Well, the season is over, and us Oiler fans haven't got much to look forward to. We're not in the playoffs, our players are malcontents, we're probably going to lose the draft lottery, the Canucks are among the favourites in the Western Conference... it's bad news all around.
Of course, there is award season coming up. Yesterday the Oilers announced their nominee for the Bill Masterton award for perseverance and dedication to hockey: none other than the human ipecac himself Jason Strudwick. It's a disappointing... nay, a horrifying choice. But it's also an ultimately irrelevant one, for this is a season in which a Toronto Maple Leaf had a minor medical problem and therefore the Oilers candidate had no chance of winning anyway. So Strudwick (who is a bad player but a good guy) can accept his nomination and have a little fun with it, but he has to know that come awards night Ron MacLean will not be calling out his name.
Don't feel too down, though, Jason. Because there's still one award out there that you're in contention for with a shout. No, not the Hart trophy. Not the Norris either. I am referring to none other than the inaugural Golden Rooster, the prestigious honour that will be bestowed onto the Oiler who led the team in the Reverse Three Star standings this season.
Have you been skipping my post-game threads so you're not aware of the Reverse Three Stars? First off: probably a good call. Second off, the Reverse Three Stars are one man's extremely subjective opinion on who the three worst Oilers were on any given night in a very small sample size of games. I rated only games I did the post-game thread on and only ones I watched rather than listen to on 630 CHED. The twentieth star gets five points, the nineteenth star three, and the eighteenth star one. At the end of the season, the winner receives the prestigious Golden Rooster, which isn't an actual award so much as a metaphysical award concept, but since I'm going to go out on a limb and say the winner won't want to come out and accept it anyway, that's fine by me.
After the jump, I break down the Oilers glorious chumpions of the 2009-10 season.
A lot of cameo appearances got off scot-free, but there were a few regulars. Brule and Nilsson will surprise some, but neither had a lot of the truly horrible games that it took to be one of the three worst Oilers this season. Brule had very few games that were even particularly bad, and when he did there was always someone else stinking it up a lot worse.
Anybody who reads anything into the fact that two of my favourites, Pouliot and Pisani, are on this list is thinking too hard. It's because they were injured for so long they didn't get enough games in. Really. (Also, they're awesome.)
Category One: Also in Frame
The guys who've been hurt, traded, just not here very long, or in some very exclusive cases "good". We see already a hint of the weaknesses of the Reverse Three Stars system: if I'd been doing this over eighty-two games, Devan Dubnyk would probably have had more than three points. But would his spot in the standings have been much worse? His numbers are bad because of a small number of truly horrific games rather than Jeff Deslauriers' standard of continued, consistent mediocrity (oh, we'll be getting back to him. Will we ever be getting back to him). Taylor Chorney's three points, meanwhile, are entirely due to playing at the nadir of Edmonton's fortunes
Certain readers... well, Bruce... will be delighted to see Zack Stortini come in behind Ales Hemsky, who sucked back two nineteeth star nods for being invisible before the hockey gods snatched him from us. Dean Arsene was probably good for more than five points most seasons but was saved by only being on the team when it was -really really- terrible and there was lots of competition for this humiliating honour.
Gary Bettman should probably be higher up this list, but I didn't want to give him all the awards he deserved lest this become the Bettman Show.
Finally, there is Taylor Chorney and his one appearance as a nineteenth star in the eighty-first game of the season. Frankly, I have no idea what happened there. I saw him as bad as the rest of you guys, I swear. I must have just seen other guys worse.
Category Two: The HUA Brigade
Sam Gagner got ten points. I don't think I remember more than one of them: he was eighteenth star a couple months ago because he accomplished so little that the one time he was in the play John Garrett confused him with Mike Comrie. Of course, Mike Comrie was nineteenth star that night. It was one of those games, really.
Most of Dustin Penner's seven points came via "why the hell didn't you dominate this game?" frustration. Let's face it. Big men often look slow and like they're not trying, but particularly after the Oilers started to tank Penner dogged it more than a little. Not consistently, and not to anything like the degree some of the guys on this list (or some of the guys ranked better than him, even) did. But it happened, and when it happened to Penner you knew it because he was so much better than the rest of the goddamned carcasses he had to drag around.
This, incidentally, is something else I've noticed about the Reverse Three Stars: I expect more of the better players. Which is why a defenseman you're going to see in the next category got twelve points but Aaron Johnson got three. If Bobby Nilsson dogs it, I say "well, yeah, it's Bobby Nilsson" and order another pizza. If Dustin Penner dogs it, well, this guy is supposed to be our best player, isn't he? Eighteenth star it is!
Beyond that, no real surprises. A few guys who are either gone (Grebeshkov) or waiting for cab rides to the airport (O'Sullivan and Souray). Theo Peckham played fifteen games and got one assist, 43 penalty minutes, a -8, and nine points on the Reverse Three Stars playing with some pretty goddamned lousy teammates. That's something to write Mom about, it is. We'll see Jean-Francois Jacques turn into an effective power forward before we see that miserable a stat line again.
