Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Journey


My old man turns 77 this Friday; its really hard to believe. Luck is with us right at this moment as he and Mom are doing alright. They’re slowing down a little, Mom is hobbled with some arthritis but its settling now with the warm weather and there are the usual aches, pains and senior moments that come with age but overall they are not complaining at all.

What they are doing is living. No boat trips to Superior in the plans but the clan will be gathering at Goulais next weekend. We will be attending, packing up the van and wandering up the shield along Georgian Bay and then the north shore of Huron, blue deep waters, endless forests of spruce and pine, red granite and then past the Soo and Superior looming, the road winding and climbing into the rugged Algoma Highlands.

There will be plenty of food and plenty of drink and most of all there will be laughter as the descendants of Neil McLean and Margaret Bell gather. I’ll likely wander along the Goulais, stopping at the cemetery, the resting place of so many McLeans, and then down to the mouth of the ancient river, where the original homestead was. Most of those who come remain in the north of Ontario but some will come from far away, including my Dad’s youngest brother who will fly in from British Columbia.

Dad’s generation is greying now. He lost his best friend a number of years ago and then one by one his old moose hunting party passed on, including the greatest blow of all, his brother Don. Don’s wife passed late last year, followed closely by another old friend.

Its tough times when your generation passes but Dad’s eyes remain clear and his back is not yet stooped. Broad shoulders and confident powerful stride, he walks for miles each night in the northern dusk of my hometown. In the winters he curls three times a week and while he has a snow blower finally he will still shovel for the most part. He still has his big boat although its getting tougher to handle it. How long should I keep it, do you think? he asks me, and I answer that as long as he can handle it he may as well keep it for the pleasure he gets from it and he smiles because that is the right answer. My wife is away and Mom and Dad drive down and run the house so I can work and by day’s end the kids collapse into bed exhausted and Dad cracks open a beer for each of us and talks about how the kids enjoyed a proper “six freezie lunch.”

From Goulais we will begin the long trip to the Island. We will be three weeks there and then when we return we will head back north to the woods to meet with my folks and our friends for our annual week at camp. The big fellow will be there – he is staying with them while we go East – and in August he will be twelve. It may be his last birthday. He is grey now and he is slowing but he remains true, as only a dog can. He sneaks into the dining room and the baby giggles and drops food to the floor for him. He repays her with kisses when he can and while all of this goes on my wife simmers in disapproval. The oldest two roar around the house, bouncing off the furniture and climbing the walls. (Literally – the oldest has figured out how to climb up a doorway by bracing her legs on either side and then shimmying up. Usually brings gasps from unsuspecting guests, much to her delight as she hovers eight feet in the air). The baby is near walking but for now she charges after them on all fours, screaming with delight, while your man Ben barks and I laugh and my wife rolls her eyes and wonders what happened to the nice quiet genetics that were prevalent in her family.

Slaughtered in the streets by naked howling clansmen, I warrant.

So some journeys are just beginning. The baby is about to turn one. As for the rest of us, well they are all going to end sooner or later.

Just doing our best to enjoy the trip.

-----------------------------------

With the Pens (Crosby.) hoisting the Cup the Oilers are about to embark on a journey which has proven to be less then successful the past three summers. Instead of a week in Dublin or a roadtrip to Montreal they’ve been visiting their crazy great uncle in his rooming house downtown, his apartment walls brown with cigarette smoke, burn marks in the couch, bottles of sherry scattered about the kitchen. He hasn’t been the same since he crashed headfirst into the boards back in ’53.

The Lowe era ended with a whimper. It built into the crescendo of the spring of 2006 and then in three subsequent summers the good will was squandered as the club shed veterans, left gaping holes in the roster and spent money like a kid who has just won the lottery – after years of watching every nickel the Oilers couldn’t handle being a have and spent like they were educated at the Glen Sather school of team building, Rangers edition. The results have been predictable.

And so another summer is here and in a little over two weeks this club’s future will be altered, for next season, and far beyond. The draft, the UFA silly season and a frenzy of trades are all looming and we will see if Tambellini is made of better stuff then his predecessor.

Will he go for the big fish again and will he be successful this time? Bouwmeester is on the radar and Heatley as well and of course there is talk of Jagr and there will be plenty of big names up for grabs through trade as clubs try and shed salary in order to take a crack at the new crop of free agents (Philly/Rangers) or to just try and shed salary (Tampa, Phoenix, Dallas, Anaheim, Florida, the line starts here and ends who knows where).

Will they be able to shed salary in order to get their finances in order? If they add a Heatley then their problems become pretty serious. Even if they move guys like Moreau and Staios and Nilsson they will have to begin to move some pieces they probably do not want to move, especially next summer if the cap falls. Otherwise they risk losing some of the kids.

Keep in mind that my summer projections are usually horrible but here is what I think will happen. Some of it is pretty obvious shit. I think that Tambellini has to get this team to the playoffs. That is his mandate from his boss. So far I’m pretty happy with what he has done, as minimal as that is. His moves at the deadline were fine. Twenty games of Cole for O’Sullivan is slick. The second for Kotalik left some people cold but its reasonable. I liked the coaching moves. His deliberate approach to Springfield leads me to believe that he will fix that too. So all that remains (!) is the big club.

