Going to work on Friday is always a great feeling, unless you are one of those who believe a weekend starts Thursday and you’re hung to the gills this morning, and today you feel even better because it’s a long weekend. But more importantly for sports fans, when you return to work the NHL season will have unofficially begun.
I have no idea why I am up at 6 in the morning writing. Some moron told me that if I go to bed earlier I will feel much more refreshed. Waking up at 5:45 a.m. after hitting the fart sack at 11 last night sure doesn’t seem like a reward, but I digress.
The Oilers’ rookies will hit the ice Monday morning at 9:30. They will practice for an hour, flood the ice and then have a scrimmage from 10:45 to 11:15. They practice Monday and Tuesday and Rexall and then Wednesday at Millennium Place.
Their rookie tournament will include the Vancouver Canuck rookies and the U of A Golden Bears. The Canucks and Bears will play Wednesday Sept. 9 at Clare Drake. The Oiler rookies will battle the Canucks in Leduc on Sept. 10, and the annual Bears/Oiler rookie game will be played on Friday Sept. 11 at Clare Drake. (I’m surprised they booked that game the same night as the Esks/Stamps rematch.)
The most intriguing players to watch will be Toni Rajala, Jordan Eberle, Johan Motin and Alex Plante. I suspect Plante will play in Springfield this year, while Motin will for sure. Rajala is destined for Brandon in the WHL, and my gut tells me that Eberle will be in Regina, but Pat Quinn is really high on him so he’ll get a long look in camp.
The Oilers haven’t officially released their start date for camp, but I’m guessing medicals will happen on Sept. 11 and they will be on the ice next Saturday. As always training camp will be open to the public.
Things to ponder
— The NHLPA is really trying to screw hockey fans right now. They canned Paul Kelly earlier this week, for allegedly reading private documents, which Kelly denied.
And then the real kick to the gut came when Glen Healy resigned due to Kelly’s firing. By all accounts, Healy was doing a good job for the PA. Why a kick to the gut you ask? Because this means we can expect to see Healy on TV again soon. I really liked dealing with Healy, but as a colour guy he infuriates me. There are too many former goalies behind the mic nowadays and I’d be stunned if he wasn’t back on TSN this fall.
— Bill Daly told Toronto Radio AM 640 that the Leafs don’t have veto power when it comes to icing a second team in southern Ontario. I never understood why they thought they would have, but I loved Daly’s explanation as to why.
Daly stated that “the commissioner has unassailable rights to interpret the league constitution as he sees fit.”
I always knew Gary thought he ran a dictatorship. But I do agree with him on this one. The Rangers had to bite the bullet when the Islanders came into the league, and again when the Rockies relocated to New Jersey. The Leafs can whine all they want, but hopefully nothing stops the NHL from putting another team in southern Ontario soon.
— At first I thought Jim Balsillie would be good for the league, but as every day passes, he, along with his lawyer, looks more ridiculous. He isn’t bigger than the league, and clearly thinks he doesn’t need to play by the rules. Bettman has already let too many wingnut owners in the league; I hope he keep Balsillie out.
— The biggest question heading into Oiler camp is who should be the first line LW. We could debate the Oilers don’t have a true first line, but it’s too early to be negative, so let’s pretend they do. Who fits the best opposite Hemsky: Nilsson, Cogliano, Penner, O’Sullivan, Eberle or Schremp?
Ok I threw in Schremp to appease the Schrempaholics, but he has no shot in my mind. I wouldn’t keep Eberle either. The other four all present valid arguments as to why they should get a shot.
Penner scored 23 goals in 2008 playing there. He’s the only one with some size and if Hemsky gets in trouble he is the only one that can bail him out. He seemed to understand that at times last year, and if he realizes he needs to be the protector as much as he has to give an effort, then he’s a good fit.
O’Sullivan looked out of sorts in E-town last year, but in 2008 he put up 22 goals playing with skilled guys in LA. He’s the most responsible defensively out of the group, and if they opt to play Gagner with Hemsky, then O’Sullivan might be the best fit strictly because of his two-way game.
I’d love to see Cogliano given a shot here. He told me that he isn’t opposed to playing the wing this year, which is the opposite of how he felt his rookie year. His speed could open up a lot of space for Hemsky, and I think Cogliano’s skill is underrated. He missed a lot of breakaways his rookie year, but last year he showed way better finish around the net. He’s averaged 18 goals the past two seasons, playing predominantly on the third line. My gut tells me he could be a diamond in the rough goal-wise for the Oilers.
Nilsson’s skill is second only to Hemsky, the problem is his dedication and heart is similar to Penner’s so far. Nilsson is the biggest question mark heading into camp. He said all the right things yesterday, and he changed his off-season routine to ensure he’s in the best shape possible. But will he be able to bring that same off-season dedication to the rink most nights? I have a soft spot for highly gifted players, and while my gut senses Cogliano could have a break out year, I just don’t feel the same about Nilsson. For his sake I hope I’m wrong.
More Oilers coverage at the TEAM 1260
Back in July I wrote,
Stewart Meyers and Ryan Zimmerman have a solid vision on where they want the station to go and they will be more aggressive in the future. It won’t happen overnight, and change is always hard for a listener to take, but I like where they want the station to go. There will be more changes in the next year, and all of them should make the station better in the long run.
And even further back, in June, Brownlee said:
Stauffer was the critical voice, the hammer on the TEAM 1260 roster, before, as I put it in an item leading into this season, he “took the hush money” and joined the Oilers.
When I add the two together, I wonder if sports talk radio listeners in this town wouldn’t be best served if Stauffer wore two different hats with two different stations.
Well guess what? Starting next week the TEAM 1260 will bring you even more local Oiler coverage. “Oilers Lunch” will begin on Sept. 10, and will air weekdays from 1 to 3 p.m. Bob Stauffer will host the show. This is another big step towards increasing local coverage on the TEAM 1260. The official announcement will come Tuesday morning.
I also report with mixed feelings that my long-time producer Wil Fraser is leaving Just A Game. It was a great seven years, but after much prompting from me he is taking a bigger role with the station. He will co-host Edmonton Sports Night Live with Corey Graham starting Sept. 14.
Fraser is a class act. His dry sense of humour during commercial breaks made many shows much more entertaining for me. His ability to laugh at himself, while dishing out timely and sharp digs to me or others, made for some hilarious moments.
I’m forever indebted to Wil when back in 2003 he banned Adil from my show. It is still my favourite Fraser memory.
We were at 930 CJCA from 11 p.m to 1 a.m. and Adil used to phone three or four times a week. Wil always let him through, but after a few months we got many complaints from people saying they turned the station off when they heard his voice. So one night Wil explains to Adil that he would be limited to one call a week.
Adil goes off on Fraser calling him a racist, and yelling that he’ll call the CRTC with a complaint. At 930 CJCA we were in the same studio, so Wil had to whisper when answering phones, except for this time.
Fraser’s a pretty calm guy, but he didn’t take kindly to being accused of racism, and he tore a strip of Adil: “You know what you %&*($&) dork, consider this a LIFETIME ban. You are done. Don’t call the show again.”
I was on the air and immediately went to break. I can still remember laughing hysterically as Fraser went off during the break. I’ve never seen him so fired up. It was awesome.
I have no doubt Wil and Corey will make the evenings must-listen radio. I wish him nothing but the best.