It’s going to be a scorcher in Edmonton today, hot sun bearing down and not a cloud to hide behind. Dogs barking, kids laughing, sprinklers keeping time with staccato percussion and lawn mowers humming a familiar tune.
Around 1pm today, the Oilers will hit the ice to play a game that means more to this city than anything that’s happened since spring 2017. Don’t you dare mention August unless it’s in a sentence that includes “Oilers” “in” “August” and “company.” By 4pm, barbecues, beers and adult cheers should echo down the subdivisions. It’s hockey Saturday in Edmonton, and this city doesn’t give a rat’s ass what month it is. Are you all ready for this?
Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. I am proud to be part of The Athletic. Here are the most recent Oilers stories.
- New Lowetide: Homegrown Oilers players will again take a featured playoff role
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Bang for your buck: Ranking the Oilers based on contract expectations
- Lowetide: Could Oilers’ lack of centre depth mean postseason roster shuffle?
- Daniel Nugent Bowman: What the Oilers should be thinking after watching Chicago in exhibition
- Lowetide: Splitting the Draisaitl line may create hot August nights in Edmonton
- Jonathan Willis: Is Philip Broberg on track to be a top-pairing defenceman?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ productive prospect pipeline a welcome change for playoffs
- New Mark Lazerus and Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Breaking down storylines, scouting reports and X-factors for Blackhawks-Oilers
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Oilers scrimmage: Colby Cave gets Maurice Richard treatment in fitting tribute
- Lowetide: Imagining the city of Edmonton with the Oilers in a deep playoff run
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s roster construction options over the next five months
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Inside the bubble: Details on where and how NHL players will live in Edmonton
- Lowetide: What should Oilers fans expect from Connor McDavid in the playoffs?
- Lowetide: Dave Tippett’s postseason strategy against the Blackhawks
KEYS TO THE GAME
For the Oilers, outscoring Chicago five on five is important, marking Patrick Kane imperative. Kane’s the one player on the ‘Hawks roster who will give Edmonton fits. He’s dangerous always with the puck, and if he’s covered then sure as hell the puck is headed to a dangerous place with a linemate in mind. Corey Crawford is also a concern.
Connor McDavid is going to be too much for Chicago’s defense, with Leon Draisaitl on deck. Game 1 is the most important in a five game series, just like strike one is the most important pitch in baseball. Dave Tippett is going to let his horses run free offensively, short leash for support players.
Defensively, the Oilers have a mobile top-4D who can move the puck, defend and outlet well by pass or carry. The Edmonton blue will make mistakes, but laser focus against Kane is vital. Chicago’s defense comes in with a bigger job while carrying less quality and depth.
THE NEAL-LUCIC TRADE
I said all along the Oilers would not get a good result but it’s far less harmful than it could have been. The NHL gives the pick to Calgary but gives Ken Holland a year to trade for a replacement. It’s extremely likely Edmonton uses the 2020 pick. Here’s a mock just for fun, I’ll put the Oilers at No. 20 overall. This mock assumes JP is signed.
No. 20 overall: RC Mavrik Bourque, Shawinigan (QMJHL). I keep coming back to this player because he’s skilled, smart, has great anticipation and a quick release. There are no negatives beyond size (5.10, 176) and his stock is rising due to complete skill set.
No. 82 overall: LW Roby Jarventie, Ilves (Liiga). A bigger winger (6.01, 180) who is an August 2002, he scored a goal in five Liiga games and 23 goals in 36 Mestis games. His skating is average but he’s one of the youngest players in the draft so there is room to grow. His photo reminded me of Lennart Petrell.
No. 144 overall: LW Maxim Groshev, Nizhnekamsk (KHL). He’s 6.01, 195 and an older prospect (December 2001) for this draft. Groshev is a two-way winger with a good shot and can skate. Oilers might take a higher risk player here but lack of picks inside the top 100 could see Holland go the safe route.
No. 175 overall: LC Dmitry Zlodeyev, Dynamo (MHL). His scouting report reads like a Ken Holland player and the Oilers appear to be back on the Russian radar. I do think the Oilers will take more chances and the Denezhkin pick looks strong one year gone.
No. 206 overall: LC Daniel Ljungman, Linkoping (SuperElite). His draft year reflects Philip Broberg’s in that he performed very well and put himself on the prospect map at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. Another two-way center who is more shooter than playmaker and could move to wing in pro hockey.
NOTE TO A FRIEND
I’ve been writing this blog for 15 years now, and in my mind’s eye have been talking to one person that whole time: You. That’s the idea of the blog, from the grumpy old guy to photos of the dog.
So, on this special day, a reminder you may remember: Enjoy this.
I used to watch television shows that had scenes where old people cry at graduations, or weddings, or birth announcements or funerals. I enjoyed the laughter but didn’t get the point, but as one ages, and there’s more past than future, things come into view.
I’ve never suggested or anticipated multiple Stanleys for this era of the Oilers, the league is far better now with more teams. It’s also true, without rambling on too much about it, that the support group for McDavid and Draisaitl is a little shy of the men who played alongside 99 and 11.
You only get so many bullets in life, a finite number of lovers and soulmates and children and even sorties for Stanley. You hold on to this, you enjoy every minute, because it’s your experience and your life and your time.
God bless you boys, glory awaits.