Josh Harding’s story keeps getting better and better. The 38th pick in the 2002 NHL entry draft was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November of 2012. At the time many wondered if he would be healthy enough to return to the NHL. MS is an unpredictable neurological disease. It can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue and even paralysis and blindness. Some symptoms are permanent while others come and go.

Seventy-five percent of diagnosed patients are women, but when a man has MS the symptoms can be more severe. A year after his diagnosis, Harding isn’t just dealing with MS, he is flourishing with it.

MS is a debilitating disease. My aunt Theresa has battled it for over 30 years. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting some incredibly strong and powerful people, both men and women, the past five years while taking part in the 190KM MS Bike Tour.

I’ve watched in awe and amazement as many young people under the age of 35 have had their lives turned upside down after their diagnosis. The symptoms vary, and for some people it is difficult to do any sort of intense physical activity. There are four different types of MS: Relapsing-remitting, primary-progressive, secondary-progressive and progressive-relapsing. Relapsing-remitting is the most common form at the time of initial diagnosis, but Harding hasn’t said what type he has, which is understandable considering it is a private matter.

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Regardless, Harding is playing better post-analysis than he was prior to last November’s announcement.

Harding is 12-2-2 with a stellar 1.25 GAA and a 0.946 SV%. He is one win away from tying his career high, 13, and he is already over halfway to matching his most minutes played in a season.

Harding is the main reason the Wild are two points out of first place in the ultra-competitive western conference. If he continues to play this well he might get some consideration to be the 3rd goalie at the Olympics. Canada will likely go with Carey Price, Roberto Luongo and Mike Smith or Martin Brodeur, but Harding’s spectacular start can’t be overlooked.

Only three goalies have started at least ten games and have a GAA under two. Harding has a sparkling 1.25 GAA, while Martin Brodeur has 11 starts and a 1.98 GAA and a 0.918 SV% and Tukka Rask has started 17 games and has a 1.64 GAA and a 0.944 SV%.

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Harding’s perseverance is extraodinary, and for me he is the best success story in the NHL this season. His GAA will rise and his SV% will drop before the season is over, but that won’t matter to me.

He has already overcome the odds, and he is one player that I will be cheering for all season.


  • Jaromir Jagr continues to impress. He has 7 goals and 16 points in 20 games. He is currently 10th all-time in goals, but if he can score 20 goals in the final 62 games he will pass Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier and Mike Gartner and sit in 6th place. If the Devils aren’t in the playoff hunt at the trade deadline, you can bet teams will be calling for Jagr.
  • Last year the Chicago Blackhawks were 2nd in team SV% and first in the western conference. This season through 21 games, they are 26th in team SV%, but still first in the west. Something has to give, doesn’t it?
  • Considering the Oilers’ Corsi numbers and scoring chances are now similar to last season, are people finally going to admit that coaching isn’t the issue? Coaching has to take some of the blame, but isn’t it obvious this is a personnel issue? The team isn’t big enough, strong enough and the blueline isn’t efficient enough to become a playoff team, regardless of who is the head coach.

    Craig MacTavish knows this and now it is time to see if he can make some moves to improve his team. It won’t be easy, and there is no quick fix, but I’d hope everyone recognizes that likely one, maybe two, of the core pieces will need to be moved to acquire the pieces necessary to win.

  • Last week in the comment sections a few people were claiming Patrick Roy’s new system was the reason the Avs were winning. Since then they’ve lost three straight and been outscored 13-5. The Avs are improved, but their goaltending couldn’t sustain a .960 SV% and Matt Duchene was playing like the league MVP. The Avs blueline is starting to look like we expected them to be, average.
  • The Steve Downie trade hurt also hurt them. Downie adds more offence than Talbot, and while Downie’s temper can get the best of him at times, he was an excellent complementary player on the Avs.
  • The Phoenix Coyotes have scored 3 or more goals in 11 of their past 12 games. The Coyotes are proof that solid defensive play leads to more offence. Only the Chicago Blackhawks have scored more goals than the Coyotes. They have balanced scoring and right now their blueline is scoring at a ridiculous rate.

