GDB LXXVIV: Wild on Minnesota

OilersNation – you’ve almost made it to the end.

The Oilers wrap up the final week of one of the worst seasons of hockey the City of Edmonton has ever had the misfortune of seeing and the Oil need two wins to avoid being the worst team in franchise history. Two wins doesn’t seem like a lot, but with only 24 wins in 78 games, getting two in four game will be a tough task for the Oil.

Next stop in the voyage is tonight when the Oilers face the Wild.


Linus Omark signed a two-year entry level deal with the Oilers today, because of his age he was able to sign for two years rather than the usual three-year entry deal. Steve Tambellini commented on the deal: “There is only going to be so many people with his skill and size that will make our club, and I think he’ll come and try to make the Oilers, and if not he’ll report to Oklahoma.”

I find it interesting that the Oilers expect Omark to play in the AHL if he doesn’t make the Oilers, because he could make way more money in the KHL than he would in Oklahoma.

Tambellini also took in the first two games of the Windsor/Plymouth series and while he wouldn’t comment on Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin specifically I did ask him his thoughts on if he thinks a centre can have more of a winger in game situations. “That depends. Ovechkin is a winger and Malkin is a centre. Both have impacts on the game. We have to be careful and focus that we need a lot of good young players coming, regardless of position. We will decide in June, but they are both good players; very good players."


The 37-35-7 Minnesota Wild are the opposition tonight, and thankfully they aren’t as boring as past years, but with both teams out of the playoffs there is not intriguing story line. I’ll get to some tidbits later on but the real story around the Wild that should concern Oiler fans is the rink the Wild call home. The Excel Energy Centre is quite simply – spectacular. I was in Saint Paul, Minnesota for the Rush game on Saturday,

Side note: What a comeback for the Rush. Down 11-6 going into the fourth quarter, they stormed back and tied it at 12 with fourteen seconds left, and then Brodie Merrill won it in OT. The Rush is a league best 9-4-and if any sports fans in the City of Edmonton have any interest in watching a team that is not only in the playoffs but is winning games with real energy and excitement they had need not look any further than the Edmonton Rush.

Think I am Rush crazy only because I am the play-by-play man for the team and have been able to witness this team improve substantially this season? Think again. Even OilersNation’s own L’il Wanye has been caught up in things. I used to try and tell him about the Rush all the time early in the year but stubborn as he is he would only want to talk hockey. Like with so many other Edmontonians he wouldn’t give the Rush the time of day.

But how things have changed. Not only has Wanye been to a pair of games lately but he has even started texting me to see how the team is doing. After the game on Saturday he even took it a step further texting me "HUGE WIN" after the final buzzer. To go from not even caring to following the team on untelevised road games – even a goofball like Wanye is starting to see what the Rush have become:

The winningest team in Edmonton.


After the Rush game ended I took some extra time to tour the EEC. My concclusions? When the new rink eventually gets clearance in Edmonton, they should build a clone of the EEC.

I know the Oilers honchos have toured the many rinks around the NHL to see what works best. Colorado, Toronto, Phoenix, Philly and Montreal are all great, but the ECC is now my favourite. It’s a spectacular facility. I did take some pictures on my phone, but clearly I don’t use it often enough because the lens was dirty and the pictures suck. Instead here are some stock shots from the ‘net.


The lower bowl has 26 rows in most sections, and 23 in others and has between 20-24 seats per row. There are 26 sections in the lower bowl, but the biggest difference from Rexall is you can only exit to the main level. How many of you have sat in the lower bowl watched the first period, then headed down to the bar underneath at intermission and never return back to your seat? It’s a ritual for many and you end up watching the game on the big screen downstairs. Imagine meeting your buddies or business partners while still being able to watch the game LIVE, rather than on TV.

The suites and the “club” seats have access to one massive meeting place/bar. The main club area is similar to the main concourse at Rexall Place, except it is open and you can see the ice. The site lines are spectacular. For many the hockey game has become a social meeting place, so combing the two makes perfect sense.

The food? Awesome. The Headwaters Bar and Restaurant offers a great pre-game buffet, and even boasts a fireplace for those of you who want to combine hockey and romance. Nothing says romantic like crushing a few pints, enjoying an array of pasta, chicken, veggies, soup and cheesecake in front of a fireplace prior to a sporting event.

