Fresh off a two-week holiday, with the dog days of August behind us and rookie camps and main camps just around the corner, I feel energized and excited as we enter one of the best stretches in the sporting calendar.
For sports fans, September and October are two of the best months of the year.
The NFL and NBA get started. MLB playoff races are heating up, the CFL enters Labour Day weekend, when the season really gets going, and NHL training camps are almost here.
When I’m on holidays, I try to stay away from sports, but I’m never completely successful. Here are some thoughts on recent events and my views on some things that will happen.
- I don’t understand why people feel the Oilers need to pay Justin Schultz over $3 million on a bridge contract? When P.K Subban signed his bridge deal in 2012, the salary cap was $70 million and his cap hit was $2.85 million for two years. Why should the Oilers pay Schultz more than that on a bridge deal? That is bad business.
The NHL is a business, and in business you don’t take things personally. Schultz doesn’t deserve more than Subban on a bridge, and this is the only time the Oilers hold the hammer in negotiations. It isn’t personal if they use that advantage, it is good business. If Schultz wants a short-term deal, I wouldn’t pay him more than $2.5 million. I don’t see any comparable that suggests he should get more.
- The Flames, Oilers and Leafs have hired analytics people in the past month. That is great, but it won’t suddenly make them a more competitive team. The top teams are already using analytics and having success. My question is why did it take these three franchises this long to hire these people? To me, it is another sign that they are behind the times, not ahead of them as some people have written. It has been well documented that the Hawks and Kings have used analytics for years. It is good to see the Oilers, pushed hard by Eakins, taking a more serious interest, but I see it more as playing catch up than leading the charge.
- I like Todd McLellan’s decision to enter training camp with no captains or assistants. The Sharks had a monumental collapse in the spring. They’ve consistently underachieved in the postseason, so why not send a strong message that things need to improve? If it fires up Joe Thornton, great, but none of the players deserve to be in a comfortable situation after last spring’s meltdown.
- Many players have had the “C” taken away from them, and still were very productive. Joe Sakic, Brett Hull, Patrick Marleau, Patrik Elias, Eric Lindros, Theo Fleury and others have lost their captaincy. It might be a bit awkward for a few days, but a player’s effort and focus shouldn’t change whether he has a letter on his jersey.
- I’m a huge fan of offence, and the Oilers’ offence needs to improve for them to be competitive, but their goals against must vastly improve as well. The Oilers were -66 in goals for/goals against last year (I didn’t include empty net goals). Only Buffalo was worse. It seems much of the focus is how will Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov and Draisaitl perform, which is understandable, but the biggest improvement has to come from the blueline and the team’s overall defensive zone coverage.
The defenders have to be better in their own zone. Mark Fayne and Nikiti Nikitin should be better than Belov, Larssen, Fraser and N.Schultz, but they HAVE to be for this team to improve. If the Oilers can’t defend better or break up the opposition’s cycle it will be another long season.
- The development of all young players is important, but how the Oilers nurture and develop Bogdan Yakimov, Jujhar Khaira and Travis Ewanyk this year will be the most interesting for me. Yakimov and Khaira are big, strong, skilled centres that the NHL team desperately needs in the future, while Ewanyk could be a solid, gritty, defensive 4th line centre in the future. I believe Todd Nelson’s most important projects this season will be developing his young centres.
- Louis Debrusk won’t return as colourman on Sportsnet Oilers games this year. I’m hearing former Sharks and NNIC analyst Drew Remenda is front runner to replace Debrusk. I’m not a fan of firing guys this close to start of a season, whether it is a coach or broadcaster. It limits their opportunity to find work. I won’t be surprised if we see Debrusk get some time on a panel this year. He was outstanding at breaking down games on my show when he did Coyotes broadcasts.
- I see Taylor Hall scoring 90 points this season.
- The most productive new Oiler will be Teddy Purcell, but Fayne will have the biggest impact.
- If Greg Chase has a solid first two months in the WHL, he should make the WJC team. He has skill and plays with an edge, something Canada has lacked the past few tournaments.
- I was surprised the Oilers didn’t sign UFA college goalie Martin Ouellette. He signed an AHL deal with the Phantoms. The Oilers don’t have a lot of goaltending depth in the system.
- Can’t wait for the NFL season to start. As much as I want the Dolphins to make the playoffs, I don’t see it happening. I see them going 9-7 and missing playoffs by a game. Wash, rinse, repeat. Ugh.
- Here’s hoping Julius Thomas is a fantasy stud. I have him and Peyton Manning, but my runningbacks are average, so those two need to be great. Fantasy football makes the NFL much more exciting for me.
- I’d have to look it up, but does any team play well, but then tank late in the year more than the Blue Jays? Maybe it just seems that way, but the Jays are falling out of the race again. It’s too bad.
- I’m curious who Oilers fans think will play more games for the Oilers this year: Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth? Who and why? I say Scrivens because Fasth battles with minor injuries.
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