Cross Checks: Raphael Diaz
January, 25, 2013
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com
Come on, are some people really put off by Nail Yakupov's tying goal celebration from Thursday night?
The dude is 19, just scored a gigantic goal and he’s showing emotion with a building going crazy. I want more of that in the NHL, not less.
And don’t expect Oilers management or coaches to tell him to tone it down. He’ll figure out what’s right or not on his own.
"First of all, he loves hockey," Oilers GM Steve Tambellini told ESPN.com on Friday. "We can’t get him out of the dressing room, he’s there the whole day. I think he’s always been that player that when he’s excited, he has a tough time controlling his emotions because he’s so happy. You don’t want to take a personality away from a player; that’s who he is."
If anything, his teammates will eventually guide him on the ins and outs of that stuff.
"The most important thing, if you listened to Sam Gagner talk about it, how much passion and emotion Nail brings into the dressing room to play the game," said Tambellini. "It’s more important that his teammates are accepting of Nail."
This week, meanwhile, was a perfect microcosm of what the young Oilers will be all about as they try to learn how to become a playoff team.
First, there was an impressive shootout victory over the rival Canucks in hostile Vancouver on Sunday, when the young Oilers showed composure.
Then there was the six-goal first period San Jose dropped on Edmonton on Tuesday night. Ouch. That was a night when the young Oilers looked like deer in the headlights.
Then there was Thursday night, when the Oilers rebounded with a dramatic 2-1 comeback win in overtime over the defending Stanley Cup champions from Los Angeles, playing a strong defensive game.
In the end, this is a team that will have hiccups as it learns how to win. There will be ups and downs.
"Well you hope you won’t have too much of that," Tambellini said with a chuckle. "But I think with so much energy in that dressing room, you could see in our first home game [against the Sharks], we were so amped up, the game plan went out the window. San Jose is a great hockey club and we were pretty done after one period.
"But last night against a great L.A. hockey club, and OK maybe we’re better to get them earlier in the year than later, but I thought we showed a good display of willingness to stick to a game plan, even though you’ve got all these weapons."
It’s why I believe Ralph Krueger is a great choice to coach this team. He’s patient and he’s a great teacher. They will learn to win more consistently with him behind the bench.
I still think the blue-line corps isn’t deep enough and Devan Dubnyk hasn’t won me in goal just yet.
But they’re going to be so much fun to watch.
The Los Angeles Kings are winless in three games to open the season (0-2-1) and while I would suggest the performance of the top six forwards is the biggest reason for the slow start, you can’t discount the injuries on the blue line.
You just don’t replace Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene in the lineup that easily, not in the dressing room either, for that matter.
Mitchell is on the mend and hopefully should be back fairly soon, although it’s not entirely clear when. And even when he does return, you have to assume he’ll need time before he's his normal self.
And Greene is out long term, leaving the Kings scouring the trade market looking for blue-line help. I believe Kings GM Dean Lombardi might be willing to do what he wasn’t a month ago: move young netminder Jonathan Bernier if it means getting a top-four blueliner in return.
Easier said than done. Every team in the league seems to be looking for ways to add defense, not shed some. And the Kings are really high on Bernier; they view him as a franchise goalie in the making, so they’re not moving him unless they get what they want.
All of which makes things intriguing with word that Toronto came calling over the past month kicking the tires on Bernier. Could Toronto offer up the defenseman the Kings need? Hard to say. But the Leafs are one of the few teams in the league with real depth on defense, nine NHL blueliners at the ready right now.
Ben Scrivens was shelled by the New York Islanders on Thursday night, fueling the predictable demands from Leaf fans for their team to finally solve their goalie issues. Of course there’s the whole Roberto Luongo soap opera to consider as well. Yes, the Leafs remain interested in Luongo.
But know this: New Leafs GM Dave Nonis is adamant he’s not going to be pressured into any trade just because of some bad results. Win or lose from day to day, he has the long-term view in mind and says he will stick to it. He’ll make a goalie trade when he feels the time is right.
So a dreadful 7-4 loss at home to the Islanders, the Leafs blowing a 3-1 lead Thursday night, will not expedite a trade.
"No, nothing has changed; if there’s a deal out there that makes us better that doesn’t severely affect us going forward, then we would look to do it," Nonis told ESPN.com on Friday. "And if there’s not, then it’s important the players we have in our room compete like they have prior to last night. There is no change in the direction we’re going."
Yes I believe the Leafs remain interested in Luongo, but as long as the Canucks want Nazem Kadri as part of any deal, it’s not going to happen.
So the waiting game, or chicken game, continues between Vancouver and Toronto.
The Canucks will hope the Leafs’ goaltending woes continue and make Nonis reconsider his stance on Kadri. The Leafs will hope the Luongo situation in Vancouver becomes unbearable for the Canucks and they’re finally forced to make a move for a lesser price.
Diaz Dialed InRaphael Diaz is a different player one year later for the Montreal Canadiens.
The 27-year-old Swiss defenseman, to me, looked tentative at times last season in his first crack at the NHL, and that’s understandable.
With five assists in three games and solid defensive decision-making, Diaz has looked terrific so far in this early season.
"He’s playing with confidence and competing really hard," said one NHL scout on Friday.
Really he’s just picking up where he left off in Switzerland this season. He racked up 29 points (7-22) in 32 games with Zug while playing with Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner.
After P.K. Subban signs and returns, Diaz's power-play time will be affected but still, he’s a player who appears to have taken the next step in his NHL development.
Credit former Habs GM Pierre Gauthier, who saw promise and signed Diaz as a free agent in May 2011.
Diaz has another season left on his deal; next season is worth $1.225 million. That appears right now to be quite the bargain.
Have a great weekend, folks. Enjoy the action.