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9/18/09

LMHF Pre-Season Game Report #2

EDMONTON OILERS 4

VS.

FLORIDA PANTHERS 0

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I'm not sure that could've gone much better really. Perhaps if the Gilbert Brule had looked stupendous and Rob Schremp has scored a pair, but dominating the Panthers (it's going to be a LOOOONNNNGGGG year down there...), getting the shutout, beating them up in the literal sense as well was just excellent to watch.

Did this team get a shutout at all last year? Even once? Even in games where we'd allow next to no shots, something would always sneak in on us. I'm not even sure about preseason to be honest.

It's very evident that we're playing a different type of powerplay out there and I'm very relieved to see it. I'm sure early on the players will occasionally drift back into the old habit of simply dishing to the side and waiting, but many are adopting the change to a more down-low style with an increased amount of shooting lanes. I see this being very effective. Suddenly we have 3 options on the PP instead of 1. This looks to be gold.

The system change is also evident in watching the defencemen jump in and out more often. They did it fairly effectively tonight and when we actually see our top-notch top-4 execute this system, we'll be downright scary. Every single one of them can play this style of driving the d-man up the middle effectively.

If I'm the coach right now, every single guy who has no shot at realistically making this team is gone right now. I want to see them start working on combos and getting ready. We have some guys who look to be locked in from the get-go, which is something that's been lacking in past years. If they can keep some of the things they did tonight up while the vets round into form...we'll be sailin.

Anyway, onto...


PLAYER REPORTS
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Jacques
- He did what he needed to do tonight from the opening whistle. I counted at least 4 really solid hits and his puck handling improved after the first. He wasn't chasing in the offensive zone as much as I'd like to see him do, but that's nitpicky. His goal was a good read and great decoying by Comrie and Arsene to set up a stellar pass from O'Sullivan. The fact that he got that shot away so well is a great sign. I truly hope he keeps it up even though I don't value his style of game near as much as some do.

Horcoff
- Honestly I thought he didn't look that great tonight. But he's a secure vet working with unfamiliar linemates so I don't consider it to be that big of a deal. Missing on the PP was only forgiven because he got another chance; and to be fair he was on the wrong side. Oh well. I'm sure he'll get better as we go along. Needs to find his legs a bit still as he looked fairly slow.

Schremp
- The positive is that he was solid in his defensive zone, read the play properly and also worked hard to free pucks in the offensive corners. The negative is that he didn't do anything all that productive offensively. There was no pop to his game tonight. I'd argue that was because he wasn't playing a puck-support role but a puck-chasing role, but Rob still needed to be better. He gave the puck away too easily twice and was made to look bad when the Panther defenceman held the puck away from him simply by standing tall later on the third. He's got to show a lot in the remaining games because competition is so tight for those final spots.

O'Sullivan
- This guy looks fired up and ready to go period. He is moving quickly in every zone, has the puck on a string and is flat-out dominating. He was productive tonight and should've had 2 goals (he rang an absolutely stellar shot off the post and didn't score on a break where he had Vokoun beat). There is no better sign for the Oilers going into the season than the way this guy looks right now. This is 60+ point 30+ goal Patrick O'Sullivan we're watching. Book it now. The really nice thing to watch though is the way he's showing this level of play in every zone on the ice. We've got something special brewing here.

Comrie
- Even I wasn't quite ready for this. I busted out ol' #89 tonight (and I like to think of the dividing line between those brave few who marched in wearing old Comrie jerseys tonight and those that will sport the new # later in the season) and don't think I could have been more pleased with how that went. There were not one but TWO COM-RIE! chants. It was stupendous. He's controlling the puck and going to all his old spots just like he did before, but with more veteran saavy and more control of his game. He's very smart on the ice now. In addition to his 4 points there were more chances and a couple great passes, even a couple hits. I like to think that as he sat in the penalty box after the scrap that brought the crowd to its feet, 4 assists in his pocket and likely sore hands, he smiled, sat back and realized he had returned to where he always should have been, and to where his greatest successes will be. It was emotional for me because when I first started going to games regularly, this guy was the guy I cheered for harder than anyone. Everyone like me has hope again. First star, fist pumps, love from the crowd...tonight's the night the world begins again says it all for me. This could be one hell of a year.

