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GENE'S BLOG: Playoff Prepared

In his final blog of the season, Gene discusses the Oilers entering the postseason the most-prepared he's seen the team in his many years hosting broadcasts on Sportsnet

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

It's that time of the year where every team, or at least 16 of them, feel like they have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

If they didn't, there'd be no sense planning to play hockey from the middle of April until the middle of June.

The snow is almost gone. The days are long and memories have to be short. It's one opponent for seven games or less before you move on or get moved out from the postseason. Playoff hockey is like nothing else in sports and the Edmonton Oilers, for a fourth straight season, have been invited to the quest for the Cup. 

It really is a six-month grind to get the chance to play in the playoffs that every team dreams of when they gather in September for training camps across North America. It seems like more than a year from when the summer began and the preseason came around; from 60 or 70 players who arrive for day one, to the team that's crafted to carry forward when the season begins in October. A lot (and I mean a lot) happens from then until now.

Yet here we are, doing our spring cleaning, while the Oilers are cleaning up their game and readying themselves to spring into action against Los Angeles.

Video: THE PANEL | Royal Rematch

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GENE'S BLOG: Finishing Strong

In his latest blog, Gene Principe looks at the Oilers league-leading performance as of late, both as a team and as individuals

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

Sunday was a CBA-mandated day off for the Edmonton Oilers -- a free day to do whatever, and maybe more importantly to do nothing. At the end of a long season and before their final two regular season games, a day to cleanse the body physically and mentally sounded like the necessary remedy.

For those with children, there may have been a little FaceTime with family as the kids went on an Easter egg hunt. A day game for the Colorado Rockies provided an opportunity to grab some sun and sports that didn't involve them. I'm sure others hunkered or bunkered down to catch the last round of the Masters. Right now, the Oilers are the masters of their own domain. 

The way Edmonton is playing right now is as good as they ever have this late in a season, right before the start of the playoffs. First off, they have won seven games in a row. That is their longest winning streak of the season, and if you take it back even further, they are an eye-popping 12-0-1 in their last 13.

The only blemish is an overtime loss to Vegas back on March 25. Speaking of Vegas, they are still holding on to the Pacific Division lead by two points, with each team having two games left.

Video: RAW | Jay Woodcroft 04.10.23

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GENE'S BLOG: Playoff Picture

Prior to embarking on their final road trip of the regular season, the Oilers donned their game-day gear and gathered at centre ice for their annual team photo

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

A picture is worth a thousand words.

It's an old saying. It means seeing something is better for learning than having it described. The phrase emerged in the early part of the 20th Century. It is attributed to Frederick R. Barnard who published a piece on the effectiveness of graphics in advertising with the title "one look is worth a thousand words".

As I looked at the photo posted on Twitter by @EdmontonOilers, it made me think about what the photo meant as a team and as individuals who are part of the 2022-23 Edmonton Oilers hockey club.

There are those that have departed like Tyson Barrie, and let's not forget to mention Jesse Puljujarvi. There are those that started elsewhere like Nashville for Mattias Ekholm and Arizona for Nick Bjugstad. However, here they were dressed, hair slicked back or forward, looking their Sunday best even if the photo was taken on Monday.

Video: PRACTICE | Say Cheese 04.03.23

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GENE'S BLOG: Embrace The Mullett

The Oilers will be the second-last NHL team to visit the temporary college campus home of the Coyotes when they face off in Arizona on Monday

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

On Saturday night in a huge divisional matchup with first-place implications, the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Vegas Golden Knights. It was a boxing match dressed up as a hockey game. Every time the Knights would land a head shot, the Oilers would counter with their own powerful punch.

It was back and forth all night until the final blow was landed by Vegas and Edmonton didn't have a chance to respond. Match over and the visitors winning it on points 2-1 in overtime. The action unfolding in front of a sellout crowd of 18,437. It would be another sellout crowd to witness the Oilers on Monday. Only this game is on the road and the crowd to witness it totals 4,600 people.

It is considered a capacity crowd when that many people show up to watch a game at Mullett Arena in Tempe. The home of the Arizona Coyotes and Arizona State University hockey teams. The Coyotes lease on the ASU campus runs until 2024-25 with an option for 2025-26.

