CENTRE OVER A WINGER?

Jason Gregor
May 04 2012 11:05AM

History tells us that a centre, D-man or goalie can have a bigger impact on winning than a winger. It's not to say you don't need solid wingers to win, but a dominant centre will usually have more of an impact than a dominant winger.

Last night I chatted with a scout who's been around the NHL for over 20 years and asked him about the centre/winger debate and if the Oilers should/could take Nail Yakupov's teammate Alex Galchenyuk instead.

"I'm a firm believer in taking the best player available. Yakupov is a hell of a talent, but Galchenyuk is just as good in my eyes. If he hadn't been hurt I honestly believe it would be a huge debate. The fact Alex plays centre makes the debate even better, because centres have a bigger impact on the game.

"Alex is a dynamic centre. He skates exceptionally well, he's got great hands and he's committed to playing a strong two-way game. He's 6'2" and 205 pounds, so he'll be a load to handle for NHL defenceman."

Would his injury scare you? Should that be a concern, I asked.

"It is hard to say with certainty, but I was very impressed that he was able to return from his injury (ACL tear) for this year's playoffs. He has a reputation of being a gym rat and has an excellent work ethic. You can't teach that, and for him to work that hard during rehab really impressed me."

I've always wanted to do research on the accuracy of how an injury impacts a player long-term; especially if a player gets hurt when he is 17 or 18. We've seen it go both ways. Some players are always getting hurt, but guys who are injury-prone seem to suffer from various different injuries, rather than always hurting the same joint, tendon or ligament.

Marian Hossa suffered a serious knee injury in the Memorial Cup final v. Guelph in 1998. He was out for six months, before he made his debut with the Senators in December. Since that injury, he never played fewer than 70 games in a season until 2009/2010.

There is a long list of players who are constantly injured, but I wouldn't shy away from Galchenyuk just because of one injury.

Many scouts feel Yakupov was the best player this year, but with every scout I've talked to in the past month, they all said, "If Galchenyuk had played he'd be in the conversation."

THE FINAL NAIL

I've said before I'd take Yakupov because he's considered the best player, but the more I hear about Galchenyuk the more intrigued I am about him; mostly because he plays centre.

The Oilers desperately need another skilled centre, especially one with size. A few scouts have said Galchenyuk's game is similar to Jonathan Toews, in that he plays hard/smart in both ends of the ice. I don't like comparisons, because usually we are comparing a player to the "best-case scenario."

I find it interesting, and disappointing, that we compare these kids to great players, but recently many have said they are leery of drafting Russians because of the KHL and the actions of Radulov, Filatov, Zherdev and others. They bring up the worst-case scenario for what a Russian player might become rather than pointing to Datsyuk, Malkin, Ovechkin, Zubov or other elite Russians.

Galchenyuk was born in Wisconsin, but he spent time in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Russia because his father was a pro hockey player. Their family moved back to the States when Alex was 15 and he considers himself American. He played for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka U-18 in 2011.

The more I hear about Galchenyuk the more I wonder if he'd be the right player for the Oilers.

It is possible that Yakupov will put up more points, but would Galchenyuk be a better fit?

"Great question. The Oilers need size down the middle," the scout told me last night. "Yakupov and Eberle would be a great 1-2 punch on the right side for years, but I think now more than ever you need strength down the middle to win. I don't think Stu (MacGregor) can go wrong with either pick, but I bet they will look long and hard at a centreman."

Two years ago when the Taylor v. Tyler debate was on, everyone had Hall listed as the best player, and the Oilers wisely took him. Two years later though, the Oilers have Hall and Eberle as dominant wingers, and I wonder if there is a slight temptation to look at Galchenyuk because he's a centre.

It is clear that Yakupov is the best player, based on play this year, but Galchenyuk's injury didn't allow him to compete for that title.

Every scout I've ever spoken with has told me that they try to draft the player they feel will be the best in three to five years. Galchenyuk's injury makes that assessment much harder, and when you factor in the Oilers need for a big, skilled centre I wonder how the Oilers feel he grades out five years from now?

