Friday, June 30, 2006

So it begins



Denis is traded to Tampa. By my count that leaves three teams needing goaltending and three more then may be looking for it. And eight available guys.

Available Goaltenders - Aebishcher, Biron, Gerber, Roloson, Cloutier, Giguere, Nabokov (I presume rather then Toskela), Legace

Teams needing goaltending - Edmonton, Detroit, LA

Teams that may need goaltending - Ottawa, Florida, St. Louis

Redden and Lidstrom sign so Ottawa and Detroit are out of the Pronger derby (I know neither has been mentioned but I figured Detroit as a possibility if Lidstrom did not resign) and of course the Oilers aren't signing Redden now

Big blueliners available now - Chara, Jovo and Blake (if you consider Blake as such and think he won't resign with the Avs)

The Truth Behind Pronger's Trade Request



This was in the Toronto Sun today so take it for what its worth. I've summarized the key points.

The Sun sent a reporter to try and track down Pronger in Mexico to see if he could get the story behind his trade request.

He checked into the resort and for a couple of days tired to observe what was happening with the Pronger family dynamic. While he saw Pronger by the poolside bar quite a bit there was no sign of his wife or children.

He finally approached Pronger who at first offered a surly 'no comment' when the reporter identified himself. However the reporter bought the obviously distraught defenceman a beer and soon after Pronger opened up.

He loves Edmonton, the team, the organization, the city, all of it.

When he signed the contract he never thought it would turn out like this; his intention was to retire an Oiler.

Contrary to rumours, Lauren also enjoyed Edmonton. He is very upset at the rough ride she is getting in the newspapers.

The reporter asked what the real reason was behind the trade request then ... and gingerly brought up the rumours circulating about the internet. Pronger angrily denied that anything untoward and happened.

And then a suddenly tearful Chris Pronger gave the reporter the true reason behind his trade request.

Everything had been going swimmingly until mid February when after an Oiler alumni gettogether it appears that Lauren had begun an affair with a former Oiler player.

You guessed it folks.

Chris Pronger has requested a trade from the Oilers because his wife is having an affair with Stan Weir.

Stan giveth and Stan taketh away.

*** And because I am a total and complete paranoid, let me note for any representatives of Chris Pronger, Stan Weir, Lauren Pronger, the Toronto Sun or for that matter anybody out there who is easily offended and / or duped - this is a joke, people! - call my lawyer - uh, are you a lawyer yet, Tyler? Hello?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Keeper



Latest is Pisani apparently will be signed before Saturday. This according to his agent.

Same guy who represents Roloson.

As the playoffs wore on I thought it was pretty important that the Oilers sign Roloson to ensure that they don't start next year like they did this year. I think that even with the Pronger situation Lowe has the Cap space and the chips to acquire the players to put a pretty good team out there next season. With the exception of Pisani, imo, the players who are unrestricted are all pretty replaceable - Spacek, Tarnstrom and Samsonov were all picked up during the season. LeGG and Murray are fourth liners. Peca had a great playoff but his regular season was crap. Some would argue Dvorak but the truth is he can be replaced pretty easily I think. Hell, anybody can be, to be honest.

But the Oilers need a goaltender in order to avoid what happened this year - barely squeaking into the playoffs. With a good goaltender for a full season they can shoot for that higher seed.

And I am not ignoring the fact that Lowe has work to do beyond goaltending. That's obvious.

But it starts in net. And with the movement this past week or so as well as developments in the playoffs it is suddenly becoming a buyer's market.

In my opinion here are teams who need goaltending and those goalies who are available. I haven't included Belfour or Hasek because I think any legitimate contender would be nuts to go with one of those guys.

Teams needing goaltending - Edmonton, Tampa, Detroit, LA

Teams that may need goaltending - Ottawa, Florida, St. Louis

The performances of Cam Ward, Bryzgalov and Toskela have given their respective teams two legitimate keepers and, in Carolina's case, no reason to keep Gerber. Toronto picked up Raycroft and Montreal resigned Huet. Phoenix resigned Joseph. And of course Vancouver picked up Luongo.

Available Goaltenders - Aebishcher, Biron, Gerber, Roloson, Cloutier, Giguere, Nabokov (I presume rather then Toskela), Legace, Denis

So even if all of the teams on the "may need" list do go after goaltending my math tells me there are more goalies then teams. Now some of these guys are under contract but they are still available.

Advantage Mr. Lowe. Does he resign Roloson? I like Roloson a lot. I really do. But an older goalie coming off an injury makes me nervous. At worst I think that the sudden glut of goalies gives Lowe options and means that he won't have to overpay in cash or term.

And that is the name of the game.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Leafs Out!

With the signing of McCabe to one of the most retarded contracts in the history of the game it looks like the Leafs won't be sending Belak, Domi, Antropov and a 7th round pick to the Oilers for Pronger and Stoll. (The Oil had to throw in Stoll to give Toronto incentive to take on Pronger's contract).

So, cross the Leafs off "the list".

Other interesting notes - the Avalanche only have 39M to spend on salary this season due to bonuses totalling five million they owe Sakic and Blake. They aren't as in bad shape as the Devils who only have 37M to spend due to Malakhov and Mogilny's contracts. Bye bye Elias.

Notes from Bob MacKenzie at TSN. Believe what you will.

Apparently the asking price is a quality forward, a quality defenceman and a #1 pick (or top prospect? - my addition).

There are ten to twelve teams interested but only half of those have the wherewithal to make a deal. Mentioned were the Rangers, Philly, the Leafs (now out), Phoenix Chicago and Boston. If the Oilers sign Redden or another big free agent then the feeling is that teams like Anaheim (can't see it but ...), San Jose and Florida would come into play because then the Oilers would be more willing to take on youngsters.

I think if the Oilers can sign Redden they accomplish two things - obviously they replace Pronger and also they create a better market for themselves. I know Elias is the preferred choice, especially of the fellows at IOF, but he is the lone elite forward out there, imo, and I think the competition will be fierce for his services. I think its the Rangers for Elias - another Czech and he wouldn't even have to move.

Jovonoski goes to Florida.
Chara to whoever offers him the most money, period. Could be someone crap.
Blake is back with the Avs.
Lidstrom is back with the Wings although rumbling is that he wants 8 or so.

I'm sorry - how much money does the guy need? Talk about hamstringing your team.

Anyhow, I figure its Philly. I have all the way. If the Oilers sign Redden then the Hawks become a real contender - they have some nice kids. Also San Jose. And if the Panthers miss out on Jovo then Keenan will be there for sure.

Darkhorse - I've said it before - the Wings. If they tell Lidstrom to walk then if they can put a package together, maybe around Datsyuk or Kronwall, then Pronger will be on his way to the Wings.

Second Post Last Pronger Pronger Post



A wop bop a loomba a wop bop bam.

I'm not from Edmonton so my first question is this - is Jim Matheson a credible hockey writer? Or is he Stan Fischler?

Because his column today looks at possible returns the Oilers might get for the guy I promised to never post about, oh, about two Pronger posts ago.

If this guy is not a quack, things look pretty good.

He eliminates a pile of teams including the Blues (sorry Lauren) based on their Cap room, the fact that they are divisional rivals, the fact that they do not need Pronger and so on ...

Here are the teams and some of the possibilities. I like it!

Philadelphia - Gagne but if not then he sees a deal including Pitkanen, Carter and either Esche or Niitymaki

Rangers - Lundqvist, Mark Staal, Prucha

Florida - Bouwmeester and Horton or Weiss

Toronto - Kaberle and Steen (I presume this would be a starting point because I would not make this one)

LA - Frolov and Dustin Brown, Visnovsky

Buffalo - Biron, Drew Stafford (prospect) and a young forward or two (Tim Connolly)

San Jose - Michelek, Carle or Hannan and a keeper (depending if they deal Toskela to Ottawa as rumoured)

Chicago - some of their young D - Seabrook, Barker, Keith - Ruutu would be ideal but he is always injured

Phoenix - Doan and Ballard although apparently they are after Chara

Columbus - Zherdev, Denis, Brule, Picard, Fritsche (some, not all of these, I would think)

Interesting to see goaltenders part of so many of these deals.

