Tuesday, May 24, 2016
We hung around till the final band
Called "Escape Is At Hand For The Travelling Man"
You yelled in my ear this music speaks to me
Absolutely gutted this morning, just shattered by the news about Gord Downie. It's been an awfiil year for musicians in general but for the Canadian music community and people of a certain age it has been especially horrible. First the devastating news about John Mann and now Downie. Both so young.
Beware of nostalgia and sentimentality coming, even more so than usual.
I remember a number of years back having an online conversation about music and the soundtrack of your life and how that nearly always goes back to your youth, not so much when you are in high school but when you are in your early twenties, fancy free, having fun before the responsibilities start coming on. So it is for me, when it comes to music I am a real Philistine (to which those people who sneer at the Hip will say here's the perfect example) and while I know some newer music and enjoy it, thanks to my kids, for the most part I listen to music and bands that I listened to 25 years ago. What can I say, I am a simple man.
And The Hip ... well the Hip have always been there. I was nineteen or so when we were talking about this new Kingston band and my friend Sharon, still a dear friend all of these years later, commented on their name and how she loved it and that was when it began. Within a few years they had gone from playing University pubs to headlining a show called Another Roadside Attraction. I was 23 I guess, or thereabouts. This was a two day festival up at Markham Fairgrounds, fifty thousand people, an absolute bacchanal, the show starting at noon and running until midnight, the sun blazing, stumbling about dusty and grinning. They were different times back then for sure, no security lineup. We had beer on ice in our car (we had a DD) and if we wanted a beer we'd walk out of the grounds and drink a few, the wandering cops turning a blind eye.
Maybe four or five years later I went to the second tour by the same name. One show only. This time I was with the Girl From Rawlins Cross. There was no beer in the parking lot, once you were in past the security you were in and if you wanted a beer it was the beer garden for you. It was a tremendous show once again, I never attended an average Hip show, they always brought terrific energy and Downie was a rambling madman on stage, an outstanding showman. But times were changing, at 29 I looked around at the drunken kids and thought to myself 'what is wrong with these people'. Lol.
In 2002 we were married for a year and had just bought a house and Jenn and I went to Ontario Place with friends and sat on the lawn ('That night in Toronto ....') and in the cool summer evening we sat back and revelled in it all.
And then just over a year ago we were at the ACC, my birthday present, three kids and over a decade after the last show. It was great, as great as ever. Gord (to me he was always simply Gord) was a bit shouty, or shoutier lol, it was a February show so maybe he was battling something or maybe all of the years were taking his toll on his vocal cords. But it was a terrific show all the same and the best birthday present I ever received.
What is it about the Hip and Gord himself that spoke to me? I don't know. Their sound is simple driving rock and roll, which I enjoy, but what separated them for me were the lyrics, referencing obscure Canadiana, often digressing and wandering here and there, I can't explain it but I can sing along to dozens of their songs without missing a beat. ('There is nothing uglier than a man hitting his stride' except maybe me trying to carry a tune but man oh man I know them all.)
Maybe it's because for all the fame and wealth Downie still remains the hoser, with the hoserest name, the hockey fan, the beer drinker, the guy I saw at The Dora Keough one afternoon having a few pints at the bar or who came into the Famous one day to pick up his takeout Indian, waiting with us and then hopping on his bike and pedalling off with his dinner. He's one of those guys, like my boyhood hero, Stan Mikita, who is sadly also having health issues, who I have never heard a bad thing about. Just a simple guy, a good guy, and I think for a lot of Canadians we look at the Hip and see ourselves in them, just a bunch of regular dudes who happened to make it big. Maybe that's it? I don't know and I will leave it to someone smarter than me to explain how they became the biggest Canadian band ever.
It's hit me hard and let's be honest, a lot of this has to do with the fact that he is only a few years older than me. His wife battled cancer herself and they have four children and really that is the most heartbreaking thing and the thing that terrifies me the most, leaving my children behind, so I cannot imagine what they are going through right now.
All the best to Gord and his family in this toughest of times. With great sadness but also with thanks for the joy he has brought me over all of these years.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:27 PM
Sunday, May 15, 2016
The Western Conference has pretty well dominated the NHL now for almost two decades. Thirteen Cups in nineteen years, seven of the last ten, if it weren't for New Jersey the gap would be even more ridiculous, never mind the blown Gelinas call, Roloson's knee, Chris Osgood and myriad Detroit injuries and Tim Thomas having a season for the ages (and Dan Hamhuis getting hurt).
It's not just that the West wins every year it's that every spring you could pick six or seven or even eight or more western clubs that could beat anyone in the east while the eastern talent pool runs one or two or three teams deep. When those teams go down, as they often do, then the Western final essentially becomes the Cup final.
Now the gap has begun to close, thanks to Gary's cap. LA and the Hawks have been pulled back to the mushy middle and will continue to lose players this summer. The window for success has become one or two years, then the kids on entry level deals need to get paid and teams need to pay the price. For a team to continue to have success they need to, well they need to do a lot of things right. They need to bring in a steady stream of young (cheap) guys who can play. They need to be ruthless with vets coming into UFA, regardless of tenure or past contributions. They need to find useful vets on value contracts. And on top of that they need to have luck of all sorts - injuries, the right draw come playoff time, simple bounces.
It's not an easy path to navigate. You look at Tampa who just last year probably gave the Chicago/LA combo the toughest test in the final either team has had. With a break here or there and a healthy Tyler Johnson and Ben Bishop they may have carried the day. They fell short but it seemed that this could be their year. A slow start and then Stralman and Stamkos knocked out of the lineup (and now Bishop besides) and it seemed that their chances were doomed. And now Stamkos possibly out the door.
The window closes quickly.
Back to the original point, why is it that the West has been so good for so long? Well my theory is this, I call it the Norris theory. (Actually I don't call it anything but let's call it something.))
Back in the 80s the NHL has 21 teams. 16 of these made the playoffs and the setup was similar to today. You had four teams in each division make it, they played off against each other and then whoever came out faced the other division winner in the conference final.
So out West you had the Smythe and there you had the Oilers, one of the best, if not the best, teams ever. You had the Flames, who were probably the second best team in the league over a five or six year span. And you had the Jets who were very good for a year or two but who never could get past either Alberta team. So every year you had two teams with 90 or more points and while the third and fourth place teams were up the track they also had to play Edmonton and Calgary 16 times.
And you had the Norris - Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Minnesota, Toronto. In the early 80s Detroit was finishing up a stretch of nearly twenty years of being terrible (yes Oiler fans it could get worse). Toronto and Chicago had probably the two worst owners in hockey history. And St. Louis and Minnesota were relentlessly mediocre. Only once from 84 to 90 did a division winner top 90 points and this was playing a large number of games against other terrible teams. There were years that Norris teams made the playoffs while barely cracking 50 points!
And four of these clubs made the playoffs evey year.
It's hard to explain how bad these teams were but let me tell a little anecdote to illustrate, if I may. In the spring of 87 we were winding up our first year of university. I lived on campus at St Mike's College at U of T on a floor with eight other dudes, seven if whom were also freshmen. We were a tight lot, they were all terrific guys, we had ourselves some good times. It was in April that one of the guys had a birthday, he would have been turning twenty and so we decided to get out and celebrate. The playoffs had just started and the Blues and Leafs were slugging it out in the first round, the Blues having ripped up the division to win it with 79 points and a -12 GD and the Leafs way down the track with, um, 70 points and a -33 GD. Two quality clubs.
So we went to the Morrissey, the Mo as it was called, a classic Toronto watering hole, long gone now alas, and we ordered pitchers at whatever ridiculously cheap price they were (this was when the Mo was slightly divey, it had a rebirth soon after as a preppy hotspot and prices responded accordingly) and got to drinking. Wanting to bring some sport into the equation we agreed to fire back an extra beer (they had those little draft glasses, you know the ones) everytime there was a shot on net.
Ten minutes into the game no word of a lie and we hadn't had a drink yet. It was typical Norris garbage, sloppy, terrible hockey. Finally, fed up, I announced that we would drink every time someone touched the puck. Five minutes passed with no luck at all ...
I kid. But barely.
The thing was that there was no incentive to improve. I am sure these GMs would say they were trying their best to win but the reality is you could be mediocre or worse and you were guaranteed playoff dates and with a break or two you could easily get to the third round. Remember St Louis had money troubles at the time and again there was Ballard and Wirtz. These guys weren't spending money on players or scouting or anything.
And then Mike Keenan came to Chicago. His first year the Hawks struggled but as the fourth seed they managed to make the Conference final. The next year the club improved by 22 points and again made it to the Conference Final, where they fell to the Oilers, in six games.
And that was the end of the old Norris. It took one team to break from the pack, to see that the division was easy pickings and invest in taking the next step. And then the others followed. In 90/91 Chicago and St Louis both had over 100 points. The Wings won the division the next year with 98 points and began to become the team that dominated the NHL for decades. The Leafs hired Cliff Fletcher and Pat Burns and in 92/93 Chicago had 106 points, Detroit had 103 and Toronto had 99.
Keenan started an arms race, for lack of a better term, and that was it for the old sad sack Norris.
