BY ZACHARY CORMIER
Maybe someday I’ll get tired of hockey. The sun is out, baseball season is in full swing, the Canadian Football League regular season is just around the corner and yet all I can think about is who the Calgary Flames are going to sign as their backup goalie come the NHL’s July 1st free agent frenzy.
For hockey fans, the offseason is a time of endless optimism. Teams are making moves, signing players and doing everything they can to get better without any on-ice product that can prove otherwise.
In some respects, the NHL’s offseason can be a more exciting time to be a hockey fan than during the actual regular season.
This is especially true if you are a fan of any Canadian hockey team. Specifically if you are a fan of either the Calgary Flames or the Edmonton Oilers.
Watching the Flames and Oilers wheel and deal to improve their dreadful hockey teams has been an absolute joy to watch over the past few weeks.
It all started with the NHL draft last Saturday where, in my opinion, both teams made out like absolute bandits.
In case you may have missed some of the news coming out of the wonderfully crazy three hours that was the first round of the Draft, let me fill you in: the Columbus Blue Jackets dropped a bomb that screwed up pretty much everyone’s mock draft with the third overall pick, selecting Pierre-Luc Dubois over potential franchise winger and prolific Finnish scorer Jesse Puljujärvi (yes I did have to Google how to spell that name.)
The controversial and incredibly gutsy move by the Blue Jackets meant that Puljujärvi, who is ready to step into any NHL lineup next season, fell to the Oilers who happily took him with the fourth overall pick.
Basically the Oilers managed to win the third overall pick in the draft lottery without actually winning the draft lottery.
I swear to God, Peter Chiarelli was sprinting up to the podium before the Blue Jackets had even left it.
The other beautiful thing about the surprise selection by the Blue Jackets was that Matthew Tkachuck, the player who scored the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup winning goal on a sprained ankle in Red Deer last month, fell to sixth overall.
Who held the sixth overall pick? Well the Flames, of course.
This is great for Calgary for a number of reasons, chief among them being that Tkachuck is exactly the kind of winger with size that they have craved for so long. He was the Flames’ ideal acquisition heading into the draft and he may have also been my favourite player to watch at the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament (although that Marner guy was alright too).
Things got even better for the Flames later in the round, when they dealt their second round pick (31st overall) and a conditional third in 2018 to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for starting goaltender Brian Elliott.
As a Flames fan, I almost fainted when I heard about the trade. In just 15 minutes, Flames GM Brad Treliving managed to address the two biggest needs that Calgary had going into the draft. The addition of Elliott means that the Flames, whose goaltenders last season couldn’t stop a beach ball rolled at them by a child, might actually be able to stop the puck and allow their skilled forward core to score some goals.
So as a fan of hockey living in Alberta, I have to confess that I am extremely optimistic for the coming season. Both teams have gotten noticeably better on paper.
Maybe the Battle of Alberta will actually be fun to watch next year. Maybe both teams will actually be in the playoff race next March. Maybe we’ll get to see the Flames vs. Oilers rivalry in a playoff series for the first time since the 1980s. And maybe I’m just completely delusional (probably that one).
The worst part is that we have to wait until next October to actually find out the answer. I have no idea how I’m going to keep myself entertained until then.