I was stumping for a similar Philly deal on another thread - if that was the deal they made I would be pretty goddamn happy.

All comes back to Matheson's credibility - is he? Or is he a hopeless fan? Anyone?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Endless Possibilities.



As July 1st nears and things become clearer ...

Eddie Jovo is not playing very coy about his preferences as free agency nears. While he waits in Florida where he spends all of his offseasons with his wife, who is from Florida, he talks about what good buddies he is with new Panther Todd Bertuzzi.

I think we can cross the Panthers off the list.

Apparently Blake will resign with the Avs while it would be a reasonable bet that either Chara or Redden will resign with the Sens. One would think that Nik Lidstrom would resign with the Wings but unless he takes a little bit of a hometown discount it may not happen.

In all of the Pronger talk the Wings have been ignored. If Lidstrom takes a powder, would they be a possible destination?

Anyhow, once the dust clears it is possible that there will be only one or two big Dmen out here to sign. Once they are gone then I think the calls to Lowe come in.

With the salary floor rising to 28M don't be surprised to see a team like Philly find a team that needs to add salary and thus take a contract from them. If so, Philly will be in play for Pronger.

Some mention Buffalo. Can't see it - not with the success they had with the D by committee.

Who else? Chicago. Nashville. St. Louis. Columbus. Atlanta. The Islanders. The Rangers. The Penguins.

Pretty well nearly anyone south of the 49th as well as T.O., I'd guess. There are exceptions, of course. But if a GM or owner looks at this and sees two, three or four playoff rounds worth of revenue as well as a possible Cup in this guy then they will make Lowe an offer he can't refuse.

We'll see.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Absolutely the Last Pronger Post!

Anyone else getting Pronger fatigue?

Is it about money? A girl? Was it the wife? His kids? Roger McDowell behind the bushes?

Before I make what I hope are my last comments on this mess before he is shipped out of town, a few notes on an interesting weekend outside of Prongerville.

For a review of the Oilers' draft check out Lowetide's review. I used to be a total drafthead before I had kids - knew all the players etc etc but no longer. Anyhow, Lain has the scoop and explains who all these kids are.

Duhatschek, as always, is a must read for his draft coverage.

Mudcrutch analyzes the trades made by Oil rivals Calgary, Vancouver and Minnesota.

Huet has resigned with Montreal. Take another player off of the UFA list.

Finally, another reason the Leafs are approaching 40 years without a Cup and a sign that the new Bruins' braintrust may know what they are doing as the Leafs trade one of their two prime goalie prospects, the Finn Tuukka Rask, for Andrew Raycroft. Rask may never pan out and Raycroft may bounce back but if the Leafs are serious about the Pronger sweepstakes would Rask not have been a nice pot sweetener? My guess is Raycroft is Jim Carey and Rask becomes a star, if only to have that be JFJ's legacy to Richard Peddie and MLSE.

Now, back to the Pronger channel:

1/ Before everyone pats Strachan on the back (which I also did, mistakenly) remember that Al claimed the Oilers would initiate a Pronger deal for financial reasons. Not the other way around.

2/ While everyone piles on, Lyle Richardson does have a take which many may not agree with but that is at least partially true. Pronger had no choice but to choose his family and if that is the real reason then I will not blame him for that. As for signing the contract I believe that at the time he and his wife did think it would work. Things don't always work out, after all.

3/ If this has been brewing for a while and apparently it has then kudos to Pronger for being a professional and playing as he did - it was obviously not a distraction.

4/ Some joker at the Edmonton Sun takes Pronger's wife to task for not telling him a few weeks ago that they were planning this move - it certainly would have been much better for her to tell some Sun hack in the middle of the playoff run that they were planning on getting out.

5/ Biggest problem I have with this whole thing (and I am disappointed, believe me) is how Pronger took off. If he had had a press conference and said "here is the deal" I think people would be upset but less so. If he stood up and said - "We wanted to be here. I love it here. My wife does not and if I have to choose between her and this team, I have to choose her" then it would be more palatable. Fleeing the city and having his agent do his talking for him is pretty weak.

6/ Lowe can trade Pronger anywhere. Apparently he has asked to be dealt to the States but Toronto would be ok too. The Leafs are offering Kaberle and Matt Stajan. The Oilers wanted Steen instead of Stajan. Hopefully that would be a starting point although with Rask gone the Leafs' prospect cupboard, is, as always, bare. If Kaberle and Steen was the return, ugh.

7/ Ken Campbell at the Star brings up the Panthers as a possible partner, with Bouwmeester and either Horton or Stewart coming the other way. That would be a decent deal and Florida is definitely in the mix. With a lot of aging guys and Bertuzzi a UFA after this season Keenan may be going for it all.

8/ After that, well, there are a whack of possibilities. Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta all come to mind. If I were Lowe I would want two young good players (as in the Panthers' rumour) plus a high end prospect. If its Chicago for example I want Seabrook(not Barker, because Seabrook has proven he can play in the league and well), Bell and Toews or Barker as the prospect. Maybe more because I am not sold on Bell. I think Pronger has that value but I may be wrong. I think his contract makes him extremely attractive though. The UFA Dmen out there will all likely make more then him when this is all said and done.

9/ It will be interesting to see what route Lowe takes in a general sense. Before this the consensus was that he would try and deal for a premier offensive player. Now, I think he can get some elite youngster or two. It will be interesting to see if he uses the chips he would have dealt to try and build a "Carolina" type defence or if he uses the Pronger and Peca money to sign guys like Mitchell and McKee. Should make for a fun couple of weeks. If he plays his cards right the Oil may be in the mix next year and definitely for years to come.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

No Chicken Little Here

As my wife says "Blogging - why are you blogging? Isn't hockey season over?"

1/ Chris Pronger had a great season and gave his all for his team. He did not pull a Vince Carter and bag it. Did he sign a six year contract? Yes. Is it upsetting that he has requested a trade? Yes. OK. As I said in a thread elsewhere, I'm over it. Time to move on.

2/ Because Pronger and Peca have left or are going to leave does not mean nobody will play in Edmonton. It is a business. If the Oilers outbid everyone else for Peca then he would probably stay. If they offer Chara the max and nobody else does, he will likely come here. Its business, nothing more. And in the "new NHL" (God I hate that term) the Oilers may not be able to spend the max but what will their payroll be - 38M? 39M? 40M? The max is 44M. A little different then a 30M payroll trying to compete with a bunch in the 60s and 70s, no? And they are going to have money to spend. With Pronger out of the picture what do they have committed for next year - 12M?

3/The Oil can go two ways with Pronger. Trade him for a bunch of youngsters and then use those and other assets to pick up some vets (or not). Or trade him for some guys in their prime. Chicago or Florida makes sense in the first situation, Ottawa makes the most sense to me in the second (although I can't see Lauren making her way through winter in Ottawa either).

4/I think Lowe has perhaps the most coveted asset in the league, maybe even more then Luongo. He is a proven elite player coming off an astounding performance in the playoffs. He is signed longterm and relatively cheaply. Would you want to give Chara, Redden or Jovo 7 or 8 M per or part with a couple of prime assets to get a better player?

What do you think?

I think Lowe makes hay from this. And in a big way.

Calgary, Vancouver, Minnesota - all got better today. Its scary. But its a long offseason.

We'll see.

Long Gone and Luongo

Ok, so with Pat Morris saying that it has nothing to do with Edmonton or the organization but a family matter (Pronger's wife?) we have confirmation from an interested party that this is more then something Strachan pulled from his ass.

One thing nobody has even brought up and its likely not true but what if this a ploy to renegotiate? Pronger is suddenly underpaid, hard to believe but true.

So if Pronger is going to return to his Eastern Canadian roots (Dryden? On the border of Manitoba if my memory serves correctly) then the team that makes the most sense for a deal is the Senators - the fit is almost perfect - Pronger and another vet or two for a package including Chris Phillips, Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette ... anyone?

If he's going I'm of the mind that they make out alright - one because he is a terrific asset with his contract and his play in the Oilers' run. Two because they can use that salary on someone else. Redden? Elias? I'd prefer to not go UFA so maybe a trade??

I'd prefer Pronger but they can make something from this.

The Canucks make the first big move of the weekend. Its a daring one - if they can sign Luongo longterm then its a good one but if he waves goodbye after this season ... irk. With Luongo out of the picture for the Oil are the Panthers out of the picture as a trading partner - maybe. But they still have some assets to move.

We'll see.

Friday, June 23, 2006

If its true

And Pronger has requested a trade (Al Strachan was right?!?!?!) then lets move on.

Does this eat it like its never eaten it before.

Sure does.

The worst five days in franchise history?

Sure is.

But if he doesn't want to be here or his wife doesn't want to be here or his cousin or whoever the "family" member is, then lets do this.

1/ Celebrate the season that we had with him.

2/ Say goodbye.

Because while it is beyond shitty that this guy wants to go this is not like Doug Weight and Bill Guerin et al.

Lowe can deal for an equivalent player. He can sign an equivalent player.

And while it may seem his hands are tied, do you think Pronger is going to hold out if Lowe can't get fair value for him. He may. But after losing a year of salary is he ready to lose another?

Kevin Lowe has one of the top defenceman in the league, a guy who just carried a team within a game of a Cup win, a guy who has an extremely attractive contract.

What do you think he can get for him?

It sucks. Its too bad.

But you can win a Cup without a stud defenceman. It just happened for the second year in a row.

Time for Kevin Lowe to get on his horse, if this is true, and maximize this asset.

Let the bidding begin.

Crazy Weekend Coming?



The rumour mill has gone into overdrive. Check out Lyle Richardson's great site for a list of all of the wackiness making the rounds. This weekend could be the most interesting in NHL history. Or nothing could happen.

I'll bet there are 28 GMs looking at last Monday night saying "That could be us!" My guess is the next couple of weeks are going to be crazy, starting tonight.

Here are my top ten observations/notes, some Oil related, some not. Some obvious, some not.

1/ Chris Pronger is not going anywhere, not for Luongo, not to be replaced by Wade Redden. Duh! Why would Lowe pay Redden more then Pronger, which he would have to, when Redden is nowhere near the player Pronger is. And why would he trade for Luongo when with Jussi Markannen in the nets the Oil allowed 9 goals (1 empty netter) in the last five games of the SCF.

2/ Mike Peca will be a Senator, Leaf or Ranger next season. I'd bet on the first.

3/ Roloson will resign with the Oilers.

4/ Pisani will sign with the Oilers and be on one of the top two lines next year.

5/ Lowe is going to cash in a couple of popular vets - Smyth? Smith? Moreau? Staios? - and acquire some offensive skill from a team that needs some grit - Ottawa perhaps? Havlat?

6/ Philadelphia will swing a big deal, packaging some salary and a kid (Richards or Carter) to make the deal happen.

7/ When free agency does start up there will be a pretty shallow pool - a lot more guys are going to resign with their present squads.

8/ There will be one or two trades made by teams to get into the top 5 at the draft.

9/ Failing #5 above, Lowe will trade some prospects and/or young players off the roster for that offensive gamebreaker. Maybe Stoll. If they resign Pisani then maybe Hemsky if that player is a right winger, as much as trading Hemsky scares me and I would not do it.

10/ The Oilers will start next season with MAP, Jacques and Mikhnov on their roster. Robbie Schremp will not be on it.

Bonus / The Leafs will slide further down the standings, ensuring their Cup drought reaches a solid forty years.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Walk the Line



Before the playoffs started I wrote about how the Oilers were moving ahead in what I called The Process - that is, moving forward to winning a Cup. Who knew that they would fall a game short when I wrote that.

So now, Kevin Lowe's job is to put his team in a position to win that last game next year and in the years to come. The goal is to be, as Lowetide put it in a thread a while back, the New England Patriots, not the Arizona Cardinals. You may not win every year but if your team can get to the playoffs every year and have the right players and coaches then good things are going to happen.

A lot of people are claiming that the Oil may be lucky to even get in the playoffs next year but I foresee a good regular season, perhaps leading to a top four seed in the West. Once in, anything can happen, but the naysayers are missing the fact that with decent goaltending this team is likely top four or five seed this year and also that while the Oilers have plenty of free agents most of them either played minimal roles with this team or were late season additions. Kevin Lowe can ice a team to start next season which is almost exactly the same as the one that began this past season. And he has a lot of cap room.

What does he have to do? Can he make the right choices?

Goaltending

Roloson is a UFA and the team has an option on Conklin that I have a feeling that they will not pick up. Call that one intuition. Markannen is under contract.

I think Markannen will be back. He's a reasonable backup goalie, proving in the finals that he can get the job done when called upon. Not up to being a starter or co-#1.

As for a starter I feel its paramount that the Oilers have someone in place right from day one of the season. No repeat of this season. The list of teams that need goaltending is a long one - Detroit, Toronto, Tampa just to name a few. The quality netminders out there. Not too many.

I think Pronger said it best though during the playoffs - Roloson was solid, not spectacular (with a few exceptions). He didn't have to be Patrick Roy, just a solid keeper back there.

Roloson is probably the first on their list. If he goes elsewhere then where to look? Some suggest Luongo. I'd rather spend that money and assets elsewhere. If Roloson signs elsewhere then there are a lot of guys out there but most are one year wonders or iffy in some way. Lowe might gamble again. I'd rather he not but with goaltending at a premium he may have no choice but to go with someone like Raycroft.

Look for them to draft a goalie this Saturday as well.

Defence

Probably short term the area of least concern but also something that may quickly become one in a year or two. A few of these guys are getting a little long in the tooth.

Pronger, Smith, Staios, Greene and Bergeron are under contract for next year. So essentially their top four D from the beginning of next year plus Greene. Good enough for the playoffs? No. But these are the guys they ran with plus Ulanov and Cross until they acquired Spacek and Tarnstrom.

Spacek, Tarnstrom and Ulanov are UFAs. Ulanov is probably going to retire, I would think. Robin Brownlee at the Sun thinks Tarnstrom is definitely gone and that Spacek is a priority for Lowe to resign.

The general feeling is that Bergeron is also likely to be gone.

I like Tarnstrom as a member of the third pair and as the QB of the power play but the way he was used in the playoffs leads me to believe that MacT was not a fan. Why else would he be on the second unit? Why else would he be in the pressbox instead of MAB? I think he is gone.

My issue with Spacek is this - I'm not a big fan of signing defencemen over 30 to longterm deals unless they are named Pronger. Spacek is going to get at least a three year deal on the open market. I think unless they can get him for a real bargain that they should trade for an equivalent who has a year or two left on his deal. I like Spacek but I think he's replaceable. Ask me for a name. I have no idea but you just have to look at Carolina's D or Tampa's for that matter to see what I'm thinking of. A solid guy who can be your # 3.

I'd like to see Pronger and Smith and defenceman X and Greene to start the season as our top four with Staios and defenceman Y as our third pair. Defenceman X should be a legitimate top four guy. Defenceman Y can be a kid, a veteran guy, Tarnstrom (although I can't see it). If Greene struggles then Staios can move up to top 4 but I think its time to reduce his responsiblity a little. Put it this way if he's in the third pair rather then second pair when next playoffs come along I think your D is upgraded, no?

Forwards

Here is where I think we will see changes. I don't think Lowe will jump into the UFA market but I think we will see a Peca/Pronger type deal. This team needs an offensive talent - someone who can jumpstart the PP and provide goals at ES as well. A star player, in other words. As I said, a talent. I think he trades for our mystery man and I think he's a centre from a team that's looking for cap relief.

Just don't ask me who. Hah. There aren't many, is the problem.