And so I believe that in many ways the Western Conference is the same. In the late nineties the big money Eastern teams, the Rangers and Leafs and Flyers, spent their money poorly, they didn't fail for lack of trying but they had no Cup appearances between them after 96 (!). Meanwhile Detroit, Dallas and Colorado developed a ton of young talent, paid it and augmented it with smart free agent buys. Come the introduction of the salary cap the Stars and Avs regressed but the Wings remained the standard and so we saw Anaheim and San Jose, first of all, making their moves and then Vancouver, Chicago, LA, the Blues, the Stars and so on. The West became a war zone, so brutal that even a quality club like Nashville has found it impossible to get past the second round and annually quality clubs found themselves on the outside of the playoffs entirely. Basically unless you are the Oilers and are run by the worst owner and management team in hockey, a group that has spit in the face of their fans for a decade, all the while reaping massive profit and grifting the city of Edmonton for hundreds of millions of dollars, well if you are anyone else then you need to do everything and anything to get better because it iis almost impossible just to make the playoffs, never mind get by Chicago or LA to get a shot at the Cup.
And so here we are.
This year was different I thought. I figured the Ducks and Tampa at the beginning of the year and then coming into April this is what I had to say:
To me there are five real heavyweights this year - Anaheim, LA, St Louis, Washington and Pittsburgh. If Tampa were healthy I would throw them in that mix as well. After that I see Dallas, Chicago and San Jose as good but flawed teams and then everyone else. (I can't take Tampa seriously unless Stralman and Stamkos were able to return.)
So you can see how things have changed, if Tampa were healthy, three of the six teams I rated were eastern teams and that has not happened ... ever? Not as long as I remember anyhow.
That all said, I think it is the West again this year, barring calamity striking the winner of the Blues/Sharks series. After watching Pittsburgh and Washington I cannot take the Pens that seriously, I really can't. Not with that D. Same would have gone for the Caps if they had won. So your Cup winner will be .....
The Sharks. Oh man, I literally just changed my mind there. Which is what I did for Caps and Pens, which did not work out well. It's a coin flip, it really is, but when I think about it .... this is what tips it in San Jose's favour, in my opinion.
They can roll four lines, the Blues can only roll three pretty well, depth matters. I always say it and I can't go back on that now. And they have three good D pairs and quality goaltending. They have it all and the Blues had a tough time getting by a Stars' team missing Seguin and having a D that is nowhere near the quality of the Sharks and that Dallas goaltending.
I may regret this. Well I mean not really, I don't have money on this or anything.
Sharks in 6 or 7. Joe gets his Cup.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:35 PM
Friday, May 13, 2016
Three and one in an entertaining second round, the only loss being the Caps. Hilariously enough I was going to go with the Pens and then changed my mind at the last minute, going with my gut. Stupid gut. Anyhow, now at 8 and 4 for the year and all time I am 63-25 in the first round and 25-19 in the second. On to the conference finals where I am 14-6.
The Penguins really look good huh? I mean really good. Not that this is a huge surprise. When Phil Kessel is on your third line (!) it means you're a damn good team and you survive Crosby and Malkin scoring 1 goal between them.
(By the way remember the time Toews scored no goals in three rounds and Chicago still winning the Cup? That's right, even the best players go cold and it has nothing to do with character or wanting it more or knowing how to win.)
This of course leads into my rant (redux) about the media and in this case Rogers in particular. It is hard to believe how bad Rogers is. I mean they are terrible. Only ten years more! Shoot me right fucking now, as Daffy Duck used to say.
I don't mind Strombo to be honest and of course Elliotte is Elliotte but the rest of the crew is ... well just awful. They've carried on with the Cherryification of hockey coverage that HNIC started. The talented players get insulted, their character questioned, their play sneered at. The grunts are deified (Never forget that without Shawn Thornton the Bruins never win that Cup!) and in place of real analysis we are provided with a morality play. How did Pittsburgh beat Washington, in particular how did they shut down so many of the Caps' stars (though not Ovechkin)? I mean literally how did they do it? What did Mike Sullivan do when he came in that turned their season around?
Who knows? We don't know or at least none of these guys paid a lot of money to analyze the sport have told us. Instead we get cliches about a fresh voice in the room and a team that knows how to win beating a team that does not have the character or leadership or 'winning knowledge'. You know, like the Blues and the Sharks who didn't know how to win until they suddenly ... did. Of course if the Pens end up winning it all, or Tampa, then I guess both San Jose and St Louis will not have learned to win.
My head hurts.
And can you not afford to send your own crews to cover each series? How bush can you be, streaming another network feed? Unreal.
And what of Phil Kessel? His career playoff stats (like Marleau and Thornton, two other guys with terrible playoff reps) are very good and yet we all know his reputation. Frankly it's disgusting to see the media members who delighted in running him out of Toronto now saying that he wasn't a cancer at all but rather a very good player who was stuck on a terrible team. Much like Mats Sundin dragging Jonas Hogland around the ice with him for years so was Kessel burdened with plugs and also rans and all he did all of his time in Toronto was score goals, the hardest thing to do in the sport. And when he was in Toronto well, he got shit on, to put it mildly, because like Ales Hemsky, to name another, he did not play the game (ie he was not a good quote/wasn't chummy with the old boys in the media).
The media ran him down and the Leafs, in one of their rare missteps recently, took a page from the Oilers' management playbook and let it happen. The end result is that their best player was devalued to the point where the return was abysmal. If Kessel did not fit into the rebuild (and his age and contract and for that matter his personality may not have, in their view, which is fine, if that is their belief) then that's okay - trade him. But don't stand by and let a hack, the hackiest of hacks, Steve Simmons, assassinate the character of your top player. You may not like the guy yourself but business and asset management demands that you go in front of the mics and defend your man strongly and with conviction. But instead there was silence.
I want the Sharks to win it all but if it ends up being they and the Pens in the Final I do hope that Kessel goes off in a big way, albeit in a losing cause.
Anyhow on to the Pens and the Lightning ... if Tampa had both Stralman and Stamkos I would like their chances a lot better than I do. I mean, they're good and they have a shot, of course. Bishop is capable of winning a couple of games himself and I am still not sold on the Pens' goaltending and D (I know I know, what will it take, I guess if they win the Cup I will become a believer). Murray has been good but Greiss had a great first round and then pfft and we've seen Lundqvist and Holtby and Quick and Crawford all go down already. Goaltending is ... impossible to predict. And if Murray does go poof do you really trust that grinning buck toothed bastard to carry the day? I don't.
But without Stralman ... well the Tampa D is pretty solid and they are nice and deep up front as well but the Pens have that edge at forward and their D is proving better than advertised and well, I can see them losing, sure anyone can be beaten, but Tampa hasn't faced anyone like the Caps and the Pens handled them pretty well.
Pens in 6, maybe even 5. And then all things being equal, I think the west wins again. These eastern D corps are just terrible, aren't they? Taylor Chorney killing a third period penalty in an elimination game? REALLY!
Posted by Black Dog at 8:05 PM
Friday, April 29, 2016
I'm not counting the Predators out but if you are San Jose things are lining up pretty well I would think. The Ducks are gone and the Kings are gone and while there are no pushovers left I could see the Sharks going a long way this spring.
(btw while the Caps and Pens are both loaded up front did anyone watch last night's game and think that those D corps might get abused but the Sharks, Blues or Stars? Thin man, real thin.)
So 5 and 3 in the first round and of course you read my previous post and so you know I am thinking Caps, Tampa and the Blues. And for Sharks - Preds I will take the Shorks who strike me as a team that is hitting it's stride at the right time. LA is no longer LA just as Chicago is not Chicago but the way the Thorntons handled the Kings was in strike contrast to, well, say the Blues.
Just to note I am not selling the Preds short, man oh man that D, but the Sharks have a quality blue line themselves and the edge in goal and up front too I think. They will take it in six.
As for the Ducks, well LeBrun tweeted how it was a brand new WC now with the Kings, Hawks and Ducks all out and all I could think of was how one of these was not the same as the others. And yeah I figured the Ducks for the Cup this year, I mean they are a quality club for sure but one conference final in four years, well, um, yeah. LA with three in four and two Cups and the Hawks with the same. So basically the Ducks are the Coyotes (I had to look it up).
Firing Boudreau, well they aren't likely going to find a better coach out there although I don't blame Murray. His roster is locked in, this is it, and they are about to start shedding talent - Anderson and Vatanen likely out the door this summer, no? - so the window is closing. And say what you will about Boudreau and I love the guy but it's not just one game seven but multiple playoff failures. Is that on him? Well some of it has to be.
Too bad for Boudreau though he will be unemployed for what, five minutes, and too bad for Shawn Horcoff, this might be the end of the line for our old friend. But Perry, Bieksa, Kesler?
Posted by Black Dog at 7:42 PM
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Five and two so far in the first round so all time 63 and 24 in the first round with one to come. Not bag yeah? Not bag at all.
Now on to the second round where before last year I was eighteen and eighteen before going 4 and 0 to improve to 22 and 18 all time. My theory on my second round struggles? I tend to go with my heart more than my head. Don't know what that means but it sounds good, real good, good for you and good for me.
But seriously this year, coin flips in the second round.
Anyhow before we go to our second round picks, sans Smythe for now, a few words from our sponsor, reason.
