"Call me Rich," he told me, extending his hand. Richard Petiot emerged from the locker room following the February 26th Oklahoma City Barons' 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wilds' farm team the Houston Aeros looking serious and ready to forget about the game. There was a solemn feeling emanating from the team following the loss and of course the ensuing speech from the coach Todd Nelson. This made me feel mean for wanting to talk to him about a team that he wants to play for but currently is not, in the Edmonton Oilers. Of course soon after this interview, Petiot was called up, and we shall wait and see what Petiot is able to accomplish with his time with the club.
Petiot appeared serious, but his smile broke through from time to time. Speaking with Petiot was just that, a conversation with laughter and finding words for each other. Petiot is currently signed with his fifth NHL franchise. Previously he has played 2 games in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings, and 11 with the Tampa Bay Lighting. An injury to Theo Peckham has this defenceman playing in the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers.
Petiot is currently 28 years old and on a one year contract with the Edmonton Oilers. Up until this point, Petiot has played with the Oklahoma City Barons where he was played 46 games, missing some games due to a knee injury. In those 46 games, Petiot has 12 assists and 34 penalty minutes. The knee injury is now heeled and this is the last stretch of games for Petiot to earn his next contract, with the Oilers or any other team.
Copper & Blue: You had 11 games with Tampa Bay as well as other NHL experiences, you have consistently been a plus player in the minors, has any organization told you anything specific that they are looking for, for you to make that next step?
Rich Petiot: Just being more intense all of the time. Being consistent game in and game out is a huge part of it. Just being physical and making a good smart pass.
Copper & Blue: Those are kind of..
Rich Petiot: General.
Copper & Blue: Yes, that's what you would expect them to tell everyone.
Rich Petiot: Ya [laughs]
Copper & Blue: So no one has been too helpful just yet?
Rich Petiot: Just hard work you know, it comes down to being more consistent I think is the biggest thing.
Copper & Blue: With the Oilers specifically, you had a great training camp, from what we saw at least. Did the Oilers or Steve Tambellini tell you anything specifically as you were sent to Oklahoma City?
Rich Petiot: Ya, he just told me to come down here and work on my foot speed; get to the puck quicker and get to my man quicker, and being physical. I guess the other thing was to try to be more consistent game in and game out bring that physical intensity every game.
Copper & Blue: You had a huge jump in your offensive game last season. In fact you were named Ice Hogs best defenceman of the year, this year has slowed down a bit. Do you attribute that more to this being a new team? Growing pains?
Rich Petiot: Ya, you know last year I had a great year it was fun you know?
Copper & Blue: What? Winning is fun?
Rich Petiot: [laughs] Last year, we had a really young d- core, I was given good opportunities where I was put in every possible position. This year has kind of been a grind. I fought through a knee injury earlier on in the year and I'm trying to get back from that. This year we have a lot of offensive guys. Last year we didn't have a lot of offensive defenceman. This year we have a lot of offensive defenceman so I get to try to play more of a defencive goal. I'm able to work hard on the PK.
Copper & Blue: So you're feeling less of a burden then it sounds like?
Rich Petiot: For sure.
Copper & Blue: You've got some help to share the role.
Rich Petiot: Exactly.
Copper & Blue: So the knee injury you had, is that the same knee that you had surgery on back in '06?
Rich Petiot: No, the other one.
Copper & Blue: Just checking. Has either knee been giving you injury concerns since?
Rich Petiot: No everything's been good, knock on wood, so far ever since that injury. Just trying to keep on top of it, making sure it's good to go. Strengthening, ice things like that and everything's been good so far.
Copper & Blue: So are you mainly focusing on strength or are you looking at flexibility too? Some of the guys are doing hot yoga.
Rich Petiot: Ya [laughs] I don't do yoga during the season, I do it during the off-season. I've never done it during the season. I just try to maintain good strength, balance stuff, icing it when I get sore, just trying to maintain.
Copper & Blue: I did read that Renney thinks that you have great reach, but that he would like to see you work on your confidence. How would you say you are progressing with that?
Rich Petiot: I'm a big guy. I'm 6'3.5" so I do have a good reach. Confidence is a huge part of the game. When you have confidence and things are going well, things seem to happen a whole lot easier on the ice.
Copper & Blue: Do you ever worry about the term career AHLer?
Rich Petiot: You try not to think about it. People get labeled for that, but its out of your hands. You have to try to work as hard as you can to get back up to that level and not think about that. You just think that you can make it to the next level and do everything you can to get there.
Copper & Blue: Do you have faith that the coaches are able to see past your number of AHL games and look at what you are doing right there in front of them at try-out camps, or whatever opportunities you get? Do you have confidence that they are not writing you off?
Rich Petiot: I hope so, every game you have to go out there and not worry about your last game. What's in the past is in the past. Hopefully it's been good enough in the past, but you have to play every game as hard as you can.
Copper & Blue: You get to focus on the PK more this year, and are facing top lines out there, does this give you any extra stress?
Rich Petiot: PK is, you‘ve got to work as hard as you can out there and pay the price to block shots. Everyone has to be on the same page. It's definitely a nice challenge to be able to shut down the other team's PP. We do our part on special teams and hopefully our power play goes out there and scores.
Copper & Blue: You mentioned that you are feeling less pressure to go out there and be on the offensive, you can concentrate on your defencive game. Are you hoping for more time on the PK, so you can work on your defence more?
Rich Petiot: Ya, for sure. I take pride in keeping the puck out of our net. To get out there on the PK is a huge responsibility; I take a lot of pride in it for sure.
Copper & Blue: Excellent, well good luck in your coming games.
Rich Petiot: Thanks
In his 2 games with the Oilers, Petiot has yet to score any points, but has taken his first penalty as an Oiler. The Daysland Alberta native would very much enjoy making his NHL career happen with the Edmonton Oilers, but knows that it will require a lot of hard work on his part.