Regardless of what happens tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights, the fact Vancouver Canucks have been playing hockey in the NHL playoff bubble while the Edmonton Oilers have been on the outside looking in for weeks is still jarring to me.
I was certain the Oilers were going to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in their play-in series, which obviously didn’t happen. I was just as sure, more so actually, when Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired after the 2017-18 season it would be a good long time until we saw the Canucks in the post-season again. Yet here we are in a city that endured the Decade of Darkness with Vancouver looking to get past Vegas tonight. They won’t, but it doesn’t matter.
The Canucks had missed the playoffs in four straight years, three of those while the Sedins wound down their careers, when this season began. I thought it might be another four or five until they saw playoffs again after the Sedins hung ‘em up – a stretch approaching what fans here endured after the Oilers march to the 2006 Stanley Cup final.
Suffice to say, it’s been a noteworthy turnaround by the Canucks, one built on youngsters like Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser. Throw in the kind of goaltending JJacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko have provided and you get that we’ve got here. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Canucks find a way to get past the Knights tonight, but I don’t think it’s in the cards. They have been a helluva story.
If Connor McDavid is destined to have a Finnish right winger when next season finally begins, I’d rather it be Patrik Laine than Jesse Puljujarvi. Laine won’t be there and Puljujarvi shouldn’t be there, but both their names have been mentioned in relation to the Oilers in recent days.
The buzz is the Winnipeg Jets might be willing to move Laine to help re-stock their blueline. It goes without saying Laine, who has scored 138 goals in 305 games, would look good playing alongside McDavid. He’s got a big shot. He can finish. The problem, of course, is the Oilers can’t afford Laine even if they send Oscar Klefbom or Darnell Nurse the other way. Laine has one more season left on his contract at $6.75 million. Unless Ken Holland can get really inventive moving money around, there’s no way.
As for Puljujarvi, who has indicated he’s open to a return after sulking and staying home last season, David Staples over at the Cult of Hockey at The Journal just wrote a piece that he might be the best fit as McDavid’s right winger. There’s some statistical merit to that, but after what’s happened so far in his time with the Oilers, I’m not real interested in hearing about Puljujarvi being gifted a spot on the top line.
I said it in a Monday Mailbag weeks ago and I’ll say it again. I hope Puljujarvi comes back and succeeds here, but only if he shuts his mouth, keeps his head down and does whatever is asked of him. No, I’m not talking about burying him on the fourth line for half-a-season. That makes no sense. What I am talking about is Puljujarvi taking whatever assignment he’s given and running with it. Give coach Dave Tippett no choice but to take notice.
CANADA LIFE CUP
Before COVID-19 turned everything in our world upside down, Oilersnation was set to pitch in with the 2020 Hockey Helps The Homeless tournament in support of The Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Wellness Centre by putting together an event at the Canadian Brewhouse. Then came COVID and the Edmonton tournament, along with three others, had to be cancelled.
Enter the HHTH Canada Life Cup, a virtual campaign intended to help fill the void left by the fund-raising that was lost when the tournament had to be scrapped – at the same time as demand among the homeless for services at The Mustard Seed and JPWC increased substantially because of the pandemic. You can read about that here. There’s a video by Matt Kassian here.
The bottom line is that even though the pros and the Joes didn’t get a chance to play this May, there are people in need, more than ever right now, on the streets of Edmonton. Until we can get back on the ice again, hopefully next May, The Canada Life Cup is a way to help. If you want to donate, you can do that here. Thanks.
Bryan Anderson, a long-time city councillor and a teacher and coach at Strathcona and Harry Ainlay High School, passed away this morning. Bryan was a wonderful man who had it figured out as a high school coach – he understood the importance of athletics as part of education and community and he was a great advocate of that. He will be missed.