Stone
- He's making his case in a really strong way and has at the very least solved a problem for coach Quinn. We have a line now: O'Sullivan, Comrie and a more skilled version of Ryan Stone. He should enjoy his success as he's doing very well. His pass to Chorney was a nice patient read and a solid pass. I didn't really catch his other assist but believe it was in the neutral zone. Send him down or keep him in the PB and power-skate the crap out of him and we may indeed have something. He looks to be useful at the very least and putting out the effort of his life. He's gonna make some decisions more difficult.

Lazo
- Who the heck is this guy? He's small, quick but not fast, shifty but the puck doesn't stick to him, and the guy had 222 PIMs in the Slovakian league somehow??? Quite possibly the most unique skillset I've ever seen. I don't think he's ready for anything near primetime though as he just looked plain outclassed.

Brule
- There's something about the style that Gilbert Brule plays that puts him in awkward positions and gets him hammered. This happened twice tonight. It's no wonder the kid gets hurt. In the offensive zone, where he has to be effective, he simply was not good enough with the puck. Judging right now I see him getting sent down and not even among the last cuts, but perhaps he'll improve and perhaps he's been better in practice. We need him to be an ace of diamonds in the rough and there are no signs of that so far.

Linglet
- Not very noticable at all. He had the puck a few times and looks like a half-decent skater but there's nothing exceptional to his game.

Brennan
- He hit people very solidly and was a mean, nasty SOB. I'm pretty sure that's the job he was trying out for. I could see him getting a contract and even playing in games against teams like Minnesota, Calgary and Vancouver. He's a more consistent hitter and better skater than MacIntyre is, but Steve pounds people every time he lands one...will be an interesting battle with no coaching allegiances anywhere.

O'Marra
- I still see hope for this guy because of nights like tonight. It's really unfortunate that he's such a slow skater because he's not particularly bad at it; he just has a really weak first step. He's rangy and plays the position well; hits people in an effective manner and clearly has some puck skill. Maybe he's found whatever it is he needed this summer. Going off this I hope he gets a full season in the higher end of the AHL and does well. You never know because guys that are big and solid and positionally good can be late bloomers. Especially those who have had injury trouble.

Stortini
- He looked sluggish to me tonight and possible a little distracted. Stortini needs to bring a better game if these larger wingers are going to keep playing well.

Chorney
- I really like Chorney's game from the opposition hash-marks in. He made a great read and took a phenomenal shot on his goal. When he's down past that point he's very dynamic with the puck and creates options for his forwards. It's behind this point where I still feel he has a lot of distance to cover. His first shift of the game was a great example; offensive defencemen above all else need to know when to pinch and do it decisively...he hesitated and didn't pinch on a clear chance, then tried to make up for it with a bad pinch that nearly cost him. Not the right thought process and you could see it unfolding. Chorney also has a bad habit of crossing over his d-partner on the way back into his own zone. Better NHL defencemen don't do this unless its absolutely necessary but it seems to be the default play for Taylor. To his credit, he didn't get caught way off tonight like he did in Calgary. To the AHL with you Mr. Chorney, we wish you the best of luck utilizing your skillset and expanding it to the full ice...I'm still in favor of trading him if anyone's really REALLY high on him though...

Gilbert
- Vet getting ready for the season again. He looked solid but kind of rusty to me. I have no doubts Tom will shine this year though.

Staios
- Steve spent the first period hitting people, jumping into the play and making passes. He looked like a veteran almost exaggerating elements of his game to train them in at an accelerated rate. I really like this approach. After the first he slowed down a tad, but that's okay from my POV. Liked what he brought.

Arsene
- He's one of the better depth guys they'll have this year in an emergency situation. Plain but not in a bash the puck around like you're using a club kind of way. I wouldn't mind seeing him in an emergency situation over some of the other guys.

Strudwick
- Did what he does; simple game with a fight. Nothing to see here...show's over...OH MY GOD A HORRIBLE PLANE CRASH!!!

Plante
- Just don't see it with this guy. Every time he touched the puck it wobbled off his stick. Every single time. He's going to have to work his butt off to make the AHL at this rate.

Khabibulin
- It sure was pleasant to watch a goalie who butterflies properly and doesn't get distracted in the net. Despite not being tested, he looked focused and solid in the net the whole night. And he did what he needed to do. I really look forward to watching this guy all year.