    Michael Stone has six goals in 15 games and an unsustainable 25 SH%, but the Coyotes D-men shoot the puck. The top-six Coyotes defenders have 184 shots. The Oilers have 114.

    On paper no one would expect them to be this efficient offensively, but the Coyotes put pucks on net and they get traffic in front. The Oilers blueliners must start shooting the puck more, and the forwards need to get to the net more often.

  • The Oilers have scored the 2nd fewest goals in the western conference. Their top-six has not been productive enough. Collectively that group needs to realize they have to start going to the tough areas to score, because until they do, they won’t start scoring regularly.
  • Look for the Oilers to play more of a pressure game, especially on the forecheck. They feel Dubnyk is playing better, so they can pressure more, and it is likely due to the fact the team isn’t built to sit back. You will see the D pressure more in the neutral zone and even be involved in the forecheck according to Dallas Eakins.


Jason Strudwick had a great run on Battle of the Blades and he finished in 2nd place earning $35,000 for the Inner City Children’s Program. That is great, but they were hoping for the first place prize of $50,000. We are hoping to make up that final $15,000 this Friday at the 2nd annual DJ Suitcase Party this Friday.

Tickets are only $30, but you get $45 dollars in gift certificates when you show up. It is a win-win, and I guarantee it will be a great time.  We are about 75% sold out. FYI…there will be a few special guests in attendance that you might want to meet.

Buy your tickets here….

A big thanks to Russ Dratwa from Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management for being the Title Sponsor this year.

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  • The love affraid between Gregor and Eakins continues…..

    Until the wins and loss equals the prior years, you cannot say we are the same as last year, regardless of a corsi number, face off wins, block shots, or the manner in which the tie their skates.

    Forwards better than last year, no change but a bit more experience.
    Defense better than last year, prior to the Smid trade, a bit, addition of Ference maybe better.
    Goalie better than last season, no but should be with more experience……
    So… what is left compared to last season, assistant coaches…. no we kept them….
    New GM… not sure if that was an improvement… most likely is.

    wait wait wait…. we had a coaching change….

    There is progress in the play of the oilers, but for you to shout from the hill tops and decree that the coach is not the problem, or maybe a bit of the issue, and attack the players… wow.

    • BleedOil4Life

      when you change coaches as much as we have…..you dont see that it could be the depth of our team?? you do not see that maybe we do not have proper vets that can lead this team??

      we are finally going to be rid of the same voices that are supposed to help the young guys after this season (or sooner)

      These guys have been here for all the losing and dont know how to be an impact player and change a game or be a leader.

      we need to find proper vets that can play within our top 9….keep developing guys like Lander, Pitlick.

    • Jason Gregor

      Thanks for the laugh, I needed it. So winning is all on the coach, the players have no impact? I disagree.

      The main core of this team has been the same for three years and the same issues are there most nights, regardless of the coach. If you can’t see this, then I can’t help you.

      Blame the coach if it makes you feel better, but he isn’t the constant in this organization. The players are. They play the game. They are the ones who refuse to go to the net, or shoot the puck regularly. They are the ones who choose to pick up the right man in the offensive or defensive zone.

      • I agree completely. It’s like if the Blackhawks had Kane,Kane,Kane, and Kane instead of Hossa, Toews, Kane, Sharp.

        You need a mix of size, skill, defense, offense. BALANCE. If you are as small as us, that makes it so hard. When Ebs or Nuge have the puck I don’t often see their size as an issue, but I sure do when the opposition has the puck in our end. They can’t shutdown the cycle at all. Size plays a huge part in that department and others.

  • Bob Cobb

    Harding would need to have all those symptoms you described for the Oilers to beat the Wild.

