Saturday, January 31, 2009

Learning To Fly


I didn't step foot onto an airplane until I was eighteen years old and in the decade that followed I flew only twice more, once to New York and once to St. John's. I didn't have the money to really go anywhere that required an airplane and my jobs didn't require all that much travel. ;)
I'm terrified of heights but those first few times I wasn't really bothered too much by the experience. Maybe it was age and the realization that I might not live forever but when I began to fly a little more regularly it began to bother me. There were a few trips back and forth to PEI when I lived there and then when I moved to Florida I became a regular altogether. A couple times a month at least for work I was off into the wide blue and while I began to get used to it, the rhythms of flight, the process at the airport, I was never an easy flyer.

After we moved back to Canada and we started a family my amount of travel with work dwindled to almost nothing, maybe once a year. And we'd make a trip or two to the Island annually but other then that we'd stay on the ground. And maybe it was age again or having a family or the removal of the routine of flying that I once knew but flying has lost any enjoyment for me. I'm not terrified of it but I am not comfortable between takeoff and landing at all.

I've been lucky enough to get across the Atlantic a few times over the last number of years and this is where I realize how little I enjoy the experience. A few years back I was winging over to London for work, an overnight trip, and while my boss slept soundly beside me, in my mind's eye I imagined (imagined, I knew it was true!) that we were only a few feet above the ocean, the instruments were worthless and the pilots oblivious and we were going in and that was it.

Crazy shit, huh? At least I can keep my lid on my fears - sometimes I imagine being in the news, the plane diverted to land in Gander, my own self pulled off, sedated and bound, taken away, fellow passengers muttering to the tv cameras about the madman who just started screaming "We're going down! We're going down!."

And for all of the times I have been in the air there's only really been one real scare, our first trip overseas, coming into Heathrow, from there we were catching a flight to Glasgow, and we were just easing in, landing gear down, just about to touch down and suddenly the engines gun and we roar up up and back into the sky and everybody gasps and as we circle for another half hour the pilot comes on and in his calm English accent (all pilots should have one) explains that there was a little mixup and we'be landing quite soon.

For fuck's sakes.

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A nice win for the Oilers last night, bouncing back from Tuesday's loss. Its been an enjoyable year so far, a little frustrating at times to be sure, but they are eleven and six in their last stretch, five and two in the last seven and while they are still in the pack and the lead four teams have clearance on them, they are starting to open their own gap over some teams that are beginning to fall off the pace.

The logjam is ridiculous at present, seven teams within two points of each other, but Nashville, Colorado and LA are all falling off a bit and a bad week or two for any of them may mean its all over for them. Making up six to eight points on one team is hard enough but having to leap over three, four, five teams - not likely.

Especially when everyone is playing each other. Someone is coming out with two points and sometimes there is a Bettman point besides. On the other hand points get lost every night as well. Wild on Jack Lemaire and Vancouver play tonight and Dallas and Columbus and Anaheim and Colorado as well and so three teams are going to gain ground but there are three others who are going to lose a point or two. And soon there won't be any points to give.

And the Oilers have games on nearly all of these teams besides. They have to win them, sure, but after today they will have four games in hand on the Ducks and at worse they will be two points behind.

They're not in a bad spot.

And speaking of learning to fly the best part of this season has been watching the kids - Gilbert and Grebeshkov, Pouliot and Brodziak and Cogliano all having nice games last night. The two young Dmen giving the Oilers a wonderful top four. Brodziak becoming the go to guy on defensive zone draws and doing nice work on a PK that only allowed a couple of scoring chances last night. Cogliano with two assists, flying all night and they have to figure a way out to hold onto this guy and Gagner, do they not? And the much maligned Pouliot, no he will never be Parise or any of those other stars from that draft, but he's become a solid NHLer and for all the talk of MacT not liking him I think his icetime and the fact that he was out there protecting the lead at the end of the game speaks volumes about how the coach actually feels about the youngster.

Good times.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Last Vasectomy Post, Ode To A Cutter


Hold on a second, just finishing up my workout with some lunges.

Teammate of mine said that the worst part about the whole ordeal was the anticipation, laying there, waiting and worrying, and in the end he was right. Even now that I've gone and had it done, thinking about it is actually worse then actually going through it.

I lay there behind the curtain, bag flapping in the breeze, waiting for the cutter, staring at the tile which is standard issue for any public building from the sixties or seventies here, I think. I call the shade 'government blue' - kind of a sickly blue green you see in hospitals, schools, arenas, pools, you name it. And the dirty white ceiling. Waiting waiting and then in he comes. He and the nurse (what a job that is, prepping for this work) kibbitz back and forth. Both comment on my shave job and what excellent work I have done. The jab of the needle and a quick instant of pain and then nothing. Just stare at the ceiling, definitely don't look down because you can sense the work being done, feels like he's rooting around for his keys or something and then he holds one in front of you - little white tube - and sews you up. Then to the other side and again the jab and then quickly its over.

Done.

And I got a free apple juice!

Came home and waited and waited for the pain to start but nothing doing. Now, I'm not comfortable, really, but the only time it hurts is if I bend over, like to pick something up. So I don't do that because then I get that old kicked in the nuts feeling. Only drawback is I dropped my wallet and those little urchins, my progeny, swept in and made off with it. Haven't seen it or them since.

And here, a little poetic tribute, written by a friend to toast:

Vas Deferens

Like the cloud that produces no rain,
The sun that no longer provides warmth.
Like the throat that no longer sings,
The eye that no longer sees beauty.

So dangles my member
Bereft of purpose
An aimless wanderer
A drunken soldier
Telling stories of long-ago battles
In faraway lands.

My penis wakes with a start,
looks around, confused.
A thief in the night
With nothing to steal.

No sports or sex for a week, the cutter said. So no hockey this weekend. As for the sex, well then, I wonder if she'd believe it if I told her that after this week I was told to do it thrice weekly for a few months.

Probably not.

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Tonight the Oilers face Wild on Jack Lemaire. Always a tough matchup but I expect we will see a strong effort coming on the heels of Tuesday's pasting. A simple case of a team that had been reading its press clippings I believe. Potulny's return should make things interesting; will he centre Cole and Nilsson or perhaps he will step in for Brodziak who will step in for Cogliano who will step in for Gagner.

The Oilers are where we expected them to be, right in the mix. Only four clubs have clearance on them and they have gained clearance on a few clubs so its coming down to seven or eight clubs for four spots and the Oilers have some games in hand on top of everything. They are in decent shape, although you would think they had lost ten straight based on reaction to Tuesdays' game.

Their problems remain the same problems they have had since day one. They need a couple of big bodied veterans to play in that bottom six forwards and help with the PK and the fact that Smid and Staios have been getting outchanced playing the dregs is not helping much either.

And the goaltending is a little worrisome.

Easy fixes but management prefers to let it ride. As a fan I hope for the playoffs of course and I think its doable but a small part of me wishes for failure so that someone can come in and do a little cutting themselves. Off with the head, yeah?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The End of Something - Last Dance For A One Shot Shooter


That's Drew Stafford with the mallet. ;)

Who's been reading their press clippings?

All of that goodwill washed away in the space of about a minute and a half.

Anyways to complete our look at the Oilers heading towards the deadline and then a few words about tomorrow.

So two posts ago I talked about the three types of trades the Oilers might make.

The first, the type that I think they will make and should make, would be to shore up the roster so that this club makes the playoffs and has a shot at advancing if they slip into the #5 or # 6 slot. I think they need to pick up a LW to play with Cogliano and Pisani and then a second forward to play on the fourth line, work the PK etc.

Throw in a veteran for insurance for the bottom pair and a more reliable option than Deslauriers if Roli goes down and you're done. We're talking about guys on expiring contracts, veteran guys like Dean McAmmond, for example, guys you can pick up for low round picks or marginal prospects.

The second type of trade would be an upgrade that would cost the Oilers a guy like Nilsson or Grebeshkov. What I am thinking here is the Oilers picking up a guy with a little more experience who can replace the guy they are moving out. The player coming in would likely cost a little more, would be signed for another couple of years so they hit that first year where the Oilers intend to be strong contenders and would play for a club looking to rebuild. The Oilers might have to throw in a prospect or pick as well.

For the D I'm thinking a guy who can play top four who can make that first pass and bring a little more physically. A guy like Eric Brewer might be along the lines of what I am thinking. Up front, maybe a guy like Nick Hagman.

Not these players, mind you, but use them as an example of what I am thinking.

The third type of trade is the home run. The trade for a guy like Bouwmeester or Kovalchuk (signed to a long term deal, by necessity). The trade for Vinny.

The trade for an impact guy.

Lowe made such a trade for Pronger and tried to sign Hossa this past summer.

