Thursday, 24 September 2015

Saskatoon NHL game needs McDavid

Last year’s pre-season Oilers tilt was pretty much a dud

Edmonton and Chicago met in an NHL pre-season game in Saskatoon last year.
    Connor McDavid needs play in Saskatoon to give Saturday’s NHL exhibition contest a chance to have bang for the buck.
    The Edmonton Oilers are slated to square off with the Minnesota Wild on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre,  and everyone wants to know will the 18-year-old phenom play or not? As of late Thursday, reports coming from the Edmonton media state no decision has been made if McDavid will suit up in Saskatoon, or Friday when the Oilers travel to Winnipeg to face the Jets. McDavid could play in both games.
    If McDavid doesn’t play on Saturday, spectators may be well advised to save their money and do something else.
    Almost a year ago on Sept. 28, 2014, the Oilers fell 5-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks in a lackluster pre-season tilt in Saskatoon. A crowd of 10,760 spectators saw both sides ice rosters where only half of their players spent time in the NHL in the 2013-14 campaign. With so many non-NHL players on the ice, it seemed like those in the building weren’t all that enthusiastic about what transpired.
    There was cheering, but there wasn’t as much cheering as you would expect. Spectators paid $59.50 to $112 per ticket including fees, but in all honesty, they basically threw their money away.
    Ticket prices for this year’s game in Saskatoon have the same price range. If this year’s contest mirrors last year’s, fans would be wise to spend their money elsewhere. You could take your significant other to a nice dinner at one of the many great eating establishments in downtown Saskatoon, or hit up Earls on 2nd Avenue.
    If McDavid takes the ice to play on Saturday, the buzz will hit the point that the SaskTel Centre will be the place to be. He was a hero helping Canada win gold at the world junior hockey championships back in January posting three goals and eight assists in seven games.
    With the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters last season, McDavid, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 195 pounds, potted 44 goals and 76 assists in 47 games. The Newmarket, Ont., product had 21 goals and 28 assists in 20 post-season contests. The 18-year-old centre had a pair of assists in the Oilers 4-2 pre-season win over the Calgary Flames on Monday at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
    McDavid is viewed as a once in a generation talent, and that alone would make Saturday’s game compelling for the masses, if he plays.
    With that said, the game could still be dud, even if McDavid does play. Barring something unforeseen like a major injury, McDavid will be on the Oilers roster for their regular season opener, when they travel to St. Louis on Oct. 8 to take on Blues, so a sure thing player will only put so much effort into a game that doesn’t mean anything in the regular season standings or the playoffs.
    The Oilers brass said that McDavid will be in Saskatoon regardless if he plays or not on Saturday. Hopefully, he will be on the ice and not sitting in a luxury box.
    UPDATE - Oilers head coach Todd McLellan announced on Friday that McDavid will dress for his team's exhibition game on Saturday in Saskatoon. Saturday's game will be McDavid's second outing of the pre-season. 

Blades will bring it

The Blades celebrate a goal last season.
    For hockey fans that are looking for a more guaranteed exciting outing, they would be wise to check out the Saskatoon Blades home opener on Friday at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre, when they take on their archrivals the Prince Albert Raiders.
    Last season, the Blades finished last in the entire WHL with a 19-49-2-2 mark, as they continued to rebuild from hosting the 2013 Memorial Cup and from the fact they also traded away picks and prospects to land Brayden Schenn for their 2011 post-season run, which ended in the second round.
    This will mark the third season the Blades will be under the ownership of Edmonton product Mike Priestner, and the hard work his staff has put in should yield some more tangible results in the 2015-16 campaign.
    Bob Woods, who is the team’s head coach and general manager, and Dean Brockman, who is the club’s assistant coach, are both entering their second season guiding “the Bridge City Bunch.” Under their guidance last season, the Blades’ work ethic was solid, and most of their setbacks were by a goal or two.
    That has to be deemed as impressive, because the roster often contained a number of players that shouldn’t have been in the WHL. The effort was there, but the skill was not.
    The Blades continued to retool in the off-season, and they believe their talent level is higher. They had pieces last year like goaltenders Nik Amundrud and Brock Hamm, as well as offensive-defenceman Brycen Martin. It will be interesting to see what Yorkton product Jake Kustra can do as a 16-year-old rookie after showing he could provide a spark last season playing seven games as a 15-year-old call up on the back end.
    Overager Nick Zajac and 18-year-old sophomore Wyatt Sloboshan should be a steady influence up front.
    Around the action on the ice, the Blades were strong at pulling off various promotions last season, and one should expect the same this season.
    While construction leading to the SaskTel Centre could provide a hassle, Friday’s opener has the makings of being a crowd pleaser.

    If you have any comments about this blog post, feel free to email them to