Change in the air at Rogers Place as Oilers hit ice for training camp
The work at Rogers Place seems never ending.
On every level, workers scurry to finish the last-minute touches before the season opens against Calgary on October 13.
On the ice, the Oilers, too, were hard at work Friday morning.
McLellan, and team general manager Peter Chiarelli, recently returned from the World Cup of Hockey, where team North America wowed fans with a fire-wagon brand of hockey.
Getting any NHL team to play at the pace of those young stars would be virtually impossible. But turning the Oilers into a contender is certainly a plan both McLellan and Chiarelli have been trying to get everyone to buy into since they came to town.
Lucic expected to lead young Oilers
Bringing in Milan Lucic over the summer was a major building block towards reaching that goal.
It was hard to miss the lumbering winger, who spent most of the morning carving the ice up and down the left side of the rink.
Chiarelli hopes Lucic's attitude, on and off the ice, leaves a lasting impression with the rest of the club.
"He'll be part of the leadership group," said Chiarelli, who was GM in Boston in 2011 when Lucic helped lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup. "He's led before and I've seen him lead first-hand. I expect fully that he does that here."
Chiarelli spent part of the morning in the stands with other team management, watching the players skate.
"I know he's talked to a lot of the other guys, just in general, and of course he'll lead by example on the ice, too," he said of Lucic, who signed a 7-year, $42-million contract with the Oilers in July.
For Lucic, the time for talking is over. He said he's glad to finally put on his blue Oilers practice jersey and get to work.
"The best way to shake the rust off is get right into it," he said. "It's funny. You get into shape all summer and you do your summer skates, but there's nothing like that first practice."
'A character guy'
Hard-nosed forward Patrick Maroon, who came into camp 25 pounds leaner than last season, is looking forward to the new year at Rogers Place. The fan favourite, acquired late last year in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks, said he's already noticed an attitude change and is looking to follow the lead of Lucic and young star Connor McDavid.
"He's won a Stanley cup and he's been in the playoffs every year since he's been in the league," Maroon said of Lucic, who figures to play on the first line with McDavid. "To have that role and character guy in the room is very special.
"I think he's going to teach the young guys what its takes. I think he could change the room. I think that's a guy we needed. He's a guy that everyone is going to look up to, much like Connor, too, everyone is going to look up to those guys, everyone will be keying in on them."
Winger Jordan Eberle could also be one of Lucic's new linemates once the season kicks off.
With the new rink, and new players, the Oilers veteran said he feels all the change could produce something fans have been looking for - a new identity for the team.
"He's a voice for sure," said Eberle, who skated on a line with Lucic Friday morning. "The guy's experienced. He's played in the league for a while now and won a cup.
"He's definitely a guy, when things aren't going the way we want them to, that guys are going to look to. You need those guys in your locker room. I think that's important. You need guys who've been there before to take the reins when times are tough. I've been in this league for a long time, too. Obviously, I haven't had the success that he has, but you experience a lot the other way, too. I think that's important, that you have experience in your locker room."
The Oilers will be on the ice again Saturday and Sunday.
The team plays two split-squad games at 7 p.m. Monday against the Flames, one at Rogers Place and one at the Saddledome in Calgary.