Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Winners and Losers


After a year in PEI it was time to move on and I got the call to head south to Florida. My original stay on the Island was supposed to be three months but that got extended to six months and then a year while my employers searched for a replacement for me. While they searched I spent my summer in the pubs and on the harbour, playing pool and lying on the beach, reliving my youth. And months after I was supposed to have been long gone I met a girl through a friend's girlfriend. She was just out of school, free and beautiful, all long legs and flashing green eyes and wonderful smile, we drank and smoked and spent days on the water and driving around and nights in the bars and between the sheets. Later she told me I was supposed to be her summer fling and I certainly had no longterm plans at the time. We had fun together and became good friends and that was a good start.

We had been together for about six months when I moved to Florida for what was supposed to be six months to train and work with the plan being that I would end up in Toronto. We didn't know where we would end up and we didn't really talk about it. She came to visit in March, two months after I left; we rented a room in a cheap motel on the beach and she hung out by the pool while I was at work. At night we wandered the beach and drank wine and caught up on our sex. One night we went to dinner with my boss and his wife and as we ate he mentioned to her that he hoped I would stay for a few years and wondered why she didn't just move down. (She is a nurse who aspired to work with kids with cancer - at the time there were no fulltime nursing jobs in PEI and certainly none in that field at all). Then he and his wife laughed as our jaws hit the ground. First we had heard of this plan.

A few days later she winged it home and I sat on it for a day or so and then I called her and told her that I thought she should write her boards for the States and that we should move in together as soon as she could come south. I told her that I wasn't one to come to such decisions lightly (I wasn't) and that essentially by asking her to do this I was making a big commitment to her (which she knew).

I told her to think about it - there was no rush. She hung up the phone, walked downstairs and told her folks she was moving to Florida.

She called me and told me she was in.

Six months later she landed just as a hurricane was about to make landfall (it never did). We went to our apartment and made love on our single piece of furnishing - an air mattress. We were on our way.

Good thing she said yes or I'd probably be living in a flophouse downtown with the dog, sitting on a beanbag chair eating hamburger and onions or fried sausages (two of my favourites as a bachelor) drinking lemon gin and wondering where it all went wrong as I stared at my Trainspotting posters. Oh yeah and as frequent readers know I am wont to do, playing with myself until I was raw.

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

But instead I didn't play it safe - I made a choice and so did she and while the good things in life can be fleeting, so far we have been lucky and have made a good life for ourselves.

Its 4-1 Ducks right now and another season goes down the toilet and there is plenty of blame to go around. There is Lowe who dismantled a club that came within a break or two of winning a Cup and turned it into a laughing stock. He escapes censure (even now Tambellini will likely get blame for this team that Lowe put together) but the last three years have been pisspoor.

The players deserve blame because they are the ones who play the game in the end but this team looked off almost from day one. Too many poor starts. Too many poor games. Points given away all through the season. Only right before the break did they look like they had any heart and of course in the end that is the killer. Since the dynasty days the next best era was the stretch from 1997 to 2004 with the Cup run of 2006 capping those years. Teams of hungry young dudes who skated and hit with abandon. They nearly always came up short but never for lack of trying and when the money was finally spent and Pronger and Peca and Spacek and Samsonov and Roloson and Tarnstrom were added well then it came together and it probably would have been the best Cup of all except for the very first, I would say. That team that grew up together, with all of those kids, including those who weren't around when 2006 rolled around - Janne and Grier and Marchant and Weight and Guerin and Brewer and yes even Salo and Carter and Comrie - they had spirit, they had elan, they left their opponents reeling and they always went out on their shields.

But not this team and in the end MacT will fall on his sword and it is fitting. Once a terrific PK reduced to a joke. A PP that cost them the Cup in 2006 remaining a joke - no movement - pass it to Souray. Playing for the tie in the hopes of getting to the shootout (who the hell does that?!). Harnessing the young offensive talent, no aggression, no passion. Whipping boys. Patterns of bad behaviour unpunished when it suits. Odd decisions all through the season. MacT began to lose me in November and it was a slippery slope from there.

MacT fans have long pointed to the fact that players leave and do no better elsewhere but the fact is recent years have begun to turn that theory on its head. Raffi Torres is a force in Columbus and Jarret Stoll produces in LA while Greene becomes a rock on their blue. Lupul may be a guy I don't want on my team but he has scored a lot of goals on two winning teams, soft opposition or not. Erik Cole leaves and sparks the Canes to surge into the playoffs. Brad Winchester. Jan Hejda. Glencross.

Its the same old story. You can explain one or two and I liked the Lubo trade, don't get me wrong, but when guys leave Edmonton and start scoring goals and kicking ass for teams that are ahead of Edmonton in the standings then I would ask What the Fuck?

Meanwhile the Oilers look like a team with no heart. Thing is we saw some of these guys in 2006 and we know they have guts. We saw many of them in the stretch last spring and saw them play with courage and conviction. And yet when they had a spot sewn up, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, they pissed it away with a disaster of a stretch run.

This summer is going to see some change. It won't reach the executive suite, where it should, but its going to hit behind the bench, where it also should, and its going to happen on the ice, where it should.

Its time someone makes some intelligent choices, makes some choices which take guts, makes some choices that will set things on the right track.

Its not that hard. Even a mook like me can do it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Testing the McCurdy Paradox


It was, I don't know, a few weeks ago that Bruce McCurdy noted that when the Oilers were out of a playoff spot then they seemed to get it together and win but whenever they had a seed and looked to be a win or two away from opening a gap between them and the pack then they coughed it up.

Since then they have gone back and forth and what I'll call the McCurdy Paradox has proven to be true. Actually this seems to go back to the All Star break when they were on a nice little run and looked like they were about to end a long long string of furious rushes to try and clinch eighth place. Instead Visnovsky went down and the team has been barely treading water ever since.

They added two NHL players at the deadline at the cost of one while one of their rivals, Anaheim, were sellers. Ravaged by injuries and too young, St. Louis fell off the pace. Brad Richards went down and the Stars collapsed. Nashville, young, devastated by years of defections, lost their captain to injury.

It was all there for the taking for the Oilers, including a favourable schedule and only a couple of weeks ago they were five points clear of the pack. This despite a long laundry list of concerns.

- Ales Hemsky's disappearance, perhaps injury related, and a public outburst of unhappiness

- Shawn Horcoff's continued offensive struggles, perhaps injured, definitely exhausted, most definitely struggling with his confidence

- Tom Gilbert and Sheldon Souray, ridden hard after Lubo's fall, slowly but surely wearing down, becoming mistake prone

- the poor PK, the poor PP, the usual for the latter, this is what cost them the Cup in '06, but the collapse of the once terrific PK still has everyone shaking their heads

- and while Erik Cole tears it up (to be fair he plays with Staal and Ruutu now rather than Moreau and Brodziak) the new kids struggle a little, Kotalik played out of position, O'Sullivan trying to find his way

It goes on and on and only Roloson has kept them anywhere near the race and why would he sign here next year when you can bet that a few contenders with goaltending issues and solid backups to boot will come calling.

