As a restrospective on the announcment that Andrew Ference was made captain 14 of the Oilers yesterday, here is what I wrote a couple weeks back.
I didn’t have many expectations when the signing of Andrew Ference was announced on July 5th. On the surface it seemed like a bit of an over term/over pay situation and my first reaction, that of which was similar to the reaction of many others, was kind of “meh?”.
He has changed my reaction, for the better, in a HUGE way.
Andrew Ference isn’t going to score your team many goals. Only 2.2% of his ice time in the last 3 years has been spent on the ice with the man advantage. On a decent Boston PK he has been a second pairing option for the last 3 years so we can expect him somewhere between the 1 & 3 time slot here in Edmonton. At even strength he’s been a 4/5 minutes rank for the last 3 years as well. He’s 34 which, for a D-man of his make and model, is getting a little long in the tooth. His on ice possession results seem to be a bit of a mixed or half empty bag, depending on how you look at it, but you can read more about that here, here and here. So what is with all this abound optimism you ask? Open your eyes and ears because I don’t say it often. Intangibles, with a capital I.
I think we all know what the Oilers acquired on the ice when they signed Andrew Ference. Nothing special but a real to life NHL D-man who has won some battles, dirtied his nose and had the fortune to sip from Lord Stanley’s mug. For fans like myself, ones who have shifted to looking at the statistical side of the coin a little more, it was a signing that didn’t speak to me much because I probably don’t put enough weight on the stuff that we are not likely to see. So just in case you missed it, what’s that word again? Intangibles.
I would classify his impression on me as solid gold. I just didn’t expect to see what we have seen to this point. What this team has been lacking since the eternal suckitude began is true leadership and all signs thus far are pointing to Andrew Ference providing such. A few examples…
The November Project. Mr. Ference has brought this phenomenon to our fair city. Average people are invited to join his team and kick start their active life. What millionaire, professional athlete these days mixes in workouts with people like me, FOR FREE? What does this say to the players in the locker room about entitlement and setting an example? I imagine a lot. Sam Gagner and Dallas Eakins both showed up last week to join in. I’m kicking myself for not yet getting in on the muscle burning fun.
The VO2 domination. A 34 year old man kicking ass and taking names. As quoted from the Edmonton Sun…
But it wasn’t just Eakins’s torture test that provided remarkably good results but the off-ice testing, particularly the VO2 test. That’s the one where players are rigged up with monitoring headgear while riding stationary bikes to measure the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise.
Andrew Ference, the Sherwood Park product obtained from the Boston Bruins, blew Eakins away.
“He scored the highest number that I’ve seen as a coach,” Eakins said of Ference’s 67.3.
Two other Oilers were also in the 60s, numbers high for hockey players.
“I was exactly 60. Anton Lander was in the 60s too,” reported Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Ference said it had been almost 15 years since he last did the test, back when he was a Calgary Flame.
“Pittsburgh and Boston never did it.”
Eakins said the remarkable thing about Ference’s VO2 number was that his Wingate (anaerobic) test number were up at a comparable level.
“Usually if one is up another is down,” he said of the tests which measure endurance and power.
Ference put it another way.
“One is your first period. The other is your overtime.”
Who is this guy?!
And then came word that he also went along and decided to destroy all competition in Eakins’ skating torture test. “Taylor Who?” he asked. “Ales What?” he mused.
He’s an animal!
And did I mention the feature on DNTO?
What do you get when you throw an edgy, tattoo-covered, Stanley Cup winning hockey player into a small fishing boat with a legendary environmentalist? Edmonton Oiler Andrew Ference explains how he and David Suzuki landed in the same boat, working together towards one big environmental goal
I think I may have found my new favorite Oiler.
To top it all off? Andrew Ference screams accountability. He lives it. You just know that players are going to listen to him. I have no trouble imagining him stepping into that locker room after a game, or on the ice during a practice and letting his teammates hear what they need to hear. I think he will be a unifying force during the tough stretches making sure that everyone knows they are a part of the team and that if they stick with it the rewards will come. He’s won, he works his ass off and I think he knows how lucky he is. He may not be the the most talented hockey player, but the team has those bases covered. He has exactly what this Edmonton Oilers club needs and he appears to have it in spades. Leadership.
Just what the Doctor ordered? Exactly.