2013 OILERS TRAINING CAMP
More Oilers you are all saying. And, well, I am not surprised. We are on day 3 of camp, there has been a trade and a pretty important announcement already. The season opener is Sunday night and the starting lines are taking shape. And I am just too excited not to talk about it.
I wished embedding video still worked so you all could hear that wicked song by Das Racist. When I get to feeling pretty good about things I often throw on a little hip-hop. That song is called “Rapping 2 U.” A slick song. In their vein, this is me rapping to you about the Oilers.
MOAR OILERS, after the jump.
GM Steve Tambellini traded for Dallas Stars defenseman Mark Fistric a couple days back. I usually like to give the Oiler blogosphere time to think through and distill these trades for me. That is to say, I wait to see what Lowetide has to say about things based on his instinct. And then I wait a day to see what Lowetide says after he thinks about it for twenty-four hours. And he pretty much nails it here and then a day later here. Robin Brownlee chips in his two cents over at OilersNation here, and doesn’t really miss anything. And then Tyler Dellow goes above and beyond with an exhaustingly thorough run-down of the development of players like Mark Fistric over the last 15 years here. So, all-in-all, I feel like anything I have to say about the trade has already been said, save for one little item.
Mark Fistric is a bruising stay-at-home NHL defenseman. These type of players are valuable on any club for depth. When news of the trade broke, that the Oilers had traded a 3rd round pick for Fistric, most anybody with any knowledge of the game texted me congratulations on a fine deal. I was a little cynical at first, noting — along the lines of Lowetide — that trading away a draft pick in the top 80 for a player who has reached his potential (as Dellow so nicely points out) is not an entirely effective form of asset management.
However, the true gain of this acquisition is in Fistric’s dependability and toughness at the bottom of the defensive depth chart. And, most importantly in my opinion, removes one of the most lethal hitting opponents the Oilers face from the competition. Sometimes the true value of an opponent isn’t recognized until he plays on your team (or leaves your team). I am convinced Oilers management noted how punishing of a hitter Fistric was to play against and went out and acquired him. That’s savvy, smart, management right there. And keeps the shoulders of the young guns firmly in their sockets, away from the preying hits of guys like Fistric.
A nice move.
Jason Gregor over at OilersNation broke the story before anyone else that Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Nick Schultz were to be named the assistant captains for this shortened season. Previous to that announcement, I had been having a conversation with my Grandma about what the Oilers were going to do with the leadership letters this season. It went something like this:
Grandma: “I think Ryan Smyth should be the captain or assistant captain. He deserves it. And you know you are going to get 101% from him every night.”
tphillers: “Oh definitely. I just think that the Oilers want to see the core of leadership being handed to the young group of players coming up. And what I have been hearing is that at the end of the season Shawn Horcoff will pass the “C” along to either Eberle or Hall in the summer. In much the same way Lee Fogolin gave the “C” to Wayne Gretzky in the summer of 1983.”
tphillers: “I want Eberle to be the next captain.”
Grandma: “I still like Ryan Smyth.”
tphillers: “Yeah, me too.”
During this conversation I had said to my Grandma that the best leaders in the NHL synchronize perfectly with the identity of the team, as if the two are inseparable from one another. So, when I think of what I want the leadership and by extension the personality of the team to be, I think of Jordan Eberle and his salt-of-the-Earth, prairie modesty, and superb hockey sense. He is smart, funny, and pretty easy on the eyes. And yesterday the Oilers made him a full-time assistant captain behind captain Shawn Horcoff. This tells me he will one day be captain, and it could be as soon as this summer. Exciting times.
Taylor Hall and relative newcomer (which is rare for the Oilers who usually like long-tenured guys to be a part of leadership cores) Nick Schultz will share the “A” for home and road games respectively. Obviously the Kingston Cannonball is a leader on the team, and does so by example but Schultz is an interesting choice for me. Certainly his presence in the dressing room must be invaluable, and his influence on the young D-corps and the coaching staff is probably pretty incredible. He will be playing with the young gun Justin Schultz out of camp and is a ten year veteran. To me, his assignment as assistant camp says there is a change in identity and that’s exciting to see.
Jason Gregor wrote an excellent piece on new coach Ralph Krueger over at OilersNation a couple of days ago. In the interview Krueger gave some pretty candid comments on what he expects from his team this year and some thoughts he had on the style he wants the Oilers to play. Gregor felt that, and rightly so, that Krueger is interested most in playing an up-tempo style of hockey. What I took away from the interview was an energy and air of professionalism that I feel has lacked from the Oiler coaching staff since Craig MacTavish was let go. In particular, according to the article, Krueger likes to plan his practices in the room before heading out onto the ice and the players are expected to memorize the drills and waste very little time. The practices are intended to be crisp, efficient, and mimic game speed. This is disciplined coaching in my view.
I remember Gretzky talking about how fast the Oilers used to practice back in the ’80s. He loved practicing that quickly because it got his hands and feet moving at gamespeed before the game. I remember a baseball coach saying the same things to me before games: “Why would you practice or warm-up slowly when you have to move fast in a game,” he would say. This is a good point. Aesthetically, the look of a pro team having a crisp practice can be pretty intimidating and Gretzky remarked on how some teams were beaten even before the set foot on on the ice. If the new coach has these Oilers practicing like this, I am excited to see what they will do when the season starts.
OPENING NIGHT LINES
The Oilers start their season in Vancouver on Sunday night. The Canucks open the season the night before against Anaheim, so hopefully they are a little lethargic on Sunday and get skated out of the rink by the rambunctious boys in blue and orange.
The opening night lines will look like this:
Line #1: C – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, LW – Taylor Hall, RW – Jordan Eberle
Line #2: C – Sam Gagner, LW – Nail Yakupov, RW – Ales Hemsky
Line #3: C – Shawn Horcoff, LW – Ryan Smyth, RW – Teemu Hartikainen
Line #4: C – Eric Belanger, LW – Ben Eager, RW – Lennart Pettrell
D 1-2: Ladislav Smid – Jeff Petry
D 3-4: Nick Schultz – Justin Schultz
D 5-6: Ryan Whitney – Mark Fistric
Goalie: Devan Dubnyk (Yann Danis)
Scratches: Darcy Hordichuk, Corey Potter, Chris VandeVelde
Injured: Ryan Jones (eye), Andy Sutton (knee), Theo Peckham (hip), Nikolai Khabibulin (old)
A couple of thoughts:
- Notice the couplets that Krueger talked about in the off-season: Nuge-Ebs, Sammy-Hemmer, Horc-Smytty, and Belanger-Pettrell. Krueger wants to be able to move people like Hall, Yakupov, and Hartikainen around the lineup depending on need during the night. I like the versatility of such a scheme.
- I think Magnus Paajarvi will start the season in Oklahoma City despite being good enough to play at the NHL level. I don’t think this is a concern, I just would rather have him playing every night than sitting in the pressbox or playing 4th line minutes.
- Boy does that defensive corps ever balance out with Fistric slotted in the bottom six. There is a playmaker and a defensive specialist on each pair. Please stay healthy, men.
- Dubnyk is the number one and I am not concerned at all by this.
- I am very excited about the Gagner, Hemsky, Yakupov line for a couple of reasons. Samwise and Hemmer are veteran enough to know how to take care of their own end and also talented enough to get the puck on Pov-pov’s stick. And by all accounts that kid is a deadly shot. I mean absolutely sick. Some guys are saying they haven’t seen a kid shoot that lethally since Teemu Selanne. That’s pretty special. If Krueger can get this line out against the softer matchups, they could do some serious damage.
This is all so overwhelming. Hockey starts in 3 days.