Archive for 2016-08-21

EDMONTON OILERS: DARNELL NURSE EXPECTATIONS

The other day I wrote a piece that suggested the Oilers should consider trading Darnell Nurse for Jacob Trouba if the option presented itself. Trouba is a right-handed defenseman with some offensive upside that could immediately help the Oilers in a position of weakness. I like Nurse, and I don't know if this trade has been even discussed between the Oilers and Winnipeg, but part of me believes this is a trade that could benefit the Oilers today and could be a win/win for both teams.

Photo by IQRemix

The mere suggestion of trading Nurse was met with a barrage of criticism from fans, who despite the lack of evidence so far that Nurse is an effective NHL defenseman, think that Nurse is the next coming of Chris Pronger and an elite defenseman. They may be right, we just don't know yet and a small minority of fans, one's that were more concerned with winning this year and looked more at the immediate need of the Oilers, seemed to think it would be a good move for Edmonton. Some even believed Winnipeg would want more in exchange.


Realistic Expectations


So, for those fans completely opposed to trading Nurse (I do see some benefit in Nurse and think he will one day be a heck of a defenseman), I thought it would be wise to take a look at a realistic expectation of what the 2016-17 season might hold for him. To really get a sense of the kind of impact he'll have, the first thing we should do is take a look at where he slots in on the defensive depth chart.


Klefbom / Larsson
Sekera/Fayne
Davidson / ?


If you believe that the righty/lefty position is as important as Chiarelli seems to think it is, then Mark Fayne slots in your top-four. Perhaps Fayne shouldn't be there based on pure talent as a top-four defenseman, but he's the only right-handed shot Edmonton has outside of Larsson.

If you don't want Fayne there, realistically, Sekera moves over and Davidson slides up putting Nurse in your bottom-pair blue. The status quo means that Nurse potentially battles it out with Griffin Reinhart and Jordan Oesterle. In either case, there isn't a big opportunity to become a big-time impact player this season unless injury provides more time for him.

Comparisons


Jonathan Willis wrote a piece that was also a bit controversial. He compared Nurse to a history of players at the same age group and with similar underlying numbers in an attempt to project where Nurse might end up as an NHL player. Admittedly, Willis understood that it's too early to say definitely where Nurse will be, but his early projections had him as a top-four. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the comparable Willis made if things turned out roses for Nurse. If things went sideways or trended as what tends to happen more often than not, Nurse wasn't a top-four based on his early career numbers.

I can't say I agree with Willis' assessment. Nurse did get chewed up if you look at merely his statistics, but Nurse is a rookie and he has intangibles that I think will help him develop into a better blueliner over the years. Will he big a Chris Pronger? I don't see it. But, can he be a top-four defenseman with grit, speed, some offensive ability and play a game that doesn't hinder his team defensively? Yes, I think he can.

The Oilers


Most importantly, I think the Oilers like Nurse and have high hopes for him as a player. There have been a couple instances where his name has been part of a rumoured package to land immediate help and to date, he's still an Oiler defenseman.

Nurse will get an opportunity to prove he has the goods. For those that oppose trading him for anything or immediate help, I hope he shows his value in the next two seasons. Nurse's trade value now is likely at a high-point and he's considered a valuable asset in a trade. If Nurse trends upwards, that value will only go up. If he doesn't after this season, trading him for good value won't be nearly as easy as it likely is today.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




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WHAT DO YOU THINK? ARE THE TOUGHER OILERS GOING THE WRONG DIRECTION?

Yesterday on Oilers Now, host Bob Stauffer posted an interesting question. Is fighting going to be a part of junior hockey moving forward? When it's gone, will it affect and carry over to the NHL?

Photo By Dan4th Nicholas

The reason Stauffer posed the question was in response to the recent rule changes by Ontario Hockey League (OHL) that will begin to penalize players with two-game suspensions after three fights in a season, with repeated suspensions for every fight thereafter. Basically, the OHL is penalizing players so aggressively, they are all but getting rid of fighting.

In a way, eliminating fighting from junior hockey has its advantages. In a league where 16-year-old players will play against 20-year-old players, a fight between two players of that age discrepancy can be downright dangerous. It used to be that players were suspended after 10 fights. Bringing it down to three is a clear message that the intention is to remove all signs of staged, instigated and/or most traditional fights in the game at that level. This too could be dangerous, but for entirely different reasons. Will the OHL rule change eventually carry over to the NHL?

Fighting in The NHL


Fighting in the pros is already way down. It happens, just not nearly as often and the one-dimensional tough-guy role that used to exist has been pretty much eliminated. The days of players like Steve MacIntyre, Georges Laraque and enforcers who could fight, but not really contribute are gone. If you can't play hockey, you likely won't keep a job in the professional ranks.

The instigator rule was altered in 1992, giving a player who was assessed with the instigator tag a game-misconduct. As a result, players were no longer able to police themselves. Tough guys couldn't stand up for their talented superstars who were challenged and there was no payback for cheap-shots or chicken-s&^t plays that injured players for extended periods of time. It created one of the biggest changes in the NHL over the last 30 years.

The Oilers

With fighting way down are the Oilers heading in the wrong direction? Last season, Edmonton's toughest player was arguably Matt Hendricks. This summer, Edmonton added players like Milan Lucic and focused more on team toughness, creating and saving key spots for players like Zack Kassian, Darnell Nurse, Patrick Maroon and others who can not only play the game of hockey but are willing to drop the gloves at a moments notice. Hendricks is now the fifth or sixth toughest player on the roster.

Where the Oilers are making the right decision, is in their emphasis on recognizing the ability to play the game. While being tougher, Kassian, Nurse, Lucic, and Maroon all have skill and talent that doesn't hold the team back or slow the game down. As much as they can fight, they can also score and out produce their opponent. It's a combination that will serve them well in a bigger Pacific Division. 

There is a risk however of overdoing it. If the Oilers continue to get a little tougher, but also a little slower each season, and if the game continues to become a skill-game with more stick-work and fewer instances of fisticuffs, a tough-guy roster, much like the one Chiarelli built in Boston, may not have the same impact in today's NHL. 

Your Thoughts


What do you think? Is Edmonton's getting tougher a good thing? Are they getting too tough and less skilled? Will the need for players to fight be all but gone in the next few seasons? I like the new look of the Oilers, but I also hope they tread carefully. The NHL is all about speed and if Edmonton starts to sacrifice speed and skill for toughness, it may hurt them down the line.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.







WHY IS JIRI HUDLER STILL AVAILABLE?

Inexplicably, Jiri Hudler doesn't have a contract. A veteran offensive forward who is a reliable scorer, but had one under-average year hasn't come to terms with an NHL team, yet everyone seems to be talking about how "their team" should sign him. So if everyone think's he's a good option, why is Hudler still out there?

Photo by polntnshoot

Hudler's Value


For years, Hudler has been the kind of forward who will bring you points. He has 417 points in 676 career games and he scored 31 goals and 75 points in 76 games in 2014-15. Even in a poor follow up performance had 46 points in 72 games in 2015-16 which would have put him well up there in terms of Oilers offensive production. He's easily a top-six forward on almost any NHL roster and with the Oilers looking for a little more depth on right-wing, he's the kind of player that makes a lot of sense. There aren't any better options still out there in free agency.

Hudler is a good 5-on-5 scorer and individual shooter. Regardless of who he plays with, he's effective in the offensive zone and creates offense for any team he plays for. His history shows that when he plays with more talented players, he's even more effective. In Edmonton, he'd most likely get time with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot.

The Hold-Up


Normally, if a free agent goes this far into the summer without signing, there's real concern over his overall game. In this case, I think it's less about production and more about money and/or term. Hudler wants multi-years and better money than a typical free agent value deal. There could potentially be something to the concern over his poor season last year and even more concern that his career is on a decline. Regardless, Hudler has to be looking to cash in on what could be his last major contract in the NHL. This makes Edmonton an unrealistic option.

Hudler isn't the type of player Edmonton will overpay for. Not with players in the system that will be a better fit in two to three years. He'd clearly be a nice addition and the Oilers could use the depth, but Hudler will end up with a team willing to give more than a single season and a team willing to pay a bit more of a premium.

Where Hudler Ends Up

Hudler and Edmonton don't seem to be a logical pairing. Edmonton won't go multiple years on the forward and Hudler likely won't take a one-year contract. Montreal, Vancouver and Chicago may be the destinations with the best shot. It's too bad too because Hudler could have had a bounce-back season in Edmonton and earned a pretty big payday on his next go-round.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.