16. Had a lengthy conversation Monday with new Oilers coach Ralph Krueger. Talked about some of his ideas and learned he thinks similarly to two successful bench bosses, Mike Babcock and Ken Hitchcock.
17. Red Wings players will tell you Babcock’s belief is that “when we’re defending, you do it my way. When we have the puck, you can create.” (He laughed when asked about that.) Krueger’s plan for Edmonton will be along those lines. “The only way we’re going to learn to win is by having a solid team structure,” Krueger said. “We had a lot of ‘immature games’ last season…they were fun to play and watch, but we lost. We need to learn to manage the game better — play to the score, the clock, the situation.”
18. Krueger added the critical thing will be “finding a team defensive structure that works for the whole game, but allows players to use their intuition offensively.” He explained that when it comes to that part of the game, he believes more in “principles” than a set system. An example would be always having a net presence on the power play. As long as those principles are followed, the Halls, Hemskys and Nugent-Hopkinses of the world can create.
19. The Hitchcockian stuff came when we discussed Edmonton’s forward lines. In Dallas, Hitchcock once explained how he believed more in forward “pairs” than trios. For example, Mike Modano always played with Jere Lehtinen. The third could be rotated. Krueger wants to see if he can create a flexible, dangerous lineup that way.
20. He explained that he liked Jordan Eberle with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner with Ales Hemsky. That not only allows him to move Hall around the lineup, but also rotate others depending on the situation — Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones, Ben Eager and potentially even Shawn Horcoff on the wing. I’m really curious to see this. This stuff fascinates me.
21. Some of you will be wondering: what about Nail Yakupov? Krueger wants to see how the number one pick looks on the left side. Yakupov is used to the right, but with Eberle and Hemsky there, it’s pretty jammed. Finally, Krueger closed by saying one of the most important things moving forward for the Oilers will be the group “demanding more from each other and the team right from the beginning.”
22. Couple other Edmonton notes (should point out Krueger is not the source for any of this): think the Oilers, desperately searching for defencemen, took a long look at Islander Mark Streit. Garth Snow would not address that, but did say via text message, “I have no intention to trade Streit.”
23. Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey got a lot of attention for helping recruit Justin Schultz to Oilertown, but do not underestimate the role Hall played. Word is his sales pitch was extremely impressive, because he was unafraid to discuss the tough things the team has gone through — and how he believes those will be fixed.
24. Sam Gagner’s arbitration is tentatively scheduled for Friday. This one’s going to be interesting if it gets that far. The Oilers are probably thinking David Perron ($3.8 million AAV) while agent Jeff Jackson is likely looking at Brandon Dubinsky ($4.2M). Saw-off in the middle?
I really like Krueger’s coaching philosophy.. a lot. I’ve said it before, but I think he’s our Dan Bylsma that comes in and fixes things.. seemingly out of nowhere. You need the right coach, and you need the right timing. The timing is pretty close (meaning that our lineup is almost there.. but it is definitely not without flaw). I think the coach is right though. I like Babcock’s philosophy (which Krueger seems to follow as well) that defense is something that should be very structured, while offense is mostly up to the players. Krueger improves upon that by ensuring some basic principles/tactics are remembered.
This isn’t the first time we have heard about pairs of linemates rather than trios. Was it first suggested by Pat Quinn? I think so. But I am intrigued by this return, as I think it is a really good idea and doens’t kill us when the injuries inevitably happen. Gagner with Hemsky I like because both have shown good chemistry together in the past, and it helps keep these two useful in the lineup (especially Hemsky). Yakupov at left wing? Count me as a skeptic.. but it definitely won’t hurt to try. I’d also like to see Hartikainen worked into top-six left wing now and then when opportunity arises.
Mark Streit at D is definitely a guy I have thought of. I would prefer someone with more defensive accumen in their game though. But he’s a smart D and would help the powerplay a lot.
Friedman cites Taylor Hall’s honest sales pitch to Justin Schultz as a top reason, but others have also said Ralph Krueger had a huge impact too. I’d imagine that more than anything, it was Hall and Krueger that convinced Schultz to come here. Getting calls from Coffey and Gretzky were probably cool fanboy fun, but I’m not sure how convincing they were. Mind you, when 99 speaks, you fucking listen. And he also is a very intelligent speaker, so I am sure there was an impact (ditto for Coffey). I just think Krueger and Hall were probably all it took.
Sam Gagner at $4M worries me a bit, but only because his current value isn’t that high yet. I think in the long run, he’ll be a lot more valuable than $4M/year.. so I guess you can say that I believe this will be much like Hemsky’s previous contract… a bargain (assuming it is long term).
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