Todd Nelson coached the Oilers, under the interim tag, to a record of 17-22-7 since taking over full-time on December 30. Time has flown by for Nelson in his first NHL head coaching action.
“Well, personally, it’s been great,” said Nelson. “It’s been a great experience ever since I got the call from (Oilers GM Craig MacTavish). I was grateful for the opportunity and I think that we’ve made some positive strides moving forward. There are some building blocks we can lean on moving forward.”
The Oilers will continue their evaluation process moving forward into the off-season. That evaluation includes the head coaching position and the future of that office for the Oilers. Nelson is sure to be a candidate for that job, and thinks he put his best foot forward.
“I have no regrets about how I handled things,” he said. “I went about it day by day and, like I’ve said before, there’s a lot of work to do here but I think that we made some positive strides in certain areas. I was happy for the experience and I had a great time.”
Under his watch, Nelson feels there were improvements.
“Some of the positive things I saw was when I first got here there were some situations where we’d be up a few goals and then a team would score a goal and we’d get a bit rattled,” said Nelson. “We saw the team grow as the season went on where when that happened again we hunkered down and preserved the victory. I think as a group, I saw some positive signs with that and it has to continue moving forward. There are some building blocks that we can work on next season.”
Nelson spoke with the team before they depart to various homes and vacation spots. His message was simple.
“I didn’t say much. I just said, ‘thanks for the work that you put in and thanks for doing the things or trying to do the things I wanted (you) to do, and have a good summer.’ I thanked them for their time. For the most part, they gave me what they had and that’s all I can ask for,” said Nelson.
As for whether or not Nelson would return to the Oilers in some capacity other than head coach, he wasn’t ready to say.
“I haven’t really given much thought to that,” he explained. “Everything is pretty fresh, but I enjoy working here, I enjoy the people I work with, they’re fantastic people and it’s always a great day to come to the rink.”
So what’s next for Nelson? “A lot of fishing,” he says. Fishing and waiting, as the two go hand in hand. But as for if he wants to be back next year, Nelson says, “absolutely.”
Nelson will head to Oklahoma City to offer his support to the Barons during their Calder Cup playoff run.
Davidson, 23, appeared in 12 games with the Oilers this season, posting his first career National Hockey League goal on March 30th against the Colorado Avalanche.
Marincin, 23, registered five points (1G, 4A) and 16 penalty minutes in 41 games with the Oilers. He recorded his first NHL goal on March 25th against the Colorado Avalanche.
Musil, 22, appeared in four games with the Oilers, posting two assists and two penalty minutes, including his first NHL point that came on April 7th against the Los Angeles Kings.
Nail Yakupov’s centre has been credited with helping the winger turnaround his game. The two developed chemistry over the last half of the season and Yakupov’s production shot up.
“Even the last couple of games, he was flying,” Derek Roy said of Yakupov’s improvement. “He was skating really good and moving the puck and making plays, getting shots through to the net and doing some of the small things that are going to make you successful in the league. The more he learns and the more he gets better, he’s going to be a dynamic player in the NHL. I believe that. That’s why I’ve just tried to help him as much as I could.”
Yakupov finished the season with 33 points, a new career high. He scored 14 goals and added 19 assists. It was the second half of the season that was the best for the 21-year-old Russian winger.
Post All-Star break, Yakupov recorded 21 of those 33 points, including nine of his goals. From February 9-18, Yakupov had a point streak of six games. He had a five-game streak from March 9-18.
Yakupov looks back on his season and says that Interim Coach Todd Nelson had an impact as well. Nelson took over solo responsibility as head coach behind the Oilers bench on December 30.
“Yeah, I think my last half of the year was pretty good,” said Yakupov. “I’m really happy to have Nelly. He gave me kind of a second life. I was really enjoying to play, really enjoying practice and to be around the hockey rink and play the game. I think that’s really the important thing in your favourite job. It was really, really good. I just want to thank Nelly too for giving me support. He was so nice to me and it just helps a lot, you know? I really enjoyed the (second half) of the year.”
At the trade deadline, Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said the team was unlikely to deal pending unrestricted free agent Derek Roy. They were in the, “process of reaching out to him to see what his feeling is in terms of getting into a relationship” with the team moving forward.
They, in fact, did not deal Roy and he finished out the 2014-15 season, having played 46 games for the Oilers since being acquired from Nashville on December 29. He averaged just under a half point per game with Edmonton, recording 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points.
“I think I just came in here and tried to work as hard as I can in all areas of the game and got better as the season went on and felt really comfortable with myself on the ice. And I was healthy, which is the main thing. Going into the off-season, I’m healthy so that’s a great start and I’m going to get back to work and get ready,” said Roy.
Now the sights turn to potentially locking up the 31-year-old centre, who has provided a much-needed veteran presence beside Nail Yakupov. Roy confirmed on Sunday that his representation has had talks with the Oilers.
“Yeah, there have been some talks and I’m just sitting in the background and waiting for some news. Hopefully, we’ll get something done,” he said.
Roy felt welcome in the Oilers locker room right from the first day. It is well-documented the impact he has had on an individual like Yakupov and on the team, as a veteran.
“The guys were welcoming right away, so that was great. I came in and then right away the guys were great from the practice to the game on the first day and I felt welcome right away, which is a huge thing. My competitiveness and the way I work hard every day in practice, I don’t know, maybe rubs on some of the guys and it was a fun process,” said Roy.
The centre has played 738 regular season NHL games in his career, scoring 189 goals and adding 335 assists. He has 49 games of NHL playoffs experience, recording 27 points in the post-season.
