Monday, October 30, 2006

Confidence



Confidence is everything.

Chuck Knoblauch lost his and went from being a top notch second baseman to baseball's scrap heap.

I played hockey twice this weekend. If I were to put it generously, prior to the last two seasons I would probably be best described as a poor man's Ethan Moreau, maybe, if Moreau wasn't very aggressive. And if he was small. And slow.

Hard worker. Good in my own end. Decent playmaker. The type of guy who is going to finish ten out of ten breakways by stuffing it right into the goalie's belly. The type of guy with a lot of try but who scores most of his goals by getting them bounced off of his ass.

Anyhow yesterday I had a nice chance and the goalie came over and made a nice pad save. A year ago I would have shoved it back into him. This time, I drew the puck back and roofed it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was surely a first.

Confidence. Despite my age I've been getting better, basically getting by on positioning and smarts now that the legs are going. (And are they ever going.) I'm putting a lot of pucks in the net and also taking a lot more penalties because I have been harder on the puck and harder to it - whereas before I would hesitate or get outmuscled, now I'm getting after it. I'm not a big guy but I've been knocking guys over because I want the puck.

The reason for all of this blather? Confidence matters. It isn't everything but its pretty damn close. Two years ago I got the puck in the slot and scored. It deflected off a teammate. if it hadn't it would have gone directly into the corner. Of the rink. Fifteen feet wide.

Now, as my linemate said, roof daddy!

And it matters just as much at the pro level.

Unless you're a guy who has done and seen it all, like Sakic or Shanahan, or you have supreme confidence in your abilities, say, like Kovalchuk, Ovechkin or Crosby (just based on their demeanours), you're going to run into crises of confidence. And when you do, you're going to struggle.

I think on the Oilers you could put Smyth and Sykora into your first group. Not that they are slump proof but I think they're the types who just keep at it, knowing that sooner or later the puck is going to go in, as it usually has. You can probably toss Lupul into group II. For that matter Laddy Smid may belong there too.

As for the rest, they belong with us mere mortals.

Stoll started slowly and suddenly he has three goals and his linemates have suddenly gotten going.

Pisani (talk about a perfect example) was hampered by a bad knee early on. Now he suddenly has two in two games (and was flying against the Ducks). If I wasn't a cheap bastard I'd put money on Fernando getting on a big time roll now.

Confidence.

At the other end of the scale, Horcoff, who has struggled out of the gate. But more then any player on this team, he knows where hard work will get you. He'll be ok.

But the biggest worry?

Raffi.

Frequent poster Kyle Kosior ran into some Oiler brass recently and managed to get some conversation in with them - apparently Torres has huge confidence issues - he is the least confident guy on the team.

This doesn't surprise me. Raffi strikes me as being a big kid - there is no doubting his talent - but his problem is between his ears. He's the type of guy who can dominate for ten games and then be brutal for twenty.

Many figured this would be Torres' breakout season but after a good camp, he has struggled, replaced by Thoresen on the second line, demoted to the fourth for a game until Moreau was hurt.

Can he get it together? If not, he might be tradebait, which would be a shame, because the kid has the skill set to be a dominant player.

But apparently he needs Melfi more then he needs MacT right now.

Friday, October 27, 2006

And Sometimes Apparently The Bunny Gets You Too



Well, what can be said.

The Oilers were not ready to play.

They know it.

Goaltending was shoddy.

Smith and Tjarnqvist a -6 combined.

Horcoff and Smyth a -4 combined.

The only good thing that can be taken is that Pisani, who was flying against the Ducks, finally got his first.

Dennis at IOF has commented from the beginning that his biggest worry was the Oilers on the road this year, when they can't hide their weaknesses.

That is a problem but I think Horcoff touched on the bigger one. This team has gotten away from the style that made them successful on the road last year in the last two games.

They have been seduced, slightly anyhow, by the increase in skill on the roster, and what was a pretty good start. They have forgotten that without some work and grit, any team can beat any team on any given night.

They found that out the hard way yesterday.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

And Sometimes That Bear Gets You



Quick comments on last night's loss. I saw the first two periods.

The difference last night was the goaltending. So it goes. The second period especially was the killer. At one point the Oilers had outshot them 16-6 and were outscored 3-1. That says it all. Considering Roloson's play this year he obviously gets a mulligan. Up to last night he'd be graded as an A+. Now maybe an A. The Shannon goal was a killer.

The Ducks can shut you down at ES, no? Which means Stoll's line has to produce and so does the PP. A little of both but not enough. Looks like Stoll has gotten it together - I would think Pisani is next. He looked dangerous last night. Look for him to score tonight or Saturday.

Smid impresses me.

Greene less so.

Its early but I tell you one place that is looking mighty important right now and that is first in the Pacific. Because likely two of Dallas, San Jose and the Ducks are going to play each other in the first round. Here's hoping Dallas' shootout acumen gets them first so the Ducks and Sharks have to go at it.

Jacques fits in fine. He already looks better then Winchester. He certainly can skate. And having said that Winchester looks alright too. I was going to comment on how the fourth line was doing a job on Getzlaf and then he ends up with two - of course the first was against Stoll's line. Not sure on the second.

Anyhow, Jacques looks good. Nice to see.

Selanne looks like he's hurt and I thought there was a reference to that? They need him - odd to say considering they filled the Oil for six goals but this team doesn't strike me as having a lot of offensive weapons. Getzlaf obviously is coming into his own but Perry was a nonfactor and Penner did little in my books.

Oilers need another Dman though - which of course we all knew.

Overall, a disappointing result. Obviously there were breakdowns here and there and Anaheim took charge. They and Buffalo look to be the class of the league right now.

Finally, I have been changing the channel on principle whenever knucklehead Tie Domi appears on my screen in his new role as hockey analyst but after catching him last night let me just say I have become a huge fan. The guy is so bad he is good. I mean we are talking an Ed Wood movie or Keanu Reeves doing Shakespeare.

At one point he blabs "Hey folks, these guys have more scoops then anybody I know!" When James Duthie begins to try and fill the embarrassed silence that resulted from this outburst Domi talked over him again. "Their cell phones are always ringing with tips.", he blurted. That or some other nonsense.

I was laughing so hard I didn't catch the last bit.

Ahh, TSN, let your advertisers work their wiles on me - I will be tuning in again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Now Who?



With the news that Hot-Off champ Ethan Moreau is possibly gone for the season after bitch slapping alleged alcoholic Danny Markov (Moreau is cornering the market on goofy injuries - first basketball, now this, what's next falling through a pane of glass after dreaming of spiders), the question now is - uh, now what?

First of all, thank God for Patrick Thoresen or whatever Grabia is calling him nowadays. (BTW, he is big news back in Oslo et al - check out Uni's translation in the comments - verified by an actual Norwegian Oilers' fan as pretty damn good translating) Thoresen has, with his weird but wonderful come out of nowhere story, solved two problems. He is playing on the second line (wtf) with Hemsky and Sykora (3 assists the other night) and will likely take a lot of Moreau's time on the PK.

Wait a second, I think Moreau just injured himself falling of a bicycle.

Raffi Torres, bumped down the depth chart by Thoresen and his own failure on said line (and that's quite alright - that never seemed like a good fit anyhow) played one game on the fourth line and then took Moreau's spot on the third line with Stoll and Pisani. He immediately picked up his second goal of the year. Remember last year's playoff run when Torres played with Peca and Pisani and he did pretty alright. Well, this might work out ok for all concerned.

So, next question. Who gets called up?

Maybe nobody. Its not like Mikhnov and Jacques have gotten a lot of play - why bring up another kid to sit in the pressbox? With Winchester starting to become a bit of a presence out there (did I just say that?) the likelihood of him coming out lessens.

Mikhnov struggled last night - big surprise. First NHL game and when is the last time he played anyhow? Jacques will draw in this week, maybe tomorrow. He will add some of that physical play lost with Moreau's loss.

This just in - apparently Moreau has a broken heart - Alana may be trying to take his crown on some sort of technicality?
The only issue - do they need someone to come up to take more of that PK time that Moreau ate up? I think they do so we may see Pouliot or Brodziak on the way. Brodziak has rebounded from a camp where he disappeared to have a good start down in the AHL. Maybe he will get his shot.

Schremp - forget it. No point. Let him hone his craft in the minors.

I say, give Jacques a shot. At the very least he'll probably hurt someone.

Maybe that arsehole who plays D for the Ducks.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Killers!



It was last spring that the Oilers began to demonstrate the instincts of a true contender. When they got knocked down they got back up. When they knocked an opponent down they didn't let them get up. Instead they got down there and choked them dead.

When they weren't at their best they invariably found a way to win.

Saturday night and most nights this season they have continued this. This team has a swagger to it that almost fifteen years of Oilers' squads did not. While the PP has been for the shits and a lot of individuals are struggling in the offensive end of the rink, the truth is if you had told me in September that we would be 5 and 2 at this point, after a tough schedule to start the year, and with the team not really firing on all cylinders yet, I would be damn pleased. And I am.

So now, after games against divisional rivals, Stanley Cup favourites and still dangerous aging powerhouses, the Oilers face a week in which they tangle with another early favourite in Anaheim as well as a couple of also rans in Phoenix (twice) and Washington.

As chris! points out and as all of us remember from last season's Bataan Death March to the playoffs, the Oilers can struggle when facing teams that they should handle easily. Give them the Wings or Stars or Avs of old and they will charge out, full of vigour, as randy as a Republican at a Boy Scout jamboree. Give them the Hawks or the Jackets and they come out, well, not like that.

The thing is, if the Oilers can force the Yotes and Capitals to try and keep up to them then its likely six points. There are times you will lose to a weaker opponent - it happens. But if the Oilers are looking to establish themselves as contenders once again then they had better take the points from the weak sisters of the conference more times then not. They should make it a matter of course. Leaving points on the table - not a good idea. Ask the Canucks, who likely left a playoff spot in Missouri last year.

I think that based on comments from the players that this team is still striving to get where it wants to get and that this fact, combined with a lot of individuals trying to find their games, leads to some really good performances this week.

The man in the mask? Ken Dryden of course.

The meaning? In The Game, Dryden describes the dressing room as the Habs prepare to face the Red Wings. A terrific passage. Shutt clowning around, needling his teammates. LaFleur wonders about with a coffee and smoke. Bowman trying to prepare them for a game against a team which has been terrible for over a decade. He does all he can to prepare his team, one of the great dynasties in hockey history, to play a squad that has nothing. Absolutely nothing.

One of his exhortations - its four point game!

Once he leaves Dryden describes a team that is not ready, that knows it has two points in the bag with just a modicum of effort, that has to motivate itself to care. He runs through all of the cliches the team throws out. As they begin to ramp up, someone shouts out "C'mon boys, its four pointer!"

