After an interview with former Oilers' captain Andrew Ference went viral, damning the 2013-15 Oilers team, current Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkins denies the claim that the team was even close to as bad as Ference described in his guest appearance on the 31 Thoughts the Podcast.
Nugent-Hopkins is the last remaining player on that 2013-15 roster to which Ference was referring when he laid into the terrible culture surrounding the team. Ference described the group as a young roster full of talent but always going out until 3 am, sometimes 5 am and not ready to work as hard as it took to win games in the NHL. He said of the group, "It was to the point where it was ridiculous where the lifestyle was way more important than actually playing the game and making the playoffs.”
Nugent-Hopkins was asked for his opinion on the description provided by Ference and the normally reserved center for the Edmonton Oilers didn't waste time firing back. “To say that guys were going out all the time and were showing up hungover, I don’t remember guys doing that at all,” he said. He then rolled his eyes at the notion the players weren't willing to work hard and added, "Guys had every intention of working hard and getting better. Guys tried.”
The Oilers now have a new coach in Ken Hitchcock and after joining the team part way through this season, Hitchcock said of this year's team that he was impressed with how hard they practiced, lending some weight to the idea that Nugent-Hopkins knows the difference between a hard and lazy practice.
Nugent-Hopkins finished with, “For us, in our room, we don’t really care what (Ference) said. We’re a new culture, we’re a new team in here. We’ve grown over the years like all young teams and young people do.”
What This Means
When the Ference interview first went public, there were certainly fans in Edmonton who didn't like what he had to say about the team. It made the Oilers look like a less-than-professional organization with attitude issues that could still be affecting the organization today. There were others that wondered why Ference would say something so far outside of his time as a player when doing so would only hurt his hometown team.
Clearly, Nugent-Hopkins was not a fan and felt it necessary to stand up for his former teammates — whoever it was the Ference was specifically referring to — and his current team.
At this point, the best thing the Oilers can do is start winning, proving that even if what Ference said was true, things have changed.