Theo Peckham needs to play, and yesterday he made the decision to suit up for the San Francisco Bulls of the ECHL. With the NHL and NHLPA finally meeting again there is a glimmer of hope that the NHL might be playing by December 1st, and if that’s the case, Peckham needed to play some games.
With Andy Sutton out another two months with an injury, Peckham will battle Corey Potter for the #6 spot on the Oilers blueline, when/if the season resumes. Potter has been playing in Vienna for over a month already and I think Peckham realized he needs to get playing so when camp starts he’s in game shape.
Ryan Whitney, Jeff Petry, Nick Schultz, Ladislav Smid and Justin Schultz are locks to be in the top-five, and due to his style of play I think Peckham has a slight edge over Potter for the #6 slot. Peckham has become a decent penalty killer, he was 2nd in PK icetime last year, and during our brief interview he explains why he should be even better on the PK this year.
He also can be abrasive, and outside of Smid the Oilers blueline doesn’t possess a lot of grit. The Oilers should be excited that Peckham choose to start playing so when/if the season starts he’ll be ready to go and not a half step behind.
A FEW QUESTIONS
JG: How did this come about, and when do you plan on getting playing?
TP: Well I’ve known the head coach probably since I was about 14, so we just exchanged a couple of Facebook messages and it all happened pretty quick. I guess he went up to Alaska and they’ve got a few guys running around up there. When he called me Monday and said if I wanted to come that I could and since the NHL announced that they were cancelling November I figured it would be a good chance to come down.
JG: Was part of the process for you to ensure that you at least got some sort of game stimulation in case the NHL came back, and then you’d be on even par with the guys in the AHL and guys in Europe?
TP: They’re all skating right now and when the NHL decides this is going to get going, this is all going to happen fast. I want to make sure that I’m not scrambling around trying to find a place to skate with four other guys, when the NHL decides they want to get this thing done. So I figured that this would be a good chance to come down and enjoy the weather and make sure that I was on top of it as much as I could.
JG: When we talked to at the end of the season you stated you wanted to get off to a good start and you wanted to put yourself into the best possible shape that you’ve ever been in. Are you in the best shape of your career right now?
TP: Oh yeah for sure, getting ready to go into [Oilers] camp I was by far in the best shape I’ve ever been. While not being able to skate for the past couple of weeks has definitely hindered that a bit, but that’s why I’m down here skating every day so that when the time comes around that I am in the best shape that I can possibly be in.
JG: You’re an NHL defenceman, we would assume that you should be one of the best guys down in that league. How do you ensure that you’re not going to get bad habit?
TP: I think that the biggest thing is trying not to do too much, stay within my game and truly trying as hard as you can to be the best defenceman down here. And I think that there are two ways of going about this. You can come down here and think you’re from the NHL and you’re better than everybody and I think that that is how you start to develop bad habits. But if you come down and you work hard and you treat every shift like it is a shift in the NHL I think that that is how you prevent picking up those bad habits.
JG: You joked on twitter, “maybe I’ll get some power play time”, but I think that ultimately you would expect to get some power play time, and, if anything, improve your skill set in every element.
TP: Well yeah, I’m sort of excited about it, playing on the power play for a couple of minutes [laughs]. I don’t get too many chances in Edmonton! I think that I did once this year when we lost three defencemen in Chicago I think, or maybe Minnesota. I actually remember, there were three defencemen left, they were both on the ice and I was alone with Ralph [Krueger]. And I told him ‘look Ralph, you’ve got nobody left, you’ve got to put me on the power play.’ [laughs]
JG: Did he laugh?
TP: I think so, and he said ‘alright get out there’ and I said ‘yes!’
JG: Did you play the power play in junior at all?
TP: Yeah, I played in junior. I played the power play in a little bit in Springfield as well.
JG: You’ve got a pretty decent shot and while I’m not expecting you to be Justin Schultz and score six goals in seven games or anything like that but…
TP: I might though, you never know.
JG: It’s possible you’re right.
TP: Get pucks on net you know. (laughs)
JG: Have you talked to any of the guys down in OKC, are you surprised at how dominating Schultz has been?
TP: You know what; I haven’t talked to anybody to be totally honest. It’s good to see, it’s good for the Oilers, it’s good for the team coming up that these young guys are putting their time in the minors and having so much success. It’s good to see.
JG: What number are you going to wear?
JG: Other than sheer will power to block shots, is there anything that you can work on specifically to be a better penalty killer?
TP: Conditioning helps out a lot with that, being able to keep going and out work the power play the entire time helps. Also getting your angles right. Blocking shots like you said, it’s a will power thing, but just to put yourself in the position to block them and a lot of blocking shots has to do with the five seconds before and just noticing where the guy is and making sure that you’re in that lane so that when the puck gets there that you can just go on one knee and take it for the goalie. There’s always stuff that you can work on, unless your penalty kill is working at 100%, there’s always room for improvement.