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My Three Stars:
1 - Mike Comrie (that was a put-up, don't need to shut up, any questions? kinda game)
2 - J.F. Jacques (did everything he needed to)
3 - Nik Ka-bib-you-lin (as #2 has committed to call him all year for amusement's sake)

O'Sullivan was also excellent and Stone was good.

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Could that have gone much better? Did I miss anything? Florida's bad, very bad, but that game filled me with more hope than the last one despite a somewhat sloppy first.

I have a theory that good teams often win in the second. The best teams in the NHL seem to just BURY other teams in the second period when they're going strong. We did that tonight. If we keep doing that, I'd look upon it as a very good sign in regular season time.

9/16/09

LMHF Pre-Season Game Report #1 - EDM vs. NYI

EDMONTON OILERS 3

VS.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS 2
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Well, back to Rexall we all went again tonight for a joyous (if slightly meaningless) victory. It's always great to win and I don't care if it was against a nothing team for zero points. We beat em and we darn well liked it. I was actually a little surprised that people weren't more pumped for the start of the game, but I guess that's life. When we finally did score, and boy did it take forever, everyone got into it a little more. I'm not sure everyone knew what to make of playing the Islanders to be honest. We're used to rivalry matches in the preseason.

I'm not sure if they'll add more before the season starts, but there seemed to be a whole lot of nothing new at the rink. Maybe I missed something, but there was no new food, no new store or stand, nothing new in the viewing area (aside from new ads for Telus TV and some discount Barn-somethingerother). That was a little disappointing. I'm hoping they're just holding back.

John Tavares looked...well...good when he had Doug Weight on his line. I think he'll do alright for himself this year. He didn't look earth-shattering, which would be noticeable even in the first pre-season game I find. It will be very interesting to see how he develops in NYI given how utterly bad they are.

The Isles actually came out much faster than we did and seemed to outwork the vet-prospect combo lineup early; but they weren't good enough to really do anything with that work. The Isles are a bad team that looks like a bad team and plays like a bad team.

I enjoyed watching Quinn jawing the ref even in a preseason game. I truly didn't enjoy the lack of intensity our previous coach projected. It's one thing to be focused and calm, but a great leader must know when the time comes to show some fire (yes, even in the pre-season).

I'm sure there's more system change than was totally evident tonight, but watching the 5-on-3 with three players down low was very interesting and should've worked but Hemsky got robbed.

In the end it was a semi-crummy pre-season game against the Islanders, nothing much to see here, but let's get into some...

PLAYER REPORTS
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Hemsky
- I thought he looked like he was getting his feet wet tonight. In my pre-game I speculated that this line wouldn't work and I think that came true. They didn't dominate inferior opposition at any time. These guys' games aren't built right. Hemsky played fine for a vet using the first game as prep. I'd look for him to be better in the next game he plays though. No extra step or major changes obvious as yet.

Nilsson
- I think he looks like a little more solid hockey player this year. He was getting into better position and looked more sure of himself on his skates and with the puck. I still think he's behind a number of players for a top 6, and maybe even top 9 spot on the team, but at least he looked like an NHLer.

Gagner
- He was okay, and I suppose looked more comfortable on the ice than he would be in the past. His goal was fairly weak, but it almost looked like he was relieved. Nothing special but nothing alarming which is kind of the point.

Penner
- His goal was entirely unique in that he actually made other players look slow and took a great shot. I liked that a lot. If he can keep that up he'll be very useful. I thought he was invisible and kind of slow before that. Did anyone else see anything different?

Cogliano
- He didn't look great to me as he wasn't using his speed to get to the locations he needed to be in. I think it was more about being uncomfortable with his line though. I'll wait to see how he's looking in later games.

Eberle
- How exactly he was awarded first star I really don't know. Maybe they wanted to make him feel good? I really don't know. I see a lot of potential in his game as he goes to the right places in the offensive zone all the time and the puck really seems to come to him. He needs to learn to finish at a higher level. Tonight he really should have scored at least 1 and probably 2. Scoring goals from in tight is probably his only hope to make the NHL this season and I don't think he can do it at this level...YET. I certainly think he'll be able to do it at some point. Every team needs a quiet scorer and this guy could be it; give him two years however. He's a different type of dynamic player that we don't really possess at the moment.

