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PRINCIPE: Happy New Year

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Jordan Eberle scores against Detroit (photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)

It's already been quite a 2015 for the Edmonton Oilers.

Where to start when it comes to the first week of the New Year? Well, let's begin with the last two days of 2014. A win vs. L.A. and OT point against Calgary. Since then, a shootout loss against Colorado, a victory over the New York Islanders and a tough defeat on Tuesday night against Detroit with Edmonton close to another point or even two. You've either seen the penalty or heard Benoit Pouliot's reaction to it. It led to a tough ending against the Wings. He made a mistake and owned up to it. He apologized to Viktor Fasth. Out of a negative came a positive: accountability. When New York was in town, their head coach Jack Capuano was asked about reasons for the Islanders success. One of them was accountability. Pouliot showed that and his teammates are starting to do the same thing.

Jordan Eberle has always been accountable for his actions but what Oilers fans like to 'account' are his goal and point totals. A thing to like about 2015 has been the return of that 'Jordan Eberle'. You know the one I'm talking about. A scorer again with pin-point accuracy on his shots. The player who has done it everywhere, including the NHL. and now he's back. It's not just the goals but his celebrations. He looks like a player who has been liberated by whatever was holding him back. You are at your best when you are relaxed and having fun. He and others appear to be playing that way.

I'm thinking Darnell Nurse had lots of fun over the last few weeks. What a tournament by Canada and by the Oilers brightest blueline prospect. Nothing like finishing it off with player-of-the game honours in the gold-medal match. He proved something about his ability to climb past being cut last year from the team. Along with a nation watching him, so was his general manager Craig MacTavish. When the GM spoke of Nurse a huge smile came across his face. You would have needed a sledgehammer to knock the perma-grin off MacTavish's mug. Bursting with pride over Nurse's tournament and how good the move to send him back to junior continues to look.

Speaking of which, that's a natural segue into Leon Draisaitl. It took a little bit of time and some complications but the German's situation has been cleared up. Spending your winter in Kelowna isn't such a bad place to be, especially when their junior hockey team is ranked second in the CHL. Great city, great hockey program with great opportunities for the centreman. Nothing ventured, nothing gained if you're Edmonton when it comes to Draisaitl. They know what he needs to work on and so does he. His first game is against Vancouver and you can see him on Sportsnet's CHL Friday Night Hockey January 16 when Kelowna takes on Seattle.

Add a new coach, a new feel and I think 2015 is going to be a year of real growth for the team in Edmonton and the entire organization. There's been a change in what you see and I can't exactly put my finger on it but just a different vibe from the organization. Things they are doing and trying are starting to work. I'm not saying there isn't a lot of work still to be done but I think these next 12 months could be a real turning point. This is just the start  for the Oilers and their fans of what could turn out to be a Happy New Year.
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