The big storyline coming out of the first round was how a bunch of boys became men, or something like that. Seriously it must be exciting for so many of the players going into the second round to find out that they have character or are good guys or whatever that narrative is, now that they have moved on. While nobody is questioning the character or leadership bonafides of Drew Doughty and Jonathan Toews (zero goals between them) I do feel terrible for the likes of Jaromir Jagr (slacker), Henrk Lundqvist (what has he ever won), Pavel Datsyuk (enigmatic Russian) and Devyn Dubnyk (egghead dogfucker).
The Sharks, Blues, Caps and Penguins have all learned what it takes to win. Until they lose. Or something. Unsure about the Ducks though. Have to wait and see on them.
Narrative, narrative, narrative. Sidney Crosby won a Stanley Cup and scored the Olympic gold medal winning goal before he needed to shave and yet for some reason his character is still called into question. Phil Kessel had cancer and barely skipped a beat and he is the worst person ever. Never mind guys like Joe Thornton or Alex Ovechkin. I guess it's who you know in the media? Or maybe the truth is that broadcasters and writers, not really understanding why one team beat another team or not wanting to ascribe results to luck (where's the story there!?!?!) fall back on simple story lines. As that moron who writes for the Toronto Sun once bemoaned (and I paraphrase) 'stats and data are ruining sportswriting, there's no more romance'.
Much easier (and dramatic) to write about how a team lost because it's star players are enigmatic lollygagging Europeans than to talk about the systems one team used to neutralize the other team and how even with that success they relied on a few lucky bounces to carry the day. Luck is not sexy.
Oh well. For now you can revel in the fact that you are a real live boy Joe Thornton. Until you're not.
NOW ONTO THE PCIKsFHHKhhangdb.
Adams - Tampa vs Islanders
Oh boy is this division the shits this year. I feel badly for Tampa who had their window open and shut in one year. Too bad. If Stralman and Stamkos were healthy they might have another go but they aren't and so they aren't going any further than the next round.
But I think they have this one. They weren't all that impressive in the first round against a mediocre Wings' team but the Isles are lucky to be here, outplayed by the Panthers they got all the bounces and all the calls and a backup goalie channelling Steve Penny and these things never last.
Now, the Isles do have the best player in the series in John Tavares who is just fantastic. He is cut from the Crosby mold entirely, through and through the superstar groomed for it from childhood, same as Toews and McDavid and Stamkos, wonderful players all, with the public personality (and maybe private too for that matter, one suspects in some cases this is true) of, well, I can't think of something that bland right now. Kale? I don't know maybe kale isn't bland or I am eating the wrong kale.
(Reminds me of my buddy's Dad. They were at a wedding and to get the couple to kiss you had to give the crowd a metaphor. Well old Wayne steps up to the mic, he's a real character I will have to tell you the fried chicken in Montague story sometime although it loses something if it's not in the original thick Island brogue, anyhow he steps up and says:
I'd give you a metaphor but I'm not that good at math
And then returns to his seat.)
Anyhow John Tavares is no Wayne MacLeod let me tell you mister.
He's a fucking great player though. Not enough in this case. Tampa isn't Tampa anymore but Bishop tips the scales. Lightning in 7.
Patrick - Caps vs Pens
Here's the Whales final right here and either team has a good shot at taking it all. The Caps were the best team in the regular season, the Pens the best team for probably the last three quarters of it?
(The Caps won 52 games in regulation. That's unreal.)
I like the Penguins up front. They are so deep - Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hornqvist with a good veteran supporting cast in Cullen, Kunitz, Bonino and Hagelin plus a veteran role player in Eric Fehr and some speedy youngsters as well like Rust, Sheary and Kuhnackl. Their D, well I don't love their D and their goaltending is iffy as well even if Fleury comes back.
That said they absolutely slaughtered the Rags, although I think a lot of that has to do with the Rangers whose time has passed.
As for the Caps they faced a tough foe in the Flyers and almost ran them out of the rink before Neuvirth salvaged Philly's pride.
Just like the Pens the Caps are loaded up front. Start with Ovie, Backstrom and Kuznetsov. And then you have Williams, Oshie, Johansson, Chimera (20 goals!!) and Burakovsky. The Pens have Letang and Daley bringing offence from the back end, the Caps have Carlson and Niskanen.
The Caps lower end of the roster has veterans rather than rookies - Mike Richards and Winnik and Beagle and Tom Wilson. And their D, well I like their D more than the Pens - Orlov and Alzner rbign some offence too.
To be honest when I started writing this up I was leaning Pens but now, well, now I am going with the Caps. Coin flip like I said but these teams are so evenly matched except I think Washington has the better D and they definitely have a major edge in goal regardless of who the Pens throw out there.
Caps in 7
Norris - Stars vs Blues
This may be the easiest one to call in this round especially if Seguin is not available for the Stars.
Built in the image of the Wings and Hawks the Stars are getting there but their D (their blue and team defence) can be an adventure still and their goaltending does not inspire confidence in me, that's for sure. Great forwards but the Blues just faced another great set of forwards and did a pretty good job on them.
I think the game has passed Hitchcock by, his explanation on Tarasenko just doesn't hold water, short shifts my ass, and if I were Tarasenko I would be pissed too, you know why BECAUSE I WANT TO WIN and in this case playing him was the best way to achieve that goal. When the coach starts overthinking things then you have a problem. The Blues should be able to handle the Stars as long as Hitchcock doesn't get in the way and actually plays his skill guys.
Keith and Hjalmarsson couldn't handle Tarasenko and his linemates and I certainly don't see anyone of that quality on Dallas' blue. And Elliott is the best goalie here. And the St. Louis blue is quality through and through. Blues in six, maybe five.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:56 PM
Some thoughts on the end of Chicago, for now and maybe for good.
Last year I wrote that if I were Stan Bowman I would trade Seabrook and Crawford and Sharp and load up on kids and picks and use the cap space to sign Saad and reload with younger (cheaper) players. The first two especially would bring back a nice return and by freeing up the space he could then either keep Sharp for another year or move him but under less duress.
Instead Bowman doubled down, not only keeping Seabrook and Crawford but signing the former to a monster extension that is probably going to sink the Hawks unless he can Phaneuf him this summer or next before the wheels come completely off. He also moved Stephen Johns as part of the cost of moving Sharp and then at the deadline he traded Phillipe Daneault and Marko Dano, two youngsters who were cheap and could play, for the now. And did I mention he traded Saad.
Now here's the thing. I don't blame Bowman entirely. I suspect he has job security that is pretty well ironclad but you see that kid who brought the World Series back to Boston and you realize that anyone in management can be fired, unless you are Bob Pulford. Then it actually takes a death to move you along.
Anyhow while he probably has a lot of rope like most GMs he is living in the now and last summer he probably looked at his roster and saw Marian Hossa getting older and Keith and Seabrook on the wrong side of thirty and figured that he could take a step back to take another forward or he could roll the dice and take another shot before the window closes. Hossa and Keith are two Hall of Famers and not really replaceable (although Saad sure reminded me of Hossa in style and substance).
And dismantling a team that had won two of the previous three Cups and was a bounce away from winning the third (yeah they beat the Rags in 2014) by trading Seabrook and Crawford? Well that would require massive balls. How do you sell that to the fans, to your players, to your coach, to ownership? Especially when you invariably take a step back. If you don't return to the promised land then your legacy will always be the guy who took apart a champion.
Yeah I don't blame him.
So he rolled the dice and the funny thing is the Hawks could have won the series and while I am not reneging on my preseason and preplayoff pick of Anaheim to come out of the West and win it all, the Blues are in the mix in a big way. Meaning yeah if Chicago had won they would have been in it too.
The Hawks did a good job of replacing the forwards they lost - Panarin, Anisimov, Ladd, Weise and Fleishman for Sharp, Richards, Vermette, Saad and Versteeg is pretty close to a wash. You might give a slight edge to last year's group. But they never replaced Oduya and that is what killed them. Literally. Bring in a real top four guy and they probably beat the Blues.
Now Bowman is one step back anyway and he has no Saad and Andrew Shaw is probably out the door and Stephen Johns is in Dallas and the cap is going nowhere and he has, in Brent Seabrook, a major cap issue that is going to tie his hands for years. It's 2011 for the Hawks again and we know how that worked out but they are running out of runway now.
That said, their accomplishments on the ice over the past six years bear real respect and awe really. Yes they are no 'dynasty' in the old school definition of the word but one could argue that this run is the best in hockey history. They won three cups and came within a bounce of probably winning a fourth (no doubt they beat the Rags in 2014) and they did this while all the while shipping quality out the door because they had to comply with the cap. And all this in a league where there are no soft touches come playoff time. The 70s Habs, the Isles, the Oilers - all faced creampuffs every year in the playoffs, teams they rolled over without breaking a sweat. One or two tough matchups to win and they were Cup winners. None of that for Chicago. What a great club.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:42 AM
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Here we are in California. Washington so far is the team to cheer for if you are an Oiler fan according to our extremely nuanced rating system which uses mathematics, physics and marine biology. Science! And math!
ex Oilers - 10 - oh the ex Oiler factor is strong here. We have the wonderful Shawn Horcoff who was a tremendous two way centre who cashed in and then got blamed for cashing in. Horc is probably done after this spring and he hasn't dressed yet :( but here is hoping Boudreau gets him in there. Don't want to see Horc coming down the tunnel in full gear after the buzzer goes. Awkward!
