Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Red Mist

Had our first playoff game last night with good old Capsule, emphasis on old.

Actually a tale of two seasons this winter. Two thirds of the way through we were languishing a couple of games under .500. We'd missed one of our top players who was out with ankle surgery for the first part of the season and we had attendance issues with a couple of other quality guys and on top of that our leading scorer from last season had been in a season long funk which saw him way down the scoring list on our team, this from a guy who had been near the top of the league last season. In every game we lost we seemed to just come up a little short and while we had been writing it off to puck luck it was becoming a little scary and we began to think that it might just be us not being very good.

And then suddenly things turned around. We began to score and we tightened up on the back end and we began to win. Game after game ended up in the right column for the good guys and we began to climb the standings. Part of it was that our aforementioned missing in action go to guy got a couple of bounces and suddenly he started to score again but then again when he went down with a broken hand we didn't miss a beat and so we won seven games in a row, jumping over three clubs to end up third, four points out of top spot.

Our reward? A first round series against a club that had our number all year, a big fast group of kids who push the rulebook as far as they can. And so last night it began and as happens in beer league hockey we were short a couple of guys who bring a lot of quality to the equation. The great equalizer for us - their goaltending is questionable. So halfway through the game we were up one on an awful goal and we were doing alright. There was plenty of contact and quite a bit of stickwork as they did everything they could to keep us away from their Achilles heel and while the refs didn't put the whistles away entirely tempers were starting to fray with all of the rough stuff. We didn't back down though, we kept at it.

They had a heavy push and they equalled things and then they went ahead and for a while we were on our heels and things weren't looking good. They had a big rangy kid centre who gave us fits, one of these guys who can stickhandle in a phonebooth, he kept coming with speed and we were just hanging on, old legs tiring.

And then it happened. We used to be a team that folded, a team that didn't push back, a team that could be cowed. This changed a few years back and the new Capsule has showed up a few times this season. And last night they showed up again. We began to get the puck deep and suddenly they were reeling from the pressure and then it was even.

And then their star, their cocky young hero, picked up a puck deep in their zone as they changed. He came from behind the net and instead of chipping it out he tried to beat our forechecker. The puck skittered into the corner and he retrieved it and reversed it around the net, as he began to charge out of his zone he was cut off again and this time instead of chipping it out he chose to turn again and rag the puck back into his own zone, swerving this way and that, the picture of youthful arrogance.

I was at the blueline watching this display, seething, staying high, waiting for the inevitable turn up ice or the breakout pass, when suddenly a white jersey rushed by me and into the zone. We have a feisty wiry little winger, the oldest guy on our team, a guy who gets into the dirty places in every game, a kamikase of a player. He had been pressed into service on the blue tonight and yet here he was tearing by me in a tie game as our bench went mental, screaming at him to get back. I dropped back to cover and watched as he hurled himself at the kid stickhandler who turned and went behind his own net, chased by our terrier forechecker.

And then one last time he reversed, fancy dan, right into our man, who plucked the puck from him, whipped out front and stuffed it by their startled goalie. As we roared the other club was stunned and your kid bravado cursed and whipped his stick across the ice into the boards.

Their next rush died in the corner of our zone and we charged up ice and they fished the puck out of their net again and minutes later our line went down to shut the door and we cleared our zone and forced them in their end and sealed it with an empty netter.

Ugliness would follow. The game ending, their goat ran into our goalie and it all erupted. Our man between the pipes is a terrific guy, finest kind, a cancer survivor, one of those guys of whom a bad word has never been even whispered. We came in to exact our pound of flesh and amongst the pushing and shoving and cursing our opponent, tough guy, brought his stick down over a helmet and then it really went crazy. My stick shattered on someone (it was dying anyway with that twangy echo) when I moved in to crosscheck the object of my rage and as the refs and convenor tried to separate guys I found myself with arms pinned in a scrum, thrusting at my opponent's groin with what was left of my stick.

Luckily for him and especially for me I was essentially immobilized. My jabs were nothing more than feeble waves, amounting to nothing.

And just as suddenly they were off of the ice and we were shaking hands with the two players on their team who lined up at centre. Pats on the back and best wishes.

Next week we play them again. This could get awful. Stupidity reigns.


The Oilers are playing out the string, six points back of Toronto with eighteen games left to play. Even without the head start I'm thinking the Leafs are in good shape to leave the Oilers in their dust. They've been gutted up front but with Giguere in net and a pretty solid D they're in a situation where they don't need to score too much anyways.

The Edmontons on the other hand have traded three of their top six D and have two more out for the season with injury. Its Gilbert and Whitney and then Strudwick on the depth chart on the back end and a popgun offence and crappy goaltending to boot. It would take a collapse of immense proportions by the Leafs to come back to the Oilers.

And as an aside I will actually be at the ACC next Saturday to witness the two worst teams in the league. A full report will follow the game and for the first time I may actually be cheering for the Leafs. I'm hoping that they pick up a few more points on Edmonton this week so I don't have to be a Judas. I don't know if I can bring myself to it.

Its been an awful year for the Oilers and really a pretty poor four years for the club. I've railed about management long enough and I'm quite simply tired of it. I can't believe that Katz is going to trust the guys who fucked this up to fix their mess. It reminds me of these guys in the banks and investment firms getting their huge bonuses after bringing their companies and the American economy to their knees. A better move would be tailor made hamburger suits and a pit full of wolverines but hey, who am I to say?

