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Photo Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 81.0: Fans and Players Saying Goodbye (7pm MT, SNW)

Great NHL teams do it. So do good teams. Bad teams see it occur the most.

What is it?

Roster changes. From the end of one season to the beginning of the next. It is inevitable in sports, and while I watch tonight’s game I’ll be wondering how many players will play their final home game in an Edmonton Oilers jersey, and how many are playing their final home game in the NHL? But also, how many season seat holders will be doing the same?

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The reality of sports is tonight will be the final time many of the current 26-man roster will play a home game as a member of the Oilers.

Even if this team was good there would be off-season changes, but sitting in 25th place means many changes if the Oilers want to improve next season.

It is difficult to accurately say how many changes there will be, but out of the 26 players currently here, I’d say at least ten won’t be on the opening night roster next season.

They have five UFAs in Alex Chiasson, Anthony Stolarz, Alex Petrovic, Kevin Gravel and Brad Malone, and five RFAs in Jesse Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaira, Ty Rattie, Tobias Rieder and Joe Gambardella. I expect they will try to re-sign Chiasson, and Puljujarvi, Khaira and Gambardella will for sure receive qualifying offers.

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That leaves 16 players under contract, but some will be traded. Where and for whom will unfold over the summer.

There has been much discussion over potential buyouts, but no matter how often I crunch the numbers, I don’t see how buying out Milan Lucic helps the Oilers.

They would save $2.375 million in year one, $1.875 million in year three, but only $375, 000 in years two and four. Considering they have to replace his spot on the roster, even at the league minimum of $750,000, they would actually lose cap space in years two and four.

The day he signed his contract I felt there was a good chance the cost-per-point in the final three years of the deal would be tough to swallow. If he doesn’t improve, it will be the final five years. That hurts, no question, but unlike the second half of last season, Lucic wasn’t an emotional drain on the team this year. He’s played hard, he just hasn’t produced much.

The Oilers are likely better off to just keep him on the roster, play him in a bottom six role and hope he produces 20-25 points. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the best team in the NHL and they have Ryan Callahan and his $5.75 million contract on the books. He has 17 points compared to Lucic’s 21. I realize the Oilers aren’t close in overall talent to the Lightning, but my point is even the best teams have an unbalanced contract or two.

What the Oilers need is to have a few forwards on cheap contracts put up 35-40 points, and that will balance out the Lucic deal. Maybe there will be a compliance buyout for the expansion draft, although I doubt it, or maybe a trade is possible in the future. We’ve seen other players, with hefty contracts deemed untradeable, get moved.

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I’m hesitant of any buyout because it leaves dead cap space at the end. The Oilers could buyout Andrej Sekera and save $3 million in cap space in each of the next two seasons, but then they would have $1.5 million of dead cap space in 2022 and 2023. Sekera can play in the NHL. He is a very good third pairing defender, he is just overpriced at this point. This summer the Oilers can trade him to 15 teams, and maybe a deal can be had where the Oilers retain some salary, and still save some cap space.

The Benoit Pouliot and Eric Gryba buyouts combine for $1.633 million of dead cap space next year and $1.3 million the following year. Adding to that is far from ideal, and if I’m the new GM, I’d look at trades and retaining salary before adding more dead cap space.

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TOUGH DECISIONS…

Nov 20, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) tries to stop the puck against San Jose Sharks right wing Timo Meier (28) during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

What is very unique about this off-season, is that it just won’t be the organization making tough decisions. Many season ticket holders (STH) have told me they aren’t renewing their seats. That isn’t as easy of a decision as some think. If you’ve been a season seat holder for 40, 30, 20, 10 or even three to five years, walking away isn’t easy. Being a season seat holder is a financial and emotional investment.

It is much easier to switch the channel at home, or only watch games when you feel like. Being a STH is a big commitment. Not only are you buying the seat, but you are also driving to the games and usually buying food or merchandise, or even 50/50 tickets. Some STH commute anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours depending on where they live. And that is one-way.