    I don’t know much about MS but I hope Harding is able to continue playing at a high level, its a credit to him to not let the news of the disease impact his concentration and I hope he is able to play his way onto the Canadian Olympic team.

  • Spydyr

    Josh Harding is the feel good story of the year in the NHL.He should be a lock for the Masterton this year.

    Jagr is a machine just imagine how many points he would have if he never went to the KHL for years.

    The thing is he does pretty good in the regular season but when the checking gets tighter in the playoff his scoring drops off significantly in his later years.At least last year it did.That would give me pause about picking him up for the playoffs.The same thing happened to Iginla last year.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Considering the Oilers’ Corsi numbers and scoring chances are now similar to last season, are people finally going to admit that coaching isn’t the issue? Coaching has to take some of the blame, but isn’t it obvious this is a personnel issue? The team isn’t big enough, strong enough and the blueline isn’t efficient enough to become a playoff team, regardless of who is the head coach.

    This is a complete misrepresentation of the arguments that took place over the Summer regarding coaching, corsi and the make up of the team.

    No one claimed a good team was being poorly coached. No one claimed this team had the personnel to win but was undone by coaching.

    (Or, rather no authoritative voice said such a thing).

    The argument, in short hand, was that essentially the same very bad team under both Renney and RK performed much worse under RK.

    A variety of ideas were discussed as to how that happened: the 2 line cratered; the zone exits/entries were structured differently; the strategy for offensive zone faceoffs was changed; etc.

    In short, it appeared RK wasn’t helping.

    This year, after a good start, the team has collapsed down to RK levels and predictably, the same voices who were trying to figure out what went wrong with RK are doing the same with Eakins.

    Again, no one is saying, a good team is being failed by bad coaching.

    The question is: how does the same basic team manage to perform better under one coach and worse under two others?

    That difference is what is being debated here, not whether the team is good absent poor coaching.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “Last week in the comment sections a few people were claiming Patrick Roy’s new system was the reason the Avs were winning. Since then they’ve lost three straight and been outscored 13-5. The Avs are improved, but their goaltending couldn’t sustain a .960 SV% and Matt Duchene was playing like the league MVP. The Avs blueline is starting to look like we expected them to be, average.”

    Bang on!

    That team is build on a house of save % cards right now.

  • camdog

    Jason, coaching is an issue, but not the only one, and I’ll tell you why. My biggest problem with Eakins was the ‘compete’ verbal diarrhea he spewed at the beginning of the year.

    In his interview yesterday, when you asked about Arcobello sitting, he said ‘it’s hard to sit the established NHL players’. No doubt that’s true, but it’s completely opposite from the hard-nosed, i don’t care who you are, best player plays stuff he was repeating over and over before the season started. And the “I don’t care who you are” if my memory serves me correct is a direct quote. What a turnaround from that to it’s hard to sit established players, eh?

    He preached a team that would compete, he preached a team that would give it their all for a full 60 minutes. Can we truly say that we’ve seen a team worthy of that description? Not big enough, not strong enough, sure that may hold you back from having success, but it doesn’t hold you back from competing for a full 60 minutes. That’s what Eakins promised, and that’s what he’s failed at.

    And when he was saying that at the beginning of the season, I was thinking finally, we have a hard-nosed guy that’s going to hold Taylor Hall or Ryan Jones accountable. Doesn’t matter what your name is, you play to your full capability or you get punished. We are finally going to see a team that will compete. 2 months later, only the Ryan Jones player type has been held accountable, we’re dead last in the conference, and one of the reasons why (not being big enough, strong enough, inefficient defence, incompetent goaltending being other reasons) was told to you at the media availability “It’s hard to sit established NHL players”. That is why coaching is also one of the issues hindering this team.

    • Jason Gregor

      I don’t disagree which is why I asked the question. Eakins isn’t living up to what he said and that is why I asked him. I can’t get him to give the answer people want, I can only ask the questions

      My point is, that the regardless of who coaches this team, they won’t win consistently until they change some players.