With news that Sam Gagner is going to be out for a while nothing really changes in my estimation except that if his absence is going to be longterm then obviously Cogliano takes his spot and Brodziak or Pouliot slides into the third centre spot or they get a veteran to fill that role.

I think its important that while a team can catch lightning in a bottle now and then the fact is that the Oilers are not a contender right now. They are an average to slightly above average team. They might be good for a first round victory over Chicago or Calgary but they are a long way from Detroit or San Jose. This isn't the 2006 club which had an obvious flaw that affected their seeding. I think that most Oiler fans were pretty aware that that club was the real deal. That was a deep deep club. Veteran top four D. Good goaltending. Lots of guys who could handle the tough sledding up front. Excellent PK. Scoring from various sources. Good goaltending once they obtained Roloson. Pronger. They got some luck against the Wings but their victory in that series wasn't one of those miracle deals. They got some breaks but they were pretty fair value for it, I think. And once they found their footing against the Sharks they were good to go the rest of the way.

Now this year's club is more of the Cinderella type. They might steal a series but other then that I don't have high hopes. A nice top four D. Hemsky. An offence that may end up with seven twenty plus goal scorers. Pretty good goaltending. But a lot of holes too.

That's ok. Its a process and the Oilers are just getting there.

In other words they have to keep in mind who they figure to be part of it down the road when they are the real deal. You never say that anyone is untouchable (except Hemsky - 13th in the league in PPG presently) - if you have a shot at Bouwmeester then Gilbert comes into play - but there is a long list of players that this club should not be moving in hopes of winning a playoff round this spring, in other words to make a trade in the first category.

And a lot of prospects too. The guys that this club should be looking at should be costing them mid to low round picks and marginal prospects. Don't move Peckham or Wild or Chorney or Plante, Brule or Nash or Eberle or Omark or Jean Vande Velde or Reddox or Dubnyk.

But that's almost everyone, you might argue. And you would be right. Hell you can substitute who you want in and out of that list. Those are the guys who interest me. I don't have Schremp on that list because he isn't in the plans but if you want to include him on your list then go ahead.

Make your list of guys who you think might be Oilers in the next three to five years. Yes that includes a guy like Reddox who looks like he can play in the bottom six. Moving a guy who you can pay under a million bucks for the next five years to kill penalties and take some of the tough sledding or even outscore the other team's fourth line for twenty games from Dean McAmmond or Olaf Kolzig isn't good policy.

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Heading into Sunday old Capsule had a three game unbeaten streak. Of course we also had a five game winless streak. Ties abound. There are no soft touches in the league this year since the weak sister in the league got relegated and while we have actually had a strong year we're looking up at a lot of clubs. Sunday we had our first look at the new club in the loop, brought up to replace our departed rivals. They are surprisingly in second. Now they held over all of their points from their romp through the lower division but since being promoted they have been full value with one loss I believe. Like nearly everyone in the league they are young and fast.

Jerks.

They were shorthanded for this game but that's never stopped us from losing before and they had two guys who could wheel, one was a kid you went through our whole team early and slid the puck past our goalie like he was buying a carton of milk it was that easy for him.

The next shift out I went wide and got a shot off and found myself behind the net. Last year I scored from behind the net in consecutive games (a signature move though not THE signature move) so I tried to bank it in off the goalie. It went through his legs (oh sure the reverse five hole is open for fuck's sakes) but my linemate crashed in and tucked it in. Tie game.

From there it was a terrific game. They tired and we began to surge , ringing the post a few times, shots and tips finding their way just past the net, caroming off of sticks, skates and bodies. And then one of their two snipers would suddenly slip through everyone, four times our goalie found himself alone and four times he stopped them cold, one time, down and out, the puck laying in the slot with the open goal after his save, he threw up the pads in desperation and deflected the rebound into the corner, leaving the foe aghast at his failure.

And then as the last period wore on their D began to break and the chances really began to come for us and we finally finished one and we were nearly home. My next shift out one of their D pinched and the winger chipped it to me and I found myself one on one with a rangy kid, half my age I am sure.

The one thing worse then my finish on a breakaway is my ability to beat a man one on one. Even with my signature move, invariably stuffing the puck into the goalie's pads in a sad attempt to go fivehole, I probably have a dozen breakaway goals in my career. Beating a Dman one on one? When you're small, slow and you have no moves, its not a reasonable outcome. I've done it but it wouldn't be in the double digits, and I have been playing hockey forever

So I come in on your man and he's tired, I can see it, so I push the puck through his legs (FIVEHOLE!) and skate around him as he uselessly flails at me.

And I'm in all alone and of course we all know what happened next.

One miracle a game is all I get.

I need therapy to figure out this breakaway problem.

It was all moot anyhow as we killed two penalties at the end of the game and iced it with the most exciting play in hockey. Capsule wins! Capsule wins! And with that we jumped from seventh to fourth, at least momentarily.

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Anyways when it comes to making babies I make Andrew Cogliano, that hot shot shooter on ice, look like, well, me on a breakaway.

I'm the Guy Lafleur of fertilization, the Mike Bossy of making babies, the Jari Kurri of conception. I'm like that kid we played on Sunday, zipping down those fallopian tubes, past every obstacle and no goalie can stop me. I'm a one shot shooter and I have the kids to prove it.

Yee Haw!

Tomorrow it all comes to an end. I'm going to let a bald man with a knife into the cock and balls zone, an area where nothing sharper than a tongue has previously been. Your man tells me that his technique involves crimping the tubes "like stereo wire" and I have to admit its heartening to know that the cutter who is going to render me infertile has a little flair to him. Its fitting, I think.

So tonight we go to the Communist bar and raise a pint to my vas deferens. Fare thee well my faithful little friends. You never let us down.

Most of the guys I have talked to say its not all that bad really, the waiting is the hardest part, laying there bare arsed, bag flapping in the wind, thinking about that blade and your balls, although one of my teammates on Capsule likened the experience to getting repeatedly kicked in the balls.

That good, huh?

One of my buddies said the worst part was driving home, realizing that if all hell broke loose and they started putting people on ice floes he'd be one of them, now useless to a new society needing all hands on deck to repopulate a brave new world.

To that end I've a freezer full of the good stuff so if world's end comes then I can save myself with my super duper, baby making, liquid gold man goop. No ice floe for me.

Because like the commercial says it tastes awful but it works.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Hard Man


There are a million things I didn't know about kids until I became a parent. My wife and I didn't read a lot about the subject of parenting. We talked (and talk) a lot about how we would handle certain situations, expectations and so on but we weren't the types to really study what we were about to get into.

Now I don't care how much you read, nothing prepares you for when you bring that tiny baby back home for the first time. Friends of ours described it thusly:

We brought him home, took him out of the carseat and laid him down. We looked at him, looked at each other and burst out laughing. We hadn't a clue what to do.

We were the same. We had friends who had gone through it a few years previous so we made a couple of calls and we have been on the receiving end of a few of those ourselves now but for the most part its sink or swim and of course you swim. The first one is a little stressful because you're afraid they will break and that they will stop breathing in the night and that you just might not be as smart as you think you are. The second one you have the experience and so you are relaxed and wonder what the fuss was about the first time. And once you have a third (if you do) then you do what a buddy of mine did:

We got rid of the gates and as soon as she could walk we took her up and down the stairs, up and down, until she had the hang of it. We hadn't the time nor the energy to go chasing after her or to open and close the gate every time one of the older ones needed to get up or down the stairs. So we showed her what to do and then she was on her own.

With us the biggest issue this time has been sleeping. Our baby never slept in the bassinet and so she was in the bed with my wife from day one. I had the couch. As she got older we had to figure out the logistics. First the boy had to get moved into a big boy bed. That went just fine (it can be a disaster). Then we had to decide the rooming situation so that as little sleep was being disturbed as possible. And finally we had to steel ourselves because now that she had been sleeping with her Mommy for six months there was a bit of a cord that might have to be cut. I knew there would be a lot of wailing, rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth. And that was just my wife. ;) So the thing is that we let it slide, part of it for good reason, partly just out of tiredness and not wanting to deal with it. And now we had to deal with it.

Because here is a little tidbit for you non parents - a woman is wired not to let a baby cry. My wife and all of our friends who are Moms say the same thing - when a baby is crying they actually feel physical pain and have to stop it. And doing what we had to do meant there would be a lot of crying.

Me, I don't believe in letting a baby cry. (My parents and her parents, all wonderful, loving, caring people, all interjected when we had our first and went to pick her up when she was crying, saying that letting her cry was okay and that by picking her up we were spoiling her. I responded that picking up my week old daughter was not likely to mean that she would be living in my basement into her thirties, her mom still picking up after her. But this was common practice back in the day.) Having said that if the baby is crying and I am doing something that has to be done then the baby is going to cry and I am going to do the dishes, laundry, make supper, put another kid to bed, pour myself a beer, finish with my pull.

