JONES: Oilers chasing best-ever start with glory gang in town

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Edmonton has never won nine of their first 10

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Terry Jones Edmonton Oilers' Kailer Yamamoto (56) celebrates a goal with teammates on Nashville Predators' goaltender Connor Ingram (39) during second period NHL action at Rogers Place in Edmonton, on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021.Edmonton Oilers’ Kailer Yamamoto (56) celebrates a goal with teammates on Nashville Predators’ goaltender Connor Ingram (39) during second period NHL action at Rogers Place in Edmonton, on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

For a great many Edmonton Oiler alumni members returning to the rink for Kevin Lowe’s jersey retirement night, expect the conversation to be as much about the comparisons to this year’s team as to the one that Old No. 4 was the first player to be drafted and the first to score an NHL goal.

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For early-arriving alumni members of the old glory gang, thanks to absences due mostly perhaps due to COVID-19, Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators was their first live look at the Oilers with the Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl Stanley Cup Window’ now officially open.

The Oilers only won eight of their first nine before that back in 1985-86.
That’s right.

Edmonton has never won nine of their first 10.

Not once did those guys with their names and numbers in the rafters manage to do that.

It’ll be an all-time record start.

Which reminds me of the old John Muckler quote when Sun hockey writer Dick Chubey asked Glen Sather’s assistant coach of the era how it could be that some less accomplished edition of the team in the early 2000s could manage to put together a string of wins during the season like the glory gang had never achieved before.

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“That team could never go that long without finding a party,” he said.

As it has worked out, Lowe has quite possibly brought them back for a party.

On previous number retirement nights, it was Wayne Gretzky (T), Jari Kurri (W), Grant Fuhr (W), Paul Coffey (OT), Mark Messier (L), Glenn Anderson (W) and Glen Sather (W) so we’ll see how Lowe makes out in what would be the first sellout of the return-of-the-fans season if Edmonton buys up the remaining 2,000 seats still available.

Both Gretzky and Sather games were against the Rangers. Al Hamilton’s WHA No. 3 jersey retirement night was a 7-4 loss to Quebec.

After Friday’s 5:45 p.m. banner raising prior to the 7:30 p.m. game, it’ll be on to the road for five, where the Oilers are 3-0 against Pacific Division teams so far this season.

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And then it’s ‘Bring on American Thanksgiving.’

Edmonton’s win over the Nashville was half way to the American Thanksgiving date where history shows an inordinate number of teams in a playoff position on that date maintain that position through to the beginning of the Stanley Cup tournament.

American Thanksgiving has become the point where the sample size is considered big enough for general managers to start making their moves.

Indeed it was the point where the Oilers previous general manager, Peter Chiarelli, decided to fire coach Todd McLellan.

Quote-Unquote: “Maybe it was the American Thanksgiving juncture point, maybe it was losing six out of seven. It felt like it was time.”

Dave Tippett in his third year of a three-year deal under Ken Holland, the about-to-enter the Hockey Hall of Fame general manager who has a history of not blaming his head coaches for his problems, is definitely in no danger one ninth of the way through the return to an 82-game schedule.

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Indeed, with a playoff payoff, Tippett would likely be in for an extension with a big raise through the next stretch with the ‘Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl Stanley Cup Window’ now officially open as you have to figure was his grand plan.

The Edmonton schedule, returning to the Pacific Division after last year’s coronavirus pandemic 56-game Canadian Division, with the changes Holland was able to make in the off-season, changed dramatically now.

The Nashville visit represented the end of an opening stretch where the Oilers went 6-0 returning against Pacific Division opposition. They have no games within the division between now and American Thanksgiving and only two of the next nine they’d play before five games in a row during the Christmas stretch when a second straight IIHF world junior would be held here.

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Anyway, they’re off to a good trip and the win over now Nashville put an exclamation mark behind it.

Nine games into the season and the questions are getting repetitive but, as was generally the case with Sather re-Gretzky, the answers keep getting more complete.

The new improved NHL No. 1 power play, on a record pace to beat the record set by the 1960s Montreal Canadiens, gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead at 6:43 of the first period when Leon Draisaitl scored his eighth goal on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 12th assist, convert a Connor McDavid pass.

That matched a franchise record for scoring a power play goal on each of the team’s first nine games. It’s happened twice before — in 1979-80 and 1986-87.
Hope the old boys enjoy the show Friday after Lowe’s banner goes up.

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @byterryjones

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