Sunday, January 11, 2009

Five Bees For A Quarter We'd Say

I had been out of school for a couple of years and was slacking hard, although of course that's a contradiction right there. After two years in High Park I had gotten myself a little more central again, although midtown rather then downtown. Walking down the treelined streets, mansions, luxury cars. Waiting for someone to call the police on my scruffiness, faded Mackinaw jacket, torn jeans and rotten soled sandals, big white man's afro. After school was out I made ends meet for a number of years by doing whatever came my way. A couple of sales jobs which were disastrous (worst salesman in the world right here), acting as a driver and errand boy for one of Canada's wealthiest families, tutoring, construction work, whatever it took to make the rent. I didn't have a lot of chickamin in those days. Bread I mean. The main source of income for me was the video store and this is where I learned to love, really love I mean, the movies.

I was making under a grand a month, usually around 800 bucks or so, so it was rent and then my share of the bills and then the rest on living. Did a lot of walking and roller blading in those days, trying to get by on less then 100 bucks a week makes a man lean. I ate a lot of toast and pasta with margarine in those days. The economy wasn't in great shape and I had no idea where I was heading and it was all just fine. I had a lot of friends in the same boat, doing retail and bartending and extending their stays in school and even some of those who knew where they were going and had jobs in their fields were paying their dues and making peanuts. I have a very good friend who was just starting in PR and was doing writing for a little firm. He's a smart smart guy and my understanding is he is one of the best in his field these days and back then he was making fuck all.

The way it was, yeah?

So as for me, like I said, I got into the movies. One winter I was living just outside of Forest Hill Village with a buddy of mine. Now Forest Hill is where Ted Rogers lived so that tells you all you need to know. This is where I worked. Sore thumb I stuck out like. Same as my compadres. We'd hang outside the door and smoke and crack wise and late on Saturday nights when I worked with this slacker named John, a big cycling guy, we'd duck out back and smoke a fatty to pass the time. And then off at 10:30 or midnight depending and I'd walk the half hour home with three or four movies. I'd watch a couple of them that night, bed at ~ 2 or 3 or 4 am and then up before noon and watch two more.

I started dabbling in the writing. Now this was when Tarantino arrived and Rodriguez and Roger Avery and we carried a lot of indie movies and we knew all of the stories, the guys who wrote these little movies and then got them made, often did so themselves, and I thought, hell, why not me? And I wrote quite a bit and got interested in the industry and one day a pretty girl walked into the store and we struck up a conversation. It was the start of a great friendship and I ended up dating her sister for the longest time and actually I work for her uncle now but that's another story altogether. Anyhow she was a film student at York and I'd see her a lot over the next while and as I said we became friends and she encouraged me to chase the dream.

I had a buddy whose sister was dating a guy who played hockey with a guy who ran a company that rented film equipment and so your man told me to call this guy, which I did, and he said, sure come on down, which I did. And I hadn't a clue, thought it was a formal interview so here I am in my shirt and tie and buddy in his blonde mullet and smoking away and he looks at me, thinking look at this mook, and gives me another guy's number, a guy named Edgar Eggar, no word of a lie, says call this guy and tell him Phil sent me.

Now I don't do the self promotion or the cold call very well, never in fact, and so you know how much I wanted this because I fucking harassed this guy. I called and called and called again and left message after message in his voice mail. His version of this is classic, just like him, and again that's for another time, but finally he got tired of hearing my voice in his mailbox and called me in to talk.

And so I did and I told him what I knew about the business (fuck all) but that I just wanted a chance and he said, alright we have a shoot coming up in a few weeks, its going to be three weeks of work and I could work as a trainee doing camera. And, by the way, I'd be working for food. My salary was the big zero. Cob. Nada. Working for free.

And I gulped because I had zero cash but figured, well, I'll figure out the details later, and I said yes.

