Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Return of Oilers Hockey

We are all excited that the 2011-12 season is almost under way.  Even Mark is excited.  Although I am not sure exactly how excited he small as that towel is, it covers just enough (too bad)!

Training camp is under way and the first preseason game was last night in Edmonton and Saskatoon.  Split squads played the Hawks in Saskatoon and the Wild in Edmonton.  Toonville saw the Nuge, Smyth and Eberle while Edmonton was treated to the Swedish line and Hall.  I was at the Edmonton game so I cannot say how well the other split squad played but they nevertheless won the game 4-2.  By all accounts, Dubnyk played quite well.

At least one of our goalies had a good game last night because it was a dreadful 30 minutes of action for the one and only, Mr. Nikolai Khabibulin.  Three goals on seven shots in the first period.  We can give him a pass on the first goal that deflected off one of the defenders (Marincin I believe) but the other two were ugly.

Some quick thoughts from the game:
  • Musil and Marincin struggled along with most of the defense.  Try-out kid Tupulov had some shaky moments but you can see there is talent there but wow is it raw.   I would like to see the Oilers sign him to Oklahoma and see if they can work out the rawness.
  • Taylor Hall picked up where he left off last season.  He had several first rate chances and easily could have scored a hatty.  Bad penalty late in the game led to the winning goal by the Wild.  D'oh!!
  • The Swedish meatballs line played very good together.  Lander, Paajarvi and Omark obviously have chemistry and it'll be interesting to see if they play on a line together.
  • Will Lander make the team?  With that game, yes.  However, it is more dependent on whether Nugent-Hopkins makes the team out of training camp and stays up.  Lander will at the very least be one of the first call-ups and should play half the year with the Oilers.
  • Hordichuk?  I thought he knew how to fight.
  • Belanger can win faceoffs, except the one that led to the winning goal (oopsie)!
It's only one preseason game but you can see where the strengths and weaknesses of this team lie; weak defense and goaltending but getting stronger up front.  Hopefully Edmonton gets to see the Nuge at the next preseason game along with a few more of the regulars.

Go Oilers!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Return of a Team I Never Cheered For!

This picture is from April 4, 1990, game one of the divisional semifinals between the glorious Edmonton Oilers and the perennial loser Winnipeg Jets.  Winnipeg would win this game 7-5 and end up taking a commanding 3 games to 1 lead in the series.  However, Edmonton would not go down without a fight and they came back to win the next three games and win the series in seven games.  This is the last time the two teams met in the NHL playoffs and I was there for games three, four and six in Winnipeg. 

Two car loads of family drove from Minnedosa to Winnipeg with our CBC sign (Crazy Boyd Clan + Bruce), a two hour journey to watch hockey.  With my dad, brother, uncle, and cousins all cheering for Winnipeg, I was the lone Oiler fan and in my opinion, the voice of reason.  I refused to dress in white, would not participate in the charge of the white brigade but happily accepted my white pompoms and cheered mightily for my Oilers.  As my cousin recently told me last month, I was the annoying Oiler fan on the trip and irritated him immensely during these games.  Mission accomplished.

Winnipeg won games three and four, with one going into overtime.  I was devastated but my boys refused to die, winning game five and coming back to Winnipeg for game six and seven.  I was elated and very annoying to my Jets crew.  I took pride in how many people I could annoy.  I went to many Oilers games in Winnipeg and was sad when the Jets left town in 1996. 

Fast forward a few years and I'm living in Winnipeg getting my Master of Arts in history.  The Jets left several years before in 1996 and the only hockey I got was the occasional pre-season game (usually the Oilers) and a trip to Edmonton in 2000 for some playoff hockey.  Yes my Oilers lost again to Dallas but it was a close game.

I finally moved to Edmonton in 2003 and during the first year, I was lucky to gets tickets for Grant Fuhr's retirement (front row baby), the Heritage Classic (finally seeing Gretzky in an Oilers uniform) and several years later, I was able to buy season tickets just in time for their run to the Stanley Cup final. 

Fast forward six years, the Oilers are in a rebuild and hockey has returned to Winnipeg.  While I can never abandon my Oilers, I think I can cheer for Winnipeg as my second team.  In any case, I'm escatic that hockey has returned to my home province.  I go home two to three times a year so I am thrilled my family will be able to hit up hockey games once again.  I am debating about being there for Winnipeg's home opener and have told my family I will actually cheer for them (unless they play my Oilers).  It will bring back a lot of good memories.

One final thought, let's hope they are named the Jets.  I know it is not the same team returning and continuity will take a hit but Ottawa got their Senators name back (yes a longer break between teams) so why not the Jets?  People will still buy the merchandise even though they have Jets stuff.  But most importantly, a majority of the fans in Manitoba want the Jets so if you want them to ante up for tickets, you'd better keep a bit happy.  Also, I have not liked any of the other possibilities floating around:  Falcons, Polar Bears, Moose.  They do not work.

Welcome back to Winnipeg!  Hockey rules!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Anyone but Vancouver

So our Oilers are getting another first round draft pick.  Yeah this happened a month ago but I've been busy.  I am watching the NHL playoffs but let's face it, if my Oil aren't involved, I'm not as involved.  However, I am watching even though all the teams I cheered for in the first round are out (Montreal, Pittsburgh and Chicago).  I am now cheering for Tampa Bay and whoever Vancouver plays.  I just do not want those diving cheating Canucks winning anything.  I hate divers.

I am watching the Sharks-Wings game right now before I head off to System of a Down concert.  Wings are getting so many chances but can't bury them or Niemi is holding the Sharks in this game.  It is an elimination game for the Wings so they better start burying their chances soon.