RAPID FIRE

I know Wanye and many of you will be saying "May the Fourth be with you today," so that was for all you Star Wars nerds.

  • Danny Briere became only the 5th active NHLer to score 50 career playoff goals. The other four are Jagr (77) Lidstrom (54) Marleau (52) and Zetterberg (51). I think Marleau is the biggest surprise on the list, considering many incorrectly say he never produces in the playoffs.
     
  • Another interesting trivia tidbit...Can you name the only player in NHL history who is top-ten all-time in playoff goals, assists, points, PIMs and +/-?***(answer at bottom)
     
  • All those suggesting Dustin Penner will have to sign for $2-$2.5 million this summer. Keep in mind that Joel Ward had regular seasons of 17, 13 and 10 goals before potting seven in the playoffs last year. That earned him $9 million over three years. If Penner continues to play well he will get at least $3 million on the open market and maybe even $4 million/year for two or three years.
     
  • I wonder if Peter Laviolette is regretting his post-series pot-shot at Sidney Crosby, when he referred to Claude Giroux as the best player in the world. Since that comment Giroux has one goal and is -3 in three games. Giroux is great, but he isn't the best in the game.
     
  • I can't believe some media, bloggers and fans are looking at ways to change playoff OT. What is wrong with you? Because the game lasts too long, or some whiny eastern folks can't stay up late? Give me a break. It is great TV watching players gut it out for two, three or more OT periods.
     
  • The Oilers/Oil Kings haven't done a great job advertising the Oil Kings playoff push. I haven't seen/read/heard much advertising, and when the cheapest tickets is $31.50 it is hard for a family of four to pay that much for junior hockey. Why did they only have a two-hour window yesterday of $15/tickets? Why not make it all day long? 
     
  • That being said the Oil Kings are one hell of a team. They will beat Portland. Mark Pysyk and Keegan Lowe did an incredible job of shutting down Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi last night. Those two were invisible for most of the game, and their best chances came when they didn't have to face the Lowe/Pysyk pairing.  

*** Glenn Anderson is the only player in the top-ten in all five categories. He was 4th in pts, 5th in goals, 9th in assists, 7th in PIMs and 5th in +/-.**

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 John Chambers
May 04 2012, 01:34PM
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@ jonny94

This is a very reasonable plan, and perhaps what ends up unfolding in the next year.

Short of dealing the pick and Gagner for say, Derek Stepan and Marc Staal, or Marcus Johansson and Jon Carlson, moving Hall to C solves a ton of problems.

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#52 oilredemption
May 04 2012, 02:33PM
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drop down to second overall draft ryan murray then trade NYI gagner, paajarvi and 1st next year our 2nd pick this year for the 4th pick and take Galchenyuk. Problem solved!

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#53 Fresh Mess
May 04 2012, 02:49PM
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If the pick can't be dealt for Seguin or Larsson, then I would be happy to get Murray or Galchenyuk and another young roster asset.

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#54 jr_christ
May 04 2012, 04:14PM
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Alyonka you dirty girl you

if i played hockey i'd have a chance with that little fiesty monster mash

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#55 Fresh Mess
May 04 2012, 04:21PM
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I don't care if it is politically incorrect: attitude problems seem to be more prevalent in Russian scorers. It has been this way for years.

Obviously you can't paint all russian scorers with the same brush, he may be the greatest kid you'll ever meet. But add in his diminutive size, his natural position, and the KHL factor and I say there is too much risk for an extremely valuable pick.

If the Oilers can leverage this pick for one of the other kids in the draft plus another valuable asset, they should do it.

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#56 TwoSkidoos
May 04 2012, 04:56PM
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There's no more assessing going on with regards to these players, why do the assessments seem to change over time during the course of the spring/summer leading up to draft day?

With the first overall pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, from the Sarnia Sting, the Edmonton Oilers are proud to select........... Gal... whoops, Yakupov.

