Connect with us

Sports

MILLIONS: The age of the Oilers is about to dawn

Roger Millions writes the Oilers may have just have it takes to go all the way.

mm

Published

on

At first glance at the Edmonton Oilers training camp roster, you simply have to wonder out loud; ‘isn’t it time?’

They have the most dynamic and gifted player in the game. They have perhaps the second as well. A winning season and a playoff spot has to be inevitable. 

Throw in year-two under the watchful eyes of GM Ken Holland and Head Coach Dave Tippett and the post season should be very much a reality. I have all the time in the world for the classy Holland and Tippett. They are solid individuals with outstanding pedigrees. The second season these two will be in charge will vault the Oilers into more than just contention.

It doesn’t hurt to have Connor McDavid. One veteran NHL defenceman I know well described McDavid with the puck as “frightening”. That coming from a former award winner himself. Toss the gaudy statistics aside and concentrate on what McDavid brings to the table, and it’s clear he’s ready to not only dazzle but to win. The million-dollar question remains: does he have the supporting cast to get the job done. For the most part, I believe he does.

Leon Draisaitl took the strange COVID-19 plagued season by storm a year ago and not only won the scoring title in the regular season, but the Hart Trophy as Most Valuable Player and the Ted Lindsay award as well. If those credentials don’t vault you to the next level in hockey what will? 

Throw in free agent Kyle Turris for depth. The reliable and gifted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as very good two-way centre. The youthful Kailer Yamamoto seems ready to blossom as the Oilers have an offensive bag of riches that most teams would drool over.

Sprinkle it Zach Kassian and Jujhar Khaira for size and sandpaper, and I don’t know what more a team could want up front.

The worry remains how the Oilers’ backend will stand up. 

Goaltending may be the lone question mark. The experience of 32-year-old Mikko Koskinen and 38-year-old Mike Smith showed flashes of brilliance a year ago. They also showed a propensity for some below average net minding. Somehow, the 56-game shortened regular season will help Koskinen and Smith out. The reduced travel time for these elder statesmen can’t hurt either. Many experts have panned the Oilers chances because of these two – but if healthy – I have to believe they will improve.

The biggest difference for the Oilers may be their defence. Another year older for many of these kids should pay dividends. The loss of injured Oscar Klefbom is certainly a blow to Edmonton, but I have to believe that they have the depth to make up for it.

Darnell Nurse may be on the verge of stardom. I love his nasty streak and his skating ability.

Yet, it’s the potential of Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard that makes me think the Oilers defence will grow in leaps and bounds. Bear – with a new contract – will anchor the team’s power play. And if and when he falters, free agent Tyson Barrie should carry some of the load. Bear is much more than a power play specialist, and being rewarded by Ken Holland to the tune of $ 2 million AAV over two seasons will be added incentive.

Bouchard will be the biggest addition, if not out of training camp, then as quick as possible. His game in Bakersfield in the American Hockey League was far better than most 20-year-old players would produce. This kid, now 21, can supply points, and as the London Knights in junior days gone by can attest, he has leadership qualities. The Oilers have a lot to look forward to with Bouchard, who I think will be an NHL star down the road.

It’s a very glowing review for the Oilers who are on the verge of coming of age. McDavid has been great and patient in his leadership. The disappointing days are coming to an end. 

In fact, if they avoid the COVID-19 nastiness and major injury problems, this team will make the playoffs. And after that, with McDavid, anything is possible. 

Rogers Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard

Roger Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard. He was a broadcaster for the Calgary Flames for 39 years.

Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mars Hill

    January 11, 2021 at 12:09 am

    I think a lot of folks have written off the NHL for their sanctimonious virtue signaling. I have and glad I did, don’t miss it at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sports

HARDING: The Oilers glory days are set to return

Gretzky told McDavid it’s just a matter of time.

mm

Published

on

The 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers were the greatest NHL team of all time, led by Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, and Paul Coffey. No team since had the top two leaders in points overall and the top defenceman – until now. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Tyson Barrie just repeated the feat, spawning hopes the Oilers could at long last reclaim the Stanley Cup.

For the second year in a row, McDavid and Draisaitl have been 1-2 in league scoring. McDavid’s 105 points and Draisaitl’s 84 were well ahead of Boston’s Brad Marchand at 69. This year’s surprise was Tyson Barrie whose 48 points were top for defensemen. The missing ingredient of a marquee offensive defenceman had finally arrived.

In 2015, a poll of ten leading NHL agents named Edmonton the least desirable place to play, but that was before McDavid and a new arena were part of the mix. After Barrie had a mediocre year with Toronto, a one-year contract in Edmonton made perfect sense.

“For me, it’s a no-brainer,” Barrie said when he signed last October. “It just wasn’t about money this year, [but] coming in to re-establish myself and show the league that I’m still a pretty good player.”

Barrie has been stellar. His 8 goals and 40 assists gave him 48 points, one more than the Rangers’ Adam Fox.  To boot, Barrie did it logging just 21:24 minutes per game, the lowest total of the top 30 defensive scorers. Then again, he had McDavid and Draisaitl to pass to, plus his defensive partner, Darnell Nurse. Nurse’s 16 goals were second-best among NHL blue liners, while his 36 points were 12th best.

“It’s pretty incredible, the skill we have on this team. It’s world class – as good as it gets,” Barrie told Sportsnet’s Mark Spector in March. Oilers coach Dave Tippett said Barrie was an important part of the McDavid-Draisaitl magic.

“He’s an elite puck-mover and offensive player. We’ve had some solid defenders, but nobody with the instincts with the puck that he has,” Tippett said. “The top offensive players, they love it when they’ve got a defenceman who can make creative plays to find you with the puck. That’s why he’s fit in so well.”

