Don Cherry was Fired, and A Lot of his Detractors Showed Their Worst in the Process

Remembrance day is always a sad day no matter what.  Remembering such tragic events and that people had to give their lives for our freedom is pretty damn sombre.  But then the news broke that Rogers was getting rid of Don Cherry.  And while I want to do a bit of a tribute to a man who I view as the most entertaining hockey broadcaster of all time and a man who did a lot to grow the sport I love, there is also the other side to this.  I’m probably way out of my lane on a lot of this and should keep my mouth shut.  But like an idiot, I’m not going to.  First things first, I want to talk about Grapes.

 

Don Cherry

I got my first Rockem’ Sockem’ VHS (yes, I’m THAT old) from my Grandma Babb for my 8th birthday.  To this day, I can quote the entire video.  In fact, I’ve been wanting to start doing “watch-along” podcasts with different videos like that which are now on YouTube, and that will be the first one I do if or when I get around to it.  Anyway, I obviously was well aware of Don Cherry before I got that video, but after I got that video I became a massive fan of Grapes.  Coaches Corner became appointment TV for me on Saturday’s, despite not having the attention span to watch a full game (unless maybe it was the Oilers), I would know that Grapes would be on around 6:45 MST, and then starting in 1995 it would be around 5:45 MST (actually in that season and maybe 96 too, might have been 6:15 because I believe when HNIC first switched to doubleheaders they started at 5:30, not 5:00).  My Grandma knew I loved the Rockem’ Sockem’ videos so much that I’m not sure I ever again got a different Christmas gift from her (she got me 2 for my birthday, but of course they were always released around Christmas).  Even after they dropped off (around 7-10 they declined in quality), I’d still look forward to getting that gift, symbolic of one of my favourite gifts I ever received.  And you’d always watch the latest one once.  Even if they got bad, at some point on Christmas day (normally in that lull from about noon until 4 or 5) I’d be off to watch it with my brother, brother in law, nephews, whoever.

I’ve got his books, his videos/DVD’s, and watched Coaches Corner for years.  In more recent years, I haven’t cared whether or not I watched Coaches Corner, because if we’re being frank, it’s declined.  It’s what happens.  It just was no longer appointment TV for me.  Nothing wrong with that, and no doubt Don still had a big audience.  Otherwise, he wouldn’t continually be brought back.  But I still hold him in very high regard, have always understood that he shouldn’t have been taken overly seriously and that a lot of what he had to say was more schtick/brand than anything else.  “But he said X” yeah, and why are you taking it seriously?  He’s just being a loudmouth, that’s his schtick.

More than anything, Grapes reminds me of my Grandma who passed away a little over six years ago.  So when he was fired, a lot of that pain came back.

 

Outrage/cancel culture

Let’s be honest, people got “outraged” because it was Don Cherry, not so much because of what he said.  I follow a lot of hockey analytics people on Twitter for example, and a lot of them seem to watch Coaches Corner non-stop because they hate what Grapes had to say on hockey.  They wanted him fired, not because of anything controversial that he had to say, but because he had a different view of the game then he did.  If they were being honest, they would say they just wanted him gone, they didn’t care how.  In reality, they were likely the ones keeping his numbers up having far too little common sense to simply turn the channel.  But there is this desire to silence anyone who disagrees with anyone in anyway (speaking of all people).  And guess what?  It’s working.  Corporations are listening to this vocal minority.  The “outrage” about this is no different than it was for the latest Dave Chappelle Netflix special.  Is what’s being said truly offending people, or is it just that people are so thin-skinned these days that nobody can say anything?  It’s the latter, without a doubt.  People in general, no matter what your political affiliation, race, gender, etc need to get thicker skin.  Too many people love to play the victim card.  It’s something I talked to my psychologist about because I worry that I do it all the time.  A shit ton of people LOVE to play that card and it is an awful quality.

 

Hypocrites

So many people on social media love to look down on others as if they are so much morally better than everyone.  I think of a guy like Bruce Arthur, who will go after people on Twitter he views as pieces of shit (for lack of a better term).  Which is fine.  I have no issue with that.  But then you better be one damn good person.  A lot of people act this way online.  And you can tell with how they converse with people online that they aren’t.  They actually seem like the complete opposite of that.  Otherwise, why are you talking down to people no matter what the setting is?  I’ve got into it with people online and more specifically on Twitter, and I’m humiliated by it.  But I can at least say that I rarely do it, I’m not looking to do it as so many others are.  They’ll talk in one tweet about how they’re anti-bullying, and then they are looking to intellectually bully someone.  That’s not any better, jackass.  I go back to Bruce Arthur, and I have no idea if Bruce is perhaps the best person mankind has ever known, he could be.  But I do know that a day after he tweets #belletstalk, he is then looking to shout down or humiliate anyone who disagrees with anything he has to say.  I know when I get humiliated in more of a public setting, there are times that I get embarrassed to the point where I go into depression.  Do I “deserve” to get depressed?  Do I “deserve” to feel worthless and have suicidal thoughts?  Are there some people on social media who are pieces of shit?  ABSOLUTELY.  Is that everyone who might disagree with you?  Hell no it’s not and some people just don’t know how to articulate their opinion well or maybe just are heated in the moment but are actually a good person.  If you’re so much more intelligent than other people, how about we have the intelligence to know that you don’t know what might be going on in someone’s life and just walk away from it?  Those people would likely say that people just need to be more educated.  Well if I smack you in the teeth, shouldn’t you just hit a weight room or take some self-defence classes to fight back?

There are a lot of self-righteous people like I’m talking about above disgustingly dancing on the grave of Coaches Corner and claiming their reason is that Don Cherry would hurt people with what he would say.  And that’s not untrue, I’m sure this and other things have hurt people.  But they just want to use that as their crutch.  They are the same people who wouldn’t be anything even respectful, let alone gracious, to people in everyday life.  It’s all an act just because they believe it makes themselves look good.  Scott Burnside from the Athletic wrote earlier today that Rogers should look at Christie Blatchford as a possible replacement for Don.  Scott, you’re completely full of shit because the only reason you said that was to make yourself look “woke” to your readers (Scott also called for Ron McLean’s head in the piece, if you think Ron McLean should be fired from his job or that he’s ANYTHING other than one of the best people in the country, you should retire from writing because you are simply horrendous at your job).  Jonathan Willis did the exact same thing when writing about the Oilers GM opening last spring for the Athletic.  Fuck, Jon didn’t even mention the most qualified woman for the job!!  The woman he brought up didn’t have anything close to the qualifications for the job, and meanwhile, Meghan Chayka (sister of Coytoes GM John Chayka) was more than qualified and he didn’t bother to mention her.  If you MUST attempt to sound woke, AT LEAST get it right!!  That’s how you know these guys don’t actually believe what they’re saying.  I’m a guy that has ZERO issue with women getting roles predominately filled by men.  Could not care less who might occupy a job.  Gender, race, age, doesn’t even slightly matter to me.  I simply have one ask for any person getting any job: They’re qualified.  That’s it.

Back to my point here though which is looking to legitimately be a good person and not just act like it.

I know for myself, I look to beat people to the punch with politeness.  I think of anyone in the service industry, and how I’ll try to tell them to have a good day before they can say it to me.  Why?  Because I worry that others might not, and they are essentially forced to do that to customers, no matter how those customers might treat them.  I’ll look to hold doors open for people, and I’ll never forget the elderly man at the EPCOR offices in Edmonton 15 years ago who I did it for who was ELATED that I did that and exclaimed to me “apparently chivalry isn’t dead after all!”  I laughed and said “oh thanks” and then proceeded to go back to my apartment, go to excite.com, and look up what that word was he used…because at 20 years old and taking broadcasting, I didn’t know the word chivalry.  Look, am I a hero?  Of course.  But do I brag about it?  No….Seriously though, I don’t think I’m any kind of “do-gooder”.  I can pick apart a ton of things that I do wrong or should do better.  But common courtesy things like holding doors open, telling people to have a good day, showing respect by always shaking someone’s hand, I look to do non stop because you never know what someone might be going through and how you might impact that.  So why not do little things like that?  I deal with depression, and I don’t want anyone else to feel how I might when I’m going through that depression.

The easy thing to do on the internet is to be a social justice warrior and act like you care about everyone.  In most cases, those people are just looking for likes, the same as people are looking for likes for pictures of their kids on Facebook or likes for their beach body on Instagram.  It sounds good, but they don’t actually walk the walk.  If there is a quality I loathe more than any other, it’s being phony.  I really hate fake people.  I have an uncle who is the most fake person I’ve ever met in my life, guess how I get along with him.  It’s a disgusting quality in my books, and on social media it is all over the place.

 

Rogers

I’ve never been a Rogers/Sportsnet fan.  I knew they would do a poor job with the NHL package since desperately and wildly overpaying for it in the fall of 2013 (even wrote about it at the time how they were just looking to buy their way out of being a poorly run organization).  Whether or not you agree or disagree with Don Cherry being fired, announcing it on Remembrance day just shows how poorly this company is run.  It was disrespectful to the day and disrespectful to the man who perhaps does more to bring awareness to the importance of the day than anyone else in the country.  Wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to announce it.  Awful decisions are why Sportsnet is bleeding money and having to let so much talent go, and they proved it yet again with the timing of this.

 

The obvious bad in what he said

Back to the task at hand…I was in Edmonton on Sunday (November 10th) and was in Southgate mall (because Steph just HAD to go to Lululemon…although she also impressed me when she asked if we could go into Jersey City and later Lids where she bought a new Jays hat, brought a tear to my eye).  I made a point of looking for poppies because of what Grapes had said.  And in there, he was right.  Steph and I were in the MAYBE 5% of people wearing poppies.  It seems to me if I had to GUESS that it’s an urban thing, but even then I don’t want to generalize it like that, because it’s not as if Lloydminster is flooded with poppies on coats and shirts either.  And I’m sure as fuck not going to blame “immigrants” for not wearing one.  Those of us who have a few generations head start on them need to do a better job bringing awareness to its importance and lead by example.

For me, I do believe Rogers had no choice but to fire Don in the end.  From the outside looking in, it looks like Rogers were set to keep Don and just wanted an apology.  Don wasn’t willing to, and so how can Rogers bring him back (even if you wanted to suspend him)?  It was worded wrongly, and if you aren’t willing to clarify that, then yes you should be fired.  However, if he was willing to apologize on the air, then this definitely went too far.  It is painful to see such an iconic and from all accounts, a truly good man go out like this.  But if he had the chance to right the wrong and chose not to, then unfortunately, it was likely the choice that had to be made.

