May 06 2008 06:55AM
When it comes to Edmonton Oilers fans who still give a rat's patoot about who sips from the Stanley Cup, I don't know if there's a sizeable contingent pulling for the Philadelphia Flyers. I am.
Not only are the Flyers looking to orchestrate a worst-to-first miracle after finishing last in the NHL last season, four former Oilers—Joffrey Lupul, Jason Smith, Patrick Thoresen and Jim Dowd—will play a part in it if the Bullies put the grab on the silverware.
None of the other three teams has that many heading into Conference Finals. None of the other teams has the long-deceased Kate Smith belting out her rendition of God Bless America from the crypt by way of old video on the scoreboard. What's not to like?
Besides, the Oilers have done as much as any team to turn the upstart Flyers from 56-point pushovers to Cup contenders with the trade of Smith and Lupul for Joni Pitkanen and Geoff Sanderson last summer, dispelling bogus criticism GM Kevin Lowe doesn't know how to build a winner. In that regard, the Flyers are kinda like Edmonton's team, no?
Disclaimer for the dim: Yes, the above paragraph is another gratuitous poke at Pitkanen and an unfair characterization of a trade that looked far better on paper for the Oilers than it has on the ice so far, but both are meant in fun, so don't get your Stanfields in a bunch...
Anyway, I know I'll be draped in my circa 1974 Gary Dornhoefer No. 12 jersey the rest of the way—if I can stretch the damn thing over my now-gelatinous midsection. Did I weigh six pounds in 1974 or what?
Once an Oiler...
How can you not pull for Smith, who toiled so honestly here? Gator gave the Oilers every ounce of effort and every drop of blood he had during his nose-bending, ligament-shredding tenure. This might be the last kick at it for the tough-as-nails and mean-as-hell captain.
And then there's Thoresen, a spare part with the Oilers who was claimed on waivers by the Flyers. The fact Thoresen's even in Philadelphia's line-up after taking a puck in the pills blocking a shot—there was talk he might lose a testicle—is testament to his grit. He's got balls.
Dowd, leading the post-season porn-'stache sweepstakes with his handlebar cookie-duster, was a handy journeyman to have around in his 70-game stint with the Oilers from 1998–2000. Gem of a guy, too.
As for Lupul, the Oiler faithful will have a difficult time pulling for him, and understandably so. Between Lupul half-assing it and coach Craig MacTavish's inability to coax the best out of him, he was never going to succeed here. If I was Lowe, I'd have dumped Lupul after his failure of a season—just not for the Fragile One.
Lupul not only again looks capable of scoring 25–30 goals a season for the next decade, he can win the Cup he missed out on with Anaheim when the Ducks dealt him for Chris Pronger.
How about those Pens?
The Pittsburgh Penguins are my co-favourites and sentimental pick for the Cup. They face the Flyers with three former Oilers in the fold—Petr Sykora, Georges Laraque and Ty Conklin.
Sykora wanted to re-sign here after a tying for the Oilers lead in scoring with 22 goals and 53 points in 2006–07, but got a shoulder shrug after his horrid second half and signed in Steeltown.
Laraque didn't want to leave Edmonton, but he wasn't in MacTavish's plans and he didn't want to take a pay cut only to be re-signed and traded, so he asked for a no-trade clause. That soured some on Laraque, but why would he accept less money and risk being dealt anyway?
One thing is money in the bank: if the Penguins win eight more games, the Cup will be in Edmonton this summer and Georges will wear the damn thing out passing it around and posing for pictures with fans.
—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.