Christmas, they say, is a time for friendship, for family, and for gifts.
Well, I spent this Boxing Day in Cold Lake, Alberta with my family, watching my friends the Oilers give me the gift of a massive turd sandwich of a hockey game, where they managed to outplay the Canucks in the first period and look dreadful doing it before getting worked by the Canucks like a druggie late on his payment.
If not for the flask and the bottle of Japanese rice wine an understanding cousin had given me, this would have been the least successful Boxing Day yet.
The little things were stupid. Zack Stortini fighting Rick Rypien and trying to drop a 5'11" man with forearm shivers to the face like Macho Man Randy Savage. Ethan Moreau's historically inept goaltender interference penalty when he socked Roberto Luongo in the crease with neither another Canuck nor the puck within two timezones of him. Tom Gilbert bobbling the puck and charging into the slot and gunning the puck nowhere in particular, and the Patrick O'Sullivan Show, featuring wrist shots softer than his bodychecking, and that's saying something.
4-1? Please. 4-1 was flattering. Even when we deserved to win, we were playing to lose.
How many Oiler forwards earned their paycheques? Ryan Potulny, I guess, who got a flukey-if-deserved penalty and avenged himself upon the hockey gods in style with his wicked Jason Arnott-style backhand goal. Zack Stortini got an A for effort but not for results. Robert Nilsson had a metric tonne of effort and, particularly in the first, generated some nice opportunities. Aside from his laughable penalty Ethan Moreau was actually pretty good, banging and crashing in a good way and he'd probably have had a couple of assists if he wasn't setting up Andrew Cogliano.
Ryan Stone hardly played but he makes so damned little money I guess he qualifies by default. I don't think Jean-Francois Jacques made that lofty standard, though.
It was a decrepit effort, as a road loss after Christmas in the midst of a losing streak will often be. How about that five-game winning streak, eh? Jesus.
The Copper & Blue Holiday Reverse Three Stars (Reverse Three Elves?):
18th Star: F Andrew Cogliano. Ineffective! Worse than that, hostile to even the concept of offense. There was a play in the first period where Ethan Moreau charged in at the blue line to hack down a clearance attempt and chopped it perfectly to an Oiler's stick in front, only to look exasperated and horrified as he realized the Oiler in question was Andrew Cogliano, who politely sifted a wristshot into Roberto Luongo's pad.
There were a few forwards who could get the coveted 18th star nod. Patrick O'Sullivan escaped because at least the effort was there (the ultimate backhanded compliment). Sam Gagner lacked Cogliano's complete futility. Jean-Francois Jacques was actually written here in pencil before I decided that Cogliano's more active brand of failure was worthy of recognition. There are many paths to the 18th Star of the Game. Cogliano merely chose the more interesting.
19th Star: D Tom Gilbert. Slow on his feet. Stickhandling from hell. No physical play. No discernible hockey sense from a guy who allegedly plays with his head. Was covered for by Denis Grebeshkov, and if Denis Grebeshkov is having to cover your brain farts you're doing something seriously wrong. Gilbert's been getting on more and more of these lists, which is annoying because I love Tom Gilbert.
There's a lot to be said for sensible, young defensemen who really aren't paid that much and are high-quality players in both ends of the rink. Tom Gilbert, for his first two seasons, looked like he was essentially Roman Hamrlik with less power. Now he's turning into Marc-Andre Bergeron with less brains. Is Tom Renney telling our defensemen "yeah, just whack the puck around the boards, something good will probably happen" and "never stay in position when you can just skate twice as much to make up for the stupid crap you do"? Can we get Charlie Hudd back yet? Like, can we chip in for his plane ticket?
20th Star: D Sheldon Souray. Remember what I just said about Tom Gilbert? Copy-paste that in, add in being generally slow on his feet, and then double-plus-add-in a crappy holding penalty on, of all people, Mikael Samuelsson because his foot speed wasn't up to defending mediocre European pests. Did he load up on turkey and stuffing in the pregame spread or something? Good god he was slow, and his slapshot was bouncing off guys' skates, and he wasn't hitting. It was like if I was playing defense, except I wouldn't be making nine billion dollars a year.
This is Sheldon's first appearance of the season on this list. But by god he didn't do it halfway. That was an awful game. And that's why he's the twentieth star of the game.
26 points: Jason Strudwick
20 points: Ethan Moreau
11 points: Mike Comrie, Nikolai Khabibulin
10 points: Steve Staios
9 points: Jeff Deslauriers, Sam Gagner, Tom Gilbert
8 points: Denis Grebeshkov, Patrick O'Sullivan
7 points: Jean-Francois Jacques
2 points: Andrew Cogliano
1 point: Ryan Potulny