Cornet
- I can see why some people really like him. He gets to the right spots in every zone, is a solid if unspectacular skater, and looks very very comfortable handling a puck even with the Andy Sutton's of the world lurking around. The one thing I really noticed is that he's always checking around himself and is very observant of the play. He does this without the panicking that many other young players exhibit as they attempt this same thing early in their careers. I see potential in this young man.

Reddox
- Liam had a really weird game. He tried to go in on two rushes like a dynamic offensive guy and failed. He missed the net on a break. He took two penalties and wasn't really effective anywhere. If this is how he's going to play, his already low-ish chances of making the squad are nearly non-existant.

Pisani
- I was hoping to see something special. He looks like he's moving more effectively than last year which is good. I did not however see anything special. Oh well. The wait continues. I think the best fit for him on the team is really debatable this year depending on the style we employ, but that it's very important that Fernando have a good year. At least he looks fit for a change.

MacIntyre
- Did his job, landed some good shots.

Trukhno
- A surprise addition to the lineup, I thought he played well and showed his patience and skill with the puck. I really hope he's able to find an extra gear to his game in the AHL though because he's still a ways off.

Pouliot
- Skated well and made solid passes. Certainly the class of his line even if that isn't saying much. I'll be more interested in his game against more pro-laden squads.

Souray
- Played well and snarly. He broke two pieces of glass in one game (ever before in Oilers land?), he was tough in his own end and I loved how he owned Bruno Gervais to score his goal. That was beautiful and showed where Sheldon is most effective in the offensive zone. When he moves in with the puck, it generates big-time offence. Looking solid.

Smid
- Patient with the puck, a little snarly, good passing. No complaints.

Grebeshkov
- He's usually better, but he also usually has better linemates. Unspectacular and didn't notice him much aside from one or two rusty moments that everyone had.

Motin
- I watched him specifically and noticed one very disturbing constant: he is very unsure of himself in the defensive zone and thus always gets caught moving towards his man late. I'm going to chalk this up to jitters and hope he improves, but you cannot be an NHLer defender chasing your man from behind all the time. I wasn't that impressed with his positioning either. Another look is required at this guy, hopefully on a night when he looks more comfortable. Right now he's behind a number of guys, though I thought Chorney looked worse against Calgary.

Young
- Did his job very well. I like him as an AHL stalwart.

Taylor
- Nothing good about his game that I could see.

Deslauriers
- Really really solid. He moved well and positioned himself effectively in the net. Most importantly, he really gave the impression to me that he knows he's an NHL goaltender. Not in an arrogant way but in a confident and important way, especially for a goalie. He could surprise this year, I'll already predict that.

Dubnyk
- Effective if a bit awkward. I still think there's a visible gap between him and Jeff, but not so much because of Dubnyk lagging as last year, but because Jeff has improved.


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My Three Stars:

1. Souray
2. Deslauriers
3. Weight (yes I know he left really early but he made John T look very good)


So there we have it; let the best sports season of the year begin shortly! I want to have the boys playin for points and see a real NHL roster under the leadership of our new more intense coach! I see possibility!

Game Preview - Preseason Home Game #1

Getting ready for the Oilers-Islanders tonight; it shall be tremendous fun. Way too long since I've been in a hockey arena watching our team do battle. Pre-season is always interesting for a player-analyzer such as myself because you get to see so many different guys and it's always a new experience. At times during the season at least half of the roster will play many dull games in a row and there's not really much to say, but there's always something to talk about in pre-season for nearly all the roster. With a view to that, the lineup for the Oilers tonight is as follows:

Nilsson-Gagner-Hemsky

I don't hold out much hope for this line looking too fantastic to be honest. They'll probably beat on some weakling from the Calgary side from time to time but its not a combination I'm particularly enthused about. I'll be watching to see if Hemsky looks fresh and if Nilsson has changed at all.

Penner-Cogliano-Eberle

Still making the mistake of Cogliano at C is disappointing. I suspect he'll be sent to the wing later but apparently we'll have to wait. Would have preferred him to Nilsson on the first line. Will be looking to see how Penner's doing and how ready Eberle is. I suspect he's still 2 years away but haven't had a great look before.

Cornet-Reddox-Pisani

This Cornet guy comes much ballyhooed courtesy of LT, so I'll be watching him very closely. Pisani has apparently been ripping up camp, so he'll be on my radar as well. He just didn't look right last year. A 20-goal Fernando would go a LONG way.