To give up the seats now is tough, because most fans still want to believe the team will be good. If you paid for seats since 2007, there have been very few positive emotional returns. You give up your seats now, and then next season the Oilers make the playoffs, some STH might feel like they gave up too early.

It might not sound rational, but I’ve spoken with many STH over the past decade and that internal battle goes on. Those who watch every game and read every article, have the same doubt, but if the Oilers are suddenly competitive next season, it is much easier to turn the TV back on, than it is to get your season seats back.

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Many people have gotten to know the people in their section. They have bonded. They have become friends or the familiar face you see 40+ times a year and you share the same passion for the team. And there is the excitement, anger, frustration and jubilation that you share with 18,000 people every night.

To give that up isn’t easy, but many STH have reached their boiling point, and that should be a major wake up call to the Oilers organization.

LONG TIME STH SAYS GOODBYE

Every year a few people don’t renew for various reasons, but not very many. This year I’m hearing it could be upwards of 20%, if those who say they are going to cancel follow through. That is a massive number and it illustrates how frustrated fans are. It is not a spur-of-the-moment decision. The individuals or corporations who make the decision to walk away have thought about it for a long time. It has been building.

That is Cheryl Stuart. She and her husband, Brian, have been loyal season tickets holders for 40 years, but tonight is their last game. I reached out to find out what prompted them to walk away?

“We have watched the good, the bad and the ugly over the years…sadly the ugly part is dragging on. At the beginning of the season we talked about it (not renewing) a little, but as the season went on we were more and more upset by management decisions and their lack of commitment to the fans and players. Hearing Bob Nicholson blame the water in Edmonton, the culture in the dressing room (even though he helped put those players there) and then ultimately Tobias Reider was really a sign that the management has lost all vision of what this team can be. And even sadder knowing these same people are now going to be responsible for hiring new folks to take over really has given us no hope,” said Cheryl

In speaking with her I could sense her disappointment. Walking away isn’t easy, but the frustration with the organization goes beyond losing on the ice.

“I personally hate the whole “Loilty” tag the Oilers have attached to their fans,” said Stuart. We’ve been more than loyal, and let me be clear even though we’re giving up our tickets we are still staunch fans. We did not have a dedicated ticket manager for almost a year. We never heard from anyone until I was vocal on social media a few months ago; we did get a new rep and he’s very nice and brand new.

“But as someone who has paid my dues over 40 years I feel this is sad. In fact, I feel sorry for all these reps, as I’m sure their job has not been pleasant this year. As a STH, we get a discount at the Oilers store, but no other discounts in the arena – for food or drinks etc. The Oiler bucks are nice but everything is so costly, be it merchandise or food etc. It doesn’t go far.

“The last few years the opportunity to meet the players has been so limited and restricted. The “rules” around each of these event has become almost silly at times. I love Connor and the boys, but we had easier access to Wayne & Mark than we do now. In the past, we had regular contact with reps and even management who would wander around Rexall and chat with fans. There were more breakfasts, dinners and the like to share information and bonuses when you renewed like jackets etc.

“At the most recent STH dog and pony show there were many angry comments made by ticket holders which were mostly ignored and any comments made about our absentee owner was met with anger. We were told they have lots of plans -at least 50 to involve STH more next season…Seriously that should have been a continued practice and not something they are now dangling in an effort to entice us us to stay.”

She added one last thought.

“The year the Oilers started their wait list was the year they seemed to end caring about the fans. They don’t care I’m giving up my seats as they, supposedly, have a lineup of people behind me. They have no incentive to try and keep me or others. I understand this is a money making corporation, but it saddens me to think that after all this time I don’t matter. I love those boys on the ice and I hope they realize that the fans support them. I just see no hope for things getting better. I know there will be tears tonight watching my final game as a season seat holder, but we felt it was time to say no more,” she said.

The Stuarts are only one couple, but I sense they aren’t alone in their sentiments.

The Edmonton Oilers need to improve both on and off the ice.

