Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland and his hockey operations staff are smart enough to know there will be plenty of flak for their decision to bring former Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen into training camp in a PTO just two months after they found it. not guilty of sexual assault.
That’s not a call he would have made, but he wouldn’t have brought Evander Kane either and he, as far as we know, has proven his doubters wrong and has been a great find. It should also be noted that Virtanen being here in a PTO is a no-risk gamble on the part of Holland, Jay Woodcroft and the Oilers. If he blows doors, sign him. If he doesn’t do it, don’t do it. It also bears repeating that, as noted above, Virtanen was found not guilty.
Doubts about the allegations that made headlines aside, and are being voiced loudly on social media today, I’m missing what Holland and Woodcroft see in Virtanen as making this transaction worthwhile given all the baggage you bring To use a popular term among the foies of my harvest, I don’t know if it’s worth squeezing the juice.
where does Virtanen, 26, who has 317 NHL games on his résumé and spent 36 games with Spartak Moscow in the KHL last season, does he fit into the lineup Woodcroft is putting together? Does he fit? Is he a striker in the top six? A guy from the bottom six? I don’t know, but soon we will know. Camp opens Wednesday. Virtanen skated with some of the Oilers veterans today at Rogers Place.
WHAT HE SAID
“Everyone has their own opinion about everything”, Virtanen said Media gathered behind his skate. “I think that’s important. I think everyone should have their own opinion on everything. That’s why we live in a great country. . . I went through the process, and it was very hard. It felt very long for me in my heart. I was very stressed and went through a lot, but at the end of the day, I did it the right way and I’m so happy I did it the right way.
“I want to enter and I want to be a player. I want to get back to my game and I want to be that power forward. I want to use my speed and my shot. I just want to work hard. That is what I am looking to do. . . It was obviously a very long process. I wanted to follow that process through to the end and do it the right way.”
Despite the recentness and nature of Virtanen’s trial, and the reality that he has been labeled in the past as a player who is not always in top condition, Virtanen said “quite a few teams” showed interest in him this offseason. .
“Coming here, the players are great,” he said. “There are some of the best players in the world on this team. Very skilled, very exciting team. I think it’s going to be a great year for this team. To be part of this team, I just have to find a way in any line. I think the last six is where I’m going to start. That’s where I’m going to have to really learn. I want to be a player there. . . you just have to give your best effort every day.”
Easier said than done. From John Shannon on 630 CHED: “He has to put in 100 percent effort and focus on being a professional hockey player and that’s something that bothered people in his time in Vancouver,” he said. “He was laissez-faire at times. He wasn’t as responsible defensively as he should be. We know he can be physical. We know that he can do many things. He is a great skater. But where is his mind space?
THE BOTTOM LINE
Nothing anyone says will change the people who are outraged at Virtanen coming to camp with the Oilers. Some people on social media have gone so far as to say that they won’t be supporting the team due to the decision to bring it in and check it out. That is his right. I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell Holland is thinking.
As for me, I also wonder why I just don’t see a player who is good enough to justify all the negative public reaction that the decision to have him here has generated.