The 2017/18 ENS Oilers Awards

“I call you when I need you. When my heart’s on fire.”

“You come to me, come to me, wild and wired…”

“You come to me. Give me everything I need!”

“You’re simply the best!”

“Better than all the rest!”

“Better than anyone!”

“Anyone I ever met!!!”

I’m back.

Hello and welcome to the fourth annual ENS Oilers Awards, presented by ENS. After a long and an unannounced sabbatical I have triumphantly returned to publish what I’m guessing is probably the most popular content that we (I) produce here at empty net sports (dot) com. To give you a little history, the Oilers Awards – originally pronounced “Oilerz Awards” back in 2014-15 – was born in the year 1 B.C. (before Connor). That was the year we fired Eakins and his healthy snacks and his 5k runs and his temper tantrums and his unprecedented bullshit. I remember thinking, “Wow… I know we’ve been at rock bottom for a long time but this has to be rock bottom because there’s no way that a season will ever be a bigger failure than this.” My biggest regret was believing that the Oilers were somehow finished with perpetually out-Oilerzing themselves; this, despite me considering myself as being a rationally intelligent adult who knows damn well that Oilers Law states that the Edmonton Oilers will always, indeed, try to out-Oilerz themselves. This season was unceremoniously one of the worst and most disheartening seasons I’ve ever experienced as a professional sports fan. And yet, there is Connor. The light at the end of all our tunnels. In this dark and torturous era of fandom where our favourite team flat out stinks over and over and over and goddamn over again, he is there to heal our emotional wounds; wounds received from some metaphorical method of corporal punishment carried out by Principle Katz and his unfathomable fuckery. This yearly piece that I publish is about celebrating both the things that Connor did to make us happy, the things that basically the rest of the roster did to make us laugh, and all the things that the OEG staff have done to make us bleed out on a cold and empty slap of dystopian concrete. I will take you through a journey that begins in pure excitment on October 4, 2017 and end in sheer agony on Saturday, April 7, 2018. These are your 2017-18 ENS Oilers Awards, presented by ENS.

Nail Yakupov Memorial Award for the All ENS Team, 2017-18

Before I reveal the team I’d like to give a special shoutout to ya boy, former ENS game day superstar Hank, who is probably slinging power tools in some rural town up in northern Alberta. This super team is and will always be dedicated to his hard work and commitment to ENS. Back when the Oilers were trading for highly not coveted role players like Jerred Smithson and finishing dead last, Hank would wake up, put his finest pair of sweat pants on, and blog until the carpal tunnel syndrome hurt almost as much as the previous night’s 6-1 loss to San Jose. And I sincerely hope that all of you eventually find the same amount of happiness that Hank found in making ridiculously irrational Nail Yakupov game day predictions. Yak is gone, but his spirit will always live on at ENS, and that’s what this one’s all about. Here are the players we’ve overly gushed over on a game-to-game basis in the 2017-18 season:

F – Connor McDavid
F – Jesse Puljujarvi
F – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
F – Jujhar Khaira
F – Tony “It’s Tony Time” Slepyshev

Miscellaneous Awards That Really Need No Explanation

Jason Smith Award for Best Leader: Connor McDavid
Shayne Corson Award for Worst Leader: Bob Nicholson
Paul Coffey Award for Best Defenseman: *draws name out of a hat* Oscar Klefbom’s right shoulder
Cory Cross Award for Worst Defenseman: Rejy Sekera and Eric Gryba (who, lolingly, has one year left on his deal)
Grant Fuhr Award for Best Goalie: Cam Talbot, 31 wins was tied for 10th in the NHL and he lead the league in games started with 67 so the dude hasn’t slept in like eight months
Ty Conklin Award for Worst Goalie: Also Cam Talbot for letting in the first fucking shot every goddamn game
Mark Messier Award for Man of the Year: Joey Moss

Michael Nylander Award for Worst Man of the Year: Peter Chiarelli
Wayne Gretzky Award for Best Player: Connor McDavid