The name conjures up images of the most famous mullet in Oilers history -- Ryan Smyth. He carried it like a champion. His grit, determination, work ethic and hair style made Smytty one of the most popular ever to wear the Oil drop.

There have been other mullets that became famous outside of the game. Billy Ray Cyrus comes to mind. He sported the haircut during his greatest days while recording the smash hit Achy Breaky Heart. The mullet was hair today and gone tomorrow, but it's made a comeback over the years. Just when you think the style is gone, it pulls you back in. The arena isn't named for hair, but a pair of big supporters of hockey in Arizona named Donald and Barbara Mullett.

Nick Bjugstad certainly knows about a mullet or at least a Mullett Arena. Up until March 1, it was where he played his home games as a member of the Coyotes. For many years, the smallest building in the league was the New York Islanders' Nassau County Coliseum with attendance topping out at 13,900.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Pre-Game vs ARI 03.27.23

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GENE'S BLOG: Miracles

In his latest blog, Gene Principe discusses meeting legendary 'Miracle On Ice' broadcaster Al Michaels in Seattle and Evander Kane's miraculous return to the Oilers lineup

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

It is one of the most iconic moments and calls in the history of hockey. The play and the play-by-play going hand-in-hand on February 22, 1980. The place was Lake Placid, New York. The sport was hockey. The event was the Winter Olympics and a medal-round match. The teams were the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Americans were heavy underdogs against the Russians, until a group of college kids stunned the world. With a 4-3 lead and as the seconds were stripped off the clock, the upset was about to be completed when broadcaster Al Michaels uttered the words, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes". The Americans would go on to win gold against Finland, but what happened against the Russians and the call of it stands out to hockey fans 43 years later.

The legendary play-caller was at Saturday's game in Seattle between the Oilers and Kraken. Recent back surgery prevented him from joining us on Sportsnet near the Oilers hallway. The walk was too long, but the talk was just long enough when I went to meet Mr. Michaels. He's a 30-year Los Angeles Kings season ticket holder, who before the game spoke with Connor McDavid and told him the Edmonton captain was the best he'd ever seen since Wayne Gretzky.

Now, some of Connor's plays could likely have the Michaels Olympic hockey line uttered to describe the NHL's leading scorer, but it might be better served to be matched up with Evander Kane's comeback from what could have been a career-ending and life-altering injury.

Video: EDM@SEA: Kane notches a hat trick against Kraken

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GENE'S BLOG: Award-winning leadership

In his latest blog, Gene discusses how the Oilers leadership group stepped up for some of the club's younger players following Saturday's loss to Toronto

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

The JUNO Awards will be handed out at Rogers Place on Monday night.

The JUNOs, for those not overly inclined or informed about music, are awards presented by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to recognize 'outstanding achievements in the music industry'. The first JUNOs were held in 1970, and first televised across Canada in 1975. The event was eventually made open to the public in 1995 after taking place in Hamilton.

Edmonton is the host site for the 2023 festivities. Vancouver has also hosted the awards, which were originally hosted every other year in Toronto. 

On Saturday night, Toronto hosted another event -- a hockey game between themselves and Edmonton. By now, you know what happened -- the Oilers took the lead, the Maple Leafs came back, the Oilers responded, but the Maple Leafs held them off in a highly-entertaining way to spend your Hockey Night. It was a game of end-to-end action, with several highlight-reel moments in the 11-goal performance.

Video: RAW | Leon Draisaitl 03.13.23

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GENE'S BLOG: Advantage Edmonton

The Oilers power play continues to dominate and it's led to Draisaitl and McDavid breaking a pair of man-advantage records previously held by Gretzky

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

The Edmonton Oilers have historically been an organization built on offence. I don't mean they didn't have great goalies or defencemen or great all-around teams. If I say Edmonton Oilers, you say goals, Stanley Cup titles, the game's greatest player, end-to-end action and so on. It's hard not to think about the epic offence the team put up in the 1980s.

They would average five goals a game and had multiple 400-plus-goal seasons as a team. Numbers never before or never since seen again. Part of what they did was accomplished when the team had the power play. They did it then and now they are doing it again with their modern-day work on the man advantage.

