Roc-ky! Roc-ky! Oilers name ex-enforcer Thompson assistant coach


Remember Rocky Thompson? If you don’t, here’s a refresher:

Anyway, he’s now an assistant coach in Edmonton. From the Oilers:

Thompson, 36, joins the Oilers after spending the past four seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Oilers American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons.

Thompson began his coaching career in the Western Hockey League with the Edmonton Oil Kings, where he served as an Assistant Coach from 2007-10. In 2010, he joined the Oklahoma City Barons where he has enjoyed success, helping the team advance to the playoffs for the fourth straight season in 2013-14.

Prior to joining the coaching ranks, the Calgary, Alberta native played 10 full seasons of professional hockey. Throughout his career he appeared in 591 games recording 69 points (17G, 52A) and amassed 2,036 penalty minutes.

The Calgary Flames selected Thompson with their third choice, 72nd overall in the 1995 NHL Draft. He appeared in 25 NHL games during his tenure as a player, including 15 with Calgary and 10 with the Florida Panthers.

It’s worth noting that in those 25 NHL games, Thompson fought 14 times and took on basically every heavyweight imaginable: Grimson, Donald Brashear, Krystof Oliwa, Matt Johnson and Jim McKenzie. All this despite the fact he wasn’t overly large (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and had a fighting style that was, um, how to put this… less than technical.

Thompson’s enthusiasm and relative youth — at 36, he’s only a year older than captain Andrew Ference — were two of the big reasons head coach Dallas Eakins wanted him behind the Oilers bench. (Though technically, Thompson will be Edmonton’s “eye in the sky” from the press box.)

It also brings another ex-NHLer onto the Edmonton staff, as Thompson will join former Stanley Cup winner Keith Acton, who currently serves as an associate coach.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado