The Oilers finally hit the ice for 2010 training camp, and while no one needed a puke bucket, some of them might have had a headache from all the chalkboard time. Tom Renney spent a lot of time teaching on the whiteboard this morning.
TEAM A hit the ice first at 8:15, and were greeted by at least 700 rabid fans who wanted to see Taylor, Jordan and Magnus first hand. Well they will have to wait, as none of the big three were on for the first session, instead they got to see a lighter Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Hall and Eberle will be in the third session, because the fans that came will wait until Hall and Eberle hit the ice around noon.
Team A consisted of,
TOUGH FIRST DAY
When Team B stepped off the ice, you could tell it was a tough first day of camp. Two hours of skating, line rushes and lots of focus on neutral zone play had the players fatigued. The fans weren’t tired though, they gave Team B a loud round of applause as they left the ice. Team C, and Hall came on at 12:15 and the kid many have been waiting to see stepped on Rexall ice for the first time in an Oiler practice jersey. It was interesting to see the excitement on the faces of the fans; young, old, male or female. Hall has every fan in the Oilersnation excited about the potential that he can bring.
Every shot and stride he took was closely monitored by the crowd and it will only intensify as the regular season approaches. He will show glimpses of his great acceleration and quickness, but today wasn’t a day where fans could grasp the depth of his skill.
It is only one day, but Linus Omark looked pretty good. Everything he shot seemed to go in, and it was funny to see how often he was deking the goalies. That is a bit of a no-no in camp, but Shawn Horcoff thought it was quite comical. "I wish Rollie or Tommy Salo had been out there today. They would have been pretty frustrated. Omark has some great skill, and he his attitude was refreshing. He likes to have fun on the ice," said Horcoff. It is only drills of course, but the kid can finish. Looking forward to seeing him in a game. I’d love for him to shine and make it a real competition v. Eberle and Paajarvi for a roster spot.
THOUGHTS ON RENNEY AND HIS SYSTEM
It was clear from the minute he stepped on the ice this morning that Renney was committed to having his players understand his system. There wasn’t any scrimmaging on day one, instead there was a lot of focus on neutral zone play and forechecking.
"Tom likes to get right into fundamentals, which is good. I know last year we were kind of scrammbly a little on what we were doing. This (practice) is more structured and organized and will be good for us. He is a really detailed coach. He is going to drill us with neutral zone and forecheck assignments; that is what we talked about a lot today. He’ll do it everyday I think until every forward and every defenceman gets it, so we aren’t scrammbling like we were last year."
— Tom Gilbert on Renney’s approach today.
"I think it was great for us. I think everyone is so excited and wants to get into it (scrimmaging) right away, but I think you really need to just break it down and simplify things just like Tom did. He explained it in great detail for us, so we should be able to pick it up quickly." — Gilbert Brule on Renney.
I also asked Brule what Renney focused on specifically for the forwards.
"Definitely our neutral zone forecheck, especially on the D to D passes. We want to have a change with our first guy, and an exchange with our second guy if the D to D keeps coming, and not just play man-on-man and staying in a wedge in the neutral zone."
Ryan Whitney liked Renney’s strategy on the ice this morning.
"The way we want to play this year is uptempo hockey. When you think about it, there is no need to be scrimmaging and trying to kill each other out there. Now we can be learning the new stuff and kind of learning the new coach’s tendancies."
Whitney on what the expectations will be from a D-man’s perspective in Renney’s uptempo system.
"I think just getting up in the play. You are looking to get the puck out of your zone as quick as you can, whether that is skating it or moving it, and once that happens just continue up. We aren’t going to sit behind. We are going to get a fourth guy involved and basically be a team that is hard to play against because of our speed. We definitely have a lot of that up front, and that’s what the new NHL is all about; Having speed to back off defenceman and create chances that way."
HALL ON FIRST DAY
"It was a lot of fun, maybe a bit nervous to start it off for the first five minutes, but after that I got settled in and realized it was just another practice and you have to just work at becoming a better player."
Hall broke a pane of glass in his first practice and joked about it afterwards. "I didn’t know I had that kind of shot in me, maybe all those beach workouts I’ve been doing all summer (laughs)…but it was definitely a fun practice and a fun day."
The players are like sponges right now. They believe in the system and since they haven’t lost a game yet, they have lots of faith in Renney’s new approach. We will see what happens when the real bullets fly, but it is clear that the players like Renney’s dedication to detail. It sounds like tomorrow will be another teaching day, and there might not be any scrimmaging until Monday or possibly Tuesday.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM RENNEY
An overview of the first day.
"They worked hard at it today. We tried hard to make sure it was simple, and it was something they could get their head around. Ultimately as a coach ,when it comes to drills, there is a point in time where you hand it over to the player and it is their responsibility to make sure the execution is there. I thought for a first look today, with all three groups and the technical components of the game they did a real good job."
His first impression of Omark?
"I’m not sure he shoots the puck, but he dekes the hell out of it. He has great hands and is very, very quick and has some explosiveness to his game. First time I’ve seen him live, and he is going to make it very interesting, and I like his battle level. He is a case in point to the interpretation of what I’m giving the players might be lost a little bit in translation, because he was the first forechecker on just about every drill and that wasn’t necessarily his need, but we like him."
When does he start thinking about his goaltending situation? Any chance he will carry three goalies?
"I’d be hardpressed to understand why we would carry three. It’s not a comfortable situation for anyone to be in, first and foremost them. I’ll allow the process to dictate what happens here, and make some decisions based on who emerges and it might be one of those cases where we have to do that for a bit, but my objective is to get to two as quickly as we can, but respecting the process too."
Are you more of a teacher than coach right now?
"Probably more on a six or seven side in terms of teaching I guess, and as a coaching staff we should all be prepared to do that. We dont’ want any grey area when we are dropping the puck for two points and that’s really important to us. Any system of play will protect you if everyone plays it, even a bad system will work if everybody plays it. We are hoping, obviously, that we have nailed the right system for our team, and we’ll continue to drive it home. We will probably teach more than you would in years with a veteran team."