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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Musings…

Even without NHL hockey in October — or any junior, collegiate or minor pro hockey for that matter — my sporting needs have been somewhat satisfied by the NFL, MLB, MMA and auto racing.

However, I do miss the craziness October usually provides with so much hockey going on. My son’s U9 team has yet to play a real game, so I can’t even look forward to that. Those games are the best. I love watching the raw enthusiasm and innocence of young kids playing hockey.

I understand why — and I know in the grand scheme of life, today’s inconveniences are just that — but it is okay to mourn our lack of normalcy. I miss being at a sporting event with just parents and grandparents, or 500-1,000 people of 18,000 crazed fans at an NHL game. I miss running into friends or acquaintances in the concourse. Or seeing a young child at their first AJHL, WHL or NHL game.

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I miss the competition. The funny chirps in the crowd. Heck, I even miss the annoying fan who complains or critiques every play, even though their criticism makes no sense. “Draisaitl is a terrible a passer,” he will say to his buddy beside him, because the reigning Hart Trophy winner missed a pass. The fact he’s made 100 incredible passes matters not — he should make them all or he is terrible. The reasoning isn’t rational, but being a sports fan doesn’t always require a level-headed viewpoint.

I miss the emotion that emerges while watching hockey. The great plays. A big goal. A huge hit. A nifty passing sequence. A hard-working shift that alters the momentum. I always connected my birthday with hockey. October was always the return of hockey, and when my birthday passed with no games to cover, watch or coach, it was disappointing. I’ve always known hockey and sports were a big part of my life, but not having them, especially during a pandemic, has made me appreciate them even more. I can’t wait until minor hockey and every level up to the NHL is back to normal.

QUICK HITS…

Mar 3, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear (74) during the game between the Stars and the Oilers at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

1. Looking at recent RFA defencemen signings combined with some conversations I’ve had, I sense the Oilers and ETHAN BEAR will sign a short-term deal. I suspect it will be around $1m on a one-year deal. Edmonton doesn’t have enough cap space to sign Bear long term to a contract with a high enough cap hit. He isn’t signing long-term at $2-$3m so short term is the most likely outcome. If he has another solid season he will get a raise after the season, when Kris Russell and Adam Larsson’s $8.1m combined cap hits expire.

2. The Oilers currently have 23 players playing in Europe. These are either draft picks, signed players, or players who they own their NHL rights (Anton Slepyshev, for instance). Slepyshev has 5-8-13 in 16 games in the KHL, while Jesse Puljujarvi has 5-2-7 in five games with Karpat in Finland, Dmitri Samorukov has 2-5-7 in 16 KHL games and Raphael Lavoie has 5-2-7 in eight games with Vaspy in Sweden’s second division, Allsvenskan league.

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William Lagesson has 3-3-6 with HC Vita Hasten in Allsvenskan, while Even Bouchard also has 3-3-6 in 11 games with Sodertalje in the Allsvenskan, while Philip Broberg has 1-4-5 in 10 games with Skelleftea AIK in Sweden’s top division, the SHL.

People will debate the qualify of each league, but I’m more interested in how many young Oilers prospects are playing. This could be an advantage in the future, for the aforementioned players as well as Tyler Benson, Ryan Mcleod and the other young prospects.

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3. I think Caleb Jones and Tyson Barrie will be more productive offensively and in possession numbers at 5×5 than Oscar Klefbom and Matt Benning. It is why I think the Oilers will improve 5×5. I think Jones will be next season’s surprise defender, similar to how Ethan Bear was this past season. I’m not saying he will play 21 minutes a night, just that he will impact the game more than many are expecting. Agree or disagree?

4. The more I hear about it, the more I want the All-Canadian division to happen. It would be wild to have all seven Canadian teams in one division, and play each other exclusively. If it is a 48-game season they would play each team eight times. The animosity would increase, and so too would the emotion from Canadian fans. I think it would be great.  I wonder how it would impact special teams.

Here is how the seven teams ranked in powerplay chances/game in the NHL last season.

Vancouver second at 3.42 PP/game.
Ottawa 17th at 2.97
Winnipeg 18th at 2.88
Edmonton 22nd at 2.81
Toronto 23rd at 2.78
Calgary 25th at 2.75
Montreal 29th at 2.61

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Edmonton had the best PP at 29.5%, while Vancouver was fourth at 24.2%, Toronto sixth at 23.1%, Calgary 12th at 21.2%, Winnipeg was 15th at 20.5%, Montreal 22nd at 17.7% and Ottawa was 31st at 14.2%. The Senators PP needs to improve if they have a hope of competing in the west.