Jiri Dopita Award for Worst Player: Milan Lucic

Todd Marchant Award for Play of the Year

Previous Winners:
(14-15): Eberle undressing the Sharks
(15-16): McDavid doing unspeakable things to Justin Falk’s career
(16-17): Kassian pulverizing OEL then instantly shedding the mitts and one-punching Anthony Duclair to Pluto

Winner: McDavid thanks Sam Gagner for his career as an Oiler by forcing him into a premature retirement just four games before the Sedins:

I have a lot of love for Sammy G. Guy bled Oilers colours during some of the worst seasons in hockey history. Gags was always forced to wear what were easily the worst uniforms in Oilers history, possibly of all time. But he still showed up, put on that famous Sammy smile, scored eight points in one game, and had some of the nastiest shootout moves any goaltender has ever seen. Unfortunately, Sam’s career came to an abrupt end on March 29, 2018, when Connor McDavid did everything in his mutant power to displace every bone in Gagner’s lower body while Michael Del Zotto wisely yet kind of cowardly stayed back and watched the crucification of his teammate unfold. Luckily, Sam married a doctor.

Steve Smith Award for Worst Play of the Year

Previous Winners:
(14-15): Vrbata scores off the draw with as every Oiler on the ice goes the opposite way of the puck
(15-16): Schultz & Nikitin v. Colorado – SCC Case (Lexum) aka the worst nine seconds of defensive hockey in franchise history
(16-17): Cam Talbot let’s in a shot from the moon in a 6-2 home loss against Buffalo

Winner: Kris Russell of the Edmonton Oilers scores the game winning goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Lot to choose from this year. I like to look at it as the 2017-18 Oilers honouring their predecessors, last season excluded, by virtue of doing as much Oilerzing as they could possibly fit into an 82 game schedule. Lord knows Milan did his best to capture the coveted Steve Smith Award this year, Cam Talbot too. But what better way to honour the legend of Steve Smith himself than by literally one-timing the fucking bejesus out of the puck into your own cage for the game winning goal. The epitome of Oilerz.

Brad Winchester Award for Power Move of the Year

Previous Winners:
(15-16): Connor McSteal-Yo-Girl in Jack Eichel’s home barn:

(16-17): Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combine to cost Jack Eichel a $2 million bonus in the final game of the year

Winner: Connor scores shootout winner, politely asks if the referees would like to review that goal just in case they were unsure if the call on the ice should be a good hockey goal or not

Connor McDavid had 26 penalty minutes this season, tied with 2016-17 Lady Byng champion Johnny Gaudreau, in fact. That’s impressive! In two more games, too! Well 10 of Connor’s 26 penalty minutes came on this play. He actually only received eight minor penalties all year, so almost half of his total penalty minutes came because of a index finger point in an upwards direction. If that nonverbal communication cue costs Connor a shot at Johnny’s Lady Byng trophy I’ll be beyond furious. The Lady Byng to Johnny is what the Art Ross is to Connor, and so it should come as absolutely no surprise that the referees final present to Oilers fans this year would be preventing our captain from winning something of vindictive importance. Booooo.

Glen Sather Award for Best Coach

Previous Winners:
(14-15): Todd Nelson
(15-16): Todd McLellan
(16-17): Todd McLellan

Winner: Connor McDavid

Connor drew up a power play one time. And unlike Jay Woodcroft’s power play, Connor’s actually worked. We scored a goal on our next man advantage and then immediately went back to Jay’s power play for the remainder of the year and we finsihed dead last even though the guy who lead the league with 108 points played for our team. OUR 21-YEAR-OLD CAPTAIN IS A BETTER POWER PLAY COACH THAN THE GUY WE PAY TO COACH OUR FUCKING POWER PLAY *throws lap top into the Sturgeon River*.

