Monday, February 02, 2009
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.
Posted by Black Dog at 5:30 PM