C-Flo Tackles The Edmonton Oilers’ Debut at Rogers Place

Rogers Place is open for business.

My favourite team outclassed my hometown team 7-4 in a feel-good debut Wednesday night. It reminded me of opening night 2010, when the officially rebuilding Oilers dominated the visiting Flames 4-0. That night, Jordan Eberle scored his first NHL goal, a shorthanded beauty that would go on to be the NHL’s Goal of the Year, and Steve MacIntyre ended Raitis Ivanans’ NHL career with two sick rights to the face. In tonight’s iteration of the Battle of Alberta, Connor McDavid scored twice including a Patrick Kane-esque penalty shot, while virtually all of his teammates looked solid. Cam Talbot had some shaky moments in the crease, but Kris Russell silenced the advanced analytics crowd with two assists and some great plays.

There was so much to be excited about. Edmonton has evolved from a remote northern outpost with the league’s oldest arena, to a dynamic team of the future with the NHL’s best facilities. The best player is the captain, and he’s supported by a bigger, heavier cast than we’re used to seeing in copper and blue. Pick virtually any player on the Oilers and they looked good tonight. Zack Kassian scored a brilliant breakaway goal, fooling the ineffective Brian Elliott by acting like he’d employ a simple wrist shot. This was completely believable, since many in the league think Kassian is basically a goon, but a simple backhand deke later and the puck was in the back of the net.

There were certainly causes for concern. The Oilers were outshot 41-28, and they allowed two quick shorthanded goals, making me think these were the Devan Dubnyk Oilers again.

However, this was a special night, and without those SH goals against, this was a blowout. This team has a bit of everything, and maybe there’s hope after all. Edmonton doesn’t have to venture outside western Canada for the entire month of October. They need to take advantage of that, and they are headed down the right path with tonight’s performance.

Wayne Gretzky was also in town, accepting a new position with the Oil as partner and vice-chair of OEG. He’s back where he belongs. Now all that’s left is to see the Oilers lifting a Stanley Cup, while The Great One and his buddies sit in the stands like they did during the gold medal win at the 2002 Olympics, with Wayne yelling, “Fuckin’ eh!”

Because there’s nothing more Canadian than that.


C-Flo Tackles The Taylor Hall Trade

“I was surprised there wasn’t a second piece in the puzzle for Edmonton.”

–Ray Ferraro

I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth today.

Losing Taylor Hall is jarring, and losing him for an unsexy name is confusing. I don’t have a problem with this as the foundation of a trade, but when no one believes the two players are roughly even, there has to be a sweetener. A pick, a prospect, salary retained; something, anything. Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli got outmaneuvered by a veteran GM, and there doesn’t have to be any shame in that unless you humiliate an entire city.

Adam Larsson is vastly underrated, and may well turn out to be a rock on defense and a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come. He plays the toughest competition and has the most difficult zone starts of any D-man in the NHL, and he holds his own, all while making a very reasonable salary. The problem isn’t the product, but the price.

There are tons of ways to spin this deal as a good thing, many of which may or may not be true. My brother’s friend’s sister heard Taylor Hall is a cancer in the locker room! Maybe he’ll start declining! He’s used to losing! They need a culture change! But no matter what argument you make, no matter how valid, the bottom line is there had to be another piece or two coming back the other way. Oilers management does not get or deserve any leeway from fans, and the optics of this deal show why.

Perception is reality in Edmonton. The nerve is raw. The team that sold Wayne Gretzky in his prime committed treason, and will never be completely forgiven. Running this franchise requires a great respect for the most die-hard fans in the league. If trading a beloved superstar for a diamond in the rough is the secret to success, the smart hockey fans in Edmonton will eventually understand. But, again, it still doesn’t excuse not getting a throw-in or two included. A bag of pucks signed by Martin Brodeur? Scott Stevens’ old jock strap?

If Taylor Swift is T-Swizzle then Taylor Hall is T-Sizzle, and he also brings the steak. He’s the full meal deal, and he’s easy to sell even when he’s not on sale. He’s the Messier to McDavid’s Gretzky; heart and soul on skates, speed and grit in a helmet, anger and glory on ice. He pushes the river, moves the chains, drives possession and makes it rain.

I needed a sweetener. A 7th round pick, a terrible prospect, whatever. 1 for 1 was a slap in the face. It’s the principle.

I wasn’t demanding stevia, or even sucralose.

I would have settled for aspartame.