Saturday, October 09, 2010

Paradise City




The boy is a geography savant. The other day my wife walked in on him and he had an atlas and a globe and he was using one as a reference to figure out a point about the other. He likes to study the atlas (or as he calls it 'the antlas' to which my eldest says 'Atlas! Atlas! Its not antlas like you always say!) on car trips and will announce random facts like 'Malawi is in Africa' and 'Slovakia is beside Hungary' to which I will nod (I know my geography) and my wife will look confused (she does not).

So for his birthday (his fifth) I took the baby out this morning on a little roadtrip downtown to get him an enormous (252 pieces) floor mat puzzle which will likely cover a good part of our basement. Friends of ours have it and one day we were over we spent an hour putting it together. The boy loved it so I'm thinking he'll be pretty happy Wednesday evening.

We're driving home along the lake and then I jog up to Queen Street, perhaps my favourite Toronto street, there's just so many different parts to it, from the trendy Queen West to the down on its heels neighbourhood around Moss Park, through old Corktown (and a favourite old hotel, the Dominion on Queen), over the river and into gentrifying Leslieville and its bistros and shiny new pubs side by pawn shops and crackhouses, its a beautiful weekend here, since late March the weather here has just been ridiculous, its been terrific, sunny and warm, and so I wanted to take my time, just meander along, look at the shiny happy people out enjoying what may be the last amazing weekend of the year (God lets hope not but you never know).

The window is down and my youngest is chattering away happily in the back and all of a sudden I hear the beginning of a familiar song and I crank it up.

Back in the day (I find myself saying this more and more these days) Guns and Roses was the shit, just a fantastic band, playing that rock and roll music, driving, thrashing, wailing beautiful rock and roll music. Just a great great band.

The thing about GNR was that they were truly rock and roll through and through. The band was fractious and musicians came and went. When it came to partying they absolutely did not fuck around and they were notorious for being unreliable as a live act, arriving late, storming off of the stage, shouting abuse at their fans, this was mostly Axl Rose, the lead singer, a brilliant talent and total fuck up.

They stormed onto the stage, held our eye and then, as is recommended for the rock and roll band, burned out before they faded away.

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The Oilers are a young hockey team and there's going to be an awful lot of bad this season but Thursday night showed us that there are going to be some fun moments as well. Lowetide asked if this was the best regular season game in recent memory - personally I'm on board for the comeback win over Columbus last season when Penner and Hemsky went on a rampage but the thing is while that was the highlight of another dreary Oiler season I would say that the season opener is a sign of things to come. We're going to see a lot of wonderful individual moments as well as more than a few quality outings by the club as a whole. Anyhow I had jury duty for a couple of days this week and here is something I wrote on Thursday morning while I was sitting around saving democracy:

The new season is upon us and what can we expect? Well this club needs a lot to go right just to be competitive. They need Horcoff, Hemsky and Khabibulin to remain healthy and produce some serious results. They need Whitney and Gilbert to step up and be a true top pairing and they need Smid and Foster to step up and become a true second pairing. They need Penner to replicate his wonderful season. They need Brule, Gagner and Cogliano to all take steps forward, probably big steps. They need three raw rookies to hold their own, somehow, in a lineup where they haven’t the veteran support to shelter them.

That is a lot of things they need to break the right way for this club just to hold their own and my guess is with this defence and goaltending this club is not going to be able to do that. When Hall and Paajarvi and Eberle make the inevitable mistakes in their own end their opponents are probably going to capitalize. A lot.

Tambellini had a reasonable summer considering this is a teardown. He got rid of a lot of deadweight and didn’t take on any stupid contracts. Its easier to break it down than to build it back up though and honestly I don’t think Tambellini has what it takes. He’s been in management for years and he still makes mistakes that are headscratchers, the latest being the three goaltender situation. Its unacceptable and really what would be best for this club is if Tambellini and Lowe were dumped sooner rather than later. Of course being in a rebuild they really do have plenty of rope and it may not be until this cluster goes nowhere that Katz may see the light. I hope I am wrong but what is about to be five years out of the playoffs, four of those basically as a cap team, has made me a little bit jaded. If I were in a car and the driver put it into the ditch for no reason other than he is an incompetent you better bet that when we get back in the car he isn’t driving.

But that is what’s happening here.

Anyhow some predictions for this season.

1/ Khabibulin will play about twenty five games, tops.

2/ Whitney and Gilbert will play top pairing minutes and they will do well. Gilbert has been playing the toughs for years for this shitshow and generally survives. They will be okay. Gilbert will still get booed because a lot of fans are stupid.

