Bygones: Comrie comes home

Robin Brownlee
September 09 2009 08:34PM

comrie-and-duff

To say I never saw a return to the Edmonton Oilers by Mike Comrie coming is to understate in the extreme -- one need only read what I wrote Aug. 19 to see how out to lunch I was on the possibility.

Remember? It was such a ridiculous notion, and for so many reasons, that I wasn't even going to ask MC about it. It made no sense. Too many bad feelings his first time around, when he could have and should have been the hometown hero but turned his back on the Oilers.

And then there was the fit, or lack of same, given the make-up of the roster as it sits going into training camp. And blah, blah, blah . . . At least one of the local dailies agreed, quoting a team source giving a Comrie encore the thumbs down.

Well, as it stands right now, after a 15-minute, face-to-face conversation I had with Comrie this afternoon, I've got to tell you we'd all better get used to the idea of seeing MC in Oilers silks again.

While I'm told there's no deal done as of now and that there's at least one other option for Comrie -- I believe it's the Atlanta Thrashers -- I'd be willing to wager MC will be an Oiler by noon Friday.

In what stands as a classic case of letting bygones be bygones, Comrie and the Oilers have settled their differences to the point where I believe the ink is a formality and the unlikeliest of do-overs will begin when Comrie reports for training camp physicals Saturday.

I think I've got it right this time.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

If you remember the split between Comrie and the Oilers in 2003, a nasty bit of business that included searing ill-will between Comrie, agent Ritch Winter and then-GM Kevin Lowe, then your reaction to the possibility was likely much the same as mine was Aug. 19.

Like, WTF? How is this even possible? What part of the first time didn't everybody understand? What's changed since then? Why would Comrie even entertain returning to a city that's a hockey fishbowl, a city full of avid fans still pissed that he took a stack of bonus money and blew town by forcing a trade to Philadelphia?

In light of the conversation I had with Comrie, plus others in the last week with various people, I'd like to think I've got some insight as to what's at play here and what's changed since I was so wrong three weeks ago. So, let's take a swing at figuring out how and why things have turned 180 degrees since MC waved goodbye six years ago.

BURYING THE HATCHET

First and foremost, the two prime players, Comrie and Lowe, have done some maturing in the six years that have passed.

My sense is that having stepped back from things by moving from GM to president of hockey operations, and with the passage of time, Lowe has grown enough to let go of the bitterness that was obvious in 2003.

Lowe's as passionate a man as you'll ever meet, and he took it as a slight to himself and the organization when Comrie started making noise about being unhappy in Edmonton. The reasons why didn't matter. Lowe played hard-ass, hard-ball back then -- a no-holds barred game that included the request Comrie buy his way out of Edmonton with $2.5 million that would get him a ticket to Anaheim. That game is over now. It's taken six years, but the grudge, and it was a dandy, is gone.

I think it's safe to say Comrie, who was 22 when the split took place, sees things much differently now as well.

Paint Comrie as a spoiled athlete with a sense of entitlement if you will, but I believe his inability to cope with the pressure of playing in his hometown had as much to do with the simple fact he needed time and space to grow up as anything else. Who doesn't? The difference is most of us don’t have to do it in the spotlight he was so uncomfortable in.

As is the case with Lowe, the past six years have provided Comrie some perspective. He's days away from his 29th birthday now. That's not a free pass. At least I think not.

While Comrie angered fans by never stating specific reasons why he wanted out in 2003, he's been quite forthright recently as the days have ticked by and camp has approached. He could've and should've handled some things differently. He's plead guilty to that.

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT

-- As unpopular as Comrie is with some fans, he was well-liked in the dressing room. Everybody remaining from when he last played here -- Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios and Fernando Pisani -- has voiced support privately, and to team management, about a possible return. If Hemsky and Horcoff et al, say they want Comrie back, it's probably prudent that management listen.

-- Owner Daryl Katz wants this to happen.