Smyth, Torres, Moreau are all under contract for next year and will all be back. Jacques will be on the LW as well. Torres is going to get his shot at big minutes on the top two lines. Moreau is going to see his minutes drop if Jacques can get the job done. Sammy is a goner. Not enough bang for the buck.

Pouliot will be our fourth line centre or third line if Lowe deals a centre. Horcoff will be back but here's hoping its second line behind ??? I love Horc but think of this team if this guy is only your #2. If this happens then Stoll becomes our #3 guy or maybe he's trade bait. I like him and he's just a kid but his lack of production in the playoffs was startling. In a perfect world he'd be our # 3 and MAP our #4 but they may have to deal him to get that #1. Peca was brilliant in the playoffs and if Lowe doesn't have something cooking for a centre he will try and get him back. Without him this team goes nowhere these playoffs, I think, but he will likely get a longer deal for more money out this way (T.O.? N.Y.?) Rem is probably going to retire or he may come back in a Harvey role. He got better as the playoffs wore on.

The right side is a mess. I like LeGG but he's of no use anymore, I believe. Hemsky will be back of course. Pisani too - look for an increased role and a nice contract.

Pisani has almost as many goals in the playoffs (12) as he did in the regular season (18), but the Oilers believe that with his hands and his composure around the net, he may not be a one-hit wonder, but a player who can duplicate his playoff scoring heroics next year in the regular season.
Not bad for someone who will turn 30 in December and has only 191 National Hockey League regular-season games under his belt.


That's from Duhatschek in Saturday's Globe and Mail. If Oiler sources are telling the Hat this on the record then Pisani is going to get his contract and it will be with the Oilers.

Brownlee thinks Dvorak is a goner. I like him on the fourth line, maybe on the third - I know the stats guys will throw a lot of love his way, not to mention Sacamano, but no goals in the playoffs, right? Even Toby Peterson got one, for Christ sakes. I don't know. I'd like to see someone who can do what Dvorak does but who could actually finish. You can give me all the stats you want but ...

So here is my Oiler lineup:

Smyth - Mystery Man #1 - Hemsky
Torres - Horcoff - Pisani
Moreau - MAP - Dvorak or Mystery Man # 2
Jacques - Brodziak - Kid #1

Pronger - Smith
#3 D - Greene
Staios - Kid # 2 or ????

Roloson or ???
Markannen

Mystery Man#1 = #1 centre acquired in trade
Mystery Man#2 = free agent signing, kid or trade
#3 D = Spacek or equivalent acquired in trade or UFA signing

This is to start the year. If Pisani does not succeed (and many will doubt it) then he will drop a line. Same with Greene on D. Lowe will give these guys some rope and fill in the holes where he has to, as he did this year. Payroll will be @ high 30s/40M.

Stoll, MAB, maybe Raffi (though I can't see it) and a bunch of kids are tradebait.

There are holes here but I think its a good team.

This team will, barring catastrophe, make the playoffs as a top four seed. After that, well, anything can happen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Congratulations Kevin Lowe

Great team you put together. But now you're screwed. If the Oilers had done it last night you would have never had to buy yourself a drink in Edmonton again. Now you have to figure out how to make this team two goals better - with expectations that this team will go 98 and 0 next season. (See Flames, Calgary)

At Paupers on Saturday night the discussion turned to what next year's team would look like. A win last night would have given Kevin Lowe carte blanche to do, well, whatever, short of a Florida Marlins' selloff. Say Roloson wants 4 M a year. Well, thanks for the run and we'll always have fond memories of your contribution to our sixth Cup but I can't afford to tie our hands. He would have been able to do this and nobody would have blinked, imo.

There will be a lot of argument over what this run means - to me it was terrific. A lot of great memories created by a gutty underdog team that came together at the right time and almost pulled it off.

But it also hurts way more then if they had bowed out to the Sharks or Wings or even fallen short of the playoffs altogether.

The Canes deserved to win last night. But what if the Oil had gotten the first break and capitalized. What if the clearing on the second goal had succeeded? What if? What if? Maybe the Oil take the game over as the Canes sag. Didn't happen though.

Sigh.

What a team though. In the last five games with their backup goalie they allowed eight goals.

That's something else.

Truth be told, this series was lost in the third period of Game 1, imo. They win that game and then maybe, maybe they win Game 2. Worse case they come home with a split. Instead they blew it, it carried over to G2 and suddenly they had no margin for error.

Anyhow, back to Lowe. Now he has to figure out if he can turn this team into the Canes - a team that lost and then returned to take it all. Or will they be the Flames, falling short in the first round next year? Or will they be the Capitals? Never to be seen again.

This is going to be his challenge. Who stays? Who goes? Make no mistake, this team has to get better. They had their fair share of luck to get where they did. To return they will need luck again but they need to get the talent so that they need less luck, if that makes sense.

They need a better power play. If that means a different PP coach, a different strategy or different personnel, so be it. No goals and barely a sniff on 5 5 on 3's in the Stanley Cup Final not only doesn't cut it.

It may have cost them the Cup.

I believe they will be younger. I believe Lowe will make a trade or two to fill spots.

I believe Pisani will be back and will be on the first or second line next year based on an article I read on Saturday. (More on this later.)

I also believe that they are going to do everything they can to get Peca back. Even a month ago I would not have thought that. He probably will not return but not for lack of trying.

Rem the Gem, LeGG, Winchester, Samsonov and Tarnstrom will all be gone.

As for Spacek and Dvorak ... ?

More on this later today or tomorrow.

Monday, June 19, 2006

One Pint Short



Every Oilers' win these playoffs I posted a picture of a pint.

Fifteen total.

One short.

Congratulations to the Canes. Deserving Stanley Cup Champions. Congratulations to their fans. How are you doing now, AQ?

Most of all, congratulations to the Oilers for a wonderful run. Before this game I felt if the Oil won the special teams battle they would win the game and the Cup.

They did not.

So it goes.

As LT said time and time again, beauty team these Oilers.

Beauty team indeed.

One Last Game



If you had said to any hockey fan at the beginning of the season that their team would have been where the Oilers and Canes are tonight, playing game 7 to win the Cup, they would have taken it.

Of course if you had laid a nice sum of money that it would have been these two teams you likely would be planning your retirement right now.

Its been quite a run.

A week ago the Oilers were written off as dead.

Now suddenly many are doing the same for the Canes.

Of course it all means nothing. Anything can happen in on game, no matter how improbable. It could be a blowout. It could be 1-0 in triple overtime.

One game. The Oilers have no margin for error.

But then again, neither do the Canes now.

I would love to say that momentum means something. The last four plus periods have pretty well seen the Oilers dominate but at the end of game two we could say the same about the Canes.

The plus for the Oilers is that they are confident right now while the Canes may be a little shaken. But the Canes are a veteran team and they will have home ice - I think they will have a good game tonight.

The main worry for the Canes, imo. The Oilers' PP which was killing them in the first part of the series with its utter uselessness now has four goals in the last two games, including three in G6. Meanwhile the Canes have only scored two goals at ES in the past four games. In other words the Canes better score at ES tonight or else hope that their PP had another game like G5 or they will be in deep trouble.

If the Oilers win the special teams battle its their game.

Jitters started yesterday.

Goilers!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Me Da



This is my Dad Jack and my daughter nearly two years ago.

Dad turns 74 tomorrow.

Many of my childhood memories revolve around my father and hockey.

Watching HNIC with him Saturday nights.

Watching him play. He was a speedy centre, a playmaker and excellent stickhandler. He hung them up at 40 after scoring an OT goal to win a tournament for his work team - it was a high level of hockey. Many of his peers remark on the quality of his play.

Dad was scouted by the Wings, along with his brother Gerry. He was disappointed because he was a Blackhawks fan.

His favourite player growing up was another small centre, Max Bentley. Later he was partial to Stan Mikita.

When I was twelve we went to all of the Memorial Cup games when it was held in my hometown.

When I came to Toronto to go to school he would come down each year and we would have a steak dinner and go to a Leafs game at MLG.

