It’s Positive Friday, so let’s drift off into a fantasy world that doesn’t involve another potential lockout involving two sides who can’t find a way to split $3.3 billion in gross revenues. I had to get off twitter because I couldn’t stomach seeing another, "Bettman, Daly and the two Fehr’s have been meeting for an hour," or "Two hours and they are stillllllllllll meeting."
They are meeting, and the meeting lasted two hours, maybe longer. OMG. What’s next we will find out Shania Twain lip-synched at the Grey Cup in Edmonton?
Okay, I digress, there will be no more mention of the lockout in the next few paragraphs, and instead I will write with the assumption that in 14 days the Oilers, and every other NHL team, will report to training camp on September 21st. That’s a much more positive option for hockey fans.
The Oilers will go through their dreaded medicals on the 21st. Ryan Whitney will post his best results in three years because he actually got to skate in the summer, Theo Peckham’s body fat % will be lower, Shawn Horcoff will still be near the top in VO2 tests, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will weigh in at 184. No one will ask him if he thinks he’s strong enough to handle NHL defenders, but at some point someone will ask the idiotic question of whether he thinks he’ll be able to handle carrying a few extra pounds.
Ales Hemsky’s shoulder will be fine, Taylor Hall’s recovery has gone well and he’s expecting to be ready for opening night, October 13th in Vancouver. The only thing that makes covering medicals remotely exciting for the media or fans is that is signifies a start to another season.
The first on-ice session starts Saturday morning, and 2,000 diehard, extremely excited fans show up at Millenium Place. It is standing room only. Their excitement stems equally from the eternal hope that springs from a new season and how awesome it was that the season started on time.
JJ Hebert, the Oilers media relations guru, is a tad annoyed because after generously giving up his seat to a young fan, he had to go four rows deep and watch practice, but he couldn’t see over anyone. (Annoyed at being vertically challenged, not giving his seat to a kid) The always thoughtful Gene Principe sees this and brings over his camera man’s 18-inch thick camera case, and Hebert is just as excited as the young Oiler fan now that he can see the ice.
Ralph Krueger oversees his first practice as new head coach, and he’s excited to introduce his system and style to the players and fans. Krueger believes in tandems rather than sticking with trios all year, and he trots out some interesting line combinations for the scrimmages.
The best part of training camp is speculating on which combos you’ll see.
Teemu Hartikainen gets a boost of energy skating with RNH and Jordan Eberle.
Magnus Paajarvi skates with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky.
Nail Yakupov, who can’t stop smiling on his first day of training camp, is placed on the left side with Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Jones.
Once this line combo is tweeted out, instantly fans are tweeting that Krueger’s an idiot for stifling Yakupov by playing him with Horcoff. The fact it is day one of training camp and past history shows that early-training camp combos/trios rarely last through the pre-season is irrelevant. Fans, bloggers and media have waited six months to debate something, so it’s fitting the first "questioning of the coach" revolves around Horcoff.
The NHL is back and Oiler fans are pumped. Wanye awoke from a three-day binder, fueled by Oodle Noodle, beers at the Pint, rants of Eberle’s greatness and how his EI cheque still hasn’t arrived, just in time to type in a SQUEEEEE after reading a tweet that Eberle went top-shelf on Olivier Roy eight minutes into the first scrimmage.
An upstart blogger will be watching from centre ice and trying his best to chart who was on the ice for each goal, and how many scoring chances happened. After a minute he’ll realize it is impossible for one man to chart of all this and he’ll fire out a blog stating how the NHL should have stats guys charting these practices so fans can know who has the best Corsi rating during training camp.
Justin Schultz is paired up with Nick Schultz, showing Krueger has a sense of humour while also striking fear into Kevin Quinn and Jack Michaels. Michaels gets a great idea for "Jack Facts," and starts researching how many defensive pairings in the history of the NHL had the same last name. Between researching that and bemoaning another 0-3 start for the Cleveland Browns, he’ll be in a great mood.
The Oilers’ preseason starts with a home and away series v. the Winnipeg Jets. Monday September 24th, Devan Dubnyk gets the start at home while Yakupov and J. Schultz put on #64 and #19 for the first time. It’s a preseason game so Jets’ fans are greeted by Oiler fans with smiles and, "Good to have you guys back in Edmonton."
As the preseason winds down Krueger keeps making cuts, and the final few days involve some heavy debate here on the Nation.
Will he keep eight D-men? Who should play with Eberle and RNH?
Will the opening night roster look like this?
Sutton, Potter and Hordichuk in pressbox.
Will Magnus Paajarvi make the team, and if so where will he play? Is it better to play him top-line minutes in OKC to start the season rather than on the 3rd line in Edmonton?
Who will be the surprise of the preseason? Who will struggle the most?
Any guesses on a Positive Friday?
My gut and my head tell me the NHL and NHLPA will find some common ground sooner rather than later, and thankfully we won’t have to mention the "L" word on here for much longer.
But until then, I better get back to twitter to see if the Gary, Bill, Steve and Donald are still meeting.
Could you imagine if their meeting is up to three hours?