On the value of coaches as teachers

Holy shit, the head coach talks to his players?

I ended up going off on a tangent on Lowetide this morning, but since I haven't written anything in a while, I decided to re-post it here. 

There are three things from the back half of the Oilers season/full Nelson era (and on that note, I am surprised nobody has made a connection to the TV show “coach”, with the title character played by one Craig T Nelson, but I digress) that have made this season worth watching again.
3) Brandon Davidson – the story is incredible and as a youngish cancer survivor myself (wow – think that’s the first time I’ve actually said that on the internet), he’s an inspiration. I hope he sticks. And as Lowetide himself mentioned, he should be the 7D next year. It’s obvious the coach trusts him, considering his time spent on the PK yesterday ahead of some more, shall we say ‘established’ D-men.
2) The Yaksurgence – I was worried that my Yak #10 jersey would be as dated as Smytty’s 94 all too soon. I love watching him play. Even though he wasn’t on the scoresheet last night, he was making plays all over the ice. One shift in the 2nd, even though it didn’t result in a goal, was all about Yak. It seemed like he was everywhere, taking the puck off the boards, being in the right place to recover and keep the play alive. It was wonderful.
1) Lander. Full stop. He’s arrived.

Handsome Devils, those Swedes...

How much of this is the coach, how much of it is pushback/anti-old coach and how much of it is just good players starting to put things together is as of yet unknown, and I think something Lowetide said yesterday, that perhaps needing Dallas’ brand of discipline might have been necessary, is a valid point. However it seems to me that age/experience and, most importantly, trust has a lot to do with the inspired play we’re seeing down the stretch. I hope it isn’t a mirage.
As a prof, I deal with young adults trying to find their way in the world all the time. It’s pretty low stakes stuff on the surface – you know, can these kids string together a sentence effectively and craft an argument that is more about how they interpret the ridiculous stuff I have them read, rather than parrot back my thoughts to me albeit much less effectively? Some students simply don’t care and have come to realize the old adage “C’s get degrees” has just as much merit now, given the emphasis on credentials rather than content/grades. Others know their limitations but want to improve and put in the work. They get frustrated when other profs just tear them apart without offering a different way to build them back up. They start to doubt themselves and feel as though they can’t even ask questions anymore. I had the pleasure of witnessing a few incredible transformations with some of my students this year – the types of students who were afraid to ask questions and didn’t know how to ask for help slowly began to see the world very differently. Their writing began to improve, and they started to ask questions and write about concepts they didn’t know even existed four or five months ago. They began to care. It was incredible to watch and I am so proud of these ‘kids’.
The reason for this extended diatribe about teaching is that I think we’re seeing something with Todd Nelson (and perhaps with Ramsey’s help) that speaks to his ability to reach the youth. I’ve modified my own teaching style a lot over the last three years, and really flipped my teaching practice on its head when I shifted from Queen’s to Trent, because what worked well for me (and my students) at one institution clearly wasn’t working once I got to the next one. I knew it after about 3 weeks in the fall that I had to make a change or else I was going to tank. I wonder if that’s what sunk Dallas, not knowing when it was time to reevaluate his process. He talked a great game about reaching people as individuals, but the rigidity of his teaching practices and emphasis on one type of system and one type of fitness speaks to a pedagogy that is far too rigid to work successfully in every instance. 

Figuring out how to reach different types of people (and different types of learners) is really hard. Nelson seems to be someone who has that ability. Tom Renney was probably the last Oilers coach who had that teacher mentality. Ralph Krueger was a great motivator but motivators and teachers aren’t the same – both may get similar results over the short term, particularly in building trust and self-confidence, but motivators, like charismatic leaders tend to burn out over the long haul, particularly if the message stops working. Good teachers value process as much as progress and usually both over hard, quantifiable capital R results – though good results usually happen when both progress and process work well. I think that’s one reason why coaches like Roger Neilson and Al Arbour had so much success in building both systems and players. The story of Al Arbour is that he was viewed less as a general and more as a sergeant – I see Nelson in that same sort of light. Not necessarily that he’ll ever be as good of a coach, but just more in that style – working with his players rather than creating separations like those between officers and enlisted men.