To which some wit replies that if the Wings win it they will close the gap between the teams to 39 points.

Even one of the best teams in history struggled with this situation. Lets see if the Oilers can prove this week that they have figured out what needs to be done.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hanging Around

Well, my wife is back at work after her maternity leave. Kids are in bed. In-laws are gone. I don’t have hockey tonight.

So it’s a glass of Guinness and HNIC doubleheader tonight, first I’ve been able to catch.

Wanted to try and post things as they happen but Blogger seems to be goofed. Oh well.

Bob Cole said early in the Leafs’ game – “The crowd is quiet tonight.” Hey Bob, have you ever been to a Leafs’ game?

Everytime Bryan McCabe screws up, which is frequently, I laugh at the fact that JFJ gave this guy such a ridiculous contract. They should have traded him at Christmas last year when everyone thought he was Son of Orr. Instead they are stuck with him – tons of cash, longterm, no movement contract. I really can’t understand why the Leafs haven’t won the Cup in nearly 40 years.

Looks like Ottawa figured out this offence thing, with New Jersey playing the role of the Flyers. Even Dean McAmmond has potted a couple.

Speaking of offence, probably a bag skate for the Sabres tomorrow. Or maybe Lindy will make them wear their equipment while they fly home from Boston. Only six goals! Man are they slacking. Look at some of these guys – Drury has 9. Vanek has 5. Pominville 4. Afennafenna has 5 – my Sabres’ buddy has always described Maxim as the most frustrating player in the history of sport – all sizzle, no steak as Vic would say – looks like he may have figured it out

O’Neill ties the game. If you own a bar on the Danforth you’re about to make a whack of cash. Saw O'Neill on a Sunday morning last winter. I figured him for a hobo.

Nice homecoming for Theodore – 8 goals against.

Tampa wins and Brad Richards gets his first goal! Jesus. And St. Louis his second and Vincent his third. If you’re killing your team cap wise for these guys you’d figure to expect a little more.

Taylor Pyatt has four goals for the Canucks already. Didn’t see that coming.

Shanny wins it for the Rangers in the shootout. Bob Cole cracks on him for not cashing his chance in Nagano.

Bob could crack on somebody for a Maroons/St. Patricks game back in ’16 when Bad Joe Hall broke a man’s neck, I’m thinking. He is that old.

What the Fuck? CBC is going to the Canucks/Nashville game – kidding, right? Why? A rematch of a great series between two great franchises, one that has three cups in the last ten years, the other which was a Cup runner-up last year or a game between two teams that have zero Cups between them in a city where nobody cares.

Excellent choice. Is this Nancy Lee’s going away gift to the country that has paid her wage for the last twenty years? Remind me again – why is the CBC becoming less relevant every passing moment?

Blogger still isn’t working – is that where Nancy Lee works now?

Willie Mitchell just got smoked – he’s pulling a bit of a Ron Francis – wobbling back to the bench.

Luongo is unbelieveable. I would not want to face the Canucks in the playoffs. They might not even make it but if they do … take a pass on facing them in the first round.

Josh Green is on the Canucks’ second PP unit.

Canucks tie it with 1:40 left. I’m going to miss the whole first period apparently.

Wait a second – I thought the Tigers were a sure thing! All the experts said so.

Game over – Krajicek – that looked like a weak one.

Blah blah blah Hughson – lets move along – Oil are on the PP.

PP is over without a shot on goal. Bring me Craig Simpson’s head. Now.

Ahh, Kelly Hrudey. I’m back in my happy place.

Here we go.

Pisani hurts Markov. Look at Markov’s partner bail when Moreau comes at him.

Nice work by Lupul along the boards – takes the puck from two Wings and feeds Staios. Remenda has an orgasm. He loves Staios apparently. Yep, he does.

Smid makes a nice play on a Wings rush but Greene and Bergeron look terrible on the next shift. Greene picks up his second penalty.

Still a sweet PK. And Bergeron and Hemsky are on it. I must be loaded. I don’t think so. Maybe one of the kids slipped some peyote into my glass.

Torres goes from playing with Hemsky to playing with Winchester. That sucks.

Hemsky stickhandles through the Red Wings entire team, right back to Ted Lindsay. No shot results.

Thoresen looks like he fits in with the Czechs. This line looks, well, like the Wings used to look like against the Oilers. They own the puck.

Oilers just keep on coming. Winchester runs Chelios over.

Have no quibbles about the Oilers’ game so far. Winning battles for the puck. Going hard to the net. They’re playing great.

On the PP – one shot in 3 so far. And this looks pretty shit too.

Detroit got a shot though. Offside. Grabia must be going nuts.

Hemsky looks dynamite. The Oilers look dynamite. But 1-0 going into the third. Still anyone's game.



Third Period – Wings come out strong

Nice shift for Torres and Winchester – seems to me like MacT is rolling four lines or pretty close to it.

Beauty pass by Horcoff, Smyth drives the net, Oilers PP. Can we decline it?

Should have declined it. Nothing doing. As soon as the penalty expires we’re all over them.

Oiler penalty. Pisani. Iffy.

Another good PK.

What a glove save by Roli. Wow.

Hoy Christ – suicide pass by Smith, Stoll gets levelled and it’s a clusterfuck.

But Sykora. What a pass by Laddy Smid. Snipe.

Bergeron plays Lang perfectly on the rush.

Shaggy flips it out and Lupul scores.

Ahh, so this is what skill looks like.