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LINEUP…

Oilers

Draiaitl-McDavid-Kassian
Lucic-RNH-Rattie
Rieder-Cave-Chiasson
Gambardella-Gagner-Currie

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Russell
Sekera-Benning

Stolarz

Stolarz gets the start. His knee, which I’m told had swelled up, is good to go, but I suspect this is also a mental break for Koskinen.

Sharks

Meier-Couture-Pavelski
Kane-Hertl-Nyquist
Sorensen-Thornton-Labanc
Haley-Goodrow-Donskoi

Middleton-Burns
Vlasic-Heed
Dillon-Braun

Dell

The Sharks will finish second in the Pacific and open up at home against Vegas in round one. Earlier this week Erik Karlsson told Kevin Kurz from the Athletic, “Like I said before when I spoke to you about a month ago, I said I was going to be ready for the playoffs, and that’s still the case.” Karlsson’s return would be a huge boost for the Sharks.

Currently, Pavelski, Thornton, Karlsson, Nyquist and Donskoi are UFAs. I fully expect them to re-sign Pavelski, and if Thornton wants to play again he likely signs another one-year deal. If they don’t re-sign Karlsson they will have lots of room to renew both Nyquist and Donskoi if they want. If Donskoi goes to free agency, he’s a player the Oilers should look at. He did play most of the season with Kane and Hertl, and he has 37 points, after scoring 32 last year and 36 in 2016. Three out of the past four seasons he has been a decent point-producer.

I wouldn’t break the bank on him. He currently makes $1.9 million and will be 27 next season. He is a solid complementary right winger who can play up or down the lineup.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop by Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The STH who sit in their seats for the final time don’t get the victory they want. Sharks win 4-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Joe Pavelski picks up a point and maintains his point-per-game pace against the Oilers. He entered the game with 53 points in 53 games against the Oil.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lucic scores a goal in consecutive games for the first time since he scored on April 1st, 4th and 6th in 2017.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 4/4/2019 – 12:00 pm MT


  • Oilers_1978

    McD should want out..and that will be a cruel awakening call to the oilers BS management.
    This year all those coaching/manager change decision was only driven by katz’s desire to get his season ticket sale in order. He has no desire to put through a winning team and culture..

  • ellebee

    If buying out Lucic doesn’t help the Oilers, giving his less minutes & bottom 6 would. Kassian is everything Lucic was supposed to be. RNH seemed to be saddled with dragging Milan around the ice a lot this season. A huge mistake was made giving Lucic the contract he has, if we have to live with it, so be it. Lucic plays like a $1.5 mil player, play him like a $1.5 million player.

  • Oiler Al

    How is it that often you can see camera shots from a Leafs game where Dube,Shanahan and others taking in the game scouting a game.Yet, you see Wayne at games a lot, but always in the hospitality suite with glass in hand!, often looking glowed, with wannabe movie star son, in tow. Should he not be with a scout or the likes.

    • Hemmercules

      Look what the OBC has done to us. Hating on the Great One for no reason. He’s just a welcome face here trying to have a good time and enjoy the Oilers just like the rest of us. Im sure he’s not enjoying these Oilers all that much either. Let him have his drinks and chill and do whatever he wants. He doesn’t owe anybody anything.

  • Goaltender Interference

    I’ve said this before in the comments threads so sorry if I sound like a broken record but cancelling my seats was the best decision I made last year. There wasn’t a single moment this past season when I regretted it – although at the time I made the call I was really worried there would be.

    It is a truly heart-wracking decision to make. You feel like you’re letting the team down somehow. But I think if you really consider it, you’re not helping the team by continuing to provide the OBC success despite their absolute incompetence. If it’s only loss of $$ that will get this message across to this hack of an owner then true fans need to speak by closing their wallets.

  • Sparky Blue

    The DOD+ started when the Oil traded Chris Pronger for peanuts, when he wanted to go. Maybe it can end when they trade McDavid. Hopefully they make a better deal this time.

