Wednesday, March 04, 2009


One of the great sports stories, certainly one of my favourites, is the story of Billy Conn. Conn was the light heavyweight champion of the world back in the day, a great fighter, and his fight with Joe Louis is considered one of the greatest fights of all time. Louis outweighted Conn by over thirty pounds when they met in 1941; both men were in their prime but Conn was the heavy underdog.

For twelve rounds of the thirteen round bout Conn beat Louis. Going into the final round Conn had the fight clearly won. His corner advised him to stay clear of Louis for the final round; the fight was won, there was no need to go after the bigger man.

So Conn charges out for the final round and goes for the knockout.

Louis knocks him out.

After the fight Conn was asked why, with the fight so clearly won, he threw caution (and sense) to the wind. He answered that he was an Irishman and it was his nature. He had to go for the knockout.

He had no regrets. He's rather lose being true to himself then win hanging back.


I'm sure that there are those who would call Conn a fool but to me its great stuff, what sports is all about. Today athletes are bland and encouraged to be so. Those who stand out are more often then not posers, looking for the cameras and the endorsement deals. The guys who should be celebrated are often the quiet ones, ignored by the media, and those who should be admired for quiet good character are still picked at by the fans and the media. They are greedy because of the money they make. Everything they say is parsed and they are ridiculed for being uneducated, boring, smug, egotistical. Take your pick. The guys who give time and money to good causes are doing it for the attention or should give more money still, how much money does a guy need anyways?

I like sports. I'm far past the day, if I ever had a day, when I considered an athlete a hero and I will certainly point my kids outside of the realm of sports, professional sports at least, when it comes to choosing their heroes. But, and maybe I'm splitting hairs here, I do admire many of those in sport and would hope that my kids will find those who they can admire for the right reasons. Not those who look for attention or who are such obvious jerks or who are poor teammates. But guys like Ladislav Smid who so obviously enjoys what he is doing. Or Dwayne Roloson or Zach Stortini or Liam Reddox or Shawn Horcoff or any number of players who have overcome the odds through sheer hard work and dedication. Guys like Ryan Smyth or Jason Smith or Fernando Pisani who play the game the way it is meant to be played. No shortcuts. Squeezing every last ounce out of their bodies.

A guy like Billy Conn.

I don't know much about Patrick O'Sullivan. He might be a complete dink for all I know but he should be admired for what he has overcome with his father. Words like character and courage get way overused these days but in this young man's case I think they apply. I look forward to cheering for him and I am glad that he is a member of the Oilers this evening.
Today was a good day to be an Oilers' fan in a lot of ways. I remember when Smyth was dealt, how angry and upset I was. How disappointed. Today feels the way sports should feel. Fun. Hopeful. Looking at these new kids and seeing one who has overcome some obstacles to get where he is.

Today Steve Tambellini had a very good day. I was terrified that he was going to move kids like Pouliot or Jacques and he did not. The Oilers could still use a defenceman or a backup goalie but they picked up a kid with tremendous upside in Patrick O'Sullivan and a rental in Ales Kotalik and all for Erik Cole and a fifth rounder.

I liked Cole a lot but David Lee said he hasn't been the same since he broke his neck and he certainly did not give us what was hoped for. I don't like the way the Oilers used him really but even with that he wasn't the bigtime player we were hoping for. Getting Patrick O'Sullivan and twenty games of Ales Kotalik for twenty games of Cole is a big time coup, however you look at it.

Its really coming down to money. LA didn't want to give O'Sullivan his contract and so they wanted to move it, just like Cammelleri last year. The Oilers were willing to take on the money and so they win.

I'm going to post on the overall deadline in a day or two but impressions going forward for the Oilers:

Either Nilsson or Penner's days are now definitely numbered, maybe both. Penner apparently was being shopped heavily. They're probably going to have to give something up to get someone to take that contract off of their hands. The only thing he has going for him is he is a big man on a team of little guys.

But if Kotalik fits and they can sign him then Penner is a goner too.

The future is apparent. Teams are going to be shedding contracts and the Oilers had better get in line. Based on the Moreau/Staios lovefest on HNIC last week I would say that these two vets are held in high regard and finding takers for them might be easier then some think.

Penner and Nilsson and one of Souray, Gilbert or Lubo will be going too. Based on who drives results (Lubo) and contract/age (Gilbert) I would think (hope) they try and move Souray. Its going to be tough.

With the Flames all in I think the Oilers' last hope for a possible upset in the first round is gone. I think that they should make it into the playoffs and considering they didn't sell the farm to get stronger that's a good thing.


doritogrande said...

