Todd Nelson & The Juicy Red Apple

The film, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ the first full length feature film released by Walt Disney, is a remarkable feat. Tapping out at just over eighty minutes, it was a film that was ground-breaking for its time, and remains the springboard feature that propelled Sir Disney and his animation company into the status of legendary creator. And for all its historical significance, it is an animated piece of art with depth, with heart, and with pretty solid storytelling.

Snow, the fairest of them all, toils away for her wicked queen step-mother. She cleans floors, hangs out with woodland creatures, and constantly wears tattered clothing and wooden shoes. Such a poor life. As the evil queen turns her gaze towards the mirror on the wall, as she presumably does every day, she’s spurned by face that tells her that Snow White is indeed the fairest of them all.

The Huntsman, hired to kill the lovely princess, has a change of heart, drops his dagger, encourages her to run for her life. She does, finds the cottage of the seven dwarfs, and the story takes a funny then dramatic turn towards the end.

You have probably seen the film, and if you haven’t go watch it again. The animation is groundbreaking (30 pages of hand-drawn work for each second), the production is trailblazing (the depth to those wood scenes, wow), and the music is memorable. Yet the story is what gives it legs. A story, ripped from Grimm’s Fairy Tales is equally joyous as it is pompous, fun, and tragic. Eighty minutes in 1937, that is all it took, for Walt to capture the essence of a fable that was as ancient as they come. The story, to this day, remains the groundwork for all Disney animated features. We have that juicy apple to thank.

The story line is simple, yet complex in its delivery. It is a film supposedly about fear, but is rather more about the choices one makes in life (yes, including the choice to be afraid). Does she serve the evil queen? Yes. Does she trust the Huntsman when he says, “Run!”? Yes. Does she go into that creepy cottage where it’s dirty, dank, and dusty? Yes. And then there’s the penultimate choice where a haggard old lady convinces her that the red, sweet apple is a wishing apple, and that it gives you more power to make better choices. She bites, literally, and dies. Her choice is now gone. She is now at the mercy of the one little wrinkle in the spell – love’s first kiss.

The choices were important, yet they were ill-advised for much of Snow White’s life (or at least the portion we see). She made enough bad / crazy / weird decisions that eventually it led to her demise. Lucky for us (and her) that strapping prince finds her in the woods, under a glass coffin nonetheless (morbid Walt, just morbid).

Todd Nelson, the captain of the fair maiden known as the Oklahoma City Barons that has entertained the rough sea voyage of the AHL for nearly four years. He’s been wildly successful despite the plots twists and turns. Yet I fear that his juicy red apple moment is rapidly approaching.

Unlike Snow White, Todd Nelson has made really good choices up until now. Both in his playing career and his coaching career. He has worked as a UHL head coach, an AHL assistant, an AHL head coach, and a NHL assistant, and thus the career arc would suggest that this guy is a candidate for an NHL head coaching job. He’s earned it, much like his major league Oilers counter-part, Dallas Eakins, has earned it. But there is a huge haggard old lady peering through the window, and the next big decision could cost him. Is it worth the risk?

What choices are there to make?

First, he could remain the coach of the Oklahoma City Barons. This is good for the Oilers business, and good for the local fan base. As long as he is between the Red River and Dodge City, we all can rejoice. He probably has a contract on the farm for as long as he keeps winning, and that doesn’t seem to be an issue moving forward. I’d argue that this might be a more potent option than B (which is forthcoming). So this is option A.

Second, he could take a hypothetical job as an assistant with the Edmonton Oilers. Seemingly past over for Dallas Eakins last summer, Nelson felt the burn ever so slightly (at least in public, the scorn might run deeper in private) when October rolled around. Nonetheless, he toppled great hurdles to get a sideways prospect team into the postseason. If he were to take a job with Edmonton there are some things to consider. Why take the job when you’ve already had a similar one? That’s a good point. He’s been an NHL assistant before, the draw to go back feels perhaps like a step backwards. Unless…he sees this as an opportunity to take hold of the steering wheel just enough to take full driver’s seat privileges if Eakins gets ejected for bad play. That’s entirely possible, but also incredibly risky. Eakins gets at least another year, right? What if he wins 60% of his games through December 2014? The NHL assistant job probably doesn’t garner any more attention from suitors than being an AHL head coach, right? Maybe. This is option B.

Third, he could take a hypothetical job with an NHL team (Nashville, wait, Carolina might be good). This would be a huge opportunity for Nelson, and I think this is where he would like to travel if the GPS gets him there. But keep in mind, as good buddy and fellow writer Sean Shapiro pointed out, there are a whole buncha coaches in the same boat as Nelson. Successful, good, smart, RECENTLY successful, good, and smart. Guys like Willie Desjardin in Texas or Jeff Blashill in Grand Rapids are wonderful options for head coaches in the NHL. It just seems that Nelson gets the leg-up because his farm squad happens to feed in to one of the worst NHL teams over the last five years, a team that keeps most of its high draft picks in the NHL from the rope drop. That’s saying something, for sure. This is option C.

Fourth, and this is a wild one, he can form a hybrid of Option B and Option C, and join Barry Trotz’s mythological next stop as an assistant coach with his mentor. Trotz is a huge part of Todd Nelson’s shape and form. Written several weeks ago by Jonathan Willis, this recent article highlights Nelson’s affections for Barry as a coach, a mentor, and a soothsayer of hockey knowledge. Trotz was ousted in Nashville after sixteen seasons. Nelson is a highly watched coaching prospect. If the hockey world needed a duo to form an alliance of greatness, this might be a good option. An option, we will call D, that Todd Nelson likely couldn’t pass up.

So the juicy red apple is hanging from the cold finger of that yucky old lady. Nelson, who has made intelligent decisions unlike our wounded heroin Snow White, but the next decision might be the most important. Keep in mind, Nelson has an “out clause” that is NHL specific meaning that if an NHL team comes knocking on his door, he can entertain whomever is patiently waiting. That’s huge, and was probably something Todd fought for at the last contract discussion.

It’s red. It’s juicy. Go ahead, take a bite. But beware there is an NHL “Sleeping Death”, and you won’t have seven dwarfs to hold vigil over you in the woods. Beware. Beware.

3 comments on “Todd Nelson & The Juicy Red Apple”

  1. We’re not going to really know the score until the playoffs end. Carolina, Vancouver, Washington and Florida are open, but some of the coaching prospects are still either leading Calder Cup efforts or assisting in the NHL right now. I think that Blashill – with a Calder Cup already and a Detroit-organization pedigree – might be a first choice.

    Nelson in Washington, though? That would be some fun hockey.

    1. Indeed, lots of good coaching candidates out there, but I really think Nelson and the Barons have been the one really positive thing for the Oilers in the last four seasons. To win when he parent club is so so awful is pretty impressive.

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