Ryan Smyth is back where he belongs (imo he should have never left in the first place) to help Tom Renney, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Whitney, and Tom Gilbert mentor the next generation of Edmonton Oilers. Make no mistake, this team is being built around Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. A promising core of young players already surrounds them in Sam Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Gilbert Brule, Linus Omark, Andrew Cogliano, Ladislav Smid, Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney, and Jeff Petry. Free agency yielded a potential hidden gem stud D-Man in Cam Barker; some sand and grit in big agitating winger Ben Eager and even bigger, nasty D-Man Andy Sutton; a two-way center that can actually win face-offs and help on the PK in Eric Belanger; and Darcy Hordichuk, a tough-as-nails enforcer, who is as comfortable taking a regular shift as he is sitting in the penalty box or the press box. Devan Dubnyk may yet prove to be a serviceable NHL goaltender, and the Nikolai Khabibulin signing is looking more and more like a strategic decision to guarantee multiple lottery picks while creating the optical illusion of attempting to ice the best team possible.
The organization is at the roster limit with 50 contracts and brimming with talented prospects ready to step up and take anyone's roster spot should they falter. Watch out for Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander, Chris Vande Velde, Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, Alex Plante, Colten Teubert, Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom, and David Musil.
The lines and pairings for this season might look something like this:
My bet is that we see some trades and that RNH goes back to junior unless he absolutely forces his way onto the team during training camp. Assuming even average goaltending, good health, and continued progress from the core kids, this team should at least contend for a playoff spot this year, possibly finding a way to sneak in if it all starts finally to come together.
Next summer brings a ton of cap room and yet more hope. Besides the core living up to their promise, the supporting cast needs to pan out, and a stud blueliner and clutch goaltending need to appear before the Edmonton Oilers can really take the next steps toward winning and then consistently contending for the Stanley Cup.
That said, so far this has been the best summer to be an Oiler fan since 2005.
About 15 years ago, I made a bet for $1,000.00 with a friend of mine who is a rabid Flames fan that the Oilers would win a Stanley again before the Flames ever did. It seems my money is safe for at least another year. Then again, so is his. In fact, neither team is going to get a sniff at that trophy for at least a few years, so both "Big Tom" and I can spend our money on other things like family vacations, mortgage payments, and vet bills.
I have been mostly silent throughout this NHL season, as the Edmonton Oilers players, coaches, management, and ownership combined to put out what can only be described as the worst on-ice product in my more than 30 years of being a fan. The term "City of Champions" has never before been more of a punch-line. Living in Calgary, I cannot articulate how lame it has become mouthing the words "Taylor Hall" and pointing out that the Oilers are at least 2 years ahead of the Flames on the rebuild. Nearly everyone I know in this city is a Flames fan, and they have with few exceptions been relentless in rubbing salt in my wounds whilst continually jumping on and off the bandwagon for their own old and slow band of skill-deprived knuckle-draggers.
Last night, the Calgary Flames were officially eliminated from any chance of playoff contention.
"From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!"
Ok, so this is getting to be humiliating. It is beyond pathetic to pursue this matter any further than where it has been pursued already. Look where that kind of thinking landed poor old Ahab (above...well actually it's Gregory Peck playing Ahab, but same diff).
The Oilers really need to move on and sign a 3rd Line Center. I can rationalize Penner deserving a fresh start under the new coach, unless of course the Oilers are now dead to him and he demands a trade out of town. Hopefully similar bridges have not been burned beyond repair with Smid or Cogliano, either. Unless the Oilers retract the offer to the Senators for Heatley, this is going to get really ugly and possibly even do irreparable damage to both the organization's and the city's already tenuous standing as a potential destination for free agents. If the Oilers cannot even trade for a player that has demanded a trade and named them as a preferred destination, then they might as well pack up their stuff and go home. This franchise will never be able to compete in this league if shenanigans like this are allowed to continue.
Sign Nik Antropov first thing Thursday morning, and as a wise man from the East wrote many years ago, "The Moving Finger writes, and having writ, moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a Word of it."
