GDB LXXI: Why we watch

On a wing and a prayer seems like a fitting theme for tonight as Devan Dubnyk goes for his first NHL win. Dubnyk is 146 minutes away from setting the NHL record for most minutes played without registering a win; and he’d love to avoid that illustrious honour.

Watching the morning skates today I recalled the Oilers’ home opener v. the Wings in the 1997/98. I shared season tickets with my buddies, Hutch, Onion and Pretty Boy. We had two seats so we split into two groups. I went to most games with Onion.

Onion and I have been buddies since grade four and we’ve been through a lot of monumental events together. He is a diehard Oiler fan. He’s married now with two kids, but he still bleeds copper and blue. He has a 1000 (not sure it is that big, but it’s almost an entire wall) inch projector screen TV framed into his basement wall. And normally that is awesome, but it’s made this season more painful for him because the mistakes seem bigger.

I played hockey with Onion until midget. He wasn’t the fastest skater, but he backchecked like a demon. He couldn’t break a pane of glass with his shot, but in tight he had the softest hands and he’d go shelf regularly. He was there the first time I got drunk. In the parking lot of J.H Picard, we shared/chugged a mickey of Silk Tassel and then sprinted into the dance before it hit us.

We celebrated Stanley Cup wins during the glory years, and I watched him die a slow death in the mid-’90s. Onion convinced us we should buy tickets in 1996 when the team was threatening to leave. He couldn’t stand Tom Poti, but loved Doug Weight. Like most Oiler fans he appreciated Bucky’s willingness to do anything to win, and cringed when he inevitably took another beating at the hands of Bob Probert or some other heavyweight he had no business fighting.

After the stunning upset of the Stars in the spring of 1997, there was a glimmer of hope that the Oilers were starting something good again, when we went to the home opener in October of 1997. The Wings were in town. Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov and star-studded cast were here, but the Oilers had opened with a win on the road and were undefeated so Onion was pretty stoked.

Onion has the smallest hands of any guy I know, but he can crush pints like no other. He showed up at my house at 5:05, and we had a few pre-game pops. We took a cab to the campus LRT and were at Skyreach for the warm-ups. Back then we used to sneak in a mickey, so after buying a coke, and dumping half out and replacing it with Silk Tassel we headed to our seats.

It was the worst home-opener in Oiler history. They trailed 8-0 after 40 minutes. Up until that game, Onion refused to leave early. We had to stay until the final buzzer every game; because he always believed the team could come back. Not this night. After 40 minutes, Onion was disgusted and we hopped the LRT back to the University and ripped it up on Whyte Ave.

Onion was incensed that night. He could always find a positive in a game, but 8-0 was too much for him. I was a fan, but I can honestly say I was never as passionate as the Onion. Even after that debacle his loyalty never wavered. But for one night, even the most loyal fan can reach their breaking point. I don’t get to watch as many games as I used to with the Onion, but when we chat he is still as passionate as ever. He has his favourite players, and those he can’t stand, and even though he knows the inevitable outcome of most games he, like most of you, still soldiers on. Why? because he’s an Oiler fan, and that’s what you do.

I mention that story, because this season seems like Groundhog Day for Oiler fans. Wake up, hope for a win, watch the game, yell at the TV, go to the Nation so you aren’t alone in your pain and repeat.

You are almost numb to the emptiness, and tonight you will watch your 30th place team take on the healthy and more talented Detroit Red Wings.

Nick Lidstrom will play his 1,400th game tonight, and barring some stunning upset he will get a win.

Watch out for the Wings PP tonight. With Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen healthy the Wings PP is very dangerous. Pavol Datsyuk’s game is coming around and Henrik Zetterberg is also finding his stride.

Oil hurting

Sam Gagner will play but his knee has been bothering him for a few weeks, and according to Pat Quinn it has affected his skating. Gagner has 41 points, and is eight shy of his career high. He will play with Zack Stortini and Chris Minard, but will get some PP time.

Patrick O’Sullivan is out and it looks like Mike Comrie will sit again. Quinn said his veteran players will rotate taking a seat in the pressbox the remainder of the season.

  • Jason Gregor

    Do you actually think they'll sit Horc in the press box? I've yet to see him sit on this "rotating" vets lits, but I've seen Comrie, Pisani and POS sit fairly often the last couple games. Moreau I think it was more his neck keeping him out, so it will be interesting to see if he sits as well as Horcoff.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Oilers "King of Pain " lineup, without the veterans must please all the seasons ticket holders ? Who's running this club – "Bozo the Clown " or the Ringling Brothers " ( a sucker born every minute )? Classless organization we have become, thats not very accountable even to it's fans .

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Here and I thought Dick Tarnstrom's "inflamed pubic bone" would never be topped as an injury report.

    Okay, maybe Tarnstrom is still out in front.

  • If Gagner's hurting, why is he playing, exactly? There's no decision to be made on him, no trade to showcase him for, no wins he needs to help the team get, and no reason to risk possible injury because his skating's off, either to the knee or elsewhere because of his altered skating (although not knowing the extent of the injury, it's possible the knee can't be hurt worse). Better still, if he rests up now he might be more likely to represent Canada at the World Championships, something that could only be good for his development.

