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.