    • Randaman

      Your monicar is getting really old and waaaaayyy beyond irritating. Just looking at your avatar makes me want to smash something. Maybe you are a Flames fan. In that case it makes sense but an Oiler fan trolling his fellow fans is stupid.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    The sentiments by Mrs. Stuart has really hit home as to my feelings about this club.
    It instantly bring back the thought’s of the tiered fanbase that we are all a part of.
    I hope this letter goes viral for all our sakes…

  • HockeyRooster

    Reading Cheryl’s comments made me sad. If the management group was this passionate about the Oilers, this would be a hell of a hockey team. I will dare even say some of the players would be better served to display her passion. It is crazy that she (and hopefully a lot more STH) will save themselves thousands of dollars next year and are sad about it. What a slap in the face from this organization. Comments about feeling like fans have let the team down by not renewing tickets are also sad. Those are good people and good customers that aren’t deserved by this organization.
    I’m a die hard (tier 2) fan. Proudly displayed my Oilers gear on vacation last week and through the cowtown airport twice (both of my kids did as well) but I turned down two sets of free tickets to tonight’s game. The fans are going to be angry and the team is going to play terrible. And the worst part for me is that there is no hope in sight. BN will not get the next hire right-he isn’t capable. I’m never going to stop being an Oilers fan (until Connor gets traded) but there is no good news coming for next year. (what a whiny, cry baby post…sorry)

  • Towers-of-dub

    the entire organization just acts like it’s entitled to your money because you were there when it actually cared about the city. it shouldn’t cost $1000’s just to be reminded of fading history.

  • The Dave

    To be honest, it’s not the ineptitude of the Oilers organization that bugs me. I can handle a well meaning failure. What I can’t handle is the denial, the cronyism, and the lack of accepting any responsibility. We’ve seen players get traded, we’ve seen coaches get fired (a lot), we’ve seen 2 GMs get axed (the rest were promoted or moved laterally) and we’ve seen no other meaningful change. Bob Nicholson has blamed the water, blamed Toby Reider, and not blamed himself for an utter lack of professionalism about calling out a player at a breakfast event. Your team sucks, and you’re the president. It’s not everyone else, it’s you. And there’s a lot of straight up lies I can’t get behind. Katz is a hands-off owner but he calls Bobby in the middle of an interview. Peter Chiarelli was responsible for “everything” and wasn’t being told what to do by the OBC, but resigning Koskinen early was a “group decision”. Even going back to “If you have to ask the question then you know the answer” about Dubnyk (who we now know was bailing out an awful team and is now one of the better goalies in the league). The organization lucks out, wins McDavid, still can’t win and blames the other players performance (even though they selected them). There’s a disconnect between what they say, what they perceive, and reality. In short: they piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

    I am currently more loyal to McDavid than I am to the Oilers, and I expect a lot of people are in the same boat. If he leaves I’ll go with him and wish him well and applaud his decision to skip out. I can actually say that I genuinely *hate* the Oilers as an organization now, which is infuriating, because I used to love them so much. The team I fell in love with was poor and scrappy and earned everything that came their way. When every other WHA team folded and left town a group of Edmontonians came together and saved the team. It actually proved there was something special about the Oilers. It wasn’t the Cups from the 80s, it was that in Edmonton *we* were the ones who actually saved our hockey team. There was no ultra-wealthy owner bailing out the city, the city’s local business owners came together and did it themselves. It was inspiring, and very Edmontonian, and kind of blue collar, and the team matched that ownership group.

    Now? Now I’m going to do what I could *not* have imagined in all my years. I’m going to cheer for the F-ing Calgary Flames in the playoffs. Because they play hard. And Mark Giordano is a player I can respect. And I want to see a Canadian team win and it looks like something has gone wrong with the Jets. For two decades I’ve burned with hatred for the Flames and now I look at them and admire the fact that they play (and are managed) like accountability exists. They act like they give a damn.

