Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Morning After

Love this picture of Smyth. The kid going to the rink in his equipment.

Haven't seen any papers or blogs yet today. Learned about the trade in the thread over at the BoA, almost immediately after I posted with extraordinary confidence that it sounded to me like they had a deal with Smyth, Andy Grabia posted that there was a deal indeed.

For some perspective on where I am coming from before I continue let me say this. I grew up a Chicago Blackhawk fan and was until probably about 1999, I believe. Despite Bill Wirtz and Bob Pulford's incompetence I hung in there and in the early 90's saw Mike Keenan put together a fine team. And then watched as Pulford had Keenan dispatched in a power struggle and then slowly but surely gutted that once proud franchise. Believe me when I say that for those of you who hate EIG they have nothing on the Blackhawks' ownership. Nothing.

So, like pretty well every other fan of that once proud franchise, I withdrew my affections. A tough thing to do but also an easy choice in the end.

My favourite player at about this time was a young Ryan Smyth. His enthusiasm, his grit, his small town Canadian persona, his dopiness, his skill - he was an easy guy to cheer for and a fun guy to watch. One thing led to another and I became a fan of his club.

Without Ryan Smyth I likely would not have become a fan of the Edmonton Oilers.

So, as you can see by my last post before this one, I was slightly taken aback by what happened yesterday.

So, today, what do I think about this?

I wish Ryan Smyth was an Oiler for life. I am going to miss him and the team is going to miss him. I think the contract negotiations were botched and the trade may have botched as well, although the Leafs knew about his availability so the Islanders were not the only one.

I think the Oilers are doing what many have suspected all along (and Dennis at IOF said this last summer) - they are rebuilding. They are ahead of the curve - this isn't the Penguins finishing at the bottom of the league year after year - but they are rebuilding.

Having said that I think this year has been a disaster and a slap in the face to Oilers' fans. Not because of what happened yesterday (and why did they not trade Sykora or Markannen? Out with my buddy who is a Sabres' fan last night and he for one was very surprised at that) but because even in this rebuilding year they had a shot at the playoffs at least but Lowe failed to do anything to address their holes on the backend.

So, after all of that, you know what?

I think they were smart to trade him if they could not sign him. Getting two prospects and a first round pick is a good return. Will O'Marra and Nilsson pan out? Maybe not. But I like this trade more then what Forsberg brought the Flyers.

And, (big gulp), they may have been right not to sign him.

Look, I don't know the details of what was being offered and what he was asking. And everyone knows that I have beating the drum for him to be signed all season, 5 years at 25, I said. Do it.

But there has to be some point where you say enough. And 5.5, I think, was too much.

This is not about EIG being able to afford that. They could.

Its about building your team smartly. Chris Pronger made 6 million a year. Is Ryan Smyth worth 500K less then that?

I don't think so. Now, who is going to replace his goals? I don't know. And who is going to replace the intangibles, the fact that he was the heart and soul of this club? I don't know that either.

But I was at the Leaf game last night and watched the Leafs get absolutely crushed by Ryan Miller, the Buffalo Sabres' D and the Rochester Americans forwards.

Bryan McCabe who is under contract for four more years at 5.25 I believe, with a no movement clause, was booed every time he touched the puck after enormous gaffes on his part led to three straight Sabres' goals. Also on the ice at times for the Leafs - Kaberle (who is a terrific player) and Raycroft (who was pulled for the second straight game). Also Mats Sundin who will likely get a hefty extension soon. And in the pressbox - Pavel Kubina and the newly signed (4 years) Darcy Tucker.

Every single guy except Sundin signed longterm. Ad he probably will be too.

In 2011 Bryan McCabe will cost the Leafs over 5 million a year. He will be 36. And he will still be a lousy defenceman.

I looked at the Sabres. Young player after young player storming the Leafs' end. They might have won the Cup last season. They are favourites this year. After this season Drury and Briere are both UFAs and one or both will leave. And the Sabres will be in it again next year. I guarantee it. Why? Young players coming down the pipe to replace those who leave.

I have said it before. The key in the league now is to amass young and cheap players. Tying yourself to big longterm contracts for aging players is a surefire way to ensure that you will not contend.

And, yes, Moreau and Staios have been given longterm deals, I know that. But a 2M contract can be moved pretty easily. Even 2.7.

5.5 Million? Nobody is taking that baby on.

So, farewell Ryan Smyth. Best of luck to you. In an ideal world the Oilers would have signed you . In my fantasy they bring you back at the deadline four years from now, the last piece of the puzzle on a Stanley Cup contending team and you lead the boys to victory.

Here in the real world, I'll just say good luck and thanks for all of the great memories.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Kick In The Balls

Good luck Smytty!
Fuck you EIG!
Nice season. Piss it away for want of a Dman and then trade the face of the franchise.

Monday, February 26, 2007

What Comes Next?

