There are mornings when I wake up before my family, like to spend the quiet moments on the deck enjoying the stillness (these recent years with Ziggy, a beautiful friend who knows the value of quiet). We haven’t had much winter in our town, don’t know what that means to our farmers beyond hoping for a wet spring for all. As I drank my coffee on the deck this morning, it was not the winter chill that struck me (it is a little cool today, snowed a little last night, we used to call it a skiff). My thoughts today turned to the passage of time, and how we all treat tomorrow as a renewable resource—when in fact it is exactly the opposite.
Nail Yakupov delivered a wonderful performance on the Canadian prairies last night. The evening featured a goal, several excellent chances, intelligent decisions and miles and miles of miles and miles skating. For those of us who are Yakupov fans, and I assume that is everyone, it was a wonderful night. At 22, this splendid young man has invested most of four years of his life to our town, attempting to fulfill his dream. Proud, determined, gifted, he has attempted to grind his skills into something the coach can use, perceived as being not quite special, not quite good enough. Nail is part of the chorus, but never gets a solo, as every hockey man who has come to our town finds the same spot for him.
Moms and Dads the world over keep sending the Edmonton Oilers their children, and the Edmonton Oilers keep turning Jacks and Kings into sixes and sevens and nines. No matter what happens from here, Nail Yakupov is a King in my books. There is a goodness in him we can all see, an honorable and gentlemanly quality. The finest compliment you can give a parent is that you hope your children become just like their offspring. Such is the case with Nail Yakupov. Through four years of difficult times, he has maintained his good name in a town half a world away from the one he knows, working to find a better day. I believe that day will come in another town. I will be happy for Nail on the day he is traded, and will cheer for him loudly at every turn. This last decade of turmoil is not about these young men and their foibles, it is about the Edmonton Oilers and their inability to create an environment where these young men can flourish.
MAKE IT STOP, 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: 4-5-2
- Oilers in February 2015: 5-6-1
- Oilers in February 2016: 3-5-1
- Oilers after 59 in 2014-15: 17-32-10, 44 points (-61 GD)
- Oilers after 59 in 2015-16: 22-31-6, 50 points (-32 GD)
Things are getting interesting now in the spy vs. spy year over year race. Nelson’s Oilers have been 10 points behind for much of the year but are now closing the gap. As Todd McLellan’s chances of posting a second .500 month fade into black, Nelson’s crew have begun to find something that rhymes. From here to the end of last season, Nelson and his men were 7-12-4—posting 18 points in 23 games. If McLellan’s crew can equal it, they will finish with 29 wins and 68 points—seems high based on the GA we have seen this week.
McLellans main frustration tonight was with his defencemen being too soft in front of their own net, and dmen missing the net in o Zone.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) February 19, 2016
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Davidson—Clendening were successful at evens, and played a lot. Both men are rookies, and despite some wobbly bits (the EN goal was irritating, but not especially helpful to analyzing the evening), get a passing grade. They were with the Hall-Leon-Purcell line (Davidson 9-1) and got the puck up pretty well when they could control it and get away from the pressure. Brandon Davidson, at this point in his career, is playing brilliant NHL hockey.
- Sekera—Schultz also got the Corgi love, Schultz was soft on coverage on one of the goals (he needed to be more aggressive with the oncoming train, and let the goalie grab the puck). Sekera shows all the other men how to do it every game. Sees the open lane, makes a sturdy pass, follows up the play. Makes it look easy. Then he goes to the bench. Traitor. Schultz was fine, save for the GA where he was not effective in clearing the puck or tying up his man. Basic defense.
- Nurse—Fayne is a duo I think might make a good third-pairing someday, maybe next season. I liked Nurse’s edge, and did not like his coverage in the slot. Rookies, even when the are bright and learning, can be really frustrating. Patience. Fayne remains the same, reliable, effective defensively and a welcome veteran in a season of rookie blue.
- Cam Talbot, after an extensive run of good-to-great, was not as sharp as he needs to be in order for his team to gain points. He would need a few of these in a month before I would feel a need to worry.
“We have to play with some authority. It can’t be a freebie getting to the Oilers blue paint.” – Oilers coach Todd McLellan
— Rob Tychkowski (@Sun_Tychkowski) February 19, 2016
The Edmonton Oilers had 16 high-danger scoring chances at 5×5 last night, double the Wild. They still lost, due to easy looks and loose morals around the net. Despite dangerous chances by Leon Draisaitl (4), Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse (2), Teddy Purcell, Jordan Eberle, Lauri Korpikoski and Benoit Pouliot (1), the club could not stop enough sorties or pucks. The power play rang and Nail hammered, but the Wild once again left Dodge City with two points.
CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
- Leon Draisaitl and his line romped, but once again could not cash. I know the dice have no memory, but would bet we see a breakout from this trio soon, possibly tomorrow. The big man had more jump this game, possibly signalling recovery from those bumps and bruises collected on the road trip.
- Mark Letestu had so many chances on the power play it hurt. If one of those cashes, we are having a different conversation this morning. I like him, wish he had better mitts.
