Oilers’ New Players Are Impacting Team Culture

The offseason moves made by the Edmonton Oilers came with a mix of applause, angst and even sorrow among team faithful. When the transactions for Duncan Keith, Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele and Derek Ryan took place over the summer, much of the focus was on age, contract, analytics and skill, with some mentioning character.

Duncan Keith Blackhawks
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When the Oilers announced Brendan Perlini was invited to training camp, only a few took notice. However, when he started making headlines at training camp and eventually made the team for the 2021-22 season, more and more fans wanted to know who he is and where did his scoring touch come from.

Related: Oilers: 4 Things You Didn’t Know About Brendan Perlini

In a recent interview Perlini gave on the TSN 1260 in Edmonton, fans had to be impressed. Here was a character player not only giving thoughtful answers, but more importantly expressing humble gratitude to do anything it takes to help the team win. It sounded a lot like Matt Hendricks, who the Oilers sorely missed in their dressing room when he was released in 2017. Hendricks was part of the team the last time they experienced playoff success, and his Oilers teammates referred to him as the “Glue Guy.” He may not have played a lot on the ice in his final season in Edmonton, but his contributions were definitely felt. Perlini seems to possess similar character traits to Hendricks and this should be welcome news to Oilers fans.

New Additions Can Strongly Impact Oilers Team Chemistry

In a recent radio interview on Oilers Now, Oilers general manager Ken Holland expressed how careful he is when inviting veteran players for professional tryout (PTO) contracts. He talked about not wanting to disrupt players’ families, and listeners got the sense that Holland is a compassionate man who believes in building a family-style organization for his team. This isn’t about a 1960s-style kumbaya love in, but more about building the right team culture and this is something the Oilers have sorely needed dating back to the decade of darkness. That’s why the additions of Hyman, Keith, Foegele, Ryan, Perlini and Colton Sceviour are so important.

Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers
Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

You can already see some early signs regarding the difference these newcomers are making. Hyman has fast become a fan favourite, and when you combine his compete level and skill with his humble character, that’s a player any team would love to have. Defenceman Keith also showed a lot of moxie in the Oilers’ home opener against the Vancouver Canucks when he bounced back after a devastating check from Tyler Myers. Bloodied by the hit in the second period, Keith went to the dressing room for repairs and returned for a regular shift in the third period. The 38-year-old showed his teammates that he can take it as well as he can dish it out.

Foegle is a player who expressed a lot of class when he announced he was traded to Edmonton for Ethan Bear this summer. It seems like he was popular in Raleigh and the Oilers represent a great new opportunity for him. It’s always good for an organization to get someone who feels they have something to prove, and it seems like this is the case with him.

One of the other new Oilers who seems like they will be a good fit is centreman Ryan. This is a homecoming of sorts for the Spokane, Washington native, as he played with the powerhouse University of Alberta Golden Bears from 2007-08 to 2010-11. He helped the Bears win a national championship and received Canada West MVP and U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian honours in his final season. Returning to a place where he experienced early success could prove to be positive for Ryan, and positively impact his play with the Oilers.

Championships Are Built With Skill and Great Character

Players, coaches, and general managers will all tell you how important the right chemistry is to winning. The Oilers’ championship years were built around stars like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson, but you can’t forget the contributions from character players, such as Kevin McLelland, who scored one of the most important goals in franchise history in the 1-0 defeat of the New York Islanders in Game 1 of the 1984 Stanley Cup Final. Those winning teams were also built by “Glue Guys” like Kevin Lowe, Dave Semenko, Dave Hunter, Dave Lumley, Pat Hughes — the list goes on.

Pat Maroon, Alex Pietrangelo
St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo hands the Stanley Cup to Pat Maroon during the Blues’ NHL hockey Stanley Cup victory celebration in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

In this most recent era of Oilers hockey, the team has sorely missed Pat Maroon, a player who has made strong contributions to the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues during their Stanley Cup runs.

It’s a long season, and there is much to still come out in the wash. However, it does appear that the newest Oilers will not only help the team on the ice, but will also help make contributions off of it. Do they have the right chemistry to win? Hang on to your hats and let’s see where this can go.

Sign up for our regular 'Oilers Newsletter' for all the latest.