No offense to the Oiler teams of recent vintage. Guys like Marchant and Grier set the tone, along with guys like Moreau, and Pisani – that lunchbucket, hard driving style – love it.

But these guys can finish. Wow.

I know Tyler discounted the loss of Yzerman and Shanahan a little but this Wings’ team has very little of that old time swagger. The Oilers controlled the game. Hasek kept the Wings in it and Datsyuk had a beauty goal for sure but then it was like a reversal of recent times – the Oil turned it up and game over.

The Wings, to be honest, look pretty sad. Now, they are finishing up a tough road trip but they don’t look like the same team as they have.

Moreau looks like he picked up some freak injury. His gigantic bicep maybe?

Note how Smith and Staios were right in there? These guys, like Moreau, are going to get extensions and they’re going to get overpaid but there is something to be said for the impact they have on this team. Will have to post on the value of intangibles sometime soon I think. For example – Jarret Stoll makes 2.2 M and Moreau will be making 2M against the cap – Stoll had a good game tonight but I’d say Moreau means more to this team. Right or wrong?

Five and two.

Now can they choke the life out of the Coyotes and Capitals? Banking points now – always a good thing.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hey Weirdo, Remember This?



Here are two guys who were big parts of last spring's magic run. Pisani was rewarded nicely in the offseason. Torres' contract is up after this season.

Neither has a goal going into tomorrow night's action against the Wings.

Pisani tweaked a knee in training camp and hasn't found the range yet. He started the year playing with Horcoff and Smyth, a line I liked a lot, but soon found himself playing with Moreau and Stoll instead. Stoll has done nothing so far and Pisani's a step behind I think. With a few days rest thanks to the crank addict who apparently did the NHL schedule this season, here's hoping he gets something going tomorrow night.

Meanwhile Torres has sunk to the bottom of the depth chart, just this side of the press box. I like Raffi but I think he's a bit of a goof. I figured he would tear it up this season but the fact that he failed playing with Hemsky and Sykora doesn't surprise me. Those guys are slick skill all the way and Torres handles the puck like its vial full of Syphillis. Plus he doesn't really have a lick of sense - he got a clue last spring and apparently lost it again this summer. Hey Raffi. Psst. Hit some guys. Hurt them. And go to the goddamn net. Hard. Christ.

Benefit of suddenly having depth up front. If a guy isn't performing (and there are a couple in this boat) switch him up with someone who is.

As for the Wings, well, apparently their division isn't full of a bunch of peewee teams anymore. Plus the fact that instead of three lines that can hurt you they now really have only two. They're off to a slow start. They've clobbered Phoenix, eked out a win over LA and beat the Penguins.

Whoop de doo.

San Jose ran roughshod over them last night.

Zetterberg and Datsyuk have three points each. Mathieu Schneider leads the team with Jason Williams with three goals (he scored all three in the romp over Phoenix).

You want weird stats - check out the goalies. Save percentages are all for shit but goals against way down there.

They don't allow a lot of shots (they have an impressive d for sure) but Hasek hasn't looked like a world beater. Of course he didn't look like that in his first go round with Detroit either and that was four years ago.

Anyhow, I think the consensus on this team was that they were bound for the playoffs again but that they might be getting ready to slide. And with no youngsters making an impact up front and Datsyuk a UFA after this year it might be ugly.

A chance for the Oilers to keep up the momentum of what has been a decent start. Lets hope so.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Importance of Being Thoresen




I think that your man Patrick Thoresen is married - the caption under the first photo is "FREMTIDEN ER VÅR: Patrick Thoresen var banens beste i opprykksfinalen til A-VM. Etter tapet for Hviterussland søkte han trøst hos datteren Mathilde (13 md.) og samboer Monica. "

I've never been to Oslo but my guess is hos datteren means his daughter. Anyhow, the Hot Oil gang can add him to their list of taken Oilers if they can get someone who speaks Norwegian to confirm.

Either that or he's running to replace Ralph Klein. Keep it up and he's a sure thing, I think.

A few quick thoughts.

1/ Thoresen's jump in icetime in the last two games, both close games against a divisional rival, illustrates a few basic points. The kid has the confidence of the coaching staff. He is playing himself into a larger role on this team. Veterans who aren't pulling their weight had better start to. Raffi Torres has seen his icetime fall off - getting a spot with Hemsky and Sykora has resulted in one goal for the streaky weirdo, one less then the rook.

I think the days of getting icetime because MacT's options were limited are over. And with Mikhnov, Jacques and yes, Winchester, chomping at the bit to move up the depth chart (and with others in the minors as well) guys are going to have to produce or lose icetime. How nice is that for the coaching staff?

2/ The fact that five of twelve forwards don't even have a goal yet and the Oilers are still 4 and 2 is, well, weird? Its heartening but if you had told me in June that the Oilers would have the record they have after six games and that Pisani, Reasoner, Winchester, Stoll, Horcoff, Moreau, and Torres would have as many goals between them as Patrick Thoresen I would have said "who the fuck is Patrick Thoresen?" and "how do all those guys get injured at once?"

3/ While Grabia pines for LeGG (great guy, not so great a player) I, for one, am pleased that we have two thirds of a fourth line who can play more then 30 seconds in a big game. Love LeGG but Thoresen has as many goals already as he did in 72 games last year. And at less then half the price.

4/ Shaggy makes Lowe look like a genius.

