EDMONTON, AB - It wasn't exactly a great summer around Edmonton. We had lots of rain and, at times, torrential downpours.
It reminded me more of the type of weather you might get in a hot and humid environment like Florida. Unfortunately, we didn't have the hot and the humid before the skies opened up. I have enough trouble with sports so I probably shouldn't be trying to dissect the weather.
The way June, July and August went, a lot of people changed their weekend or week-long camping trips. However, I have a new campsite for you. It's big enough to hold trailers but I don't suggest you bring one. There is power and mosquitoes are almost non-existent. Bring the marshmallows and wieners as we can always find a place to safely start a fire. The campground is huge and is covered. You may recognize the name - Rogers Place.
Beginning on Thursday, Training Camp for the Edmonton Oilers gets underway. Names you know and ones you don't will arrive trying to make a name for themselves and make the team. Some are locks while others will try to find the key to unlocking a spot on the 2019-20 Oilers.
It is the most wonderful time of the year to borrow a phrase from the Christmas holidays. Everyone is excited. I mean everyone. I can't get gas, pick up groceries or go anywhere in the city without people wanting to talk hockey, specifically the Oilers. They politely say "hello" and almost before you have dished out your answer they start asking about the team. An Oilers fans is a knowledgeable one. They have enjoyed watching the summer moves, studying leftover analytics, digesting what's left in cap space and now they want to talk about it.
The biggest off-season on-ice move involved Milan Lucic and James Neal. Two players who will swap area codes but both will keep the AB on their home address. In chatting with Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer, he wanted a two-word answer on how many goals Neal will score this season. The first word is "thirty." The second word is "four."
Video: RAW | Ken Holland 09.11.19
I really think Neal is going to step right into the top six and make it happen. Too much talent with too much existing forward talent for this not to happen. If a singular former Flame wasn't enough, bring on another one in Mike Smith. He will push Mikko Koskinen for net time. He is experienced and athletic along with a veteran presence.
If those are the biggest changes on ice, off it look no further than a new general manager and coach. The tag team of Ken Holland and Dave Tippett should give the entire organization and its supporters a sense of calmness.
Holland has built Stanley Cup winners. The formula for finding success is one he's developed before and intends on uncovering again. Holland will provide the players while Tippett will provide the game plan. It's what he's done successfully in his other NHL stops and once earned him a Coach of the Year Award.
'D' stands for Dave but it can also stand for defence. Tippett wants to get goals against under control. That is what will lead Edmonton to a second schedule of games in April.
I'm not sure I've ever written this much and not mentioned Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.
Two reasons for that: One, I'll be talking about them all season. Two, I have no doubt they will once again be a pair of the best players in the game.
The goals will be scored and the points will be piled up. It's what they do and will continue to do. Get moving and get your supplies all together because for the next three weeks we're going camping. Not even the weather can wash out the excitement heading into a new season.