Whether or not the two sides reach an agreement is yet to be determined.
Oilers Captain Andrew Ference suffered a concussion on March 23, in a game against the Winnipeg Jets. He played just 2:27 before missing the remainder of that game. He has not played since, as it has been a long road to recovery. But he may be out of the worst part, speaking to the media about his health on Sunday.
“It’s coming along,” said Ference. “I’ve been lucky in my career, I think this is only my second, questionably third, concussion. They’re difficult. For about two weeks, you get that feeling like you’ve been on a fishing boat for eight hours and you come off and you just get a rocking (feeling). The balance and stuff like that is messed up. If you’ve never had one before it’s kind of hard to explain. It’s kind of a mix between coming off a boat and being hungover and it doesn’t go away. Luckily, over the last couple of days it’s been good. I was able to skate quite a bit, just to measure if it’d get worse from activity and it’s coming along just fine.”
Ference spoke about the protocol the NHL has for dealing with concussions, saying there has been progress since he came into the league during the 1990-2000 season, and even just over the last few years.
“There are two ways to look at it. It’s scary when you feel that way, but it’s also amazing the difference that four or five or six years makes with the way that they handle them as well,” he said. “Earlier in my career, there’s no way that a trainer would have held you back to say, ‘slow down, take your time and make sure we’re doing this the right way.’ Now, any symptoms whatsoever and they’re holding you out and making sure that you’re back to 100%. The progress is there and I think that’s the important thing. As far as prevention and the rules and trying to do it, it’s tough. When it does happen, getting the full recovery from doctors and trainers and making sure that the clubs are taking care of it, that message has obviously gotten through and they’re doing as good a job as they can with it. That’s progress.”
Ference, 36, has played in 901 NHL games over the course of his career for the Penguins, Flames, Bruins and Oilers. He played 70 games this season, scoring three goals and adding 11 assists and 39 penalty minutes.
Matt Hendricks is skating with the team.
Gazdic-Hendricks-Klinkhammer (Hamilton rotating)
Oklahoma City Barons defenceman Brad Hunt has been named a First Team AHL All Star, the league announced today.
Hunt has tallied 48 points in 57 games for OKC this season, good for second in the league among defencemen. He has played 11 games this season for the Oilers, scoring a goal and adding two assists.
When he was assigned to OKC in November, Hunt quickly amassed 15 points in his first eight games. His 17 goals this season in the AHL are more than he had in 145 previous AHL games.
The 26-year-old defenceman was a Second Team All-Star selection last season. He played in his second career AHL All-Star Classic in January.
VIDEO: RAW: Todd Nelson | RAW: Brandon Davidson | RAW: Justin Schultz
AUDIO: Todd Nelson | Justin Schultz | Brandon Davidson
Gazdic & Klinkhammer (Hendricks is absent)
Mark Fayne is participating and rotating in.
Laurent Brossoit is set to make his first start at the NHL level tomorrow against the San Jose Sharks. The 22-year-old is the Oilers top goalie prospect. He was acquired in a trade on November 8, 2013, which sent Olivier Roy and Ladislav Smid to the Calgary Flames in exchange for the young goaltender and Roman Horak.
Brossoit has been recalled on emergency basis with Richard Bachman being returned to Oklahoma City on loan to join his wife, as they are expecting their first child.
Brossoit had a standout season for the Bakersfield Condors in the ECHL last year, playing 35 games (24-9-2) and posting a 2.15 GAA and .923 save percentage to go along with six shutouts. He also played 16 playoff games for Bakersfield, finishing with a 10-6 record, a .921 save percentage and 2.27 GAA.
Coming up to the AHL, it took time for him to adjust. However, he seems to be progressing nicely now with an increased workload.
“With his progression, last year he had a really good year down in the ECHL and he’s done the same thing coming up in the American League. As I mentioned before, he was a bit inconsistent just as every young goalie is getting their feet wet,” said Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson. “Lately, he’s been controlling his play, he’s been very efficient in net and his progression has been great. He was thrown into a position where he had to play all those games, but that’s great because he got a wealth of experience and I think it’s going to help him tomorrow night.”
With injuries to the big club and Bachman being recalled, Brossoit became the workhorse down in OKC. He has started 25 straight games heading into this call-up. Over the course of that stretch, he has a 2.70 GAA and .915 save percentage. He has averaged 30.68 saves per game in that time.
“It was a very heavy workload for him,” said Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson. “When you play back to backs and three in threes, it takes its toll on everybody, but especially goalies. He’s a big, strong guy, he’s very athletic and he handled it fine. I know for a fact that he’ll be very excited to play tomorrow.”
The Oilers used the 48th overall pick in 2010 to select Curtis Hamilton from the Saskatoon Blades. Hamilton is now expected to make his NHL debut on Thursday, after being recalled from Oklahoma City on emergency basis. Matt Hendricks got a bit “banged up” on Tuesday night against Los Angeles and is “very unlikely” to play.
Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson is very familiar with Hamilton, having coached him for three full seasons and the first half of this year down in the American Hockey League.
“He’s a player that I’ve seen quite a bit of over the last four years,” said Nelson. “He’s matured into a player where he feels more comfortable on the ice. He’s a big body out there, he can play a physical brand and I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence this season. He had a pretty good experience over at the Spengler (Cup), so he’s doing a lot of good things. He got a bit banged up in February, but he’s been playing well as of late and he’s earned his opportunity to come up here and play.”
Hamilton is playing some of his best professional hockey to date, blowing away his previous career high in points with 29 in 60 games this season. That includes 12 goals and 17 assists, also career highs. The 23-year-old winger is 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds.