With the Oilers’ announcement that the new assistant captains were Eberle, Hall and Schultz, there effectively was a “changing of the guard” happening.

For many years the Oilers have looked to Smyth, Horcoff and Hemsky to do the heavy lifting on this team. Smyth has gone and returned. Horcoff and Hemsky have been serving this team as veterans since the summer of 2006. Hemsky and Horcoff have both seen their fair share of injuries and together with Smyth they probably aren’t the same players they used to be. But nonetheless, they have been the “go to guys” on this team for many years.

But not for much longer.

Since the 2006-07 season the Oilers have been in transition to a younger, faster team. With this rebuilding phase comes its own aches and pains and besides the high draft picks that come with the process there is also a drawn-out growth process where team has to learn how to play team defense and learn how to win again.

It is because of that I don’t see this as a slight on Hemsky, Smyth or Whitney.

These wily veterans may have given up their letters, and – eventually – so will Horcoff and his “C.”

But that’s not today or any time this season.

Rather, it is a call to duty and a challenger presented to the next wave of Oilers. These are the guys who have been the wonder kids for a few years now and Ralph Krueger is saying to them, it’s time to stop talking about the potential of the future, but rather, time to start seeing some results. Schultz is a sign that the team will value a return to team defense. Hall and Eberle represent the two biggest contracts on this team starting next year and with the letter comes the responsibility of being the impact players on the team.

It’s not too soon to do this, as some might think.

It’s about time, I would say.


P.S. It was hilarious to read some of the criticisms and comments of hockey fans from outside of Edmonton. Apparently some people didn’t realize the assistant captain’s “A” had gone to Nick Schultz and not Justin Schultz.