Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Losing Skid Continues: Could The Unthinkable Happen?

Could MacTavish possibly be fired? The Oilers have now dropped a dozen games consecutively and have looked awful in doing so most nights. Things don't show any signs of improvement after a woeful 5-1 loss vs Colorado on fan (un)appreciation night. (The good news: this helps Colorado in their attempt to hunt down Calgary for the final playoff spot. The "C" does stand for "Choke" afterall, so here's hoping that tradition continues.) It is painfully clear that the Oilers have quit on MacT; essentially they did last year. The only problem was that Vancouver quit on former coach Marc Crawford just a little bit more and edged the Oilers out for ninth spot. While this allowed for a miracle run to the finals, it also earned MacT a big contract when he was one game away from either resigning or being shown the door. When even the young guys, allegedly playing for jobs next year, are unmotivated you know there's a problem. If MacT is kept around, you can kiss goodbye to any chances of signing a big name offensive free-agent in the summer. Why would Daniel Briere want to come to Edmonton where he would be told to forget about scoring and focus on defense? It's to the point where one has to think that MacT would rather see the team lose 1-0 than win 6-5. The five mistakes made in the winning scenario would be too much for him to handle. The single mistake in the losing scenario would be much easier for him to handle.

Oilers Get Farm Team (Finally)

After two season's of ruining the development of their prospects, the Oilers have finally got their act together and gotten a farm team. The team will be based out of Springfield, Mass., a town with a rich minor league tradition. Don Cherry spent several years of his career in Springfield, and the team was owned and managed by Eddie Shore, infamous for his unorthodox training methods, and sometimes Stalin-esque treatment of his players.

Goaltenders Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk will benefit from this, since it will ensure them regular playing time. Players like Rob Schremp, Kyle Brodziak, and Tom Gilbert, plus potential college graduates like Andrew Cogliano and Taylor Chorney should also benefit since they won't have to compete with players from other organizations for first line minutes.

On a lighter note, since the team is now in Springfield the bad jokes can begin: Who will be the coach: Apu or Chief Wiggum? Will Calgary move their farm team to Shelbyville? Will Bart Simpson be our starting center? Stay tuned...

Hockey's Future Top 20 Oiler Prospects by Guy Flaming:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Ref Hits Fan

This video might be the funniest I've ever seen.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Hockey's Future Radio

Listen in as I make my Hockey's Future Radio debut tonight at 7:00 mountain time to discuss my most recent article.


radio link:

The broadcast is now archived on the site and can be heard at any time.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Igor Ulanov Appreciation Night

This past Sunday night, I was honored to take part in Igor Ulanov Appreciation Night at
Room At The Top at the U of Alberta. That's right, an evening to honor the man for whom this blog is named! It was a splendid night of drinks, cake fashioned to resemble Russian flags, music, trivia, prizes, and of course a Mangler quiz and a video tribute for the man with the iron shins. People shared their favorite memories of Krasnokamsk's native son, and since the Oilers will not be playing meaningful games until next October, I found an event worthy of showcasing my #55 Ulanov jersey.

I'll share my favorite Uly moment here as well:

It was March of 2004, and the Oilers were in their usual mad-scramble mode to try to get into the playoffs, and were playing the Nashville Predators, who they were fighting with for the final playoff spot. It was a back-and-forth game, and appeared headed to OT with the score tied at 4 apiece and only a minute or so remaining. Coach MacTavish decided he needed his top defender on the ice for the crucial final moment and sent #55 over the boards. And then as I gazed on from the 14th row, a loose puck squirted to the Mangler in the high slot. He wound up, and boomed a shot towards the Predators net...and in it went! Ulanov had won yet another game for the Oilers, to keep them alive in the tight playoff race.

Here's a link to the Igor Ulanov Fan Club Website, put together by the fellow Ulanov lovers who made this night possible. It was one bright spot in an otherwise miserable season in Oil Country.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Trade Deadline/Smytty Memories

Not as many trades as in other years, but still some pretty big deals.

The biggest of course, was Ryan Smyth being traded to the Islanders. Seems he simply priced himself out of a reasonable salary and was traded for assets. Kevin Lowe did a good job of GM-ing with his head and not his heart. In reality, the $5.4 million he offered would have been an overpayment, let alone the $6 million-ish that Smyth and agent Don Meehan were looking for. For $6 million, the Oilers can go out and acquire a franchise-type player who can put up over 80 points consistently. Smyth brought a lot to the table and will be missed, but he's simply not worth the kind of coin he was after (and will likely get in the summer). Take into consideration that Martin St. Louis, an Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner, who's second in league scoring is making $5.25 million.

Speaking of St. Louis, it's possible he could be dealt in the summer if Tampa Bay suffers another early playoff exit. The general feeling would be that having three players (along with Lecavalier and Richards) making big money, the Lightning cannot amass enough depth at other positions to be successful. Richards' $7.8 million price tag makes him untradable, and Lecavalier is several years younger than St. Louis.

Other Trades:

Todd Bertuzzi to Detroit from Florida for a prospect and conditional draft pick. This makes the Roberto Luongo trade with Vancouver down-right atrocious for the Panthers. Essentially, Luongo was traded for seven games worth of Bertuzzi. Florida would have been better off keeping Luongo and losing him as a free agent for nothing at the end of this season, at least they might have made the playoffs this year. As it stands, they have no goaltending, and no assests besides Jay Bouwmeester, who is not becoming the all-star everyone predicted (in Florida, who can blame him?), and Nathan Horton, who reportedly wants to be traded.

