TRAINING CAMP: DAY ONE

For all the rookies, today is a great day. It is their first day of main camp, shaking hands with veterans and trying not to look too excited as they attend their first day of training camp. Realistically, the only rookie with a chance to crack the lineup is Oscar Klefbom, but that won’t dampen the enthusiasm of the next few days for all the young players.

The rookies aren’t the only ones excited though. The veterans are just as giddy about the possibilities that await the 2013/2014 Edmonton Oilers.

For the third straight season they have a new coach, but unlike the previous two head coaches, Dallas Eakins wasn’t part of the previous regime and he brings a completely new focus and attitude.

Eakins will be more demanding, and he’s going to use the first few days of training camp to gauge the conditioning level and dedication of his players.

The former Toronto Marlies head coach has made it clear he expects his team to be one of the best conditioned teams in the league, and the first few days of on-ice sessions will be fast-paced.

Twenty-five years ago medical day had some interesting story lines, but nowadays all the players are in good to great shape, and now that Theo Peckham is gone, it is unlikely we will hear about any "he’s not in great shape" stories today.

Eakins still hasn’t had a chance to address his team, but he plans on introducing himself to many of his players today as they move from one testing station to the next.

The players get their eyes checked, they see the dentist, and they get to enjoy a VO2 test, the windgate, agility tests, speed tests and some other pleasurable challenges.

They’ve all been through it before, and I’ve noticed that the players aren’t intimidated or worried about the tests. Most of the players look at the tests as a challenge. They want to see how they compare to their peers, and see if all the hard work they did in the summer paid off.

Tomorrow all the players will endure an on-ice conditioning test. It is a three minute test. They start at the goal line and go down the ice and back as fast as they can. They do this at every :30 and :00 until three minutes has elapsed. Eakins will monitor the difference between their first skate and their last. The goal is to maintain the same pace throughout.

QUICK HITS…

  • We all know the Oilers want to make the playoffs. It’s the goal of every team, and of course the Oilers want to make it, but it was refreshing to hear Eakins’ views when he was asked about playoffs."I don’t like going big picture. I think if we have our expectations in line and we are able to deliver on a nightly basis…and if you start winning on a nightly basis the big picture takes care of itself.," said Eakins

  • If you don’t take care of the small steps, it is hard to compete a task and it was nice hearing a coach address the issues. The Oilers need to learn how to be competitive every night before they can talk or think about making the playoffs.
     
  • Ben Eager has shed some bulk. He’s still likely 225 pounds, but he looked much trimmer. Eager played very well for OKC in the playoffs last year, and it will be interesting to see how Eakins uses him. I doubt we will see Eager and Mike Brown in the lineup at the same time, and if the Oilers keep 8 D-men, you can’t have one of them as your 13th forward, so it seems like those two could be battling for one spot.
     
  • Eager’s size and speed would be very useful, but the question is if can play smart enough in his own zone? If Eager plays hard, and Eakins shows some confidence in him, he might return to the NHL. I don’t see many spots up for grabs, but he could push Brown.
     
  • Jesse Joensuu is a legit 6’4". He has decent skill, but if he shows a willingness to use his size down low and in the corners he might get a long look in the top six. Eakins hinted he wants guys with different dimensions and skills among his top-six or top-nine, and Joensuu has what no other skilled forward has; a big frame. I’m curious to see who Eakins plays him with in the preseason.
     
  • I don’t care if Joensuu isn’t a great skater. Not every player needs to be lighting fast. If his game is good on the boards and in front of the net, how fast does he need to be. The Oilers need to diversify their lineup.
     
  • Eakins hasn’t made up his mind, but right now he has Andrew Ference pencilled in to play with Justin Schultz. He admitted he needs to see guys play together, and there is no guarantee pairs will stay together all season, but like most of us expected Ference will get a look with J.Schultz.
     
  • Eakins also wants to find chemistry amongst forward duos, rather than a trio. It is rare to keep a line together all season, and even though Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle have had great success for short stints, we likely won’t see line combinations stay consistent all season.
     
  • Don’t expect the Oilers to go out and get a heavyweight goon. Eakins doesn’t like guys who can’t play. If they could find a tough, physical guy who could play, then he’d consider it, but I don’t expect the Oilers to find the next Steve MacIntryre.
     
  • Eakins is a very serious guy. It oozes out when he talks to the media and his players. There will be much more accountability this season. You should expect the Oilers to be much more competitive on a nightly basis this year. Time will tell if that equates to more victories, but I’d be surprised if Eakins allows this team to coast through stretches of games, which has happened too often the past three or four years. 

 RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • Big Cap

    For those who believe that we don’t need a Heavyweight or there’s no room in the game for one, then why do alot of other teams in our division all have one??

    Mike Brown fits a great role for us, but no true Heavyweight or light heavyweight is the slightest worried about Brown.

    Its completely embarrassing to watch guys like Regher or McGratton run free with the no fear.

    Booguard was a non factor once Big Mac was there to saw him off as an equal. How many guys did the Boogyman put out on our team in years past?

    This is Oil Country – We Don’t Get Pushed Around!

    • Reg Dunlop

      Hmmm – didn’t we have a number of tough guys all those years Regher ran ‘free’? Didn’t seem to help much as he played against our top two lines. I understand the concept of having a facepuncher. I really do. I have been a fan of the team since Semenko and met him in a few occasions. Great guy. But it doesn’t help you win many hockey games. Period. You can make the case that from time to time a fight has changed momentum but, as pointed out by Willis (I believe) the stats don’t support it. And wouldn’t a goal from the fourth line change the momentum even more? How about a good fore-checking shift? I think the fourth line can be much more effective with actual hockey players taking the ice.

      • Big Cap

        I have to slightly disagree with you a bit. I too have been a fan since the days of Semenko. I think he was an extremely valuable part of the growth and development of the young guys allowing them to play and learn the game with limited fear.

        There’s a reason that between 1979-1990 we either had the the toughest guy in the league or someone in the top three. Even taking away the designated Heavyweight, we still had a good crop of light heavyweights who always mixed it up and never backed down and would set the tone.

        I to would like to believe that perhaps they dont serve a purpose playing 2 shifts a night and orchestrating a planned fight of the draw. That does do very little.

        But how is it guys like McGratton, Sesisto, Carcillo, Mcleod, Biz Nasty, Reaves can all fill a roster spot in the Western Conference?

        Aside from Brown who would be clearly over matched, Who is gonna stand up to these guys? No one in our top 6, so that leaves our bottom 6. Ryan Jones? Boyd Gordon? Ryan Smyth? It would pretty much force Ferrence into doing it and that should not be his role.

        And why couldn’t we for once be the aggressors and push teams around, instead of always have to respond?

        • Chaz

          Fair enough although I think the game has evolved past the true knuckle dragger. Of my favorite players of all time I include Wendell Clark and Rick Tochett. Absolute men. Not too many of those around anymore i.e. feared fighters who could play. Seems like the development systems have changed in that respect (Lucic may be the closest). Cheers.

  • Chaz

    OILERS WILL GET RUN RIGHT OUT OF THEIR DIVISION!!! They will finish dead last!!! Their management doesn’t understand the importance of toughness and they never will. Even Calgary will dominate them on Saturday and throughout the season. They could have had Matt Kassian, Tom Sestito ang Frazer McLaren off of waivers last year for zip or McGrattan or MacIntyre but they choose to employ Lander, Ryan Smyth , Ryan Jones, etc. REALLY!!!