LET ME SAY THIS ABOUT THAT

Robin Brownlee
July 16 2013 04:48PM

I'm not crazy about the length of the contract that'll take Andrew Ference within a couple of years of having 40 candles on his birthday cake, but there's not much doubt in my mind Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish has found himself a player who'll fit into his dressing room seamlessly.

Ference, 34, a veteran of 760 NHL games who won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011, signed for $13 million over four years to play in his hometown with the Oilers on July 5.

While Ference definitely isn't the big-bang addition the Oilers still need on their blue line, he's the kind of honest, veteran second-pairing defenseman who'll bring dimensions coach Dallas Eakins wants and needs. Hard-nosed. Nothing flashy – save for the, ahem, salute he offered fans of the Montreal Canadiens during the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

Just as important when it's still a bit of a sales pitch to convince UFAs to come to Edmonton, Ference seems genuinely happy to be coming home. So far, Ference has said all the right things, his latest address to the media coming at Servus Place in St. Albert Tuesday.

WHAT HE SAID

Ference talked about what he learned during his time with the Bruins, a tenure that included the Cup win in 2011 and another trip to the finals this spring.

"Everybody talks now about Boston being so battle-tested and having all this playoff experience, but when I went there, there was a bunch of guys with no playoff experience, guys who hadn’t been in the playoffs for a number of years," said Ference, who joined Boston by way of trade in 2007.

"You wouldn’t even see Bruins hats around town, so I realize how easy it is to have the tide turn fairly quickly. "It’s really neat to be part of that, especially in a city like this that cares."

Ference, who has 120 playoff games on his resume, knows full well he be expected to provide leadership to the young core here. That's something, if he picked up anything from playing with Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh and Jarome Iginla during his days with the Calgary Flames, he's capable of.

"I’ve played with a lot of Hall of Fame guys," he said. "At the end of the day, the most impactful players are the guys who have those qualities but are themselves. They’re not trying too hard. It’s not forced. Nobody is coming in with a script. People operate best when they can be themselves and they can be in a positive atmosphere and contribute to a team. That’s probably biggest thing I’ve learned from all those guys.

"Of course, I come in feeling a huge responsibility, just like every guy on the team probably should. That’s the only way to take the next step forward."

It's time to take that step. Ference will help.

WHILE I'M AT IT

With Ilya Kovalchuk walking away from $77 million and his contract with the New Jersey Devils for a boatload of cash back in the KHL, there's been a fair amount of buzz about the possibility of other Russian players doing likewise – notably in these parts, Nail Yakupov.

Bob Stauffer of 630 CHED had connected correspondent Dmitry Chesnokov on his Oilers Now show his afternoon and he addressed the relationship, or lack of same, between Kovalchuk's decision and other Russian players. It's much the same take Jason Gregor offered earlier this week.

"He's committed," Chesnokov said of Yakupov's ties to Edmonton. "I understand the panic and the doubt that can set in. If you ask me, in my honest opinion, Kovalchuk is a one-off.

"It's not the floodgates opening and all of a sudden and Yakupov is buying a ticket on the way to Siberia or something like that. No. He came to North America to play junior hockey, you know? To learn, to be preparing, to hit the ground running when he's drafted.

"He played and felt what it's like to be, you know, with the Oilers, this young organization, sort of on the cusp of being this very, very, very good team. He's not going anywhere."

AND . . .

. . . I expect a bounce back year from Ryan Jones, who has fallen out of favor with some Oilers fans after a sub-par season in which he struggled to come back from a serious eye injury. Jones didn't garner a lot of interest during his short time in the free agent market – the contract he got from the Oilers was better than anything else out there. He's got something to prove.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show 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 madjam
July 16 2013, 11:22PM
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Expectations and anticipation run high for fans this year as they have had their fill of hype and Kool-Aid .They want results/relief from of all these years of waiting . With that comes heighthened pessimism and criticism . They want to see fab 5 breakout and be more dominant . They want to see team play well as a team with consistent effort .

The rebuild thru draft is pretty much over , and it's time for results to show a massive increase in results and team play . The time for status quo and poor results should be over . The tolerance level of fans is rapidly dwindling with poor results .

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#52 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
July 16 2013, 11:49PM
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@Oilcruzer

I laughed my ass off at that aunt/uncle line, but nuge2nail is absolutely right. We experienced the worst case scenario last year when Horcoff, Belanger and (I think it was) Nuge all went down with injuries at the same time. The thought of Gagner and Gordon missing time simultaneously next year is legitimately frightening.

