GDB 20.0: HORCOFF RETURNS

Jason Gregor
November 13 2013 12:43PM

For the past five seasons, when things went wrong for the Oilers you could always fall back to one thing, "Blame Horcoff." It didn't matter what was ailing the Oilers it seemed it was always Horcoff's fault, mainly due to his $5.5 million cap it. If the Oilers top line wasn't scoring, and Horcoff wasn't on it, it was still his fault.

On my radio show it became somewhat of a cult mantra. People would end their texts or emails with Blame Horcoff. Mainly it was a parody of South Park's "Blame Canada," but the odd person believed it to be true.

If Horcoff was still here, he likely would have been blamed for not stopping Nail Yakupov from going public with his frustrations. It was a simpler time for some Oilers fans, because no matter what went wrong you could always blame one guy.

Horcoff is gone, but surprisingly (not at all) the struggles of the Oilers remain.

Horcoff played 796 games as an Oiler, 5th most all-time behind Kevin Lowe (1,037), Ryan Smyth (911), Mark Messier (851) and Glenn Anderson (845).  He is 9th all-time in goals and points, and despite what some feel he was a solid Edmonton Oiler for 12 seasons.

Horcoff is playing just over 14 minutes a game for the Stars, mainly on the third line, switching between wing and centre, and recently he was put on the 2nd unit PP for a net-front presence. Horcoff's game was never flashy, but he earned his icetime over the years. He started out as a 4th line centre, and worked his way up to the top line, and he was the #1 centre and leading point getter amongst forwards when the Oilers went to game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.

He was unfairly vilified because his owner and general manager overpaid him. It was never his fault the Daryl Katz and Kevin Lowe signed him to a $33 million contract, but many people expected him to be an elite player after that deal. It never happened, because Horcoff was never an elite scorer. He was a tireless worker, who could produce offensively, but he wasn't going to be a consistent 75-point player.

I never felt bad for Horcoff, and neither did he. He knew the expectations would be raised when he signed that deal, and at the time he signed his six-year contract he felt he could produce. We all believe we are worth what we make. If your boss came into your office today and offered to triple your salary, you'd gladly accept it, and feel that you are worth it.

The Oilers could use a 27-year-old Shawn Horcoff right now. A guy who could produce offensively, 73 points, but knew how to play defence, and actually loved the challenge of going against  the likes of Joe Thornton, Pavel Datsyuk or Ryan Getzlaf. Horcoff wasn't the biggest guy, but his work ethic and smarts allowed him to battle and often shut down the opposition's star players.

The final few seasons of Horcoff's career in Edmonton weren't very good. The team was a consistent bottom-feeder and he missed almost half of two seasons. This summer was the right time for him to leave, but I always felt he was under appreciated as a player due to his final contract with the Oilers.

QUICK COMPARISON....

Yesterday, Nail Yakupov went public with his frustrations about a lack of icetime. Every player wants to play more, so he isn't alone with his thinking, but rarely do players go public about it, especially after only 65 NHL games. Yakupov choose that route and some feel it will cause a rift in the room or with management. Only time will tell if that occurs, but many have compared Yakupov to Steven Stamkos so I did a quick comparison of their first 65 NHL games.

No comparison is completely fair or accurate because the players had different coaches, teammates and other factors. Most notably, Yakupov's first 65 games were interrupted by a six-month summer break. It is difficult to start a season how you ended the previous one, but the comparison does give us some insight into how these two snipers were used.

FIRST 65 GAMES

Stamkos                                                        Yakupov
14-19-33 points                                           19-16-35 points
13:47 TOI/game                                           14:47 TOI/game
2:22 PP TOI/game                                       2:25 PP TOI/game

Yakupov was upset over his icetime in his previous four games. In Yakupov's first 65 games he had 11:45 or less of TOI seven times. In Stamkos' first 65 games he had 22 games with 11:45 or less of TOI.

Stamkos was a healthy scratch three times, while Yakupov has been a healthy scratch twice. Yakupov is -18 in his career while Stamkos was -14 in his first 65 games.

Barry Melrose was fired after only 16 games into Stamkos' rookie season, and his replacement Rick Tocchet didn't automatically start playing Stamkos more. Stamkos earned his icetime, and he gained a lot of momentum in the 2nd half of his season.