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#57 BURROWSHASCRABS
May 04 2012, 05:08PM
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Sorry Gregor, you are wrong Portland Dominated the second half of the game. The hawks will win tonight. St. Croix was hardly even dangerous.

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#59 Lofty
May 04 2012, 05:26PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Motivated enough? Please tell me what you think the Oilers could offer to get another top-five pick? I don't see a Mike Richards or Jeff Carter on the current roster.

What about Gagner and next years 1st?

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#61 Maverick
May 04 2012, 06:06PM
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The is a minor and I mean minor connection between Galchenyuk and the Oilers. From NHL.com blog. The second last paragraph about Sam Gagner is interesting.

http://www.nhl.com/ice/blogpost.htm?id=6318

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#62 @Oilanderp
May 04 2012, 06:08PM
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@TwoSkidoos

I would piss my pants if the Oil got 1-2 and got Yakupov and Galyenchuk.

That certainly seems like it would solve a lot of problems in the long run.... but how to do it? Tambi would undoubtedly have to make a huge overpay to make it happen. Perhaps patience is better. We've come this far.

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#63 Jimmer
May 04 2012, 06:42PM
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@ Gregor

In three years when all the elite kids are off their "rookie deals" can we ice a "balanced" team with 4 young studs (Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Yak)making combined about 24 - 26 million(and I might be low on my estimate)?

Isn't Pittsburg having that debate now with Crosby, Malkin and Stall?

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#64 michael
May 04 2012, 07:55PM
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Gregor what do you think will happen with the CBA regarding contracts for players who are entering thier 2cd contract? Is perhaps the worry over Hall and Eberle's next contact going to be mitigated by a new CBA that would see players contracts being limited in terms of how much they can make % wise of the cap and the length of term? No more 7-10 year contracts. Perhaps 5 year max contracts. This way the teams are forced to manage the cap in more realistic terms.

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#65 dawgtoy
May 04 2012, 08:04PM
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@BURROWSHASCRABS

No Ty Rattie tonight fot the Winterhawks either!

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#66 TwoSkidoos
May 04 2012, 08:21PM
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I don't know how Tambo would be able to get the #2 - all I'm saying is I'd piss my pants if he did do it.

Likely, it will take an overpayment of sorts - ie - MPS + Gagner + one of the young D?

I don't know what it would look like honestly, haven't really sat down and looked at the roster to figure out what MTL or CBJ would really want/need?

Really, the Oilers haven't "come that far." Still picking #1 after 3 years plus the fact they still have little in the form of defense.

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#67 BURROWSHASCRABS
May 04 2012, 08:38PM
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dawgtoy wrote:

No Ty Rattie tonight fot the Winterhawks either!

3-0 HAWKS! Don't think they need Rattie eh!! Wooooooo!!

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#68 Iceman
May 04 2012, 09:23PM
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Trade the first pick to move down and get a quality center in return. Then draft Ryan Murray and play him next season. Than trade Hemsky,Gagner and a 3rd and Colten Teubert to the Devils for Adam Larson.

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#69 Jeff
May 04 2012, 09:54PM
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Funny how people propose trades that make no sense to 1 side of the equation.

Adam Larsson has potential to be a number 1 D-man

Gagner has potential to be a 2nd line center or 3rd line center

3rd pick may not even make the NHL

Teubert looking more and more like a 6-7 D-man.

Why not throw in Omark and the Kitchen sink well your at it.

New Jersey would laugh at this deal. Quality over quantity.

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#70 Quicksilver ballet
May 04 2012, 09:55PM
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@ Bookie

On the left side of your monitor there's a coin slot. Insert 10 toonies and all of your wildest dreams will come true.

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#71 Quicksilver ballet
May 04 2012, 10:01PM
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Rumors of an Oiler/Islander deal?

