Saturdays. We had our chores (bringing in coal—don’t let anyone tell you it’s clean and beautiful; milking and feeding the goats, shoveling the driveway) but most of the day belonged to us. My solution to getting things done was starting early, up well before dawn. If my brother got up too, we could start to work, if not, I’d play hockey in the driveway. I knew the lines and pairings back and forth for the entire league back then, especially for the Boston Bruins:
- Wayne Cashman—Phil Esposito—Ken Hodge
- Johnny Bucyk—Fred Stanfield—Johnny McKenzie
- Mike Walton—Derek Sanderson—Eddie Westfall
- Extra F: Garnet Bailey, Don Marcotte
- Bobby Orr—Dallas Smith
- Carol Vadnais—Ted Green
- Don Awrey, Matt Ravlich
- Gerry Cheevers (Eddie Johnston)
There was a trade in there (Rick Smith, Reggie Leach out, Carol Vadnais in) but you could find pairings and details in the next week’s The Hockey News or maybe the Bruins played that Saturday night. Teams ran three lines, two pairings, plus two extra forwards and a fifth defenseman back then. I didn’t play road hockey at the family home in 1985, but have a fairly good memory (aided by Bruce McCurdy) of that team. The 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers were an All-Star cast:
- Mike Krushelnyski—Wayne Gretzky—Jari Kurri
- Mark Napier—Mark Messier—Glenn Anderson
- Dave Hunter—Kevin McLelland—Pat Hughes
- Dave Semenko—Billy Carroll—Willy Lindstrom (et cetera)
- Paul Coffey—Charlie Huddy
- Kevin Lowe—Lee Fogolin
- Don Jackson—Randy Gregg
- Grant Fuhr (Andy Moog)
That’s a monster team, I won’t see another like that one in this town during my lifetime. The weird thing? I’m not sure it’s the best Oilers team ever. Seriously. I have to tell you the 1987 team might have been better. Incredibly. The NHL has named the 1984-85 Oilers the best team ever, and I’ve come to accept it. Esa Tikkanen played a little in the playoffs, Napier was a favorite, Pouzar too. Strangest thing of all? I’m pretty sure the best Bruins team ever was 1970-71, that team didn’t make the Finals. Blasted Habs.
There are so many games I can watch every night now that none of them have the importance of that single Saturday night game of my youth. Somewhere back there, in a moment when Bobby Orr was in full flight and the Toronto Maple Leafs were backing up in a quick hurry, the magic of this beautiful game found me and has never let me go. It’s time to do the chores, but we’ll all get back together in time for puck drop. Bring the cards, bring the booze, bring the laughter. It’s Saturday night, hockey night, in Canada.
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- New Lowetide: How much skill is bubbling under for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Jesse
- Jonathan Willis: McDavid as defensive liability is fiction
- Lowetide: The Leftorium versus unicorns
- Corey Pronman: Around the farms (Maksimov)
LONG DECEMBER, YEAR OVER YEAR
- December 2015: 6-0-0, goal differential +7
- December 2016: 2-1-3, goal differential +1
- December 2017: 3-3-0, goal differential +4
The Oilers in December this year are running well enough to contend (32 points would put Edmonton five points out), but there’s a little matter of that slow start to overcome. G7 in 2015 fall was a 4-2 loss to the NYR and last season it was 3-2 win over Winnipeg courtesy Mark Letestu.
AFTER 33, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers 15-16: 14-16-2, goal differential -11
- Oilers 16-17: 15-12-5, goal differential +7
- Oilers 17-18: 13-17-2, goal differential -11
If ever there was a team in need of a winning streak, this is it. The Oilers need to get on a roll, to get back to fake .500 as soon as possible. 2015 G33 was a 4-0 loss to Teravainen and the Chicago Blackhawks, last year saw Edmonton win 3-2 against Tampa Bay in a shootout. A win this afternoon finally allows the team to arrive at 30 points on the season.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM DECEMBER
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected: 0-0-1) (Actual: 1-0-0)
- At home to: Philadelphia (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual: 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Toronto, Columbus (Expected 1-2-0) (Actual 2-1-0)
- At home to: Nashville (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Minnesota (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: San Jose, St. Louis, Montreal (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Chicago, Winnipeg (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-6-2, 12 points in 13 games
- Current results: 3-3-0, six points in six games
I have today’s game as a win, you can see just how much work there is to do in the coming days. You could get outrageous odds on Edmonton running the table for the rest of the month (7-0-0) and I wouldn’t bet on it. That’s the kind of run that would be required in order to get this team back into the race.
The Oilers are heading into Minneapolis for a day game, I have about 30 scripts from past collisions and they all read the same. Cam Talbot will need to be Bernie Parent today and that’s a fact. At least Lemaire isn’t there and the Wild have opened up their game a little.
I wrote about Mike Hoffman as a trade target for the Oilers over at The Athletic on December 12. Elliotte Friedman wondered aloud about the idea (Hoffman to Edmonton) later in the week and it’s something to ponder. Hoffman playing wing on 97’s line would by dynamite. Cost? I’ll say Oscar Klefbom.
— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) December 14, 2017
Edmonton’s future on right-wing will be at the World Juniors, led by Kailer Yamamoto. He was an impact player at the summer series and should play a key role this Christmas for Team USA.
The Condors got some good news this week with the return of Ethan Bear to practice. In the early days of the season, he was the most impressive blue among the rookies (Bear, Caleb Jones, Ryan Mantha, Ziyat Paigin). Since Bear (8gp, 2-3-5 +4) went down with injury, the other three men performed thusly:
- Caleb Jones 15gp, 1-4-5 -9 (8gp, 0-2-2 -8 with Bear in lineup)
- Ryan Mantha 13gp, 1-2-3 +3 (8gp, 0-3-3 -5 with Bear in lineup)
- Ziyat Paigin 3gp, 0-0-0 -1 (4gp, 0-0-0 -1 with Bear in lineup)
The Condors play in San Jose tonight.