The concourses are three times as wide as Rexall – okay probably only two – but I wheeled down there at halftime and I was able to walk around without feeling like a sardine. The 2nd level seats seem closer to the ice, and the press box is the highest seat in the building; as it should be.

Now I’m not a real artsy guy, but the design and the look of the ECC stands out. There are glass windows all around and you get a spectacular view of the surrounding area and the Mississippi River. I’ve been to the ECC before, but this time I took the time to tour the entire facility and it’s the best I’ve seen. As an aside, I haven’t been to the Devils new rink, but I’ve seen all the other new ones.

I can see why the Wild continue to have such great fan support, because even though the team hasn’t been that exciting the “In-game experience” at the ECC is world class.


So while you dream about a new rink in Edmonton here’s a few tidbits about tonight’s game.

  • Dustin Penner needs one goal to set a new career-high and be the first Oiler 30-goal man since Ryan Smyth did it in 2006/2007.
  • With Gilbert Brule done for the season, the Oilers will only have one 20-goal scorer for the first time in franchise history. Unless Ryan Potulny scores five goal – soooo it won’t happen.
  • The Oilers signed Chris Vande Velde today and he will report to Springfield. He is a 6’2” centre, who would be a 3rd liner if he makes the NHL. He is more of a shut down guy, than a scorer.
  • Sam Gagner still isn’t skating, and it looks like his season is over. Quinn doesn’t expect him to play Wednesday and is doubtful for the final two road games of the season.
  • Nikolai Khabibulin has resumed skating, and was in full gear for the first time on Friday. He took a few shots over the weekend. His back his responding well so far, and they are optimistic he will be fine come September.
  • Charles Linglet will sit out tonight. Robert Nilsson will play with Marc Pouliot and Patrick O’Sullivan, Jones/Comrie/Stortini, Moreau/Horcoff/Pisani and Penner will skate with Potulny and Cogliano.
    • It's not imagined, I feel the exact same way.
      They said "lift check" when talking about a stick check and something about it made me really uncomfortable. They use really odd terminology.

      Also, has there been a game all year, in which the Oilers are the second game of the double header, where the first game hasn't gone into overtime?

  • Wanyes bastard child

    So im down in Calgary right now proudly rocking my Oilers jersey around town, thats right i said PROUDLY and in the words of Travis, if anyone doesn't like it "I will fight you!!"

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Are we sure this game tonight is on TSN? I'm on TSN right now and they're showing Boston/Washington…

    Edit: 7:30MT is 8:30 central. Apparently the game doesn't start for 2 hours.

  • SkinnyD

    I've been to a handful of rinks, and of those, yes, the EEC is certainly spectacular. My favorite, though, was the good ol' Joe Louis. Yes, it's old…and kind of a dump. But they've created an amazing atmosphere there with their history – it's pretty much a shrine to Gordie Howe, and there are exhibits everywhere with items that really could be in the HHOF.

    Hopefully when we build our new rink, we strike a balance…the history that made the franchise great on display, in a state-of-the-art facility.

    The beer will be expensive either way…

  • Mouse

    In Phoenix, they have a bar area at one end of the rink that is at the main concourse level. It curls around the sections at behind the net. I think there is 6 rows of seats that can get to the bar as well as all the luxury boxes have access to it. Think it is called the Comerce Club or something

    It is an awesome touch and I know those seats would be very sought after. If one of those could be incorporated in the new stadium I know it would be well receive.

  • Jason Gregor

    After listening to 15 minutes of him talk about it. He believes that Segin is the best player available at the draft. To paraphrase him, he said that Segin will be a bonafide star in this league, while Hall has things in his game that could lead to him being a bust in the NHL.

  • Lofty

    Not much to get excited about in tonights line-up. No matter what the score ends up if the oil dont get shut out it will be a moral victory.

    5-1… thank-you sports select.

  • Propellor

    Hmm. Very interesting.

    As we all know, there are two draft philosophies out there. One is that you draft the "best player available." The other is that you draft by need (position).

