THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER THING

Tonight

Like you, I’m looking forward to seeing Connor McDavid when he and a roster of Edmonton Oilers’ prospects strap it on against the Alberta Golden Bears tonight at Rexall Place.

Specifically, given how much fuss there was from some corners after Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen lowered the boom on McDavid with a clean hit in Penticton, I’m wondering how the Golden Bears will play him. From where I sit, there are three possibilities.

If the Bears play McDavid straight up, they’ll treat him like anybody else – even though he isn’t — and hit him when they can. It is, after all, hockey. The second possibility is there’s somebody looking to make a name by blowing McDavid up and they’ll absolutely do it if they get the chance. It’s a matter of degree between straight up and that, but you get my drift. Third, a hands-off approach. An agreement. Leave the kid alone.

I can’t imagine Alberta coach Serge Lajoie and the CIS champion Bears would go for the third approach, and I hope the Oilers wouldn’t expect it or insist on it, so that’s out. Personally, I sit right in the middle between the first and second possibilities when it comes to McDavid and the game in general.

PLAY THE GAME

JustPlay

Framed in that way, it was interesting to listen to Ryan Rishaug of TSN with Nielson and Fraser on TSN 1260 this morning. Rishaug was of the mind the Bears will play it straight up, that they’d play McDavid like anybody else, with a caveat they should resist the urge to knock Daryl Katz’s meal ticket for the next decade into tomorrow just because the opportunity arises.

Nielson, who calls Alberta’s games, mentioned the possibility that things could get heated, not necessarily as it pertains to McDavid, because there was some “chirping” between Darnell Nurse and the Bears in the game at Clare Drake Arena last season. Interesting. I wasn’t there, although I’ve seen these games get intense more than once in the past.

I say play the game. McDavid is a big boy and he’s not going to wet his pants and disappear the first time somebody lays the body on him or rubs him out along the boards tonight. He’s been a target for years now and that’s not going to change. It comes with the marquee and the money. I want to see how McDavid looks against a step-up in competition and the Golden Bears are most certainly that.

Anything beyond that – don’t be the knucklehead who low-bridges the kid with a Bryan Marchment knee-shredder, don’t be the guy who puts a shoulder cap on the point of McDavid’s chin or otherwise rattles the glass with his melon – and it could get stupid. I doubt it’ll happen. I’m expecting a helluva hockey game. Golden Bears win 6-4.

TODD’S WAY

MyWay

Jim Matheson did a terrific piece on Oiler coach Todd McLellan in The Journal today. You can read it here. I first interviewed McLellan back in 1998 when he was in the running to coach the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Oilers AHL affiliate, before he ended up in Minnesota’s organization.

Inexperienced as he was, McLellan struck me as a young coach who had attributes that would one day land him in the NHL – most notably, he knew how important it was to communicate with players, rather than just talk at them. A couple of passages from Matheson’s piece today speak to that.

“I believe in high tempo, playing the game with passion, but a lot of coaches throw out those catchwords. To me, coaching is about relationships. It’s not systems or tactics. It’s getting players to push the envelope, to go where they maybe don’t want to go, to do things they’re apprehensive about.”

Former Oiler Taylor Fedun, who signed on with San Jose, added: “I’ve said time and time again, if he’s not the man to turn this thing around I honestly wouldn’t know who could.

He’s very detail oriented, well-spoken and gets his point across. I was a newcomer last year in San Jose and it didn’t take me long to realize that. He had his core of veteran guys and you can tell how well they bought into what he was preaching.”

That’s a world away from where this team was last year at this time.

AND . . . 