Hemsky,Paajarvi, Ben Eager and an option to flip first rounders in 2013 in exchange for the 4th selection in this summers draft

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#72 Jeff
May 04 2012, 10:07PM
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I see some value with these players for realistic trades, Hemsky, Gagner, MPS and Lander. Still not going to get you as much as you think.

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#73 Wanyes bastard child
May 04 2012, 10:07PM
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book¡e wrote:

This note is for the internet 'techy' guys out there who know about these kinds of things.

Is there any way to set up a website so that the moment anyone spells Gagner as Gagne a WWI bayonet bursts from the monitor into the perpetrator?

I am just wondering if that is possible?

Thanks

But what if someone is talking about Simone (Simon?) Gagne?

Granted we don't see that much here on ON but you would think fans of our team could actually get it correct...

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#74 Oilcan
May 04 2012, 10:29PM
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People need to stop talking about trading Gagner and Hemsky for another pick, why do this? That is two CURRENT top 6 players for the potential of one. I like Paajarvi but he is a guy that they would need to trade to get another first rounder because losing him doesn't hurt us now and maybe we get our centre.

If Gagner goes it better be for a dman.

Somehow getting Galchenyuk and Yakupov would be amazing because you eliminate the "Russian factor" but I don't see how the Oilers do that unless they trade Paajarvi and next years first.

Trading Hemsky can't be done because it looks absolutely horrible for the organization after they signed him at the deadline.

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#75 Iceman
May 04 2012, 11:07PM
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@Jeff

Some of the best players in the NHL are taking later on in the draft. I'm jousting throwing out trade possibilities like Eklund. I can dream its my right. The Oil will probably draft Nail unless someone knocks the socks off of Steveo for the first pick.

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#76 Oilcruzer
May 05 2012, 02:41AM
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Was at Oil Kings game 1. Top 4 D were stellar. Betting they all have long careers.

Last night seemed as though the problem was closing the deal. Should be a great series.

As for some of the trade ideas here, I can only say "huh?". All I'm waiting for now is for someone to suggest trading this years pick for futures.

Draft Nail*. Who cares if he is a winger? Last I looked, so was Eberle. He seems worth keeping.

(*unless an amazing overpay is offered for the first pick)

Don't shop the pick but listen.

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#77 jonny94
May 05 2012, 08:56AM
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@GideanYates

We don't necessarily need a 1st rate puck moving D-man. Of course it would be great to have one by all means but adding Yakupov who is once again the BPA and is looking pretty promising to pot some goals (Going off of the fact that he broke Stamkos record for the most goals in a single season for the Sarnia Sting) we would have more than enough goal scorers in our top 6 to win hockey games. If we added Justin Schultz and lets say a Jason Garrison in the off season we're looking decent.

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#78 DW
May 05 2012, 09:03AM
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I wouldn't mind if they move Hall to center and draft Yak. I think Hall is big and strong enough and he might be a bit safer playing center.

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#79 Quicksilver ballet
May 05 2012, 10:33AM
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@ DW, once you take Hall off that left side there's a gaping hole left there. They'd be left with a 37 yr old Ryan Smyth as their 1st line left winger. With Yakupov on his way it does create a logjam on the right side. Edmonton is probably better to move Jordan Eberle to center, still leaving Yakupov and Hemsky to play that right side.

If Tambellini does nothing but take Yakupov next month, the Oilers are still left with a hole in that 2nd line center, 2nd line LW, a #1 and #2 blueliner, as well as possibly a goaltender. At this pace we're better off with another lottery finish if Tambellini can't do anything on his own.

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#80 FastOil
May 05 2012, 11:21AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

The answer to the trivia question............Jarri Kurri?

On the article JG is closing in (IMHO) on the gems that will be available in the draft. Galchenyuk and Reilly are strong candidates for the " hidden gem " category!

We need to find a way to draft this centre.

Easy - pick him. Yakupov is not the consensus #1 because he's clearly better than Galch, it's because he played more. Drafting the BPA is the point, and it may not be Yakupov. This draft is devoid of the uber-talent player.