So Friday night we debated and then we put her down in her crib for the first time. And she cried. For twenty minutes she cried. My wife was going mental. Me, I turned up the volume on the TV and drank my Gritstone. She accused me of having a hard heart. (I do not.) At twenty minutes I was satisfued that she was not going to settle herself, went upstairs and rocked her to sleep. This was at 7:30. At 9:30 she woke up, cried for a while and I repeated. At 11 she woke up and fed. She went back to bed until 7am.

Seriously fucking amazing.

Saturday night she was up at 1am to feed. At 4am she cried and did not settle so I went in and did the job. She got up at 7.

Sunday night I had to settle her after twenty minutes of crying. She fell asleep and woke to feed at midnight. At 4am she woke and fed again. My wife put her down and she awoke and began to cry. Five minutes later she had settled herself and was asleep until 7am.

Now this may seem like nothing to a lot of you out there but my wife has had more sleep in the last three nights then in the previous week total and I am back in our bed. We have our evenings to ourselves for the first time in six months. Hell, we might even have sex sometime soon.

Baby is fine, not scarred for life. All it took was a little steel.

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44 - Sheldon Souray - I hated this signing and , uh, yeah, I was wrong. The only question is his health and there are some who say now is the time to move him but unless you get a youngster ready to step in and do what he is doing then I don't think it can be done. Big asset offensively and the one guy in the top four who will scare the opposition physically. He is the Oilers' hard man back there and you can't move him unless you replace that.

77 - Tom Gilbert - People talk about moving Gilbert and he is actually the guy after Hemsky who I would make an untouchable. A better player than Grebeshkov, signed longterm to a nice contract and much younger then Souray and Lubo. An important part of this club through the window we are talking about and beyond. When Souray and Lubo's contracts expire he won't be thirty yet - you don't move a guy like that

71 - Lubo Visnovsky - Again I don't think you can move this guy. People talk about all of the money sunk into the back end but these guys are quality players and the main reason his club looks to be turning the corner. Look at Lowetide's measure of this season so far - its the D who are driving the bus, not the forwards. Visnovsky is a terrific player and you don't move him unless you can bring in a guy like Bouwmeester or Seabrook or Keith - in other words the unattainable.

37 - Denis Grebeshkov - he is the prime chip the Oilers have but I wouldn't move him unless they are replacing him with a quality veteran who can add a little toughness but can still make that first pass or unless he is part of a home run deal. I think that a fair part of his numbers are the result of playing with Lubo but I also think the guy is quality and while it would be nice to think that Smid could suddenly step into a top four role when he's still a little iffy in the bottom pair, that's probably not reasonable. The Oilers have a nice top four all of a sudden. If you're going to break them up then you had better have a good reason.

5 - Laddy Smid - You don't move him yet. He's making progress and he's still a kid. You certainly don't move him for a rental and I don't think you move him this summer unless you have given up on him and I can't see why you would. You need those young, cheap guys.

24 - Steve Staios - I love Staios but after this season they need to move the guy. They can get a guy to play in the bottom pair who will likley do a better job on the PK for half the price, I would think. He's not dead yet and I hate to see him go, just like I hated seeing Smith go and Reasoner go, but he's getting close to being done. He's not going to be able to help this club when it really counts, two years down the road, so move him while you can before his salary is complete dead weight.

43 - Jason Strudwick - um, who cares? Hey I like the guy in the role he is in now but you'd get nothing if you moved him so what does it matter. He's not really taking a spot that would be better used and my guess is he's happy to still be employed, which makes him a better fit then a kid to be healthy scratched. They'll keep him and they may sign him again in the summer and it really makes no nevermind to me.

35 - Dwayne Roloson - Well with Garon gone Roli is going nowhere. There is a possibility that they sign him in the summer for one more year if they cannot find a younger guy that they feel can do the job down the line. Not a factor for 2011 or 2012 anyway you cut it.

38 - Jeff Deslauriers - With Garon gone he has the backup job. It makes me nervous as hell but they have confidence in him obviously. Hopefully its the right call. Anyways he's in the mix this year and next and then they will decide on him.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Vincent


Still going to run through the rest of the roster over the next couple of days but I wanted to quickly address the Vinny rumours.

There are three trades the Oilers can make, as far as I am concerned.

The first, the type that I think they will make and should make, would be to shore up the roster so that this club makes the playoffs and has a shot at advancing if they slip into the #5 or # 6 slot. I think they need to pick up a LW to play with Cogliano and Pisani and then a second forward to play on the fourth line, work the PK etc.

Throw in a veteran for insurance for the bottom pair and a more reliable option than Deslauriers if Roli goes down and you're done. We're talking about guys on expiring contracts, veteran guys like Dean McAmmond, for example, guys you can pick up for low round picks or marginal prospects.

The second type of trade would be an upgrade that would cost the Oilers a guy like Nilsson or Grebeshkov. What I am thinking here is the Oilers picking up a guy with a little more experience who can replace the guy they are moving out. The player coming in would likely cost a little more, would be signed for another couple of years so they hit that first year where the Oilers intend to be strong contenders and would play for a club looking to rebuild. The Oilers might have to throw in a prospect or pick as well.

For the D I'm thinking a guy who can play top four who can make that first pass and bring a little more physically. A guy like Eric Brewer might be along the lines of what I am thinking. Up front, maybe a guy like Nick Hagman.

Not these players, mind you, but use them as an example of what I am thinking.

The third type of trade is the home run. The trade for a guy like Bouwmeester or Kovalchuk (signed to a long term deal, by necessity). The trade for Vinny.

The trade for an impact guy.

Lowe made such a trade for Pronger and tried to sign Hossa this past summer.

There are three things that make me nervous about this type of rumour.

1/ The contract. Eleven years is insane. Insane. I could handle the money for a five year deal. But in eleven years my daughter, who is in kindergarten now, would be a year away from graduating high school. Considering that this club is ~ 50 million heading into this summer already (minus Cole and a starting goalie) and that in another year they have to pay Cogliano and Gagner and the cap might drop significantly and I'm thinking adding eight million per may not be a good move right now.

2/ The cost. When I hear seven assets going the other way then I throw up in my mouth a little., no, make that a lot. Now of course it depends on who is heading the other way. If its Cogliano, Grebeshkov, Schremp, Chorney and a first then maybe, maybe, I could think about it for a moment. Substitute Wild for Chroney, Brodziak for Schremp, Gilbert for Grebs and then it becomes ridiculous.

I don't like moving Cogliano at all, by the way.

3/ The player. Here is where the debate gets hot. I'm thinking Vinny with Hemsky is probably a beautiful thing but there are plenty of guys I would prefer over him. Its hard to figure, I mean the guy's underlying numbers are bleah but how much of that is the team that he is playing with?

Of course the team that he is playing with was gutted to pay him, Richards and St. Louis.

It all comes back to that contract. I look at Philly and what they're up against with Briere.

I say no. Before I even get to # 2 or # 3 I say no because of #1.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Glory




When it comes to sports I've never been that guy. Ales Hemsky the other night, I mean.

I'm a hockey guy and I've had some big games. I play well when its the playoffs or a tournament. I don't get too excited. I don't panic. I'll score the odd goal or two. Had a series clincher against an arch rival a few years back. Had a terrific game against the same team the night we conceived our third child. I usually score a goal or two in the Exclaim tournament.

But I don't have, you know, that game. A few years ago we had a team in a little one day tournament, four games in a day, not full length games. I scored the tournament winner in OT, the highlight of my career really. But it was my buddy, a tremendous hockey player and athlete, who dominated for our team in every game and scored in each of his last two shifts to get us into overtime.

One hot summer night a few years back was the closest I came I guess. Two goals and two assists and I was the best player on the ice for once and I don't know what came over me. I actually led old Capsule in scoring that summer which of course leads me to paraphrase one of the Marx brothers, it was either Karl or Richard, when I say that I don't want to be on a team that I lead in scoring. Not a good sign.

I do a lot of things well on the rink but I'm not an offensive dynamo. I used to think Horcoff but I'm not that great on the draw and there's no way I'm outplaying and outscoring our equivalent of Joe Thornton. Naw, think Fernando Pisani or Patrick Thoresen I even wear #28 though its nothing to do with the Norseman) with a little better hands. I help win hockey games but I'm not going out for a skate in front of the crowd when the game is over and done with.

And I'm a hockey guy through and through. That is as good as it gets. Played some soccer a few summers back and I was alright. The usual. Hardworking, played it smart, good teammate etc etc. Lousy at basketball. Tried out for football in high school and was mercifully cut, all 115 pounds of me. A few weeks later I went out to watch a game and saw our running back, a solid guy named Norm Beaudry I believe, run over a guy and then collide with a tackler at full speed. The guy he ran over had to be helped off the field. The guy he collided with, a former schoolmate, solidly built guy, got up, walked a few paces and collapsed. Got up again, staggered a bit and then hit the ground.

