Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A New Book Starts In Edmonton Tonight

The phrase “turn the page” gets used a lot in sports, probably too much. When each new season starts, it’s a new chapter for that franchise. Sometimes though, the amount of changes made aren’t justified with a new chapter, it’s a whole new book in that series. For the Edmonton Oilers, tonight begins the first chapter of a new installment of the franchise history.

Rogers Place Arena.jpg
Credit: Wikipedia
A New Arena
After 42 years, for the first time the Oilers have a new home. Edmonton called the Northlands Coliseum/Edmonton Coliseum/Skyreach Centre/Rexall Place home since 1974. Tonight they open Rogers Place. This will be the first time an Oilers team takes the ice that won’t be in the same building where legends like Gretzky, Messier, Coffey and others plied their trade. The statue of Wayne Gretzky that was outside of Rexall Place will be unveiled outside of the new arena tonight. Speaking of Wayne…

Image result for Wayne Gretzky
Credit: Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/ QMI Agency
99 Is Back
Earlier today, it was reported that Wayne Gretzky is coming back to Edmonton in an official capacity. For the first time since he coached the Coyotes franchise for four seasons (2005-2009, compiling a 143-161-24 record), he’ll be a part of an NHL franchise. He returns to the franchise that where he became “The Great One” with the title of ‘Partner & Vice Chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group”. The 55 year old will also be serving as the NHL’s official ambassador for its centennial season. You can never have too much Wayne Gretzky when it comes to hockey.

Image result for Taylor Hall connor mcdavid
Credit: David Bloom - Edmonton Sun
Roster Overhaul
The Oilers haven’t played in a playoff game since the Carolina Hurricanes won Game 7 in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. After many years of first overall picks and high first round picks not gelling together, Taylor Hall was traded to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. Even though it was a widely criticized move, it did address their desperate need to add a reliable defender. It also cleared out the former face of the franchise (although McDavid became the face last season) for newly anointed Captain Connor McDavid. After missing a big chunk of time due to a broken collarbone last season, McDavid now has the ‘C’ on his sweater for what a lot of people hope is his first of many full NHL seasons. Milan Lucic chose to sign with Edmonton this off-season just to play with McDavid (and he’ll provide production and protection for #97). The Oilers shipped out former first overall pick Nail Yakupov to St. Louis for a prospect and a pick. Their 2016 first round pick Jesse Puljujarvi will also start the season with the big club. Leon Draisaitl is looking to build off a good rookie season and World Cup performance. Kris Russell was signed recently to block shots and help provide a veteran presence on the blueline for young and upcomers Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse.

There’s a lot to be excited for in northern Alberta. A new building, a new captain, a new-look team, and an old legend returning to help guide the ship. The Oilers are a nice mix of speed, size, and talent on paper. It all starts tonight, and it’s fitting that an old rival like Calgary is the first opponent. 

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