|Jordan Eberle's amazing opening-night goal injected even more excitement to the development of the team's young guns.
Three games into the NHL season, we've already seen it all. Highlight reel goals, cringe-worth defensive errors, excellent special teams and dreadful special teams, fantastic goaltending, sluggish performance and thundering fights.
The highs and the lows of the 2010-11 season have already identified themselves as present, and the roller coaster ride has begun. On a nightly basis, we can't yet truly be sure which Oilers team is going to show up. That's why the organization has been preaching patience since well before the season began, and in a conversation with yours truly a couple of nights ago, six-time Stanley Cup winner Mark Messier is joining the chorus.
Working as a special assistant to New York Rangers GM Glen Sather, and recently agreeing to coach for Hockey Canada at the upcoming Deutschland and Spengler Cups, Messier still takes plenty of time to keep up to speed on the team that gave him his start.
"They've re-tooled, they've reset themselves and they look like they've made some great selections in the draft," Messier says of the Oilers. "It looks like an exciting time to be in Edmonton."
Exciting, indeed. Fans who have been following the team since the beginning are salivating at comparisons to the early years, when a young crop of talent came in together and took the league by storm in just a few short seasons. Will Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi be able to lead a group back to the Stanley Cup?
"I just hesitate to look too far in advance," cautions Messier. "There's a tremendous amount of hockey and experience still to be had as these kids are still at such a young age. They're going to have to go through a lot to get to where they want to get to, which is a Stanley Cup."
Winning the Stanley Cup is something that Messier knows a lot about. He won five in Edmonton with the Oilers and won another with the New York Rangers, playing a staggering 236 playoff games over the course of his career. He had 295 points in those games, by the way.
"Being a Stanley Cup winner isn't for the faint of heart," Messier chuckles. "You gotta be a tough son of a gun to stick it out. Let's just not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let's give them time to mature and play and figure this all out. If they persevere and have the will to go through it and withstand the rigors of an NHL season and battle through it, it looks good for them because they're all very talented."
|Mark Messier |
The Moose says that the most difficult part of the entire process is just that, that it's a process. You can't pull an all-night cram session and know all you need to know. You can't talk to 100 people who have been there before and know what it takes to win.
"They're going to get a lot of advice, they're going to get a lot of knowledge from a lot of different people but in the end it's got to be them on the ice to experience it in their own way," says Messier. "There's just no substitute for that."
"Playing through the battles, playing injured, playing with pride, playing with consistency. Nothing can replace that and they'll experience it themselves, together."
And, the theme of togetherness brings us back to the comparison to the team from the 1980's. It was a group that stuck together, for the most part, for multiple Cup victories. They were great teammates on the ice, and great friends off of it, a fact that remains true today. "It's why it's so important to have a nucleus that can hopefully remain together for a long time," says Messier. "They'll remember every little bit of this process, from the lean times to when it turns around for them and they challenge for the Stanley Cup."ROCKIN' ROD IS BACK IN THE SADDLE
|Hall-of-Famer Rod Phillips is back when he will call his final Battle of Alberta tomorrow night. |
After more production meetings than I'd care to remember and after many people working on this project have over-extended their Blackberry data packages with calls, texts and e-mails to make sure everything is in place, the first of Rod's Classics hits the airwaves tomorrow night.
I won't ruin all of our surprises, but you can expect to hear from plenty of Oilers and Flames past and present. From Messier to Lowe to Smith to MacDonald and Fleury, we've got it covered.
Plus, tons of audio highlights out of the archives and too many stories to even fit into a five-hour broadcast. You'll hear about the players that Rod came to despise, the nicest goal that he thinks Wayne Gretzky every scored and perhaps the most heart-breaking moment in franchise history. It's all packaged into tomorrow night's Battle of Alberta swan song for the Hall of Famer.
It all happens on 630 CHED starting at 6:30pm tomorrow night, with Rod's final play-by-play call of a Battle of Alberta kicking off at 8:10pm.