The Edmonton Oilers gathered together their roster staples and their roster hopefuls for day one of their 2013 training camp at Rexall Place this morning. The players underwent medical and neurological exams, which includes eye tests, dental check ups and other physical and mental testing.
Various members of the team spoke to the media as well as first year Head Coach, Dallas Eakins. Throughout those interviews there was a clear sense of excitement.
There is always a boost in excitement and motivation that follows a regime change. The players that spoke to the media touched on high expectations and shedding the ‘youth’ title. Coach Eakins said this is no longer a rebuild.
Here were five of my observations from day one of training camp.
1. EAKINS DEVOTED TO
It may not seem like much. But something as simple as re-working the media food spread to subtract the doughnuts and muffins and substitute fresh fruit and vegetables sends a message. It says that coach Eakins truly believes in his philosophies and everyone is going to buy in or he’s going to make them believe he is serious.
Aside from pulling a diet swap over on the media, Eakins addressed several major issues concerning the team. It is clear that this roster will be physically fit to the point where they’ll be able to compete at a high level from the opening whistle to the final horn.
Eakins also made it clear that, under his leadership, the Oilers will play with a sandpaper grittiness that every NHL team covets. He emphasized this notion by stating that the team is not looking for “son-in-laws” they’re looking for the right players that will help them win.
His message is already resonating throughout the locker room as numerous players commented on Eakins’ forward approach and sense of accountability.
2. PLAYOFFS ARE
A few of the players discussed their expectations for this roster moving forward into 2013-14. They all talked about expecting to be a winner this season.
Contending for the playoffs would be a good step for the Edmonton Oilers as they look to return to postseason action in the midst of a seven-year playoff drought.
Sam Gagner says he expects the playoffs. Jordan Eberle says he’s sick of being told they’ll be good and wants to show it on the ice and in the standings.
Eakins told the media he doesn’t like to look at the “big picture” but he does expect his roster to compete on a nightly basis.
There’s an excitement in the locker room and every team targets the playoffs from the get-go. If you’re not in it to win it, why do you play the game?
3. HALL READY TO LEAD
Taylor Hall has become the face of this organization. He was the first of the Oilers string of first overall picks and has played exceptionally well at times.
Last year, Hall took a step forward as a leader as well as a player. The forward wore an alternate captain letter and, according to him, became more vocal in the locker room.
Although he feels like this team will be led by committee, Hall knows what it means to be ‘that guy’ teammates can look up to.
Coach Eakins has already said that he will name a captain on his own timetable and is in no rush to do so. If he has not found the right choice even as far as a few months into the season, that’s fine by him.
There are a few strong candidates in the Edmonton locker room to wear the Oilers ‘C’ this season and Hall is one of them.
4. EAGER SLIMMED DOWN, YOUNG
PROSPECTS BULKED UP
Oilers forward, Ben Eager, looked noticeably slimmer as he walked through the halls of Rexall Place this morning. He may be in the best shape of his Oilers career.
OilersNow’s Bob Stauffer reports on twitter that Eager was over 240 pounds in 2011 but will weigh in at roughly 226 pounds today.
Eager was sent down to Oklahoma City in the American Hockey League last season and finished off their Calder Cup Conference Finals run with the team.
In OKC, Eager found a gritty role with the roster and saw success playing that playoff style hockey which he finds most comfortable. Eager looks to battle for a roster spot this season but being physically fit will help him.
While Eager slimmed down, it appears that several Oilers prospects bulked up.
Curtis Hamilton, Tyler Pitlick, Ryan Martindale and Brandon Davidson all appear to have put on muscle during the summer.
Davidson confessed to being roughly 10 pounds heavier during the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, B.C. last week.
OKC’s General Manager, Bill Scott, said after the 2012-13 season that Martindale became a ‘Gym Rat’ and that looks to have continued this offseason.
5. JONES MOTIVATED
Ask Oilers forward Ryan Jones if he’s bitter about people who doubted his return from an eye injury he suffered last season. He may respond with wishes to show a certain finger to those who did.
Jones claims he has a lot to play for this season, particularly to those who did believe in him. The forward was signed to a one-year contract this offseason and is ready to hit the ground running in training camp. He said:
“I do feel like I have something to prove. I have something to prove to the people who have my back, to (Craig MacTavish) and to the people within the organization. My teammates, myself, my family, the people that were there for me the whole time, that went through the injury with me and stuck by my side.
“Those are the people I’m going to be playing for this year. It’s a big year obviously, and I want to do everything I can to help this hockey team to win a lot of hockey games.
“And if given the opportunity to flip the people, who turned their back on me, the bird on the way out while I am winning games would be nice too.”
A motivated Ryan Jones can only help the Oilers.