TRAINING CAMP: DAY ONE

Jason Gregor
September 11 2013 02:44PM

For all the rookies, today is a great day. It is their first day of main camp, shaking hands with veterans and trying not to look too excited as they attend their first day of training camp. Realistically, the only rookie with a chance to crack the lineup is Oscar Klefbom, but that won't dampen the enthusiasm of the next few days for all the young players.

The rookies aren't the only ones excited though. The veterans are just as giddy about the possibilities that await the 2013/2014 Edmonton Oilers.

For the third straight season they have a new coach, but unlike the previous two head coaches, Dallas Eakins wasn't part of the previous regime and he brings a completely new focus and attitude.

Eakins will be more demanding, and he's going to use the first few days of training camp to gauge the conditioning level and dedication of his players.

The former Toronto Marlies head coach has made it clear he expects his team to be one of the best conditioned teams in the league, and the first few days of on-ice sessions will be fast-paced.

Twenty-five years ago medical day had some interesting story lines, but nowadays all the players are in good to great shape, and now that Theo Peckham is gone, it is unlikely we will hear about any "he's not in great shape" stories today.

Eakins still hasn't had a chance to address his team, but he plans on introducing himself to many of his players today as they move from one testing station to the next.

The players get their eyes checked, they see the dentist, and they get to enjoy a VO2 test, the windgate, agility tests, speed tests and some other pleasurable challenges.

They've all been through it before, and I've noticed that the players aren't intimidated or worried about the tests. Most of the players look at the tests as a challenge. They want to see how they compare to their peers, and see if all the hard work they did in the summer paid off.

Tomorrow all the players will endure an on-ice conditioning test. It is a three minute test. They start at the goal line and go down the ice and back as fast as they can. They do this at every :30 and :00 until three minutes has elapsed. Eakins will monitor the difference between their first skate and their last. The goal is to maintain the same pace throughout.

QUICK HITS...

  • We all know the Oilers want to make the playoffs. It's the goal of every team, and of course the Oilers want to make it, but it was refreshing to hear Eakins' views when he was asked about playoffs."I don't like going big picture. I think if we have our expectations in line and we are able to deliver on a nightly basis...and if you start winning on a nightly basis the big picture takes care of itself.," said Eakins

  • If you don't take care of the small steps, it is hard to compete a task and it was nice hearing a coach address the issues. The Oilers need to learn how to be competitive every night before they can talk or think about making the playoffs.
     
  • Ben Eager has shed some bulk. He's still likely 225 pounds, but he looked much trimmer. Eager played very well for OKC in the playoffs last year, and it will be interesting to see how Eakins uses him. I doubt we will see Eager and Mike Brown in the lineup at the same time, and if the Oilers keep 8 D-men, you can't have one of them as your 13th forward, so it seems like those two could be battling for one spot.
     
  • Eager's size and speed would be very useful, but the question is if can play smart enough in his own zone? If Eager plays hard, and Eakins shows some confidence in him, he might return to the NHL. I don't see many spots up for grabs, but he could push Brown.
     
  • Jesse Joensuu is a legit 6'4". He has decent skill, but if he shows a willingness to use his size down low and in the corners he might get a long look in the top six. Eakins hinted he wants guys with different dimensions and skills among his top-six or top-nine, and Joensuu has what no other skilled forward has; a big frame. I'm curious to see who Eakins plays him with in the preseason.
     
  • I don't care if Joensuu isn't a great skater. Not every player needs to be lighting fast. If his game is good on the boards and in front of the net, how fast does he need to be. The Oilers need to diversify their lineup.
     
  • Eakins hasn't made up his mind, but right now he has Andrew Ference pencilled in to play with Justin Schultz. He admitted he needs to see guys play together, and there is no guarantee pairs will stay together all season, but like most of us expected Ference will get a look with J.Schultz.
     
  • Eakins also wants to find chemistry amongst forward duos, rather than a trio. It is rare to keep a line together all season, and even though Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle have had great success for short stints, we likely won't see line combinations stay consistent all season.
     
