Over at Global, friend of the Nation, Reid Wilkins, posted a conversation with Kris Russell where he spoke about stepping up his game, consistency on defence, and being ready for the challenge that his new contract presents.
It’s no secret that re-signing Kris Russell to a four-year deal was a divisive decision in the Nation. The analytics crew hates him for his possession numbers, and the gritensity squad loves him for his intangibles and willingness to sacrifice his body on the blue line. Which side is right? Both could be right depending on which game we’re watching, but it’s those differences in opinion that seem to set the comments section on fire on a nightly basis.
For Kris Russell, signing a four-year deal is a complete 180 from the summer he had a year ago when he had to wait until early October before signing a one-year deal with the Oilers. With a fresh contract in his pocket, Kris Russell will have to up his game to make sure the juice was worth the squeeze and that fact is not lost on him.
“At this time last year, I was still looking for a contract. I’m excited they showed some trust in me. But with that, my expectations are higher. I want to play better and do more to help this team.”
To put it bluntly, Russell is going to HAVE to do more with Andrej Sekera out for the first couple months of the season. Sekera’s injury means that the Oilers will have a young player paired up with Russell on the second pairing and they’ll have to find a way to make sure that the dingy doesn’t leak while playing tough minutes. That challenge is something that Russell is looking forward to.
“If you can give back and help out a young guy, it’s rewarding.”
Very admirable of you, sir. What lessons do you plan on teaching them?
“With my size, I’ve had to learn to play positionally. My structure has to be really good. I’ve had to make sure that I’m aware. Little things that I’ve picked up on players over the years, if I can pass on, maybe it’ll help.”
One of the things that Russell also mentioned in the interview was that he was happy to see the same defensive group (for the most part) coming back from last season. To Russell, that consistency will only help as the team looks to progress and continue to improve.
“I think it showed last year. There were some injuries. Some guys went out here and there (but) our pace of play didn’t slow down.”
I agree with that. I don’t believe that it’s a reach to say that having consistency in your defensive group is a good thing. I think that having the same guys around all season, and having Todd McLellan back for year two of his reign of silver foxiness, allowed the defence to play within a system that they are all familiar with. Guys that knew the system were able to help the newbies and it created a consistency that hasn’t been there in a long time. Especially, around these parts.
“Guys stepped in and played big, solid minutes. I think we have a deep defence corps now.”
Deep? I’m still not so sure about that, but I appreciate his enthusiasm. Surely, the defence is better than it was in the Eakins era but that’s not exactly saying much, and I still think that there is room to improve the pieces on the back end. That said, the Oilers’ top six brought them into the second round of the playoffs and they’ve earned the opportunity to prove that it was no accident. Peter Chiarelli clearly believes that they have a group that is capable of getting the job done, and he’s better that they will keep progressing and getting better. Swag Daddy could be right, but there is still work to do before saying mission accomplished.
“We have to keep better as a defensive unit. All the ingredients are there. We just have to make sure our work ethic and attention to details are better.”
Getting better is what the Oilers are going to need to keep the ship upright early on in the season, and it will be up to veterans like Kris Russell to make sure that it happens. Whether you’re a stats guy or an eyeballs guy, we’re all on the same side in hoping that the Oilers keep marching towards Stanley Cup glory, and Kris Russell is going to be a part of that whether we like it or not. Can he make good on his end of the bargain? We’re only a month and change away from finding out.
Submit your NFL lineup in this FREE Draft Kings by September 10th for your chance to win $100,000 for the highest scoring player. If your roster matches up perfectly in Week 1 then you could walk away with $1,000,000,000 from Draft Kings! Enter your lineup today.