And

  • According to the Oilers website, McDavid will play between Anton Slepyshev and Cole Sanford against the Golden Bears. A lot of people are looking at Slepyshev as to where he might fit in the plans down road. He’ll get a chance to provide some answers tonight. 
  • The other Oiler lines are Christoffer-Draisaitl-Winquist, Linaker-Loiseau-Bukarts and Rankin-Platzer-Chase. The defensive pairings will be Nurse-LaLeggia, Jones-Bear and Betker-Leveille.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • BobbyCanuck

    The Rookies Bear Game is never, ever, a timid affair. The Bears are a good team made up by a lot of former Dub players. They play together and know each other and that’s why the record is the way it is.

    Every year this game gets really chippy and scrappy. Lots of times it’s cause the Bears players are not about to roll over for a few hotshots trying to make it in the NHL, especially in their own barn. And lots of times it’s because the Oiler Rookies are looking to establish themselves and earn a spot on the farm.

    Last year, I seem to remember Nurse taking exception to a lot. Guys like Draisaitl, and Yakimov, however, didn’t really have too tough a time because they were just so much bigger than the Bears.

    I don’t think the Bears ever go out to make a name for themselves. They go out, and play that game to win, and that means they play hard. But, make no mistake, I don’t think they play the rookies as hard as other teams play the Oilers in the NHL on a regular basis.

    All in all, it’s always a great time watching these individuals and what they can do, play against a well deployed team. It’s really not too far off from watching the Oilers these last many years. But, if last year is any indication, the individual talent will be too much for the Bears.

    Last year I really enjoyed watching Yakimov vs Draisaitl and how each big center played so different.

    Same with Nurse and Klefbom (and to a lesser extent Davidson). Each of those three defenders played so different.

    I am most excited to see this game finally take place on an NHL sized ice surface. Cause as fun as maybe taking a puck in the face is, watching guys take two strides to go from end to end gets a little old after the first period.

    Cya at the game.

    • “I am most excited to see this game finally take place on an NHL sized ice surface. Cause as fun as maybe taking a puck in the face is, watching guys take two strides to go from end to end gets a little old after the first period.”

      WUT?

      • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

        I do not believe, Clair Drake is actually 200 x 85 feet. Maybe it’s an optical illusion but I do not think so. As such guys like Nurse and Drai and really each team are able to go from one end to another in a few steps.

        While I can’t ever actually find out how big Clair Drake is in the internet, consider this. In Rexall both player benches fit almost in between the blue lines. There’s a slight extension where the gate and back up goalie sit.

        In Clair Drake, the much smaller player benches are on either side of the ice, and just fit within the blue lines.

  • Reasonableness

    From my understanding the Oilers rookies are dressing the best team they’ve had in years to remember.

    5 players with 90pt seasons.

    And you picked the Golden Bears to win 6-4?

    Interesting. I’m willing to bet the Oilers win this one.

    • Yes, I am. I’ve seen lots of talented groups of Oiler kids lose to the Golden Bears.

      The vast majority of Alberta players are former WHL players. They’re more mature and, most important, they’re a team, not a group of players who’ve been together for a short time.

      In particular, this Alberta team has seven fifth-year players returning to a team that’s won back-to-back CIS titles.

      • A-Mc

        I’m not taking away the Golden Bears have talent.

        This Oilers team has a stronger team this year then they did last year and they won pretty convincingly against the Golden Bears.

        Like I said if I’m a betting man I’ll take the Oilers this year.

  • Reasonableness

    The U of A program has been exceptional for an exceptionally long time. They have a rep for playing clean, hard hockey. Obviously they’ll be aware when McD is on the ice, (it would be foolish not to) but I don’t expect anyone to take runs at him, realistically a lot of them are Oilers fans themselves. I’m really looking forward to the game though. 6-5 for the good(er) guys.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      I am sure many of them are looking forward to playing against him more than we want to watch. I would not be surprised to find out later than players from the Bears asked for Connor to sign their Sweaters. It is a great time to be a fan!

      • BobbyCanuck

        You must be a youngster, How did that turn out you ask?

        1 play behind the net + 1 cross-check into the lower back = Gretzs was never the same player after that.