 

What can be done to further what he was saying

Let’s not forget the true point of what should have been taken here despite the way it was said.  We don’t do enough for our vets and we don’t do enough to honour those who have fallen on Remembrance day.  I’m guilty some years of not wearing my poppy, or at least not enough.

This is going to sound very “millennial” of me, but I believe it needs to be said because it actually could really help the issue.  Our government needs to look at not only how poppies are distributed, but how they can be improved.  Sounds funny?  Sounds ridiculous?  I’ve OFTEN relented from picking up a poppy when I’ve needed one because I don’t have any change to donate.  I rarely have any kind of cash on me.  I know I can simply take one and don’t have to donate, but then I’d feel like a complete piece of shit.  However, if I were able to donate while purchasing something, I’d be more than happy to add the charge to my purchase.

Then you also have the fact that the damn things don’t stay on!!  I just said this to my broadcast partner Shane Tomayer off-air a few weeks ago that they need something better.  The last four games we did I was wearing one and my head-set cord knocked mine off at least once a period.  They can fall off so damn easily.  They also can stab you if they aren’t pinned in properly.  I’d GLADLY pay a toonie for one every year in exchange for backs being put on them.  I’m well aware that I can find something myself (Steph and Shane both have something to ensure they stay on), but most are like me where they don’t think to go to such length’s, even though I’m well aware that we should.  Sometimes a person just doesn’t think, especially if they believe they’ve had the right intentions.

 

Let’s wrap this up

Grapes is going out on his shield so to speak.  He refused to apologize, which whether you agree or disagree, I strongly believe he should have.  And he didn’t, which I believe is the actual reason he is now gone.  But in his mind, I believe he was standing up for those who have fallen, and if that was in his mind, then good on him.  I don’t do a good enough job honouring those who have fought and/or given their lives for this country, nor have far too many of us.  Don has in a way sacrificed his career to bring more attention to this issue.  I guarantee you next November, you’re going to see a lot more people wearing a poppy.

As for Don himself, again, it’s a damn shame that he is going out like this.  But then again, Don has said in the past “Someday I’m going to say something that they don’t like and that’ll be it”.  And that is exactly what happened.  He’s 85 and has given those of us who enjoyed him damn near 40 years of entertainment.  For the faults that he has, his values are incredibly admirable.  I don’t consider myself an intelligent guy (in fact I often tell myself I’m just barely smart enough to realize how dumb I am), but I was intelligent enough to know to laugh off the things that I disagreed with and to incorporate the values he’d pass on.  And I believe there were MANY people who did the same.  Thank you Grapes.

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Soups Rankings: November 1st, 2019

Power rankings.  They’re the WORST.  But here are mine.  Started doing these last year (although I didn’t have the time to do them all season as I had planned), and my method is different than simply ranking who the hot teams are in the moment.  That is pointless.  I try to look at where teams are in terms of being contenders, and at the bottom of the list (or top in this case because it descends) I shift my focus away from how well the teams are doing and more towards where they are as an organization.  For example, you won’t see Ottawa in the 31st spot because their rebuild is further along than other teams.

 

Ok, so with that awful intro out of the way, here are my rankings:

 

31. Los Angeles

Points %: .308 (T-30th)

For me, they’re the worst because the rebuild hasn’t even been able to start until they can clear out some of the bad deals like Quick, Brown and Carter.  So are they the worst team in the league?  Maybe not, but they’re in the worst situation.

 

30. Detroit

Points %: .346 (T-27th)

Again, not sure they are the worst team in the league, but out of the group that makes up the worst teams, they are further away than most.

 

29. Minnesota

Points %: 308 (T-30th)

The one thing I like for the Wild is that once Billy Guerin is able to rebuild this roster, he’ll have some real good D-men locked up to help things along.

 

28. Ottawa

Points %: .318 (29th)

Not much to say here, but at least the worst is over for this organization.  Bad now, but they have a ton of talent throughout the organization and might end up with two lottery picks this draft.

 

27. New Jersey

Points %: .350 (26th)

They wouldn’t be SO bad if they had any kind of goaltending, but they don’t have any kind of goaltending.  I’d trade Hall now because the offers aren’t going to get better.

 

26. Chicago

Points %: .364 (25th)

I really thought they found something in the 2nd half last season and were going to be able to build on that.  But it simply hasn’t happened.

 

25. Columbus

Points %: .500 (T-20th)

They work their asses off, but it just looks like they severely lack talent at the moment.  They’re in no man’s land, and I would guess Jarmo Kekelainen decides to sell this deadline to get the train back on the tracks.

 

24. NY Rangers

Points %: .450 (23rd)

Let this be a lesson to those who are fans of rebuilds: Just because you have drafted well and stockpiled the talent, doesn’t mean it’s ready to win.  This team got BADLY overhyped entering the season.  I overrated them too, but not anywhere near what some did.

 

23. Philadelphia

Points %: .500 (T-20)

Please don’t tell me they’re ruining ANOTHER goalie!!  Although, maybe Ken Holland can turn Carter Hart into his Sergei Bobrovsky?…

 

22. Anaheim

Points %: .571 (17th)

Maybe the most goaltender reliant team in the league right now.  John Gibson has a .920 Sv% right now, it looks as though he’ll have to be better than that to get them into a playoff spot.  But the scary thing is that he’s capable of doing so.

 

21. Edmonton

Points %: .679 (9th)

My fellow Oilers fans will be screaming at me right now and calling me a Frank Seravalli wannabe.  But it’s not an indictment on the team, it’s just that they haven’t had a chance to truly prove it yet.  November’s schedule is MUCH tougher than what they faced in October.

 

20. San Jose

Points %: .346 (T-27th)

Higher than most have them right now, I’m still going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they can get back to being a contender.  But I was the one person who HATED the Erik Karlsson trade for them and HATED the Erik Karlsson contract, and this is why.  No cap space, no assets to deal, not a good situation.

 

19. Dallas

Points %: .393 (24th)

Like the Sharks, I believe the Stars are eventually going to get things going.  But they have holes.  Still not too deep up front, and while they have some real good young D-men, Sekera isn’t a number four anymore which is where they have him.

 

18. Winnipeg

Points %: .462 (22nd)

The news just keeps getting worse for the Jets with Byfuglien (if he even had plans of returning) now for sure out for four months.  Cheveldayoff has to bring in a quality D-man to help out his squad.

 

17. Montreal

Points %: .615 (T-12th)

Right about where I expected them to be and expect them to be all season.  Quality club, battling for a playoff spot, 50/50 whether or not they can get in.

 

16. NY Islanders

Points %: .727 (5th)

I don’t buy them, but I should one of these days because once again Barry Trotz is making chicken salad out of chicken shit.

 

15. Buffalo

Points %: .769 (2nd)

Still too early for me to trust them any more than this.  That goaltending just hasn’t ever proven anything.  But still, great start, and I do believe they’re much improved.

 

14. Arizona

Points %: .625 (11th)

There is nothing flashy about the Coyotes.  But they have built a team with quality all over the roster.  They’re going to be a bitch to handle all season.

 

13. Vancouver

Points %: .708 (T-6th)

I’m a believer in the Canucks.  The kids look great, they’re insulated with a lot of players capable of playing the tough minutes, and the goaltending looks fantastic.

 

12. Florida

Points %: .615 (T-12th)

It’s concerning that they’ve done so much of their damage in OT thus far.  6 of their 13 games so far have gone to OT.  Having said this, I believe they have all the pieces in place to jump into the top 10 on my list.

 

11. Calgary

Points %: .533 (19th)

I had this ranking before last night.  This team is about to take off now.  Top team in the Pacific by the end of November, guaranteed.  They ride momentum better than any team I’ve ever seen.

 

10. Colorado

Points %: .750 (T-3rd)

Just outside of true contender status, but the depth they’ve acquired is noticeable, and the loss of Tyson Barrie hasn’t been thus far.

 

9. Pittsburgh

Points %: .615 (T-12th)

Without Malkin they’ve played outstanding.  Tomorrow, he returns (just in time to play the Oilers…lovely…).

 

8. Toronto

Points %: .536 (18th)

To me, they remain a team that is a true Cup contender, but all of a sudden I’m fearing for them.  The Toronto media really seems to be turning on them as they like to do, and it remains to be seen how this group will handle that kind of adversity.

 

7. Carolina

Points %: .708 (T-6th)

Maybe the best run organization in the league right now, at least when it comes to amassing talent.  Question will be whether or not they have the goaltending.

 

6. St. Louis

Points %: .654 (10th)

I’m not the biggest Vladdy Tarasenko guy, but they are definitely going to miss him for the next five months.  Brutal blow, but still a great team.

 

5. Washington

Points %: .750 (T-3rd)

They just keep on keeping on.  John Carlson, not a bad month…

 

4. Vegas

Points %: .607 (15th)

I still don’t like this blueline, but they somehow make due with what they have.  No other big concerns though.

 

3. Nashville

Points %: .692 (8th)

Awful loss in OT last night, but still look like they have all the pieces in place to compete for the Cup.

 

2. Tampa Bay

Points %: .583 (16th)

I really don’t give a damn how they’ve started, they still have the most talented roster in the league.

 

1. Boston

Points %: .833 (1st)

Look as though they’re primed for another deep run come this spring.

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2019-20 NHL Season Preview & Prognostications (Guaranteed…to be Wrong)

Well, here we go.  It seems like every year I make these grand plans to do about a month worth of blogs leading up to opening night.  A new top 32 prospect list.  A mock draft.  A top 20 Oilers prospect list.  An Oilers season preview.  Do 2-3000 words on each division, coupled with my top 10 prospects for each team.  Yeah, none of that was done, and I barely got in what I did here.  And the big piss off is that this opening was left for last, most of this was written before the TSN preview show last night, which is essentially the same thing as this.  So if you’re still reading, you’re a true pal.  Before I begin, for you Oilers fans, I’ll have time this morning and I’m going to try to do a season preview podcast, so make sure you check that out (hopefully out around noon MST).  Without further ado, my prognostications:

 

Pacific Division

1. Vegas Golden Knights

I’m done not believing in them.  Once they got Mark Stone last season, they were right back to the beast they were in 17-18.  Add a good rookie like Cody Glass, trade chips to load up at the deadline, they’re a contender.

2. San Jose Sharks

Right there with Vegas, but they badly need to stay healthy.  They don’t have the prospect capital that the Knights have, and they’re an older team.  A lot of their season depends on what Martin Jones will give them.

3. Calgary Flames

I doubt that they’re going to be as good as last season as they had perhaps their five best players all have career years.  But don’t sleep on some of the kids they have coming either.  I believe Rasmus Andersson will be next to Mark Giordano by the end of the season, he’s that good.  Valimaki, Dube, Mangiapane, these kids are players who are ready to contribute.  What scares me is the goaltending, but they didn’t have that great of goaltending last season and still were the best team in the West.