I hope MacT is just bluffing when he says he's more or less finished tweaking things - maybe he saw what broadcasting his plans brought him, and now he's trying some slight of hand. Either way, we desperately need a couple centers and a couple wingers.

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#53 Hammers
July 16 2013, 11:49PM
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Not sure how Ference will be used but they should cosider moving him beside Petry then put Smid with J. Schultz . Right now I think Belov is ahead of N.Schultz but they may end up being paired although I won't be surprised to see Nick gone and Klefbom with Belov . Eakins is going to want A puck mover on each pairing and right now that's Petry , Justin & Belov . Also won't be surprised to see 8 "D" carried.We still have Fedun & Marachin who may put some training camp pressue on all of them .

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#54 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
July 16 2013, 11:53PM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

If if if. If my aunt had a pair she would be my uncle.

Gosh, what if all three goalies shared a pop and got mono?

In the worst case scenario, you roll three centres through four lines with spot duty to your AHL player.

Once again, there is also a guy named Pitlick.

but then what would we be able to complain about in the middle of july?

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#55 justDOit
July 16 2013, 11:54PM
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I forgot about the median-digit salut that Ference flashed to Montreal. If I was MacT, I'd give him an extra two years on his deal just for that!

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#56 David S
July 16 2013, 11:57PM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I laughed my ass off at that aunt/uncle line, but nuge2nail is absolutely right. We experienced the worst case scenario last year when Horcoff, Belanger and (I think it was) Nuge all went down with injuries at the same time. The thought of Gagner and Gordon missing time simultaneously next year is legitimately frightening.

I hope MacT is just bluffing when he says he's more or less finished tweaking things - maybe he saw what broadcasting his plans brought him, and now he's trying some slight of hand. Either way, we desperately need a couple centers and a couple wingers.

My guess is Gagner's signing is taking priority and holding up other possible moves. Once the deal goes down one way or another there'll be more clarity.

The homework for PRV's deal was done at least two weeks before the trade was announced. I'm betting MacT has a bunch of possible options he can drop depending on how the Gagner situation plays out.

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#57 mlcselli
July 17 2013, 02:08AM
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I like the additions and subtractions to the roster so far. We are still a far cry from being taken seriously as a contender, however we are on our way.

I don't believe for one second MacT is finished. I think he has learned a little lesson about sharing his intentions with the fans. He unknowingly put himself in a pressure cooker situation when he spoke of the changes he was going to make to the roster in this off season. Being the impatient fans we are to the Oil, we are holding his feet to the fire. I have no doubt that every effort is being made to add more grit, leadership and experience. Mac t realizes this roster is not enough to get the job done, and I'm sure he isn't satisfied with it either. I am expecting an announcement any day now that he signed a big fish.

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#58 Moosewacker
July 17 2013, 06:39AM
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Has Perron not played some centre ? I have seen him listed as one and wonder if he can be a back up option

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#59 15w40
July 17 2013, 08:02AM
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If Gagner's number doesn't fit into the salary structure could you possibly work a trade with Buffalo for Tyler Myers?

If Myers is not longer the apple of their eye with the Sabres, it may make some sense going forward for the Oilers. He could be the legitimate top pairing defenseman they have been looking for.

Buffalo needs points - Gagner can do that. Not saying a one for one but some type of package. Sign Grabovski for a shorter term and away you go.

This Gagner issue is dragging on and seems a little strange to me as the chatter coming out about a month ago is it was a foregone conclusion he was signing.

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#60 nuge2nail
July 17 2013, 09:19AM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

If if if. If my aunt had a pair she would be my uncle.

Gosh, what if all three goalies shared a pop and got mono?

In the worst case scenario, you roll three centres through four lines with spot duty to your AHL player.

Once again, there is also a guy named Pitlick.

Oiler Domination To Follow

If, if, if..... It happened last year.... Not the goalies pooping on each other and getting mono, but the injuries..

A couple injuries is not the same thing as your aunt all of a sudden growing balls... Unless that's common in your family...

Expecting all three centers to be healthy all year, it's a recipe for disaster... Might as well expect another lottery pick if that's the plan...

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#61 Cubro
July 17 2013, 02:27PM
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@Harlie

You gotta be kidding...As if Cam Ward comes to edmonton to be a "tandem goalie" with devan dubnyk. Also, Penner would never have came back especially with MacT. But being an armchair gm must be easy when guys like fisher ward and boychuk are an easy acquisition.

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