Ironically enough, in the final 14 games of his rookie season (game 66 to 79) Stamkos scored 9 goals and 13 points. He continued that pace into the next season and he has been the most prolific goal scorer since the beginning of the 2009 season.

I don't see Yakupov emulating Stamkos' success, mainly because it would be extremely difficult, but also because Stamkos skates better than Yakupov. Both are former #1 overall picks, but their games are very different.

I said yesterday I didn't have a major issue with Yakupov saying what he said. He is frustrated, and he willingly made his comments. They weren't done in the heat of the moment after a bad loss. He had 40 hours to think about his plan, and he elected to go through with it.

His agent, Igor Larionov, had two contract disputes in his career, so I can see why he didn't advise his client to stay quiet. Larionov has never been afraid to stand up to management, although he wasn't 20 years old and only 65 games into his NHL career when he made his stance.

I don't think Yakupov's comments will change much. Dallas Eakins isn't going to be pressured into playing him more, considering Yakupov is averaging 15:28/game this season, and I doubt Yakupov is suddenly going to become a great defensive player. For the past year I've stated the Oilers were going to have to deal one of their four kids, and Yakupov's comments might make that decision a little bit easier, but that is about the only impact I feel his comments will make.

When you compare his icetime to young players around the NHL in their first 65 games, he hasn't been treated unfairly. I'm glad he wants to play more. You wouldn't want a guy who was satisfied with his icetime, but his play will earn him more icetime, not venting publicly.

One other quick comparison between Yakupov and the other young Oiler draft picks.

Here is their point totals in their first 65 NHL games.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins:  22-34-56 
Taylor Hall: 22-20-42
Jordan Eberle: 18-23-41
Ales Hemsky: 8-29-37
Nail Yakupov: 19-16-35
Sam Gagner: 7-28-35

Hall (18), RNH (17), Eberle (17), Gagner (15) had more icetime in their first 65 games, while Hemsky played 12:20 if you look at TOI. Every situation is different of course, and in the NHL there is no such thing as "fair." But it is interesting to look at how each of them started their NHL career.

LINEUP

Perron-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Smyth-Arcobello-Yakupov
Joensuu-Gordon-Jones

Ference-Petry
Belov-Larsen
N.Schultz-Potter

Dubnyk

The Oilers sent Taylor Fedun down to OKC and called up Potter. They want a bigger body and a heavy shot on the 2nd PP unit. Fedun had an unreal start to his NHL career, and he will be back, but he needs to get a touch faster. He made a great first impression. Potter might be bigger, but he rarely plays big. He'll be highly motivated to play well, at least he should be, because if he doesn't he likely won't get another one-way NHL contract.

SYSTEM TALK

There has been lots of talk about Eakins system and how it is costing the Oilers games. Eakins tweaked the system after seven games, because the players couldn't play it, however, the current system is not that difficult according to some veterans. 

"It is just about recognition, said Nick Schultz."You have to be looking around; too often we get to puck focused. You need to take a quick look at the puck, but you need to be aware of your position and your man. We have to work away from the puck and have recognition. 

"I think any system in the league, regardless of where you play, is pretty similar. You are either attacking or sitting back and it is just a matter of understanding your position, and where you have to be in all situations on the ice. Whether it is forechecking, coming through the neurtral zone or in the D-zone every player has to know where to go. You have to be aware of what your job is and where you are. You have to be able to rely on one another. I think we are starting to show spurts of that, but we need to be able to do it all the time," Nick Schultz said. 

Schultz played in Minnesota where they won because of their system. They didn't have as much skill as other teams, but they were dedicated and committed to their system. Once the Oilers can rely on one another in every area on the ice, they will win, but the players have to be willing to do it. The system is not the issue. The players need to execute it properly more often.

Captain Andrew Ference said this yesterday on my show about their defensive zone coverage.,

It is unfortunate when you look at the goals we are giving up they are a product of our mistakes more than the other team taking it too us all game and finally breaking through. We have been doing a much better job defensively in D zone coverage lately, clogging up the other teams chances and their time, but as you call them the five-star mistakes are costing us games. 