A period left tonight, down two and Anaheim is winning and the Blues and Preds have blown by the Oilers and the fans are left wondering what is going on with this team.

They'll be in tenth by the end of the night and here's hoping that Bruce is right or its going to be another disappointing year out of the playoffs. MacTavish will be gone and he won't be the only one.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

We're Going To Eat Like Kings!


One summer back in the salad days a few of my friends from school made the trek up north to spend July 1st in the wilderness, the McLean camp. No electricity, no running water, only boat access. Paradise for a McLean. Or at least some of us. The mental ones.

We would have been twenty one or twenty two, somewhere thereabouts. The lads drove up on a Friday night and met me at a bar on the south end of town which just happened to be our Friday haunt. Sometime after closing we staggered through the door of my parents house and crashed.

Next morning we loaded up on beer and meat, the two staples required for a weekend in the wilderness. The amount of alcohol we brought up was ridiculous. The amount of food nearly as much. I assured my friends that the one thing we could rely on was that we were going to eat like kings.

For some reason I repeated this phrase a number of times. Why, I have no idea. Twenty years later I still haven’t lived it down.

This was one of those trips where nearly everything went wrong from the start. We got to the landing where I realized I had forgotten the keys. Two hours would have been lost going back to town so we went to a nearby cabin and borrowed some snips so we could get the boat unchained from the dock.

Across the water and was lucky enough that we had a spare key hidden behind a log in our cabin so that problem was solved. It soon became clear that one thing I had never done was light the stove as I failed miserably at that. I figured out the fridge though and we had the barbeque so we were ok. That day was spent sitting in chairs in the water drinking beer in the sun and wandering into the sauna, out into the lake, back into the sauna and so on. That night, if I recall correctly, and I may not, we feasted.

And then we ran out of propane on the barbeque.

Now my memory is fuzzy all of these years – like I said I seem to recall dinner the first night but I may even have been wrong there.

And we may have had leftovers for the second day and survived but I may be wrong on that too. I do remember one of my buddies trying to cook bacon on the pipes of the sauna but what day it was floated away on a river of Old Vienna or Ex (beers of choice those days) long ago.

In the end we fled the wilderness and made our way back into town where we hit the Pizza Hut or Pat and Mario’s and ate like five guys in their early twenties who haven’t eaten in nearly twenty four hours would eat. Good thing it wasn’t buffet or they’d be out of business is what I’m saying.

And then we went drinking in town.

The end.

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


You’ll have to excuse Oiler fans for looking at the strips of bacon in their hands and the pipes in front of them and wondering what the hell is going on here. We figured we’d be eating steak and tenderloin and cassoulet and sausage (God I love sausage) and strawberries and butterscotch pie and other kinds of pie (but not cake) and cold beer and red wine and instead we’re getting tripe and the poorly (ironically?) named Superior Lager.

The problem is that last year’s furious finish got hopes up. I am with Ty in his estimation of that club but I’m also with those who looked at the additions of Cole and Visnovsky, another year of experience for the kids and the return of Horcoff, Souray, Moreau and Pisani to full health and figured that they would be in the mix for a playoff spot.

Which they are. I figured 7-10 would be the range and it is.

But its still not satisfying. Its been a weird weird year. MacT has lost me and I won’t bore you with the details because I’ve listed them ad nauseum. The team is flawed but it should be home and cooled, I think. Too many points given away and you can make excuses for this club but the fact is we’re eating Chef Boyardee when we should be eating, like, well, kings. And of course the club and MacT himself trumpeted high expectations from day one so if the natives are restless well you can wonder if maybe some of the Oilers' brain trust might have been a little smarter if they had just kept quiet.


Lets just hope that they get over the hump or we may be talking about this twenty years from now. Believe me, I still hear those words all of the time.


"We're Going To Eat Like Kings!"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Community


Its been a hectic week but it looks like soon we may be returning to our regularly scheduled programming. Brian is not out of the woods yet. He was very very sick last week but he is making progress, very tiny steps each day. Shortterm he is over the hump and while he has a long road ahead of him we are cautiously optimistic.

What has struck me over the past eight days is the outpouring of help from our family and friends and neighbours. From help with the kids to food in the fridge to endless offers of anything we need to a place to stay out East for Jenn and Kate we have been overwhelmed by the generousity of our community.

Its funny because in today’s world we are bombarded with references to a disconnect within our society between people; in some cases you might argue that in many ways people are encouraged to not care about their friends and neighbours. Certainly caring about yourself and yourself only is supposedly in the ascent. We read about something as disgusting as that fucker’s words about Canadian soldiers who are busy getting killed and maimed a world away and we think what kind of world do we live in where someone would say something so ridiculously cruel and stupid.

And yet just as this week has seen such vileness I am here to tell you that the reality is that what I have witnessed this week is likely no different from what happened thirty years ago when my grandfather suffered through months of cancer as he lay dying in a Hamilton hospital. Or what my great grandmother went through after her husband died suddenly in Goulais eighty years ago. Or what has happened in communities the world over for centuries.

People coming together to help those in need. The more things change, well you know the rest.

I sometimes think that written words, especially about times like these, may seem trite but believe me when I say that the words come from the heart. We have been astounded by the outpouring of friendship and love and it has made these tough days a lot less difficult.

And I wanted to say a few words to the people of our own community here in this corner of the internet. Thank you for your wishes of support and your sympathies. They are very much appreciated. Thank you for your thoughts on the beauty of sport. Thank you for sharing your own stories about sports and what they meant to you in your own times of trouble. Some very personal moments there and I was touched that you shared them with us. And mattwatt, I don’t even know what to say. Words fail me. For once.

Tonight I’m going to put my kids to bed and tell them that Mommy is coming home very soon. I’m going to relax with my folks, who have been a rock for us this past week. And just like we did years and years ago when I was just a boy my Dad and I are going to watch some hockey.
Let’s go you Oilers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why It Matters - Being A Fan






I have a very good friend, one of my best friends actually, who loves sports. When we go out to the Communist Bar for pints, which has been rare lately because life is getting in the way, he often talks about how his wife, as well as others, don't get it. They don't understand how he remembers the offensive line of the 1993 Buffalo Bills or can rhyme off the entire roster of the 1976 Sabres, including their hometowns, stats and what the comics on the back of their hockey cards looked like.

Two players waving at another player in his full equipment on waterskis. "In the offseason Stan enjoys waterskiing"

My buddy is a bright fellow, a writer and musician, politically active, helps run a poetry festival. So there are people who can't believe that he is a hockey fan. It doesn't fit they think. I had a girlfriend who marvelled at me for the same reason.

They didn't understand.

I've talked before about what being a fan means and tried to figure out why we do it.

This morning I was reminded of the purest simplest reason.

Its a diversion, an escape, a way to pass a few hours and forget about life.

This past Monday morning my father in law had a massive heart attack out of the blue. He was choppered from PEI to Halifax immediately and underwent three surgeries, one Monday, one Tuesday, one Wednesday.