The Canucks have just picked up Sopel and Smolinski as they look to add to a team that has surprised many and must be considered a pretty good darkhorse pick in the upcoming playoffs. With a nice top 4 D, Roberto Luongo and the ability to win on the road they are a team that I would want to avoid if I had my druthers.
Lots of action today as teams try and strike early - I think we'll see reaction trades tonight and tomorrow as teams try and keep up with the early buyers.
The Oilers won't be buying. After a terrific win in Detroit Friday night they sat five out but you could see what was coming and it did. Flames won Saturday. Oilers lost to Wild on Jack Lemaire last night. A Flames' victory tonight puts them and Minnesota nine points clear of the Oil.
The Oilers have been playing pretty good hockey lately but its not getting them anywhere and its too little too late as they say.
Carter costs a fifth but Zednik a second? Who knows what Sykora will bring - I guess it depends on the buyer. After the Carter deal I figured a third but now, maybe a second or a first?? I'd rather have him then either of those retreads.
Remember when the Flyers picked up Zhitnik and everyone said wtf? Well, they flipped him for Brayden Coburn (desperation in Atlanta) and they look pretty smart now. They now have two pretty good young prospects on D to go with Pitkanen or does this allow them to move him? Oh, to dream.
Going to Leafs/Sabres tomorrow night. $50.00 seats - for those of you unfamiliar with Leafs' seating, that means we'll be in an alleyway near Richard Peddie's office - they project the game onto a bedsheet. Pretty quality shit from MLSE.
As for Lowe tomorrow - who knows what he will do? I have a feeling that he's going to pull something nobody expects but besides that I think its safe to say that Sykora, Tjarnqvist and Markannen will get moved. Smith is an outside possibility but it would take a great offer because without him next year is this year but worse. Maybe a package including Torres will head out for that Dman we've needed all year. He's the logical one to get moved and if talks went well for Smyth today then he's a goner. JFJ needs a spot just like Pouliot did. He's wasted on the fourth line and its time he got his shot.
Or maybe a package of kids. Greene is a possibility. Does he have a lot of potential? He sure does. But something has to give with a blueline loaded with prospects, many who look to have more upside then him.
As for Smyth well I've gotten up and down with this saga and I am up again. Rumours that Smyth has asked for 5/25 and is being offered 4/20- makes me think they're going to get it done, provided its accurate. That's too small a gap to fail to act on.
Lowe sells tomorrow but softens the blow by announcing Smyth is an Oiler for life. The Oiler faithful give him a standing O, as does a buck naked, fully erect Mark Messier, who gives Lowe a handjob at centre ice on behalf of the legions of bemulleted Ryan Smyth fans from the Kootenays to the Avalon Peninsula.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Up Front Next Season

See the Oilers are already down two tonight. Second of a back to back against a Wings team looking to win their fourteenth in a row at home.
So, how about a look at the possibilities for the Oilers up front next season?
A disappointing year for nearly everyone up front. Smyth has thirty now and still might hit that forty mark. Hemsky is averaging almost a point a game and Horcoff is coming on strong and will likely hit twenty but the reality is that more was expected of both. Sykora had a nice start but faded when Hemsky went down. Stoll came on strong before he went down but he started poorly.
No consistency. And considering that this team had six guys with twenty plus last year and a couple more just short of that - well, even with the failure of the guys on the backend to headman the puck it has to be said that there are a lot of underachievers in this lineup.
So, the question is - what about next year? Well, there is one area that can be put down in ink, or almost, and that is centre. With the emergence of Pouliot and Stoll's strong play it looks like the Oilers will have three guys down the middle who may be able to handle both ends of the rink. Really the only question is whether Reasoner returns or if he gets pushed out by Brodziak or Almtorp. Marty is a nice guy to have around for sure but does he do enough to stick around?
And if Cogliano turns pro then another kid will be on the way. And no, I can't see Schremp supplanting any of these guys. It may very well be the wing for him longterm.
Its on the wings where the questions lie. And the first question is will Smyth resign? Thirty one goals now and counting. And if he and Sykora walk away who replaces that scoring?
Interesting -I was on the Oil message board earlier today. I rarely go there. A debate raging about Smyth and whether or not he is worth 5M; the biggest argument against being that he is not a franchise player. Thing is five million is not what a franchise guy gets now. Good players get 5 or so - Jokinen, Tanguay, McCabe, Kubina, Kaberle (I know I know the Leafs) - and Smyth is a good player. A few years ago good players got seven plus - Guerin and Holik amongst others who got nine. Hell, Marty Lapointe got five. Anyhow you can argue whether or not he deserves it but the whole franchise player argument doesn't wash. Franchise guys are getting seven plus, cap or not.
So if Smyth returns then you're looking at Smyth/Torres/Moreau/JFJ on the left and then Hemsky/Pisani/Lupul/Thoresen on the right.
Pretty nice but of course we are supposing that someone is going somewhere for that elusive Dman and also to free up some salary to help pay for the raises for Smyth, Staios and Moreau.
If Smyth resigns then the odds on favourite to go would be Torres I would think. If Smyth goes then I would think it would be Lupul or maybe a package of kids. Or maybe they try and dip into the UFA pool.
I'd really like to see Jacques get an audition with some better talent up front. Just as Pouliot stepped up when he was given Pisani and Torres as linemates and the 15-20 minutes of icetime so I would like to see Jacques get a similar opportunity. See if he might be our own Dustin Penner or Milan Michalek.
Anyone else notice how Stoll really took off when he got put between Pisani and Torres? And then Pouliot did the same.
Maybe put Jacques with Sykora and Pisani? With Carter fetching a fifth rounder what is Sykora bringing? Maybe keep him around for the last twenty games to see what JFJ can do?
If I were a betting man, this is what I would see happening leading into next season:
Smyth resigns.
Torres gets moved.
Jacques gets a shot on the top three lines next fall. If he fails then Thoresen or Schremp takes his spot.
With Lupul being part of the Pronger deal and listening to Lowe's comments I think he sticks around. Hopefully he does something next season. Trading a guy a year removed from 28 goals is one thing. Two years later - meh. May as well keep him for his contract year and reap the reward then.
So how do they line up?
Smyth/Horcoff/Hemsky - since they have been back together they have dominated and that includes on the road facing the toughest opposition they could. I know a lot of people like the idea of Hemsky getting the soft minutes but this line gives the Oilers one that can play with nearly anyone.
Moreau/Stoll/Pisani - these guys would be the shutdown line and face the toughest minutes
Jacques/Pouliot/Lupul - the soft stuff
Thoresen/Reasoner/Stortini (Brodziak)
Now this is dependent on a few factors and ideally I would prefer Lupul to move and Torres to stay in which case you could have:
With Thoresen slotting in if JFJ cannot do the job. Or maybe Hemsky gets the soft minutes with Pouliot and Jacques (or Schremp if he devotes as much time to his skating and conditioning as he does to his little tricks).
A lot of possibilities.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Whither the D Next Season?

