FGD: Opening the Pre-Season with the Oilers & Weekend Open Thread

Ryan Pike
September 14 2013 02:10PM

Flames Vs Oilers

Well, hockey returns to our beloved Scotiabank Saddledome on a Saturday night, in the form of a pre-season battle between the Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

In this special kick-off to the pre-season calendar for both clubs, there's a 7pm game in Calgary (broadcast via Sportsnet 960 The Fan) and an 8pm game in Edmonton (brought to you by 630 CHED).

It's my understanding that the Oilers site is streaming the Edmonton game and the Flames site is streaming the Calgary game. Both teams are hoping to come away with a pair of wins and a lot of understanding about where their players fit into their NHL line-ups. Here's a look at what's happening in Calgary.

THE LINE-UP

As per Pat Steinberg, the lines for the Flames:

  • Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
  • Cammalleri – Backlund – D. Jones
  • Ferland – Monahan – Poirier
  • B. Jones – Knight – Nemisz
  • Giordano – Brodie
  • Culkin – O'Brien
  • Sieloff – Ramage
  • MacDonald
  • Ortio

It's a mostly NHL line-up (two NHL lines, an NHL D-pairing, the NHL back-up...), along with some interesting prospects. That third line could be killer, as well as the third blueline pairing. Here's the first big test for Ryan Culkin to see if he's pro-ready yet. In a fun bit of trivia, John Ramage's first exhibition game is in the Saddledome, where his dad played – and he'll probably pass the 1989 Stanley Cup photo outside the locker room on the way to the ice. And it's a great test for Monahan, who's been fantastic in camp thus far.

For the curious, the fellas not playing in either pre-season are goalie Laurent Brossoit, blueliners Chad Billins, Mark Cundari, James Martin, Brady Lamb, Eric Roy, Tyler Wotherspoon, Chris Breen and Zach McKelvie, and forwards Max Reinhart, Turner Elson, Coda Gordon, David Eddy, Brett Olson, Steve Begin, Morgan Klimchuk and Carter Bancks. Outside of Elson, Reinhart, Roy, Breen, Gordon and Klimchuk, who are all injured, it's a lot of try-out players and guys on the AHL fringes. And Wotherspoon and Billins, oddly, though they may be victims of the numbers game in terms of able blueliners.

THE OPPOSITION

Via the Oilers Twitter account, their lines in Calgary:

  • Hamilton – Gagner – Eberle
  • Jones – Gordon – Perron
  • Eager – Acton – Pitlick
  • Bilcke – Ewanyk – Chase
  • Smid – Petry
  • N. Schultz – Fedun
  • Larsen – Marincin
  • LaBarbera
  • Bachman

A bit more of a youngster-filled roster for the Oilers. There are a few stars here (Gagner, Eberle, Perron and Schultz), but generally a test for how their newer players can handle a trip into a hostile building against a more veteran-laden club. And Hitmen forward Greg Chase, chosen by the Oilers in the seventh round in the 2013 draft, makes his exhibition debut in the building he always plays in. Nice touch there, too.

SUM IT UP

Two games in two cities between the same two teams is a fun way to kick off the pre-season. The Flames would love to get some winning into their system early-on, particularly against the Oilers. The countdown to the regular season continues.

Check out OilersNation for the dumbed-down preview regarding the game in Shelbyville.

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Now in his third full season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers, the Wrestling Observer and Tough Talk MMA.
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#51 piscera.infada
September 15 2013, 10:35AM
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@Kmp

Minus the goal where he got caught up ice, I though Kanzig looked really good last night. I assumed he was going to get dominated by NHLers last night, and that didn't happen. I wasn't able to see much from him during the Youngstars, so I was unable to sing his praises as many on here were doing during that tournament. After watching that game last night, I have to agree. He looked far better than I thought he would patrolling the offensive blue line. The guy is calm back there. That patience allowed him to make a great pass to Sven on the play that set up the Jooris tying goal.

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#52 Kmp
September 15 2013, 11:22AM
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@piscera.infada

Agree on Kanzig, he really only made 1 mistake that I saw. Another 2 years in Juniors won't hurt him. Not a big fan of Russell, Kulak will go back to junior and improve. Always liked Smith one of the few left D that play the offside well, figure he will see a lot of time 3rd pair right side.