5/ Lowe's master plan, if there is such a thing, is working out alright so far. A 4 and 2 record. The two games where opponents put up more then two goals, the offence getting the job done. The only two losses by 2-1 scores. If they can keep it up for, well, say another 30 games or so, then he will be dealing from a position of strength when he bulks up that blueline.

6/ Roloson and Markannen have both done a nice job. What a difference.

7/ MAB played huge minutes last game - MacT doing all he can to give this guy some confidence. I think they stick with him as long as they can but we may see Hejda pretty soon. He played a lot of tough minutes in the preseason - it will be interesting to see what happens when he does draw in. Can't wait.

8/ Same for Mikhnov.

9/Petr Nedved may be back sooner then later - apparently Forsberg has been injured tonight. Things are turning ugly in Philly.

10/ Ottawa with only one goal so far tonight and a shoutout to Earl Sleek with a beauty line in a thread over at Battle of Alberta:

What about the fact that I have as many points this season as Rob Blake and Wade Redden combined? Where's my $6 mil?

He's here all week. Earl Sleek.

He's a funny dude.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An Update On My Injury Status



For those that didn't know I also have a "lower body injury" and am listed as "day to day" which doesn't mean a whole lot really. I'm a dog. So I sleep and eat and sleep some more. I also enjoy scratching myself. Vigourously.

Non hockey people often ask why I call it a "lower body injury". Instead of something more specific. The answer is simple. If other teams were to catch wind of what specific injury you have, like, say, my balls got cut off by some prick bastard doctor, they can attack my non testicled groin area with their sticks and punches and the kicking and the biting. (Sidenote: I DO STILL HAVE MY ORIGINAL BALLS!)

Anyway, I'm just resting up here. Got a good ten hours in again today. After a nice ten hours last night. Man do I have it made. And my owner will be home soon, unbeknownst to him I have overcome the fact that I don't have thumbs and have figured out how to use those snazzy garden shears. We'll see how he likes it when I'm done with him and he can't breed anymore. Although I do like to get right in there with the front row seat when they're breeding.

Kind of freaks out the alpha female when I do that though.

Anyways, not having balls isn't all that bad. I can still get myself pretty well all the way there by rubbing my ass against the couch or the tree out back or anything else I can get to.

And I can still lick my own cock. Lets see Mr. "Master Of The House" do that.

Whatever.

I'm 4'6" from nose to the tip of my tail and 76 pounds. (I've gained weight ever since the boy started eating solid foods- what can you do?)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Danger In Press Clippings



Four examples of this last night:

1/ Jose Theodore. The kid was good once upon a time. Anybody who saw the highlights from his disastrous performance last night against Chicago can see that Pierre LaCroix's last big move is going to handcuff this club for years. He let in three goals, including two by Marty LaPointe, that make Ty Conklin look like Glenn Hall. I kid you not.

2/ The Chicago Bears took the Monday Night Football stage after a week of comparisons to the Super Bowl team of 1985 and articles asking if this will be the team that matches the 72 Dolphins with an undefeated season. Facing a typical Arizona team (terrible) with a rookie quarterback, the Bears proceeded to fall behind 23-0 while their own young quarterback turned the ball over an astounding six times. While the Bears' offence scored a total of three points their defence and special teams scored 21 points from the last ten seconds of the third quarter on and then Arizona's kicker missed a makeable field goal at the end of the game. Peter King calls it one of the worst choke jobs in sports history. That may be but nobody is comparing these Bears with that '85 team this morning.

3/ John Tortorella (pictured above) is about to get the axe, I would say. He's a pretty good coach but at some point, like so many of these guys, I'm thinking he began to think he was a genius. Not sure how he'll blame last night's disaster or the terrible starts of St. Louis and Richards, for that matter, on John Grahame . When he spent last year's playoffs trashing Grahame (publically giving your team a built in excuse for losing ranks up there amongst the worst coaching moves one can make, methinks) you knew his time was coming.

4/ And finally, your Edmonton Oilers. After coming out guns a blazing this season to prove that they are a team to be reckoned with (which they are) they spent a good part of Saturday night allowing Roli to bail them out. They got away with it. Last night they shortcutted again apparently. Roli held them in there but no two points this time. A good lesson to be learned - good press is nice but it gets you nowhere when the puck drops.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ebb and Flow

Or as this post was originally titled - "Eat Me Joffrey, No Wait I Take It Back!"

Oh man, its early. Early early early. It seems like everyone has five points. Teams that have had poor starts supposedly (Ottawa, Calgary) have one or two less points then teams whose fans are giddy (Oilers, Toronto).

Eric Duhatschek today talks about the shootout and how it skews everything. You look at the standings and even the teams who are playing poorly (Tampa - 13th in the East and Richard and St.Louis have one goal between them - have two points less then the Oilers) are racking up points. He puts forward the idea of revamping the standings so a regulation win would be worth three points and an OT win would be worth two points only. Of course it also reminds us about Dallas and how their point totals were inflated last season because they have some of the best shootout guys in the league. The difference between them and the Avs was far smaller then most thought.

Anyhow, I was cruising the blogs today and was once again reminded of the nature of being a fan. Where ten days ago there was nervousness there is now unbridled optimism (well, not from all quarters) Even Dennis at IOF is feeling pretty good about the 3 and 1 start.

And if the Oil come out of this home and home with nothing - well then the worm will turn.

Nothing wrong with that - its the nature of the beast. I'm an optimist anyhow and its a long season so no worries from this quarter.

What has interested me is how quickly Joffrey Lupul has gone from problem child and tradebait to part of the solution in five periods of play. I didn't see the five periods in question but essentially it boils down to young Lupul competing hard.