My wife flew out immediately with the baby, figuring she would be back in a few days. Wednesday night when she called me it was pretty grim.

Since then he has improved and is stable. He's not out of the woods yet and the road to recovery is going to be a long hard bastard but things look brighter.

I've always been lucky when it comes to this sort of thing but this has been a lesson in how life can suddenly turn upside down, scattering your plans and notions of what lies ahead like a whole lot of nothingness. It has also shown us, strangely enough, how lucky we are as our friends and families have rallied around us, stepping in to help with the kids, giving us food and shelter, helping to keep us going in these tough days.

What does this have to do with the Edmonton Oilers? Why does a hockey team matter right now?

In bed at 10:30, urged to do so by my parents who are taking care of my kids while I try and work, at 1am I woke up. Tossed and turned with worry for an hour and finally gave up. Got up and grabbed the laptop and turned it on and checked out the sports page.

8-1 Oilers.

And for a minute I forgot my troubles. I smiled as I read about Gagner's game and Kotalik and Nilsson and Gilbert with another assist, my God he's terrific, and Souray defying us naysayers with another and my favourites, Horcoff and Pisani, each scoring.

Guaranteed to still be in a playoff spot come Saturday morning.

Hanging around. Hanging around.

For a moment (well, more then a moment) I forgot.

That's the beauty of being a fan. Thank you, you Oilers.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kincardine


In 1861 the census in Ontario for the county of Nottawasaga (around Barrie) included a young family headed by a Neil McLean. He was around twenty eight or twenty nine years old at the time, married to Margaret, who was a Bell, born in Ontario, and they had two young sons. The area had a lot of Scottish settlers. The Scots tended to gather in their own communities when they came to Canada and they weren't unique in that regard. Prince Edward Island has a large Lebanese community. Up in Sudbury, especially west of the city, there are many Finlanders, descendants of the hardy loggers and miners who helped settle the north. My own neighbourhood still has the coffee shops and social clubs, the small shops and restaurants of the once predominantly Italian population. Still the men gather for espresso on the sidewalks but they are mostly old and the black clad widows of men long gone can be seen at the small groceries now run by Koreans and Vietnamese. Down the street a bistro run by a couple of Indian heritage. Further along the Portuguese butcher. And so it goes.

So sometime between 1834 and 1855 Neil McLean arrived in Canada and made for a community which included a lot of McLeans already, perhaps some cousins who went before him. And there he met young Margaret (Maggie?) Bell. And its all surmise now but there were many Bells and McLeans back in Islay so perhaps this was the original connection. Or he may have fled the tenement slums of Edinburgh. In any case he left Scotland and came to Canada to make a new life.

I don't know a lot about Neil McLean. He may have come with his own parents as a boy. Or perhaps he sailed as a young man. For me his story starts in 1861, where he appears out of the mist, the father of two young boys, a farmer in Southern Ontario. Who knows what brought him there, how he met his wife, what they looked like?

Ten years later I know that he was now the father of six and another ten years after that, now nearing fifty, he is the father of eight, his youngest, at five, his namesake.

And then they disappear again.

At the turn of the century his youngest son appears. He now is married too and has his own land. He may as well be on the other side of the moon as "The Old Homestead" as our family calls it, is at the mouth of the Goulais River, west of the Soo, on the north shore of Lake Superior. The adjacent land is farmed by his older brother Malcolm, who would live into his nineties and actually be remembered by my father and his brothers and sister, a relic from a long forgotten time. Uncle Mac is in one of the old photos of the old farmhouse, over to the right, a little wiry bald fellow, McLean through and through, looking much younger then his age at the time.

His youngest brother died young and like many families that are long lived, there is shock at his passing, for he is only in his fifties when he dies. His widow sends a letter at his passing, a copy of which I have, and her sorrow is riven with shock. The McLeans are long lived and at his death he is survived by four of his siblings. Of his own six children only the oldest, my grandfather, doesn't see 85 and he does not die of natural causes. The remainder live into their late eighties and nineties and indeed there is still a daughter alive today. Another passed at 98 just a few years back.

In the Goulais cemetery the red pines whisper in the soft breeze that meanders up from Superior. They look down on the headstones of the settlers and their children and their children's children. When I first visited it, three summers ago, I wandered among my kin. There are McLeans everywhere you look and Robinsons and Whelans, my great grandmother's people. There is a plaque in memory of the first settlers, Frederick and Sarah Tilley, who sailed from Kincardine, on the Bruce Peninsula, in 1878. And at the southern end of the cemetery, at the edge of the forest, lay Neil McLean and his wife, Margaret Bell. That's where I found them, for they disappeared, just as three of their children did, from the records that I have so far come across.

I looked down at their crosses, freshly painted, maintained by their descendants and wondered what brought them here. And I thought of my Dad's brother Ray.

St. Patricks' Day is a big day in my uncle's household. He brought his family up as Irish for he slightly misunderstood a part of the story. The Kincardine part. Uncle Ray is a talker, not much of a listener, and the rest of the family isn't much for looking into the past, although my Dad and his siblings always suspected that the truth was that it was the Scottish side of the Irish sea that they originally sailed from. There are McLeans in Ulster though and while one of the previous generation, my great uncle Morley, who was a trapper by profession (and contributed seven more McLeans to the world - sense a trend here?), would argue with his nephew about the family origins, Uncle Ray was never convinced. Kincardine! Kincardine! he would shout. We came from Kincardine he would say, we all know the story, they came from Kincardine.

The day that I told Uncle Ray that he had a touch of Whelan in him but otherwise he had more French and native Canadian in him than Irish was a sad day in that house let me tell you. My cousin turned to me afterwards and said that he found himself a little lost at that point. He had been brought up Irish and had actually been to Ireland a number of times, returning to the old country, as it were. I told him that he might book a flight to Edinburgh. We came from Kincardine alright.

Kincardine, Ontario.

On St. Patrick's Day I always have a glass of stout and usually whip up a wicked Irish stew. I stay home because I hate going out and dealing with all of the damn amateurs in the pubs. But I'll raise a glass to Ireland and the Irish, even the wannabes. I've been a couple of times and its a beautiful country and the people are wonderful. I can drink to that.

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

As for the Oilers these days, well, they seem to be lost in the mist themselves, unsure of where they have come from and certainly unsure of where they are going.

They have just finished a stretch that has left even eternal optimist Bruce looking to slit his wrists and the reality is its hard to argue with his pessimism. The team should be home and cooled out, in my opinion. In September I figured they would be where they are right now but that's if the roster stayed healthy, which they have for the most part.

And they just had a stretch where a nice little run would have resulted in clearance. Instead there was a loss to Ottawa. A blown lead to Montreal where the fourth line was caught out against the Habs' top line. Losses to Atlanta and Colorado. Blown points everywhere. Story of the season.

I'm always willing to give the benefit of the doubt but as has been said here many times with regards to Kevin Lowe, a mistake is a msitake, but many mistakes betrays incompetence.

