Thursday, September 18, 2008
Do you like surprises? I do.
When I was twenty nine I moved to PEI. I spent a year there. It was one of the best years of my life. In a lot of ways I relived my youth. Weekends and evenings during the week were spent on a boat in the harbour or at the beach. Nights were spent in the pubs or at parties, drinking ridiculous amounts of alcohol and chasing women. That year I turned thirty. I launched my career. I met many great friends and the woman who would become my wife.
Most importantly, I bought a dog. A black lab border collie cross with floppy ears, white paws and tail tip and a big white 7 on his chest.
It was the end of August and I got it in my head that I wanted a dog. Jenn and I had been dating for a couple of months. She objected to my plan and in a harbinger of things to come I ignored her. She came home one night to find us cavorting on the lawn. A boy and his dog.
The saint is not a dog person and to this day she often bitterly complains. She doesn't like the barking, the farting, the ass smelling, the licking, the constant affection (she's a Philistine, yes). Most of all she hates the fur. Tumbleweeds roam our hallways. One carried the boy away the other day. We haven't seen him since.
Once in a while she muses about making me choose. Its an oldie but a goodie, of course, but the kids and I and the dog would surely miss her.
I remember laying down my one hundred Canadian dollars and your man behind the counter, obviously a good judge of character (or lack thereof), remarking that the first year with a puppy was hell on wheels. I smirked. What did he know?
When I moved out of my apartment four months later I had to replace the carpet, destroyed by the little monster. He ate a package of Halls and had projectile diarrhea against the wall. While we were watching a movie, he stood in front of us and had a gigantic pee to make sure that we knew that he was present and accounted for. Every night I came home from work to find my apartment trashed. Whenever we retired to the bedroom (my girlfriend and I, you smartasses) discarded clothing and underwear would be hauled out into the kitchen to be played with. This culminated one afternoon with me chasing the little rat down the hallway, stark naked, as he sped away, very recently used condom between his teeth. And yes, he did swallow it.
The next morning I came into my kitchen to discover my condom, encased in poo, as if a demented Santa had arrived the night before, leaving me the thing that I least desired.
Of course things can always get worse. For those complainers out there, this is a fact. So best not to complain. In this case, it got worse although it wasn't really all that serious. Of course my sister and her husband may have disagreed. For it was they who came home one evening to find that the dog who I left in their charge as I moved across North America had registered his displeasure with them by taking a big shit in their bed.
Surprise assholes! Quit your jobs and never leave me alone again!
So, camp finally opens and it looks to be a duller affair then last year.
This is a good thing.
The number of players who surprise coming out of camp to make the team is usually inverse to the success the team will have. We're not going to see some kid or washed up vet suddenly show up in the top four on the blueline for the Wings. Nobody is going to come out of the ether to play beside Henrik and Pavel.
Remember the Oilers three autumns ago? That club was pretty much set going into camp and very little changed. Veterans up and down the lineup and the results reflected this.
The following year the real surprise was that Lowe did not shore up the blueline at all. Once that was established then the lineup looked pretty set. Patrick Thoresen was the only guy who came out of nowhere. Now the year was a total failure of course but if Hejda had gotten his crack earlier and Staios and Tjarnqvist had stayed healthy things may have been a little better.
Now last season pretty well everything got turned on its head but after the collapse that followed the Smyth trade there was a lot up for grabs and rightly so. Some organizations say it but they do not follow through. Last year the Oilers did both. Gagner, Cogliano and Brodziak all made the club at the expense of guys like Pouliot and Carter and on the blueline Tom Gilbert got his reward for a strong camp and Smid was sent down. These guys came in, had an opportunity and took advantage.
Good for them because going into this season last fall's surprises are this year's shoo-ins and this team has a distinctly 2005 feel to it. Not in terms of being a possible contender (they are not) but for the fact that there are few spots open for the taking and the ones that are happen to be on the back end of the roster.
Write in ink the following for roster spots up front - Horcoff, Hemsky, Cole, Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Penner, Pisani, Brodziak, Moreau, Stortini
On the back end - Visnovsky, Gilbert, Staios, Souray, Grebeshkov, Strudwick
Two guys who should make it are Pouliot and Smid, as long as they perform up to expectations and nobody passes them by. If they do that leaves an extra forward spot or two, depending on the goaltending.
And even those guys competing for that extra spot or two seem to be pretty clearcut - Potulny, Schremp and Brule are the frontrunners now that Jacques looks to be done. All three of these guys certainly have to be motivated and I would think we will see excellent camps from all of them.
So is there anyone out there who might sneak in there if someone falters or injuries hit? Here's a short list - Liam Reddox, Bryan Lerg, who showed well in the rookie games, Theo Peckham, who has Smid's job in his sights, and my darkhorse, coming from a long long way back, Ryan O'Marra. Likely an injury on the backend means Peckham gets a shot if he shows well in camp. Up front Reddox is the guy whose skillset fits that bottom end energy role.
Boring but boring is okay this year. If Eberle or Chorney were to come out of nowhere the reality is that that would mean that this team is lousy.
We don't want another season that is the equivalent of coming home and finding a giant turd in our collective beds.
Right? Right. No surprise is good.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:57 PM