NURSE TO JUNIOR, EAKINS HATES SITTING BACK

Jason Gregor
September 25 2013 09:16AM

Darnell Nurse definitely made an impression in his first NHL camp. His infectious smile and polite demeanor allowed him to fit in off the ice, but it was his on-ice play that impressed his teammates the most. None of the Oilers had ever seen him play before, but his fluid skating stride grabbed their attention the first day of camp.

"He moves incredibly well," Taylor Hall said to me on the second day of training camp. "He's so smooth for a big man. He'll be scary when he fills out," continued Hall.

When Hall is impressed by a player's skating ability, you take notice.

Last Wednesday in Vancouver, Nurse played a dominating 24 minutes vs. the Canucks. He gave management, coaches, teammates and the fans a glimpse of his future potential, and he should go back to Sault Ste. Marie feeling very good about his game.

While Nurse dominated in Vancouver that night, in his other preseason games he was solid. At times he looked his age, and you could see that he'll need to add some weight to his 6'4" frame, but every game he played he did something that caught your attention.

Even the most pessimistic Oiler fan was impressed by Nurse, and in 12 months I think he'll be even more impressive.

The Oilers made the right decision to send him to junior. He'll go back to the OHL, play 25-30 minutes a night, develop his game, improve his strength and he'll take on more of a leadership role. He'll be a better player next year, and when he comes to training camp he'll be focused on making the team.

Prior to the draft I interviewed Nurse, and when I asked him about going straight to the NHL he gave an incredibly honest and mature answer, "I think I need to keep developing my game. There are areas I need to improve on, and I think it would be best for me to play another year in junior."

For Nurse to recognize in the summer that the best thing for him would be another year in junior, shows you why he'll be successful, but that doesn't he mean he wasn't crushed when Eakins told him the news last night.

"If anyone tells you it feels good to get cut, they're probably lying to you," he said. "It sucks. There's nothing fun about it but they (Oilers) have the best plan for me and my development. I'm going to go back and dominate my league and hopefully I'll have the opportunity to play in World Juniors," continued Nurse.

I love his attitude. He'll use this as motivation to become even better. He'll make a serious push for the World Junior team and that experience will also help his development.

THIS IS A GOOD THING

There is no negative in sending Nurse back to junior, the only negative out of training camp was that we didn't get to see him play against a complete NHL team. Every game he playe, the opposition had very few proven NHL players. Regardless, that game in Vancouver gave us all a glimpse of his potential. 

He didn't look out of place, even when the Sedins were on the ice, and the best part was that he didn't look intimidated at all. You can't teach confidence, and you can't teach competitiveness. Nurse has both in abundance, and I can't wait to see how he looks next September.

THREE MORE CUTS

Tyler Pitlick, Anton Lander and Taylor Fedun were assigned to OKC last night. They will be on the team charter to OKC this morning and all of them will play significant minutes in OKC this season. Fedun continues to improve. He's an incredibly smart player who rarely makes mistakes. He or Oscar Klefbom will be the first call up, if the Oilers suffer any injuries on the blueline.

Pitlick had the best training camp of his short career. He is close to being an NHL player, and if he can stay healthy this year. and keep improving. he should make a serious push to crack the lineup next season.

Lander wasn't a factor in training camp. He just never looked comfortable and wasn't able to stand out in any of the games. If he can get off to a good start and play well, I think there is a good chance he will play some games in Edmonton this season. He needs to be a leader and one of the best players every night in OKC.

***EDIT at 10:00 a.m.***

The Oilers placed Ryan Jones on waivers this morning. If he clears he'll start the season in OKC. I haven't seen anything from Ryan Hamilton or Ben Eager that suggests they are better NHL players than Jones, but Jones didn't have a strong camp and the Oilers do save cap space by keeping Hamilton up and sending Jones down.

Eager brings a completely different element, so I understand why he is here. Hamilton's footspeed in the preseason was an issue, we'll see how he looks against NHL lineups. Good for him he worked hard to make the lineup, but I don't think anyone on the Oilers fourth line is a lock to stay the entire season.