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#53 beloch
September 15 2013, 03:13PM
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How doable is it to improve a player like Kanzig's skating? Could the Kinesiology people at the U give him exercises that might help him improve his stride?

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#54 Jeff Lebowski
September 15 2013, 04:30PM
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Just checked out the 6-5 highlights.

Is Josh Jooris one of the young guys making this team out of camp? Who else has been playing better in all the scrimmages and games? I'd rank the prospect centres as:

1. Monahan 2. Jooris 3. Granlund 4. Horak 5. Knight 6. Reinhart (only because of missed time).

Horak is on the ice for a lot of highlights. He's been getting better and better.

Granlund has to show he can assert his game when NHL level opponents are trying to level him ie handle the speed of the physicality.

Knight has yet to create scoring chances consistently (even against prospects). He either has to start doing that or show he can win draws and be a heavy player.

Jooris makes thing happen. He really asserts his game and he's got good quickness physically and in his decision making. Good size, right handed shot and physically (training as a pro will improve this), mentally mature.

-If you check out the highlights, note how badly Horak beats the goalie in shootout.

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#55 beloch
September 15 2013, 06:24PM
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Jooris is signed to a two-way ELC. At this point I bet he'll make the big team out of camp and have the chance to prove he's good enough to stay. Having a little more depth at center means it makes more sense to send Monahan back to Junior unless he looks good enough to play more than 5 minutes a night on the fourth line.

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#56 piscera.infada
September 15 2013, 06:32PM
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beloch wrote:

How doable is it to improve a player like Kanzig's skating? Could the Kinesiology people at the U give him exercises that might help him improve his stride?

I'm sure skating will be the number one priority for him as far as training goes. He's said in interviews it's something he knows he needs to improve if he wants to make it in the NHL.

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#57 exsanguinator
September 15 2013, 07:25PM
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beloch wrote:

How doable is it to improve a player like Kanzig's skating? Could the Kinesiology people at the U give him exercises that might help him improve his stride?

Lots and lots and lots of power skating lessons would be my guess.

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#58 FireOnIce
September 15 2013, 08:26PM
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Just throwing it out there, but Zemgus Girgensons has 2 goals tonight in the BUF-MON game. One of them a shortie.

Where is the Big Jankowski right now?

Nichushkin also had 2 for Dallas.

I'm so damn excited for hockey, I don't even care if the Flames go 0-82. Well... maybe.

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#59 Bezer
September 15 2013, 09:11PM
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FireOnIce wrote:

Just throwing it out there, but Zemgus Girgensons has 2 goals tonight in the BUF-MON game. One of them a shortie.

Where is the Big Jankowski right now?

Nichushkin also had 2 for Dallas.

I'm so damn excited for hockey, I don't even care if the Flames go 0-82. Well... maybe.

Or Teuvo Teravainen apparently he has been outstanding.

I know it is easy to go 20/20 hindsight but he was my choice for the Flames to pick. He sure would add some much needed depth to the RW.

Although I am a huge fan of Seiloff which you can't discount when talking about trading down for Jankowski

Anyway I have been pleasantly surprised by Granlund. Also Horak, I hope he takes a big step forward this year.

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#60 TRAV
September 15 2013, 09:23PM
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While it's easy to get excited about who might make the team out of camp I expect that there will be lots of movement between ABBY and the Flames. I anticipate Horak, Knight, Granlund, Street, Jooris and Reinhart will all see time on the farm and in the show.

for what its worth I was at Winsport today and thought that Knight is starting to find his form. He has a very quick and accurate start and may be able to chip in with points when given the opportunity.

Poirier looked good again but he tends to get knocked off the puck in the corners. There is no question that this guy seems to be a magnet for the biscuit though as he always is in the right place at the right time.

I was impressed with Hartley's practice. He keeps the intensity up, calls players over to teach them about positioning and puck movement and switches drills when pace is lagging. Like a good teacher he also recognizes positives and points them out to guys. Finished with some fun in the form of a shootout with the losing team skating laps. All in all I thought that he created a good atmosphere for the team. Solid balance between hard work, teaching and fun. I wasn't really a big fan of his prior to today.