    See you around, Connor. I hope you get a team that deserves you. One way or the other.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Very well said Dave. I’ll share that the absolute turning point for me was Hometown Hockey, Sherwood Park. The team was knee deep in despair (or dis-repair, whatever). McLellan had recently been fired and McTavish comes on as a guest. He acts smug like nothing at all is wrong with this franchise… “If anyone knows anything about hockey, all teams go through what we are going through. We have a new coach & this team is in a good place.” He could have cared less about the state of the Oilers… Well, it’s almost summer, fishing season… Baseball has started & the CFL is around the corner… That’s all I gotta say about that, it’s sad. But Cheryl hit the nail on the head. Cheryl’s comments, I hope, should go over national sports news…

  • OilCan2

    I was at the driving range yesterday. Now lets get down to some serious top 10 draft pick chatter. To be honest I was ready for that in December when Reggie and Abs were out.

  • Abagofpucks

    Katz the invisible owner doesn’t deserve the STH fan base he has. He buys the NHL team he grew up watching, with the great history and the cups, the players, and then he moves away and is rarely seen? It’s like he knows he’s screwing the fan base over and that’s why he isn’t around.

  • OilFarmer

    Oof.
    I just read every comment of this article and it was truly the most disheartening thread I have ever read on O.N.
    Sad part is great writers and sites like this are going to suffer because no one cares about this team anymore and start to stop reading articles daily. The beer girls and the parking attendants working part tine.
    The OBC will still make money hand over fist with TV and sponsorship deals.
    This is bleak.

    • Ratt McNuge

      Well, all of us thought our troubles were over when McDavid was drafted. There was no possible way they could screw this up now. Well, they screwed it up, and this is what happens. Why should the fans care anymore?

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Or Oilfarmer,… The Oiler’s will draft & trade some promising players, start off next season with a bang & all will be forgotten….? I hope so,… really I do, but I’m not holding any breath. “Cautiously Pessimistic” is my attitude @ this point. Like Cheryl, for the first time in 40+ years… through thick & thin, we believed in this club… I’m not sure I’ll get over this, & it took Mrs. Stuart’s letter to drive it home. It doesn’t look like I’m alone?

  • I married into seasons tickets. My wife had seasons tickets in row 1 since 2006/07 season. We share them with a couple of her former co-workers. Last year, I think we went to 1 game. This year we went to zero. No interest in spending that kind of money to go watch the Oilers (likely) lose. Parking is expensive… food is expensive.. tickets are expensive. I can’t give up 4 hours of my night to watch a team half ass it anymore.

    We actually were going to cancel the seasons tickets in 2015, then of course the Oilers won the golden lotto ticket. We thought great times were ahead, but unfortunately we were fooled. McDavid is a great player, and he’s obviously super thrilling to watch, but he only can do so much to entertain a crowd. A friend of mine buys mini-packs all the time, and we laugh at the fact that neither of us want to go to a game. Him: “Hey want to go watch the Isles game?” (for free). Me: “Nope!”. Him: “I don’t blame you, I’m at that point too.” It’s no longer entertainment.

    It’s amazing, because I used to watch a lot of games.. every Stanley Cup, no matter who played.. every second of every Oilers game. Now, this team has sucked that last bit of enjoyment out of me. I’m a very casual fan now and would rather spend that time in other ways. I won’t go to the games anymore and I won’t buy a single piece of merchandise. The Oilers have already gotten probably a 6 figure value out of us already, and most of that in the darkest time in history. Unbelievable. There was a time where I didn’t want to move out of this city because it would mean I wouldn’t be able to watch games at the home arena any more (at least on a regular basis). Now, I actually don’t even care if the team moves.

    I’ll watch it for free on TV, where I can easily escape it when things (inevitably) go south. That’s about the level of dedication to the team now.

    Sorry to be Debbie Downer… perhaps the Oilers Execs owe that apology more than I do though!

    • Hemmercules

      You really nailed it. The Oilers suckitude has drown out any joy I had in watching hockey anymore. I never thought the Oilers would actually make me start not liking hockey anymore but here we are. These days it’s so easy to just not watch or shut off a game and do something fun when only a few years ago I had to watch every game I possibly could and drove the 6 hours one way to watch 1 to 4 games a year live. Big Big summer. They need to show us some serious dedication and lack of stupidity this summer to save this fan base and keep McD from leaving town. My hopes are always high but I know what to expect from these clowns so we’ll see what happens.

