DYNASTY DAYS: A LONG TIME GONE

The first NHL team jacket I ever bought was that of the New York Islanders. The first NHL team I really truly disliked was the Edmonton Oilers. That was a long time ago on both counts.

I cheered for the Islanders when they stank — when they came into the NHL as doormats — because they drafted former New Westminster Bruin Lorne Henning and a bunch of other good, old WHL guys. I took a lot of razzing for wearing that jacket, too, especially from one of my front-running buddies, a fan of the Montreal Canadiens. Pencil-neck geek.

Henning? One day when some friends and I — not the Montreal towel boy — cut class to watch the Bruins practice at Queen’s Park Arena, Henning flipped me a puck. Once the Islanders drafted him 17th overall in 1972, they became my team. It was a long time until the first of four straight Stanley Cup parades, starting in 1980.

The Oilers? As a kid growing up in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam, B.C., I was a Canucks fan from the first time they dropped the puck on an NHL game at the old Pacific Coliseum.

The Canucks won nothing, of course, and then the Oilers strutted into the league a decade later from the WHA all smart-assed like and starting kicking them around within a few seasons. With Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier and all the rest, it was easy to envy them, and dislike them, even before they won five Stanley Cups in seven years.

How times have changed.

HERE AND NOW

I haven’t seen that old Islanders jacket in 25 years, and it’s been almost as long since the parades ended and they were any good at all.

As for the Oilers, who put an end to New York’s run of four straight Cups and still stand as the NHL’s last and, arguably, greatest dynasty — with all due respect to the Detroit Red Wings this past decade — I let go of my dislike for them about the time I graduated from journalism school.

The once-great Islanders have missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons and 11 of the last 15. Laughing stocks many seasons. An afterthought. Lousy rink. No fans. Goofy owner.

The Oilers we know about — out of the post-season for four straight seasons since the run to the 2006 Cup final and five of the last six years. And that four years on the outside looking in starting in 1992-93? Playing in front of 10,000 fans. Gord Mark. Brent Grieve. Ugly.

So, here we are. The Islanders and Oilers near the top of the standings in the race for a lottery pick, New York in 29th place and the Oilers, losers of seven straight games, in 28th.

It’s nothing less than jarring for an oldtimer like me, who remembers when the Islanders and the Oilers were the greatest teams I’d ever seen, and can’t help but wax nostalgic.

Butch Goring, now a TV analyst, was at the rink this morning. He looks old. So was Rod Phillips, who will call tonight’s game as one of the 10 encores he’ll do this season before jumping a jet back to retirement in Arizona.

Time flies.

HOMECOMING FOR SCHREMP

Rob Schremp is making his first appearance in Edmonton since the Islanders claimed him off waivers from the Oilers in September of 2009. I made a bee-line for Schremp before New York hit the ice this morning, thinking he might spin some gold. No cigar.

When the Oilers first drafted Schremp 25th overall in 2004, he had the label as a brash kid, a cocky loudmouth whose confidence outstripped his considerable offensive skills. Schremp was certainly good for a juicy quote or two. I always liked him for it.

I tossed him some underhand stuff this morning hoping he’s hit it out of the yard, but Schremp wasn’t swinging. Time, maturity and humility will do that to a guy. He played it straight.

"I’ll be playing against some buddies on the other side, so it should be good," Schremp said. "I know Dooby (Devan Dubnyk) and Gags (Sam Gagner) and Storts (Zack Stortini), a bunch of guys.

"I pretty much grew up from age 18 to about 23 with those guys, so there’s still some connections."

A NEW START

Schremp, still only 24, played just seven games during his tenure with the Oilers. He wasn’t a fit here, at least not with Craig MacTavish calling the shots. Never really got a sniff, or did enough to earn one.

He seems to have found a home with the Islanders. After missing 11 games to start the season with a back injury, Schremp will face his former team with 7-7-14 in 23 games.

"It would’ve been nice if it worked out here with all the history and the way this town rallies for their team," he said. "It’s such a cool atmosphere to play in Edmonton and be part of the Oilers.

"I looked forward to being part of that, but it didn’t pan out. That’s just how it goes in this business. You start to understand guys get slotted in different areas and sometimes it doesn’t work. If I can get my feet planted on The Island, hopefully I can be here a long time."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I wonder if Schremp is fisted off the ice.

    Really curious to see how his game has changed since his time here. I get the impression he hasn’t changed that much just is a better fit with the Isles and their crap show.

  • Hard to say now that Schremp got the shaft from the Oilers, as like you said RB, he really didnt do much (although in limited chances) to show what he can do.