      And don’t fool yourself he could sit one of them for a game or two, but that won’t solve the major issue that they team isn’t good enough.

      He sat Yakupov for a game, and it won’t suddenly make every player play better. He sat Dubnyk for two games, that didn’t pay immediate dividends either.

      Eakins is far from perfect, but anyone suggesting that after 20 games he is the major issue, is just looking for a scapegoat rather than facing the harsh reality that the group of players isn’t good enough.

    • DSF

      I haven’t but think that would be a great deal for Calgary.

      Cammalleri is going to be UFA at the end of the season so getting Horvat in return would be a steal.

      From Vancouver’s point of view…they certainly need someone who can put the puck in the net. Despite outshooting almost everyone, they just can’t score.

      There would have to be more involved though because Vancouver would have trouble fitting Cammalleri’s $6M under the cap.

      • DSF

        If I’m Calgary I jump all over that. What are the odds Cammalleri wants to return to a rebuilding/retooling team? Slim to none I’d say. If Calgary eats salary/cap, that’s a good deal for them.

        I can’t see Vancouver making that move though. I feel like they are real high on Horvat, considering they took him at 9 and basically traded Schneider for him.

        I think Shinkaruk goes before him, because best case scenario he does turn into a Cammalleri type goal scorer. Similar to the Schenn/Richards trade. At best, Brayden Schenn becomes Mike Richards.

        If I’m Calgary I still make that trade.

        Cammalleri + Sedins/Kesler = Scary

        • DSF

          I’m sure they would love to get rid of Booth (would have bought him out if he wasn’t injured) but I can’t imagine there would be any takers right now.

          Hamhuis won’t be going anywhere.

    • Craig1981

      Was this a “hockeybuzz” type rumor?? I can’t see it being legit as it essentially means they traded Schneider for a handful of games with Cammalleri??

      And as DSF has stated cap space would be very difficult.

        • Craig1981

          You could be right, but IMO……They are 3 points out of a playoff spot with the most games played. They aren’t on the cusp like Pitt was when they traded for Hossa/Inginla. Van isn’t enough of a contender to go after high end rental players

          • DSF

            Lots of season to go and I would imagine Colorado’s fall to earth will continue which gives Vancouver a wild card spot.

            With a some additional scoring, they would easily be 4-6 points better which would have them challenging for the Pacific Division lead.

            They’re playing very well…just not getting the results at the moment.

          • Craig1981

            I would be surprised if they weren’t in the playoffs, but they aren’t in the category of Boston, Chicago, Tampa, Pitts, Ana, etc. They are a middle of a pack team and considering their drafting the last 7 years they don’t have the prospect depth.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I wouldn’t be so quick to write VAN off. That is a fantastic team, with a stellar D corps and a superb 1st line. They’ve got miles to go for the year to sort things out (and they are in fighting distance now.)

            It is also not entirely out of the ordinary for bubble teams to pick up talent and look to chase a playoff spot.

            I’m not sure if this trade makes much sense, but I could see them moving things around. The Booth and Roy trades are good examples of VAN adding pieces.

          • Spoils

            3 points out of a playoff spot AND 7 points out of first place overall – now that is parity.

            They may not be much of a contender, but they are nearing the end of the Sedin era.

            They made the bet on the Sedins and as such I’m not sure if there is a team in the NHL that is more clearly in a WIN-NOW mode.

          • Craig1981

            I didn’t say they were terrible, just not top contenders. They have let 2 more goals in than they have scored compared to teams like Boston that have scored 20 more or Chi that has scored 17. Chicago is 14-3-4 SJ is 14-3-5. Match that record to 11-8-3 for Vancouver. My point stands

  • Craig1981

    I have been a fan of Harding for years. The way he helped out with breast cancer after his sister was diagnosed with it, his tribute to his fallen teamamates (Rypien, Boogard, and Demitra), and his all around great attitude. He appears to be a great person who isn’t afraid to show his human side and for that I cheer for him.

