SUN Hockey Pool

Nilsson looks to improve

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Robert Nilsson has game.

But the most frustrating thing about the Oilers winger this season was that he didn't always bring it.

Nilsson was one of the most inconsistent players on Edmonton's roster. On some nights he would look outstanding, making 140-foot breakaway passes or taking on the entire Detroit Red Wings defensive corps to set up a goal.

Yet, too often the 24-year-old winger would be a passenger and he eventually found himself being shuffled in and out of the lineup.

"This season was up and down," Nilsson admitted yesterday.

"The thing I have to think about this off-season is to take the positives out of it and learn from the bad things.

"My consistency has to get better.

"I know I can help this team when I'm playing well; I just have to find a way to have a better bad game.

"If I have a night off with my passing or something, MacT still has to have the confidence to put me in there even if I'm not making the plays that I usually do."

Acquired in the trade that sent Ryan Smyth packing, Nilsson was expected to provide a bulk of the offence for the Oilers this season.

Last year he was an integral part of the team's late-season surge that saw them fall just short of a playoff spot.

Yet in 64 games this season, the son of former Oiler star Kent Nilsson had nine goals and 20 assists - down from 10 goals and 31 assists last year.

He has the tools to be an impact player in the league, but must also develop the work ethic to go along with it.

"That's up to him," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"It's where the rubber hits the road now in terms of his career which path he'll take.

"The bottom line in this league is that it's way too hard to have any success without harnessing that commitment on and off the ice.

"You just can't have any success unless you are totally committed."


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