Through four games it looks like the Oilers might not need a life preserver to avoid 30th place. They are a fwe pieces away from being a contender, but with the youthful exuberance of the H2E line, the veteran savvy of a Smyth/Horcoff/Jones (until Hemsky retuns) and the potential of Paajarvi and Omark this team will, at the very least, be exciting.
Tonight we’ll find out if they are ready to take the next step towards respectability: Beating the #%&*@# crap out of Calgary.
I’m not talking the type of beating that Steve MacIntyre delivered to Raitis Ivanans last year, although if a tilt does occur I won’t be turning the channel.
It’s doubtful we will ever see a KO like again, which isn’t a bad thing, but Oiler fans would much rather see this type of domination over Calgary.
The way this season is going it’s likely to be Nugent-Hopkins, Smyth or Jones pulling off this type of move tonight, considering a Ryan has been in on all eight goals thus far, but the young kids have energized the fanbase once again, and nothing is sweeter than a Battle of Alberta game.
Five years without the playoffs, or even a sniff of them, has diminished any real rivalry in Edmonton. Sure you still hate the Canucks with the Sedin Sisters, Kesler the naked poser, Burrows the diving gnat, and Luongo’s low air pressure, but nothing beats an old-fashioned hate-on for the Phlegms.
Sure you respect Jarome Iginla, but he’s crushed the Oilers over the years with 32 goals in 82 games.
Do you think Flames fans respect and idolize Taylor Hall because he’s from Calgary? Nope, so when the Oilers play Calgary you should despise Iginla.
What about Curtis Glencross? He has a reputation amongst players as being one of the biggest posers in the game. Talk tough, but rarely back it up. He’s off to a great start with three goals in four games, but rather than still bemoan that management let him go, why aren’t you annoyed that he went to your arch-rival for essentially the same money the Oilers offered him?
It’s disappointing Robyn Regehr is in Buffalo because he was great for the rivalry. Oiler fans loathed him and his alleged cheap shots on Ales Hemsky, but at least Regehr added some fire to the battle.
Who will you hate on the Flames blueline now?
Cory Sarich can’t skate well enough to hit anyone. Ditto for Scott Hannan. Jay Bouwmeester is from Edmonton, so I guess he gets a free pass in your eyes. Mark Giordano might be the guy. He’s good, sees the ice well, moves the puck efficiently and has a bite to his game. Anton Babchuk makes Flames want to chuck so joining them isn’t an option. It’s hard to hate two no-names like Chris Butler and Derek Smith, but if you’re a true fan you’ll find a way.
It doesn’t matter who it is Oiler fan, but if you think your team is about to be competitive then you better understand that you have to increase your intensity as well. A true fan base can’t sit in a woe-is-me state for ever. Hell, Leaf fans hate the Habs just as passionately now as they did in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and thing the only thing lamer than the Leafs postseason futility is the Pension Plan Puppets dating scene.
As you prepare to watch tonight’s tilt, ask yourself if you’re ready for a rivalry game? Not a slap-me-beside-the-head-to-keep-me-awake game v. the Wild or the Predators, but a legitimate game where you cheer, scream or moan over every hit, goal, fight, missed call and line match up.
RETURN OF RYAN
Do you remember this guy? For 35 games last year, he was the main reason you watched the games last year. He tallied 27 points in those games and somehow he was +13, when the rest of the team thought they were competing for the Green Jacket. However, don’t expect him to match those totals. He likely isn’t a 0.77 point-per-game guy, but there shouldn’t be that much of a drop off. Prior to last season Whitney tallied 199 points in 354 games, good for 0.56 PPG.
If he can keep that pace and play 78 games he’ll be a 43-point player, which would be huge for the Oilers.
The great debate will be which D-man comes out. Ladislav Smid and Tom Gilbert have both been solid. Gilbert has played four solid games in a row, which might be his longest streak in three years.
Corey Potter has played well, although with Whitney back he won’t be on the first PP unit, and I’d keep him in for another game or two.
Theo Peckham won’t be getting back in tonight, but I don’t think you forget about him based on a few average games, considering how well he played last year. A few games in the pressbox should motivate him.
Andy Sutton isn’t flashy, but he hasn’t made any glaring mistakes, and they need more than just Smid as a physical, gritty guy, so I’d keep him in tonight.
Jeff Petry played okay last night, but unless he proves he is a top-five guy every night, I wonder if he might be better served playing 25 minutes a night in the AHL.
Cam Barker’s footspeed in races for the puck concerns me, but his positional play has been okay. I’m not sure he’ll ever be the answer. He needs to do more, especially on the PP, or he’ll find himself eating popcorn during a game later this week.
I’m guessing Petry takes a seat beside Peckham tonight. He hasn’t played bad, but someone has to come out for Whitney and I think he gets the short straw.
HALL GAME TIME DECISION
Taylor Hall is fighting the flu and will be a game time decision. If he can’t go the Oilers will dress seven D-men, and we’ll probably see a variety of different line combinations. Hall is a gamer, and being from Calgary something tells me he guts it out.
Shawn Horcoff might not have another three-point game all season, but for those who think he won’t play a big factor in the development of RNH, Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi and Omark are sadly mistaken. He might not score 50 points, but he’ll take the tougher assignments and Renney will use him often in the defensive zone. You need to get past his contract and look at the overall effectiveness of his game. We all know he is overpaid, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t effective. Sure he’ll whiff on a one-timer, but rarely will he miss a defensive assignment or give you anything less than his best effort.
As far as pure skill goes, he isn’t even top-six amongst the forwards anymore, but he has excellent hockey sense and Renney will lean on him a lot in the first half of the season. Ripping him because of his contract is pointless.
Linus Omark played his best game of the season last night. I’d like to see him shoot more, but he was relentless on the puck, and he battled hard. I thought he fared very well against Shea Weber and Ryan Suter when he was out against them. If he plays with that amount of determination on most nights the points will come.
***Don’t we all (guys) stare at something and somehow find a way to turn it into a facsimile of a woman’s body?**
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Rarely do I get the winning team correct three games in a row, but something tells me the Oilers will continue to ride the wave of youthful excitement for another night and down the Flames 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The "Ryan" streak comes to an end. Eight goals involving someone named Ryan will end in the first period when Magnus Paajarvi buries his first of the season. He understands the Battle of Alberta and led the Oilers with four goals v. the Flames last year. He looks at the Flames like he looks at Finland; with disdain.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: I finally got a NSOGDP correct last night with RNH winning five faceoffs, but I might be able to go back-to-back. The Nation will be bombarded with posts about "Being A Homer" when during a Ben Eager/Tim Jackman first period scrap, Rob Kerr gives Jackman the decision, even though Eager lands more punches. This debate will erupt during a Nation LIVE BLOG that be running simultaneously at Flamesnation.ca and here at Oilersnation.