Another NHL season is only one week away. We will read and make predictions on playoff teams, Cup contenders, scoring leaders and other awards. It is always fun to predict how the season will go. There are likely eight teams most prognosticators would have making the playoffs, and likely six to eight most will have as a for sure not to make it. The rest will battle it out and, as always, there will be a few major surprises, positively and negatively, for a few fan bases.
I love watching hockey, and I want to see the best players on the ice. The league is better when the best skaters are playing and it’s good to see most of the RFAs have signed. Brayden Point and Matthew Tkachuk signed three years deals this week, leaving only Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor unsigned. Yes, Julius Honka, Saku Maenalanen and Jesse Puljujarvi are also unsigned, but they aren’t in the same category.
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Jets fans must be the most nervous of the 31 teams. Last September many had the Jets as a legit Stanley Cup contender. They had a good regular season, but lost to St. Louis, the eventual Cup winners, in the first round. Now, 12 months later, two of their best forwards are unsigned, and @Dustin Byfuglien is suspended from the team as he decides if he will play this year (I’ve heard varying reports on his status). So their top-pairing defender and two of their top-four forwards aren’t with the team yet. Yikes.
In the competitive central division a slow start could cost the Jets a playoff spot. I’m not sure you can expect to repeat the Blues’ worst-to-first Cinderella story of last year.

HERE AND THERE…

Apr 1, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) looks on from the ice in the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
@Connor McDavid played his first preseason game last night and his knee looked fine. On his second shift, at full speed, he cut inside an attacking Coyotes player and showed no signs of being hesitant or slower. He did look a bit off as a few passes bounced off his stick.
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“I felt a little rusty, but that’s to be expected in the first pre-season game. It was nice to be out there for sure,” said McDavid. “I was able to push myself like nothing happened, so I was happy about that. Obviously a game is a lot different than a practice, so it was good to get in one.”
He might play Saturday in Calgary. He wants to play again, but it will be up to Dave Tippett. The doctors have cleared him, so now it would seem it is Tippett’s decision. If his captain expresses a desire to play another preseason game, I’d bet we see McDavid Saturday in Calgary.
McDavid’s presence on opening night is not only good for the Edmonton Oilers, it is good for the NHL.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS…

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@Ethan Bear played 18 NHL games with the Oilers in 2018, but spent all of last season in the AHL. Making the NHL is tough, but remaining a regular NHLer is even more difficult. Bear is now one step closer to getting back to the NHL as the Oilers reassigned Evan Bouchard to the AHL last night. Bear is now battling with Joel Persson for a spot on right defence. Persson left last night’s game. I’m told he injured his shoulder. He will be re-evaluated today. Dave Tippett said Persson told the trainers his shoulder was sore, so they held him out. It might be a minor issue, or maybe he misses some time. Either way, Bear is right in the mix for that opening night spot beside Oscar Klefbom.
Bear has had a good camp, and will play tomorrow in Winnipeg. I could see Tippett playing him with Klefbom. Bear looks a bit quicker and he has matured. He is still very young. He turned 22 in June and becoming a regular NHLer four years after being a fifth round selection in 2015 is a normal timeline. His first appearance in 2017/2018 was due to injuries more than him being NHL ready. He looks much more prepared to be an NHL player today.
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MATTHEWS COURT CASE…

Auston Matthews is another elite player who makes the league better when he plays. He is very good. Unfortunately, for him, right now his actions off the ice are making headlines.
According to court documents, Matthews is charged with one count of disorderly conduct and disruptive behaviour or fighting from an incident on May 26th, 2019 in Scotsdale Arizona.
ABC 15 in Arizona reported police are investigating the incident that reportedly took place at approximately 2 a.m. on May 26 between Matthews and a female security guard outside a condo complex where Matthews lives.
According to ABC 15’s report, the security guard said she was sitting in her locked car when Matthews, who was with a group of friends, saw her and decided to try to open the door, jiggling the handle. Matthews, after being confronted by the guard, walked away and allegedly dropped his pants and exposed his underwear to the guard, according to police.
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Matthews hasn’t been arrested in relation to the charge and none of the allegations have been proven in court. There is a hearing scheduled for today, but Matthews does not have to appear in person.
This morning Matthews made a brief statement.
“I regret any of my actions that put a distraction on the team or distress on any individual. I take a lot of pride in preparing for the season and representing the Toronto Maple Leafs as best I can.”
He was instructed not to make any other comments at this time, which is normal considering it is in court this morning.