And, before you trot out the "meddling owner" routine, it's not altogether unusual for owners to make their wishes known. Many around the NHL do, it's simply matter of degree -- from subtle to all-out arm-twisting.

-- Katz and Mike's dad, Bill, are good friends and I suspect that's at play here, as well. I think it's a shame -- not to be confused with a hockey decision -- Bill Comrie, who has given millions of dollars to charitable causes in this city and been a model citizen, felt compelled to leave town over the level of hostility he felt during the split in 2003.

This is a better city with Bill Comrie in it.

SECOND CHANCES

I don't know if Comrie's best years are ahead of him or behind him, but I do know the Oilers aren't exactly burdened with players who have scored 30 goals in the NHL.

Small players? Yes. Thirty-goal guys? No. I'm still having trouble getting my head around how Pat Quinn is going to fit all these little guys into a line-up that was supposed to get grittier and tougher.

Maybe Comrie on left wing with Horcoff and Hemsky is a start. Maybe Robert Nilsson gets moved. The fit, as I wrote Aug. 19, is something I still don't necessarily see even if Comrie can bounce back from a bad hip.

My guess, even knowing what we know, is that all Comrie has to do to make good on a second chance is, well, be the Mike Comrie on the ice fans here used to cheer for. It'll be a rough ride at first, and that's to be expected, but if he performs, if he delivers the goods, maybe there's a chance for him to have this town by the tail again.

If Comrie and Lowe can set aside their differences, get around what was and focus on what might be, maybe fans should do likewise and give it a chance.

Pulling it off would be one helluva story, no?

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#151 jeff
September 10 2009, 09:44AM
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@ Travis Dakin: I haven't had time to read 150 comments.

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#152 J-Bird
September 10 2009, 09:45AM
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Imagine the Oilers going back in time, back to the past, again? FFS, move on to the future. Comrie ain't gonna help the size and grit factor one bit. Granted, other things can happen to sort that out, but a trip down memory lane got us Kevin Lowe, MacT, Huddy, Bucky, etc. And that didn't exactly make the Oil a better team.

IMO, Comrie needs the Oilers now moreso than they need him. If another team other than Atlanta was kicking tires, he'd be outta here in a heart beat.

I don't get the giant love in for this guy? He produced here because he got first line minutes as a second line player. Much like Marchant did when he got those minutes. If Comrie is on your top 2 lines, your top 2 lines aren't very good.

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#153 jeff
September 10 2009, 09:46AM
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@ Petr's Jofa: This is what kinda gets me wondering. It seems there are a few guys that have tried to make improvements this summer. What happens if these guys made improvements and turn out to be better then Comrie?

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#154 jeff
September 10 2009, 09:47AM
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Is Bill Comrie a potential investor in the arena?

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#155 Homie
September 10 2009, 09:48AM
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Not a big fan of this move unless its a cheap one year deal and there is a trade coming up to move a smurf or two. Even so, history tells us that Comrie's best years are behind him and its not like he adds a lot if he isn't scoring. Would hate to see him take a spot from a young guy in the system.

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#156 Antony Ta
September 10 2009, 09:56AM
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Spotlight isn't an issue for Comrie anymore, one can use Google images and find that out in an instant.

So I'm sure he can handle the hometown issue a lot better this time around. But will he bring enough offense to make him work a roster spot? He'll have to out-compete Nilsson, Brule, Cogliano, Schremp, Gagner, O'Sullivan, Penner, Pouliot, Stone, Potulny, and Eberle.

The experience factor sure helps, but does he have that much offense to give? Because he certainly isn't going to be our Todd Marchant.

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#157 Jimmy Carson #12
September 10 2009, 09:58AM
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Homie wrote:

Not a big fan of this move unless its a cheap one year deal and there is a trade coming up to move a smurf or two. Even so, history tells us that Comrie’s best years are behind him and its not like he adds a lot if he isn’t scoring. Would hate to see him take a spot from a young guy in the system.

What history? He's not 34 or 35. He has had a couple of bad seasons but has been injured and in poor situations.

