First Impressions

Jonathan Willis
September 19 2013 11:08AM

With Darnell Nurse serving notice in yesterday’s pre-season game that he isn’t about to go quietly into the night, with Jesse Joensuu crashing the net and scoring goals, and with new head coach Dallas Eakins making all kinds of sense, it should be easy for Oilers fans to be optimistic about the pre-season, despite a less-than-stellar record so far.

That’s good. September should be about optimism; the hope that this new guy is going to excel and this young prospect is something special and this old guy can bounce back.

Nurse

I’m going to quote two of my favourite writers here on last night’s game.

Lowetide: “He looked like a young Larry Robinson last night: gangly and all arms and legs, but lethal when the puck is dropped. Frankly, I think there’s a non-zero chance he makes the team.”

Bruce McCurdy:

Wow. My game notes relevant to Nurse say: “Rush on backhand side, very nice! … 74 starts breakaway play with crisp pass to 83 … good hard board work to clear zone … wins another board battle … 74 beats both Sedins! clears zone … high end puck handling … stones Henrik on 2-on-1 … good defensive stop, agile … breaks up play before it starts, in neutral zone”. Meanwhile, the Event Summary reveals how active his night was, with 5 attempted shots, 3 hits, 4 blocked shots, and, remarkably, 4 takeaways. (That’s an unreliable stat to say the least, but one almost never sees a “4″ in that column, at least not under “Oilers”.) Not a negative stat to be seen in the form of a giveaway, a penalty, a minus. For all the positive plays, Nurse’s inexperience showed a time or two; he “got away” with a couple of iffy situations largely due to his own athleticism, which is impressive to say the least.

And then there’s the head coach: “He was on the war path. I thought he played one hell of a game and that looks like a real solid pick.”

That’s all good – but it would almost certainly be a poor decision to keep Nurse on the roster. He needs the minutes in junior, even the best defencemen rarely play in the NHL at Nurse’s age, the Oilers are already loaded to the gills with defencemen, and so on. Also, perhaps importantly: we know young defenceman have ups and downs (if we didn’t, Justin Schultz sure taught us last year) and two weeks ago Nurse was looking athletic but very, very, very raw playing against nobodies in Penticton. The pendulum swung the other way last night, but it will likely swing back. Another solid year in junior will be good for him, but it seems increasingly likely that he’ll be on the team next year.

Joensuu

The New York Islanders gave up on this guy, and whenever I hear about a big guy who can play I have flashbacks to Pat Quinn explaining why Jean-Francois Jacques was going on the first line. With that out of the way, he’s been impressive – I thought Brian Sutherby nailed it yesterday:

When he had the puck however he still looked very strong, and created a couple quality scoring opportunities. He is a huge frame that looks like he is more than able to keep up with the play and to date has given opposing teams fits down low. Size is obviously something this forward group desperately needs. It will be interesting to watch him as preseason goes on when more veterans draw into lineups.

Yes, it’s early and we’ll see, but so far so good.

Eakins

There hasn’t been this much buzz about an Oilers head coach since Pat Quinn led the coaching dream team!

That’s not remotely a shot at Eakins – every time he opens his mouth he says smart things and I think there’s a pretty good chance that he was exactly the guy the Oilers needed to hire for the job. I also can’t help admiring a rookie NHL coach with the chutzpah to redo the dressing room, take away reporters’ donuts, and show a little personality. Particularly when that personality largely consists of grim-faced statements of grim determination.

The point is that however impressive a coach seems, the proof is in the long-term results. The Oilers started 6-2-1 under Pat Quinn, with a high shooting percentage masking a team with terrible problems. Meanwhile, it turns out that Quinn wanted to send Gagner to the AHL so that Rob Schremp wouldn’t need to go on waivers. Ralph Krueger last year came with a unique resume and an extremely impressive attitude; unfortunately in a year where everything (shortened schedule, short camp, missing a coach) was lined up against him he significantly under-delivered.

I think Eakins is different, but I have to allow for the possibility that I'm wrong.

Recently around the Nation Network

First, a quick reminder: StreakCred is free for the pre-season - sign up to win not only real money but also something far more valuable: NationGear. 