  • I was diagnosed with MS at the age of 25, currently 37 years old. I have RRMS.

    I think what Harding is doing is incredible. Mentally, the guy is strong. Did that goal go in because the guy beat me? Or did it go in because my body is failing me? I’m sure Harding will never fully go into his mental struggle, but those with MS know what I’m talking about, especially early in the disease when you’re “not sure” what your body is telling you?

    I hope his MS lets him enjoy being an NHLer as long as he wants it to continue. The uncertainty of the future is really hard mentally.

    And lets find a cure for this damned disease! #beatMS

  • S cottV

    Upon his appointment as Head Coach at the start of the season, a reasonable mandate in his first year, was surely that Coach Eakins would be able to direct a strong run at a playoff position. If the result was narrowly missing the playoffs in the last week of the season – probably – a reasonable result. Out of the playoffs in early November is far from reasonable and I think could have or should have been avoidable on Eakins part. That being said – I really think MacT is at fault for hiring a rookie Coach in this situation to begin with. Still – Eakins could have played the situation much better. Any coach goes through an analysis of whats in place, what the expectations are short – mid – long term. What the strengths and weaknesses are, what can stay intact, what needs to change immediately and over time in priority sequence. Part of the equation is the Coaches self awareness for the ability to enact change in the short – mid and long term. Eakins should have been aware that he did not have the street credibility to pull off his “got to win with his systems – his way – right now.” He simply bit off too much – too soon and it cost this team a much needed playoff run this year. He should have maintained familiar systems – particularly in d zone coverage and special teams to make sure – as much as possible – that the team got off to a strong start. Who cares who’s way – could have gotten the Oilers a .500 start to this point? Along the path of a better start – build credibility with the player group and throw in some change slow but sure. Instead – Eakins jumped all over “his way – right now” which overly confused the player group and blew up what little street credibility that he had. A big rookie coach mistake to say the least. The team and in particular – the young core group is playing (for some of the wrong reasons and some of the right reasons) like they do not have a great deal of faith in Coach Eakin’s leadership. Now – Coach Eakins has a painful road to recovery to rebuild player confidence in him, while having to navigate the remaining 60 games without any chance to make the playoffs. It will be very difficult for all concerned, as way too early to be effectively out of it. Eakins could have had a shot at avoided this….

    • Craig1981

      This is a very good summation of Eakins and his body of work. What got him the job is is self-confidence and swagger…….what has kept him from starting the Oilers on a strong footing is is massive ego.

      He is just starting to understand his players, what position they excel at, and what role they play? If this goof had done his homework, instead of sitting with the media during practices, we might have had a better start.

      I hope he has been humbled and can get the players playing for him.

  • BigE91

    Does the Harding story not embody what the “Olympic Spirit” is about? Considering the disease and the affect it can have on a persons body this may be his only to chance to play on an Olympic team. If his numbers hold out he deserves a shot.

  • Quick question… What are Boyd Gordon’s QualComp #’s like 5on5?

    By my eye, we’ve primarily had Hall,Nuge, and Ebs out against the opposition’s top players, yet we have a guy(GORDON) who’s built a career on shutting down top players. That’s his specialty. Yes he gets lots of dzone draws and pk minutes, but why isn’t he being used 5on5 to shut down top opposition forwards?

    “Our top players have to be able to play against their top players.” – Eakins

    The above quote is true, but also another 3 years from being possible, if ever.

    At home, line matching is key, and while not all coaches do it religiously, many DO. And when your top guys are as young and inexperienced as ours (20,21,22,24 yrs old)you should probably give them softer minutes when possible. On the road they’ll get plenty of time against top opposition and that’s why they say “play a simple road game” because you don’t get the matchups and you have to simplify when the opposition throws thornton out against nuge.

    So Eakins… FIGURE IT OUT.

    • I agree with much of what you are saying.

