This instant is an iconic moment in recent Oilers history, and I have been hoping Nail Yakupov could get back to that point again in Edmonton. Last night our brilliant but flawed hero scored a goal, had multiple good looks and was absolutely flying. Nail Yakupov made a difference in the Shark tank.
FREE FALLING, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2014: 4-5-1
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0
- Oilers in November 2014: 2-9-3
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2
- Oilers in December 2014: 2-8-4
- Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1
- Oilers in January 2015: 5-7-1
- Oilers in January 2016: 2-2-2
- Oilers after 45 in 2014-15: 10-26-9, 29 points (-51 GD)
- Oilers after 45 in 2015-16: 17-23-5, 39 points (-23 GD)
Ordinarily this is where I tell you where Edmonton ranks among the 30 teams (No. 28) and deliver some pissy line about the draft. Today, I will tell you that last night was a damned good game and it was encouraging. Don’t bring out the good whiskey, but you are allowed the hint of a smile.
"This was a better game for us. I thought we played a firmer, better-executed game than we did in Phoenix." Coach McLellan
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 15, 2016
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Interesting night for the third pairing, they played quite a bit in the big part of the game. Brandon Davidson also played a lot on the PK, Eric Gryba less because he was in the damned box quite a bit. Peter Chiarelli wants to find room for Griffin Reinhart, Gryba’s spot may be a good slot for him.
- Andrej Sekera sent a few wayward son passes in strange directions, and got caught pinching on the GA, but he played forever and did many good things. Damn near scored in OT, but Martin bleeping Jones shaft (now there is a word) deflected the puck to the heavens. Thank you Jesus, thank you lord.
- Mark Fayne was No. 4 in even-strength minutes tonight, perhaps Todd McLellan is growing to trust him a little more. If this guy is dangled at the deadline and no one bites, then the world has gone mad.
- Darnell Nurse had some outstanding sequences, holy hell he was brilliant in moments of the game. He is all arms and legs (Larry Robinson looked exactly the same way, like Marcel Marceau on speed) but he can hammer and he can fly. Visually fantastic when in flight or working along the wall.
- Justin Schultz is more settled with the puck these days, that is progress. One thing that has changed: There is far more try. I imagine it is too late but at least we saw a spark at the end.
CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
- Anton Lander was part of a pretty effective line, he had a dynamite chance but blew a shoe on the play. I haven’t written his goodbye but it will be called Sail on, Red Eagle.
- Leon Draisaitl and his new linemates (I was hoping they would stay together) couldn’t cash, Leon faced Brent Burns for seven minutes at evens (more than any other C, 5-3 Corsi events for Leon) and for me he didn’t get a lot of room. Sharks are a dandy team.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got 10 minutes of Vlasic pickles (9-10) as well as that blasted Joe Thornton for 8:44 (8-9). I like the Nuge, he looked good to me but he didn’t cash again. The Oilers need him to post offense at evens.
- Mark Letestu got Kassian and Purcell (more in a moment) and had some tough opposition (many of the Sharks best players were over 22 minutes on the night: Pavelski, Marleau, Vlasic, Burns played 28 minutes).
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Nail Yakupov was brilliant in his return, all that pent up energy flowed through him and manifest itself in chance after chance. He was fantastic.
- Lauri Korpikoski sent a lovely pass to Nail for the goal, but he got the short straw in playing time on a night when Todd McLellan had an abundance of tools on the wing.
- Taylor Hall skated miles, almost cashed on a Kassian pass, seemed to be close to having things break right a few times. Alas, nothing rhymed. A great deal of frustration right now, I think he is Red from Shawshank (”I guess I just miss my friend”) without big Leon.
- Jordan Eberle came alive in the clean air of OT, he and Nuge creating. I thought he scored at one point in the extra frame, but not to be. He was hot a couple of games back, suspect there is more coming from him before the AS break.
- Benoit Pouliot was caught between the play a lot last night. There was one sequence where you could see him hesitating to go down low for support on defense, then committing, seeing the puck go back to the point where he should be, and of course he was out of position. Shiza happens, I still like him but sometimes he it looks like he isn’t keeping up with the lessons.
- Iiro Pakarinen did a good job in my opinion, playing higher up the depth chart. He is a hard worker, don’t know that he belongs with Hall, but he did a helluva lot more than Pitlick did in the same situation a year ago.
