February 24, 2009

This Is Hockey!

Ch 54.
It was an amazing end to the season. Since the trade deadline at the end of February, the Edmonton Oilers have gone from being one of the most volatile inconsistent depressing teams in the NHL to watch, to being something reminiscent from a team from about 2 decades ago.

Nobody would have ever seen this one coming. All seemed so hopeless. Injuries plaguing the entire defence, aging veterans feeling the strain of over-exertion & endless expectations of fans & coaches, a forward line that has combined for only 161 goals (the 6th lowest in the Western Conference) so far, and a goaltender that faces about 30% more shots than his team is able to deliver to their opponent on any given night. Nobody would have seen this coming.

But it happened. It was party due to the economy, partly due to the players' changing attitudes, partly due to Daryl Kaatz taking charge, partly due to Bettman being bought out & finally leaving the league.

League-wide salary reduction was the one key factor in which made Edmonton Oilers transform from a farm-team that only ever develops players' skills to the point that they are good enough to be traded away for more affordable draft picks, into the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions. The dissolution of 12 teams and re-invention of the Winnipeg Jets & Quebec Nordiques made the league incredibly more competitive. The season was shortened by 10 games, and it was made sure that from this point forward, every team would play every other team in the league at least twice each season. No-Trade clauses were enforced (even if Chris Pronger was having a hard time not sleeping with his teammates' wives), but not until this happened:

Ryan Smyth came home.

That's right. The heart & soul of the Edmonton Oilers resumed his leadership role as Captain, sending Ethan Moreau back to being the (appropriate) position of fourth liner. The grit & dedication & determination of Smyth to make his home team thrive in this New League was incredibly appreciated and noticed all around the league, such that other former Oiler greats cued up to join him in Kaatz's organization. Amoung these were Doug Weight, Todd Marchant, Michael Peca, and Eric Brewer. Scott Niedermayer couldn't wait to get away from Mickey Mouse & Chris Pronger: One being a an over-sized smelly rodent that goes around smelling like cheese & living in Fantasyland, and the other being Mickey Mouse. This rebuilt Edmonton team allowed them to annihilate every other team in the league for the last 25 games of the 2009 season. Sheldon Souray was the team's points leader, with 32 assists to Horcoff and 26 to Hemsky at the end of the season.

By having the total team salary cap halved to $25M, players realized that in addition to their materialistic and over-consumeristic ways, their "hollywood days" were finally over. They were going to start to have to playing for the love of the game, just as the Oilers of the 80s did so well. All other pro-sports have yet to understand the implications of this unbelievable over-compensation of our favorite jocks, especially since none other are so physically tolling as hockey is! Yet, despite any abuse on the body, hockey players still understood that these were the necessary steps to take in order to promote the game & make it better. They would only have to get used to having their wives buying the no-name BBQ sauce for a change.

Gretzky cried. Again. Not because he knew his wife was going to be bored commuting between her mansion in that new Windermere development in Edmonton, WEM, and the River Cree Casino, and not because he was about to leave +30°C year round temperatures where there was nothing to do but coach & golf, but because he couldn't make hockey - the only real game - a go of it in the middle of a desert. It was really kind of sad, but after him hearing that Winnipeg was going to become the home of the Coyotes, he was absolutely gleeful & could only offer up the suggestion that the team be renamed "The Prairie Wolves". (since the desert isn't really the prairies)

You see, Wayne Gretzky was incredibly happy to be asked by Daryl Kaatz to become head coach of the Edmonton Oilers and couldn't wait to return with his boys in the Blue & Bronze/(orange) and destroy those desert dogs back in Winnipeg who played with about the same amount of intensity as they did when they were on the golf course.

Todd Bertuzzi & Sean Avery have been spending their spring/summer together in some of Toronto's finest private golf clubs aswell, since Toronto was the only team that would have them; and the players had to donate a large portion of their salaries to local sports charities for kids.For whatever reason, noone wanted to ever play golf with either of them! oh wellll...

But it was playoffs that was the most fun. The Oilers crushed Vancouver in 4 games the first round, Winnipeg Prairie Wolves were swept too, and the Calgary flames were not only swept, but shut out the entire series. In the end, the Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 5 games over the Montreal Canadiens, only because in 1 game, Roloson played Left Wing.

- The Changed Rules -

In order to make the NHL better, these rules were incorporated into the league:

- No Touch Icing
- No more Delay of Game penalties for simply clearing the puck from your own end over the boards
- Smaller elbow pads
- Mandatory visors
- Less stick infraction penalties --- let the players skate through hooks, trips
- Goalies can make contact anywhere.
- 16oz glass of Molson Canadian : $5.

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