4. Arizona Coyotes

I don’t see them improving on what they did last season.  They should in theory, as it is highly unlikely that they’ll sustain the injuries they did.  But I’ve seen it too many times before where teams feed off that adversity and then once everyone is healthy they’re underwhelming.  They’ll compete for the playoffs, maybe get in, but maybe not the improvement some believe will happen.

5. Vancouver Canucks

They’re getting real close.  I love the job they’ve done with this rebuild, and while I’m not sure that they’re ready, it won’t be long until this team is contending for the division crown.  Might come as soon as next season.  But if they want to make the playoffs this season, they’re going to need Markstrom and Demko to be one of the best combo’s in the league.

6. Anaheim Ducks

I’m sure Oilers fans really won’t like me having the Ducks ahead of them, but the Ducks have a very key ingredient that the Oilers don’t: elite goaltending.  John Gibson gives this team a chance to win every night.  I also believe that Dallas Eakins is going to do a good job there.  So combine those two things with a lot of real good young talent and I believe the Ducks will be at least challenging for a playoff spot.

7. Edmonton Oilers

There is a path to the playoffs, but they’d need so much to go right.  Smith and Koskinen have the ability to work.  James Neal has the ability to bounce back.  Nurse and Larsson have the ability to be a good shutdown pairing.  Bear has the ability to be a top four D-man.  Riley Sheahan has the ability to be a good 3C.  The team as a whole have the ability to be a terrific defensive squad that Dave Tippett loves.  So the path is there.  But what are the odds that all these things happen?  And what are the odds that IF all these things happen they also have perfect health?  It’s just so damn unlikely.  But they are on the right path, no longer have Peter Chiarelli taking a blow torch and a jerrycan to the organization.

8. L.A. Kings

I don’t have much to say about the Kings.  Easily the worst situation currently in the West.  I haven’t liked a lot of what Rob Blake has done.  I’d dislike their situation no matter who was the GM, but Blake has made a lot of missteps.  It’ll be interesting to see long term if Koptiar and Doughty want to stick around because it is going to be a long time before this organization is back to contender status.

 

Central Division

1. Nashville Predators

Essentially, it’s Subban out, Duchene in.  But the key here is Dante Fabbro.  Can he step into a top four role for the Preds?  I believe he can, mainly because of who his D partner would be.  He might be a better fit for the Preds than Subban was with how good Fabbro is defensively.  And Duchene makes them great down the middle and gives them speed up front which they were pretty hard up for.  As long as Rinne doesn’t fall apart, they should win this division.

2. Dallas Stars

Might be getting a bit overrated entering the season.  I’m still seeing a lot of question marks in key positions, combined with concerns over some guys being too young, some possibly being too old, and concerns for me whether the goaltending can be THAT good again.  Last year’s squad didn’t exactly set the world on fire and needed amazing goaltending to even get 93 points.  Most years that wouldn’t crack the playoffs in the West.  So I do like them to finish 2nd in the division, but I’m seeing some people loving them to come out of the West and I’m saying those people might want to slow down on that until they prove they’re worthy.  Ability is there to be that team though.

3. St. Louis Blues

Here is a question that nobody seems to be asking: do we KNOW Jordan Binnington is for real?!?!  I THINK he is, but we’ve seen goalies get scorching hot for half a season before and then fade away.  So that’ll be interesting to see.  Even if he isn’t though, this squad still has enough to get in the playoffs again.  Last year I picked them to win this division knowing that Jake Allen was as inconsistent as any goaltender in the league.  The Justin Faulk addition is interesting, and I can’t help but wonder like everyone else, is there another shoe that is going to drop i.e. Pietrangelo walks after the season or Parayko is dealt?

4. Chicago Blackhawks

If this team gets goaltending, they’ll get in.  I believe that is lost on a lot of people.  As bad as it’s gone the last two seasons, when Corey Crawford has been right they’ve been fine.  And now they have insurance with Robin Lehner, not to mention more experience on the blueline, and a hell of a pickup last season in Dylan Strome who was near a PPG player in 58 games with the Hawks last season.  I believe you can put the Hawks, Avs, and Jets in any order, but I needed to change some things from how TSN had it so I’m going to say the Hawks get in.

5. Colorado Avalanche

Much like with the Stars, we should probably slow down a bit on the Avs.  To my eye, this looks like the next power team in the league.  I have become a MASSIVE Avs fan over the last few seasons.  But let’s keep some things in mind here.  They only had 90 points last season.  They are relying on Cale Makar to replace Tyson Barrie’s offence.  They are planning to run with a guy in net who has never started 40 games in a season.  I really like this team and between MacKinnon, Rantanen, and all the amazing talent on the blueline they are going to be a blast to watch and a powerhouse.  But be careful in anointing them a contender just yet as they have a ways to go.

6. Winnipeg Jets

What a difference a year can make.  This time in 2018, it was Cup or bust and this was the best young team in the league.  Now, they’re a mess, mostly thanks to shit luck, and I’m really not sure if they’re going to get back to contender status anytime soon.  It won’t be this season.  This season they’re going to be hard pressed to make the playoffs.  That blueline is just such a mess.  They do have the one wildcard in Byfuglien.  If he comes back, the blueline could be OK, and I feel good saying they’ll get in.  But as of right now, I just don’t know if this blueline can get the job done and I’m a MASSIVE Josh Morrissey guy.  Ville Heinola was the 20th pick in the draft, he’s in their top four.  It’s bad.

7. Minnesota Wild

I don’t know if we’ll ever know the whole story, but what I know from afar is that this mess wasn’t ALL Paul Fenton despite what Mike Russo writes.  Craig Leipold has a reputation as an owner who loves to meddle and from the outside looking in I’d say his BIG issue with, Fenton was that Fenton wanted to rebuild.  Leipold has stated he thinks they can still contend.  What the FUCK is wrong with you?!?  This team is DONE, and no gross overpayment of Jared Spurgeon is going to change that.  I’m pulling for Billy Guerin, love the guy.  But I believe they got an owner who is never going to know how to let his GM’s do their job and build things properly

 

Atlantic Division

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

The job Kyle Dubas has done keeping the core intact and keeping their window open has been very impressive.  Now, he got taken to the cleaners in a few of these contract negotiations, but at the end of the day they have a good system, studs locked down, what looks like a pretty good blueline, and are solid between the pipes.  I believe they take another step this season.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

I honestly believe it would be good for the Bolts to not cruise through the regular season and face a little adversity through the season.  In the long run though, 1st in the Atlantic should mean absolutely nothing to them.  It’s Cup or bust.

3. Boston Bruins

It’s Cup or bust for these guys too.  The difference is that I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out with the Bruins.  When will Bergeron show his age?  Or Marchand?  Or Chara?  Or Rask?  At some point, these guys will digress and even though the rest of the roster is pretty young and talented, they would be in some trouble if a few of these guys finally start to fall off.  Until that happens though, they’re contending for a Cup.

4. Florida Panthers

I’ve loved them for years, and now they finally have their goaltending shored up and a proven head coach running the show, I can’t see why they wouldn’t take off with what they have throughout the lineup.  Top to bottom, this is a real good roster and if they make the playoffs, they’re built for the postseason.

5. Montreal Canadiens

A dirty little secret with Carey Price is that he’s only shown flashes of being an elite goaltender since his MVP season in 2015.  I’m not a big believer in what this team did last season.  But on the flip side, I expect Kotkaniemi to take a big step.  So I see them having a similar season where they push for a playoff spot, but it’ll be really tough given how good the top of this division is.

6. Buffalo Sabres

Finally, I actually feel like this team is building a playoff team.  This summer was far and away the best job that Jason Botterill has done, and even though they aren’t likely to make the playoffs, I expect them to be much improved thanks to that blueline adding some quality RH shooting puck movers.  The goaltending is still a massive question mark though, and while the media drools all over Ralph Kruger, I wasn’t a big fan of his in his season with the Oilers.  People point to his record and point to the fact it was in an extremely difficult Western Conference, but they actually got goaltending that season…and still didn’t come close to the playoffs.

7. Ottawa Senators

The dark clouds that hovered over this organization last season are now gone.  They didn’t give up the 1st overall pick, or even a top three pick in the Duchene deal, the Karlsson/Hoffman stuff is a thing of the past, and they have a lot of good young players ready to roll.  Will they be all that good?  No.  But they can now just focus on the rebuild and grow.

8. Detroit Red Wings

Stevie Yzerman is going to do a tremendous job in Detroit.  But the problem is that he’s inheriting a pretty big mess.  They still need another two seasons before the bad contracts are burned off and he can really start putting his imprint on this organization.  But at this time, it just doesn’t look promising.

 

Metro Division

1. Washington Capitals

Not a big reason to change this pick.  They’re well set up for another big season.  One concern might be between the pipes.  Braden Holtby has been digressing.  They probably thought that Ilya Samsonov would be ready to give Holtby some relief by now, maybe a 60/40 split.  But he had a rough first season in North America and isn’t ready.  But that is about it.  I like the centres, like the wingers, like the blueline, good goaltending, and as far as regular season goes they’ve been a dynasty now for the last

2. Carolina Hurricanes

It all depends on the goaltending that they get.  This roster is LOADED top to bottom, but the goaltending is a big question mark.  Petr Mrazek is inconsistent at best, and James Reimer has been digressing.  I wonder how long it’ll be before Eric Tulsky….I mean Don Waddell is calling up Alex Nedeljkovic to see if he’s the answer.  But that’s the only fear I have for them and do believe that Mrazak will be good enough to get them home ice in the first round.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

Still have them making the playoffs, but they’re digressing and it looks like the window has closed.  I’m not sure what in the hell Jim Rutheford has been trying to do with this blueline the last few seasons.  The man won with a purely puck-moving blueline, and now he’s trying to build with stay at home guys who can’t move it.  Brandon Tanev was apparently given the contract he was because they believe he’s another Connor Sheary?  Ok…that’s…risky, to put it nicely.  I hope I’m wrong because I’m a Sid fan and the league is better when he and Geno are contenders, but I don’t feel good about this situation.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

They’ll bounce back, but the big thing will be whether or not Carter Hart can hold up throughout the season.  He was impressive last season, but they’ll need him to give them at least 45-50 starts this season.  If he can (obviously at a high level), then they should win a wildcard spot because this squad is deep up front and real solid on the blueline.  Matt Niskanen is a very underrated pickup.  But they’ll need their goalie of the future to be a stud in the present.

