EDMONTON — The word “bold” has a different meaning here in Edmonton, where it applies to the local hockey team and its various transactions.
You see, there was once a general manager here who promised he would make some “bold moves,” only to produce a series of transactions that were less than awe-inspiring. Anti-bold, as it were.
His tenure spiralled along, until all that remained was the hashtag #CraigsOnIt, a salty bit of closure to a GM’s career gone awry.
So to make three “bold” predictions for the current Edmonton Oilers season is to expect some blowback, and perhaps even a new hashtag. But what the heck?
Let’s take a run at it, shall we?
1. Oilers Acquire Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
The Oilers need a third-line centre. Ottawa isn’t going to make the playoffs. Pageau becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
It all makes sense, doesn’t it?
A deal for Pageau would be guided by the same principles that had Oilers GM Ken Holland sniffing around Taylor Hall, but ultimately deciding that the price was simply too high for his team at this time. The difference is, the Pageau deal will likely come down closer to the playoffs — when Holland has a clearer picture of whether he has a playoff team or not — and the price for Pageau will be considerably less than what the New Jersey Devils received for Hall.
If you’re Ottawa, depending on the market, there might be a young defenceman and a draft pick in it for you, in return for a player in Pageau who could possibly re-sign with the Senators on July 1. Although, we’ll admit, as many times as that theory gets floated, how often does it really pan out that way?
2. Edmonton Calls Up Tyler Benson
The Oilers are very well stocked in young defencemen who are either playing in the NHL (Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones), close to being ready to play in the NHL (William Lagesson, Evan Bouchard), or have the potential to be very good after another year or two of seasoning (Philip Broberg, Dmitri Samorukov).
What they’re shy on is NHL-ready forwards, something the big club could really use a couple of right now. Left-winger Tyler Benson is the best they’ve got down on the farm in Bakersfield, and by the time Feb. 1 rolls around he’ll have played roughly 125 games in the American Hockey League.
While they have guys like Kailer Yamamoto (50 games played) and Ryan McLeod (28 games), Benson is the forward who looks like he might have another level to his game, who has seasoned enough down there that he should be ready to succeed if given the chance. He’s a skilled passing winger who could, say, play the left side on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and James Neal, furnishing the two veterans with pucks in places where they could finish.
As well as the 3C hole, Holland will be shopping the trade market for help on the wings. Benson’s work in the AHL over the next month or so will help guide the Oilers GM on what his needs are.
3. The Battle of Alberta, Coming To A Rink Near You
Sit on down, kids, and we’ll tell you the story of a time when the two Alberta NHL teams were both good at the same time. The result? Everybody hated each other — the cities, the players, the managers, the fans, the wives…
Ah, what we wouldn’t give for good ol’ provincial dislike again, here in Alberta.
Wouldn’t it be something if the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames met in an actual playoff series, for the first time since 1990? That was so long ago that the overtime winners in Games 6 and 7 were scored by Theoren Fleury and Esa Tikkanen — two long ago names who have faded into retirement.
As we approached the midway point of the 2019-20 season, the Oilers and Flames were both hanging around playoff spots in the Pacific Division, in a dogfight to land one of the guaranteed three spots available.
What are the chances of both the Oilers and Flames finishing behind one of the Golden Knights or Coyotes, yet both ending up ahead of the other team? Frankly, they’re slim.
But what are the odds that two NHL teams in the same division — the same province — could be on the verge of going 30 years without running into each other in a playoff series? Those numbers must be even skinnier.
This is the year! See you on Highway 2.