TRAINING CAMP SHOULD HELP THE OILERS

That was the Oilers 2012/2013 depth chart heading into an abbreviated training camp last January. Fast forward nine months, and you’ll notice that 11 of those players won’t be on the ice next Thursday when the Oilers open their 2013/2014 training camp.

There will also be a new head coach running a new system, but unlike last year when Ralph Krueger took over, Dallas Eakins will have the luxury of a complete training camp and preseason schedule to implement his system.

We can debate whether Krueger had a good system or not, however, it was obvious he had a major disadvantage coming in as a new coach with a new system and very little time to teach it .

Eakins and his coaching staff will have 19 days, 12 practice days and 7 game days, to ensure the players understand his system, and most importantly, know how to execute it. Not every player will be 100% comfortable with the system when the puck drops on October 1st, but they should be much more comfortable than they were last season.

Assistant coach, Steve Smith, lives in Chicago during the off-season and he lives six doors down from Joel Quenneville. He begrudgingly had to witness many parties and celebrations this summer, but he has also had a chance to talk hockey with the two-time Cup winning coach.

Smith related a story to me on my radio show this week about systems, and how Quenneville felt the Hawks had a big advantage last season because they’ve played the same system for six straight seasons. He felt his team was very comfortable from the start of the season, while other teams either had numerous new faces or a new coaching staff to deal with.

The Hawks started the season 21-0-3, so Quenneville might be on to something. The Hawks won more games in the first half of the season than the Oilers did all year, 19. I’m sure knowing the system inside and out gave the Hawks an advantage, but they also had a plethora of proven, skilled players.

Conversely, the Oilers had a young team with a new coach and tried to learn a new system. With an abbreviated training camp the Oilers had do to most of their teaching over video, rather than on the ice, and by the end of the season some players still didn’t have a complete grasp of the system.

Some players are quick learners while others need more time to fully capture all the nuances of a system, but this year that shouldn’t be as much of an issue. Some players are visual learners, while others need to repeat it over and over again until they comprehend a system.

During the interview on my radio show, Smith gave a quick overview of the new defensive zone system/coverage. 

Defensively, we are going to play more of a swarm system where we are going to have some players helping each other out. We are going to two-on-one guys in the defensive zone more often than not. It will help not only our defencemen, but also our young, skilled, not very strong centremen to have opportunities to play better defensively. It becomes a real team concept more than just about the defencemen.

Quite frankly, I think our defencemen battled hard and worked hard last year, and I think this little extra bit of support in our system will really help them along the way.

Everyone, including the coaching staff, knows the Oilers aren’t blessed with big, strong centres, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be successful. It is up to the coaches to employ a system that can overcome, or at least limit a team’s weaknesses in their own zone.

The Oilers have great team speed, so rather than try to play a zone defence, or man-to-man where you rely on your players to win lots of one-on-one battles, it makes sense that Eakins will unveil his swarm defence system.

The key is ensuring the players understand the system, believe in it and are willing to apply it.

The preseason games will give us a glimpse of how the system works, and most importantly which players excel using it.

PARTING SHOTS….

  • I understand it is only one game, but after watching Andrew Miller last night, I’d take him out of the running for the 4th line centre spot on the Oilers. He’ll need some AHL seasoning before he’s ready to compete for an NHL job. Like most guys coming out of college, the jump to the NHL is a major one, and if he can’t dominate in a rookie game, he isn’t going to be able to compete against NHLers, at least not yet. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, he just will need some time to adjust to the pro game, before making a serious run at the NHL.
     
  • I also wouldn’t get too wrapped up in Darnell Nurse’s performance. Regardless of how he plays this weekend, or at main camp he is going back to junior, and I’d argue he’ll be going back to junior next fall as well. The Oilers do not need to rush him. Oscar Klefbom is two years older, and he’s played against men the past few seasons. He is the young D-man who will push to make the big club.
     
  • This could be a huge year for Martin Marincin. He should play top minutes in the AHL, in every situation, and if he has a solid campaign I could see him competing for a 3rd pairing slot next season.
     
  • Until David Musil improves his footspeed, I don’t see him being a legitimate candidate to make the Oilers. He’s strong as an ox, but he needs to get quicker. He’s still very young, but that will be his biggest challenge.
     
