Do you have that one thing at work that you can’t stand doing? That one thing that no matter how many hours, days or years you’ve put in you’re still stuck doing? Of course we all do, and every time it comes up we hang our heads, take a deep breath and do it with the least amount of energy required to complete it. It’s okay, we all do it. Well, most of us. There are some people that seem to have figured out how to just do it and get it out of the way. But that’s not the people I want to talk about today.
So, why am I starting this post talking about this? Well, on Sunday I had the privilege to join some of the fine folks from the OilersYYC Podcast at the Oilers vs Flames rookie game at the Saddledome in Calgary. When we realized the tickets were $5 (5 bucks!!) we jumped at the chance to get to the rink and get our fix of “NHL” hockey again. After all, it has been a long time since we’ve seen anything close to NHL level hockey.
Wow, we were treated to a show that afternoon! Of course, that statement could be taken a few different ways. It’s either, “Oh my god that was an amazing game!”, or “that was interesting”, or even “well that’s two hours of our lives we aren’t getting back”. Fortunately, I knew this would basically be a game of shinny between two team’s young talent and it would be good way to waste away a Sunday afternoon. My impressions fell in between “that was interesting” and “well that’s two hours of my life I won’t get back”, and I’m totally fine with that.
This brings me back to my earlier ramblings of the menial tasks at work and how this applies to the rookie game. There were decidedly two different levels of interest shown by the players on the Oilers. Now, I’d like to point out this doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of effort by some of the players. It was more about how some of the players appeared to be just going through the motions. Players like Bouchard, McLeod, Benson and Somorukov were there to play. They were putting the effort in on every shift, and trying to make their time on the ice count. Benson was a ray of sunshine out there; @OilersNerdAlert described Benson as “a buzzsaw” and I’d have to agree with him. Bouchard made some amazing up ice passes the like we haven’t seen with any consistency in Oiler’s silks since Pronger or a healthy Whitney (all 40-ish games of him). He also made some mistakes in his own zone, but hey he’s only 19 years old and that’s to be expected. Even though I was on the opposite end of the rink, his slap shot goal in the first period was impressive! Hopefully we get to see that in Edmonton for the next 10 years!
There were two players I was looking forward to watching to see how they developed over the summer: Ethan Bear and Kailer Yamamoto. Last year, these two players a little more development, and a good off-season might be the key to cracking the lineup. Now, I am fully aware this was a meaningless rookie game where players are there to get their legs back under them and get the competitive juices flowing again, but in my opinion these two showed the exact opposite.
I was really disappointed they did not step up and demonstrate their ability to play the high level we saw from them last year. They made mistakes at both ends of the ice, and didn’t seem to want to be there.
Yamamoto floated around instead of using that brilliant speed that we have previously seen from him. Meanwhile, Bear seemed to not be interested in defending in his own zone. It seemed odd and out of character from what we had seen from them both last year.
I know it’s a rookie game, but my point is if you’re a bubble player on an NHL team, shouldn’t you be taking advantage of every minute you are on the ice to showcase what you are to the GM and coaching staff to ensure they remember you before the other players on the team? The Oilers have some real competition for positions this year with the additions of players on PTOs, and that means there are no guaranteed spots on the roster for players that aren’t there to show up all the time. Unlike last year, there will be no positions gifted this year. I hope the players that were around last year realize this. I want to see the players pushing each other creating competition in training camp so that when the regular season starts the coaching staff have some tough decisions to make. At the end of the day, I think we would all be happy to know a player earned their roster spot on opening night because of their abilities and their hard work.
I guess this all boils down to me wildly hoping that we are going to see a training camp and preseason full of surprises from players that we didn’t see last year. The roster was 95% set before camp even started last year, and I really think that contributed to our horrible start to the season. This year, I’d like to see the players fight tooth and nail for their roster spots and getting those competitive juices flowing before the start of the season – not 15 games into the regular season when it’s too late. For that to happen though, the players that were on the bubble last year are going to have to show that every minute that they are on the ice, they are going to work for it and earn their spot. No matter how much they may not want to do something, or think that it is below them, or that they are somehow better than what they are asked to do, they have to remember there are no menial tasks on the road to the NHL.
Jack Pound is a regular on the OilersYYC Podcast. He can be found on Twitter @bigmantri.