Monday Musings: Hockey is back, Edmonton’s new rink is awesome and more

WorldCup

I’m not a fan of John Tortorella, but he is the perfect character to re-kindle the Canada/USA rivalry. It is September 12th, and usually we aren’t privy to exciting, chippy, highly-skilled hockey involving NHL players, but the World Cup provides an excellent opportunity to get excited about hockey again.

The two Canada-USA games were fun to watch. There was skill, great passes, precision shots and just enough animosity to get the juices flowing. Team North America skating circles around Team Europe reminded us how fast the game is becoming.

I can’t wait for the tournament to begin, and then transition directly into the NHL season.

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The tournament starts this Saturday. The playoff round will begin on September 24th, one day after all 30 NHL teams take to the ice for training camp, and the best-of-three final will be played on September 27th, 29th and October 1st (if necessary). By then NHL teams will have played a total of 54 pre-season games and made some cuts. 

You will exhale from watching the World Cup and you’ll only have one week or preseason action left before preparing for another NHL season. The next month will fly by, and before you know it you will either be one of the lucky 18,500 at the Oilers home opener in their swanky new arena, or equally excited sitting at home watching the Blue and Orange begin their 37th NHL season.

NEW ARENA

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Check out the view from #RogersPlace! #YEG #oilers

A photo posted by OilersNation (@officialoilersnation) on


It is effing tremendous. 

Between Thursday and Sunday, over 85,000 people had a chance to see the new rink. It lived up to expectations. The concourses are spacious. The seats are wider. The sight lines are clear(from the 12 different sections I sat in). The scoreboard is spectacular. The acoustics sounded great. Sports fans and concert goers will love it.

My wife Traci and I took our young son Beckett for a tour on Sunday. He was most enamoured with the pickup truck and escalators (he’s two), and when we sat in our seats and he looked up at the scoreboard he said, “Wow…biiig!” Many adults had the same reaction.

Most fans have never seen a rink like this unless you’ve been to LA, Pittsburgh or one of the other new rinks built in the past 15 years. Rogers Place is the best arena in the league. It should be, since it is the newest, but the designers and developers did a fantastic job and it has set a new standard for arenas.

When cities and teams are looking at building a new facility they will travel to Edmonton and see ours first hand. 

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I know some people were surprised by the prices, but that’s the reality of having a world class facility. It is the price of doing business, and if a $7.50 Gatorade shocks you the good news is you don’t have to buy one. I’ve been to many hockey, baseball and football stadiums in North America, and I guarantee you the price of beer and food in those facilities is just as high, and often higher, than it is here. 

The other factor that can’t be overlooked is how this arena will help kick-start the  revitalization of the downtown core. Edmonton desperately needed a successful downtown and you just have to look around the rink to see all the new construction. Most of it won’t be complete until 2019, but when it’s done our downtown will be fabulous and something Edmonton has never had. It will be great for entertainment and overall business.

I’ve argued for many years Edmonton is a great city to live and raise your family, and this new facility, along with the surrounding construction, just strengthens my argument. 

Did you go on a tour this past weekend? If so, let me know what you liked best.

QUICK HITS

SpeedBag

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  • I wrote about Kris Versteeg last Thursday and felt signing him to a PTO would be good move, and he was signed to one on Friday. I love the signing. He’s only 30, and he had 38 points last year — more than every Oilers winger except Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic. He has experience and he’ll add some much needed depth on the RW. 
  • His presence will give Todd McLellan some different options. If he keeps Leon Draisaitl at centre it would allow him to play Versteeg with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins instead of Jesse Puljujarvi and force the 18-year-old to face tough minutes right away. The RW depth chart looks much better with Eberle, Versteeg, Nail Yakupov and Zack Kassian and Puljujarvi.
  • Team North America reminds us how fast the game has become. They skated circles around an older Team Europe. Zdeno Chara was exposed at times, and while most NHL teams won’t have the same overall speed, I’m going to watch him closely this season. I thought his footspeed was an issue last year, and was the main reason I balked at suggestions the Oilers trade for him. He is a future Hall of Famer most likely, but the speed of the game and his age do not look like a great mix right now. 
  • The more I watch Aaron Ekblad the more I believe he will be the best D-man in the NHL in a few years. He is so smooth. He has an excellent shot and he’s physical when he needs to be. He doesn’t turn 21 until February. He’s becoming one of my new favourite players to watch. He will make Florida competitive for many years.
  • No, I’m not concerned McDavid hasn’t been lighting it up in the pre-tournament games. It’s a non-issue. Instead, I’ve looked at other things — he looks stronger in the faceoff dot and I noticed some small changes in how he approaches and attacks the faceoff. I don’t expect him to suddenly be a 54% guy, but if he is between 50-51% this year he’ll be fine. At the end of last season, he mentioned he wanted to improve in the dot, so I shouldn’t be surprised he looks better. He’s driven, and he’ll work on small parts of his game to make his overall play even more dominant.
  • One area the Oilers need to improve this year is drawing penalties. They had 237 PP chances last year, tied for 25th lowest in the NHL. Arizona was first with 300 PP opportunities. The Oilers were tied with Columbus for 21st in PP goals, 43, but they only had five fewer than Colorado’s 48 which was 12th most in the NHL. With a healthy McDavid the PP will be fine, but if they can force teams to take more penalties then their PP will be even more dangerous and it should win them a few games.

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  • Arod

    I’ve always thought that powerplay rankings should include counting the years’ overall powerplay goals. The pp% can be very misleading at times, as it doesn’t always reflect the amount of time you’ve had for the powerplay, say like if your opponent recieved a 5min major or a penalty that overlaps with a penalty of your own and only lasts 15-20 seconds.

    It would be interesting to instead be comparing number of pp goals for the year. This would essentially also capture a teams ability to draw penalties too. Ranking highly on that would actually be better than on pp%.

  • albertamann

    Hopefully the food joints around the rink get smart and take advantage of the price gouging at the new rink. Might grab a lot of customers with some reasonably priced game night specials!!