The Nelson Oilers seem looser, happier, more confident. Public comments from players ranging from Eberle to Hendricks to Lander about the coach, the room and the team demonstrate that Nelson is indeed doing something different, that he gets how to reach people and build trust. It is purely subjective, not something we can use analytics to prove, but it matters in a big way. I hope they keep Nelson because he appears to be doing something with these players not seen around these parts in a while. Not only do they trust the coach, but they are beginning to trust themselves and each other. We see it in the way that they actually seem to stick up for each other on the ice, they way they seem to be playing with more resilience. It could be smoke and mirrors, but MacT’s ‘visually better’ meme-able statement actually doesn’t seem too far fetched. There are glaring holes on the team and there’s no way a roster with this D and G actually makes the playoffs next year, but little things are happening – little signs of progress that can’t be underestimated. It’s made watching the Oilers a lot less demoralizing than under the previous regime. That may come across as damning with faint praise, but it’s so much better than the dumpster fire that started both this season and last.
Go Oilers


Guest Post: On Cowardice (or why Don Cherry needs to ride off into the sunset)

This weekend, a sad old man berated a 21 year old kid for being a coward.

It's that time of year, you all know that time, when sitting around the table at Hanukkah or for Christmas dinner,  everyone has that one drunk aunt who insists that you really should have joined the IDF when you had the chance, or that irritating in-law (between whiskey and stuffing fuelled frantic mastication) who insists that austerity is the "only way forward in times like these - after all, when I was a kid, we got nothing from nobody."  And as one is listening to the folks around the table incoherently ramble their way through in exposing just how little they know about geopolitics or the macroeconomic sphere, their fear becomes apparent.  The aunt is finally having reservations about the "liberal Zionism" of her youth, while it's finally dawned on your uncle is that the social safety net that coddled him for so long may well erode. They are projecting, and badly.

By any accord, this was neither the ramblings of the aunt who likes her wine just a little too much, nor was it that uncle who thinks that Crown Royal is a "man's drink: And Real Men drink it by the Pint". Instead it was Donald S. Cherry, Canada's resident war-mongering, bigoted, xenophobe, and that kid was a sleight, Russian winger named Nail Yakupov.

Is that a suit or my Bubbie's sofa? You decide
Don Cherry was berating Yak for what he thought was a dirty hit on Kyle Chipchura.  It was a rough play in a meaningless game, all ensconced within the Turducken of another meaningless season.  But for a guy who makes suit money though grotesque videos of violence, it was about as rich as your average holiday meal.

What is not rich is where Yakupov is from, namely Nizhnekamsk, a hardscrabble city of the Soviet "let's build a town!" projects of the 1960's.  It was created to service the oil industry, and is located in Russian Tatarstan.  Yakupov is from Oil City (Russia), ethnically a Tatar, and like most Tatars, a practicing Muslim. At 16, he packed up and travelled about 9000 KM to Sarnia, another hardscrabble town built on petrochemicals and cancer. It was there that young Nail learned English, adapted to the small ice and rough play, and lived with a host family. He went to Canadian school, played a Canadian style game, and excelled for the local hockey concern.  He played so well that he was drafted first overall, becoming not only the first Tatar player to do so, but also the first Muslim. On the other side of the hit was Kyle Chipchura, born in Westlock, Alberta, played in the WHL, and got into the NHL the tough way, grinding through the minors and as of about two weeks ago available on the waiver wire, to be had for free by any team in the NHL.  And therein lies the rub.

How can you not love this kid?

Cherry is no stranger to commenting on Yakupov.  Cherry was incensed when Russian World Junior team captain Yakupov noted that the Canadians played "rough" (the translation is often reframed to and translated as "dirty"), but we digress.  Cherry went "full Cherry" and ranted about it to whoever would listen.  Then, following the shortened lockout season, Cherry lambasted Yakupov for his exuberance in scoring what turned out to be a game winning goal against the LA Kings.  Who would have expected that a kid from a town that postdates the semiconductor, who is part of an ethnic minority long victimized by Russian chauvinism, who was playing in his first season in the league he dreamed of since he could walk, would be happy that he just scored a great goal to tie a game. Not only that, but against (what was then) the Best Team in the World? Outrageous.  Yakupov should have nodded his emotionless human-like head like Hockey Bot 3000 (also known as Sidney Crosby, but your milage and patience for weasel-staches may vary), and moved on with his life.