    • madjam

      The Oiler organization owes a lot to the tier 2 and 3 groups of fans as many are also not bothering to watch Oilers hockey anymore , or only occasionally . Many losing interest in NHL hockey altogether . This means advertising and merchandizing far below what it could/might be . Give the other tier fans R-E-S-P-E-C-T . Bring on the world championship tourney again . How much different might the Oilers had been if the Comrie family had bought them , and put up a coliseum ?

      • First off, I’ve been a tier 1 fan for a little while, but was tier 2 for a long time. So I have zero against tier 2 types. They do help make this team great, and are important to the team.

        I just suddenly realized that the guy in charge of promoting the OEG is the guy who put his foot in his mouth making that distinction between types of fans – making it sound like those that just watch games aren’t important. This still problem of people in roles they are unqualified plagues our team at an executive level as much as it does at a player personnel level.

    • OilerForLife

      Too bad you feel this way, but you didn’t have to blast the team on your way out. What you just did was hurt the team and the players. I vested much more time on the Oilers that you ever have, watching them since 1972-73 and the real fans are the ones at the game tonight. You need to grow a pair.

      • First off, that’s great you put a lot of time in the oilers. I’ve watched them since I was really able to, as a 4 year old in their first year in the NHL (i.e. 79/80). I’m not competing with anyone on this. Not trying to make myself sound above other fans because I’ve paid quite a bit of money on tickets.

        However, your answer is pretty baffling. You seem to think I owe something to this team. I owe nothing to the team. This is entertainment, and nothing more, which is why I paid money for tickets + merchandise… I expected entertainment in return. I fulfilled my duty in the transaction (payment), the Oilers did not.

        I’m not sour on the organization to the point where I’m demanding money back. I’m not even at the point where I’m going to stop following/watching the team.. that’s pretty unlikely. I’m attached to several of the players. I just am not paying another cent towards this team, whether it be a shirt, a jersey, or tickets. I’m not going to waste any of my personal time even going to a game for free (which I had the opportunity at yesterday, even, and passed on again). I am not sure how much I’d have to actually be paid to go to a game right now.

        I don’t believe in your “real fans” comment. This team used to be in my blood, practically, but I realize how stupid that is now. That’s probably the best thing that came out of this whole mess. This is now just a hockey team in the entertainment business for me. I owe nothing to it, and my desire to be dragged down by its perpetual failure doesn’t define me as an Edmontonian. The bigger problem here are those that will continue giving this organization money while it fails away. They have no reason to change things… the model is working, as far as they’re concerned.

        Anyways, good chatting with you, Daryl.

  • Truth

    Excellent article Jason. This should be sent internally to all Oilers management staff. We’ve lived through countless rebuilds now, and they’ve even managed to mess up on the most impossible rebuild of all (involving McDavid)

  • Rama Lama

    Our Stanley Cup is the draft……….and we are very good at winning at the draft. Let’s not worry too much about winning, that stuff is for teams that have more than a few good players. We only have four to five good players …….with a lot of filler. Anyone that get to be too good usually gets traded away for magic beans.

    If we can find someone who has some hockey brains to run the team, we should be competing within a decade…….in the mean time hang on the ride is going to be rough!

  • A-co

    I want to see the ice littered by jerseys from season ticket holders that aren’t renewing their seats after the Oilers lay another egg on the way to missing the playoffs again…or Bobby Nick burgers since they are close to the same price

  • Oiler Al

    Rome is burning, and Nero is shacked up in Malibu,counting the money.When the cash stops coming in, he will show up with cup in hand looking for handouts.no shame! Its a crime this ONCE proud franchise is now a bigger laugh than Melnyks operation in Ottawa. Its a joke as to whats NOT going on in Edmonton.

    • IRONman

      I wise GM takes over the Oilers and in 2 seasons they are in playoffs every year. Nurse and Bouchard are improving. Future d for the Oilers. Leon and McDavid are in the 💯 club. Nuge is a goal score. Kassian protects and scores. Lots of good things in this Club. Yzerman for example could turn this club around. They missed the playoffs by 5 games.