PS.. If at some point in the future Kanzig doesn't see some NHL action I'll eat my hat... :)

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#61 the forgotten man
September 15 2013, 11:22PM
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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Valeri Nichushkin, a 2013 first-round pick of the Dallas Stars, is proving to be everything NHL scouts envisioned this weekend at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.

The No. 10 selection has scored twice, including a highlight-reel goal in the tournament opener, shown responsibility with the puck and generated quality scoring chances for teammates in 5-on-5 and power-play situations.

Nichushkin oozes confidence. That's evident by the way he carries himself during warmups and team stretches. He has that same strong build, smile and demeanor that Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk had during their time in Traverse City for their respective teams.

Nichushkin is one of six Russian-born players participating in this year's event, along with Dmitrij Jaskin (2011, No. 41) of the St. Louis Blues, Alexei Marchenko (2011, No. 205) of the Detroit Red Wings, Nikita Zadorov (2013, No. 16) of the Buffalo Sabres, free-agent signee Sergey Tolchinsky of the Carolina Hurricanes and tournament invite Rinat Valiev of the Stars.

Valeri Nichushkin has scored twice at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, including a highlight-reel goal in the tournament opener. (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI) In three games, the 6-foot-4, 201-pound Nichushkin has two points and a plus-1 rating, and has generated a team-leading 11 shots on goal.

His contributions have gone far beyond the score sheet, however.

"I think his skill level is obvious, but there have been other things that maybe the casual observer doesn't see," Doug Lidster, a two-time Stanley Cup champion who now works as an assistant coach for the Stars' American Hockey League affiliate in Texas, told NHL.com. "In our power play walkthrough on the first day, a defenseman lost the puck on a drill. Right away he grabbed another one, threw it back to the guy that fumbled the puck and said in broken English, 'Hey, let's do it again.' He took charge right away.

"Later on in practice, a defenseman missed a shift and didn't jump out there so Valeri jumped out and took charge. I like that. I like the fact he's not sitting back despite being in a foreign country, working on a second language and being with a new team. He's jumping out there trying to become a better player, trying to help his teammates be better. That's what has impressed me."

Nichushkin excelled in 25 postseason games with Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League in 2012-13, totaling six goals, nine points and a plus-5 rating. That followed a regular season that saw him score four goals in 18 games, be named the KHL Rookie of the Month three times and win the KHL's Alexei Cherepanov Award, presented annually to the league's top rookie. But unless he's playing in the NHL in 2013-14, he'll return to the KHL. The Stars signed Nichushkin to a three-year, entry-level deal July 6, and the intent is for him to remain in Dallas.

Funny, but I recall the Flames brain trust and their lackeys telling us Nischuskin was flaky, unpredictable and not a "team-guy"...but the Flames don't need any goal scorers anyways...just GRIT.

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#62 clyde
September 15 2013, 11:45PM
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the forgotten man wrote:

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Valeri Nichushkin, a 2013 first-round pick of the Dallas Stars, is proving to be everything NHL scouts envisioned this weekend at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.

The No. 10 selection has scored twice, including a highlight-reel goal in the tournament opener, shown responsibility with the puck and generated quality scoring chances for teammates in 5-on-5 and power-play situations.

Nichushkin oozes confidence. That's evident by the way he carries himself during warmups and team stretches. He has that same strong build, smile and demeanor that Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk had during their time in Traverse City for their respective teams.

Nichushkin is one of six Russian-born players participating in this year's event, along with Dmitrij Jaskin (2011, No. 41) of the St. Louis Blues, Alexei Marchenko (2011, No. 205) of the Detroit Red Wings, Nikita Zadorov (2013, No. 16) of the Buffalo Sabres, free-agent signee Sergey Tolchinsky of the Carolina Hurricanes and tournament invite Rinat Valiev of the Stars.

Valeri Nichushkin has scored twice at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, including a highlight-reel goal in the tournament opener. (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI) In three games, the 6-foot-4, 201-pound Nichushkin has two points and a plus-1 rating, and has generated a team-leading 11 shots on goal.

His contributions have gone far beyond the score sheet, however.

"I think his skill level is obvious, but there have been other things that maybe the casual observer doesn't see," Doug Lidster, a two-time Stanley Cup champion who now works as an assistant coach for the Stars' American Hockey League affiliate in Texas, told NHL.com. "In our power play walkthrough on the first day, a defenseman lost the puck on a drill. Right away he grabbed another one, threw it back to the guy that fumbled the puck and said in broken English, 'Hey, let's do it again.' He took charge right away.

