-- When I watched the Edmonton Oilers lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final, I had no idea what was about to happen. Either did many other Oiler fans! The decade of disaster was beginning.
862 games, and 177 players later it is over as the Oilers are heading back to the playoffs. Yes, myself and many others never gave up, but damn it was tough to see one bad team after another get iced. How did we do it? How did we manage to stay with this team through one horrid season after another.
While he gets lots of credit, Connor McDavid doesn't get all the credit. As 630 CHED's Brendan Ullrich told us on the Sportscage Wednesday, while many like Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli are to get a pat on the back, the credit has to lie at the feet of Bob Nicholson.
The chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group had a vision. Yes, having four ping-pong balls bounce your way on a Saturday night in June of 2015 to land a once-in-a-lifetime player helped immensely as well, but Nicholson had a plan. One that was perhaps accelerated greatly after that June night. It involved Peter Chiarelli, it involved Todd McLellan and once he became theirs, it involved Connor McDavid.
Nicholson knew what Chiarelli could do and he quickly grabbed him. Chiarelli went out and got McLellan. He then went out and convinced Milan Lucic to be a part of what was about to happen, he made what at the time was the unpopular trade of Taylor Hall and he also grabbed Cam Talbot. He took a chance on Mark Letestu, he took a chance on Drake Caggiula, he hoped Oscar Klefbom could develop and he resisted the urge to trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle while stealing Patrick Maroon from Anaheim. He then allowed McLellan to do his thing, and do it he has. McLellan has been through this before with the San Jose Sharks. Those teams never got to the Cup final despite having all the talent in the world. Those Sharks didn't have McDavid.
I don't know who Edmonton will play in the 1st round and they may not win a game once the playoffs hit, but the vision and the plan is there. For Oilers fans like this blogger, we can forget about the past decade and concentrate on what will perhaps be ten years of triumph. It will never be like the Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Fuhr days, but damn it is nice to know that once the quest for the Cup starts, the Oilers will be involved.
-- The Regina Pats are headed to the 2nd round. I don't think that will surprise anyone, but did the ease of the four game sweep surprise you. Admittedly, it did to me. That being said head coach and GM John Paddock and assistant coach Dave Struch are keeping this team grounded by saying they haven't been impressed. Has Calgary been that bad if Regina hasn't been good? I guess we will find out in the 2nd round. If Regina didn't play their best, they now go into the 2nd round having won I believe 12 straight. Not too shabby! How much fun will it be now with either Swift Current or Moose Jaw in Round 2. I see that series going 7.
-- Is there a faster player than Austin Wagner in the Canadian Hockey League?
-- It was great being able to hear Peter Loubardias do the play-by-play of a hockey game again this week. Yes, I'm biased because he is a good friend of mine, but he should still be doing play-by-play in the NHL. His talents are being wasted. Considering what he went through last year, it makes it all that much more special.
|Shaw's Darren Dupont|
-- The signing of Tyson Jost by the Colorado Avalanche was a surprise. The Avs now can keep him or send him to the Pats who have his rights. A year in Regina playing alongside Sam Steel, Nick Henry, Jake Leschyshyn and others might be better than playing with what will be a bad Avalanche team. I am guessing John Paddock will be getting on the phone to speak with Joe Sakic and the Avs soon if he hasn't already. I also wonder if the signing was an indication he wants to come after a season at North Dakota.
-- Don Nachbaur stepped down as the coach of the Spokane Chiefs on Thursday. I may be wrong with this one, but did all WHL teams end the year with the same coach they started with? If that is the case, I can't remember a season where that happened.
-- The Blue Jays are back in Montreal this weekend. The love for the game in the city will be showcased again as Toronto finishes off its pre-season against Baltimore. For a while on Wednesday, many got excited when word came out that a group of investors had met the conditions MLB needed for a team. That excitement was doused by both Mayor Denis Coderre and one of those investors who said while some of the conditions were met, there was still a long way to go. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Montreal deserves another MLB franchise. The way the old Expos went out was criminal. It will happen, and when it does the team will thrive. It would seem as if TSN would be a logical television partner which would be huge for the franchise and the sport as a whole.
-- What would be your first clue that Flames forward Matt Tkaczuk is Keith's kid. He is going to have a prominent role in "The Battle of Alberta" over the next few years meaning I will hate this kid soon.
-- The commercial featuring the guys playing pond hockey and then enjoying a nice cold glass of milk can go at anytime! If last night was its last airing, I'm OK with that!
That's all I got. Have a great weekend!