And so it has been with the coaching this year. One could argue that Smid on LW was one thing or Strudwick playing so much is another but the misuse of Cole and Penner, using Pisani at centre, the collapse of the PK, the stagnant PP, the continuous poor starts and poor efforts, the Moreau penalty situation, the present misuse of Kotalik, the latest idea to play for a shootout rather then trying to win the game in overtime ... it goes on and on.

Craig MacTavish is a good coach but he is having a really really bad year. His club is a flawed one but in my opinion his decisions this season may have cost this club a playoff spot. And that's a shame and its impossible to forgive.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stupid Roadrunner

Was at the Victory Cafe last night with a couple of friends and today I feel like Wile E. Coyote. You know, fallen off of a cliff and now the cliff face has crumbled and so I stagger away onto the road and get hit by a truck and stumble back off of the road and into the falling debris.

Well not that bad. But my eyes are bleeding and I have a nice ring of fire going.

Good times though.

I told a story about a particularly awkward breakup I once went through and it got me to thinking about the whole dating scene. I had a theory once. Seinfeld called it hand. I call it Coyote Love. Its not really so much a theory as a description of how dating often is, the situation where one person is the coyote and one is the roadrunner. Its not always the case, of course, but it was true for me many times. Sometimes I was the coyote. It didn't matter how many times I fell off the cliff, blew up, got run over by a steamroller or shot in the face I always came back for more. And sometimes I was the roadrunner and the poor sap who was doing the chasing, who cared that much more about me then I did about her, was the one who spent all of her money on the shoddy work produced by Acme, all for naught in the end.

I always wondered why Wile E. Coyote, Genius, didn't just go to the grocery store and buy a turkey every day, or better yet, raise them himself. The guy obviously made out pretty well from his inventions. He always had plenty of money. Hell he could have hired someone else to farm the birds and then gotten his thrill at the end of the day by picking one out and cutting its head off.

But of course the answer for Wile E. and for anyone else doing the chasing is the excitement of the chase. Its not a pleasant feeling, knowing that the truth of the matter is that the person that you are head over heels for, in the end, could take you or, more likely, leave you.

As some wag once said:

Its not you, its me. I just don't like you!

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

A lot of coyotes out there these days, cheering for the Oilers as they lurch towards the finish line, trying to eke out a playoff spot. And the Oilers, like many a girl I once pined for, shoot them down without a second glance, blowing leads here and there, getting outchanced and outscored by the dregs of the league, having their fourth line get their doors blown off by the other team's stars. One win to show in their last five games.

And yet they have five points from those games and ten days after they went to Nashville they are not further back, indeed I think they are actually ahead of where they were, and with another ten days off of the schedule and with a game on hand on nearly everyone.

The prevailing feeling is that the Preds and Blues blew their wads, just as the Kings did a month ago, and while they are both still in the mix they aren't going to finish 12 and 3 or anything like that.

What would be great is if the Oilers went on their own little run now but they're too inconsistent, too shallow, too young right now, to get this done but its beginning to look like inconceivably .500 the rest of the way might get it done.

I said a couple of weeks back that if Horcoff hit 20 goals that they would make it and while he's struggling with his confidence (and has all year) he scored last night and should have had one against the Habs. I'll bet he gets there yet. And while he and that bum Ales Hemsky (just below a PPG despite his recent travails) and Souray and Gilbert and Roloson are all running on fumes at this point I think, if they can hang on a little longer and they can continue to get contributions from up and down the lineup as they did this week (Cogliano, Gagner, Pisani, Brodziak, O'Sullivan, Nilsson all scoring) and they can stay healthy on the blue (two big scares this week with Smid and Souray) then come 1am on April 12th we're going to stumble up to the door after a night of revellry and knock and knock again, hoping for some action, and then, instead of hiding behind the couch with all of the lights off, the Oilers are going to open the door, take us in their arms and make sweet love to us until the dawn, leaving us panting and drained and aching on the floor when its all over.

At which point they'll get waxed by the Sharks.

But that's another story. ;)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where Can I Find A Coach Like Hitchcock?

MacT is a friend,
yeah, I know he's been
a good friend of mine (see 2006)
But lately something's changed
that ain't hard to define
MacT's making big mistakes
Yes I think he’s lost his mind

And he's putting out the wrong guys
And he's putting out the fourth line,
At the wrong times
And Strudwick’s on the ice
in the game late,
late at night

You know, I wish that I had the BJs coach,
I wish that I had the BJs coach
Where can I find a coach like Hitchcock

I wonder if MacT is Joe Paterno,
Seems to me that there’s
a reason to change
You know, I feel so dirty
when he benches the same guys
I wanna ask him what about Moreau?,
Shouldn’t he take a seat too?

Because he’s got his whipping boys
And he’s got his favourites too,
I just know it
And he's got Penner
on the bench every single night
Like the BJs coach,
I wish that I had the BJs coach
Where can I find a coach,
where can I find a coach like Hitchcock

And he’s looking in the mirror all the time,
I wonder if he thinks ‘hey whats wrong with me’
Pisani at centre
Laddy Smid on the wing
And what about
Those “special” teams?

Tell me, where can I find a coach like Hitchcock

(Totally awesome Solo where Rick Springfield rocks the house and the women go completely bananas – its true, hard as it is to believe that this guy was the hottest thing back in the day, it seems lame but twenty years from now the kids will look back at what seems cool to us and they will laugh and say what a bunch of losers, its true, we will look back at pictures of ourselves and grimace at what we thought was style, its really strange how that works)

You know, I wish that I had the BJs coach,
I wish that I had the BJS coach
I want the BJs coach,
where can I find a coach like Hitchcock
Like the BJs coach,
I wish that I had the BJs coach,
I want
I want the BJs coach


Monday, March 09, 2009

Here's A Suggestion


Started what looks like what might be a short playoff season for old Capsule on Saturday night.

We’ve had a decent year considering we have a couple of guys on the wrong side of 45 now. We finished tied for sixth out of eight and were a couple of wins out of the top half of the league and other then the first game of the year when we had someone who had never played net before and got throttled we had a chance to win every game that we played.

Not too bad at all.

So Saturday night we faced the defending champs. They’re a quality squad although last year we actually went unbeaten against them in three games (two wins and a tie).

This year we tied them twice (including a 0-0 game which was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever been a part of – seriously) and lost 3-1 in a game where we had a breakaway with the game at ones, failed to score and then they came back down the ice and scored the winner.

We play them tight. We generally outchance them but we have two problems. Their goalie is excellent and they have probably the two best players in the league so when they get chances they tend to bury them. As a matter of fact most of their forwards are pretty good in close whereas we are the opposite. A team of Pisanis as it were. Well, maybe Thoresens would be a better description. We get the puck moving in the right direction but often it makes for a lot of work deep in the other team’s zone with nothing to show for it.

So we hit the ice Saturday knowing we had a tough task but figuring we were up to it. We gave up a fairly early goal but came on strong and probably had the better of the play going into the second period (only two long periods – it’s a weird fucking setup and I have no idea why it is thus).

