The 2013-14 season was a great year for goals. Valeri Nichushkin came into the league and put up 14. Brenden Dillon had six(!) tallies in his second (and last) full season with the club, including one particularly beautiful shorty. Colton Sceviour scored the first eight goals of his career, and even Kevin Connauton got into the act as we recounted last summer. (And speaking of the DreadNaut himself, this comment is a little bit #sadface now.) Dustin Jeffrey also scored a couple of goals. Good for Dustin.
This last season, while 26 goals richer as far as team scoring, saw only a few kids accumulating the early lamplighters of their careers. In fact, only three* of the kids--and I used that term loosely, considering how young the Stars are--managed to earn a masking-taped puck awaiting them in the locker room.
Curtis McKenzie put up four goals this season, which is pretty good for a college boy. That total includes his first career biscuit from about as net-front as a goal can be scored:
It's a nice play by Cole, and credit to C-Mac for busting to the net with his stick on the ice. That tally tied up the score, and it's not important how that game ended or whether the Blackhawks scored five more goals. The point is, McKenzie announced that he knew how to score at the NHL level, and that was something to be happy about, even if a lot of less-happy things happened on that same night.
Brett Ritchie made his season debut on New Year's Eve and promptly decided that now was as good a time as any to get in on the deluge of goals bubbling out of the metaphorical champagne bottle that night:
If there be a quintessential Brett Ritchie goal this early into his career, this is it. Big hit, bull rush to the net, then tuck a puck up top. And of course, there is famed playmaker Travis Moen with the beautiful setup, as always. (That's weird, my computer just started spewing smoke after that last sentence.) Anyhow, great job, Brett! You have a long way to go before you'll be just "Brett" to us, but who knows? Six goals is a great start.
McKenzie and Ritchie will, barring any boo-boos or trades, probably be ro-sham-boing for a bottom-six role, while the "loser" gets a top-six spot in Cedar Park to start the year. What it also means is that we might see even fewer players record their first career donuts this season. And while that isn't as exciting as having a new kid record his first goal every other night, it's probably indicative of a much more playoff-ready roster than we've been accustomed to watching. Is that cold water I just threw? I hope not. Hey, let's get to the goal I wanted to talk about all along.
Of course, the third (and titular) gentleman on this list is the biggest one of all. I am talking about Jamie "Big Rig" Oleksiak himself, yes sir. (Also, that nickname needs to be superseded in the very near future. Donald Brashear will hear about it, and that won't be pretty for anyone.)
Okay, let's all just hang onto our hats and trust in the protective netting as 250 pounds of human wind up for a Bazooka Blast of a shot. Are you ready? Here we go!
There is that old saying about them asking not "how" but "how many," and that's probably been the parting comment (followed by chuckling) in most of Oleksiak's conversations about this goal. And the saying is pretty true, after all. How many of you would give many, many dollars to have done what Oleksiak did there, after all? Scoring even the flukiest of NHL goals is an accomplishment worth celebrating and cherishing.
That said, here is the windup Oleksiak took on this shot:
Yes, the shot was blocked, so he clearly didn't have a ton of time to get it off; but that frame also shows what I think is one of the biggest reasons people get frustrated with Oleksiak's play at times: he doesn't use his size like so many wish he would. Oftentimes it has to do with hits, but here we see a big man who is taking a decidedly not-big windup. That is a little anticlimactic.
Take the most unfair of comparisons himself, and note how much more vertical the stick gets:
Again, I have to stress that Oleksiak was more trying to just get a hard shot on net, not put the puck through the end boards. Chara has plenty of time here, obviously, so his technique will look a little different.
But you get it, right? Oleksiak's biggest assets are his skating and his size, and here we have him using neither once the puck arrives. He did get into the zone ready for the pass from Seguin, which is great, but there's some beautiful wryness about how his one and only NHL goal came about in the course of such a humdrum sequence. (There's also something very deep and meaningful about Benn and Seguin just being altogether unkind to Steve Ott to start the whole play, but we're not here to criticize Otter for his coverage of Art Ross winners present or future.)
So, big deal. Jamie Oleksiak's first goal involved a healthy dose of puck luck. Hey, he shot it, right? And even with a partial windup, he put enough on it to get through a block with the puck still carrying into the goalmouth. That's still good, yeah? Sure, it took slick plays by both Benn and Seguin to make this possible, and it didn't hurt that Elliott got plowed over by his own defenseman, but still, it is a goal. Goals are, like, the very best thing you can do, and that is what Oleksiak did. Great job, Jamie!
It's fair to say that we still don't have a full and complete idea of what Jamie Oleksiak is. What we do know is that he has scored more goals than Patrik Nemeth and Jyrki Jokipakka, with whom he will surely be competing for ice time for as long as he's on the team. One goal doesn't mean a whole lot, yet. One fluky goal probably means even less than that until it stops being the only one. But goals are goals, and Oleksiak is surely more than happy to claim them as they come. The first goal is always special, even if it needs a little blush and eyeliner before coming out to meet its friends. If nothing else, Jamie Oleksiak can always remember that, as fluky first goals go, he's in pretty good company:
*Actually four, but I think we can all agree that this guy deserved his own post.