Todd McLellan didn’t announce any cuts, but he did separate the Oilers into two groups this morning. Group A consists of players who are challenging for a spot on the Oilers roster, while Group B has players who seem destined for Bakersfield or Norfolk (ECHL).
Darnell Nurse is currently in Group B.
“You will see a division in camp,” explained McLellan last night.
“It will be somewhat obvious where we are going with the players, but there will be some players moving back and forth. We will share meetings, talk about our identity and how we want to play in situations. It gives us the ability to match our NHL team and minor league team.
“The warning that goes out to players is, congratulations you are in one group, but there is another group over here that are licking their lips to take your job. We have already made some changes between the groups based on tonight’s game. We will continue to do that, but this gives us a chance to work with fewer players and get our game quicker,” continued McLellan.
GM Peter Chiarelli has hinted for the past few weeks that Nurse needs to keep developing, and based on today’s groups there is a good chance Nurse will start the season in the AHL. This isn’t a major surprise, but it illustrates they want to be patient with him and allow his game to mature and develop outside the NHL.
Talbot, Scrivens and Nilsson
It doesn’t mean Nurse still can’t play his way onto the team in the next few games, but he’d have to jump over two D-men to do it. He won’t start the season in the pressbox. He will either be in their top-six or in the AHL. It does him no good to watch games. He needs to play, and based on what Chiarelli told a group of us in Penticton, and today’s groups, I’d say Nurse is destined to start the season in the AHL.
“There’s a lot of nuances to a
defensive game that he has to smooth out. The enthusiasm is there and
there’s a lot of good parts, but the puck retrievals and when to funnel
off passes and such has to get better. It’ll come. He’ll skate into a
funnel (groups of players) a bit, but those things will come from coaching.
He’s exuberant and a real coachable kid,” said Chiarelli in Pentiction.
They want him to refine his game, and it is much easier to do so in the AHL. I’m a huge fan of Nurse, and I expect he will be a mainstay on the blueline for years to come, but most likely it will not occur on October 8th in St.Louis. I suspect we will see Nurse with Group A at some point in the near future, but the fact he wasn’t there today shows me which way the organization is leaning for now.
Nurse became even more of a fan favourite due to his spirited scrap in Calgary last night. He skates well, is intense, tough and as he continues to mature I expect he will be a force on the Oilers blueline in the future.
It is interesting to note that Nikitin has now dropped to the fourth pair. When I asked McLellan about his play last night he said.
“We keep giving him every opportunity to have success. I thought his game matched ours, it got better as the night went on. He took one to the chops early, he got whacked pretty good, but after that he was an effective player for us. I have to watch the tape tomorrow and look for the fine points. We have to believe that he can come in and play well for us. He needs to feel that from us as coaches, we have to help. He will continue to provide us with the evidence that it is working or not. I believe it can.”
McLellan is a strong believer in confidence. The players need it to play well, and when he has been asked about players who struggled last season, he always refers to the coaches showing the player they believe in him.
I interpret that as McLellan saying he will give the player the opportunity to prove he can play, but if he can’t it is on the player. No one will be able to blame the coach for “not believing in them.” Smart move.
Teddy Purcell did not skate today, but he will be in the mix when he returns. He didn’t finish last night’s game and he has a minor injury. He is day-to-day. It isn’t serious or Chiarelli would have addressed it. The new Oilers policy is they won’t discuss minor bumps and bruises, but if a major injury occurs the GM will discuss it.
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