|Billy Moores behind the bench with the Oilers during the 2006-2007 season (Photo courtesy of Getty Images).
The 2010-11 season for the Edmonton Oilers has been a campaign dedicated to growth and development. On-ice changes were prevalent, but so too was the revolution away from the game-night bustle at Rexall Place.
Following a 30th place standing in the NHL rankings last season, the Oilers looked to improve in a number of areas as the restructuring process got underway over the summer. Part of the equation was introducing a new player development strategy, intended to work toward the growth of players already within the organization.
Leading the program is Billy Moores, who served as an assistant coach with the Oilers from 2000-2009.
"My new title is the Coordinator of Player Development," Moores said. "We've got a department now and my job is to coordinate the players and prospects across all our leagues. In addition to our guys in Oklahoma City and Stockton, this also includes our prospects playing at the junior and college levels."
With the Oilers missing the post-season party for four consecutive seasons, management sparked the new initiative that was ultimately determined by the lack of success with other methods.
"What prompted the change is that it became apparent that you can't buy a team," Moores said. "You can't make those changes quickly and the free agent market wasn't working out. We were getting some of the guys we wanted, but not the real top-end guys."
"It become more and more apparent that you have to develop your own players and that you have to have a system to develop them. That was the impetus of Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe. That became part of their organizational philosophy. That was where the initial leadership came from and that's very much part of what they see as their mandate now, going forward -- that structured, measured development program. That's what we're putting together."
Although Moores served as a scout last season with the Oilers, the transition to his new role arose through a timely opportunity and the desire for a change in pace.
"I had enough of coaching for the time-being. It was just time that I wanted to try something new, something different, and get away a little bit. Coaching in the NHL is a grind, even when things are going well. The timing was good and I felt like I was making a contribution to the organization in an area that they felt was a priority."
His new, all-encompassing role has great importance for an organization that looks to return to the post-season and, someday soon, as a Stanley Cup contender. Moores believes there a number of vital components required to make the new program successful. In order to achieve that positive framework, the collaboration between organization and player is most essential.
"It's one thing to plan, but now you have to implement it," Moores said.
"The most important thing is that we're trying to give players resources. We're trying to help them become the best players they can be. From an organizational perspective, we're trying to give the players the help they need to become better players now."
The Oilers have provided an extensive arsenal of resources for players to employ.
"We have our own department, but we have the ability to utilize the existing resources, such as our coaches and support staff; that includes Brian Ross, Mike Sillinger, Steve Serdachny, Simon Bennett, Pat Quinn and others."
"From the players' perspective, we're expecting that they take personal responsibility for that. It's a dual sword and our expectation is that our players will work on things to better themselves."
In order to do that, each individual player is assigned his own exclusive program. It also allows the player and organization to stay in close contact, while providing that additional level of constructive criticism when needed.
"We've set up a dedicated individual program for each player. They've done that," Moores said enthusiastically. "For the most part, they've bought in very well. There's always some that buy in more than less, but overall we're very happy with what we've seen so far."
"There aren't a lot of programs like this. I don't think [the players] had a lot to compare it to, unless they had their own personal coaches that dedicated time to thinking and specific skills."
Moores emphasized the importance of the combined effort, as the individual dynamic has helped to open the lines of communication through the ongoing development path.
"It's not about what we want. It's very much a cooperative thing. We're going to set some goals and combine our efforts to work as closely with each player as possible to help them get better. It's gone very well in terms of buy-in."
Although fully recognizing the challenge in developing players into the best they can be, Moores believes the inaugural run has been a successful one.
"Overall, I'd say we're quite pleased."
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that can take away from the development time. A lot of the players are in programs where you don't get a lot of quality practice time. You're talking about improving in a specific area and the travel or game schedule can often dictate that as the priority."
The imperative voice, however, preaches patience. Both Moores and his staff are dedicated to providing opportunities at any rate to help their players grow.
"Little by little throughout the season, those small steps add up and help the players improve as individuals. Ultimately, that's the goal we're shooting for."
Improving through the draft continues to be a priority for the Oilers, but the importance of player development within the organization has risen near the top. Billy Moores and his talented team are now leading the charge in a much different capacity, embarking on a journey that could potentially see Edmonton reclaim its glory as a champion someday soon.
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com