Friday, January 23, 2009


When it comes to sports I've never been that guy. Ales Hemsky the other night, I mean.

I'm a hockey guy and I've had some big games. I play well when its the playoffs or a tournament. I don't get too excited. I don't panic. I'll score the odd goal or two. Had a series clincher against an arch rival a few years back. Had a terrific game against the same team the night we conceived our third child. I usually score a goal or two in the Exclaim tournament.

But I don't have, you know, that game. A few years ago we had a team in a little one day tournament, four games in a day, not full length games. I scored the tournament winner in OT, the highlight of my career really. But it was my buddy, a tremendous hockey player and athlete, who dominated for our team in every game and scored in each of his last two shifts to get us into overtime.

One hot summer night a few years back was the closest I came I guess. Two goals and two assists and I was the best player on the ice for once and I don't know what came over me. I actually led old Capsule in scoring that summer which of course leads me to paraphrase one of the Marx brothers, it was either Karl or Richard, when I say that I don't want to be on a team that I lead in scoring. Not a good sign.

I do a lot of things well on the rink but I'm not an offensive dynamo. I used to think Horcoff but I'm not that great on the draw and there's no way I'm outplaying and outscoring our equivalent of Joe Thornton. Naw, think Fernando Pisani or Patrick Thoresen I even wear #28 though its nothing to do with the Norseman) with a little better hands. I help win hockey games but I'm not going out for a skate in front of the crowd when the game is over and done with.

And I'm a hockey guy through and through. That is as good as it gets. Played some soccer a few summers back and I was alright. The usual. Hardworking, played it smart, good teammate etc etc. Lousy at basketball. Tried out for football in high school and was mercifully cut, all 115 pounds of me. A few weeks later I went out to watch a game and saw our running back, a solid guy named Norm Beaudry I believe, run over a guy and then collide with a tackler at full speed. The guy he ran over had to be helped off the field. The guy he collided with, a former schoolmate, solidly built guy, got up, walked a few paces and collapsed. Got up again, staggered a bit and then hit the ground.

That coach knew what he was doing. They would have carried me off in a basket.


I did have one Hemsky moment outside of a pub or the bedroom (supersonic sperm!) and that was back in those halycon summer days in Sudbury. As mentioned here before there was a gang of us that got around, spending our weekend being young, with the drinking and the sexing and the smoking and the general being young. One of the guys, a good friend of mine to this day, was a tall lean (we were all lean back then) son of Croatian immigrants. When you called his house he was invariably sleeping. His mother would call for him 'Dannnnnnny, Dannnnnnny, Dannnnnny' until finally he would pick up the phone "mom I've got it! mom!' in this deep deep voice. Back and forth like that until she finally hung up. We called his old man Gorgeous George. When you called you had better ask him how he was and make small talk or he would bark "You Canadians have no manners! No manners at all!" and then slam the phone down.

The Markic loved to eat and would browse the meat section at the grocery store like a woman buying shoes. He loved to fish and hunt and sleep, though not in that order, but he was the type of guy who knew everything about fishing but would never catch a damn thing. We'd go out with him and drop in a paperclip tied to some twine and fill the boat with fish while all of his little lures and tricks and know how led to nothing.

The other thing that he loved was ball. He loved to watch it and he played in a slow pitch league and one of his favourite stories was when he hit a home run and as he rounded the bases the shortstop, the famous local morning radio guy, muttered "Nice Poke" as he trotted by.

He is a terrific guy and is more of a listener then a talker with a tendency to suddenly interject loudly with expressions like "Cockwalloper" or "Cockpounder" like the time he was having dinner at a buddy's, parents are there, girlfriend, they're Italian first generation so you can imagine the food and he's eating eating eating and suddenly stops to breathe and says, quite loudly:

"Cockwalloper Mrs Castrechino, this lasagna is fucking awesome!"


So the Markic was a big wallball guy. When we were kids it was unheard of, which is too bad, because we could never get enough guys for any sort of decent ball game and wallball can be played with two people; all you need is a bat, a ball and a strikezone chalked on a wall somewhere. I had dabbled a bit in Toronto and Markic had bragging rights this summer, he had taken on all comers and beaten them quite easily. He could throw and he could hit and that's all you need to do.

In our circle any sort of bragging rights were a drum you'd beat loudly (still are considering I am telling this story again, twenty some years later) and for once the quiet man had something to talk about other than the chicken he had stuffed with garlic and roasted on a bed of onions and tripe. So one sunny Saturday, just before our usual bout of drinking, I challenged him to a game, just for kicks. I had few delusions of grandeur. I was 125 pounds, maybe, and while extraordinarily wiry, I've never been much of a ball player. Think of the September call up who goes oh for one and gets an inning or two in because he's been the good soldier in triple A - the backup second baseman with the .195 average in the minors. That's me.

Not even Patrick Thoresen.

So we head over to the schoolyard and I was up first and the first thing I noted was that he threw hard and that he was completely wild. So I worked him for a couple of walks and then I took his first pitch of the next at bat out of the yard.


Then again. Over the fence. At this point the cursing began but we both figured that when he got up the tide would turn quickly.

But we were wrong. He was Steve Balboni and I was Doyle Alexander. I don't throw hard and he couldn't hit anything not thrown hard. It was junk, junk and more junk and he swung over, under and ahead of every single pitch I sent his way.

It was a massacre.

It lives on today. We were talking via email the other day, a bunch of the old gang, and the subject came up, the day the Mighty Markic struck out, over and over again, outsmarted by the crafty little junkballer from New Sudbury. The final score was ridiculously outsized, 15 to 2 or some such thing.

