Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Oilers vs Jets: The Rivalry Continues!

Yes it's been a long time in the waiting. After a long 15 years, the two teams met Monday night in what turned out to be a great game. MTS Arena was rocking with a playoff atmosphere all night long. Both teams came out flying and for the first ten minutes it was vintage firewagon hockey. The coaches eventually pulled the reins but the game still had a high flying tempo. The Oilers played catch up hockey until the third period when they finally took the lead. The Oilers never looked back and won the game 5-2.

It was a nostalgic night, a night that I've been looking forward to since that memorable Tuesday in May. The Oilers and the Jets belong to be together in the NHL, for what I feel is the best rivalry the Oilers have. Yes we have the Battle of Alberta but we also have a cornball history with the Jets.

Our fair two cities are so very similar. We have our civic pride. We have shared our ups and downs. We are the forgotten brother and sister. And we have our passion for hockey.

Ever since the defunct WHA, the Oilers and the Jets have battled tooth and nail. There is the history of hate and mutual respect . So many games that have mattered so much. A part of Oiler history is their battles with Jets (anyone else remember Gretzky versus Hawerchuk, Kurri versus Steen?). When the Oilers were at their best, so were the Winnipeg Jets. Was it coincidence that when the Jets left town, so did the Oilers? Fourteen out of the last Fifteen years the Oilers have been a wishful pretender, never a contender. A shadow of it's past.

And now the Jets have returned and so have the Oilers.

Oh how the hockey Gods favour us. Once again, the two teams are about to start a momentous journey together.

The return of the Jets and the the Oilers strike first!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Oilers Obtain Nick Shultz for Tom Gilbert!

You heard it Oiler fans. Steve Tambellini traded five year veteran Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz of the Minnesota Wild.

The trade occurred only a few hours ago and Oiler diehards are not happy. It's been a tough year for Oiler fans; the team is struggling, players injured, and a GM who does nothing. Trade deadline has come and gone and the team is no better. Only one deal was made and it's a deal that no one seems to like.

Tom Gilbert is gone. A player who has become a fan favourite this year. It was only last year that Oiler fans we're throwing poor Gilbert under the bus and now they're angry he's gone. Sports fans can be so fickle. The Oilers will miss his puck moving skills and his leadership on the ice. He is a player that you notice the second he steps on the ice. The type of player that Nick Schultz is not.

I've only had the chance to watch Schultz play a few times, but he is exactly what is missing on the Oiler  blueline. Nick is as tough as they come. Not all that surprising considering he's a Saskatchewan boy. He's not a fighter but he can fight. I guarantee you that if some one touches one of our young stars, Schultz will be there. Nick is a shutdown defenseman who can skate and play physical. The Oilers have added a little more sandpaper and a little more stability. Something that has been missing since the departure of Jason Smith.

Stable was something that Gilbert was not. Tom is a natural offensive defenseman who was forced into a role of a shutdown defenseman. He did an admirable job, but it's not what he is. With the unloading of Marek Zidlicky, the Wild were in a need of an offensive defenseman. Gilbert will now see top minutes on the powerplay instead of  limited time with the Oilers.

In a way it was a position of strength, because the Oilers have one of the best powerplays in the league. Gilbert was valuable, yet expendable. Schultz on the other hand will bring dependability to the defense. He`s a top pairing penalty killer that will make the Oilers special teams one of the best in the game.

The Oilers are neither younger or older. The contracts are nearly the same. A defenseman for a defenseman. Is the team any different? You bet it is!

I love this trade and in time Oiler fans will too!

Goodbye and good luck Tom Gilbert, and welcome Nick Schultz!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

OilSoup: Anton Landor Moved!

OilSoup: Anton Landor Moved!: No Anton Lander hasn't been traded, just moved to the minors. It was a numbers game and Anton drew the short straw. I'm a little surprised...

Anton Lander Moved!

No Anton Lander hasn't been traded, just moved to the minors.

It was a numbers game and Anton drew the short straw. I'm a little surprised by the decision. But as mentioned in today's earlier blog, it's a short term move. I'll put my reputation on the line that an Oiler forward will be moved before deadline. Cough "Jones" Cough.

