EDMONTON, AB - From the moment he knew he'd be a member of the Edmonton Oilers, Swiss centre Gaëtan Haas saw the faceoff dot as an area where he could make immediate contributions for his new club.
"The faceoff is important in the NHL, and [Bob Stauffer of 630 CHED's Oilers Now] asked me right away when I got an interview after I signed: 'How are your faceoffs?'" Haas said following Tuesday's informal skate at the Downtown Community Arena.
The Oilers won 48.4 percent of draws in 2018-19, placing themselves 25th overall in the League for faceoffs. With the onboarding of Dave Tippett as the club's head coach, the newly-minted Oilers bench boss quickly addressed the need for faceoff improvement and a further willingness for players to improve their output in the circle.
"I think that's true to a certain extent (players get better over time) but you've got to be willing to get better. That's an area of concern for me and we're going to put a real emphasis on that," Tippett said in an interview with 630CHED on July 30.
"I've already talked to (Assistant Coach) Brian Wiseman about some faceoff stuff. It's not just the player taking the faceoff, it's the reaction of all the players around it. That's going to be a focus from our coaching staff and we'll try to improve that stat right throughout our lineup with everybody. Not just the faceoff part of it, but how we react after that will be a big point of emphasis for us."
Haas, who signed a one-year deal with the Oilers on July 1 after posting 15 goals and 23 assists in 50 games for SC Bern of the Swiss National League last season, describes himself as a two-way player with speed and a strong sense of urgency.
Additionally, the 27-year-old right-shot is taking advice from a pair of centres who've had success at the dot in the NHL already to better fill the needs laid out by his new head coach.
"I'm honest - six years ago I was not the best guy for faceoffs, but I started to work on it," Haas said. "This summer I met a couple of guys on the ice like Nico Hischier and Artem Anisimov, so we talked together and they gave me a couple of tips for faceoffs too. I am going to keep practicing and we'll see."