I am planning a trip to Rome and Athens in October.  I have been crazy busy researching my trip.  I hope to book it soon.  I wish miss the first three weeks of the Oilers season which makes me sad.  I missed the first three weeks when I went to Germany in 2008 but I did keep up with the scores for part of the trip.  I hope they have a better October this year than in 2008.  They started 4-0 but lost the next 5.  So let's not repeat that, okay?

Did the Wings score finally?  Crap, it was the Sharks.

Anyway, with another first round pick which I think the Oilers will select Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (read some of the head scout's interviews, seems like this is the guy) even though I was hoping for Larsson.  But these guys are the experts and all I want is for them to take the best player available.  My only concern with Hopkins is quite a few of his points are scored on the powerplay.  I hope he is not a PP specialist.  But lots of praise coming out for the kid so this could be the guy.

Oilers do not have to make the playoffs next year BUT BUT BUT they have to be in the mix.  They cannot be out of the race by December.  Just compete harder, put up some more points and maybe keep Khabby out of the goal more often.  Give the fans something to cheer for.....


Friday, February 18, 2011

Down go the Habs!

Twice a year, the Leafs and Habs visit Rexall Place.  Both of these team's fans are annoying as hell.  They infiltrate the arena, infecting it with their douchiness, and out cheer the home team.  However, last night, the home team got the last laugh and the biggest cheers when the game was over.  The Edmonton Oilers, who are currently sitting in 30th in the NHL, yes that is dead last, beat the Habs, a playoff team. 

It was a delightful night of hockey.  Oilers fans have not had a lot to celebrate this year yet they continue to show up to games and support their team.  Last week, the Oilers played their worst hockey of the year.  It was so uninspired, it was probably the most pissed off I've been after a game.  It seemed like they didn't care.  Yes this team is not built to win but for fuck sakes, show up and give a damn.  Where is your pride? 

They finally showed up against Dallas and Montreal this week. This is the Oilers team I expected to see occasionally this year.  We have not seen them often enough, especially the last couple of months.  Finishing in a lottery position is not in doubt.  Finishing dead least is now in doubt especially with Ottawa finally blowing up their team after a dreadful run this year.  The Devils and Islanders are winning and moving out of the bottom two so it is now a two horse race. 

Last week I wanted the Oilers to finish dead last and get the best chance for the first overall pick.  Today?  I do not give a damn about the first overall pick.  I want wins.  I want excitement.  I want Oilers hockey.  So finishing second last is fine with me.  As I write that, I do realize that is a very funny comment.  This is a rebuild, so you got to go with the flow!

We are also coming up on trade deadline so rumors are floating around like crazy.  Many involve our very own Penner and Hemsky.  In fact, the Hemsky rumors are growing by day and are making me damn nervous.  I wrote a lengthy article for The Fourth Period regarding both Ales and Dustin at the end of December.  I still feel the same way.  Keep Hemsky and Penner, get them signed to extensions and continue the rebuild.  If they do not want to sign extensions, trade away.  But if they do, you must do everything in your power to NOT be swayed away by sexy prospects or another first round draft pick. 

In Hemsky, you're getting almost a point per game player, is in the top five for even strength points and is very exciting.  Penner brings power, a big body on a small team and drives to the net.  Trading these players will only set back the team and the rebuild.  It does not help to trade away your best players for magic beans.  This team needs NHL players.  It's that simple.

My latest article for The Fourth Period is up here....was posted a few weeks ago. 

As Taylor Hall said last night, "One win is a fluke, two is a streak."  Let's continue the streak!!!!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Battle for the Basement

It has been a bitch of a January so far in Edmonton.  We've had a lot of snow; roughly 45-50 cm in the past two weeks.  It's snowmageddon around here.

However, we can always count on our Edmonton Oilers to perk up our spirits.  What?  They have won only 2 games in their last 8?  Yikes.  They also haven't scored on the PP in 11 games going 0/37 during that stretch. There have been some hard games to watch but in the same breath, there has been some exciting hockey.

Exciting last place hockey?  The Oilers are fighting for last place with the Devils and Islanders.  Who will win?  I have no problem with our Oilers finishing last one more time.  This team was only six points out of a playoff spot in early December but are now solidly in the bottom three.  There have been injuries (Whitney, Horcoff, Eberle), inconsistency, poor goaltending (Khabibulin who is winless in his last eight) and an anemic powerplay.

The games against the Ducks on Sunday is a prime example of the problems of this team:  failure to show up until the second period, getting down early in a game (3-0), mounting a big comeback (2 quick goals), exciting hockey, and failure to score on the powerplay (which included a 6-3 in the final minute).

This is typical of a rebuilding team.  I do not want to excuse this team for their poor play at times but this is going to happen over the next year or two.  Tambellini needs to provide a better supporting cast.  He did a good job this past summer but never found his third line center who can win faceoffs and kill penalties.  He did not find a good shutdown defenseman.  What will happen with the goalie situation?  Is Dubnyk the man?  He needs to play more games at the very least so the coaching staff can get a better idea of the future possibility.

Fans are very supportive of this rebuild.  They understand it cannot happen overnight but are seeing small steps forward already.

Here is my latest article for The Fourth Period which I submitted before xmas.  Time to get going on the next one.

Do not trade Hemsky or Penner.  I really want Tambellini to make sure he does not cock this up.  They are only traded IF IF IF IF they do not sign an extension this summer.  I will keep advocating for both these players as I feel they are necessary to this rebuild.

p.s.  Happy Birthday Mark favorite hockey player!  I adore thee!