Lander has impressed Oiler management with his attitude and work ethic. Even though he is a rookie he has shown some leadership on and off the ice. Not really a surprise considering his past record with Timra and Sweden Jrs.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with Anton during my travels last Summer in Sweden and Finland. His attitude is second to none. Training hard on the ice even though he was skating with juniors three years younger. You could see that he was a born leader.

The highlight of the trip was when a group of us went out to dinner. I spent most of the night getting to know him, firing questions back and forth. He wanted to know everything about good ol' Edmonton and the Oilers. It's not often that I'm impressed by young hockey stars. I guarantee you won't be hearing any bad boy news about Anton.

Being sent down will be good for Anton. He'll get top line minutes and will see some time on the powerplay. He will dominate games down there, count on it! If Steve Tambellini doesn't move a forward,  Anton will work his way back into the NHL. Are my expectations high, you bet they are.

Oh! By the way, I have no reputation!

OilSoup: Ryan Jones Gonzo?

OilSoup: Ryan Jones Gonzo?: Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. With only three days until the most anticipated hockey media frenzy of the season. The beloved Oiler...

Ryan Jones Gonzo?

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

With only three days until the most anticipated hockey media frenzy of the season. The beloved Oilers find themselves in a bit of a predicament. They have too many NHL players on the roster. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins coming off injury reserves, somebody has to be moved. A player will either be traded or sent down to the minors. The obvious move is someone will be shipped out to Oklahoma. Word has it that Anton Lander will be the odd man out.

I don't buy it. Oiler Management love this guy, there's a reason he's remained on the team all year. Magnus Paajarvi could clear waivers but he's been playing well. That just leaves Lennert Petrell.

A player may very well  be sent down to the minors, but only for a few days. Steve Tambellini is getting a lot of calls regarding the availability of Ryan Jones. Jones has had another strong season for the Oilers. He's been a pleasant surprise since being claimed of waivers two seasons ago. He's a versatile player that can play on the second or third line. His 13 goals would add much needed scoring depth to many teams fighting for the playoffs.

Why would Steve trade Jones?  It's called Profit Maximization. Jones has reached that level, and the Oilers now have depth to replace him. Looking at our current roster, Jones doesn't fit in our top 6. Our bottom 6 has rounded itself out and he is know expendable. Jones has been a healthy scratch over the last 2 games so this should come as no surprise.

Now that those ridiculous rumours about Dustin Brown have subsided. The Oilers can now feel offers. Every team would love to have a player of Brown's calibre. How about a Dustin like Ryan Jones, a nice alternative at a lower price. Trading Jones would definitely bring in a nice prospect or a high pick to accelerate the rebuild.

Could St. Louis be interested? How about Ian Cole and a pick for Ryan Jones. The Blues just called up Cole, perhaps they're auditioning Ian to prospective buyers?

Three more days to the deadline and it maybe a quiet day for the Oilers. Regardless of what happens by Monday, the Oilers will move someone.

Will that someone be Ryan Jones?

Friday, 24 February 2012

OilSoup: Ryan Smyth: Where's The Beef? I Mean Contract?

OilSoup: Ryan Smyth: Where's The Beef? I Mean Contract?: Method in the Madness. The madness that circles like vultures around our hero Ryan Smyth. No longer than a week ago Oiler fans were trea...

Ryan Smyth: Where's The Beef? I Mean Contract?

Method in the Madness.

The madness that circles like vultures around our hero Ryan Smyth. No longer than a week ago Oiler fans were treated to swirling rumours involving Smyth. The hockey media wanted to know if Ryan was available as a rental. With the Oilers still in the infancy of their rebuild, trading Ryan would probably garnish a first round pick. Akin to the Doug Weight rental ploy, Ryan would strictly be a rental and re-sign with the Oilers this Summer. 
So why is Ryan Smyth still an Oiler? Is Steve Tambellini waiting for the best offer? Or is it possible that Ryan doesn't want to be moved. Forget the opportunity of playing in playoffs. Who cares about a chance of raising the Stanley Cup. Ryan just wants to stay in Edmonton, with his family, playing for the team he loves. What better story could there be?

So my question to Tambellini is, why haven't you signed our hero? What are you waiting for? Sure you've been busy with the trade deadline looming. But you've known for sometime that Smyth wants to stay and not be a rental.  

