Pump the brakes. Settle down. Don’t get carried away. I heard that sentiment expressed more than once as host Reid Wilkins and Rob Brown fielded calls on their post-game radio show after the Edmonton Oilers raked the New York Islanders 5-2 Tuesday to improve their record to 3-0. One caller sounded pissed off. About what, I don’t know.
No, the Oilers aren’t going to go 82-0. No, James Neal isn’t going to finish this season with 164 goals. No, three games do not a season make. Thanks, tips. I’m guessing most of the people who were fist-pumping and high-fiving last night with the Oilers off to a flying start have pretty much got that figured out. It’s called enjoying the moment.
And if Oilers fans can’t allow themselves that, if they can’t celebrate the highs for however long they last after watching their team miss the playoffs for 12 of the last 13 years, when, exactly, are they supposed to cut loose a little and have a good time? Where’s the return for the emotional and financial investment they’ve made?
Leave the moaning to the dour and the sour who aren’t happy unless they’re miserable. Leave the groaning to those so jaded by the failure of recent seasons they’d rather point out that Neal has an unsustainable 42.9 shooting percentage or a Corsi-for EV of 43.6 than talk about a historically hot start. Leave that to those who suck all the fun out of a room just by walking into it. Celebrate the moment because, yes, it will pass. That, we know.
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
As you’d expect, a lot of the banter last night was about how hot Neal has been to start the season and how Oilers GM Ken Holland fleeced the Calgary Flames in the Milan Lucic for Neal swap. That trade was a win for Holland based on the contracts alone, and now Neal is hanging fire. Of course, Oilers fans are going to rub that into their counterparts in Calgary. It would work exactly the same way if the shoe was on the other foot. That’s as it should be.
Even the media is into it now. In the wake of a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings last night, Eric Francis of Sportsnet felt the need to offer up a page from the DDD playbook — discount, dismiss and downplay — by pointing out how Neal was never going to succeed in Cowtown while extolling the virtues of Lucic.
— Chenson (@TheChenson) October 9, 2019
That take by Francis is a knee-slapper to be sure, but it’s all good. Lucic for Neal isn’t going to be as one-sided as it looks right now, and it could turn out to be a swap that helps both teams. Right now, though, it’s Real Deal by a mile and Calgary fans are going to hear about it from fans here. It’s about time the BOA had some actual meat to it. It’s good for both towns.
Like I said off the top, anybody with a functioning brain stem knows it’s early. As those so inclined will point out — I’d love to be able to insert Jason Gregor’s nasally nerd impression here — Neal will cool off. Connor McDavid won’t win the Art Ross Trophy by 40 points. The Oilers, even with Holland and Dave Tippett pulling the levers, aren’t as good as they look right now. All that is true.
So what? Enjoy the moment. No apologies.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- Neal is getting almost twice as much time on the power play with the Oilers through three games than he got in Calgary last season when he was an unmitigated flop. Neal sits at 4:32 right now on the first PP unit, compared to the 2:21 he played in Cowtown, where he was mostly on the second unit.
- “You want that confidence as a goal scorer, you want to see the puck going into the back of the net,” Neal said. “I’ve been put into a great position here to play and overall I just like the way our team plays. We’re playing fast, we’re jumping on teams and you can tell.”