OILER CAMP AND CANADIANS NEED TO KNOW THE TRUTH!

It took 113 days but the NHL and their players agreed to a new 10-year CBA early this morning. There is an opt-out clause after eight years, so the best news is that we won’t have to go through this until the summer of 2020, mainly because I don’t trust either side to not use the opt-out clause. Either way, it is great that NHL hockey is back.

So what happens now?

Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz will not be in the lineup this afternoon for the OKC Barons. They will arrive in Edmonton as soon as they pack up their stuff, most likely on Monday. Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Corey Potter and Lennart Petrell will need to get here from Europe, so depending on flights they will arrive Monday or Tuesday.

The Oilers, like the rest of the NHL, will have an abbreviated training camp and most teams will likely have 14-15 forwards, 8 D-men and either 2 or 3 goalies depending on injuries.

Hall, Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner, Petrell, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Jones, Ben Eager, Eric Belanger and Darcy Hordichuk will be there.

J.Schultz, Potter, Ladislav Smid, Ryan Whitney, Nick Schultz, Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham will suit up on Thursday or Friday while Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin will tend the twine.

Teemu Hartikainen and Colten Tuebert will be coming to camp as well. They will play today in OKC and then be recalled once the CBA is officially ratified.

Hartikainen has been very consistent in OKC and I expect he will be on the Oiler’s opening night roster. The Oilers might recall one other forward to make it five even lines, but whether that is Anton Lander, Marc Arcobello or Magnus Paajarvi they will only be here for a brief time. None of them will make the final roster, unless there is an injury in training camp.

As for signing a veteran D-man to replace the injured Andy Sutton, the Oilers will look at that, but none of the free agents like Chris Campoli, Kurtis Foster, Brett Clark or Kurt Sauer are very enticing. I wonder if Campoli’s appearance as one of the figureheads of the NHLPA will hinder him from getting a contract.

It sounds like Khabibulin will be cleared to practice during training camp, but the Oilers will rely heavily on Devan Dubnyk. This is his year to show he can be a reliable and consistent starting goalie.

FINAL THOUGHT

Why are some Canadians so quick to avoid saying we are the best at anything?

There is nothing wrong with stating the truth. That isn’t arrogance, it is a fact. Canada is still the best hockey Nation in the world. Period. Cam Cole is one of my favourite writers of all time, and he could write circles around any of my articles, but his column after Canada’s 5-1 loss to the USA at the World Junior Championships illustrated how Canadians SHOULDN’T think.

He stated we need to accept that hockey isn’t OUR game anymore. 

A loss in a big game at any level — junior, world, Olympic — should no longer come as a shock. It’s not even a 50/50 proposition to win an elite international tournament now, it’s more like 1-in-4. And more than any other threat to Canada’s predominance as the fount of professional talent, it’s the United States, with its 22 NHL teams and mushrooming participation numbers and college programs that prize speed and skill over blow-up hits, that may well be passing us within a decade.

Why are some Canadians wired to downplay our accomplishments and admit defeat, rather than hold our head up high after a loss and recognize that we are still the best?

Cole, and many other media and fans, suggested that the same United States program that didn’t even qualify for the playoffs at last year’s WJC is now suddenly poised to pass us in the next decade. Please. We just finished a stretch with 14 consecutive medals, yet now we are on the verge of losing out title as the best?

Wake the hell up!

I can understand the Americans wanting to believe this. They know that Canada is better than them at hockey, and they love it when they can upset the champion. Make no mistake we are still the best, and not grabbing a medal at the WJC for the first time in 15 years doesn’t change that.

What Canada needs to do is keep improving. It is hard to stay at the top, but we’ve done it for the last century, so there is no point just stoping now..

Yes, the USA and the other countries are improving, and yes there is no guarantee we will win every big tournament, especially in a sudden-death format, but to just roll over and say it isn’t OUR game is ludicrous and unacceptable.

Stop thinking that it is bad to proudly state we are the best hockey nation in the world. It’s a fact. Every stat proves it.

Being the best isn’t just about winning, it’s about always having a chance to win.

Let’s look at the WJC since 2000. There have been 14 tournaments and here are the medal totals.

Canada 13: 5 Gold, 5 Silver and 3 Bronze.
Russia 11: 3 Gold, 5 Silver and 3 Bronze.
USA 5:        3 Gold and 2 Bronze.
Sweden 5: 1Gold, 3 Silver and 1 Bronze.
Czech 3:     2 Gold and 1 Bronze.
Finland 4:   4 Bronze

The Czechs won Gold in 2000 and 2001. Back then everyone said they were the new world power, combined with their 1998 Olympic Gold medal. Does anyone believe that now? The Czech junior program is in shambles, and they are producing fewer elite players every year.