    Even if he is a cocky guy, its hard to not like him and want to see him succeed.

    I wonder if Omark will follow his path out the door, if (when) he gets demoted once this team is healthy again

    • Crackenbury

      There’s a big difference between Schremp and Omark. Omark has been producing in the AHL at a steady rate. He also got a goal and 3 or 4 assists in his 2 games after being sent down last time. Schremp never felt the need or understood the effort required to produce in the AHL.

      Also, what team sends guys out the door for no reason? If Omark is producing he’ll stay, if he can’t make the jump to the NHL he’ll go.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Was thinking if it made it to the shootout we’d see Robbie do something special to snuggle up next to Omark tonight. After reading this article it sure seems as though he’s through with that stuff now when that extra point is on the line. Good for Robbie, hope he helps us out with a hat trick tonight. I enjoy your stuff when most of your audience doesn’t know where you’re coming from, always great to be reminded of more humbled times.

    Any chance we’ll see you in that Islander jacket again Robin, maybe it’s too big by now.

  • Ryan14

    “It would’ve been nice if it worked out here with all the history and the way this town rallies for their team,” he said. “It’s such a cool atmosphere to play in Edmonton and be part of the Oilers.

    “I looked forward to being part of that, but it didn’t pan out. That’s just how it goes in this business. You start to understand guys get slotted in different areas and sometimes it doesn’t work. If I can get my feet planted on The Island, hopefully I can be here a long time.”

    Sure doesn’t sound like the schremp that I remember. Sounds like he matured.

  • Let's Rebuild

    If I was Renney I’d give Omark carte blanch to whatever he feels like in the shoot out (perhaps he has). It’s not like it will cost us dearly if he misses (points wise) and it provides great entertainment for the fans that definitely need it during this year.

    I’m reminded of a statement I made after the first game of the season, (4-0 against a Calgary with the sweet Eberle goal) “I don’t care if they lose every other game this year; that game was fantastic. Whenever I start feeling bad I remember that game and the feelings I had and it sustains me a little longer. Now I draw on two memories, that game and the Omark shoot out goal. Great times.

    • Jiri Dopita

      Yes he is and yes they will . . . also, all the Oilers amateur scouts are in town right now for there first of two meetings as a staff during the season. Had a chat with Stu MacGregor on the catwalk last night. More to come on that later.

  • Jagrbaum

    Souray has tried so hard to be a good player in so many ways and yes screwed it up in so many ways as well. I really do not know if I have ever seen a bigger soap opera in the NHL. I really used to get frustrated in how he kept hurting himself and by proxy the team. Now I just feel bad for him, a year in the minors for a big mouth is a woeful price to pay. There was so much hope when he came to Edmonton I hope he at least gets a few years of fun hockey after the mess resolves itself.

    • Yeah poor guy. When you’re earning $5 Mill, a year in the minors for stabbing your team in the back is a “woeful price to pay”?

      I’m not gonna debate his game or value to us because he’s a great player.

      What Souray did is now on the same page as Lindros’ refusal to play in Quebec or Yashin wanting out of Ottawa.

      The NHL will make you a millionaire if you can play well enough and be mature enough to serve your team publicly without shooting your mouth off. The second part sounds simple. I think biting the hand that feeds has come home to roost for Souray and I’m glad he still lives in a world with consequences.

      Good article, RB…. I always wondered who your pre – Oilers allegiance belonged to.

      • Petr's Jofa

        I was speaking not of the money. We would all be stoked to get payed that to do most any Job but of the embarrassment of going from a top player at the all-star game to the Hershey bears. Humble pie is for sure. Hope the Canucks eat a bit of humble pie tonight!

    • Keep in mind that poor Shelly pockets approximately 18% bigger cheques this (and maybe next) season due to the fact that he avoids escrow while in the minors. A bonus $500K – $1M for a few bus rides this year makes a nice bonus.

      • Bucknuck

        Actually, Souray does not avoid escrow.

        CBA Article 50.4(d)(i)
        (i) Each Club shall withhold from each Player who is party to an SPC
        with that Club (and current Players who retire or otherwise cease
        playing in the NHL to the extent such Players continue to be paid
        under an SPC with that Club, including, without limitation, Players
        who were party to SPCs that have been bought out, except for
        Compliance Buyouts as set forth in this Agreement) an amount of
        each payment of the Player’s Player Salary and Bonuses for that
        League Year. The amount of each payment to be so withheld shall
        be calculated by multiplying the portion of each Player’s Player
        Salary and Bonuses to be paid during a pay period by the
        applicable Escrow Percentage that is then in effect during that pay
        period.