"Hockey is not complicated; no system is a big math equation. It is just concentration, consistency and it is almost 100% mental. It is just resetting yourself after a good shift, resetting yourself after a bad shift and just not carrying baggage from past games or past weeks or past shifts.

It is just focusing on what you are going to do on the next 30-40 second span. It is a tough thing. It is a very easy thing to talk about, but much harder to implement. It is easier the longer you play, because you learned how to do it. But it is hard to learn to do it consistently."  

The Oilers system isn't unique, but the players are still trying to learn to play it consistently. They have improved recently, but when they make a mistake it is usually a major error and results in a goal. They need to become more consistent in their decisions and actions, and when they do, they should have more success. But it won't be easy, it will require every player being willing to commit 100% of the time. 

TONIGHT

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have one home win in six starts. The fans are restless, and the Oilers will finally give them something to cheer about with a 4-3 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Horcoff scores. On a one-timer. Ex-Oilers always score vs. the Oilers. Edmonton-born Vern Fiddler will get an assist on the goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:
Philip Larsen gets in on the "scoring against former team" and he scores a PP goal midway through the second frame. Larsen has five points in five games so far this season and he maintains his point-per-game pace. 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

 

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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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#101 Alsker
November 13 2013, 09:25PM
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go back as far as 30 years this team has always had to score 5-3 with pretty goals only. Drive it to the net and scrum the ugly one in. They don't count extra if they make SN highlight reel. And where the f^ck was Yak?

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#102 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 09:29PM
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Dammit petry

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#103 Alsker
November 13 2013, 09:30PM
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That was PATHETIC!!! Sorry for shouting.

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#104 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 09:30PM
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@Alsker

Yak, Belov, Potter. They have some heavy shooters. Blows my mind why none were out.

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#105 coolcanuck1
November 13 2013, 09:33PM
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Can't score 5 on 5, can't score on the power play, and yet we have many "skilled" forwards…. weak defence, no goalies, looks like a coaching & management problem to me!

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#106 James
November 13 2013, 09:35PM
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@YFC Prez

They have forever sucks at too many things it seems.

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#107 hockey fan 1976
November 13 2013, 09:35PM
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Eakins is a joke. 0-5 on the PP. where's Belov/Potter or Yuk? Anyone who says its or the coache's fault is out to lunch. How do we go from one of the best last last year in PP to 8 periods with zero goals. Wow.

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#108 FireKLowe
November 13 2013, 09:43PM
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This team is fundamentally bad and so is the coaching. How the fcuk do you not score at least one PP goal out of that many man advantage opportunities, especially on a 1:30 of 5 on 3?

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#109 James
November 13 2013, 10:17PM
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@Alsker

Lots of peeps skippin out on the bills? That sucks man. Yeah can't complain about being on a salary. However, we can complain about how terrible this team is. Good god almighty!

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#110 James
November 13 2013, 10:23PM
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@Alsker

True enough, hey?

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#111 James
November 13 2013, 10:24PM
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@YFC Prez

Also true. Props for finding the silver lining.

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#112 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 10:33PM
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Smyth has forced three Dallas giveaways in their own zone now on the forecheck. Vets working hard tonight

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#113 Gk1980
November 13 2013, 10:33PM
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At what point does "management" blow this thing up? I don't know what happened this year. Did the team forget how to play defence? Did they forget how to score? How did we get here? Sad.

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#114 Johnnydapunk
November 13 2013, 10:40PM
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FML....

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#115 Alsker
November 13 2013, 10:42PM
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My liver is not going to survive this season. Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...etc. etc.

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#116 James
November 13 2013, 10:43PM
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Asist to Hallsy on the Seguin goal? FML X 100!

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#117 coolcanuck1
November 13 2013, 10:43PM
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Too bad this isn't the Connor McDavid draft year! But hey, with another lottery pick this year, and if Eakins remains coach, maybe we'll have a chance for #1 pick in 2015!! Something to look forward to!

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#118 Slats
November 13 2013, 11:20PM
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Another nice fairly safe and pretty game by the Oilers. Two great chances early but did you notice how every oiler player peels off to the corner no one willing to stop, get dirty, for a rebound goal. Pretty very pretty.