But that is not Don Cherry's style.  He needs to lambaste.  And he does so not because Yakupov is a coward, but because Don Cherry is.  Since "foreigners" have entered the league, Don has berated them with impunity.  He does not like Europeans because they are "soft," they wear visors, those symbols of femininity and weakness.  He does not like the French Canadians, he finds their (whatever) effete, that they are “whiners,” and the fact that some of them prefer the Fleur-de-lis to the Red 'n’ White is beyond the pale of acceptability.  He correlates Finnish names with "dog food."  He has ridiculous double-standards for black players, especially P.K Subban.  He doesn't like "...the Russians" because of  "what kind of people they are," namely cheaters.  He does not like Americans because they come out of the soft NCAA system, and are "arrogant."  Not content with commenting on players, he "don’t believe women should be in the male dressing room."  He certainly does not like “left-wing kooks” like your author.  

There is one group that Don loves above all: the military.  Those "beautiful boys," out there killing people in other places, mostly places where the inhabitants have a darker hue of skin than pasty Don.  And he likes the Conservatives, no matter how reactionary, even if said politicians have lost whatever scrap of credibility they had by selling billions of dollars of crowd control gear to the most despotic, kleptocratic, monarcho-theocracy in the world.  But it is because he is terrified of what lives outside the borders.  The wider world frightens him.  He does not like that the socialist Scandinavian goaltender-pedagogical system produces better tenders than the Canadian "whoever's dad has enough money to buy pads in an already ludicrously expensive sport"/"Just get in there and stop the damn puck" system.  He does not like the Russian systems play, the speed, or the skill.  He does not like that the NCAA can be a better option (while still horrifically exploitative) than the deeply flawed "work for nothing...and maybe some school someday if you're good" model of the CHL and is draining Canadian players.

For Don the armed forces (and police, another intrinsically racist institution, especially in Canada) are a proxy for his fear: a group of people that will police the borders, and make sure the brown folks and weirdly religious are kept down, and more especially, out.  But that ship has sailed, in some respects, and so Don has to project, by doing something he normally labels as "tough play," as something picked up from "old Saskatchewan pond hockey," and label it as cowardice.  It was not cowardice Don; it was a bad play by a exceptionally skilled young man who is at this point in his career struggling to his way on the ice.  If there is anyone in this scenario who reeks of cowardice, it is the man in the clown suit, desperate that his sartorial choices will keep the attention from the bile spewing out of his mouth.

Go Oilers



And this is where we're at.

This is Craig MacTavish. We all know him, and some of us still hope against hope that he can clean up the mess that is the Edmonton Oilers. Anyone who has followed the team and grew up in Edmonton probably have their own MacT story or two. I am no exception. Before I get into my take on his press conference today (which is actually just reusing my own words from a comment I wrote over at Lowetide earlier today when I should have been grading my Sociology of Education papers), I wanted to share my MacT story.

A simpler time. Certainly a better time.
In the early 1990s, a younger, more innocent version of me used to take swimming lessons at the YMCA in Edmonton's west end. Craig MacTavish lived in the neighbourhood and also used to like going to the Y to work out, swim and relax in the hot tub. Most people tended to leave Craig alone. I was a bit of a precocious young lad who would generally talk to anyone, including my Oiler heroes whenever I happened to come into contact with any of them. MacT always had time for me. I recall at least 2 dozen chats either poolside or in the hot tub. He even congratulated me after I finished a level exam, sticking around to watch me finish the last part of the endurance exam. He knew my name, which to a 10 or 11 year old kid was pretty special. That helped solidify my opinion of MacT as a person. He cares about the team, the city, the fans and especially the kids. Watching Craig speak to the media today, I saw a completely different person, an older, wiser and certainly more broken man. And the level of despair and disappointment was clear in his voice, his eyes, in his body language. Fans and pundits have been all over MacT today and with good reason – the team is awful and no amount of theorizing about the state of the team or armchair GMing is going to change that. MacT seems disconnected, out of sorts and perhaps a bit delusional about where the team is headed, but it is not to say he isn't trying to fix the problem. In fact, I think there's a small part of him that realizes he is a part of what's wrong with the team. It's heartbreaking as a lifelong fan to watch a man I used to know get torn apart trying his best to fix the team he loves.