What happened then was ground- or, shall I say, ice-breaking, and now it's even reached new heights. I still remember talking to Wayne Gretzky in Las Vegas at the start of the 2020-21 season and the Great One saying it wasn't fair what the Oilers power play was doing. That's like Michaelangelo saying hey, that guy is a pretty good painter.

This is the greatest player of all time, who himself had 890 career power-play points, stepping aside and taking Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Craig Simpson with him, replacing them with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, Tyson Barrie, Evan Bouchard and others. As someone who witnessed as a fan what happened in the 80s, it's hard to imagine in my lifetime the Oilers could have an even better PP 35 to 40 years later, but they do.

Video: THE PANEL | Deadline Discussion 03.05.23

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GENE'S BLOG: Family Day

In his latest blog, Gene looks at how some of the Oilers players and coaches are spending their Family Day that falls on Monday's scheduled day off

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

Since it was first implemented and brought into being by the Government of Alberta led by former Premier Don Getty, Family Day is really a reminder of what's important.

It's right in the title; in our social media, everyday and evening activity-filled lives. Sometimes, it's a gentle reminder that we need to focus or refocus our attention on those closest to us -- a day meant to shelve everything else, or at least most of everything, to concentrate on family.

My plan was to ask my three kids (who are now in their 20s) what each of them wanted to do and then try and keep the trio happy by accomplishing a hat-trick of ideas. What plans do you have? 

For Edmonton, the plan was a CBA-mandated day off. The NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that four days a month are to be built into the season-long grind and spent away from the rink and a plane. A hotel might still be part of the equation, as there are times the day off occurs on the road, but in this case it happened at home and even if it was a coincidence, the timing was great for it to fall on Family Day.

By working my way through the lineup, I came up with these unofficial numbers for players and coaches that are married (18) and the total amount of kids (28). One of those that's married and has a son named Leo is Tyson Barrie. "We spend so much time on the road in a fast-paced lifestyle," explained the defenceman. "So it's nice to get home at a reasonable time (following the afternoon game in Colorado) and just have some quiet time."

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GENE'S BLOG: Must-See McDavid

The Oilers and their captain are attracting tremendous attention wherever they travel, particularly on their recent road trip to four hockey hotbeds

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

It was four games in six days. Two in the evening and two in the afternoon. From the Motor City to the Boys on Broad Street to the nation's capital and finally a stop in La Belle Province.

A geographical breakdown of a road trip that took Edmonton to Detroit, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Montreal. The numbers at the end of it all will show two wins, a regulation loss and a shootout defear. Point total of five which was likely one or two less than the Oilers had hoped was possible. That's what happened in the standings, but my focus is what happened in the stands, the streets and the cities that housed the Oilers for the last week.

I must admit I kind of forgot what it's like to travel with the team. The unbelievable support they get wherever they go, especially when you hit hockey hotbeds both north and south of the border. It's also especially the case when Connor McDavid is leading the charge.

Taking things for granted is something we always say not to do, but that's usually the case when that's what you're doing. For the Oilers captain, the love affair seems to have no boundaries from state to province and country to country. People pay to see him play. They want to get a glimpse of the greatness.

It happened in each city where the conversation would inevitably turn to the captain. A chance, and a rare one at that, to see the NHL's highest-scoring and most exciting player all wrapped up into the person wearing number 97. There's an oil drop on the front and a McDavid name bar on the back.

Video: EDM@OTT: McDavid's effort leads to McLeod's nifty SHG

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In his latest blog, Gene Principe discusses the Oilers task at hand in the unofficial second half of the season

by Gene Principe @GenePrincipe /

Work Day. Those were the two words written on the white board at the front of the Edmonton Oilers dressing room upon their return to Rogers Place on Sunday. Whether you strolled by upon arriving in the room, or sat and stared at it a bit while you worked on your stick, or maybe a quick glance as you were putting your equipment on -- it was there and you knew what it meant.

Two words to epitomize the theme for the rest of the season. 'Work Day' doesn't really need an explanation -- you can swap your skates for work boots and helmet for hard hat. That vacation, bye week, or All-Star break is over, boys. The message was received loud and clear as the energy, interest, tempo, work, and battle levels between teammates was abundantly clear.

Video: PRACTICE | Back To Work 02.06.23

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