After hoping to ink a long-term deal with the Maple Leafs, Cody Franson has realized that isn't going to happen. From Cam Charron of Leafs Nation:

Franson is resigned to a shorter-term contract. There's some speculation as to why Franson never filed for arbitration this summer and it's become accepted that it's because he didn't want to risk playing on another one-year deal. Frankly, he's a player that has paid his dues and deserves a bit of stability, so I don't hold it against him for holding out.

Click the link above to read more, or feel free to check out some of my recent stuff below:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Quicksilver ballet
September 19 2013, 11:39AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The same way Alex Pietrangelo did.

But the Blues weren't on the heels of 26th, 30th, 30th,29th and 24th place finishes like the Oilers are. In case you haven't noticed, the Oil need all the help they can get. To put the Oilers next to the Blues would be an insult of biblical proportions, no? Maybe MacTavish should error on the side of caution, being this is a B market with a smaller window of opportunity.

Sorry for fudging those numbers to support my argument, oh wait.

I'm still here Mr. Bomb ;)

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#2 Quicksilver ballet
September 19 2013, 11:18AM
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And just how is this kid going to be any closer to the NHL if they send him back to play with a bunch of kids? Love to see this kid SUITBOHC (media opinion he's one or two yrs away)

He may struggle at times if he stays, but i'd put him in there ahead of Larssen,Grabeshkov,Klefbom or Potsy. Andy (Andrew Ference) will take good care of this kid and show him the ropes. The Oilers now have their own Chuck Norris on skates, if there ever was one. Kill'em kid. Let them see stars, and not just the Hall.Ebs,RNH and Yakupov kind.

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#3 JJ
September 19 2013, 11:47AM
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I'll be impressed when he gets 2 goals and 9 shots in a game.. But I'm not holding my breath.

I think the Oilers dun goofed on this one.

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#4 Rotten Ron
September 19 2013, 11:26AM
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Oilers lose in pre season. "That was the Barons" Oilers win in pre season. "Plan the parade"

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#5 Quicksilver ballet
September 19 2013, 11:55AM
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@StHenriOilBomb

Patience my arse, Lets kill sumfin NOW!

I'll sit this one out if you want Bomber. Just give me the sign and i'll see you tomorrow, or even permanently if you want. It's your call. (one time opportunity)

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#6 madjam
September 19 2013, 12:15PM
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Ban all 18 year olds from playing in NHl even if they are good enough , as they will be better served by going back to Junior even though by law they are now young adults ? You people got a 100% guarantee they will be better going back to Junior ? I doubt it . Would Hall, Hopkins or Yakupov be the better for it ? I doubt it . Nurse making a good statement to stay , and we are loaded with defenceman but not a lot of real good ones .Marincin Out to lunch on Canucks first goal and had several mistakes in game . Right now is who can possibly keep Nurse out from opening squad if he keeps this up ? Age does not look like a factor with him so far , just the fans who like to coddle the propects .

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#7 Oiler Al
September 19 2013, 03:23PM
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Smyth and Hemsky looked liked they wanted to be elsewhere. Maybe they should be.

Cant wait to see Nurse playing when he's 215 lbs. He will bed amazing on the back end.

Dud of the night.. 4th line.

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#8 Quicksilver ballet
September 19 2013, 11:52AM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I think he'd benefit from being the bona-fide #1 on his junior team, eating huge minutes on the PP, PK and evens.

Stick around Jordan, I may need someone to blame for my spontaneous optimism.

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#9 Quicksilver ballet
September 19 2013, 12:39PM
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@StHenriOilBomb

I'm not ignoring you Bomber. I'm going to take a couple days away from the keyboard. Have a garden shed and deck to build before the cold sets in.

See you fellow hockey hoodlums next week.

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#10 DSF
September 19 2013, 01:51PM
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Czar wrote:

The only way Joensuu doesn't make the team is if Eakins catches him in bed with his wife.

Whose wife?

Is Jesse married?

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#11 Rustyknuckles
September 19 2013, 11:45AM
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J.F Jacques, I've been thinking about what he would look lined up next to Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle; Better or worse than Smyth?

It actually hurt to say that

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#12 Coco crisp
September 19 2013, 11:33AM
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I liked Marincin last night.. He reminds me a lot of Nurse in now smoothly they move.