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#158 Cons
September 10 2009, 10:03AM
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WHO GETS NUMBER 89

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#159 Colin
September 10 2009, 10:03AM
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As long as he isn't getting minutes that should go to our developing young guys I'm relatively indifferent. If we were in "win-now" mode he would be a marginal upgrade on a couple players and worth doing. We're in rebuild mode IMO so it doesn't make much sense to me unless there is a trade in the works.

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#160 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 10:05AM
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@ jeff:

I agree.

Option 1: Comrie succeeds here then looks for the big $ in the offseason.

or

Comrie fails here and puts up the same numbers that Nilsson could have.

Neither of these senarios are appealing to me because neither move is builing for the future and bringing the team closer to the cup.

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#161 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 10:06AM
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@ Jimmy Carson #12:

So what you're saying is that he's injury prone and doesn't play well on bad teams... He sounds just like what the Oilers need.

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#162 Oilersordeath
September 10 2009, 10:08AM
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HOFFFF wrote:

quicksilver ballet wrote: Wouldn’t mind sending Nilsson to the Preds for TooToo Another four footer…..

Yeah another 4 footer thats hits like a F-ckin grenade!

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#163 Jimmy Carson #12
September 10 2009, 10:14AM
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Petr's Jofa wrote:

@ Jimmy Carson #12: So what you’re saying is that he’s injury prone and doesn’t play well on bad teams… He sounds just like what the Oilers need.

Fair point. What I meant was as of now he is at least a known commodity. People talk about nilson or others having a bounce back year. Potential is a great thing but realistically there is no reason to expect Nilson to score 30 goals. granted he’s a passer. Bottom line is Comrie at least has done it and physically he is not past him prime. Right now Comrie can have a bounce back season to 30 goals. Nilson needs a break through season. In my opinion that is harder to acheive. especially on a team with too much duplication.

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#164 Rocksteady
September 10 2009, 10:19AM
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I commend you going out on a limb RB, best sports blogger/writer/radio personality by far. You deserve an "A" for effort!

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#165 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 10:22AM
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@ Jimmy Carson #12:

But the problem with it is that IF Cormie has a bounce back year he'll be looking for the big dollars. Likely meaning he'll be out of Edmonton again. So even if things go well, the Oilers are no father ahead.

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#166 knobert
September 10 2009, 10:29AM
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does anybody else think that a Comrie signing is another piece of the puzzle to bring in Heater?? I thought I saw it somewhere that the two were friends.

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#167 jeff
September 10 2009, 10:31AM
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Petr's Jofa wrote:

@ Jimmy Carson #12: But the problem with it is that IF Cormie has a bounce back year he’ll be looking for the big dollars. Likely meaning he’ll be out of Edmonton again. So even if things go well, the Oilers are no father ahead.

Depends with the cap going down is it all that bad moving Nilsson this year in favour of Comrie for Nilsson for one year?

You have to look at next year at one of Omark, Eberle or MPS possibly needing a spot as well.

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#168 jeff
September 10 2009, 10:34AM
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@ knobert: I can't see Comrie being the guy that puts Heatley over the edge to come here, but you never know.

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#169 Fro
September 10 2009, 10:36AM
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Sorry guys, I just heard from an inside source this deal was hijacked at the last second by Lowe. He walked in the room just as Mike was about to sign and demanded Mike pay him $2 Mill just for the priviledge to play for the mightly Oil.

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#170 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 10:37AM
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@ jeff:

If Eberle, Omark, Or MPS need a spot next year that's great, but I would hardly trade away Nilsson this year to make room for a long shot next year.

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#171 jeff
September 10 2009, 10:39AM
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@ Petr's Jofa: Even trading Nilsson you still have Penner, Horcoff, Hemsky, Cogliano, Gagner and O'sullivan to play in your top 6. There isn't really a reason why Cogs or O'Sullivan should be on the third line.