Dallas Eakins Award for Worst Coach

Previous Winners:
(14-15): Dallas Eakins
(15-16): Jay Woodcroft
(16-17): Jordan Eberle’s shooting coach

Winner: Todd McLellan, Jay Woodcroft and Jim Johnson

This was our closest award of the ceremony and the final tally was so tight that I eventually caved gave it to all three of them. The three headed monster managed to lead the Oilers to a 31st ranked power play, a 25th ranked penalty kill, and a 23rd place finish. Even Connor McDavid wasn’t immortal enough to save the Oilers from abysmal special teams coaching.

Then, from the head coaching position, we saw Milan Lucic become physically immune to scoring goals and Todd still sent him out for every extra attacker situation. Jesse was forced to earn his power play minutes (and apparently he never did) and yet Pontus Aberg – who joined the team off Nashville’s practice squad – was given power play looks immediately after joining the Oilers. Drake Caggiula lead the league in doing absolutely nothing and was rewarded with PP1 time. Our power play was DEAD LAST and both Todd and Jay refused to play Jesse on PP1, and when he was finally given PP2 opportunities they made him play the role of the bumped instead of testing that right-handed shot for its one-timer ability because reasons that they never actually gave. Do you know what dead last means?! It means that you, me, my grandmother, your senile neighbour, my fucking cat, your Xbox, or your ninth grade social studies teacher could have coached the power play and kept it at the exact same level that these paid professional coaches kept it at: last.

They hired Paul Coffey to advise and the blue line somehow got worse.

And at one point, their penalty kill at the Rog Mahal was clicking at the worst rate in NHL history. We had the worst penalty kill on home ice of ALL TIME and after every goddamn game Todd got in front of the mic and said we need to do a better job. “Hey Todd literally every team that’s every played hockey has had a better penalty kill on home ice than your team what changes are you going to make?” OH WE NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB AND THAT’S FOR SURE yep and if the sun does not rise tomorrow we’ll all be dead.

Todd at least has to oversee all the shit mess that Peter Chiarelli gives him after every summer. Jim and Jay have like ONE JOB EACH and they were basically both the worst at it in the entire league, and I almost guarantee they will survive the offseason because continuity and LOILTY before accountability am I right?!

Connor McDavid had 20 power play points this year. Every player with 80 or more points this season had more power play points than McDavid. Having a power play that bad with a player that good should be punishable by law.

Zack Stortini Award for Hug of the Year

Previous Winners:
(16-17): Connor McDavid and the Big Rig

Winner: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl

I give it two more years before Dave Staples and Mark Spector and Jimmy Hot Takez portray Draisaitl as a bad culture player who brings the plague into the dressing room every time he comes to the rink so let’s appreciate the bromance he shares with Connor before the vultures get their scapegoating hands on him.

Sheldon Souray “Why We Payin’ You All That Money” Award for the Player Who Makes Us Wonder Why We’re Paying Him All That Money

Previous Winners:
(16-17): Jordan Eberle

Winner: Milan Lucic

Right on not the tape!

I gave this award to Jordan Eberle last season because he didn’t score a goal in 13 playoff games and that was not great. Milan Lucic scored one (1) goal in his last 46 (46!!!) games. In 2012-13, Martin Brodeur scored one goal in 29 games.

Milan successfully finished the year on an eight game pointless streak so compared to the rest of his 2018 calendar year he finished red hot.

He had one point in the entire month of February.

He finished the calendar year of 2018 with less goals than something called a Jakub Jerabek.

I chuckled at Eberle’s expense last year but then reminded everyone that Jordan Eberle was an awesome Oiler and I wished him the best knowing damn well that Peter was going to trade him for something that was not as good as Jordan Eberle. Unfortunately, I cannot do the same for Milan Lucic. I’m 26 years old and he’ll be here until I perish. His contract is as motionless as Milan Lucic.

