Danke Schoen

I know, it’s American Thanksgiving, so this may seem a little off-kilter, but I was busy during Canadian Thanksgiving, slaughtering pumpkins by the thousands and engaging in our traditional ritual of animal sacrifice. So you’ll excuse me if this is a little late.

So here we are in November, the NHL and the PA are being jerks while we fans are left shopping for hotel packages to Oklahoma City and trying to convince our wives and girlfriends (preferably not both) that the shopping there is amazing. Meanwhile the city and the Katz group are playing games of chicken while the meter on the construction costs that will ultimately be paid by the citizens of this city just keeps going up and up and up. And winter is here. What better time to sit down and list all the many things for which we can be thankful?

Thanks for Nothing?

Thankfulness? For what? The free time to clean out the attic? Organize the garden shed? Finish painting baseboards? Try out that new snow shovel from Canadian Tire?

I try to be a glass-half-full kind of guy most of the time. I’m also an Edmonton resident so you know that isn’t easy. But here are a few things that have occurred to me about which I think we, as Oilers fans, could be thankful.

Thanks to Chris Pronger. Why? Well, were the 2006 Oilers really that good? No, probably not, but they certainly played like it in the postseason. I’ve always held that the 2001 Calgary Stampeders were probably one of the worst CFL teams in modern history to win a Grey Cup. Had the Oilers won in 2006, we might very well say the same thing today about that roster. There were some good points, the roster was balanced so perfectly that is was a thing of beauty, and Dwayne Roloson was playing as well as any goalie’s playoff performance since. There were individual efforts that have lived on long after the players left. I mean, how many baby boys born in Edmonton in 2007 were named Fernando?

But can any of us look at that roster and say that it stands up against the 2007 Ducks, the 2008 Red Wings, the 2009 Penguins, the 2010 Blackhawks, the 2011 Bruins, or the 2012 Kings? I don’t think so. Pronger was the lynchpin in the whole deal. While the Oilers lost a lot players that summer no one’s departure impacted the team more than him. What might have happened if he had stayed? Hard to say, but the Oilers wouldn’t have Sam Gagner, Ladislav Smid or Jordan Eberle right now. They might not even have Magnus Paajarvi. The roster wouldn’t have been exposed for what it was, and management might have been slightly better at convincing themselves that they could contend for a Cup again. Kind of like the Flames. (zing!)

Pronger tore the band-aid off, and holy mackinaw did that hurt, but in the end it was probably for the best. So for that, I give thanks.

Thanks to Dany Heatley for being a selfish doodyhead. Heatley’s arrival in Edmonton would only have fostered the same approach as had Pronger stayed on. It would have masked over some more glaring problems in the organization and in a few years’ time we’d be hamstrung by another weighty contract on a player who simply couldn’t pull his weight. Like Matt Stajan, only worse. (zing! That’s two!)

When Heatley said no, it made the team, the organization, and the city look bad. We all took it personally. Besides, the deal for Heatley was Penner, Cogliano and Smid. Consider that Penner netted us Teubert, Klefbom and Zharkov, Cogliano got us a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft, and Smid has developed into a top-four shut-down defenseman, and I think we won that non-trade. So thanks to Dany Heatley for being a jerk.

Thanks to Marian Hossa for deciding with his heart, rather than his wallet. Hossa had a Brinks truck full of money driven up to his house by Daryl Katz and the Oilers. They wanted him badly and Katz wanted to prove that Edmonton was all in when it came to free-agency. It was a bold move, and one that made Edmontonians feel better about themselves, like a shot of tequila. It was also stupid. Like a shot of tequila.

Hossa chose Chicago because everybody could see that they were the up-and-comers. Thing is, the Blackhawks now have Hossa on the books until 2021, when he’ll be 42 years-old. In that same time, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov could be feeding vulcanized rubber to Flames netminders by the fistful (zing! That’s three!).

It would have been another bad contract that only served to mask what was wrong with the team, or divert them from a more strategically sound path – a full-on rebuild. So thanks to Marian Hossa for making the right decision, for both of us.

