Sunday was a CBA-required day off for the Oilers and the players used it to their advantage, enjoying a beautiful day in Dallas while taking in some professional sporting events.
A group of players went to either one or both of the NFL game between the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys and the MLB playoff game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers. Several Oilers players are Blue Jays fans and had the opportunity to support Canada’s baseball team as they beat the Rangers 5-1 to stay alive in their series.
“It was fun. It was a good day,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “It was my first NFL game, which is really cool. It was good to experience that and I’ve always been a fan of the Jays. It worked out perfectly timing wise, it’s just across the street. It was a great game and a lot of fun. Great ballpark too.”
Some of the players were caught on television celebrating Troy Tulowitzki’s home run. The Oilers head coach was happy his players were able to experience a pair of events like the two games on their day away from the rink.
“Timing is excellent, really, for our team to be on the road,” said Todd McLellan. “A Sunday off and they can get out in the fresh air and cheer on the Blue Jays, of course, and see a tremendous football game. I think it’s really important sometimes for athletes from different sports to interact and to see each other perform, the level of preparation and commitment and all that type of stuff. It was a good day for our guys.”
The Oilers have hit the ice here in Dallas for their Monday practice.
Hall-RNH-Purcell, Pouliot-McDavid-YAkupov, Slepyshev-Lander-Korpikoski, Hendricks-Letestu-Gazdic/Klinkhammer— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) October 12, 2015
- THE PANEL | Presented by Sport Chek
- PRACTICE | Friday in Nashville
- PRACTICE RAW | Justin Schultz
- PRACTICE RAW | Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- PRACTICE RAW | Anton Lander
- PRACTICE RAW | Todd McLellan
The Oilers didn’t get any help from the schedule makers when it comes to easing into a season.
Edmonton is not only on the road for their first three games, but they play three tough Central Division opponents. The Oilers opened up their schedule with a 3-1 loss in St. Louis and now play Nashville tomorrow and Dallas on Tuesday.
“It’s definitely a measuring stick,” said Justin Schultz. “It was a big test the first game and then we get another test and another test. Three right off the bat. It’s good to get those games in, see where we are at, improve off that, look at video and work on things. It will make us a better team.”
Edmonton doesn’t play at home until next Thursday when they host the Blues. Their first game out of the Central Division in on Saturday, October 17. That game is on the road once again vs. Calgary.
Todd McLellan had a lot of success in San Jose as their head coach. He said yesterday that the Oilers are in their “infancy” compared to McLellan’s Sharks teams because he had seven years there. This is his first with the Oilers so there is a lot of teaching and installation of principles.
McLellan is very vocal on the ice and in full control of all the teaching that goes on at practice. He is very hands-on and direct with the players, while offering both encouragement and chastisement when necessary. The coach says he hasn’t had to change his coaching habits much, but has had to go back to some basics in his teaching.
You can notice this at practice when he taps the brakes and slows things down to stress the importance of a drill or piece of the power play, etc.
“We’ve had to revert. We’ve had to go back,” said McLellan. “(Sharks GM) Doug Wilson always used to tell me, and he’s a very smart man, and he understood that it’s not what the teacher knows, it’s what the students absorb. We could get ahead of ourselves sometimes as teachers, but if the class isn’t keeping up or we’re leaving two or three behind it’s not going to be very effective. A lot of the principles are the same, a lot of the ideas are the same, but slow it down sometimes and make sure we get the basics before we move on. The players have been probably too respectful when they’re not sure about things. They’re not knocking on the door yet and saying, ‘hey, what about this?’ or ‘the group doesn’t understand that.’ That will come with time. They’ll learn that the door is wide open and we like to talk about things. We’re not going to hold that against them ever and we’ll clarify things moving forward.”
The players like McLellan’s approach.
“He is hands-on. It’s great,” said defenceman Justin Schultz. “You’re always on your toes and he’s very intense, which I think players like. Practices have been great. I think we’re getting a lot better just from practices. We all love playing for him and it’s been good so far.”
