Oilers training camp officially started today with rookie medicals, however, unlike previous years there isn’t as much excitement surrounding the rookies. Oscar Klefbom is the only rookie with a shot at cracking the Oilers lineup, and while he is a first rounder, and could be a huge part of the Oilers future, there isn’t the same excitement amongst Oilers fans compared to when Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz made their camp debuts.
Klefbom shouldn’t take that as a knock on his ability, he’s just experiencing what 3rd, 4th and 5th children in a family experience; your parents love you just as much, they just don’t go crazy taking pictures of your every move and fawning all over you.
The excitement of another top-prospect still matters, of course, but the feeling in Oilersnation is much different this September than in previous years.
I suspect the excitement surrounding Klefbom will intensify when he comes to main camp next week. There is no need to rush him, but the Oilers blueline isn’t filled with proven top-end talent, so he does have a shot, albeit minimal, to make the opening-night roster.
The rookies will fly to Penticton after medicals and get ready to face the rookies of the Jets, Canucks and Flames over the next four days.
In case you missed it, here is the rookie roster, draft picks are in bold.
- Andrew Miller
- Mitch Moroz
- Marc-Olivier Roy
- Travis Ewanyk
- Gregory Chase
- Jujhar Khaira
- Jackson Houck
- Kyle Platzer
- Cameron Abney
- Kale Kessy
- Ty Bilcke
- Austin Fyten
- Brandon Baddock
- Reid Petryk
- Chase Schaber
- Oscar Klefbom
- Darnell Nurse
- Martin Marincin
- Brandon Davidson
- Martin Gernat
- David Musil
- Joey Leach
- Ben Betker
Ales Hemsky and Craig MacTavish stood side-by-side and spoke with the media this morning, and said what most of us expected. MacTavish stated, "In this game you need to have energy to play well, and I think the frustration of losing has a negative effect of zapping that energy level that you need to have success in the NHL. We went about the prospect of potentially moving Ales and Horc (Shawn Horcoff), and I really found out, at the end of the day, that I had a great appreciation of him and his skill set than most people that I talked to. I’ve seen him at his best and that’s why I have a great appreciation of what he does. The bottom line for me, if this team turns around, and I know there is a lot of work to be done before that happens, Ales will have a very prominent role in that turn around.
Hemsky shared his thoughts on how the situation unfolded.
"Like Mac said there was a lot of frustration for me. I understand the process, not being in the playoffs for seven years is hard for every body and you lose it (desire) a little bit. When I talked to Mac before leaving I told him I’d do whatever they want. It is what is now, and I’m happy to be back and I want to help the team turn things around. I want to try and be a leader and help the young guys and be the best for the team. I know I have to change a lot of things, be better and help the team."
It was interesting to hear Hemsky say he wants to try and be more of a leader. He’s never mentioned that before that I can recall, and it shows that maybe he understands he can offer the younger players some things.
I’m in the minority, but I feel Hemsky can still be a major contributor to the team. I’ve always liked his skill, and his skill hasn’t evaporated despite two below average seasons. Hemsky could be the wildcard in the Oilers offence. He’s the only forward on the team with two 70+ point seasons, and while no one expects him to lead the Oilers in scoring, he should be highly motivated to show many around the NHL he can still produce.
NEEDED TO BE SAID…
I’ve noticed over the past few years in Edmonton there seemed to be two sets of rules and expectations; one for the kids and one for the veterans, and I don’t think that leads to a healthy environment.
The most encouraging thing I got from the presser was the following statement from MacTavish.
"One of the steps we want to make this year is eliminating young guys and old guys from the dialogue surrounding our team. I think there has been far too much of that. We are in the NHL, there is no age requirement to play here, we are all Edmonton Oilers and it doesn’t matter how old you are. It is time for us to be a team, and I think that is going to be a big step.
"Players, regardless of their age are going to get equal opportunity to see where they fit on our team, how they can help us and how valuable they are going to be to our team. There is a part of development that goes into playing on an NHL team, but I think we are far beyond that. We are looking for performance whether you are a 30-year-old player or a 25-year-old player; you are going to be judged on your performance on the ice."
The Oilers are past the point of giving young players ice time. If they play well and earn it, then they will play, but if they don’t, then a guy like Hemsky or another veteran will have an equal opportunity for that ice, and vice versa. I agree with MacTavish that the Oilers are past the point of having to give their young players icetime to develop, they are now entering the phase where the players need to earn their icetime, regardless of age.
According to MacTavish, head coach Dallas Eakins will expand on this when camp opens next week.
I doubt you will see them benching Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Nail Yakupov consistently, but it is obvious that the battle or argument of "young vs. old" needs to be in the rear view mirror.
- MacTavish had some other solid quotes from today.
- "It is important I offer Ales the same opportunity I offer every play who walks through our door at training camp, and that is to come in and compete on a level playing field. It is up to Ales, as it is for Taylor Hall or Denis Grebeshkov and all the players to establish their value to the team. The great thing about training camp is that it is a very optimistic time for 30 teams around the NHL. It is important to me that when you walk through that door at training camp, you walk through with a fresh canvas and you have an opportunity to impress upon the coach how valuable you and your contribution can be to the success of the team." MacTavish.
- "When the team has had success Ales has always been a huge participant in that success. We think that we are going to have success this year. At this point we don’t have a contingency plan and how to deal with it, thankfully, but we feel we have the opportunity to turn the corner. I know how good a player he is, and I feel that at the end of the year we could be in a situation where we are doing another contract with Hemsky, but that will be determined over time." Mactavish
- One of the other comments that caught my attention was when MacTavish was asked if he would be less forthcoming and open about his plans in the future. I loved his response. Too often people are scared to publicly state their goals, for fear of not achieving them, but it sounds like MacTavish will not veer away from being open, honest and truthful about his team’s situation or his plans to try and improve his club.
"There is no hidden agenda here. The way I’ve always dealt with the media is to be as honest as I can. Those were our objectives going in, and I think the media and our fans deserve an explanation of what the manager is thinking going forward. That is why I’m up here today to tell you what I’m thinking now," said MacTavish.
It takes courage in life to tell people your goals and objectives, because it can expose you to criticism, and i’d say it is even more difficult to do in pro sports where every move a GM makes will be scrutinized.
- You can listen and watch the entire presser here.
- I asked MacTavish if he’s looking at bringing in a veteran or two on a PTO. He said he is, but admitted he doesn’t expect many players to accept one due to the risk of an injury. He was clear that if he does bring in a veteran it will be a forward, because he feels the Oilers lack depth at the forward position.
- Don’t expect Brad Boyes to come to camp. He is more of the same of what they have. Skill with little grit or a strong defensive pedigree.
- Edmontonian Mike Priestner has purchased the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, pending governor approval. It likely will likely be finalized today or later this week. VP of Communications for the Oilers, Steve Hogle, will be leaving his post with the Oilers to become the new President of the Blades. Good luck to both of you.