  • Don't expect the Oilers to go out and get a heavyweight goon. Eakins doesn't like guys who can't play. If they could find a tough, physical guy who could play, then he'd consider it, but I don't expect the Oilers to find the next Steve MacIntryre.
     
  • Eakins is a very serious guy. It oozes out when he talks to the media and his players. There will be much more accountability this season. You should expect the Oilers to be much more competitive on a nightly basis this year. Time will tell if that equates to more victories, but I'd be surprised if Eakins allows this team to coast through stretches of games, which has happened too often the past three or four years. 

 RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull
September 11 2013, 05:42PM
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I just worried that Mr. Eakins will alienate some players with his no nonsense style. He continues to say the right things to the press, but we'll see how this approach works a couple of months into the sched. I remember listening and liking the propaganda that has come with the last group of Head Coaches the Oilers have propped up in front of us to admire. I hope the Eakin- MacT tenure starts with a better work effort and commitment but I pray they keep the B.S. behind closed doors. Note to all Oilers players** When you see Bob Stauffer!! become Sergeant Schultz from Hogan's Heros "I hear nothing,I see nothing, I know nothing!!

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#52 Bigfan
September 11 2013, 10:47PM
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Great sign, but its "becomING" not "become" That is, the sign should say ... "becoming a Professional Hockey Player"

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#53 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 11 2013, 10:56PM
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Leafsblow wrote:

Oilers don't need a big heavyweight goon. They need more players to play a tougher shift. Size has very little to do with toughness and being hard to play against.

Size doesnt matter.....That's what all you small guys say!

But your right about the Leafs.

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#54 Alsker
September 11 2013, 11:01PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Talking about needing an enforcer or face puncher if you like... right now with the potential line up..there isn't a single player on the that team that could even lay a hurtin hit on a guy never mind punching his face out.

That's a scare taught. Where is Sutton or Fistric when you need them.

It isnt and wasnt just the face punchers back in the day, it was simply toughness: Dave Hunter,Pat Hughes,Craig Muni,Don Jackson,Dave Semenko, these were guys you didnt want to meet in a dark alley or in the corners at RX1..Ference ok, Ill give him this but really since Gator weve truly lacked that kind kind of SOB(no offense intended) maybe Eager rebounds into this, who knows,even our skilled guys could dish out the dirty(Mess,Andy,Simmer,etc.)Im still hoping Hall shows us this type of player isnt a thing of the past and bring the Yakster with him.

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#55 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 11 2013, 11:18PM
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Johe wrote:

Yes! To me toughness is never quitting. You get knocked down you get right back up. You lose the puck you work your tail off to get it back. Speed, tenacity, passion, and skill. That's the type of team the Oilers should strive to be.

Spoken like another small guy. So you want a whole team of little engines that could....a whole team of Captain Snowypants....let me set you straight...you want to be the guy doin the knocking....so you don't ever have to get back up....I think you left out pugnacious and truculent....

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#56 TeeVee
September 12 2013, 09:19AM
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I'm certain that DSF is Tony Gallagher.

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#57 book¡e
September 12 2013, 10:22AM
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oilbaron wrote:

I got bad feelings about Belov's "visa" issues. While he initially sounded optimistic about coming to Edmonton, that was before 18 other defencemen were signed. Then Eakins is hired and sends out the training camp expectations. Maybe the russian factor jolted up a notch?

Maybe I'm making something out of nothing and it's just a hitch, as it appears. I sure hope so because I really want to see him wearing the blue!

We have been trying to bring in an individual for an interview and have waited more than 90 days to get him a visa - the system is totally screwed right now so having visa problems is certainly plausible.

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#58 Benny Botts
September 11 2013, 03:41PM
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@Gregor

Jason, Will you doing a live blog from the camp each day? I thought last year or the year before you did that.

Thanks!