5. NY Rangers

A lot of buzz around the Rangers entering the season.  Panarin, Kravtsov, and Kakko are three pretty big time wingers to add to the lineup (even if two of them are rookies).  But there is the issue with this team is are they too young?  What I don’t like is people are talking about them accelerating the rebuild.  When in the fuck does that ever work?!  That is code for “we don’t have any patience to do this right so we’re good with mediocrity long term”.  Having said this, it is the Rangers and they have the easiest time drawing UFA’s in the league.  So they might be the exception to the rule on that, but why risk it?  They can make the playoffs, but I’m not sure it would be a good thing for this organization long term.

6. NY Islanders

Man, I cringe predicting that they’ll take a step back knowing how great of a bench boss Barry Trotz is.  One of the keys to their success last season was they gave up I believe the fewest HD scoring chances in the league (hint hint if you’re looking for a sleeper fantasy goaltender, also buyer beware on Lehner).  Still, as much as I love Noah Dobson stepping in for them, and I love Mathew Barzal, I just am not sure how they did it last season and not sure how they can do it this season.  They can, but I don’t know how, so I’m likely to be very wrong on this prediction.

7. New Jersey Devils

They made a shit ton of noise, but I don’t believe they improved the team that much.  The goaltending is still a mess unless they know that Cory Schneider is going to bounce back, and maybe they do?  Subban is big if he’s right, and Hughes will make an impact, but 2018 was such a fluke for this team and last year was who they really were.  Calling them to finish 7th in this division doesn’t mean they won’t have a shot at the playoffs.  They can challenge for a playoff spot, but nothing more than that in my opinion.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets

Probably won’t be as bad as some are projecting them to be.  That blueline is still real solid, and Jonas Korpisalo has looked like a guy who can handle 50 games a season to my eye in the past.  But if you look at the division, I’m not sure how you can pick them anywhere else but last.  It’s not a big shot at what they have, they just don’t have as much as anyone else in the Metro.

 

Playoffs

Pacific

1P Vegas vs WC1 Chicago

Something we all here from commentators throughout the season when two teams who could potentially meet in the playoffs get talked about, it is quickly followed by “what a matchup that would be”.  There hasn’t been one potential series ever discussed in the history of the NHL where someone isn’t saying “wow, what a series that could be!!”  So I have to stick with this ridiculous narrative when predicting all these series.  So the G-Knights vs Hawks, potentially the greatest series in the history of the game.  Knights in six.

2P San Jose vs 3P Calgary

This could be the best series in any sport in the history of time.  Sharks in seven.

Central

1C Nashville vs WC2 Colorado

ISIS vs society takes a backseat to what this series would be.  Preds in seven.

2C Dallas vs 3C St. Louis

Remember World War II?  It will be forgotten because of how amazing Stars vs Blues would be.  Blues in seven.

Western Conference final

Vegas vs Nashville

Fuckin’ Preds.  The last few years I’ve been on their bandwagon.  This isn’t post them making the 17 final, I was on them that season too.  On paper right now, Nashville is a much more well rounded team than the Knights.  But if the Knights are sitting pretty in the standings come late February, I have to believe that Kelly McCrimmon will be going after a big time D-man to round out his blueline and possibly get this team over the hump.  And there is something to be said for this Knights team.  They just seem to be bulletproof.  So even though I believe the Preds would have the better roster, I’d like the Knights (at this point) to beat them.  Golden Knights in six.

 

Atlantic

1A Toronto vs WC2 Philadelphia

I’m more excited at the prospect of a Leafs/Flyers first round matchup than I would be to win the lottery.  Leafs in five.

2A Tampa Bay vs 3A Boston

Should this matchup happen, it might be the most anticipated sporting event since Ali met Frazier for the first time.  Safe to say it would be the greatest series in the history of hockey.  Lightning in seven.

Metro

1M Washington vs WC1 Florida

If we get Caps v Panthers in round one, I fully anticipate the Super Bowl ratings to be completely dwarfed.  Panthers in six.

2M Carolina vs 3M Pittsburgh

Hurricanes and Pens?  This would be better TV than Breaking Bad!  Canes in six.

Eastern Conference final

Florida vs Tampa Bay

The battle of Florida is alive and well!!!  I love the Panthers as a dark horse come playoff time as they’re much better built for the playoffs than they are the regular season, and they have a bench boss who knows how to coach in a seven game series.  Having said this, the Lightning are likely not going to give a damn about ANYTHING this season until the playoffs where I expect them to be on a mission.  Lightning in five.

 

Stanley Cup final

Tampa Bay vs Vegas

Would be a pretty exciting final.  But I think you’ve likely figured it out by now, I’m like most in believing it’s Tampa’s time.  I believe the Lightning would smoke the Golden Knights in four.

Stanley Cup Champions

Tampa Bay Lightning

 

Awards

Hart

John Tavares – It is going to be tough for any of the Leafs big three to win an award like this.  But then again, we would have said that same thing for Kucherov last year.  With Tavares, I just believe him being in his prime combined with him now being settled with the Leafs, I expect a career year.

Vezina

John Gibson – He was my pick for the award last season, and early on he was looking like he might be in line to win the Hart.  I’m guessing the workload, not just the amount of games but how much action he was seeing night after night, wore him down.  I believe the Ducks will be improved this season and with that could come a Vezina season from Gibson.

Norris

Victor Hedman – These days, he’s just simply my guy.  I believe he is far and away the best defenceman in the league.  If you had a draft of defencemen for this season, Hedman is the top pick by all 31 GM’s.

Selke

Aleksander Barkov – Heavily considered Barkov for the Hart, but settle for the Selke, the award we give to players when they actually deserve an MVP award but don’t give it to them because they don’t have as much flash as another guy…like two years ago when Taylor Hall won it even though any case for Hall could be made for Anze Kopitar while Kopitar was also one of the best defensive players in the league…

Calder

Cale Makar – The D-men who could challenge for this award this season are ridiculous.  Noah Dobson, Rasmus Sandin, Quinn Hughes, Erik Brannstrom, Adam Fox, etc.  I feel somewhat safe in predicting it’ll be a defenceman.  The big thing for Makar is he comes in with a lot of fanfare, and he is going to get the opportunities out of necessity for the Avs.  Kappo Kakko is going to be a big threat for the award, so is Jack Hughes, don’t sleep on guys like Cody Glass or Vitali Kravtsov either, but I can’t help but look to the crop of defencemen entering the league and select one of them, and to me Makar is going to be in the best position to win the award.

Art Ross

Connor McDavid – I don’t know why you’d risk predicting someone else at this point.  Far and away the most points in the league over the last three seasons, and despite the concern with the knee entering camp, he appears to be back to 100% health.  If the Oilers did make the playoffs, then it’d be shocking if he didn’t win the Hart given the perception of the team.

Richard

Brock Boeser – Most are expecting Pettersson to make another big step this season, and most are expecting big things out of Quinn Hughes.  Both of those players will be able to create for Boeser, especially on the PP.  And of course, we know already that this kid has the ability to finish with the best of them.

Jack Adams

Joel Quenneville – I would be pretty shocked if they don’t break through this season, and I don’t just see them breaking through, but I could see them challenging for the division title.  Might seem insane at this time, but they have all the pieces and if that were to happen, coach Q would be getting a lot of love for this award.

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The Boundary Battle of Alberta Preview

Saturday afternoon, Oilers alumni will take on Flames alumni as the Boundary Battle of Alberta will take place and the Lloydminster Centennial Civic Centre.  The 3 PM game is sold out and has been for months now.  However, the noon game was added and there are in fact still tickets available for it.  Just go to http://lrhf.ca/bboa or go to Boundary Ford to pick yours up in person.  Proceeds for this game are going to the mental health initiative Project Sunrise.  For me, that’s the big seller.  I’m a guy who has fought with ADHD, anxiety, and depression.  I hit the trifecta some might say!  But it’s nothing to make light of and I know what I’ve gone through and don’t wish it on anyone.  It’s constantly on my mind.  I never want to make people feel the way that I do when I’m at my lowest.  So that is near and dear to me.  But for a lot of people, they want to know what exactly they’re going to spend $25.00 a ticket on.  Well, thankfully I’m here for you!  Allow me to lay out exactly who will be taking the ice this Saturday in Lloydminster.

Edmonton Oilers

Rob Brown

The only man in the game who didn’t play for either team, however, Brown likely sees himself as an Oiler these days as an in-game analyst on 630 CHED broadcasts.  Brown had his breakout season in 88-89 as he put up an eye-popping 49 goals and 115 points in just 68 games.

Cory Cross

The local boy doesn’t get the recognition he perhaps should for etching out the career he did.  The 1st overall pick of the 1992 supplemental draft went onto play 659 games in the NHL, 113 of them with the Oilers.  Perhaps the highlight of his career was this massive OT goal playing for the Leafs against Wade Redden’s Sens at the height of the battle of Ontario.

Louie DeBrusk

Debrusk came to the Oilers in the fall of 1991 in one of the most famous deals in team history which saw Mark Messier shipped to the New York Rangers.  One of the most feared players in the mid-late 90’s, DeBrusk played 401 NHL games in his career, 228 of them with the Oilers.  He remains a fan favourite today doing a terrific job as the colour analyst for the team’s TV broadcasts on Sportsnet West.

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers

The top pick of the 2nd round in the 2002 NHL draft, the man known to Oilers fans as JDD first came on the scene early in the 08-09 season as he put on a show in back to back starts against the Devils and Rangers stopping 77 of 80 shots against in those two games.  JDD also got 48 starts during the 09-10 campaign.

Mark Fistric

A 1st round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2004 NHL draft, Fistric was dealt to his hometown Oilers right before the start of the lockout shortened 2013 season.  Fistric got into 25 games with the Oilers that season, 325 in his NHL career.

Doug Hicks

Cold Lake’s own was the 6th overall pick in the 1974 NHL draft by the Minnesota North Stars.  Hicks played in 561 games during his NHL career, 186 of them with the Oilers.  In fact, Hicks best statistical season came with the Oilers in their first season in the NHL as Hicks had 9 goals and 40 points in 78 games.

Georges Laraque

Big Georges remains one of the most popular Oilers not named Gretzky, Messier or McDavid.  Perhaps the top enforcer in the NHL during his time with the club, Laraque was the 31st pick in the 1995 draft and as it turned out he was far and away the top player of that draft for the Oilers.  695 NHL games in his career, 490 of them with the Oilers.

