Sunday, September 27, 2015
The boy and I are heading up north on Tuesday at the crack of crow's piss, as the Islanders say, to help the old man close the camp for another year. The weather looks to be decent, dropping to 4 at night, which will be a vast improvement over our first go at this, four years ago, when the temperature hovered around freezing every day and it poured rain a lot of the time.
For the three of us it is a chance to enjoy the camp one last time before winter comes. The colours will be spectacular and we will do some work, sit on the deck and have a few beers, maybe even get out and do a bit of fishing. On Father's Day the boy presented me with a craft, one of those little paper bags with a shirt and tie drawn on it, and inside were a handful of slips of paper on which he had written things that he loved about me.
So they will bury me with that bag.
Anyhow his favourite thing he said was these trips to camp with Dad and I would say that for Dad the feeling is the same. He's 83 now my old man and he is slowing down a bit. Three years ago he clambered over rocks and deadfall to bring down a couple of trees to build a new dock. This year the work will be a lot easier but of course no less satisfying and more importantly the company will be the finest kind.
Training camp is an exciting time because HEY HOCKEY IS BACK and you get a look at the new blood and of course everyone is in the best shape of their lives and for teams with new coaches the practices are always faster and crisper and cleaner and of course even down amongst the dregs of the league there is hope that maybe there will be lightning in a bottle.
The reality is that the team is pretty well decided before camp starts except for the guys who are going to be press boxed and a week or two after the team breaks camp there will be injuries or the bubble guys will have shown poorly and so the shuttle between the minors and the show will begin. So hold your fire when kids get demoted while underperforming veterans make the grade. Those kids will be up soon enough.
I can think of three instances where something happened at camp that was meaningful, there may be more but this is all that I remember. There was Patrick Thoresen coming out of nowhere to earn a job. There was Tom Gilbert, earmarked for the minors, passing pretty well everyone on the D depth chart to earn a job. And there was Kyle Brodziak seizing a job and establishing his NHL career if not out of the blue then pretty close to it.
Often the real story is what doesn't happen. Anton Lander getting waived last year and making it through without getting claimed. If he gets claimed then the Oilers are short a real NHLer this season.
For the most part though much of what happens in camp is meaningless and ironically so much of this is what happens in preseason games. Every year a team tears it up in preseason or some career suspect does and it's all white noise because when the real games start and teams start icing their actual lineups then the guys who are minor leaguers show that they are minor leaguers and the big boys actually show what they can do. So while your local columnist may say that Slepyshev is the next coming of Jari Kurri (and full disclosure I don't read anything from any Sun paper so if that isn't what was said apologies) because of two preseason goals I tend to, well, be a little more cautious.
That all said camp and those preseason games aren't totally meaningless, you get your important tells. Slepyshev probably won't make the team but by all accounts it sounds like he is a player and that's a big deal. The more depth the better of course but also if this kid is the real deal then it opens up possibilities down the road. There are other takeaways so far that interest me. It sounds like the issues about Reinhart's skating are overblown which is a big deal. Nilsson has been excellent. Draisatl appears as if he is going to earn a job this year, not have it handed to him. Lander has picked up where he left off last year.
All of this is excellent news for the Oilers who have been terrible for so long. Last year their forwards, as a group, were as close to being complete as they had been since 2006/2007 and this year I would say that finally we have an honest to goodness NHL forward corps.
Slepyshev isn't going to make the grade unless there are more injuries, they aren't going to keep him around to eat popcorn. Let him go to the minors where he hopefully tears it up, we will see him soon enough.
The key here is that Klinkhammer, a perfectly serviceable guy is sitting in the pressbox and Miller and Pitlick have already been farmed out, with Pakarinen to follow. None of these four guys is a world beater but even Pitlick has shown in his short stints up that he is at the very least a decent NHL fourth liner. In the not so distant past these four guys would have probably all been in the opening day lineup, the Oilers have been that horrible. Now they don't even get a sniff.
As for Gazdic well cut him I say but I don't think they will. I respect the guy for carving out a career but his role is unnecessary and it's a wasted roster spot.
The blueline is what is going to sink the Oilers this year as usual there is a plethora of bottom six guys and not enough in the top four. Let's call it Lowe and MacT's parting gift to Chiarelli. No Petry and Nikitin, Ference and Schultz are all overpaid and not helpful.
I think Sekera is a great get and I believe that he is a perfect partner for Mark Fayne so in some ways we are getting two Dmen for the price of one. I also think Klefbom is legit. After that there is a lot of flotsam and it will be a lot of hoping and wishing that McLellan can unlock Norris' Norris potential or that Nikitin can rebound.
This is old hat in E town where year after year the club's chances are dependent on a long list of ifs. If rookie A can step into the lineup and be a top pairing D and rookie B can step into the lineup and be a hard minutes top six F and veteran C can turn back the clock a decade and journeyman D can suddenly reach the potential of his draft year then maybe the club will compete for 12th in the conference.
It's a sign of a good team that the ifs are dwindling. They need Schultz to wake up and Nikitin to play like a veteran and Klefbom to continue progressing. These likely won't happen, except for Oscar, and the result will be no playoffs but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Nurse is going to get sent down, which is fine. He will be back soon and be around for years to come. Reinhart is a goner too unless they move one of their D or go with 13 forwards and if they do that and one of the 13 is Gazdic well they're spitting the bit already. So I see it as such:
Davidson will probably get waived too and he will make it through.
In net Nilsson has made it interesting which is why they brought him in and I would think that Scrivens is on thin ice here. I like him but he wrecked the Oilers' season last year and with Chiarelli having no loyalty to him I bet he gets moved or cut. I see a few folks talking about three goalies, this has been an Oilers' specialty for a decade now, they have carried three goalies how many times? Three? Four? More than the rest of the league combined I would gather. I can't see Chiarelli continuing this tradition.
So that is how I see it for now and if you look at past camps I have a knack for being consistently wrong so take it for what it's worth.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:43 PM