Thanks to Darcy Regier for letting his ego and short-sightedness cloud his judgement. I like Magnus Paajarvi and Taylor Hall. Had Darcy Regier not matched the Vanek offer sheet both would likely be Buffalo Sabres today. The Sabres already have one asset that could have been an Oiler from the Dustin Penner offer sheet in Tyler Myers (he’d look pretty good playing with Jeff Petry or Justin Schultz). The Vanek contract is ridiculous, and the only saving grace for Sabres’ fans is that it comes off the books in two years’ time (then they just have that Leino contract to worry about). In exchange for Regier “standing his ground” so to speak, the Oilers had to settle for Dustin Penner and retained their 1st round picks in 2009 and 2010 that would have been compensation in a Vanek offer sheet.

How galling would it be today to have Vanek on the books while Hall and Paajarvi were playing elsewhere? I don’t know any Sabres fans, so I’ll just have to imagine.

Speaking of offer sheets…

Thanks, kind of, to Dustin Penner for signing that offer sheet. Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch, but here is where my not-insignificant powers of optimism display their full glory.


Penner’s offer sheet meant that the Oilers handed over the picks that became Tyler Myers, Justin Schultz, and Kirill Petrov. Whoa, put down the razor blades, it didn’t turn out that badly in the end so just hear me out.

Penner proved to the fans and franchise that there was more value in the effort in the player than their size (it’s not the size of the dog in the fight…). You can coach a lot of things, but we’ve seen over and over again that effort and a competitive nature isn’t always one of them.

Sure the Oilers didn’t get a chance to draft at 12th overall that year, which is where Myers was taken, but they still walked away with Eberle at 22nd, and Justin Schultz decided to come to the Oilers in the end. That is perhaps the most twisted bit of hockey karma that I can remember breaking in this team’s favour since a game of backgammon determined whether Gretzky would land in Edmonton or Winnipeg (and no, I’m not comparing Justin Schultz to Gretzky).

Petrov is a prospect very similar to Danill Zharkov (russian winger, big body, skilled, rough around the edges), the player selected with the 3rd round pick the Oilers got in the Penner trade. So where the Oilers basically lost the chance to draft a defenceman like Myers or Schultz (and there is no guarantee that they would have), as well as a forward like Petrov, they did end up turning Penner into Oscar Klefbom to replace what could have been Myers, Danill Zharkov who might have been Petrov, and Colten Teubert, and they got Schultz in the end. It wasn’t like it was planned, but maybe that just means we should be all the more thankful. Having said that, if the Oilers ever tender another offer sheet I will personally slap the General Manager of the time.

Thanks to Gary Bettman.

Stop laughing for a second and let me explain.

I’m not a fan of his, and I think that he has made some errors in his time as commissioner. However, as I stated earlier I am a resident of Edmonton and an Oilers fan. Bettman went to the wall to keep the Oilers in Edmonton. He orchestrated the Canadian exchange rate equalization plan that fed the healthy Canadian clubs about $3 million a year for several years during this team’s darkest financial days. He fought to bring cohesion to the Edmonton Investors Group so that they might counter Les Alexander’s purchase offer for the team. He also threw an entire NHL season into the dustbin to bring about a salary cap, which the EIG stated was a precondition for retaining an NHL team in Edmonton. He has stepped in on more than one occasion to try and facilitate the building of a new arena here in Edmonton. He also told Jim Balsillie to take a hike which, in hindsight, proved to be kind of a good idea. He is also partially responsible for this.

He’s kind of a jerk sometimes, and comes across like he has a Napoleon complex, and his insistence on propping up markets in Florida, Phoenix, Nashville and Dallas has baffled and frustrated Canadian hockey fans to no end. He’s also got a fair amount of blame to carry for the current state of affairs. But without Bettman’s stubborness, we aren’t talking about the Edmonton Oilers today. You don’t have to like the guy, just be thankful.

Thanks to the Hockey Gods. In the Old Testament there is a lot of talk of smiting and being brought low. Well, the Oilers got themselves a boatload of smote in 2009-2010, and thanks to that the organization finally seemed to learn its lesson: that quick-fixes are often neither quick nor fixes. Without that rash of injuries to Khabibulin, Nilsson, Jacques, Brule, Hemsky, Souray, Smid, Peckham, and Gagner, that season the Oilers might not have sucked as badly as they did. Hitting rock bottom the way they did was what convinced ownership, and by extension management, to alter course from the plan that had them thinking Robert Nilsson, J.F. Jacques and Patrick O’Sullivan were top-six forwards.

