January 20 2013 12:12PM
Is Ralph Krueger yelling, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls are you ready?"
After 288 days that included watching other teams compete for the Stanley Cup, drafting Nail Yakupov, winning the Justin Schultz sweepstakes, being frustrated by another lockout and being teased by the success of Schultz, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall in the American League, the Oilers will finally play another meaningful NHL game, and Krueger will step behind the bench for the first time with the title of head coach.
All those factors, along with being the last fan base in the NHL to see their team play, have pushed the excitement level in OilersNation off the charts. Even the most pessimistic fan can't wait to see if Ralph Krueger's new system will generate more victories and a spot in the post-season for the first time in seven years.
Oiler fans are dying to cheer for a winner. Since the glorious, stunning and surprising Cup run of 2006 Oiler fans have had to watch their team lose 297 times. You've watched 492 Oiler games since the start of the 2006/2007 season and you've only seen 195 victories.
I'm amazed many of you still have the intestinal fortitude to buy tickets, or go the places like The Pint off Whyte, Pint Downtown or On The Rocks to watch a game or just sit at home and spend countless hours yelling at the TV. I tip my hat to your dedication.
God bless your loyalty and ability to continue cheering for the Oilers. Your devotion might finally pay off this season. I guarantee the Oilers will be better than last season. I know that's not saying much considering they were 29th, but it's true.
The important question is how good can they be? We won't know for a few months, but this season should be the most exciting regular season in a long time.
Krueger has used these four lines since day one of training camp, and he's expecting all of them to contribute. The Oilers might finally have two legitimate scoring lines, and if they top-six produce like many expect they should, then everyone else's job becomes easier.
I'm very surprised Mark Fistric isn't dressed tonight, but I expect he'll be in the lineup soon. The Oilers can't expect to win with only one physical D-man. And please, don't say Detroit did it because they didn't. Kronwall and Stuart are two of the best open-ice hitters in the game. I assume that Krueger wants more puck movers against the Canucks, but will add Fistric against a group of big forwards like San Jose and LA. That's just a guess though.
Cory Schneider was brutal last night for Vancouver, giving up five goals on 14 shots. The Canucks defensive and neutral zone coverage was horrendous as well, but Schneider needed to make some stops. Dubnyk can't afford a start like that. Dubnyk is extremely confident and told me that he's aware of all the critics and would love nothing more than to prove them wrong.
Reports out of Vancouver mentioned that Alain Vigneault planned to start Schneider v. the Ducks and Roberto Luongo v. the Oilers. Will he stick with that, or does he want to get Schneider back in the pipes ASAP. Vigneault is in a tough spot. If he starts Luongo and he plays well, then what. If he starts Schneider and he gets blown out again, then what?
I love goaltending controversies...It will be very interesting to see what Vigneault does, and if that decision was correct.
THE TRADITION RETURNS
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Canucks will be fired up after last night's 7-3 spanking by the Ducks, but the Oilers youth will be just as amped up to play. "I expect our guys to be revved right up. Their excitement is rubbing off on me. I don't think I've ever been this excited for the first game of the season," Nick Schultz told me on Friday. Expect lots of offence and the Oilers win 5-4.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Justin Schultz scores the Oilers first goal, on the powerplay on a nice pass from Nugent-Hopkins. Instantly fans believe is the chosen one and Wanye starts plans for a Schultz photoshop contest.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eric Belanger scores in the second period on a nifty feed from Ben Eager. For a brief moment OIler fans sit in silence, unsure of what they've seen, but seconds later they'll be delirious with excitement about the possibility of having a fourth line that can contribute.
- Instead of driving yourself crazy looking at your watch/clock/phone every two minutes wondering why it isn't 7 p.m. yet, take a few moments and enter the FIRST ANNUAL NATION draft. It is $20 bucks to enter, with a portion of proceeds going to charity. First place is a $5,000 shopping spree at United Cycle. How &**@*()@ awesome is that. Click here to sign up. Great cause, lots of fun chirping other Nation readers and there will be over 100 prizes. So hurry up and enter. Deadline is Saturday.
- Do you want to go to the home opener? I'm having a contest on The Jason Gregor Show facebook fan page today. Predict who scores the Oilers first goal, in what period and at what time and you'll be going to the Oilers home opener on Tuesday. It will be closest time without going over. If you choose 10:15 and someone chooses 10:13 and the goal happens at 10:14, the person with 10:13 wins. Good luck. You have to LIKE the page to be eligible. If you submit your choice here it won't be valid to win.
- After the game tune into TEAM 1260 as Jason Strudwick hosts the post-game show. He'll have some great insight into what transpired tonight. Once the game is over, tune in or call and vent/praise at 780.426.8326 or 1.800.243.1945.