The Hockey League, National Edition...
First off, click for a little something to whet the palate.
It's the most wonderful time of the year.
The grass is brown. The dust storms are swirling trash and little bits of human manure from the nearby farmland. The leaves fall from the trees and the street sweeping ladies quickly swoop in and scoop them up before anyone can frolic. Yes, it's hockey season in the middle of China!
Nobody cares but me!
October is one of my favorite months. In fact, I love the smell of the death of nature. Or, I guess I should call it hibernation. The grass looks like it's dead, but really, it's just waiting until things warm up again.
The same could be said for Oiler fans. We've been waiting 5 long seasons. Waiting for things to get warmer. The team could barely be called a team for 2 or 3 years there. Then a strange thing happened. There was a strange noise. That noise was the sound of the bottom of the ocean. The very depths of terrible. This season, that strange noise returned, only this time we were all used to it and actually kind of happy about it. Kind of like when random firecrackers blast away the silence of a summer Saturday morning in Xining. If it's because of a wedding or someone just moving into the building, the firecrackers are a tradition, warding off the evil spirits of bad luck.
Speaking of bad luck, the Oiler's best defense man is still injured. His ankles can't seem to handle the weight of his awesomeness. Ryan Whitney will start the season on the sidelines.
Speaking of ankles, Sam Gagner's is sprained. He'll be out for a while. Word has it his foot speed is up this year. Hopefully he can recover from this little speed bump and come back strong within a few weeks.
The good news is that they have an 18 year old rookie to keep Sam's seat warm for him while he recovers. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be on the team come opening night. He's played really well in the preseason and, for me and Kevin Lowe, that's good enough to make this team.
If the Oilers were a nerd, and that nerd wore pants, you could hold him upside down and the lunch money that would fall out would be quite a balanced group of forwards. Ryan Smyth is back, so bring your tissue. Shaun Horcoff can play his natural role for the first time in 5 years. Ales Hemsky might be able to play a few games before his shoulder caves in on itself. And finally, Eric Belanger is the new good french guy who can replace the old sucky french guy known as J.F. Jacques. Yup, these guys just might be able to lasso a few more respectable performances this season.
The real excitement, thanks to this team being so horrible for so many years, are all of the talented young guys. Taylor Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi are all back for their second seasons. I noticed the other day that Taylor Hall's hair is longer this year, so that's a good thing. Paajarvi kind of reminds me of Evgeni Malkin, so we'll see where that goes. I like to set the expectations bar too high so that nobody can accidentally hit their head on it.
In goal, we have 67 year old Nik Khabibulin. Being in jail this summer aside, the man is old, so let's not expect anything too exciting this season. There should be a lot of rubber pucks bouncing over, around and through this man all season. The other guy, Devan Dubnyk, looks pretty good, so let's hope that they let him play once in a while. A hip tweak here and a pulled groin there and we should see Double D playing significant minutes come November.
The defense is horrible.
So there you have it; everything you need to know, wrapped up in a tight little package. Toss it on the ol' zamboni in your brain and when the puck drops next week, remember that the best time of your life is about to begin.
Everybody's really excited!