One has to wonder also if the Hockey Gods were paying the Oilers back with interest this spring when the organization won the draft lottery and Justin Schultz. Give thanks, and be quick with it. Those old-school gods aren’t to be trifled with.

Finally, thanks to the Calgary Flames. They’ve been whipping our beloved Oilers for a few seasons now and at the same time have been doggedly pushing that old roster along, trying to make it a winner. Having such an emotionally-charged rivalry so close and apparently pursuing the exact opposite strategy as the Oilers has only encouraged the local fan base that we are on the right track. Not only that but without this storied rivalry, not only would we be without some of our warmest memories, we might also have to share a team with that city to the south.

So there we have it. Things for which we can be thankful. Sure, there are numerous others that I’m sure will come to mind. Health care, peace and stability, ready access to clean drinking water, the rule of law, a progressive civil society, freedom and safety of person, and countless other things that aren’t taken for granted in many other countries in the world. But you are probably already thankful for those things. I know I am.

  • Dawn

    Just a small thing to add to that…

    We can be thankful for the lockout –wait for it– for giving us the advantage of having our arguably top 2 lines playing, some together in OKC and some separately in Europe, while other team’s stars kick up their heels chirping on Twitter and putting up the odd charity game.

    • Klima's Mullet

      Dawn, best post I’ve read in a long time

      Rex, great article, keep em coming! Oilers Nation is definitely my favourite stop on the interwebs

      I am thankful for Oilers Now podcasts (I live in Jamaica, which is not famous for its hockey coverage), Cult of Hockey @ the Edmonton Journal Website, and the fact that OKC has proven that the Justin Schultz flavoured koolaid is the most delicious…

    • book¡e

      And the fact that our best players are the young ones and they are playing means a quick start out of the gate and a shortened season might mean a playoff bid.

      By the time the veterans on some other teams get into game shape the Oilers might already have an insurmountable lead in a 40 game schedule.

      Ha, the lockout is playing right into our hands!

  • The Soup Fascist

    Another problem with the lockout is USA is in and is headed towards an huge recession, with Obamacare going thru the next 4 years will be a disaster economically. Where will the Americans spend their shrinking disposable money , not hockey , the lockout will hurt existing and potential fans.

    I would not want to own a NHL team in the USA, I’m sure the Owners know this.

    • book¡e

      There are plenty of Republican Crying Rooms on line where you can whine about Obamacare – Remember, the vast majority of us here live in a country with socialist evils like public health care, high quality public schools, and municipalities that can do crazy things like afford to have police departments and our roadway lights on at night. We can afford this because we have a reasonably sane tax system that is not filled with more loopholes than taxes.

      Assuming that the Repubs don’t drive the county off the fiscal cliff to protect the poor hard earned dollars of the Koch brothers, the American economy will likely continue to recover.

      As per hockey, well a $200 million deal with NBC that awaits the games return bodes well for the game.

  • G Money

    Great article.

    Kind of sad that the middle section of being thankful for Heatley, Hossa, and Regier all boil down to “Thanks for preventing us from making a gigantic mistake borne of desperation and stupidity.”

  • vetinari

    Garry Bettman, if anything, strikes me as a guy trying to do his job. I don’t think he takes anything personal or acts in a manner that is anything but professional. Sure we can look back at the last lockout and see that in retrospect the players association offered a way better deal than what Bettman canned a whole season to get.

    However, in this current one, I do believe he is at the mercy of the owners and is fighting their fight, not his. Plus did anyone see that TSN video of how he dealt with that fan? I gotta say, that was nothing but class.

    Also, I agree with Archaeologuy that Lulu’s becoming acceptable business fashion has been great. Our new hundreds have the discovery of insulin, maybe the next ones could have women wearing lulu’s. Because that is so money.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Today on ThaYANKsgiving I am grateful for the Union Movement which negotiated a contract that allows me to phone in sick at work, stay home to watch football all day and get paid. You go, NHLPA, and stick it to the man.