Now we never have issues with these guys but it was pretty obvious early on that it was playoff time as shit got ugly. I was into the game and a little pissed because off of a draw in our zone they had ended up with their centre in the slot uncovered. I picked him up and of course the puck went to my man at the point and he fires one in and our goalie is screened and now its in the back of the net and we’re down one.

So we’re deep in their zone and pressuring on a power play and the puck is bouncing around the crease and it stops in a bit of a never never land. Its under the goalie’s raised pad so its still fair game and I go digging for it. The whistle blows and I stop but then all hell breaks loose. A Dman gives me a shot and the goalie is in my face and I’m yapping back and then I feel someone drag me out of there (one of my own guys it turns out) and then one of their guys comes up from behind him and begins pawing at me. Meanwhile a general melee has broken out in the crease. One of our longtime vets is in the middle of it. Now he’s calmed down quite a bit since the day five years ago when he was suspended three games for biting a guy but now he’s riled up and he ends up getting held by a linesman just in time for one of their guys to some up behind him and punch him in the had. Hard.

Your sucker punching tough guy gets tossed out of the game and in the end it never got any more deliberate then that but it didn’t stop being chippy. One of our guys took the goalie’s blocker in the head (accidentally) and went down for the count. He was helped off the ice after he did the old Ronnie Francis trying to get up. He took about five minutes off until the cobwebs cleared and then got back out there. And in another collision one of our guys took it on the chin and was cut open nicely in the shape of an upside down T. I bandaged him up on the bench and he didn’t miss a shift, getting knocked down from behind in front of their net later on for his trouble. After the game he had to head to the hospital – likely will be four to six stitches. The guy who hit him from behind got four minutes and took a dirty hit himself at the end of the game from the biter.

Next week should be fun.

As for the hockey well we started pressing early in the second and a couple of mistakes ended up in our net as we hung our goalie out to dry and then a couple more followed and in the end it was 6-1 for the bad guys, our worst defeat all year and not good timing at all. They’re firing on all cylinders and we have a tough task on the coming Sunday. Lose and we’re out.

At least we’re still a couple of years away from getting relegated and we saw the division below us playing in the game before us. At this rate we’ll be playing until we’re sixty.

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

So here’s some advice for Dustin Penner. Get out there and bleed all over somebody. Seriously.

Get some teeth knocked out and then come back and set up an OT winner.

Catch yourself a flu and puke so violently then blood vessels in your already bizarrely coloured eyes pop. But don't miss a game.

Separate not one but two shoulders and keep giving her.

Because here’s the deal.

You’re the best option for this club on LW and all of your underlying numbers are good. Can’t deny it. No matter what anyone says.

You help make the PP go and why you weren’t on it from the get go is beyond me, really.

And this whole showing emotion thing, well that is overrated. I love it when I see guys roaring after a goal, all pumped up, but as long as you score I don’t care if you do a little dance, make a little love or eat another bucket of chicken on the bench to celebrate.

But here’s the deal, pal. You’re the third highest paid player on the team and for all of the nice underlying numbers shit the fact that your coach hates your guts enough to bench you every single game probably has something to do with noted floater and softie Ales Kotalik looking like Gordie Howe compared to you.

He doesn’t have the results that you do but you know the thing is that while I am not a big fan of the coach these days I am kind of with him on this one. I saw you play against the Oilers back in 2006 and you terrified me – a big bull who drove around and often over guys to get to the net.

Now you don’t hit, you’re pushed off the puck easily, you just don’t try that hard. I like results but I think, like MacT, I’m not too pleased when I think the results could be and should be that much more.

So go out there and get yourself nice and carved up against the Habs. Take a stick in the face, spit out a tooth or two and go back to the room to get stitched up and have a root canal. Come back, score a couple, kill Mathieu Schnieder and then beat up Laraque, Carbonneau and the ghost of Howie Morenz for good measure.

I mean if we can bleed a little in a beer league game surely you could for 4.25 a year, no?

Friday, March 06, 2009

My Old Man


This is my Dad two summers ago, when he was just a lad of seventy five.

He's really something.

Some things I can say about my Dad.

I've never heard him make an excuse.

I've never heard him whine about anything.

I've never heard him raise his voice.

He never raised his hand against any of us.

He makes Gary Bettman look like a nattering nabob of negativity.

You could count the number of days of work he missed in his life on one hand and have fingers to spare.

He has built an entire building by himself, right from scratch.

He was scouted by the Red Wings way back in the day. He was a terrific athlete but hockey was his best and favourite sport.

His favourite players growing up were Max Bentley and Stan Musial.

He grew up as the oldest of six. They moved from the Soo to Franz. Franz was in the middle of nowhere. Dad comes from a line of men whose idea of a good time was to get as far away from civilization as possible. He has carried on the tradition.

Dad enjoys life. He's an optimist. He is getting to the age now where he's lost some very good friends. One of his brothers passed nearly five years ago now and this year he lost a sister in law and a good friend to cancer. And yet he carries on. Not much else you can do, he would say. Its going to happen to us all. That doesn't make it easy in any way but its a good reminder to enjoy your time here.

Before you get the wrong idea now Dad isn't one of those guys with little cheerful notes on the fridge or on his keychain exhorting him to seize the day. He's no Type A guy running around with a big smile and a hearty handshake for everyone.

He's just a regular guy who enjoys the hell out of the one life he has. He knows that things can always get worse so there's no use complaining. May as well enjoy yourself and do your best to make things better.

He's an optimist and as a result, so am I.

---------

So even tonight as the Oilers are getting their heads handed to them by the Sens (although Gagner has just scored - btw check this out from Jonathan Willis) and Marty Gerber is shutting out the Caps, I wanted to take a look at the trade deadline.

There's probably no bigger day in the NHL and I think that includes the draft. The serious hockey junkie will follow draft day but even the casual fan is aware of what happens on deadline day. How could they not with wall to wall coverage everywhere that you look.

And you know why? Because of hope, that's why. On deadline day every team can sell hope. The contenders can point to their acquisitions and how these are going to make the difference come the spring or they can point to not doing anything and tell their fans that they are good enough already. Bottom feeders can move UFAs and veterans for kids and draft picks for the future.

And the bubble teams try and negotiate that particular minefield. If they are smart and able then when the day is over their fans are happy.

If you blow the deadline, like Kevin Lowe did two years ago then you can end up with a mess on your hands. If you can't sell hope then you haven't a chance.

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

The Oilers were winners this year at the deadline as they somehow managed to turn 20 games of Erik Cole and a fifth round pick into a nice young player in Patrick O'Sullivan and 20 games of Ales Kotalik. The response to the trade from Sheldon Souray leads me to believe that Cole was a very popular guy with his teammates and Cole's own response was both gracious and revealing; when he was acquired he was happy to come to Edmonton and his last words before he departed were not those of someone who was disgruntled or unhappy with the experience. That's good news.

This trade is bad news for Robert Nilsson and Dustin Penner who are both likely on their way out of town. Nilsson for sure. And it may be bad news for Craig MacTavish as well. This team has been a flawed one from day one but the biggest issue lately has been goal scoring and special teams. With Cole being replaced by not one, but two young guys who can score some, if this team fails to make the playoffs then MacT is going to take the fall.

