Archive for 2016-10-23

Game 8: The Pacific Division Road Test

The Edmonton Oilers will face one of their bigger tests today as they challenge the Vancouver Canucks, in Vancouver. It's not so much that the Canucks are a formidable opponent, it's that they're a division rival and a Western Conference team that Edmonton needs to be beat if they want to seriously contend for a playoff spot. It's matches like these that the Oilers simply cannot lose.

Thinking about the Oilers being 7-1-0 makes me giddy. We knew a strong October was important, but wow, that would be something if the Oilers could muster up that kind of start. It will require that Edmonton focus and not take the Canucks lightly. Despite being losers of three straight games, the Canucks were at one point 4-0 to start the year.

The Canucks are not a good team when it comes to scoring goals. In this area they struggle, so if the Oilers can get out to an early lead, it's just a matter of pushing down on the gas and not letting the Canucks climb back into it.

One of the players to watch is Loui Eriksson who has not yet scored a goal playing with the Sedins. The Oilers used to be notorious for getting struggling players back on track. They can't let that happen tonight.

Jordan Eberle

He is very good against the Canucks so I expect him to have a good game. In 30 games, he has 12 goals and 9 assists. He's been good in games so far this year and there seems to be a bit more urgency to his defensive game than in years past. I think is the McDavid effect.

Eberle staying on this line means only good things for his career and if the McDavid, Eberle and Lucic line continue to do what they're doing, there's going to come a game where between the three of them, they put together a 12 or 13 point night. That would be wonderful if it was tonight.

Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson

Isn't it great to watch two defensemen who get it? There is a calming effect for me when I watch the Oilers play seeing these two players on the ice. I feel a sense of confidence I've not felt in years knowing that in any given dangerous chances being produced by the opposition, these two are ready, with one move, to break it up and send the Oilers the other way for a scoring opportunity.

I read an article the other day that talked abou Larsson and how he's fitting in with the Oilers. Part of that article talks about his impression of Connor McDavid and Larsson said something to the effect of " if you're a defender and McDavid is coming at you, it's best to just fake losing your balance so as not to look foolish". I got a good laugh at that.

Cam Talbot

He is the hottest goaltender in the NHL with four goals allowed in the last four games and a better than .970 save percentage. It's amazing how he turned things around from the start of the year and with netminding like this, Edmonton has a chance in every game.

He'll be going up against Ryan Miller. This is a match up the Oilers win on paper.

Anton Lander

Talk about a turnaround from a player who was waived by the team just before the start of the regular season. Lander is contributing in many ways, but his 61.8% faceoff numbers are unreal. He and Leon Draisaitl have been a pleasant surprise in that respect while Letestu has dipped just below the 50% line.

If Lander keeps up his play, both Matt Hendricks and Iiro Pakarinen will be in tough to land spots back in the lineup when they return from injury.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

What Happens to Matt Hendricks?

The Edmonton Oilers are 5-1-0 to start the season. It's the best start the Oilers have had in years and they're getting contributions, not just from the top line, but the bottom line in their victories. Players like Tyler Pitlick, Anton Lander and Mark Letestu have been integral parts of the success of the team and none of the players deserve to be removed from the line-up, nor should they be while the Oilers are on a roll.

What then does that mean for a player like Matt Hendricks?

The Injury Bug

Edmonton lost some key players to injury to start the year. One of those players was Matt Hendricks who was diagnosed with a lower body injury and is out week-to-week. At the time it was a pretty big loss. Hendricks was looked to as an on-ice and off-ice leader and a player who would stand up for his team, often giving them the boost they needed when things were not going well.

In six games, the Oilers haven't missed him. Things are firing on all cylinders and the Oilers have plenty of sandpaper, grit and team leadership getting them through the first part of the year.

That said, the season is still young and should Hendricks be out for more than a week or two, there is plenty of time for the Oilers to lose a few games and slide a bit in the standings. Maybe at that point they'll miss him, but, what if they don't? What if the Oilers keep winning?

