It was only a matter of time before Glen Sather saw his name raised into the rafters in Edmonton. The long-time player, coach and general manager will see his banner raised in Rexall Place at a game against the Rangers on December 11.
The wait was due to Sather’s tenure in New York as GM. He stepped down from that post on July 1.
“Never in doubt,” said Vice Chair of Oilers Entertainment Group Kevin Lowe. “There was a question of timing, but we’re certainly glad we waited this long because we think it’s that much more fitting. The last year of Rexall and the last year of the Oilers and Oil Kings in this building. I certainly don’t want to say last but not least, but… none of this would have happened without Glen Sather. It’s very fitting that he’ll be the final great moment of Rexall Place.”
The Oilers will be moving into their new downtown home at Rogers Place following this season. Sather will be the final banner raised at Rexall.
Lowe spoke with Sather before the club announced the decision.
“(He was) humble as you would expect and very honoured. Rightfully so. It’s been a long time, and for no other reason than we’ve had a bit of a mandate in terms of people doing their jobs,” said Lowe. “Now he’s not a general manager anymore, we can honour all the great things that he did.”
Kevin Lowe was playing for the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL when he first met Glen Sather. Little did he know that the two would be seeing a lot more of each other over the coming years.
“For me personally, it was the year before I was drafted by the Oilers,” said Lowe. “I was being recruited by some of the WHA teams and I had a chance to meet with him in Quebec City on the bench during a practice. He had read in the paper I was thinking of signing with the Birmingham Bulls or the Quebec Nordiques and he said, ‘why would you want to sign with those teams, why wouldn’t you want to come out to Edmonton?’ And that was the first time I spoke with him.”
Lowe was taken 21st overall in 1979, joining the Oilers that rookie season. In the following years, Sather made an impact on the young defenceman that has stuck with him until today.
“Everything, for me personally,” Lowe said of what Sather meant to his career. “The support he gave me as a player and the encouragement he gave me in my later stages as a player to keep my eye on the long-term objectives, in terms of coaching and managing. When he brought me back from the Rangers, he brought me back with a contract that allowed me to play for another year and then to get into coaching afterwards. I don’t know if anybody else has ever signed a contract like that. Then when the EIG took over, Glen went to New York and they asked me to be manager. I asked his advice and he said, ‘there are three jobs in hockey. There’s playing, there’s coaching and there’s managing. Playing is the best and coaching is the second best and managing is the third best.’”
Sather will see his name raised into the rafters on December 11, as the Oilers honour the long-time player, coach and general manager. Sather becomes the ninth Oiler to have a banner raised by the team, joining Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Anderson, Kurri, Hamilton, Fuhr and longtime radio broadcaster Rod Phillips.
On Thursday, the Oilers agreed to terms with 23-year-old Brandon Davidson on a one-year contract. After 12 games with the club last season, the defenceman's natural progression and development suggest he’s ready for more in 2015-16.
“Things were pretty smooth sailing I think,” Davidson told Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now. “With my situation and how things went last year, I think that this was reasonable and I’m glad that I’m able to stay on with the organization. I know I’ve had a taste there now and I feel like I’m ready more than ever. I’m real excited and can’t wait for the challenge ahead of me.”
His road to the NHL is lined with obstacles. The organization made it a point of emphasis to bolster their depth on the blueline this off-season. The competition is much stronger than a year ago. Edmonton traded for both Griffin Reinhart and Eric Gryba at the draft. General Manager Peter Chiarelli has said he expects both to be in Edmonton this season. There is also the competition with 2013 seventh-overall pick Darnell Nurse for a spot. And of course, you have the incumbent defencemen from last season as well as free agent signing Andrej Sekera.
It will be a tough task for a young defenceman like Davidson to unseat some of that competition. But he’s faced adversity before and the 2010 sixth-round pick won’t go down without a fight.
“I feel like I’ve done everything that I’ve been asked and I keep proving over and over again that I belong and that I can do this,” said Davidson. “For me, I know there’s a big challenge ahead of me, especially with what happened at the draft and Darnell Nurse might be ready as well. I know there’s a huge challenge ahead of me but I’ve been facing challenges my whole life and this is just another one. Hopefully I can break this one down too.”
Davidson has gotten bigger and stronger the last few years and last season he was a very important piece of the Oklahoma City Barons defence. Davidson was reliable enough that the coaches put him on the ice for big minutes and big responsibilities. He became more physical this past season, and it showed in his one-on-one battles with opposing players. Davidson says he would like to get a little quicker heading into the upcoming season.
If Davidson is to make the Oilers roster out of training camp, beginning the year as the seventh defenceman may be his best bet.
“That’s very fair,” said Davidson. “That’s my goal right now, to get my foot in that door and if that’s that seventh spot then I’m going to relish that and run with that. Any chance I can be there and stay there, I’m going to take it, make the best of it and work my way to through the ranks kind of thing.”
After signing on with the Oilers for another year, Davidson couldn’t be more happy to at least have that opportunity.
“I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get started this season. I want to start and finish with the Oilers and that’s the goal.”
Today, the Oilers agreed to terms with two players on one-year contracts.
Justin Schultz has the potential to be a high-end offensive weapon on the blueline for the Oilers.
He flashed that potential playing in the American Hockey League during the 2012-13 season when he had 48 points (18-30-48) in 34 games. He then put up 27 points in 48 games during his lockout-shortened NHL rookie season.
