Edmonton - Oct. 22, 2011 - Tom Renney did not come out and say that he is playing with the idea of having rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins take a seat in the press box when the Oilers take on the New York Rangers Saturday night but according to 630 Ched's Dan Tencer, he hinted that they may need to look at the team without him in the lineup. He also went on to say that his players are "pissed off" with losing their last two games...do you think they will be overly thrilled with their coach, if he decides to sit the teams top goal scorer and points leader?
One would think, that Renney is using this as a motivational tool to see if the kid will respond and push his game to another level. RNH wasn't great against Calgary on Tuesday and while I felt he was better against Minnesota, the coaching staff obviously did not agree. The youngster saw the ice for only 13:22 against the Wild, roughly four minutes below his average for the first five games. If trying to kick start his game is not what the head coach is attempting to get out of the former first overall selection, then I have no idea what he is trying to accomplish.
The whole "he needs to earn his time" nonsense, I find rather confusing. Players should be given the opportunity to show what they can do but it is ultimately their performance that should dictate how much they play. That being the case, how has the kid not "earned his time"? He was their best player during the pre-season and he has continued that trend in the regular season.
While the young centre gives up the puck on occasion, he is not this turnover machine that some are making him out to be. In the Oilers half of the ice, he is almost always on the right side of the puck and tracks the play very well into his own zone, while rarely being out of position. Unlike Sam Gagner and the recently departed Andre Cogliano, who routinely would lose their "cover" in the Oilers zone, Nugent-Hopkins understands where he needs to be on the ice and is missing that "deer caught in the headlight" look that both Gager and Cogliano have in their end of the ice. He struggles in the faceoff circle, like most teenagers that play in the NHL, but why is it continually being hampered on?
I don't think he can take a pill that will make him bigger and stronger over night...though I do remember something of the sort happening in the CAPTAIN AMERICA movie. It takes a lot of time and hard work but I have little doubt that he will wind up being decent in the circle...within in few years. Regardless, he doesn't take any important draws so at this point, it is a non issue.
Nugent-Hopkins processes the game at a level that most players could only dream of. When you watch him out on the ice, you can see how he slows every thing down and brings it to a level he finds acceptable. The kid is a very unique and special talent and it does seem this staff is a little perplexed, when it comes handling him. Unlike Taylor Hall, it is more difficult to point out obvious flaws in his game because of immaturity. You will not see Nugent-Hopkins slam his stick up against the boards or taking extra long shifts as Hall did during his rookie campaign. He is not that type of player.
If the plan is to have him sit here and there to watch and learn from the press box, that is fine and it is not an issue whatsoever. That being said, when the coach talks about his game and says "Ryan can help generate offence but it's also a case of not what you take but what you leave" and that " we have to ensure that he continues to make a solid contribution to the team" that I am left scratching my head.
I think leading the team in scoring is a "contribution" and what exactly does it's "not what you take but you leave" mean? I thought the plan for RNH was to be this clubs first line centre for years to come but maybe I am mistaken. The plan might be to turn him into a solid two way centre who could play on the third line and take crucial faceoffs...though I think this team already has a couple of those guys. Again, if the plan is to have him sit and watch a game then come out and say it. Don't talk in riddles to the media about the deficiencies in his game, in order to defend your decision.
The future of this team will depend on few highly skilled players that have the ability to be game breakers. If this coaching staff is able to stay out of its own way and learns to live with the mistakes that come with the process, the Edmonton Oilers may, once again, end up with some of the best players in the world leading their organization.