That coach knew what he was doing. They would have carried me off in a basket.

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I did have one Hemsky moment outside of a pub or the bedroom (supersonic sperm!) and that was back in those halycon summer days in Sudbury. As mentioned here before there was a gang of us that got around, spending our weekend being young, with the drinking and the sexing and the smoking and the general being young. One of the guys, a good friend of mine to this day, was a tall lean (we were all lean back then) son of Croatian immigrants. When you called his house he was invariably sleeping. His mother would call for him 'Dannnnnnny, Dannnnnnny, Dannnnnny' until finally he would pick up the phone "mom I've got it! mom!' in this deep deep voice. Back and forth like that until she finally hung up. We called his old man Gorgeous George. When you called you had better ask him how he was and make small talk or he would bark "You Canadians have no manners! No manners at all!" and then slam the phone down.

The Markic loved to eat and would browse the meat section at the grocery store like a woman buying shoes. He loved to fish and hunt and sleep, though not in that order, but he was the type of guy who knew everything about fishing but would never catch a damn thing. We'd go out with him and drop in a paperclip tied to some twine and fill the boat with fish while all of his little lures and tricks and know how led to nothing.

The other thing that he loved was ball. He loved to watch it and he played in a slow pitch league and one of his favourite stories was when he hit a home run and as he rounded the bases the shortstop, the famous local morning radio guy, muttered "Nice Poke" as he trotted by.

He is a terrific guy and is more of a listener then a talker with a tendency to suddenly interject loudly with expressions like "Cockwalloper" or "Cockpounder" like the time he was having dinner at a buddy's, parents are there, girlfriend, they're Italian first generation so you can imagine the food and he's eating eating eating and suddenly stops to breathe and says, quite loudly:

"Cockwalloper Mrs Castrechino, this lasagna is fucking awesome!"

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

So the Markic was a big wallball guy. When we were kids it was unheard of, which is too bad, because we could never get enough guys for any sort of decent ball game and wallball can be played with two people; all you need is a bat, a ball and a strikezone chalked on a wall somewhere. I had dabbled a bit in Toronto and Markic had bragging rights this summer, he had taken on all comers and beaten them quite easily. He could throw and he could hit and that's all you need to do.

In our circle any sort of bragging rights were a drum you'd beat loudly (still are considering I am telling this story again, twenty some years later) and for once the quiet man had something to talk about other than the chicken he had stuffed with garlic and roasted on a bed of onions and tripe. So one sunny Saturday, just before our usual bout of drinking, I challenged him to a game, just for kicks. I had few delusions of grandeur. I was 125 pounds, maybe, and while extraordinarily wiry, I've never been much of a ball player. Think of the September call up who goes oh for one and gets an inning or two in because he's been the good soldier in triple A - the backup second baseman with the .195 average in the minors. That's me.

Not even Patrick Thoresen.

So we head over to the schoolyard and I was up first and the first thing I noted was that he threw hard and that he was completely wild. So I worked him for a couple of walks and then I took his first pitch of the next at bat out of the yard.

3-0

Then again. Over the fence. At this point the cursing began but we both figured that when he got up the tide would turn quickly.

But we were wrong. He was Steve Balboni and I was Doyle Alexander. I don't throw hard and he couldn't hit anything not thrown hard. It was junk, junk and more junk and he swung over, under and ahead of every single pitch I sent his way.

It was a massacre.

It lives on today. We were talking via email the other day, a bunch of the old gang, and the subject came up, the day the Mighty Markic struck out, over and over again, outsmarted by the crafty little junkballer from New Sudbury. The final score was ridiculously outsized, 15 to 2 or some such thing.

My Hemsky moment. Glory.

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83 - Ales Hemsky - Ales Hemsky is going nowhere, plain and simple. He's a star and he's signed to a terrific contract.

27 - Dustin Penner - For all of Penner's flaws he is not going anywhere right now and I would bet at all over the next couple of years. The Oilers are painfully thin on the LW and on the small side and Penner brings enough to the offensive end of the rink, at least, that his contract is not a massive overpay. It would be nice if he were meaner and more consistent and some day the latter may come but he is not going anywhere unless they can replace him with a better model and there are not a lot out there that fit the type who can be had for the same price or less. Kovalchuk may fit the mold of what they would replace him with but you'd have to move seven million the other way next summer if you managed to sign him. Its possible the big guy gets moved but only under that circumstance

26 - Erik Cole - I'm a big fan of Cole and he's going nowhere until the end of this season unless the club utterly and totally collapses in the next month. I'd love to keep him going forward but by my estimation the Oilers are going to be ~ 50 million this summer once they sign Grebs and they will still need a number one goalie and the money for Cole on top of that. So even if he wants to stay they need to move salary to keep him around. He'd be nice to have for the next few years but I'd bet on a one year fill in next season along the lines of Guerin or Sykora, not necessarily those guys but a veteran who can be paid for a year, add some and then get let go.

12 - Robert Nilsson - here is the guy on the block, I would think. Inconsistent once again although look for a strong push like last year's finish. He has a nice contract but as always its a question of him coming to play every night. More than any other frontline guy he is the player I can see getting moved before the deadline for a shortterm upgrade going into the playoffs and also to free up the 2 million for the future. I like the kid (I like them all ;) ) and I can see them hanging onto him until the summer but if he doesn't get rolling he is toast as an Oiler.

34 - Fernando Pisani - Pisani fills a need for this club and they don't have a replacement so he's not going anywhere and I think that includes this summer; its 2.5 that they could move but in Pisani's favour his contract will expire before the cap drops (presuming it does). At that point it will be interesting to see if they can get him at a reduced rate. Unless he falls off a cliff we know he'd help a club trying to make a run in the postseason.

18 - Ethan Moreau - Moreau has been taking the flak this season but we all know he's going nowhere. Now this likely will include the summer but there are two issues to look at with Moreau - his contract and whether he can help this team when it matters. The guy is tough and brings some needed assets to the table but his skillset is likely replaced for half the price. And considering that he is getting killed by a lot of metrics (not to mention he's a mainstay on the dreadful PK) its unlikely that down the road he is going to be much help. I'd sell him high this summer. They're going to have to move five or six million in salary and I'd rather move the bottom six forwards, bottom pair defencemen and underperformers then a guy like Souray, Gilbert or Visnovsky. I like Moreau but like Torres there's not enough bang for the buck.

46 - Zach Stortini - Stortini is a useful player to have around and a guy whose skillset isn't duplicated on the roster. He may not be a part of this club when the really heavy lifting begins down the road but based on his past performance I would not bet against him being here when it counts.

78 - Marc Pouliot - Pouliot is a tweener and like Brule, Reddox, Potulny and other guys of this ilk he may or may not be around for a while. He is a versatile guy who can chip in offence when he gets the chance to play with the bigger boys and he holds his own out there. Personally I'd like to see him get more of a chance and maybe down the road he will, especially if Nilsson gets moved and they cannot sign Cole. Having said that he's the type of guy who might get moved at the deadline for a veteran. He has an NHL career now and another club (Pittsburgh always comes up) might see something more there but he's not at the point that the Oilers might not find someone they feel can replace him fairly easily.

Next the D, then the goalies, the scrubs and the guys in the minors.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Time In A Bottle, Blah Blah Blah, Something Something ZZZZZZZZZZ


In one of the threads below the topic of time came up, free time specifically, and how that concept disappears once you have kids.

I remember back in the day. Roll out of bed. Grab a bite to eat, make some coffee, read the Saturday paper, maybe a little a bit of the hummina hummina if she was so inclined (I am always so inclined).

Nowadays, not so much.

Of course, its temporary, and this is how I got lulled into the third. Our first two get along very well and you can pretty well leave them to their own devices as long as there are no blowtorches, poisons or sharp objects about. So a year ago in the summer we were returning to normal. I could read the Saturday morning paper while the wife went for a long run. Pints after work or dinner with friends was reasonable. I went to Montreal in July for a long weekend with a pal for a couple of days of wandering to celebrate our 40th birthdays and then I followed that up with a pilgrimage to Edmonton to see the Oilers. In February my wife went to Banff.

No problem.

Last February I was in Ireland working and I had the weekend to myself so from Friday afternoon until Monday morning I was on my own. Nobody to answer to. Nothing to do.

Amazing time. One of the best I've had. And I've had my share.

I'm not going to have a weekend like that in a long time. That's ok but it makes for a little wistfulness now and then.