With expansion and the obstruction of the Dead Puck era Dad's interest in the NHL waned but he has enjoyed the games he has seen this year. The "goons" as he calls them aren't ruining the game anymore.

Growing up in the middle of the northern Ontario bush in a town called Franz Dad had the mythical Canadian hockey experience, spending endless days on the frozen lake playing hockey with his brothers (four of them) and their friends.

Hockey is a part of who he is, who I am and who we are.

Happy Father's Day and Happy Birthday too, Dad.

And now, a game 7!




Out at Paupers last night - met many members of the Oilogosphere - Chris!, Alana, Garnet, Julian, Julian's "good luck girlfriend", Leah, Christine.

Anybody I forgot or misspelled. apologies.

I was a little drunk.

"He's just a little fella. And he's loaded!"

Great time.

Great game.

Back to Carolina.

Game Seven.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Injuries

On game day, with injuries on everybody's mind, head over to the Battle of California and check out the casualty list for the Sharks.

Think the Oilers may have worn them down just a little bit.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I wish it mattered

Momentum, I mean.

Because the Oilers have it.

But it doesn't.

Game six is going to be like every game in this series, save the second one.

Probably decided by a goal. A mistake made. A bad clearing attempt, a broken stick, a penalty, a bad pinch. Or a terrific individual effort by someone.

I feel really good about the Oilers' chances but I wish it were 2-2 because the problem for them remains that they have no margin for error.

None.

They have to win. The Canes do not. The Canes can fail again, knowing that they will have a third opportunity. They don't want to need that seventh game but they have it and at home, to boot.

Some observations. In my mind most of these tilt in the Oilers' favour. Having said that while the Oilers may get a slight edge from these (which might be enough in itself to win the game) I will concede, as I have above, that its likely a coin flip. I won't even say that whoever plays better will win because that may not be the case.

Ok, ass, get off the fence. Here goes.

Injuries. Beyond the normal bumps and bruises that everyone has. Pisani was hurt in game one but had a strong game on Wednesday and apparently is getting healthier. Some have surmised that Horcoff is hurt - I don't know about that. I think he's tired. I think the Canes are doing a good job on him. Based on his skating and his performance in game 3 I think he's ok.

The Canes, on the other hand, are hurting, I think. Weight left the rink with his arm in a sling. I think he's done. Apparently Vasicek will replace him. Its drop off and I think on the PP it will hurt the Canes but Vasicek is a pretty good player. Its not as if they were throwing one of the Adams out there or the Oilers having to replace Horcoff with, say, Rem Murray. Its better for the Oil that Weight isn't out there but his absence isn't going to kill the Canes.

If Aaron Ward is out then things get a little more dicey. He's the Canes' best D, imo, and has been terrific, especially on the PK. I think he's like Jason Smith though, he'll play unless he absolutely cannot. If its a concussion then he's got a problem. Based on the fact that he came back to the game my guess is if its not his head then they'll freeze him up and he'll go.

The question is - who else is in bad shape? Harry Neale said that he felt Hedican was labouring, that his shifts were getting shorter and shorter and that something might be up. Glen Wesley?Justin Williams? Brindamour?

You only have to look at les Sabres to see that a team can play through injuries, many injuries. If Ward doesn't play then the remaining guys' minutes are going to go up. If Hedican or Wesley are in rough shape already that may be a tipping point.

Power plays. The Oilers looked somewhat better and they scored once while Stoll rang another off the post. If Ward is out it won't hurt. They can't afford anymore 0 fers - they have to produce Saturday. Still love to see more of Tarnstrom. The Canes PP is a strange bird - 3 more goals last game - at home its deadly but on the road its positively Oiler like. If anyone could explain this to me I sure as hell would like to know why. Considering they only have 2 ES goals in the last three games I think they're probably hoping they can turn that around.

Matt Greene will be sitting I would say. Like LeGG at this stage of the game you can't have a guy who you can't put on the ice. I feel bad for the kid and I think he's going to be a player, maybe as soon as next year. They might be able to hide him at home but if it gets to G7 - I don't want him out there. Put in MAB - he'll help the 2nd PP unit and I think he plays better after he's had a few games off - not sure if he gets run down or if he gets his head out of his ass when he sits out a few games.

I don't want Matt Greene turning into Donnie Moore.

I know a lot of people feel the Oilers have finally solved Cam Ward but remember they hung four on him in game one too.

I'm hoping and thinking that Bob Cole will call his last game before long but it will be Monday, not Saturday. I think we're heading for a game seven!

Goilers!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Beauty!




Hey Loxy, how does that Fernando song go?

Wow!

That's all I have to say.

Well, not really.

Terrific game which could have gone either way. Canes PP and Staal in particular were excellent. Oil PP - well, they got one goal, and, to be honest, it looked better then it has. Hopefully it will get better again on Saturday. Nice shot by Schremp (there's no way that was Hemsky) for the PP goal.

Matt Greene owes Pisani and Markannen dinner. Maybe Staios can help him out with that. It would only be right.

Poor Bob and Harry. At least Bob didn't screw up the starting lineup this time. But its become cruel more then anything. Sad.

Aaron Ward is one tough hombre. He could play for my team any day. Commodore too.

Weight was back on the bench at the third. But I didn't see him play a shift (anyone?) after he was sandwiched early in the third.

Looks like Joe Camel is going to see even more icetime. But he's probably the fittest guy in the league.

Jesus, what a ride!

How to Fix an Ailing Power Play

Todd Harvey?

There's thinking outside the box.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Grabia Stole My Idea




Woke up this morning. Was excited. In the night a vision had come to me.

Schremp on the PP.

He could play LeGG's 35 seconds of ES.

What do we have to lose? A PP specialist for a team whose PP has produced as many goals as it has allowed.

A desperate move? You bet. But the Oilers have nothing to lose!

Came into work excited. Here at BDHS the mission statement is "State the Obvious" and finally here was an idea that I could run with.

What's this? Comments on my Teemu post.

Grabia!

I'm always a step behind. Sigh.

Which describes my own hockey "career" as well as the Oil in this series by the way.


Well, this is it. Bring out your cliches. Get Smytty out there in front of the mics.

Its do or die.

Backs against the wall.

Win or go home.

Etc. Etc.

Only one team ever has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the final to win but the Hat notes that twice in the last twenty years has a team come back to force a seventh game from this position. Both times Craig MacTavish was on the team that almost coughed it up and both times his squad pulled it out in the seventh game.

MacT's frustration was palpable after Game 4 - a break (or PP goal) here or there and the Oilers could be up 3-1. Of course we saw this very movie in Round 1 - each game of the first four so close on the scoresheet that if either team had gotten a break here or there it could have been a sweep either way. The truth is that the Oil have given themselves a chance to win three of the four games but have only come through once. The Canes are full value for their lead.

The fact of the matter is this. The power play has not produced. 1 for 25 and the only 1 scored off the rush. And Carolina has out-capitalized the Oilers - when there has been a mistake they have scored. They have produced on the power play. Not a lot, with the exception of game 2, but one goal last night was the difference.

So will it be Schremp, a wing and a prayer?

Its a faint hope but until the Canes win the fourth game, the Oil still have a chance.

So Smytty, get to it, its nut cutting time.

I think that means its desperation time but if it doesn't, well for the purpose of this post it does. Because it sounds funny. Unless you're the one getting snipped.

My dog still resents that horrible day. Every once in a while I see him laying outside, eyeing our garden shears, looking at me and I swear if he had thumbs I'd be in serious trouble.

Goilers! And if this is it, go out with your boots on.

What a beauty team!

Teemu Signs


I wonder if anyone will be left when the market opens.

Apparently a one year deal at 3.75 plus bonus clauses.

I think we will see a lot of veteran guys resigning with their present squads.

Better the devil you know then the one you don't when you're 37 or 38, I'd think. I'm 38 and I definitely don't like change.

As a matter of fact I resent it.

Now excuse me while I go browbeat some teenagers.

