There are times when following your favorite team forces you to invest your interest in things that are not appetizing. The old Montreal Expos once spent an entire spring training auditioning options at first base that reminded me of that old World of Oz (animated version) theme song. On the other hand, sometimes you luck out and see a real live battle for a position involving compelling players who have promising futures. Fortunately for Oilers’ fans, we have the latter brewing this fall.
Many moons ago, Glen Sather said a fire hydrant (among other things) could score alongside Gretzky and in our era young Connor McDavid can zoom the boxcars for his wingmen. The Oilers have a long list of candidates lined up and of course Leon Draisaitl won the day last season.
A lot of this camp has been about replacing LD on RW for the coming season. In conversation with Bob McKenzie at the Penticton camp, it seemed Peter Chiarelli felt Ryan Strome would get the first shot at RW. As you saw last night, Mr. Strome moved to the Nuge line for the explosive third period, allowing phenom Jesse Puljujarvi to move up with 97 and score a couple of goals in his second exhibition appearance.
What are we to make of this? At this time of year, I always like to take my initial reaction, cut it in half, then half again, then bury it in the backyard overnight. Many is the time I’ve watched a pre-season game and declared Marc Pouliot the new Ray Cote, so experience tells me to hold back the water on making bold statements at this time of year.
Todd McLellan is most helpful in these situations, he’s a straight shooter and his post-game media avails are very informative.
- McLellan on his thinking when elevating Jesse Puljujarvi: “One, the fact we had taken four penalties in the last 12 minutes of the second period, took a lot of players out of the game. Jesse was one of them. Two, I thought Dylan (meant Ryan Strome) had to get a little harder and a little more competitive, so it was sending him a bit of a message and letting him understand how we do things. Three, was trying to get Jesse going and he obviously had a bit of a spark there. Hopefully the two messages were strongly sent and both players understand. The one got the benefit, the other has to be a little bit better.” Source
There’s not much for misunderstanding here. All of the words used (aside from “Dylan”, and let’s review here, how many times do you make that kind of mistake a day?) talked about the game, messages sent, and messages received.
No rational human reading that quote can come away with concrete evidence of a roster decision being made, no one got sent out or lost a job based on the 60 minutes from last evening.
Where are we?
We are, friends, still at the beginning. Incredibly, what we have seen to this point hasn’t changed much at all. The Edmonton Oilers are moving Leon Draisaitl to center, and the only established RW’s on the roster are Zack Kassian and Iiro Pakarinen (McLellan did imply the Finn has a roster spot the other day, probably as an extra hand).
That means 1RW, 2RW and 3RW remain available. That further means Ryan Strome, Drake Caggiula, Jesse Puljujarvi, Anton Slepyshev and Kailer Yamamoto are all in contention and it means this is going to be a big week.
We don’t know what we don’t know. If you believe Jesse Puljujarvi won or lost a job last night, I encourage you to reconsider. Same with Strome. The one thing we can say is that the training camp marathon is now a sprint.