Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 10/2/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
EDMONTON -- The praise, the adulation and the requests for autographs are flattering to any NHL player.
Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers is to the point where he considers most of that sweet nothings in his ears.
"After a while it starts to wear on you," the 23-year-old from Regina said Tuesday morning. "You can only go so long hearing how good you're going to be. We want to live up to the hype and it starts with tonight.
"We've had a good pre-season and it's exciting to get going now."
Eberle is among the gifted and flashy young stable of talent the Oilers have assembled.
But in his three NHL seasons so far, his contributions -- 68 goals, 156 points -- have combined with those of other young stars like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall and even Nail Yakupov last season to amount to a hill of beans.
The Oilers, who haven't been in the playoffs since 2006, haven't even come close in the last four seasons. Last season, they ended the short 48-game test 10 points behind eighth place.
"At some point you get sick and tired of hearing it," Eberle said, repeating his message for effect. "Now, we've got a lot of new faces in here, I think there's eight and including our coaching staff it's 10, so it's at a point where we want to start being a good team and just put aside that rebuilding thing."
Edmonton does have a natural break for this new kind of talk. They have turned to Dallas Eakins as their new coach.
"He's kind of cleaned the slate," Eberle said. "The last few years I've been here it's always been that rebuild mentality and we wanted to get that out of here.
"We want to be a team that takes a turn."
He was asked why this time it's different.
"I think more than anything we have the accountability in the room," Eberle said. "I think there was a little leeway with how young we were and the rebuild, that they wanted to try to transition guys into spots and making mistakes was OK, I guess.
"That accountability now in the coach's office and the locker room, more than anything that pushes you to do the right thing. That being said, guys can't be afraid to make plays and do stuff. At the end of the day, you get sick and tired of hearing how good you're going to be. You just want to be that good."
Fresh approaches are usually good, but more importantly, how are these Oilers going to be different on the ice, where the games are won and lost?
"I think we understand how Dallas wants us to play but there is a little uncertainty because we haven't done it in an NHL regular-season game," he said, noting the team's 5-2-1 pre-season mark. "We've done it against teams that don't maybe have their best lineups in, but that's where the excitement level comes in tonight.
"It's that the overall compete level has to improve. I think we know that we have enough skill in this locker room to beat any team in this league. Then it comes down to competing and your systems. As far as systems go, I think we're pretty comfortable on how we want to play and how Dallas wants us to play.
"We're feeling confident about that."
-- -- --
Tuesday marked the first NHL game as a head coach for former Jets defenceman and Manitoba Moose captain Dallas Eakins.
He said this was much different than his first NHL game as a player for the Jets, Feb. 18, 1993, at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., against the San Jose Sharks.
"I think I was trembling when I played my first NHL game," Eakins said. "My partner that night was Mike Lalor. So I was sitting next to him and he said, 'How many games have you played?' I said none and he went, 'Oh. OK."
"I'm much more at ease than I was then.
"I haven't thought much about this one. You get so busy that you're into it. I'm just excited to get going. I want to get playing, see where we're at. We've got challenges early."
-- -- --
Eakins said Tuesday he has been saving a special tie for his NHL coaching debut, one that will honour one of his mentors, the late Roger Neilson.
"I've been saving this tie for a long time," Eakins said. "Rog was known for his absolutely horrible ties. He didn't put much thought into them."
Eakins said a friend texted him on Tuesday to remind him: "The great thing about Rog's ties, they go equally bad with any suit."
"It'll be an honour to wear it out there tonight."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2013 C3
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