UPDATE from 3-on-3 Tournament…MPS impresses and changes his name.

COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 23: Ilya Kovalchuk of Russia looks dejected after losing the IIHF World Championship gold medal match between Russia and Czech Republic at Lanxess Arena on May 23, 2010 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

I return home from the greatest fishing trip of my life (more on that in a few days) and I see that the Hall-hype is in overdrive, the Oilers still don’t have a veteran 3rd liner, Ilya Kovalchuk is still an UFA and Lebron James might have the biggest sports ego of all-time.

I’ll be at Clareview this morning watching the 3-on-3 rookie tournament and I’ll be most interested in Hall, MPS and Teemu Hartikainen. I won’t put too much stock in how they play because dominating against rookies is much different than going up against NHL veterans, but I am curious to see them live.

I’ve seen Hall on TV and his game speaks for itself, but I just want to see the hype up close and personal. MPS is the big wild card for me. So many scouts have told me they think he is ready to make the jump to the NHL and that is speed is his best asset. Hartikainen is another guy that some think is a wild card to make the squad because of his style of play; which possesses more grit and sandpaper than any of the other young prospects.

I don’t see Hartikainen making the squad, but today is the first chance to see if the kid has the potential to make the NHL in the future.

This camp isn’t about finding out who can play in the NHL, rather it will show which young guys can’t.

Veteran still needed

The Oilers were interested in Rob Niedermayer, but he took Buffalo’s offer because the Oilers didn’t make him a direct offer. Normally teams will submit an offer to a guy and give him a short window to make up his mind. It came down to Buffalo making a secure offer and rather than wait for a “what-if” from the Oilers he took the sure thing. He had an offer on the board from another team but choose Buffalo.

Niedermayer would have been a good fit in Edmonton on a one-year deal. He’s won a Cup, is a great team guy and would have given them a solid 3rd line centre.

They still need to add that guy, and I haven’t got any info regarding Dominic Moore, but if I’m the Oilers I’d look at him. The only problem is he isn’t that big or physical, but he is reliable and might be the best option left, unless Steve Tambellini can add a centre via trade.

Kovalchuk still free

This is the longest a player of Ilya Kovalchuk’s status has remained on the market, but I wonder if this is good for hockey. Edmonton isn’t interested and wouldn’t have a chance if they were, but even fans here are curious to see where he will end up. The rumours and possible scenarios is keeping hockey in the conversation in places where normally they wouldn’t get a sniff. It’s not a hype-crazed machine or anything, but I think it is good to see a guy like him float around for longer than six hours on July 1st.

Let me be clear and say a little speculation is good, but thankfully NHL players aren’t like the NBA.

In what other sport would you have a guy who has won nothing hold a press conference to say where he is signing. The best part of my fishing trip was there wasn’t any TV, Internet or phone so I didn’t have to follow Lebron James’ ridiculous saga.

James is a great player and a phenomenal athlete, but after watching his press conference last night I hope to hell the Miami Heat never win a championship with him. This entire James, Dwayne Wade and third-wheel Chris Bosh saga made me sick. James has a one hour show to tell the world where he is playing, while simultaneously ripping out the heart of his home state. Classy move Mr. James, classy move.

The players and their player’s association would be crying COLLUSION if the owners ever did anything similar. The best part about this putrid scenario is that the NHL looks even better by having a solid salary cap. The soft cap of the NBA is a joke, and the JWB signing will hurt the league long-term. In 2009, 40% of the teams in the league lost money, and there has been speculation that as many as 20 teams lost money last year. I’d bet you can add Cleveland to the list of teams that will lose money next year.

MLB is a joke because normally it is the same 10 teams with a realistic shot to win. You get the odd upset but that’s it. The NBA will be the exact same. The Lakers and Heat will exceed the cap every year and they can afford it. I know the Knicks prove that overspending doesn’t guarantee a winning team, but any decent GM with a brain and an abundance of money will give his team a chance to win.

I’m a fan of the NBA, but yesterday’s ridiculous and ego-induced press conference has drastically lessened my interest. I will only watch hoping the Heat loses. And rooting for a team to lose is never as fun as rooting for an underdog or your favourite team. Being a spiteful observer isn’t as enjoyable as being a passionate fan.

And if James does win a championship or two, can you compare him to Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? Teams were built around those guys. They didn’t have to set up summer meetings with other star players and agree to from a supposed terrific trifecta.

The NHL has a lot of warts, but today I’m glad Edmonton is an NHL city rather than an NBA city. Thankfully the NHL will never have to endure the same disgusting lunacy because of their hard salary cap.

**UPDATE AFTER 3 on 3**

MPS was the best player on the ice, followed by Jordan Eberle. It is hard to get a true evaluation of players in the format of 3-on-3 from the blueline in, but Magnus Paajarvi (he has dropped the Svensson) showed his experience and dominated at times. He was very good on the cycle and down low.

