Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Welcome to the Campbell Conference, Bitch!

The Jets have not played in Edmonton since March 29, 1996 (ignoring our recent preseason) and I'm quite excited to see them again. I grew up in Manitoba, cheering for the Oilers of course, but I have many friends and family who still live in Manitoba. I've been smacking talking my brother all day. Don't let me down Edmonton!!

Hemsky and his Oilers are going to put a few pucks behind Pavelec.

Welcome to the Western Conference, bitch (CAMPBELL CONFERENCE)! You are not in Kansas anymore. No easy games in the West anymore; it is a much tougher conference. It is going to be a rough season for those little Jets.

Let's remember the old Smythe division years (and a name that should have been resurrected for the realignment instead of the exciting name of.....Pacific) when the Edmonton Oilers played the Winnipeg Jets all the time. I like to refer to the Winnipeg Jets as the free spot on the bingo card. The free spot on the bingo card is BACK!

Oilers and their fans should be VERY happy the Jets are back in our conference. Unfortunately they are NOT in our division (the lovely named Pacific) but the Oilers will still play them several times this year.  Welcome to the Western Conference, Bitch! :)

One final note, Andrew Ference is now the 14th Captain in the history of the Edmonton Oilers. I would have preferred Taylor Hall but as I said on twitter, this probably is not a big deal. Everyone knows that Taylor Hall is the BEST and MOST important player on the Oilers. Hall doesn't need a C to lead - he does that every night ON the ice. 

Tonight - Oilers vs Jets. Let's bring it on.

Update: Thanks to Ryan Batty for setting me straight - it is the CAMPBELL CONFERENCE BITCHES!!!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Halleluiah, Ales Hemsky is still an Oiler

Halleluiah, Ales Hemsky is still an Oiler. I did not see this happening. Of course, I hope when training camp opens in a few weeks he is still here. Maybe I am a bit paranoid but I expect him to traded for a bag of pucks because the Oilers are stupid.

Do I dare expect him in the lineup on opening night?  I want this SO badly.

Dude can still play. Oilers need NHL players. It is a no-brainer that we MUST keep him. I know MacT wanted to trade him so I cannot fully get on board with the MacT-is-smart. Sure Hemsky remains an Oiler because MacTavish did not ditch him for some idiot third line checker. So yes, MacT is not a complete idiot but he did want to trade him in the first place.

Speaking of trades, I am sad to see little Shawn Horcoff leave us. While he was overpaid, he was a VERY useful player. The Oilers will miss his defensive play. He played those tough minutes, along with our Hemsky, for many years. His tenure with the Oilers should not be noted for getting one of the greatest contracts one could get for having a good year (points-wise).

The pre-season starts in a month and yes I am starting to look forward to hockey. Seriously, in the past week, I am jonesing for hockey BIG TIME!  Let's go Oilers, hook me up.

Opening night is set for October 1st when the Jets come to town for the first time in.....how long?  According to hockey-reference.com, it appears the last time a team from Winnipeg played in Edmonton was March 29, 1996. Oilers won (OF COURSE) 3-2.  Fun fact, Nikolai Khabibulin played goal for those Jets. Oh and Satan scored two goals for the Oilers. Good thing they traded him not long after for basically a bag of pucks.

My last game in Winnipeg was way back in 1995 (October 11) when I cheered on Mark Messier's Rangers. They did win 6-4.  The Moose had two assists and the players loaded the bus from an area blocked off from the fans so I could not snag an autograph. I did get a blurry picture....must find that somewhere.

Sadly, I may miss the home-opener because I have tickets to John Cleese's show, "Last Time to See Me Before I Die."  I cannot miss an opportunity to see Cleese before he dies.  His show kept selling out so damn fast, they added three more shows. I have a ticket to the first show. If I can switch my tickets, I will be in Rexall cheering on my Oilers over the Jets, just like the days of old in Manitoba.

I was born and raised in Manitoba and NEVER cheered for the Jets. I was the annoying kid in the stands cheering for the Oilers. And believe me, I was SUPER annoying.  I took a lot of pride in that.

So as I told me brother and several other Jets' fan when I was in Manitoba for vacation this summer (and hope it is true), welcome to the Western Conference BITCH!  :)

Last thing, check out my travel blog, The Travelling Historian. I'll be posting about my travels and giving tips. Plus I will post as we lead up to the Sochi Olympics.  I've been to Europe five or six times and am planning another trip for this upcoming February 2014 to Moscow, the Sochi Olympics and Prague.  I have been to the last two Olympics in London and Vancouver so I am ready to cheer on my Canadians one more time.