Now, don't get me wrong. I had nearly forty years to sit around and do fuck all and the alternative, kids, cannot be beat and for that matter we're good for giving each other time to ourselves. In a month I am going to Buffalo to see Les Sabres and their mustachioed fanbase. We're going to get loaded and we're staying overnight. Sometime between now and then the wife is going skiing for a day.

It has to be done - time to yourself or you'll go mental.

And in eighteen months or so the baby will be on her own and it will be back to Saturday papers and coffee. Its temporary - its just until then, we're strapped.

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

The Oilers have almost a week off now and one wonders if it came at the wrong time. Five wins in six games, ten wins in their last fifteen and that includes ten games without Hemsky. Team is rolling. They are in sixth right now; of course a bad week next and they could be in twelfth but things are looking pretty good.

Time has been a recurring topic here, most usually in terms of the time it takes players to develop and the fact that a combination of media coverage, big money and just plain old impatience means that everyone expects teenagers to step into the NHL and play as if they had ten years experience in the league.

I have read how Sam Gagner will never be more than a fifty point soft minutes guy, how Cogliano will never be able to play tough minutes, how Matt Greene and Ladislav Smid will never be more than borderline NHLers, how Tom Gilbert peaked after a year in the league.

And so on and so on.

Last season was the greatest as I read over and over again how the Oilers should trade that bum Hemsky as it was obvious that he did not have what it takes.

Now it may be true that Gagner never amounts to anything or that Smid is a bust or that Brodziak never amounts more to than a fourth line guy but history shows us that it takes time for players to come into their own and all of the talking heads and big contracts and internet chatter aren't going to change that. Ales Hemsky started out as a guy who gave away more than he created, as a guy who would not shoot the puck, as a guy shy of the tougher areas of the rink. Even after 2006 we were left wondering if perhaps there was more.

Last season Hemsky took a step. He began to shoot more and night in and night out he was the Oilers best player, imo, until the stretch run when he pulled up a little lame.

And after a slow start to this year he has taken another step again. He's playing tough opposition and outchancing and outscoring them. The opposition keys on him and yet his road production is excellent. He drives the power play and goes to wherever he needs to go to make the play. Two goals against the Coyotes and a performance for the ages against Columbus. He has arrived.

And he will get better still.

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

So, what do we talk about for the next week or so, besides my pending emasculation? A week from this moment I am going to be sitting on the couch, a bag of frozen peas on my baggage, beer in hand, hoping even more then ever against the apocalypse. If I can't help repopulate the planet it will be the ice floes for me, I'm afraid. (Its really a shame because I have the Supersonic Sperm. I've taken to masturbating into Mason Jars and hiding them in strategic locations, just in case. Its liquid gold I tell you! Of course it was difficult explaining to my wife why the dog's face was covered with liquid sugar the other day after he unearthed one of my hiding spots behind the shed.)

But enough about me, lets talk about the Oilers and what they are going to do in February, next season and in the following two seasons with their roster. Here is how I have seen their plan unfolding for a while now.

This season the idea is to make the playoffs. Winning a round would be great but is probably unexpected.

Next season the club should be expected to be a higher seed. Winning one round is the minimum, two would be a reasonable goal.

The two seasons after that are the window to win. After 2012 Hemsky, Penner and Souray will all be unrestricted and Visnovsky will be a year away from returning to Slovakia.

Do we agree on this? I think its logical.

But ... throwing a wrench into all of this is the fact that its likely that the cap is about to drop, slightly next season, perhaps below fifty million the year after that. Going into that season the Oilers will have twenty nine million dollars tied up in Horcoff, Penner, Hemsky, Souray, Visnovsky and Gilbert and they will be looking to sign Cogliano and Gagner and they have to figure out Grebeshkov besides.

So this should be an interesting exercise. The Oilers' main concern should be whether or not a player will be able to help them win in 2010/2011 and 2011/2012. Lets go through the roster, starting with our centres.

10 - Shawn Horcoff - Starting next season Horcoff's hit is 5.6 per but the likelihood of him going anywhere is pretty slim. With three kids behind him, none of whom is likely to be able to do the heavy lifting anytime soon the only way Horc goes on the block is if Gagner and Cogliano prove able to produce big offence while at least one of them or Brodziak takes on secondary tough minutes. Then, maybe, maybe, the Oilers look to bring in a cheap tough minutes guy and move Horcoff for other needs but that would mean the same amount coming the other way in terms of salary. Based on the fact that Horcoff is the only veteran centre on the roster, was probably the Oilers' best forward in the run of 2006, is going to be on a fair sized contract and he has big fans in Hemsky, MacTavish and Lowe I would say the chances of him getting moved over the next four years are as close to nil as you can get.

89 - Sam Gagner - Gagner's underlying numbers show improvement even if his goals and assists are down. Gagner is the golden boy and they're not spending all of this time developing him just to throw him away. The only way he is going anywhere is if he's part of the price of a big name guy coming the other way. Considering he's a pretty cheap ticket this year and next I cannot really see it happening

13 - Andrew Cogliano - Cogliano is a guy whose name always gets thrown out there as possible trade bait. Considering the guy is improving, on pace for ~ 20 to 25 goals, is one of the fastest skaters in the league and a guy who'll get his nose dirty, even without the cheap contract I'd be loathe to trade him. He'll be around into next year at least I would say and I think that the future will see either him or Gagner moved to the wing. Once again maybe he gets moved for a big name guy but moving him for more contract would not help them meet the cap pinch down the road. Presently he is getting a whirl with some veteran wingers so maybe the idea is to see if he can handle some toughs

51 - Kyle Brodziak - Brodziak comes cheap and he does a bunch of things that a lot of guys on this team do not do - he kills penalties and takes faceoffs (lately he has been the go-to guy for own zone draws) and somehow manages to do reasonably well. Plus he chips in some offence. Cheap and useful means he is not going anywhere.

None of these guys is going anywhere this spring and I would bet this summer as well. The wildcard is Cogliano - he may be the guy who gets moved down the road as he is an attractive commodity. If Brodziak can fill that tough minute role or Cogliano cannot then they will need to fill it for 2011 and 2012 and then Cogliano will get moved to the wing or out of town.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Positive Thoughts Positive Thoughts Positive Thoughts


We're hitting the wall here at Chez McLean - baby number three is six months old and we're having sleep issues.

Big ones.

You never know what you are going to get with babies and the only rule of thumb is that there is always someone who has it worse than you. I was at a party a number of years back and ran into a guy I went to university with. His first son was colicky and screamed for six months straight. He talked about one night driving around, trying to lull the baby to sleep, the kid screaming its head off in the back, his wife sobbing beside him.

Neighbours of ours had a son with colic as well and basically neither of them slept for around six months. Nothing they could do. I saw him outside when the baby was a few months old; we're good friends now but we didn't really know each other at that time. I had the dog and he leaned over:

Hey buddy, there's a good boy, hey I didn't know you had a dog. What's his name?

We talked for about five minutes and then he leaned over:

Hey buddy, there's a good boy, hey I didn't know you had a dog. What's his name?

So it goes. Someone always has it worse than you do.

The latest and last addition to the clan is not a sleeper. She's teething and she was a little sick after Christmas and as a result the last two weeks have been pretty brutal as she needs to be in bed and cuddled to sleep and the majority of that time she has to be on the teat.

So that means not a lot of sleep for the wife.

Me, I've been on the couch for six months now and considering the two oldest were in their beds at three and four months respectively, well, this is not what I was expecting. I can't sleep in the bed with a baby and so I'm getting a little cranky and a lot achy and pretty tired - I miss my bed and I miss my wife. I'm a wreck and I have it way better then her, so you can imagine.

Saturday morning my wife got up sick and so Saturday night I took baby and sent her to bed and so I lay on the couch with fifteen pounds on top of me so while I dozed here and there, not much was working for me sleep wise, until I finally took her up at 4:45am to see if I could grab a couple of hours. That night wrecked me further but it told us a little something about our daughter, a few things we suspected. She doesn't need to eat through the night (she took a couple of ounces of formula but even that was more habit methinks) and she doesn't need a boob in her mouth to sleep and she can sleep for more then a few hours at a time.

So to the doctor for a scheduled checkup yesterday and she said that it was ok to let her cry and so this weekend the boy will be bunking with our oldest and we'll be plopping the baby into her crib and it will be let her wail, all night if we have to, and it will be me who is on duty because its been quite clear that when Mommy is available then the expectations are far different then when Daddy takes the call.

And I'm fine with being the hard man. I did the same with the boy. Different circumstance. In his case he would nurse himself to sleep and then be fine for the night but we decided enough was enough and I sent my wife outside to garden or something and I put him down and he screamed for a half hour and my only reaction was to turn the volume on the ball game up and then the next night it was ten minutes of the same and on the third night he went straight to bed without a peep.