I'm really failing to see why we have to let go of any of our top-3 D. For the money, they're all signed to contracts they have the chance of breaking even, and in Gilbert's case outperforming. Souray has one of the hardest shots in the NHL and we certainly cannot trade the recent Hot-Off champion.

If Grebeshkov asks for the moon, he becomes a tradable asset. He may have grown leaps and bounds this season, but he's still #4 on this team's depth chart. Smid can step up and take his minutes if need be. He's turned the corner too and can handle the Top-4 responsibilities. Staios becomes the team's mentor for young Peckham on the third pairing. Still an effective D-corps IMO.

Billy said...

Son of a bitch, that O'sullivan trade is gonna pan out well for your Oilers. I was shocked, literally shocked when I heard it. Drivin to the rink for a skate, and heard "sullivan" to the Oilers. I thought Steve Sullivan for sure, then got to the rink and saw it was Pat. S.
Yeah, don't really know what to say except congrats. I saw his story a few years back, and if there is a guy in the league with a tougher path to the league, I havnt heard.
Anyways, I was thinkin that Tambellini wasnt gonna do anything. Ended up makin one of the better trades in the day.
As for Kotalik, meh. I'm sure he will score a few and drag a new deal out of someone, thats what those floating, half-effort Russians do. Might light Hemsky though, which is the only way that your Oil are gettin into season 2 by the way.
Anyways, Canuck land was mighty borin today. Trades shouldnt be made just for the sake of makin em, but anythind would have been nice :)

YKOil said...

Funny thing, when the Oilers management make simple asset building trades they do very well. When they swing for the fences they get murdered. I'll have to post on that some day.

FTR, I liked this trade as well.

Nice live blog btw. Thank you for that.

Gord said...


Kotolik was born in Jindrichuv Hradec, Czech Republic.

And I am very pleased with today's results. Improves the team for the rest of the season & gets us a very talented Top 6 player under contract for the next 3 years.

And yes, salary will have to be dumped; the next 19 (hopefully +) games this season will show Lowe who needs to go.

My gut feeling is that one of the smaller forwards (Nilsson / Cogliano) is being traded this summer along with an expensive defenseman contract (Souray or Gilbert) for a high first round pick...

We re-sign Grebeshkov then have Peckham "babied" on the 3rd pairing.

Because no matter who we like, the Oilers need at least $4 million removed from our defense with the salary cap dropping.

Swabbubba said...

Well trade deadline day had a bit of everything. The lames are going for it, does it matter for the one and out artists?
I think I like the pickups pretty sweet deal. I think we should leave the tinkering for after the season. I do understand the need to do it. But right now we are in the middle of a race...pretty damn tight.
Question what is with Hemmer, does he have a wrist/hand issue? From the way he has playing the last game or 2 he has been turning down shots and his passes have looked suspect. And I thought I saw him jam it on a play kind on periphery on a TV shot but what do I know.
A town called Ales!

Black Dog said...

swabbubba - yeah there's something up with Ales for sure and that is what a few others have said as well - wrist
dg - I don't want to deal any of the D; I'd love to go with the top four and then probably I'd roll out Smid and Peckham in the bottom pair. Ideally you'd have Staios there still.

But its the money. They need to shed salary for two years down the road. Maybe they just suck it up and deal with it then but best to be proactive I think. I'd rather shed Souray and Staios this summer then lose a kid in two summers

Black Dog said...

Thanks YKoil.

Gord - Cogliano isn't going anywhere.

I've heard talk of Gilbert moving and that bothers me. He's young and that's a great contract. Lubo is out - his absence had shown what he means.

So its Souray or Grebs. grebs would bring terrific return I think but again he's young and he will be cheaper then Souray. Replacing Souray would be hard though too.

I guess its not a bad thing to have a nice set of D.

Anyways to shed salary they can start with Staios and Moreau. I'd hang onto Pisani as his deal is up in a year anyways.

My guess is Nilsson and / or Penner will be gone too. That's over ten million all told. O'Sullivan replaces Nilsson. Of course they need someone to replace Penner and then there is Kotalik if they decide to keep him.

Tough choices.

hunter1909 said...

Re that boxer - Methinks it's an Irish thing. Having that mad race inside me helps to understand the idea that no matter what you need to be whoever you are no matter what the cost. It's the thing that makes the Irish either be wildly successful or else a drunken miserable failure in life.

Nothing frightens me more than the idea that MacT is back next season. Should that occur, I'm suspending my Oiler fan status. It's simply too much grief.

Scott said...

