Warm summer weather in Edmonton is one to enjoy outdoors, especially with the deep winter not that far away. Yet in a city where hockey is king, about a few hundred diehards showed up Monday to watch the Oilers open practice.
The third day of Oilers training camp saw the team playing their first real scrimmage. After a summer of a lot of nothing going on, fans were happy to see them on the ice instead of in the media.
The team itself appeared to be coming to grips with a new coach and a new system. Watching the practice, what was immediately apparent is that the Oilers bubble boys are the ones doing most of the hitting.
With the younger guys throwing out the hits, the veterans, meanwhile, were bringing their speed to work.
During the a team scrimmage, the Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, and Patrick O'Sullivan line looked pretty good against the ECHL goalies. They potted a couple of goals against the white team.
One of the niftier goals had the fans actually cheering and asking for a replay, as it was scored after some quick passing off the draw in the white end.
Coach Pat Quinn was standing on the white bench close by to advice the weaker side, though he was only rarely giving advice and spent most of the time observing the proceedings.
Team B took to the ice later in the morning.
Early on, the B practice was focused, as it has been in the rookie camp, on the breakout play from the defensive zone.
The coaching staff has been trying to pound into the team the idea of getting passes down and moving quickly. Almost like a press offense, I would guess they are seeking to catch the opposition flat-footed.
However, it was pretty clear that the practice was going less than stellar by the coaches' estimation. Quinn called Team B together and gave them a verbal battering, loud enough that the crowd quieted down to listen in.
Quinn questioned their commitment and stressed the need for teamwork in their play. At the same time, he told them not to be "robots" and that playing like they were they would not win games.
This seemed to motivate the B team as they seemed much better after the break.
Each of the various teams seems to feature top three lines and then the various spare parts on offense. One Edmonton media person guessed that the Oilers will pair down players after they play five exhibition games in the first six days.
Should be interesting to see if the bubble boys like Jordan Eberle, Rob Schremp, Benoit Pouliot, et al can make an impression on the coaching staff going further into camp.
Jonathan Williams is a freelance writer. His blog can be found here.