Stupid rock and roll music!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Oh oh


Two stories in this series.

Cam Ward.

Oilers' PP.

The young goalie had been excellent and if the Canes win one more game he has to be the Conn Smythe winner.

Oilers PP - 1 for, what 27, now. 0 for 4 in 2 man advantages. Carolina PK is good. But when you aren't even getting shots on a 5 on 3 ....

Will Craig Simpson still have his job next year? Probably. But if the Oilers score one more PP goal each game, where are they now?

Happy for Jussi - terrific game, did everything he could to get his team the win. After a tough year he's got two great games under his belt - gave his team a chance to win each game.

Some are going to hack on Torres - sure it was a dumb penalty. Some will get on Pronger for the giveaway on the winner. Without Pronger this team isn't even close to where they are.

But it comes back to the PP. And Cam Ward.

They gave it all they've got. They won't fold them up on Wednesday. But the mountain got a lot higher tonight.

Great end to the CBC telecast. No commentary. The Oil file off the ice as the full house chants "LETS GO OILERS!"

Lets go indeed.

The Big One, part Deux




Great article by Paul Hunter at the Toronto Star about Ryan Smyth which includes a great line from MacT that he attributed to Howie Meeker:

`Can't skate, can't hit, can't shoot, can't handle the puck, what a hockey player.'"

Al Maki at the Globe and Mail (its subscriber content only) also has quote after quote from Smyth's teammates affectionately cutting him up

Pronger: You look at his shot and he has a muffin

MacT: But at times, you can see Gary Bettman's name on the puck when he shoots it.

Moreau: Sometimes he winds up, takes a slap shot, and my five-year-old can shoot better.

Staios: Ask him how many goals he's scored from the top of the faceoff circle.He has two in his career . . . and both were deflected.

So the mood is light, which is good, but of course the Oilers are focussed on doing what they did against San Jose. They have completed the first part of that by winning game one but they have to win tonight to make this a best of three. Going back to Carolina down 3-1, not really an option.

Keys to Tonight

Power plays - Moving Tarnstrom to the first unit near the end of game 3 was a move I have been awaiting for a long time. Dennis too. The guy only ran the PP in Pittsburgh for at least a couple of years and did a good job by all accounts and purposes. He makes a nice quick pass and also is not afraid to throw it on the net. If the Oil are going to win this series they have to start getting one or two a game. No chances on a 5 on 3 (and not for the first time) is beyond unacceptable. On the other side of the coin is the Canes' PP. The Oil shut it down nicely last game. Do the Canes have to adjust? Will they? Their PP on the road has been Oiler like. At home its been a machine.

Getting to Ward - The Canes had a chance to win game three and good on them for that but Stillman admitted that the Oilers had outplayed them. Ward was the reason they were in the game, imo, just as in game one he didn't let in the backbreaker when it was 3-0. The Oilers have to keep sending pucks at the net and keep going to it hard. If they cannot get to Ward then they are not going to win this thing. He has been great. They were able to get to hot keepers in San Jose and in Anaheim and getting to Ward would mean facing a guy who was actually the Canes number one in the regular season in Gerber but they have to start somewhere.

Playing their game - As they did in Game Three - they have to play it close to the vest defensively, cut off the shooting and passing lanes, clear the front of the net, stay out of the box as much as possible, forecheck hard

As always its straight forward. They may do all of these things and still lose. But if they do what they have to I think tomorrow morning its a best of three.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Fine Whine

Loxy was able to get tickets to last night's game - check out her enthusiastic recap.

Andy Grabia over at Sport Matters has a good recap as well, including a link to EJ Hradek at ESPN who slams Rod Brindamour for his petulant attitude after last night's loss.

It was Hradek on the Score's postgame coverage as well as Cam Ward, Brindamour's own (and much younger teammate) who put things in perspective on the Smyth goal. Sometimes that play is ruled a goal. Sometimes it is not. Its a bang bang play at a high speed. The referee makes the call. Brindamour scored a goal himself against Montreal on an almost identical play in the first round.

The Canes are a veteran team but Brindamour's complaining as well as further whining from Doug Weight (I don't remember him being such a crybaby but I'm nearing forty now so it might be age), Wallin's handclapping after the Pronger penalty shot goal and so on make this team unlikeable and its too bad. Accusations of arrogance and of the Canes being sore losers have followed them - now if they are, so be it. I'm sure if they win the Cup none of their fan base will care.

But as Cason said about the Oilers after the first two games, the attitude that you are the better team does not serve you well. It is apparent that the Oilers took the Canes lightly. Up 3-0 in Game 1 they got away from what got them here. Only last night did they return to the style that had been successful for them. Now the Canes with their excuses and failure to give credit where credit is due appear to be heading down the same path as the Sharks and Ducks before them.

They may win game four and then wrap it up when they return to Raleigh but failure to credit your opponents usually means a failure to adjust and adjustments are crucial in a series like this.

If the Oilers ever figure out the power play and moving Disco Dicque to the first unit may be a start and if the Oilers get to Cam Ward the Canes may suddenly find themselves wondering what the hell happened when Bob Cole announces that Ryan Smyth is accepting the Stanley Cup for the Oilers.

I mean the Oilers' captain. Jason Smith. Whoever. Right Harry?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

There's One!


Is this a pint I see before me?

Now, might those fellows on the PP take a look at the tape and see two goals that were the result of throwing the puck at the net while teammates were heading there? Not trying to blast it through Ward and then missing the net completely?

A nice little wrister as was commented on a thread elsewhere.

That's all it takes.

Finally the Oilers play a full game the way they played on the way here.

One must win down.

Monday is the next one.

Quick edit - watching the broadcast of the 88 final. Cole and Neale are calling it. They actually sound like they are both interested and good at what they do.

Early in the game Cole mentions that up to this point the Oilers have 28 PP goals in the playoffs.

I think Craig Simpson just skated by. Apparently he didn't absorb much from the experience.

And there's MacT taking a defensive zone draw, sans helmet. He wins it of course. Waiting for him to block a shot.

Friday, June 09, 2006

This is it - Part II



A month ago tomorrow the Oil played game 3 against the Sharks. Down 2-0 in the series, they had been outplayed in San Jose and it looked like we were looking at an end to the season.

In the first must win game of that series the Oil pulled it out in triple OT. They never looked back and strung together probably their best five game stretch of the post season, winning four straight against the Sharks and then dominating the Ducks (despite the score the game was not in doubt) in game one. After that the flu took hold and while they got by the Ducks it wasn't pretty.

Now they return to Rexall down two again. Make no mistake, they have to get back to Carolina square up. And it starts tomorrow night.

They can play with the Canes. Up until Brindamour's goal in G1 they were in control. If they get back into this but fall short they will rue the collapse in G1. The mistimed pinches, giving up odd man rushes, missing coverages, poor goaltending, first by Roloson, then Conklin. Up 3-0 they stopped playing the way they had to get where they were. They probably looked at the Canes barely squeaking by les Sabres, looked at the scoreboard and figured they were golden.

In G2 they were in the game until the 2-0 goal but even then we saw poor discipline, pinching at the wrong time, going for the big hit and ending up out of position as a result.

So it all comes back to tomorrow night. What has to be done? Can anything be done? Or is this beauty run over? IMO, here's what they have to do. None of this is earth shattering stuff - just basic common sense hockey.

1/ Tighten up defensively. What got the Oilers to where they are was excellent defensive hockey. While Roloson was a big part of that I agree with Pronger who said at one point that Roloson had just made the saves he had to make. That's the truth. Sure he had some beauties but this was not a run keyed by Roy circa 86 or 93 or Giguere a few years back. This was based on a team shutting down the opposition, filling passing and shooting lanes, clearing the front of the net, winning the draw in their own end, not giving up odd man rushes. They haven't played loosey goosey hockey all playoffs. They have to get back to basics. And as individuals Smith and Staios especially have to step it up as they have all post season.

