Ken Holland, the Edmonton Oilers general manager, and his hockey operations team are smart enough to know there was plenty of backlash over their decision to bring former Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Vertanen to a PTO training camp just two months after finding him. not guilty sexual assault.
This isn’t a call I would have made, but I wouldn’t have Evander Kane either and he proved, as far as we know, the skeptics wrong and was a great find. It should also be noted that having Virtanen here on the PTO is a no-risk bet by Holland, Jay Woodcroft and Oilers. If he blew the doors, sign him. If he doesn’t, don’t. We must also repeat that, as noted earlier, Virtanen was found not guilty.
Doubts about headline accusations aside – which are being voiced long and loud on social media today – I miss what Holland and Woodcroft see in Virtanen which makes this deal worthwhile given all the baggage he’s carrying. To use a common term with a hazy of booze, I don’t know if the juice is worth the squeeze.
where Virtanen, 26, who has 317 NHL games on his resume and spent 36 games with Moscow Spartak in the KHL last season, is he a fit in the squad that Woodcroft puts together? Does it fit? Is he one of the best six strikers? Six man down? I don’t know, but we’ll find out soon. Camp opens on Wednesday. Virtanen skated with some of the Oilers’ veterans at Rogers Place today.
What did he say
“Everyone has their own opinion on everything,” Virtanen said Collected media after skating. “I think this is important. I think everyone should have their own opinion on everything. That’s why we live in a great country… I went through this process, and it was so hard. I felt a long time in my heart. I was so nervous and went through a lot of… things, but at the end of the day, I did it the right way and I’m so glad I did it the right way.
“I want to get in and I want to be a player. I want to get back into my game and I want to be that strong forward. I want to use my speed and my shot. I just want to work hard. That’s what I’m looking to do… It’s obviously been a long process.” Very. I wanted to follow this process along the way and do it the right way.”
Despite the novelty and nature of Virtanen’s trial, and the fact that he has been rated in the past as a player not always at his best, Virtanen said “very few teams” have shown interest in him in the off-season.
“Coming here, the players are great,” he said. “There are some of the best players in the world in this team. Very skilled, a very exciting team. I think it is going to be a great year for this team. For me to create this team, I have to find a way on any streak. I think bottom six is where I will start.” This is where I really have to learn. I want to be a player there… You just have to do your best every day.”
Easier said than done. From John Shannon on 630 CHED: “He had to put in 100 per cent effort and focus to become a professional hockey player and that was something that bothered people in his time in Vancouver,” he said. “He’s been a laissez-faire sometimes. He wasn’t as responsible defensively as he should have been. We know he can be physical. We know he can do a lot of things. He’s a great skater. But where’s his head space?”
Nothing anyone says will make people angry that Virtanen coming to camp with the Oilers will change their minds. Some people on social media have gone so far as to say they will not support the team due to the decision to bring it in and have a look. This is their right. I’m sure they wonder what the hell Holland thinks.
For me, I’m also wondering because I don’t see a player who is good enough to justify all the public backlash that came with the decision to have him here.