      If Oil’s approach this year is to play their top line against the oppositions top line every night regardless of match up or who is going well etc. This suggests that they consider this year to be another building year. They are putting player development ahead of wins. If this is the objective, they should state it publicly.

      I believe the Oil’s lack of competitiveness in the last 10ish games is primarily due to woeful performances by RNH and Gagner. When you have underwhelming centers on the ice for 30 to 40 minutes each nights wins will be rare. I can only hope these two find their game.

      • Sure seems like a development move. If you want wins, it seems obvious that you would put Gordon out against the Crosby’s of the league, and Nuge out against softer competition where possible. The parity in the league is so tight right now that you’d think Eakins would take any edge he could get.

        I know Renney was a pretty diligent line matcher and I always felt that explained why his home record was so much better than his road record.Home: 18-17-6 Away:14-23-4

  • How close is the Weber trade to completion ? Some of the parts we are hearing about – I hear our first round pick , possibly Gagner ,and one of or two of Hemsky and/or Yakupov or maybe Klefbom and or J.Schultz perhaps . First , Gagner and Klefbom would be not to hard to swallow .

    • camdog

      Is there any validity to this rumour or is about as stupid as Ryan Miller to Edmonton. The pieces listed to me would make me laugh if I was David Poille. Hemsky is a salary dump. Why does he want that? Gagner is not a Nashville player. 1st and Yakupov and Klefbom are the only parts I’d want.

      Frankly I would want one of the three 1st or Nurse. If I was Poille I want Nurse/Klefbom, Eberle, and 1st. I don’t want salary dumps or bad contracts. David Poille is brilliant GM with leverage to boot.

      I’d rather keep building. I think with a new front office you could attract free agents by taking out the aweful Lowe stench.

  • Could the Oilers not have looked at going after Backstrom the from MIN? I agree that Harding has been lights out so what better time to have looked at a true no.1 goalie than then? Backstrom is still a top 10 nhl goalie and again, not knowing contract situation etc would have been a whole lot better for this team than Bryzgalov.

    • camdog

      Backstrom hasn’t been a top 10 goalie since 2011-12, in fact this season he isn’t even the number one in Minnesota. He’s turning 36 and has 2.5 years at 3.4 million per season. Might be better than Bryzgalov, might not be, ever since the Bullin Wall I don’t like the idea of committing multiple years to guys 35+.

  • camdog

    How much has Corsi dropped since the return of Sam Gagner onto the second line and Arco’s subsequent reduced role. (I know they weren’t great before either) This is more then just Gagner, I concur. I don’t mean this as a “he’s not a second line thread, or bring back Arco” comment. Some of the Oiler’s scoring woes can be attributed to taking out a productive and defensively aware 2nd line center, and replacing him with a Sam who was not ready. Loosing all those draws, and his non factor offensively have cost the Oilers. Replacing a guy who is producing, winning faceoff with a guy who isn’t should effect Corsi, I think? So I completely and utterly disagree with the assessment that coaching is no worse then last year based on Corsi? Your making a comment like its matter of fact and its not. I will gladly eat crow if I am wrong.

    Playing Sam over Arco is a coaching flaw. Playing Acton over Acton is a mistake. That’s on Eakins. He played a the wrong guy and it was apparent he made a blunder.

    Secondly using Corsi to substantiate a point about coaching seems rudimentary. Haven’t the Leaf’s shown that Corsi and Fenwick mean only so much when their system pushes shots to the outside, and they use their counter attack to create their unusually high shooting percentages. Sure its not a recipe for continued success but it worked fairly good last season for them.

    Kreuger system was aweful too, they got outplayed every game, and they were a playoff team till the last 10 games. Winning is the better stat, and Kreuger did it better with a similar line-up even though Corsi was very similar. Coaches are judged on winning.

  • **

    I’ll go to the DJ suitcase if it can be guaranteed that BRyzgalov will show up riding a polar bear, bearing the Oilers flag in one hand and a bottle of Vodka in the other.