JG: Theo, what about the physical aspect of your game. Some people wonder if you want to risk an injury in the ECHL. Do you go down there with an attitude to not engage, or do you have to play the same robust Theo Peckham style of the NHL down in the ECHL?
TP: I actually spoke to my agent this morning and I told him, ‘look I only have one gear, I only know one way to play.’ It gets me in trouble sometimes playing men’s league with my buddies, but I’m sure that once the puck drops I’m going to be the same old player. I need to play that way to be successful in the NHL and I plan on playing that way in the ECHL. I’m going to try and play every shift like I would in the NHL, regardless of who I’m playing against.
JG: You and I spoke before about how last year coming off of that concussion; it took you some time to get back to 100%. Do you feel 100% now, is everything is good?
TP: 100% and that’s what goes with this process, coming down and taking some contact and getting comfortable with that situation again and I feel 100% right now.
JG: Now I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the San Francisco Bulls have ice girls named the Cowbelles.
TP: I know, I’ve seen them. I’m very excited to be here, and that they are part of the organization. (laughs)
JG: You’re already down in San Francisco, when is your first game?
TP: They play Wednesday; I’m here for practise today with the guys. I may play Wednesday, we’re not too sure but I’ll play Friday for sure.
JG; Now let’s be honest, you could play Wednesday, who are we kidding?
TP: Ah… we’ll see. There’s that comfort level you want to be at when you’re getting on the ice. I might be there; I’ll probably end up playing. I came down thinking I wasn’t but now I skated today and think by tomorrow it will be 100% that I play [laughs].
- Nail Yakupov was named the KHL rookie for of the month for October after racking up 10 goals and 14 points in 13 games. He’ll be in Canada for the next ten days playing for Russia in the Super Series. He scored a goal last night during Russia’s 6-2 romp over the QMJHL.
- Playing a new position is difficult for most players, and last night we saw the concensus #1 pick in the upcoming draft, Nathan McKinnon, struggle adjusting to the wing. McKinnon was a non-factor for the QMJHL, and I wonder if they move him back to centre on Wednesday. McKinnon and Jonathan Huberdeau were both -4.
- How refreshing have the past three days of the lockout been? The NHL and NHLPA met on Saturday and neither camp leaked out any rhetoric or PR propaganda. Maybe, just maybe they will decide to negotiate and get a deal done rather than waste our time trying to sway public opinion.
- Anton Lander has zero points in six games. Tyler Pitlick has no goals in nine games. It is very early, but Lander needs to play better if he hopes to stick with the Oilers when the lockout ends. I still feel he’d be better off playing first or second line minutes in the AHL all season rather than playing 8-10 minutes on the 4th line in Edmonton.
- If the season started next week Teemu Hartikainen, not Magnus Paajarvi, would be in Edmonton. Hartikainen has been very good according to head coach Todd Nelson and if he consistently uses his size, I’m sure Ralph Krueger would love to have him in Edmonton with Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, RNH, Gagner and Hemsky. The Oilers need some size in their top-six.
- Here is a quick stats update on the Oilers who are playing in Europe:
Ales Hemsky: 11-10-21 in 16 games. He had a hat-trick in his last game.
Nail Yakupov: 10-4-14 in 13 games in the KHL.
Laddy Smid: 1-8-9 in 16 games for Liberac in Czech league.
Sam Gagner: 5-3-8 in 7 games for Klagenfurt in Austria.
L. Petrell: 8-0-8 in 14 games for HIFK Helsinki
Corey Potter: 0-3-3 in 10 games for Vienna.
- The Oilers still own Linus Omark’s rights and he’s ripping it up the Swiss league with 7-19-26 in 19 games. There is no room for him on the Oilers top-six, and while they couldn’t get a 5th round pick for him at the draft, this hot start might fetch them a 3rd rounder when the season resumes.
- Some are concerned that Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin haven’t played a real game since April and that rust might be a factor when the season starts. That is a valid concern, however many western conference teams face the same reality. Mikka Kiprusoff, Mike Smith, Cory Schneider/Roberto Luongo, Jimmy Howard, Kari Lehtonen, Corey Crawford, Jonas Hiller, Jaro Halak/Brian Elliott and Nick Backstrom are sitting at home as well. Jonathan Quick is on a two-week conditioning stint, but can’t stay in AHL long-term.
Only Pekka Rinne (NASH), Antti Niemi (SJ), Sergie Bobrovsky (CBJ) and Semyon Varlamov (COL) are playing in Europe. Although Varlamov hasn’t played a game yet according to hockeydb.com. Dubnyk isn’t proven like many of the other veterans and I’m sure he’d love to start playing, but realistically the Oilers, like 11 other western teams, will have to hope their goalies are staying sharp skating and practicing by themselves.