MacIntyre-Brule-Pouliot

I'll be watching Brule to see if he's taken any steps forward. I'm really hoping he can somehow find a way to be our diamond in the rough, but don't hold out a lot of hope.

Souray-Smid

Not really looking for anything. They'll be fine I imagine. Always a pleasure to watch both play.

Grebeshkov-Motin

Denis is always excellent to watch. I'll be paying special attention to Motin as he's been getting some hype and I'd really like to see why.

Young-Taylor

I'll watch something else.

Dubnyk

Mainly watching to see if he's improved. I don't like his style in the net a lot of the time.

Deslauriers

I do like his style. He looked excellent in Calgary. I'm hoping he keeps it up.



Game Report after the game tonight. I'm very pumped! See everyone then!

Comrie and O'Sullivan?

I identified both of these guys as big stories for this year's club. I in fact think they will be the two biggest stories up front. It just so happened that they played together last night and looked good by all accounts. O'Sullivan said he feels like their thought processes are similar on the ice. This is the kind of thing you want to hear from combinations of players going into a season.

Should the chemistry continue, there could be several options for getting Comrie and O'Sullivan on the same line. This is especially true because both are capable at center or on the wing. Last night Comrie played C with O'Sullivan slotting in on the left side. Immediately the offensive line possibility that jumps out is:

O'Sullivan-Comrie-Hemsky

But I'm not sure this works. In theory they'd tear people to bits; but puck possession would be a question mark. It would open up the door for a Cogliano-Horcoff-Pisani ish line to be deployed if there is appetite for that sort of thing.

Another option is to make that combo part of a second scoring line thusly:

O'Sullivan-Comrie-Penner

This combo creates a second scoring line but would likely be dependent on the Oilers acquiring an LW to play first line minutes; which looks less likely by the day. Pisani could play here in theory and create a very responsible line, but I'm not sure if that takes away too much from the rest of the squad.

If SOMEHOW Robbie continues to play solidly, and Quinn has the imagination for it, Rob could slot in to a true line meant to slaughter the weak. This line would also play HEAVY PP time along with Hemsky and a defenceman in order to make up for it's lack of 5-on-5 time. I worry that this approach underutilizes O'Sullivan, but its benefit is the position the top 2 lines are left in.

Cogliano-Horcoff-Hemsky
Penner-Gagner-Pisani
O'Sullivan-Comrie-Schremp
Moreau-Nilsson-Stortini
Pouliot

I don't mind that, but it's contingent on Schremp having an excellent camp and Cogliano being able to play wing effectively.

It will be interesting to see if the O'Sullivan-Comrie combo becomes that second (or third) scoring unit we desperately need.

More stuff later today...

9/15/09

One more day...

It's true that tonight the pre-season begins in Calgary, but for me there is still one night to go. Though I am currently ticketless (thanks a lot Canada Post...) I've been assured that I can still go fetch my ticket from the Game Day office and attend tomorrow night's tilt between the Oilers and Islanders.

It seems like forever since the last game; partly because it's been a busy summer and partly because we were done so early last year. It's almost Game Report time once again and that has me excited. The fact that John Tavares will be playing tomorrow is simply a bonus in my mind.

I think there are going to be a number of very interesting stories for the Oilers this year; and although we do not have a great team at this point, we have a number of players who COULD take tremendous strides forward. If they do, we are in a tremendous position as a team. If they don't, well, we could be sitting here in the same spot next year. Anyway, I think these will be the stories of the year:

A First Line LW

Patrick O'Sullivan has the distinct opportunity to emerge as a real NHL scoring threat. He has all the tools and plays a very balanced game. Many people say he's underwhelmed at the pro-level, but in some ways I find this quite understandable due to the difficulties in his personal life when he was younger. He will get a fresh shot on a new team with a new coach. These kind of situations give the guys with sheer talent and determination the chance they need. He's that kind of guy. He can think the game fast enough to keep up with Hemsky and get into the positions he needs to be in; or take some puck-carrying pressure off Ales' shoulders. I can't wait to see what he will do in a full season for this club now that he'll be more comfortable. If he winds up on the first line, I'm predicting a big breakout year of 60+ points with around 30 goals. The only question is whether he'll start using his excellent shot from slightly more effective areas, and I really think he will be directed to these areas by Mr. Quinn.

