Monday, February 02, 2009

Regrets, Well, Um, Yeah, Maybe A Few


Eighteen months after my favourite hockey player was traded from the Oilers, my favourite soccer player, Robbie Keane, was moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Liverpool. At the time, I was leery. The Spurs had come off of a pretty decent run over the previous few years. After a slow start last season they fired the manager responsible for this success and replaced him with a Spaniard, Ramos, who was a known and successful quality. While Ramos did lead the club to a tournament title in February, Spurs' first in years, he also moved a number of players out the door who had been part of the success of the previous years, starting with a little striker named Jermaine Defoe. The purge continued in the summer and amongst those to go were a big Bulgarian striker, Berbatov, and the Irishman, Keane. Berbatov had been rumoured to want to move and Ramos did not stand in his way. Keane, however, was in many ways the face of Spurs and his departure was a slap in the face to many.

I was really unhappy with the move but trusted that for the longterm it might be for the best. Instead the club stumbled badly out of the gate and presently are near the bottom of the league. The Spaniard was fired and there was some improvement. Then Defoe was reacquired and today it is Keane, who never really found his footing with Liverpool, who is also returning to White Hart Lane.

I'm very happy with this.

Now I am a realist but I am also, like my father, a positive soul at heart. I understand the business of sports and the fact that for every guy like Yzerman or Sakic or Brodeur there are hundreds (literally) of other guys who bounce from team to team. But I don't really get cynical about the whole thing and when Shawn Horcoff signs a deal that might keep him in Edmonton for his entire career, the first player of any import to do so, then I get excited. And when a guy like Ryan Smyth gets moved then my reaction is not really that positive.

I certainly don't want to rehash the whole Smyth thing. Like Horcoff as a first line centre, the Souray signing, Rob Schremp and now, um, Liam Reddox, its been beaten to death, so much so that there is nothing remaining of the horse but a faint rusty stain on the road.

And the funny thing is that at the time I actually posted (afterwards) how I could see spending that money on Smyth might not be a great idea, as hard as that was for me to say. Of course my reasoning behind that was all blown away when they signed Souray but so it goes. The writing was on the wall for Smyth when he finished behind Hemsky, Horcoff, Pronger and Pisani, just ahead of Spacek and Samsonov, in playoff scoring in 2006.

But being a fan is a funny thing, is it not? Read a gameday thread over at LT's or any message boards or blogs. Its madness. All of the time and energy and angst invested in a bunch of young millionaires, in my case playing in a city on the other side of the country.

And I'm relatively mellow about the whole thing.

Of course here I am, happy as a clam about a millionaire Irishman returning to my favourite English soccer club so who am I to talk?

Had a wonderful night on Saturday. We got together with old friends and had dinner and a few drinks, a terrific way to spend another cold and blustery January night. While the kids ran wild in the basement the conversation meandered from travels in Europe, Africa and South America to living in the Arctic, from music to mutual acquaintances, from good food and drink to family and then to sports. We traded tales - experiences at hockey games here in Toronto, soccer matches in north London and Argentina, football games in Buffalo. Nick Hornby's book Fever Pitch was brought up, as was this website, and the utter and true madness that can be attached to games that children play.

A terrific night. I could spend every Saturday night that way.

Anyways back to Robbie Keane. He got a lot of the blame for leaving, the feeling being that he could have stayed if he had really wanted to but of course why stay where you are not wanted? And Ramos did not want him. Of course Ramos himself was gone mere months later and upper management thrashed wildly about, trying to find someone to blame for the mess, failing miserably. Spurs fans can see where the problem lies, at least this one can, and I await the return of Berbatov and Martin Jol with bated breath.

The Oilers coughed up another one yesterday and it was another uneven effort with only a handful of players bothering to show up. For the second straight game Dustin Penner was benched for a good part of the game.

I don't want to reopen the whole Smyth debate and I'm not saying that he should be repatriated but I don't remember Ryan Smyth having to be benched for lack of effort too many times.

Its a problem with this club and some of it sits with the players who are not motivated and some of it sits with the system that has guys barely wet behind the ears getting big money and a lot of it sits with the coach who can't seem to find the right combinations or the proper way to motivate these guys.

But just like with Tottenham Hotspur when there is a mess, and this is a mess when your top LW gets benched two nights in a row, then someone, somewhere, should be pointing fingers at the guy at the top. The guy who spent the big money and traded the three picks on the guy who is getting benched. The guy who left this team short in certain positions this season, again. The guy who traded the player who never failed to give a great effort, night in and night out, for a second pairing junior defenceman, a completely failed prospect and a guy who, like Penner, can't seem to find the motivation to bring it every night.

In the end though it will be MacTavish and the players, including some players who won't deserve it, who get it in the neck, just like Defoe, Keane, Jol and Ramos. Like management in North London, Lowe seems to be able to escape censure for what he has done to this club.

And that, my friends, is hard to swallow.

15 comments:

doritogrande said...

So what you're saying is...

Penner for Smyth? That'd be A-ok with me.

Unfortunately though, unless we dump Moreau/Staios...we don't have that kind of coin.

HBomb said...

How would dumping Moreau and Staios be "unfortunate"?

Swabbubba said...