- Anton Lander had a reasonable night, he helps the PK to my eye despite the overall results on the PK last night. I don’t see him getting any chances at all offensively, maybe I am missing them.
- Connor McDavid scored a goal, checked well and was responsible to my eye. A wonderful player, if they packaged his shifts into a 20-minute video I might just watch that.
WINGS, LAST NIGHT
- Hall—Purcell were dangerous all night long, I felt it was only a matter of time. Hall did score, but the Oilers got screwed out of a goal for the 90th time this year. Lordy. Anyway, hard-working line and they didn’t get justice. Hall is pushing now, the line drives are finding leather, but this too shall pass.
- Pouliot—Eberle cashed early on a sweet goal but I felt they were chasing the puck a lot after that. The Koivu line did good work against this line, that is going to happen. Eberle is healthy now, you can see his quickness and passing ability give him an edge on most exchanges. Pouliot posted a solid game, good to see after a 24-hour cycle that saw some fairly pointed criticisms of the big man. Is on pace for a 50-point season, despite missing about 10 games. That has value, and as we talked yesterday, this player is bona fide and his efforts should be respected. If someone is dissing a player who brings real value, then I encourage you to assess the value of their opinion.
- Korpikosli—Yakupov was mostly Yakupov, that was his best game of the year. I counted four great chances (goal, pipe, two robberies) and he was as fast as I can recall him. Splendid game, I will hold on to that image and hope we see it when he is in Montreal (or wherever he ends up). That was the kind of effort I had hoped we would see under Todd McLellan, one hopes it is not too late while also knowing, in their heart, the die is cast.
- Hendricks—Pakarinen played the opposition to a standstill but didn’t get a lot done offensively. The only line that did not have a dangerous chance, can’t ask that from your 4line every night. I like both players, hope we see them on next year’s team.
— Iiro Harjula (@IiroHarjula) February 19, 2016
I loved Niinimaa. He gave it all for the Edmonton Oilers, bled copper and blue, sent gorgeous passes forward, played with creativity and imagination. In the history of the Edmonton Oilers, these boys from Finland keep capturing our hearts with their wonderful skills and fun-loving approach to life. I cannot imagine these years of being an Oilers fan without the presence of Janne Niinimaa and his countrymen. We miss you Janne Niinimaa, you were a splendid hockey player. The Oilers badly need another Niinimaa right bloody now.
HABS ABOUT TO BE DUMB, IN 5…4…
McKenzie just said that Therrien wouldn't have said what he said without knowing his GM AND his core players back him up.
— TyggR (@akaRCN) February 19, 2016
Did the rounds to find out if Subban is on the market. One team executive said "his name has come up". @TVASports
— Louis Jean (@LouisJean_TVA) February 19, 2016
I want to post this before the trade happens (you get the feeling this thing won’t take long) but my o my what an insane few days in Montreal. For the life of me I cannot begin to guess what is happening behind the scenes, but it has to be massive for this stuff to be reaching the media. I am struck by a few things:
- This doesn’t happen to organizations that are well run, and the problem begins at the top. Chicago turned around in a heartbeat once Rocky Wirtz took over. If I owned the Habs, I would fire all of the executives before trading Subban, but this looks farther along than anyone outside realized.
- The Oilers are going to be in on this.
- Taylor Hall may be the ask.
- The teams may settle on something like Nuge and Nurse.
- The Habs might ask for Leon.
- I am in favor of acquiring Subban UNLESS the root of this issue with the Habs is catastrophic. I have no idea what the problem is, but Peter Chiarelli has to know the issue before dealing for him.
- If the due diligence returns a thumbs up on the issue, pull the damned trigger on the trade. This is too perfect for the Oilers. Expect an overpay, and that is the truth. They cannot let this impact defenseman slip through their fingers.
- Nuge, Nurse and Nail for Subban and Lars Eller. Does either side do this? No side? I am terrible at trade ideas so welcome your input.
- Things just got interesting.
McKenzie: "…And I've heard there maybe are a couple of teams in the Eastern Conference that have kicked tires on (Schultz)…" #Oilers
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) February 19, 2016
As is the case with Nail, probably the sooner the better. The Oilers wear this failure too, whatever their problems in turning prospects into useful players, the evidence suggests it is not getting better. I count Nail and Schultz among the Tambellini era failures, but an assist goes to MacT and it is disappointing to see that Todd McLellan was unable to unlock the defender. Not blaming the coach, but I had hoped there was something he could do to help 19.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy show, Friday edition starts at 10, TSN1260. We discussed Subban at length yesterday on the show, suspect it will dominant proceedings again today. Scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, BigMouthSports. Subban on the block? Plus Flint and what is happening there.
- Antony Bent, FC Edmonton. Eddies training continues, they edge nearer their trip across the pond, and Spurs are kicking ass.
- Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst. Trying to get a feel for the available defensemen in this year’s draft, and yes, I will ask about RH blue.
- Paul Almedia, SSE. Paul grew up a Habs fan, so this should be an interesting conversation in regard to Subban.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Amazing developments possible today.