- Zack Kassian really does add a dimension. He hit a few guys, dropped his stick a lot, gave a cool interview and worked like a bugger. It is going to take some time, but the higher power I believe in insists on forgiveness so that will come in time. As I get older, it gets tougher. You would think it would be the other way around.
- Teddy Purcell had a tough night with the Corgi’s and I don’t think his line was especially custom built for him, but he helped get the puck headed in a good direction and showed up in good ways. I am genuinely going to miss him when he’s gone.
STUBBORN KIND OF FELLOW
- Peter Chiarelli about Griffin Reinhart: “I want to have him in the NHL. I believe he’s ready. He made the team. He’s a hell of a defenceman. He went down there nobly. And I told him I’d get him back up here. I’m glad we acquired him. He’s going to be a big part of the future. We have a player here who can dominate, and that can lug the puck, and that can make plays and for a bigger-sized man, he can move well, and I would expect him to be in our Top Four at some point. I wanted him to play more games without the pressure of being up here and I’ll get him back at some point in the relatively near future.” Source
I suspect Reinhart will be on the team after the All-Star break (perhaps with fellow rookie Brandon Davidson on the third pairing) and it brings into light an interesting problem for the GM. He has amassed quite the collection of LH blue, without adding much in the way of the lesser hand. Of course, you can play lefties anywhere (brilliant people, really), so we might see a top 6D next season like this:
I would still run Fayne with Davidson but Reinhart is either here full time next season or he is down the line. One thing we should discuss is PC including one of the young lefties in a package to get a stone cold top pairing blue for RH side:
- Griffin Reinhart—I don’t think he has the established value to be a centerpiece for procurement, not in getting a capable defenseman who can play big minutes.
- Brandon Davidson—Big step forward, but NHL teams are going to want to see it over a longer period before his real value sinks in. Besides, he is a real value contract—Edmonton needs to be keeping guys who are worth $1M (or more) than they are being paid.
- Darnell Nurse—I would rate the possibility of his being dealt at less than zero, but the Oilers have a lot of kids applying for the same spot in the batting order. You could fetch a giant or a Spaniard with Nurse as the available asset.
- Oscar Klefbom—Young defender whose only negative is injury, hard to imagine Chiarelli moving him just as he gets into the heart of his NHL career. I think the chances of trading him are about equal to Nurse: Zero.
I think it is probably Reinhart or bust in terms of trading the young lefties, and I do think those pairings above are not far from what we will see next season. Is it enough? I will say no, not enough for a playoff team. Edmonton probably needs to add two defenders this summer, while also retaining Sekera, Klefbom, Nurse and Davidson. I could see them getting by with one addition, but only if Todd McLellan trusts Mark Fayne—we have no real evidence this will happen.
Time to sign the man. Last night’s goal was not a good one, but he recovered and shut the door until the shootout. This morning, his SP is .912 and he is the main reason Edmonton is 2-2-2 in a frustrating and confusing month. Sign the man.
The team that loses out on Drouin may come calling to the Oilers. Shattenkirk, Vatanen? Don’t know that Nashville trades another defender this winter.
Peter Chiarelli should be in on this, and I think the time has come to bite the bullet a little. If they deal for him, and it works out, you have a major piece for a contending team. If it doesn’t, you overpay on the front end (for an extended rental) and don’t get enough back at 2017 deadline, but at least you did something and that’s what this fan base is screaming for today. Would you accept an Eberle plus for Shattenkirk plus trade? It may come to that, folks. Call it a difficult sacrifice in an effort to regain the balance lost in the 2006 Pronger trade. My goodness it has been a long time.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Today on the show (TSN1260, 10 this morning) we have a variety of subjects to cover and interesting guests to discuss them with on the show.
- Steve Lansky, Big Mouth Sports. How are the two major sports networks adjusting to this new contract? Have things settled down yet?
- Antony Bent, FC Edmonton. A big week for the Eddies, including a major signing and schedule release. We will talk about it and of course transfer window!
- Paul Almeida, SSE. He’s back! Preview the Saturday show, talk about the deadline and signing free agents like Talbot and Purcell.
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Trade deadline, plus the Canadian dollar and the implications for NHL teams. Does that impact this deadline?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter.