Nurse-ing along the Edmonton Oilers' Stanley Cup aspirations: 9 Things

Article content

To say the Edmonton Oilers have turned their season around is an understatement.

In fact, it is to the point now where, on Sunday morning in April, a hockey club that looked nearly out of it at American Thanksgiving is poised to take a serious run at their first division title since 1987. And maybe more.

Article content

That and more on in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Those superimposed circles on the ice during the Colorado telecast offend me as a hockey fan. I hold my nose with gimmicks that account for revenues. But those damn things have zero redeeming value. Get them out of there.

Advertisement 2

Article content

8. Vincent Desharnais is the Oilers nominee for The Masterton. The 7th Round pick has already far exceeded what you might expect from that long of a shot. And while many players peak at 27, Desharnais keeps improving. His is a marvelous story that appears far from over.

7. A hat trick by Dylan Holloway for Bakersfield on Saturday evening. He also hit a post. At this point, the kid is flat-out dominating the AHL. That is what you want from your top prospect. No question Holloway will see a game or maybe two in Edmonton before NHL playoffs hit.

6. Calvin Pickard won his 12th game of the season on Saturday in a fine 34-save performance against Calgary. What a revelation this guy has been. Edmonton’s goaltending situation was in a sorry state at the time of his recall November 8th. His season SV% is now .913. His career SV% is .905.

5. Leon Draisaitl scored his 40th goal of the season on Saturday night, his 5th. Only two Oilers have done it more: Wayne Gretzky (9 times) and Jari Kurri (7). Leon also picked up his 500th career assist against Colorado. Leon still attracts some petty criticism in some quarters. Careful: As Joni Mitchell wrote, “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

4. I keep hearing and reading in comments made about the Bottom-6 how Mattias Janmark is slow of foot. Funny, because I have always thought of Janmark as an above-average skater who gets from 0-60 quite nicely. Not Connor McDavid but “pretty good.” And sure enough, check NHL Edge and you will find that Janmark indeed rates above the average speed among forwards.

3. On November 10th the Edmonton Oilers were a miserable 2-9-1. But the club has turned it around in a major way. They ended up clinching a playoff spot with seven games left to go in the season. With the win Saturday combined with a Vancouver loss, the Oilers are just three points back of the division lead and with a game on hand on the Pacific leading Canucks. And the two teams have a head-to-head remaining. I see that Vancouver team in two ways: Great with Thatcher Demko. Just “good” without him.

2. I do not understand playing Ryan McLeod over Adam Henrique on Edmonton’s 2nd Unit Power Play. I mean no disrespect to McLeod. I am a fan. The versatile McLeod is a splendid skater who fills a number of valuable roles on this team. An excellent PK man. Effective 4v4. Transports the puck like a damn. Has a sound defensive conscience. But your G.M. went out and got you Adam Henrique, a 7-time 20-goal scorer in this league, including this season. It seems counter-intuitive to leave all that on the bench during 5v4. But hey, hard to argue with Kris Knoblauch’s success since coming here. He deserves some Jack Adams consideration.

Advertisement 4

Article content

1.If you do not think Darnell Nurse is a good NHL D-man, then we will probably just have to agree to disagree. Part of the problem is that a bad shift, a bad game, a bad stretch feeds the trolls that seem to hate everything Nurse touches. But like a lot of things out there on social media these days, those comments do not reflect reality. But it is sure a noisy minority. On one hand, I have generally agreed that less is generally more with Darnell. But upon some reflection, are we perhaps doing both the player and his team a disservice by thinking that way? The guy is an elite skater. His ability to close on a check is breathtaking, even deep into shifts. And on offence, Nurse is headed to his 6th 30+ point season. He has scored goals in the double digits three times and he may still hit ten this campaign.

Would I prefer Nurse be more consistently aggressive and physically engaged like he used to be? Like he was in the recent L.A. game, which he was tremendous in? 100%. True, he is not an elite passer. He IS a terrific transporter of the puck although does not always make the best decisions when he gets there. But we see the imperfections in the player because we watch every shift he takes. You don’t think other D-men on other teams have comparable issues? If so, you are kidding yourself. Nurse has all of these tools in a 6’4, 215lb frame that would make most GMs salivate. So, is less really more with Nurse? Or are we perhaps not taking full advantage of his natural abilities by “letting him run”?

Advertisement 5

Article content

We also may have made an incorrect assumption that Nurse would be better with a little less ice time. I was certainly in that camp. But maybe he isn’t. Some players are better “hot” than “cold.” The energy and the flow of the game fuels them and actually makes them better. Drew Doughty is a guy like that and there are others, too. They are just better when their motor is running.

I can be accused of observing Darnell Nurse through rose-colored glasses. But in the end, do you really need yet another person taking a piece out of Darnell Nurse. Those critics are everywhere, of the player and the contract (which is NOT his fault). And hey, the ones that just stick to the facts are not being unfair. Nurse has had his struggles. See the Dallas game.

But me? I am a fan of Darnell Nurse. I know he is not the perfect player. But I do appreciate what he does bring, which is substantial. And I know a lot of higher-up hockey people in this game who are smarter than me…feel the same about Nurse.

If the Oilers are to capture the Pacific title and/or the obvious bigger goal, Darnell Nurse will have played a significant role in that.

I’m just saying that Nurse may be more of a thoroughbred than a Clydesdale. And maybe we should be o.k. with that.

Now on Threads @kleavins. Also, find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and Mastodon at [email protected]

Recently, at The Cult…

McCURDY: Oilers bury Avalanche in possible playoff preview

STAPLES: Oilers double up Flames in final BOA of 2023-24

LEAVINS: Self-inflicted wounds in loss to Dallas

Article content