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BLOG: Playfair wants Oilers defence to play with 'more authority'

"I want them to pass the puck with a little more authority and defend ice with a little more authority," said Oilers Associate Coach Jim Playfair of his defence core

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Jim Playfair is entering Oilers Training Camp with his research complete.

The Oilers Associate Coach - appointed to the position on June 20 - has an idea of how he wants his defence core to function after spending the off-season poring over video of each returning Oilers defenceman. 

The former Calgary Flames head coach was a guest on 630 CHED's Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer where he divulged some details of his envisioned defence scheme for the regular season, which will begin on Oct. 2 versus the Vancouver Canucks.

"I've talked the players individually about their games and trying to create an identity for each players' individual game then collectively where they are together," Playfair began. 

"It'd be nice to get Kris (Russell) back on the left side. It'd be nice to have the left-right pairing. Ideally, that's what you want. If Darnell (Nurse) and (Adam) Larsson end up together as a shutdown pairing, I think that's something we're going to look at early to see if that works."

Playfair is cognizant of the fact that there will be some new faces on the Oilers blueline this season and alluded to just how valuable the 2019-20 exhibition period will be.

"I think we just got to allow the rest of the group to come in, play to their strengths and see where they play," he said. "It's probably the first time in 10 years we've been really excited about exhibition games because you can really get a look and try some different things out."

A former first-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 1982, Playfair is no stranger to an Oilers Training Camp. With spots remaining to be filled on the back end, the former defenceman provided a glimpse of how he's approaching the yearly tryout period.

"My responsibility is to sit down with each player and give them a little bit of clear direction prior to Camp," Playfair said. "Then sit down collectively as a group and give them the structure we want to play with and the areas of the game we want to implement right away. Then, let the players fight it out.

"Being a former player and with Dave (Tippett) being a former player, coming to training camp believing there's a spot you can make, you're told that lots but that's not always the case. In this situation, there really is an opportunity for players to come in and push for jobs. I think that's very exciting."

After reviewing video of the Oilers defence, Playfair noted their strengths and areas in need of improvement.

"I watched 20 games of each defencemen and I built a structured teaching video for each guy to sit down individually," he said. "I sit down with each player and give them some structure to look at. Then collectively as a group, we'll look at the basis of how we want to play and show them some things they did really well in the past and show them some areas where I think we can improve upon as a group of defence.

"I think the one thing we want to really start to establish on our backend is a little more swagger in their game. I want them to pass the puck with a little more authority and defend ice with a little more authority. Do it with a little more belief that we're going to be a hard group to play against. There's a lot of ways to do that: moving the puck quick, being in the right position, being hard to play against. But I think this group has another step they can take in playing with a little more confidence and swagger."

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