Thursday, October 15, 2009

A State Of Bliss

My beautiful boy turned four on Tuesday.

Like most who are young he is in a hurry to grow up much of the time. For some reason his frame of reference is being nine years old. When he is nine years old he will be tall. When he is nine years old he will be able to stay up. When he is nine years old he can drink coffee and beer.

Last year he wanted a pirate party and so I took the bull by the horns. I made personalized invites with little maps and messages, along the likes of "Come to the parrrrrty or ye'll be made to walk the plank", rubbing them with teabags so they got that parchment look.

The little ones came and got their faces painted and then we adjourned to the basement where I told them a tale of scurvy dogs and storm seas and pieces of eight. They boarded a merchant ship and made the crew (their dads) walk the plank and obtained a treasure map which led them on a merry hunt through the house to find their treasure.

Good times. Quality.

This year the boy took another tact. Unlike his sister who planned her party and designed her cake, he stated that he would have no party this year. Instead he wanted nobody in the house but his family and we would eat waffles and open his presents and that would be the end of it.

Which was fine with us. He's definitely his own man.
The only complication was the cake. My wife makes every birthday cake in our house from scratch. For my fortieth she made an Oilers' crest. She has made cartoon characters, a train, a treasure chest.

She asked me what I wanted this year but its unlikely to happen, she only does G rated work. Damn!

So the boy wanted Spiderman. This one was very detailed, her biggest challenge yet. We did the usual cake making dance that we always do every time she makes one of these. Early in the night:

I hope he likes it.

I'm sure he will.

If I screw it up then he will be so upset.

It will be fine. He will love it.

Late in the night she throws down the piping tool in dismay.

I can't do this. Oh my God I have ruined his birthday. Its not going to work at all.

It will be fine, you've barely even started. Its going to be great.

And of course it turned out terrific.

She slept in on Monday and the boy was up first. I was getting breakfast ready and he was loitering beside the fridge like a teenager outside a Mac's Milk before they start with the opera music.

Don't you look in that fridge, I warned him.

And so he paced back and forth, periodically requesting a look at the cake, me denying him until his mother got up. And when she finally traipsed down the stairs he rushed over and she told him to stand back and lifted the cake out of the fridge and he took a look and hugged her fiercely and repeated over and over again.


For Spiderman was wishing him a happy birthday.


Oiler fans viewed the game against Chicago with a mixture of fear and levity. The team has been better than expected so far and Minnesota and Calgary have struggled somewhat while Vancouver has run into injuries and the expectation is that Colorado will fall back to earth.

They have been outshot and outchanced but even the shot margin in Nashville belied the game, I think. They have played fairly well and have actually had some awful luck and while the club has plenty of holes they have played a pleasing style and the results so far have probably been pretty fair.

Nearly every team has holes. Chicago really does not have many. And so here was a test against an elite club. And we fans kind of expected the worst, all the while hoping that the unexpected would happen.

The good news for the Oilers so far is that they have done reasonably well despite injuries (Souray, Pisani, Staios) and a lack of offensive production from many of their big guns (Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert, Horcoff). Plus Hemsky has really been no hell so far either.

The goaltending has been getting better. Grebeshkov has been scoring. Smid has been really quite good (there I've said it). They have had scoring from up and down the lineup, seven players with two goals or more, six players with five points or more, including a scrub (Brule), a fourth liner (Cogliano) and an afterthought (Comrie).

And so far Quinn has been able to hide the scrubeenies throughout the lineup.

Until last night.

Read the game day threads and you get the impression that this team is awfully shitty. Of course read the game day threads when this team is winning and you get the impression that this team is awfully shitty anyways. A part of me would like to think that all fans are like this but its not really the case. I've read the threads at AtoY, for example, and you certainly don't come away with the viewpoint that the majority of the club should be a) traded b) demoted c) executed in the street. Even when they win.

I made the point over at LT's last night that Chicago is a far far better club. That's just the way it is. There's no Strudwick or Chorney on the back end, although to be fair to Chorney he has done ok so far. And if Ethan Moreau belongs on the fourth line, as we all agree, then ask yourself who on the Oilers is a poorer player right now. Jacques. Stone. Brule. Probably Stortini although the kid keeps rising in my estimation.