Author’s Note: Since Milan is never going anywhere, possibly ever, I’m going to say that – for the sake of this goddamn organization doing not horrible at the hockey – I really hope Looch bounces back next year. It’s almost impossible to be as bad as he was in the final four months of the year, and yet as I’ve already said before, Oilers Law states that the Oilers will always try to out-Oilerz themselves. If it’s not Lucic, it will probably be someone else. At least he almost tried to kill Mike Smith.

Steve McIntyre “RIP Raitis Ivanans” Award for Assault of the Year

Previous Winners:
(15-16): Darnell Nurse’s Papa Shouting “BEAT HIS ASS!!!” as Daryl straight up pummelled the living daylights out of Ottawa’s Max McCormick
(16-17): All 14 minutes and 7 seconds of Zack Kassian’s game two against San Jose

Winner: Basically everything Jujhar Khaira did this year but here’s The Bearded One personally reconstructing Colin Miller’s facial features:

Like three, maybe even four viciously clean shots before Miller finally succumbed to being repeatedly punched in the face.

Craig MacTavish “Debacle of Monumental Proportions” Award for Soundbite of the Year

Previous Winners: Inaugural Award

Winner: Jesse Puljujarvi showing off his English and his natural sense of humour

Couple things. First of all:

Secondly:

Q: “Jesse, why do you stick your tongue out?”
A: “I don’t know. My mom she do it too.”

Q: “You ever get a stick or anything there?”
A: “Not yet. I wait.”

Q: “Do you really like pizza too?”
A: “No… that’s one time, man.”

Some light-hearted questions with relatively normal responses made infinity more hilarious when combined with Jesse’s big goofball of a face and his ongoing battle with the English language. I swear it looks like Jesse just kind of said words and didn’t even think he was being funny or anything but then gauged the audiences’ response and saw laughter, then slowly processed what laughter means, then laughed as well when he realized he was saying something funny. Jesse only blessed us with four or five interviews this year but I can honestly tell you that every one of them finished as a runner up. I love him.

Fernando Pisani Award for Playoff Performer of the Year

Previous Winners:
(16-17): Leon Draisaitl

Winner: N/A

Nikolai Khabibulin Award for Drunkest Moment of the Year

Previous Winners: Inaugural Award

Winner: Wayne Gretzky (February 7, 2018) trying to form complete sentences while talking about, among things, the current state of the Edmonton Oilers

You can listen to the full interview here (I couldn’t find a quick way to embed it in the blog, and honestly gave up after about three tries, whatever) but if anything summed up how the season was going it was the greatest player in both franchise and NHL history getting in front of the camera after pounding no less than 11 rum and cokes. The Great In One tried using his mouth to create words, and not only did he stutter basically every word that required more than two syllables, he also did the unthinkable and successfully made Jesse Puljujarvi look like a goddamn English major.

Wayne has a job and a role with the team. Nobody, not even his immediate supervisors, seem sure of what exactly it is, but it’s definitely something that requires him being handed a salary: “He’s Wayne Gretzky!” – Bob Nicholson, literally.

Anyways.

I love Wayne and I also love me a little drunk Wayne so I really have no complaints. I’d say Wayne getting smashed on game day means that Wayne has fully embraced what it means to be an Oilers fan. Same, Wayner.

Superfan Magoo Award for Oilers Fan of the Year

Previous Winners: Inaugural Award

Winner: My boy, Blue:

Blue’s hardhat is actually a bandana.

Blue’s hair hasn’t been cut since Vietnam.

Blue’s blood runs orange and blue.

Blue never quit.

For those keeping score at home, that’s:

  • Superfan Magoo Awards: Blue (1); Superfan Magoo (0).