Anyhoo, here's what I wrote earlier, for good or for ill:

1) this is a different MacT than I think we as fans have ever seen. The comments about humility going a long way that many of you have made seem off base. Mac looks and sounds shaky, on edge and more than a little frustrated, but his body language was not the body language of a confident, indestructible man. His eyes said almost as much as his words and it looked to me like Craig was on the verge of cracking, especially at the beginning.

2) he handled Spector's question/attack really well. He may have been coach for a long time, but he wasn't in management and at the very least had the benefit of a few years away from the poisoned atmosphere, time spent learning new things both in school and in another organization. He's actually correct when he says he's only been on the job in this role for about 18-20 months.

3A) I think his assessment of Nikitin is not as horrific as many seem to suggest. Mac explicitly stated that he's been inconsistent and has had an up and down year. I think that's by and large completely true – he's had more bad games than good, but he's shown flashes of being a competent 4/5 D with PP upside on more than a few nights. Consistency has been an issue for basically the entire team this season. The only consistent thing about the way the players have played is how seemingly manic-depressive they appear to be on the ice. (This was not meant as an insult to anyone who suffers from mental illness, but rather more a generalizable statement about the sweeping highs and debilitating lows from one player to the next and one game to the next). Nikitin and Schultz are the picture of this inconsistency, but the same could be said of the goalies. I don't necessarily trust that MacT is the best talent evaluator out there, but his position on NN is not exactly wrong. He also wasn't going to throw his player under the bus, perhaps learning from the Penner incident of 2008 a little.

3B) MacT spent a large portion of the presser discussing consistency in relation to accountability and development. While these are just words and we can perhaps assume that they are empty words, they hold a specific set of meanings. When he took Hall and Eberle to task for not taking an active leadership role, he basically suggested that he knows they have been responsible for some of the most inconsistent play on the team this year, particularly in the context of turnovers and soft play in the offensive zone. Accountability comes both from words and actions and I think he was in fact issuing a public challenge to his best players to be better both on the ice and in the room. If this really is Hall's team, Mac knows Hall has to do more, own up to his own on-ice issues and be the leader he needs to be, not the leader he thinks he deserves to be. This statement was not meant to contradict my point in 3A about not throwing players under the bus, and I really don't think he said anything bad or wrong about Hall and Ebs. Those players have to be better, and if they play with more consistency and eliminate their sloppy efforts, it might help the rest of the team.

4) Development – MacT's biggest issue is in development and I think he hit the nail on the head when he said there's been four coaches all delivering the same message. That might be the problem in and of itself. What is this message? Why have the various coaching staffs all been tasked with saying/doing the same thing? Maybe the problem itself is that the strategy is all wrong, and that an actual new message is needed.

And now the critiques:

1) Ok, he owned his mistake in a backhanded way about C depth and kinda looked like a tool doing it.

2) Why is Marincin not being identified as a good player? I don't get it. They've discussed the lack of successful 2nd round and beyond picks, and yet there's a perfectly good 2nd rounder, who like the rest of the D this year has not be consistently good, is still a very talented player.

3) He maybe shouldn't have started off by saying that nobody will be satisfied. That's just setting himself up to be tarred and feathered.

4) When talking about accountability he stayed in the general and didn't get specific enough aside from knowing that not all players can or should be yelled at, citing his own time coaching Hemmer as an example. However I think he should have been more explicit about his expectations for his coaches to ensure accountability. Dallas has to do more on that front as well. He needs to return to the 'ice time as currency' approach to bench management that he used last year, and not be afraid to staple Hall or Ebs to the bench for a while if they mess up any more than anyone else.

I also know that I've mentioned Hall and Eberle a few times in this post and I am not trying to rip on them specifically, nor do I think they're the problem. They're both great players and I love watching Taylor Hall play hockey. I don't much care for him as a person (He summers in Kingston where I lived for 5 years and he's not the most friendly or approachable fellow, unless you happen to be a Queen's girl...my former students have shared a few NSFW stories, but I digress...) but he is easily the best Oiler in a decade and one of the top 3 LW's in the league. However in order for the team to grow, the players need to be accountable to themselves and to each other. It's a difficult thing for kids in their early-mid 20s with all that money and all that attention to understand what accountability and responsibility mean, but they will learn or they will continue to lose. There is really only so much a coach or a GM can do. This process has to be bottom up, not top down.  The leaders need to drive the play a little more. What kills me about watching Calgary play is how much they remind me of the little teams that could (97-03). They outwork their opponents even though they have virtually no top-end talent. These current Oilers could stand to take their inspiration less from the 80s Oilers and more from the Marchant-Grier-Murray/Moreau teams that we all loved so much.