Ethan Moreau

When Moreau was named the captain of the team prior to the 07-08 season, I don’t recall any debate about it.  It was as if the fan base just collectively said “he better be”.  Moreau was a warrior for the organization.  The 14th overall pick of the 1994 draft, Moreau came to the Oilers the morning of March 20th, 1999 in a blockbuster deal that saw Boris Mironov go to Chicago.  928 games in the NHL, 653 of them with the Oilers.  As I mentioned, he was named captain of the team prior to the 07-08 season, which ironically may have been the most difficult stretch of his career.  Just seven games into the 06-07 season, Moreau needed to have reconstructive surgery on his shoulder.  Then in the 07-08 pre-season, he fractured his tibia blocking a shot, which forced him to miss the first 48 games of that season.  He then returned for 25 games, until yet another set back as he broke his leg and was done for the season again.  Some might hang up their skates after such an awful stretch.  Moreau however played nearly a full season in 08-09 for the Oilers and in doing so received the King Clancy Award for best exemplifying leadership qualities on and off the ice and by also making significant humanitarian contributions to the Oilers Community Foundation.

Fernando Pisani

If you’re an Oilers fan, then without a doubt your fondest memories of the club in the last 25 seasons came in the spring of 2006.  That entire season was special as it finally felt as though the Oilers could legitimately compete with the rest of the league thanks to the salary cap.  But after a bit of a disappointing regular season that saw the club really struggle to get in the playoffs, they went on an amazing run.  And right at the forefront of that run was Fernando Pisani with his unbelievable 14 goal performance.  The Edmonton kid was an 8th round pick of the club in the 1996 draft and clawed his way up the ranks before finally getting his shot during the 02-03 season and once he got his spot he never gave it up.  He played 462 NHL games, 402 of them with the Oilers.

Hunter

I didn’t realize before writing this that there is a big backstory to Hunter already posted here which is awesome so I don’t feel the need to make something up!

 

Calgary Flames

Mike Commodore

#PackYourShit and get out to see this guy on Saturday (see what I did there?!)…Commodore only played 18 regular season games in his career with the Flames, but it was where he broke through as a full-time NHL player, and he actually played more playoff games with the Flames (20) than regular season as he was a key contributor for the Flames during their amazing playoff run in 2004.  Following the 2005 lockout, Commodore would capture a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes.  He ended up playing 484 NHL games and has stated on numerous occasions how Mike Babcock was his all-time favourite coach to play for…well…maybe that’s incorrect…

Theo Fleury

If you don’t know this man’s incredible story by now, I’m not sure what you’re doing.  In 2009 he released his best selling autobiography Playing with Fire which is an absolute must read if you haven’t already.  Fleury was a rookie when he won the Cup with the Flames in 1989.  Six times he led the Flames in scoring.  He currently sits 5th for the Flames all-time in games played (791), 2nd in goals (364), 3rd in assists (466), and 2nd in points (830).  He represented Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the 1998 Olympics, and the 2002 Olympics where he helped Canada win their first gold medal in 50 years.  Fleury played in 1,084 games in his entire career, and finished over a PPG (1,088 points).  The numbers are there to someday be enshrined in the hockey Hall of Fame.  And of course we can’t be talking about the battle of Alberta without mentioning that he scored one of the most famous goals in the history of the rivalry.

Jamie Macoun

Another key member of the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Flames team.  Macoun was one of the Flames top shutdown defencemen on a team that was one of the best in the league during the mid to late 1980’s.  Macoun played 586 of his incredible 1,128 career games with the Flames.  On January 1st, 1992 Macoun was involved in the biggest trade in NHL history, more famously known as the Doug Gilmour deal, and would go on to play a big role in the Maple Leafs revival as a franchise in the mid 90’s, before moving onto Detroit at the 1998 trade deadline where he would capture a 2nd Stanley Cup championship.

Dana Murzyn

The 3rd of the Flames alumni to play on the Flames 1989 Cup winning team.  The Calgary born Murzyn was initially the 5th overall pick by the Hartford Whalers in the 1985 NHL draft.  Murzyn was dealt to the Flames midway through the 87-88 season, Murzyn appeared in 21 of the Flames 22 playoff games during their run in 1989.  He would be dealt to Vancouver in March of 1991 and was a big part of the Canucks success in the early to mid 90’s as they would go onto win back to back Smythe division titles, followed by a trip to game seven of the Stanley Cup final in 1994 (though Murzyn had his run cut short due to injury in those playoffs).  He wrapped up his career in 1999, finishing with 838 career games.

Mason Raymond

The former Camrose Kodiak and Calgary native came up with the Vancouver Canucks during the 07-08 season and was a key contributor for the Canucks on their 10-11 squad which went to game seven of the Stanley Cup final.  After a season in Toronto, Raymond would sign with the home town Flames for the 14-15 season, a team which was expected to be near the bottom of the league.  Not only were they not near the bottom, they shocked everyone in the hockey world as they snuck into the playoffs and knocked off his former team the Canucks in the 1st round.  The speedy Raymond would finish his career with 546 games played.

Matt Stajan

Selected by the Leafs with the 57th pick of the 2002 NHL draft, he was dealt to the Flames during the 09-10 season.  Like Raymond, Stajan was a key member of that amazing 14-15 Flames squad, and scored one of the most important goals of their run in game six vs the Canucks.  The game was tied with under five minutes to play and it was Stajan who stepped up with game-winner as the Flames won their first playoff series since the 03-04 playoffs.  Stajan would go onto play 1,003 NHL games in his career, 558 of them with the Flames.

Harvey the Hound

Much like Hunter, I can’t do Harvey the Hound justice quite like the write up that can be found here, although we can’t talk BOA and Harvey the Hound without re-living the time Mac T got his tongue.

These are two great rosters which have been assembled.  It is pretty rare to see this kind of talent take the ice in Lloydminster.  More importantly, the money that will be raised for such a tremendous cause.  It is an absolute win-win.  Again, go to http://lrhf.ca/bboa or to Boundary Ford to pick yours up in person.

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Bobcats Taught More Tough Lessons in Loss to Saints

The Lloydminster Bobcats knew they faced an extremely difficult task opening the season with a home and home against the defending regular season AJHL North division champion Sherwood Park Crusaders, followed by a game against the defending post season AJHL North division champion Spruce Grove Saints.  And while the battle level was there again for the Cats last night, the results were not as they fell at home to a very talented Saints team by a 6-1 score.

The late game is sold out, but tickets are still available for the noon game! Proceeds go towards the mental health initiative Project Sunrise. Head to Boundary Ford in Lloydminster to purchase your tickets and check out some of the Oilers and Flames greats for just $25.00 and it is my advice that you get your tickets today as it is a pretty major announcement coming for the final addition to this game!

After a 1st period where not much happened and the game really lacked flow, things picked up in the 2nd as the Bobcats Cam Aucoin opened the scoring at the 2:32 mark, going top corner short side on Saints starting goaltender Max Duchesne.  A bit of a controversial goal tied the game for the Saints as Stanley Cooley hit Nathan Edwards in stride, very close to being offside but nevertheless, the Michigan commit made no mistake as he went top shelf with a backhand up over Bobcats netminder Garrett Larsen to tie the game.  Saints took the lead later on in the period on the power play as right off the face-off Stanley Cooley again the playmaker, this time spotting Cam Mitchell high in the slot for a perfect redirect, and the Saints went into the 2nd intermission holding a 2-1 advantage.  The Saints managed to get the jump on the Cats just 0:24 seconds into the 3rd as again it was Mitchell as the Nebraska-Omaha commit was able to walk into the Cats zone and let go a bullet top corner on Larsen for his 4th on the season.  Then just 0:55 seconds after that it was WHL alum Ryan Peckford scoring his 3rd goal in as many games to make it 4-1.  Jordan Biro would get in on the action at the 6:55 mark with an excellent tip off a shot that it looked as though Jaxsen Wyatt may have fanned on extending the Saints lead to 5-1.  Finally, Brett Trentham would pour a little more salt in the wound for the Cats with a late power play goal to close out the scoring.  Final shots on goal in the game were 40-13 in favour of the Saints.

 

The outcome looked the same as Saturday night, but I felt the Bobcats actually played a much stronger game in a lot of area’s.  For large stretches of the game they were very solid on the defensive side of the puck, Garrett Larsen made some really big stops and was both tracking the puck and staying square to the shooters all evening, I felt Ryley Hogan bounced back with a good assertive game tonight for the Cats as well.  It is a very young team, they haven’t played much hockey together as of yet, and their first three games of the season are against what very easily could be the two best teams in the league this season.  A very difficult task for any team in the league.

 

I asked Cats head coach Nigel Dube for his thoughts after the game.  “I thought for us, after the media timeout in the first period that we came out and pushed back.  And we probably had a 25 minute slot in there where we did good things, leaned on their D-men and got things going that way.  At times when we got away from the game plan and put pucks into the walls and off the area’s that we were targeting on the ice, they’re a team with speed, had momentum coming North on us and we gave them opportunities.  But we just need to regroup and go get them on Friday”.  Dube would like to see more discipline shown from his team next game.  “We took hooking, slashing, holding and high sticking.  Four penalties, two in the offensive zone, sending us to the penalty kill when we really don’t need to.  The penalty ratio was really off-set, and some of those we were deserving of tonight.  It’s something to work on.”  As the Cats move onto Grand Prairie for a set this weekend, Dube is looking forward to the challenge.  “You look at our first three, Sherwood Park, Sherwood Park, and Spruce Grove, now we’re playing hockey.  We come to the rink tomorrow, we’ll touch on a few things in video, and get on the bus to go to GP.  They’re a young team as well.  It’s their home opener so we have to be prepared for that.  But for us, we need to start shooting pucks and get back to our 10 shots a period minimum.  No matter where they’re coming from, we need to find a way to start being shooters.”

 

Puck drop in Grand Prairie both tomorrow and Saturday night is set for 7:30 PM, and you can catch all the action on Hockey TV.  Cats next home game will be Friday, October 4th as they take on Hayden Clayton and the Whitecourt Wolverines.  Puck drop for that game will be 7:30, and if you can’t make it down to the Civic Centre then you can check out Shane Tomayer and myself as we’ll have the call on Hockey TV, and on MixLR.

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Nothing Goes Right as Bobcats Drop Home Opener

On any given day, you can start off with the best intentions, work as hard as you can, set out to do everything the correct way, yet everything still conspires against you.  We’ve all had days like that.  Last night, that happened to the Lloydminster Bobcats.  After a very promising showing in Sherwood Park Friday night, the Bobcats simply could never get their game on track in the return bout Saturday night at the Centennial Civic Centre as a very talented Crusaders squad took it to them all night, defeating the Bobcats by a score of 6-0.

The late game is sold out, but tickets are still available for the noon game! Proceeds go towards the mental health initiative Project Sunrise. Head to Boundary Ford in Lloydminster to purchase your tickets and check out some of the Oilers and Flames greats for just $25.00!