So we'll get it done and it will be tough and likely some time before we rest but if I get to my breaking point I'll remember then when our little one was a few weeks old the pediatrician told my wife that she had suspicions and so we waited a week for the results to come back, knowing how much we loved her and would love her but scared shitless (and thinking selfishly at times as well) about what this would mean for all of our lives. And then finding out that the results were fine and then the rush of relief and the feelings of guilt as well because of what our thoughts were for whatever we say and think we are human after all.

And talking to my old man and the two of us insisting that whatever happened it would be alright, that it would be just fine, because that our credo, my old man and I, that it will always be fine, no matter what cards life deals you, things will be fine, enough positive thoughts crackling back and forth along the wire to deny what might be in store for us. We were right that time but it was a fine reminder of what lurks out there.

Someone always has it worse.

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As for the Oilers, well they have the BJS tonight and a win could put them into fifth place and a loss tonight and then a couple of more could put them in the same old same old precarious position but facts are facts and they hung on when Hemsky was out and now they have won four of five and have been good value for the most part. The farm system has supplied Reddox and Brule and Potulny and all brought help when help was needed and the first two likely will be Oilers for a while now unless they get used as bait. And now Hemsky is back and just as the trickle down happened when he was out well now its reversed and he and Horcoff and Penner give the Oilers a line that can outscore most and so Gagner and Cole will face a little lighter load as will Cogliano's line and Souray and Gilbert will get a bit of a break with the puck going the other way a lot more with Hemsky on the ice.

And of course its becoming clearer that progress is being made. Mike Lupica says about the Yankees since the Red Sox uprising that when they get hit and go down they don't get back up and for a while there this Oilers club was like that after Smyth got moved. And there were a lot of games where you were left muttering about breaks and of course losing a game or two because of bad breaks means you're unlucky but losing over and over again because of bad luck like they did last year just means you are a bad team. This club had a calendar stretch of about ten months where the total regulation wins during that entire time did not reach double figures.

These days they are winning in regulation and they are full value for it and when they lead late into a game there is no sense that in the end they will end up in OT or the shootout because of the invariable panic and inexperience that would lead to the tie. Instead you have your veterans, though still not enough, and enough kids who are starting to push the results the right way that things get closed out nicely.

So they're not out of the woods yet and a loss tonight will result in much gnashing of teeth I am sure but they have games in hand, games they still have to win but the fact is that they are in position to be getting chased instead of chasing and its becoming pretty clear that help is on the way in Pisani and maybe another vet or two to help out. The Canucks' expected surge hasn't happened and the Oilers might, just might, be getting it together to make a push that gives them some clearance. They are eight up on the Kings and six up on Nashville and they have more work to do but stretch together a few more wins and we may all be able to breathe for a game or two.

Now all together now ... positive thoughts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Powderfinger


Woke up yesterday to twenty below, thirty with the wind, and it’s a real winter here in Toronto, first one in years. Even last year’s record snowfall was not that impressive, each dumping of snow washed away in a few days by rain and warm temperatures. This winter has alternated snow with cold and so it’s the real deal.

Took a chance and made a run up north, meeting my dad halfway as he brought the big fellow back from his Christmas holidays up in Sudbury. We agreed to meet in Parry Sound, pretty well halfway, and hoped that luck would be on our side.

The trip isn’t what it used to be. When I started school, just over twenty years ago, it was at least a five hour jaunt. An hour up to Barrie, then a town of fifty thousand, a quick hour once you were on the 400, speeding past the farmers’ fields north of Steeles, through the Holland Marsh, rich black soil, and then climbing up the moraine and into the rolling hills before the Muskokas. Soon after Barrie though the highway shrunk to an undivided two lane job, 120 kilometres winding into the Shield, granite rock cuts and a thousand lakes, forests stretching forever, the whole way without a single passing lane. To get by someone you needed to get up behind them and if they were calm and reasonable they would pull over onto the paved shoulder, all this at ~ 90km an hour or so, until you passed, and then back on the highway. Impatience and the difficult road made it a killer highway and in winter the danger multiplied as squalls would suddenly rage off of Georgian Bay, turning clear blue into a whiteout.

In the nineties they four laned it all the way to Parry Sound and divided it besides and now a five plus hour trip can be done in under four hours, the slowest stretch now being from Toronto to Barrie, once the fastest part of the trip, Barrie three times the size now, the farmers’ fields north of Toronto being replaced by suburbs stretching into the distance.

You still have to chance winter but yesterday was clear sailing all the way up, met Dad and had a soup and coffee and then back on the road with my big black furry cargo, racing south, music from school days, the Waterboys and Indigo Girls, the Hip and Neil Young, Live Rust.

Neil Young. Cinnamon Girl. Cortez The Killer. Sedan Delivery. The Loner. Powderfinger.

Your man has been around for forty years or so now, all the way back to Buffalo Springfield and Mr. Soul, one of the greats, despite a face looking like scrass and a voice like a tomcat birthed by Fran Dreschler.

That’s what you call sustain.

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The Oilers had their own little roadtrip last week and it had the potential for ugliness – Washington, Minnesota, Colorado – but they won two of three and now the break is in sight and with it Ales Hemsky’s possible return and then hopefully Pisani and Nilsson. Four teams have separation from the pack but the Canucks’ break has not materialized and while the Oilers’ season has been one step forward, one back, they remain in the hunt and its very likely that six weeks from now they will still be right there. This week they have a chance to win some games and of course we know that they will go two and one or one and two or, most likely one, one and one, but the end result is that they will still be right there and it looks like management is going to make a move and bring in a vet or two.

The Oilers are flush in forwards – Horcoff, Penner, Gagner, Cole, Cogliano, Moreau, Pouliot, Reddox, Potulny, Brodziak, Brule, MacIntyre and of course that ignores the three aforementioned as well as Stortini. Moving Garon has opened a spot on the roster but there are still two more players then spots and that doesn’t even include Schremp.

And Potulny has to clear waivers and Brule will be there by the weekend and both would be claimed I would think so it means someone is going to get moved and you could start with Nilsson and probably throw another tweener in there, I would hope not Pouliot but there’s a chance for that. And Schremp is probably a goner too.

And Liam Reddox has won himself a job and you can pencil him into next year’s lineup. Kid is good for ten to fifteen goals, I think, and he can do plenty that most of the other youngsters cannot. Too bad he’s not thirty pounds heavier but what can you do. Drink some milkshakes, kid.

Reddox has had a couple of bumps but he has had sustain and as a result he has some traction now. Lets hope that his club can do a little of that this week. Going into the break with another four or six points would be quite nice, thank you.

Think Neil Young, not Chumbwumba.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Garon Gagone


A short post as my wife is abed with a flu so I'm making supper plus a vat of chili for an annual football do I am holding tomorrow, all while carrying around a cranky six month old.

Mathieu Garon got sent to the Pens for Dany Sabourin, a prospect named Ryan Stone and a fourth round pick.

Its a good trade. It really is. A borderline starter for a backup, a prospect and a pick. Consider what LA got for LaBarbera.

Roloson's goaltending has been fine and there is a glut of goaltending out there. I'd rather not go with Roli/JDD as my tandem but if Roli goes down or JDD proves wanting a replacement can be had for cheap.

I believe so, anyways.

Of course as it always seems to go with this club there's a bad taste to go along with this. The sudden leak that Garon refused an extension last summer is standard Oiler protocol as is the freezeout that began almost immediately this season, including the questioning of his toughness and the month between starts.

The management and staff of this team are almost pathalogically unprofessional.

And of course there is Lowe's ridiculous crowing about the value of the trade insomuch that it resolves a situation that management created.

Insert your equally absurd comparison here.

Even with the extra roster spot available the club is awash in young forwards, most of whom have to clear waivers, and with Hemsky, Pisani, Stortini and Nilsson all coming back at some point and a crying need for at least one more veteran player it is likely that another move is coming, probably involving Nilsson and another tweener forward or Smid going to a rebuilding club in exchange for a vet or two.

The Oilers are hanging around and are in a decent spot to make the playoffs so I suspect the next move will aim to meet that goal.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Naked Keitel, Everywhere I Look


I was a video store jockey back in the early nineties which was fitting because that's when Clerks came out. Pretty good show - it captured the boredom, snark and foolishness of the whole experience pretty well.

I worked in a store in Forest Hill and experienced my share of weirdness as a result.

Trust fund babies in their forties and fifties wandering Spadina Avenue day after day (and there's not much to wander) waiting for their parents to die so they could inherit the rest of their fortune.

People whose enormous wealth was completely inverse to the amount of brains they had.

Famous folks with a taste for porn.

The woman who would come in and ask about the movie with "that guy, the one with the brown hair".

The guy whose kids had racked up a grand in late fees, took out his money clip, pulled six hundred dollar bills off of a wad and asked if that would cover it.