  • vetinari

    And you forgot to add thanks to yourself Rex (and the other ON writers) for churning out articles on a daily basis on a website celebrating a dormant (but not dead) league…

  • The Soup Fascist

    I am Thankful we have Shawn Horcoff – for whom we can blame virtually every imaginable problem on earth. From global warming, to the fiscal cliff to forgetting to take out my garbage last night!

    God Bless you Shawn Horcoff! (please ignore the snotty text you are about to receive from my wife …. better you than me )

  • Yes, well done and well written. I am so thankful that Lowe is no longer solely making decisions. He’s simply too emotional and reactionary.
    I myself am also grateful for Mrs. Pronger and Mrs. Nylander having invoked their young cat power.

  • yawto

    Thankful the oilers took Yak instead of Murray. Although, with the bum shoulder that has put Murray out of hockey for the next while it sounds like he was supposed to be an oiler.

  • Czar

    I’m thankful for the “zinger” hat trick Rex and that Eberle scored that beautiful goal against the flames. Also,a FIST for Pronger and Nylander’s wives!

  • John Chambers

    This isn’t about politics it is about reality. Obamacare is going to bankrupt USA and if you don’t think so look at wall street and the layoffs that have begun.

    Owners have factored this in, its not all about hockey, money is involved.

  • John Chambers

    I’m thankful for the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, which has allowed the diaspora of humanity who have come here from every corner of planet earth near and far (but disproportionately from Ukraine) to live in undeserved prosperity in a comfortable, warm home, F150 full of petrol in the driveway, and Telus Optik tv we yell at when Horc misses another one-timer.

    We’ve all won the lottery. Tomorrow we can go back to bitching.

    • RexLibris

      Thanks, but speak for yourself. My folks were here before this newfangled “fossil fuel” thing caught on! Wind power is old hat to the Libris family.


      Seriously though, yes. You are absolutely correct.

      • John Chambers

        I suppose we can also be thankful for our ability to extract said fuels in an organized, civil, and collaborative way. Otherwise the proud citizens of Lagos might also have the priviledge of shouting at the soccer equivalent of Horcoff on their Telus Optik HD tv service.

  • RexLibris

    Is this where I chime in with a “Thanks” to Tommy Douglas?

    Let’s all try to stay on the positive side of the ledger today. I think there’s enough gloom and doom in our surroundings.

    btw – the film Too Big to Fail, worth a watch. HBO Films. Frontline has a great documentary on the ’08 collapse if anyone is interested. I think it is called Inside the Meltdown.

  • RexLibris

    Can’t believe I missed this, but how about a big thanks to Stu MacGregor.

    And on that note, I had a look at Erik Gustafsson today, he’s totalled 3-3 6pts in 20 games, 22 penalty minutes and is +8. The +/- is what caught my eye. And the penalty minutes, of course.

    By comparison, Kyle Bigos is in Merrimack right now and has 3 points in 6 games, and…wait for it…24 penalty minutes. At 6’5″, 240 lbs he probably gets 2 minutes per game for unsportsmanlike conduct when he beats up the opposing player for his lunch money.

  • book¡e

    Methinks we are running a million dollars extra per month from here on in in costs to build the arena,I bettcha I am pretty colse to dead on there.Just like any union type job they negotiate the price up on their own,killng each other softly in the media and laying the bill at the feet of the public.

    Same dynamic the NHL and Union is engaged in now,fleecing the public,for maybe the last time,ha ha ha,people are learning and the economic forcast is changing.

    Judging by all the people I see in my city every day with the most children,I seriously hope they are broadcasting NHL games in the Phillipines and in Mexico because when the Boomers all leave us ,there wont be enough hockey lovin boomer babies to fill seats.

    We forgot to thank all the little hockey loving kids who will be supporting the greatest game on earth when all of us here are pushing up daiseys.

  • ubermiguel

    “Bettman went to the wall to keep the Oilers in Edmonton…” This x1000.

    Hate Bettman for the lock-out, but never forget he and the EIG saved the Oilers.

  • smiliegirl15

    and had Chris Pronger not run for the hills, in addition to the players we got in the trade and future picks, we also probably wouldn’t have finished last and picked first three years in a row. Therefore, we also would not have RNH, Hall nor Yak.

    Merry Christmas from ProngerClaus!