If you’re looking for positives from the current rookie tournament in Penticton, I’d suggest concentrating on recently drafted forwards. They’re not dominating anything, but the group isn’t getting their heads pounded in either. Marco Roy is near the tournament lead in shots, and I’ve counted four scoring chances in the two games (two of them against that tough Calgary line that ran over Edmonton in G1).
Jujhar Khaira has been in evidence offensively and he’s also done some impressive things away from the puck (mostly physical in nature). He gets exposed in his own end (this is what rookie tournaments are for) at the center position but there’s a ton to like about the big man who is the latest pro player in the organization. I also like Greg Chase so far the Penticton leg of training, in fact he would get my nod currently as the Oilers best player in the tournament.
The defense? Marincin and Gernat have looked fine by eye, Klefbom is not having a good tournament based on expectations. It’ll be interesting to see which of the blue sit today–there are a few worthy candidates.
Goaltending? We haven’t seen anything yet, and the final game is this afternoon.
I have been struck by “two ships that pass in the night” quotes from this weekend, and was going to save it for tomorrow’s post (and may re-visit) because I believe it shows where the Oilers are headed in the future.
- Todd Nelson: “We’re going to change our tactics a bit and go with two guys tonight on the forecheck. I think that everybody plays a one-man pressure system usually and so it was easier for the guys to maybe play it the first game. Since we didn’t have practice time I didn’t want to do two-man pressure. We’re going to do that tonight and hopefully it pays off. We’re going to play very aggressive tonight. We want to make sure their defencemen don’t have a lot of time and space to move the puck and we’re going to be right in their face. It’ll be a more aggressive game tonight.”
Nelson doesn’t have the horses to do that in this tournament, I think we can all agree on that one; however, that quote combined with what Eakins said in his media conference gives us some insight into the style of play we may see this fall from the Oilers:
- Eakins: “We will be very, very aggressive in our defensive zone, we will have a definite plan in the neutral zone when we don’t have the puck, we’ll have a definite plan when we don’t have the puck in the offensive zone; but the biggest thing I want this group to do is have the puck. We are not going to give it up and if we do we’re going to have a quick and immediate plan to have it back.”
This is such a wonderful quote I may have it framed, but we need to be mindful of the limitations of a coach. It also fits well with Tyler Dellow’s recent Big Data information (without the specifics) and perhaps the quote and Dellow’s work at mc79 hockey give us some clues about the future. We’ll talk to Tyler tomorrow on the LDWLT about it.
Back to the now. When Todd Nelson applies this to the group he has in Penticton, how many forwards are going to be able to do that? Khaira, Chase and Roy are doing well in this tournament, and I think this bodes well at the NHL level for a few Oilers whose skill allows the play “not die on their sticks.” The question for Eakins will be “how many personnel match the gameplan template?” and I think the answer is we’re still a little shy of a 21.
- Eakins: “You will either compete hard or you will not play.”
I’m absolutely certain we all have our list of culprits for this list, but my guess is our lists don’t match each other’s. It’ll be fascinating to see who the coach punishes for cheating offensively–I don’t think “you will compete hard or you will not play” means what some think it means. For instance, I don’t think this is a message that is being sent to Taylor Hall–there are some who do. We’ll see.
THE LINEUP FOR THIS AFTERNOON (C-L-R)
- L2: Roy-Fyten-Chase
- L3: Ewanyk-Kessy-Bilcke
- L4: Schaber-Baddock-Abney
- Pairing 1: Nurse-Davidson
- Pairing 2: Gernat-Betker
- Pairing 3: Leach-Musil
- Goal: Palazzese with Rimmer as backup
Up front, this is the most encouraging group. The top 2lines have some skill–I still don’t know that the Oilers will score but at least they’re bunching together their best forwards–but the 3 and 4 line will be chasing the puck all day. THAT will add pressure to a group of defensemen that offers neither Klefbom or Marincin this afternoon, and more goaltending unknowns to back it up.
It’s been a humbling weekend for this kids. I hope they don’t have to bus back to Edmonton.