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#13 Ca$h-Money!
September 19 2013, 01:23PM
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Let's sign Nurse to an 8 year $6m contract extension right now!

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#15 Harry
September 19 2013, 07:49PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I'm not ignoring you Bomber. I'm going to take a couple days away from the keyboard. Have a garden shed and deck to build before the cold sets in.

See you fellow hockey hoodlums next week.

Nice cover for realizing how utterly stupid your first comment was.

You and your fellow troll.DSF should jump on VANs bandwagon. I hear theres tons of room.

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#16 StHenriOilBomb
September 19 2013, 11:53AM
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For those who may have been asleep or drunk for the last 5 years, and haven't read any of Quicksilver's dribble, the Oilers finished 26th, 30th, 30th, 29th, and 24th.

Just so y'all know. I know it's hard to keep track.

Also, QSB is getting a lot of attention, but he's nowhere near the caliber of troll that DSF is. At least DSF has some decent insight, even if he twists stats to his liking on a regular basis.

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#17 Czar
September 19 2013, 12:58PM
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The only way Joensuu doesn't make the team is if Eakins catches him in bed with his wife.

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#18 916oiler
September 19 2013, 11:16AM
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I'm ready for the regular season!!!! Arggggg!!!

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#19 The Towel Boy
September 19 2013, 11:24AM
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Nurse looked good out there, for sure.

There was one shift where you could see he got tired out by pushing and shoving behind the Oiler net to fight for the puck and then was pretty gassed roaming around the zone waiting for the puck to get cleared.

That's NHL conditioning vs. CHL conditioning, I guess.

My conditioning routine involves a weekly deep leave-in. It helps with my split ends.

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#20 Rama Lama
September 19 2013, 11:25AM
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WoW.......I'm ver happy we selected Nurse.........the kid needs 20 lbs and he will dominate in the NHL. I though he was a three year project, but I could see him making the team next year.

JJ looked like the big player we have always coveted......hope he does not get hurt. Pitlick also looked really good and with a strong year in the AHL he should be able to secure a spot next year.

I find the preseason games as much fun to watch as regular games.........I hope SNW covers these games next year.

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#22 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
September 19 2013, 11:35AM
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Rotten Ron wrote:

Oilers lose in pre season. "That was the Barons" Oilers win in pre season. "Plan the parade"

Shhhh, just relax Ron. Have some of this delicious kool-aid...

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#23 Romulus' Apotheosis
September 19 2013, 12:24PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

That wasn't your question.

Your question was: 'How does going to junior help Nurse?' The answer is the same way it helped Alex Pietrangelo and myriad others.

If this is about the Oilers' needs this season, rather than the best route for the prospect long-term, the team's already made a huge mistake.

I.e., then my pick, the Big Russian (reportedly MacT's second choice after Monahan was gone) would be on the team.

It is important to remember MacT's draft advice: "pick who you think will have the most impact for his team during the life of his career"

Nurse's biggest worry at this point is probably injury.

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#24 StHenriOilBomb
September 19 2013, 12:27PM
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@Quicksilver ballet

I hear you. Let's friggin' do this now. I get it. But for Nurse to be a surefire immediate upgrade to the current 5,6,7 depth he needs to show more than one good game.

If he pushes his way past the others, then fine, but it's a long-shot right now. I don't think he's proven that he'll have a better season than the rest of the guys.

Maybe he will, but he hasn't yet.

And no, you're too easy a target to want you to leave. Also, your avatar is wicked.

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#25 StHenriOilBomb
September 19 2013, 01:52PM
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Hahaha. I just had to click the props button 4 times before it would register the thumbs up on DSF's last comment.

I think the internet was caught off guard.

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#26 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
September 19 2013, 11:18AM
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Nurse was beastly last night. I remember thinking 'damn, that kid can move.'

He was really using the boards to his advantage, bank passes to himself, chips up to wingers breaking out. At one point he beat two forwards in a row with the same move - a backhand bank off the boards, spinning off the check, using his reach to recover the puck, then moving his feet to get clear of the corner. I absolutely can't wait for this kid to make the big club.

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#27 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
September 19 2013, 11:21AM
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@Quicksilver ballet

I think he'd benefit from being the bona-fide #1 on his junior team, eating huge minutes on the PP, PK and evens.