And there is Cogliano, who the Oilers could not figure out/get through to so they gave on him. Development! Now he plays an important role on one of the best teams in the league. Well done.
And finally there is David Perron, who was one of my favourites in his brief time as an Oiler. A terrific player who called management on their 'quality' handling of certain unnamed golden boys and who got shipped out of town immediately because of it. He's no dummy!
players - 6 - this would be way higher but fuck Kesler and fuck Bieska too, I am sure if the Ducks face the Blues he will seek out Paajarvi and go after him again, he's such a tough guy. He will go after Paajarvi and Kesler will go after Fabbri.
I hope Kesler wakes up at night and realizes that one of the reasons the refs let the Bruins goon the Canucks all series long back in 2011 was because he and Burrows are such garbage. Good job you fucking weiner.
franchise - 3 - the team is named after a Disney movie which has nothing to do with real hockey from the ~ 3 minutes I have watched of it. And they just won a Cup less than a decade ago. So BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
ex Oilers - 0 - there are none
players - 4 - you've got a couple of classic oldsters in Mike Fisher and Barret Jackman. Kudos for still being in the league at 35! And Shea Weber is pretty cool. But on the other hand Mike Ribiero and Eric Nystrom. I feel dirty cheering for them.
franchise - 2 - I know the fans are great and it's supposed to be a great place to see a game but what can I say, I don't like any of these Bettman teams. Fold them all, I say!
ex Oilers - 3 - Matt Greene is still there and I love the guy but he is on IR and has won two Cups already
players - 2 - much like Chicago the Kings are full of players who have won at least a Cup and in many cases two. LeCavalier winning again would be pretty cool I guess. But then again there is Dustin Brown who is a poor man's Shane Doan if Doan was a diver. Fuck Dustin Brown.
franchise - 3 - much like the Hawks this would be way up the scale except they have won Cups two of the last four years. I respect the excellence (and love Darryl Sutter) but there is no suffering here..
ex Oilers - 0 - none here, too bad :(
players - 10 - seriously, where do I start. James Reimer is a prince of a man. Brent Burns has more personality in his beard than ninety percent of the players in the league. Patty Marleau is super awkward and super awesome. Joel Ward is beloved from his days on PEI, there is not an Islander who has a bad thing to say about him.
And Joe Thornton? If he wins the Cup I'm whipping out my cock.
franchise - 8 - yeah they haven't been around as long as the Blues or the Capitals but they came into the league with a bang and have really been a factor for quite a while. There isn't forty years of suffering but they have been top notch for a decade and somehow they haven't won the big one. Always very good but never the best. If they won I think it would be super cool.
And so for our final standings!!!!!
San Jose - 36
Washington - 35
Dallas - 32
Anaheim - 28
Philadelphia - 28
St. Louis Blose - 26
Florida - 24
New York Rangers - 22
New York Islanders - 22
Tampa - 18
Minnesota - 18
Pittsburgh - 16
Detroit - 16
Chicago - 15
Los Angeles - 13
Nashville - 12
So there you have it Oiler fans, if Hemsky or Horcoff were on other teams those squads would probably be who I would cheer for (and certainly if Dallas or the Ducks win I will be very excited for the ex Oilers) but I am hoping for San Jose / Washington in the final with Jumbo Joe winning by a knob.
Posted by Black Dog at 7:49 PM
OK let's get right to it, shall we?
ex-Oilers - 10 - Ales Hemsky was the best thing about the Oilers for years. He played with elan and courage, going into the corners with Regehr time and time again, getting pulverized, coming back for more. His reward was to get his character questioned time and time again by the worst hockey media in North America. A kid who came across the world to pursue his dream run down by a group whose greatest protest in a decade of Oiler failure was when the coach took away their donuts. The best was Mark Spector calling his guts into question the day before it was revealed 83 had been playing with a broken foot for six weeks as another sad sack Oilers' club chased the distant bell of a playoff spot.
players - 10 - Hemsky and Spezza, plus Vern Fiddler and his Kevin Bieska impressions? Gold!
franchise - 1 - it's not the 90s anymore and part of me thinks ah let bygones be bygones but then I think about Modano and Zubov and Hatcher and Hogue and Keane and fuck Dallas. Really.
ex-Oilers - 8 - Devan Dubnyk. Good goalie for bad team. GM questions him in media. He has a bad six weeks. He's gone. A year later he is a Vezina finallist.
Let's go Oilers!! *clap clap clap*
Dubnyk always seemed like a good kid, a bright guy and it is great to see him doing well.
And of course old pal Jarret Stoll and his two Cup rings. (!!!)
players - 4 - after Dubie, well, meh ... who cares
franchise - 1 - booooooooooooooooooo Wild On Jack Lemaire
ex-Oilers - 8 - remember our cautionary tale about Gagner and Schultz? Well Magnus Paajarvi is the other side of the coin because he wasn't a golden boy. 15 goals as a rookie and defensively aware, Paajarvi struggled the next year and was never given a shot again. And so it started. One rule for the chosen ones - slump? No problem. Mistake after mistake? No problem. Not a golden boy? Feet to the fire. Paajarvi would get a handful of shifts on the top line and then dropped back down with the plugs. And then buried in the minors. Drafted by the Wings or Hawks and he is scoring 15 goals a year on their third line. A shame because he seems like a nice kid.
And then there is Kyle Broodziak, Dick Like A Watch apparently. Still plugging away all of these years after the Oilers gave up on him for nothing, making the wrong choice, as they always do. A good honest player who came from nowhere to make a nice long career.
And there is Anders Nilsson, exhibit A about small sample sizes and goaltending.
players - 3 - you've got your ex Oilers and a real yeoman of a player in Carl Gunnarsson and a few other vets who have been around a while. And Tarasenko is a gem. The problem with the Blues is they are the rootingest tootingest bunch of trash talkers who have never won a round in the playoffs and they are a grim lot as well although playing for Ken Hitchcock would piss me off too. And there is Steve Ott. I was going to rank them a 5 even with the bullshit but then I thought about Steve Ott. Not sure if there is a guy I would less want to see win the Cup. He's garbage and the fact that Don Cherry thinks he is great is a sure sign that the old man wearing my parents' 70s' couch cover has to go. (As an aside my favourite Ott moment is when he is bragging to Claude Giroux about how good he is at faceoffs and a bemused Giroux literally has no idea who he is or what he is talking about and then schools him.)
franchise - 6 - the Blues have the longest drought going along with the Leafs and are the only one of the 67 class to remain without a championship. They haven't been to the Finals since 1970 and the only reason they were there (other than to be posterized by Bobby Orr) is because the NHL put the expansion teams in one division. *The NHL, doing stupid shit since 1917* The Blues haven't had the angst of say the Canucks or Les Sabres but that is mostly because they have been relentlessly mediocre for nearly fifty years, after all you can't say Blues without saying lose.
Remember that kids.
ex-Oilers - 3 - Eric Gustafsson was drafted by the Oilers and was discarded by them and while he was unwanted by them he was apparently good enough to play 41 games as a rookie for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
I swear that the Great Lakes are fed by rivers of Oiler fans' tears.
players - 3 - there is no Hossa or Campbell, no Handzus or Rozcival, no Timmo Kimmonen on this team. A half dozen have won three Cups, five more have won two. And six more only have one :( Plus Andrew Ladd one won with them on that 2010 all star team they iced. So unless you are a huge fan of Dutch Gretzky I have nothing. Except Hossa so yeah I am giving them a 3.
franchise - 3 - nobody but Chicago fans want Chicago to win again but I give them a 3. Better an Original Six than a non traditional market. Plus the fans suffered forever. Plus I like to see sustaimed excellence rather than a random rotation of Cup winners each year. But I know that is 3 higher than pretty well everyone else would be giving.
So here are our updated standings.
Washington - 35
Dallas - 32
Philadelphia - 28
St. Louis Blose - 26
Florida - 24
New York Rangers - 22
New York Islanders - 22
Tampa - 18
Minnesota - 18
Pittsburgh - 16
Detroit - 16
Chicago - 15
Next up last but not least the Smythe!
Posted by Black Dog at 5:14 PM
Monday, April 18, 2016
So I am in the middle of my semi annual binge of posts so enjoy because this may be it until September, it could all end any minute, as soon as my attention wanders or I run out of coke whichever comes first!