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#172 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 10:43AM
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@ Fro:

Lowe's taking a lot of heat about the way things went down years ago, but I still think it was great. Mike but the boots to Lowe and the Oilers by leaving juniors early. Lowe was simply returning the favor and putting the screws to Comrie when he had the oppertunity.

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#173 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 10:48AM
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@ jeff:

I'm not arguing that we have too many 2nd line forwards. I agree. The problem is that adding another one, even if he can score 10 more goals this year, doesn't improve this team's future outlook.

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#174 Quicksilver ballet
September 10 2009, 10:50AM
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knobert wrote:

does anybody else think that a Comrie signing is another piece of the puzzle to bring in Heater?? I thought I saw it somewhere that the two were friends.

I think i love you man.

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#175 Ender the Dragon
September 10 2009, 10:54AM
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J-Bird wrote:

If Comrie is on your top 2 lines, your top 2 lines aren’t very good.

In 2006, I'd have argued with you. In 2009, I think you have something.

Petr's Jofa wrote:

the problem with it is that IF Cormie has a bounce back year he’ll be looking for the big dollars. Likely meaning he’ll be out of Edmonton again. So even if things go well, the Oilers are no father ahead.

This isn't a big problem. In your first scenario where Comrie actually produces, if he asks for too much money next year, we'll say no, he'll go a new direction, we'll have gotten a decent season out of him for a good price, and a new kid will have that spot next season. If he sucks, we bring up the kid that would have had that spot this year without Comrie, and we're out $1.3M of cap space and the kid loses that ice-time.

All in all, I don't think Comrie is going to make us much better, but I don't think he makes us much worse either so it's kind of a low-cost risk. The real crime here isn't playing Comrie instead of someone like Nilsson; the crime is signing him instead of signing someone who is much larger, stronger, and better in the face-off circle. That's the area of weakness we need to shore-up ahead of Comrie's real or imaging point-producing ability. Comrie just eats up the same dollars to achieve a lateral move and pretty much replicate what we already have.

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#176 Colin
September 10 2009, 10:59AM
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@ Ender the Dragon: Best post on this thread.

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#177 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 11:03AM
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@ Ender the Dragon:

A I agree we need a faceoff/PKer,

B) I'd agree with you on the Comrie IF this signing was filling a void Edmonton had in the line-up. I'm not opposed to 1 year rental players. The problem I have is that there is no guarentee that Comrie is going to be any better than a motivated Robert Nilson and like I said, if he succeeds he is gone next year. I would rather gamble on the guy who I have under contract for 2 more seasons. I say stick with the underperformers and see what they can do.

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#178 Mike
September 10 2009, 11:04AM
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I'd like to hope that MC realizes how well the organization treated his brother when Paul had to walk away from hockey.

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#179 MattL
September 10 2009, 11:09AM
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Reggie wrote:

Just note Mr. Katz, here is my first warning from a season ticket holder. Sign Comrie, combine it with another playoff miss and you will have two more seats to sell in the summer/fall of 2010. I just have to say … why ? why ? why ?

Dear Mr. Anonymous blog commenter. Having reviewed your statement, I have decided to go ahead with your suggestions, and we will avoid signing Mike Comrie. Also by request, we have now decided to make the playoffs this year.

Thank you for the valuable feedback on these matters, in the most indirect and meaningless avenue of communication imaginable.

Sincerely,

Darryl Katz Blog Trolling Billionaire

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#180 MattL
September 10 2009, 11:10AM
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Petr's Jofa wrote:

@ jeff: I’m not arguing that we have too many 2nd line forwards. I agree. The problem is that adding another one, even if he can score 10 more goals this year, doesn’t improve this team’s future outlook.

Yeah, the last thing I want is 10 more goals this year.

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#181 Butch
September 10 2009, 11:13AM
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Comrie is still my favorite current NHLer and have wished that he would come home..since he left. The is a better Center than Horc's and he DOES bring a lot of grit. Anyone notice all of the scraps that he's gotten into in the East? He stand up for himself and you've gotta love that.