2/ Discipline. You're going to take penalties. Can't be helped. The Canes will get four or five PPs and so will the Oilers. But after that discipline has to be a factor. In G1 Moreau crosschecks a Cane in front of their own net. PP goal. In G2, Greene does the same. Just a couple of examples. One other note though - Torres has taken a lot of flak for his penalty which resulted in the second goal. I was watching the game with a friend (objective at that) and he noted and I agreed, that both players leaned into each other. There should have been no call, in his opinion. Raffi got it for essentially being stronger then the other guy. He's taken his share of bad ones, to be sure, but he shouldn't get blasted for that one.

3/ Shoot the puck. Go to the net hard. Attack the defence. G1 showed the Oil how to do it and they scored four - in G2 suddenly they forgot how to shoot. Credit to the Canes for becoming shotblockers because that got into Edmonton's heads just as the Oilers have done to their opponents all postseason.

But you can't score if you don't shoot.

4/ Power play adjustments. Do something, anything. Its terrible. One PP goal and that was on a beautiful individual play. I'd say work the puck down low and have Hemsky or Samsonov take on a Dman one on one. Because this is so far beyond predictable its ridiculous. I don't even know why Samsonov and Smyth are out there. Smasonov stands in the corner. Smyth stands in front of the net. They watch Hemsky pass it to Pronger, then to Spacek, then to Pronger etc etc until someone shoots it and it gets blocked or goes wide and then they do it all over again. The second unit was called Horcoff and a bunch of monkeys by someone at IOF but those clowns potted the winner in G5 against Anaheim and have been as dangerous if not more so then the first unit. At least Horcoff tries to create and the Black Cat gets pucks on net.

If they don't change anything off this game I want Craig Simpson's head. I'll give it to the dog. He can bury it somewhere.

So there you go. Its straight forward shit. They may do all of this and more and still lose. Carolina's a good team for sure. But they're having a walk in the park here.

Play good team D.

Stay out of the box.

Shoot the puck.

Make something out of the PP.

I think, as happened with San Jose, that the Oil rebound and win tomorrow. I have faith that MacT has made the adjustments and that this team will do what they have done when they had to - come out desperate and take the victory.

Then we will see in G4 if we have a series or not.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Perfect Storm


Ok, well after talking about the perfect game earlier we saw one tonight.

Wrong team though.

Actually as close to perfect as they could get. First half of the game was tight - Ward was the difference, making the saves he had to until the Canes got untracked.

And the Canes' shotblocking was impeccable.

Problem is twofold - the Oilers are not playing their best and that's not good enough facing this Canes team.

Ladd goal - Staios jumps into the rush needlessly leading to a 2 on 1. A minute prior to that the Canes had a 4 on 1.

Greene taking the exact penalty Moreau took in G1 - crosschecking a Dman in front of Carolina's net.

A failure to clear led to Horcoff taking a penalty on Staal.

Scrambling around from the D on the Stillman goal - what a play by Stillman though.

And from there it all fell apart. On the PP the Canes skill took over.

The Moreau punch on Wesley - stupid.

The Laraque hit from behind. Cheap cheap shot.

Positives.

Uhhh.

The Oilers kept battling.

Hemsky continued to be a factor, perhaps the Oilers' best forward.

Stoll and Samsanov apparently got their wakeup call.

Markannen was ok. Can't blame the guy in a game like this.



But their PP was awful.

And no discipline.

And some guys look done - Horcoff, Staios, Spacek, Pisani - to a lesser extent Smith, Smyth, Peca.

They look tired.

They have no margin for error now. None. They have to start in the first period of game 3 and hopefully recapture their lost mojo.

Or it will be over.

The Perfect Game

Last night we played in our summer league and lost 4-2 (empty netter was the fourth) to the first place team.

The first half of the game we spent chasing them and fell behind 2-0.

Then we began to come on and scored one. We had a breakaway. They scored another on the PP but from then on we took it to them, swarming the net in the last minute and hitting the post with 15 seconds left before they clinched it.

Over pints at the Dora afterwards we argued about the outcome. My buddy felt that we had played poorly in the first part of the game and that when we started playing better we took over. I felt that we played pretty well at first, as well as we could considering their skill level and that when they eased off a little we ramped it up a bit and they were unable to get their legs back.

In game 1 the Oilers were the better team for almost the entire first two periods and also outshot the Canes in the third. They felt however that they played poorly for part of the third and that was their downfall. The first and second goals were on odd man rushes and Roli played them poorly. Bergeron did not back Staios up on the fourth goal. We will not mention the goal that shall not be mentioned.

The Canes (players and fans) felt that the first two periods were their worst of the playoffs but that they played like they were capable in the third. In other words their play determined the results, not the Oilers errors.

Which came first? Chicken? Egg?

The truth, in both the men's league and the Stanley Cup, lies in between. The Oilers have said time and again that they have not yet had "the game" in these playoffs. The truth is I don't think it is possible to have "that game" - the competition is too good. To expect them to run the Hurricanes out of the rink - not going to happen. Likely the same the other way. Momentum shifts. A team relaxes. The other team gets desperate. A hit. A save. Suddenly the hunter is the hunted.

The Oil don't have to win tonight but they had better. They came back from being down 2-0 to the Sharks. The Canes came back from being down 2-0 to the Habs.

I don't think you want to be down 2-0 here. To do it once is one thing. To do it again too many things have to go your way.

Gary Roberts was on the local sports radio yesterday and I hear a replay of it. He played the Canes 8 times this year. Of course he was a former Cane. Interesting points he made - the Oilers will outhit the Canes but it may not do them any good. While the Canes are a finesse team they tend to take the punishment and move on. Roberts felt if the series was a long one it might work in the Oilers' favour because of their physical play but we'll see. First the series has to go 6 or 7.

All year he said the Canes were a third period team (proven again Monday) - you'd have them on the ropes and then there'd be two or three goals on you.

When he played with the Canes (a while back no?) he figured Brindamour was done. He was slow and beaten up. Roberts is a fitness fanatic and he figured Brindamour, a fanatic himself, has changed his regimen because he is far quicker then he ever was and he is also more durable. he's one guy who the lockout really benefitted.

Angst over the Oilers' situation is well documented. Tonight Jussi will be sent into the net, for the first time in over two months, I believe. A tough position for him.

He has to provide solid goaltending. If he does, the Oil have a chance.

The Oilers have to play tight defensively - not the crap that led to the Canes first, second, fourth and fifth goals.

They have to play as much as they can in the Canes' end. More pucks on Ward. The kid was a game saver in G1 - they have to try and keep at him.

They have to be disciplined.

Who knows what will happen? The Canes showed a frightful lack of killer instinct against the Sabres. If that arises again maybe the Oilers take G2 and its a series again. If the Canes seize the opportunity they could put the Oil in a world of trouble.

Obviously I'm hoping for an Oilers' win. A perfect game would be nice but I don't expect it. But a win would prolong the series (benefit to them I think) and mean that they can win with Jussi.

G1 was a terrific game. Whether you are an Oilers' fan, Canes' fan or a fan of someone else you have to have enjoyed the hockey. Compare it to the dreck of the last finals.

Anyhow, we'll see how it goes - if Jussi is solid I say the Oilers take it - if not, well, they'll have to go to option # 4. JDD?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Remember


Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbour?

He's on a roll, just let him go with it.

After a mostly sleepless night (wife - "you look like you're going to cry") I'm greeting the new day with a smile. A pained smile, but a smile nevertheless.

Is it a mountain that may be too high to climb? Sure. While I predicted the Oil to win with Roloson between the pipes we all know that the Canes are full value for their appearance in the final. They've gotten some breaks, sure, but they've made the most of them. They're a good deep team and even with Roli in there I knew they would be a tough nut to crack.

Without Roli, well we are all aware of the Oilers' goaltending woes this season. Conklin's error (coupled with Smith) reminded us of that. (And drfrank, a Carolina fan at the game, said that at that point that it was deafening in the building so it may have been as simple as Conklin not hearing Smith).

But some positives.