Trying to figure out who we, as fans of one of the saddest sack franchises in hockey, nay, sports history, should cheer for in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Remember kids to read the post previous to this one to find out the deep thought and scientific method being applied. First was Patrick Division. Now the Adams!
ex Oilers - 4 - I liked Teddy Purcell, I did, mostly because he showed the way to Oilers' management going forward, if they are smart they can find decent cheap players and plug them in with the kids and good things will happen. He was a good player. Plus he is from Newfoundland!
players - 9 - Shawn Thornton won the Bruins the Cup so he doesn't need me pumping his tires oh man I just can't take it. Kidding aside though you've got Jagr of course and Derek MacKenzie who played ball hockey as a toddler with his grandfather who was Mom and Dad's neighbour (RIP old Nick) and most of all you have Luongo. Funny how things change I did not want the Canucks to win but man if Luongo won it all that would be so so great.
franchise - 1 - but it is Florida and who really cares. The fans certainly don't and if it wasn't for Bettman and the taxpayers of whatever county the stadium has been built in, this Ponzi scheme would have collapsed long ago. I know there are likely a small hardcore group of fans and cheers to them but if I were folding teams these guys would be the first to go.
ex Oilers - 0 - future Oilers don't count *winks at Travis*
players - 5 - I think the world of Tavares and love Grabovski and Kulemin, would lay money on Grabovski trolling Carlyle in a post Cup interview. But they have no old grizzled guys and most of the young guys haven't really made an impression on me at all
franchise - 6 - the Islanders are so much like the Oilers that I have to sympathise. One of the greatest teams of all time and then mediocrity forever. Older fans have had it all but if you are younger than forty it's been nothing but failure.
ex Oilers - 0 - not a one to be found
players - 5 - Tampa is totally a likeable team but there aren't any guys who I think of when I think of guys who I would love to see win it all. Like a lot of these clubs they are just so young. (I wonder what the average age in the NHL is now compared to other years, it has to have dropped, no?)
franchise - 4 - I give them the low rating just because they were there a year ago and won just over a decade ago. Other than the old Chicago Stadium my favourite place to see a game. Great venue, fantastic presentation and loud smart fans
ex Oilers - 0 - no Oilers here, not even Dan Cleary!
players - 4 - the thing here is that all of their old guys have won, still it would be cool to see Datsyuk and Zetterburg do it one more time
franchise - 4 - points for being an original Six but they have just finished up one of the greatest runs in sports' history. They could wander in the wilderness for fifty years (hello LEAFS) and the karma would still not be evened up
Rankings so far (remember players and franchise count twice):
Washington - 35
Philadelphia - 28
Florida - 24
New York Rangers - 22
New York Islanders - 22
Tampa - 18
Pittsburgh - 16
Detroit - 16
Posted by Black Dog at 8:01 PM
Isn't that amazing? Talk about a garbage franchise.
Anyhow, in the spring there is a thing called 'playoff hockey' in which good hockey teams who play in the National Hockey League play for a trophy called the Stanley Cup. The fun thing about this tournament is that most of the teams are really good and don't play hockey like the Edmonton Oilers.
The bad thing is that after watching a playoff series you realize that Edmonton has miles and miles to go before they can compete. But it has only been a decade so what's the rush right?
Anyways as a neutral observer, WHO SHOULD YOU CHEER FOR IN THE STANLEY CUP HOCKEY TOURNAMENT TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP?
As a lapsed Chicago fan (nice timing weiner, then again maybe it's me :( ) I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Hawks plus my old man and the boy are Chicago fans plus Marian Hossa so I always cheer for Chicago. This year even though you can't say Blues without saying lose it looks like it may be an early exit so I may have to find someone else to pull for.
Here are my criteria and methodology *drinks* !!!
1/ Ex Oiler factor. Although according to many Oiler fans and media and management itself anyone moved from the Oilers is hot garbage interestingly enough many playoff teams have players on them who were not good enough to play for the Edmonton Oilers and yet are good enough to play on teams who venture where the Edmonton Oilers have not been for a decade. It's a real head scratcher.
For the most part I like ex Oilers because, well, mostly because like Andy Dufresne they crawled through a river of shit and survived. Look at the Oiler rosters over the past decade. Franchise is a career killer.
So for example when Anaheim won I didn't raise a glass to CFP I was pretty happy to see Todd Marchant carry the Cup around, wait I think Grant Ledyard just fell down again.
2/ Guys who have never won and the likeability factor. This can cross over with the ex Oiler deal but it's a big one.
Hilariously there still exists that school of thought out there that says if you have not won a Cup then you are, well, basically you are a loser. Now in the old days if you were a star player you basically won a Cup at some point. Then expansion came and it began to get harder and harder and now there are thirty teams and probably, what, half of them have a true superstar on them? Go from team to team and man there are a lot of great players who are probably not going to win the Stanley Cup. It's too hard now. And if they do well they will probably be like Pronger or Modano or Leetch or maybe Crosby and they will won one or maybe they will be like Bourque or Doug Weight and win one in the twilight of their careers. At least contribute though, don't be Denis Savard in a suit :(
In any case seriously though go down the list - the Sedins, Thornton, Marleau, Iginla, Doan, lol just kidding he's garbage, Ovechkin, Benn, Price, Subban, Karlsson, etc etc etc. A few of these guys are going to do it, especially with the Hawks and Kings looking like (qualifier!) they are starting to wane. But there are only so many Cups to go around and has been proven even with parity there are teams that will win multiple championships. So yeah cheer for that old guy so that dummies like Glenn Healy will recognize his character and greatness.
All kidding aside though fuck Glenn Healy and what he thinks.
Anyhow whenever the Cup gets raised and they begin to pass it around I always get happy for the oldtimers and the characters and enjoy their reaction.
3/ The franchise. Does anyone in the town give a shit? Have they won, ever? Do they have a storied history? Have they been cursed (and by cursed I mean the only type of curse, that of bad management)? Have the fans SUFFERED?
And let's make it clear, most fans know nothing of suffering. Oiler fans, we think we have it bad, but Edmonton was home to one of the greatest, if not the greatest, team in history just over twenty five years ago. And we were in the Final in 2006!
No, suffering is the Cubs, the Bills, yes the Leafs, the Sabres, the Canucks. Suffering was Chicago from 1961 to 2010 when a proud franchise was laid low by probably the worst owner in hockey history. Which is saying a lot but hell Ballard was only in charge for a couple of decades.
So yeah suffering.
BTW I have a niggling idea in my head that someone, maybe Down Goes Brown, did a post like this last year. If so, let's just say imitation is the greatest form of flattery or something like that. Sorry to steal your idea Sean, if I have, everything is jumbly now.
Here goes, we will start with the east:
ex Oiler factor - 3 - Jason Chimera was a guy who just kind of got discarded for nothing, sort of setting the stage for the decade to come. Chimera isn't a sexy guy, well maybe he is to Mrs Chimera, but he scored at a 14 goal a season pace 9 times in his career. Not bad (and talk about pulling a stat out of my ass!). Anyhow he was an Oiler for two years and it's not like they marched on Rexall when he was traded. Plus it was a long time ago. Not a biggie.
And then there is Taylor Chorney (!!!!). Chorney's claim to fame as an Oiler was 'The shift' with Jason Strudwick. Google it, ideally a version with Yakety Sax as the soundtrack. Chorney was basically Justin Schultz without the hype as a player. Except he could play a little D. Classic tweener. Happy (and surprised) that he is still in the league but wouldn't recognize him if he was eating beans in my kitchen.
players - 9 - I don't really know anyone who doesn't want to see Ovie raise that Cup. Well I know one guy and I'm not sure what his problem is. Ovie is awesome. Ovie is fun. Ovie raising the Cup would be fantastic. And I think he has a good shot at it. Other than that I'm pretty meh about the Caps. They're kind of bland. But Ovie!
franchise - 7 - The Caps have been around for over forty years and have one trip to the final, a series where they never had a shot. They were abysmal and then they were underachievers and then, well, they were there. Until Ovie came along the face of the franchise was Rod Langway right? I guess? Anyhow, boring, solid and nobody would miss them if they folded. But that's a lot of crap years so a Washington win would be pretty cool. Maybe they'd bring back Mike Marson for the banner raising!
ex Oiler factor - 6 - Well first there is Sam Gagner, who the Oilers drafted sixth overall and then immediately applied their development philosophy which basically consisted of: rushing him to the NHL, paying him a ton of cash as soon as they could, made sure he was completely entitled by never punishing his repeated errors (mostly in the defensive zone) and then selling him off for pennies on the dollar and wondering what went wrong. Gagner is a cerebral guy with skill, my guess is if he was drafted by guys who knew what they were doing he would be a solid 2C with a decade more ahead of him. Instead his career is hanging by a thread.
The Flyers also employ Chris Vandevelde who has just under 200 NHL games under his belt now, hanging in there as a PK and faceoff (I guess?) guy. And AND Colin MacDonald, who is down the depth chart and probably won't see a playoff game but who has also managed to get in over 100 games. So good for them!
