Back at it: let's get started

Robin Brownlee
August 17 2009 04:41PM

georges

Georges Laraque was dangling, Jason Chimera was hamming it up, Jay Bouwmeester was gliding around effortlessly despite the weight of his wallet and Kevin Westgarth was bleeding.

Nothing says the NHL season is upon us like the opening of Perry Pearn's Three-on-Three conditioning camp, and so it was today as the first group of NHLers tried to shake off the effects of summer with an on-ice twirl at the K of C Arenas.

Laraque, his braided locks approaching Kelly Malveaux length, barged around with the puck as he tends to do at these things. Who's going to take it off him?

Chimera, the local boy who has found a home and a nice contract in Columbus since the Oilers gave up on him too soon, staggered around on the side boards to emphasize a hit he'd taken, looking a like he'd forgotten to take his skate guards off.

Bouwmeester, who never looks like he's forgotten his guards because he's the best skater I've ever seen for a guy who is six-foot-four, sashayed about as he does, then proved again he's the worst interview in the NHL.

As for Westgarth, a minor league tough guy, he took a wayward puck near the right eye, leaving the session to look for repairs. He wanted Super Glue, but settled for a fix out of a first-aid kit and returned to the ice.

It's hockey season, alright.

The Fight Club

Laraque, who is part owner of the Body By Bennett gyms in Edmonton, has spent the past several months showing fellow tough guys Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre of the Oilers the ropes in training sessions both on and off the ice.

If Stortini and MacIntyre want to be at the top of their game, and in their job description their careers and NHL pay cheques depend on it, then they're learning from the best -- even if Georges does all his damage from the port side.

"We did a lot of fighting this summer," Laraque said. "A lot of technique and a lot of strength stuff to get everybody to be better. It's just giving a couple of tricks and pointers.

"Those guys work out at my gym. If they're tough guys, I'm going to train them to be tough guys and train them how to be better at what they do. I do everything I can so they can be as strong as they can be and do well."

For those who weren't exactly big fans of Stortini during his rookie season and chimed in on the Huggy Bear handle before he opened up last season and led the NHL in fighting majors, Laraque has a message.

"First of all, Zack is a really good player," Laraque said. "He's a good skater and he can play hockey. He's not a one-dimensional tough guy.

"It doesn't matter what people say about his style of fighting. When you fight heavyweights, big guys like me, you have to know how to defend yourself. The goal in a fight is not to get punched because you don't want to get knocked out.

"It depends what guy you're fighting. Some guys you fight are bigger than you. You can't fight open against guys that are six-foot-nine and outweigh you by 30 pounds. You've got to be smart and fight smart. Fans have no reason to criticize the way he fights."

As for Laraque, he's looking to overcome a herniated disc  that kept him out of the line-up too often last season. A bad back is particularly problematic for somebody Laraque's size, but he's putting himself through a demanding off-ice regimen, including  yoga, to remedy the problem.

Cowtown Jay

The Oilers never got a crack at Bouwmeester, the most sought-after UFA this summer, because he and agent Bryon Baltimore opted for a stack of cash from the Calgary Flames before hearing offers from other bidders, including the Oilers here in his hometown.

So now Bouwmeester,  a sweet skater but a brutal interview, will wear the Flaming C in the Battle of Alberta.

"It's different," Bouwmeester said of trading the beaches and obscurity of Miami for Calgary. "Only because hockey is more a focus here. In Florida, it's a battle to get people out to the games.

"Hockey-wise, it's exciting because people get it and they're excited about it. There's stuff that goes with it, but you just kind of deal with it. You're not the only guy in that situation. It is what it is."

Out of sight and out of mind in the hockey hotbed that is Florida, it'll be interesting to see how Bouwmeester handles all the media attention he'll get in Cowtown.

It's not that Bouwmeester dislikes the media per say, but he's less than comfortable when cornered by notepads and microphones. The feeling is mutual -- choosing between interviewing the immensely talented blue liner and poking yourself in the eye with a sharp stick is a toss-up.

Waiting game

UFA Mike Comrie is playing a waiting game when it comes to where he might sign. The former Oiler could end up back in Ottawa, but that will depend what happens with Dany Heatley.

"When you're in this situation, you have to be patient," Comrie said. "There's still a few deals that need to get done, so it's not really a rush until you find the right place."

For now, Comrie and agent Ritch Winter will keep tabs and see what their options are. Cap space, or lack of it, is a huge factor in player movement these days.

"When you get to be a certain age, you realize you want to be in a better position rather than jump at the first or second opportunity," Comrie said.

"I want to be in a good spot, get a chance to win and play some important minutes."

I'd be keeping an eye on Los Angeles.

This and that

UFA Blair Betts, considered by some an answer as the checking centre the Oilers need, didn't skate today but is registered at the camp . . . others on the ice in the first session included Stortini, Brian Sutherby, Matt Kassian, Jason Strudwick and Kyle Brodziak.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 The Menace
August 18 2009, 01:00PM
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RB: I'm surprised that MacT didn't make your list of good interviews. You could always count on him for a 7dollar quote or two.

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#52 Shannon
August 18 2009, 01:07PM
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I always thought Pisani would be brutal to interview, too. I'm sure he's a good guy, but I often mute the TV when he's on and mutter to myself, "a cardboard box has more personality than him."

