The NHL Trade Deadline is quickly approaching and it always brings a level of uncertainty amongst the players in the locker room.
“Those are human beings in there, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in first or 30th,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “There’s not many jobs in the world where you can just be traded and sent off and you’ve got to pack your family up, get somebody out of school and get on a plane and go to another country, so it plays on their minds. They can say they don’t listen to or read what you guys write, but they do. They know what’s going on in the hockey world. They have agents that inform them, they have players on the other team that are hearing rumours, so it affects everybody.”
With all the trade speculation and the panels discussing buyers and sellers and rumours of who is and who isn’t on the move, there is bound to be some uneasiness. It is maybe more uneasy for a team like the Oilers who sit at the bottom of the standings.
“We’re in a different mode right now than what Washington is,” said McLellan. “What I’ve found is when you’re where Washington is, there’s a little more excitement and everybody is anticipating a new body or two to walk in just to put you over the top. That can be dangerous because if it doesn’t happen then you’re a little disappointed. Here, we’re looking at the future a little more and what changes we need to make over the next seven days and we’ll make decisions that way. I don’t know if I’m right, I just have the sense that our whole group is a little bit nervous. Where in the past, the upper-end, for-sure guys, if you want to call them that, their names haven’t often come up in the media. Poor Nuge isn’t even playing and his name is still coming up. They’re feeling that, and maybe in the past they haven’t. Our whole group is uneasy and they should be. We’re in 30th place.”
At the end of the day, the players know it’s all part of the business.
“I’ve been around long enough now, it’s my ninth year, and I’ve been traded at the deadline before and I know it’s a business,” said Teddy Purcell. “Just have to come to the rink, work hard and keep doing what you’re doing and let Peter (Chiarelli) make those decisions.”
The Oilers have hit the ice for their practice at Rexall Place. Jordan Oesterle, who was recalled yesterday, is skating.
Early line rushes:
The Edmonton Oilers announced today they have recalled defenceman Jordan Oesterle from the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors.
Oesterle, 23, has recorded 22 points (2G, 20A) and eight penalty minutes in 39 games this season.
The Dearborn Heights, Michigan native made his National Hockey League debut last season with the Oilers and he has appeared in six career games, posting one assist.
The Oilers also announced they have assigned defencemen Nikita Nikitin to Bakersfield.
In 27 games with Bakersfield this season, Nikitin has 14 points (1G, 13A)
The Oilers have seen a few goals in recent games end up in the back of their net due to an opposing player being left alone out in front. Head Coach Todd McLellan cited those as “preventable” mistakes due to miscommunication.
Tyson Barrie’s second goal of the 3-2 loss to Colorado could have been prevented.
“I think of Barrie’s goal and we’re in position,” said McLellan. “That’s an easy sort-out that we have. There’s two guys that are prepared to do the job, we just don’t communicate so nobody does the job.”
The players echoed McLellan’s words on miscommunication.
“That’s the big sort-out right now,” said Brandon Davidson. “It’s minor, but it has to be done. As long as we’re talking and communicating in the d-zone, it’s an easier game on yourself and for your teammates. Just that little bit of communication would be key and I think we could prevent a lot of those goals like that that are coming recently.”
Although the Oilers got into a bit of penalty trouble, their strong kill was able to get them out of it. The Oilers PK kept the Colorado Avalanche scoreless on three power plays.
Their 5-on-3 kill was most impressive, in which they successfully held the Avs off the board for 1:18 in the second.
“It gave us momentum for sure,” said Benoit Pouliot. “I think we kind of played pretty hard after that too. We were in their zone the whole time, we were cycling and we were playing pretty well. That was a huge kill for us. It gave us a big boost, but unfortunately we didn’t get enough goals.”
Oilers defenceman Brandon Davidson logged a good chunk of time on that 5-on-3 PK and played 3:55 total TOI shorthanded.
“I want to contribute,” said Davidson. “That’s a spot where I can shine and (assistant coach Jim Johnson) knows that. He put me in a safe spot where I felt comfortable and where we had that big kill, especially from our forwards and d-men rotating in and out. I felt we all just did a great job.”
The fans have spoken. As part of the WHL’s 50th season celebrations, a panel selected the top 125 players in the league’s history. Fans then voted to select the top 50 all-time WHL players.
Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins comes in at number 40. Nugent-Hopkins spent two seasons in Red Deer with the Rebels, from 2009-2011. He was chosen first overall by the Rebels in the 2008 Bantam Draft. He then went on to record 177 points (57-120-177) in 141 regular season WHL games. He was a point-per-game player in the playoffs with 13 (4-9-13) in 13 games.