    My position on the Hall vs. Seguin debate is this: The Oilers aren't good enough to be able to say they're drafting by position. Right now, they need everything – No. 1 centre, faceoff guy, shutdown defenceman, future No. 1 goalie, scoring winger, size up front and size on the blueline. Take your pick, they need it.

    I wouldn't get too hung up on whether or not Hall is a LW and thus is a "better fit."

    That said, it's a lot of fun debating the merits of the two kids. Myself? I take Seguin and, unless he absolutely commands a spot at his first camp (a la Jason Arnott in 1993), it's back to junior with him.

    But if the opt for Hall, that's fine. Whatever reason they give for picking him will be justifiable.

    • I find it interesting how many people want to send the potential number one pick back o junior.

      Take a look and see when the last time a forward selected number one overall did not play in the NHL the next season. If you don't already know the answer you may be surprised to see how unusual it would be to send Hall/Seguin back.

      • "Want" to send him back?

        Oh, I don't know if I'm committed to that. If that's the impression I left earlier, then I'm sorry. I'm just saying that if Seguin (or Hall) doesn't look ready, then it's always fine to send him back to junior for one more year of seasoning.

        Absolutely no harm in doing that.

        As for the notion that a prospect should – or must – spend time apprenticing in the AHL, well, I don't think there's really a blanket policy in place for any team. It depends on the player.

        But understand this: I don't really care if the guy the Oilers pick this June wins the Calder Trophy a year (or two) later. I don't care if he has a glittering rookie season. If he does, great. If he doesn't, I'm not going to panic.

        If the Oilers opt to save a roster spot for Hall/Seguin next year and keep them in the NHL, no matter how much they struggle, I guess that's fine with me. I'm prepared to live with that.

        I just want their No. 1 pick to be a great player over the next 5-10 years. If getting him to that point requires a season of seasoning in the OHL or AHL, so be it. Patience is a virtue.

      • But we cant play players because if we do they might play poorly, so instead of playing they should not play. That way no one will ever play poorly.

        Did I get that right? The NHL should only ever be played in by people who find it easy to play in. No one should ever struggle, ever; Especially not people the team might count on. We definitely dont want players to suffer any kind of adversity.

        Also, if a player can play in the NHL, they shouldnt. Because everyone should always play in the AHL for 6 years before ever getting a sniff in the NHL.

        Little known fact. Charles Linglet's 9 years in the minors only to get his first game at the age of 29 is the prototypical way to develop a prospect.

  • Jason Gregor

    Mark Sydel of central scouting is on HNIC radio and says Segin is becoming the clear #1 and that his feeling is that the Oilers will pick Segin regardless if they get #1 or #2.

  • Jason Gregor

    I see the Oilers site has posted the "shootout" goal by Omark last year. Why don't they show him driving to net or fighting off a check to score or make a play. I suppose they want to excite the fanbase (they posted it last year at this time as well). Oh well, I like the signing, see what he can do finally and then move on if they have to.

  • Propellor

    Last season when the Oilers had their road trip taking them through NYR and NJD, a friend and I (both from Edmonton originally, but living Halifax) flew to New York for a sports weekend to watch the Oilers.

    Anyways, Prudential Center was AMAZING! Sight lines were great, had that proper level of steepness so people leaning forward weren't in your way (MSG is nowhere near steep enough…it was brutal!). The touch I apprecaited the most was that from every column or pillar in the concourses, there was a mini-flag pole of sorts coming out at a 45 degree angle, and from, hung a local amateur team's jersey. It was so cool to see the whole interior of the concourse lined with jerseys from presumably PeeWee all the way up.

    I was in the American Airlines Arena (Miami) this fall with friends for a Heat v Cavs game. Not as great inside for the sight lines (though we did have pretty poor seats), but the outside of it with the wide sets of steps at the base of the building leading up to the giant outdoor screens projecting the pre-game was wicked cool.

    Both arenas had a huge presence on the outside. It was really neat to be able to see in to them from the outside, and helped the atmosphere from inside trickle out onto the street.

  • Hemmertime


    With Omark signing the deal right now during current season, will this be one of the years off the deal, and the contract ends next year? Or does he not have a NHL release clause so it starts in June/July ?