Interesting debate going over at Lowetide's site in a thread about his comments on Oilers' callup Tom Gilbert.
Signed or will be signed on the blueline for next season:
LD - Smid, Grebeshkov, Syvret, Chorney
RD - Smith, Staios, Greene, Gilbert, Roy
With the acquisitions of Smid and Grebeskov and the emergence of Gilbert, Roy and Chorney as bona fide prospects what looked to be a weakness (youthful defensive depth) is suddenly a strength.
So what does Lowe do?
Option #1 - Sign Hejda or Shaggy and go with a similar configuration as this year. Crazy? Well, I would bet Grebeshkov, Smid and one of the other kids are in the top seven again next season. So we could see Hejda/Smith, Smid/Staios, Grebeshkov/Greene plus Gilbert as your seventh.
Result - another wasted season as the kids get their atbats in preparation for 2009 and 2010. Chance of this happening - pretty slim but then again who thought this season would play out like it did. Let's say 20%.
Option #2 - Lowe trades Torres and Greene to Philly for Pitkanen. Both players are "Philly type players" and I don't think Lowe is going to give up on Lupul yet. Now I would trade him while he's one season removed from 28 goals but that's me. On top of that he resigns Hejda and Shaggy. So we get Pitkanen/Smith, Shaggy/Staios, Hejda/Smid plus Grebeshkov as your seventh.
Result - a veteran D with three guys who can move the puck (yes, I am including Smid in there) - happy days are here again. Jacques takes Torres' role over so while he is missed, JFJ and Moreau bring that edge that has been missing up front.
Chance of this happening - again slim, the reason being that I'm pretty sure that they want to get Grebeshkov and Gilbert some minutes (unless they move Gilbert); also while I like Shaggy the whole pubic bone thing is troublesome. Now I could tell you a lot about public boners, not so much about pubic bones, but any inflammation that knocks a guy out for months doesn't sound like a simple case to diagnose.
(How does one get an inflamed pubic bone anyway? Row, Raggy, that rurts!")
Option # 3
The Oilers pick up Pitkanen, hopefully moving Greene as part of the package. They also resign Hejda. Pitkanen/Smith, Smid/Staios, Hejda/Grebeshkov, Gilbert is your seventh. There you have your three stay at home vets and your three puck movers as well as Gilbert in the wings. I'd move Greene, I truly would. Gilbert's skill set fits the league better.
Result - Still some unhappy moments for Oiler fans and Roloson but if Smid cannot handle the top four then Hejda slides in and I'm thinking Gilbert or the Russian are an improvement on big Matt Greene. A little more mobile, a little more skilled and this D doesn't break the bank. (If Smyth and Sykora and Lupul or Torres go then who's going to score goals next year? It will be the forwards' turn to be the weak link if Lowe doesn't figure that out - but that's for another post)
Chance of this happening - pretty good, better then even, maybe even more then the 60% I've got left. Hejda is going to be a reasonably priced guy and I think they are going to move on Joni or someone similar. Having said that I think they're going to try to give the kids as many ABs as they can.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Nice and Straight, Like an Arrow

Got down to the ACC tonight to see the Oilers.

Had a couple of pints and a decent dinner with my best friend. He's a fair sized wig at Honda. We get out every year for a game, on them. This year beat it all - third row from the ice just to the left of the net - home end.

Pretty damn good. Right in the Platinum Club they call it. Walk down to take a leak and some guy is slicing roast beef. You can get yourself a 40 dollar sandwich.

I did not.

Before the game on the scoreboard and I am paraphrasing - "The Leafs - we have more fans then any other team in hockey" - something to that effect.

Now they might but that was just weird. Richard Peddie's fingerprints all over that one. We have more fans then any other team in hockey and also have gone longer then any team but Chicago without a Cup.

Saw the Roots guy, the one with the gigantic eyebrows but no other celebrities. A lot of Toronto establishment folk, much like European royalty - a lot of inbreds and more money then sense but that's ok, so it goes.

The opening ceremony was alright. Some of those old fellows look pretty vigourous, George Armstrong was most impressive. Bob Pulford took a break from destroying the Blackhawks (his work is pretty well done) to attend. Keon got a nice ovation but it was not what I expected. I thought there would be more to it but that's the Leafs' crowd. Allan Stanley came out with bright red hair. That was odd.

First period was pretty good. Smyth line had two straight two on ones. On the first Smyth likely should have passed to Hemsky but missed on the shot by inches. On the second Horc sent a beauty pass over and it hopped over Ales' stick. So it goes.