I want change as much as any other fan. It's hard to put on my jersey when I watch the games, and increasingly I find myself not bothering to wait until the game is over before calling it a night. I love hockey, and quite frankly I need the distraction from work from time to time, but things are not getting better. As a fan I am frustrated, but no matter how frustrated I am, I cannot even imagine what Craig MacTavish is going through now. I feel for him, especially because I'm starting to realize that things are going to get worse for this team before they get better.

Go Oilers?

cap hits, contract negotiations and commodity fetishism.

So it's come to this, the blog as a teaching tool. I can honestly say I never thought this thing I used basically to complain about the team and game I love would ever be useful to anyone, let alone the basis for an assignment in a class I'm teaching. What has the world come to? Since this is where we are, there's precious little point in complaining about it. In fact, I think it makes more sense to just get to the damn point. This used to be a hockey and theory blog after all, so maybe it's time to return to my roots.

This is John Davidson, president of the Columbus Blue Jackets, apparently a hockey team in the NHL. JD is a really well respected hockey man, knowledgable, insightful, and consistently built winning teams basically everywhere he's been. JD has recently lost his mind and it follows a disturbing trend across the league when it comes to how to handle giving younger "star" players their second contracts. 

Columbus has a kid on their roster named Ryan Johansen. He's 22 years old, huge and coming off of the best season of his career, scoring 33 goals and 63 points. He is also a "restricted" free agent (RFA), which means that the team straight up owns him for another few years and really has all the leverage. Johansen came into the league on a standard entry-level contract three seasons ago and was an average player for two of those seasons. He had his breakout season last year and the kid wants to get paid. The team thinks he's holding them hostage and his agent is inflating his value. As of today, Johansen has not signed any of the offers that have been made, and the latest rumour has him leaving for Russia and a tax-exempt payday. Can't say I blame him...
Extortion? See above...
The Oilers have a similarly aged "star" player, a Defenceman named Justin Schultz who after two years in the league and a distinguished NCAA career was due for his own contract extension. As a group II RFA, the team basically has all of the power. The player cannot be signed to an offer sheet, nor can he take the team into a salary arbitration hearing (an ugly process that players and teams usually try to avoid at all costs). Instead of being completely obstinate, he took the best deal available to him and signed for a "ridiculous" $3.7 million dollar one year contract, a deal that the various talking heads around the league have routinely criticized as one of the worst deals of the summer, over-inflating his own perceived and real value and in effect driving up the going rate for similar group II RFA players in future years, which could be bad for the league. 

Let's think about this for a moment–bad for the league? A league where billionaires routinely extract surplus value from the citizens of the cities they live in, get all the tax breaks possible and have been recording record profits in the wake of not one but two labour lockouts? From where I sit, this is a great thing for the players in so many ways, especially as it pertains to calling out the bosses on their crap, but it begs the question of why players get paid millions to play a game in the first place. That is not the question we will answer today, however. We have other business to attend to.

This brings us back to Marx and the often-misunderstood concept of commodity fetishism. In order to really understand it, we need to first define what Marx means by a "commodity" in the first place:

1) A commodity is, in the first place, an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another. The nature of such wants, whether, for instance, they spring from the stomach or from fancy, makes no difference. Neither are we here concerned to know how the object satisfies these wants, whether directly as means of subsistence, or indirectly as means of production (Capital Vol. 1 Ch. 1).
2) A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour. This is the reason why the products of labour become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses... There is a physical relation between physical things. But it is different with commodities. There, the existence of the things qua commodities, and the value-relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom (Capital ch. 4 sec. 1).
So what does it all mean? Marx basically takes the position that commodities aren't just things abut rather the things that emerge from labour. In Estranged Labour, Marx even goes so far as to suggest that people themselves become commodities by the labour that they produce, and the more that is produced, the less value workers have in the world they create–they themselves become the commodities and their value only exists through their work. "Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity – and this at the same rate at which it produces commodities in general" (ECF 1844). 

