by Lisa McRitchie on 10/08/11 at 09:00 AM ET
The Edmonton Oilers took to Jasper this week for a little team building and training upon the completion of the pre-season. Thanks to various tweets we have an idea of what the bus ride and week was like. At the same time, the Oilers’ lines have been shuffled for opening night and will continue to change until Tom Renney sees something he likes.
**Note, if you are clicking on this story for potential starting lines only, move down towards the bottom of this entry**
Ryan Whitney may well be one of the funniest professional athletes to follow on twitter. Whitney tends to comment on social situations, bad drivers, and even his teammates. On Sunday, Whitney tweeted “Eberle & Hall in worst hangman game in history Ebs can’t spell “banana” and hall can’t figure out 2nd word is “split” Wow http://yfrog.com/h6xpsknj”
As I read this tweet, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would spark some sort of “jock” comments, or maybe something about the Canadian school system not being as good as it once was. Personally, I hope that this is more an issue that everything seems to have spell check, and that everyone has at least one word that they tend to make a mistake with… hopefully this is it. But, it didn’t fans chuckled but wished the team a great week in the mountains.
Theo Peckham got in on the fun as well, tweeting “Just on the bus on our way to jasper for a little team building and @RNH_93 forgot the movies.. It’s a fine fine day #chaching” Why is the team adding to the pressure that young Nugent-Hopkins feels I thought with a laugh. At least it looks as though the team is welcoming the first overall pick into the fold with open arms.
While in Jasper, various member of the team tweeted pictures of run-ins with nature. Ryan Whitney saw a large elk “Rode our bikes through mountains to rink in Jasper this morning and got a tad too close for the sake of the picture http://yfrog.com/nu21cegj”
But worse for the nerves of fans was the photo posted by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins “Got so close to a bear wow! #imokdontworry http://yfrog.com/h6tw1jxj” Well, until of course you realize that the bear is not alive.
The players hit the links, where they continued to have encounters with wildlife, but that’s what you expect in Banff and Jasper. Magnus Pääjärvi at least kept his distance. “Jasper golf is unreal! In the end I was looking more for elks and bears then looking at Linus shots.http://yfrog.com/nzk4gij”
The team played golf, rode bikes, had both on and off-ice training sessions and generally got to know one another better.
Typically, there are a few different kinds of fans, those who care to know more about the personality of players and those who would rather just watch players play and that’s that. For those that would like to know more about players, their lives and their personalities, the Edmonton Oilers have to be one of the best teams to share videos, tweets and generally keep their webpage up to date and full of Oilers’ content. Now that players are themselves so involved with social media, fans are able to get an even deeper look into the team and their interactions.
There is little surprise that Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle would be playing hangman, even poorly, together on the bus. After all, the two are roommates, of similar age and were rookies together. Seeing Anton Lander and his good friend Magnus Pääjärvi together playing golf is again not a surprise, they are countrymen, former teammates in Sweden for Timra, and now once again teammates on the Oilers. When the players spend so much time together on the road, in the arenas, etc they will have a more enjoyable time if they have some close connections on the team.
Even if you don’t care to know more about the players of your favourite team; their personality and pastimes, you have to admit that a closely knit team has the potential to succeed. The Boys on the Bus, the dynasty Oilers of the 80s were a group of players and friends and although this is certainly not the same team, it’s a little bit of hope for fans.
There have been different line combinations throughout the week, but it looks as though the season will start with Smyth - Belanger - Eberle on the first line and Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Hemsky on the second. That should leave Pääjärvi - Horcoff - Omark for the third line and Jones - Lander - Petrell for the fourth line. Between the pipes, most fans would like to see Devan Dubnyk, but it will not be surprising to see Nikolai Khabibulin. Khabibulin had overall a good training camp, but the Oilers are looking to the future and Devan Dubnyk will be an integral part of that future.
When discussing which goaltender should get the most starts, salary is usually brought up first. Although it doesn’t seem to be the most effective use of the team’s salary, if Dubnyk is to be the goalie of the future the team cannot concern themselves with how much money they are paying Khabibulin to sit on the bench. Khabibulin was brought in for his experience and also to help mentor up and coming Oilers’ goalies. At first, it was not clear whether it would be Devan Dubnyk or Jeff Deslauriers, now that it will be Dubnyk, the team needs to let him play and build his confidence. There is only so much goalie development that can happen in a practice setting, in the end it comes down to game experience.
With mounting injuries, even before the season has begun, this Oilers team may indeed be yet another lottery team. With that in mind, the Oilers have nothing to lose, except maybe pride, by putting their young players out in every situation, except of course more man hours to injury but sometimes that’s a matter of bad luck more than inexperience.
Stranger things have happened, this Oilers team may still surprise many this season, but they should be able to manage at least a few more wins than last year.
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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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