A WELCOME CHANGE

A few things I've never understood; how someone thinks Olivia Wilde isn't hot or why coaches play prevent defence in football or sit back when they have a lead in hockey.  The picture answers the first question, and when I've watched the Oilers games this season I've noticed a refreshing approach when they have a lead. Eakins wants them to keep pushing forward, rather than sitting on a lead. THANK GOODNESS.

I find when I watch games on TV, even worse on the web, that it is hard to see some of the small nuances of the game. The camera only focuses on the puck carrier, so it's hard to see what players are doing away from the play. Luckily the Oilers have had the lead for every home game this season, and I noticed early on that they never "sat back" on a lead.

In the first few games I wondered if it was just the quality of the opposition, but after watching last night's game I was confident the Oilers' were in fact trying to remain aggressive.

David Perron played in St.Louis the past few seasons, and the Blues have a reputation of protecting leads, so I asked him if Eakins' message, when protecting a lead was different than what he'd previously experienced. 

He tells us to keep going, and I love it and I think everyone in the room does. I don't think that other coaches say sit back, but they way they react it says it without saying it. If you read between the lines, it is pretty easy to figure out that (sitting back) is what they want from the team. 

If you are up 3-2, yeah you need to be smart, but even if you are down 1-0 you need to be smart. It is the same game all the time, and I like that. Dallas wants us to learn to play the same game; in the preseason, the regular season and then when we get in the playoffs we won't be as nervous. 

It is refreshing to hear that a coach is constantly telling his team to push forward, and it is equally good to hear a player already thinking about the playoffs. That is the type of attitude the Oilers need.

After speaking with Perron, I asked Eakins about his gameplan to never stop attacking. 

It kills me. It makes me crazy. I was getting ready to check myself in in the third period because we started to sit back and I don’t understand  why you would. After having great success for two periods by pushing the pace, and limiting their time and space, why would we suddenly give them time and space when the otherwas working for us. I feel the best way to defend a lead is to score a goal. That’s the way to do it. To sit back and give them chance after chance doesn’t make sense to me. 

There are things we can do in practice to work on that, but that is more of a mentality. We have to plant the seed, then start taking great care of that seed and watering it every day, and that's what we are going to do here. That is the one thing I didn't love about the game, because we started to sit back in the third period. 

When the regular season begins and the games matter, if the Oilers are sitting back on a lead, don't blame the coach. He'll be just as frustrated and perplexed as you if his team stops pushing forward. I'm curious to see how long it takes before the players are confident enough not to sit back.

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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#1 Will
September 25 2013, 09:28AM
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In one or two years, after he fills out and improves on his game a bit, the Oilers are finally going to have their number one stud D man. Nurse and Schultz will be our top pair.

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#2 Spoils
September 25 2013, 09:34AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Stand pat and make due with what's already in the system. Ride this season out, and hope the kids can do it on their own. One more season of hockey that doesn't matter coming to RX1 this fall.

It's difficult to understand how a team with so many holes on the roster can send someone who may have been able to contribute back to junior. To even believe he couldn't be a contributor under Eakins watch is stuborn. Guess we'll never know now. Despite being well inside the top 6 group of defenders on this team during camp, we won't get to see how he'd fare against NHL players, he didn't even get that opportunity.

Not understanding the value of sending a kid down to ensure he gets top minutes against the best competition just shows me you don't get it.

But hockey that doesn't matter?

Even last year when we lost most nights the oilers where fun to watch. What these young guns do approaches art. They are one year older, do you think they are getting worse?

Sit back and enjoy.

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#3 master of my domain
September 25 2013, 09:39AM
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my favorite part of his post game interview was right at the beginning. http://video.oilers.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=4&id=447467&lang=en&navid=DL|EDM|home

reporter- can you start by talking about the hands of David Perron?

Eakins- you want me to talk about his hands? he has a left one and a right one.

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#4 I tried it at home
September 25 2013, 09:20AM
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it was greatvto see Nurse put himself back in with a good camp after the prospects tourney. He'll be a beast on the blue line soon enough

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#5 Doomoil
September 25 2013, 09:45AM
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@Quicksilver ballet

you're right, we should have kept him and thrown his development out the window.

maybe if we were lucky a much bigger and stronger grown man could obliterate him in the corner and put him out with a season ending injury.

if only we could properly destroy this kid's nhl career before it gets started!

