. Add Taylor Hall to that line? Fantastic. The number one overall picks in 2010, 2012 and 2015 could make beautiful music together, and it’s highly skilled. I’m not certain there’s a puck retrieval winger or a two-way type who’ll know when to break off the surge, but that’s Todd McLellan’s job and we will say in the fall.
Collecting McDavid quotes is like trying to take a drink from a fire hose (still MacT’s best line), but we try.
- Craig Button: “There hasn’t been a player like McDavid since Sidney Crosby; there just hasn’t. He’s that good. Is it unrealistic? No. Nobody is saying that McDavid is going to be Crosby, and I think when we compliment players and say he’s a generational player, that’s a heck of a compliment. I think Connor is deserving of it too.” Source
- Crosby’s first point came on a goal by linemate Mark Recchi, with John LeClair also getting an assist. Other veterans on that team included Ziggy Palffy, Mario Lemieux, Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Malone. My guess is McDavid also has famous linemates on his first goal, but they’ll be hella-younger than 37 and 36, respectively.
- Sidney Crosby: “I feel he does everything well; he’s a smart player, sees the ice and can beat guys 1-on-1 if he needs to. He uses his teammates and makes a lot of plays to set them up. If I had a chance to talk to him I’d tell him to just try and keep things as normal as possible, as hard as it is with all the expectations. I think you just need to remember that everything doesn’t happen all at once; it’s a process, so just enjoy it. Enjoy being an 18-year-old and all the things that come along with that. Because in the end his game will kind of speak for itself.” Source
- Cody Nickolet of WHL From Above has his final 2015 list here. Outstanding job. I’ll try to get him on in the next week or so.
- Looks like Dan Bylsma may be the next coach of the Buffalo Sabres. They’re going to be very good, very soon.
- I’ll have the next RE up today at 5 barring anything crazy. I’ve had it ready for some time but hell’s a poppin’ these days.
- Jason Gregor has a terrific article on Taylor Hall and the Oilers here. Great read.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN 1260. I’m looking forward to this one for lots of reasons. Scheduled to appear:
- Dennis King, Oilogosphere Icon. CFL training cam—ah, wrong King. NBA/NHL playoffs and we’ll probably talk about old Boston cassettes and summer time and women.
- Brian King, NonStopSportsPicks. CFL training camps are basically underway, and we’ll have a long look at the Eskimos to see if they’ve improved enough to get past the (spits) Stampeders.
- Mark Edwards, HockeyProspect.com. We’ll talk about the draft this year and its strengths, and I’ll ask if the assessment of a player like Nick Merkley continues through Memorial Cup (or does the book have enough on him by now).
- Guy Flaming, Pipeline Show. The Bakersfield Condors signed a trio of new players yesterday, Guy brings the scouting reports.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!