A Number One Goalie

I'm firmly of the opinion that Dwayne Roloson's play here was overrated and contributed negatively to this organization and several junctures. His style, which I've observed to generate more shots for the opposition, will not be missed by these eyes. Khabibulin is a number one goalie. He will stop pucks, win some games for us, and provide peace of mind to his defencemen. I think this year will show the difference between the type of guy we have before and the type we have now in a rather profound way. I'm also not scared at all of starting Deslauriers for a decent number of games, now that we have a coach who won't be scared into paralysis by winning, or losing, or going to shootouts.

Mr. Schremp comes to Edmonton?

I hold out hope, especially from the early stories of camp, that Robbie will finally make this team. As a specialist he can contribute to wins through his amazing offensive gifts. I think we now have a coach who knows how to use a player like him; but we'll see. If he does make the jump, I think he'll play a more important role than people think and quickly round into a solid NHLer. He's very very good at a number of things, and so long as he's focused and confident, that talent won't be kept down. We'll know more in a few games, but his time may finally have come. There are so many fans pulling for him that it'd be a really special story to see him make that leap. It's one of the less probable stories of the year, but it sure would be a good one.

What doesn't happen

I have less hope that Sam Gagner will make a huge leap this year. Last year I thought he was poised for a massive jump and he didn't make it. I almost think not playing 115 games or whatever the number was the year before hurt him. He seems to thrive on activity. I see his development to be more gradual now.

I don't think Cogliano will become a big-time scoring winger, but will instead round out the consistencies in his game and learn to play to his strengths every night.

I don't think we'll have problems on D. That is one super-solid group back there, and not a guy in the bunch should take much of a step back. Peckham's waiting in the wings as well (and he's gonna be GOOD).

Pouliot and Jacques will drift away slowly and fade into another uniform somewhere. They just won't be in the position to make an impact on this team. We'll find another center, and Jacques just isn't there.

Brule won't remember how good he can be. This is a guy who should have been something really special and it just hasn't worked out. I don't think the light clicks on this year.

Stortini won't be cut or released or sent down or anything of the sort. He's a solid player who is very smart and will learn from our new coach just as he learned and improved under MacTavish.

Horcoff won't return to his higher scoring days. He just doesn't have that high-end to his game unless he suddenly remembered how to shoot. I think he's careered and never will again. Hopefully he's better than last year.

Penner will improve, but it won't be the quantum leap some are looking for. The guy just isn't good enough with the puck to march out and score 35 goals. He needs to learn to score from in front of the net and I'm truly hoping Quinn can get through to him in this way. He also needs to remember that he's a decent passer and has an excellent slapper. These skills are never utilized by Penner and would really add a new dimension up front. I think this year he's useful and fairly good, but he's no star.

Last...but the opposite of least...the most important and year-shaping story will be

Redemption

By the end of this season, fans will once again be cheering loudly in Rexall Place for one Mike Comrie. It will be the triumph of the year for this team for many reasons including the excellent contract he's signed to, the negative PR that's been removed, the page that's been turned, and the hometown man that's returned to bring his team back to where it should be. Mike Comrie will score at least one overtime playoff winner this year. He'll be that extra piece that pushes this team far enough along. He has the opportunity, the motivation, and something to prove. This isn't a guy who's ever backed down from a challenge in the NHL or in junior and won't now. Adding Mike Comrie as a veteran who will put pucks in the net makes more of a difference than anyone's realizing right now.

We have a chance to be one of the most dynamic teams in the league at forward. I really hope coach Quinn sees that.

I'm feeling positive about the year. No grandiose predictions, but we will make the playoffs.

Can't wait for the game tomorrow. I hope you'll be around after the game to read about the joy that is live Oilers hockey beginning for another year. Here's to this year ending much later than the last!

9/4/09

A third line centre?

I see the Oilers added Mike Sillinger yesterday. If this had happened a year or two ago I wouldn't have been surprised; I'm not the guy's biggest fan but I understand why a team would acquire a vet like him.

Sillinger will not be the Oilers third line center however, as his career is done due to injuries.