But after three seasons in the professional ranks, one area of Schultz’s game he wants to work on is his strength to help with his battles and defensive game.
“It’s something that’s what I’ve always had to do in the off-season: get stronger and more explosive,” Schultz said on Oilers Now. “Definitely one of the things (the Oilers) communicated to me was getting more powerful in that aspect of my game. I think I’ve been working on that pretty good right now. I’ve still got a couple months here left but it’s been going well and I’m excited to get back to Edmonton and get going.”
Schultz has been hitting the gym in Kelowna this off-season and says he feels more powerful and more explosive. He also says he’s noticed more muscle when he steps on the scale.
The Oilers blueliner told Bob Stauffer that he wants to play with an edge like Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty. That pushback starts this season, according to Schultz.
“It’s something I’m always trying to improve on and there’s no better time than this year to start showing that,” said Schultz. “I need to play with an edge. It helps to be a better player and helps with every part of your game so it’s something I’m going to try to do this year.”
Adding strength, playing with more of an edge and developing more consistency in his game are on Schultz’s wish list for the 2015-16 season. Schultz and the Oilers agreed to terms on a one-year contract on Wednesday. The 25-year-old has played 203 NHL games in his career, scoring 25 goals and adding 66 assists.
The Oilers agreed to terms with defenceman Justin Schultz on a one-year deal on Wednesday. The length of the contract gives Schultz the 2015-16 season to prove he can be the player he was expected to be coming out of college at the University of Wisconsin.
“I think the one-year deal makes sense,” Schultz said on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer. “It gives me another year to prove what I’ve got. If I have a good year then hopefully I can get a longer term deal and be in Edmonton for a long time. I know exciting things are coming here and it’s just the start of it. Hopefully it’s a big year here.”
Consistency is something Schultz wants to have more of heading into his fourth pro season.
“Obviously, I can play better,” said Schultz. “I was very inconsistent last year and even the year before. It’s about bringing my best game every night and playing like the player I’ve played like in the past, that I know I can play like. It’s going to be a big year for me. I’m excited.”
Justin Schultz and the Oilers agreed to terms on a one-year contract on Wednesday. For Schultz, the 2015-16 season will be his fourth in the professional ranks. He has yet to play in the playoffs as a pro.
“It’s been a long couple years,” Schultz told Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now. “It’s not fun losing, that’s for sure.”
This off-season has a much different feel to it, considering the volume of changes to the organization. It started with Bob Nicholson taking over as CEO and the Oilers winning the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery. Peter Chiarelli was named President of Hockey Operations and General Manager, then he hired Todd McLellan as Head Coach. The Oilers used that lottery pick to take Connor McDavid and the changes continued.
“We all want to get better, we all want to win and I think it’s close here with these changes. It’s going to be good for us,” said Schultz.
A new coaching staff, new players brought in via draft, trade and free agency and a new leader as GM all have Schultz ready to hit the ice for the upcoming season.
“It’s exciting to say the least,” said Schultz. “It kind of gives guys like me a fresh start and a clean slate to show what I’ve got, to show these guys. I’m looking forward to working with Todd and obviously getting Connor is unbelievable. A lot of excitement around Edmonton right now. It’s good times to be there.”
Yesterday, Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot attended the CCM Goalie Summit in Montreal. Talbot was helping CCM unveil their new look for the CCM Premier pads.
Talbot took part in some filming and photo shoots, while wearing Oilers and CCM gear. He also unveiled a new Oilers-themed mask. The mask is Oilers orange and blue with the team’s logo on the sides.
Talbot was acquired in a trade at the 2015 NHL Draft. The Oilers gave the New York Rangers a second, a third and a seventh-round pick, in exchange for the goalie and a seventh.
The netminder is expected to come in and right away push for the number one job in Edmonton, after serving as the backup behind Henrik Lundqvist. In 57 career NHL games, the 28-year-old has a record of 33-15-5 with eight shutouts and a 2.00 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
The Oilers announced jersey numbers for their new players acquired via trade and free agency this off-season.
• Andrej Sekera - 2
• Griffin Reinhart - 8
• Eric Gryba - 62
• Lauri Korpikoski - TBD
• Mark Letestu - 55
• Cam Talbot - 33
• Anders Nilsson - TBD
In addition to these new numbers, Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom will change his number from 84 to 77 for the upcoming season.
The Oilers executed a trade early this evening, acquiring goaltender Anders Nilsson from the Chicago Blackhawks, in exchange for prospect forward Liam Coughlin.
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli spoke to the media after the Billy Moores Cup at Rexall Place and says the move was to bring in some competition.
“He’s a big goalie,” said Chiarelli. “He might not have been dealt the greatest cards when he came over (to North America). He had a strong year in the KHL. He had an average World Championships. I saw him in one game when I went over there. He’s still young for a goalie. He was excited to hear that he has a new start. The bottom line is there is going to be competition. There is going to be competition amongst the goalies and that’s why. We want that. It gives us insurance and it gives us competition.”
Nilsson, 25, had an impressive KHL season for Kazan Ak-Bars. The 6-foot-5 goalie posted a record of 20-9-8 with a .936 save percentage and 1.71 goals-against average. In 23 NHL games, Nilsson has a record of 9-9-2 and a save percentage of .898 and 3.05 GAA.