The Edmonton Oilers are heading into next season doing something they haven’t done the past three years — break camp with a new head coach.
From Tom Renney to Ralph Krueger to now Dallas Eakins, there’s been someone new at the helm in Edmonton each of those years. Having a host of different voices and systems to get accustomed to can be a bit of a pain for any team. It’s even more troubling for one that has a host of young players and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006.
That’s a point forward Jordan Eberle made sure to make as Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal shared.
“With the same coach, we can pick up where we left off,” Eberle said. “At the start of last year, we struggled and that’s going to be a big thing for us. We have to start the season well because, last year, we really dug ourselves in a hole early on and that killed us. Plus, it gives you confidence if you can start off winning; you realize you do have a good team.”
The Oilers didn’t exactly close the season in thunderous fashion going 9-10-1 in the final 20 games. Still, the point of having the same head coach for the first time since Renney’s second and final season in 2011-12 remains and Eakins has a lot to prove for himself as well.
Many fans in Boston took it hard when resident tough guy Shawn Thornton signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers in July.
After being the face of what became the modern version of the “Big Bad Bruins” he had a strong following with the crowd. He was also a big hit amongst his teammates as well.
As Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com shared, Thornton’s now former teammates are lamenting the loss of the guy who would drop the gloves in their defense.
“Those are the guys you never want to give up, though,” goalie Tuukka Rask said. “I don’t think people necessarily talk about it too much, but you need that kind of leadership inside the locker room. You can’t just be quiet in there. You have to have young guys step up when you lose that, and its part of the challenge. Every team has to go through it.”
Plenty of teams have different things that help get them going. The Bruins seemed to feed off emotion in their games and that’s where they believe they’ll miss Thornton. Think back on all those heated games where a big hit or a fight seemed to snap them out of a fog and they’d roll from there. It’s that brand of motivation the Bruins felt Thornton brought to them.
While he’s not the best player on the ice, he was important to the Bruins’ mindset via his leadership. Now they’ll have to get by with replacing him with someone with a different skill set. The Panthers, meanwhile, will hope that guidance can be put to good use in their seemingly very young locker room.
After talking about the Blues all day today, we know plenty about how disappointing things have been in St. Louis after three straight seasons with disappointing finishes.
Fortunately for Blues fans, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is looking on the bright side of life. Rather than dwelling on not reaching the ultimate goal and bringing the franchise its first Stanley Cup, he’s using those defeats as motivation as he told Chris Lomon at the NHLPA website.
“The one great thing about this group is that through the disappointments, team chemistry is through the roof,” noted Shattenkirk. “It’s a very close locker room and everyone sticks together. That’s something I learned from the moment I came to St. Louis. I think the guys we’ve added will experience the same thing. We know we haven’t done what we’ve set out to accomplish. We also know that’s the one thing we’re focused on.”
With the addition of Paul Stastny to the roster the Blues are truly in “go for it” mode. One area they don’t have to worry about is defense.
Shattenkirk’s play on the blue line has been a big reason why the Blues have been so strong on the back end. Teamed up with Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, the Blues defense is a legitimate strength. Swapping the slow-footed but physical Roman Polak for sure-handed Carl Gunnarsson this summer was an under-the-radar move that could pay off handsomely as well.
It’s virtually the same team that they had last season. Chemistry shouldn’t be a problem with this club and neither should motivation.
Last season was a big one for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin.
After arriving from Boston as a free agent last summer, he was able to take over the starting job in January after returning from injury.
While his reign as starter was coupled with an injury to incumbent starter Cam Ward, Khudobin tells Alessandro Seren Rosso of The Hockey Writers it was mostly his play that helped him keep the starting job.
“It’s hard to say what was more important, if Ward’s injury or my game,” Khudobin said. “But probably my game, because even if Ward wouldn’t get injured and I wouldn’t play that way, they wouldn’t play me that often. So, maybe it was all this put together. I was injured myself earlier, and some other guys stepped up and played well. Maybe those times I was unlucky. But this time it was the other way around. Injuries never are a good situation for any player, but all went that way.”
That last line is something both he and Ward would agree on.
The pair combined to play in 66 games last season. Khudobin missed two months with a lower-body injury and Ward returned from a season-ending knee injury two seasons ago only to deal with lower-body issues throughout last season. Now the duo is set to compete for the starting job this season provided their bodies don’t betray them.
If there’s something the ‘Canes could use consistently next season it’s solid goaltending. Given how well Khudobin played and how lost in the woods Ward has been, the edge belongs to the Russian.
This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.
St. Louis Blues
1. Brett Hull — 1,099 votes
2. Al MacInnis — 267 votes
3. Wayne Gretzky — 175 votes
4. T.J. Oshie — 93 votes
It’s probably not a shock that The Golden Brett came away with the victory here.
Hull is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals with 527, third in games played and second in points behind fellow Hall of Famer Bernie Federko.
Curiously enough, Federko didn’t even make Top 4 on the vote even though he was the franchise’s all-time leader in scoring. He also netted the Blues the centerman that helped lead Hull to three consecutive 70-plus goal seasons, including 86 in 1990-91, in Adam Oates as he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for the young upstart pivot. The combination of Hull and Oates helped give the Blues some of the most prolific offense the franchise has ever seen in the early 90s.
Now that he’s back with the team as an executive vice president, Hull’s place with the franchise is solidified.
MacInnis checking in second in our vote shows the mark he left in St. Louis. Originally a Calgary Flame, he brought his wicked slap shot and leadership to a Blues team that had a young Chris Pronger that needed some guidance. Incredibly, he played 10 seasons with the Blues after spending 13 with Calgary and won the Norris Trophy in 1999.
We’re assuming you guys were joking around with all the votes for Gretzky. His 31 total games with the Blues (regular season and playoffs) in 1995-96 couldn’t have been that impressive.