17

Off the Top of My Head

It’s a good sign that after playing poorly enough to make Dustin Tokarski look like an actual NHL goaltender and allowing the Buffalo Sabres to end a 0-4-1 winless streak with a 3-2 victory Friday, the Edmonton Oilers resisted the urge to make excuses.

Not as good a sign as showing up ready to dispatch the Sabres as they should have, but at least coach Dave Tippett wasn’t offering up any BS about playing back-to-back games when reporters lobbed him softballs during the post-game scrum 24 hours after a rousing 5-3 comeback win over the Boston Bruins.

It was Tokarski. It was the Sabres. It was one back-to-back set during a portion of the schedule with plenty of off-days in it. So, no, back-to-back shouldn’t have been a factor. And no, losing this game isn’t one of those learning curve lessons – this team should have learned those lessons long ago. These Oilers should be closer to graduation than kindergarten here, folks.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“No, we’ve got lots of energy,” shrugged Tippett, refusing to take a hack at an underhand offering of a question about fatigue being a factor. “It’s disappointing that we played the way we did to allow them the opportunities that they got.” Tippett’s entire post-game availability is here.

With the Oilers taking on the St. Louis Blues tonight – the Blues flew home after a game in Carolina Saturday and will be looking for points, not excuses – they need a bounce back from top to bottom. While the Oilers sit atop the Pacific Division at 10-3-0, things are tight. They have four teams within four points.

The Oilers showed that kind of moxy in the win over the Bruins after opening the road trip with a 4-2 loss in Detroit, and they’ll need more of the same resolve tonight. The Oilers haven’t lost two straight games in the early going this season. Keeping that intact against the Blues will send them on to Winnipeg in good shape.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

It’s been a long time since I first bumped into Ken Holland in a hockey rink – over coffee in the scouts’ room at Memorial Arena in Kamloops — in late 1985 after the Detroit Red Wings hired the old goaltender as their western Canadian scout.

Truth is, after all this time I don’t know Holland well – not as well as I know his career as an NHL general manager from the perspective of a beat writer. Interview here. Scrum there. Even in terms of that arm’s length relationship it’s been a while since we chatted. Not for Jim Nill.

Simply put, nobody in the hockey business knows Holland better – that’s why I was eager to read what Nill had to say about Holland on the eve of his induction into the HHOF Monday. You can find that here in an item Nill wrote for NHL.com and it provides a lot of perspective about what makes Holland tick.

Nill has known Holland for 45 years, since 1975-76 when they were teammates with the Medicine Hat Tigers in. At the same time Holland was working his way up, eventually becoming Detroit’s GM in 1997, Nill was a player in the Red Wings’ organization 1987-91. All told, he spent 19 seasons working with Holland in Detroit, including 15 years (1998-2013) as his assistant GM.

Here’s one snippet from what Nill wrote that rings really true because I’ve heard it more times than I can remember over the years from people who know Holland. It reads: “Ken has respected the game all the way along, the way a Hall of Famer should, and respected all the people involved with it. And when you speak to people inside the game or outside the game about Ken Holland, you learn quickly it goes both ways. He is respected.”

Congratulations to Holland and Kevin Lowe of the Oilers, Jarome Iginla, Kim St. Pierre, Marian Hossa and Doug Wilson on their induction into the HHOF.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

HOW HE SEES IT

As entertaining as he can be, John Tortorella isn’t always right when he starts slinging bombast. Saying Connor McDavid should shut up and stop complaining about non-calls on penalties the other night is one of those times.

“He complained about it a little bit he wasn’t getting the calls,” Tortorella said after McDavid endured another night of uncalled hooks and trips in Boston Thursday. “Quite honestly, and I hope I say it correctly, just shut up. Don’t talk about it . . .” For context, the full item is here.

Shut up? McDavid has plenty to bitch about in the non-call department. While I don’t think moaning and groaning to the refs during games changes anything, if the best player in the game can’t point out how bad the officiating is, who can?

“You have to have that business-type attitude that ‘nothing’s going to bother me no matter how you’re going to check me,’” Tortorella said. I have a better idea.

How about if the NHL adopts a business-type attitude, demands more consistency from its officials and changes how the game is called instead of expecting a guy like McDavid to change how he plays? Let’s give that a try.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

WHILE I’M AT IT

His unquestionably remarkable career aside, Iginla is one of the kindest, genuine and decent human beings I’ve come across in all my years around the game. Also, he’s modest to a fault.

“I was here (HHoF) once in my early 20’s, and never even thought I’d be here again like this,” Iginla said Friday. “I was just hoping to get in the league and somehow stay in the league.”

ARTICLE BROUGHT TO YOU BY DAILYFACEOFF

Looking to up your fantasy hockey game? DailyFaceoff has the tools you need for both daily and season-long fantasy leagues, including a lineup optimizer, daily projections, and a whole lot more. Sign up for the DailyFaceoff tools here.

Previously by Robin Brownlee