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.
“It’s hard to pass up on offensive players” were the parting words that Oilers’ head of amateur scouting Stu MacGregor left me with. It seems he was sure that the Oilers would take Nail Yakupov the whole time as well. But I do admit that I wavered. A little. But not until the very end. The trouble is that GM Steve Tambellini holds his cards so incredibly close to his chest, it makes it difficult to be certain. You read between the lines a little too much, you search for answers in other places, and sometimes they’re not always right. What seems to be right, at this point in time is that the Oilers walked away from the first round with the best player available at this year’s NHL entry draft.
He’s not the most quotable player, but Nail Yakupov is certainly, without a doubt, the top player at this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Right up until the moment the Edmonton Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini stepped up to the podium the speculation remained. The Oilers need help on defence, but Yakupov seemed too good to pass up on. And it turns out he was.
Taylor or Tyler, RNH or Larsson, Yakupov or Murray? The debate is familiar, but this year it takes on a far different feel. Throughout the season, Nail Yakupov the Russian Winger playing for the Sarnia Sting was the consensus top pick between the scouting lists, and so when the Oilers won the draft, he easily became the focus of conversation. Afterall, why would the Oilers jump from 2 to 1 and take anything but the best player available? It seems that the Oilers have a different idea of who the best player available is. Maybe.
One day before he steps up to the draft podium to make his announcement, Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini is mum on what that decision is. But by looking at the past two drafts and by really listening to what Tambellini has to say, you can make a decision for yourself. For me, in a crowded hotel lobby in downtown Pittsburgh, Tambellini was saying the ‘pick is Yakupov, but I can’t just tell you that.’
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.
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