When you see it live as rarely as I do you forget how big the players are and how fast.

So with last change Maurice got out who he wanted out there but the Smyth line dominated all game anyhow - it was much like how Tyler described the Sabres game. They didn't have a lot of terrific chances but they were all over the Leafs at every turn. But after that well this looked like the Oilers of old, a lot of try but not a lot of talent.

And they're small - jeez the Leafs pushed them around. The Oilers didn't back down so fair play to them but man they didn't get a lot going on in the high traffic area in front.

Really noticed a lot of little things. Smith was just plain solid. Staios too, despite getting overwhelmed by Sundin on the fourth goal. Hejda as well, he just does the little things well.

A guy who impressed - Laddy Smid. He screwed up on the fourth goal with a bad pass - just left it there and the end result about thirty seconds later - a goal. But over all - the kid can skate, he has poise and he can move the puck. He had a good game.

Bergeron, meh. On the second Pohl goal he hung Nedved out to dry I thought. The better play was to get it out, to give it to a guy in front of the net with Kilger right on top of him wasn't too bright ... but that's Bergeron.

Greene - well classic Greene. He's behind the net in the second for about twenty seconds or so while everyone sets up and then I don't even know what the fuck he did but he pops it off of someone so suddenly its an odd man situation deep in the Oilers' zone. Everyone sort of said how the fuck did that happen? It was almost Steve Smith redux.

Well, its Matt Greene.

Toronto crowd is odd. The whole scene is odd. Go for a leak and there's the sushi bar. And of course just a quiet group.

Anyhow up front the Oilers are just missing too much. You have Peterson and Lupul playing with Sykora so nothing is happening there. Lupul will initiate contact but he is such a pussy. Anytime someone pushes back or initiates contact he folds. Early in the game he has the puck just inside the Oiler blueline, has to chip it three inches. And Pohl I believe it was outmuscled him and kept the puck in. For a contrast Reasoner fought off two Leafs at one point to get the puck out on the PK. And Nedved, Reasoner and Stortini bust their asses but they generate nothing. So that's two lines down.

But some hope tonight. Pouliot was terrific. Obviously there was the penalty shot and they also gave him the third goal though it looked like Smyth got it to me. In any case the kid can play. He made a number of plays at a high speed that were big time plays. And he can create something out of nothing. Early in the third on a two on two, I believe it was, he got over the blueline, stopped dead, and a a quick, accurate and hard shot that Raycroft had to make a nice save on.

Anyhow the kid looked great. Lowetide would have been proud. And Thoresen had a nice game as well. Same deal as Pouliot. Good sense, good skater, gets his nose dirty and plays at a high tempo. Had that chance in close. Looked at the sky right in front of us and let out a mighty "FUCK" - he's frustrated.

But there were a couple of differences in the game and likely why the Oilers will be on the outside and the Leafs may be in the playoffs.

The Leafs have six Dmen, of whom five can move the puck and move it well. The Oilers have, well, nobody. Staios, Smith, Smid and Hejda did ok tonight but that's ok, not good. The Leafs had five who did the job well.

The other thing - John Pohl scored two nice goals. Who? Right. When it was 1-0 it looked like the Oilers wouldn't even get the equalizer.

Thoresen and Pouliot were great, I thought, but when you have two kids showing better sense, better skill and more heart then the guys who should be picking up the slack - Torres, Sykora, Lupul - well, you're not making the playoffs.

Anyhow, if you made it this far, I'm not sure what they show on HNIC but they kept interviewing the oldtimers at the breaks. Keon, Bower and so on. Beauty moment, I'm talking classic, they're interviewing Bower and Red Kelly (the man on the right of the pic up top - eight cups I believe). So the final draw in 67, Stanley wins the faceoff back to Kelly who gets it to Pulford who gives it to Armstrong who scores the empty netter to clinch, right.

So they ask Kelly to describe it and he says " Well Stanley wins it back to me and I get it to Pully and of course he moves it real quick to Army and of course he's an Indian so he shoots it nice and straight, just like an arrow, into the net."

Beauty. Just a beauty.

Hockey Night

Going to the game tonight.
Never have been to Rexall and have actually only caught the Oilers live once, in Detroit back in the early 90s, so I'm pretty excited.
Going with my best buddy, have a pint or two before the game, a good dinner - annual tradition we have. Should be a good evening in what's looking to be a great few weeks coming up. With one exception of course.
Wish it were better circumstances for the Oil but it should be a good game in any case. The Chiefs have been playing well and are in their own playoff struggle. Friends of ours over for dinner last night - they were in Buffalo for the game and said the Oilers, especially Smyth and Horcoff, played pretty well. Raycroft and his squad tend to be a little off when they are at home - here's hoping.
Fact is that you look at the Oilers' lineup and its lacking. With Stoll, Pisani and Moreau out you've got some big skates to fill. Sad to say the Leafs are missing some pretty good players as well but unlike the Oilers who have seen guys like Sykora, Lupul and Torres disappear, the Leafs have had their secondary guys step to the forefront.
Earlier this year I opined that if the Oilers were actually looking towards 2009 and 2010 as their seasons to win then I wasn't sure if dealing guys like Schremp, Pouliot, Gilbert etc made sense. Why trade guys who you expect (rightly or not) to be a big part of a bright future in order to shore up a mediocre present. Now this does not excuse the mismanagement of the D situation or the fact that this club could have spent another 2 or 3M or so to shore up that weakness but I don't have a problem with the Oilers not sacrificing kids for a team that honestly looks to be going nowhere.
Of course if they had taken care of that D situation this club is likely first in the division and then what?
Anyhow watch for me tonight. I'll be the guy in the cordoruy coat making out with Horcoff on the bench.
And after the game when they announce Smyth's new deal I'll make sure to give him the Oilogosphere's love.
Whatever you want, Smytty. Sign on the dotted line and I'm all yours.
Addendum - who was the first player to wear Dave Keon's #14 after Ballard drove him from Toronto? Might be a good sign for tonight.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Its a wonderful thing. Sometimes when the big fella and I are out for a stroll I daydream of what might have been if things had gone a little differently last June 19th or of an improbable yet successful run this spring.