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#28 brian_d
September 19 2013, 11:26AM
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JW, how about first impressions of Taylor Hall at center? I missed the game last night, so I couldn't see how he looked.

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#29 StHenriOilBomb
September 19 2013, 11:35AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The same way Alex Pietrangelo did.

Also: Shea Weber, PK Subban, Kris Letang, and many more. Tried, tested, and true. This is the method that almost every team takes when they have any depth at all, and it's paid off in spades.

Not to mention the extra year of ELC that it grants the team.

This, combined with Quicks idea that the juniors shouldn't have been in camp, has me thinking that he's slipped farther from reality than I had previously imagined possible.

What happened to that hockey mind, Quicky?

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#30 Jay Gray
September 19 2013, 11:42AM
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Preseason's in the past have been filled with blind optimism by myself and other Oilheads alike. This year is different, you see the pieces of the whole puzzle coming together, we're not searching for that elusive piece or two you need to complete the damn thing. Playoffs aren't a guarantee, but a damn good possibility.

Loved Nurse's game last night, but give him one more year in junior, it'll pay off in the long term

All hail coach Eakins!

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#31 StHenriOilBomb
September 19 2013, 11:50AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

But the Blues weren't on the heels of 26th, 30th, 30th,29th and 24th place finishes like the Oilers are. In case you haven't noticed, the Oil need all the help they can get. To put the Oilers next to the Blues would be an insult of biblical proportions, no? Maybe MacTavish should error on the side of caution, being this is a B market with a smaller window of opportunity.

Sorry for fudging those numbers to support my argument, oh wait.

I'm still here Mr. Bomb ;)

That would be short term gain for long term pain - The Calgary Flames model.

I am happy the Oilers are choosing to look at the big picture with some of their more important pieces in the long-term.

You may disagree, but management is finally following the example of the NHL's most successful franchises.

After years of finishing 26th, 30th, 30th, 29th, and 24th (did I get that right?); it's about time they start learning from the teams that have stomped them for the last decade and more.

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#32 Will
September 19 2013, 12:05PM
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If only there was this much excitement about Klefbomb. Here's hoping Klefbomb can improve down in Kansas this year and be a legit call up option, maybe impressing in the later half of the season.

As for Nurse, I know the fans instinct is to have something new and shiny every year, but this kid needs to simmer (as in cook very very slowly so as to be ten times better than a high heat blast).

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#33 God
September 19 2013, 01:05PM
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Rustyknuckles wrote:

J.F Jacques, I've been thinking about what he would look lined up next to Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle; Better or worse than Smyth?

It actually hurt to say that

It hurt to read it too, but watching Smyth out there last night, I think it'd hurt the team to play him more than anything but a 4th line role.

I still believe that everyone else is playing NHL 2013 and Smyth-bot still has NHLPA 93 uploaded. He keeps going for wraparounds, doesn't he know they removed that bug the next year?

I think Ryan should be used for his intangibles: the things he does off-ice. His advanced stats are going to be a complete disaster this year.

Trash me if you like but that's just like saying you could have gotten lil Suzy Q in junior high if you had Diesel jeans, while ignoring your brace-faced pimple head.

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#34 Czar
September 19 2013, 02:04PM
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DSF wrote:

Whose wife?

Is Jesse married?

Ah Fluffy, just ask your nurse to explain it to you when she comes with your meds.

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#35 Rotten Ron
September 19 2013, 02:11PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

That's September for you - it's the same with all 30 teams. Or, at least, with teams that have pre-season fans.

Rapid Wireline draws more of a crowd at the North Peace for a 10:30 game.

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#36 book¡e
September 19 2013, 05:35PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Hemsky was one of the best players on the ice last night? what are you drinking?

Clearly you wern't watching! His body language was terrible every time he made a great pass.

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#37 1983 and This Year
September 19 2013, 12:08PM
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@Quicksilver ballet

"26th, 30th, 30th,29th and 24th place finishes"

I hope you cut and paste this so you don't get carpal tunnel from typing it in every post.

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#39 master of my domain
September 19 2013, 12:25PM
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I live in Vancouver and apparently the sky is falling today. what a great day to proudly (smugly) wear my Oilers gear around town.

