Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ten Days in February at Rawlins Cross

Storm stayed here in PEI last Monday.

Well, not really. To be really storm stayed means being housebound. We weren’t that, at least for most of the day, but the bridge closed and no flights were coming in or out and nearly everything closed as anyone from outside of town didn’t venture far from home.

Maritime and Newfoundland winters put the rest of the country to shame and this comes from someone who grew up when it was regularly twenty to thirty below for a couple of months (this was before they began measuring windchill or adding it into the temps), roads were snowcovered from December to March and regular ventures had to be made onto roofs to make sure they did not collapse from the weight of the snow. And we didn’t get nearly the snow that the Soo did or the cold and snow that they got in Timmins.

Nothing on what happens out this way. I spent ten days in St. John’s in February back in 1995, in an apartment at Rawlins Cross, in the throes of new love and all that that entails. Would slip down into the stairwell to share a cigarette (Camels, thank you very much) and the chill there permeated everything and everywhere. We spent a lot of time in bed and a good part of that was just trying to stay warm ;) and I’d wake in the morning and wander out into the living room and look out the big window at Signal Hill and beyond it the Atlantic, and to the right I could see the harbour and down below the towering banks of snow and streets mad with slush and ice, people and cars skidding about as they tried to make their way, the tiny houses side by side huddled against the lashing wind, bright colours trying not to slide down into the icy Atlantic. So we spent those ten days wandering about, going to little parties and eating soup in hole in the wall diners and slogging up and down the hills to the centre of town. Most of it was spent in that apartment at Rawlins Cross though, tearing it up under the covers, the heat of skin keeping us from the cold outside of our bed. For us this was the best time we ever had, it all went downhill from there, though so slow and imperceptable the decline was that it took two years for it to end. I’ll never forget it though, almost two weeks on a rocky outcropping in the middle of the North Atlantic and its no wonder that Newfoundlanders have the best sense of humour in the world, to survive the sheer ugliness of those winters.


The Oilers have spent the first part of their schedule struggling here and there and while many of the underlying numbers are encouraging there is enough one step forward one step back going on to discourage even the most optimistic of fans. I felt that this club would be in the playoff mix this year although I was not of the mind that they were going to leap into the ranks of the contenders based on their surge to finish last season. I have seen enough late season uprisings from also ran Blue Jay clubs in September to know that these things almost never carry over to the new year.

Having said that the additions of Visnovsky and Cole, another year of experience for the kids and good health for the club seemed to point to a club vastly improved and the reality is that this is a better club, really, as Tyler points out here. In some cases its bounces not going Edmonton’s way and in others it’s the odd deployment of the personnel but this is a better club and it will continue to get better, I would say. The PK is the biggest issue this season and whoever is responsible for the lack of down ice pressure and shot blocking should be put on an ice floe and pushed out into the strait (although we all know this isn’t going to happen).

I am unhappy with the coaching and I’m unhappy with management (although this is more the result of an accumulation of grievances going back to June 20th, 2006) but I’ve always been a glass half full type of guy so I still think that things are going to get better. Despite their struggles they have games in hand on everyone that they are chasing and while the Canucks and Flames have some clearance there is no reason for this club not to turn it around. They’re a little short on veterans up front and with Pisani still a month away I would expect that a kid on the farm or pick gets dealt for a veteran option to help with faceoffs and the PK. Cogliano has been doing well with the soft stuff for a while now and Pouliot is finally getting traction as an NHL player and Laddy Smid is at worst a nice cheap option in the bottom pair and maybe trending upwards. Stortini and Brodziak have won their jobs back and that leaves Gagner and Nilsson and the former is playing a little better and maybe Nilsson will respond to his benching just as Penner did.

Ideally for me going forward they would move Cole up to play with Gagner and Cogliano and bring in a vet to play with Pouliot and Moreau and then drop Moreau to the fourth line once Fernando returns but these guys never do the obviously sensible so it remains to be seen. The good news is that a cheap vet or two would go a long way to fixing what ails this club and boosting them into the playoffs but the bad news is that Lowe and Company never fill these holes until the offseason at which point another leak has sprung in the dike.

Three wins in a row and they look like they're going to make it up that icy hill but now Hemsky and Pouliot are out and its the Flames tonight after an awful loss last night and goddamn it if they haven't veered off into that snowbank again.

Sheer ugliness but at least I have my sense of humour. Just have to bundle up, bury my head in my shoulder and trudge into that goddamn gale coming off the Atlantic.


New Year's lost its cachet for me when I turned about twenty one and decided that paying forty bucks to go into a bar that usually cost me nothing to get into was not the best way to give my money to the man. Its been house parties and such with friends ever since.

I have a couple of good New Years stories and maybe I'll write them up tomorrow or not. Tonight we're heading to a friend's here for a nice little gathering, some dinner and some wine. No kids allowed.

Here's hoping that 2009 is good to you, prosperous and most importantly, healthy. Have fun tonight and if you're drinking, don't get behind the wheel.


hunter1909 said...

I think the Oilers make the playoffs.

I've stopped worrying about them. Like, what's the use?

Now if Pat Quinn takes over in January...


PS: When I was growing up winter started anytime after mid-November and stayed until mid April. Period.

Brad said...

Don't forget about the great double header tonight. Canada/US, then the Battle right after. Weird for me to compliment TSN for making my NYEve!

spOILer said...


A Happy New Year's to you and yours. Stay safe tonight and may 2009 be your best year ever.

Black Dog said...

Thanks spOILer. Best wishes to you and yours as well. Appreciate it.

hunter - you sound like my old man ;)

Fake Craig McTavish said...

Hey Pat.

Just wanted to let you know your blog is a must read for me and I much appreciate the thought and skill you bring to each post.

Happy New Year.

Black Dog said...

Thanks Fake McT, I appreciate the comment, thanks so much.

Best wishes for a great year.

Dennis said...

Pat: Had we only met a few years ago:)

I could have showed you St. John's:)

Black Dog said...

Dennis, you're not that old are you? ;)

I'll likely take you up on it someday anyhow.