Recent arrival to the scene, Katie O'D, made a reference to the little fellows on the left in her last post. They are the Backyardigans. My three year old digs them and, truth be told, so do I. I have actually watched this show when nobody else was in the house. And I don't watch a lot of any TV. My favourite is the little guy on the right, Austin. I think he's a kangaroo. My daughter's favourite is Uniqua, who is standing to Austin's right. She is some type of bug. Her clothing is the same pattern as her skin so I'm not sure if she is a type of cannibalistic bug but anyhow.

So the deal with these guys is that every day they go on a big adventure. It all happens in their backyards but they use their imaginations to create these wild and crazy worlds. They go surfing, to Mars, to Africa etc. They are Vikings, pirates, detectives ... every episode ends with someone's stomach growling. The background fades back into their backyards and they go for a snack.

The power of imagination.

With your Edmonton Oilers digging through three feet of snow to get into Buffalo tonight to play Les Sabres, two days after falling to the lowly Bruins, seven points behind Wild on Jack Lemaire and no return for Stoll or Pisani in sight, methinks maybe these guys might be needed to suit up.

I'm afraid its about up for our boys and its a damn shame. It looks like Lowe had his plan and it failed, whether by design or through a combination of bad luck and stubbornness. Who knows?

Its the damn dead of winter (yes, its finally arrived here in the Centre of the Universe - no sign of the Princess Pats yet but we'll see if we get more snow) and while we're getting by its too bad that there will be no dash for a playoff spot to cheer on this season. Other then that things are looking good. Going to see the Oilers play the Leafs on Saturday and will also be catching the Sabres when they come into town in a couple of weeks. We have discovered a babysitter on our street which means dinner and drinks on separate occasions next week (those with small children will recognize the ridiculous thrill that brings) and also that my summer hockey season which looked doomed (wife works same night) has been saved. Add to that my invitation to our club team's big Easter tournament for the first time and things are looking up all around.

Except for one place. I'd sure as hell rather be dreaming of a Cup parade in June then what Lowe is going to get when he starts to sell.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

In Tough

Well, last spring's hero is on pace for his usual offensive output (~18 goals). A bit disappointing considering if he beats Ward in close late in game seven and then the Oilers pulled out that game he would have likely been the Connie Smyth winner (or a close second) but having said that there is no arguing the impact San Fernando has on this team.
He is one of those guys who does everything well. Lowetide compares him to Ross Lonsberry from the Flyers of the 70s. Other possible comps that come to mind - John Madden, Stephane Yelle, Butch Goring, Dirk Graham. Of course Graham was a little more physical, Goring produced more offence, Yelle less, but you get the point. You need these guys to win.
Seven game roadtrip and Dennis at IOF has made the point that it is the failures in divisional games (for example two recent losses to the Canucks) that have killed the Oilers - broken their season so to speak. Even if they go five and two and with the Sens, Sabres, Wild, Wings and even the suddenly hot Chiefs on the sched this is unlikely, they still may very well be out of a spot come trade deadline day.
And five and two is likely a pipedream with Stoll now on the IR with his concussion and Pisani getting concussed himself the other night. Anyone listening to Stoll's description the other day of how he was dozing off mid conversation might wonder if he is done for the season. Anyhow, with these two on the sideline along with Moreau there is a sudden dearth of players to take on the heavy lifting.
And that is a big difference between last season's squad and this one and an obvious outcome when you replace veterans with rookies and try and overcome a huge hole on the backend by loading up with alleged offence. Last season's squad could rely on Pronger, Smith, Spacek and Staios on the backend and up front, well you has Smyth, Horcoff, Peca, Pisani, Moreau, Dvorak and even Torres taking on tough minutes through the playoffs.
Heading on the road, well Pronger and Spacek are long gone and the guy who was eating up some of their minutes is still on the IR. Up front, Dvorak and Peca are long gone as well and even though Stoll managed to make the leap this season, he too is out along with Moreau and your man Fernando.
So that leaves Smyth and Horcoff and I guess Reasoner and Torres to do the heavy lifting.
Hemsky will play with Smyth and Horcoff I think and these guys are going to earn their bucks although if this all falls apart this may be the last we see of the Mullet. Sad to think that.
Reasoner and Torres will play with Thoresen I guess - the one kid who definitely knows his way around his own end of the rink. And here's hoping Pouliot gets some minutes with Sykora and Lupul. Scary thought that he is likely the defensive backbone of that line. Maybe Nedved ends up back there and Pouliot and Torres are joined by Reasoner or Thoresen. Hard to say.
But it sure could get ugly real quick. The Avs have pretty well fallen out of it - a few losses in a row for the Oilers and the playoff picture will be painted.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Odds and Sods

