Matheson: Oilers have won the Cup in seasons where they've suffered huge losses

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According to the statistical bird-dogs at the NHL, no team has ever won the Stanley Cup in a season where that team lost by more than four goals in their opener, so take a deep breath after that 8-1 blowout to Vancouver Wednesday folks.

Or not, if you wave the Edmonton Oiler flag.

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Surely you remember the 11-0 demolition in Hartford on Feb. 12, 1984.

The Oilers won their first Cup 3 1/2 months later.

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It was 8-0 for the Whalers after 40 minutes, with Wayne Gretzky hurt (knee) and Jari Kurri not playing either, and Oilers coach Glen Sather clearing his throat to tell his team to just win the third period, will ya? Fell on deaf ears, when the Whalers scored early with Paul Coffey out for a shift.

“Yeah, I had the puck, made a move and the puck stuck on the ice. (Ron) Francis over to (Kevin) Dineen and it was 9-0,” said Coffey, currently special adviser to owner Daryl Katz and the hockey ops department.

“We got home for two-a-days (practices),” he said.

“I didn’t want to go to the grocery store,” reminisced Charlie Huddy.

The Oilers won eight straight after the humiliation in Hartford and hearing “Brass Bonanza” those 11 times after another Whaler goal. “We had a big win (5-2) over Boston right after that,” recalled Coffey.

St. Louis Blues fell 5-1 to Winnipeg in October 2018 in their first game of the season, and won their only Cup eight months later. If you’re into Oilers history, they tumbled 4-1 to Detroit in 1987 in their season opener (Mark Messier for the Oilers with Petr Klima and Steve Yzerman getting two of the Wings’ goals), and won the last Cup with Gretzky in an Oiler jersey on May 26, 1988.

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When Dylan Holloway took Tyler Myers’ shot off his left hand midway through the third period Wednesday in Vancouver, he was concerned, but he’ll play Saturday.

“It’s my bad wrist where I’ve had two surgeries before and it (shot) caught me right on the bone,” said the Oiler winger. “It hurt a lot but there was no break. Just a little sore now, nothing that will keep me out.”

Holloway is brave but maybe he needs better shot-blocking technique.

“Yeah, going forward I might try and cover it (hand) a little bit,” he said.


Defenceman Mattias Ekholm (hip flexor) took some drills with his old partner Evan Bouchard at Friday’s practice and looks ready to play his first game after missing all of training camp. Maybe it won’t be with Bouchard, who played with Darnell Nurse in the opening game, but he’ll be one of the six or seven D they dress.

“He wasn’t in any pre-season games and he’s walking into his first (regular-season) game and we have to understand that. His advantage is the age he is and the elite thinker he is. No one knows himself or the game better than Mattias,” said Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft.

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With Oilers defenceman Markus Niemelainen on their opening-night 21-man roster, but hurt, going on waivers Friday to get him to Bakersfield, they predictably signed winger Adam Erne to a two-way deal that will pay him $775,000 in the NHL and a guaranteed $300,000 if playing in the AHL. This signing was telegraphed for weeks, with Erne likely to play with Mattias Janmark and Derek Ryan on the fourth line Saturday if they go with 12 forwards and six D, and not 11 and 7.

If Niemelainen clears waivers by Saturday’s noon MDT deadline — a team like San Jose, with room in their third pair on left D and seeing Niemelainen a lot in the AHL’s Pacific Division, might claim him — then he’ll join Phil Kemp, Ben Gleason and Cam Dineen in the top four on the Condors’ blueline. They also have rookie Max Wanner, Noel Hoefenmayer, Xavier Bernard and Alex Peters.


Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl slashed Ian Cole on the calf Wednesday and also got a cross-checking call on Elias Pettersson in the 8-1 loss.

When asked if this was Draisaitl trying to make room for himself, he said no.

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“Obviously, frustration kicked in a bit last game. I took a couple of unnecessary penalties. I’m a human being. I don’t like losing. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve ever smacked someone,” he said.

This ‘n’ that: Dani Rylan, the founder and former commissioner of the National Women’s (Pro) Hockey League, who was hired Thursday to be an Oiler pro scout, will work the New York area. She’s a novice with an NHL club, but Rylan, who was born in Tampa where her dad worked in marketing for the Lightning and was once the only girl on the Jr. Tampa Lightning team and later went on to be captain at Northeastern University, could use the scouting as a stepping stone … The Oilers trotted out their Heritage Classic throwback sand-coloured pants and gloves for Friday’s practice to try them out, an ode to the 1950 Edmonton Mercurys. When asked if he would be trying out a fedora behind the Oiler bench on Oct. 29, Woodcroft laughed. “I’ve, uh, got bigger fish to fry (than thinking about haberdashery),” he said, as he digested the 8-1 pasting in the opener … If the Canucks are trying to move winger Conor Garland, who scored in the opener, for cap reasons, Columbus has extra D. Maybe shutdown right D Andrew Peeke? … Canucks’ Brock Boeser, who had his first four-goal NHL night against the Oilers Wednesday, didn’t score until his 12th game last season. Boeser is one of only nine NHLers to score four times in a team’s season opener … Canucks fourth-liner Teddy Blueger is out week-to-week with a leg injury but top four D Carson Soucy (knee) was skating for 20 minutes Friday at UBC in a non-contact jersey so he’s making some progress. Winger Ilya Mikheyev (knee rehab) is practising but likely won’t play Saturday … Oilers draft pick Jake Chiasson, who was just sent to Fort Wayne (Indiana), could still play as a 20-year-old in the WHL but the winger is off to their ECHL affiliate.

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