My activities of late have left me little time to contemplate which Oilers infuriate me most - a topic that normally consumes most of my waking hours. Many are the nights which I have spent laying in bed cursing Jason Strudwick or Nikolai Khabibulin, but, alas, those joyous times have been replaced by "work" and "high-functioning alcoholism" and other personal priorities.
Luckily, today was a quiet afternoon at my day job and I was able to sit in my office, close my eyes, take a sip of coffee, and channel my soul-searing rage into something productive. As a result, to make up for lost time, I am pleased to present a very special twin pack of the Race for the Golden Rooster, covering the Oilers first game of the season hosting the Calgary Flames and their most recent, against the Minnesota Wild.
(Spoiler alert: the guy who you think is the twentieth star for the Calgary game? You're right.)
The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars for a Game Against the Calgary Flames that Made Small Children Cry (With Bonus Demeaning Nicknames):
18th Star: LW Jean-Francois Jacques, "the Patron Saint of Lost Hockey Causes". Really, this whole "J-F Jacques on the first line" thing was doomed to fail from day one, wasn't it? I knew it, you knew it, I suspect J-F Jacques knew it, but Pat Quinn kept whipping him over the boards and he kept thundering into the end boards and having the puck bounce off his stick and whipping a wrister more limp than Kraft Dinner that's been boiled for three hours. Watching Jacques skate with Ales Hemsky is like giving Pablo Picasso a box of half-chewed Crayolas and asking him to draw on a Big Mac wrapper.
For what it's worth, Jean-Francois has gotten incrementally better most of the time, and his first game was just terrifying bad. Let this be a warning to those looking to use the Golden Rooster as the latest awesome sabermetric technique: his turnover show would have ranked a lot worse if it weren't for the rest of these clowns being even more terrible.
19th Star: C Ryan "Hands of" Stone made his Oilers debut and looked pretty awful. Like, if I played fourteen minutes I'm fairly sure I'd have generated more. He studied at the Jean-Francois Jacques School for Mildly Offensive Uselessness and not only thrived but went on to graduate studies. He's actually turned into a pretty decent player the last couple of games and he's managed to make the sort of contribution we were all hoping for.
His first night? Horrible.
Considering the pretty significant icetime he got, Stone really didn't deliver. The effort was there but he wasn't thinking at NHL speed. Partially I think the poor ice at Rexall was to blame, but his touch on the puck wasn't so much "bad" as "absent".
It's worth repeating that Stone's gotten better. Frankly, the way things are going this'll be his last appearance on the list for a while. But the first night didn't leave us much to hope for.
20th Star: G Nikolai Khabibulin, "the Maginot Line". Proposed alternate nickname: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.
Additional Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars for Friday Night Against Minnesota:
18th Star: C Sam "Some Will Win, He Will Lose" Gagner. His second straight game on the wrong side of the three stars, and it makes me sad. As I mentioned in the Blackhawks loss, I really like ol' Sam, and think he'll be a nice NHL player someday. But the fact remains that this is his third NHL season and he is a big, fat minus sign on a hockey rink. By his third professional year, Vincent Damphousse was scoring twenty-five goals. By his third professional year, Joffrey Lupul scored twenty-eight. What I'm saying is that so far Sam Gagner is no Joffrey Lupul.
His Minnesota game could be described as "clumsy". He skated like a demon and managed not to achieve a damned thing. In his defense he's facing tougher competition, ranking up with Shawn Horcoff in QUALCOMP to date, but the last few games he hasn't managed to saw them off. It's frustrating. His first few games were great. It's just not going the right way?
19th Star: D Denis "the Blotter" Grebeshkov. Possibly the Oilers' best defenseman this season, so I'm going to forgive him one off night. He's looked so possessed and confident off and on the puck for the first six games that he can have one night where he returned to his old LSD-taking self and started firing passes to nobody in particular. Coming in second on the team in ice time just behind defensive partner Tom Gilbert, he... he really didn't deserve it. There have been nights when Grebeshkov should have played more than, say, Lubomir Visnovsky, but that seriously wasn't one of them.
Bearing in mind that this was a 5-2 win, Grebeshkov wasn't too bad. The 19th star in this game was better than the 18th star in that Calgary game I just reviewed. Someday we'll beat Tampa Bay 1,543-2 (couple whiffed clearances by Khabibulin) and I'll have to name Steve Staios nineteenth star for only scoring eleven goals. Those of you hoping to use the Golden Rooster Award as a major part of the hockey statistical revolution, take note!
20th Star: D Jason "Suicide" Strudwick. Congratulations are due to Strudwick, who takes his third twentieth star award of the season after only seven games! And he plays on a team with Nikolai Khabibulin, Jean-Francois Jacques, and Ethan Moreau! Seriously, this is going to be like Wayne Gretzky's fifty in thirty-nine, except the complete and total opposite. Frankly, I'm impressed despite myself. I go through all this trouble of trying to promote an insulting nickname for our $4 million senior citizen goaltender, and Jason Strudwick is blowing Khabibulin away in the contest of suck.
Now I know how an Oilers reporter would have felt in the eighties. We are in the presence of history, friends.
(P.S.: sheldon souray plz get bettar soon thx)
15 (!) points: Jason Strudwick
8 points: Nikolai Khabibulin
6 points: Jean-Francois Jacques
3 points: Mike Comrie, Sam Gagner, Denis Grebeshkov, Ethan Moreau, Ryan Stone
1 point: Tom Gilbert