It’s Saturday morning here in the capital city and that means your ol’ pal Baggedmilk is back with another dose of Random Thoughts before I vanish into the sunset for the weekend. As I do every week, I’ve taken a cruise around the Internet machine to see what’s going on with the Oilers and around the NHL for a little dose of hockey talk to get your weekend started.
In addition to Jim Matheson’s tweet from yesterday, I heard from a source late yesterday that Dylan Holloway is likely to miss some time (could be weeks or months) to start the season as he continues to recover from his wrist issues. From what I was told, Holloway isn’t nearly as close to being 100% as we all would have hoped he’d be as the season approaches and that he may be out for a while depending on what doctors find, which is obviously a tough blow for the former 14th overall pick as he looks to make his professional debut after two successful years with the University of Wisconsin. I was also told that Holloway will be evaluated again as early as this week with surgery potentially being on the table, and we’ll have to hope that the news comes out more positive than the info I was given. I know a lot of us were hoping that Holloway might come in and push for a job with the big club this year, but those dreams are likely to be postponed when the team makes an official announcement regarding his immediate future. We wait.
Eyes & Ears from Rogers Place as informal skates continue today:
Oilers players taking part – McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse, RNH, Hyman, Puljujarvi, Kassian, Russell, Bouchard, Broberg, Shore & Turris.
No Yamamoto. UFA Tyler Ennis also skating with the group.
— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) September 8, 2021
The other day, Handsome Tom Gazzola sent this tweet out and it had me feeling fired up for the new season. Even though there is absolutely nothing happening apart from some voluntary skates at Rogers Place, knowing that the core players are in Edmonton and getting themselves ready for a new season is enough to make me happy. In my head, I like to imagine that the boys are using this time to scheme and come up with plans for the year, making the 2021-22 season the year where the Oilers will actually live up to their expectations. Just making the playoffs won’t be enough anymore, and I hope the boys are all on the same page for finding ways to turn this campaign into one we won’t soon forget.
CAN THE OILERS CHALLENGE FOR THE DIVISION?
I spent some time this morning look at season predictions from both fans and pundits alike, and when it comes to the Pacific Division, a lot of people have Edmonton and Vegas as the top two teams in the division while the third spot is up for grabs. As much as I like seeing our boys named as potential favourites, Tyler Yaremchuk has spent the last two episodes of Oilersnation Radio talking about how Vegas hasn’t gotten much better this off-season and he’s starting to convince me that the Oilers may actually be able to challenge for a division title. Now, I understand that it’s easy to make such predictions before any games have been played, but I’ve gotta say that Yaremchuk has been pretty convincing with his knocks on Vegas (centre depth, goaltending) and I would love for him to be right this time.
Now that we know Tyler Ennis is skating with the boys at Rogers Place, I wonder if he might be a guy that gets a PTO offer as we draw nearer to training camp. If they could make the math work, Ennis would give them another skilled forward with some skill on the depth chart and one that doesn’t necessarily need to play every night. With potential injuries always a problem in sports, skilled depth could be the difference between winning and losing if anyone happens to go down, and figuring out a way to have as much of that as possible is always a good strategy. I haven’t really looked around a whole lot at who may be a valid PTO option for the Oilers, but I am always a fan of bringing in guys that are hungry to steal a job and seeing what happens from there.
THE QUESTION MARKS
On Thursday, I posted a list of reasons why I’m excited about the 2020-21 season and while most people are drinking the Kool-Aid with me, there are still a handful of serious questions that will need answers. As much as the forward group is universally expected to be better, the same cannot be said about the defensive group and goaltending. It’s almost like we can’t really get excited about a new NHL season without also focusing on the unknowns that may or may not sink the ship. Can Mike Smith keep it going? Was Cody Ceci’s high PDO the only reason he had a decent season with Pittsburgh? Will Duncan Keith’s bones turn to dust before Christmas? The reality is that this Oilers team is far from perfect and that all of these concerns will all get answers one way or the other, but right now, at the height of Kool-Aid season, I’m choosing to keep my head in the sand as to not ruin my Oilers buzz. There’s plenty of time to complain about what’s wrong with the Oilers, but this is our time for sky-high hopes and Stanley Cup dreams.
THE PRE-SEASON IS TOO LONG
As much as I’m excited about a new season starting and having the boys get back out there in pursuit of a Stanley Cup, I’m going to end this week’s article with a complaint about the length of the pre-season. Personally, I think playing in eight meaningless tune-up games is a waste of time and that the NHL could probably cut the pre-season down by three or four games without anyone even noticing. I mean, last season, in the weird divisional year, NHL teams didn’t even get a pre-season to work out the kinks and everything turned out fine, so to think it’s going to take everyone nearly two weeks of pointless play to knock the rust off is excessive and I don’t like it. I can picture us all getting bored or not even watching by the time the fourth tune-up matchup starts, and even though these games are for the players to get themselves ready, I care more about all of us being entertained because that’s what really matters!