GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 03: Goaltender Jeff Deslauriers #38 of the Edmonton Oilers makes a glove save on the shot from the Phoenix Coyotes during the second period of the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on April 3, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
As regular readers know, I have a pretty lousy memory. At any given moment I'll forget who's in goal or why Ales Hemsky isn't out or how many Stanley Cups we've won or even why our team seems so lousy and last-place.
I'm convinced that part of the reason is that my brain is being cluttered up with games like that. Good god! I've watched some losing teams but if it wasn't for the Copper & Blue I'd have cast them out of my mind until the draft a loooooong time ago. It is beyond watching the games because I'm a fan. I'm watching the games because I have to. And sometimes they're all right - listening to Rod and Bob call a 6-3 game last night was at least entertaining - and sometimes I put up with three periods, a five-minute overtime, and an utterly interminable shootout and it all worms its way into my brain like mind-eating parasite which devours everything that was once happy and good and replaces it with "good Christ how can Taylor Chorney be taken to school that often without getting a diploma?"
It hurts. It actually hurts. The Oilers penalty kill was brilliant! Excellent! And watching them gave me an aneurysm! Jeff Deslauriers was pretty solid, one Deslauriers special aside! There was lots to like on the defensive side of the puck, or at least lots to like by the Edmonton Oilers standard. Zack Stortini set up a goal and Dustin Penner scored one, so you know Bruce and Derek will be happy. Most of the lights for a thrilling post-game thread were green, and instead I'm just trying to figure out if that's blood coming out of my ears or if my brain is actually trying to wriggle out.
Have I made my point yet? That game sucked. S-U-K-D sucked.
Now, if we'd have won would I be going on like this? Probably. But to a markedly lesser extent, I grant you. So, imaginary rhetorical opponent, let's you and I take a step back and consider what about the Oilers made this seemingly-mundane game against the Jets Thieves seem so horrifying.
Well, first off, there was the simple fact that it was against the Coyotes. The Coyotes are one of the best teams in the NHL. Maybe the best team in the NHL. But they're also one of the worst organizations. Sitting out there in the desert, drawing flies for fans, losing a hundred million dollars here, a hundred million dollars there, and all the while standing as a mocking reminder of Gary Bettman's NHL. Not merely taking Winnipeg's team but mocking them with it. At least when Quebec lost the Nordiques the Avalanche grew into powerhouses both on and off the ice. Not so the Coyotes. Oh, mercy, not so the Coyotes.
See, a lot of Edmonton fans pulled for the Winnipeg Jets. They were our old stomping buddies in the World Hockey Association, and our small-market prairie kinfolk, and they ran out some delightful 1980s-style hockey players, and they gave the world Bob Essensa, and in the good old days of the Smythe Division we could always count on taking out the cane and giving them a good thrashing come playoff time on our usual route to the Stanley Cup finals. When the NHL robbed us of the Jets they robbed us of that opportunity, turning our once beloved blood rivals into just another crappy team in a glitzy corporate arena. The reaction would be no different if the Calgary Flames packed up shop and moved to Houston. What good is Superman without Lex Luthor?
And, to add injury to insult, the Coyotes are so completely insolvent that the NHL has been forced to take them over. So we are actually subsidizing the league to put a winning team in a losing market as if to prove that, in spite of two decades proof to the contrary hockey in the desert is a terrific idea and Gary Bettman is a visionary who will put steak in every pot and usher in a new era of massive American television ideas that will let us all prance gaily through the daisies.
I have a joke where I say "not that I'm bitter or anything" but seriously, I am bitter about this, and I hope that Gary Bettman does go sleep with the fishes and the Coyotes moves back home because, no offense to Travis Hair and the small but non-zero number of really dedicated Coyotes fans out there, this is bush league bologna.
Was there a hockey game tonight? I'm sorry, I've forgotten.
Ah, yes. We saw the return of Robert Nilsson, which was nice, and the return of Patrick O'Sullivan, which wasn't. Neither did much of anything but Nilsson looked more likely to make things happen, and their shootout attempts were cases in point: brought from the Black Aces to shooters number two and three, O'Sullivan's shot was a limp duck but Nilsson at least forced Ilya Bryzgalov to work for the save. Nilsson was probably the closest Oiler to scoring aside from my boy Marc Pouliot and his magic goalpost.
Jeff Deslauriers? Not great, not bad, looked terrific at points. Let's just move on before I jinx him any more than I already have. Oilers goaltending is a remarkably fragile thing and when it is balanced I would prefer not to disturb it.
Marc Pouliot? My boy. Have we established that? He looked... I was going to say terrific. That's not quite right. He looked very, very capable. Steady, even. The sort of qualifications that Oilers don't come by easy. It's actually pretty much a Marc Pouliot tradition: looking solid towards the end of the season, getting our hopes up, "this is a guy we can pencil into the top nine next year!" and then he blows a something-or-other and misses nine months. It's worrisome to see the pattern repeating itself again. Will this whole season repeat itself again? I really hope it doesn't.