It was an uphill battle for the Cats right from the get-go as just 11 seconds into the game a costly turnover led to a Kaden Bryant goal.  Then at the 12:16 mark Bryant put home his second of the game on a shot that Bobcats goaltender Cale Elder got a piece of, but not enough and it was 2-0 Crusaders after one.  Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube turned to Garrett Larsen to start the 2nd frame, however it was more of the same as the Crusaders put the pressure on and at the 5:14 mark Jacob Franczak made a beautiful stretch pass to Jarred White who had cheated into the neutral zone and he made no mistake going top shelf on the backhand which put the Crusaders up 3-0 and it would remain that score after 40 minutes of play.  The Bobcats entered the 3rd with a 35 second five on three power play, and despite not being able to capitalize on it, they were finally gaining a little momentum before Ty Mueller abruptly ended that as he fired a laser past Larsen to make it 4-0.  That goal seemed to really suck the life out of the building, as that goal was followed by goals from Franczak and Bryce Bader.  Three goals in 59 seconds from the Crusaders and it would remain that way as the Crusaders walked away with an impressive victory.

 

It felt from the broadcast booth that the Bobcats were badly gripping their sticks all night long.  Nothing was coming easy for the club.  Full credit to the Crusaders who have one of the best teams in the AJHL and will do what they did to the Bobcats to many teams in the league this season.  But the game the team played Friday night in Sherwood Park was impressive.  They weren’t intimidated by the Crusaders, they played loose, they showed they could take a punch and get right back up and keep fighting.  Saturday night, the effort level was still there, but the execution was far different.  They were two very different games.

 

After the game, Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube was taking the blame for the loss.  “As a coaching staff we’re six games in including pre-season and that’s on us to find a way to get these guys ready.  Tonight, we were off.  And when you play a team like Sherwood Park who is picked to probably win the league, you can’t be off, and as a coaching staff that’s on us.”  Dube went onto say “we had a little hiccup here in a couple area’s but we’ll be back to it tomorrow.  We’ll find ways to continue to grow.  19 new bodies and I can’t say that forever, but out of the gate here we’re going to have to learn and as a coaching staff we have to learn and execute what it takes to get these guys prepared every day.”  The schedule doesn’t lighten up at all either, as the defending North division champion Spruce Grove Saints are up next.  “For us, now we got to find the on.  We have a few days here, our practice on Monday and Tuesday will be structured a little bit different and we’ll look at it as game one on Tuesday and we’ll be good.  For us we can’t have being on and then being off.  Onus is on the coaching staff to sit down tonight, sit down tomorrow and execute a plan that’s going to help our guys and give them the resources to be better the next day.  That’s on us.”  It would have been VERY easy for Dube to point fingers after a disappointing home opener, but he showed great leadership with how he handled things.

 

The Saints roll into town Wednesday with a 2-0 record after sweeping their home and home this weekend against Drayton Valley, game time is 7:30.  If you can’t make it to the Centennial Civic Centre, then Shane Tomayer and myself will have the call on Hockey TV and on MixLR.

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Lloydminster Bobcats 2019-20 Season Preview

 

I believe the last blog that I did for this site specifically, I talked about my love for badonkadonks on beautiful women and how summer sucks/fall is awesome.  Real Pulitzer Prize winner stuff, I know.  But now we’re REALLY into fall, because hockey is getting fired up!  NHL camps have opened, and junior hockey is getting underway!  I got a couple of nephews debuting in Flin Flon tonight for the Bombers as they make the move from the AJHL to the SJHL (good luck tonight boys!!), and the AJHL season also gets underway, specifically the Lloydminster Bobcats who’ll start off with a home and home against perhaps the favourite’s in the AJHL North this season, the Sherwood Park Crusaders.

The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames will be going head to head on September 28th and tickets are still available to the 12:00pm game! Get yours now lrhf.ca/events/bboa

Before I get rolling on the Cats and what the 19-20 season could look like, let’s talk about more local hockey action that will be seen at the CCC this season and that is the Boundary Battle of Alberta.  As you can see from the banner, the lineups are really coming together nicely.  At this point and time I’d give the advantage to the Oilers both in numbers, and the Flames lack of a goaltender at this point.  Trevor Kidd?  Fred Brathwaite?  TSN personality Jamie “noodles” McLennan?  Joey McDonald who wore some of the most deadly gear of his generation?  It remains to be seen!  But in reality, we are well aware that nobody is worried about the on-ice result.  The big thing is supporting Project Sunrise, a mental health initiative which the proceeds are going towards.  I’ve had my struggles with mental health, plenty others in my life have, it affects us all greatly and we need to do what we can to battle it.  Just $25 bucks a ticket gets you a great afternoon of hockey and goes towards a great cause.  If haven’t got your tickets yet, what’s the wait?

Back to the Bobcats…

The tale of the 2018-19 Lloydminster Bobcats is a pretty simple one to tell: what could go wrong, did go wrong.  After a 5-13-1 start, head coach Travis Clayton was let go, and new head coach Nigel Dube was brought into a scenario where they were already looking towards the 19-20 season.  It quite frankly wasn’t a lot of fun to go watch the Cats last season.  They hit rock bottom, ending up with a 9-49-1-1 record.

But now they have a completely fresh start.  Being around the team the last few weeks, the big thing that stands out is what they appear to have in head coach Nigel Dube.  Dube is not only determined to build a proper foundation with the Cats, but he has tremendous attention to detail.  The type of talent he has assembled, the structure he is implementing, the environment he has created both with the staff and in the dressing room, it is all very carefully orchestrated.

Maybe the most exciting part about the Bobcats going into this season isn’t that they have the makings of a team that can really compete.  Obviously that’s never going to be bad, but it is the bonus.  This team is really set up well.  I believe it is at 13 kids with at least three more seasons of junior eligibility starting the season with the club.  Through camp, it looks like a team with more talent, more structure, but one that can be sustained which has been a big problem for the organization throughout it’s history.

If you just go by their goal total in the pre-season, you might think that they’re going to lack offensive firepower this season, scoring six goals in four games.  But watching them (especially on Saturday), I’m actually really excited for what they have.  To my eye, Dube is going to have a lot of firepower up front, it’s just a matter of how he wants to use his talent.  Chance Adrian, Tanner Mack, Nolan Coventry, Alex Danis, Ty Mosimann, and Tyler Schendel all are kids who stood out in my opinion as players who are capable of putting points on the board, and it’ll just be a matter of how Dube wishes to run his lines.  Load up the top six, or spread it out through the top nine?  He also appears to have the makings of a very good shutdown unit with Cam Aucoin, Mason Hendrickson and Chad MacLean if he so chooses to run one.  Safe to say Dube is still mixing and matching a bit himself at this point, but I like the options available to him.

The best way to describe the blueline is that its old school.  Not in the sense that they’re a bunch of coke machines who can’t skate, but old school in that they really know how to defend and play without the puck.  I’ve said this a million times before and won’t ever stop saying it: hockey is not played three on two.  If a team is bad defensively, it is not solely on the defence.  Having said that, you want your defencemen to be strong in their own zone.  There will be nights where the Bobcats are out skilled, nobody is going to claim otherwise.  So you HAVE to know what to do when teams start dominating possession.  In the pre-season, we saw this.  In the two games I saw, the team didn’t give up much five on five.  It’s all anchored by 19 year old Gunner Kinniburgh.  He is going to be heavily leaned on by Dube this season and likely to see a ton of tough matchups, but he appears ready for the challenge.  He won’t be alone though as Ryley Hogan (the teams “elder statesman” at 19 years, six months and 29 days…) and the very recently acquired Kaeden Tenkoppel will also be required to do some of the heavy lifting.  It is my understanding that Tenkoppel should really fit the Bobcats well both on the ice and in the room as he is a very smooth skater and a terrific kid off the ice.

It is very possible that the strength of the club is right where you’d like it, which is between the pipes.  Dube is going to have two great options between the pipes with the returning Cale Elder, and newcomer Garrett Larsen.  Elder has the pedigree, and is very capable of being a number one goaltender.  But the Waukesha, Wisconsin native Larsen has put on a show thus far in camp and the pre-season.  A diminutive goalie, listed at a likely generous 5’10, it is the only hole that I have seen in the kids game to this point.  Last Saturday I couldn’t shut up about how terrific he was in the Cats crease as he ended up with a 36 save shutout in their 3-0 win against the North Battleford North Stars.  I said it on the broadcast during the pre-game show that he was perhaps who I was looking forward to seeing play the most that evening, and he managed to exceed those expectations.  If his play continues, and Elder plays up to his capability, there won’t be a night this season where the Bobcats have to worry about who is in goal.

Last season is done, and things can only go up from here.  Should anyone be planning a trip to the RBC Cup in May?  No, but I like the chances this squad has of being a good competitive squad this season.  It could be the start of some damn good AJHL hockey in town for years to come.  Tonight’s game against the Crusaders will be on Hockey TV starting at 7PM MST with Crusaders play by play man Brendan Escott on the call, then tomorrow night the two teams clash at the CCC.  If you can’t make it down to the game, Shane Tomayer and myself will have the call on Hockey TV and also on Mixlr.com and the Mixlr app.

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Bobcats Head into Regular Season on a High

The Lloydminster Bobcats wrapped up their pre-season in style on Saturday night with a 3-0 victory over the defending SJHL champion North Battleford North Stars.  The Bobcats were firing on all cylinders as they went a perfect 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, clicked on their first power play of the game, put 35 shots on goal, played very solid in their own zone, and if that weren’t enough they got a terrific performance from netminder Garrett Larsen who went the full 60 minutes between the pipes, earning a 36 save shutout.

The late game is sold out, but tickets are still available for the noon game! Proceeds go towards the mental health initiative Project Sunrise. Head to Boundary Ford in Lloydminster to purchase your tickets and check out some of the Oilers and Flames greats for just $25.00!

Tyler Schendel opened the scoring on the power play midway through the first as he fired a one-timer home off a beautiful feed by Tanner Mack.  The Cats extended their lead late in the 2nd as defencemen Gunner Kinniburgh took a hit to make a nice neutral zone pass to Alex Danis who then proceeded to do the rest as he gained the zone, toe dragged the defenceman and put home a pretty backhand from the slot.  The setups by both Mack and Kinniburgh were nice plays, but they wouldn’t have been the “Soups on Hockey feed of the night”…if there were such a thing.  No, that would have gone to Ty Mosimann as he walked into the slot on his backhand and showed off the eyes he has in the back of his head as he dropped the puck to Kris Bladen who had an easy tap in for the third and final goal of the night.