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#6 Czar
September 25 2013, 09:41AM
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After watching Perron play these past few games I'm not sure Maggie ever would have reached the level this kid plays at, love this move.

Only a blind man wouldn't find Olivia hot! I've got a buddy who has been heard to say "she's so hot I'd eat the peanuts........" I'm not sure I'd go that far but hot damn she's sexy!

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#7 dougtheslug
September 25 2013, 02:29PM
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I think it says something about Oiler depth and talent this year that players like Omark, Lander, Jones, etc., who were able to crack the lineup in past years, aren't able to compete this year. And that Nurse isn't being rushed, but allowed to mature properly. Isn't that what everybody has been saying good teams do with their draft picks? Are the Oilers, in spite of all the naysayers, becoming that kind of team?

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#8 Spydyr
September 25 2013, 09:30AM
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Too bad the team did not have the depth at the center they now enjoy on defense.

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#9 OilClog
September 25 2013, 11:25AM
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Debating on whether Nurse was the right choice.. Still??? Nation is such a confusing place, when the last time an Edmonton Oiler defender didn't get beaten like a rented mule by the Sedins? Nurse was/is a fantastic choice. We're spoiled to have him.

Jones on waivers.. Eakins will lead us to the glory land, this is a new day.

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#10 Doomoil
September 25 2013, 12:14PM
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@Quicksilver ballet

is this the first time you've ever followed a training camp?

it sure seems like it.

it's been funny watching your transition from pessimist to straight troll.

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#11 Czar
September 25 2013, 09:33AM
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It might be disappointing for him to get sent down but at least he'll get to WIN a gold medal at the WJC. Absolutely the right call for his development.

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#12 Crackenbury
September 25 2013, 11:51AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Stand pat and make due with what's already in the system. Ride this season out, and hope the kids can do it on their own. One more season of hockey that doesn't matter coming to RX1 this fall.

It's difficult to understand how a team with so many holes on the roster can send someone who may have been able to contribute back to junior. To even believe he couldn't be a contributor under Eakins watch is stuborn. Guess we'll never know now. Despite being well inside the top 6 group of defenders on this team during camp, we won't get to see how he'd fare against NHL players, he didn't even get that opportunity.

I'll give you Props for being one helluva troller. You're consistency is impressive. I think you may even be starting to believe your own nonsense.

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#13 DSF
September 25 2013, 10:17AM
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Omark has cleared waivers.

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#14 michael
September 25 2013, 11:32AM
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Jones on Waivers is not a surprise to me at all. His return from an eye injury has left him tentative. I know from my own experience the effect that this has on ones psyche. I lost my vision in my left eye due to a puck in the eye when I was very young. I did not play sports after that at all. Fear of the loss of my vision totally made me wary of sports and other situations that may have involved danger to my sight.

I said it last year and I'll say it again now. Ryan Jones has lost that part of him that gives him the edge when he is on the ice. I and others have seen it in his play. he is less engaging physically. His best chance in life is to walk away now from hockey and refocus his energies elsewhere. No shame in taking a path that leads to success in other things other than hockey. Ryan Jones was for 2 years a very good Oiler. But the injury he suffered has taken away his edge. It may be by just a little but in hockey as in all sports its that what makes the difference in being a top tier players vs being a minor leaguer.

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#15 Doomoil
September 25 2013, 01:34PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Change, embrace it.

The game has changed considerably the last 25 yrs. Eakins could be the first coach to break tradition and be the first guy through the wall next fall.

you're a dunce.

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#16 freelancer
September 25 2013, 09:40AM
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Love to see Nurse so fired up about being cut. In the end it's great to see them take their time with the kid. He's looked good in preseason but still probably not ready for full time NHL duty. Giving him the 9 games was a possibility but in the end I'm okay letting them use those spots for the guys who will stay around the whole season.