With the likely hood of this Monday being a quite day for the Oilers. Signing Smyth would bring a smile to the Oiler faithful. A glimmer of hope while we endure this rebuild. Do us all a favour and sign him Tuesday and have a big press conference.

 What a PR conception that would be.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

OilSoup: Ales Hemsky Signing?

OilSoup: Ales Hemsky Signing?: Oh the Madness! According to the chatter on the internet, it appears a Hemsky signing is imminent. It appears against better judgement tha...

Ales Hemsky Signing?

Oh the Madness!

According to the chatter on the internet, it appears a Hemsky signing is imminent. It appears against better judgement that Tambellini is going to keep the enigma known as Ales. The talented yet fragile player has decided to consider a short term deal. Word has it that Ales may sign for a $10 Million deal over a short 2 years. It appears that Hemsky wants to remain an Oiler.

A soon to be free agent that wants to play in Edmonton! How could this be possible? Why wouldn't Ales simply wait a few months and get a better deal? Wait until July and he could play for the leafs. The centre of the Universe.

As mentioned in my previous article, The Hemsky Dilemma, I wasn't keen on signing Ales. I would be hesitant on spending a lot of money on a player with injury issues. In the salary cap error, there is little room for bad contracts. Oilers already have one, can they afford two? Hemsky agreeing to a two year deal could be exactly want the Oilers need.

If the rumours are true, and Hemsky does sign. The oilers will find themselves with five bona fide top six forwards. Not many NHL teams have that luxury. The tern of the deal also coincides with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who will be looking for a raise. Most importantly of all is the message.

The deal will send a message to the fans and the NHL that the Oilers are truly committed to building a winner. Who knows, maybe this Summer free agents won't be turning their noses up at Edmonton. A city, who's civic pride is as fragile as the player we have all grown to love.

Regardless of where Hemsky ends up, I wish him the best. I will never question his talent and his love for the game. I only hope that a healthier Ales will also mean a stronger Ales. A stronger commitment to being a leader. A commitment to honing his skills, perhaps even spending a few more minutes longer at practice.

First one on and last one off. Now that would be a message to all!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

OilSoup: Jay Feaster, A Penny For Your Thoughts?

OilSoup: Jay Feaster, A Penny For Your Thoughts?: I am dying Calgary, Dying. I am sure the sentiment is mutual among all Flames fans after last night's embarrassing effort. It's dumbfoundi...

Jay Feaster, A Penny For Your Thoughts?

I am dying Calgary, Dying.

I am sure the sentiment is mutual among all Flames fans after last night's embarrassing effort. It's dumbfounding how a team contending for a playoff spot could put in such a lacklustre effort. Flames versus the Oilers, what more motivation could you ask for? A team that supposedly thrives on grit and determination was outclassed by a bottom dweller.

So why is an Oiler blogger writing about the Calgary Flames? No self respecting Oiler die hard could pass up a chance to bash our friendly rival. But it's not the Flames that I want to talk about, but the man who steers the ship. The man who firmly believes that his team is a playoff team. A team that can go far into the playoffs. Who is Jay Feaster?

May 16, 2011, Jay Feaster officially became the 6th saviour of the Flames. Feaster brings with him a Stanley Cup ring which he so happened to have won against the Flames in '04. If you can't beat them, buy them. It didn't take long for Feaster to show his disdain for his northerly neighbour. Feaster was quick to dump on the Oilers, stating that acquiring top picks is not the way to build a winner. No, the best way to build a winner is to inherit a young team from a guy who already did the work.

 Feaster inherited a team that already went through the growing pains of finishing at the bottom of the league. A team with the likes of Lecavalier and St. Louis to terrorize goalies. I think it's safe to say that Feaster did very little in building a Stanley Cup winner. But what he was able to do was mismanage the salary structure of his team. Shortly after the win, the Lightning were forced to trade future stars because of Feaster's struggle with the salary cap. Needless to say Feaster resigned four years after winning the Cup.

This time around Feaster isn't inheriting a young team full of talent. That would be too easy. This time he's part of a team with over aged, over paid underachievers. So why not go over the top by going ahead and acquired more of the same. Trading a cheaper younger Bourque for an older more expensive Cammalleri.