        Hint: It was during an international tournament, and we were playing USA, and the culprits name was Sutter or Suter

        That is how it turns out…

    • BobbyCanuck

      Connie! Connie! Connie!

      Be a man, play the game, so you got hit by Vertinan or whatever his name is, and told the GM you don’t wanna play the rest of the tournament, cause u scared of getting hurt. even though your fans drove for 20 hours to see you play all three games.

      You gunna take a shift tonight? Oil have home ice? Re, the last line change so it should work that you won’t have to go against their top players

      So wassup, you only gunna play home games, so the coach can get you on and off the ice so fast, you dunno hav to play against the big bad boys of the Western Conference?

      Man up boy, tell the GM that if he ever healthy scratches you for 2 games in a meaningless tournament, which YOUR fans drove hundreds of miles to see YOU, you will demand a trade

      Trash all you want…but, I am pretty sure this is how every observer outside Edmonton feels, cause you know, they are all very jealous of our good fortunes

    • BobbyCanuck

      Only if he has a concussion, there are protocols to follow…

      I bet you McDavid is really pissed that he was not allowed to play the last two games…he would never say anything about it to anyone, cause the lad has class

  • The older I get, the better I was...

    I also believe that Clare Drake arena is shorter than regulation – after all it’s been around longer than the regulations…

    The other advantage to moving to Rexall, besides seating capacity, is the boards. Getting run into the boards at Drake is like hitting a brick wall – there is no give to them at all, so Rexall could be safer for the players.

      • M22

        Clare Drake is a ridiculously small sheet. I am unsure how anyone can believe for a second it is anywhere near 200×85. The neutral zone is like 40ft tops. Whenever I played there blue to blue was 1-2 strides.

  • The older I get, the better I was...

    Just picked up NHL 16

    Mcdavid 83 overall Medium potential to be franchise

    Draisaitl 72 overall medium potential to be elite

    Nurse 71 overall medium potential for top 4d

    Reinhart 78 overall medium potential for elite D

    Nuge 85 Med elite
    Eberle 87 Med elite
    Hall 90 high franchise

    Just thought id share I think EA got a lot of the potentials wrong.

  • A-Mc

    I’ll be at the game with my little guy tonight (5yo). He enjoyed the rookie scrimmage at rexall a while back and i hope he enjoys this one!

    Because the Oilers lose so often i’m finding it really hard to get him interested in watching hockey with me.

    Regrettably, when I’d watch a Flames game I’d have my son around and he saw some of the near impossible come backs by the flames. Now he refuses to watch the Oilers because they lose, but “is calgary playing tonight daddy?”. My heart sinks every time…

    Its his mothers fault.

  • BobbyCanuck

    Is the UofA Bears best hockey team in town of City of Champions ? They are out to prove they are , and teach those rookies a lesson they will not soon forget . Hat trick for Ringrose . Bears 5-2 . McDavid two points .

    • BobbyCanuck

      Correction as Ringrose playing in Austia this year . Therefore , Jordan Hickmott scores a hat trick for Bears . GUBA says go Bears . How many will have their GUBA Bears at the game ? Bears a very good defensive club and McDavid will keep my 2 point a game average getting a goal and an assist . Oilers might be hard pressed getting more than 2 goals against the Bears , as they are a step up from the Penticton Rookie tourney rosters .

  • Based on Ticketmaster seating chart at 2 p.m., looks like fewer than 200 left outside of the 300 gallery that was released just after noon.

    Looking like it will be a sell-out, so if you don’t already have tickets it’s probably wise not to wait expecting walk-up to be available.

  • M22

    Robin,

    Do you think it’s reasonable to expect, despite his penchant for roaming far too often, that we’ll see Nurse play a more disciplined, positional game? Obviously, his style served him pretty well in junior, but the pros will require him to tighten that up a lot, and I’m guessing that the coaches have had that talk with him.

    I’d welcome your insight on this.