In particular, I am hoping to see both hockey teams win again. I was lucky enough to have tickets to both events in Vancouver and hey, I have tickets to both events again in Sochi. Women's and men's hockey, let's go!!!!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Out of the Darkness

Do you ever wish that you were still in the dark?  I made that comment recently on twitter regarding the Oilers. It was partly in jest but I almost meant it. Sometimes I wish I did not know all that I know.

I know so much more than I did when I was a teenager living in southern Manitoba watching the Oilers on CBC, if they happened to show them. That was rare. In those days, there was one game on Saturday night and it almost never included the Edmonton Oilers. We all know who they showed; the god damn Toronto Maples Leafs. I lived in Manitoba but they would show the damn Leafs while people in Saskatchewan and West would get the Oilers game. It was frustrating to us Oiler fans in Manitoba. I remember writing letters to the CBC bitching about this and asking them to show my team more often. Then came the double header, I think in the 1990s. Finally, the Oilers were on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada regularly.

I remember a time when anything I knew about my Edmonton Oilers came from either the CBC Hockey Night in Canada people or from the local newspapers in Manitoba and later in Alberta where I moved. This was and is still considered the MSM (mainstream media). Bloggers did not exist. Fancy stats did not exist. The internet was in its infancy. We have come a long way in a short time. The amount of information available is incredible. Anytime we want to know something, let's google it and you will have it within seconds.

When did everything change? For me it was after I moved to Alberta in 2003. I was now in a hockey city again. The Jets had been gone from Winnipeg for around seven years and it just was not the same living in Manitoba without a hockey team (sorry minor hockey does not count)!  I came here for graduate school, picking Edmonton over Toronto, a decision I would still make today, but I was more excited about being able to go to Oiler games on a regular basis more than anything.

My first year in Edmonton: I went to Grant Fuhr's jersey retirement ceremony and then the Heritage Classic. It was the first time I had seen Gretzky play in person and I was excited. I was actually more excited for Messier as he was my favorite hockey player. I had seen him play for the Rangers in Winnipeg, the last Jets game I have been to, but was glad to finally see him in Oiler colors!

By 2004, I think this is when I started my blog. Not this one on blogger, I had one on MSN. It is now long gone. When I made the switch to blogger in 2006 maybe, I never went back to msn until it was too late and never saved my old blogs before they switched over to wordpress. I wish I had just to save one post where I called the 2006 Edmonton Oilers serious Stanley Cup contenders IF they found a decent goalie.

The Oilogosphere was born around this time. Dozens upon dozens of Oiler blogs popped up around this time. I will not name them all but there were some great ones. Some are now defunct, possibly due to seven years of mediocrity, but many continue. These blogs were fun and informative. Some blogs were super into stats, particularly new stats or expanding on current stats. No longer were you looking only for goals, assists, penalty minutes and plus/minus. Now there is the Corsi, zone starts, goals and points over 60 minutes and per game averages, quality of linemates and opposition, and scoring chances. 

So when the Oilers make a bad trade or signing, I know.  Or at least, I have access to more information to know that it is probably not a good trade. One example: when the Oilers traded Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz, I know it is a horrible trade. In the preblog world, I would hear how tough and big he is, how gritty and physical he is from the media and not know that it was not entirely accurate. I would not know that trading a two-way puck-moving defenseman who is more physical than the stay-at-home tough guy was a bad trade.

I love that we have access to information. I wish more hockey fans would read these blogs and educate themselves. Do not listen to the MSM or radio people who work for the team. Read up, check the other stats and find out for yourself that adding more fourth line plugs maybe is not a good idea.  I know now that the Oilers management are completely incompetent, from Kevin Lowe to Steve Tambellini. I used to be a Lowe defender, saying he had no money to manage this team during the dark years and did the best with what he had.

After the first lockout, Lowe had a great run and made some fantastic trades which helped the team get to game seven on the Finals. What has he done since 2006? Whether it is him or Tambo making the trades (does Lowe have final approval? Who makes the decision? Is it by committee?), there is a LONG list of horrible trades and signings. From giving four years to Khabibulin or trading Visnovsky for Whitney who already had foot problems or trading Grebeshkov for a second rounder (then lamenting they did not have any puck movers any more), the GM's has mismanaged this team. Let's not even talk about the second Pronger trade which was absolute crap (funny enough former AGM Howson who has returned as a scout recently touted that trade, saying how you have to wait 4-5 years. What year are we in Scott? Yes year seven of no playoffs).

