Monday, October 20, 2008
Before I talk about the week that was I wanted to start by saying a few words about Dave Berry. I don't know Dave personally, per se, but I am saddened to see what has happened. There is a lot of debate about the Oilers and their media policies going on as a result. I think the Oilers were within their rights to do what they did, although the explanations about rights holders and such seem a little bit much. I think what is disappointing about the whole situation is how the Oilers staff (and thus the Oilers themselves) come off as hostile bullies. Dave apologized for violating a policy that he was unaware existed. A polite response to this was all that was needed but instead the tone was aggressive and dismissive. Anyone with any sense can tell you that if you are in any sort of position of power its quite often not what you do but how you do it. Much like Cal Nichols' comments about Pronger's marriage or the organization's remarks about Ryan Smyth after he was moved it just seems indicative of a cultural problem with this club. I'm not naive - for example I know that as much as I'd love to believe the Oilers are as great a bunch of guys as my own club team I know that there's probably a number of them who are likely jerks in 'real life' - the Oilers are first and foremost a business and a big one at that. As someone who works for a business I think it goes without saying that treating your customers like dirt, even if they piss you off (for Dave is a guy unafraid to criticize the Oilers), is not the best way to go about things. Its a shame because Dave is a bright and funny guy and the more people like that involved in anything, the better. He will be missed.
As for the week that was, short of four victories by double digit goals I really cannot see any way it could have gone better for the Oilers. I managed to see all or a good part of every game except the Friday night match and once the Oilers found their legs in the second period against Anaheim I only found fault with the first period Saturday night after that. (Well okay, four out of five periods - big deal right? ;) ) Word is that they did did well enough on Friday anyhow. The Colorado game was stolen but so it goes sometimes. The fact that this club took eight out of eight points, including four out of four on the road, and conceded no Bettman points against two teams in their division and a third in their conference to boot, makes for a terrific start to the season.
A lot to like about this club starting with Garon's play in net. Goaltending was considered a possible problem. I think he's the real deal. You can't ride him for seventy games - I would say fifty five might be the max - and while JDD won Friday night I'm thinking they should keep Roli around. Not sure how that's going to work out though.
On the back end they have mostly been good enough, which is what was expected. There is depth and that makes a big difference on this team. Greene probably doesn't make this squad (and what is LA thinking? My God.) Visnovsky has been a treat to watch, Gilbert is getting it together and Grebeshkov is probably going to make a lot of money next season.
I know a lot of people have been on Moreau but the guy has barely played in two years. Saturday night shows that hopefully he is finding his legs. And Pisani once again displays that he is The Cleaner. Two years ago Torres and Stoll played their best hockey when united with him. Last season a couple of games with the kids when he returned seemed to spark them to a strong finish. And now a game with Pouliot and the kid looks all world.
And there is that depth thing again. This team has some up front as well.
Cogliano, Nilsson and Gagner have all picked up where they left off and by my eye the rink is tilting a little more in their favour when they are out there. I think after a quick start sparked by adrenaline that Horcoff has some dead legs now but once he gets going, along with Cole, I think we'll see Hemsky wake up a little too.
No complaints over all - the MacIntyre Gambit seemed to have an effect on Saturday night. (Is it true that he broke the kid's ribs when he was punching him? Jesus!) I'm still not sold on it but its kind of fun to see a lifelong minor leaguer get out there. He has certainly endeared himself to the coach, the fans and his teammates so he get a decent run out of it yet.
My senior year of high school was pretty terrific. I went to a private Catholic school in Sudbury, St. Charles College. All boys' school with excellent academics (guys who would struggle with low 60s would move to other schools in town and pull off 80s and 90s with ease) and powerhouse sports teams, especially hockey. By the time we hit Grade 13 there were less then 100 of us and we had been together for five years. Some pretty funny shit went on and there was a wide array of personalities, some really interesting guys. When I finished school I would still see guys during the summer or at Christmas when I came back from University. Sudbury is a fair size but sooner or later you're going to run into everyone you know. I've run into guys on the streets here in Toronto and ended up rooming with one of them as a result. Went to a party and bumped into a few guys who happened to be there as well. One of the strangest reunions I had was the time my wife and I were at a school here in town looking for the gym - we were in a floor hockey league - and the guy we asked for directions was one of my best buddies in high school, he teaches at this school.
When we were about twenty one we went down to Penetang for a long weekend, three of us. One of the guys had a girlfriend from there and she invited him to a wedding. She had two friends who needed dates so two of us tagged along with Frank. It was a ridiculous weekend that did not feature a minute of sobriety as well as a bulldog named Gus who took advantage of me. Multiple times. (More on Gus another time). On the Saturday morning as we wandered about Penetang looking for food I heard someone call my name and there was a guy I hadn't seen since high school. His nicknames in school were 'Puffy' (his face was - he looked like George Chuvalo after the bout with Ali) and 'Eskimo' ( this is long before political correctness). I remember two things about him. He dropped out if school on the last day of Grade 13. (Why I have no idea - he would have graduated.) And he was the Stairdiving Champion of SCC.
We were at a house party out in Capreol, a railway town about forty five minutes outside of Sudbury, which sent a few guys into town to our school every year. There were a few in our class and one of those was Puffy. The party was at one of their houses, can't remember who. It was a good time. The usual crew from school was there as well as a lot of the guys from the smaller towns out that way who usually hung out with their own on the weekends, drinking and getting high. They never got into the parties in the city, as a rule, because none of them would stay sober to drive. So they stayed home. Our loss because these guys were a riot, on the wilder side for sure. Anyhow, because the party was out their way they were able to convince someone to drive them and they were able to join in the festivities.
There were four guys in our class from a town called Garson and on this night three of them set up camp at the top of the stairs. Anyone who came with arms' length and was not on their guard was summarily thrown down the stairs. It was a fair distance down and the stair made a hard left down another flight so the victims stood a pretty good chance of hitting the wall if they picked up enough speed. Well Puffy wandered by and got thrown down pretty good.
Guy was a Capreol boy, as I said, so he was walking home that night and as a result he was beyond loaded. So much so that your man immediately rushed back up the stairs for more. And again. And again. The last few trips he made blindfolded. Finally the guys' arms got tired and they went away but not until, at his insistence, they proclaimed him Stairdiving Champion.
Except for that time in Penetang I haven't seen the guy in over twenty years but I will always remember that night and his role in it.
And I think he was a Flames fan. Which makes sense when you think about it.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:01 PM