Monday, September 27, 2010

Early Returns

Early days for Capsule and the results have been slightly mixed, yet encouraging. Last season was solid, third in the league and a loss in the semis and even the summer season, usually an absolute death march, ended with the lads (I did not play this summer, first time I haven't played summer hockey in nine years) winning some ridiculous number of games at the end of the year, five of their last six or something.

Ridiculous because last summer we did not win one game. Indeed the only game which we even could even say we garnered a point from was our lone playoff game, which we lost in the third overtime. So, yeah, pointless, so to speak.

This winter's club lost two stalwarts from last season and it was a bit worrisome when I heard. Pretty well two of our best players, I always joked that they were among the few men amongst us. Both hulking dudes with the sloping Gordie Howe shoulders and the lack of conscience that comes with having played at a high level, they helped the rest of us, a motley crew (for the most part) of little slow guys, immeasurably. Strangely though it could have been better. They were forwards but our lack of actual defencemen (guys who have always played D and are good at it) forced them to the back end. They did a good job but having two actual Dmen and them up front would have been much better.

So a year later and they are gone and we have added two new guys and they are actual defencemen. Its been a few years since we could send out two pairs of quality D men (the last year we had no converted forwards back there was, not surprisingly, our best year ever) and their addition to the lineup yesterday made a difference. They're both hulking guys who can skate and shoot the puck and play defence and although we lost their debut its better days ahead I think.

The good news so far is that while we are one and two we could easily be three and oh and there is no real reason for panic. We have been missing our top two centres for all three games and actually in our first game we only had seven skaters and on Olympic size ice at that. Lost to the club we knocked from the playoffs last season and it took a last minute goal to do it as well as some unusually shoddy goaltending from our main man who was extremely hungover and probably could have had all three he allowed if he was in form. Definitely two of the three. So no worries from game one, last season we took them out pretty easily when it counted and no reason why this year won't see more of the same if it comes to that.

As for myself well I had a nice year last year and have come into this season as fit as I have been in a decade thanks to a summer of roller blading downtown and back for work. A few minutes into game one and a forecheck causes them to cough it up and I picked it up in the slot and picked the corner and everything. Even kept my eyes open. ;) Later in the game I won a draw back to the Dman and he fired it in and so while we fell a little short it was nice to get to a good start personally. I've had seasons where a couple of goals is all I have gotten so I'll enjoy whatever I come up with.

And then in Saturday's game we kept falling behind as we were let down by our keeper once again, after the game he figured it was the worst he had ever played. A half dozen shots or so and four ended up behind him, three which he would have on any night and the last a howler that was sliding towards our net from the neutral zone, he moved up to fire it up the boards and whiffed and it ended up in the net. We had just come back from two down to tie it so this might have done us in but we came right back and knocked them down and took the game over with three straight and so a victory for the good guys. And at the end of it the other team astounded because in the end they ran out of gas while we did not. This is the new Capsule, back when I joined the club we were soft and dumb and always found a way to fold it up but these past few years its been a lot more grit and a lot more smarts and we've needed it because for most of the guys the legs are deserting them.

For me game two was another nice game as I steamed into the zone on a linechange (hate that Gord Miller term - steamed - sounds like a big heap of shit to me), went to the net, stick on the ice, stick on the ice, stick on the ice, and when the pass came I deflected it in. And in the third, tied up finally, I relieved a Dman of the puck and got it out front to my centre who popped it home for the eventual winner.

After the game one of the guys said I looked I really had some zip - you looked like Steve Schutt out there, flying up and down the wing, he said. Which tells us how old we are. Nearly everyone on our club can reference Steve Shutt no problem.

And then yesterday our second game in two days, facing a club that owned us last year, one of these teams that we should beat but always seem to fall short against. They put away their opportunities, we do not, is what it comes down to and yesterday was the same old for us. We were all over them for good parts of the game and our line generated a lot of chances but they have a solid goalie and we also hit iron twice. Our own goaltending was very good but a couple of big gaffes killed us which was a shame. We started out quickly, first shift we were on them and a midrange shot was tipped in by some old guy from up north who is on the tear of his life right now. I always start quickly, problem is often that big first game is followed by a few months with nothing so for now I'll take it and smile. Thing is I'm getting to the good spots obviously but I've gotten a break or two as well, its a pretty nice run of luck right now for me. Having decent fitness is making a big difference, I've been able to get where I need to be everywhere on the ice and so I've had three nice allround games.