That's all it took.

Now, maybe I overestimate this but I figured Lupul's days as a floater were going to be short. Playing with Smyth and Horcoff and sharing the room with guys like Moreau, Pisani, Smith, Reasoner and Staios will do that. The coaches will have their say but in the end it comes down to your teammates and watching Staios take a puck in the face and not miss a shift likely made a slight impression.

You know what, he's going to get reamed on more then one occasion this season for leaving his A game at home. It happens. Does anyone recognize Ales Hemsky as compared to last season.

I think this might work out.

Anyhow, so far Greene, Tjarnqvist and Smid are exceeding expectations. Sykora, Thoresen and if its possible to say so, Smyth and Hemsky too.

At the other end - Torres, Moreau, Pisani and Stoll. Although two goals tonight or tomorrow from any of those guys and suddenly all is rosy.

In two weeks the names may be be completely reversed.

The guy on the hot seat - Bergeron. I figured him for a good year but he's struggling and his game on Saturday has posters howling for his head. With this guy I think his confidence is sagging - if he craps out tonight then rightly or wrongly wait to hear those boobirds come out.

And then what happens?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Vic, Is That What You Mean By High Event?



Marc Andre Bergeron - 8 minutes and 24 seconds of even strength icetime
Matt Greene - 8 minutes and 22 seconds of even strength icetime

On the ice for four goals, three of those against.

Don't go to the fridge when these guys are out there.

I played hockey twice last night myself and didn't bother taping the game so these comments are based on highlights and just general themes. I welcome any correction to what I'm about to say.

Four games is a pretty small sample but I would say Bergeron is going to begin to feel the heat pretty soon. From what I could see he left Wolski wide open in the slot on his goal. And on Arneson's goal he allowed a guy who hadn't scored since February, a guy just trying to resurrect what looked to be a promising career, well, he allowed that guy to leave him flailing helplessly.

I'm a fan of Matt Greene (still no minors this season - has he learned his lesson) so I may be letting that get in the way here but imo he was fine on both goals. He had his man in both cases.

I wonder if we see Jan Hejda anytime soon?

Now that two lines are rolling (and on one drive to the net did Hemsky ever remind me of Hossa - different player obviously but just explosive acceleration; Ales has come into his own), it would be nice to see that third line get untracked. Noted five shots for Moreau and three for Pisani and I'd sure like to know how they looked last night - they're playing the tough minutes and getting bitten in the arse in the +/- - are they doing alright out there?

39 saves for Roloson and a .920 save % thus far. I'd venture if this was last season that might have been a loss. The save on Brisebois was a beauty.

Shaggy sure eats up the minutes, huh? And he adds a little to the offence too.

Laddy Smid is alright by me so far.

A few more shifts for Thoresen including a shift on the PK. The fact that he was over 7 minutes of ice while Winchester was at a minute and a bit says it all. I guess you don't change a winning hand but I would say the next loss sees Winny come out - nothing against the guy but the fourth line role is not one that fits him - they should get someone in there who can give them more minutes.

Only four minors. That's more like it.

The PP goal was a thing of beauty.

From what little I have read Lupul had a more complete game tonight, some good work along the boards and on the backcheck. Lets hope its a sign of things to come.

Home and home against the Canucks. If they can make some hay (and yes yes its early) they could open up a little gap there.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sometimes You Get The Bear



Had dinner out last night with my wife's cousin and his wife - had a few pints of Oatmeal stout and jigged home along the Danforth.

Checked on the Interweb and the Oil were up 1-0. Checked a minute later and it was 2-1 Sharks.

Where is that vaunted offence, I thought?

Woke up this morning to one of those 6-4 wins we figured we would see a lot of this season.

Haven't seen the highlights or read much except the TSN site stuff but some notes, many quite obvious.

- while I'm not planning a parade yet - 2 and 1 after two against the Lames and one against the Sharks is a nice start; 3 and 0 would be better but the fact that for a bounce here or there they would be 3 and 0 makes me feel pretty good

- as has been bandied about quite a bit this team has a deep bunch of forwards and last night it showed with four goals from the 1A line, which only had 1 on the PP prior to this game

- nice to see Thoresen pick up his first goal - not a lot of icetime for him and Winchester last night but good to see a contribution; hope to see him on the PK soon, I think we will

- Laddy Smid was a plus two in what I figured might be a nightmare game for him and that's with 13:14 in EV icetime - haven't seen a shift chart - maybe they ran him out after a lot of those PP but regardless, good for him

- 2 for 4 on the PP - that's a little more like it plus they outscored the Sharks 4 to 1 at EV - that, my friends, is damn good shit

- now for the bad - and this is something that has to stop - not just change, but stop - 10 PP against?? What the hell is that? And as someone who lived in Quinnland for years, I'll tell you its up to MacT to nip this. Hemsky had four penalties? Bench him. Seriously. Now I didn't see the game but when the Sharks have 4 minors and the Oilers have 10, I don't think this is one of those games where the refs called everything going. And note - only 2 calls on D men. And four hooks (2 for Hemsky), a hold and an interference. Note that traditionally notorious penalty takers Horcoff, Moreau and Smyth cleaned up their acts in the spring and seem to have continued so far. Add to that Stoll's clean sheet last night and we're getting somewhere. But this team has got to learn to stay out of the box.