In any case it should be Hall or Seguin this June (let me just say that either would be fine but all things being equal if I had a choice I would take the centre) and that's a start. I'm sure we'll see another wave of kids next season, which may not be such a wise move, but they're going to try and sell hope after all.

And it will likely be another long and awful year.


So what am I asking for? Something that we've barely seen since that beauty run in 2006, something that used to be a trait of the Edmonton Oilers, something that has disappeared in these past few seasons.

Some passion. Some heart. Some anger. Some rage if need be. None of this passive losing, this rolling over as teams push them around.

Do something! Anything! Just show that you care. The only thing worse than being bad is being bad and boring and heartless.

End of rant.


andy grabia said...

I watched the Kings play the Habs last night, and have decided they're my team for the playoffs. Smytty, Stoll, even Greene looked good. And I loved watching Simmonds play. Was he ever actually on the table for a trade, or was that just wishful thinking by commenters? I'd gladly give up two of our fifteen 3rd round picks for that kid.

Black Dog said...

Wishful thinking I'd say Andy. Every time I have seen the Kings play he has stood out. Good young cheap player. To get him you'd need to give up serious quality, not our overpriced dregs.

andy grabia said...

Figures. Lombardi seems too smart for that.

I actually thought about buying a Smytty Kings jersey today. The Oilers would probably send someone over and lock me in my basement until I took it off, though. Or block my driveway with a Zamboni.

mc79hockey said...

Yikes. Tempers are short in the DMHL these days.

Pete. said...

The only thing worse than being bad is being bad and boring and heartless.

Yes! Well put! I almost certainly won't watch another game this season, not because the team sucks, but because for the fourth consecutive season they suck, and each year's edition of the Oilers seem to care even less than the team of the year before. No identity past passive, lazy incompetence, nothing to like, and only an ever-diminishing half-handful of players worth cheering for.

Jordan said...

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Oilers seem to be playing hockey.

Some fool young goalie prospect seems to think he's some kind of NHL goalie - out-duelled Brodeur in net last night.

I think this team will be anything but boring and heartless for the rest of the season.

Likely to be giving us all palpitations about our draft position though...

Verification word: grets

spOILer said...

A full report will follow the game and for the first time I may actually be cheering for the Leafs. I'm hoping that they pick up a few more points on Edmonton this week so I don't have to be a Judas. I don't know if I can bring myself to it.

Take Tyler. He can bring yourself to do it.

mc79hockey said...

I think I'll be there too Pat! I've got a playoff game at 10:30 (assuming my discussions with the commish limited my suspension to 1 game). You in the fancy seats again? Rafters for me.

Black Dog said...

yeah Ty, we'll be hobnobbing with the hoi polloi and their 40 dollar sandwiches. I'll fit right in. ;)

I've really seen very few games recently so I am looking forward to seeing some of the new faces. Low expectations though.

Doogie2K said...

So wait, Tyler gets into a fight in one game, Pat and his team get into a line brawl in another...what the hell is going on with beer league hockey in Toronto? In my dad's league, half the time guys were laying on the ice from exhaustion and too many beers and smokes halfway through the second.

Black Dog said...

Can't speak for Ty but in our case there were too many young guys on the other team. I spend half my time on the ice asking the dummies where the scouts are that they are trying so hard to impress.

They act dumb and then we oldsters get our blood up.

Doogie2K said...

We very seldom saw that in Dad's league. Those young guys tended to get ostracized pretty quickly.

Black Dog said...

yeah we have teams full of them so it makes it tough unless the convenor comes down on them

a buddy plays in a league where they swap all of the players around every year so after a couple of years you know everyone

cuts down on the bullshit quotient entirely

Bruce said...

Some passion. Some heart. Some anger. Some rage if need be. None of this passive losing, this rolling over as teams push them around.

Pat, do you suppose that's what the "goat" thought he was doing? It's a fine line.

That said, I entirely agree with you. The Oilers I have time for these days are the few that show any edge whatsoever, Zorg and Brule and Cogliano some nights and JDD others, and esp. my new fave defence pair of Johnson and Peckham who may not be very good but sure bring what they got and back down to nobody.

Overall, though, this team has never recovered its in-your-face-ness since the say Smytty left town.

Black Dog said...

yeah Bruce, once Smyth and Smith left it was all downhill. They've shown flashes but not much.

As for our game, naw, I think he was pissed because they had us on the ropes, then we tied it and then he committed the mistake that did them in. I think it was just petulance on his part. If anything he created some anger on our side which is a hard thing to do with our old gang. We're pretty easy going.

Bruce said...

Uh, OK, I guess I can expand my defintion of "easy going" to include "tried to spear a guy in the groin with a broken stick". It's a bit of a stretch, though. :)

You're right of course to include Gator in the firm of Smyth & Smith, but the way the team crashed after that trade deadline and before Gator left, to me the touchstone event was the loss of Cryin' Ryan. The club has not been consistently competitive in either sense of the word since then.

Peckham had his best game as an Oiler last night and so did Johnson and what do you know but it was a real fun game to watch with the Oil unlucky not to win it. But at least they were battling, which in my books is the bare minimum expectation.

Black Dog said...

Bruce - yeah you're on the money with the idea of Smyth's move as THE event I think.

Looking forward to tonight and seeing the new guys play. I'm a Peckham fan and am glad to hear that he has been doing well.

Um. Yeah. Easy going until pushed over the edge, maybe? ;)