LEDUC, Alta. — The Edmonton Oilers hit the ice for the first time in training camp Friday in a high-tempo session that emphasized the art of the greasy goal.
“At the next level there is never really any pretty plays that go on,” said teen phenom Connor McDavid. “It’s all those kind of goals, battling in front and making sure that you hang in there and maybe take an extra shot. But the rewards are usually there.”
The Oilers are holding the first three days of camp at the Leduc Recreation Centre, south of Edmonton. Fan interest in McDavid was so high, the Oilers held a lottery to allow fans into the multiplex.
McDavid skated with veterans Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell on his wings.
All agreed new head coach Todd McLellan ran a high-tempo practice focusing on the details, like battling for the so-called rebound “garbage” goals that require standing in front of the net and absorbing a thumping of heavy lumber from the opposing defenceman.
“You get greasy goals by playing greasy, by shooting from areas you wouldn’t otherwise shoot from,” said Hall.
“I think those were the things that we were learning today, just giving up the puck in certain areas, committing guys to being in front of the net — and that’s the kind of mentality we need our team to have.”
Purcell said the Oilers need to forge a new reputation.
“I think the Oilers have been known the past couple of years to score a lot of nice goals, but we haven’t got enough dirty ones in front, whether it’s tips or rebounds or stuff like that,” said Purcell.
He noted that was a trait of McLellan’s former team, the San Jose Sharks.
“San Jose (has) always done a good job. Every guy on their team — (Logan) Couture, (Joe) Pavelski — those guys are all digging in front, getting those extra greasy goals.”
McLellan said it’s tied to a larger issue of execution.
“I want our group to finish,” said McLellan.
“That doesn’t (necessarily) mean scoring. I want them to finish on plays, extend plays.
“You’ve got to go get the puck again. You’ve got to win a battle to keep (the play) alive. For me and our coaching staff, that is really, really important.”
The Oilers have missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons, but have since overhauled their front office and brought in many new players to try to avoid that number reaching 10.
Edmonton has struggled on defence and in net but has a strong core of swift forwards like Hall, McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
Hall said the trick is to harness their collective speed.
“There’s all types of speed. There’s speed moving the puck. There’s speed skating (without it),” said Hall.
“For us, we have to make sure that we have timing and use that speed properly. If we’re going a million miles an hour and we’re going offside or we’re turning pucks over it’s not going to do us any good.”
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press