July 09 2014 11:01AM
**Picture courtesy of Baggedmilk**
Who is Teddy Purcell?
When the Oilers acquired him from Tampa Bay for Sam Gagner, much of the focus centered around Gagner. It was understandable considering how hotly Gagner's value and contribution has been debated over the years, but now that he is no longer an Oiler, let's look at Purcell.
When I spoke to Purcell over the phone he admitted he was shocked when he got traded. He didn't expect a trade, but after it set in he said he is very excited about the move.
It was refreshing to hear a Canadian player say he is excited about the opportunity to play in Canada.
"I think that every kid growing up in Canada always wanted to play, experience what it
was like to play in the NHL in Canada," said Purcell.
"And that’s no disrespect to the organizations that I’ve played in the past, LA or Tampa, but I mean it’s just a pretty obvious statement that hockey is Canada’s game up there and like you say, there is more attention and there’s a little bit more pressure. It’s something that I’m ready to embrace and experience," continued Purcell.
I hope he never losses that attitude. I'm sick and tired of hearing players complain that Canadian markets are tough to play in. You make millions of dollars to play a game, and even when the team is losing the fans still show up and cheer on their team. It isn't that tough.
Canada had six of the worst ten teams in the league last year, yet the fans still came out in droves. The majority of fans are great to the players. They idolize them. Instead of worrying about the loudmouth who yells, "you suck" when they are walking across the street, or the clueless person who interrupts them at dinner, the players and their organizations need to realize how lucky they are to have so many fans who continue to support them despite their losing ways.
Okay, enough of my rant on playing in Canada, let's get back to Purcell.
WHERE DOES HE LIKE TO PLAY
He has played both wings, but which position he is most comfortable playing?
"I always made a joke when Marty St. Louis was on our team that whatever game that he was feeling, which wing he didn’t want to play, I played the other one. For a couple of years I was bouncing around a lot, but I’m pretty much a right winger. I grew up playing there my whole life and that’s where I’m most comfortable, but at the same time I can always switch over to the left. It’s just a little bit different," said Purcell.
Switching wings in the NHL isn't as easy as some think. Many players have struggled moving to the other side. Purcell admitted he prefers the right and talked about the challenges when he moves to the left side.
"I think just coming back in your own zone. When I'm back checking I always tend to go to the right hand side. I
feel like sometimes it’s easier to pick up pucks when you’re breaking out and
you kind of go low gear, [give your] defencemen some support and you can get
under your forehand.
"When you go on your left wing you have to take it on your backhand. You need to go down lower in the zone to receive it on your forehand. It’s not a huge adjustment, it’s just a couple of things to get used to and I find I have to think about it a bit more," explained Purcell.
Often if a player is thinking too much they end up not being in the right spot. His explanation of needing to get lower in the zone to receive the puck on his backhand was a perfect example of making a player get out of his comfort zone. It might only be an extra stride to get in position, but then he has to accept the pass on his backhand, and even for NHL players, if you don't practice that regularly, it can be a challenge.
Purcell, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov should be the right wingers, while Taylor Hall, David Perron and Benoit Pouliot can patrol the left side. Perron, Purcell and Yakupov might switch for the odd shift or for a game, but when all of them are healthy it would make sense to let them play where they are most comfortable.
Purcell scored 51 points in 2011, 65 in 2012 and he had 36 points in 48 games in 2013, which prorates to 61 in a full season. But last year, the Lightning had a new head coach in Jon Cooper and Purcell's production dipped to 42 points. Cooper did coach 16 games in 2013, but he really took charge last season.
Cooper made some changes to his lineup, Purcell never seemed to fit into his scheme, and he struggled to produce under Cooper.
"I just don’t think that I found my consistency as well as I had in the previous three years. With a new coach coming in you always want to get off on the right foot and have him believe in you right away and that didn’t happen. I started on the third line and bounced around all year, and I didn’t really find a good fit like I had in the past. I think that I just couldn’t get out of that little funk and my numbers showed that.
"It’s unfortunate how it worked out, but this trade means a new opportunity for me. I think I’m going to get a bit more ice and more opportunity like I had in the past here in Tampa and hopefully I can take advantage of that," Purcell said.
He has a clean slate with Eakins, but I asked Purcell if he learned how to communicate with a new coach and if he'll do anything to get his new coach in Edmonton to believe in him.
"It’s always important to have an open door and good
communication skills through the player and the coach. I’m not a player that’s
going to be always talking to the coach, or always needing to be talking to the
coach whether I'm playing well or if I'm struggling.
"I think it’s just important to get off to a really good start the first couple of games. It tells the coach that you’re responsible defensively, you’re not making careless plays and turning the puck over at the wrong times of the game. If you do that, you can slowly build a trust and with that trust he’s going to keep giving you opportunity and that builds the confidence and then you just roll with it," said the undrafted forward.
STYLE OF PLAY
Point totals and possession stats can give us an idea of how a player plays, but I enjoy asking a player about their strengths and weaknesses. Purcell stands 6' 3" and weighs 203 pounds, which makes him the biggest (combined height and weight) top-nine forward in Edmonton. However, don't expect him to be a physical presence. That isn't his game.
He talked about his strengths, and also how his game matches up in the bigger western conference.
"I wouldn’t say that I’m the best along the boards. I think the strength of my game is mainly my hands, and I like to work in tight corners in front of the net, so it (playing in the west) shouldn't be that different. Every team in the league is so good and it’s such a hard league to be successful in every year. I think that it (trade) will just make me push that extra little bit."
Most players will always give you an honest assessment of their game. You have to play to your strengths, and obviously every player has to battle along the boards, but Purcell believes he is more effective in tight spaces in the middle of the ice.
He has also been a solid producer on the powerplay the past four seasons.
|ES Goals||PP goals||ES pts||PP pts|
He was 4th amongst Tampa players in PP points in 2011, 2nd in 2012 and 3rd in 2013 and 2014. Where does he like to set up and what aspect of his game works well on the man advantage?
"I like to be patient with the puck and let the other person make the first move defensively," said Purcell.
"You are trying to create those little two on ones all over the ice and that’s something that I noticed when, and I didn’t watch a whole lot of Edmonton games because of the time difference to be honest, but when I did, you really notice how skilled they are on the power play and how those guys can make plays. So wherever I do end up fitting in there, it’s going to be fun to try to take advantage of that because that’s something that I really pride myself on."
The Oilers PP needs a shooter, Nikitin might fill that void, and they need a net-front presence. Purcell and Perron could fill that role. The Oilers have enough skilled forwards to have two competitive PP units and Purcell's history suggests he can be productive on the man advantage.
It is too early to tell who Purcell will play with, but could we see him play with Leon Draisaitl and Benoit Pouliot? If MacTavish signs or trades for a veteran centre I could see Yakupov and Perron play with the veteran, while Draisaitl gets flanked by the newest Oilers. I don't see a situation where Yakupov and Draisaitl should play together. They'd get eaten up on the road.
Regardless of where Purcell plays he plans on arriving in Edmonton before training camp.
"I don’t want to go into camp with a hundred things on my agenda. I want to go out and look for a place and get a car, cell phone and stuff like that. Then when I go to camp I will have a clear mind. I don’t want to have any distractions; I want to get off on a strong note. I’ll probably head out in the next month, maybe and check out the city a bit and get acclimated as best I can."
It shouldn't take long for Purcell to understand and experience the passion of Oilersnation. Make him feel comfortable in Edmonton, and hopefully his excitement of coming to a hockey markets lasts throughout his career.
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