This is a slot on the team that cannot and should not be filled by Marc Pouliot. I'm sorry to see that he has not lived up to expectations. If anything at all he's a 13/14 guy rather than someone you're going to rely upon for a decent amount of minutes every night. This team needs more vets in the bottom six. They need a center can win some draws and maybe PK. We all know this, and yet there's a list of capable individuals out there that seem to be generating no interest:

Robert Lang
Rob Niedermayer
Mike Peca
Manny Maholtra
Blair Betts

There are obvious reasons why some might not come here, but I can't see why the Oilers don't make the moves necessary to add someone of this ilk. Even as a bit part of a trade if contacts/salaries really are the reason and not just the excuse. We'll see what happens, but really hope not to go into the following season with 4 non-NHL guys in the bottom six. Quality bit-parts are a huge part of a winning season; and this can still be a winning season.


On another note: I'm going to be a little surprised if Comrie isn't signed today.

9/1/09

Redemption


Hello all!

I apologize for my long absence, but between the various callings of summer (golf, summer hockey, sunshine, fiancee) and a rather crazy work schedule, I have neglected my poor little blog for quite some time. I shall however try to re-ignite the very modest flame I was able to start last season and hope to remain consistently blogging from now until at least the end of the season.

And through happy coincidence I get to make my return to blogging to talk about one of my favorite players, one Mike Comrie.

I have many many stories about the hometown boy everyone seems to love to hate. I remain convinced that a coach over player decision is what ultimately caused the situation that hurt this organization and Mike's career so needlessly (despite any indiscretions that may have led to his ultimate departure).

My first real knowledge of him came from my cousin, who was living in Creston at the time. I'd heard a little bit about the guy, but frankly was more interested in his brother Paul's play. Though Paul's career would be sadly cut short, Mike would dominate the WHL in a way few Oilers prospects, if any, ever have. My cousin told me of a night where, on the PK, Comrie circled the ice with the puck 3 times before going end-to-end and scoring. He was tearing the league apart and putting up an insane amount of points. I became convinced that this guy needed to be in Edmonton. We were sorely lacking a second line center at the time and I was convinced this junior gun was our man. I even started an insanely rudimentary website in the pre-blog days that commented on my campaign to sign Comrie as our second-line center.

The drama that went along with his initial signing surprised me at the time, but looking back on the era of real free agency and the lack of a cap or limited entry-level deals now, it is not surprising. I was simply glad the deal had gotten done, and was very excited to see the guy play.

Back then I didn't have season tickets, but I saved up and went with friends or by myself sometimes if they didn't have cash at the time. As luck would have it I attended the Detroit game where he scored his first goal and it was the winner. I still have the newspaper clipping from the next morning around somewhere. I was also in the building for his playoff OT winner against Dallas. That was something else. The building roof just tore off. I even had the perfect corner view of his toe-drag goal against Phoenix where the only thing my friend two rows down could yell for about five minutes was HOLY SHIT!!! This was pre-YouTube prominencey so I can't show you a clip to refresh the memory. At the time it was one of the best NHL goals I'd seen.

Little did I know that the excitement would be so short lived and that my Oilers 3rd jersey with COMRIE emblazoned on the back would be incorrect so suddenly. I remember watching him at the UofA camp the year he was traded. That man made all the other players on the ice (and there were many good ones) look like CHUMPS. He was in outstanding condition and really looked ready to have a monster season. That's what made the fact that Oilers had not even really offered the guy a contract even harder to take. I was so disappointed in my team. I really believe that he would've had his breakout year had he started that season for the Oilers. All the signs on that pre-camp ice pointed in a wonderful direction. I hadn't seen that kind of gear from an Oilers player in a long time.

It was not to be. Hatred from the fans soon followed. Mike was booed mercifully every time he returned. I'd always wear my #89 on those nights. Cheering for our guys but hoping Mike would score a couple to shut the fans up as well. All I could think about was how tragic it was for everyone involved that a possible hometown hero on a rejuvenated team could return us to success; or at least play a big part. Fernando Pisani nearly did it in '06, but Mike (and Paul frankly) should've been there too.

From the moment he left I'd said to myself "He'll be back. Probably when he's 35 and playing mainly as a checker who can still pop a few, but he'll be back. Redemption is a great story and that's how it'll turn out".

Well, it might happen a heck of a lot sooner.

Another chance Mike. Make everyone else believe. Some of us still do.

I'm betting he's an Oiler before camp starts, and I'm betting that by mid-season he's a top-six fixture who's getting cheered by the vast majority of the people.