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Photo Credit: Axe Cop: From Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle

Random Thoughts: Jersey Numbers, Mike Smith, an All-Canadian Division, and more

It’s a brisk Saturday morning here in the capital city and there are still months to wait until the next season rolls around, and that’s given me plenty of time to think about what’s to come for the franchise and the league in general.

JERSEY NUMBERS

Over the past couple of days, there was a lot of chatter on the Nation’s social media accounts about whether or not it would be acceptable for Tyson Barrie to wear Ryan Smyth’s #94 as he did last season in Toronto. Whether you were for the idea or completely against it, the arguments were spicy, the takes were hot, and it was actually a lot of fun to watch. As it turns out, none of it really mattered anyway as it was announced yesterday afternoon that Tyson Barrie would wear #22, which is unlikely to upset anyone unless you went all-in on a Tobias Rieder tattoo or something. I just love how people were fired up about the idea of someone other than Smytty dawning those digits, and it was another example of the kind of passion that makes this an incredible fanbase. I love Oilers fans and I love how fired up we can all get about things that don’t matter all that much.

HOLLAND’S BETS IN NET

When you look at the work that Ken Holland got done in free agency, I personally feel like it’s hard to be overly critical about the players he picked up and the contracts they signed. Was it a perfect run? No, of course not, but I do think Holland did a pretty reasonable job of improving his top nine without breaking the bank while also grabbing a defenceman that should be able to help boost the offence from the back end. But if I’m being honest, the major concern that I have with what Holland has done lies with his decision to go back with the same tandem in net that was unquestionably disappointing in the play-in round back in August. For me, bringing back both Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith was a touch underwhelming considering the calibre of goaltender that was available in free agency, and I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it, especially at the price that was paid. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong but it’s a tough bet to take when you’re banking on a duo that had a sub-.900 save percentage when it mattered most. I can’t be the only one, right?

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ARE WE DONE HERE?

With three top-nine forwards locked in and Tyson Barrie set to man the powerplay, I can’t help but wonder if Ken Holland is done with his shopping season. With Ethan Bear yet to sign and very little cap space left to play with, it’s obvious that the options would be limited in terms of who could be signed, but I wonder if there’s an appetite to bring in another low-cost winger or defender to add to the overall team depth. If we’re heading towards a season where games can and likely will be cancelled because of COVID in addition to the injuries that already happen anyway, it might make sense to bring in a few more bodies on a PTO just to see what happens. It can’t just be me that thinks this would be a good idea, right?

THE ALL CANADIAN DIVISION

A few days ago, Golden Knights owner, Bill Foley, gave an interview to KSHP Radio’s Vegas Hockey Hotline where he dropped a line about an All-Canadian Division that got people talking. When asked for his thoughts about his team facing the recently traded Nate Schmidt who is now in Vancouver, Foley responded with, “Yeah, but they’re going to be playing in the Canadian Division.” A Canadian Division? For real? Be still my heart.

I don’t know about you folks, but the idea of an all-Canadian Division has me incredibly excited about how that would play out, the stress of those battles, the rivalries it would produce, and the spicy level of hockey we’d be lucky enough to watch. And yeah, I know it would be a little bit gimmicky to have the Canadian teams playing each other all year, but with the border remaining closed for the foreseeable future, I don’t know what other option the league really has at this point unless they move everyone to the States until things calm down a little bit.

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I mean, just imagine how much fun it would be to watch five or six or seven Battles of Alberta and the amount of hatred that would build up as a result — it would be fantastic! Put another way, I’d much rather see something like an all-Canadian Division happening because of the circumstances we’re in rather than the idea of not having any hockey at all as Gregor wrote about yesterday.

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WHAT ELSE COULD THE NHL DO?

It’s no doubt that not being able to have fans in the stands is a serious problem for the NHL, and I’d love to know what the league is going to do about it. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to be a fly on the wall in a National Hockey League boardroom and listen to the ideas they’re batting around about what the league can do to bring in some money and keep the ship afloat if they have to proceed without fans. Are they going to try and make an online gambling play of some kind? Are they going to offer behind the scenes content that wouldn’t normally be available for a monthly fee? Online experiences with players like their own version of cameo?

HOW MANY GOALS FOR PULJUJARVI

Before heading into quarantine because of a positive COVID test on his team, Jesse Puljujarvi had already put up five goals and two assists in five SM-Liiga games, and I’m wondering what that’s going to mean for his NHL production. Would it be crazy to think that Puljujarvi could score 15 goals in the NHL next season? Based on the 61 games he’s played in Finland so far, his 60 points translates to an NHLe of roughly 36 points, which would have made him the highest scoring right-winger on the team last year. To be fair, Yamamoto was on pace to surpass those totals after being permanently recalled from the Condors, but you get my point. If I set the over/under for Puljugoals at 14.5, which side are you taking?