Another weekend without the NHL and many of you have continued to go on living. Crazy, I know, but it seems the NHL is more interested/concerned about the Winter Classic than actually negotiating you should get used to no-NHL weekends.
There is however lots of hockey related and other sports topics to discuss.
While none of us love -20 or colder, I’m thankful that despite the odd cold day we rarely have to worry about natural disasters in Alberta. Our thoughts go out to those dealing with an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane.
- Imagine if Justin Schultz was playing in Edmonton right now. He’d be the toast of the town. I know he wouldn’t be leading the NHL in scoring like he is the AHL, but 12 points in 7 games in any pro league is damn good. The only bright light of this lockout for Oiler fans is that Schultz is getting some pro experience that should make his transition to the NHL a bit easier.
- Matt Nichols goes 9 of 15 for 230 yards and 3 TDs and 1INT in ten minutes yesterday, while Kerry Joseph was 10 of 19 for 116 yards and 1 INT in the first 50 minutes. After the game head coach Kavis Reed said Joseph was still his starter. If the Eskimos have any hope of winning a playoff game, if they make it, they should start Nichols. It is unclear how good Nichols is going to be great long-term, but I know that Joseph’s best days are behind him. At his best he was inconsistent, and now you toss in that he can’t scramble like he used to and it makes no sense why the Eskimos continue to start him.
- I’ve never believed an athlete when they say playing their former team is "just another game." Of course they want to beat their former team and Ricky Ray hinted as much yesterday when he said, "Happy to be hosting Eastern semi final in two weeks. I wouldn’t mind facing the Edmonton Eskimos if they make the cross over." A lot has to happen for that to occur; involving the Riders, Esks and Tiger Cats, but it would be a juicy story line if the Esks travel to Toronto next weekend.
- Many Oiler fans asked me over the weekend if the Oilers will have to trade off one of their four star forwards, Eberle, Hall, RNH and Yakupov, like the OKC Thunder did when they moved James Harden. It is hard to say until we see the new CBA and what restrictions, if any, they have on new contracts. I do think that one of the wingers will be moved at some point, but not right away. I do think it would be possible to have the four of them at around $22-23 million and still have enough depth to be competitive. I suspect we are three years away before the Oilers have to make a decision based solely on salary.
- Interesting to note there are five D-man in the top-16 scorers in the AHL. Schultz leads the league with 12 points; TJ Brennan (Sabres) has 10, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Coyotes), Justin Faulk (Hurricanes) and Marco Scandella (Wild) each have nine. In the NHL last year only five D-men cracked the top-100. Scouts have told me they feel there is more depth amongst offensive D-man than skilled forwards this year. I’ll be interested to see if the backend production continues all year.
- Taylor Hall will be back in Edmonton this week to get his shoulder looked at again. He spent the last two weeks practicing and if he gets clearance he could suit up for the Barons this week. He will need to sign an AHL contract before he plays. Because he won’t be on an NHL two-way deal, he’ll need to cover his hefty insurance costs, and that’s why his agent will likely be looking for a six-figure AHL deal.
- I’m not surprised Linus Omark is ripping up the Swiss league with 23 points in 16 games, but that doesn’t mean he’ll make the Oilers whenever the lockout ends. If Omark returns to the NHL it will be on a different team. He isn’t better than Hall, Eberle or Yakupov and the Oilers can’t possibly have him as their 4th top-six winger and expect to compete. They need some size up front.
- Did you know the Ontario Junior Hockey League (Junior A) contracted from 36 teams down to 24 over the past three seasons? That is 240 fewer players playing Junior A, and it was done because the talent pool is dwindling. Fewer kids are playing hockey and I wonder if in the next few years we will see the AJHL follow suit and contract or amalgamate some teams. Read more on that here.
- Last week I wrote about The Last Gladiators, a documentary on the life of Chris Nilan. It was a great flick and it is playing in Edmonton at Movies 12 on 5074 130th Avenue. It is worth your time.
- I rarely mention Bantam hockey players, because I think it’s unfair to heap expectations on a 14-year-old, but Tyler Benson is off to an incredible start. The SSAC forward has 24 goals and 56 points in 11 games. Who knows where he’ll go in hockey, but anytime you can average 5 points/game in Bantam AAA it’s worth mentioning.
- My Dolphins are 4-3 after crushing the hapless Jets 30-9. The Fins aren’t a legit playoff contender yet, but after they beat the 4-3 Colts this Sunday they will be. Their defense is solid, and if Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury isn’t that serious they will push for a wildcard berth.
- Does anyone still believe Tony Romo is a top-ten QB?
- The baseball playoffs were riveting until the World Series started. Nothing sucks the life out of the playoffs like a four-game sweep. The Giants deserved to win, but outside of Pablo Sandoval’s game one heroics this series didn’t excite me.
- We only have 40 tickets left for DJ Suitcase’s party this Friday at the Pint off Whyte. If you want to go I suggest getting your tickets today. It will be great time.
RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR
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