- Good move by the Flames, I think. They gave up a lot. I'm a fan of Ference especially. But their window is this year and next and you have to give Sutter credit for picking up Conroy and now Stuart and Primeau. It guarantees them nothing but it sends a message to the players and the fans that this team is serious about winning. Kevin Lowe, are you listening?
- Having said that I was never a fan of the Oilers going after Stuart. Giving up a young roster player for 25 games of Stuart makes no sense if you're the Oilers. For the Flames, a Cup contender, I think, it does. When the Oilers make their move for a Dman (2010?) it should be someone under contract, especially if it costs Torres or Lupul.
- And the Flames' fans might correct me on this but I think with Lombardi, Moss and Boyd up front and Giordano on the back end, they could afford to move Kobasew and Ference. I seem to remember Ference being a healthy scratch lately, no?
- Caught the Leafs/Pens last night and while Crosby, Malkin et al tore it up the guy who has come out of nowhere, so to speak, Jordan Staal, scored three, including the game winner. At 19, the kid has 24 goals, 4 less then he scored last year in junior. He is something else and the Pens, while likely a year or two away (but who am I to say?) look to be a team that may make some noise this year. So much for 14th place, which is what I picked them for this season.
- As for the Oilers, well they're not catching the Canucks. With Luongo between the pipes that team has a chance to win every night and they have themselves a nice top four on D as well as a bit of decent depth behind those guys. If they can add someone up front they might be another team to watch in the spring. With both they and the Wild on Jack Lemaire winning last night the Oilers are again eight points out. Its not looking good.
- Nice to see Pouliot getting almost fifteen minutes Friday night and getting those minutes between Torres and Pisani. Pouliot's future has been a big topic in the Oilogosphere this season. His failure to make the team out of camp, his struggles playing fourth line minutes in his previous callup and the achievements of guys like Getzlaf and Parise have made a lot question his future. Breaking in three rookies on D and with the supposed strength of this team being the top nine forwards the only spot for a guy like Pouliot or Schremp was on the fourth line and its not a good fit. Frequent commenter Bankshot made the point in a thread the other night that he thought that Pouliot had to earn his spot in the top nine and that he had not. He was right but having said that a guy like Pouliot, Schremp or Mikhnov is not a fit for the fourth line role unless that line is the Ducks' of last year - ie/ Getzlaf, Perry and a vet to ride shotgun. They need to be playing with skill guys against soft opposition plus getting a little time on the PP if they are on the fourth line. Playing five minutes a game with Jacques and Peterson is plugging a square peg in a round hole. Will Pouliot make it and will he be an effective top nine forward? I think so but I may be wrong. But by putting him with two guys who can play (and shelter him a little) and giving him some decent minutes, I think his development will be furthered a lot better. Now is the time, even if the Oilers don't crash and burn on this roadtrip. With Stoll out and Nedved a bust there are a lot of minutes up the middle there for the asking. Let's hope Pouliot takes this chance and runs with it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Be Like The Leafs (I Can't Believe I'm Saying That!)

I know I know. The goddamned Leafs.
Like the Oilers, a mediocre team this season. Were crushed by the Penguins 8 to 2 right before that foolishness in Dallas a while back.
Two of their top six forwards out of the lineup longterm as well as Mike Peca, a guy whose play has resembled his playoff work last spring, not his poor regular campaign. Five game road trip coming out of the break. Struggling with a whack of teams to stay in the playoff hunt. Inconsistent goaltending. Recipe for disaster, right?
Instead, four straight wins, including three against teams ahead of them. They lost the fifth game but barely, to the Preds, one of the top teams in the league. The result - they don't have that spot yet but they have jumped ahead of a lot of teams they are fighting with for that spot. The reason - the guys who have jumped into the lineup in the place of Tucker, Wellwood and Peca have provided energy and production. Guys who have gotten more icetime have done the same. Alexei Ponikarovsky has 15 goals. John Pohl and Bates Battaglia have 8 each. So does Matt Stajan. Alex Steen whose first half of the season was dreadful suddenly has 11. A guy who looked washed up - Jeff O'Neill - has 18. Chad Kilger has 9.
I can't stand the Leafs but I will admit that they have showed some moxy this past week or so.
Now the Oilers play the Hawks and Thrashers before heading on the road for seven. Shaggy is still out but it may be Stoll's injury that will kill this team in the end. Who knew? For those who are thinking he may be back soon read the paper today where he talks about the other day being the first where he could have a conversation without suddenly dozing off or getting woozy.
He could be back tonight. He could be back next September. Given the choice between the two I would pick the latter.
I presume we will see Reasoner between Pisani and Torres and hopefully we will see young Pouliot between Sykora and Lupul. Lets see what the kid can do with some real icetime and some real linemates. Put it this way - I can't see him doing a worse job then Petr Nedved.
And eight points behind Wild on Jack Lemaire the Oilers have little to give them comfort. They only have the Avs between them and that spot and that's good and historically they have done their best work when their backs are against the wall.
But this is a different team. I suspect in two weeks the playoffs may be a memory and that will be the first time in a while that this team has not been involved in a race, however futile it may have seemed. They always have made a run at it. But something has been missing, besides the one or two vets on the backend. Call it urgency, grit, cohesion, call it what you will.
If that happens then we will likely see a big role for Pouliot in those last twenty games as the Oilers see what he can do.
And that might be all that keeps our attention those last six weeks. What a disappointment.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Diversions I

