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.