Toughness has never been a questioned component of Theo Peckham's game. With the additions that General Manager Steve Tambellini made on Jul. 1, No. 24's heavy-hitting style is now complemented by others willing to do the same.
"I think we're one of the tougher teams [in the NHL] now," Peckham said at Perry Pearn's 3-on-3 camp. "Management did a lot of work on making us better this summer. I think we're more improved."
It was, indeed, a busy summer for the Oilers' brass. On the blueline, rugged veteran Andy Sutton was acquired for Kurtis Foster. In the bottom six, Darcy Hordichuk and Ben Eager signed one and three-year deals to replace and upgrade on Zack Stortini and JF Jacques.
Having watched Taylor Hall's season-ending sprain happen the way it did, Peckham has embraced this increasingly important role. That area should improve this season by Peckham, Sutton, Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid and 6'3", 215-pound Cam Barker patrolling the blueline.
"I wasn't playing that game, I was out in the stands, and to see that happen was pretty tough to watch. You kind of take it upon yourself to make sure it never happens again.
"It doesn't hurt," he chuckled, when asked about striking fear into the team's opponents. "That part of the game is a lot of fun, and it's nice to be helping out in that aspect. It should be pretty interesting. We obviously got a lot tougher, but with the other additions to our team, we also got a lot better."
'Getting better,' while simple in theory, can often be more challenging in practice. But it's something Peckham takes seriously on a personal level, as he looks to further establish himself as one of the league's most revered up-and-coming blueliners.
"I thought I had a pretty good year," he said. "But you're only as good as your last game. Just getting my foot-speed and conditioning a little better and moving on from there will be good."
Head Coach Tom Renney and others conveyed a similar message in April.
"They made it pretty clear that I needed to work on those two things. It's something that I've been doing a lot of work with Steve Serdachny (Skating & Skills Coach) and Simon Bennett (Fitness Consultant). I've been doing a lot of work over the summer and hopefully it pays off."
Under the circumstances, Peckham has already developed into one of the team's go-to guys on the backend; possible, even, to consider him a veteran among this class of youth. 24-years-old or not, he'll be looked upon to provide a calming presence, both in the locker room and on the ice.
"I'm still one of the younger guys in the bunch, so for me it's about making the team all over again; it's about getting my part done. If I can help along the way with any of the young guys or guys that have been in the position that I've been in before, then I'll certainly be there.
"It's about winning my job on the team," he added. "And in doing that, you'll set the right example for the younger guys."