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The Progress Report: A New Identity

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Theo Peckham, one part of the Oilers' new physical equation, manhandles Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club).

The Edmonton Oilers entered the 2010-11 NHL season with a detailed goal in mind. The team was undergoing a momentous transformation in which the organization and fans alike were willing to accept some short-term pain for long-term gain.

Although the bitterly cold, wintery weather remains in Edmonton, the calendar has turned to March and the season will soon come to close as spring approaches.  Only 17 contests remain on the Oilers’ season schedule, six of which will be played at Rexall Place in front of sold-out crowds that have supported the team all season.

The promise of speed, skill and overall high-end talent was sure to rise through the construction process, but the transformation in another area has recently become a more valued commodity for this rebuilding franchise.

Last night, prior to the Oilers’ eventual 4-2 result over the Columbus Blue Jackets, an unexpected event highlighted the change in philosophy. Taylor Hall, Edmonton’s young superstar who has dazzled fans all season with his heroic offensive creativity, engaged in a tussle with Jackets forward Derek Dorsett. It was an incredible moment that pushed the noise to an ear-ringing level at Rexall Place.

Most importantly, however, the moment provided a timely articulation of the organization’s new identity. Edmonton’s new lineup core is being assembled with a delicate balance of skill, creativity and the willingness to compete. Hall will not be expected to handle the dirty work on a nightly basis, but the showcase of his intense desire was certainly an eye-opening revelation.

The physical game goes well beyond the enthusiasm to fight, however. Engaging in board play, driving to the net and more contribute to that ideology in a more game-like mode for many. This is where Edmonton’s developing forwards will continue to excel.

Change is prevalent on the backend as well, but in a more widespread role. When healthy, Ryan Whitney leads the charge with his calming on-ice presence and well-positioned physical edge. Theo Peckham and Jim Vandermeer both present an intimidating force to imposing opposition forwards; so, too, does Ladislav Smid who’s still developing his reliable, stay-at-home style.

Another addition was made today. Alex Plante, who has spent his entire season with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons, was recalled by the Oilers to replace the recently assigned Richard Petiot. For Edmonton, the evaluation process is in full swing. Plante, like Petiot and Jeff Petry before him, has been given the latest opportunity to showcase his skill on the NHL stage.

Plante’s game is driven to achieve a targeted model. He brings an overwhelming physical presence that features a nasty edge unrivaled among his peers. It’s another stone in the wall to help Edmonton establish its new brand.

The 2010-11 season has been dedicated to the evaluation process. The organization has been providing opportunities for many, while keeping a close eye on what the team needs to address to achieve the long-term goal.

Such a move was made less than a week ago, when Dustin Penner was shipped to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for another young, tough-as-nails rearguard. Colten Teubert becomes the Oilers’ newest addition to an already developing physical blueline. While the 20-year old defenceman still needs some seasoning on the farm, the Oilers are showing commitment to the long-term plan with this latest acquisition.

Slowly but surely, Edmonton has begun to masterfully assemble a prospective force on the blueline. The continued development of the young prospects will ultimately determine the outcome, but the initial stages have shown promise in this quickly executed turnaround on the backend.

With balance in mind, the Oilers are looking to develop a championship-caliber squad that features explosive offensive talent, along with the studded defensive style to complement the creative side.

The plan is in place and the process continues. Only time will determine the outcome.

Author: Ryan Dittrick |

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