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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.

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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.

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MILLIONS: Sutter is the old war horse the Flames need

“Some self-proclaimed experts have already predicted failure; that he is a dinosaur and that the game has passed him by. I think those experts may be in for a rude awakening.”

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There have been four coaches in seven years for Flames under GM Brad Treliving, but brother, did he leave the big kahuna for now.

Darryl Sutter returns for his second head coaching stint in Calgary. He’s won two Stanley Cups and arguably should have won another in Calgary back in 2004. He’s won. He knows what it takes. He gets the best out of people, immediately. Whether he can maintain that for the long term is up for debate by some.

Any country club atmosphere within the Calgary Flames locker room has come to an immediate and abrupt end. It’s about time.

Watching this year’s addition of the Flames has been – with the exception of about 3 or 4 games – downright painful. Dreadfully inconsistent, easily satisfied, and at times playing with entitlement, watching the Flames was at times perplexing.

These things can be cleared up with a very simple but hard to achieve message: clarity. If you have had the pleasure of getting to know Darryl Sutter as I have, clarity is insisted. In fact, it’s demanded.

That’s not to say Sutter will be herding his players like cattle. It simply means that he will demand of everyone in the Flames organization the same that he demands of himself: everything. The best you can be each and every day. Perhaps that’s too much to ask of a lot of young people these days – but like it or not – that’s exactly what’s on the menu for the Calgary Flames. 

Like everyone, the man has some flaws. They will no doubt be well defined by today’s touchy-feely media. There will be hurt feelings – and for those not willing to suffer that indignation – some time to contemplate their future. 

But for those Flames that choose to learn and discover what those demands can bring them, it’s a chance to grow. If you are a young man looking to achieve the very best, why wouldn’t you welcome that?

I think that’s exactly why Darryl Sutter has been hired by Treliving. He is going to find out what the organization has. They have more than half a season to dissect the team, and no time to waste. Rest assured, Sutter has no patience for wasting time. 

Some self-proclaimed experts have already predicted failure; that he is a dinosaur and that the game has passed him by. I think those experts may be in for a rude awakening.

Perhaps I’m biased. Out of the 17 years I had the good fortune of working with the Flames while at Sportsnet, five of them were with Darryl in his roles of coach and GM. They were the most fulfilling and interesting years of my career, for a variety of reasons.  

His demeanour and attitude was indicative of people that raised me. The Darryl Sutter I know is both professional and personal. I respect his professional approach. I like the man as a friend. 

His return is indeed fascinating. I can’t wait to see what becomes of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Both are fine young men, but to this point in their careers, they have never played for Darryl Sutter. It won’t be easy for them either. It could very well lead to both moving on to other franchises. But if they listen and learn with respect, it could be a turning point that will propel them both to higher levels.

There are no guarantees, but is that not what intrigues you the most?

Welcome back Darryl. Whether people like it or not.

Roger Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard

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MILLIONS: What’s in a Name? To the (former) Eskimos bosses, not a hell of a lot

Consultations about the name to date have only been able to turn up woke white liberals offended on their behalf.

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The Edmonton Football Club Board of Governors and its new president have opened a can of worms, and now they have to eat it.

By electing to drop the name ‘Eskimos’, the governing body of the football team sent their strongest possible virtue signal that that are in touch with woke culture. They are all too aware of the past, but they would appear to be asleep at the wheel when it comes to the future.

The seven names that are going forward for consideration include the: Elk, Elkhounds, Evergolds, Evergreens, Eclipse, Eagles and Elements. Riveting stuff.

The Washington Football Club dropped their longstanding nickname of “Redskins” a year ago and went without a lame replacement moniker. It worked well. The NFL – with its limitless marketing power – found a way to proceed and it was good enough.

The CFL is not in the same league. Heck I’m not even sure the CFL will be back on the field in the long run. 

Sure, teams are signing and re-signing players for an anticipated season, but the CFL is a fan-driven league. So much so, that anything less than about 60 percent capacity at stadiums won’t work. With the way governments are handling the COVID-19 dilemma, it’s not a good bet.

How important is renaming the Edmonton Football Club? It’s not. The woke crowd do not watch football in significant numbers. The people who actually watch the Eskimos, don’t see much wrong with the name.

The whole process is a shambolic embarrassment. 