Hmmm looking at this I still say Penner can be the guy. The boy is just soft between the ears he has the tools he has to just to want it bad enough.
The Smyth thing was in Edmonton talking to my buds and u know they are season ticket holders for years. Do you think Smyth was going to get us to the promised land? Was he worth the dough he wanted? err no was the answer. If I was Ryan and I looked at the the options that were left there is one guy to blame and that would be the one peering back in the mirror.
Hindsight is perfect. You have to recall the summer fans are screaming for something anything... took a shot at Vanek? missed... looked around saw a possible pick for Penner did we over pay yup... did it shut up the masses yup. Has Penner played to his potential uh no... Does the player admit it yes...Can he come back or just play within his means I hope so. He can be pretty effective stick out the butt and be hard on the puck it will come.
You know look at Nolan did he play in Calgary no? It happens. Look at all the young guys we have. I think we are sitting pretty with the young guns we have other than Schremp. Because I believe this guy really does not want to play the Oilers style where they are asked to play a complete game, skate hard both ways, finish your checks and head for the net. Do all the players believe that on the big team not every game. When they do the results are there.
Gonna miss the PPV I think the team will want some retribution will see in the 1st 5 shifts what team shows up

Black Dog said...

swabbubba - I don't know, like I said at the time I was with lowe on the smyth move and yes hindsight is 20/20 and it still has not played itself out but Smyth plus what they gave up for Penner for 1.25 million per extra??

Folks can point at the numbers all they want but fact is Smyth brought it every night and Penner and a lot of other guys on this club do not. Will they down the line? Can a leopard change its spots?

Black Dog said...

dg - not sure if I'm saying that, although it would only be another 1.25 M

I guess what I am saying, other then just rambling, is like Spurs the Oilers made a break with a very popular player, a guy who was beloved by the fans.

And like Spurs the results are a shambles.

Its just a shame really.

hunter1909 said...

Sorry to be the guy who pisses on your cornflakes, but Spurs are an a-1 shit team.

They haven't won anything since when...the 1980's?

They play in the London equivalent of the Bronx, haven't managed to join the Premiership in any seriously real way; in other words they still basically live in the old First Division.

You sure picked the wrong team there, buddy.

Thank fuck I decided to be a gunners fan. lol.

R-Gib said...

Like the Gretzky trade (ok I was 10 at the time, but still) I was in disbelief and rage and then just sadness when Smytty was traded. I've read quite a bit about who was at fault during contract negotiations and to be quite honest I don't care anymore who the finger gets pointed at: the fact still remains that Lowe traded away the beloved face of the team, the heart and soul, the grit that is Ryan Smyth.
I agree 100% Blackdog; you don't let this type of player go. We overpay/reward Pisani, Moreau, Staios etc after the 06 run, why not Smyth? I'd take Smyth and two pluggers for those three any day. You are entirely correct when saying that Penner + Nilsson = Smyth. Omarra and pick(s?) back for Penner deal picks and its a wash. How does Smyth-Horc-Hemsky sound for a first line now? Pretty effin sweet.
The drive and determination with the way Smyth plays hockey, coupled with his obvious love for the game and this team is why I loved the guy, and also why, after years of underpaying the guy Lowe/EIG should have manned up and gave him what he wanted.
And we wonder why players are passing up the opportunity to play here for less money elsewhere.

Black Dog said...

I'm with you R-Gib.

Darren said...

I still do not undertand how Daniel Levy is still around to decide who stays and goes at Sp*rs. That place is like a revolving door, it is unbeleivable.
As for Keane, he wanted to leave as did the others did they not? Sp*rs are a joke and never should have gotten rid of Jol. Ramos was a mistake, as he has had more manager jobs than you can sniff at, and only suceeded (finally) at Sevilla. Would not classify him as quality....

Black Dog said...

Darren - its funny how now its being spun by Spurs, everywhere you look its Levy who is responsible for Robbie's return.

Hah.

As for Keane, did he ask out? Sure he did but do you blame him? Ramos did not rate him and showed as much by his treatment of the Irishman after the league Cup final.

I don't blame Keane a bit and I would say that the vast majority would agree.

I certainly agree with you on Martin Jol. I thought he was terrific. Under him the Spurs were a quality club year after year. Getting rid of him was a mistake.

Jay said...

Speaking as a Reds fan - you can keep him. If I had to watch him make a lazy offside run and wag his finger at the linesman one more time...

I realize Keane was a quality player with Spurs but he never translated well with Liverpool, even before Rafa started to leave him off the squad. Anyway, Spurs play Liverpool on the final day of the season and knowing our luck Keane will score his hat trick that night. ;)

Darren said...

Levy is also responisble for selling Keane away in the first place is he not? I don't necessarily have a problem with Keane wanted to leave, I can understand why he would want to, Liverpool being his childhood team. If I were a Sp*r have, I would've been jaded however.
I do think the biggest problem is Levy there. With all the knee-jerk changes there with managers and players, the only constant is Levy. All those changes, and still fighting relagation. Who else would be at fault for that?

jdrevenge said...

BD,

Did you stop watching the Spurs after the overhaul and the shit year?

Cuz I don't know bout the rest of y'all but I'm at the same point now that I was at after they had traded Smytty. Fed up. Hopeless. Confused. Yet I keep coming back for more...

This is by far the worst year I've had as an Oilers fan. Maybe its the fact that the expectations of the fans were echoed by the staff for the first time...I don't know if the expectations were way to high or if I'm right to think the team should be about 10 back of Calgary and in sixth like we all predicted. F*ck I'm depressed.

Black Dog said...

jay - ah yes, the finger waggle, signature Keane ;)

darren - yes you have it; the spin is remarkable really - Levy takes credit for all that goes well but whenever somethign goes wrong its someone else's fault; he's really something

Black Dog said...

jdr - I certainly have voted with my eyes this season, I was dismayed when they canned Jol and when they dumped Keane and Berbatov it left a sour taste; the brutal start confirmed my fears

so I follow them but I don't go out of my way to

as for the Oilers I figured they would be where they are; the year has been frustrating in some respects and I think MacTavish is a goner.

If I think about it in a vacuum - not thinking about Chicago and how quickly they turned it around for example - then its easier to take. Or the fact that they never had to get as bad as they did. Lowe really has botched it.

They are getting better.