I wasn’t able to attend all of the Oilers’ development camp, and I’m honestly not sure that I would have given the opportunity. It’s drill after drill and just a chance to see the young prospects interact more than anything. For me, one day of going in, talking to the other writers, the fans and taking a thousand photos to last me through the season is more than enough. But still some interesting stories seem to come out of camp every day. Usually these stories have centered around the goal celebrations of one Nail Yakupov. But really people, it’s development camp. It’s for fun. It’s for the fans. Let’s let the “kids” enjoy themselves?
The Oilers didn’t make anything remotely close to a splash on the first day of free agency. Instead the team chose three UFAs to re-sign in Ryan Smyth, Darcy Hordichuk and Jann Danis. But there is however the signing of Justin Schultz. So maybe they did make a splash afterall, even if it wasn’t for your typical proven, veteran, UFA player.
There are a number of attractive UFA targets still remaining on the market, and there is no doubt that the Oilers are trying to land one or two of them, but the Oilers have always struggled to land the big fish.
Ryan Smyth just wanted to come home. He wanted to play where his heart was, and maybe finish his career back where it all started. The first year back with the Oilers went well, aside from him being played too many minutes to start the year, and thus being burnt out by the latter part of the season. But can you really fault Smyth for that? Of course not.
The first reports on what the Oilers were looking for, and what Smyth wanted had the two parties worlds apart. If Smyth was looking for a three year deal at north of $4M and the Oilers were looking for a deal more like what he signed today the concerns that the two wouldn’t make a deal were legitimate.
The Edmonton Oilers signed a defenceman this morning, but it wasn’t the name that everyone has been waiting for. Early Saturday morning the team announced that they had signed Vancouver Giant defenceman David Musil. Musil was the Oilers second round pick at the 2011 NHL entry draft and while the Oilers didn’t need to sign him for another year since he is almost a lock to return to the Giants, but it is a sign that that the Oilers see him fitting well into their future plans.
But then, as the the afternoon dragged on the news that Justin Schultz had chosen to the sign with the Edmonton Oilers broke, and by the Oilers themselves. Shultz was easily the most sought after UFA of the summer up until this point and becomes the biggest name the Oilers have signed in recent history, bigger even than signing Sheldon Souray.
You already knew that Edmonton loves their Oilers, and this week offers nothing but more evidence to support the assessment. This week, all of the Oilers’ prospects have travelled from their home bases to work with the Oilers training and development staff and to see where they stack up against the other prospects. Most days of the development camp are mundane drills, nothing even slightly exciting. And yet the fans pour into Millenium Place in Sherwood Park, at least 500 I would say if I had to wager a guess. Some fans just pop in for a half hour or so, often just to see Yakupov, while others stay for the nearly 3 hours of drills hoping to catch a glimpse of greatness.
If you weren’t in the Edmonton area Wednesday night, you likely didn’t get to hear Georges Laraque speaking with Jason Gregor on the Team 1260. In this nearly 20 minute long interview Laraque discusses his health issues, his desire to get another chance to end his career on his own terms, and how he feels he could help the Oilers more than any other team in the league next season:
Because you have such a young team, you need somebody to protect the core and you need a role player like me. I won’t take somebody’s roster spot because you are an extra, and everything you do is extra. It’s almost like a bonus. I’d be there to complement those guys, to get them to play bigger, play more freely and not be afraid of being run around.
Look at the years that the Oilers had all of their success with Dave Semenko. I know that he could play and that he was a good player but the role hasn’t changed. LA does it for one, they have Westgarth, and even though he didn’t play in the Stanley Cup Finals the reason why all of those guys were able to play in the playoffs and they were healthy was because he was protecting them all year.
The tough guy has an important role to play in the regular season games. He has to ensure that when playoff time comes all of those guys (skilled players) are healthy and they are not hampered by injury due to other teams taking advantage of them. They can play the game without having to worry about anything and that is what my role will be; to make sure that the young Oilers team, if they make the playoffs, that the guys are healthy because they didn’t get banged around all season long.
In the end it wasn’t that big of a surprise, but more of a relief that the speculations could end. Wednesday morning the Edmonton Oilers have announced the naming of their head coach, former associate coach Ralph Krueger.
With the naming of Krueger the team can finally focus on their game plan for trying to land UFAs like Just Shultz. True, the Oilers are far from the only team looking to land this big fish, but with a coach in place the team may stand a fighting chance. From all accounts, Schultz is looking to go to a team where he can play top minutes and earn that big contract.
Edmonton Oilers’ head of amateur scouting Stu Macgregor was glad to speak about the teams picks in rounds 2 through 7 of this past weekend’s NHL entry draft. MacGregor knew that this year’s draft class looked much different than last year’s but also knew that GM Steve Tambellini’s ambitions were to fill needs rather than draft a balanced set of players to add to the team’s depth.
The majority of players selected were power forwards with big bodies and even bigger heart, but it was the second round pick that seemed to have surprised hockey fans the most.
You have to think that an announcement is coming soon. After all, now is when the Oilers’ top prospects are descending upon Edmonton for the the team’s annual development camp. It would be quite the camp without a head coach though, now wouldn’t it?
The other thing of note for this camp has to be that former Oiler defenceman turned media, turned maybe coach Jason Strudwick will also be at the camp. Until they make an announcement, now is the time to start speculating.
Edmonton Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini said Friday night that day two would be about addressing team needs, filling roster spots and indeed it was. After Oil King Henrik Samuelsson went late in the third round, the Oilers had to have another look at their lists and decide who they liked for the 32nd pick. Smart money was that it would be an Oil King, as the team might draft for familiarity and because the Oil Kings team had been so strong this year going all of the way to a Memorial Cup. That should mean that the members of the team should have a winning mentality and be the type of character guys that the Oilers have been talking at lengths about.
About Oil Patch
Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
You can subscribe to the RSS feed here
Follow on Twitter @lisamcritchie
Or contact directly firstname.lastname@example.org