In some ways Barrie is the Coffey of the current team, though Sportsnet’s Ron McLean says McDavid is in others.

“What you know about him [Coffey] is that he can stand at the goal line and be at the blue line in two strides,” McLean said. “McDavid has that same power. It’s just [an] other-worldly first step.”

Even Gretzky says McDavid just keeps getting better. “The maturity that he’s shown this year, he’s gone to an even higher level. And I don’t just mean in points. His physical play is a lot higher than it’s been in the past. His body language is that he doesn’t want to lose,” Gretzky told The Athletic.

“His work ethic has been the most important part of what’s been infectious throughout the hockey club and bringing a young hockey team to another level.”

Last year, Gretzky said he saw other parallels with the current Oiler team and those of the 1980s, since Mark Messier kept him sharp in practice the same way Draisaitl does for McDavid.

“They’ve become better players because they’re competing every single day with each other and not even really realizing it. And obviously those two guys are driving the train in Edmonton and they’ve done a wonderful job.”

Oilers goalie Mike Smith honoured ‘85 legends Grant Fuhr and late trainer Joey Moss on his mask this year, and Gretzky has praise for Smith.

“I’ve played with a lot of great goaltenders. Andy Moog. Grant Fuhr. Curtis Joseph. Kelly Hrudey. Mike Smith is the first goaltender I’ve seen really energize a hockey club from being in goal. Whether it’s his feistiness on the ice, whether it’s how he handles the puck and moves the puck, how he battles every game.”

In 1985, the Oilers went 49-20-11 in the regular season then dominated the playoffs. They swept L.A. and Winnipeg, beat Chicago in 6 games and Philadelphia in 5. Gretzky’s 47 points and Kurri’s 19 goals remain records, as do Coffey’s 37 points as a defenseman.

With a record of 35-19-2 this Oilers team is not the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup. In fact, Edmonton has only the tenth-best odds to win it all. Even so, Gretzky told McDavid it’s just a matter of time.

“So when you guys do win — and you will win a Stanley Cup — the feeling is just over the top. You work your whole life to do that,” Gretzky said. “You will lift it one day, you’re too good.”

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

Continue Reading

Sports

Canucks’ star Vertanen benched after sex assault allegation

NEWS 1130 tweeted an Instagram account dedicated to sharing stories of sexual assault posted allegations from a woman who claims Virtanen sexually assaulted her in a Vancouver hotel in 2017.

mm

Published

on

The Vancouver Canucks have put star Jake Virtanen on “leave” after allegations he sexually assaulted a woman in a hotel room came to light.

“Our organization does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claim as reported are being treated very seriously,” the Canucks said in a statement.

“We have engaged external expertise to assist in an independent investigation and we have placed [Virtanen] on leave as we await more information.”

Canucks’ tweet

NEWS 1130 tweeted an Instagram account dedicated to sharing stories of sexual assault posted allegations from a woman who claims Virtanen sexually assaulted her in a Vancouver hotel in 2017. 

Nicknamed “Shotgun Jake” by Canucks fans, right winger Virtanen, 24, was drafted by the Canucks sixth overall in the 2014 draft.

In 38 games this year he has five goals and no assists.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

Continue Reading

Sports

The Rock writes: ‘Calgary Stampeders changed my life; I love the CFL’

“I was still grateful to a man who would eventually become a mentor and friend, Wally Buono, for even giving me the opportunity.”

mm

Published

on

The CFL changed my life.

When you have nothing and you’re scratching and clawing for everything you can get – all in the spirit of making your football dreams come true. You become the hardest worker in the room. You will not be denied.

I knew in my heart I was going to make it in the CFL – and parlay that into a very successful career in the NFL. Maybe even win a Super Bowl…But neither of those dreams came close to coming true.

Truth is, I just wasn’t good enough and it wasn’t my time.

The CFL sent me home. I was still grateful to a man who would eventually become a mentor and friend, Wally Buono, for even giving me the opportunity.

Wally Buono. Courtesy Wikipedia

I had $7 bucks.

But it’s funny how sometimes life comes full circle. Now I’m back. Same hungry kid, but much different man.

As an owner of the XFL, our discussions with the CFL have been very exciting. There’s a real pulse here because you can feel the unique opportunity we can potentially create together.

Wherever it all leads, I can tell you this one is personal to me and is driven by all my passion – because me being cut by the CFL was the greatest thing that happened.

It set me on a path that years later would lead me right back to the league. To help create even greater and bigger opportunities for all our players and all our fans.

As an owner who’s had his hands in the dirt – my loyalty will always lie with the players and fans.

I’ll keep you posted as our XFL/CFL discussions unfold. Got your back. So yes, the CFL changed my life, in ways I could’ve never imagined

🙏🏾🇨🇦🏈#gratitude

#legacy

#respect

#pulse

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tried for the Calgary Stampeders in 1995. He was cut during training camp. He went on to become a wrestling superstar and movie action hero. He wrote about his experiences on his Facebook page

Continue Reading

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Share

Petition: No Media Bailouts

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

57 signatures

No Media Bailouts

The fourth estate is critical to a functioning democracy in holding the government to account. An objective media can't maintain editorial integrity when it accepts money from a government we expect it to be critical of.

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

**your signature**



The Western Standard will never accept government bailout money. By becoming a Western Standard member, you are supporting government bailout-free and proudly western media that is on your side. With your support, we can give Westerners a voice that doesn\'t need taxpayers money.

Share this with your friends:

Trending

Copyright © Western Standard New Media Corp.