The eight year old who sounded like a seventy year old man who started each day with a pack of Camels (unfiltered) and a bottle of Scotch before he headed to the track.

The students and other young people who lived in the neighbourhood, bartenders and actors and regular joes, who joined us in our bemusement at what was going on around us.

The pretty girls.

Can't remember who it was who said it - rich people are like me and you, they just have more money.

Its true. The majority of people I dealt with were terrific folks with the odd arsehole thrown in there.

And most of them had pretty bad taste in movies, in my opinion, but I'm an awful snob when it comes to certain things and movies is one of those.

(Beer is another except truth be told if someone hands me a Coors Light I'll drink that sucker straight away. I'm not that proud.)

Anyways one thing that would make me mental was when people would come in and whine about trying to get a copy of The Specialist or Sliver when copies of Red Rock West or The Last Seduction or El Mariachi were available.

At the time there was an explosion of smaller movies, some of them bad, many of them terrific, and actors like Steve Buschemi, Eric Stoltz, Parker Posey and Harvey Keitel were ubiquitous on our store shelves.

Keitel has always been one of my favourites. His first credit is "German soldier" in an episode of Hogan's Heroes in 1966 - he was already 27 at the time. In the seventies he was in Mean Streets and Taxi Driver but until the early nineties most of his work was minor stuff, in TV, on stage and in supporting roles in forgettable films.

And then he became huge, just as he passed the age of fifty.

From 1992 to 1996 he was in sixteen films that were released, an explosion of work, and mostly terrific shit, Monkey Trouble and Sister Act notwithstanding.

Reservoir Dogs, Smoke, Pulp Fiction, The Piano, The Bad Lieutenant.

Great stuff.

Except for the nudity. There's Harvey, fifty three years old, full frontal, drinking a bottle of whiskey, crying, staggering about for an eternity in The Bad Lieutenant. Here he is wiping down the piano in The Piano, not a stitch on him. It was a running joke with us - naked Keitel, everywhere you looked.

Fifteen years later and when I think of those days its one of the first memories that pops into my head.

Jesus. Make it stop.

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Shawn Horcoff is Harvey Keitel, except thankfully he is not naked all of the time. He's awesome and his presence makes for a terrific movie but he's not going to pull in five hundred million dollars at the box office all by himself. Having DiCaprio (Ales Hemsky) by his side (What's Eating Gilbert Grape Leo not The Quick and The Dead Leo) is a start but fact is this team needs Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts or George Clooney, someone who can win an Oscar and bring in the box office.

And forget about Billy Baldwin (Vinny Lecavalier) - especially when you're talking about what amounts to a lifetime contract. Why studios ever thought your man was gold at the box office is beyond me.

One of my favourite movies from my clerking days is Dazed and Confused. Just a beauty of a movie and fun to pick out all of the soon to be famous / not so famous young actors and actresses.

They were nearly all famous to me because most of them were in other movies soon after but the reality is that some of them faded away quickly, including the two leads, Jason London and Wiley Wiggins as well as Michelle Burke (who did play Dan Ackroyd's daughter in Coneheads, mind you). Then there were others like Cole Hauser, Nicky Katt and Anthony Rapp who have been acting for years but are certainly not that recognizable, Rory Cochrane, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich and Adam Goldberg, who all have had some success in movies or TV and finally the big boys, Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey as well as Renee Zellweger, who was uncredited as "the girl in the blue pickup".

Its an apt comparison because right now the Oilers are full of youngsters and Dazed and Confused certainly describes the way the franchise has been run since June 19, 2006 and the way the club has played this season thus far.

And its teeming with young kids trying to prove themselves. We already know that a guy like Steve MacIntyre (Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!) is like the extra who somehow has managed to wrangle a spoken line out of the production. Soon we'll never see him again but its a fun story all the same.

But what about Gagner, Cogliano, Brodziak, Pouliot, Reddox, Nilsson, Potulny, Brule, Stortini, Schremp, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Smid, Peckham and Deslauriers?

Who's going to be McConaughey? And who's going to be Jason O. Smith?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Your Player Ratings




Halfway point lads and lasses and we have a baby who isn't sleeping and a postholiday madhouse at work so no tales today, just a runthrough of where the Oilers have been this year thus far. I always do these considering expectations so a guy like Reddox will get a better ranking then a guy who may be a better player but who has not met the bar that I have set for him.

A+ Ales Hemsky - even with a slow start to the season Hemsky earns top marks as he has become a star; he will play the tough minutes, he will produce on the road and without him the Oilers go nowhere; no longer the girl with the curl, he has arrived

A Sheldon Souray - I was down on this signing and we need a couple more years like this one to make it a success but the big guy has been terrific; producing big numbers and solid defensively; his attitude that he wants to prove the doubters wrong and the fact that he has improved as a player on the wrong side of thirty are impressive

A Lubomir Visnovsky - Drives the team the right way, check out Dennis' numbers; he can be a gambler but his recovery skills are excellent, premier puck mover and underrrated defensively, fun to watch.

A Dwayne Roloson - Not done yet, the oldster has provided the club with good to great goaltending almost every night, rebounds well from the few poor performances he has had, playing himself into a contract next year, maybe here, maybe elsewhere, would be prime trade bait except trading him would be surrendering and this club will hang around as it always does

B+ Andrew Cogliano - the one kid who has improved in nearly every way since last season, on pace for ~ 25 goals, goes to the tough areas to score and plays with aggression and energy more often then not, still getting the soft parade but tougher opp then last season and his underlying numbers are better I believe

B Tom Gilbert - pressure from new contract weighed on him early I believe but after a slow start has played very well, on pace for 36 points, excellent first pass, plays a Lidstrom style, all angling and boxing his man out, not a banger though , plays like the one he made against the Blues last game (stole puck, spun away, reversed course and hit the man breaking out of the zone, all in a moment) show that the Oilers have a guy who is a keeper and still getting better

B - Shawn Horcoff - tough start for Horc as he came off of surgery but even when the puck wasn't going in for him the play was ending up in the right end of the rink for him; he was only outchanced twice after a couple of dozen games iirc and that was playing tough opp and on the road; has had a tough time on the PK and is struggling without Hemsky; work ethic and smarts can't be matched, more offence needed though

B - Liam Reddox - kid comes from nowhere to gain job and traction towards a career, does a lot of things a lot of the kids do not, defensively responsible, smart, questions are size and whether the offence will come, will he be Fernando or Toby? the type of guy who helps win games though

B - Denis Grebeshkov - rebounded after tough start, playing with Lubo certainly helps, may be Oilers' best trade chip, solid puck mover, has cut down on mistakes

B - Ladislav Smid - bizarre benching and move to the wing confounded but Smid is a good natured sort, no sulking, has been very good on the third pair and maybe ready to move up the chart, playing a nice physical game

C + Dustin Penner - Penner is Penner - a weird start as he was taken off the PP and the first line and struggled to produce; has gotten better although he too has struggled without Hemsky, maddening player as when he plays physically and with passion he's terrific and when he goes through the motions he is a cipher, excellent in the offensive zone, underrated passer

C + Erik Cole - terrible start for Cole who started out of position and then played with Moreau and Brodziak in a maddening combination, also a lot of posts and bad luck in the mix, since paired with Gagner he has been probably the Oilers' best player night in and night out; expect a strong second half

C + Sam Gagner - counting numbers have not improved over last year but underlying numbers do show improvement, he is playing tougher minutes and his plus/minus is far better as are his Corsi number, since paired with Cole he has been averaging a PPG, look for a good second half

C + Kyle Brodziak - rocky start to season but he has come back to become a go to faceoff guy, facing tougher opposition and still chips in goals here and there, a lot to like about the kid

C + Marc Pouliot - looks like he has a career finally, playing top nine minutes and doing well, offence starting to come, nice chemistry with Cogliano, would be nice to see in a tough minutes centre role with Pisani on one wing but doesn't seem to be on the radar for that

C + Zach Stortini - another guy who lost his job for a while, Stortini has returned to do what he does, playing hard, abrasively, adding a touch of offence and holding his own defensively; also apparently limbs made of rubber

C Fernando Pisani - tough go for Fernando as he was asked to play tough minutes as a centre, he struggled and struggled some more when finally moved back to the wing; here's hoping his return to the club gives them a lift, especially on the PK; hard to mark him harshly when he was put in an untenable position

C - Jason Strudwick - locker room funny man was disaster on D yet somehow still got the icetime, much more effective as a winger, adds toughness, try, not much else

C - Robert Nilsson - still needs a kick in the ass now and then, disappointing, possesses great skill and can play hard when the spirit moves, would be nice if it moved him a little more often, suspect he's trade bait

D Steve Staios - warrior has struggled in third pair although since Strudwick left he has been better, problem is that contract, 2.7 per for a solid second pairing guy is a good value, 2.7 per for a third pairing guy who isn't good on the PP or the PK is a waste of money

