Todd Nelson will look to steer the Oilers in the right direction as he takes over as head coach tonight when Edmonton plays host to the L.A. Kings.
Nelson had been working alongside general manager Craig MacTavish since the Dec. 15 firing of Dallas Eakins.
Since MacTavish took over, the Oilers have gone 0-3-2 and have not won in nine games overall.
Edmonton will have a couple new faces on the ice as well. Newly acquired forwards Derek Roy and Matt Fraser are expected to be in the lineup against the Kings.
Fraser, 24, was plucked off waivers by the Oilers from the Bruins on Monday. In 24 games this season, the Red Deer, Alberta native has three goals and seven penalty minutes to go along with a minus-5 rating.
Fraser skated on the right side of Leon Draisaitl and David Perron at the team’s morning skate.
Roy, who was acquired by Edmonton from Nashville in exchange for Mark Arcobello on Monday, skated between Nail Yakupov and Teddy Purcell.
The 31-year-old had a goal and nine helpers in 26 games with the Predators this season.
Both players are on expiring contracts.
With all the problems the Edmonton Oilers have had this season, Nail Yakupov’s struggles have been overshadowed, but unless something changes he will regress offensively for the third straight season. The former 2012 first overall pick has just four goals and eight points in 34 games this season.
“I’m doing everything right,” Yakupov insisted, per the Edmonton Sun.
“I can say I do everything right. I work 100%. I’m not cheating (defensively). I’m not doing any bad stuff.”
He added that while he obviously would like to get more points, he doesn’t “want to get crazy” over it.
Of course this wasn’t what the Oilers envisioned when they drafted him, but it’s too early to dismiss him as a major bust despite the evidence pointing towards it. He is still just 21 years old and to paint his struggles in another light, he is actually tied for the career high in goals (32) and ranks second in points (63) among players from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Is the sample size small? Obviously, but that’s kind of the point.
It’s also worth noting that his offensive struggles haven’t come in isolation. The Oilers as a team have been remarkably bad offensively and everyone from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle on down has underperformed. New bench boss Todd Nelson is hoping a system change will help spark the team and Yakupov in particular.
“We’re trying to create more offense as a team and he’s a guy who can provide that for us,” said Nelson. “You have to get into a position where he can shoot the puck. We have to keep on working with him, going into the scoring areas.
“And with the system we’re implementing, it should open up everybody. He’s just like every other player, we have to put these guys more in a position to succeed.”
Edmonton will play Arizona on Tuesday as the Oilers try to win for just the second time in 20 games.
For the record, I have no idea what the Oilers could get for Taylor Hall. I imagine it would be a lot though, which is why the temptation has to be there for ol’ “man of action” Craig MacTavish to do something “bold” and turn one potentially great player into two or three really good ones.
So to clarify: I’m not saying the Oilers should definitely trade Hall. They could easily come to regret it if they do. I’m just saying the possibility should be on the table, with a future built around centers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl, winger Jordan Eberle, and defenseman Darnell Nurse. (And the way things are going, maybe even Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.)
Oh, and I’m not convinced Nail Yakupov is a bust either. The kid’s only 21 and hasn’t exactly been granted a great environment in which to develop. “You need to be patient,” some guy said today.
Going into tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks, the Edmonton Oilers hadn’t won since Nov. 9, they hadn’t earned a home win since Oct. 27, they hadn’t beaten a Western Conference team this season, and they had the worst record in the NHL. Three of those four things are no longer true as Edmonton managed to scrape together a 2-1 victory.
For just the 10th time in 27 games this season, the Oilers were able to get on the board first thanks to a power-play goal from Nail Yakupov. The 2012 first overall pick got his first point since Nov. 11 and eighth overall this season.
Tye McGinn evened the contest just over two minutes later, but David Perron scored what would become the game-winning goal midway through the third period.
Naturally its hard to be optimistic about Edmonton just because its no longer in the midst of one of the worst losing streaks since 2009, especially given the Oilers’ failures over the last nine seasons. Even still, this offers them an opportunity to grow.
“It’s great to get a win, and especially a win where we thought we deserved two points. Now we have to carry it over,” Taylor Hall said, per the Oilers’ Twitter feed.
“This doesn’t mean a lot if we’re not going to stick to it. We have to replicate that kind of effort night after night,” winning goaltender Ben Scrivens added.
This was just the first of three meetings between these squads scheduled for December. Edmonton and San Jose will also battle on Tuesday and the 18th.
Pittsburgh is 15-4-2, atop the Metropolitan Division and one point back of Montreal for first in the Eastern Conference — a good start, but not enough for GM Jim Rutherford to stand pat.
“We’ll still make some changes with the team,” Rutherford said, per the Tribune-Review. “We need to get more balance in our forward lines. And I say that with all due respect to the players we have. The guys have worked hard.
“At the same time, there’s a lot of good teams in this league, and I recognize that we’ll have to get more depth up front.”
There were reports of Rutherford wanting to add depth up front before Pascal Dupuis was lost for the season and Beau Bennett went down to a lower-body injury, so now the veteran GM is talking about adding pieces, plural, as opposed to just one piece.
It’ll be interesting to see where he looks for them.
The most obvious trade partner would be Carolina, Rutherford’s former team. He has an extremely close relationship with new GM Ron Francis and the financially-strapped ‘Canes probably won’t make the playoffs — Jiri Tlusty, who leads Carolina with eight goals and is a UFA at season’s end, could qualify as a legitimate option.
Another team worth considering would be Edmonton. The club is spiraling, having lost eight straight, and could look to shake things up via trade. One of the Oilers’ few positions of strength is at wing, and the likes of David Perron and Nail Yakupov have seen their names surface in trade rumors before.