With all of the news surrounding the Oilers as of late usually focusing on the big 3, its easy to forget about the changes that happened at the end of last season and even the players who have been out with injuries seemingly forever! The Oilers' 2010 training camp kicked off on Friday with medicals, and Saturday players hit the ice. The Edmonton Oilers' website has a writeup of the day and 5 new video interviews featuring just as many players eager to get the season started and a video talking about potential line combinations which only perpetuates the understanding that it is Shawn Horcoff's captaincy to lose.
Sam Gagner has shed 5 pounds with the help of his trainer this summer in an attempt to gain speed. He feels that this has already helped. "I'm not a guy that goes out there and runs people over anyways, so an extra 5 pounds isn't going to help me knock anybody over. I feel like I'm still strong and I gained a lot of muscle but I felt that I lost weight in areas where I didn't need it." It is true that we don't think of Sam Gagner for his hip checks or slamming guys into the boards, but many do have injury concerns with having "smurfs" on the team. Bloggers, writers, and fans have all expressed interest in seeing this team add some size, so this seems to be a step in the wrong direction. If Gagner is able to improve his speed and skating maybe he will be able to avoid hits in the first place. Gagner finished his interview by saying "Ihave a lot to prove to myself," which is true, but he also has a lot to prove to the organization and the fans. It is true that Gagner is only one year older than Eberle, but he has been playing in the NHL for the past 3 seasons. There have been a number of Gagner breakdowns lately, so I won't take this further except to say that its great to see a player work so hard in the off-season to improve what he feels to be his weakness.
Magnus Paajarvi spoke with reporters on skating with the rookies, the rest of the players and the Swedish Elite League. Paajarvi says he has to "Learn the system with all of the angles and where you're going to go when you don't [have] the puck." Which is something that he has been working on with the rookie camp and tournament. He says that there is little difference between the drills they have been running for the rookies and the ones used for training camp. Paajarvi feels that he is ready to try to make the team and play in the NHL. He states "I've been playing with men for three years now, so that difference is not going to be that big for me I think," and many would have to agree. The biggest concern is how will his game transfer from European to NHL style. Thankfully Paajarvi has had some excellent chances to work with other players and coaches all summer, as well as various forms of competitions to practice in. If Paajarvi makes the team this year, I can only hope that this will help Lander next year. That's right, you can never think that this is good enough, this team has a long way to go. Thankfully when it came to Oilers fans Magnus says "They've been great fans so far," which is fantastic news to those of us who worry about scary the kids with our over the top curiosity and enthusiasm. Or, maybe they just haven't spent enough time in and around Edmonton to really get a sense of what the fishbowl can be like.
Listening to Ryan Whitney's comments were very encouraging and easy to give anyone some hope for a new attitude for the team, even if like me you weren't too sure about Whitney being what the Oilers needed in terms of an addition last year. Whitney says "Today is a day of a new season and last year is officially now over with and its good to be able to put that behind us. That's what's exciting about camp we can really get going now." Ryan recognised that last year was difficult for fans, and that this year is full of exciting possibilities for the fans and the rest of the team. Whitney wants to "Be a leader out there, be a guy that can be counted on night after night," which is definitely something that he will need to be given the age and experience level of much of the team. In this new NHL Whitney recognizes that player development can be quick, meaning that we see quite young players out there and NHL ready. On player development, Whitney says "It happens sooner than you think. People seem to think the old way, it took 3, 4, 5 years and now it really doesn't. You get some guys in that can play that have that enthusiasm, the quickness, the new way the NHL is is speed and I think we have that. The biggest thing is being patient and know that tis going to happen sooner than you think." He goes on to talk about how it will not all be ups and good times; things will "improve generally throughout the year," but there will still be downs and low points. Whitney says "All three should be here and playing a lot," which is pretty much magic to everyone's ears. We have been hearing that from analysts all of the way down to your next door neighbour, but this is one of the first comments like that from other players. I find it encouraging that other Oilers see the value in giving the kids a lot of minutes and keeping them up here, not just for the fans, but for the team and the players themselves.
Alexandre Giroux gave a short interview saying that "Washington was a tough team to crack.. was looking for a team that I had a chance to play on," and he felt that Edmonton might be a good fit. As training camp and pre-season games progress we shall see if Giroux can crack this lineup especially since he signed to a one way deal. Our own Scott Reynolds speculated earlier what might be in store for Giroux and what we can expect. On the fans, Giroux said he was "Excited to see the fans already in the stands today," which must have been a different experience for many of the players on the ice, but this is Edmonton, and the start of the season that will [hopefully] help us start to forget the last.
The finial interview was with Steve MacIntyre who is back for a second time with the Edmonton Oilers. On his own development big Mac says "i gotta find my legs out there," he goes on to say "I gotta work on my skating obviously, i want to get faster, and my hands, make the right play use my head." This is not news to most fans. Whether or not you see the need for an enforcer on the team, you recognize that if we are to have an enforcer or fighter one who can skate and score goals is definitely more valuable than someone who can't. MacIntyre certainly isn't an exception to the excitement out there. MacIntyre says "Everybody has that twinkle in their eye to get the season going," seems it can't happen soon enough for the players either.
One of the biggest stories of the day Saturday is who was skating with who. Well Tayor Hall and Jordan Eberle skated together, centred by Shawn Horcoff. The two wingers commented that they liked being able to ask Shawn questions as they were out there on the ice. The message that Horcoff is a good mentor for the rookies seems to be the point that is being conveyed. Is this a ploy to win over the public? Possibly, so now we just have to see if it works.
With the Joey Moss cup happening this Tuesday and the first pre-season game the following day against the Canucks we can all be sure that there will be plenty more player interviews and speculation on every aspect of the team, the game and the stats right here at Copper & Blue.