FEATURE: Oilers and Avalanche built for success
Years of playoff setbacks have helped the Oilers and Avalanche journey towards the NHL post-season summitby Michael Arcuri @arcurimike / EdmontonOilers.com
DENVER, CO - The journey back to the National Hockey League summit is hardly ever a linear one and few teams know that as well as the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche.
Years of expectations and tribulations for the two teams have finally led to this Western Conference Finals matchup. According to the Oilers Head Coach, it has been those prior experiences along the way that has made this Tuesday's Game 1 conflict a reality.
"It's not something that is built immediately, it's built brick by brick," Head Coach Jay Woodcroft said. "We had a philosophy that success is built sequentially. We just wanted to stack a good day on top of a good day. A lot of the local media that are here right now have heard me say ad nauseum that we want to take care of the day's business. If we take care of things on a day-to-day, the outcomes will take care of themselves."
The outcomes are finally falling in the Oilers and Avalanche's favour. Both teams are bolstered by some of the game's brightest stars, but the deep post-season runs that turn those players into legends has so far eluded both squads.
It's the cruel consequences of a 32-team league filled with so much parity. Despite the level of success that any playoff team will experience over the course of a season, for all but one the ending will be marred with failure. According to the Oilers architect, it's the lessons learned that sets up a team for eventual post-season triumph.
IN DEPTH: Oilers Trade Deadline History
Recount the Oilers entire NHL Trade Deadline history as a franchise, season by seasonby Staff / EdmontonOilers.com
Whether buying, selling or tinkering, the annual NHL Trade Deadline is an opportunity for organizations to re-tool their roster. From the organization's first-ever NHL Trade Deadline Day on March 11, 1980, to their most recent, recount the Oilers NHL Trade Deadline history as a franchise, season by season.
FEATURE: Holland sets sights on stabilizing Oilers
Ken Holland spent 36 years with the Red Wings and is hoping to provide the Oilers organization with the same consistency he had in Detroitby Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com
EDMONTON, AB - In his eyes, Ken Holland assumed he would be with the Detroit Red Wings his whole life.
After all, the Vernon, BC, product joined the organization as a goalie in 1983 and never looked back.
IN DEPTH: Air Force Great One
An Oilers oral history on the deal and plane ride that brought Wayne Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilersby Staff / EdmontonOilers.com
Editor's Note: Indianapolis Racers owner and Oilers part-owner Nelson Skalbania signed unproven 17-year-old forward Wayne Gretzky to a personal service contract in the summer of 1978, making Gretzky an Indianapolis Racer for the upcoming '78-79 World Hockey Association season.
Less than 10 games into Gretzky's career with the Racers, the team was on the verge of folding, causing Skalbania to sell the teenager and other Indianapolis Racers skaters. For Skalbania, Gretzky's destination was going to be either the WHA's Winnipeg Jets or the Edmonton Oilers.
Here's the story, as told by WHA franchise owners, Oilers alumni, Edmonton media and archived articles about the deal and flight that brought the National Hockey League's greatest player to the Edmonton Oilers.
Wayne Gretzky (Forward, Edmonton Oilers): Nelson had signed me in June of '78, I guess it was. He really didn't know a lot about hockey but that was OK. He was a businessman.
Jim Matheson (Sports Reporter, Edmonton Journal): Skalbania had phoned me in June and said to me he was going to sign Gretzky. That was when owners actually talked to the media.
Gretzky: He was really heavily involved in trying to grow the game and make the WHA as good as you could. So, he signed this 17-year-old-kid.
Matheson: Rod Phillips was over, we were having dinner and Skalbania phoned me and asked, "Do you know anything about Gretzky?"
And I said, "I've read stuff, I've never seen him play."
He said, "Oh, I'm going to sign him."
Gretzky: Part of the problem was that I was really somewhat of an unknown. At that point in time, Indianapolis wasn't, by any means, a great hockey city. Although, it was a good sports city. He thought this 17-year-old kid could sort of turn that around and make an impact in the community.
FEATURE: Petrovic preparing for hometown hotbed
Going from the Florida Panthers to his hometown Edmonton Oilers, defenceman Alex Petrovic will adapt to the pressurized Canadian hockey marketby Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com
EDMONTON, AB - On the one side, Alex Petrovic will be close to home. Close to the family that raised him and the friends he grew up with. Close to the community rink he skated at and close to the schools he studied at.
On the other side, he'll be playing professional hockey in Edmonton for the Oilers. In a market that bleeds orange and blue. A market under the microscope and a hometown hotbed, where pressure simmers until it boils.
It's a new experience for the 26-year-old north sider. It's the first time he's ever been traded in his career, going from the Florida Panthers organization to the Oilers, as the defender prepares for his Edmonton debut on New Year's Eve against the Winnipeg Jets.