And there is Nick Schultz too. I thought he was done when he was in Edmonton but like every Oiler who gets sent down the road he seemed to find his game, or what passes for his game, once he left. Funny that. Schultz was the guy they traded for because they liked the cut of his jib at the WJC or some such bullshit from a decade before. FOLKS YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP!!!
players - 5 - The Flyers have a few guys who seem likeable, like Voracek (read Joyce's book on the draft), Simmonds and Giroux, at least when he isn't playing grab ass with the Guarda. They don't really have any guy who you would LOVE to see win the Cup though. I won't get shivers if Giroux raises the Cup and then turns and says UMBY TAKE IT FOR A SKATE or whatever they call RJ Umberger.
franchise - 6 - the Flyers have the history and it's a long and storied one and they haven't won in a long time, though they've usually had good teams and have been back to the finals numerous times. And they are not really the team everyone used to hate (nobody is anymore, the NHL has vanillified everyone :( ) But while they haven't won in a while I just can't get too excited about them winning. They're often in the mix, they have tons of money and if they aren't as dumb as they were under Holmgren they will likely be back soon.
ex Oiler factor - 0 - good riddance Justin Schultz (although to be fair you can look at the Gagner development track and they did the exact same thing the dummies.) Wound is too fresh though, it hasn't even scabbed over yet
players - 4 - I like Sid, I really do. And I would like to see him and Malkin (and Phil!) go far just to shut up the people who talk about 'character and leadership' Put Sid on the Hawks instead of Toews and they win three Cups and probably they beat the Kings in 2014 too. And I love Toews. But other than Kessel the older guys have all won before and none of the younger guys interests me, which will alleviate some of Jenn's concerns I am sure.
franchise - 4 - I like the Pens and I would prefer them winning to a lot of these Johnny come latelys but they did win just seven years ago. And they won twice in the 90s. And they have had three of the greatest players of all time suit up for them in Lemieux, Jagr and Crosby. So ... no.
ex Oiler factor - 0 - they have none unless you include Sather and I do not
players - 6- Lundqvist winning would be great and I have a real soft spot for Domenic Moore. Other than that meh but those are two guys I would love to see win it all.
franchise - 5 - original six always counts for something but the Rangers won in '94 in dramatic fashion and they get docked for their spending habits at the turn of the century. I wouldn't hate them winning but I don't need to see them win again any time soon
This methodology is kind of flawed if I give equal value to the ex Oiler thing and so I give the players and franchise ratings a double value. When I hit ex Oilers I love the player ratings will jump anyhow. So so far:
Washington - 35
Philadelphia - 28
New York - 22
Pittsburgh - 16
The funny thing is that I want Pittsburgh to beat the Rangers but if you were to ask me which one I would prefer to win the Cup I would say New York. Isn't the brain a wonderful thing? ISN'T IT!?!?!?
Posted by Black Dog at 6:47 PM
Friday, April 15, 2016
Sure two days into it but check the tweeter if you don't trust me for my picks. I stick by what I said two days earlier despite two early 'upsets', one game in does not a series make as we know!
(That said I have comments on game one results in italics, that's the fancy slanted type of lettering.)
It's amazing how little I post here now, I have the best intentions but ... well, a decade of Oilers' shit has worn me down I guess. Plus I am busy as hell, in a good way. Just back from Spain! Will try and write a little about it. Highly recommend.
Anyhow, PLAYOFFS! 58 and 22 over a decade of predicting the first round right here. Not bad, right? A quick primer on what I look at, copied and pasted from last year, which was copied and pasted from a previous year:
First of all I do not look at how a team finished the season or at the head to head matchups. To me they don't mean a thing. Sometimes a team will finish strongly and go all the way and sometimes they will not and they will win the Cup. Every year people say 'oh they finished such and such a way' and it really doesn't matter. Same for head to head, a game in November or January doesn't tell me anything now.
The huge thing for me is depth. Obviously injuries play a huge part in the playoffs but also year after year we see that clubs with deep rosters go farther. If you can roll four lines, as Chicago and Boston did last year for example, then you're going to go a long way. For example if Toronto had dressed an actual hockey player rather than Colton Orr last spring I believe they may have survived game seven. Certainly having someone you could throw out there who could play a reliable shift would have helped. In a similar vein as the Bruins began to get banged up their depth suffered and as the series wore on against Chicago the Hawks were able to use their superior depth to push the pace. As a result they had the puck more, Chara especially was forced to defend more and by the end of the series the Bruins were done. To me I always look for teams that run four lines deep and six defencemen as well.
When I look at records the big thing for me is goal differential. A team that is even or maybe even in the red is a team that I always avoid. The real heavyweights are the clubs that have a big goal differential. This may seem like common sense but I look at that even more than I look at a club's win loss record.
I don't put a lot of stock in your usual narratives, teams that 'know how to win' and all of that. Nearly every year since the end of that stretch where the Cup was always won by the Wings, Avs, Stars or Devils has had a different starting goalie lead his team to the Cup (except for when the Wings won in '08 I think) as an example. So I don't look at the Blues and think that they can't win because Miller has never won the Cup for example or at San Jose and think that they are going to fail because they're San Jose. Intangibles like this are just a lot of noise imo.
Of course as an out I always say that anything can happen (because it can) - injuries, hot goalie, bad luck. Its hockey so sometimes that's the way it goes but generally I feel pretty good about how I make my picks.
So there you go, maybe next year I will rewrite it, some of these references are getting dated!
On to the picks:
Soupy Campbell Conference
I always tier my selections, to me you have your true contenders, the next tier of teams that could win with a nice run but are not in with the biggest boys (imo Carolina in '06 and the Oilers in '06 as well fit this), a third tier that could do it with the exact right circumstances (93 Habs) and then the also rans. To me there are five real heavyweights this year - Anaheim, LA, St Louis, Washington and Pittsburgh. If Tampa were healthy I would throw them in that mix as well. After that I see Dallas, Chicago and San Jose as good but flawed teams and then everyone else. (I can't take Tampa seriously unless Stralman and Stamkos were able to return.)
Ducks - Preds
Anaheim is one of the big boys, at the beginning of the year I had them and Tampa in the final and after a slow start man oh man have they been something. Great depth all through the lineup which to me is everything, they are probably a better team than last year's club and that first seed means they get to miss LA and SJ in R1. The Preds are not an easy out at all of course, to me they would be a pretender if I were to rank all of the teams although the reality is they probably deserve more respect. Rinne is no longer Rinne which is a big problem, too bad because their offence is no longer as pop gun as it once was. Anyhow Ducks in 6 most likely, as always the Preds draw a powerhouse in the first round, too bad for them.
Kings - Sharks
Kings (and Chicago) are basically given the benefit of the doubt always and yeah I put the Kings in that group of true contenders. They are not the team they once were - Voynov, Williams gone, Gaborik hurt - but they are still possession monsters and that does count for a lot even with their waning depth. Even in their Cup years the Kings relied on two things, especially that second Cup year. Puck luck and Quick to be superhuman. Of course that is part of their system too, throw pucks at the net constantly and good things will happen. In 2014 that is how they won G7 aganinst Chicago.(Last night was a good example, man they get a lot of breaks).
As for San Jose, well they are heartbreakers. There are so many teams that we have waited on in this year's playoffs - the Caps, the Ducks, the Pens post 2009, the Blues - but the Sharks lead the pack. We always expect them to make it over the top and they always fall short and maybe they are just the Ottawa Senators. They are still very good and they are no easy out but there is no way I can pick them over the Kings. LA in 6, maybe 7. (After 2014 no way I ever pick the Sharks but if Martinez is lost then suddenly the Kings really may be vulnerable, we will see though).
Stars - Wild
The one true mismatch of this conference. I don't rate the Stars yet, mostly due to goaltending, but man are they loaded up front and if they can get a nice quick easy out in R1 it sets them up nicely for the winner of St Louis and Chicago. Meanwhile the Wild who looked so promising just two years ago (and last year for that matter) look lost and those contracts they gave Parise and Suter look like franchise killers. Dallas in 5.
Blues - Hawks
Blues are in the true contender group for me, Chicago is not (!!!!), I just can't get past the Hawks' defence. Seabrook has stumbled this year and that contract is going to be killer unless they can unload it like the Phaneuf deal. And they miss Oduya. That said I actually like their forwards more than last year's group and Crawford has been brilliant this year so maybe I am counting them out at my own peril. And it is the Blues. The biggest bunch of talkers who have won nothing to come down the pipe ever. Still, this has to be their year, right? Right? They've added some gamebreaking skill to that D. They have to make at least the CF! Blues in 7.
Well after game one I have to wonder. I don't know if it is Hitchcock never hearing that safe is death or what but barely eking out a win over a Hawks' team missing Keith? Not confidence inspiring. And maybe you never bet against Chicago and they'll be riding high in a decade when their top pair is Keith and Rozsival.
Ok impromptu street party on so ... might have this done by round two! Back soon.
Lol, at this rate these will be out midway through round two. Anyhow on to the East!
Prince Charles Conference
Bettman wants parity and it may be this that finally drags the West back down to the East's level. Certainly LA and Chicago are no longer LA and Chicago and the remainder of the west looks flawed in some way, except for the Ducks, but out of the East I can see Washington and Pittsburgh (and Tampa if they were healthy) hanging with the big boys out west and so the times they are finally changing. Tampa was right in it with Chicago last year and I expect if the Caps or Pens win the East that the final will be an actual competition than a coronation this year. (Not to say that the Bruins, Rags, Devils and Flyers weren't competitive. They weren't like that collection of teams at the turn of the century that showed up for execution. There was just an air of inevitability in all of those series, the feeling that an eastern win would be a huge upset. Not so much any more.)
Caps - Flyers
I know the Flyers finished strong and that Steve Mason is the real deal but the Caps are the Ducks imo, so strong top to bottom, with legitimate game breakers up front, I mean Ovie is one of the all time greats, everyone is with that now right? And sure the Caps never win anything and the Pens loom in round two but the Caps finished +59 in GD after coasting for a couple of months and the Flyers were -4 even with their strong surge. So yeah it will be close, Flyers have retooled nicely even though they still have some dummy contracts to dump, but they aren't hanging with Washington. Caps in 6, maybe 5. (The loss of Couturier is just murder for the Flyers. With him out any shot they have is probably down the toilet).
