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A New Beginning

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
BlackDogPat
2 months ago
I think it was in university that I began to think of Labour Day as New Year’s Day. After all, that was the start of the new year. Your summer ended, back to school, back, in my case, to Toronto. Even after I graduated from school, that idea lingered with me, just as music from when I was young remains my soundtrack today.
It might have waned for a while but once the kids began to go to school, well then it came back stronger than ever. In September school began, activities and hockey, both mine and the boy’s. What was January 1st but just another day, much like St Patrick’s Day, amateur hour for drinkers as the bartender at the Only Cafe used to sniff. What to celebrate, with brutal January and February ahead …
And of course, our New Year’s Day also means that NHL training camps are starting and most importantly that OILERS’ CAMP is opening soon.
Hope always springs eternal. Unless your team is a complete disaster, September brings dreams of the Cup or of a long playoff run or of a return to the playoffs. And even if your team is brutal well … HOPE springs eternal, as we remember from the Oilers’ long and terrible drought after the Cup run of 2006. If you are terrible then there are always highly touted youngsters on their way and so while you know your team is going nowhere you look to the kids with dreams of the future tied to them.
So what of the Oilers after their deepest playoff run since glorious 2006 (which included a fantastic dismantling of the Falmes)?
Well, I have to say that I am fairly bullish about our beloved Oilers, and as long as Kenny remembers to ‘get good players, keep good players’ as he tries to figure out the salary cap then I think, well, here is what I think …
I always look at the league in layers. You have the favourites, the contenders, the dark horses, and the also-rans. To me there are three teams to beat this season … the defending champs, Tampa (if Point was healthy might they have won three in a row) and … I know, I know … the Leafs. And for the first time since forever, I would consider the Oilers to be in the next tier, a true, actual, real live contender.
This isn’t your Dad’s NHL (I am old enough to be your Dad) where you had a half dozen super teams competing for the Cup and where to win you needed two star centres, one superstar defenceman (at least) and usually, a future Hall of Fame goalie not to mention a lineup four lines and six blue deep and a massive payroll. (I remember a game in the early oughts and Detroit had a power play against the Oilers – their power play unit and goaltender made more money than the entire Oilers’ team ….).
The Cap put an end to that and now you have Chicago winning three Cups with their second centre being a converted winger, the ghost of ,,, Michael Handzus (!?) and a fading Brad Richards, Carolina (spits) winning with six middle pairing D and many a team winning with just some guy in net.
What does it mean? That your Oilers, despite being flawed, have a real shot because EVERY OTHER TEAM has holes too. Remember all of those awful years when we would say well if Robert Nilsson scores 50 and Theo Peckman turns into a legitimate top pairing guy and Ben Eager plays on the first line and and and then the Oilers will make the playoffs … well, those days are long gone. This is a damn good team.
Does the team need things to go their way? Of course they do, but this team is deep up front and with 97 and 29 hitting their stride, it really seems like the sky is the limit. With youngsters Puljujarvi, McLeod, Holloway, and Yamamoto up front and Bouchard and Broberg on the blue, they have a load of young talent that has displaced most of the veteran mediocrities we have had to put up with every year for what seems like forever. And here’s the thing, we saw how McLeod took off last season and how Bouchard has become a premier talent. Don’t believe in Jesse? Look at his numbers before he was laid low by COVID. The kid is a player and if he stays healthy he will score 25. Guaranteed.
On the blue line, Kulak for a full season will be wonderful and Broberg will flourish under Manson.
What of the goaltending? I have seen a lot of Jack Campbell these past two years. He will be fine. He is a decent NHL goalie, and like nearly every NHL goalie he will have his ups and downs. Toronto did not lose to Tampa because of him. He’s no Vasilevskiy but nobody is. He will give the Oilers good enough goaltending, and he is good enough that when he goes on a heater he can carry a team.
So yeah … I’m bullish on these Oilers. They are flawed but so is everyone, and the reality is that only one team stands in their way in the west, the Avs, who are now without Nazem Kadri and their starting goalie, so we will see what the spring brings …
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