I mean this team is young but so is Chicago. Right?

Anyways they are still flawed (now adding to this after the Oilers lost to the Sens) but its a work in progress. Right?

Anyways, as for the rest of the league.

I've never been a big fan of Oli Jokinen. He racked up most of his big numbers in the SE and was called a cancer in the room in Florida and in Phoenix (!) but I still think he's a decent acquisition for the Flames. And Leopold is a very good defenceman, I think. A big price to pay for the Finn but this may be the best Flames team in the Sutter era and now is the time to take a chance I would say. They're close to Detroit/San Jose territory and they have a lot of guys who may soon hit the downside of their careers. Better go for it now. They might be first round and out but I think only Detroit and San Jose are better clubs. So why wouldn't you roll the dice? I like Lombardi but I think Jokinen makes them a better club.

Vancouver stood pat but to me Sundin was their acquisition just as the Devils picked up Havelid and the Habs picked up Schneider. I know Gainey got ripped by a lot of people, especially the genius McGuire, but I think he looks at this team and knows that in the end it will be Price's return to form, or lack thereof, that will determine their fate. They are a middle of the road team. The good news is that like Toronto and Vancouver he will have the room to move this summer and he has some nice building blocks in place.

Vancouver though, by signing Burrows to a terrific contract and already adding Sundin, they're a winner.

Chicago, Columbus, Boston and San Jose all added some nice pieces in relatively minor deals.

Phoenix made out very well, picking up a plethora of picks, prospects and players for a backup goalie, a pest with a penchant for taking dummy penalties and two veterans who don't fit in their plans.

And you know who else did a good job? Buffalo. Seriously. This is a club that has shipped out or lost a lot of players the last few years, much like Wild on Jack Lemaire. Just like Backstrom the contract for Connolly was an overpay but the club can afford it, has room under the cap to make it work and has sent a message to the team (who cheered when the signing was announced) and their fans that they will spend money to retain players, even a guy like Connolly, who, like me, hurts himself getting out of bed.

Big losers? The Rangers, who shipped out three young cheap players for Derek Morris. The Antropov pickup was a good one but its becoming pretty clear that Sather may have just been lucky back in the day.

And the NHL, Gary Bettman and the Lightning. I am sure that it will come out that the NHL is bankrolling Tampa just as they are helping out the Yotes; there was talk back before Christmas that Tampa was having a hard time meeting payroll. What I wonder is what other owners think about all of these loopholes that you could drive a Zamboni through (my kids love Zambonis!) in order to qualify for revenue sharing. Buying up your own tickets, selling draft picks, what's next???

Remind my AGAIN why there are teams in these markets?

Even Dad couldn't say anything positive about this mess.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

O'Sullivan




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

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

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

Louis knocks him out.

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

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

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

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

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

A guy like Billy Conn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Trade Me RIght Fucking Now! Sort of Live Blogging


6:40 pm - ok we're pretty happy here; a fifth round pick and 20 games of Cole for 20 games of Kotalik and Patrick O'Sullivan. Another D would have been nice and a backup for Roli but overall this is excellent. Back with more later.

4:16 pm - Also there is talk from Mirtle of Kotalik coming to Edmonton for a second round pick.

I think that there has to be another move to be announced because this team suddenly has a whack of forwards but I may be wrong.

I'm heading home and will come back with more thoughts in a bit.

4:00 pm - I read somewhere earlier that LA was after Justin Williams and they send Patrick O'Sullivan to Carolina for him, but wait ... there's more.

Carolina sends O'Sullivan to Edmonton.

But for who? Or is it whom?

Erik Cole.

And?

3:51 pm - Anaheim throws in the towel. Moen and Huskins to the Sharks.

Pronger likely gone this summer I would say.

Can't believe nothing out of Detroit or Vancouver yet.

3:46 pm - rumours say Cole for Ruutu

A UFA for a pretty decent young player. Good deal if its true. Not sure why Carolina makes it although they certainly sign Cole in the summer.

Maybe the Oilers have to sweeten the pot.

Never have too many Finns.

3:38 pm - Philly picks up some depth on the blueline in Kyle McLaren, the BJs pick up a goalie I've never heard of, Florida and Tampa swap two defencemen who I have heard of before plus a pick and in a nice move the Hawks pick up Sami Pahlsson.

Somewhere in California Earl Sleek weeps.

I'm sure there is more to come. From the Oilers' point of view its good to see that they didn't move (as far as we know) any of their good young talent. Then again considering that there was one first round pick and no real prospects of note moved (correct me if I am wrong) they certainly could have thrown out a fourth round pick and a middling prospect for some help no?

Or does it matter? With Lubo out and Hemsky hurting this team has been just scraping by for weeks now.

3:19 pm - Ok as usually happens the deals come fast and furious at the end. Buffalo picks up Moore from Toronto. Les Sabres might not go anywhere, hell they might not even make it, but you have to like what they've shown their fans.

Remember when Derek Morris was actually expected to be really good? Certainly Sather does as the Yotes pick up Prucha, Dawes and Kalinin for him. I guess Sather didn't get the memo about the Cap maybe going down and the importance of having young cheap players. Wow.

Anaheim picks up Christiensen from Atlanta. Yawn.

Tambellini snuggles in under the covers for his afternoon nap. Hah, just kidding. Tencer reports they've made a deal. Ten bucks says its Pouliot for Marty Reasoner.


2:53 pm - Here we go. The Flyers pick up uberpest Carcillo for Upshall and a second round pick. TSN reports Antropov to the Rangers for a 2nd and a conditional pick.

Steve Tambellini orders a hot chocolate at the Tim Horton's near the hotel. Skating on the Canal was fun but it made his feet cold!

2:35 pm - Pens pick up Guerin for very little. Weird. Thought it was supposed to be a sellers' market but would you rather have Guerin or Antropov? And Burke was hoping for a first.

I still expect a flurry here at the end as the sellers try and get something, anything, for their UFAs but over all other then Calgary nobody has done too much interesting here. The Bruins did well but other then that its pretty meh overall.

1:35 pm - Boston picks up Recchi and a 2nd for a couple of prospects. Nice for the Bruins.

Also the Gerber pickup is explained as Vesa goes on IR.

12:43 pm - Flames are going big all of the way. Lombardi, Prust and a 1st for Jokinen. Looks like Oli is finally going to make the playoffs, although if he didn't now how awesome would that be ;)

I'm not a fan of Jokinen at all but with he, Langkow and Conroy up the middle and Leopold back on the blue the Flames look pretty solid. Of course they could go out in the first round because the West is scary deep but despite the price I agree with Sutter on this one. Iginla, Langkow and Kiprusoff's time is now - what the hell are you going to wait for?

12:25 pm - Here come some housekeeping/depth deals.

Buffalo pick up Tellqvist in the hope that between him and Lalime they can make the playoffs or hold on until Miller returns.