Pens - Rags
The Pens have been unreal for months and the Rangers' window has closed. With McDonaugh out there is really no way I can see the Rags stopping Pittsburgh at all unless the Pens' goaltending collapses entirely. The Pens were a +42 despite a start that had people burying Crosby's career. The Rangers were +19 and without Lundqvist they are a minus and out of the playoffs. No way they can hang with Pittsburgh even with Malkin and Fleury out. Pens in 6 if Henrik steals 1. Some team is going to get a great coach next summer when Vigneault takes the fall for this roster. (Malkin apparently returning and Lundqvist being doubtful could mean this is over before next weekend).
Panthers - Isles
Florida had a really nice season and are building towards something nice if they can pay these guys, unlikely of course. Anyhow with Tampa's injury issues they have a nice road to the conference final and then who knows from there, right? Some nice veteran pickups at the deadline add to their depth up front and Luongo can still win them a game or two when they falter. As for the Isles, well they look like one of these teams that looks nice but then never really get anywhere. Okposo is a UFA and Hamonic wants out and thus a team that looked like it was about to turn the corner may never even win a series before their 'window' closes. Snow is really going to have his work cut out for him this summer. Panthers in 6.
Tampa - Wings
Stralman and Stamkos being out probably kills any chance of Tampa returning to the final and talk about showing how fragile a team's opportunity is - Stamkos is gone this summer and Drouin looks set to get out as well and suddenly a team that gave Chicago all they could handle last spring is just another team.
That said the Wings are exactly that after all of these years, just another team. What a run, basically two decades as a legitimate contender every year. Unreal. But they are done and I suspect this will be the end of their playoff streak. Even with the injuries I'm picking Tampa, the Wings were an ugly minus 13 in GD and the only reason they are in is that someone has to be in. Tampa in 6, maybe 7.
The return of the prodigal son is one storyline I never saw coming. Droun has helped and Johnson has picked up where he left off last spring. Detroit looks mediocre, which they are. This might end up being a sweep.
Posted by Black Dog at 7:44 PM
Monday, February 22, 2016
Jenn and the kids back in a couple of days which means lucky you you get another post (or maybe unlucky but then why are you even here?) and lucky me because I haven't had a vegetable in a week. I had hot dogs three times today. Three times! Twice boiled on bread and once with beans. What's that old Bon Jovi song? Salt to the Heart? Whatever it hasn't done me a bit of bad although the constant cloying smell of burnt toast is becoming annoying. And I played the beer league yesterday for the first time in a couple of weeks and I was begging to come off the ice after about three or four shifts. Dying.
I'll have you know that it isn't just me though when I was in Dublin Jenn and I quote 'only ate out of bags and other packages and only brown stuff' so in other words we're two peas in a pod, with or without the other which is a good thing because we're in this together until they carry one of us out of here in a box, hopefully in about fifty years, hopefully after a particularly vigourous romp if you know what I'm saying.
If you're going to dream then dream big.
Anyhow I've been thinking which is unusual in itself. I'm getting older, pushing fifty which is totally ridiculous I mean come on. Overall it's not terrible other than I'm running out of time and I'm getting creaky (er), I mean I can't do what I used to although in Dublin I turned the clock back forever years oh my dog I should be dead. Got to the airport to come back and ordered a Guinness and was legitimately surprised that they there was any left, I thought I drank the country dry. In any case that was an anomaly I am slowing down if only slightly. Wait a second I just shit my pants.
Okay I'm back.
The one good thing about getting older, at least in my case, is that I'm figuring things out more and more. Call it wisdom I don't know, I can still be a spaz but I've really got a Zen thing going on when it comes to this world and my place in it for the most part.
A few days ago an old friend from school wrote a little Facebook post about his brother, who was also a friend of mine. Twenty years ago he was coming back from Ottawa with his fiancee and they hit a patch of ice and then they were both gone. My good friend Mark commented as follows:
Tough to read, Duncan, but beautifully said. I've never had a more powerful sense of the randomness of it all than when Richard died. I also remember understanding, for the first time, that all we can do is make our lives worthy of our lost friends, brothers, and sisters. In Richard's case, that was a pretty high standard. Still missed, still that standard.
Now for the most part I've been a lucky man when it comes to the randomness of it all. True randomness led me to my career, to my wife and thus to everything I have today. It's enough to make a man a little nervous, to look over my shoulder and wonder what is coming my way but then I look at my parents and see that sometimes things work out and I hope that for me I am also lucky this way.
When we lost Spencer a few years back and our hearts were broken (2013 he passed, the day Chicago beat the Bruins, I got the news moments after the final buzzer) it was really a jolt. I'd always prided myself on living for the day as best I could but I can't lie, I was caught up in a lot of the noise that clouds the signal. It's ironic in a way that his passing has been a boon to me and to my family in some ways. I'd give it all back to have him coming to Toronto next weekend and heading out for a lifter or six with him but the reality is that in his passing I realized that there was so much more. Some of that was the realization of that randomness, some of it was in the way he lived his life, nuts to the wall.
Life is very good for us and I don't just mean in a general glad to be here type of way. We still have bills to pay and educations and retirements to save for and aging parents to worry about but we've gotten past the hurdle of worrying about the cost of a nice dinner out or the foolishness of taking another trip to a place unknown. We're living. It only happens once and we're doing our best to do it up, from the little things, like walking away from the laptop at closing time to play cards with the kids ,to the ones that loom larger, such as a trip to Budapest to celebrate our marriage or to Barcelona to, well, just to have fun and see a beautiful city.
It's weird because for so many of you (and I salute you!) this talk is all old news and that is fantastic and wonderful and kudos to you. You're shaking your head and saying I just wasted ten minutes for this ... this which is basic and evident to anyone with a brain. But sometimes I think even those of us who intuitively know this truth forget it and for others, well, they don't know it until it's too late.
But for you young pups out there who are just getting going, getting your education or starting your careers or your marriages or having kids or worrying about how you're going to buy that house ... well first of all of that matters. Education most of all, this is what I tell my kids. Get educated. Learn about the world around you and ensure that you have choices. You may want to sell buttons on a street corner and if that's what makes you happy knock yourself out. But get yourself into a position that if you want to do more than sell buttons then do so.
Anyhow now I'm rambling lol. But the point is the world can be a pretty overwhelming place even if things are going your way and that's not even talking about how grim the human race is. But this shit goes fast, take it from me. You want to do something, do it. Don't wait. That day may never come.
And thus ends 'Lectures by an old man, part 897'.
Carry on. Have a glass of wine. Or the sex. Enjoy.
Posted by Black Dog at 7:26 PM
Sunday, February 21, 2016
I'm alive, it's true, although this blog, like the Oilers, is on life support it seems. Part of it is time (we have little of it) and part of it is why would I spend what little of that extra time I have writing about how the Oilers suck once again. A decade of this is hard to take and dog love LT for somehow finding something to write about EVERY DAY for ten years.
Anyways a couple of weeks ago I got back to Dublin. Oh Dublin, I love it. Fourth time for me but first since 2010, it seems like we travel a lot (I guess we do considering the three kids and all that) but the reality for me is that Dublin was a distant bell for me. We get to travel together every couple of years but it's a hard sell to say Dublin again when there are so many places to see and Jenn has been there once and I have been there many times.
I'm fortunate though, eighteen months ago we were purchased by a company out of Dublin. Yep! Lucky, eh? So we had a conference recently and like Brer Rabbit I said oh no don't send me, anywhere but there ;). We worked hard of course but for me it was also an opportunity to go back to some of my old haunts, to me the goal of travel is finding what the locals do, you have to see the Book of Kells and the cathedrals of course but you want to find those old man pubs and hang out with Dubliners and so I've come to the point where I know the city well, it's familiar to me and this is a wonderful feeling.
Flew overnight on Sunday, landed at 520am Monday and headed to the hotel, showered and changed and off to meetings for the day. Hung in there and so having pints in the hotel bar afterwards (conservatively I estimate I had over forty pints of Guinness in five nights so um ... hooray for me? More hooray that there were no hangovers I guess, Dublin Guinness is the good stuff) with two coworkers whose first time it was we decided to get out and enjoy. We were in the suburbs and downtown was forty minutes and a lot of Euros away and we were running on fumes so I cast about for an idea.
Kavanagh's. Or Gravedigger's as it is known. The one place I had always wanted to go but had never gotten to, an ancient pub in the middle of nowhere if you're downtown but just twenty minutes away from our suburban hotel. Into a cab and away we went.
The pub is on the edge of Glasnevin Cemetery, essentially the national cemetery of Ireland. Michael Collins, O'Connell, De Valera, Parnell, Griffith, Casement, Kevin Barry, Constance Markievicz, Behan, Sean MacBride ... they're all there, revolutionaries and poets and politicians and martyrs to the Irish cause. It was black and slightly misty when we arrived and a great stone gate just metres from the entrance to the pub set the mood.
We walked in and immediately were hit by that old pub smell. It's not a horrible smell don't get me wrong, it's a fine one, all worn wood and lived in, hard to describe but you'd know it. Nobody but a half dozen locals having pints on a Monday night and so we retired to the corner to drink our round and then another and then it was my turn to get pints.