IN DEPTH: Cerebral
Wired to prevent, diagnose and rehab the injuries players sustain on the ice, Oilers Head Physician Dr. Dhiren Naidu's concussion research is changing the game off it.by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com
Dr. Dhiren Naidu is in a meeting room on the seventh floor of HYS Centre. He stares through clear-framed glasses, buttoned-up in a sky-blue dress shirt with small red paisley patterns under a grey tweed blazer.
In this setting, he's President of HealthPointe Medical Centre Dr. Naidu, who heads a physiotherapy and rehabilitation facility that provides treatment to patients with neck, back, knee, shoulder and joint pain, as well as soft-tissue issues and concussions.
It's a recovery centre possibly similar to the one he found himself in when he was 19 and had just torn his ACL, undergoing his own rehabilitation and, at that time, discovering an interest in sports medicine. It was enough to prompt his entrance into the University of Saskatchewan's medical program then continue his education in Edmonton by undergoing his specialty, physical medicine and rehab, at the University of Alberta.
When he's not here tending to his patients, one might find Dr. Naidu, the University of Alberta Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, hosting lectures about the musculoskeletal block at the U of A during the months of December and January. If not heading a seminar on campus, he could be somewhere conducting research - another one of his duties as a prof at the university.
If the lab lights are off, one might catch sight of Edmonton Eskimos Head Team Physician Dr. Naidu at Commonwealth Stadium or Golden Bears Football Team Physician Dr. Naidu at Foote Field. Not only does he diagnose Canadian Football League players and university athletes, but he sits as the Research Chair of the CFL and is a member of the League's Health and Safety Medical Advisory Board.
At 41 of 41 home games, Oilers Head Team Physician Dr. Naidu can be found sitting in the stands among Oil Country's faithful. He cannot, due to National Hockey League rules, be more than 50 feet from the playing surface because in the event that an injury occurs on the ice, the doc must be close to the action. This Dr. Naidu is also part of the NHL Team Physician Society and acts as an NHL Protective Equipment subcommittee member.
Wherever he finds himself, from medical centres to sidelines, ice rinks or seminars, Dr. Naidu takes great pride in his profession and strives to provide cutting-edge rehab and research to the Oilers, Eskimos, Golden Bears and the world of collision sports.
"My role, when I get a player and they're hurt, is to diagnose and make up a treatment plan for them," Naidu, entering his 11th season as the head physician with the Oilers franchise, said.
"Whether it's Connor McDavid or whether it's a junior player or call-up player, my role is exactly the same: it's to diagnose."
But Dr. Naidu, cerebral in every sense of the word, also puts his head towards research into concussion diagnosis, prevention and treatment, sharing his discoveries with both the athletes he medicates and the scientific community he's working to advance.
IN DEPTH: The Chiass
Battling his way to another one-year contract via a Professional Tryout, Oilers winger Alex Chiasson is proving, once again, that he was worth the risk and is coming even better than advertised thus far.by Cait MacPhail / EdmontonOilers.com
Fans are rarely privy to the exact ins and outs of player signings, contract negotiations, or trade formulations-whether it be exactly how they come to be or any close-calls or near-misses along the way.
Hockey insiders across broadcast networks can offer insight or a small window to a world fans clamor for a glimpse into. Look no further for proof than some of hockey's most influential pundits who command more than one million Twitter followers that hang on every character of every tweet about anything from the "inside".
These media personalities can supply the slivers that satiate an appetite for real-time, behind-the-scenes info, but in reality, these talks are held close to the chest on the sides of agents, players and teams for obvious reasons.
It's not just leading up to those loud signings on July 1 where this delicate process plays out. Dictating the future of any player takes time, diligence and forethought from many perspective.
And as Alex Chiasson embarked on the second professional tryout (PTO) experience of his career this fall in Edmonton, he knew that process of patiently combing for the right fit is key, while also keeping in mind that once your blades hits the ice for that next opportunity, nothing is certain.
He is no stranger to this.
"You're taking two suitcases, a suit, a couple shirts, a backpack and off you go. But you're still not really sure where you're going to end up," said the forward.
While the 28-year-old made earning a spot with the Oilers the priority, he was not blind to the realities of fighting for a contract this way. You're showcasing in one city, but others with interest can keep a keen eye. A year earlier, he was rolling into the Washington Capitals training camp under the same circumstances.
"Obviously you're trying out for one team, but you're also trying out for every other team in the NHL."
The Edmonton Oilers announced on Sept. 10 that they had signed the Quebec native to a PTO. With a goal of rounding out their forward group, in addition to some off-season signings, the organization opted to bring in the versatile winger to compete for a contract. If he earned that, the next step would be vying for playing time against a mix of burgeoning prospects and other vets in the Oilers system.