D Oilers' prospects - tough year for a lot of Oiler youngsters, other then Peckham, Plante, Wild and Eberle many are taking steps back, Chorney has been a disaster, Schremp got the call and was found wanting at the top level, Dubnyk has no traction, Ryan O'Marra is finished; hopes that guys like Nash, Trukhno and Petry can turn around their seasons and this grade
D Steve MacIntyre - as a hockey player the guy is an F, I mean seriously, can't skate, can't pass or receive a pass, as to his value, well, not sure if there is any, Backes certainly ran amuck when he was out and then was awfully quiet last game, is that coincidence?, I don't know if his presence would have stopped Tootoo running Hemsky over for example; as a story though its certainly terrific, career minor league gets at least most of one year in the bigs and of course his goal last night, fun stuff but one goal and that hit in Calgary doesn't seem worth a roster spot to me

D - Edmonton Oilers - around where they would be expected to be but inconsistent efforts and terrible PK have killed this club, another three wins and they would be in sixth; sum is less then the parts

D - Ethan Moreau - early offensive outburst and good try have been only separation for Moreau - getting killed playing tough opposition, one of lead PK men, bad penalties and strange episode where he threw Pouliot out of the faceoff circle plus the contract make him a guy who should be moved but likely will not

D - Mathieu Garon - last year's starter lost his job early and is no longer in the plans; some politics involved I would say but he has done little to win it back when he has had the chance

F - Oilers management and coaching - long list of problems, the usual unbalanced roster, the spots left open for development (third line centre) that were then not used for that purpose, playing Cole out of position and then with a couple of fourth liners, the immediate exile of Garon, the poor PK (some personnel, some coaching), the ridiculous situation with Smid, playing Pisani at centre, not playing Penner on the PP, the gutting of the LW, a former team strength, Lowe's belligerent attitude, the treatment of Dave Berry and the complete garbage situation where arena staff parked a Zamboni behind the CBC production truck after Crawford criticized the ice at Rexall. Like this organization it used to be amongst the best in the league, now its embarassingly bush.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Five Bees For A Quarter We'd Say


I had been out of school for a couple of years and was slacking hard, although of course that's a contradiction right there. After two years in High Park I had gotten myself a little more central again, although midtown rather then downtown. Walking down the treelined streets, mansions, luxury cars. Waiting for someone to call the police on my scruffiness, faded Mackinaw jacket, torn jeans and rotten soled sandals, big white man's afro. After school was out I made ends meet for a number of years by doing whatever came my way. A couple of sales jobs which were disastrous (worst salesman in the world right here), acting as a driver and errand boy for one of Canada's wealthiest families, tutoring, construction work, whatever it took to make the rent. I didn't have a lot of chickamin in those days. Bread I mean. The main source of income for me was the video store and this is where I learned to love, really love I mean, the movies.



I was making under a grand a month, usually around 800 bucks or so, so it was rent and then my share of the bills and then the rest on living. Did a lot of walking and roller blading in those days, trying to get by on less then 100 bucks a week makes a man lean. I ate a lot of toast and pasta with margarine in those days. The economy wasn't in great shape and I had no idea where I was heading and it was all just fine. I had a lot of friends in the same boat, doing retail and bartending and extending their stays in school and even some of those who knew where they were going and had jobs in their fields were paying their dues and making peanuts. I have a very good friend who was just starting in PR and was doing writing for a little firm. He's a smart smart guy and my understanding is he is one of the best in his field these days and back then he was making fuck all.



The way it was, yeah?



So as for me, like I said, I got into the movies. One winter I was living just outside of Forest Hill Village with a buddy of mine. Now Forest Hill is where Ted Rogers lived so that tells you all you need to know. This is where I worked. Sore thumb I stuck out like. Same as my compadres. We'd hang outside the door and smoke and crack wise and late on Saturday nights when I worked with this slacker named John, a big cycling guy, we'd duck out back and smoke a fatty to pass the time. And then off at 10:30 or midnight depending and I'd walk the half hour home with three or four movies. I'd watch a couple of them that night, bed at ~ 2 or 3 or 4 am and then up before noon and watch two more.



I started dabbling in the writing. Now this was when Tarantino arrived and Rodriguez and Roger Avery and we carried a lot of indie movies and we knew all of the stories, the guys who wrote these little movies and then got them made, often did so themselves, and I thought, hell, why not me? And I wrote quite a bit and got interested in the industry and one day a pretty girl walked into the store and we struck up a conversation. It was the start of a great friendship and I ended up dating her sister for the longest time and actually I work for her uncle now but that's another story altogether. Anyhow she was a film student at York and I'd see her a lot over the next while and as I said we became friends and she encouraged me to chase the dream.



I had a buddy whose sister was dating a guy who played hockey with a guy who ran a company that rented film equipment and so your man told me to call this guy, which I did, and he said, sure come on down, which I did. And I hadn't a clue, thought it was a formal interview so here I am in my shirt and tie and buddy in his blonde mullet and smoking away and he looks at me, thinking look at this mook, and gives me another guy's number, a guy named Edgar Eggar, no word of a lie, says call this guy and tell him Phil sent me.



Now I don't do the self promotion or the cold call very well, never in fact, and so you know how much I wanted this because I fucking harassed this guy. I called and called and called again and left message after message in his voice mail. His version of this is classic, just like him, and again that's for another time, but finally he got tired of hearing my voice in his mailbox and called me in to talk.



And so I did and I told him what I knew about the business (fuck all) but that I just wanted a chance and he said, alright we have a shoot coming up in a few weeks, its going to be three weeks of work and I could work as a trainee doing camera. And, by the way, I'd be working for food. My salary was the big zero. Cob. Nada. Working for free.


And I gulped because I had zero cash but figured, well, I'll figure out the details later, and I said yes.


It gets better but that's for another time


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There is a lot of grumbling about the Oilers these days and even the terminally cheerful, like LT, are starting to tire of a franchise that has, with one exception, wallowed in mediocrity for the last fifteen years or so. I think the club is where many of us thought it would be, in the mix for the playoffs, but the journey has been an unsatisfying one this season. Points have been thrown away with poor efforts and odd coaching decisions. Once again roster holes were left unfilled but instead of throwing Pouliot or Brodziak to the wolves as the third line centre to see if they could get the job done, MacT has shown an odd disconnect with management, putting Pisani there, for instance.


Penner and Nilsson and Garon have been thrown under the bus by the coach and the PK has been the suck all year and veterans like Staios and Moreau have played poorly and shown public frustration with the team.


I wonder how much of the team's inconsistency and the frustration of the vets and the coach have to do with the new order in the NHL. I've never had an issue with players making the money they do. Its big business and the players are the product and while the idea that Zach Stortini makes ten times what my wife does (she does work part time mind you) when he is a hockey player, not a particularly good one at that, and she is a nurse who works with kids with cancer, makes me shake my head sometimes but the fact is there's not a lot of money to be made in curing kids of cancer and professional hockey is big entertainment. The players deserve their share and the lockout for me was more about levelling the playing field so it was no longer like baseball where teams outspend others by two, three, four times as much, then about sticking it to the players.


But the new way of doing things probably chafes the vets and it certainly makes MacTavish's job a lot more difficult. Even with their disadvantages the Oilers could hold onto Doug Weight and Ryan Smyth for years and years and afford them and the coach always had the carrot of more money to play so you could put together a club of youngsters and they would play with hunger, with the elan the Oiler teams once did, because for each player the pot of gold was down the road. The '06 team had all kinds of young veterans making relatively little money - Horcoff, Hemsky, Dvorak, Stoll, Moreau, Pisani, Torres, Laraque, Staios, Bergeron, even the captain was making ~2 iirc.


Plenty of these guys were in the league for nearly a decade.


And of course none of them will need tag days anytime soon. All except Bergeron are on new contracts and all are making great chickamin, only Dvorak is making less I believe. They got their paydays and good for them but it took a while.


But then how do you take Tom Gilbert getting 4 after just over a season in the NHL and Nilsson making nearly 2 after a stretch of, what, thirty good games, and Penner hitting the jackpot after, what, 120 games in the bigs? And Grebs will get paid this summer and Gagner and Cogliano next year, and all three will get big deals, one of them will likely cost what Horcoff, Hemsky, Pisani and Torres did in '06.


So besides the obvious issues with keeping a club together and the problem with making a good bet on the right guy (so Gilbert looks like a good one, Nilsson not so much, Penner still hard to say) one thinks that you have three other things to think about, especially when the guy in question is a little unmotivated. The coach has lost that old carrot. The player may be the type of guy who needs all the motivation possible and he's on easy street three years in. And you have older players looking at these guys and wondering whatever happened to paying your dues?


Hmmm?