Horrendous 5 on 3 - High slot could have parked a Semi trailer there was so much room. Where was Jonensuu on the 5 on 3 or for any PP in front of the net the guy is a beast. 5 forwards can someone tell me any great PP that used 5 frickin fwds???

HALL SHOOT THE PUCK AT END OF GAME FROM HIGH SLOT - WTF.

good job Dubey (1 minor hiccup). . .nickel lining on this one

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#119 Oilersman
November 13 2013, 11:28PM
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Ok, I'm officially ready. I told myself and all my friends that there is no way that we can part with our young talent. Let them go, get something, salvage some pride. I am ready to let go. Go Oil:(

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#120 Gerald R. Ford
November 14 2013, 08:30AM
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@GK1980

Worst OILERS team? They're getting close enough to smell the '74-'75 Capitals now! That team, adjusted for an 82 game schedule, would have recorded 22 points. The Oilers are on pace for 41. Assuming they even stay on their current stellar pace, and don't get worse.

The 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers, by season's end, might be included in the same conversation as the worst team in the history of the National Hockey League.

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#121 druds
November 13 2013, 12:58PM
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Damn that Horcoff! He's screwed us again!

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#122 Lowe Expectations
November 13 2013, 01:38PM
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Jason

Please start predicting oiler losses. Reverse psychology is all I got left.

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#123 Randaman
November 13 2013, 02:04PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I did that last game. They lost.

So keep it up if you want to have a good %. It's almost like you want to be a weatherman or something. LOL

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#124 justDOit
November 13 2013, 02:12PM
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About the only hope the Oilers have tonight, is to fight Dallas with Dallas!

This could get ugly.

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#125 A-Mc
November 13 2013, 02:16PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I did that last game. They lost.

But that's ok because then we expect it.

If we expect a loss and a loss is predicted, when we lose - it's ok! but if we WIN!!!! OH BOY! PLAN THE PARADE!

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#126 TigerUnderGlass
November 13 2013, 02:20PM
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common sense wrote:

Horc is slotted as a fourth line center for the Stars. He would be probably be second line or even first line centre on some nights for the Oilers. He wasn't a bad guy, just overpaid by KLO. And as you have said on your radioshow, he wasnt' the best Oil Captain in terms of community involvement. Bottom line for me: B grade.

How do you figure he's the 4th line center? He's playing 3rd line minutes.

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#127 Harlie
November 13 2013, 02:27PM
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Haha Whiffcoff with a one timer!?? Oh wait a minute, who is our goalie? Damn, I'll give you that one.

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#128 Alsker
November 13 2013, 02:34PM
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Randaman wrote:

My bad, but not playing the future with Hall and playing the past(Hemsky) is a huge error in my eyes

Ok including your first post with this one I'm assuming you would rather have Yak play with Hall(future w. future) rather than #4+#83 together. Then I agree providing the Gagner experiment at center is not used between them.

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#129 The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33
November 13 2013, 02:50PM
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DSF wrote:

Taylor vs. Tyler.

Giddyup.

I hope for some hair pulling!

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#130 MessyEH!
November 13 2013, 03:11PM
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Cynic wrote:

"Larionov led the revolt with Fetisov against Soviet authorities that prevented Soviet players to defect to the NHL."

I don't think he's afraid of 6-Rings or MBAtavish. Nor worried what fat-azzed scribblers or plagiarists in Edmonton see fit to print. It's best not to talk about the Tier2s on the algores.

The b..bs running The NHLs Worst Franchise can hold all the pressers they want to blow sunshine up y'all's dresses, but when Yak's ELC expires he owns the Oilers, not the other way around.

Stamkos? Phhhht. If you want a comparable, try Radulov.

There is a world of difference between Radulov and Yakupov. It's like comparing Lindros to Lemieux.

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#131 madjam
November 13 2013, 03:35PM
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Dubbie giving white flags to be raised by his defence to show him when they are giving up . All problems stem from our weak backend . If it's bad results will show just that . Go to coppernblue article on our cap and you'll see just what I mean .

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#132 Harlie
November 13 2013, 04:05PM
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Dog Train wrote:

I still hate the Stars. Misery loves company so let's drag them down with us. Corey Potter is back so we're bound to win!

I'd rather we had Sherman Potter..

