Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mark Spector of Sportsnet,
The team that gave us the TV series “Oil Change” has ironically managed not to change even a bit. So we asked second year general manager Craig MacTavish on cut-down day: Why should fans think that this year is going to be any different?
“You’re underestimating the quality of our fans. The educated fan base would say there is a lot of reasons for optimism,” was how his reply began. Then he began to tick off the reasons:
“I know the goaltending is stabilized. We set out to make some changes and improve the depth on defence. We’ve done that. We’ve got development of our star players, [and additions] with Leon playing well. Teddy Purcell has played very well the last three games. Benoit Pouliot has been an extremely valuable addition.
“So there’s no question, in my mind, that we’re better. And we’re significantly better. But…” It was a big but. One that requires explanation.
The question with this team isn’t if it is better. Of course it is it, for all the reasons MacTavish just stated.
“It’s a very fickle business and, you get a much bigger appreciation for having an opportunity to play in the NHL. You come to the rink every day, you have a chance to get to do it again. You get a really strong appreciation for that after what I went through last year.”
-Devan Dubnyk, goaltender for the Arizona Coyotes reflecting on his time with the Edmonton Oilers. More from Dubnyk from Mark Spector of Sportsnet.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
Apparently, hiring all of the hockey analytics people west of Toronto wasn’t enough to save the Oilers from signing Group II free agent Justin Schultz to the single most illogical contract of the summer and, by extension, to save every other NHL front office from Edmonton.
But what else is new from this dysfunctional operation that for year upon year has whined, whined and whined some more about the collective bargaining agreement, but apparently doesn’t have the barest insight as how to apply the NHL’s governing document?
The Oilers sign unrestricted free agents to contracts that appear cockamamie (Benoit Pouliot, five years for $20 million; Nikita Nikitin, two years for $9 million) because they have to pay players more in order to entice them to move to Edmonton. They’re not the only team in that situation, cough, cough, Charles Wang’s Islanders. Fair enough.
But for no discernible reason whatsoever, the Oilers under Kevin Lowe’s watch have doled out a flurry of questionable second contracts to players straight out of Entry Level lacking any leverage, including the twin seven-year, $42 million deals with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
continued plus more NHL topics....
“It’s gotten to the point now, not just for myself but for every player on our team, if we’re going to get the recognition … our team has to be a better team than it’s been in the pas. When we see players vault to levels that they weren’t at before, it’s usually because of their playoff performance. Or the way they were able to get their team into the playoffs.
“The same applies to me: In order for me to get the recognition I want from Edmonton fans and outside sources … it’s going to have to be because our team is good.”
-Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers. More on Hall from Mark Spector of Sportsnet.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
Toiling at the bottom of the league standings for years, the Edmonton Oilers have stockpiled through the draft what is considered a loaded pool of prospects.
The Oilers boast a roster with a promising crop of talented young players, including Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. But despite that bevy of potential, the club still hasn't been able to put it together.
Will this be the season it turns the corner?
Former Oilers forward Eric Belanger isn't betting on it quite yet. The talent is there, but the experience is still lacking. And what the Oilers have done is thrust some of these bright young stars into the type of roles that have traditionally taken years to earn.
"I remember when I started in the league, guys started on the third or fourth line and were working their way up. You have good veterans, you don't have the pressure to perform every night," Belanger, 36, told ESPN.com in a recent phone conversation. "I think the game has changed dramatically in that way.
added 11:35am, Edmonton Oilers press release is below...
from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
With National Hockey League training camps three weeks away from starting, this is the first time in his life he didn’t spend his summer getting ready for hockey.
He says there are no withdrawal pains now, but come Oct. 9 when the Calgary Flames are here for the Oilers home opener, maybe they’ll kick in.
For now, he’ll be as far away from the rink as possible. He’ll be a National Football League and a baseball fan.
“I’m heading to Seattle this weekend to watch the Green Bay Packers,” said Smyth.
“Then I’m going to New York to see Derek Jeter close in on his final games.
“These are not things I’d be doing if I was going to camp. Trying to keep busy.”
He has seen the inside of a gym since hanging up his skates four and a half months ago. He hasn’t turned into a sloth.
from Derek Van Diest at NHL.com,
Will Nail Yakupov have a bounce-back season? -- Selected No. 1 by the Oilers in 2012, Yakupov had a strong rookie season but regressed last season. The talented right wing struggled in his own end, which created friction with first-year coach Dallas Eakins. Yakupov heads into the 2014-15 season wanting to put last season behind him. He reportedly also has mended fences with Eakins, meeting this offseason to iron out their differences.
"I'm not even thinking about last season," Yakupov said. "I'm concentrating on this season. I'm hoping to have a good year and I'm doing everything I can in order to do that. We'll see what it's going to be like this year. I promise I'll work hard and play 100 percent. I hope it's going to be good for me and good for the team. We have to play better than we did last year so we'll see how it goes."
Will Ryan Nugent-Hopkins be able to carry the load at center? -- Nugent-Hopkins was pegged as the Oilers' No. 1 center the moment the team made him the first selection in the 2011 draft. Nugent-Hopkins was signed to a long-term extension last season, confirming his place in the team's future with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Unlike Hall and Eberle, however, Nugent-Hopkins still is looking for his breakout season. Nugent-Hopkins had 19 goals and 56 points in 80 games last season, well off the point-per-game pace of his rookie season.
Lacking depth up the middle, the Oilers will rely heavily on Nugent-Hopkins on both sides of the puck. He'll be counted on to log big minutes against some of the top centers in the Western Conference.
If Nugent-Hopkins gets hurt, the Oilers could be in big trouble.
from Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun,
By skipping out on the World Championship, Hall was able to add a month to his workout regimen this off-season.
“That was probably the main reason why I didn’t go to Worlds, I wanted to give myself a really good summer to train,” Hall said. “It seemed like every summer I either had surgery or World Championships or an ankle to heal, so this summer was good for me in that regard. I got some good training in, I got on the ice a little bit earlier than I usually do, and hopefully, that helps out. I’m feeling good, I’m feeling healthy, I’m ready to go and I can’t wait for camp to start.”
Playing for the same head coach for two consecutive years should also benefit Hall heading into the year. In his four previous seasons with the Oilers, Hall has played for three different coaches, all seemingly wanting different things from him. This year, Dallas Eakins will be back behind the Oilers bench.
“That’s a really nice way to go into a year,” Hall said. “There is no awkward handshake at the start of the season (with new coach), it’s a business-like attitude now. I think Dallas feels really comfortable that way and I think all of us players over the course of 82 games got to know what Dallas expects from us and now we can hit ground running at camp.”
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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