Training camp day one: Morning session

BreakingBad

The Oilers hit the ice at 10 a.m in Leduc and Todd McLellan wasted no time setting the tone at practice. Thirty seconds into the first drill, he blew the whistle and reminded the players to move their feet at all times. “Practice with pace,” he said.

The drill was a simple one. Players lined up in all four corners. They would leave in pairs from each end, make one cross-ice pass below the ringette line, skate with speed through the neutral zone, the puck carrier would pass it off at the offensive blueline, then drive the net and the puck carrier would shoot. Very simple, but he wanted them to drive the net. McLellan is adamant about driving the net.

Yesterday, he told us we can read into the line combinations to start training camp, and there wasn’t any major surprises in the top-nine.

The Oilers will be split into two groups, and the first group had the following lines:

Hall-McDavid-Purcell
Lander-Draisaitl-Yakupov
Hamilton-Miller-Pitlick
Ford-Platzer-Kessy/Christoffer

Sekera-Fayne
Ference-Nikitin
Hunt-Davidson
Oesterle

Scrivens and Nilsson

I expect this group to play the home game vs. Calgary on Monday, and I bet the second practice group will play the road game on Monday in Calgary.

The D pairs rotated through due to the odd number, but the top-two pairs were together when they started drills.

McLellan stopped another drill to demand more intensity. He moves through drills swiftly and efficiently. He blows a whistle when he sees a mistake, explains what he wants to the group quickly, and starts the drill again.

After some line rushes, McLellan split the ice, and had the forwards work on cycling the puck.

At the north end of the rink, Draisaitl’s line was up first and the coach gave them a brief explanation on exactly what he wanted. The first time, Yakupov moved off the boards. McLellan stopped and explained he wanted him to stay on the boards, to make an easier pass down low. The next time through, Yakupov’s positioning changed and he was in the right spot. McLellan is a stickler for detail.

Later in the drill he blew the whistle again and explained how the supporting forward needs to be at the top of the circle, not sliding down low closer to the hashmarks along the wall.

DRIVE ME CRAZY

“This is going to drive me crazy all year, if you can’t line up your colours,” yells McLellan. The Oilers have three jersey colours. The D-men wear orange, and the forward lines are split into white or blue.

Next, they did a two-on-two drill down low. He wanted two players defending, and two attacking. After the attacking group stops, they defend, and the next group started from each corner as the offence. Forwards and D-men played both sides. “This is called detail. You need to know which guys are going next. Match your colour to the guy across from you. This is your responsibility, not ours,” he says. He also added a few colourful F bombs to drive the point home.

His first day of camp has been more attention to detail than Quinn, Renney, Krueger and Eakins. McLellan is prepared, and the pace at practice is much quicker than any training camp in recent memory.

SHOTS ON NET

Later, on the same two-on-two drill, McLellan encouraged shots from the corner, on the ice at the goalie’s feet. The forward in the corner shot quickly, and McLellan demanded the forward in front of the net be strong on his stick. He also tells the D-men to “knock the guy on his ass.” The Oilers have been too soft in front of the net at both ends of the rink for far too long.

If players don’t buy into his philosophy, they will be weeded out over the next year. McLellan will need to see how they adapt in games, and how they buy into what he is teaching, but much of this year will be about finding out which players will succeed under McLellan.

The first practice session ended after 55 minutes. Group “A” will have a short break and will be back on the ice in twenty minutes. 

  • Jaxon

    Those top two lines are sure nice to see.

    I’ve always thought Lander could play a Pouliot role (puck-retrival, net presence, physical presence) on one of the skill lines and I think Lander-Leon-Yak could be a great line.

    Both Lander and Leon are defensively aware, which should help to cover for Yakupov’s defensive struggles – though give him credit, he tries very hard to learn that side, plus he plays physical.

    Pouliot – Nuge – Ebs

    Hall – McDavid – Purcell

    Lander – Leon – Yak

    3C’s with skill + Scoring wingers with each = Deadly.

    That top line has shown it can produce against the games best and coaches know it, so if they don’t draw the top opposition this year I’d hate to be the goalie. That will free up easier minutes for the 2/3 lines. The 2line will be good, but Nuge’s line is still #1 and coaches would be wise to remember that.

    • Jaxon

      I like that line too, although I’m not sure it bodes well for Lander with Slepyshev lurking in Bakersfield. If Slepyshev adapts quickly and lights it on fire in the AHL they may need to make room for him and that spot would be where Lander is now. This line also assumes a 4th line of probably Korpikoski, Letestu and Hendricks. Korpikoski and Letestu are Chiarelli hires so they probably are not going anywhere. Once Purcell and/or maybe Hendricks are gone that would open a spot but until then Lander and Hendricks seem like the only options to come out of the lineup for Slepyshev. Am I getting way ahead of myself? Most likely but I’m guessing Slepyshev adjusts quickly and forces the issue.

      • 1983 and This Year

        I believe Slepyshev has played both wings in the KHL.