In an absolutely stunning upset, Blue won the Superfan Magoo Award before Superfan Magoo. Magoo declared himself as the craziest Oilers fan alive, then subsequently disappeared when the season went for shit and nobody has seen nor heard from him since. Perhaps his disappearance was for financial reasons (MANY people wrote into ENS sharing stories about how Magoo was not exactly the most fiscally responsible human). However, the timing just couldn’t have been more coincidental. On one hand, we have Blue, who looks like he’s 90 and still puts his iconic red bandana on every game day morning, who still dances with random spectators after every goal, and who still throws back $60 Rogers Place beers like it’s the prohibition era all over again. And on the other hand, we have Magoo: the self-proclaimed greatest fan of all time yet was nowhere to be found when the team fell a million games below .500. Therefore, I can’t think of a more deserving person for the first ever Superfan Magoo Award for Fan of the Year than my boy Blue. You’ve been replaced, Magoo. I’m expecting better from you next year.

Author’s Note: The Award will forever be named the Superfan Magoo Award despite his alleged bandwagonness because the psychopath did paint his truck orange (this despite his wife’s logical concerns that it would likely devalue the vehicle) and then proceeded to parade his newly painted whip around Edmonton like a trophy.

Ryan Rishaug Award for Trench Warrior of the Year

Previous Winners: Inaugural Award

Winner: Amy from Las Vegas

Tuesday’s letters: Ugly Oilers fans wear out welcome in Vegas

Las Vegas is a Hockey Town! Our team has exceeded our expectations. As a city, we are embracing our new team and all that comes with hockey tourism. To date, we have enjoyed several games and fans from visiting teams (Here’s to you Winnipeg — we had a blast) and win or lose the atmosphere has been good hockey fun. That changed on Saturday, Jan. 13. Imagine our surprise when we arrived to our season-ticket seats to find them occupied by Oilers fans from Edmonton who refused to leave our seats. After we finally got into our seats our section was barraged with the foulest language we have heard at an NHL game and we’re from Pittsburgh so we know a few foul words. When my husband mentioned to the Oilers fan that there were women and children around he was told, in no uncertain words, to — well, I’m sure you get the picture. The final insults came in the shower of drinks that rained down on us from intoxicated Oilers fans falling down the aisle and from our potty-mouthed “friend” from Edmonton behind us. Instead of staying for the end of the third period and overtime, we left T-Mobile Arena and promptly gave away our tickets for the upcoming Oilers versus Golden Knights tickets on Feb. 15. Hockey tourism is wonderful for Las Vegas and the NHL. Being drunken, belligerent, mean people is not good for anyone. Perhaps they thought this was acceptable behaviour because this is Las Vegas. I assure you it is not. I only hope the next time our teams meet, the game is as well played in the stands as it was on the ice.

Amy L. Cercone, Las Vegas

Amy took “grit” and being a real life trench warrior to the maximum level this January when she attended a Saturday night hockey game in the city of Las Vegas and was unapologetically forced into the vicinity as barbaric neanderthals who had done the unthinkable and consumed alcoholic beverages at a sporting event.

These Satan-worshipping primitive hoodlums wearing orange jerseys with Oilers logos, who were completely disinterested in showing any regard for gender or age, apparently became the first people to use swear words at the T-Mobile Arena. As if this chaos wasn’t enough, the brutes definitely intentionally dropped some of their sin beverages all over Amy et al. as part of their hostile plan to pollute the entire arena with behaviour so unlike anything ever seen in the conservative city of Las Vegas. This unquestionably warranted Marshall Law inside the stadium but Amy instead chose the high road and penned a strongly written letter to the entire city of Edmonton, condemning us for cheering for a team with such a sacrilegious fanbase. And despite Amy’s husband attempt to set the female gender back to the 50s, the satanic language continued until Amy and her husband had no choice but to leave the sporting event early, even though that meant abandoning the poor women and subjecting their virgin ears to more intrusively vile words. As Peter Chiarelli would say, it’s the price you have to pay (in war). T’s and P’s to Amy (and Mr. Amy), and bless you two for your service in the trenches of a section with these blasphemous hooligans!

 

That concludes our ceremony. Thank you for attending (for reading) and for making it through the entire season. And a big congratulations to all the winners.

We’ll see you next year! (I’ll see you tomorrow because I have about three weeks worth of blogging to catch up on).

#HumboldtStrong


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