  • O.C.

    That’s funny. My first team jacket was an Isles jacket too. Was a kid, and that was when they were just coming onto the scene. Plus it was $10, down from $50…

    The teaser about more to come… Should be interesting. A few guesses.
    With DD and Roy, the future is bright in goal.
    Durable playmaking centers or D are the focus.
    Drafting the best player available is being put ahead of drafting for needs, as there are a lot of assets to package up.

  • smiliegirl15

    For all the bashing Omark got for his spinorama, a couple other players in the league have now done it too. Mikhail Grabovski and Steve Stamkos both have. Supposedly Steve Stamkos was ticked and called it disrespectful when Omark did it. Personally I think the fact he did the spin right before the net and snowed Price too was way more disrespectful.

    Nice to see Shremp grow up and realize what an opportunity he has in this league. Like Pajamah said, it’s hard not to like him and hope he’ll succeed.

    • O.C.

      Rob’s edgy confidence is still there under the surface and that’s a good thing. It’s been tempered by experience and the maturity that comes with it.

      He’s not the first player who didn’t find a fit with his first team, or even the second or third. It works that way for a lot reasons. You move on, shut up and start again. He’ll play in the league a long time.

  • Petr's Jofa

    I visited the HHOF in 1981 as a youngling – it was not in its current location – and my dad bought me an Isles puck bank in the gift shop. I was confused why they didn’t have an Oilers one, but this was when Stan Fischler and the Eastern poobahs had no time for hockey west of the great lakes.

    My dad’s justification was they were the best, and not the Leafs or Habs. It was weird, seeing how Ken Morrow had stomped on my little Oil heart that spring in Game 6 of the series, walking out into the Ontario sunshine with that plastic doodad tucked under my arm. I learned a little about respect that day, and over time the Oil did too.

    I hope we respect the Canucks enough to stomp them badly in their rink tonight.

  • Petr's Jofa

    I wonder how much Paajarvi and Omark had played together before, if ever.

    Last night they were going to the same places on the ice way too much.

    Not sure if this is more Paajarvi not used to Omark (and vice versa) or more Omark blowing off the system and going where he wants to.

  • Petr's Jofa

    Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! The NHL comic book results between the Flames and Oilers come out today. I can’t wait to be disapointed in the cheesy cartoon superhero that’s going to represent Edmonton.

    Hopefully he’ll have the powers to withstand cold, mosquitoes, and his nagging orange wife who wants to leave.

  • Petr's Jofa

    Where’s Bingofuel?

    We need the Oilersnation game tracker updated ASAP. The last game was a WIN and we need to see that WIN front and center for at least a few short hours before the results of the game against the Canucks comes in.

  • Bucknuck

    I remember watching the playoffs in 1984 and cheering like hell for the Rangers to beat the Islanders, because I was afraid of the Islanders playing my beloved Oilers and trouncing them (again). In retrospect i needn’t have worried, but Mike Bossy, Trottier and company were a pretty formidable bunch.

    On another note I was glad to see Dubnyk get the W, even if it was against the (now) lowly Islanders.

  • Bucknuck

    Was at the game last night – Schremp did have the one assist, but certainly wasn’t an overwhelming presence out there.

    I am glad that he was a class act when you spoke with him – I wish him all the best – whenever he isn’t playing against the Oil!

  • Bucknuck

    The Oil seem to have a lengthy list of players ‘who have not been a fit here.’ How many of the current 1st rounders end up leaving Edmonton for success elsewhere? Is it a case of the players not fitting or is it a very weak development program.

    Regarding Shremp, I recall MacT being interviewed a year or two before he was shown the door(select you own manner of exit) and the usual questions coming up about Shremp’s readiness to play. MacT got real pissy and went off about the fact he had never seen a player who had more notoriety by the fans and media and hadn’t proved anything. MacT is long gone and so is Shremp. MacT’s biases against certain players seemed to lead to a lot of wasted draft picks. There were no winners in my opinion and one ’06 trip to the finals isn’t much of a resume. The fact he is still unemployed doesn’t surprise me.

    • Bucknuck

      No question, MacT had his biases and blind spots when it comes to certain players and types of players, just like every coach does. Rob was one of those.

      The Oilers had a lot of wasted draft picks because they drafted badly.

      MacT isn’t unemployed. He is keeping busy off the ice and does his TSN panel gig. He is as busy as he wants and needs to be. Not sure you’ll see a full-time coaching grind coming for him, but that’s his call.