Now apply that same test to the Hawks. Big, fast, young. Is there anyone in their forwards who is a weaker player than Moreau? Maybe Colin Fraser or Jack Skille? And as you go up the depth chart they overmatch the Oilers all the way I would say. Or close to it.They have quality right through that lineup, up and down it and so its no surprise that while the Oilers hung with them for about ten minutes it would have been a rout except for Khabibulin after that.

So its disappointing. No "ITS GOT WORDS" for us Oiler fans but no reason to slink off into the night muttering dark imprecations against anyone wearing copper and blue.

Khabibulin had a terrific game again and it looks like, so far, the goaltending might be a strength now that he has his early seaosn yips out of the way.

Smid looks to be the real deal. Think about that. The strength of this club is their D and it looks like they now have five quality blueliners, three who are still kids.

Chorney wasn't completely overmatched. Another win for procurement perhaps?

Penner is now averaging over a point per game and it may be very soon that he ends up with Horcoff and Hemsky. When Pisani returns then that will mean one more NHL player and one less scrub to hide. Its becoming pretty clear that Penner might be turning the corner in terms of results; playing him with 10 and 83 is probably what this club needs.

The problem then is that they are still short of quality forwards and they have to rejig the lines but Jacques is an anchor for the first line. It has to be done.

And one last thing. The Oilers stuck it out and nearly stole a point or two at the end and they do deserve credit for that. They did not fold up the tents when it became apparent that they were overmatched. They hung around, thanks to Khabibulin, and they came on in the end and nearly pulled the upset. Good stuff and fair play to them for that.

Chicago is quality, serious quality. And Hossa has not even suited up for them yet. I always hesitate to bury the Wings but I saw them get waxed by Buffalo the other night. Lidstrom looks to me to have lost a step and they were no match for the speedy Sabres. Its just one game but this Chicago team looks to be ready to make that leap.

So losing to them, considering? Not that big a deal really. They are going to run over most clubs on most nights I think. Better to worry about the Minnesotas and Colorados of the world right now.


Krazy Rick said...

Hey BD...
I got home the other night in time to watch the last two periods from Chicago and I have to say what I saw was very encouraging. Although it's painfully obvious the Oilers are outclassed by the Hawks, they hung in there right to the end. This bodes well for later games as the boys will be able to look back and see they can play with the best. It really gives Pat Quinn something to work with!
If these guys can keep it up and not run into too many more injuries, I think the post-season is a real possibility.
Khabibulin was outstanding. Without him, I shudder to think what the score may have been. The defense played reasonably well and the quickness of our forwards kept them dangerous for the most part.
Yes...there's something to look forward to here!! If Quinn could just light a fire under Hemskeys ass, he could really get them rolling.
For me, it's just wait and see if these guys "get" that they can play with any team if they work hard every night!
"Hurry up and wait,hurry up and wait!!"

spOILer said...

Pretty dead on, Pat.

I have to think when Hossa comes back somebody's going to get waived to make cap space, and that someone, to ensure no-takers, IMO will be Campbell.

Black Dog said...

spOILer - I could see that, they have to make some room and not just right now but for next season

That was a stupid signing.

KR - they're in the mix for the playoffs, its a long season but if they get the right breaks they have a good chance

David S said...

I still find it hard to understand that most fans have such a hard time grasping the very simple concept that teams like Chicago are WAY better than us. Their overzealous enthusiasm melts away in to despair when all they can see is their team getting its butt kicked.

In sport you're gonna lose to the better team more often than not. And you know what? I don't have a problem with that. What I did like is this team never threw in the towel, which I think will do almost as much for them as would have the win. We didn't see much of that attitude last year and I consider it the most refreshing improvement with this club.

Black Dog said...

David - yes I agree entirely with that statement.

Chicago is an elite club plain and simple. Even if Souray and Staios and Pisani had been available there really would not have been much difference.

What is heartening is that the effort has been there. I really have not one complaint yet about that. It helps that there is real competition for jobs and icetime of course.