I have learned that it is not possible to convince every critic of just how good Darnell Nurse really is. But while the 6-man unit Dave Tippet iced last night picked up the slack nicely, replacing all the quality ice that Nurse covers in a game will be a challenge in the longer run.
That and more in this edition of…
9. Darnell Nurse is out 2-3 weeks with a broken finger. I could see it being less. Its not a lower body injury so Nurse will still be in great shape. Slater Koekkoek is out 3-4 weeks. He has an ankle sprain. But it’s not a high ankle variety which is often far more problematic. They’ll miss both, but the news could have been worse in each case. More on Nurse in a minute.
7. I wonder if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gets some Olympic consideration. A dark horse candidate, for sure. But ‘The Nuge’ is a critical part of one of the 3 rd best PK unit in the NHL. And he has long been an elite Power Play performer and would be a familiar partner for Connor McDavid . Those special teams skills could put him in the conversation. All teams need role players, even Olympic ones.
5. I don’t think the Oilers need to go outside the organization for it’s 3 rd Line. Yes, that trio had fallen off 5v5 after a strong start. But that’s still a small sample. And I also said when they acquired Derek Ryan that he’s ideally your 4C. With Ryan McLeod finding his game (he scored again Saturday, his best outing yet), I think McLeod’s speed can be a difference-maker alongside Zack Kassian and Derek Foegele . They were the Oilers best trio Saturday. And all 3 are big men, too.
3. But even if Holloway is ready, he’d start on the wing. And you can never have too many Centers. With expansion Seattle struggling mightily, I would expect them to be involved in conversations with other clubs. Mason Appleton would be a strong add for Edmonton: A 25-year old, 6’2, 200 pound right-shot pivot, 54% on faceoffs for Winnipeg in 2021. Appleton is repped by Edmonton-based Rich Winter . While they are at it, might the Oilers add some PK depth and size with Seattle winger Nathan Bastian ? Keep an eye on both.
1.There is probably nothing that I can write that would possibly convince detractors of Darnell Nurse that the Oilers rearguard is among the NHL’s elite. So, I’m not going to attempt to. But I do want to try and dismiss a narrative out there that I believe to be patently false: That Time On ice is not a significant and meaningful indicator that a D-man is a true, elite-level defender. I’m always surprised at how many eyes glance past that stat when it says so many valuable things about a player. And while yes, I plan on explaining why it’s a legitimate factor in Nurse’s consideration, it should be when evaluating any NHL D-man.
There are some critical factors that play into the games of all 10 of those men. The first example of that is the simple fact that the longer any of them are on the ice, the more chances that they will be exposed by an attacker. Some will quite correctly point out mistakes made on that player’s watch, but their errors per 60 are typically fewer…and that’s far more important. If you don’t compare mistakes against proportional to ice-time, you’re missing the full picture.
Further, the more TOI you stack up, the greater you are taxed physically while facing those elites. There’s just a little less in the tank each time out. And also just like driving a car when you are tired, the longer you exert yourself the more opportunity for mental mistakes on the ice. Here’s where talent and smarts combine to limit those, which again why some guys get those minutes and others don’t.
The bottom line is that a player gets more TOI because their coach trusts them to get the job done. The less he trusts you, the less you’ll play.
So, if you accept that NHL coaches like Dave Tippet will do whatever it takes to win and understand they’ll be fired if they don’t…
…then I think you’ll begin to weight time-on-ice more appropriately. And that includes for Darnell Nurse.