I'd be happier if we three and oh but I'm pretty satisfied with Capsule this season, I think its going to be a good one once we have all hands available. And its great to be back on the ice. Almost forty three and it seems the legs have made a bit of a comeback, which is a good thing because other than that I've never played better then I have the last couple of years. Guts and guile is pretty well all I have left. ;)


Oiler camp is moving along quickly and while its difficult we do have to please remember what Bill said.

Pounding on Canucks' scrubs is better than getting pounded on by Canucks's scrubs but it still remains that they are the scrubs and as Jonathan Willis commented somewhere last night all we need to remember is O'Sullivan's preseason to put a slight damper on the parade route plans. And as I mentioned the other day, what about that Bochenski fellow?

Still far be it from me to take a massive piss, dousing the flames of hope and so I have to admit that the Oilers' business this year, and maybe for a while, is to sell hope, and they certainly look to have a nice dollop of it. And the mainstream guys, not just Oiler hacks, guys like MacKenzie and the Hat, have opined that while the club is going to be shite this season the fact is that these kids are the real deal, preseason or not. Paajarvi put on a show the other night and yesterday it was Eberle and Omark who shone and its the youngest of them, Hall, not surprisingly, who has been a little bit deer in the headlights but he is going to be just fine, we're not talking a JF Jacques peg in a top six hole here. These kids all have some combination of skill or speed or sense or size - they look to be all legit.

And on top of it all, the little dollop of butterscotch on the nipple, just to make that sweetness sweetest, is the fact that the kids getting sent out or who are likely to get sent out, have looked very good as well. We're talking Pitlick and Roy and Marcinin and Hamilton and Martindale. None of them looked like shit. They all looked varying levels of good as is to be hoped for from a collection of teenagers, that is nobody thought they'd blow the doors off but they looked just fine.

And Vande Velde looks to be perhaps the real deal and Petry too and while Hartkinen needs to work on his skating apparently (minor detail right?) he still may be a steal at where they got him.

And one last point, Horcoff, amongst others, has really been flying. He was pretty terrible last year, for varying reasons. If he can put together one of those years he did like 06 or 08 (sans the injury) then maybe we can, for a short time, put an end to the pissing and moaning about the guy. After a good year in terms of development for the kids and Penner and Hemsky signed to reasonable extensions that would be the one thing I really hope for this season. Buddy works like a dog and when healthy he's a damn good player - he deserves it.

Getting down to brass tacks with the roster. Khabibulin survived his first test. If he's healthy then either ADD or DD are gone. Peckham has been good enough to stave off Belle and Petoit, imo. And Reddox looks to be in the mix for the top fourteen forwards and maybe, just maybe, he can sneak by Jones into that opening night lineup. Jones seems to be the guy with the bad mojo this fall. Can't see Omark making it, despite the flourish last night, unless they decide to park him in the PB or the fourth line and that doesn't make sense to me.

And meanwhile, btw, old friend Fernando Pisani is getting nice reviews from Chicago fans who like what they see. Good for him.

Anyhow I still have not backtracked from my thoughts on this club. They are going to be bad. But there are going to be a lot of fun nights and it may be that we are going to get a glimpse of a bright future. Lets hope so.


Bruce said...

And on top of it all, the little dollop of butterscotch on the nipple, just to make that sweetness sweetest

You have a way with words, my friend.

I saw Hall live Thursday and on the tube last night and I agree about the deer-headlights analogy, except ... 3 or 4 or 5 times in each game the guy started with nothing and poof! just like that there was a dangerous play somewhere in the vicinity of the other guy's net. The kid is loaded with strong moves, to the inside mostly. They're not all going to fool NHL defencemen (and we haven't seen many of those to date anyway) but his instincts are deadly.

When it comes to the Oilers I have one hopeful eye and one cynical one, but I think they're both seeing the same thing. What remains to be seen is how Taylor holds up physically to NHL-style pounding. And about all we can do about that is hold our breath.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, you also have a way with words :-) '...I have one hopeful eye and one cynical one, but I think they're both seeing the same thing.'

Very happy for Pisani, he's always going to have a home in my hockey heart.

I am so ready for this season, with hope and patience.

The Elephant Man said...