The Leafs pick up Gerber on waivers? Um, why? Nobody would want Joseph or Toskela. Guess we'll find out. Maybe they plan on getting Curtis to hang them up.

Dallas picks up Morrison. Haven't seen him at all although the consensus is he's done.

The Pens pick up former Leaf Andy Wozniewski. He's no good.

Tambellini is spotted skating on the Rideau Canal having a beavertail. Mmmm, good.

11:48am - Flames pick up Leopold and are rumoured to be chasing Jokinen. They're all in. Sutter makes mistakes at times but his club has been at the top (or near it) of the NW for five seasons now and hasn't missed the playoffs once. He must be doing something right.

And he obviously agrees with me that the Wings and Sharks may be had. If they get Jokinen I'm not so sure I would be eager for that Battle of Alberta we're all hoping for.

11:15am - I'm glad I'm not at home watching this on TV. Of course this is the way it always goes. It will heat up.

Kuba and Connelly sign extensions. Saw Connelly a couple of weeks back and the guy's hands are amazing. Of course he is always hurt but the fact is the Sabres can afford to keep him and its only two years. Add in all of the guys they have moved over the years and you can see this is, like the Backstrom signing, one for the fans in may ways.

Bryan Murray is trying to have it both ways, something Tom Benjamin alluded to when they made the Comrie trade. it might work out but Murray probably won't be around for it.

Loser.

10:04 am - And here we go. The BJs deal from a position of strength and move Leclaire and a 2nd to Ottawa for Vermette.

Nice trade for both teams. Sens pick up a decent goalie who is still young and the pick. BJS have Mason so they can move Leclaire. Vermette will do well under Hitchcock. Maybe a slight overpay by the BJs.

I wouldn't want to play the BJS in the playoffs. No way. I think the Oilers let the wrong executive leave.

9:57 am - Having Rogan Josh for lunch. Homemade too. Love Indian food. Never had it until about five years ago. I would eat it every day now if I could. Then I'd die of a heart attack.

So far not a damn thing. As for my predictions, Rachel called this morning and she will not be sleeping with me today. So that's one for ten.

Seriously though I suck at the prediction business. Go back and check. Not bad in the playoffs but other then that ... well, just two weeks ago I was picking LA to be the team the Oilers would be battling for a playoff spot.

One thing I did forget about - the Oilers have 49 contracts which means, I believe, that if they pick up more then one player they will have to move someone out the door.

9:07am - perusing the dailies and Barnes talks about picking up a centre and moving Horcoff to LW. Interesting. Everywhere the talk seems to be the same, don't give up the farm, which is smart. Names like Recchi, Higgins, Afinogenov (with 1 more goal than JF Jacques - why?), not Satan though. Matheson brings up St. Louis. He also brings up Frolov and makes it pretty clear that Penner is going to get moved.

And Bruce Garrioch says the Oilers might move LW Erik Cole.

Quality.

9am - Nothing yet. I have ten bucks that says the Nordiques move Brent Ashton and Tony McKegney for Mike Sillinger though.

8am - Oilers get a point out of Nashville, which is better then nearly every other visit there recently, but again one is left to wonder why Strudwick was out in the overtime and why MacT had the fourth liners out against the Preds' top line twice in the third.

Not too smart.

Meanwhile Jacques waits for his goal to be taken away.

News so far:

Pronger is off the market. Lauren must have put her foot down.

This Gillis guy worries me. Burrows has more goals then every Oiler but Hemsky, plays the toughs, kills penalties and is a grade A agitator and they lock him up for two per over four years. Great deal for the Canucks. I think this guy might know what he's doing.

The Backstrom deal has gotten a lot of flak but the Wild bleed players like nobody else. They had to keep somebody and imo they have nobody to pay over the next few years but Burns and Koivu. So if you're going to be way under the cap anyways and your roster is always made up of kids and the league's flotsom then you may as well overpay a guy to show your fans that you will pay somebody, anybody, to stay in town. I can understand it.

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

Maybe I should say shoot me right fucking now.



As the Oilers tie up the biggest most massive gigantic must win never say die hit the beaches guns a blazing going over the top take no prisoners give no quarter game in humanity's history I have a little Sportsnet Ontario going on and am surprised to see that apparently no team but the Leafs is going to be selling tomorrow.



I have missed their usual "playoff run" like those over the last few years and the wall to wall coverage of those sadsack squads as they attempted to make up thirty point deficits with fifteen games remaining.



It appears that at least one network is going to try and make up for that lapse in coverage on Wednesday.



Help us all.



Anyways Mirtle has his breakdown of contenders, pretenders and sellers; the only quibble I have with it is I would call the Canucks a contender right now.



Its an interesting year. I think that the Sharks and Wings are the favourites but the reality is San Jose has never won a single thing and the Wings' goaltending is iffy so this could be one of those years where anything can happen.



So your contenders see Conklin in net for the defending champs and say 'yeah right' and so they load up and all of the teams scrambling for those extra spots look around and figure if they can get a leg up then they can squeak in and then they look at the defending champs and see Conklin in net and say 'yeah right' and figure hey why not us?



Anyone who couldn't see the Canucks and BJs knocking out SJ and the Wings? And then its wide open.



So we'll see what we get - I'm going to try and keep an eye on things and interject comments here when I can.



Here's a few things I think happen on Wednesday:



1/ All kidding aside the Leafs are going to be huge players. Burke is going to clear the decks. With Armegeddon II coming in two seasons the Torontos are in nice shape already cap wise and will likely work towards clearing as much space possible to take advantage of the dummies who are strapped already.



2/ The Oilers won't move Cole or any other vets. No point as anyone they move they will need to replace. Unless they can move Cole for a very attractive package and then replace him with someone who costs them less then what's the reasoning?



3/ Tambellini will wake up long enough to pick up depth up front and on the back end. We'll call them Jim Dowd and Don Awrey.



4/ Nilsson may have played his last game as an Oiler. They're not paying him almost 2 million to be in and out of the lineup. And they're not paying Penner twice that to lose his job to the boy so expect that he's next, though not until the summer.



5/ All signs point to the Oilers being smart and hanging onto their top youngsters like Gagner, Cogliano, Smid, Peckham and so on. Thank goodness.



6/ Detroit is going to pick up a goalie. (well duh)



7/ There will be one or two big surprises. I'm thinking Philly moves a big name in order to clear space to pick someone up. And a team like St. Louis, on the bubble, buying a big name, we'll call him CFP for short.



8/ The Flames and Canucks will be active buyers. It won't matter in the end but for a day their fans will feel good about themselves. Humour them.



9/ As Matt Fenwick said Jacques Martin will screw it up somehow. He'll trade Bouwmeester to the Oilers for MacIntyre or something and then watch, mouth agape, as Jay signs for ten years at 3 million per just to make a point about Florida's worthlessness as a market.



10/ Rachel McAdam won't sleep with me. Again!

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Biggest Must Win Game Ever (Until Tuesday)


I don't care what they say - March is the cruelest month. We've had a couple of thaws and February is gone and when March comes I always always think that spring is here. Man am I dumb.