Oh, and Matt Greene got no penalties AGAIN! Good man, Matt!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

They Be A Comin'



Its early. While its better to be 3 and 0, like San Jose, then have 1 point out of four games, like the Hurricanes, it doesn't matter. Remember the Oilers' seven game winless streak early last year?

Having said that, I picked the Sharks to represent the West in the Cup this season. They are the youngest team in the league, they have a whack of salary cap room, even with the Jersey trade and they are motivated by close calls in the playoffs the last two seasons.

They have a three year window before Marleau and Thornton are UFAs.

They scare me.

Two lines that can score and score in a big way. While Cheechoo has not yet gotten untracked, Raffi Torres' victim Milan Michalek has three goals in three games already. Without big acquisition Mark Bell in the lineup the Sharks ran roughshod over the Flames the other night.

And rookie Dman Matt Carle is making people forget Tom Preissing already.

Tonight the revamped Oilers' D gets to face a big, fast squad with a whack of talent. There will be no hiding Laddy Smid against this team.

A big test.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Willie Mays and Ann Wilson




It was last season during the playoffs that CBC showed some Oiler games from the 80s and 90s during the Cup years and I was struck by how Bob Cole and Harry Neale were just shadows of their former selves. Watching them botch play after play, penalty calls, names and simple analysis led me to comment on how this must have what it was like to watch the great Willie Mays stumbling around the outfield in his last season with the Mets.

Cole still has one of the great voices in sports broadcasting and even in 2002 in Salt Lake City when he called Joe Sakic's insurance goal against the Americans, shivers went down my spine. And Neale has always had a nice understated way about him - his anecdotes and straightforward analysis was always welcome in a world where shouting and stupid catchphrases have suddenly become the norm for "commentary".

But last season proved that it was time to take these two old guys to the glue factory. When you're getting starting lineups wrong and calling the Oilers' captain "Ryan Smyth" at the end of the third round of the playoffs then you know its time. Its the Stanley Cup playoffs, not an under 17 tournament between the Finns and Kazakhs. You had better know the names of the guys playing. And I'll give a guy a mistake or two in the heat of the action. But when they're presenting a trophy?

And while you're taking them out to put them on that ice floe, save some room for Don Cherry, would you? It gives away my age when I can recall that Cherry once actually analyzed the play on the ice (just as Kelly Hrudey does such a nice job of now, believe it or not) before he became, as my Dad calls him, an actor. When your idea of analysis is promoting two bit knucklehead and self promoting goof Tie Domi as a logical choice to play wing with Mats Sundin and every point made is a rant against either Europeans or French Canadians, then you know that reality has long since sailed.

On Saturday Cherry made the point that European cheaters were the ones behind the increase in the curvature of sticks. Now of course this from a guy who espoused the breaking of every rule in the book for years, you know, the ones that deal with hooking, holding, interference and so on, as this is how hockey was meant to be played in his universe, I guess. And he's getting bent out of shape over curved sticks.

The delicious irony was that Cherry then began to promote Leaf waterbug Kyle Wellwood. This skilled little speedster would be buried in the ECHL if the game were played Cherry's way, his spot in the league being taken by that notorious adulterer and lousy thug Tie Domi. Of course the irony was lost on the great man, much as the irony that the curved stick was invented by Canadians Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita was as well. Of course, Mikita was born in Czechoslovakia and only came to Canada, fleeing the Communist takeover, when he was 8, so maybe that explains that. Dirty European. Or as Mikita was called growing up, probably by Don Cherry's cousins - D.P. or displaced person. Get it - he was a war refugee. Ha! Displaced by war. D.P.

And of course Cherry's big point on Saturday, as it always is, is what a smart man he is and how he was coach of the year back when our boys were slaughtering Germans on Vimy Ridge or some such thing. Well, Ann Wilson was pretty hot back in the day as well but if I came home tonight and found her in my bedroom with a keg of Guinnes on tap and all she wanted to do was to make love to me, for me to hoe her garden or plant a seed or harvest the corn or whatever the hell she sings about in that song where she uses a guy as a Jism ATM, well I'd have to say no thanks Ann. And if she turned and said, well I was hot back in 1978, I'd have to politely ask her to leave because ever since she ate her sister Nancy and Menudo, well I'd prefer getting out a jar of Skippys and serving Peanut Butter Balls to the dog then trying to pluck her beans from the vine.

Don't get me wrong, I love HNIC and the CBC does sports damn well. My God, I lived in the States for three years and had to watch two Olympics there. I swear I saw about five minutes of live action - if I ever have to watch NBC's coverage of any sporting event I'll buy a dozen wolverines on the black market, lock them in my shed for a week and then lower myself in through the roof wearing nothing but a kilt made of mutton.

But if you're going to do something do it right, yeah? Do you hear me CBC? Do it right.

Get rid of the old men. I love my Dad but when my wife was pregnant he was offering her a drink every five minutes. Forgetting that he had just offered her a drink. And that she was PREGNANT.

Do you see what I'm saying?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

You Win Some, You Lose Some



Well, this was my first look at this year's version of the Oilers and while they lost, they could have come out of Calgary with the two points pretty easily. Results are all that matter in the end but playing in a rink where they are on an 0-7-1 slide and against a team which has pushed them around for two years running and turning the game into a cointoss - I can live with that. A break here or there and they come away 2-0 in this young season.