Slowing things down has been beneficial to the team according to Schultz, who says McLellan’s teachings in practice will translate into improved performance on the ice.
“You can’t (slow things down) in a game and that’s what practices are for,” said Schultz. “You kind of slow it down and you know where you want to be or are supposed to be. It just helps you when you come into a game just remembering that practice an what you’ve got to do.”
When the Oilers were looking to gain a spark in their game last night in St. Louis, Head Coach Todd McLellan tweaked the forward combinations a bit. On Friday, those tweaks were evident again at practice.
“I’ll tinker a fair amount until we find combinations,” said McLellan. “We didn’t win last night. I thought there were some moral victories in the game for us, but that doesn’t get us points. After re-watching the game and looking at the amount of offence we created, it was limited. Not a lot of guys had good looks at the net and we’re still trying to find the right combinations. In particular, I’m not sure Taylor and Connor have connected well, even throughout exhibition seasons. So maybe we give them a different look and see if we can find something that they’re comfortable with and we’re comfortable with.”
McLellan also says line combinations are dictated by what the opponent ices against them.
“Each night as we approach different teams they’re going to have different combinations and different thought processes as far as who they want to match up with and who their defensive pairings are too. We’ve got to think about that a bit.” he said.
The players understand the moving around and the mixing and matching, given how young the season is.
“It’s still early in the year so we’re still trying to find combinations,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was on a line with Hall and Teddy Purcell on Friday. “At the end of the game yesterday he tweaked a little bit so I think he just went with what he finished off with yesterday. I think guys all over are able to play with each other. It’s a good thing about our lineup.”
The Oilers have taken the ice in Nashville for practice. Todd McLellan has tweaked the lineup.
Oilers on the ice in Nashville. Cam Talbot breaking in some new gear. pic.twitter.com/caVM1nmjHk— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) October 9, 2015
The Oilers announced that they have signed Braden Christoffer signed a three-year entry level contract.
Christoffer, a Sherwood Park, AB native, was previously signed to an American Hockey League contract with the Bakersfield Condors. He attended Oilers Rookie Camp and showed well against NHL prospects and competition.
Christoffer had three goals and an assist in three games at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, B.C.
He earned himself an invite to Oilers training camp and played in a pre-season game.
The 21-year-old forward spent three seasons in the WHL with the Regina Pats and finished his career as their team captain. He posted 114 points (50-64-114) and 368 penalty minutes in 202 career games.
In two AHL pre-season games for the Condors, Christoffer recorded two assists.
Read a feature story on Christoffer from Penticton
The Oilers are just as excited to open the season as the rest of the teams around the NHL. As far as the adjustments to the new staff and systems, the Oilers feel like they’re prepared to start the year on the road in St. Louis on Thursday.
“I think we’re pretty ready,” said Matt Hendricks. “We’ve been pretty tested so far in camp, in terms of knowledge and in terms of taking in the information the coaches want. Execution has gotten better and better. Throughout camp, from day one, we keep improving. We’re seeing affirmation, we’re seeing confirmation of that through video clips and stuff before practices.”
There are several new faces in the locker room, but the returning players want to erase last season’s results and push forward into a new season.
“I know this is an excited group,” said Hendricks. “There’s a lot of guys that want to start the season on the right foot, forget about last season, get all that crap out of us and start the year that we think that we can do.”
Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom sat out a few practices and games near the end of the pre-season as his head coach said he was just a little “banged up.”
The blueliner has been full-go for a couple of days now and says he’s ready to start the season fully healthy.
“I’m feeling 100% for sure,” said Klefbom. “It feels good to be on the ice again. I’m very excited and looking forward to the first game.”
Klefbom said his injury was just some soreness in his foot and he’s fully ready to play when the Oilers open the season against St. Louis on Thursday. Sitting out was a precaution to limit the regular season games he’d miss to start. It turns out, he won’t miss any.