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#59 Ivan Drago
September 11 2013, 03:49PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I do expect the Oilers to try and have three scoring lines. I could see Perron with Hemsky possibly. Hard to say at this point. Eakins talked about duos, so will depend which pairs he likes together. Should be fun to see who emerges as combos with chemistry.

Yes it should be fun. If it happens it will be a good problem to have. Admittedly I haven't seen Perron play much, but I think I remember hearing he causes a fair number of offsides, like Hemmer lol. Course I could just be talking out my rear!

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#60 Wäx Män Riley
September 11 2013, 09:58PM
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DSF wrote:

Eakins is starting to remind me of Kavis Reed.

All hat, no cattle.

We'll see.

why?

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#61 oilbaron
September 11 2013, 10:23PM
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I got bad feelings about Belov's "visa" issues. While he initially sounded optimistic about coming to Edmonton, that was before 18 other defencemen were signed. Then Eakins is hired and sends out the training camp expectations. Maybe the russian factor jolted up a notch?

Maybe I'm making something out of nothing and it's just a hitch, as it appears. I sure hope so because I really want to see him wearing the blue!

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#62 Oiler Al
September 11 2013, 10:42PM
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Talking about needing an enforcer or face puncher if you like... right now with the potential line up..there isn't a single player on the that team that could even lay a hurtin hit on a guy never mind punching his face out.

That's a scare taught. Where is Sutton or Fistric when you need them.

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#63 madjam
September 11 2013, 11:13PM
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You get the feeling MacT. not finished dealing yet . I'm expecting two deals before season starts .

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#64 Big Cap
September 12 2013, 09:46AM
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@j

I have to slightly disagree with you a bit. I too have been a fan since the days of Semenko. I think he was an extremely valuable part of the growth and development of the young guys allowing them to play and learn the game with limited fear.

There's a reason that between 1979-1990 we either had the the toughest guy in the league or someone in the top three. Even taking away the designated Heavyweight, we still had a good crop of light heavyweights who always mixed it up and never backed down and would set the tone.

I to would like to believe that perhaps they dont serve a purpose playing 2 shifts a night and orchestrating a planned fight of the draw. That does do very little.

But how is it guys like McGratton, Sesisto, Carcillo, Mcleod, Biz Nasty, Reaves can all fill a roster spot in the Western Conference?

Aside from Brown who would be clearly over matched, Who is gonna stand up to these guys? No one in our top 6, so that leaves our bottom 6. Ryan Jones? Boyd Gordon? Ryan Smyth? It would pretty much force Ferrence into doing it and that should not be his role.

And why couldn't we for once be the aggressors and push teams around, instead of always have to respond?

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#65 tom.MTL
September 12 2013, 10:10AM
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TeeVee wrote:

I'm certain that DSF is Tony Gallagher.

You're absolutely right! Amazing!!

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#66 book¡e
September 12 2013, 10:28AM
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TeeVee wrote:

I'm certain that DSF is Tony Gallagher.

I think you may be correct, DSF has mentioned some personal things in his posts over the years that align with this.

You might be a genius.

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#67 The Soup Fascist
September 12 2013, 10:58AM
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TeeVee wrote:

I'm certain that DSF is Tony Gallagher.

~The 70's prop comedian who mindlessly smashed watermelons with a sledge hammer for no real reason??? Sure I can see that.

Substitute "watermelons" for "Oiler players" and he is a dead ringer.~

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#68 Wonger
September 12 2013, 06:13PM
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OILERS WILL GET RUN RIGHT OUT OF THEIR DIVISION!!! They will finish dead last!!! Their management doesn't understand the importance of toughness and they never will. Even Calgary will dominate them on Saturday and throughout the season. They could have had Matt Kassian, Tom Sestito ang Frazer McLaren off of waivers last year for zip or McGrattan or MacIntyre but they choose to employ Lander, Ryan Smyth , Ryan Jones, etc. REALLY!!!

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#69 DigDeepNBleedBlue
September 11 2013, 06:33PM
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Training Camp Rant (ahhhhhhh, lovin' it!), Day 1:

The Oil need some moxie. Hope Eager makes the team. Sounds like he's all in. Also sounds like he will be given his chance. Hammer down big guy!