It gets better but that's for another time


There is a lot of grumbling about the Oilers these days and even the terminally cheerful, like LT, are starting to tire of a franchise that has, with one exception, wallowed in mediocrity for the last fifteen years or so. I think the club is where many of us thought it would be, in the mix for the playoffs, but the journey has been an unsatisfying one this season. Points have been thrown away with poor efforts and odd coaching decisions. Once again roster holes were left unfilled but instead of throwing Pouliot or Brodziak to the wolves as the third line centre to see if they could get the job done, MacT has shown an odd disconnect with management, putting Pisani there, for instance.

Penner and Nilsson and Garon have been thrown under the bus by the coach and the PK has been the suck all year and veterans like Staios and Moreau have played poorly and shown public frustration with the team.

I wonder how much of the team's inconsistency and the frustration of the vets and the coach have to do with the new order in the NHL. I've never had an issue with players making the money they do. Its big business and the players are the product and while the idea that Zach Stortini makes ten times what my wife does (she does work part time mind you) when he is a hockey player, not a particularly good one at that, and she is a nurse who works with kids with cancer, makes me shake my head sometimes but the fact is there's not a lot of money to be made in curing kids of cancer and professional hockey is big entertainment. The players deserve their share and the lockout for me was more about levelling the playing field so it was no longer like baseball where teams outspend others by two, three, four times as much, then about sticking it to the players.

But the new way of doing things probably chafes the vets and it certainly makes MacTavish's job a lot more difficult. Even with their disadvantages the Oilers could hold onto Doug Weight and Ryan Smyth for years and years and afford them and the coach always had the carrot of more money to play so you could put together a club of youngsters and they would play with hunger, with the elan the Oiler teams once did, because for each player the pot of gold was down the road. The '06 team had all kinds of young veterans making relatively little money - Horcoff, Hemsky, Dvorak, Stoll, Moreau, Pisani, Torres, Laraque, Staios, Bergeron, even the captain was making ~2 iirc.

Plenty of these guys were in the league for nearly a decade.

And of course none of them will need tag days anytime soon. All except Bergeron are on new contracts and all are making great chickamin, only Dvorak is making less I believe. They got their paydays and good for them but it took a while.

But then how do you take Tom Gilbert getting 4 after just over a season in the NHL and Nilsson making nearly 2 after a stretch of, what, thirty good games, and Penner hitting the jackpot after, what, 120 games in the bigs? And Grebs will get paid this summer and Gagner and Cogliano next year, and all three will get big deals, one of them will likely cost what Horcoff, Hemsky, Pisani and Torres did in '06.

So besides the obvious issues with keeping a club together and the problem with making a good bet on the right guy (so Gilbert looks like a good one, Nilsson not so much, Penner still hard to say) one thinks that you have three other things to think about, especially when the guy in question is a little unmotivated. The coach has lost that old carrot. The player may be the type of guy who needs all the motivation possible and he's on easy street three years in. And you have older players looking at these guys and wondering whatever happened to paying your dues?



hunter1909 said...


Thank that drunk Irishman Lowe for that!

Paying for "potential!????"

If I got paid for potential I'd be on easy street. But in the racket I work in, it's more about results.

So sorry, but the Oilers "model" is the laughingstock of the NHL.

All Oilers fans can hope for is that Katz steps in and buys some of these bums out.

Did I say bums?

Baroque said...

But Hunter, ALL teams have to pay based on potential with the earlier onset of free agency.

Their choices are to pay a player long-term on potential, thinking that he will continue to improve and will be a relative bargain later on, since they can't control him for so many years anymore and be more certain of what they have in the player ...

... or continue paying for shorter-term contracts and waiting until he develops and they have a better idea of what he is capable of doing in a game, and then paying much more money for him (since he has a far better argument to support getting a higher salary now) or risk losing him for nothing since he has been soured on staying with the team because previous negotiations were acrimonious.

It isn't an Oiler situation - it's a NHL situation in general. A lot of teams are struggling with how best to allocate capped dollars to have a decent team and field a full roster with as few holes as possible.

HBomb said...

I'd rather pay for potential than for past performance.

Exhibit A: Steve Staios

Exhibit B: Ethan Moreau

Black Dog said...

