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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