        Could be that Lander keeps his job on LW, while Slepyshev could play RW replacing Purcell at the trade deadline – or Yak moves up and he sits on Drai’s RW, doesn’t matter. I think Lander is a very useful player that Chiarelli should and will try to hold onto. If a C goes down, he’s there to fill in and can play 3C just fine and could hold his own as a 2C in extreme injury cases.

        If Slepyshev develops fast, he could be traded – and while it’s nice to theorize about keeping all the prospects some of them need to be traded. I think the D group is so deep they need to trade from there first.

        But Slepyshev is a former 1st overall pick in the KHL, other NHL teams will be aware of him coming over and if he lights it up he could have a high value on the trade market.

  • mcjesus take the wheel

    Trade Purcell at the deadline and give Pitlick a shot with Hall – McDavid. He’s got the wheels and plays a physical game but also has skill.

    Could put up 25-35 points over 82 games playing the Pouliot role on that line.

  • Centacre

    I don’t get the overwhelming desire to play Hall with McDavid. To be the most effective with his style of play, McDavid should be given the puck A LOT. He should be lugging the puck up ice. He should be the guy receiving the pass on the break out. For Hall to be the most effective, he should be the guy receiving the puck on the breakout so he can use his speed to burn the defenders. They’re redundant and hurt each other’s potential if on the same line.

    Just have Eberle and Pouliot getting the puck to McDavid and Nuge and Purcell getting the puck up to Hall and problem solved.

    • MorningOwl

      After watching the Bears game, I would like to take a stab at answering this.

      First of all, putting Hall with McDavid has as much to do with those two being a good fit as it does keeping Hall away from Nuge and Eberle.

      When Hall went down with injury last year and Pouliot stepped up to that top line, it was very apparent Nuge and Eberle both elevate their game when “just pass it to Hall” is not an option.

      Nuge shoots way more, and given the extra strength he put on, now may have the most underrated shot on the team. Every time he scored you could tell goalies just weren’t expecting it.

      With Nuge and Eberle and Pouliot all elevating their games away from Hall, that creates a solid top line, which opponents will now have to guess which line needs their shut down line. But even then, that gives one line theoretically easier competition.

      Hall with McDavid is an easier answer. They are the fastest on the team, so having two guys coming down ice at that speed is going to push back every defender. Also, it takes a bit of pressure of McDavid, as guys will not know who they need to key in on. When Hall plays with Nuge and Ebs, the opposition says, if we can rub out Hall coming down the boards, we can likely break up the play. Now, I don’t think they will know which way to go.

      Second, McDavid can do things with the puck both at speed and in tight that just haven’t been seen the NHL. The way he drew guys in, yet still managed to make a play somehow was otherwordly. Now imagine he’s coming into the zone, bringing all the defenders with him. You need a guy with the speed to keep up with the play to dish to in the open ice, and that is Hall.

  • passelin

    Man it sounds like Mclellan demands a lot out of practice………remember the days when the practice was skating around in big circles, watching the coach talk to the reporters in the stands?

    I do not even want to mention his name anymore, it’s a good thing he decided to be a full-time hair model!

  • Jaxon

    Was this actually an NHL training camp practice? Sounds more like a pee wee one. Obviously, this was more about the coach setting the tone and showing that he is in charge and demands attention to detail. Very similar to a Brent Sutter practice.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    In a perfect scenario(imo), I would love to see Yak and Dr.Drai in the top two lines(3rd lines don’t get the same minutes). I hope they both impress Mclelland.
    Dr.Drai Nuge Eberle/

    Hall McDavid Yak

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      One difference is that Kurri usually hit the net when he shot. Perhaps a better comparable would be Jason Soules who during his time (which over lapped with Kurri) was credited as having the hardest shot in training camp.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    What a welcome treat. I’m really looking forward to the start of the regular season. McLellan will separate the men from the boys. No more pretenders. He will knock the Prima Donna and self- entitlement out of some of these guys, and have them working hard and playing to win. The days of going for a skate are over.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    I’ve been called a lot of things but window licker is a first. Lol.

    I picture McJesustakethewheel sitting in his bathrobe with his laptop yelling “HEY MOM! THE MEATLOAF!”

    • hagar

      Hahahahha! Totally!

      I bet he is a joy to work with… telling everyone that walks by what they are doing wrong, and how he would do things different.

      “If I were you, I would microwave that burrito on medium heat for twice as long.”

  • passelin

    McLellan is said to favor duos and mix up the other additions so they can readily move between those duos . Thus, he appears to have Hopkins and Eberle as one duo , and Hall and McDavid as another . Not sure what 3rd line duo is , but 4th probably Hendriks and Letestu .

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I don’t think it should come as a surprise that Nikitin was out of breath. He’s one of the older d-men on the team who’s dealt with injuries and he’s also one of our heaviest and tallest d-men. Takes more effort for the big guys to get going.

    I know he’s the goat, but let’s see him play at least a preseason game before we write him off.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    My comparison to Yak and Kurri was that they both thrive on one timers. Yes, Yak has yet to prove himself and is our only top pick that is a question mark. Let’s hope he can turn things around this season or I think it will be his last with us.

  • PlayDirty

    The specialness among this group of specialists is very special. I especially hope they can use their specialties to make this a special season for the special Oiler fans. …that would be special.