Hall at center? If it works, it works. What else can you say?

Captain? Simple. Whoever pulls the sword from the stone. Still think a wait is not a bad thing.

Not sure 8 D-men is the right roster makeup. Potter or Larson as an 8th doesn't seem overly beneficial. I'd go with 14 forwards.

Right now I think you got Omark, Joensuu, Eager, Brown, Jones and Lander fighting for those last forward roster spots. Sure, you can include Acton and R. Hamilton. However you cut it up it should be a good battle. Puck it up, boys!

Theme song for these cats: 'List of Demands'!

Hemsky is a talent, that's for sure, but not sure he makes this team better. Might actually make it worse.

The question: Does his skill set work in the bottom six?

That 3rd line looks like a science experiment that's about to go horribly wrong. For me this is the main story to follow in TC. Hemsky is either a positive on that line or he's not.

Sh*t, maybe he plays his way into the top six. The freakin' suspense!

TC sleeper pick: Pitlick. Is this the year he steps up? I'll drink to the possibility.

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#70 **
September 11 2013, 08:22PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I will say, I don't think the conditioning of the OIlers was an issue in previous years. They weren't grossly out of shape.

I believe Eakins biggest challenge will be conditioning them to be competitive and accountable every game.

I beg to disagree. Usually around january they seem to hit a wall, not just mentally but physically some players just seem to run out of gas.

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#71 DSF
September 11 2013, 08:43PM
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10 questions:

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/sports/hockey/edmonton-oilers/questions+surrounding+Edmonton+Oilers/8900748/story.html

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#72 Fogey
September 12 2013, 08:59AM
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Surprised you didn't use the term "pleasurable measurables". That's a free one, JG.

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#73 Wonger
September 12 2013, 09:06PM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

A couple of things:

First off, I am embarrassed to ask a geezer such as yourself but what in the world does this even mean?

Second, I get that you are bitter about the mismanagement of the oil during the last decade and it spews out like poison whenever you reference anyone associated with the team. BUT why the grind on the Eskimos? Do you have some imagined beef with that organization? Or are you just stirring the pot out of boredom? This is a sincere thought... Walmart hires blue hairs as greeters, it would give you something to do, maybe feel better about yourself, be a little less curmudgeonly.

ALL HAT.....NO CATTLE.....NO TOP DRAWER ENFORCER or TWO!!!!! Argh!!!!! here we go yet again!!!!!

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#74 ColourMeImpressed
September 12 2013, 01:02AM
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the camp on Thursday is open to the public, right? What time does it start?

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#75 j
September 12 2013, 03:45PM
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Big Cap wrote:

I have to slightly disagree with you a bit. I too have been a fan since the days of Semenko. I think he was an extremely valuable part of the growth and development of the young guys allowing them to play and learn the game with limited fear.

There's a reason that between 1979-1990 we either had the the toughest guy in the league or someone in the top three. Even taking away the designated Heavyweight, we still had a good crop of light heavyweights who always mixed it up and never backed down and would set the tone.

I to would like to believe that perhaps they dont serve a purpose playing 2 shifts a night and orchestrating a planned fight of the draw. That does do very little.

But how is it guys like McGratton, Sesisto, Carcillo, Mcleod, Biz Nasty, Reaves can all fill a roster spot in the Western Conference?

Aside from Brown who would be clearly over matched, Who is gonna stand up to these guys? No one in our top 6, so that leaves our bottom 6. Ryan Jones? Boyd Gordon? Ryan Smyth? It would pretty much force Ferrence into doing it and that should not be his role.

And why couldn't we for once be the aggressors and push teams around, instead of always have to respond?

Fair enough although I think the game has evolved past the true knuckle dragger. Of my favorite players of all time I include Wendell Clark and Rick Tochett. Absolute men. Not too many of those around anymore i.e. feared fighters who could play. Seems like the development systems have changed in that respect (Lucic may be the closest). Cheers.

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