- Chiarelli makes toughness and D a priority.
- If there's one characteristic that Chiarelli is bringing to the Oilers is his faith in ensuring the majority of the players are big and/or strong. MacT was on the right track as GM in understanding that to win in the West, heck the whole league, you needed to be tough--something the Oilers have not focused on since the puny days of Hobbiton under Lowe and Tambellini where they thought it was all about speed. Well you can't get the ring if you're not equally tough.
- Why is size important, especially now? Essentially, these tough players will just check the opponents, open the ice up for McDavid to take the loose puck and zoom towards the net. Sounds like a plan to me!
- But we should also note that he's going to need protection. Think about how much Syd gets targeted and was targeted during past playoffs runs. The beauty here is even if Connor gets targeted by key opponents, that opens things up for Hall, Nuge, and Ebs. That said, the worst thing to happen would be a McJesus injury. If only he could call on the Hockey Gods and the Holy Grail quickly to heal any wounds. We will see? Hahaha!
- Speaking of that McJesus nickname--I shalt only used it aboveth onceth, and will never useth it againeth. Everyone knows that the selfless Ryan Smyth was and is the Oilers Jesus. You can't have two. So you may hear me call Connor McDavid "The Anointed One" as I have done before. Praise Thee to Thy Smytty. Forgive those who use Thy name in vain, forever and ever. Amen.
- Speaking of Smytty, last season, the Oilers lacked tenacity and standing up for their teammates. Remember? That culture has to change. They need to get mean and why many of us can't wait for Darnell Nurse to break the lineup. This is why I'm thinking softies like Purcell, Nikitin, and Schultz aren't going to be around and will be replaced with meaner players, although less skilled. Lander became quite agitating and a pest--total opposite of the previous year.
Anyhoo, let's look at the draft picks and moves from this past weekend.
C Connor McDavid. Let's not forget, The Anointed One (see, it works, doesn't it?) is 6'1 and pretty big for an 18 year old, but needs to bulk up a bit more to prevent injury. He knows that. He also admitted he needs to get into the corners and battle. So humble. This week, the club will give him and all players a regiment to train on before camp.
D Griffin Reinhart. The former Oil King Memorial Cup captain is 6'4" and big. Yes, everyone is concerned about his stint in the AHL last year and lacking foot speed a la Whitney, and many thought this trade had MacT and Lowe written all over it, but head of player development and former Oil King GM Bob Green was insisting that Reinhart, the former #4 selection will bounce back and bring toughness.
G Cam Talbot. He's a big goalie who moves well and the best possible one of the bunch the Oilers could have obtained. Big win here. It's risky though in that he's only got 57 games but he remained consistent, albeit behind a stellar Rangers defensive core. That said, he comes cheap and if he plays well, will want more coin the following season. Slats apparently said he wanted to help his old team. Aw. Here's a puppy dog.
Leafs forward Brad Ross and a #107 pick for Martin Marincin. Rumours over Marty getting traded have been around for months. I'm a fan of Marincin and his simple but effect game, but the reason he didn't make the cut last camp was because he didn't train much and get bigger over the summer. This is where MacT and Chiarelli likely seee eye-to-eye on. If he was to be traded, I think we were all hoping it would be in a package deal. Brad Ross? Never heard of him. So much so that he was not signed today and will be a UFA.
D Eric Gryba. The 3rd-pairing Senator got the short end of the stick. It's not that he's a bad player--but again, he's huge and right-handed and will effectively start with the Oilers. Sending Travis Ewanyk and that previously obtained #107 pick was a good deal as Ewanyk wasn't ever going to see ice time.
D Caleb Jones. Finally an actual draft pick. Seth's brother will hopefully pan-out like Seth has. Hahaha. Just kidding. He won't, but is going to be back with the Portland Winterhawks next year.
D Ethan Bear at #124. Just by reading his name, I wouldn't want to mess with him. He's another big, tough shutdown player.
D John Marino at #154. Guess what? 6'2" and right-shooting to boot. He'll be in Harvard next year.
G Miroslav Svoboda at #208. I thought we'd be adding Russian goalie Samsanov at #16 so it was high-time they added one, albeit quite late in the draft if you ask me.
D Ziyat Paigin at #209. I'll be honest, as many of you know, I'm not a big fan of the defensemen coming out of the Russian development system. If you look around the NHL now, young Russian d-men aren't exactly tops. And looking at the Oilers Russian experiment with d-men in the last couple of years, it just hasn't panned out at all. Perhaps it's something with adjusting to the small ice, less room, and more pressure. But this guy is big. Well, so is Nikitin. Just sayin'.
Overall, there's an obvious shift in focus and culture here in a team now being built around McDavid, Hall, and Nugent-Hopkins with a better long-term support crew.
But there's still a gaping hole in the top defensive pair, which Chiarelli will hopefully address on Wednesday's start of free agency with the big cap space of above $13-14 million to play with. Mike Green please!
Speaking of free agency, Oilers have come to terms with D Justin Schultz, F Tyler Pitlick, and D Brandon Davidson, but not F Matt Fraser, F Curtis Hamilton, D Keith Aulie, and goalies Viktor Fasth and Tyler Bunz.
My next post, I'll look at the potential lineup going into this season. Let's hope that McLellan doesn't putz around like Eakins did and has a team ready after the first couple of pre-season games.