Oilers: Q&A with Jarret Stoll

By Guy Flaming

Q&A With Jarret Stoll

Who wouldn’t want a player like Jarret Stoll on their team? After all, it would seem that the only thing the prairie boy knows how to do is win. Not only is he a member of winning teams but he’s also usually the leader of those teams
as well.

Stoll wore the captain’s “C” for the Kootenay Ice of the WHL
in their Memorial Cup win in 2001-02. Six months later he led the Canadian National Junior team to a gold medal in the World Junior Championships. And making it three titles appearances in a row, Stoll and the Hamilton Bulldogs went to
Game 7 of the AHL Calder Cup Finals this past season.

Coaches will tell you that leadership is a characteristic that is nearly impossible to teach. Good leaders are born with the ability and instincts that it takes to inspire others around them. 

The Oilers have known a few of those kinds of players. Mark Messier. Kevin Lowe. Craig

There are many people who feel that Edmonton is about to become acquainted with another player cut from the same cloth. Jarret Stoll will be attending his second Oiler training camp this September with his eye on one of the forward vacancies created by the departures of Todd Marchant, Dan Cleary and (UFA) Brian Swanson.

Q: Reflect back on last year for a minute. How was your first pro season compared to the expectations you might
have had going into it?

A: I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew
(the AHL) was a good league that has a lot of great prospects for the NHL. During the first month or two I was thrown into every situation possible. Coach
Julien and Coach Ward, both felt confident to put me out there wherever and whenever they could. I’m very thankful for that because as a rookie I didn’t expect that. I wanted to play that much but you never know if that will happen. Then there were call-ups and that was a new thing for me too coming out of junior. Call-ups happen and injuries happen and so you get more and more ice time and the confidence with it and that’s just what happened. I felt I had a good year, a consistent year. I put up a little bit of numbers and played strong defensively. That’s part of my game that I wanted to make sure I played well was defensively and chip in wherever I could offensively. I was very happy with the year.

Q: What was it like playing for Hamilton last year being that it was a split affiliation with the Canadiens? Was there any kind of division or was it a very tight knit group?

A: Oh no, it was awesome! Right from the start we made sure it was the Hamilton Bulldogs and not Montreal & Edmonton. We ate dinner with the Montreal guys and just did things as a team. Whether it was roommates on the road or in the dressing room it was not split it was just the Hamilton Bulldogs. Obviously we had all the good players from both of the organizations so it was a great team and a very close team. We had a lot of young guys, we were one of, if not the youngest team in the league. Everyone just hung out together so that it was almost like
junior again.

Q: Which of your teammates really impressed you last year?

A: Jani Rita. I always knew he was a great player because I played against him at one of the World Juniors. It just amazes me how strong he is on the puck and how he uses his strength all over the ice. I think he’ll be a great player someday in the NHL. Little Tony Salmelainen was a little spark plug out there for us. He was able to get us going a lot of the times when we really needed it. Ty Conklin, Raffi Torres…you know Conks really showed what kind of a goalie he is with these playoffs. He played great for us and he’s a big time goalie, a big time pressure goalie and he always played well when we needed him. It’s guys like that that I think have a good shot of making the

Q: I spoke with Ty earlier today and he asked me to make sure that you cut the mop on your head… those were his words.

A: (big laugh) Oh yeah? Okay.

Q: Since you’ve already been to one Oiler camp, how big of an advantage will that be for you this time around?

A: I think it always helps when you know what to expect and you know what the surroundings and the atmosphere will be like. It is a very tough camp fitness-wise and mentally, it can be very draining. So just to be ready, training hard and taking care of yourself in the summer because it is very tough and very competitive. A lot of guys are fighting for spots and nobody knows what’s going to happen. For the first year guys coming in, to not know that will be an eye opener the way it was for me in my first NHL camp in Calgary.

Q: One of the adjectives most often used to describe you is
‘great leader’. Is that something that you, as a young player, can show in camp or do you find yourself observing more than leading?

A: Oh definitely. I think leadership comes in many different forms. It’s not necessarily being the
‘rah rah’ guy in the dressing room but it’s more just doing the little things right on and off of the ice. Being in the gym after a hard workout, just taking care of your body, making sure you’re not out late the night before and stuff like that. I’m a younger guy and in
junior it’s easy to say that the younger guys look up to the older guys but I think (a rookie) can still lead. I try to be an example for my teammates.

Q: Does it add more pressure when people expect you to be a leader?

A: No, I take a lot of pride in that. That’s one thing that I’ve done from a very young age that I like to take charge and get things done instead of waiting for them to happen. That’s how I’ve always been and I won’t change that for anything. I didn’t change that this year and I’m not going to change that next year. It’s something that I like to do and I take a lot of pride in it and I’ve had some great leaders in the past that have shown me the way, so to speak so I’m just going to continue that I guess.

Q: If someone were to ask you about your strengths and weaknesses, what would you say your strong points are and what areas do you still think you have to improve on to play at the NHL level?