With the Oilers six points back of the Wild, Stoll and Shaggy's return still unknown and the lads having only two more home games before they embark on a seven game road trip which will make or break their season things are looking a little dicey. The Nucks made things a little more difficult last night and tonight they host the fading Hawks - a win there will essentially put Vancouver 11 points up - they have the tiebreak over the Oilers.
It may not be long before our attentions are focussed on whether or not Smyth will be resigned or traded, who else will get moved out, how their kid replacements fare with some heavy icetime and what next year's team will look like.
So in honour of Vic Ferrari, who apparently has pulled a D.B. Cooper and disappeared into the ether, here is a quiz of the type that he used to throw out now and then, a little lighter on the numbers though.
1/ Jean Francois Jacques is Quebecois for:
a) Fucking Stortini Took My Job!
b) I've Got A Girl in Kalamazoo
c) Brad Isbister
d) Its Not Easy Looking This Bad
2/ Petr Nedved's decline makes you:
a) Happy. Thank God he didn't sign a longterm deal with us.
b) Frustrated. Retire already! You're done.
c) Sad. Its time for the glue factory and that's always sad.
d) Horny. Because you're just like that. Weirdo.
3/Toby Peterson is getting big minutes, including on the PP, because Craig Simpson is:
a) Confused. He has him mixed up with legendary Swedish PP QB Peter Tobyson.
b) Confused. He thinks that playing big minutes on a PP in the AHL makes one qualified to run a PP in the NHL.
c) Confused. What is this power play of which you speak?
d) Confused. How does my hair look?
4/ Speaking of the Power Play, it doesn't really stink. Its just:
a) A small sample size. Wait another twenty games and we'll have a better picture.
b) A couple of good games away from being respectable.
c) Not that big a deal. Even a killer PP can't carry a mediocre team that far - I mean, look at the Habs, right?
d) Arguably the reason why this team fell short in the Finals last season. Why Craig Simpson still has his job is beyond me. Cut him a hundred times and throw him in the wolverine pit.
5/ If Ryan Smyth leaves our first line left winger will be:
a) Shoot me! Raffi Torres.
b) I love him but, well, shoot me. Ethan Moreau.
c) Stab me, shoot me and fuck me in the ass! Jean Francois Jacques.
d) Me so horny! Another rookie.
Bonus Question: In this video Mike W. shares a laugh with his date. Who is he with and what makes him smile so? Other then love, sweet love, that is.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Jussi Jussi Jussi Jussi Jussi Jussi Jussi Jussi Jussi

He's Finntastic.
So, here's the deal.
We know the Oilers are going to hang around and hang around and hang around. Its their nature now. Always has been until last season and now that they've lost their 2006 swagger, which carried over into about twenty five games of this season before they returned to the BipOilers of old, we know that they will do a great job now that their backs are against the wall. They'll win a couple of big games (three of the last four now; also see their run when Smyth and Hemsky went down) and then just when we're dreaming of the playoffs they'll lose 8-2 to the Coyotes.
That's just who they are. May as well get used to it.
Come March it will be the usual mad dash to the finish and they will finish somewhere between 7th and 9th.
So there will be no collapse which means no easy answers for Lowe.
So the question is this. What to do about Jussi? If they are still in it they can't move him because if Roli goes down with ten games left and the Oil are two points out of a spot ... well, yeah.
I can think of a handful of teams that would take him as a little insurance based on last season including the Flames, Canucks, Wild (all not going to happen unless the Oilers collapse), Canes, Devils and maybe even the Sabres, who could then move Biron.
Likely moot anyway. But here is the bigger question. What to do about next season? Do you try and resign the little Finn for two years (would he go for it?) and have him hold down the fort until JDD is ready, if he is ever ready? Or do you let him walk and have an unproven guy back up your 38 year old keeper.
We have seen how MacT has almost run Roli into the ground already this season and that is with a pretty decent backup at hand. If JDD were the alternative might we see Roli play 82?
If JDD proves he is ready then you can likely move Jussi pretty easily anyhow. And its not like he's bringing a huge return anyhow.
I say sign him.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Never Ever Easy

Here's your man, Raffi Torres. Mr. Edmonton Oiler for the 2006/2007 season. Frustrating, inconsistent, powerful, impotent, exciting, maddening and so it goes. 27 goals last year. A game changing presence playing with Peca and Pisani in the post season. This year he may end up with 15. And while he has become a pretty good two way player and still can make opponents nervous when he's out there, you're still left wanting more and wondering when he's going to pour it on.

Just like his team.

Big win today leaves them two up on the Avs and four back of the Wild and they could be in a lot worse position. It looks like it will be these three and maybe the Canucks fighting for the last two spots. The pretenders have all begun to fade. Post coaching change surges have mostly ended. If ten points out is your point of no return in terms of falling out of the race, well only the Coyotes are there now. If they lose tonight they're not even there.

Look out East and the 14th place team is 10 points out. Imagine. Ten points out but you have to get by six other teams to get that spot.

I've always been glass half full and that's why this whole argument that the Oilers have to get to 94 points to make the playoffs and therefore win 20 of their last 30 games has me a bit confused. Maybe its the new math. They have to catch one team. If they finish ahead of that team and the Avs then they are in. They have to win 20 games if the Wild win 18 and the Avs win 21. I don't think the Oilers win 20 but I don't see either of those happening either. Not with Fernandez hurting in Minnesota, that's for sure.