His play making ability with Hemmer could be a match made in heaven. Remember, he didn't play a ton with Hemmer the 1st go around. And who doesn't want to watch that "Mad Mike Comrie Toe Drag" all season long?!

Quinn will make him be more responsible on D and his offensive upside is needed by the Oil. Sign MC & I hope he gets back #89.

Hopefully dreams do come true!

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#182 jeff
September 10 2009, 11:26AM
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Petr's Jofa wrote:

@ jeff: I’m not arguing that we have too many 2nd line forwards. I agree. The problem is that adding another one, even if he can score 10 more goals this year, doesn’t improve this team’s future outlook.

Not to argue but if those ten goals get us into the playoffs, that does give us at least 2 home dates which means 1+mil a game in profit.

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#183 Ender the Dragon
September 10 2009, 11:38AM
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Petr’s Jofa wrote:

@ jeff: I’m not arguing that we have too many 2nd line forwards. I agree. The problem is that adding another one, even if he can score 10 more goals this year, doesn’t improve this team’s future outlook.

MattL wrote:

Yeah, the last thing I want is 10 more goals this year.

Missing PJ's point, Matt. Losing 4-3 instead of 4-2 is still losing. Those 10 goals (if they're even real) aren't going to keep the puck out of our own zone. It's our goals-against that's killing us, not our goals-for.

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#184 cableguy
September 10 2009, 11:42AM
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Petr's Jofa wrote:

But adding comrie doesn’t add an EXTRA 20 g and 40 points. Unless you are predicting Nilsson to put up 0g-0a-0p this year.

~yes, that is exactly what i am predicting~

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#185 Ender the Dragon
September 10 2009, 11:43AM
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*Edit; strictly by the stats, our defense and goaltending has been and should continue to be reasonably sound, so the problem isn't really so much goals-against as shots-against. Over time, though, you can only keep losing so many face-offs and allowing your PK to get manhandled before the odds catch up with you.

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#186 Nick Dynasty
September 10 2009, 11:44AM
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Butch wrote:

Sign MC & I hope he gets back #89.

If they pull the number off the back of our future 1st line center to give it to a guy who turned his back on our team and will never play more than a supporting role on our roster, it probably wouldn't go over well. Especialy with the many fans who already bought Gagner jerseys.

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#187 RossCreek
September 10 2009, 11:48AM
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Butch wrote:

Sign MC & I hope he gets back #89

It's already been decided here on TheNation that it'll be:

#39 Mike Comrie

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#188 MattL
September 10 2009, 11:48AM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

Missing PJ’s point, Matt. Losing 4-3 instead of 4-2 is still losing. Those 10 goals (if they’re even real) aren’t going to keep the puck out of our own zone. It’s our goals-against that’s killing us, not our goals-for.

Not missing his point, so much as disagreeing with it. If I were committed to this comment, I would look up the percentage of one-goal games last season, or something statistically significant. But 10 more goals CAN POSSIBLY mean an extra 2 or 3 points at the end of the season, which for the Oilers, USUALLY means making/missing the playoffs.

I really don't understand how scoring 10 more goals CAN'T improve the future outlook. If the "future" is going to be good, there will be either more goals for, or less goals against, or both involved somehow.

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#189 knobert
September 10 2009, 11:53AM
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jeff wrote:

@ knobert: I can’t see Comrie being the guy that puts Heatley over the edge to come here, but you never know.

no but if it were to happen, we would still have a slightly veteran third line centre if we lost cogs in the heatley deal.

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#190 Hemmertime
September 10 2009, 11:54AM
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Antony Ta wrote:

Spotlight isn’t an issue for Comrie anymore, one can use Google images and find that out in an instant.

Everywhere else hes Hillary Duffs boyfriend before a hockey player. Not in Edmonton, we care more about production then that other stuff, a different spotlight - one Mike hasnt had since he left Edmonton, Arguably Philly but only played 20 games there.