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#133 Johe
November 13 2013, 04:14PM
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@dougtheslug

I was kind of being sarcastic. I know Oilers Nation will never be happy :)

On another note, it does make me happy that the game is on TSN. Love TSN coverage.

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#134 MessyEH!
November 13 2013, 04:14PM
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Harlie wrote:

I'd rather we had Sherman Potter..

We wouldn't have to worry about our training staffs medical practices.

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#135 Harlie
November 13 2013, 04:19PM
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MessyEH! wrote:

We wouldn't have to worry about our training staffs medical practices.

Horse Hockey! Suffering Saddle Soap! Klinger!!!

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#136 Zarny
November 13 2013, 04:40PM
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DSF wrote:

Taylor vs. Tyler.

Giddyup.

You mean piggyback rides at the bar?

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#137 thepeetso
November 13 2013, 06:46PM
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No not Chris Cuthbert wrote:

As long as Chris Cuthbert is not the play by play guy. His voice is like ... chalk squeaking on a blackboard etc etc. I would have to turn off the sound. He is that bad IMHO.

Anything, and I mean anything is better than Mark Lee.

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#138 oilerman53
November 13 2013, 06:53PM
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Yay we get Gord Miller and Ray Ferarro tonight on TSN. Ray will give a no nonsense scathing review about how much the Oilers stink. I think the boys out together a solid effort and string together a few wins.

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#139 Chaz
November 13 2013, 06:58PM
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If Karma works the way I think it does, then my OGDP is that Horcs pots a game winner late in the third, after a strong 'moral victory but no points' kinda night for the Oil.

At least if it happens we can......blame Horcs. Aaaaaaahhhhhhh.....the good 'ol days.....

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#140 Alsker
November 13 2013, 07:11PM
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Mason Storm wrote:

This is all an elaborate ploy by management too get our minds off the lack of arena talk in the city. When will that be built? 2025?

Missed the date but apparently coincides with our next winning season.

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#141 Rocket
November 13 2013, 07:45PM
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The Oilers better come out strong early or the hometown crowd could get really ugly. Not that I would blame them. If the players are terrible, I hope the crowd boos them off the ice.

Also, I hope The Oilers win...

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#142 Alsker
November 13 2013, 07:51PM
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Man its eeriely quiet in here, DAMN did I miss the start of the Zombie apocalypse. Got to grab my machete and wait for the as*holes next door to change over....

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#143 Alsker
November 13 2013, 08:00PM
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Rocket wrote:

The Oilers better come out strong early or the hometown crowd could get really ugly. Not that I would blame them. If the players are terrible, I hope the crowd boos them off the ice.

Also, I hope The Oilers win...

wonder if we'll start to see the paper bags? Probably not enough home games yet but by the end of the homestand...

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#144 Rocket
November 13 2013, 08:07PM
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@Alsker

Lol totally. And I'll probably wear one to a game this year just to say I did.

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#145 Harlie
November 13 2013, 08:19PM
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Damn you TSN homers!!!!!!!!!!!!! Put our game on.

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#146 TigerUnderGlass
November 13 2013, 08:20PM
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wiseguy wrote:

Can we please never, ever bring up MacT's MBA ever, ever again? It's embarassing to keep strutting these useless credentials out. He obtained an EMBA from Queens, not an MBA:

"The 16-month EMBA program is designed for working managers, and lets them take part in virtual classes and group work from their home cities"

In other words, it's a correspondence course for managers who can pay the $100,000 fee for credentials to attach to their name. MacT did it while unemployed and not in a management position. In other words, he should not have qualified for the program.

Since when is being a member of the target demographic a prerequisite qualification?

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#147 James
November 13 2013, 08:28PM
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Why the hell do TSN double headers always go into OT and start late. Switch the damn feed for people in the West!

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#148 Alsker
November 13 2013, 08:28PM
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watching Dallas feed, quite decent game so far. Well if you forget Hemmers give away.

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#149 James
November 13 2013, 08:30PM
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Oh gee thanks TSN, who needs to watch the first 10 minutes anyway?

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#150 Alsker
November 13 2013, 08:40PM
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James wrote:

You'd be forgetting almost all the games then. We have 8 give aways to Dallas's 1. Ugh! Acro and Hemmer each with 2.

I blame my many trips to the beer fridge.

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