I can still remember the feeling. Hockey Night in Canada. The best games, the memorable ones, involved the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. The Habs were so strong in those years, rookies would push 10 at a time but only one or two of the best would make it. Then, when the Montrealers needed something, they could trade Mickey Redmond (a fantastic young scoring winger), Guy Charron (a center who would play for years) and Bill Collins (utility forward who could score goals in bunches in the right role) for big Frank Mahovlich, Hall of Famer. As a Bruins fan, it was beyond galling.
So, when 1981 spring arrived, and the Oilers took on Montreal in the opening round of the playoffs, I was ready for disappointment. Game 1 was a fantastic game for Oilers fans, and even for Oilers fans who also loved the Bruins. Soon after, Edmonton would push to win the Stanley Cup five times, emerging as the bullies on the block for close to a decade.
Tonight, both teams arrive at the 2020-21 season with significant expectations. Stanley is a distant bell in both hockey cities, only because he hasn’t come to visit so far this century. Montreal was an annual hurdle in my youth and they are again. The Habs are in town. We don’t know the superior team this morning, but we’ll get more information tonight. The Canadian division has another four pointer tonight.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Is this peak Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: First impressions of Oilers after opener against the Canucks
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers opening night roster: A player-by-player breakdown
- Lowetide: Oilers risers and fallers and how they impact the opening night roster
- Lowetide: Will Ken Holland let it ride in goal for the Oilers this season?
- Lowetide: Oilers rookies with a chance to stick after one week of training camp
- Lowetide: 9 bold predictions for the Oilers’ season
- Lowetide: Early roster rumblings as Oilers open training camp
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers training camp: Forecasting the big roster battles
- Lowetide: Dylan Holloway’s world juniors work offers clues about Oilers future
- Lowetide: The Bakersfield Condors will be competitive in the coming AHL season
- Jonathan Willis: After a brilliant rookie Oilers season, how high is Ethan Bear’s ceiling?
- Lowetide: How secure is Zack Kassian’s role on Oilers’ top line?
- Lowetide: Why fans should expect an Oilers playoff berth in Canadian division
- Jonathan Willis: Dave Tippett has more options now thanks to versatile Oilers forwards
- Lowetide: What if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn’t sign with the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Seattle Kraken expansion mock draft 5.0: Who could the Oilers lose?
- Lowetide: Why McDavid and Nuge together could be key to Oilers’ playoff success
OILERS IN MONTH NO. 1
- Oilers in October 2015: 0-3-0, goal differential -6
- Oilers in October 2016: 2-1-0, goal differential +1
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-2-0, goal differential -1
- Oilers in October 2018: 1-2-0, goal differential -5
- Oilers in October 2019: 3-0-0, goal differential +5
- Oilers in Month 1 2021: 1-1-0, goal differential +1
A win tonight gets the current team on track with the 2016-17 playoff team, last year’s club was quick out of the starting gate in October 2019. I think this is a playoff team, but the reason I held back the balance photo was goaltending and that will be a major theme for the rest of January.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MONTH NO. 1
- At home to: Vancouver, Vancouver (Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual 1-1-0)
- At home to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected: 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Toronto, Toronto, Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected 1-2-1)
- At home to: Toronto, Toronto, Ottawa (Expected 2-1-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-5-1, 11 points in 11 games
- Current results: 1-1-0, 2 points after 2 games
POSSIBLE LINEUP FOR TONIGHT
- RNH [2, 2-1-3]—Connor McDavid [2, 3-1-4]—Zack Kassian [2, 0-1-1]
- Dominik Kahun [2, 0-1-1]—Leon Draisaitl [2, 0-5-5]—Kailer Yamamoto [2, 1-2-3]
- Josh Archibald [2, 0-0-0]—Kyle Turris [2, 0-0-0]—Jesse Puljujarvi [2, 0-0-0]
- Tyler Ennis [1, 0-0-0]—Jujhar Khaira [2, 0-0-0]—Alex Chiasson [2, 0-0-0]
- Darnell Nurse [2, 1-0-1]—Ethan Bear [2, 0-1-1]
- Caleb Jones [2, 0-1-1]—Adam Larsson [2, 1-0-1]
- Slater Koekkoek [2, 0-0-0]—Tyson Barrie [2, 0-1-1]
- Mikko Koskinen [2, 3.55 .907]
I think Khaira is the closest to drawing out (Devin Shore looked good in the Thursday game) but that may wait for Gaetan Haas’ healthy return. Caleb Jones got banged up in Game 2, it’s possible someone draws in.
I had planned on a brief item in regard to replacing Anton Forsberg as the extra goalie in the system, so that’s why Troy Grosenick is mentioned here. He has a solid AHL resume, his last four seasons have featured save percentages of .926, .905, .919 and .920. He would be a good fit in Bakersfield, in front of Stuart Skinner, Dylan Wells and the recently recalled Olivier Rodrigue.
Assuming the Canadian teams aren’t willing to help Edmonton (why would they without a massive overpay?), I’ll list the following possibilities:
- Arizona Coyotes. Adin Hill is under $1 million, uncertain if there’s a willingness to trade him. Coyotes have two expensive veterans (Darcy Kuemper, Antti Raanta) but that’s complicated trade to make in-season.
- Buffalo Sabres. Dustin Tokarski hasn’t been in the NHL since 2016-17, but he’s just 31 and has a three-year AHL run of SP’s (.915, .914 and .924). Long shot, no idea if he could help more than Grosenick.
Stay tuned at 10 this morning, perhaps we’ll see a waiver claim. Beyond that, depending on Smith’s situation, expect Holland to make a deal soon for that goaltender we’ve discussed since the Smith signing. I never believed Koskinen-Smith would be enough.