Any human my age learned a lot about team building and the importance of a prospect pipeline from the Montreal Canadiens. I rage about Sam Pollock daily, but the truth is he was lapping the expansion era field as other NHL general managers were trading him draft picks for fringe NHLers with humble futures.
Baseball’s Branch Rickey graduated his first rookie through the St. Louis Cardinals ‘farm system’ in 1931 (a man named Pepper Martin). The NHL ‘sponsorship’ system came along five years (or so) later, during a time of great turmoil for the league and the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA). In 1936, the NHL and the CAHA agreed to a set of rules that protected everyone but the players. You can read about it here.
The NHL got player cost certainty and control (basically forever) and the CAHA was guaranteed to keep their players while they were “junior” assets. I won’t bore you with the details, but the Montreal Canadiens did well in the sponsorship era, and then in the early draft era courtesy Pollock, a major figure in league history. Pollock rarely let a player of value leave the Montreal organization for less than 500 cents on the dollar. In exchange, he received Stanleys by the number, awards by the score and each day that passed Habs fans loved him more and more and more.
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: Oilers’ No. 3 line has been a source of anxiety early this season
- 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: 0-4-0, goal differential -8
- Oilers in October 2016: 3-1-0, goal differential +2
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-3-0, goal differential -6
- Oilers in October 2018: 2-2-0, goal differential -4
- Oilers in October 2019: 4-0-0, goal differential +5
- Oilers in Month 1 2021: 1-2-0, goal differential -3
Every picture tells a story. The Oilers could tear through the rest of January and leave this rather unattractive photo far behind. As it is, the numbers paint a difficult picture on this day. No panic. No blood in the streets. Rather, the acknowledgement that answers need to be found and right soon.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 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) (Actual 0-1-0)
- 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: 1-2-0, 2 points after 3 games
A victory puts the team on track and sets them up reasonably well for what I believe will be the toughest string of games this month: Four against Toronto in the next six. Edmonton is 1-5-0 in its last six games against the Maple Leafs over three seasons.
In the last 10 seasons, the Canadiens have made the playoffs six times, getting to Round 3 once and Round 2 twice. By comparison, Edmonton has made the postseason only twice, advancing to the second round just once (in 2017).
Edmonton’s 2013+ graduating class includes two of the best players in the game (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl) along with top-4 defenseman Darnell Nurse, No. 2 right winger Kailer Yamamoto and several prospects of some promise.
Montreal’s 2013+ graduating class includes outstanding defenseman Mikhail Sergaschev, solid NHL regulars Artturi Lehkonen, Victor Mete and a few other pieces.
The Habs are getting a big push from their department of youth this season and it’s one of the reasons we may be looking at a top team in the division. Alexander Romanov stepped right in with calm feet, a range of skills and a gigantic future, Nick Suzuki looks like a throwback Habs center who can play a 200-foot game and impact offensively (like Pierre Mondou) and Jesper Kotkaniemi appears to have matured some since we last left his story. That’s three youngsters who are either debuting or stepping up and taking on a bigger role on the team. It’s a very good sign.
The Oilers don’t have any rookies this year, but the list of young regulars includes McDavid, Draisaitl, Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones. That’s 25 percent of a roster 25 and under, delivering at a high level.
Both are good teams, Montreal may be ahead this season. We’ll find out more on their story tonight.
The hockey Gods may have given Ken Holland a mulligan here, but the Winnipeg Jets might feel differently. At 10 this morning we’ll find out where he lands, but Dell would represent a significant upgrade at the position for Edmonton. I wrote about Dell as an Oilers option here.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, we’ll find out about the Dell waiver situation and that will kick off the show, TSN1260. At 10:20 Joey Alfieri from TSN 690 will give us the situation from the Habs perspective and Jason Gregor from TSN1260’s Jason Gregor Show will have the Oilers side (and discuss Dell) at 11:05. We’ll have your comments and an early Oilers-Habs game preview during the show and talk about the exciting NFL weekend past and the one to come. 10-1260 text @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!