Baroque is right, if course, its every club in on it. And the Oilers were one of the first to do it with Hemsky and that is a terrific contract.

It is getting a little crazy though - its one thing to pay Hemsky, Getzlaf, Carter and so on, guys who look like sure bets. Then you have the DiPietro and Richards contracts, good bet to make but a gamble on their health.

Its the Nilsson deal or the kid from Florida who got one last summer, can't recall his name but he's no great shakes.

Those are the weird ones.

Vic Ferrari said...

Right now Gagner is playing well, and pucks are starting to cross the line for him and his linemates. Cogliano has faded and Nilsson isn't where he was. Brodziak played some of the softest ice time of any Oiler last year by Tyler's, Desjardin's and esp Willis' metric ... now he's being asked to take on the old Stoll gig and it's not going well. Pouliot is showing flashes now, a year ago it didn't lokk good for him, he was in the AHL and had looked dreadful in his early stint with the Oil.

A week from now probably things have changed. Maybe Nilsson will have been the Oiler's best player over the last two games, maybe Gagner will have become the grey man and maybe Cogliano will have made a mistake that lead directly to a goal against that cost the Oilers a game, and two of three Lowetiders and Gregorites are demanding his benching in favour of Rob Schremp.

They have some good young players, Pat. Where was Hemsky at Gagner's age and/or NHL experience? Without checking, I'd say 150 NHL games away from truly helping his team win at evens (dude was the bomb on the PP from early on).

Where was Horcoff at Cogliano's age? In college I think.

I mean the Oilers don't have Malkin/Crosby or Ovechkin/Semin. Hell they don't have Kane/Toews either. But they have some good young players.

They'll be fine in the long run I'm sure. Personally, I'm not all in, but if they make the playoffs it will be great. Even the annual late season push for the last playoff spot will be fun, it always has been.

Black Dog said...

Vic - ah, I'm not arguing that fact. I think the Oilers have put together some nice kids and as you say its ups and downs for all of them. I'm not as down on the club as many are although I feel that there are enough issues to frustrate me outside of the kids.

Its two and three years down the road that hopefully they will be having some impact.

And for that matter I don't mind the new salary model. It just seems a little out there at times. Its one thing to pay Getzlaf big money after three years that include a Cup and two pretty good years.

Paying Nilsson (albeit not the ~4 per that seems the rule) after two good months is a little much and makes it difficult for his coach to have much hand in the relationship.

hunter1909 said...

Paying for a Guy Lafleur to flower(lol), might make sense, or even a Getzlaf, but Nilsson!? Penner!!???

Overpaying anyone for anything is mug's game. Always had been, and always will be.

When I was 15 I was in love with a girl who turned out to be a right little whore. Should I have married her, based on my perception of her potential? Of course not.

Funny how the elite teams like the Red Wings rarely if ever get messed around by overpaying for players.

The Oilers on the other hand are paying out enough extra(Staios, Moreau, Pisani, Roloson, Penner etc), to pay for a Hossa or Ovechkin. Of course with the cap, overpaying for everyone leaves the wallet empty, just when the team needs the extra cash.

No wonder Wings fans laugh at us.

Seriously, the Oilers are fast becoming one of the joke teams of the NHL.

doritogrande said...

"Its the Nilsson deal or the kid from Florida who got one last summer, can't recall his name but he's no great shakes."

Rostislav Olesz.

Try spelling that drunk.

Swabbubba said...

The whole cap situation is not working out for the veterans. Nobody wants to pay an Oates deal. People are looking for a deal u know the problem the Oilers may have is that people may want to take a run at RFA's. So you have to make a guess of what a player may be worth in a future. We had some good deals and even Nilson may turn around it has time. Penner may be an overpay but it was crap shoot.
Yo Hunter if you think the Oilers are a joke then look at attendance figures. It ain't pretty will they be able to resign all those guys it will be a dance.
The next thing for the league is going to be able to release players. You ain't performing see ya cause the trades are just not happening.