I know it's only one meaningless preseason game, but they don't seam to.

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#40 oilerman53
September 19 2013, 01:13PM
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Nurse will need that extra year in Junior to condition himself to logging huge minutes in every situation. His play last night has a lot of people excited in Oilerland but hes best suited going back to junior and possibly playing for Canada during the holidays. Him beating the Sedins cleanly and breaking up their 2 on 1 finally served this team justice.

The two that have impressed so far have been Joensuu and Nurse, we have needed the big man game in the lineup. I cant believe NYI just gave up on the guy...... just kidding that team has some of the most boneheaded moves of the past twenty years. No nine game tryout, just send Nurse back to the OHL, he can dominate and build his confidence.

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#41 oilbaron
September 19 2013, 01:24PM
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Nurse can play in the NHL, but not over an 82 season. Its dangerous to pit him against the La Kings and Boston Bruins of the league at this stage. Next year though I he's a lock

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#42 StHenriOilBomb
September 19 2013, 02:03PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I'm not ignoring you Bomber. I'm going to take a couple days away from the keyboard. Have a garden shed and deck to build before the cold sets in.

See you fellow hockey hoodlums next week.

Hope the weather treats you well. Have a good weekend.

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#43 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
September 19 2013, 02:07PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Stick around Jordan, I may need someone to blame for my spontaneous optimism.

I'll be right here, bud. If you start to like the Oilers again, I might even buy you a Rexall beer.

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#44 Romulus' Apotheosis
September 19 2013, 03:38PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Smyth and Hemsky looked liked they wanted to be elsewhere. Maybe they should be.

Cant wait to see Nurse playing when he's 215 lbs. He will bed amazing on the back end.

Dud of the night.. 4th line.

Hemsky was one of the best players on the ice last night? what are you drinking?

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#45 Harry
September 19 2013, 07:42PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

And just how is this kid going to be any closer to the NHL if they send him back to play with a bunch of kids? Love to see this kid SUITBOHC (media opinion he's one or two yrs away)

He may struggle at times if he stays, but i'd put him in there ahead of Larssen,Grabeshkov,Klefbom or Potsy. Andy (Andrew Ference) will take good care of this kid and show him the ropes. The Oilers now have their own Chuck Norris on skates, if there ever was one. Kill'em kid. Let them see stars, and not just the Hall.Ebs,RNH and Yakupov kind.

Werent you saying he was a bust not even a week ago after one rookie tournament game. Now all of a sudden hes playing alongside Ference in our top 4.

How does your view from the bandwagon look?

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#46 God
September 19 2013, 01:07PM
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master of my domain wrote:

I live in Vancouver and apparently the sky is falling today. what a great day to proudly (smugly) wear my Oilers gear around town.

I know it's only one meaningless preseason game, but they don't seam to.

Here, here! I'll be doing the same.

See you at the Frog where us minority Oiler fans in Van can actually watch the SNWest feed.

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#47 oilbaron
September 19 2013, 01:10PM
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Eakins is revolutionizing the game. 2018 Team USA Olympic head coach.

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#48 Katzhater
September 19 2013, 01:11PM
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Is there any statistical evidence that a player who has been drafted develops better in a career long sense playing in junior for additional season(s) or straight to the nhl?

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#49 @Oilanderp
September 19 2013, 01:12PM
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@God

I wish they had a bar in Victoria like that.

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#50 Bucknuck
September 19 2013, 01:13PM
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StHenriOilBomb wrote:

For those who may have been asleep or drunk for the last 5 years, and haven't read any of Quicksilver's dribble, the Oilers finished 26th, 30th, 30th, 29th, and 24th.

Just so y'all know. I know it's hard to keep track.

Also, QSB is getting a lot of attention, but he's nowhere near the caliber of troll that DSF is. At least DSF has some decent insight, even if he twists stats to his liking on a regular basis.

It's funny. I would have thought that the Oilers were bad enough all on their own without embellishing.

Sorry to tell you guys this, but the Oil haven't finished 26th ever.

The saga of pain goes like this:

2007: 25th

2008: 19th

2009: 21st

2010: 30th

2011: 30th

2012: 29th

2013: 24th

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