The Canadian teams, outside of Vancouver, were in the bottom half in powerplay opportunities per game, but most were in the upper half in times shorthanded per game.

Winnipeg second at 2.45
Toronto eighth at 2.76
Edmonton and Calgary tied for 9th at 2.80
Montreal 14th at 2.97
Vancouver 22nd at 3.12
Ottawa 27th at 3.24.

Edmonton had the second best PK at 84.4%, Calgary was eighth at 82.1%, Vancouver 16th at 80.5%, Montreal 19th at 78.7%, Toronto 21st at 77.7%, Winnipeg 22nd at 77.6% and Ottawa was 28th at 76.1%. Again the Senators PK will need to improve to remain competitive.

5. I wonder if we would see an increase in PP/game due to playing each other more frequently. My initial feeling says yes, but I’d have to dig into it more. We’ve never seen a situation where you would only play six (or seven teams for the three American Divisions) all year. I’d have to think the animosity and dislike for each other would increase. I hope it does. I think the NHL lacks emotion on many nights.

6. Matthew Tkachuk did a great job of re-igniting the Battle of Alberta, and I have no doubt the Oilers and Flames games will have similar dislike this season. With guys like Brendan Gallagher, Brady Tkachuk, Zack Kassian, Jake Virtanen and others there is a good chance we will more emotion and disdain if the All-Canadian division occurs. It won’t be the NHL’s first choice, but in my opinion, it would be the best for Canadian fans.

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7. Are any of you still undefeated in your Fantasy Football league? I am. I’ve never had this good of a team in our league. Staying healthy has been important, obviously, but I’m leery of overthinking things heading into the trade deadline. It was easier having a garbage team, where you could trade your one or two good players for draft picks next year (we have a two-keeper league). I like fantasy football more than fantasy hockey, only because it is less work. I found hockey required constant monitoring. Which do you prefer and why? Should I try fantasy hockey again, and if so, what is the best format. I play in a PPR league in football. Standard scoring is too boring and too reliant on touchdowns.

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8. This was a hard story to read, but it is important to read it so hopefully we are more aware and it doesn’t happen to another victim. Bullying among young kids and teenagers can be brutal.  I hope Isaiah Meyer-Crothers and his family are doing okay. And that Coyotes draft pick, Mitchell Miller, is truly remorseful. I respect that he sent a letter to NHL teams outlining what happened, but he should reach out to Meyer-Crothers and apologize to him. One situation shouldn’t define who we are, especially when it happened when at 14 years young, when our brain isn’t fully developed and we make irrational decisions. At the same time, I’m curious why he never reached out to apologize.

When I was 14, my buddies and I went around to houses playing knock-a-door-ginger. You’d ring the doorbell and run. Pretty harmless. We upped the ante one day and we threw a lit sparkler in the door, rang the doorbell and ran. The door didn’t catch fire, but it had burn marks on it. One or the guys we were with got caught by the police and said I was there. The police came to my house. The next day my parents made me go to the house to apologize. It was the worst. I walked up the steps, rang the doorbell and sheepishly apologized to the home owner. Turns out he was a probation officer. He told me what he did, and it scared the shit out of me. My idiotic decision wasn’t nearly as harmful as what Miller did to Meyer-Crothers, but I had to apologize face-to-face. It made the situation more real for me and I never did anything like that again. It was a good lesson. If I was the Coyotes I’d ensure Miller had a face-to-face apology with Meyer-Crothers. As long as Meyer-Crothers and his family were okay with it of course. Hopefully Miller is much more aware today.

9. The second annual Jason Gregor Pizza Pigout is this Friday. We are having a drive-thru haunted house and we are having two drive-in movies as well. You can get your tickets here. We only have a few left, as there is limited space in the parking lot where you can watch the movies.

We actually have space for two more restaurants or pizzerias who want to enter to see who has the best pizza in town. Details on how to enter are here. Tell your favourite pizza place to enter, or if you own your own store enter yourself. All of the proceeds go to KidSport; who get kids playing sports.

Thanks in advance and to those who have tickets I will see you Friday night.

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