I simply do not have the words to express right now my complete and utter sense of disillusionment and dismay with the NHL, its players, and the once-proud Edmonton Oiler hockey franchise.
The mood in Calgary today is one of celebration and hope. While there is the expected amount of gloating, finger-pointing, and trash-talk going around relative to the polar opposite situations in which the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames now find themselves, one of the things that is really freaking me out is that there is also a lot of smug condescension, and even a large and genuine outpouring of sympathy for the Oilers and the city of Edmonton. Some of Flames Nation is laughing at us, but most of them seem to actually feel sorry for us.
In fact, the Calgary Flames improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals that season likely took years off of my life.
It took nearly as many years off my life as the Edmonton Oilers similar, but heartbreakingly disappointing run to the Stanely Cup Finals two years later.
So this is what feels like to live in the 9th Circle of Hell.
Jay Bouwmeester is now a Calgary Flame.
Next year he will be wearing the Flaming Gay C along with the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Robin Regehr, Jarome Iginla, and Mikka Kiprussoff. The Calgary Flames just took another step closer to winning another Stanley Cup. Just when I thought their small window was once again closing, Darryl Sutter found a way to keep it open for one more year.
OK, so apparently Darryl Sutter may have went golfing with Jay Bouwmeester's dad the other day, much like he allegedly did around this time last year with Curtis Glencross's dad. Hmmm...
Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province did a pretty good job the other day of summing up my feelings on Mr. Sutter's general approach of late to managing his hockey club. Although the piece is from primarily a Canucks POV, I think Oiler fans can certainly empathize or at least feel equally bitter. I do.
Yesterday on The Fan 960 Sports Talk Radio in Calgary, the hosts discussed Mr. Sutter's lack of popularity among other NHL General Managers dating back to several trades and free agent acquisitions ago, including the aforementioned signing of Curtis Glencross (or GlenX as he is apparently now known), the burying of salary in the minor leagues during the stretch run, and a slightly suspicious seemingly one-sided trade with New Jersey which allowed the Devils to move up in the first round last weekend (compensation for signing Brent Sutter as head coach perhaps?). During the broadcast it was mentioned also that several NHL General Managers have approached Gary Bettman and the NHL in the past few months to complain that the Calgary Flames are over the salary cap.
And perhaps the greatest irony is that the Bouwmeester deal apparently was consummated earlier this evening in Bouwmeester's hometown of Edmonton.
City of Champions?
City of Chumps might be more accurate - especially if Danny Heatley refuses to waive his no trade clause. What a humiliating mess that will be - the latest in what has been a series of many.
If the deal does go through, then the Oilers will have finally landed a sniper the likes of which has not been seen in Edmonton (playing for the home team anyway) since the glory years. If you go by the old and overused truism "whichever team received the best player won the trade" then the Oilers may well come out on top in this deal in the end, but they gave up an awful lot of youth and talent and development, leaving the fan base scratching their collective heads and maybe even feeling as if they have been sold a bit of a bill of goods for the past few seasons.
I can see moving Dustin Penner and his inflated contract, but it does amount to basically admitting failure with the forays into the RFA market a few years ago. Put another way, it essentially admits that Brian Burke was right after all, which really pisses me off.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. "Ladislav Smid is going to be a superstar." Watching him come into his own in Ottawa is going to hurt given all of the "development" Oiler fans have had to put up with for the past few years.
The one that absolutely kills me is Cogliano. So what if he can't win a faceoff to save his life. This kid is going to be great. He was a big part of the hope for the future we all bought into when we thought the team was rebuilding. Now he's gone.
Heatley had better be good. I mean really good. 100 points good. And Hemsky, too. And Heatley had better want to play in Edmonton. And Steve Tambellini had better prove to be some kind of evil genius wizard Jedi tomorrow in terms of having several things up his sleeve to address the salary cap, the Center position, goaltending, and winning NOW!
Bring on the Battle of Alberta, because winning now seems to be what the Flames are gearing up to do.
I'm John Kerr.
My company, Crowsnest Films, is a premier production boutique producing exceptional films across all screen-based motion picture, television, and digital/interactive platforms.
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