1/ They will address the goaltending. Roloson will not be back. Sounds like he wants two years. There are plenty of equivalent keepers out there. I think the Oilers will go in a different direction, either trading for Halak or Harding or picking up a UFA. I think they will go with a veteran backup. Risking a playoff spot on Deslauriers? I doubt it.

2/ Peckham, Smid and a cheap vet will make up the bottom three of the blue. If Souray is moving along, as rumoured, then the next move will depend on Bouwmeester. If they land him then Staios will move too. If not then I think he gets top four minutes. Yikes!

I know I am going to rue saying this but if Souray goes then Lubo, Gilbert and Grebeskkov all stick. If he stays then Gilbert may go. A big mistake to move him I think.

3/ The bottom six ( I say this in the traditional sense) will be revamped. What Traktor called ‘vanilla’ players over at Lowetide’s – guys like Pouliot – will be gone. I think Brodziak and Stortini and Pisani remain, Pisani because he is useful, of course, and also because his expiring contract is valuable. Better to have him with one year left then Moreau with two.
I believe Moreau will be gone. I hope he will be gone. I think he has some value and now is the time to move him and replace him with someone making half as much as he is. If he were making a million I would keep him. But he is not and so he needs to go.
Jacques will likely have a spot and so they need a centreman and a LW and then they have to figure out the extra guy or guys they will carry. The first two will be cheap vets they will bring in. Brule and a darkhorse (imported or from the farm) will be the spares.

4/ Pencil in Horcoff, Hemsky and Gagner. One of Cogliano or O’Sullivan will also remain. The other one will go out to bring in your fifth forward who fits in this group. Your sixth man will be Penner or someone new and it will be interesting to see if they dump him or if they give him another shot, this time under Quinn.

And Nilsson? Gone or buried in the minors.

I think Tambellini is going to be aggressive. He has money and he has license to spend it and if worse comes to worse he will bury guys in the minors. I think this club will be bigger and more experienced across the board come the end of the summer. I would say that I worry about next summer except I’m not the worrying type.


Its not in my bones and I come by that naturally. Summer is here. Last night we sat in a pub and the front was open and the warm air surrounded us as the street hummed. Another summer begins. Lets hope it’s a good one for all of us and for the Oilers as well.


Steve? Fix it already.

21 comments:

PDO said...

He's going to start it with Gilbert (or perhaps Grebeshkov, and that could be the hold up....) and Penner for Heatley.

Not sure where we go from there, but that's the beginning.

A deal that saw TheCaptainEthanmoreau & Souray dealt to a California team and using their money on Bouwmeester wouldn't surprise me one bit either.

PDO said...

http://community.foxsports.com/blogs/Spector/2009/06/17/Big_Ticket_NHL_Players_Hard_to_Move

Oil looking to move one of Lubo/Souray....

Black Dog said...

PDO - I'd prefer one of them to be moved myself. Oilers aren't going to be contenders for a couple of years - moving young defencemen instead of older guys isn't too smart, imo.

My money is on Souray moving.

As for the Heatley situation, YKOil had a nice take on it and I tend to agree with him. If they're going to go after him don't be stupid about it. Murray is in a bind. Bend him over and let him have it.

The other thing about Heatley is he won't be moved until July 1st because of the bonus owed him. Don't know if the Oilers will put their eggs in that basket. What if you miss - then you're left behind. Again.

PDO said...

BDHS:

Or, the Oilers as one of the only teams who won't care about that bonus make the deal on draft day despite a lesser package.

Dealing Souray is fine, but Lubo wouldn't be a good thing - I think he was our best player last season.

I'm with YKOil as well.

I'm sure we'll have to give up something nice... but an offer of something like Penner/Nilsson/Gilbert is probably enough, and it gets some bad contracts off our books too (obviously while bringing in another).

HBomb said...

I'll go on record and say it - if moving both Visnovsky and Souray meant we could land Bouwmeester, I'd do it if I were GM, even if it meant going with a top-four of JBo-Gilbert, Grebeshkov-Smid.

And Staios must good. Too much money for a 3rd pairing defenseman. Plain and simple.

Black Dog said...

PDO - agreed on Lubo

HBomb - I'd prefer a veteran Kurt Sauer type over Smid in the top four if they were to move both Lubo and Souray

Interesting notes from Matheson today.

Heartening - sounds like Cogliano isn't going anywhere; Roli will likely get no more then a one year offer from the Oilers, Grebs close to signing and at a reasonable rate

Not so heartening - the continued raising of Gilbert as a possibility
to go out the door

Neither here not there - no contact with Kotalik yet at all apparently

doritogrande said...

the oldest has figured out how to climb up a doorway by bracing her legs on either side and then shimmying up. Usually brings gasps from unsuspecting guests, much to her delight as she hovers eight feet in the air.

This brought back my childhood for a morning. Be prepared to deal with this for the next half decade, if she's anything of a climber like I was. Oh, and give it a try, completely worth the potential concussion.

