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The Relocation and Rebuild of Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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Confidence is a huge factor in our daily lives. Getting efficient and effective work done, meeting and shmoozing people you wanna shmooze, and in the case of hockey players, it’s often about scoring goals. Vancouver Canucks winger Conor Garland conveyed that message Monday night in Abbotsford after the Canucks 4-2 exhibition win over Calgary.

“Confidence it probably the biggest thing, it’s huge,” Garland declared. He scored the opening goal of the game just 2:38 into the first period. “When you don’t have confidence, it’s a hard way to get it back, so I’ll take a goal anytime, if it’s the middle of the summer, if it’s preseason or an NHL playoff, they all feel good. It’s nice to get one, but once the season starts you’d better keep scoring.”

So just how important is it for the man he arrived here with from Arizona, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, to establish confidence? Very important. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been doing whatever it is you’re doing, it’s often mind over matter. For OEL it’s not so much about scoring goals of course, although he does have 128 of them in his career on the blueline, it’s about shutting down the opponent and playing a sound transition game. Garland is confident in OEL, the former veteran leader for the Coyotes.

“Yeah, he looks really good,” Garland said. “It’s nice to see how fast he is playing, moving the puck so well and how physical he is, he looks like the Oliver I know. He was my captain and every time he threw a hit he used to get our team really fired up, so to see him in the preseason playing that way, it’ll engage guys even more.”

“I thought he took charge tonight, played with a lot of energy,” Head Coach Travis Green said. “Had a lot of bite in his game too, which you always like.”

Paired with the same man he’s spent quite a bit of time with in camp, Tucker Poolman, Ekman-Larsson finished the evening with two assists and was awarded the game’s first star. And even though it’s preseason and the recognition was completely arbitrary, he seemed to enjoy the postgame twirl across the rink in front of the fans. Every little boost can help him as he transitions to a Vancouver organization and fan base that possesses great expectations. The last couple of seasons haven’t been his best.

“It’s like any other business, there are days you’re struggling a little bit,” OEL told the media last week. “And the last couple of years there have been more days like that, but I think I learned a lot from that and have kind of been just battling through it.”

OEL’s offensive numbers in this past shortened season were actually ahead of his career half-a-point-a-game pace, but based on analytics and the eye-test, it was his effectiveness in his own zone that slipped. Though he remains a physical player in his 6’2″, 205 pound frame, his mobility slowed.

“Even if I was struggling I just kept working hard and felt that I wanted to get better and that’s the mindset that I have,” he added.

Speaking of mind over matter, there’s no question leaving Arizona and hitting a white-hot NHL market will give him a boost. It will also bring pressure to perform.

“I’m super excited to get a fresh start here and I feel like I’m a really good player still and I have a lot left in me,”OEL added. He definitely has plenty of contract remaining. The 30-year-old native of Karlskrona, Sweden has six years remaining at $7.26-million per season. “Everybody says I’m slowing down and getting old, but I feel I’m in my prime and I’m really excited about it.”

“He’s a great player,” Garland added. “Was he up to his standard, I mean that’s his call, he felt he needed a fresh start, but he looks pretty good out there so I’m excited for him and excited for the team. That’s a really good defenceman back there.

 

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