I head up to the bar and order my round and there's a big fellow, he's right out of Roddy Doyle, massive in his shiny track suit, with a prehistoric caterpillar monobrow, we're talking Jurassic Period gigantic. He takes a look at me and roars 'Holy feck lads, it's fecking Buddy Holly' at which point he and everyone else in the pub sing Peggy Sue while I stand there like a goof and the bartender grins and says I didn't realize what I was getting myself into when I walked in did I?
They finish singing, laughing and snorting, and your man says to me 'Buddy Holly was fecking great he was!' and I agree and he gives me a derisive sneer and shouts 'He wasn't the King though!' and I nod and smile and then he rips open his jacket to reveal Vegas Elvis, all spangles, and he reiterates just so I know the score 'THE KING!!!!' and I nod and affirm that yes Elvis was (IS!!!), is the King of Rock and Roll and then I take our pints and head back to our corner table where the girls are killing themselves.
What a night. Rolled in at 1am, up for thirty seven straight hours, a new record. And then we did it all over again. And again. And again. And again. I'm still recovering. I'm an old man you know. ;)
Here is where I segue into something about the Oilers.
Unlike John Kavanagh's in Glasnevin, the Oilers suck.
That's all I've got.
Posted by Black Dog at 11:51 AM
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
It's been a very good year. Busy, it's always busy and we have to work hard to stay connected amid the daily bustle. I was talking to a father of a friend of my eldest the other day and he grumped for a moment about the leadup to Christmas itself. Too much he said, too much for one day.
And then he smiled and took it all back. They'll be gone soon, he said, grown up and gone. So I won't complain.
I can't complain. Went out with one of my dearest friends last night, it has been a while and we had more pints than we planned and some good food and as we have done for years now we talked about it all and the conclusion was the same as it always is, life is short and we must live it and we are doing a pretty damn good job of it. We have been lucky, the two of us, and now as we near fifty what was once in the background, a little dull, a little blurry, is becoming sharper. Call it a realization of our own mortality or something less dramatic than that if you will, that's alright, because while we are getting older we are still playing hockey and doing so pretty well and we're still wandering the streets here and elsewhere, taking it all in, the drink and music and food and all of it, we are getting older but other than a little stiffness and a memory that is slowly getting shot to hell we're ok.
But we see the time passing in our children who are growing up and in our parents who are getting older and, for the first time, noticeably so. Dad is pushing 84 now and for the first time he is slowing down a bit, a little bit less vigourous although of course it is all relative. Mom worries because he is tired now and then and he is not as strong as he once was and there is nothing I can say except 'Mom, he's starting to age' and it's a damn shame but it comes for all of us, damn time, so it goes. And as I noted it's all relative, when I turned my back this fall at the cabin he was hauling the outboard out to the dock, same as always.
We celebrated Christmas up north with Mom and Dad a couple of weeks ago and as always it was a wonderful time, I'm a lucky man and we enjoyed ourselves, much laughter and good times. And in a couple of days we will celebrate quietly here. The kids love it more than anything and so do we. Our oldest is almost a teenager and she has figured out Santa, did so a while back we know but she plays along for her siblings and she gets that it is about family and being together and just ... celebrating. Sounds hokey but of course the whole thing is, which is fine. The boy is wavering, he has the mind of an engineer and he knows the truth but his heart wants to believe still. And as for our youngest well, she believes whole heartedly, fully and completely, as is her nature.
All of the best of the season to all of you and yours. Enjoy. Eat too much. Drink. Be merry, as they say. Merry Christmas!
Posted by Black Dog at 11:54 AM
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
No hockey talk today, actually this is a serious piece, or as serious as I get anyhow. So if you don't want talk about terrorists and the world today (and I wouldn't blame you one bit) then come another time. I won't hold it against you. ;)
Last spring I was out for pints with my good friend. Jenn was in the middle of a whirlwind of trips, some business, some personal, and she had said to me that I should probably do something, it had been a while for me and she felt bad.
So I was talking to my pal on the back patio of the Only Cafe, I am pretty sure that's where we were, we had kicked this around a bit and so he mentioned that he had a work trip in the fall and the conference was being held in Frankfurt. Now Frankfurt held no interest for us but he said that Budapest was not that far away and it was supposed to be a pretty cool place and so maybe we could figure something out there.
As it turned out his show ended up actually taking place in Hamburg. No regrets there, I flew in and we hung out in Hamburg and Berlin and we had an amazing time.
So this year Jenn ended up lucky enough to go to Cambodia to do some volunteer work (a cause that we were astounded to have many of the folks who regularly come here generously contribute to) and so I floated the idea that I might also like to hit the road once again. She agreed and when I spoke to Higgins I found out that one of his company's shows was going to be held in ... you guessed it, Budapest.
So Jenn booked the time off and I began to research it. It's funny, I don't think of myself as well travelled but of course that is more my circle of friends than reality. I never thought of Germany or Hungary as places I would visit but Germany was fantastic and it became clear that Budapest might be really amazing.
As early November neared though a snag hit and my friend could not make it. Jenn's only caveat for these trips is that I have a travelling companion and so it looked like my plans were scuttled and I might end up going back to Dublin where I have friends who could put me up, keep me out of trouble and put my body on a plane home if shit went awry. No complaints, I love Dublin, but I've been a few times and was hoping for somewhere new.
And then my inlaws, bless them, suggested that as they were coming at the time that Jenn and I, planning to travel next year for our fifteenth anniversary, take this opportunity to celebrate a bit early. And not knowing what tomorrow might bring we thought why the hell not.
Jenn would say 'Why Budapest, what is there' but when I put alternatives to her she said no let's go, it looks interesting and this has been the plan all along. So we flew direct into Vienna, spent some time there and then took the train to Budapest.
Vienna was lovely and I don't want to sell it short but Budapest. Oh Budapest. Man I would go back tomorrow if I could. Beautiful and vibrant and gritty and elegant and we walked through the markets and spent the afternoon at a bath and hiked the hills of Buda overlooking the Danube and ate and drank on patios and in bars hidden down alleyways in the old Jewish Quarter and when we left we looked at each other and we could barely believe our good fortune at having experienced it. Lovely Budapest.
And shortly after our return Paris happened.
I talked to Mom and Dad last night, checking in, planning our trip up in a few weeks to see them and celebrate the holidays. My parents aren't fearful folk but Mom said oh I was glad to know that you were back home and it's not even safe to travel anymore and we talked about how horrible these events were.
And it's frightening of course. I think of those poor people minding their business and what happened and I am sad and I am scared. We were in Paris two years ago in late October, us and the kids, and I cannot even imagine it, the terror, the sorrow, the heartbreak.
But we'll go back. As I said I'd go back to Budapest tomorrow and if you said hey Pat here's the money and the time off, go to Paris, I would go in a heartbeat.
I stay away from the big picture in this space. If you come here at all then you know that to me the big picture is my family and friends and our neighbourhood, good food and drink, some laughs, enjoying what life brings that is good, enduring the inevitable sorrow.
But our world is a horrible place in many ways. It always has been, humans have been slaughtering each other since they came down from the trees. Things are better than they have ever been, I truly believe that, but people will always do awful things until there are no people left to do them.
The longterm fixes to what is going on are complicated and difficult and you know what is scary? You could resolve Syria and resolve young men, the sons of immigrants, feeling alienated and angry and you could fix all of these problems somehow (and believe me I am aware that there may not be the political will power or smarts to do so) and we will still see what we saw a couple of weeks ago.
Guns are easy to get a hold of and there are no shortage of young men who are willing to use them. Call them crazy or fanatical or bigots or whatever you will but you can arm half the populace and still get Columbine and Sandy Hook and theatres and parks and restaurants and churches shot up in the States.
So it's going to happen. It will happen again in Paris and it will happen in London and New York and in cities in Africa and Asia and Australia and South and Central America. It will happen here in Canada some day too and just pray (or if you don't pray, I'm not one for prayer, then hope) that you are not around when it does, unluckily in the wrong place at the wrong time, like poor Nathan Cirillo was.
I guess that sounds like a horrible thing to think, a dark and pessimistic way of looking at things but I look at it as a simple reality.
What do we do? Well I'm not smart enough to answer that regarding the big picture and I'm not getting into the politics of it but unless you intend to deport every person you think may be a threat to the citizens of this country (and for some people that is, well that's a lot of people including millions who are citizens of this country) and have soldiers on every street corner then you're not going to prevent awful things from happening. And even then awful things would happen, It's sad but true.
So I intend to travel and go to cafes and restaurants and pubs. I intend to think the best of people and to try and make my corner of the world better and to teach my kids about what is right and what is wrong. I can see some of you sneering at this, it's airy-fairy shit you are thinking, but the truth is that it's all I can do and really it's all that most of us can do. Try and make your little corner of the world a better place. Try and be kind. Try not to let hatred and fear rule the day. Live and enjoy what you can.
Anyhow it's been nearly ten years here and I have never written anything like this before, probably for good reason. Back to our regularly scheduled posts about beer league hockey, my kids and those Oilers, I promise. :)
Posted by Black Dog at 4:06 PM