What Happens Then?

It's a great problem to have should the Oilers stay on this roll that they're on. But, with any team success comes the "what have you done for me lately?" question. Matt Hendricks may fall victim to that scenario and on the final year of his contract, his exit may come sooner than later.

Hendricks is being paid $1.85 million to play on the fourth line. With the depth in the Oilers organization, he's nothing more than a fourth line player and that's a hefty salary for a player that could be replaced by a more cap-friendly contact.

Players have been clearing waivers on a regular basis in the NHL. For example, Milan Michalek out of Toronto is just another player who at one point was considered an excellent piece on an NHL club and is now an after-thought. It wouldn't be surprising if Hendricks cleared waivers.

If He's Claimed

If Hendricks is claimed, Edmonton will have moved a salary that, while not eating at their current cap, is one the Oilers would be glad to get off the books. Drake Caggiula is still recovering from injury, but would be ready to fill any void left by his departure. As would Jujhar Khaira who is ready to go now.

Things aren't looking up for Hendricks whose future is on borrowed time in Edmonton. When he recovers from injury, another player's injury or some dramatic decline in play of someone currently holding a roster spot would have to happen for him to get back into the fold. If that doesn't happen, he won't have much of an opportunity to make a case for himself in the NHL.

Hendricks has been a soldier for the Edmonton Oilers. His career here in Edmonton isn't coming to a certain close, but the way the Oilers are playing, the odds of him making a triumphant return are going down and down.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

The Mindset of a Champion

I remember cracking a pack of Upper Deck hockey and pulling a Jason Bonsignore Rookie Card – a great Oiler-going-to-be. I was happy – certainly his card would be worth saving. Today, Bonsignore is a former NHL player and his RC is virtually worthless. During the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, he was a first round draft pick - 4th overall, by the Oilers. Two picks later, Edmonton chose Ryan Smyth.

During the 1997-98 season, Bonsignore was traded to Tampa Bay and played for its IHL Cleveland team. He even won player of the week there; but, after finishing 1998-99 with the Lightning, he was not given a qualifying offer. Bonsignore was released, sat out for a couple of years, and played from 2003-2007 in Europe - Switzerland, Finland and Norway. He has since been coaching – first back at his home in Rochester, New York. He tried to catch on as a player with the semi-pro Hamilton Steelhawks in January 2016, but he is not on this year’s Steelhawks’ roster.

Bonsignore played 79 games in the NHL. He had 3 goals and 13 assists with both the Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning. He is bumping 40 years old now; and, the last I could find, was the head coach of the Rochester Red Wings Squirt AAA travel hockey team.

The Point

What’s the point? From all accounts, Bonsignore was a natural athlete. But, like other “sure things,” he didn’t make it in the NHL. I have seen natural athletes before – I have a friend whose son was one. As a young teenager, what a hockey player! In fact, he was loaded with talent in many areas besides athletics. Athletically, he looked like a hockey player; he skated like a hockey player; he scored like a hockey player. He was big and strong – a sure thing. He dominated his age-level for years, moving up tiers. Finally, he hit his ceiling – and he quit.

I honestly don’t know Bonsignore’s story – but, whatever it is, I know one thing. His lack of success in hockey has nothing to do with his success or value as a human. I hope he is a fine person, still coaching youngsters somewhere near home and making a difference in other people’s lives. But, as a hockey player – he just didn’t have it. Like my friend’s son, he hit his ceiling and – even with lots of chances – didn’t go past that ceiling.


Why do some hockey players make it and some don’t? The answer might have to do with the player’s “mindset.” Mindset is an idea put forth by Stanford University research psychologist Carol Dweck, who studied decades of research on success. She found that people had two different mindsets – fixed or growth. In other words, they had certain beliefs about themselves and their abilities; and, these beliefs shaped their success.

