During his media availability this morning Dallas Eakin talked about Nikita Nikitin, who, despite a mountain of evidence indictaing that he shouldn't be in the lineup, will once again dress for the Oilers this evening when they host the New Jersey Devils. Jason Gregor tweeted a quote of Eakins'.
"We default to veterans that they will play well. Nikky feels he can play better and we need him to." Eakins on Nikitin #Oilers— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) November 21, 2014
Does that sound familiar to you? It did to me, and thanks to the great @loxyisme I now know why. This is Eakins eight days ago before the Senators game:
Nicky wants to be better than he has the last couple of games. We’re going to rely on him being a veteran guy.
A couple of thoughts here:
- I think there needs to be some sort of agreement on Nikky vs Nicky.
- Nikitin was struggling before the Senators game and hasn't been any better in the three games the Oilers have played since. It's nice to rely on him as a veteran, and it's great that he wants to be better, but if the results aren't there then a change has to be made.
Going back a few months to when the Oilers signed Nikitin, it would be fair to say that I wasn't a fan. But in my wildest dreams I never would have expected that he would look as bad as he has so far this season. In fairness though, he's probably not as bad as he's looked this season, because, as you might recall, he missed three games earlier this season with back spasms, and I'd be willing to bet that his back is still bothering him, and that's a big part of why he has looked terrible more often than not.
If Nikitin is playing hurt and that's affecting his play, then I'm willing to cut him some slack. But if that's the case then I'm at a loss to explain why the coaching staff would continue to dress him and play him as much as they have - 21 plus minutes in every game during this homestand. And if he's not hurt then we have to ask why he's still in the lineup when the results clearly don't justify it.
The Oilers defence has some issues, you know it, I know it, and management knows it. And in that situation I don't think that defaulting to your veterans is the worst thing that a coach can do, but you can't do that above all else. Results still matter. It's nice to want to Nikitin to play better and to give him the chance to play his way back to 100%, sooner or later though you're going to have to dress someone that you know will actually play better. For the last week that player would have been Martin Marincin, tonight it's Keith Aulie.