LEARNING OPPORTUNITY…

I hope the NHL uses this situation as a learning tool. We don’t need to make outlandish proclamations about Matthews’ character. None of these allegations have been proven true, but let’s say they are. In that case, it would be clear he made a wrong decision. We all have, especially when we were in our early 20s. My first reaction was he was a dumb young guy. Most of us have been there. But after some thinking I realized I overlooked the bigger issue.
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To me the learning opportunity shouldn’t focus on him dropping his pants. It was immature, but considering many young adults walk around wearing jeans that sit at the bottom of their bum and have their underwear exposed the entire time, let’s not overreact to him “exposing himself.” Dropping the pants, was simply a dumb move.
The real learning lesson stems from his decision, if proven accurate, to approach the female security guard’s vehicle. It was 2 a.m. and he was with a group of males. A group of males approaching someone’s vehicle at two in the morning could be scary for anyone, but especially for a female.
There is nothing wrong with pointing out that we as men need to be aware of how scary that could be for a female. But, let’s also not paint him as a horrible man or a predator. If the allegations are true, then he made a bad decision, and hopefully, he learns from it.
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It seems social media wants to attack and call names, rather than calmly discuss how this type of action should stop.
If the allegations are proven true, I don’t think a fine would do much. He pays it and moves on. A better lesson would be to do some volunteer hours at a women’s shelter or simply have a face-to-face discussion with the security guard. That would have a much bigger impact on him.
When I was 13 years old, some friends and I went around to houses, opened the screen doors, threw a sparkler in, rang the doorbell and ran. We thought it would scare the person answering the door. (You have to remember this was in the mid-1980s, when people answered their doors). It was dumb. After hitting ten houses, we walked down the street and ran into another boy. His name was Brent. He asked what we were doing and after we told him, he begged to come with us for one house. We went to a house on the corner. We did our routine, and then he ran east down the street towards his house, while the three of ran around the corner north and went home.
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An hour later the police arrived at my door. My parents were out at my brother’s hockey game. The officer showed me a burnt sparkler and asked if I knew what it was. I lied and said no. He came back later, spoke to my parents and it turned out Brent got caught and used my name. I was annoyed he ratted on me, and I never ratted out my other two friends when I had to fess up to my parents. Although later, as my mother had lunch with my neighbour Jason’s mother, they put two and two together. He and Jeff both got grounded.
My punishment: I had to go to that house and apologize. It was the worst. I had to walk up to the door, feeling very sheepish, look the owner in the eye and say I was sorry. When I got to his porch, he invited me in the house. He said he was a probation officer (what are the chances?). I was 13. I didn’t know what that was and he proceeded to tell me. His stories scared me. For a moment I thought I was going to a juvenile home. He did a great job of scaring me, and I deserved it. I left his house knowing how stupid my actions were.
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Matthew’s actions are different than mine, but I believe making people have to face their bad decisions is a better learning lesson than a fine, or in my case being grounded.
Maybe Matthews can sit down with the security guard when the season is over and hear how she felt when he approached her vehicle with a group of men, if that is indeed what occurred.
These are healthy discussions — much healthier than performing a character assassination online. If these allegations are true, it doesn’t mean Matthews is inherently a bad person, or unable to genuinely apologize and learn from his actions.
I’m curious to see what unfolds, but if the allegations are true I hope the NHL or the Maple Leafs consider a learning lesson rather than a small fine.
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BEST PIZZA…

Who has the best pizza in Edmonton an area? Tell your favourite pizzeria to enter and get your tickets today for the 1st annual Pizza Pigout in support of KidSport. We only have 100 tickets remaining. If you like pizza, and a cold beverage, come join us where you can try pizza from over 25 pizzerias and chat with some Edmonton Sports athletes.

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