I know this. Complete mismanagement. Seven years of absolute crap. Outside the first overall pick (which were easy choices), the Oilers have botched almost everything else from the rest of the draft, pro-scouting, trades and signings. I sit here fearful that the Oilers will trade Smid for Jack Johnson or Hemsky for more dregs or prospects. If you want size and toughness, great, but do not forget to get skill WITH it. Enough with the plugs that are tough (Eager and Hordichuk who thankfully have been waived but both deals failing were foreseeable to everyone else but management); Oilers needs skill.

I have rambled enough and it is dark outside but not inside. Those days are long gone. Most days I am glad I know what I know.  :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oilers Hockey is Back

We are a few hours away from the return of Oilers hockey. I admit that I am excited and as the NHL expected, the fans have returned. Have we returned completely? Probably more so than not. I did vow that I would buy less merchandise and beer; so far I have held up that promise. Although I am already regretting my 'less beer' stance.

This shortened season will be interesting. 48 games with many players not playing for months. The Oilers do not have this problem as many have been playing either in the AHL or in Europe. They should have a head start to the season over quite a few other teams.  Will the success in the AHL and Europe translate to the NHL? I imagine some of it will and there will be struggles as well.  Aside from an appearance in the Spengler Cup, Dubnyk did not play during the lockout. This is his moment to seize as he starts as the Oilers' number one goalie. He played well during the second part of last season and if he can continue, the Oilers will have a chance for some playoff hockey.

The forwards are the most game ready with Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, Hemsky and Gagner all playing during the lockout and playing extremely well.  This is your Oilers top two lines and they are expected to light teams up this year. Last year, the team scored fewer goals than the previous season so the team must take a step forward and not back. They won more games last year but still finished near the bottom (29th if you do not remember). They had the fortunate luck of winning the draft lottery and picking the exciting Nail Yakupov who had a very good stretch in the KHL but underperformed at the World Junior's.  The OKC boys lit it up down in the AHL and Nugent-Hopkins continued his dominance at the World Juniors but that was not enough to medal.  Hemsky and Gagner played in Europe and while both did very well, Hemsky in particular showed he was back to his dangling self.  With two healthy shoulders, this should be Hemsky's year and if practice has showed anything, he has developed chemistry with Gagner and Yakupov and he may finally have a finisher on his line in Yakupov at the same time as being healthy.

The defense....what to say about it? With a hopefully healthy Whitney and the signing of Justin Schultz, they should be able to put up the points particularly on the powerplay. The BIG question is can they stop the bleeding in their own end?  The Oilers defense is their weakness and it has been for some time.  The other Schultz and Smid should help but this team does lack a bit of depth even with the addition of Fistric. With the offensive-minded forwards, the defense will need to step up if the Oilers wish to see hockey in May.

To predict where the Oilers will finish this year is difficult.  They finished 29th last year and added a Schultz, a Yakupov and a Fistric. Is that enough to jump from 14th in their conference into at least 8th place? That seems like a daunting task since the Oilers need to improve in almost every single area. The only great stat from last year is the powerplay where they finished 3rd and they will need to maintain that to have a chance. Their PK was an improvement last year but they'll need to take less penalties and improve the killing to top ten at least.  Oilers were a very penalized team last year so they must cut down on the number of penalties while improving the pk.

The other change has been behind the bench. Can Ralph Krueger take over from Tom Renney and lead this team into the playoffs?  One hopes so.

I think the Oilers are the hardest team to predict. From finishing 29th last year to having so many players kicking butt during the lockout, to having an iffy defense and unproven goalie, this is a hard one to see.  Many see the Oilers finishing 13th in the conference (so said the TSN dudes). I think they will finish more than one spot higher than last year but that defense will probably be their downfall.  I'll predict 9th place but they really do have an outside chance at making the playoffs.  The forwards look great!!!!  Let's hope they score like we are expecting they will (as we thought they would last year).  I am hoping for some playoff hockey. It has been TOO long in Oil Country!

I'm off to the pub tonight to watch with some friends but cannot wait for our home opener on Tuesday.  I will buy only one beer. I will buy only one beer. Maybe.