    Patrick O'Sullivan and Mike Comrie need to have decisions made about them, and thus have a reason to be playing.

    • Jason Gregor

      Most guys have some sort of ailment at this time, and Gagner says it isn't major. He does have four points in his last three games, so it really isn't hurting him.

      I think Gagner still has lots to prove and every game matters for him. He still has lots to prove to the coaches, and he knows it.

      And O'Sulllivan's finger is still a bit of an issue, although Quinn plans to rotate his more veteran guys, and I'm guessing that means Comrie, Pisani, Moreau, Horcoff and O'Sullivan.

      • Vaclav

        I'm guessing that Gagner has some performance bonuses he could reach within his ELC. Like perhaps 20 goals this season or 50 points.

        The team may just be trying to help him get there by allowing him to play through some discomfort. If the team docs have cleared him to play and he's willing then this hopefully will be some goodwill towards his next contract this summer.

        Although that seems a little similar to a certain Comrie's first go round with the team.

      • Jodes

        No.. O Sullivan has NO FINGERNAIL.. I still can't believe some people are making light of this situation.. Would it hurt as much as Greb's injury? Of course not, but still sounds pretty painful to me!

        From today's Edmononton Sun:

        It’s used as a method of torture, ripping off a fingernail. So in that vein, one can appreciate what Patrick O’Sullivan went through having lost the nail on his left ring finger after being slashed by Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators 10 days ago.

        O’Sullivan has missed the last four games because of it and won’t be in the lineup Friday when the Edmonton Oilers host the Detroit Red Wings. He can barely hold a stick much less shoot the puck.

        “He slashed me and caught me right at the end of the finger and my nail just exploded,” O’Sullivan said. “I could feel it in my glove and then when I came to the bench, I took my glove off and the nail had come off and it was about (four centimetres) long. “That’s how far it extends into the finger. It’s amazing.”

        O’Sullivan was back skating with the team Thursday, but could not take part in any drills. He had to have a metal device inserted where the nail was in order to help stabilize his finger.

        He won’t be passing though any metal detectors any time soon. “The metal plate goes up where your nail bed starts,” he said. “It’s supposed to protect it and hopefully allow your nail to grow back again. But it still bleeds every day. “It was really swollen, too, although it’s gone down quite a bit. There are a lot of nerves in your fingernails. It’s not fun.”

        A centimetre either way and O’Sullivan could have probably just shrugged off the slash. At the worst, he would have bruised the fingernail, much like he did a toenail earlier this year when he took a puck off the foot. “If it’s just bruised, it’ll fall off naturally and it doesn’t really hurt,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s what happened with my foot. But my finger was really gross.”

        With 10 goals and 21 assists on the season, O’Sullivan became the latest Oiler to go down with an injury. Heading into their game against the Red Wings, the Oilers have eight players out of the lineup with injuries. “I’m not counting on him right away,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn.

        “I guess we continue to find new ways to lose players. It’s very unusual. “We’ve all probably been hacked like he was, but he managed to lose a nail on it. I don’t know what the time frame on that will be.”

    • Jason Gregor

      I had the typical usual hockey nickname…Gregs…

      The history of how he got the nickname has never truly been uncovered…but he kind of has a body like an Onion…so it fits..ha

    • Jamie B.

      Gagner: "You want to be a guy that your teammates look to in important situations and they say, 'He's going to show up, he cares, and he wants to be a winner.' I think if you don't have that respect from your teammates, you're not going to go a long way in this game. It's the most humbling game there is. The only thing you can really bring is your effort and your preparation, and from there, hopefully gain the respect from your teammates and move forward."

      This kid says good things.

      http://oilers.nhl.com/club/podcastplayer.htm?pid=98&iid=21163

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I have mentioned before that Gagner seems to say the right thing, but what does that have to do with playing hurt? Sure he wants to play and that is what you want to hear, but there is nothing to play for and the coach should make that decision for him.

        • Jamie B.

          Well, it seems to me that when he had his knee looked at before the Olympic break they couldn't find anything structurally wrong. They gave him the time off to try to get rid of the pain. If he thinks he can't make it worse (not sure I'd trust the Oilers doctors or not) then maybe he wants to show he can play through pain and he's not going to quit on the season.

          I get your point, though.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        What does that really accomplish if he screws his knee up? We have guys dropping like flies that were healthy, but we expect someone that is injuried to play through it no problem?

        Hopefully he gets that point tonight.

  • DK0

    Silk Tassel is awesome. They changed the bottle a few years ago on the 26's. it was a sad day. My buddy used to have a tassel castle in his 500 square foot apartment near Whyte. Good times.

  • DK0

    Best OilersNation graphic ever.

    Everytime I watch Dubs between the pipes from here on in, "I think I can" will be repeating to infinite in my head like a bad song you can't get out of your head.