Should I Stay or Should I Go.
A popular 80′s song by The Clash that has the same title as to the question Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is probably asking himself when it comes to the World Junior Championship in Russia this year.
The story, which was first reported Sunday on sportsnet.ca by Mark Spector, explained how RNH was coming to Edmonton, getting his shoulder checked and that he would love to represent his country. All of it true. The fact that on Monday he was one of 37 named to Canada’s junior selection camp made this look like a slam dunk.
Now that may not quite be the case. Tuesday Oklahoma City Barons head coach Todd Nelson explained that prior to Dec. 10 Nugent-Hopkins would make his final decision. Alright I must say I thought he had already made his final decision pending a medical clearance on his shoulder. Considering he has 20 points in 19 games his shoulder appears just fine. RNH was scheduled to come to Edmonton for another look just to make sure everything was alright. I can’t see his shoulder keeping him from going to Russia. If it wouldn’t allow him to play in the World Juniors then in theory it also would keep him away from Oklahoma City and the AHL.
I don’t think this is entirely a physical issue for Nugent-Hopkins. Maybe — and I’m taking a bit of a leap here — it might be more of a mental issue. As Spector mentioned in his article the kid wants to play for Canada. Last year he was with Edmonton and when he was 17 he was cut. I guess if Michael Jordan can get axed from his junior high basketball team then Nugent-Hopkins can be left off Canada’s world junior team. This is his last chance. I won’t profess to being an RNH expert but in spending all of last season around him he strikes me as a nice kid, a humble one and a 19-year-old with a conscience. He wants to make everyone happy.
Part of him wants to do something for him and the country, a redo of sorts. To wear the Maple Leaf and have a nation on your side must be a special feeling. Doesn’t matter what NHL team you play for or exactly what town or city you were born in. You are Canadian end of story. However to pledge himself to his country RNH has to make quite a commitment. The players are supposed to arrive for the selection camp on Sunday night. There’s the camp, the travel to Russia, the start of the tournament, the end of the tournament and the trip home. It would take him away from OKC for four weeks.
In a month he would miss 13 games. Not only that, he would miss what’s happening in the AHL. In this lockout there aren’t a lot of positives but for Edmonton what’s happening in OKC is one of them. The young nucleus of the Oilers is having success with the Barons, still challenged and gaining experience. RNH centre’s a line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. There’s Justin Schultz on defence. The hockey has been good and so has the experience. Almost all the players live in the same complex. A lot of time off the ice is spent together. They’re in a basketball market so day-to-day the notoriety is minimal. The pressure is limited to what each of these young men puts on themselves.
It sounds like life on the farm is fun. Why leave your teammates, your friends and your future for a month? The Edmonton Oilers have already given RNH their blessing. They won’t stand in his way. It’s a tough decision to make with an entire country waiting and wondering what the outcome will be — a choice to be made by following your heart or your head. Which will it be UFA, Russia or Oklahoma City? Only Ryan Nugent-Hopkins knows the answer to that question.