Florida did make another deal: trading Gary Roberts to Pittsburgh. Ottawa and Toronto were said to be likely destinations, but the Pens offered up defenseman Noah Welch, a pretty decent prospect. Florida GM Jaques Martin may have been reluctant to trade with the Senators (who fired him) or the Leafs (who were basically the reason he was fired). Rumour had it that the Leafs were willing to give up Matt Stajan for Ed Belfour. Grudge or not, Martin should be fired if he turned that offer down.

And when will the Leafs figure things out? They dealt prospect Brendan Bell and a 2nd rounder to Phoenix for free-agent-to-be Yanic Perreault, who they could have signed for dirt cheap in October. What is this trade supposed to do? Even if the Leafs did manage to make the playoffs (unlikely in my estimation), they would quite likely be disposed of easily by Buffalo or New Jersey. Upsets happen, but come on (Andrew Raycroft versus Martin Brodeur!?). John Ferguson Jr. is proving to be one of the most inept GMs in the league. At least Pat Quinn's teams made the playoffs, even if they weren't really a threat to win anything. But of course, Perreault, Belfour, and Gary Roberts would have been the final pieces to the puzzle...

Toronto's rivals from Ottawa and Montreal decided not to do anything at the deadline. Montreal GM Bob Gainey has watched his club slip from almost a lock to make the playoffs in January, to a 50/50 shot at best. He decided to sell off free agent d-man Craig Rivet for good return (1st rounder, decent prospect), but held onto Sheldon Souray who could have probably gotten double that. Ok fine, Souray's Montreal's top player at the moment, but why not bring in some help if you are still going to make a push for the playoffs? As it stands, expect Montreal to miss the playoffs, lose Souray for nothing, and endure a summer of the Hab faithful calling for Gainey's head.

Ottawa decided to stand pat, seemingly because the asking price for rentals was too high. The problem is the fans are not going to care very much about the future if this team fails again in the present. The fact is Ottawa is clearly not as good as Buffalo or New Jersey, and is hardly a sure thing to get past Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh. Where do they go? You can't just ice the same team with one change every year and hope it pans out.

Atlanta has practically sold the farm in an attempt to ensure a playoff spot. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd rounders for Tkachuk is a deal that is at least reasonable if they get into the playoffs. Trading former 8th overall pick Braydon Coburn for Alexei Zhitnik is very questionable, but again worth it if Zhitnik can solidy the defense and get them into the playoffs. However, trading away last year's first round choice, Alex Bouret, for Pascal Dupuis who has all of 14 points this year is simply astounding. Dupuis was dumped by the Wild to the Rangers for Adam Hall, who also has 14 points this year. Glen Sather must have thought Atlanta GM Don Waddell was pulling his leg when he offered up Bouret. When you make a deal like that, forget just making the playoffs, Dupuis better score the winning goal in game 7 to get you to the second round.

Everyone expected Ducks GM Brian Burke to do something big, but he ended up looking like an idiot when things were all said and done. He traded rookie defenseman Shane O'Brien to Tampa for a 1st rounder, which he was expected to use to land somebody like Bill Guerin. Burke spoke of his "profanity-laced tirades" that were directed at other GMs who were apparently asking for the moon when he was attempting to deal for a rental (quite possibly Tkachuk). Makes you wonder if Blues President John Davidson had extra motivation to deal Bill Guerin to the Sharks, Anaheim's biggest divisional rival, for comparatively small return compared to what other guys were getting. Essentially Burke made his team worse by getting rid of a serviceable d-man for a first rounder. Fine and dandy, but the Ducks are trying to win this year, not in 5. As it stands now, they are clearly behind Nashville and San Jose as front runners in the west, and even Dallas improved themselves and could be a darkhorse this year if Marty Turco gets his act together in the playoffs. But you can't completely discredit Burke. Afterall, he did manage to bring in that old "sniper" Brad May from Colorado. Fighters have been nothing more than playoff bench-warmers for 20 years, let alone in today's game.

Which makes you wonder why Pittsburgh felt in neccessary to go get Georges Laraque, who apparently decided once again that he was a goal scorer, not a fighter and fell out of favour with the Coyotes. Pittsburgh is in for a big surprise when Crosby gets run through the boards and Big Georges enforces by trying to score a goal.

Some Smytty memories:

-First NHL goal, against the hated Flames to boot. If I remember right, it was a slapper from about 40 feet out that squeeked through Trevor Kidd's(?) five hole.

-1997 playoffs, game 5 versus Dallas. Smytty beats Andy Moog on a slapshot coming down the wing (this one I remember for sure) to give the Oilers a 1-0 double OT victory and a 3-2 lead in the series they won on Todd Marchant's famous goal.

-Scoring all three goals in 3-0 wins over Atlanta and St. Louis, the only player ever to do it twice.

-Getting his teeth knocked out by some bozo who used to wear number 44, and coming back set up Horcoff's game winner in triple OT versus San Jose that brought the Oilers back from a 2-0 series defecit.

-Scoring the winner with only a few minutes left in game 3 versus Carolina, in a game the Oilers needed to win to have any hope of winning the series. (And I was there!)

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