"Later on in practice, a defenseman missed a shift and didn't jump out there so Valeri jumped out and took charge. I like that. I like the fact he's not sitting back despite being in a foreign country, working on a second language and being with a new team. He's jumping out there trying to become a better player, trying to help his teammates be better. That's what has impressed me."

Nichushkin excelled in 25 postseason games with Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League in 2012-13, totaling six goals, nine points and a plus-5 rating. That followed a regular season that saw him score four goals in 18 games, be named the KHL Rookie of the Month three times and win the KHL's Alexei Cherepanov Award, presented annually to the league's top rookie. But unless he's playing in the NHL in 2013-14, he'll return to the KHL. The Stars signed Nichushkin to a three-year, entry-level deal July 6, and the intent is for him to remain in Dallas.

Funny, but I recall the Flames brain trust and their lackeys telling us Nischuskin was flaky, unpredictable and not a "team-guy"...but the Flames don't need any goal scorers anyways...just GRIT.

Hasn't he said he will bolt back to Russia if he is not on the NHL roster? Doesn't sound much like a committed to the team guy to me. And, I think the drafting of Monahan, Poirier ( both looking great at camp), Klimchuck, etc proves that the Flames were looking for a lot more than just grit.

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#63 Baalzamon
September 15 2013, 11:49PM
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clyde wrote:

Hasn't he said he will bolt back to Russia if he is not on the NHL roster? Doesn't sound much like a committed to the team guy to me. And, I think the drafting of Monahan, Poirier ( both looking great at camp), Klimchuck, etc proves that the Flames were looking for a lot more than just grit.

Yeah... why are people complaining about Monahan? He's a lot more than just grit. I'd take him over Nichushkin any day.

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#64 exsanguinator
September 16 2013, 12:13AM
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Baalzamon wrote:

Yeah... why are people complaining about Monahan? He's a lot more than just grit. I'd take him over Nichushkin any day.

I'd rather have a good two way center in the line up than a pure goal scorer. Build a team up the middle from the goalies and everything else will come.

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#65 beloch
September 16 2013, 03:49AM
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@Baalzamon

The last year or so I've thought that, all other things being equal, avoiding Russian players makes sense because they might well choose to play in the KHL. We keep hearing a lot of noise about how the KHL is on the rise and is starting to lure Russian players home. Cervenka was a player who looked like he had the raw talent to hack it in the NHL, but went home after a pretty dismal season in Calgary. He basically said "$#!@ you guys, I'm going home", Russian Cartman style.

Is the KHL going to steal the NHL's Russian players? Let's look at some stats on the KHL:

Games per Season: 52
Average attendance per game: 6,106*
Average ticket price: $30**
Estimated Gross Ticket Sales per team: $9.5 million
Hard Salary Cap (2013-2014): $36.5 million

* This number doesn't mean nobody is interested in KHL games and these teams are playing in half empty arenas the way AHL clubs do. It's a reflection of the fact that a lot of KHL arenas have a max capacity of just 6,000-8,000. On the bright side, these are soviet era arenas so KHL clubs probably don't have to make any mortgage payments!

** It's Hard to find good data on this, but every report says it's substantially lower than the NHL. This isn't surprising since disposable income is significantly lower in countries the KHL plays in. From what I've read, an estimate of $30 is being *very* generous.

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A KHL club spending to the cap might be able to offer a marginal to mediocre NHL caliber player a competitive salary. However, the economics of the league mean that very few teams are likely able to spend to the cap. Perhaps a couple of the very richest can, but they are the exception to the rule.

Let's have a look at the AHL now.

Games per Season: 76
Average attendance per game: 5,711
Average ticket price: $25****
Estimated Gross Ticket Sales per team: $10.9 million

**** Based on: http://www.coppernblue.com/2011/11/1/2518919/2011-12-ahl-ticket-prices. Note, this isn't the best estimate because it's from 2011 and it assumes all ticket prices are equally likely. It probably low-balls things a tad.