I would have no problem with that pick based on what scouts are saying and the fact we need a centre like G far, far, far more than another smaller skilled winger. The fact that G is really more of a North American really diminishes the KHL thing as well.

Also wingers are much easier to sign. Quality centres and D are the tough ones to get. If there is any question the smart move is the centre with size and skill. His major injury is also less of a concern than Yak's.

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#81 KHR
May 05 2012, 01:37PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

One has to ask the question. If Taylor Hall, playing in a mans game, hasn't been able to change his game in an effort to preserve ones self in two yrs. How long does Edmonton wait before having to cut bait on this kid. I know this seems absurd but Taylor is only one significant injury away from being damaged goods with deminshed value. His left shoulder went last season, what happens if his right shoulder goes this year? Taylor needs to keep his head up and be the hammer, not the nail.

Can you please explain to me what player isn't "one significant injury away from being damaged goods with diminished value"?

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#82 Clyde Frog
May 05 2012, 01:48PM
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@Fastoil

Really, Yakupov is not a better producer?

Yakupov 16/17 year old season: 49G 52A 101pts in 65 games played Galchenyuk 16/17 year old season: 31G 52A 83pts in 68 games played

Hrmmm, I think I can spot a difference... You also add the fact that Yakupov didn't lose an entire year of training, practice and critical development time...

Do people just jump on the other side of the fence so they can be different and seem smart?

Just for reference, Hall had 38G 52A 90pts in 63 games. I don't think it can be said that Yakupov isn't in the same production class as Hall, at least through junior.

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#83 Walter Sobchak
May 05 2012, 03:12PM
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Clyde Frog wrote:

@Fastoil

Really, Yakupov is not a better producer?

Yakupov 16/17 year old season: 49G 52A 101pts in 65 games played Galchenyuk 16/17 year old season: 31G 52A 83pts in 68 games played

Hrmmm, I think I can spot a difference... You also add the fact that Yakupov didn't lose an entire year of training, practice and critical development time...

Do people just jump on the other side of the fence so they can be different and seem smart?

Just for reference, Hall had 38G 52A 90pts in 63 games. I don't think it can be said that Yakupov isn't in the same production class as Hall, at least through junior.

You could also argue that Galchenyuk numbers could have been a result of playing with Yakupov.

As for Yakupov not playing with Galchenyuk, Yakupov's numbers never dropped when Galchenyuk was out.

Chance's are Galchenyuk will need another year of major junior or the AHL because of said time off.

With that and what you pointed out it doesn't even seem close IMO.

I will admit that I think Galchenyuk will be a good player eventually.

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#84 Walter Sobchak
May 05 2012, 03:17PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Rumors of an Oiler/Islander deal?

Hemsky,Paajarvi, Ben Eager and an option to flip first rounders in 2013 in exchange for the 4th selection in this summers draft

Sounds almost to good to be true Quick, do you have a source? Or is this your own concoction?

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#85 Clyde Frog
May 05 2012, 03:37PM
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Just for reference I don't think Galchenyuk will be a bad player, just that the statement he was Yakupovs equal is disengenuos in the production category.

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#86 Quicksilver ballet
May 05 2012, 04:21PM
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@ Wes

A friend of mine who lives in Hicksville New York mentioned it. He asked me if i heard anything about it since it's the only game in town up here. He's more into the NFL so i was surprised he even knew hockey existed. He's never been interested in the sport, so it was odd. hope there's something to it.

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#87 Quicksilver ballet
May 05 2012, 04:37PM
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@ KHR

Players who keep their head up, head on a swivel like, hunter not the hunted?

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#88 Walter Sobchak
May 05 2012, 04:52PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

@ Wes

A friend of mine who lives in Hicksville New York mentioned it. He asked me if i heard anything about it since it's the only game in town up here. He's more into the NFL so i was surprised he even knew hockey existed. He's never been interested in the sport, so it was odd. hope there's something to it.

Ya, that would be bad a$$ if the Oilers could swing that!