I can relate to the story of your father also. Gigi (Grandpa) turned 91 this year and it's been two years since Baba (Grandma) died. He's slowing down but there's nothing that can keep him from living as full a life as he can. He's got his geraniums to tend to outside and his squirrels to feed. "Who's going to look after the day to day chores around the house if he goes" he has said a couple times.

Sure he's not as reliable behind the wheel of a car anymore but he only needs it for quick jaunts to the store or church, no more driving out to East Selkirk solo I'm afraid.

He's still got stories I haven't heard and I still marvel at the fact that he accomplished all this with an 8th grade education. I now wonder how much better off I am with what will be an extra 9 years of schooling.

Cherish what you can, and when the time comes, marvel at the accomplishments a long life can provide.

Oh, and in case you missed it, thecaptainethanmoreau is this years King Clancy recipient. Hard to give the man his walking papers after one of the most prestigious awards the NHL can hand out for being a pillar of the community.

Paper Designer said...

Why would Nilsson be buried in the minors? Two million is not much of a cap hit for someone you would have as your sixth forward in a 50+ million cap environment.

MattM said...

DG - I always loved climbing the walls like that. My mom would always flip out about the footprints by the ceiling. I spend a good solid chunk of my time in university at ceiling level trying to drink without falling.

Black Dog said...

P.D. - I can't see it based on a couple of things

He is the fourth in line of four small forwards; I think only two of the four will be in next year's lineup and their names are Gagner and Cogliano (the latter based on the Matheson article today - slim I know)

I think they want to eliminate as many of the inconsistent guys as possible and Nilsson is one of those guys. At 1.8M if he scores 50 to 60 points he is a keeper but I don't think Tambellini wants to many guys on this roster who can't be counted on staying interested every game, especially considering they already have Penner.

I believe that they are going to move him out myself but I would not be surprised to see him in the minors if not, unless Tambellini thinks that MacT was the problem here.

Black Dog said...

great stuff DG

And my guess is they keep Moreau. I don't think its a good idea but they want to get bigger and nastier and more experienced and Moreau is one guy on the team who fits that bill - can't see them moving him.

Alice said...

/Hard to give the man his walking papers after one of the most prestigious awards the NHL can hand out for being a pillar of the community./

I don't buy this argument: you keep him on your hockey roster because he's a great guy? Without disputing the award - congrats to him, really - the roster is a hockey and cap decision.

Question might be, if he wants to hunker down in Edm, could they extend him for a couple at league minimum, on some understanding that he'd retire into some other role - would that help out on his cap burden?

Darren said...

Please please please please don't trade Gilbert. Take Souray!

Just my uneducated opinion of course

mattwatt said...

I am of a totally different vein this year, I think the roster has very little turnover due to what is going on in the economy. Don't see management throughout the league taking chances like they did in the past.

The Who once said, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

And please, please keep Gilbert, so much there to like.

Black Dog said...

Regarding the Clancy award - that is impressive and hopefully some leadership the rest of the team gets behind.

Still doesn't mean anything on the ice though.

Alice - they can't extend him until next July 1 and it would not affect the Cap hit on his present contract; so if they extended Pisani now for three more years at 1M per next year's hit would still be 2.5

Mattwatt - possible but unlikely - I think there's a lot of movement this summer even if its trading bad contracts, it will be very interesting to see the UFA market though - not too many teams will be wading into the deep end I think

and agreed on Gilbert guys

David S said...

I'll go out on a limb and say that Nilsson gets a fair shot at TC. Quinn's interview with Tencer made it clear he thinks we have some good assets that have yet to be optimized. And you know what? Nilsson did have his moments last year. On top of which I bet he knows if he doesn't bring the sauce next fall, his hockey career is effectively over. That's some pretty good motivation if you ask me.

Deano said...

All of the guys in MacT's doghouse are potential untapped assets. Nillson, Penner, Pouliot, JDD

We have seen everything that Reddox has to offer everywhere except in goal.

Hopefully the King Clancy Award makes Moreau's stock around the league rise and we get an offer that is too good to pass up - say a 7th round pick.

Black Dog said...

David et Deano - well this is the unanswered question and one gamble that Tambellini has to make - how many of these guys underachieved that badly. We discussed Pouliot a few weeks ago in a thread at LTs and some (myself included) felt that a new coach will work wonders while others think that what you see is what you get.

I think Jacques will stay and the rest are goners but there's always the fear that all of these guys just need a new hand and likely I am wrong and some will return. Still think Nilsson will not though, already too many small guys.

Anonymous said...

Pat, Agreed, the key point is that whether they stay or go, they are getting a fresh start and another look. The ones that go can fetch players in similar situations from other organizations.

Who stays depends on who gets packaged for the 'big game' that the Oil appear to be hunting. The plan for the bottom of the roster depends on what happens to the top of it.

Deano said...

Sorry that was me.

Black Dog said...

Deano - definitely one of the most interesting things about next season will be seeing how players do under a new coach and this summer will tell us how Tambellini feels about MacT - if the majority of players remain then I think he's indicting MacT's work for sure