Why hey, speaking of Jean-Francois Jacques!
Category Three: Really Amazingly Dishonourable Mention
Nikolai Khabibulin! Remember that guy? Eighteen games and eleven Reverse Three Star points is one of the best point-per-game ratios on the team. I think that his continuing injury situation combined with the horrors that have been the Jeff Deslauiriers show have caused us to forget a bit how legendarily bad he was at times this season. The Reverse Three Stars don't even count such intangibles as getting liquored up and driving around the States while you should probably be rehabbing that serious injury which oh-so-tragically tore you from us. If they did, he'd be gunning hard for the podium. As it is, he has to sit down here with the dregs.
Tom Gilbert's twelve points are probably a function of just playing so goddamned much, but he was a bit chaos this year. Point-per-game after the deadline but not much before it. Some moments where we remembered why he's Tom Gilbert, some moments where we thought he was Taylor Chorney. More good than bad, but the Reverse Three Stars are pitiless and take no heed of how good you looked. They grab hold of your moments of shame and defeat and wrests them, struggling, into the light, where they hold your most humiliating games up for the world to examine in perpetual trembling fear. There is no escape from the Reverse Three Stars, there is only a relatively painless and honourable death.
My boy Mike Comrie, disappointingly, did very badly indeed: seventeen points. That's a lot. Especially after I've been going around pimping him as a great target for a real high-value contract extension. He's looked pretty good the last few games, hasn't he? Hasn't he? Dammit, Mike. If it were really like communism here we'd have dragged you into the forest, shot you behind the ear, and charged Bill and Paul for the ammunition. But I would have been crying while I did it.
Finally, there is Jean-Francois himself. Thirteen points doesn't sound like a lot, I know. But remember how few games Jacques got in before he was condemned to the infirmary for
being awful a back problem. Remember that he played about five minutes a game. Remember that his job was, essentially, to be crazy and hurt people, a job with very low standards. Now look at that thirteen points again. A bit more impressive, non?
Now, buckle yourself up, because if you thought 17 points was quite a few you ain't seen nothing yet. Shit is about to get bananas.
Category Four: The Podium
Could it be any other way, my friends? How could these two have not appeared in positions of pride on the Reverse Three Stars, side by side, like the good friends they were? They both deserve to win, but unfortunately like so many forgotten runners-up their fantastic seasons have been derailed by another man's historic one. They are the Buzz Aldrins of the Reverse Three Stars: remembered with honour but who really worried about who came in second?
That Steve Staios picked up three more points than his old friend Ethan Moreau, who it will be remembered I once accused of fixing matches, in a I-can-hardly-dare-believe-it thirty-eight fewer games is perhaps the most remarkable statistic of all. This is obviously without counting his turn as a Calgary Flame, or else he might have won this shindig. I'm all for beating Steve Tambellini about the head and neck with a sack of doorknobs, but that Steve Staios deal was like Gabe Gala scoring against Real Madrid: an unbelievable accomplishment made all the more unbelievable by who accomplished it. By the way, Steadily Eroding Steve will saddle the Flames with a $2.7 million cap hit next season. Excuse me, I suddenly find myself in a really good mood for some reason. What can possibly spoil it?
Oh, right. The fact that I'm not done listing the awful Oilers. We still have the winner to deal with.
Category Five: The Golden Roosters
A dead heat! But who else could it be? Some will argue that Deslauriers should take the award home alone on the basis of far fewer games played, but these people miss the point of the Reverse Three Stars. It's not an advanced statistical measure. I'm not going to list the reverse three star points/60 5v5 minutes any time soon. It's about who did the most to do the least: who hurt the team night in, night out. By that metric, how can you call Jason Strudwick anything but a deserved co-winner?
I shouldn't need to describe this despicable duo to you. You saw them as often as I did last year, and I gave them little horrified writeups every time one of them made the Reverse Three Stars, which as you can see by that big number was often. Deslauriers was the erratic one: sometimes brilliant, often passable, but like Tommy Salo in his prime capable of filling you with that bone-gripping terror every time the puck flew towards the Oilers net. Strudwick may not have had one properly good game all season: he was the reliable one, in that you could rely on him to make at least one bone-headed move every game. If this were the mid-2000s Detroit Red Wings, Strudwick would have been a Reverse Three Star every game. Okay, that's not true. If Strudwick were a mid-2000s Detroit Red Wing he'd be in the fucking minors.
So congratulations to Jeff Deslauriers and Jason Strudwick, our mutual winners of the 2009-10 Copper & Blue Golden Rooster Award. Both are free agents of some stripe on July 1, by the way, so we can look forward to many more awards in 2010-11 when both of these guys get multi-million dollar extensions.
Isn't being an Oilers fan great?