Inked to a new five-year contract, and coming off of the best season of his career, Blues' winger, T.J. Oshie, is ready to get down to business, preparing for the next stage of his career with the Blues.
Oshie will no longer be considered a 'rookie', or an inexperienced player, he will now be relied upon to mentor the up-and-coming NHL players such as Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz and the first lesson will be offseason conditioning and how to prepare for the grind of the regular season that starts in October and ends six months later in April. Oshie has already gotten a head start on his offseason, and plans to kick it up a notch in the very near future.
"The conditioning is going well, the strength is improving. I am training just like I did last summer except last summer kind of kick-started me into this summer so I’m already ahead of where I was last year at the start. It is going really well, I will possibly begin skating this week, but first and foremost I want to get my strength up and my weight up a few pounds.”
The five-foot-11, 194 pound forward plays a game centered around physicality, and puck-control. This style of game required immense conditioning, and is prone to injuries, something Oshie has dealt with the past few seasons. Oshie missed 31 games in during the 2010-11 campaign, most of which were due to a fractured ankle that occurred in a scrum during a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in early November, 2010. Oshie was the Blues' top scorer at the time of the injury, but obviously lost that title along with a chunk of the season. Oshie was signed to a one-year 'prove yourself' contract in the 2011 offseason in hopes that it would spark his game and make him more committed to the organization on and off of the ice.
“Everyone wants a long-term deal and a big deal," said Oshie. "It was great for us to play under pressure and to prove ourselves. I think that ‘prove yourself’ contract kind of jolted me last summer in my training and that has carried me over into this summer.”
“We certainly thought he had a good, productive season last year," said Armstrong. "Some of the stuff we were looking for as far as consistency on the ice, ability to play 80 games was there. I also think he embraced the new coach and someone with Ken’s experience is valuable to our organization. This made it a natural movement to get him signed to a longer deal if possible.”
But despite knowing he will be paid well ($4.1175 million per year) for the next five years, Oshie is not content with where his game is currently at, but still says he noticed some things he did well last season.
“I was really happy with my two-way game last year. Obviously the points were there a little bit more for me. I just want to continue to progress as an all-around player. I always want to score more points and that’s something I need to focus a bit more on. Just shooting the puck, and going to the net. I was on the power play in front of the net last year so I need to work on tips and screening this year. My leg strength will bring a little more speed to my game and make me more dynamic with the puck.”
The lack of leg strength was noticeable in the second round of the playoffs when the Blues faced the Los Angeles Kings. Oshie said he injured his knee at some point during that series, and has yet to skate this offseason because of the injury, but he also says it is nothing to worry about.
“I haven’t skated yet (because of) a little knee injury I had against Los Angeles in the playoffs. It is going really well, I will possibly begin skating this week and see how everything feels."
Oshie's leg isn't the only concerning injury the forward had last season. For the first time in his NHL career, Oshie played in 80 regular season games, but he was scratched for two games as the result of a bothersome wrist injury to not one, but both of his wrists. The injury reportedly affected his ECU tendon in both wrists, but the injuries have healed well enough that surgery isn't necessary.
“I got (wrist) checked several times after the season and it didn’t make sense to have surgery and take myself out of training for possibly a six to seven week period.”
“My right (wrist) is fully healed, it was the first one that went in November, and my left one that happened right before Christmas is getting close to being 100-percent.”
Both injuries were bothersome in the playoffs, but it's a fair assumption that even if Oshie had been 100-percent, the Blues would have still been eliminated by the Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings. The Blues, along with Oshie are looking for more from themselves, but one thing that isn't lacking is belief.
“The way the Kings played in the playoffs is how we want to be," said Oshie. "We played that way at times during the regular season and it didn’t quite carry over into that second round of the playoffs. I think we have the character in the locker room to get everyone to bear down and play that style of hockey. I think there is a bright future for the Blues. Obviously I feel very strongly about that otherwise that five-year deal would have been harder to take.”