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#17 vetinari
September 25 2013, 09:54AM
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Nurse is a beast and going back to the CHL is going to be good for his development-- he needs to add some meat to his frame and to up his conditioning because an 82 game NHL schedule is gruelling. Also, from the Oiler's perspective, it doesn't hurt that his ELC can slide for a year to space out the "next wave" of players.

As for Eakins, I love the philosophy-- why change what's successful? The Oilers can outskate most other teams so keep the pressure up and they can't score when they are buried in their own zone. Fantastic. Players like Hall, Eberle, and Yakupov should thrive with that kind of philosophy.

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#18 916oiler
September 25 2013, 10:19AM
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I immediately took a shower after watching Nurse dish that apple to Ebs; I felt downright FILTHY just watching it.

Can't wait for that kid to make the jump!

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#19 Czar
September 25 2013, 10:27AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

In my opinion he isn't ready for the NHL. Needs to be stronger, and most of his opponents weren't NHL players. It would only have gotten more difficult for him.

Belov's overall game, today, is better, but Nurse's upside is monumental. He showed he has all the tools to be a very good, and maybe an elite D-man.

But I don't feel he was NHL ready.

In the couple games Belov has played he's already ahead of N.Schultz in my books. Hell of a pick up, can't wait until he's more comfortable with the NA game and starts throwing his weight around.

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#20 TigerUnderGlass
September 25 2013, 01:49PM
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@Tim in Kelowna

OW is just okay-hot.

Guys who say stuff like this are the same guys who would need to change their shorts if she made eye contact.

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#21 Doomoil
September 25 2013, 12:31PM
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madjam wrote:

Quicksilver on the pulse of a lot of fans feelings going into the season , like it or not . Nurse decision seems more economic decision and contract numbers , than his so called lack of not making team .Will Nurse get better going back to Junior again ? Unlikely as he will not be playing with or amongst men . At least in Europe , etc. the better Juniors are playing in men's leagues . Nurse added a strong element we do not have much of and would have helped this years squad . Why they didn't allow him to stay for at least 8 games into season is puzzling - it would have done him well in his progression . I guess they want to give that time to others whom quite frankly are not as good as he . This is a controversial decision that may well backfire .

it's not a controversial decision among anyone who has followed the development paths of any top flight defensemen not named drew doughty.

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#22 David S
September 25 2013, 06:54PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Spoken like a true visible minority...

You know, I get the whole "Troll" thing. I really do. Going for the worst negative Dakin every single article must be quite a treat for you, despite it being incredibly easy and of course, ridiculously shallow. But still, the rewards must be worth it, right?

Still, I can't for the life of me wonder why you'd want to be known (if only online) as a complete d!ck.

But I imagine the constant "negative fame" on a fan hockey site is still better than the reality you probably have to wake up to everyday, right?

#SucksToBeYou

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#23 Geoff
September 25 2013, 12:14PM
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I for one was glad when they picked nurse in the draft. People were clammering for a top 2 defencemen with size that would play hard. Well there he is. We just have to wait now.

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#24 Olivia Wilde
September 25 2013, 02:39PM
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I'm not hot at all.

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#25 Benny Botts
September 25 2013, 10:01AM
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Olivia Wilde is an absolute smoke show!

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#26 Forrestt
September 25 2013, 10:27AM
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Your article title from yesterday is funny "Players will decide who makes the team". I think Fedun played his way into the mix, was better than some proven NHL'ers, but alas, his 2 way contract was easier to park him back in the AHL rather than make a tough call on one way contracts. Hopefully the Oilers don't carry 8 defencemen at least and he gets a shot at a relief role occasionally...

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#27 Lochenzo
September 25 2013, 10:30AM
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The "pessimists" as you call them will continue to point to Nichuskin who is having a very good pre-season as well. There is no doubt as to Nichuskin's talent. Where there may be problems is if he gets cut from the big club or when he is negotiating a new contract. If Nichuskin doesn't get what he wants, he's prepared to go to the KHL. He's been very clear about that.

I really like Ryan Jones and I can understand why he had a tough year last year. I don't understand what's happening to him this year though. Hope he gets things going again. Joensuu has outplayed him by a mile and deserves to be here opening night.

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#28 michael
September 25 2013, 12:02PM
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A line of Mike Brown, Eager and Smack is the definition of filthy. Light, heavy, and super heavy weight. You got 3 players who will be able to bring the boom when and as needed to pukes like Ott and suchlike. Won't be any of the bitching that Toronto did the other night after their guy got his asked kicked by a Sabre player. 3 different weight categories. Pick the guy who needs tuning in and send over the appropriate player to do the tuning. Smack may have limited opportunities for tuning but I'd rather have him on my team than someone else's. Brown and Eager will be able to give us grit and energy. Push back when we need it.

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#29 Bloodsweatandoil
September 25 2013, 12:05PM
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No offence to Jones,but he has looked awful. I'm all about giving a guy a second chance, but he obviously did not buy into Eakins/Oilers mantra this camp. Just one of many more to come of subtle signals by Oilers Management to the rest of the team....take nothing for granted!

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#31 tom.MTL
September 25 2013, 11:01AM
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Totally unrelated but did anyone else catch Ryan Whitney's sarcastic rip on Joey Moss when replying to an Eberle tweet? He should be worrying about not fading into oblivion rather than cracking on a legend

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#32 Spydyr
September 25 2013, 11:12AM
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Craig1981 wrote:

Nurse is going to be the best Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound to ever wear an Oiler's Jersey!!

99 was not too bad.

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#33 bazmagoo
September 25 2013, 11:32AM
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Even though I like Jonesy, I'm glad to see him on waivers. He's one dimensional to me, and doesn't bring enough grit and size to warrant a roster spot currently. Kind of bummed for the guy, until I remember that he's guaranteed to make $1.5 million dollars this year.

Hopefully he makes it back to the big leagues some day, but he's got a lot of work ahead of him based on his performance in pre-season.

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#34 Maverick007
September 25 2013, 12:14PM
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Tim in Kelowna wrote:

Gregor, I`ll take Olivia Munn over Olivia Wilde every time. OW is just okay-hot.

As far as Eakins pushing the pace, I totally agree. It`s been frustrating watching the Oilers for the past few seasons because it has lacked aggression. There has never been much of a forecheck, and I think the intensity Eakins is demanding will create a lot of turnovers in the offensive zone.

I`m pumped for Oct 1. The Oil will be in tough to make the playoffs, but it`s finally going to be fast paced hockey.

"OW is just okay-hot"

How dare you???? Olivia Wilde is gods gift to mere mortals like you and me. We should be building temples in her honor.

*packs shotgun and shovel for road trip to Kelowna*

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#35 Reg Dunlop
September 25 2013, 09:34AM
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@Quicksilver ballet

What are you talking about, man? McDavid is TWO years away, so we need to sewer NEXT year too.

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#36 Romulus' Apotheosis
September 25 2013, 10:33AM
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Forrestt wrote:

Your article title from yesterday is funny "Players will decide who makes the team". I think Fedun played his way into the mix, was better than some proven NHL'ers, but alas, his 2 way contract was easier to park him back in the AHL rather than make a tough call on one way contracts. Hopefully the Oilers don't carry 8 defencemen at least and he gets a shot at a relief role occasionally...

Waiving Jones today counters your argument.

The team is clearly going with who they think is the better players regardless of contract situation.

It's a good sign.

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#37 Lochenzo
September 25 2013, 11:08AM
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Jckson wrote:

Hypothetical.

If you could go back to the draft and had a chance to pick one of these players. Who do you pick?

Nurse

Lindholm

Monahan

Nichushkin

I would have taken Monahan if he was available us. But after watching Regehr drill Hemsky all those years, it's nice to be on the other side of that fence in the Battle of Alberta. Nurse drilling Monahan, I see it already.

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#40 toblerusse
September 25 2013, 11:50AM
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Your comment about watching a game on TV and it's limitations is something I think about on a regular basis and something i wait patiently for the future to change. We have such incredible technology available to us yet us, as viewers, are at the mercy of the production of the tv station we are obligated to watch.

I've seen multi-camera options online as many as 6 years ago. The NBA offered it a long time ago and I still cant believe it hasnt expanded.