This trade along with a few others has made the Flames a Win and Lose team. After last year, Calgary was a team that was positioned for a rebuild. Unload the aging and reload the youth. A chance to finish in the bottom 5. The team now has no where to go. Not up and not down. Yes the Flames will finish with a winning record, and yes they will beat the Oilers. If mediocrity with a ray of hope is acceptable in Calgary, than Feaster is the man for the job.

I look forward to watching the Flames finish in that elusive 9th position. One better than last year. Feaster will be able to look at the season as a success. Something to build on, especially with all those talented prospects not far behind!

Oh how I count my lucky stars that I'm not a Flamer!

Something Smells Rotten

Something smells rotten in Cowtown.

Well the Oilers finally won a game against the Calgary Flames tonight. I have lived a long and fruitful life with many highs and lows. Well maybe not that long. As an avid hockey nut I can say many of those experiences have involved the Battle of Alberta. So the fact that tonight the Oilers humiliated their southern neighbors 6-1 firewagon style, is both a high and a low.

How can it be both you ask? Well I didn't get the chance to see the game. The Oilers first win of the year against the Flames and I didn't see it. Fortunately I saw the highlights and it would have been nice to have seen it. Obviously the Flames thought they just needed to show up with the 2 points all gift wrapped. How dare their northern rival have the gumption to snuff out the Flames playoff run. I have seen into the crystal ball and it saddens me to reveal that the Flames will not make the playoffs. So the low was me missing the game. The high was, I was actually playing hockey myself.

Nothing like getting the ol' blood flowing and going face to face with out of shape middle aged men. Now I don't play in an adult league. Been there done that and won't do that anymore. I've reached the point in my hockey career where playing against 25 year old, is not my cup of tea. The one guy who still thinks they have a shot at the pros. You know what I'm talking about, there's always that one career plumber that believes a scout could be watching. And if it's not the plumber than it's the referee. You can always rely on referees deciding the outcome of the game.

No I'm talking about pick up hockey, 20 guys who know each other. A game that has no referee and no plumbers. Well maybe a few plumbers. Ya some argue that there's no competition and maybe that's true. Believe me I still have that competitive fire, especially when my best friend comes flying down the right wing and only has me to beat. Just like that hockey commercial where the defenceman ponders those cherished moments as his buddy skates towards him. No I didn't punish my friend but believe me he was cursing afterwards.

Competitive hockey is in the past now. Today I enjoy the game more now than ever. Don't get me wrong, I loved hockey as a kid. I played a high level of hockey and will forever me grateful for that. I still have Tuesday nights to look forward too and I'm lucky to still be able to play a good level of hockey. Even if it's only pick up.

Firewagon style.... Oiler Hockey.

Too bad Flames fans can't say that!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

OilSoup: The Hemsky Dilemma

OilSoup: The Hemsky Dilemma: To be or not to be, that is the question regarding Oiler favourite Ales Hemsky. These next few days will be very interesting to say the l...

The Hemsky Dilemma

To be or not to be, that is the question regarding Oiler favourite Ales Hemsky.

These next few days will be very interesting to say the least. Once again Oiler fans find themselves torn between their love and what is the best interest of the team. When I use to the word team I refer to the players themselves. How do the players feel about Ales? The veterans who have played with him for a number of years. The bloomers who have know him a little and the rookies who have yet to see the real Hemsky.

It is common knowledge that Hemsky is not a vocal leader in the dressing room. It's safe to say his demeanour would simply fade into his stall. Some would argue that his leadership is on the ice. During games that maybe, but at practice, it's safe to say Hemsky is the last one on and first one off. And over the last few years it is hard to lead from the pressbox.

Ales certainly has the skills to put up big numbers for years to come. At 28 he is entering his prime. As good as Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins are, a healthy Hemsky could easily lead the team on the scoreboard for another year or two. The question is? Is that a good thing?

I will never say that Hemsky is not a team player but he sure isn't in the same stratosphere of a Messier. Ales  is a Yes or No team player. A lost ship with no port to call it's own. A 5 Million dollar ship that is lost at sea.

5 Million is the asking price? Yes? And for how long?

One thing we can all agree on we're not going to get fair value for Hemsky. Whether we trade him or sign him. But you never do when dealing with up and coming free agents. Trade Ales and the team will be better off. Short term and in the long run.

History has shown for the most part that teams who are lead with their best players, are the teams to beat. 

Yes or No?