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#89 FastOil
May 05 2012, 07:39PM
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Frog & Mantooth

Even if Yakupov will score more points (I didn't mention points in my comment), it doesn't mean he's the better player. Galchenyuk plays like Toews arcording to Pronman I think it was. Would you rather have Toews or Semin? I'd take the centre.

I am not saying Galch is better or worse than Yak, it's the scouts saying it very likely would be close if Galchenyuk had played this year. Yakupov is consensus because Galchenyuk didn't play.

Who will be better in five years? If it's seen as close, the Oilers need the centre a lot more. Don't forget Horcoff and Belanger are already declining, and there isn't another C with offense in the system.

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#90 TigerUnderGlass
May 05 2012, 09:39PM
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@FastOil

Who will be better in five years? If it's seen as close, the Oilers need the centre a lot more.

It's not seen as close by anybody anywhere. The highest I've seen anybody on him is #3. That's not close, that's a consensus.

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#91 KHR
May 06 2012, 12:40AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

@ KHR

Players who keep their head up, head on a swivel like, hunter not the hunted?

@Quicksilver ballet

Head up or Head down, Swivel or not, Hunter or Hunted . . . EVERY player is one significant injury away from being a player of diminished value. Anyone can catch a rut and blow out a knee, anyone could take a deflected puck off the face and suffer a concussion that puts them into LaLa Land eating Jello for the rest of their life, etc. No one is immune from a serious injury. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it does not. I find your argument devoid of logic to be honest. Nuge and Jordan have been hurt too, should we trade them now too? For my part I'm willing to roll the dice on all three of them and see what happens.

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#92 Clyde Frog
May 06 2012, 03:01AM
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@FastOil

But how are you measuring the "better" player? Production is what you WANT from a top 6 player and just saying he is on the same playing field as Yakupov IS disengenuos.

Galchenyuk has not hit Yakupov's production levels, he has lost an entire year of development, practice and training to a terrible injury at a critical point in his life.

Yakupov hasn't, Yakupov has demonstrated elite level production at a pace above our other #1's. No draft listing has other players sitting #1, why? Because no-one else in this draft has the tools Yakupov has.

Passing on the kid with the highest ceiling and best resume for a team "need" is terrible, we have a hard enough time predicting what our pre-season needs are, let alone what this team will need in 8 months.

Simple fact, your team has the chance to take the best 18 year old in the world, you take him, you cherish him, you develop him and you win with him. You don't hand that chance to someone else hoping you are smarter than they are...

Also I love this Russian thing though, it was only a few years ago we feared americans, because there was no way they would put up with our weather and small town. We feared they would all flee to Cali and New York, that there was no way to retain them as a small market Canadian club... How quickly our fears turn.

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#93 Quicksilver ballet
May 06 2012, 04:51PM
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@ KHR

I can respect that. With little or nothing here but these 3 kids to date, they're all going to continue to take a beating on a weekly basis. They're easily intimidated without capable veteran support behind them.

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#95 Zamboni Driver
May 07 2012, 09:58AM
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Day late and a dollar short to this discussion, but I'll take issue with your assessment of the Oil Kings, Jason.

I agree they haven't been very clever in their PR (hiking ticket prices that much was a huge error, that they've recognized).

I'm going to point the finger at your friends in the media. You've not pulled your weight, IMO.

The Oiler obsession (I get it, they're popular) even in May is ridiculous. Large is in Switzerland to watch the "World" "Championships". Why? To watch "Ebs" and "Nuge" play FRANCE?!

The other day on your show there was a real, live discussion about whether Eric "I won't be giving my millions back" Belanger could/should play the wing.

Belanger. In May.

How about mentioning where to buy tickets? How about mentioning you can WATCH the games on TV (Shaw 300)?

Instead we hear about Belanger? Good lord who cares?

I will say that it's getting better. But they have one or two more home games. And might go to the Memorial Cup.

And we'll likely be talking about whether Colton Teubert can be the #8 next year.

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