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#191 Oilerfan
September 10 2009, 11:56AM
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I am very excited if Mike Comrie comes back and plays with the Oilers. Hes a grown man now and what happened like 6-7 years ago is done. Over with. If he can move on and grow up. Why can't the Oiler Fans start growing up as well???? Maybe they rather be immature about it all and still keep booing. To me its unclassy and making out city look bad. Im ashamed of these soo called Oiler fans. The guy was young at the time and learned from it. Move on fans. Time to grow up and be adults about it all.

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#192 CurtisS
September 10 2009, 11:56AM
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Its been a long summer.

How about a GDT.....like the first one of the season???

Make it happen Nation. Might as well get the lineups

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#193 CurtisS
September 10 2009, 11:58AM
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Rookies, preseason what ever. We need a god dam GDT!

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#194 Bill
September 10 2009, 12:00PM
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I didn't see this happening, like many others.

While Comrie is small and there's the old history to think about....here's why I think this is a good idea. 3 simple reasons, actually.

1) He can score. How many 30 goal guys are out there for less then $2 million per? At under 30 yrs of age?

2) If Comrie signs here, it goes a long way to prove that this franchise is able to bury the hatchet...particularly when the one of the principals in the old controversy (Lowe) still holds a fairly influential position in the organization.

3) The signing improves the team. Comrie can take situational faceoffs. If Nilsson ends up leaving and Comrie ends up playing wing, Comrie > Nilsson.

This wasn't even on the radar until recently, and it doesn't address the true needs of the team. That said though, signing Comrie tomorrow improves the team over what exists today. I think we all recognize the Oilers' shortcomings and know management ultimately has somehow do more.

For my part, as long as Comrie is contributing positively in an Oiler jersey, he would have my support.....bygones are bygones.

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#195 jeff
September 10 2009, 12:01PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

Petr’s Jofa wrote: @ jeff: I’m not arguing that we have too many 2nd line forwards. I agree. The problem is that adding another one, even if he can score 10 more goals this year, doesn’t improve this team’s future outlook. MattL wrote: Yeah, the last thing I want is 10 more goals this year. Missing PJ’s point, Matt. Losing 4-3 instead of 4-2 is still losing. Those 10 goals (if they’re even real) aren’t going to keep the puck out of our own zone. It’s our goals-against that’s killing us, not our goals-for.

Not completely true or goals for by forwards is horrible, we have one 20 goals scorer in Hemsky. Our defense sure help out.

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#196 MattL
September 10 2009, 12:01PM
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Yes, GDT Rookies vs. 'nucks rookies.

Uh, uh... FMNF!

I feel lost, like I need a GDT training camp to shake off the cobwebs.

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#197 jeff
September 10 2009, 12:06PM
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@ Ender the Dragon: You can lose faceoffs, it's what you do when you lose them that makes the difference.

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#198 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 12:07PM
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@ jeff: jeff wrote:

Petr’s Jofa wrote: @ jeff: I’m not arguing that we have too many 2nd line forwards. I agree. The problem is that adding another one, even if he can score 10 more goals this year, doesn’t improve this team’s future outlook. Not to argue but if those ten goals get us into the playoffs, that does give us at least 2 home dates which means 1+mil a game in profit.

@ jeff:

With Katz as our owner, do we still care about playoff profits?

Now that the team is stable financially I no longer care to finish 8th for a round of playoff hockey and the money to keep the team alive. We need bigger goals. Let's lose big, re-build, to win big. No more of this middle of the road for the rest of eternity crap.

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#199 team dean
September 10 2009, 12:11PM
Trash it!
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props

lol ecklund just reported heatley is going now where, so he should be in edm with comrie tommorow right?

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#200 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 12:13PM
Trash it!
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trashes
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props

@ jeff:

What do you mean we only have one 20 goal scorer? A lot of Oilers have scored 20 goals... If you're going to discount their past acheivements shouldn't you be looking at MC last year and refering to him as a 10 goal scorer? The sad fact is that Penner has more goals than MC in each of the last three seasons.

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