This is the type of promotional video the Oilers should have. That is former NHLer Pasi Nurminen, who once fought Ty Conklin, driving the Zamponi. I love that they call it a Zamponi.
My Finnish buddy and NHL correspondent for Helsingin Sanomat, Jouni Niemimen, translated what Pasi was yelling. "THAT (The Zamboni) BARELY MOVED! DO I HAVE TO DO THIS MYSELF TOO?!"
Gold, Jerry, Gold.
I like the spunk Antti Tyrvainen showed in the rookie tourney, and look for he and fellow Finn, Lennart Petrell, to grab Tom Renney’s attention during main camp and into the preseason.
The Oilers will be huffing, puffing, biking and jumping their way through physicals tomorrow. Outside of the usual VO2 tests, they get their eyes and ears checked, the lovely body fat test and other fun things. Brandon Davidson tested the best out of the rookies, so I wonder which vet will test the best. Any guesses? I’ll go with Ladislav Smid.
The Oilers have three days of camp before their split squads host Minnesota in Edmonton and Chicago in Saskatoon on Tuesday. The Oilers have eight days between their final preseason game, Oct 1st in Vancouver, and their season-opener v. the Penguins on Sunday the 9th, so Renney will have ample time to fine tune his system.
He won’t spend as much time on system play early camp this year like he did last year, mainly because most of the guys who have a realistic shot of making the team know his system, while the new vets; Belanger, Sutton, Smyth, Barker, Eager and Hordichuk have enough experience that they should pick it up rather easily.
"Guys should be comfortable in our system. What they need to learn quickly is how uncomfortable it feels when you don’t execute it properly," Renney said.
I’m sure many of you were thinking "How can we keep the same system when we finished 30th?" It is a valid point, but it is clear from Renney’s comments that it is more about understanding and executing the system. Renney will be a different coach this season. He won’t be, and can’t afford to be, as patient as he was last year.
The Oilers don’t need to make the playoff for him to keep his job longterm, but he will want to see a major improvement. This team needs to be close to the playoffs in the middle of the playoffs, and by close I mean six to ten points out.
I’m interested to see what line combinations Renney will start with. Based on past history, the lines we see for the first preseason games won’t be the same as opening night, but Renney has some ideas based on last season, however, he wasn’t willing to divulge them on my show yesterday.
The best part of the preseason are predictions. Who will make the playoffs, who will score the most goals, have the most points, which coach gets fired first, how long before fans start calling for a coach/GM’s head, who will make the team and who will play together?
It’s fun stuff because there are rarely any wrong opinions, unless you pick the Islanders to make the playoffs. Some guesses are more educated, some filled with blind-faith, most are lucky, but all of them contain one consistent ingredient; Passion.
Between now and opening night, October 6th, the fanbase in every city believes their team has a shot. "If we can stay healthy we have a shot." "If our young kids take the next step we look good," are some of the usual phrases fans blurt out discussing their team at work, on the Nations, on radio, in their men’s league dressing room, at their kids hockey practices, with their buddies, and sometimes with their spouse.
Here’s some combos I’d like to see early in preseason.
Ryan Smyth- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Ales Hemsky
Taylor Hall- Sam Gagner- Jordan Eberle
Magnus Paajarvi-Shawn Horcoff-Linus Omark
Ryan Jones- Eric Belanger-Ben Eager
Lennart Petrell-Gilbert Brule-Darcy Hordichuk
I like Smyth to protect Nugent-Hopkins early on just like Horcoff did with Eberle and Hall last season. Let’s see if Gagner can keep up with Hall and if he is ready to make the step to becoming an impact top-two centre. The Swedes had some chemistry last year, and Horcoff can act as their security blanket.
If Jones, Eager and Belanger are the so-called 4th line, then maybe the Oilers can compete. Renney made it clear to me yesterday that he wants a 4th line that he can rely on. The Oilers top-thee lines aren’t good enough or productive enough, yet, to play 53 minutes a night. He needs, and expects, a reliable, energetic and productive 4th line.
The blueline pairings are also intriguing. Will Ryan Whitney will likely be on the ice to start camp, but I’d be surprised if he played on Tuesday. His health will have a major impact on D-pairings, but if he was healthy I’d like to see these to start:
I’m still not sold that Petry wouldn’t benefit from some more seasoning in the AHL, but if he is here I’d play him with Whitney. The obvious risk to that philosophy is it means Gilbert and Smid will face the opposition’s first line. In the longterm I don’t see them as a #1 shut down pairing, but I’m not sure the Oilers have any tandem that would fall into that category, so that honour falls to them.
I’d bring Barker along slowly and let him build his confidence in the 3rd pairing. Peckham was the Oilers 2nd most consistent D-man last year, so play him with Barker and let them battle the 2nd and 3rd lines. If their confidence grows and they become consistent Steve Smith can give them more difficult matchups as the season progresses.
Who would you like to see together?
Let the games begin baby….Hockey is back!
DRIVE SAFE KIDS
The good news about that video is that they shot it before Finland won the World Championships this past Spring. Nurminen was much more sober during this shoot than he was a long-night of celebrating. (Shout out to mister_plow for the reminder.