Twenty six below today, with the wind mind you, but its still cold.

Fuck's sakes. So here's some Hip and a picture of the lovely Rachel McAdams to remind us of what's to come. The Hip always remind me of the summer. A few years ago, it was early May, one of the first really hot days of the year, I dropped by the Dora Keogh after work for a couple of quick pints and saw Gord Downie holding court. He'd had a few, probably out in the hot sun all afternoon. The bastard. ;)

It will be here before we know it, right? It had better be.

The late great Jim Shakey Hunt was a columnist and sportscaster here in Toronto for many years. He cohosted Primetime Sports with McCown in the early nineties and afterwards was a regular guest.

Hunt was a character, an interesting and funny guy with a million stories, the type of guy who enjoyed life. He would call bullshit when he saw or heard it and when he passed a while back it made me a little bit sad. He was the exact opposite of the "commentators" who we are stuck with today, most of them ex athletes, unwilling or unable to delve any deeper then the conventional wisdom, dull, duller and dullest.

Hunt would write a column every Tuesday for the local Sun, one of the few things worth reading in that rag, and would always start it off with "Some Tuesday morning musings on some of the things that amuse, confuse and even amaze a fellow in the wonderful world of fun and games"

So in that vein a few quick notes on a stupidly bitter cold March Monday.

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

The Oilers pull out a win in the latest 'Must Win Biggest Game of the Season' and get ready for another tomorrow. Badly outchanced by Wild on Jack Lemaire in the third they still got the win and a few things stood out.

Say what you will about Powder but the kid is going to have an NHL career. Likely he will be Pisani Junior and that's okay, isn't it? Two assists, including a beauty on the gamewinner, a pile of icetime and, in case you did not notice, a willingness to go hard into the hard places to go, especially the front of the net. There is a lot to like about the kid. A role player, sure, but one who can do some nice things.

Marc Pouliot has my vote as the guy most likely to go on to a productive NHL career elsewhere. He is frustrating because he had a terrific effort Saturday night and probably next week he will be in the pressbox again, likely deservedly so, but at some point the light is going to go on. Probably in Columbus, Detroit, Jersey, St. Louis or Minnesota if he can find his way to any of those places he will find a coach who can put him into a position to succeed and he will.

I like Zach Stortini.

I am going to miss Roloson when he's done although I bet he is back next year. He's a total cock, I think, but the guy is such a competitor and has given the Oilers the best goaltending they have had since the early days of Tommy Salo, what we older types like to call 'The Salo Days'. I'll never forget the run of '06 when some interviewer asked him what it was like to have success after all of these years of scrabbling (I'm paraphrasing but that was the jist). If the camera had been off Roli would have choked the guy I am sure but he just fixed him with an icy glare and began to rhyme off his accomplishments. If looks could kill buddy would have left in a basket.

Laddy Smid has officially turned the corner I think we can say. In that gong show of a third period he was one of the few Oilers who showed any poise in his own end. The kid has arrived. Watch them trade him now, the dummies.

What drives me crazy sometimes was on full display over the weekend and both times it related to Captain Stick Penalty. On Saturday night Ron MacLean mentioned Matt Fenwick and Tyler Dellow, which was very cool, and then asked Milbury and Hrudey about Ty's post about the last few minutes of the BJs game. First of all kudos to MacLean (if you read Cherry's latest collection of stories you come away with the impression that MacLean is a very very cool guy) but the reply from Hrudey was so disappointing as he defended the move, essentially because Moreau and Pisani had been working hard all game and deserved to be out there.

Last time I checked this wasn't atom hockey. Just an unbelievably blinkered, bland comment - Hrudey has been getting away from what he used to do so well, giving intelligent thoughtful answers to questions. As for Milbury well I think he has found his calling. Sometimes he is over the top but he's a smart guy, first of all, and calls them as he sees them. Saying that he loved Moreau and Pisani as players he still thought the move was not very smart seeing as the idea of the game is TO WIN and it might be a better idea to have a couple of guys who can score out there then a couple of well intentioned pluggers.

The second instance was a column by Dan Barnes. Barnes I generally like but his position on Moreau and his tendency to take ridiculous penalties was, well, about as smart as repeatedly taking stick penalties two hundred feet from your own net. If it was Brodziak, Barnes argued, then repeatedly taking penalties like Moreau would result in a quick trip to the pressbox, but because he is a veteran Moreau has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Now once again I thought the object of this whole exercise is to win and I am less amused then confused as to how Brodziak, because he is a youngster, might be punished but Moreau can escape censure for something that happens over and over and over again and does hurt the team. Its funny because on one side of this issue you have Barnes and MacTavish and Moreau and guys like Marc Crawford who spent all of Saturday night gushing about Moreau and Don Cherry and probably guys like Terry Jones and Kevin Lowe and Jason Gregor. You know - aggressive penalties are easier to kill, right.

We had a game Saturday night and I got slew footed and it just so happened that the guy who did it to me turned right around and dumped the puck into our zone. What I should have done when he skated by me was crosschecked him in the throat but I've calmed with age and so I just knocked him into the boards. Nice and aggressive. I skated over to the box and then came out thirty seconds later as they fired one into our net. Maybe my teammates felt it wasn't aggressive enough although they did feel it was warranted when we dicussed it after the game. Maybe they're just not working hard enough to kill off my penalties.

And on the other side of the coin, well, who is there? I would suspect Ron Wilson who sat Jason Blake earlier this season although he was a veteran player. And maybe Brian Burke who called out other Leaf veterans publically for mediocre play. And Robin Brownlee who remarked on it online. And then just a bunch of us pajama clad threesome having bloggers.

I just don't get what I am missing here. Taking bad penalties repeatedly is one of the things drilled out of you at an early age as a hockey player. We're not talking about the odd overexuberant elbow here. We're talking about a pattern. Oh well.

Having said all of that I'm glad that it sounds like Moreau is ok. I'm no ophthamologist although I work in the industry but getting sent home the next day is probably a good sign unless they just popped that sucker out and replaced it with a marble. Maybe they could give him the Sammy Davis Jr. look. Anyways he's probably fine and that's great news, mostly to assuage my guilt at cracking wise about it (before I knew how serious it was btw - I'm not that big of a dick). When he first went down I figured he had a fatal hemmorhage upon realizing that he hadn't taken a penalty all game.

Oh well, best wishes Ethan. Get well soon.

And finally what can be said about Dustin Penner? Does he go this summer? Well if MacT goes maybe he sticks around but getting bumped to the fourth line repeatedly makes me think that if the coach stays he's a goner and even if the coach goes he might follow him out the door as well. It certainly doesn't bode well for you when you get dropped off the top line for someone half your size and age, especially in The Biggest MUST Win Game Ever Played (Until Tuesday).

If you get a chance check out my contribution to The Score's trade deadline coverage. Its already out of date as one of the guys I figured to be a target looks to be on the move elsewhere and the Blues and Preds' sudden surge takes a couple of other guys out of the mix as well, probably. Still its fun to see the name up there in lights. ;)