I’m writing this on my deck. I seriously considered e-mailing David Staples on Friday to say “Umm…yeah, David, something has come up and I just can’t manage a ‘9 Things’ Cult of Hockey column this weekend. So sorry, Dave”.
But then guilt grabbed a hold of me and cornered me into a compromise. So…still at the computer…but outside, looking at the water.
O.K. Kurt…look down…and type.
9. It promises to be a busy week at the Oilers front office. Much of the NHL has fallen into the traditional mid-July slumber. But there are several specific pieces of significant business in Edmonton (bonuses to Connor McDavid & Milan Lucic) due. Whether either one ultimately impacts the product on the ice remains to be seen.
8. There is some angst in Edmonton over Ken Holland’s relative lack of activity in free agency. And to a certain point I can understand why. We all want the club to win. But when he was hired Ken Holland told us what he was going to do. He didn’t use the word “stability” over-and-over again because he planned to make a big noise this Summer. Next July may be different, though, with a more favorable set of circumstances.
7. I recognize that the Mike Smith signing comes with a certain element of risk. He’s a 37-year old goaltender coming off a career-worst season. But a look at his work down the stretch last Spring paints a different story: An SV% of .923 or higher in 7 of his last 10 regular season games. Then .923 or higher in 3 of 5 playoffs games. In the one SCP game where his SV% dipped to .893 he faced 56 shots! And like Mikko Koskinen, Smith has a reputation for having great practice habits. The signs for a potential bounce-back are there.
6. Former Edmonton Oilers prospect Ziyat Paigan played for HK Sochi of the KHL last season. This year the hulking 6’6 defender will suit up for Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (easy for me to say) instead. Edmonton took a flier on the kid back in 2015. Paigan was selected in the 7th Round at 209th over-all. And hey…if you are going to gamble the 7th Round is a good place to do it. But alas…the bet never paid off. Paigan played just 12 games over 2 AHL seasons for the franchise. And then he was gone.
5. Kevin Lowe will be inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame July 21st. Lowe won 6 Stanley Cups as a player and was a 7-time NHL All-Star. Lowe’s resume eclipses those of other former players who have already been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Guy Carbonneau has half as many cups and never had a 30-goal season. If Carbonneau is in (and he should be) then Lowe belongs there, too. But at the very least Mr. Lowe deserves to have his jersey hanging in the rafters at Rogers Place.
4. Archie Henderson was hired this past week by the Oilers and appointed Director of Pro Scouting. For the longest time he was the principle Western scout for the Washington Capitals. That was the era in which I first ran across Henderson (before he joined the Detroit organization). If my memory serves me correctly, it was former NHL-er and Red Wings Head Coach turned Flames Colour Man Doug Barkley who introduced us to one another at The Saddledome that night. Henderson won’t likely remember me, but zero chance of me not remembering him.
3. Opponents in the old Western Canadian Hockey League in the 70’s were always well that Archie Henderson the was in town that night. And in his first season as a pro for the Port Huron Flags he racked up 419 penalty minutes. An imposing physical figure (he is 6’6) though belies the fact that he is easy-spoken and friendly in person. Henderson is clearly someone Ken Holland trusts implicitly or he wouldn’t be here. I find it funny how some people who pined away for years that Edmonton needed to “be more like the Detroit organization” now whine over Holland bringing in his guys. You can’t suck and blow at the same time…
2. Archie Henderson has a previous connection to Oilers history. He played for the Cape Breton Oilers back in 1984-85. One of his teammates at the time was Marc Habschied, now the Head Coach of the Prince Albert Raiders. My association with Marc and his family goes back to Swift Current’s Dunn-Munro Hockey School in the mid-70’s. I wonder when Marc will get his shot at coaching in the NHL? After a hard-working pro career (including the Oilers and Red Wings) and time with the National Program (where he was a teammate of Dave Tippett) Marc has since paid his dues in the CHL. Habschied has coached successfully for 5 different franchises over 14 seasons (and went to the Memorial Cup last year). At the end of the day? A better person and from finer stock you would be hard-pressed to find.
1.From the Puljujarvi file: I am made to understand that player agent Markus Lehto and the previous Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli had a gentleman’s agreement on how to handle Jesse Puljujarvi. In general terms it focused on what the player’s options could be if things were not working out. Problem: That “agreement” was never binding on the incumbent G.M. So in other words…this is nothing that Ken Holland said yes to or is contractually bound by in any way. Yet it was with this knowledge that Markus Lehto proceeded to over-estimate his client’s actual value on the open market and then roll the dice by attempting to back the most experienced G.M. in the entire NHL into a corner on Draft weekend. It didn’t go well for him.
All veteran NHL poker player Ken Holland had to do was call his bluff. And call it he did. No other NHL GM came calling with an offer worth listening to. No one backed up the Brinks truck to Rogers Place. That’s because the word on the player is out. He’s damaged goods. This is the same textbook Steve Yzerman followed as he handled the Johnathan Drouin file. And at whose feet did Stevie Yzerman take his lessons in General Managing? Yup. Ken Holland. Hard to imagine how the agent didn’t consider that.
Meanwhile, training camp is just about to open across Europe with most rosters already full and club budgets spent. All that’s left are secondary pro teams that would pay less than an NHL qualifying offer. Puljujarvi is flat out of options. All that’s left is to try to blame the sticky situation on a well-respected sports reporter.
The agent claimed he was just looking out for his 21-year old client. And if that indeed was it, well good on him. But what he may end up inadvertently doing is costing that very client an NHL pay cheque. And quite possibly a pro career.
Suddenly doesn’t seem quite so altruistic, does it?
Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins
Recently, at The Cult…