Of course, some were offended with the Eskimos name. A friend of mine who has spent four decades in the Edmonton Sports Media told me two years ago that the team asked those who actually matter in this conversation. That is, Canadians of northern indigenous heritage. According to him, the vast majority had no problem with it.

Consultations about the name to date have only been able to turn up woke white liberals offended on their behalf.

It all comes back to this new Board of Governors. The board showed the same weakness that has permeated not just sport, but academia, the media, the political class, and entertainment.

The big question is if the creep of radical political correctness will be satisfied with their victory over the Eskimos. Not likely.

Roger Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard

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MILLIONS: Pierre-Luc Dubois is an opportunity for the Flames or Oilers

“Should either team think about making a move to acquire the talented young Columbus centre Pierre-Luc Dubois?”

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The COVID-19 world of NHL Hockey is underway. Lord knows what kind of financial and player movement gymnastics will be necessary going forward. From self-isolation, to out-and-out skullduggery in terms of roster moves, the next few months will be fascinating to say the least.

That aside, I’m wondering if either the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames should consider a move of great boldness. Should either team think about making a move to acquire the talented young Columbus centre Pierre-Luc Dubois?

Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella has tormented – and in the minds of some observers – tortured many young players in his wild days behind the bench. It now it appears Dubois is the latest.

Tortorella has publicly stated that Dubois would like out of Columbus. He is unhappy with his current situation and in a round-about way, has requested a trade out of Ohio. It seems a little odd coming from a player aged just 22 and who seems to be getting better and better. I suspect it has a lot to do with Tortorella, who has a reputation as a master craftsman when it comes to mind games.

Dubois is slated to be paid $5 million over the next two seasons. In the two seasons past, he amassed 27 goals and 61 points. In last year’s COVID-19 shortened season, his numbers were 18 goals and 31 assists. He stands to be even better. At 6’3” 215 pounds, he has the size every NHL team would covet.

Either the Oilers and Flames would have to do some COVID-19 hurdles. Be it a 14-day quarantine or some other fantasy whim conjured up by any government unwilling to admit they have no clue about what they are doing. Either team would have to comply. That’s a risk for sure – and in a 56-game schedule  – who can say either Brad Treliving or Ken Holland would be willing to do so.

What the hell? Let’s say they do.

If you are the Oilers, the likely candidate in my mind would be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Coming off 69 and then 61 point seasons, Nugent-Hopkins has the offensive numbers the Blue Jackets would relish. He is also well accounted for in his own end, meaning his defensive game is quite good. 

The sticking point is his contract. He is in the final year of his 7-year deal paying $6 million a season. Meaning he – like all players – would be seeking a raise in pay. That likely means $7 million plus, and with McDavid and Draisaitl already chewing up $21 million of their cap, the prospects seem highly unlikely. It also means Columbus would need something more. No doubt, the ability to negotiate a new contract with Nugent-Hopkins and a trade sweetener like a second or third round draft pick. 

As for the Flames, I am wondering about Sean Monahan. Monahan has been more than serviceable for Calgary over the years. Monahan who is 26, had an impressive 82 points in 2018-19. He has teamed up with Johnny Gaudreau very well now in his 8th season as a Flame. He makes $6.4 million over the next two seasons.

Monahan is perhaps not as accomplished defensively as Nugent-Hopkins. He is obviously working on that. His offensive upside would seem to be greater than the Oilers player. 

Yet after 8 years, the Flames seem to not be getting any closer to a Stanley Cup appearance. Gaudreau with two years remaining on his $6.8 million-dollar contract, will soon become an unrestricted free agent. He hails from south New Jersey just outside Philadelphia. I find it a little hard to believe he will want to stay in Calgary over the long haul. Especially since his recent engagement to his long-time gal who is a nurse in Philly.

Monahan and Gaudreau have seemingly been tied at the hip. It is hard to believe that is not coming to an end. Perhaps a proactive move might be in order. However, I doubt a one-for-one player trade would work. Calgary would likely have to offer a tantalizing addition. Be it a draft choice or a long talented prospect.

Same goes for Holland and the Oilers. They can keep their cap aspirations in line for a little while with Dubois. Something not likely with Nugent-Hopkins.

Realistically, the COVID hurdle may be too difficult for either the Flames or Oilers to overcome. Yet, it does make one wonder with such a fine young talent supposedly available.

Roger Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard

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