Thanks Black Dog. Good summary of events and I really enjoyed the boxing story. Also, rejoice! No major long-term assets are sent away.

I'm really failing to see why we have to let go of any of our top-3 D.

It really does all depend on the cap. If the cap dips below 50M then they really don't have a choice but if it stays at 50M or higher for 2010 the only guys they really need to dump are Staios and Moreau if they can convince Grebs to sign at 3M or less this summer, although that could be very challenging. The ineffectiveness of the first line without Penner should be an indication of how big of a mistake it would be to get rid of him. I think Kotalik is gone almost regardless of how well he plays this year unless he takes a one year deal.

As for Kotalik, meh. I'm sure he will score a few and drag a new deal out of someone, thats what those floating, half-effort Russians do.

Firstly, he's not Russian. Secondly, what Russian players are you even talking about? I can't think of too many that I'd classify as lazy but I guess you Canuck fans have a bunch of Russians on your team right now, so you'd probably know better.

Baroque said...

Floating, half-effort Russians like Pavel Datsyuk? Or Alex Ovechkin? Or Evgeni Malkin? Must be "floating Russians" like Jason Spezza, then.

Stereotypes are stupid. :)

I am hoping that O'Sullivan does well in Edmonton. The kid has had a very, very tough time of it, and I always root for anyone who has had to deal with anything like that. If I had my way, anyone who abused kids or animals would be shot. Reprehensible behaviour.

There was a bit of contract difficulty with O'Sullivan at the beginning of the year, and I wonder if that played into it. Even the fans were puzzled. The kid wanted a shorter term deal because he wanted to prove himself worth more money from the team (which strikes me as eminently sensible), that he wasn't just a flash in the pan. The team wanted a longer term deal, and seemed to want to leverage his lower stats into locking him into a smaller contract to guarantee a good deal for themselves. He missed training camp because of it. Maybe the Kings figured there was no way they would be able to sign him in a couple years, but this seems strange on their part.

The actions of the Kings struck me as pretty petty at the time. Just give the kid a short contract and see what he can do - if he performs well, then he's worth the money he's asking, and if he doesn't, you have an argument in your favor. Don't insist on limiting his opportunity to back up his own argument on what he is worth. Dumb on their part.

I don't have anything against the Kings, but I hope this blows up in their face.

Black Dog said...

baroque - agreed on the shooting, oh if I were king ;)

Absolutely on the contract situation being the reason. Same thing happened with Camelleri and I will bet it will happen with Frolov too. I like Justin Williams but trading for a guy with that injury history? man oh man


Thanks Scott yes there is much rejoicing.

I'm going to have to take another look at your numbers for the cap - I did a quick look before but just skimmed I'm afraid. I did some math in my head and they would be around there ballpark I guess.

Personally I'm done with MacT - last night another example of the team coming out flat and unprepared.

I would prefer to tie the can to him and keep Penner - I guess we'll see.

Billy said...

Floating, half-effort Russians like Pavel Datsyuk? Or Alex Ovechkin? Or Evgeni Malkin? Must be "floating Russians" like Jason Spezza, then.

Stereotypes are stupid. :)

They are, and I was wrong with the nationality. But comparing Kotalik to Malkin, OV or Pavel is ridiculous. I should have used Kovalev, Afinogenov, Nylander, Demitra, Antropov or went older and used Krutov, Yashin etc...
Kotalik is known as a skilled/floater and its a tag he has earned by himself. Not through some stereotype.
Anyways, don't hate us Nucks fans. Things are good over here, spring has sprung, and we havnt begun our annual playoff collapse :)

boopronger said...

I dont really understand the hate for Sourays contract. Everyone was upset that we didnt have enough tough guys on the team and the Oilers go out and get one of the toughest, meanest, SOB in the league and people want him gone? Hes at 17 goals almost 40points (too lazy to look up exact number), is doing an admiral job defensively and sticks up for teammates.

And unlike 95% of the players in this league, he wants to play here.

Am I missing something here?

Black Dog said...

boopronger - I don't hate his contracr.

I didn't like the signing but I'll admit that I was wrong.

The problem is that the cap is likely coming down; if it were not this would not be an issue. If they can fit him under it then I hope they do. It might be moot anyhow if Penner gets moved.

But they have four D who will be making big coin. Lubo is the best of them.

Gilbert is signed longterm on a great deal, is already quite good and is young.

So you have Souray and Grebs. Grebs is younger and will be cheaper.

Souray will have two years left and he is aging.

I want to keep all of them but longterm Grebs is the best investment I think.

Hopefully the cap will stay stable.