  •  Greg Chase, 7th round pick in 2013, could have a very solid year with the Calgary Hitmen. He scored 17 goals and 49 points with limited PP time as a 17-year-old last year, but this year he’ll get way more offensive opportunities. He has decent hands, but he also is a great agitator. If he can produce points and annoy the opposition, he could have a future in Edmonton in a few years. They don’t have anyone in the organization with decent skill who can also agitate and play with an edge.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • pkam

    Jujhar!!

    Seriously I wouldn’t underrate this guy, he is gonna be a horse and he’s good on the puck. Can take it to the net, just needs to expand his game and fill out.

    I predict the Oilers start this season wobbly but shore up before halfway and fly into the playoffs. Hopefully 2nd round exit?

    Mantra for next off-season in oil country:

    “We tasted it but now we want the cup”

    footnote:

    anyone else excited that Luongo is the full time backup for Van this year? I have a feeling the Oilers have his number… I suspect Edmonton finishes ahead of the sharks and canucks

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    This is the best hockey site in the world. Where else can you talk hockey with Kosmo Kramer and Ivan Drago. Now if Lee Majors ever shows up here, that would be something.

    Can’t wait for the season to start! The sucking is done, it’s time to compete. Lets go Oilers!

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I loved the Greg Chase pick, i just don’t know why the Oil waited so long to pick him? i’d have picked him easily over Muir and Campbell, who’d likely have still been there by the 6th and 7th rounds….but even if they weren’t, who cares?
    And the reason the Oilers don’t have many agitators is that they don’t take them when the opportunity is there! case in point? the Slepyshev pick when J.C. Lipon was still on the board. even taking Platzer when big, tougher center Matt Buckles was on the board.

  • pkam

    IMO, concerning the first game with no practicing yet….The kids did what was expected of them…they did play eratic, ugly, tentatively, and without chemistry for the most part.

    That being siad, I thought the best kids were Khaira, Ewanyk, Marancin, Chase, Roy. Nurse and Klefbom showed they are definitely raw and/or with rust. Nurse showed great talent within him but he is a fresh rookie even at this level while Klefbom has not played in any type game for 11 months and even then I bet he was conscientious about his shoulder a lot.

    But anyone knowing hockey can see that the excellent skills are there with all these future NHL playing young guys. Bunz, though, is still a good size question mark even though he made some excellent saves while I did also liked Bilcke for his toughness. Kessy was not what I thought he can be as yet.

    Most importantly though is that this is the very first game of any type and final judgments can wait for another week or two to three.

    Eakins? I see a very smart tough new coach who will look squarely and specifically at every player he sees during training camp, be it forwards, defencemen, and goalies. He will be a hardcase and demanding but not obsessive.

    I know he has a better team to coach/work with than Krueger or Renney had…with the changes MacT has made thus far. What I think is that he will use/apply his system(s) better than Renney or Krueger did/tried to…and I believe this is the guy to get the Oilers to the playoffs…even this year (projection is 7th to 8th in conference.

    Bring on Game 2 for the Oilers of the Rookies tourney!!!!! Let’s beat those rookies of the Jets!!!!

  • pkam

    I thought both Lander and Vendevelde were in the training camp but Lander stayed in Edmonton and Vendevelde was sent down to OKC when the season started. Did my memory fail me?

  • pkam

    I think we need to impose a date by which Oiler fans are allowed to either call the season and the team a complete failure, or book the playoffs. Every year it seems we push strong out of the gate and begin crying playoffs for sure, but it’s always premature. I think one month outta do it. Until then my hopes are not going to get neither high nor low.

    They especially won’t be dashed by a single rookie prospectus game, especially since not a single player in this tournament currently occupies a roster spot in the big club. I now we all hope one day Klefbomb, Marincin, and Nurse will be the cornerstones that anchor the blue line, but not gelling well in a rookie prospectus tournament has not dashed my hopes.

    If anything, hearing about Greg Chase and Kuriha has got my hopes up that our forward prospect cupboard isn’t quite as bare as it was made out to be. Here’s hoping they can continue to develop and we get some size and skill in our forward prospect pool to take over our third line one day.