 

As well as everyone played however, the star of the game was Larsen.  The native of Waukesha, Wisconsin was brilliant.  He was square to every shot, moving fluently, tracking the puck extremely well, the North Stars just couldn’t find a hole all night long.  Larsen also loves to play the puck, and when he needs to he has more than enough athleticism to come up with a five star save.  The kid is a lot of fun to watch play.

 

Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube was very happy with what he saw from his club.  “I thought we played a strong 60, I think the biggest thing for us is that I thought we had energy and played with emotion right from the puck drop and seeing the brotherhood between the group out there was a big part of it.  All around I was very pleased with the effort tonight.”  With this game putting an end to the pre-season, I asked Dube for his thoughts on how training camp went and if there were any pleasant surprises from either a team or individual standpoint.  “I think the quick connection that our guys had off the ice and just being a good team from day one with a lot of turnovers as we only have five guys back from last year and that was the big thing is how are the guys going to mesh together and I think that’s been a pleasant surprise as how that’s happened.  I don’t think I could pick out one or two guys, but just the pleasant surprise overall by our efforts from our guys on a day to day basis who may not be used to that junior schedule.”  Of course, the focus now moves to the regular season, and the Cats will open with a home and home set against what is expected to be one of the top teams in the AJHL North, the Sherwood Park Crusaders.  “It’ll be a good test for our guys.  I’m excited for it.  All the praise is going to them right now and for us to be able to go in there and see where we’re at, I think that’s the big thing.  And the exciting part is that they count now.”

 

That is the exciting part.  Friday night against Michael Benning and the Crusaders.  That game can be seen on Hockey TV at 7PM, with Crusaders play by play man Brendan Escott on the call.  Then Saturday is the Bobcats home opener with the Crusaders coming to town.  If by chance you can’t make it down to the Centennial Civic Centre that night, make sure you check out the broadcast on Hockey TV with Shane Tomayer and myself on the call.  Puck drop is at 7:30.

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Properly Deploying the Lineup

Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP

Do you know what I love?  A big ol’ badonkadonk on a beautiful woman.  But (pardon the pun) do you know WHAT ELSE I love?  Stepping outside and the sun is shining, but the air is a bit cool, and there is no humidity and a little condensation on the windows of my truck.  College football is now in full swing, my fantasy draft transpired last weekend, NFL gets going Thursday, junior hockey leagues are already getting into pre-season (doing colour for the Lloydminster Bobcats again this season who began their pre-season last Wednesday at home against Spurce Grove), and finally, NHL camps are about to open!  For some people, summer ending is the absolute worst.  Those people loathe me because I’m ecstatic that fall is here!

 

Speaking of which, we’re now only now a little over three weeks away from the Boundary Battle of Alberta!  Latest addition’s to the game are Oilers analyst on 630 CHED Rob Brown, and former Oilers captain Ethan Moreau.  Big names.  Brown is known as one of the greatest players in the history of the WHL.  212 points for Kamloops in the 86-87 season.  In 88-89, put up 49 goals and 115 points in just 68 games to help lead the Penguins to their first playoff appearance in six seasons.  After falling on hard times in the middle of his career, Brown’s resiliency was on full display after spending the large majority of five seasons (93-97) in the IHL, Brown found himself back with the Penguins for the 97-98 season, putting up 40 points in 82 games (let’s remember, 40 points in 98 was about the same as 70 points in 89).

 

Ethan Moreau faced his fair share of adversity in his career as well.  The 14th overall pick of the 1994 entry draft, Moreau was expected to be a scorer at the NHL level.  After a terrific rookie campaign in 96-97 for the Hawks, Moreau’s career stalled in Chicago and was eventually dealt to the Oilers right before the 1999 trade deadline in the Boris Mironov deal.  In Edmonton however, Moreau found a home and became part of the teams core.  He epitomized Oilers hockey in his years with the club.  His hard work both on and off the ice truly paid off in the 03-04 season with a career-high 20 goals.  Of course, that season likely paled in comparison to what the team accomplished in 05-06 as they went all the way to game seven of the Cup final, and Moreau’s efforts were rewarded with a four year extension prior to the 06-07 season.  He was named captain of the club prior to the 07-08 season, however once again his resiliency was put to the test as he’d missed most of 06-07 after needing reconstructive shoulder surgery, broke his tibia during the 07-08 pre-season, FINALLY returned to the lineup for the first time in over a year on December 29th, 2007…though only for two months as on February 25th his season was ended with a broken leg.  Most players might toss in the towel at that point.  Three major injuries in two seasons.  Moreau not only came back for the 08-09 season, but he played in 77 games and was rewarded with the NHL’s King Clancy award.  The guy was a total warrior.

The late game is sold out, but tickets are still available for the noon game! Proceeds go towards the mental health initiative Project Sunrise. Head to Boundary Ford in Lloydminster to purchase your tickets and check out some of the Oilers and Flames greats for just $25.00!

Onto other Oilers business…

 

Again I’m going to start off a piece with a grim reminder that the Oilers are very likely in a one year rebuild.  And again I’m going to say that while it’s a one year rebuild, it doesn’t at all mean that they’re tanking or not looking to win in any way.  So with the lineup looking so thin, what is the best way for head coach Dave Tippett to find balance throughout his lineup?  I have some suggestions…perhaps you’d like to read them…

 

As everyone should know by now, you want to find pairings up front, and then a 3rd man who more so simply fits on a line rather than a need to find a three man combination.  Obviously if you can afford to go with a trio (like the Bruins), you do so.  But the Oilers don’t have anywhere near that depth.

 

With this being said, here is what I’d look to do.

 

McDavid with Neal

This isn’t what will happen, but this is what I would like to see tried at least to start camp.  It’s maybe been stated 10-20 million times by now, but Draisaitl doesn’t need McDavid to produce.  I’m not as anti putting them together as I was at this time last year, but if Neal is in as good as shape as is being advertised, then these two have the potential to be a dynamic duo as well, and therefore Tippett should be able to spread the wealth so to speak by keeping McDavid and Draisaitl separated.

3rd Wheel?

I doubt many, if any, see it this way given how unproven the kid is, but I’ve liked the idea of trying Nygard with McDavid since they signed him.  This isn’t AT ALL suggesting that the kid is a first-line winger.  If he was, he’d have been in the league long ago.  But the thought of a burner like Nygard paired with McDavid is just so damn intriguing to me.  I realize that McDavid and Hall didn’t gel all that well when tried together, but that wasn’t because they were both great skaters, it was because neither were guys were used to deferring to someone else on their line.  Nygard with McDavid could potentially be a deadly combination in their own right.

 

Nugent-Hopkins with Draisaitl

A lot of us have discussed this a ton not just this off-season, it was heavily discussed leading into last season as I recall.  It’s simple: find a lesser name who McDavid can truly gel with (which could be Neal if last season was in fact an aberration), freeing up the 2nd and 3rd best offensive players to team up on their own line.  I will point out though that several people in the past have made the claim that Draisaitl is adamant he play with McDavid, so perhaps that is why it’s rarely been tried.

3rd Wheel?

Unlike with Nygard filling in on the top line, I’d feel comfortable with several options on the 2nd line.  As most likely would though, I’ll say Kassian.  Will he be able to produce as he did with McDavid and Draisaitl?  Highly unlikely.  But can he hold his own in the top six with Nuge and without McDavid?  I believe so.

 

Marody with Benson

So the last time around I was pretty steadfast that I didn’t like this idea.  But the more I’ve given it thought not just of where they’d line up, but how my lineup would look, perhaps it is best to try them together.  Add to that, it could be a big benefit for both to have that comfort level on the ice that they would.  I definitely believe there was merit to what I said last time around in keeping them separate not only for experience purposes but also for speed purposes.  But if you’re deploying the lineup properly, it should leave Marody and Benson (should both even make the opening night roster) with a lot of soft minutes on the 3rd line.

3rd Wheel?

For me, I love the idea of Josh Archibald here.  Talked about the lack of speed with the combination of Marody and Benson, well Archibald gives this line that.  He’s shown a pretty decent ability to finish as well.  I’m well aware that some would be screaming that I say Gagner or Chiasson in this spot, but with both players you have a lack of speed.  I’m not too eager to try what would make for a pretty slow line, no matter how soft of minutes they’re seeing.

 

Haas with Chiasson

By no means would I suggest that this is a combination that can do damage, even on the 4th line.  We’re not even sure if Gaetan Haas can play in the NHL (according to Bob Stauffer and the people he talks to, the jury is out).  But as I look at this lineup, I worry about guys who can kill penalties.  Kassian is ok at it, as is Archibald, but more is needed and the hope is that Haas can be that guy.  Chiasson was impressive at the start of last season playing on the 4th line, and was back down near that level once his hot stick finally cooled.

 

3rd Wheel?

Most would probably say Jujhar Khaira here.  I definitely am not against Khaira in this spot myself.  However, Markus Granlund is going to play, and I don’t have him anywhere in the lineup.  Granlund is a little better on the PK, a little more speed, and is a little better playing the middle if need be.

 

This leaves Sam Gagner and Khaira as the odd men out of the lineup.  It also sends Colby Cave to the minors.  With Gagner specifically, I really don’t like leaving him out as I still believe he has the ability to contribute 40-45 points (32 point pace last season for the Oilers with none of it coming on the PP).  If it’s me, he’s in direct competition with Marody for that 3rd line centre role.  But if Marody shows better than Gagner in the pre-season, I believe he should be the guy as he’s younger and is under team control for several more seasons.  In the case of Cave, I join most in being a fan, but this lineup is just so desperate for speed and Cave didn’t provide much of it last season.  It’s not that either guy is incapable of playing, but I’m having trouble finding a spot for either of them, or Khaira.

 

Again though, this is what I personally would do at this point without having seen these guys play pre-season.  Not that pre-season should be everything for a roster, but with this one they have about 15 forwards truly vying for spots.  It’ll play a big factor.

 

If I had to guess at what Tippett will do, I’d suggest that it’s something like this:

Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian

Benson – Nugent-Hopkins – Neal

Granlund – Gagner – Chiasson

Khaira – Haas – Archibald

 

The D is another story, mainly because we’ve got a little insight as to what they’re planning thanks to Jim Playfair’s interview with Bob Stauffer last week.  Nurse and Larsson seeing top matchups last season weren’t good.  Now, in saying that, I’ve always been and will continue to be a big believer in Nurse’s upside deep into his 20’s as he continues to grow.  Larsson is capable of being one of the best shutdown D-men in the sport, but it has now been two years since we’ve seen that player.  Can it work?  100%.  Will it work?  I have my fears.