As it applies in hockey, players with a fixed mindset believe their basic skills - like their ability to skate or think on the ice - are fixed. Nothing can change them, and they believe their talent alone creates their success – they don’t even have to try. Many players are like this: they’re so good that, at a young age, they dominate. They fly through the tiers.

But, hockey is hard – and the talent level is amazing. These players soon reach a place where they have problems because their natural ability, as good as it might be, is no longer good enough. Here they lose it, because they have no resilience. Because their skills are, in their minds, “fixed,” they believe nothing they can do will improve these skills. And, they are right. They cannot get better, because they believe they cannot get better. They are always as good as they are going to be.

Growth Mindset

In contrast, some players have what Dweck calls a growth mindset. They believe their most basic skill can be developed by dedication and hard work: talent is only a starting point. This self-view – this growth mindset - creates a hockey player who loves the challenge and who develops the resilience to see failure as a problem to be solved. When they face a problem, they are not hopeless: instead, they say “Hey, I don’t know what’s going on here – but I am going to find out.” Or “This is tough, but I am not quitting until I get it right.”

This belief is essential for great success anywhere, and it is probably especially true in hockey. Virtually great hockey players all have this growth mindset.

In hockey, like life, there are always problems – and, in hockey these problems happen about every second day. How a player works through problems is one key to that player’s success. No one can argue that talent is not crucial for hockey players: however, a hockey player’s mindset and the way a player faces the adversity all hockey players face is also a key.

Not everyone is the next Wayne Gretzky or the next Connor McDavid. But, the Oilers need the Kelly Buchberger’s of the world. We will see who steps up on this Oilers’ team to say: “Hey, we have a problem, what are we going to do to fix it?” That is the mindset the Oilers need to have great success in 2016-17.

 Guest Post Jim Parsons

Game 6: The Heritage Classic

This is the first outdoor game for the Oilers in over a decade. With a 4-1-0 record, Edmonton is taking one of its best starts into action against the Winnipeg Jets and looking to recapture first place in the Pacific Division from the Vancouver Canucks who are unlikely placeholders of that spot.

Perhaps as unlikely is the success of the Oilers for this season. On Friday, Edmonton won a game against the St. Louis Blues that has to be considered a measuring-stick kind of game. The Blues are one of the first teams the Oilers have played this year that would have been considered heavy favorites and the Oilers of the past would have let the Blues run their show. Not on Friday. Now, the Oilers look to win three in a row.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

The Nuge has to pick up his game. Hopefully this will mark an offensive spark for him and he's able to grab a point or two and get his offensive game going. It looks as though his line is earmarked for the third line, which while it can easily rotate back and forth with the second line is a demotion of sorts. If Nugent-Hopkins is relegated to defensive pairings all season, he's not going to have a real shot at good offensive numbers and he needs to in order to be successful.

Connor McDavid

I would expect McDavid to play well in the first outdoor game of his career. The ice surface is the same size but players have said it feels a lot bigger when you consider the atmosphere. If this is true, McDavid will probably be full speed, making plays and perhaps a two or three point night isn't out of the question.

McDavid has eight points in five games. If there is any part of him that is thinking Art Ross Trophy, (and there probably is) he won't want to fall too far behind the NHL scoring leaders.

Patrick Laine

He's been on fire to start the season and Edmonton will have to watch that wicked shot of his. This could be the McDavid versus Laine show and if it is, I expect the edge goes to McDavid, but not by much. 

Laine may also be a kick in the pants for Jesse Puljujarvi who was drafted right after Laine was. Puljujarvi draws back in tonight and he too has suggested the ice surface being smaller an issue for him. If he's able to feel like he has more space, perhaps he's able to produce a bit more than the average results he has to start the year. 

Heritage Classic

It was a ton of fun to watch the former Oilers get back on the ice yesterday. The level of hockey wasn't great — and the players will be the first to tell you that — but it was a treat to see players like Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Ranford, and others playing together.

It would be great if the new regime was watching the old regime, got to talk hockey and get a sense of pride from the group that leads to another Oilers victory today.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.