In the context of our players and their contracts, they work for their wages, no matter how high or outrageous they seem, but they become constructed and expressed not as people but rather as the outcome of their labour. We speak of players as assets, discuss them in terms of cap hits and potential waiver wire acquisitions for our own enjoyment. And yet when one of these players actually tries to maximize their own value at the one point early in their careers (knowing that they might be one injury away from never playing again, let alone walking–the revolutionary act of asking for a raise! Shocking!), we are very quick to demonize the players for being greedy, for trying to extort the team. This feels like the very essence of what Marx called commodity fetishism.
So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. This I call the Fetishism, which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities (Capital ch. 4). 
An article came out today on another Oilers blog that takes this issue on in a very different way, but the author frames the issue rather well from the perspective of friendliness to the team: 
The following breaks down how team-friendly each stage of the career of a first overall pick (or any  other top prospect to make the team before their age 21 season) is: 
·       First three years: Entry-level deal, very team-friendly 
·       Fourth year: RFA without arbitration rights, somewhat team-friendly (Where we were at with Schultz and 'RyJo').
·       Fifth through seventh years: RFA with arbitration rights, increasingly unfriendly to teams
·       Eighth year through end of career: UFA, where teams pay through the nose

That such an article even needed to come out reifies this particular social relation, the way we perceive the needs of the team (producer, owner, means of production) vis-à-vis the player. The player's contracts and value to the producer is entirely inseparable from the player himself, the focus becomes the player's contract and his perceived value to the team, the league and our own consumption of the player-as-object. The argument that the other writer makes is essentially that players, who take long-term second contracts, recognizing the situation that they are in, ought to consider the team's overall salary structure and the percentage the player takes up while they enter these negotiations. But why should the players take these kinds of concerns into account? They are the ones who take the most risk, as they are the people producing the labour. The team is itself of course a larger commodity, but the players drive up the wealth, the use-value and surplus value of the team. Why shouldn't players be allowed to try and maximize their own benefits and ensure that other players of equal skill are compensated at the same level? Jon Willis at the other blog had this to say: 
It’s an objectively worse situation for player and team alike. The player deferred getting money to later instead of earlier; the team deferred paying money to when it needs every penny rather than spending it when it had cap space galore. Just for good measure, the relationship between the two parties has potentially been strained by an acrimonious negotiation over a bridge contract and possibly even arbitration once that contract ended.  It's a lose-lose. 
This lose-lose Willis describes is a classic case of false consciousness–no matter the result of the contract negotiation the players always lose. Even if they win in terms of the amount of money they have made, they still lose while the owners, generally speaking win almost every single time. Players are no longer people living in the world, they are mere objects for our own consumption and entertainment, assets to be bought and sold depending on the needs and whims of the owners. With commodity fetishism, Marx has very succinctly (for him...) captured the essential nature of all the ideological illusions of bourgeois society. In a league where Millionaires argue with Billionaires, they still end up on the short end of the stick.

Training camp notes: 

There appears to be a flock of actual good prospects as well as legitimate NHL players in camp this year, a welcome change given the relative dearth of talent outside of the big club, not to mention on the big club itself.

During a recent visit back to Kingston, I had the chance to watch the Annual Western Canadian prospects tournament with my now former housemate. Held in Penticton BC, the top rookies from Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver (spits!) and the city to the south that shall remain nameless and devoid of talent played a brief tournament, 3 games each in 4 days. It was a lot of fun to watch and the baby Oilers played very well. Highlights include our hulking twin towers up the middle, Leon Draisaitl and Bogdan (Big Bo) Yakimov. These kids are both under 20, over 6"3 and well in the 215lbs+ range. When they grow up they will be monsters and hopefully be around to lead the Oilers back to respectability. 

Tonight is the annual split squad games in Edmonton and Calgary. Of course the top prospects and players for each team tend to stay home, while the knuckle-draggers, coke machines and hired goons hit the road. It might not be the best hockey to watch, but hey, hockey is back, and not a minute too soon.

Go Oilers