Impressions

Early on in the game a Flame got a step on Matt Greene going into the corner. Last season the play would have ended with Greene in the box. This time he used his size to regain position and moved the puck away smartly. Through the game I saw this time and again from Greene who is playing with confidence and apparently has done a lot of work in the offseason. With only a couple of exceptions he moved the puck smartly. The odd time that he erred he recovered quickly. He stayed out of the box. He used his size and strength to his advantage, knocked Kobasew flying, blocked shots ... IMO, only Smith played a better game on the blueline. Two games in, Greene, who was used extensively on the PK as well, looks to be a different man.

Staios takes a slapshot in the face and doesn't miss a shift. Jesus.

First look at Tjarnqvist and he looks alright. I thought on the first goal he reacted slowly to the shootin and then to the puck being fired back in but he was not the only one at fault on that goal. Horcoff let Yelle get position on him. And Lupul seemed lost when the puck was at the boards - he kind of got caught in nomans land. Only seconds previously Thoresen was in the same position - he did not hesitate, picked up the puck and cleared it quickly. I have a feeling we may see more of him in Lupul's position at the end of periods.

First penalty Staios stepped up and Lupul stopped skating. He recovered well and the penalty he took was a "good one" but if he keeps moving his feet there's no need.

Way too many penalties and few with any merit. Moreau's was bad luck more then anything and Smyth was caught standing still and took another "good" one to prevent a scoring chance. But Stoll was careless and Hemsky and Tjarnqvist both took really poor ones, I thought. Oilers carried the play in both the first and the third I thought but spent too much of the second in the box. The PK remains terrific but way too many penalties. Way too many.

All three top lines generated chances - Kiprusoff was on his game and got a couple of breaks as well. One of those games. Horcoff, Smyth and Lupul got stronger as the game went on and Lupul especially seemed to get better. The kid has skill.

The PP was alright. Even the 5 on 3 was OK. At least they are doing something, showing different looks, moving the puck around and doing more then looking for the one time point shot.

Like what Thoresen brings and nice to see Reasoner back. Would love to see Jacques in there to wreak some havoc. Winchester had a decent shift in the third but it looks like he just can't keep up with his linemates

Hemsky playing with a ton of confidence. Sykora and he have really clicked and Torres (who seems to have remembered the lessons learned last spring in his own zone) is a nice compliment. Bad giveaway by Hemsky in the third but he recovered well to prevent a chance on the rebound.

Love Roli.

Smid caught on the second goal - head on a swivel, young fella. But he showed a lot of what people were impressed with in G1. Lots of poise with the puck. Tough to learn on the job.

Oilers competed well all night too - Moreau, Smith, Greene all had some nice hits - Calgary is not a fun team to play against. The Oilers weren't intimidated. Another good sign.

A bounce or two and this is a win. No loss is a good one but I'd rather lose one I could win with a break or two then get run out of the rink.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Oilers Please Women Everywhere


And, for that matter, men who are entirely comfortable and confident with their sexuality.

Hot-Off Champion Ethan Moreau signs a four year extension.

Assuming that the price is right lets hope that this starts a trend and the Oilers take care of Smyth and Staios soon as well.

Tjarnqvist On Pace For 80 Goal Season!

Suffering from a case of jetlag so bad that I actually did not watch last night's game. I know. I know. I'll turn in my Edmonton Oilers' Pajamas immediately. (I actually own three pairs, including a summer pair. God Bless my Mom, who has bought me a pair for Christmas each of the last three years after I asked for "Edmonton Oilers' stuff" for Christmas a while back. I don't wear pajamas but they make for great lounging around, watching the game and occasionally, walking the dog, duds.)

Odds and sods from someone who was away for a week and likely will be entering rehab soon to dry out after many pints across the pond.

- why dress Brad Winchester and then give him LeGG like numbers; seriously, if your fourth line guys cannot even contribute on the PK, then what's the point? Might as well dress 11 forwards. Either play him or sit him in the PB. Trade him for a 9th round pick. Waive him. This is not Winny hating - I could care less about the guy. Its just if he's not going to play then dress someone who you are comfortable with putting on the ice in some situation

- sounds like the Oilers played a playoff type game last night and this brings up a theory of mine which I bandied about at one point this summer - if the Oilers bring it on the PK, play, well, not a trap, but a responsible defensive game, then the D is going to look a lot better then they are on paper, and this team is going to make some hay - I think this team (including the coaches) learned a lot in the playoffs and if they can apply some of it in the regular season, well, things are going to be fine

- Sykora and Hemsky have some chemistry and Raffi Torres is going to benefit in a huge way, and in his contract year, no less

- surprised that MAP and Peterson were both sent down; Peterson strikes me as being a good guy to keep around as "the odd man out" so to speak and MAP, to me, fits the 4th line role; I understand the Mikhnov decision and JFJ for that matter; it doesn't really matter - I'm sure we will see both guys within a month or so anyhow

- reading a comment in a thread elsewhere about both MAP and Gilbert not seeing a lot of icetime in their debuts in the minors - I haven't really weighed in on the whole Oiler Prospect Diaspora but I really don't like it and I hope it doesn't mean a wasted year for a lot of these kids - I hope they get their shit together on this next year - at least share a team for Chrissake

- if you're ever in England, even if you aren't a soccer fan, if you can get tickets, try and get to a game - what a fun experience it is!

- any win is a good win, as far as I am concerned, but last night sounds like a fine piece of work, especially considering the opposition - lets hope the Oilers can pick up another two points Saturday night

- ok, up at 4am this morning and our daughter, who was terrific while we were away, is now punishing us, up from 11pm until 1am last night, up again at 5:30 - man, I need some sleep; I have no idea if this post even makes any sense