Ward made some huge saves. He may do so again game after game. If he does, good on him. But based on last night the Oil can score some goals this series. I think they may have to score a lot.

The Canes D are great shotblockers and Commodore (and there may be no guy who I am happier to see do well, though maybe not right now) made a brilliant play to stop a 2 on 1 which led to the 3-1 goal. But their D also looked slow and in a few cases scared. I saw more then a few bailouts. The Oilers can get to them and produce chances. They have to take a page fromt he Sabres and what they did when their D were dropping. Play the game in Carolina's end.

Oilers' coverage has to be better. That is what lost them the game. Way too many odd man rushes. The Canes have the talent. The Oilers have to take away the opportunities for that talent. They have in past rounds. They have to tighten it up. I think they got caught up in the moment.

Jussi has to play well. Roli did not last night. That's ok. But whether or not its him or Jussi or Eddie Mio the Oilers need solid goaltending. If they get it they still have a chance.

Also good to see - the 4th line produced a goal and a penalty shot. Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky were flying. Torres, I think, had a terrific game.

Bad - Sammy was nowhere to be seen.

So, here's the deal. They pretty well have to win tomorrow. Jussi has to play well. They have to tighten up the coverage in front of him. They have to cash their chances.

No biggie, right?

They can do it though. But its going to have to start with Jussi.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Return of Conkannen!

WTF!

Even before the return of Conkannen (for Canes fans as well as others not familiar with the Oil, goaltending like that is why the Oilers scraped into the playoffs as the 8th seed) this one was ugly for the Oil. Ward was the story tonight as he outtended Roloson. When the Canes were on the ropes and needed that save Ward gave it to them. Roloson couldn't stem the bleeding when the Canes began to come on.

Full marks to the Canes - they had the slow start (nerves?) - but they really came back hard. 3-0 is no gimme but its a pretty good bet and the Canes did not quit.

Interesting to me and at least a couple of positives to take from it. The Canes D are definitely vulnerable to a hard forecheck. Hemsky had a great game, his goal was sweet. Fourth line is definitely a plus for the Oilers compared to the Canes - do they have a fourth line? If the series goes six or seven these things may play things the Oilers' way.

While their energy level did not suffer from the layoff they certainly were not too tight defensively. The PK was good though, even with the Whitney goal. The PP looked awful until Hemsky's goal.

Question is, of course, are the defensive issues the Oilers to fix or the result of the Canes' superiority? If its the latter - ugh.

But that is glass half full or some such thing.

MacT is doing his presser - Roloson is done. Fuck.

That's not so good.

The return of Conkannen. Is it too late to get Morrison back?

Have to have a drink. Or ten.

Its Time!


Ole ole ole ole.

Ole ole.

Not much left to say that has not been said.

Pregame jitters are raging.

Go Oil!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Oilers in 5, no, 6


Here we go.

The layoff is not going to be that big of a deal. Historically teams have had long layoffs and lost and they have had long layoffs and won. The two teams who had long layoffs and were beaten this playoff year were inferior to their opponents. San Jose had quite a bit of time off before meeting the Oilers and won two straight and fairly easily at that. I think someone put it nicely - if given the choice between well and a little rusty and sharp but sick and exhausted the Oilers will take the former.

Both teams have a lot of experience so I don't think we will see anything like San Jose or Anaheim whose youthfulness turned out to be a negative, imo.

Ward has been good but the Oilers have already run two nice playoff goaltending stories out of the rink - they score dirty ugly goals, just the type you need in the playoffs. I think Ward is next.

The Oil will have to be more disciplined then they were against the Ducks - I think a lot of those calls were due to tiredness. In any case I think special teams will be a wash. Bad news for the Canes as their top two scorers have the majority of their goals on the PP.

I think the Canes' D struggles with the Oilers who are fast but also have more size then Buffalo, Montreal and Jersey.

Pronger, Smith and Peca will shut down Staal just as they have shut down Selanne, Thornton and the Wings.

To sum up - the Oil take this series and never mind their regular season. As has been discussed at length here and elsewhere , with good goaltending all season the Oilers are at least the third seed in the West. The Canes are good but their failure to put away a crippled Sabres team leads me to believe that they don't have what it takes. They have a deep team but not enough speed to compete with Edmonton. My Sabres buddy said that a few of the Canes (Weight, Recchi) just couldn't keep up. Add to this the Oilers' return to health, the most balanced offence in the playoffs and the dominant pair of Pronger and Smith and you get Oil in 6.

Oil in 6.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Random randomness

While awaiting Monday.

- les Sabres have some awful luck; four regular D gone and with some freaky shit too. And Connolly. A buddy of mine who is a diehard Sabres fan said that there were three Sabres who when they are on the ice make him relax because they just don't screw up - Tallinder, Numminen, Connolly - and they were all out. And they still nearly pulled it off. Imagine the Oil with a D of Smith, Bergeron, Tarnstrom, Ulanov, Syvret and Dan Smith. And missing Stoll or Peca. That's what the Sabres were looking at. What a gutsy team.

- the Canes have one of those solid no name defences that always seem to pop up on at least one finalist every year

- read a nice quote from Kevin Lowe about the break the Oil are getting - one year when he was playing they had 11 days off before the final - in other words - suck it up - no excuses

- having said that, how does one series end in 5 and the other in 6 and there are five days in between - how the hell does that happen? My two year old could come up with a better schedule. (ok, so she's two and a half)

- had people over for dinner last night and one remarked that it would be nice to face Carolina as it would be a much more competitive series then if they faced Les Sabres (after watching those Sabres I'm not sure about how noncompetitive they would have been - they just got things done) - I could care less if its competitive or a classic or whatever - if the Oil won every game 22-0 it would suit me just fine. I'm sure Canes' fans feel the same. Just win the damn thing!

- the Hat has a great column at the Globe talking about the McCabe signing and essentially what a joke it is - even Pat Quinn felt that McCabe was at best in the top 20 D in the league - JFJ only had to look at the D on the Canes and les Sabres to see that paying this stiff nearly 6M a year will win him the Mike O'Connell award - nice work loser! For that money he could have picked up two or three decent D or a good keeper or a couple of fast guys to play on his top two lines, imo. I can't understand why its been 39 years since the Leafs have won the Cup. Oh well, at least MLSE is selling lots of condos

- I think we'll see a lot of guys sign before July 1st - we'll see some more big contracts that are going to crush teams before next season has even started - the smart teams will move in and pick up the guys like Jay McKee for reasonable coin when the dust settles

- Roloson and Pisani will be among those who sign before July 1st; Spacek too if the Oil want him and he doesn't ask for the moon

- Jaro Spacek, Horcoff, Stoll and Pronger needed this time off more then anyone (especially the first three) and I think all of them are going to be dynamite in the final

- thank goodness Cole won't be available for the final

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Reason # 4367 the Leafs aren't winning the Cup soon


The more things change the more they stay the same.

5.8 M per for 5 years for Bryan McCabe.

Does anyone remember the last time the Leafs were in the playoffs? McCabe was a one man wrecking crew. I don't mean that in a good way.

The Leafs' apologists in the media claim that the Leafs hands were tied. They are now. Especially considering the report that the contract includes a no-trade clause.

So, lets review. In the 2011-2012 season the Leafs will be paying Bryan McCabe 5.8 Million dollars a year. All for a guy who:

-lacks maturity and discipline, taking selfish and stupid penalties time and time again

-is a liability in his own zone, blowing basic coverages frequently

-has never won anything and indeed, plays worse when the chips are down

-is on his fourth NHL team and ?? coach - the feeling is that Maurice will be able to do with McCabe what all these others could not - not sure why but we'll see

The beauty of this is that the Leafs are going the tried and true route that has gotten them nowhere for years. They have over 10M tied up in McCabe and Kaberle now - more then the Sabres have spent on their whole D, I would guess. Just a little less then the Oilers, who have Pronger at 6 M in that bunch.

Would you rather have McCabe or Pronger for 200K more?

The best thing is if the Oil stay smart its one more team they are competing with that has tied its own hands for years to come.