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Thanks to a longer season, the average AHL club pulls in a little bit more than the average KHL club. According to http://nhlnumbers.com/2012/10/20/ahl-salaries-2012-13-opening-night-rosters , the most any AHL club spent on player salaries (for the entire team) last season was $2.7 million. AHL clubs probably spend more on arenas than KHL teams do thanks to not inheriting soviet era rinks and, also, the fact that they don't come close to filling arenas most nights. However, even with a top payroll that's one tenth of the KHL's salary cap, most reports indicate AHL clubs bleed money and are propped up by the NHL clubs that use them for player development.

So while a very small number of KHL clubs are wealthier and might even have a rich oil baron subsidizing them, the league has little more chance of stealing the NHL's talent than the AHL does. The one thing the KHL has going for it is that it's *home* (or close to it for European players), and some hockey players (e.g. Cervenka) suck hard at learning English. It cannot be overstated how isolating it is to be stuck working in a nation where you can't communicate with anyone.

Conclusion: Even replacement level players who burn their bridges with the NHL and go back to the KHL are going to take a big pay-cut. To some, it might be worth doing this to be home where they know the language and are hot stuff with the locals. However, the flight-risk of a quality NHL player is *very* low.

Should the Flames have passed on Nichushkin because he's a Russian? No, probably not. Nichushkin signed a KHL contract allowing him to play in the NHL, but he may be in violation of that contract if he goes to the AHL. He might therefore not be a prima donna ready to burn his bridges with Dallas if they don't think he's ready for the NHL. Hopefully, nationality was not a big factor for the Flames drafting staff. Only the future will show if Monahan was the better choice. In the future though, there's no reason to be afraid of drafting Russian players. Unless the KHL starts building a lot of arenas they simply don't have the money to lure quality Russian players back home. For those that do leave, money is likely not the deciding factor.

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#66 piscera.infada
September 16 2013, 07:56AM
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@the forgotten man

"Funny, but I recall the Flames brain trust and their lackeys telling us Nischuskin was flaky, unpredictable and not a "team-guy"...but the Flames don't need any goal scorers anyways...just GRIT.

Funny, that seemed to be the general consensus - not just the Flames "lackeys". There were red flags around Nichushkin whether you like it or not, otherwise he probably would have been selected before number 10. The same can be said about Shinkaruk. But some people wont look at that kind of evidence - they'll simply say "the Flames brain trust thinks it's smarter than everyone".

Perhaps the reg flags surrounding Nichuskin weren't warranted, and maybe he turns out to be the greatest "team guy" in the league. You know what? That would be great for the league. Does it make it the right pick for the Flames way back on June 30, 2013? Probably not. If they would have taken that unnecessary risk in the fledgling stages of a rebuild, at 6th overall (with Monahan still on the board, to boot), I'm afraid this website would implode with Feaster-hate.

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#67 Avalain
September 16 2013, 10:49AM
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RexLibris wrote:

Unlikely. I think the Eskimos may continue that 1st overall draft pick tradition this year.

Now, if Burke wants to swap 1st round picks with Ed Hervey I'd be alright with that.

Well, my comment is more than a little tongue-in-cheek. I'm just following up the "plan the parade" line of thinking...

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#68 McRib
September 17 2013, 09:18AM
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@the forgotten man

Valeri Nichushkin has one good exhibition game and everyone looses their minds.... You are aware of why he fell on draft day?!?!?!

He refused to lift a weight at the combine and would only interview with select teams, doesn't sound like a team player to me!! Also how do you know what went on in the Flames interview room, maybe we were one of the teams he refused to even sit down with.... I know a big reason the Stars signed Sergei Gonchar was to convince his agent they were serious by bringing in other Russians. I don't know about you but I wouldn't want the Flames drafting a Russian that doesn't want to play for us. We can just ask Columbus/Nashville how that goes.

Not to mention Sean Monahan is a much more complete player (Better Hockey IQ, defensive play, character, etc) with similar offensive upside. Lets see how Nichushkin does against full rosters before freaking out over a couple goals.

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#69 al russell
September 18 2013, 02:29PM
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just moved from edmonton to claresholm.as long as kevin lowe is running the show the flames should finish around the same spot.not sure how the oil think that the same crew that drove the bus off the cliff in 07 can be magically reassembled with different titles and expect any change.still as soft as Charmin but at least we dont have to worry Robin Regher anymore.

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