I listened to the year-end interviews for the players: Garon, Gilbert, Cogliano, Gagner, Glencross, Hemsky, Horcoff, and Penner. Nobody said anything outrageous, mostly it was a lot of talking about how much they’re looking forward to next training camp and next season. Horcoff had the most to say, the only one to touch on how he thinks Lowe will handle the team. Even so, he was cagey, all he would say is that he thinks Lowe has a core group of guys and will have to be aggressive.
Glencross, the only remaining free agent from that lot, said he’d like to stay in Edmonton: “fun to come to the rink every day, always smiling, always having a good time. . .” From the comments he and others made, it sounds like the dressing room was pretty tight this year, which may account for the lack of collapse as they had last year. It makes you wonder how much wind the Smyth trade took out of their sails, especially since none of the return on that trade started playing immediately.
Some of them mentioned off-season training, Horcoff and Gilbert in particular. Horcoff thought that while his strength had improved this year from last, he was still knocked off the puck too much, and he’d like to fix that. Penner seemed to think that his training last year was ok - he’s been saying all season that most of it was the short off-season for him last year - and said of the questions about his fitness: “People were grasping at straws, looking for reasons to blame you for whatever your performance.”
While it would have been nice if Penner had been asked and had answered a more direct question about what exactly he thought his problem early on (and January-Februaryish) was, he did say of the upcoming training camp, “It’s going to be a lot different for me, just being able to be familiar with my surroundings and not … have the same questions repeated to me over and over again.” It sounds like maybe he was initially just uncomfortable, and I don’t care what anybody says, when you go from 450k a season to 4.5 million, the pressure has got to be on.
Hemsky made a curious statement when asked about team toughness: “We have some toughness, we have team toughness, everybody steps up for each other. It would be nice when we get some tough guy here, cos we have a lot of young guys here, but we’ll see what happens.” Does that mean he thinks Stortini’s doing an inadequate job protecting them? To my eye, the team didn’t get pushed around a whole lot this year, particularly when Moreau was in the lineup, and should be better next year. With a healthy Torres and Glencross, and hopefully a healthy Moreau and Souray they should be okay, but it sounds like Hemsky misses having Big Georges riding shotgun anyway. The problem is, the Oilers are already overstocked at every position but goalie, and I can’t see Lowe trading for Ray Emery just to make Hemsky feel a little better.