IN DEPTH: Crossroads
Assistant Coaches Trent Yawney, Manny Viveiros and Glen Gulutzan all crossed paths in Saskatchewan, joining the Oilers organization unified through a profound connectionby Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com
BY PAUL GAZZOLA
If it weren't for Glen Gulutzan's vehicle needing repairs, their assembly could have begun on time. When the elevator doors of Studio 99 split, only two of three Oilers assistant coaches emerge.
In an Oilers cap and tracksuit is Trent Yawney, also known as Yawns. He hails from Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan, and even without skates on, one could confuse Yawns for having skates on. He hovers around 6-foot-4 and can cover a large area of ice. He was a Hudson Bay celebrity, playing his junior hockey alongside Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan for the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades. Drafted by Chicago 45th-overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, the large defenceman patrolled bluelines for the Blackhawks, Flames and Blues, racking up 783 PIMs in 593 career NHL games from 1987 to '99.
Due to his size, Yawns' presence is almost always known. He was a hard-nosed defender and the thought of crossing lanes with him on the ice is unpleasant but off it is quite the contrary. With 12 playing seasons in the NHL and 18 years of coaching professionally, Yawns has achieved defensive sensei status. When he shares his wisdom with players, it's direct and honest.
Manny Viveiros is a stride behind in an Oilers half-zip and track pants. His real name is Emanuel but at the rink, most people refer to him as either Manny or Viv. Manny is shorter than Yawney, everyone is, and maintains a stiff build. He was a "hot rod" defenceman, those being Gulutzan's words (who is still absent) and would face off against Yawney and McLellan when his Prince Albert Raiders played the Blades. He was drafted by his hometown Edmonton Oilers 106th-overall in '84, the same year Yawney was drafted, but spent most of his playing career overseas in Austria.
On game days, Manny wears three-piece fitted suits in tones ranging from burgundy to pastel blue and as a defenceman in Austria, he was flashy, too, notching 50 or more points in four separate campaigns. Manny also scored one NHL goal and put up 12 points in 29 career games over three seasons with the Minnesota North Stars. "A dream come true," the St. Albert native answered when asked about getting selected by his hometown Oilers. But with rearguards like Paul Coffey, Charlie Huddy and Kevin Lowe at training camp, "There was no chance."
Gulutzan's nonappearance presents a roadblock. This occasion was supposed to be the assistant coaches' crossroads. An opportunity to gather in Studio 99 for a sit-down to talk about their tenure with the Oilers organization thus far, their coaching backgrounds, philosophies, styles, how to manage certain players in certain situations and how to manage certain situations with certain players.
IN DEPTH: Ryan's Roots
Ryan Strome's summer schedule is packed making up for lost time during the season with his parents and brothers in Mississauga, Ontario. And he wouldn't have it any other way.by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com
BY JAMIE UMBACH
It's a rare occurrence finding Ryan Strome indoors during the summer months at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, but you wouldn't be hard-pressed finding him nearby.
His schedule, contrary to popular opinion surrounding NHL players and the off-season, is packed enough as is training for the new season and making up for lost time with his brothers and extended family that now includes his fiancée Sydney.
"We're actually a lot busier with training and family commitments than during the season," the Oilers centre said. "I train with a bunch of ex-Oilers like Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall, and also John Tavares and Jeff Skinner. We got a good group. It's pretty close to here and we skate and work out together. We kind of keep our group small, stay under the radar a little bit and do our thing.
"Then we're over at her parents' place for dinner at least twice a week, and Sunday nights are usually for Strome family dinners."
Luckily for them and Ryan's parents Trish and Chris, they're never far away during the summer in their own small pocket of Mississauga near the shores of Lake Ontario after putting down roots no more than five minutes from both their childhood homes.
On the same streets and in the same arenas he and his brothers Dylan and Matthew grew up skating in as members of the Toronto Marlboros, Ryan puts the finishing touches on preparing to depart for his sixth NHL season and second as an Edmonton Oiler.
Our scheduled rival at their home on a Sunday afternoon in August is already a deviation from the regular routine of the self-proclaimed homebodies who like keeping it contained within their own sphere of friends and family. That's usually enough work in itself.
"It can be a lot to handle," said Sydney, whose family lived close to the Strome's before she met Ryan four years ago and became engaged earlier this summer. "We both love our families and friends a lot, spending as much time as we can with them."
FEATURE: Marody eager for first NHL experience
Forward skated with Ryan Strome and Milan Lucic on the Oilers third line on Monday and could potentially be in the lineup against the Pens on Tuesdayby Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com
EDMONTON, AB - Cooper Marody couldn't fully express his excitement.
He had to think back to the past when he was a child working on his craft at home in Michigan to find the words to say when asked about the prospect of playing his first career National Hockey League game, which could come Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I can't really put it into words," Marody, who skated on the Oilers third line with Ryan Strome and Milan Lucic, said.
"You dream about this as a kid. All the long days on the ice rink in my backyard working, shooting pucks in the garage and stuff like that is starting to pay off here."