I made an infographic for my job (we have a blog i run) and I put as many ideas i could into it.

http://visual.ly/future-how-we-watch-hockey

Basically i feel that we should be able to control which of the several camera angles are available at any given time. I would like to watch the powerplay from behind the net WHEN I CHOOSE TO.

I would also love to have access to any of thenumerous microphones around the rink - or better yet, one on the refs or players.

The product of watching sports on tv/online has plenty of room to grow. Billions of dollars to be made as well.

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#41 Harlie
September 25 2013, 12:17PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Jones likely has to prove he can still produce after the eye injury. Harsh, but likely the reality of how teams will look at him. Needs to move his feet and get back to skating. I suspect he'll get another shot in NHL in near future.

JG, do you think Jones knew about his waiver thing before last nights game? They showed a few closeups of him on the bench and I've never seen him with such a stone face and lack of emotion before. Seemed like he knew something was up and his mind was already working out the details.

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#42 LinkfromHyrule
September 25 2013, 02:00PM
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lol I wonder how often madjam and QSB meet under the bridge to discuss trolling and various troll-related issues. They seem to have formed the legion of trolls in the last little while. Guess we will see how long it takes DSF to join too. That would be some serious troll-power

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#43 Alex Mathis
September 25 2013, 03:19PM
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I wonder why nobody is pointing towards MacT after having signed Jones to a 1.5 Million deal...that was a bad decision and a waste of money which now could have been invested in a Center. Imagine the noise if Tambellini had done that...

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#44 Quicksilver ballet
September 25 2013, 06:01PM
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Wäx Män Riley wrote:

Honest question, QSB.... do you purposely try to have a worse Dakin score than DSF?

Keep it up, I think you're almost there.

Haven't been paying attention Wax Man. Figured those buttons were there for the kids to play with, not be a meter to gauge the popularity contest the kids seem to enjoy. Never really paid much attention to the arse kissing scores or negative prop buttons.

I've been trying hard to put up more of the so called cookie cutter answers that are popular here, but as you can see, I still have a ways to go before I become one of the mundane normal vanilla types.

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#45 Ari Gold
September 25 2013, 06:51PM
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Nurse looked pretty bloody impressive. He looked as though he'd be almost as productive as Petry, and that's still as a teen. Please keep him in a cage, poke him with a stick often and feed him only raw steak. I want this kid to have the taste of Sedin-blood on his tongue when he breaks into the league.

Lander & Omark, huge disappointments. I was hoping for more. Great, however, to see so much competition for the bottom 9 forward spots and the #3 D-pairing.

Depth on the Oil???? This is new.....

Heal up and get back Gags & Nuge! This is a playoff team when healthy.

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#46 Czar
September 25 2013, 10:29AM
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@DSF

You sure this time dude?

The only ones who didn't see this coming were Linus and his agent.

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#47 Lochenzo
September 25 2013, 10:32AM
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Glad to see Arcobello play well last night with Perron and Eberle. Arcobello was invisible playing with 3rd and 4th line wingers. I guess it's top 6 forward or bust for Arcobello.

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#48 27Ginge
September 25 2013, 11:27AM
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This man (I initially wrote kid) is impressive. All kinds of athletic pedigree and all kinds of competitiveness. The guy was crushed when he got cut even though he know there was no chance of making the team. Absolutely love his character. Gonna be a beast for many, many years to come. A bit of a throwback guy with enough athleticism to play the new game.

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#49 Tim in Kelowna
September 25 2013, 12:00PM
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Gregor, I`ll take Olivia Munn over Olivia Wilde every time. OW is just okay-hot.

As far as Eakins pushing the pace, I totally agree. It`s been frustrating watching the Oilers for the past few seasons because it has lacked aggression. There has never been much of a forecheck, and I think the intensity Eakins is demanding will create a lot of turnovers in the offensive zone.

I`m pumped for Oct 1. The Oil will be in tough to make the playoffs, but it`s finally going to be fast paced hockey.

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#50 abbeef
September 25 2013, 12:16PM
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@TeamOmark

I think this line would be brutal as well but Eager is not slow at all, he is faster than Omark. All three should never be dressed for the same game as that line would give the opposition a huge advantage,

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