With fans and those of us who write about the Edmonton Oilers for amusement and/or money here at The Nation bidding good riddance to 2009, I ushered in 2010 with the usual New Year’s resolutions and The Hangover.
The resolutions? Fat chance, lard ass. Have another cigar. The Hangover? No, not the morning-after regret many readers here and fools like Wanye and Bingofuel are no doubt experiencing today as they eat cold pizza, swear to God they’ll never drink again if the dry heaves will only stop and wonder who puked on their shoes. Been there. Done that. No Lampshade City for me. I’m 51. As our regular readers here likely know, I’ve got a three-year-old son named Sam. You do the math. I don’t need New Years eve and a gutful of tequila, jelly shots or Crown Royal to be face down on the floor well before midnight.
Ringing in 2010 for me meant cracking open a bottle of sparkling grape juice for Sam and his older brother Michael and a midnight toast with a glassful of something slightly stronger for Mrs. B and me. And we really tore it up by watching The Hangover, one of those what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-
Seeing the characters in the movie wake up the morning after so buggered up they had no idea what happened the night before kind of reminded me of the Oilers, who lost 2-1 to the Calgary Flames to complete the first half of their season 15th in the Western Conference at 16-21-4 for 36 points.
And is it just me, or did the dolt dentist who pulled his own tooth and married the peeler look like Kevin Quinn of Sportsnet? Separated at birth, if you ask me.
The movie, as you’d expect, ended relatively well for our sh*tfaced heroes, despite all their mis-adventures. I’m not sure the second half of the season will have such a tidy bow on it for the Oilers.
Resolve and Resolutions
One of my ongoing resolutions, and a promise I’ve failed miserably at over time, is to accentuate the positive. Lighten up, big boy. There’s always a bright side, a silver lining. You just have to look for it. With that in mind, and despite there being precious little for even an eternal optimist to celebrate when it comes to the Oilers, I’m going to give that a try on the first day of 2010. For me, that silver lining — keeping in mind the DFF is alive and do-able if Steve Tambellini plays his cards right — largely begins and ends with what I’m seeing from Jeff Deslauriers.
As most of you know, I’ve long been in JDD’s corner, largely because I’ve known him since draft day and seen him battle some pretty long odds to make it this far. I like his jam. I like how stubborn he is. I like that he doesn’t quit. Down the list just a bit, I like his talent.
Not long ago, I praised Deslauriers for, in my estimation, proving his many critics wrong during a 10-game stretch. That prompted some numbers nerds at another website to take shots at me for doing it — a 10-game sample size, that’s absurd, they sniffed. Not surprising to me, really. I’ve made it known I don’t put much faith in their numbers and they, in return, enjoy making it clear they don’t put much weight in my words. Fine. Good. Whatever.
I said it before, I said it in that piece last week and I’ll say it again after watching him stiff the Flames on a night the Oilers should have lost by a half-dozen goals: Deslauriers is an NHL starter. I’m not basing that on 10 games, I’m basing that opinion on eight years of watching him stop pucks — something I maybe didn’t make clear enough in the item that had the geeks scoffing at my take.
The way I see it
What Oilers fans are seeing in this stretch with Nikolai Khabibulin out is Deslauriers emerging as a guy who can be the No. 1 puck-stopper for this franchise for years to come.What I’m seeing now is a continuation of what I’ve seen over those eight years, not just the 22 games he’s played this season. Deslauriers numbers, as an aside, are 9-11-2 with a 2.81 goals-against average and saves percentage of .908 . That’s better in my books than just OK on a 15th-place team that can barely get out of its own way on many nights.
What we’re seeing from Deslauriers, despite a horrid and inept stretch in which the Oilers have lost eight of the last nine games, is the kind of mental toughness and edge it takes to be a No. 1 in this league. Good goal? Stop the next shot. Bad goal? Stop the next shot. Hang in. Battle. Buckle down.
You can find statistics to say otherwise, but — here’s some more ammunition for those too busy plugging in numbers to pay attention — I know what I see. Simply put, it’s more of the same stuff Deslauriers has shown since he came out of Chicoutimi. The difference, and the reason I believe he’s moving nicely along a learning curve made more difficult than it should have been by the way he’s been mishandled by the Oilers, is the brass he’s shown is now being bolstered by a growing confidence he belongs. At least that’s my sense, even if I don’t have any numbers to prove it.
While Deslauriers still has more work to do in terms of tecnhnique, consistency and closing some obvious holes shooters already have a book on — got to do something about that top shelf, for starters, big boy — it’ll come. Start by start, week by week, it’ll come. Of that, I’m certain. The question for me is if it’ll come with the Oilers.
Thanks to that bloated four-year contract Tambellini handed Khabibulin, I’m guessing he’ll get his old job back when he’s healthy again. Rightly or wrongly, and given the way Oilers management has skilfully handled the team’s goaltending situation in the past, I see it shaking down that way.
Too bad. If you ask me — nobody has — Deslauriers has shown enough to make Khabibulin’s contract one of those Tambellini should try to move, at least if he’s serious about doing a proper rebuild. I’d be looking at Deslauriers in tandem with Devan Dubnyk in 2010 and beyond. Of course, that’s easier said than done, even if you’re convinced it’s worth a try.
But I’m not the guy Deslauriers has to convince.
Pricey Night Out In Cowtown
Here’s an account of what’s turning into to a contentious New Year’s eve on the town for the Oilers in Calgary . . .
A Calgary restaurant owner is furious after he says the Edmonton Oilers didn’t cover a huge New Year’s Eve tab. Players with the team were dining at Osteria De Medici, an upscale family-run restaurant in the northwest community of Kensington, after their game against the Calgary Flames Thursday night.
Maurizio Terrigno says the team was ringing in 2010 with a group of 45 people and ran up a bill close to 18 thousand dollars. But when it came time to pay, Terrigno says the players refused to pay the total amount. He says the group, which included team captain Ethan Moreau, tried to negotiate a discount on their bill and at one point refused to pay entirely.
At issue was the liquor bill which totalled over eight thousand dollars. The players argued they should pay by the bottle for dozens of shooters purchased during the party. But the restaurant charged them for each one individually. At one point, Terrigno threatened to call police and eventually, the players paid about 12 thousand dollars of the total bill.
Terrigno says it is more about principle than the money. The restaurant plans to donate the amount the players eventually paid to charity. He says he is mainly upset for his staff who didn’t receive a gratuity. Osteria De Medici frequently hosts high profile guests.
Members of the Calgary Flames are regulars and former U-S president George Bush dined there on his last visit to Calgary. Friday afternoon, the owner says someone with the team contacted the restaurant and said the tab had been negotiated and paid. But Terrigno says he never agreed to the reduced amount.
Team officials confirm with CTV that the players and their wives and girlfriends attended an event at the restaurant. But when the bill came back, it was too high and the players asked staff to recalculate it. The new total was given to them and officials say the players paid and left.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.