 

The other thing that came of that interview was that Playfair talked about possibly moving Kris Russell to the left side.  I have no problem with that at all…except…if this was the plan all summer, why didn’t Ken Holland at least explore a trade of Russell?  They have as good of a D-man coming in Caleb Jones whom they will also want to play the left side.  They also have William Lagesson who isn’t flashy but brings a VERY solid defensive game to the table.  I’m all for Russell playing the left side, but it doesn’t make any sense when you look at what else they have to work with.  I assume that they’re going to try Klefbom with Benning, which analytically does make some sense, but for me personally, I’m not a fan of that pairing.

 

If it’s me, I keep Klefbom and Larsson together, use them as the shutdown pairing.  I’d then use Nurse with one of Persson or Bear (outside chance of Bouchard but obviously as I and many others have repeatedly said, much prefer Bouchard to spend the season in Bakersfield).

 

Interesting tidbit yesterday on Twitter as Bob Stauffer talked about William Lagesson.  I’ve talked at length about Lagesson in the past, especially this off-season as being very ready to play in the show.  But the interesting thing is that if Lagesson plays, where does that leave pretty much everyone else?  Russell is supposedly going to play the left side and that means he’s at best on the third pair.  If Benning is with Klefbom, then I guess that third pair right side spot is open.  However, the coaching staff has been pretty open about wanting D-men playing on their strong sides.  They also have others such as Joel Persson and Ethan Bear who are righties ready to fill that role.  I just cannot figure out why more of an effort wasn’t made to move out Kris Russell this off-season.  Not even a whisper.  And I realize that a lot of people love Russell’s game, but even if you’re one of those people, you’d have to agree that he no longer fits with the club from a cap POV given the kids they have who are ready for minutes.  You have as many as five defencemen ready to play, you need minutes in Bakersfield for the likes of Bouchard and Samorukov, and here you have a four million dollar a year defencemen who is your third best LH shooting D-man blocking the path for several kids who are ready to play.  It just couldn’t make less sense.

 

This team has some depth.  It remains to be seen if it is QUALITY depth, but they are deeper (especially on the back end) then they have been in a long time.  Word is that Tippett would like to give most of the kids one pre-season game and then immediately send them down to have a much smaller camp, and when you go through the roster you can definitely see why as there are a lot of tough decisions to make, and a lot of time needs to be dedicated towards seeing how the pieces fit.

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Playoffs? Unlikely, but Possible

Do you have tickets to the Boundary Battle of Alberta yet?  I know the first game sold old in just hours, but I told you a few weeks ago that they added a 2nd game and as of writing this, tickets are still available at just $25 bucks a ticket.  And thus far it’s a solid list of names on both sides, with more to come.  For me, this week’s additions were the most exciting thus far as I’m a MASSIVE fan of both Brian McGratton and big Georges Laraque!  Probably the two best heavyweights in the league from 06-09.  If we could get Georges and McGratt’s to throw down, that would be GREATLY appreciated!  I’m not asking them to do it, just if they feel like it I wouldn’t hate it…The game is going to be a great, but the big thing for me is the proceeds going towards project sunrise, a mental health initiative and anyone who knows me likely knows that’s something that really hits home for me having dealt with mental health issues as I’m sure most of you (if not all) have as well.  I have no problem talking about my problems, but many do.  We need to do what we can to end that.  So my suggestion is to get some tickets to the noon game.  It’s affordable, it’ll be a blast and it’s going towards a great cause so how can you go wrong?!  Tickets available at Boundary Ford in Lloydminster.

If you’ve been reading my stuff this summer then you know that I do not believe that the Oilers are making the playoffs.  I’ll say it again, this is a one year rebuild.  That doesn’t mean that they’re looking to tank the season at all, but it just means that the focus from management is on the following seasons much more than this one.

 

We know what they’ll get from a lot of players assuming they remain healthy.  We know McDavid will be amazing, we know Draisaitl even in a poor season is still capable of being terrific, Nugent-Hopkins, Klefbom, Nurse, etc. we pretty much know what those guys are going to bring to the table.  But if they’re actually going to make a run to the playoffs this season, it is pretty vital that they max out on what they have on these six players.

 

Mikko Koskinen

He’s not the tire fire most fans think of him as…not yet anyway.  The issues with the glove to me was MUCH more mental than it was physical.  That doesn’t appear to me to be something that can’t be overcome.  And if he does overcome it, where is the weakness?  Koskinen given proper rest this season, not to mention being prepared both mentally and physically for more of a grind, could produce some real nice numbers.  If the Oilers are to make the playoffs, a large part of it rides on him giving the team at least a .915 Sv%.  Don’t get me wrong, the easy thing to say on Koskinen is that the league started to figure him out.  I was guarding against that when he was rolling early.  But it’s at least possible to suggest that when he first started to struggle it was because of the injuries on the blueline (Klefbom and Russell, not to mention Sekera), and by the time that blueline got healthy he was getting more and more fatigued.  With a healthy blueline, and before getting run into the ground, Koskinen had a .927 Sv%.  I’m not going to suggest that’s who he is, but most people want to point to the disgusting decision made on him and say he’s awful.  Don’t confuse the decision/contract with the goaltender.  And while it’s unlikely he’s a .920 or better goaltender, there is some evidence that suggests he could be.

 

Mike Smith

Obviously, I could have just said the goaltending in general.  But I get paid by the word…(I don’t get paid…well, actually I in a way do on this one, but not by the word).  Bruce McCurdy from the Edmonton Journal brought this to my attention on Twitter the other day that while Smith had a rough season last year, post All-Star break he was actually pretty decent with a .912 Sv% and a 2.28 G.A.A. in 17 games.  Can he do that for 35-40 games this season?  If he can, it’d make his contract well worthwhile.

Don’t forget with both these tendy’s that they’re now playing in a Dave Tippett system.  Mike Smith was awesome for Tippett in Dallas, saw his game erode in Tampa, and became a star again for Tippett in Arizona.  Ilya Bryzgalov looked elite playing for Tippett in Arizona, and never looked like the same guy anywhere else.  Marty Turco was the same.  People forget that Devan Dubnyk got his career back on track playing for Tippett first, THEN ending up in Minnesota.  Two big, athletic, and technically strong goaltenders like Koskinen and Smith could really thrive playing for Tippett as we’ve seen in the past.

 

Cooper Marody

The more I’m giving this thought, the more I like Cooper Marody’s chances to make the team with a good camp.  That 3rd line centre spot is his for the taking.  If he’s ready, he’s the perfect fit for the role being a RH shot who can really dish the puck and is willing to play a complete game.  Some might say Gaetan Haas is penciled in for the role, but I personally see him as the 4th line centre, with Brodziak going to Bakersfield (or going on LTIR as I was told the other day that his back is essentially done).  Jujhar Kaira has an outside chance of filling the role, so does Sam Gagner.  But for me, the 3rd line centre role is Marody’s job to lose.  Not only could thrive given softer minutes as I’m sure he would see playing behind McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins, but he’s a real weapon on either PP unit with his vision.

 

James Neal

This one might have been at the top of the list for a lot of people.  Not that I’m really ranking them, but I actually believe in Neal’s ability to rebound to form, or close to it anyway.  To me, if we’re talking about the Oilers making the playoffs, 25 goals is a must from Neal.  But again, I don’t see it as that far fetched.  He’s more talented than Patty Maroon was in 2017 who netted 27 in what will likely be the same role for Neal.  And Neal has a much better shot than Maroon has or had.

 

Tyler Benson

I can’t stress enough that you remember the pedigree this kid had going into his draft year and the injury issues began.  This is not your normal 2nd round pick who has a year under his belt playing in the AHL.  Benson is the type of talent where had he been healthy, even just in 16-17, that he may not have even seen the AHL.  He has two completely healthy campaign’s under his belt, and he’s looked like the potential top-six winger he looked since Bantam.  The scary predicament for the team here however is having both Benson and Marody in the lineup.  Ideally, you break in one before bringing in the other.  But for the Oilers to make the playoffs, it might be a case where both players are going to be required to make the lineup.  This whole time I’ve been saying that Benson should be broke in on the 3rd line, but if Marody ends up as the 3C, I’d probably want Benson on another line.  Most would say horse shit to that and they’d love Benson and Marody together because of how they performed together last season.  It’s a fair point, but I personally don’t like playing rookies together, and neither are great skaters so I’d want some speed on both their lines.  With that all said, you aren’t going to start Benson on the 4th line with very limited minutes.  So then the ideal spot is on the 2nd line with Nugent-Hopkins.  I believe he’s very capable of filling that role, but it is a lot bigger ask than getting softer minutes on the 3rd line would be.

 

Top Four RD Emerges

I cheated a little here, because this is not one player, but one position where they’ll need one of three candidates to be able to handle.  Right now, the 2nd pairing RD is Kris Russell.  Russell falls into the category of “know what you’re getting”.  What we know we’re getting from Russell isn’t a top-four defenceman.  Matt Benning MIGHT have the ability to play in someone’s top four, but he and Nurse were pretty awful together when given that opportunity last season.  So that leaves the candidates for the role being Joel Persson, Ethan Bear, and Evan Bouchard.  The problem is that it is very likely too much to ask of one of these players to step in and be legitimate top-four defencemen, but all of them fit much better with Darnell Nurse on the second pair as they all move the puck much better than Russell.  Persson is likely the top candidate for the role as he is the most experienced in pro hockey of the three (of course this is his first in North America).  Bear has everything except he is the weakest skater of the three.  Bouchard is the most talented, but he’d have to absolutely kill it in camp to even get a look for me as I would pretty badly want him to spend most of the season in Bakersfield.  Very unlikely one of these three can emerge as a top-four guy this season, but if one of them could it would be a MASSIVE lift for the blueline.

I’ll add one crazy idea to this before I’m done, which is moving Nurse to the top pairing with Klefbom.  @WheatNOil on Twitter brought this up a few months back suggesting that Nurse’s game could possibly lend itself to switching sides as his game wouldn’t be near as hindered as an exceptional puck-mover would be playing their off-side.  And with how Klefbom can move the puck, I could see them really meshing well together.  That would allow Larsson to move to the 2nd pair possibly with Caleb Jones, whom it isn’t ideal for him either to start out in a top-four role, but being the most talented and most ready of the D-men ready to step in this season, and believing that Jones and Larsson might really mesh together, perhaps that’s the move.  I think it’s really unlikely the coaching staff would look at Nurse on the top pairing with Klefbom, but it’s something worth exploring given the current situation on the blueline.

 

If all six of these things happen for the Oilers, they won’t make the playoffs, they’ll comfortably make the playoffs.  That has about a 2% chance of happening.  They do need most of it to happen though, especially the goaltending.  Do not hold your breath on this team making the playoffs.  But, it is possible.

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