Eberle scored some nice goals, going by a D-man, cutting to the net and either roofing it upstairs, or going fivehole. Since being drafted Eberle has talked about improving his speed and he does look a bit faster, but he is much stronger than before and that is imperative if he is going to battle against NHL defenceman.

Jeff Petry is bigger than I expected and he also stood out. He will need some seasoning in the AHL and getting used to playing 80 games, but I think he has better upside than Taylor Chorney.

Martin Marincin really impressed me. He uses his stick incredibly well down low and his raw talent jumps out at you. Once he fills in a bit this kid might be a steal for the Oilers. He moves well for a big man and coming to the WHL should help him get used to the North American game.

Teemu Hartikainen didn’t do much for me, but this 3-on-3 concept isn’t the best format to judge guys. He skates okay, but at times he looked frustrated.

Anton Lander could easily play in the AHL and I think after one more year in Sweden he could make the jump to the Oilers. He is very poised and seems mature beyond his years. He thinks the game incredibly well, especially in his own zone. I really like his game. But it is his leadership that might be his best quality. When I asked Paajarvi about him he couldn’t stop raving about what a great guy he was. It almost seemed like Paajarvi looked up to him and they are the same age.

Cameron Abney has really improved his skating. He will never be a great skater or puckhandler, but he has made great strides. He is a 4th liner at best, but he has size and toughness and if he can improve his skating even more he might have a shot.

Tyler Pitlick has a great shot. He ripped a few one-timers past the goalies with ease. He is easily 6’2" and might be taller come next year. I’ll be making sure I will be at Rexall when the Medicine Hat Tigers play the Oil Kings this year.

Taylor Hall was solid. He had a few moments where you really noticed his skill and speed. After the skate he said he wants to improve his balance. He feels he needs to improve his leg strength and will spend the next two months improving in both those areas.

Paajarvi was the most impressive player and I’m looking forward to seeing how he matches up against NHL players come September.

    • Jason Gregor

      I’d be surprised if he got the Oiler job. I just got back last night and haven’t spoken with AJ, but that is the tough part of the business. Lots of guys leave one gig and excel in another spot, so hopefully that happens for him.

      It sounds like the station just wanted to go in another direction. It is tough because I like AJ, but I also have lots of faith in Ross McLeod the new Program Director at the TEAM.

  • Jason Gregor

    not a lots of vets will want to come for a rebuild during the growing pain years. we need to find a guy whos trying to play for one last contract somewhere. john madden would be a looking for another cup i think.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Hey Gregor, I’m interested to hear about your fishing trip. I live 15minutes away from the mighty Fraser River so fishing is pretty much front an centre for my neck of the woods. Add to that I work in fisheries and am currently working for the Freshwater Fisheries Society teaching kids how to fish. So good fishing stories are always fun to hear as far as I’m concerned.

    Also, I too am curious if the Oilers have kicked any tires with John Madden. Has winning a cup priced him out of their range or is there just no interest from either party/one side?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Fishing, where’d you go?

    Hard salary cap? Is that what the NHL has?

    As for a vet, what would your thoughts be on a guy like Madden? Seems to be something we could use for a year.

    Edit Starbuck beat me. I’d also add Guerin.

    • Jason Gregor

      Fortress Lake.

      There are no excemptions for NHL teams to go over the cap like the NBA. So I’d call it a hard cap, instead of a “soft” cap like the NBA.

      I don’t see Guerin as a guy who would help the Oilers. He has never been a defensive specialist, nor do I think he has any interest in being in a rebuild.

      The most important factor in bringing in a veteran guy, is ensuring the guy understands the landscape in Edmonton. Winning is always important, but a veteran needs to be a leader and most importantly patient with the young guys. I don’t think Guerin fits that bill.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        If we sign a guy and he doesn’t realize that we are a young rebuilding/transition team, I’d have to question if he is capable of wiping his own butt.

        Although I do agree with you.

        • Jason Gregor

          That is my point. I’d assume he knows that but what if the guy has no other options, and wants another contract. He might say the right things to get the contract, but would he be a positive influence.

          And my point was I don’t see Guerin or Madden interested in coming here because it is a rebuild.

    • Jason Gregor

      I’ve said I’m all for Nolan. He is gritty, scored 16 goals last year and understands that his role would be to mentor the kids. And he is a proven he is good at that.

      I’d be surprised if Madden would come here, or if he would be as willing as Nolan to be part of a re-build. Madden is only used to winning, he has never missed the playoff. I don’t know Madden, and I haven’t spoken to players who could vouch if he would be good for a rebuild. His style would fit the Oilers needs, but I’m not sure if mentally he’d be okay with be a mentor on a team that isn’t close to winning.