  • OilClog

    The biggest disappointment in all of this.. those missing Russians in this tournament. IMO those three young soviets would of dominated this rookie challenge.. Yet, it is a chance for the Oilers to visibly see the dead weight they need to cut ties with..

    on a side note : Steve House(Ales Hemsky) is an all world heart, drive, determined, fearless skilled, hardworking, all around great hockey player. I for one, am very glad he’s still in Oiler Silks. Suck it MSM.

  • vetinari

    I liked Chase, Roy, Marincin and Khaira’s game last night. I’m excited to watch and hear about these guys development. Nurse was raw, which is fine right now and Oscar looked rusty, which should be expected also.

    Losing to the flames in any capacity is annoying, reading all their comments after one rookie game was amusing though, because they have no idea how painful their rebuild will be. And it’s just starting. Burke is not a savior, his ego will only prolong it.

    • pkam

      I doubt their rebuild will take as long and as painful as ours.

      They have a farm team with more promising prospects to kick start their rebuild than what we had in 2010. After our big 3 making the big team, the only promising prospect we have in our farm is Petry. Now we look back, the only prospect we have in our farm drafted before 2010 is Lander. We were rebuilding our big team and building our farm team at the same time.

      They had 3 1st round picks in a very deep draft year to kick start their rebuild. Monahan can easily be top 3 picks in 2010 – 2012. And a 22nd and 28th this year can be equivalent to a late pick in the top 10 and mid teen in those years.

      Even after trading away Iglina and JayBo, the leftover is still better than what we had before our fire sale at 2010.

  • vetinari

    I just can’t believe how a lot of posters here are getting so out of shape over the first exhibition game of the season determined to set their roster based on last night’s game. Good thing we have a decent length of a training camp this year as well as some exhibition games. After that then we can get excited.

  • vetinari

    Wow. Looking at the old lineup you can see that most of the axe fell on the bottom 6 forwards, bottom 4 defencemen and Khabibulin– all of which needed to be dealt with.

    Hopefully the new faces can contribute a bit more than the other guys, which frankly shouldn’t be too hard to do.

    As for the rookie game last night, most of the team looked either uncomfortable playing together or just plain disorganized which should not be entirely unexpected. Aside from Klefbom and maybe Marincin, I wouldn’t expect any rookies to make the big club roster at any point this year.

  • Quick off the top for me, I would not be playing Yak on the LW anymore. He’s so much more effective as a RW. It’s night and day.

    Starting training camp from the right side and presumably playing the whole season there, I think will be a great benefit to him.

    • Jason Gregor

      I think that is a premature assessment.

      From what I understand there was no preparation for this game by Todd Nelson. There were no practices and no opportunities for the players to really work together prior to the game. Hockey is a team game. Individual players can’t excel unless they have time to find chemistry as a team and understand how each other work. It’s within that setting that you see the true hockey skills of each player. Otherwise it’s really hard to work together having no idea what each other is thinking whether its defensively or offensively. The Calgary team looked more practiced in that regard. They seemed to have a plan on the powerplay whereas the Oiler prospects looked lost. I am disappointed that Todd Nelson didn’t give any practice time to his players for a few days before the game. They would have had a much better debut and a much better opportunity to put their best foot forward. Instead Todd Nelson made his rookie prospects look worse and less accomplished than they are. This is especially disappointing because of all the hard work many of the players put in during the summer to be in good shape.

      I hope to see a few more games before I make any judgments on these players, not that my assessment matters that much.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        Uh, okay. Not sure what your statement has to do with my comment, but sure.

        Still, Klefbom needs time in the AHL, and Musil could use more time in junior.

      • Jason Gregor

        It is a scrimmage, there is no need for practice, because you don’t put in a system when most of the players will be on different teams in different leagues.

        It is a great evaluator to see how players just react, since the game of hockey does have numerous adlib situations.

        Blaming Nelson about a rookie lose is a new angle on blaming the coach. I’ll give you that, can’t say I’ve seen that before.

        I wouldn’t read much into the game, other than the rookies lost. When they won in previous years they didn’t have days of practice leading up to the game.

      • justDOit

        It’s my understanding that none of the teams had a chance to practice before last night. It was just a result of the schedules and travel. To assUme that Nelson was merely making a decision to not practice before this game is absurd.

        I do, however, agree with your last statement.

  • yawto

    Welcome to the group that should start the first of a string of consecutive playoff appearances instead of 7 in a row out. Can’t wait for the fist of October.