Three straight days of just drills, neutral zone coverage, skating, shooting, skating, defensive zone coverage, three-on-twos, time at the whiteboard, two-on-ones, skating and more neutral zone coverage make it difficult to evaluate who has had a good camp. Hell it’s day three and I had to talk about haircuts just to break up the monotony.
I understand why Tom Renney is doing this. The Oilers were a disaster in every aspect last season, and they spent way too much in their own zone. They didn’t battle hard enough, but mostly they rarely had the puck in the neutral zone, which led to them having to play defence way too much.
Not one player has complained, and in fact, most have embraced Renney’s hand-on-approach and his teach-first attitude.
Tomorrow night in front of an expected crowd of 15,000+ the players, those you aren’t cut after today’s sessions, will get a chance to strut their stuff in a "game-situation" during the Joey Moss Cup. You can tell the players are exctied to show the coach they were paying attention, as many came off the ice wondering what the rosters for tomorrow will be.
The rosters will be posted later today, or more likely tomorrow morning. Look for Renney to make about 21 cuts today. There are lots of rookies, and even some ECHL guys who aren’t close to being NHL ready so they will be gone. From the 29 players who were at rookie camp, I’d expect Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Alex Plante, Jeff Petry, Tyler Pitlick, Jordan Eberle, Chris Vande Velde and Milan Kytnar to see some exhibition action. Maybe one or two more, but that’s it.
It does sound like the top-three lines that we’ve seen in camp will get a game or two together in the preseason, but Renney wants to interchange them and to try and see who has chemistry. Linus Omark has been skating with Colin Fraser and Ryan Jones, but he will get some offensive linemates at some point in the preseason.
- JF Jacques skated for the entire two hours with group two, but don’t expect to see him in the preseason. He needs to get in better conditioning and they don’t want to rush his back. He says he is ready for contact, but they will be very cautious with him. He realizes he needs to stay healthy this season if he expects another contract with the Oilers or any other NHL team.
- Omark continues to impress with his speed and offensive flair. He will make things interesting once the preseason starts.
- Alex Giroux isn’t blessed with great speed, and his first step isn’t that explosive, but he can finish and at 6’3′ he possesses size that will get him a long look. Right now I see Giroux, Omark, Paajarvi and Eberle battling for the final two spots in the top-nine.
- Zack Stortini, Fraser, Steve MacIntyre and Jones should have a spot so that leaves one more forward spot. Giroux could be the 14th forward to start the year, but I don’t see anyway they keep one of the three young kids as the 14th to start the year. They’d rather let them play a lot in the minors.
- Petry looks pretty smooth in practice, but I want to see how he can handle the size and strength of NHL players. The organization needs a young puck moving D-man to emerge in the next few years, and Petry is the most likely candidate at this point. If I had to choose, I’d take him over Taylor Chorney. I’m not sure Chorney can be effective in the NHL at his size.
- Devan Dubnyk has looked solid, while JDD has struggled a bit, but they both know they will only get two starts each to win the back up job. That is the most competitive battle in camp. Other guys will get four or five games to showcase themselves, but these two will probably only get two starts each. I suspect Khabibulin will want three starts in the preseason, so that only leaves one other game.
- Renney wasn’t on the ice today, he was in the backroom making cuts as the guys came off the ice after practice. It sounds like all but four of the guys remaining with the team will dress for the Joey Moss Cup. That would suggest they will have 44 guys left after today, maybe 45 if you include Jacques.
- Tom Gilbert was in mid-season form ripping on Jason Strudwick’s haircut. Strudwick is sporting a very short salad right now, in fact most Oilers have it pretty short. "I think Strudy is actually losing his hair, so he is just trying to look younger. There is a different kind of energy in the room, and whether guys are cutting their hair to feel younger and fit in is fine. These young guys are coming every day, and they are pushing the older guys to go out there and compete hard and that’s what we need in the lockerroom."
- Strudwick replied with."If you followed my career closely, you would know that I always get it cut short at the beginning of the season so it looks sharp for the pictures. You want to look good. That’s what the fans, and my mom, are looking at when they open up the player profiles early in the year. As for Gibby he’s ten years younger than I am and he’s going bald. He should worry about his own hair (laughs)."