Sometime tomorrow (possibly Wednesday) the Edmonton Oilers will release their rookie camp roster for the Penticton trip. The list is bound to include Darnell Nurse and Connor McDavid (in photo by Connor Mah) and several other future NHL players. We’ve grown accustomed to a ‘backwards season’ in Edmonton, where the draft and rookie camps represent the highlight and the playoffs are a time for draft watches and some other city raising Stanley. It’s been so long, and there’s probably some blacktop to go before we see the playoffs in Edmonton. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now: This team HAS to turn north this season.
AND THIS TIME I MEAN IT!!!
The Oilers have a new general manager, a new coach and assistants and a brand new franchise player—and this time he has an added feature—generational! All this talent and yet there are still questions in goal and on defense, plus if we’re honest there are a few worries up front. It’s the nature of losing and I’ve seen it across all sports and over many decades. The problem with losing teams is that last year’s successes often becomes this year’s heartbreak. There are questions.
QUESTIONS LEAD TO PROBLEMS
- Will Anton Lander be able to fill that 3C role? Are you sure?
- Can Cam Talbot win the 1G job and play 50 (or so) games?
- Can Ben Scrivens (or Anders Nilsson) be an adequate backup?
- Who plays defense behind Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne and Oscar Klefbom?
- Can Justin Schultz flourish with less pressure and fewer minutes?
- Will Griffin Reinhart and or Darnell Nurse push into the NHL this season?
- Can Connor McDavid win the Calder?
- Will the Nuge continue to develop as a top flight two-way C?
- Can Taylor Hall stay healthy?
- Can Benoit Pouliot stay healthy?
- Is this the year Nail Yakupov snaps off a big season?
- Can Todd McLellan and staff give Edmonton a consistent and successful special teams for the first time this century?
- Will Peter Chiarelli be the GM who makes sure the kids get enough time on the farm before coming to the NHL?
- Will Peter Chiarelli be the GM who makes sure the AHL prospects are actually playing as opposed to riding pine?
That’s 14, there are probably 20 more of greater or lesser import.
THE BIGGEST QUESTION OF ALL
For me, the biggest question of all comes down to this: Will these Edmonton Oilers, the McLellan Oilers, stop the bleeding? Will they cut down on those frightening moments when the puck is in Edmonton’s zone and it’s only a matter of time before the score keeper writes down one of the big three events?
The big three events are a goal against, a penalty or a ridiculous save by the goalie. When you don’t have the puck, you better be trying to get it back. If you don’t have the puck and are chasing it in your own end, it’s just a matter of time.
Darryl Sutter: “The
big thing in today’s game is you have to be able forecheck and
backcheck, and you have to have the puck. You can’t give the puck up. We
don’t play in our zone, so there’s not much defending. I’ve coached in
three decades now and this stuff where they said Marian had to play in
Jacques’s system is a bunch of bull-crap. The game’s changed. They think
there’s defending in today’s game. Nah, it’s how much you have the
puck. Teams that play around in their own zone think they’re defending
but they’re generally getting scored on or taking face-offs and they
need a goalie to stand on his head if that’s the way they play.”
Those moments, those chaos moments, those lost at sea moments, those are the moments I’d like to see erased from Oilers hockey. All teams have wobbly moments but Edmonton has had wobbly years. Make that stop and then we can start talking playoffs. We wait.