EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers opened coaching camp Thursday with all eyes on, effectively, Connor McDavid’s left knee.
The Oilers’ star centre has been skating sturdy and, based mostly on latest pre-camp practices, injury-free.
However he’s ready on the ultimate phrase from medical doctors on what his follow routine will likely be, and whether or not he is cleared for contact, when gamers hit the ice Friday.
“I depart that stuff as much as the medical doctors,” McDavid informed reporters at Rogers Place throughout participant medicals.
“My job is simply to go on the market and play.”
McDavid is anticipated to see very restricted, if any, pre-season recreation motion as he rehabs the knee ligament he partially tore 5 months in the past whereas ramming right into a goal-post at freight-train velocity within the remaining 2018-1019 common season NHL recreation.
However he mentioned he hasn’t been holding again since.
“I have been on the market for scrimmages and stuff like that and acquired bumped and been in battles,” he mentioned.
“I am not nervous about it, however finally you have to take heed to the medical doctors.”
Head coach Dave Tippett mentioned the important thing phrase is warning.
“We will be very conservative,” he mentioned.
“All the things seems nice proper now, however we need to make sure that he is proper on opening day of the season.”
The Oilers, clearly, want a wholesome McDavid for the beginning of the season, and each recreation thereafter, in the event that they hope to surmount pessimistic predictions and return to the playoffs.
McDavid was second in NHL scoring final yr (41 targets and 116 factors) whereas linemate Leon Draisaitl was fourth (50 targets and 105 factors).
Together with centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers have a formidable trio. However after that, the scoring dried up like a sponge within the Sahara final yr because the Oilers missed the playoffs for the 12th time in 13th seasons in 2018-19.
That triggered one more front-office shuffle, beginning with new common supervisor Ken Holland and Tippett, together with different wholesale adjustments within the scouting and participant improvement departments.
Holland, hoping to match his success with the Detroit Purple Wings, with out a whole lot of wage cap room to play with, spent the summer season attempting to shore up the underside six ahead group. He signed free brokers similar to Markus Granlund, Joakim Nygard, Riley Sheahan, and Gaetan Haas.
The objective is to discover a gem among the many new crew up entrance, much like what walk-on Alex Chiasson did for Edmonton final season when he scored a career-best 22 targets.
“There are jobs which might be open,” mentioned Tippett. “It is jobs on the staff, it is ice time, it is roles, and there are a whole lot of completely different folks which might be vying for these roles.”
The Oilers must make do with out winger Jesse Puljujarvi, the highest choose from 2016 who has not lived as much as expectations. He was pegged in a third-line function this season, however is now enjoying in Finland whereas in a standoff with Oilers administration.
Holland additionally dealt underperforming ahead Milan Lucic (and his US$6-million wage for this season) to Calgary for James Neal, who can be getting massive bucks long run and goals to rebound from a subpar seven-goal season.
On defence, Holland and Tippett have their fingers crossed that younger weapons like Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg will quickly be prepared for prime time whereas within the meantime counting on veterans Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning and Kris Russell to hold the load.
The Oilers nonetheless want a puck-moving D-man, having parted methods with veteran Andrej Sekera.
In objective, Holland has introduced in 37-year-old Mike Smith from Calgary with the plan he’ll push inconsistent Mikko Koskinen and transfer the goaltending dial, if nothing else, out of legal responsibility territory.
There’s plenty of work to do.
The Oilers completed 25th total final season and at 35-38-9 missed the playoffs by 17 factors. The offence was mediocre (ranked 20th at 2.79 targets per recreation), the defence was worse (ranked 25th at three.30 targets in opposition to a recreation).
The facility play was higher than common (ninth) however the penalty kill was brutal (30th).
Nonetheless, in Edmonton, the place followers bleed blue and orange, hope is renewed that perhaps this yr the phoenix will rise from what has grow to be hockey’s perennial dumpster fireplace.
“Everybody’s excited to get going,” mentioned ahead Zack Kassian, who had a profession yr final season with 15 targets.
“Everybody in that room feels we have now one thing to show. As a staff, we have not carried out the way in which we wished to.
“That is our objective, simply to make the playoffs.”