My Hemsky moment. Glory.


83 - Ales Hemsky - Ales Hemsky is going nowhere, plain and simple. He's a star and he's signed to a terrific contract.

27 - Dustin Penner - For all of Penner's flaws he is not going anywhere right now and I would bet at all over the next couple of years. The Oilers are painfully thin on the LW and on the small side and Penner brings enough to the offensive end of the rink, at least, that his contract is not a massive overpay. It would be nice if he were meaner and more consistent and some day the latter may come but he is not going anywhere unless they can replace him with a better model and there are not a lot out there that fit the type who can be had for the same price or less. Kovalchuk may fit the mold of what they would replace him with but you'd have to move seven million the other way next summer if you managed to sign him. Its possible the big guy gets moved but only under that circumstance

26 - Erik Cole - I'm a big fan of Cole and he's going nowhere until the end of this season unless the club utterly and totally collapses in the next month. I'd love to keep him going forward but by my estimation the Oilers are going to be ~ 50 million this summer once they sign Grebs and they will still need a number one goalie and the money for Cole on top of that. So even if he wants to stay they need to move salary to keep him around. He'd be nice to have for the next few years but I'd bet on a one year fill in next season along the lines of Guerin or Sykora, not necessarily those guys but a veteran who can be paid for a year, add some and then get let go.

12 - Robert Nilsson - here is the guy on the block, I would think. Inconsistent once again although look for a strong push like last year's finish. He has a nice contract but as always its a question of him coming to play every night. More than any other frontline guy he is the player I can see getting moved before the deadline for a shortterm upgrade going into the playoffs and also to free up the 2 million for the future. I like the kid (I like them all ;) ) and I can see them hanging onto him until the summer but if he doesn't get rolling he is toast as an Oiler.

34 - Fernando Pisani - Pisani fills a need for this club and they don't have a replacement so he's not going anywhere and I think that includes this summer; its 2.5 that they could move but in Pisani's favour his contract will expire before the cap drops (presuming it does). At that point it will be interesting to see if they can get him at a reduced rate. Unless he falls off a cliff we know he'd help a club trying to make a run in the postseason.

18 - Ethan Moreau - Moreau has been taking the flak this season but we all know he's going nowhere. Now this likely will include the summer but there are two issues to look at with Moreau - his contract and whether he can help this team when it matters. The guy is tough and brings some needed assets to the table but his skillset is likely replaced for half the price. And considering that he is getting killed by a lot of metrics (not to mention he's a mainstay on the dreadful PK) its unlikely that down the road he is going to be much help. I'd sell him high this summer. They're going to have to move five or six million in salary and I'd rather move the bottom six forwards, bottom pair defencemen and underperformers then a guy like Souray, Gilbert or Visnovsky. I like Moreau but like Torres there's not enough bang for the buck.

46 - Zach Stortini - Stortini is a useful player to have around and a guy whose skillset isn't duplicated on the roster. He may not be a part of this club when the really heavy lifting begins down the road but based on his past performance I would not bet against him being here when it counts.

78 - Marc Pouliot - Pouliot is a tweener and like Brule, Reddox, Potulny and other guys of this ilk he may or may not be around for a while. He is a versatile guy who can chip in offence when he gets the chance to play with the bigger boys and he holds his own out there. Personally I'd like to see him get more of a chance and maybe down the road he will, especially if Nilsson gets moved and they cannot sign Cole. Having said that he's the type of guy who might get moved at the deadline for a veteran. He has an NHL career now and another club (Pittsburgh always comes up) might see something more there but he's not at the point that the Oilers might not find someone they feel can replace him fairly easily.

Next the D, then the goalies, the scrubs and the guys in the minors.


David S said...

Assuming Gagner gets untracked (and at 19 I can't see why not), Cole/Gagner/Nilsson(or Mr X) is a killer second line. I'd take the upside of a quality one-two scoring punch over the downside of losing a questionable Moreau and a declining Staios. Seems to me that would get you a long way towards meeting Cole's salary requirements. Maybe that's wishful thinking but man, I really hope there's some way we can re-sign him.

Regardless, I can't remember the last time we had so many quality assets that it was hard to make a decent cut. I know this sounds absurd at the moment, but this team might be pretty amazing these next few years.

Black Dog said...

david - yeah I just hope that these guys see what looks pretty obvious about 18 and 24 and that they can find some takers

both are replaceable for a lot less dollars, what Cole brings is not

Jonathan Willis said...

You know what? I read every one of these posts you make and I never say a thing.

It's beauty writing, it really is. We've all had that moment of glory, that one day where everything went exactly right, but you describe it beautifully. There's something universal about your writing, and I think that's why I like it so much.

In any case, I agree on pretty much all of your points; we all have our favourites but that's a pretty objective look at these guys.

Black Dog said...

Thanks Jonathan, I appreciate the compliment.

I'm going to get a swelled head if I'm not careful here.

andy grabia said...

I'm going to get a swelled head if I'm not careful here.

I thought the surgery was next weekend?

Black Dog said...

Grabia, you son of a ....!!

I'm getting a little nervous. I wonder if I can just pretend that I got fixed.

Mr DeBakey said...

Nervous, shmervous

Would Ales Hemsky be nervous?
NO Fuckin way!!

He's look ol' Doc Regehr right in the eye and say "Make it fast, Sunshine. We'rer playing the Wild tonight."

Black Dog said...

Mr D.