Canada has played for Gold ten times in the 2000s, Russia did eight times, Sweden four and the USA three. I would suggest that being the best means you are in the hunt for the gold every year, and Canada is always right there. We haven’t won the Gold in four years, despite going 21-4 in those tournaments. So can we please stop with suggestions that we aren’t the best.

It hurts to lose, especially for those kids who play, but can we please stop being so bloody insecure and start believing that we aren’t the best.

Canada still produces the majority of the best players in the world.

In 2012, Canada had 10 of the top-20 scorers in the NHL.
In 2011, Canada had 11 of the top-20 scorers in the NHL.

It is true the other countries are getting better, but rather than relinquish our title as "Best in the World" why don’t we focus on keeping it?

Canada won five consecutive gold medals from 1993-1997. During the "dark years" of 1998-2004 many suggested, and sadly most were from Canada, that we had lost our spot a top the hockey rankings. They were wrong because we won five straight gold medals again from 2005-2009.

I’d expect the Americans, Swedes and Russians to believe and say they are taking over, but for Canadians, especially some media members, to think it and write about it shows me that they are the ones who lack true character, not the players on the ice.

It’s okay to say Canada is the best, because it is true.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Men’s Hockey is increasingly talent and enthusiasm diffuse and parity, or near-parity, is nigh on the horizon.

    I agree that anyone spelling the doom of Canadian Hockey is off their rocker and Cole appears to over-step reasonable comment in order to excite his readers.

    But, it seems to me there is no reason to counter him so stridently and to throw “character” into the mix is off-putting.

    Besides, anyone who enjoys the nature of contest ought to be overjoyed that Canada has to work that much harder to justify its claims.

  • Guy Lafleur

    Me and my buddies all agreed that when KP was given the task of assembling Canada’s team we were not winning any golds until he was gone. His track record shows he has no eye for top end talent. He was one of the big reasons the Oilers franchise has been in the basement the last few years. Jesse Niinimaki? Marc Pouliot ? Alex Plante? First rounders off the board at the time. Great picks, thanks KP. Watching Canada the last couple of years our teams were just not good enough. I believe we had the players available to make a much better team. I also believe his coaching choices have been suspect. In a short tournament you need a coach who can light a fire under the team. Brent Sutter was perfect because his hard line approach can’t get old to his players in a short tournament. Hay and Spott do not seem to have this personality thats why they didn’t succeed.

  • Czar

    “It’s okay to say Canada is the best, because it is true.”

    Spoken like a true Canadian and this doesn’t just apply to hockey! Good job Gregor and heres to starting another 13 yr run of medals next December.

    Go Oilers!

  • Jaw17

    Of course we’re the best I can’t even believe people are suggesting otherwise, we proved it in 72 and we keep proving it to this day! Btw I just rewatched the 72 summit documentary great movie!

  • Czar

    Couldn’t agree more, Gregor.

    I don’t always agree with Cole, but I’ll always read his stuff. When he worked in Edmonton, he did a lot of great work, and his line about Calgary “being a city of large hats and small trophy cases” cemented my readership loyalty forever.

    But Cole can be a bit on the cynical side and sometimes he reaches too far to satisfy it.

    Cole tries to draw a parallel between Canada and its superiority-complex with hockey with England’s superiority-complex with soccer, but it didn’t really hold much water. Canada’s record, internationally, is far more impressive with hockey than England’s is with the World Cup or Olympics.

    England is obviously a soccer-mad nation, but, internationally, it’s not overly “soccer-successful.” Canada is hockey-successful-and-hockey-mad.

    I’ll always read Cole’s stuff, but I think he’s a little off-the-mark-cynical this time around.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    let the race to the finish begin. Cannot wait and have no ill feelings about the lock out. Saved me a whole lot of cash and now I get fire wagon hockey till June. Awesome.

    If campoli doesnt get a deal that’s BS. And I don’t think that will happen. Its a business, that part is over and now the GM’s can start trying to one up eachother and find holes in the cba.

    game on!!!!!

      • justDOit

        An 8 game series that brought together two diametrically opposed political ideologies can not compare to a single-game elimination tournament. Ask your friend what he thinks would have happened if they played the Soviets seven more times before a medal was awarded.