Now if Shaggy finally gets back then you're taking one of Smid, Bergeron or Greene out of the mix. Add your missing piece, whoever he may be, and then you move a second of those into the pressbox. Hell, add two and they're all out of the mix (and Bergeron is likely wearing a different uniform as well). A far different team then.

Having said that, and there's a reason Mr. Torres is pictured above, if Lowe trades Raffi or even Lupul for 25 games worth of Brad Stuart then I would hope he loses his job the morning after.

The name of the game now (and forever really) is amassing young, cheap assets who can contribute. Now neither Torres nor Lupul has set the world on fire this season but moving either of them , one season removed from 27 and 28 goals respectively, both under 26 years of age, for a rental, as has been rumoured, doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Well, fuck the Boston Bruins if that's what they want. Fuck them up their stupid asses.

Get serious.

It was either Bob MacKenzie at TSN or David Shoalts at the Globe who said, essentially, that any team that would trade a decent young cheap player for a UFA to be like Stuart is likely a team that hasn't had a lot of success and is probably not going to have a lot of success because the GM is a dim bulb. In my opinion, if the Oilers were flush with good young forwards who could score in bunches or rattle some cages and they were on the cusp of a deep run, I might make this move.

They aren't in either case so I don't.

Now if Stuart or Brewer came with a newly signed contract with the Oilers or someone like Pitkanen or one of the kids from Chicago was coming the Oilers' way, well then, move what you have to, within reason. But for a pure rental? Use your head.

One last note - in Duhatschek's weekly column today he makes some comments on the Bruins and on the Oilers as well. He touches on the falloff in Sykora's play, the success of Smyth/Horc/Hemsky since being reunited, Stoll's breakout season, Pisani, Torres and Lupul failing to meet offensive expectations, the failure of the Nedved gamble. He also opines that Torres will not be moved. Even with his inconsistency he brings one thing this team lacks, especially with Moreau out, a physical presence up front.

And later on in the column: --- The Oilers started negotiations on a multi-year contract for right winger Ryan Smyth last week and the guessing is that the two sides will eventually come to terms on a deal for five years averaging $5 million per season.

So maybe things are about to get finalized there?

In this crazy year, one sign of sanity? (Although I know some will disagree.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Old Drunk Guy Just Roofed It!

I've been tagged by Mike over at CinO and boy does my ass hurt. That's two for three now. Went for drinks with Chris! a few weeks back, things were going swimmingly, went to take a leak, came back and next thing you know I woke up in a ditch with my pants around my ankles and a sore bum. Thought that strawberry daiquri tasted funny.

Anyhow, chain letter. Typical Friday night. Wife at work. Kids in bed. Beer in hand. Getting ready to check out some internet pornography.

So why not?

Team: Edmonton Oilers

Uniform Number: 28

Position: Centre

Nickname: Shirley, Bob Marley, The Longest Ball, Crazy Legs, Dirty Old Man, Shitfuck, Peanut Butter Balls, Whackoff, The Shortbread Kid, Nice Head

Dream Linemates: Smyth and Pisani because I need all the help I can get plus that means we'd spend all of our time together and I love them both. Not in a gay way. Well, ok, in a gay way.

Rounding out the PP: Horc and Bergeron. Horc for the same reasons stated above. Bergeron because he would make me look good. Because he's bad. Get it?

Job: Energy guy. In other words, I'm the guy the crowd loves because I'm just thisfarabove their skill level. Also I'd instigate trouble and then hide behind Smith. "Just try him. Go ahead. Try him! C'mon, you stupid fucker, try him!" Comedic relief when team is doing poorly.

Signature Move: Distracting the other team by feigning a heart attack, thus allowing my teammates to run rampant. Or maybe having a real heart attack. Depends on the night, I guess.
Also smoking while playing.

Strengths: Lots of heart. Ability to raise the puck, well at least 50% of the time. Big hair. Corduroy coat. Ability to give advice to younger teammates. Large balls. Loves to drink. A lot!

Weaknesses: Dvorak like knack for blowing golden opportunities (alas, too true), the drink, loose women.

Injury Problems: Sore hair. Inflamed pubic area and other varieties of the clap.

Equipment: Throwback everything, Jimmy.

Nemesis: Tie Domi. He cries from my cruel mockery of his pathetic existence. Also punks like Maltby, Chelios, you know the type.

Scandal Involvement: Constant dropping of the soap in team shower, playing drunk, sleeping with Karen Percy, caught masturbating on bench, caught jerking off in the press box, caught pulling the goalie in the penalty box, caught playing the back nine between periods, caught slapping the salami in front of the net, etc etc. Also forced to retire after going Eddie Shore on Tie Domi and killing him by clubbing him over his stupid head. And then peeing on him.

Who I'd face in the Cup Finals: The Leafs. Because it would make me laugh to see them come so close. Did you realize they haven't even made the finals in 40 years? How sad is that?

What I'd Do With the Cup after We won: Melt it down, sell it and use the money to buy coke and hookers, thus ensuring that I would live in Infamy. (That's between Kap and Swastika, up in Northern Ontario for you Westerners).

Would the media love me or hate me?: They'd love me until they realized that when I invited them over for peanut butter balls at Christmas I would greet them naked except for peanut butter on my big wrinkly bag. Then they wouldn't like me so much. Except for Martine Gaillard.