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 

    • number99

      The last thing the Oilers need is unskilled players. I hope Eakins can coach Brown and Eager into PK
      Specialists. Both players have shown they can really play hockey. If Eakins can get them killing
      Penalties and playing the opposition to a stand still, then we’ll have a truly effective 4th line.

      Smyth may surprise us. If any player was going to push themselves to the limit I beleive it would be Ryan Smyth. Hopefully he comes to camp ready to battle in front of the net.

  • Chilly Canadian

    I’m all for optimism, but I’m not expecting Joensuu to make the top six, or even the top nine! He was a bubble player on the Isles, what makes you think he’ll be any better here? I understand the whole late bloomer thing but I just don’t get the hype. Stop looking so hard for the “big man who plays hard but has soft hands” player that it covers your glasses with mud.

  • Jason Gregor

    I will say, I don’t think the conditioning of the OIlers was an issue in previous years. They weren’t grossly out of shape.

    I believe Eakins biggest challenge will be conditioning them to be competitive and accountable every game.

  • book¡e

    Like the great Brian Burke said you need elite enforcers to protect your skill- you need a safe working environment for your skill. The Oil have tons of skill- they need tons of protection for that skill – BIG MAC will be available on waivers Oct.1. OIL in the same division as Calgary ( McGrattan, Jackman, O’Brien) Vancouver (Sestito, Kassian, Bieksa, Alberts, etc.) and Colorado (Bordeleau, Sarich, Wilson, 55, etc.).It got sickening to watch the kids run every night last year! Mike Brown is super tough but too small for McGrattan (although they had an AHL tilt in 2005). PL3 and MAC are in Pitt – one or both of them will be on waivers Oct1 (PL3 has an AHL contract – MAC is at full NHL 650K this year. BIG JOHN SCOTT would solve all toughness issues for the OIl by himself. DAVID STAPLES IS RIGHT ON THE MONEY!!!! OILERS NEED A GOON. Watch the Saturday split squad games vs Calgary – McGrats will put one of our skill guys on IR for sure with NO RESPONSE!!!!!

    • Oh god.

      Kent nailed it on the last article. If Calgary has McGrattan out on the ice the game’s already out of reach and Eakins can sit his stars. So it ends up they won’t get hit by their designated face-puncher in a last-minute-of-the-game retaliation move (which will be sure to get him a multi-game suspension anyways).

      McGrattan. Good one man. Good one.

  • vetinari

    Hey Gregor, when Nuge is playing, and Hall, Ebs, Yak, Perron, and Gags are all healthy, who do you think would drop down to the 3rd line if Joensuu does well in a top 6 role? 3 scoring lines maybe?

    • Jason Gregor

      I do expect the Oilers to try and have three scoring lines. I could see Perron with Hemsky possibly. Hard to say at this point. Eakins talked about duos, so will depend which pairs he likes together. Should be fun to see who emerges as combos with chemistry.

      • Benny Botts

        Yes it should be fun. If it happens it will be a good problem to have. Admittedly I haven’t seen Perron play much, but I think I remember hearing he causes a fair number of offsides, like Hemmer lol. Course I could just be talking out my rear!

  • 2004Z06

    That 3 minute drill scares me. I know it’s a relatively short duration, but to keep the jets on that long. I’d be gassed at 2 minutes and begging for somebody to put me out of my misery after 3 minutes.

  • 2004Z06

    The start of training camp is always a double edged sword. On one hand the dog days of summer are almost over, and on the other, the dog days of summer are almost over.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    I’m excited.

    Eakins is very impressive. But so was Ralph. And I loved Renney. I was excited about Pat Quinn, too.

    Watch the videos on oilers.nhl.tv. The boys are saying all the usual things. I actually got tired of hearing all 6 guys talk about the same thing.

    Let’s see where this ship is headed come winter.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    So why the talk of a heavyweight from McKenzie? I just don’t get it. You have Eager and Brown, then milhouse names Rosehill and Peluso as guys the Oilers would target.

    It makes no sense.

    At least Macintyre makes sense for Sestito and McGrattan, but another middleweight that plays 5 minutes a night just has me confused.

  • brian_d

    Long time lurker, first time poster here. Love most all ON blogs. If Ference is paired with Schultz, assuming the top pairing is Smid and Petry. Would a dynamic duo of J. Shultz and Petry be too vulnerable in their own end? They’d definitely keep the puck moving!

    • vetinari

      brian_d, welcome to the boards…

      As for a Schultz Jr. and Petry combination, I think that would be a killer PP combination but 5-on-5, maybe a little too risky.

      I can’t wait to see how the team starts the season. If the players aren’t used to Eakins level of conditioning, I see a real danger of the team hitting a lull by New Years or so. Also, the more vigorous practices and off-days are, the greater the risk of injury is to the players.

      Excuse me while I grab my remote, my jersey and a beer from the fridge– hockey is back!!!

    • Batfink

      Welcome Brian!

      @ Gregor: Just you talking about Eager, I believe another duty of the coach is to develop players. Who knows, maybe Eakins can re-invigorate and perhaps tweak some players games, who we thought were out of the picture. Would be a nice bonus.