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GENE'S BLOG: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about the decisions looming for the Oilers coaching staff ahead of Wednesday's season opener

by Gene Principe /

EDMONTON, AB - The pre-season is done but the work on crafting the 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers isn't. 

Even if the exhibition season wrapped up on a Saturday night in Calgary, Sunday was certainly not a day of rest. Well, a day of rest for the players but not for the management and staff. 

Instead, they would be talking, discussing, meeting and eventually deciding - by at the latest 3:00 PM on Tuesday - what the opening night roster will look like when Vancouver comes to town on Wednesday to kick off the regular season. 

I have to say this camp has felt and looked different than previous ones.

The look is always different when the off-season brings in a new general manager and a new coach, but I think what is most noticeable is a new way of thinking. By now we know Training Camp is no longer the place where you get in shape. 

It's where you go to get in even better shape. However, like most NHL teams, a lot of roster spots are spoken for even before the first video session or skate. The Oilers certainly have players that aren't going anywhere for a long, long time (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl come to mind) but they have also taken a very open-minded approach to players hunting for jobs. 

I would point to Ken Holland and Dave Tippett for being the leaders of this attitude adjustment. Before Camp began, both men were clear in stating there would be an open competition and they've followed through with that mindset. It's made Camp competitive. It's allowed players who came into September on the outside an opportunity to begin October on the inside. There's no mistaking the clarity and honesty that started at the top and is filtering its way into the minds of the men trying to make the team.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Post-Game at CGY 09.28.19

I look at Ethan Bear as Exhibit A. 

I'm sure he couldn't Bear to watch another camp go by with a one-way ticket to Bakersfield. Instead, he not only might start the season on the team but also on the blueline around on October 2. He's impressed with his play and his commitment to being an NHLer. It's clear he's not gone unnoticed or unrewarded. 

Exhibit B: I think it was clear the Oilers would have one Russell (Kris) on the roster, but did anyone think there might be another one named Patrick? 

There could be and it has a lot to do with him and his willingness to play a role but also the open-mindedness of those making up the roster.

There has been a European invasion (Joakim Nygard, Gaetan Haas, Joel Persson), a Detroit connection ( Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan) and throw in a former Cup champion (Josh Archibald). An example of filling out the roster and raising the competition level. 

It's made for an interesting Training Camp with more decisions, decisions, decisions to be made.

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