There were a lot of teaching moments on the ice today for the Oilers. Head Coach Todd McLellan directed an intense practice at Rexall Place and ended things with a unique drill.
Half the players positioned themselves against the boards with space in between. The other half lined up behind them. When the whistle blew, the players would battle for the puck until they heard the whistle again. They’d rotate partners and engage in another battle at the whistle. This rotated through as the players worked on positioning and battling, through fatigue.
“It’s a form of a body position, competitive-type drill that forces you to be athletic and strong when you get fatigued,” said McLellan. “It tests your mental capacity to stick with it. You can line your team up and skate them back and forth forever without pucks and most of them are in well enough condition to handle that. That battle drill is the game, in my opinion. It happens along the boards, you move to your next job. It happens (again) along the boards, you move to your next job. They did a good job of it.”
McLellan can’t remember when he first utilized the drill, but admits he likely first saw it as a player.
“It was a staple of ours in some of the other places that I’ve coached when our games got away from us and we weren’t nose over the puck. It will become a staple of ours when we need it,” said McLellan.
Captain Andrew Ference thinks the essential lessons taught in the drill pay dividends on the ice in games.
“The smaller details of your body positioning and where you’re battling from end up making a huge difference in your team,” said Ference. “Obviously, we have a long way to go from our last couple years. Bringing down goals against, being a harder team to play against and those are the lessons for sure.”