    That would make sense to me if it ended next year, since he said he didnt want AHL, but being only 1 year on the entry level deal he may be more willing to accept a placement there, when can negotiate any contract afterwards.

    • Jason Gregor

      It is for two seasons, not the rest of this year and next.

      And let's say for argument sake he spent an entire year in the AHL, then came to camp in 2011 and didn't make the Oilers and was pissed. The Oilers could let him go play in Europe for a year and still hold his rights in the NHL for the following season.

      He won't be unrestricted after this contract, so he'd have to put up some decent numbers to get a one-way deal I'd suspect.

  • The Rush are awesome, Lacrosse is awesome. I wish more people in the city would get behind them and back them. It's a great, fast paced sport, and it would be nice to sit in a packed Rexall with an actual atmosphere in the building!

  • Propellor

    I wish the Edmonton Rush well, but it's hard to really "get into" lacrosse.

    Although I applaud folks who brought the Rush to Edmonton for the recent (and long deserved) success, the fact of the matter is, there really isn't much of a lacrosse history up here in Northern Alberta.

    OK, I can't speak for Edmonton when I say that. For all I know, scores of kids have been playing minor lacrosse in the capital region for 30 years.

    But, up here in GP, and in other "rural" areas of the province, lacrosse is pretty much a non-entity. There is some minor and junior lacrosse being played in Grande Prairie right now, but it really hasn't exploded in numbers – certainly not to the extent that indoor and outdoor soccer has. Heck, there's way more kids in competitive gymnastics in Grande Prairie than there is in lacrosse (and minor hockey, by the way).

    What does all this mean for the Rush? Probably not much, other than whatever fans they're drawing are probably going to be from the Edmonton-area and not much beyond that. I don't know if the Rush should even care about that, but I don't suspect that Grande Prairie is the only Alberta community that's fairly indifferent to the sport.

    • Jason Gregor

      I don't think hockey growth in Grande Prairie is due to the Oilers, it is due to a passion for hockey.

      Gymnastics and soccer has lots of kids involved playing, but how many watch those sports? Parents put their kids in those activities for exercise and because some kids love it, but that doesn't mean they become huge fans of the sport.

      For fans outside a decent driving distance of Edmonton, the Rush will need to get on TV to touch them a bit more. If you can watch the team you might be more interested, that is normal.

      Most of the Oiler fans come from Edmonton as well. I know there are a few who drive long distances every game, but I bet 95% of seats are from Edmonton, why would the Rush be any different.

      The Rush need to win to get more fans. I suspect those who have gone to games this year have enjoyed more than previous years, because the team is finally good. Fans will start to follow a team if they win. Lacrosse will never be as big as hockey, but you can't tell me they can't draw at least 10-12 thousand fans a game for eight home games.

      • Jason Gregor

        Good points, Jason.

        I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from attending a Rush game because of my dicey theories on why lacrosse hasn't taken off outside of Edmonchuck. And I don't doubt that I'll someday go see a game, just for the curiosity factor.

        But there are a lot of people from outside of Edmonton (GP and Fort Mac especially) who make the trip down to the Big Smoke for the expressed purpose of going to an Oiler game (and IKEA and the Big Mall). Not sure if the Rush are that kind of a draw for us Northerners … yet. When they are, you'll know then that the Rush have made it big (if I may be so bold to suggest that).

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Potulny, from AHL'er to "1st liner" who would have thought.

    Went to my first Rush game a few weeks back, not bad for $20. Hard to get into it like hockey but a fun game non the less.

  • Ender


    I was like you. I kept putting off going until my buddy and I went on Friday. I was stunned at how fun it was. The game is fast and tough. They beat the hell out of each other and I'm going again on Friday. Just leaving the rink after an exciting game was refreshing.

    • I'll be honest. I have a hard time getting involved in anything that isn't Oilers hockey.

      I am however very interested in the Rush all of a sudden. If you sit low down at the games (first 15 rows) it is crazy how fast the game is and how often they scrap and slash one another.

      Plus I sort of feel for the team – they don't get the love they should. This team is pretty awesome and beers at RX1 taste way better when the team is winning.

  • Ender

    I've been meaning to take my son to a Rush game. This thread may have finally convinced me to go out and buy some tickets. Would be nice to see an Edmonton team win again.