"Ya, uh, three cheeseburgers, two large fries, two chocolate shakes, one large coke, and some flapjacks. Too early for flapjacks?" B.Murray

Well yeah, it may be to early for flapjacks but damn if I am not excited.

These last 3 years of navigating the Canuck Ocean in a tire tube, myself and a few other expats tether together at "man-camp" to watch our Oilers. This year, we've not yet gathered but after "the hat-trick", I got a one-word text, "FUN". It was fun, like 2 AM flapjacks, it was fun.

I know it will be another long year but in my heart of heats, when "man-camp" is in full swing, I am going to wish for "the hat-trick". I won’t waste it on the playoffs because, yes, it's probably too early.

Black Dog said...

Thanks Bruce

And yes I think Hall will be fine once he gets used to the pace and all of that. Its a big big jump.

I think we're all in agreement here so far anyway. Its going to be a bumpy road this season but hopefully the club will be entertaining and show promise. The last couple of years have really been awful. Dull hockey and a poor team.

Ribs said...

You also have to remember that Hall looks like a deer in the headlights even when he's off the ice.

It's good to hear your hockey season is off to a solid start. I wish I could say the same for mine. I bunged my knee up playing street hockey this summer and so I'm not in the best shape and the knee still burns, pops, and twinges, when I try to put on the jets. MRI pending...ugh. First game is Sunday and I think it may determine if I'm playing the season out *crosses fingers*. The new blood on our team has finally shown up and now I don't know if I'll be playing or not. Frustrating to say the least.

Brad said...

Here is all I want from this season: A reason to buy the last 2 months of Center Ice package to watch the boys contend for 8th or 7th. That's it. Just make it look like they have a shot and I'll fork out the bucks for it.

Black Dog said...

Ribs - yeah plus he has the big noggin and giant teeth - I have commented on that before, I think I need to write a post - there are a ton of hockey players and athletes who have that look. Weird.

Drag about your knee, I hope its nothing serious. My wife blew her ankle up this summer playing soccer. She's back at it but hated being on the shelf for three months basically. I don't worry about it but its in the back of my mind sometimes. Fellow across the street is starting to break down, he's had a whack of knee issues.

Brad - I want three things - the kids to get better through the year, Hemsky and Penner on reasonable extensions and Horcoff to rebound. Next season I'll start hoping for a return to the playoffs

spOILer said...

The Hall thing is curious. He does have a bit of a stunned look, then he opens his mouth and he's so earnest.

Hall, by my eye, has been trying to anticipate where his linemates are going to be and has guessed wrong a few times, and hesitated too long a few times. Nothing major. He hasn't had much of a chance to learn a line, much less the increase in average speed and size from his last league. He hasn't shied away from the tough path at all this pre-season. But sure, he probably has to be star-struck to some degree.

It's a heckuva thing to be going through as an eighteen year old; the kid has been admirable throughout.

And like Bruce says the kid can make stuff out of nothing.

My belief has always been you don't get better unless you play people better than you. You can't learn everything from an authority or mentor. I've always sought out better opponents. Can learn so much and develops one's will too, facing others with a stronger competitive drive.

Now when the opponent is too much, too big of a step up, obviously there's a lot less value and perhaps damage can be done.

That doesn't yet appear to be the case with Hall, but we ain't playing for realsies yet.

spOILer said...

The thing about Paajarvi is that he's faced this level of net-minding for two years already. And defence to a certain degree too. Neither of the other two Musketeers can say that.

There's a good chance that he'll be ripping the cover off the ball at a very young age.

Black Dog said...

spOILer - Omark too, in terms of the level of competition he has faced, has to be ahead of the kids, I have no doubt that if all things were equal (icetime, opportunity) he might have the best year of the four which he should really, he is th eoldest and most experience. Longterm though ....

But of the big three the Swede is probably most ready.

It will be interesting to see how Hall does. He has the raw talent and the enthusiasm, I suspect he will get by on that for quite a while and that the mistakes will be plentiful but I suspect as the season wears on he will improve.

spOILer said...

I wish there was a spot for Omark on this roster. I think I would enjoy watching him. But I do worry that he's a Nilsson type (bring it only when he wants to.

Black Dog said...

I think Omark has more drive than Rowbert, I think is big issue is whether or not he is coachable, I think his big issue is that he is a turnover machine.

I think he has guts and he's motivated.