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#53 Robin Brownlee
August 18 2009, 01:39PM
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Faceoff wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: Interesting information on what writers have to do to get stories from the locker room. I didn’t realize there was so much competition with the TV guys.

It's not competition as much as it is deadlines, which used to be 10:30 at The Sun. Think of a typical 7 p.m. start. If the game ends at, say, 9:45, you've got to get into the dressing room, find your guys, get your quotes and then scramble to the writing room. If the guys you want are available right away and you hustle, you can get back to the writing room at between 10-10:10 p.m. You then have 20-30 minutes to make sense of what you've seen and the interviews you've done and write it in 700-800 words. If it's a 5-1 laugher, you might have everything written by the middle of the second period and all you have to do is get the quotes and plug them in. Easy. If the game has completlhy turned around in the last five minutes or is decided in overtime or a shootout, then you're starting pretty much from scratch and you've got less time to do it. Not so easy. When you're on the road and have to catch the bus with the team to get to the airport, it might be 10 p.m. when you you leave the dressing room with your quotes. Then, you run back to the writing room to finish your story and you'll see "Bus at 10:20" scrawled on the board. If that game has turned around in the last five minutes, then good luck. You literally have 5-10 minutes to write your game story. That's hair-on-fire stuff. If you've ever wondered why some game stories read like dogsh*t, that's why.

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#54 Travis Dakin
August 18 2009, 02:05PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: I see that the sharks have striped Marleau of the C. Looks to me like they are trying to anger him enough to waive the NTC. How do you think that tactic will go over with the players?

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#55 Robin Brownlee
August 18 2009, 03:26PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: I see that the sharks have striped Marleau of the C. Looks to me like they are trying to anger him enough to waive the NTC. How do you think that tactic will go over with the players?

Never popular, particularly with the players who've been around awhile. It also puts the new captain on the spot. Marleau is very well-liked by his teammates. Bad move.

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#56 quicksilver ballet
August 18 2009, 03:42PM
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So, in your opinion Robin......were will Danny be playing this season, is Alberta at all a remote possibility?

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#57 quicksilver ballet
August 18 2009, 03:45PM
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Darn Commodore 64s....h key's chipped.

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#58 Robin Brownlee
August 18 2009, 03:56PM
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quicksilver ballet wrote:

So, in your opinion Robin……were will Danny be playing this season, is Alberta at all a remote possibility?

You mean like Bentley or Horse Lake?

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#59 quicksilver ballet
August 18 2009, 04:05PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Lol....was hoping something a little more central.

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#60 Librarian Mike
August 18 2009, 04:26PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

You mean like Bentley or Horse Lake?

Maybe Dany can bring HL the Allan Cup that Fleury couldn't during the lockout. haha.

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#61 Travis Dakin
August 18 2009, 05:57PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Never popular, particularly with the players who’ve been around awhile. It also puts the new captain on the spot. Marleau is very well-liked by his teammates. Bad move

Yeah it seems like a real dick move. Much like when Dallas took it away from Modano. But if the rumours are to be believed that they are trying to get rid of him then this certainly is even worse. Embarrassing a guy out of his NTC is pretty shady.

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#62 Robin Brownlee
August 18 2009, 06:49PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Robin Brownlee wrote: Never popular, particularly with the players who’ve been around awhile. It also puts the new captain on the spot. Marleau is very well-liked by his teammates. Bad move Yeah it seems like a real dick move. Much like when Dallas took it away from Modano. But if the rumours are to be believed that they are trying to get rid of him then this certainly is even worse. Embarrassing a guy out of his NTC is pretty shady.

I wouldn't mind a bit if the Sharks embarrassed Marleau all the way to Edmonton. He's a player I would take in a heartbeat. Outside of a tough season a couple of years back, he's a lock to score 28-35 goals. He's a big guy, he's just edging up on 30 years old and he's a very good team player. He'd look good on LW here. He's not the biggest name the Oilers could land in their pursuit of a top-line LW, but he's a very good player.

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#63 Travis Dakin
August 18 2009, 06:53PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: So you wouldn't be opposed to the rumoured three-way. He's definately be a welcome addition here. After that hit he took (can't remember quite when but I know it was a big one) and got right back up and played, the "soft" player label was wiped away for me.

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#64 Robin Brownlee
August 18 2009, 06:58PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: So you wouldn’t be opposed to the rumoured three-way. He’s definately be a welcome addition here. After that hit he took (can’t remember quite when but I know it was a big one) and got right back up and played, the “soft” player label was wiped away for me.

Patrick isn't soft. Never has been. He's not a hyper-aggressive player, but he's not as passive of Penner. I'd love it if he threw his weight around more, but that's not his nature or his style.

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#65 Librarian Mike
August 18 2009, 07:11PM
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I'd take Marleau over Heatley any day of the week. Heatley couldn't lead a silent prayer.

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#66 Harlie
August 18 2009, 08:01PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

love your honesty and callin it like it is on the interview front. It's all about the personalities. The extroverts and the introverts.

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#67 jeff
August 19 2009, 09:03AM
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What would we have to give up for Marleau and is it worth it for one year?

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