A: Strengths… obviously leadership and just overall game I think. I can contribute offensively when I get the chance and my defensive game has improved a lot this year. I can be put into any kind of role I think. With the World Juniors, for two years I was put into a checking role and we were looked upon to shutdown the top line of the opposing team and in Kootenay I was looked upon to be the offensive guy. This year in Hamilton it was both, it was a checking forward with some offensive, um (chuckles)… I guess you could say, “threat” at times. Just an overall game and I want to try and keep getting better every year. Some of the weaknesses I need to work on are my skating and my quickness and I’m definitely working on that as we speak. Getting stronger is something I think you can always work on and for me being such a young guy I think that will come too but you also do your part and make sure you’re as strong as possible to play in the NHL.

Q: How do you train to improve your speed? Have you ever run backwards on a treadmill as one of our readers suggested to me?

A: (laughs lightly) I have done that in the past, yeah. It’s one little thing that I think helps. There’s a lot of things you can do though, a lot of pliametrics, speed drills, quick feet stuff. First of all you want to get your strength up in your legs and upper body and then half way through the summer you start working on your quickness and agility. That’s one thing that I’ve started to work on earlier this year than in the past because I want to get quicker and I think I can always get quicker. The game is always getting faster and faster every year so it’s one thing to do is be as fast as you can on the ice.

Q: I asked Scott Howson a few weeks ago how he thought the Oilers might fill the void left by Todd Marchant, especially on the penalty kill. He indicated to me that he felt you could fill that hole very well.

A: That’s his opinion and it’s nice he said that but there are probably three or four guys who have a shot at making the team this year. Then again, it is up to the player itself and how they play. If they come into camp not prepared and ready they’re not going to make the team. I know that and I’ll be confident going in and try to play as well as I can and if I end up making the squad I’ll be ecstatic. I think going in you have to keep an open mind, there’s a lot of guys fighting for spots. You’ve just got to worry about your own game and not about the outside distractions so to speak.

Q: Did you play regularly on the penalty kill last year for the Bulldogs?

A: Yes.

Q: OK, so it is something that you’ve done in the past.

A: Yeah I’ve done a lot of it.

Q: You were talking about your offensive game earlier. Do you think you have a bigger offensive upside than people give you credit for?

A: I think it depends on what role you are put into. Last year in Hamilton with the call-ups I was playing a lot on the power play, the penalty killing was there all year, but the power play was where I started scoring and putting up some points. I think I can contribute offensively if I get the chance and that’s one part of my game that can improve also.

Q: What kind of a role would you like to have with the Oilers next year, provided you make the team, or do you not care because you just want to make the team first?

A: (laughs) I think just making the team is pretty good right now. Obviously I would take any role possible.

Q: You are pretty tight with Mike Comrie and played with him in

A: Yeah! We played together for that half a year there. I haven’t seen him much, obviously with him in L.A. right now. Last year we saw each other a little bit and we talk every once in a while on the phone. He’s a good guy and a good friend and I had a lot of fun playing with him.

Q: What numbers did you wear last year?

A: In Hamilton I wore #19 and in Edmonton I wore #36.

Q: Are those your top choices for this year again?

A: No it doesn’t really matter to me at all. In Junior I was #16 and my whole minor hockey I was #19. #16 was taken in Hamilton so I just went to #19 and that was it.

Q: Considering your history with Calgary, do you believe that games against the Flames will have an extra special significance for you?

A: I don’t think so. I don’t have anything to prove to them, I respect their organization like I did before and I have no hard feelings over what happened with them. Definitely I wouldn’t mind having a good game or two against them but I wouldn’t mind doing that against any team. You always want to play well against such a big rival like that.

Q: What would you consider to be a successful 2003-04 season personally?

A: Making the Oilers definitely! I think that last year I made strides and improved my game a little bit and hopefully next year it’s enough. If not, then it’s down to Toronto to try and continue to improve. I won’t think it’s a disappointment not making the NHL but definitely a setback. My goals are to make it to the NHL and the sooner that happens the better so I’m just trying to work and train hard in the summer to be ready for that.

Q: Tell me about the experience of going to the Calder Cup final and finishing one game short.

A: It was really tough on us. We had such high expectations. We made it to the finals and were one win away but just had a bad game to
‘stink out the joint’. It was a packed house and there was a lot of excitement about the team that day and we came up short and we played our worst playoff game. That’s tough to take but that’s hockey. It was an exciting year and an exciting run and I’ll never forget that.

Q: It was an exciting year and a long year for you. What do you do now to relax?

A: Yeah we finished June 12th I think. I took a couple of weeks off and then started training right away. I went on a golfing trip with a couple of my buddies out west to B.C. and that’s about it. Now I’m just hanging out in Saskatoon and training and doing a little bit of golf too.

Q: When will you come in to Edmonton for training camp?

A: I should be there around the 1st of September. I’ll skate at the UofA (University of Alberta) for a week or so before camp opens.