Paying rapt attention

Last night was a chilly Saturday evening in the City of Champions, so your we did what any red blooded guy would do – bought a case of beer on the way back to Wanye Manor, turned off the phone, turned off the computer and sat down to watch our beloved Oilers on the second half of the HNIC double header. We watched it all without a stitch of distraction: the game, the intermission hot-stovery, the post game show and the after hours show where they interviewed players deep in the bowels of RX1 long into the night. We turned in our usual Saturday night haunts and skirt chasing activities for the quiet confines of a semi-condemned house in the river valley of Edmonton, determined to re-ignite our love affair with the Edmonon Oilers.

It has been a bitch to balance building the Nation sites with writing on the Nation sites. Since we unwisely threw away a perfectly good career in Finance to try and make the Nations go on a full time basis, most of our time is spent pitching the sites to advertisers, pitching the sites to media types in other cities and frustratingly little time doing what we actually love to do — talk shop on the Nations and call Dustin Penner’s mouth the busiest Donair Drive-Thru in Canada.

But really who cares right? Just know that your ol’ pal Wanye is out there grindin’ on all our behalf to make these sites even better and that he hasn’t found something productive to do with his time. And now back to something that actually matters:

The game itself

It’s clear that one shouldn’t find too much wrong with a victory, particularly in a season that has had so much go wrong so early on. But when you look at the ol’ seasonal record, the Oilers have managed to fight Lady Luck in 2009 to a 2-1-1 record thus far. Regardless of how many goals have been scored on the Oilers in the final minute of play, there is more positive than negative 4 games into the year.

Decent.

We don’t know about you, but we thought the Oilers looked pretty good last night all told. The absence of Souray on the PP was noticable but not crippling and though it pains us to say it ol’ Goatie McGreberstein didn’t look that terrible either. How the hell does he have four points in four games exactly? The team seems to be moving the outlet pass with much greater confidence than last year – that pass from Gagner to Comrie in the first period was sick, and the shot was even sicker. Jacques looked like the pressure of being named Star by Jason Gregor was finally lifted when he redirected that puck past price and Pat Quinn looked much happier in the post game conference.

Mike Comrie interview

For those of you who didn’t commit to the Oilers-Habs Seclusion match of 2009 like we did, you may have been longtime gone by the time Kevin Weeks and Scott Oake interviewed Mike Comrie some time around 4 AM on CBC. Ordinarily we would have been gone too, but temporarily disabled from the 8 BLs we had already put away on the night, we figured we would watch the interview. Scott Oake had recently been lipped off by Dustin Penner and we wanted to see what would come of interviewing Comrie, knowing his *ahem* disinterest in the media.

Though the two hosts (which have as much business together as vinegar and maple syrup) raked Comrie through all of the uncomfortable topics that they could think of, Comrie came out looking pretty good. It’s a shame no one really watches the post game show on CBC because Comrie’s willingness to play along with Weekes and Oake took us by pleasant surprise. Bear in mind that these transcriptions aren’t exactly what transpired but what we remember the conversation being the day after a solo shift at the Bud Light dispensery.

Uncomfortable topics included…

Scott Oake: “Is it just crazy awesome dating a movie star/tv star/teen sensation/member of the Oprah Book Club? Buh, how did you two meet? For reals?”

Kevin Weekes: “Coming back to Edmonton even though everyone hates you must have been hard.”

Scott Oake: “Your family was once also once revered in Edmonton and is now hated. What up with that?”

Kevin Weekes: “You love fashion don’t you? Yeah, totally. I used to be in the NHL too (shakes head sadly).”

To his credit Comrie didn’t walk off mid interview and grant an interview to the Alberta Sports Scene instead. He sat there and tried to find humor in the bland banter between the hosts, tried his best to regurgitate answers he has given to the local scribes many a time already and generally tried his best to come across as charismatic in the face of an uncomfortable series of questions.

Now having picked Comrie as our Star for the year – an illustrious group that included Ryan Smyth the year he was traded, Erik Cole the year he was traded, Chris Pronger the year he screwed the City and bounced – we make these commitments in September knowing full well that it is a long season and we have generally made a risky pick. We half expected Comrie to contribute at a reasonable pace, collect some smiles and then bounce for warmer shores once the season was over.

His play – and more importantly his attitude – through the preseason and first four games has been impressive in our books. Not only has he led the NHL in points in the preseason, but he has also looked pleasantly content wearing the Copper and Blue and dare we say it – pumped at times, particularly in the celebrations of his two regular season goals.

Bear in mind that this is a player that has led his team in scoring twice, but has signed more one year deals than you can shake a stick at. The fact Comrie has played under 10 – count ‘em 10 – different coaches and wasn’t offered a multi year deal by anyone including the Oilers must say something about him on some level. But the fact he has returned willingly to ol’ freezing E-Town and has humbly gone about dismantling the preseason and is leading the team with four points in four games says even more about him.

The problem with MC has never been talent. Instead it has been the attitude of a guy who stands firmly in the 0.00001% of pro athletes who reasonably don’t have to play sports for a living and could still drive around in a Silver Bentley, confidently throwing gold coins at passers by. Knowing you are already set for life and yet willing to train and sacrifice to make it to the NHL is commendable. Knowing you are set for life and coming across as knowing you are set for life, even to other NHL veterans, leads to some difficulties.

We hardly expect to see Comrie at Diesel Ultra Lounge throwing them back with Cogliano on a Tuesday night, but a more mature and seasoned Comrie might provide an excellent example to the Andrew Coglianos of the world going forward. “You can play anywhere in the league kid, I can promise you no where else will worship you like Edmonton. And being rich, 20 and loved in a City of 500,000 women has it’s advantages that you can’t quite capitalize on in major American cities where you are low on the depth chart behind the NFL, NBA, MLB and Nascar Pit Crews. Unless you are me, which of course you aren’t.”

(points to picture of Hilary Duff picture in locker)

This sort of lesson, taught by a guy who landed Hilary Duff, should not go unheard by the young Oilers.

Comrie has an interesting position within the Oilers locker room. Unbelievably he is one of the few players on the roster that is there by choice. He has seen success as the only player on the roster that has scored more than 30 goals. He has a blood line that few of the nouveau riche Tom Gilberts of the world can measure up to with their undeserved massive contracts. No one could have blamed him if he didn’t ever even live within the City limits ever again. Yet there he sits, at the end of the dressing room, leading the team in points.

The idea that a local boy could strike it big with his first contract, bounce under a firestorm of rumors and innuendo and return to the Oilers is a great story in itself. But our boy seems to have returned to the Oilers with a bit of perspective. When Scott Oake awkwardly asked what it was like to be run out of your own home town, interestingly Comrie responded with something to the effect of, "It was very hard to leave this town under so much anger and baseless rumors being spread about me. I was young and I thought I was invincible and that that sort of thing could never happen to me."

So here is your #91 this season Nation. A potentially changed man from the 23 year old that left town 6 years ago. Though he departed in one of the bigger slaps in the face to the team and to the City, that was like 4 slaps in the face ago. Impossibly, Comrie has won back 60% of the hearts and minds of Edmontonians only 4 games into the regular season. He is older, wiser and has come to camp healthy for the first time in years one season removed from hip surgery. And he has 4 points in 4 games. And he seems happy doing so.

Mad decent.