The Oilers selected Nugent-Hopkins first overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. The centre has 218 points (73-145) in 304 NHL games for Edmonton. The 22-year-old is out of the lineup with a long-term hand injury.
BLOGS & FEATURES
- BLOG: Wednesday Practice Updates
- FUTURE WATCH: View From the Booth
- BLOG: Cutting Back on the Calls
- BLOG: Oilers Days Brightened by New Teammate
- THE PANEL | Presented by Sport Chek
- MINORS MINUTE | Condors Fly
- PRACTICE | Wednesday at Rexall Place
- PRACTICE RAW | Todd McLellan
- PRACTICE RAW | Benoit Pouliot
- PRACTICE RAW | Nail Yakupov
The Oilers are the NHL’s second-most penalized team in the league post-All-Star break, behind only Philadelphia.
“It’s a little bit of lack of discipline and a little bit of frustration creeping into our game,” said Matt Hendricks. “As silly as it sounds, we’re trying a little too hard. We’re taking too much risk offensively. We’re getting a lot of penalties in the offensive zone or the neutral zone where we’re trying to go on the offensive at those times. Obviously, you’re going to get the defensive zone ones to try and stay in position. A guy beats you to the net and you take a hook, a trip or something to try to negate a scoring chance. But it’s the ones in the offensive zone, when they’re not necessary, that are the ones that really seem to sting.”
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan has talked a lot recently about needing to cut back on those infractions. The Oilers players know it too.
“We address it, as a group. We talk about it,” said Hendricks. “Todd’s example in the game last night is it’s something that has to happen. We know the individuals who are taking the penalties don’t want to. I’m beyond guilty of it too, just like everybody else is. You have to be a smarter player and that’s how you learn from it. There has to be a little repercussion.”
The players have to take it upon themselves to correct bad habits that have led to these mistakes and penalties.
“I think, for me, it’s work ethic,” said Jordan Eberle. “You’ve got to keep your feet moving and not getting your stick in there and giving the ref a chance to call a penalty. It’s such a fine line though because you don’t want to start playing soft. You don’t want to be scared of taking penalties and start not using your body and not using your stick like you can. It’s tough to get around that, but at the same time it’s just keeping your feet moving and not give the ref a chance to call you when you’re using your stick in there.”
The Oilers hit the ice for Wednesday’s practice with a new, albeit temporary, teammate. Eight-year-old Kohen joined the Oilers as part of a Make-A-Wish day. He signed an official contract to become an honourary Oiler for the day.
“It was a special day for him and really a special day for us,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Kohen is a young fella that had a wish come true today to become an Oiler for a day. He epitomizes really what a perfect Oiler is so we were happy to sign him to a contract. He’s tough, he’s got courage, he’s resilient, he inspires others and I think he had that effect on our group today. We had a pretty upbeat practice after a loss and I’d say he played a big part in it.”
The Oilers players had smiles to match Kohen’s.
“It brightened our day too,” said Matt Hendricks. “He’s been through a lot. It’s the dog days of the season and you’re coming into practice and bodies are beat up and a little weary. You’ve seen what he’s been through throughout his short life, eight-years-old, we’re happy he came out today. It was a lot of fun.”
Kohen led the team stretches, scored a couple goals and even scrapped with Darnell Nurse. All while his family watched from the stands.
“So much joy. So much hardship, first of all, with what they’ve gone through,” Hendricks said of Kohen and his family. “Then to see him living his dream. He probably could have done a thousand other things, but he chose to be with us at practice. We embraced it as a group and as a team and I know he had a heck of a time today. Hopefully it puts a smile on his face for a while.”
“It kind of lightened the mood for sure,” said Jordan Eberle. “Obviously, he’s been through quite a bit and to give him a chance to come out and meet some of his heroes and skate with the guys, I think he really enjoyed it and we definitely enjoyed it too.”
The Oilers have hit the ice for Wednesday’s practice at Rexall Place. There is a new skater among the team, with the Oilers brass inking an honourary Oilers player to an official contract this morning.
In partnership with Make-A-Wish, the Oilers have added Kohen Flett for today’s practice. Kohen is a young boy battling Low Grade Glioma.
As for the Oilers, Matt Hendricks has been elevated to the Connor McDavid line. Zack Kassian is still absent (illness), as is Eric Gryba, who left last night’s game.