3/ Smid and Foster will struggle in their role and Smid will get hurt. (I know, I know, going out on a limb)

4/ One of Gagner, Brule and Cogliano will have a big year, probably the one who plays with Penner most. ;)

5/ Cogliano will bounce back and have a good year offensively at least.

6/ If Horcoff stays healthy he will have his best year since 2008. He will still get booed because a lot of fans are stupid.

7/ Hemsky will tear it up. A lot of fans will still think it’s a great idea to trade him.

8/ Omark will get his shot soon and he will give a lot back but will do well offensively.

9/ Vande Velde will supplant Fraser by the end of the season.

10/ Eberle will be the best allround rookie but Paajarvi will get most of the glory this year.

Bonus – they will be a lottery team. Guaranteed. The back end and the goaltending is just that bad.

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Guaranteed! Haha. Anyhow I hope I am wrong. I've had folks drop by here and take shots at me for being negative, of course anyone who has been around for a while knows I am one of the most positive folks there is. Its my nature. But Oilers' management has been poor and the club has missed the playoffs for four years straight and so yeah I am skeptical. I'd love to eat crow on this, believe me.

Look, I loved the game on Thursday. I just sat here and enjoyed it. Calgary is beaten up and they may not be much of a club anyhow but I don't give a damn. A win is a win and as a fan of the Edmonton Oilers I will take any win I can get. I'm thinking there are going to be a lot of tough nights this season but there are a lot of mediocre clubs in the NHL and I'll tell you what - those three kids did not look out of place at all and that was a lovely sight.

Hall looked a little out of place in preseason but he had a nice game on Thursday. He can really wheel and he has nice offensive instincts. A perfectly fine debut. And of course what can one say about Eberle? The kid had a game to remember. Besides the goal (and the fact that it was A1 douchebag Ian White who will be in the frame when this is played for the next fifty years makes it so so sweet) what I noticed about him was that he kept up just fine, he has unbelievable hand eye, picking pucks out of the air like nothing, and his feel for the game is pretty damn good in his own end. For one game at least.

Paajarvi didn't get the highlight reel goal but he was first man back on his line all night and had that head on a swivel on the backcheck. That, for me, was a reassuring sight.

Other thoughts:

Horcoff looked terrific. One play that stuck with me - late in the third the puck ended up in the corner off of the draw and he easily beat the winger and dman to it, looking like the puckhawk of old, just a real hustle play. I really hope that the new captain has an outstanding year, for all of the flack he takes nobody works his bag off like number ten.

Both the Horcoff line and the Gagner line outchanced the Flames and really did a number on them. Quality. The Cogliano line did very little at ES and a few of those firedrill shifts in the second saw them being the ones penned in. Hopefully they will get better but it was not a great game for them, even with Brule's goal. Cogliano's work on the draw was solid though so that's a nice thing to point out.

I liked Ryan Jones but Fraser, a guy who I really want to like, didn't impress me much. I've said it and I will say it again, I can see Vande Velde taking his job before season's end.

On the back end well they did a fine job against a pretty punchless team. Gilbert was terrific. Whitney was very good. I really liked Smid's game, he was aggressive and he kept it simple. His hit on Hagman was more of what this club needs. I think the whole goon thing is overrated although MacIntyre's KO was impressive. People forget that MacIntyre was on this roster two years ago and part of last year and guys were getting run all over the place. A guy like Reghyr isn't worried about MacIntyre and Glencross was bumping Khabibulin all night. You want to hold your own physically? Have Smid and Peckham knock guys around like they did Thursday night. Have Penner knock Reghyr on his can. Have Paajarvi get right back up after getting knocked down. Have Hemsky outmuscle Iginla for a loose puck. That was more reassuring to me than the knockout punch, impressive as it was.

A guy who really had a nice game was Theo Peckham. Other than the pass that was three feet behind his man (he had too much time that time) he had a fine outing. Physical, kept it simple, short crisp passes. He's going to have his tough nights but for one game at least he showed that he might have what it takes.

I think the weak link for this club is the blue and the goaltending but for one night at least it did not prove to be the case. Khabibulin looked awfully shaky for me for a lot of the game although he looked a little more comfortable as the game wore on. Hopefully its just all of that rust. This club really needs him to stay healthy and to be a difference maker in a positive way if it wants to be competitive. If he is poor or if he gets hurt that they are well and truly fucked.

What's funny about this club is that their October schedule is all sweetness and light. Despite their flaws they can come out of this month with a quality record that could very well be legitimate. They have the injury riddled Flames twice more, the Wild twice, the BJs and the Panthers. They should come out of those games with a pretty good record I would think, that's a pretty mediocre slate. Of course they also have the Sharks and end the month with Chicago and then November looks like it might be pretty awful - Chicago twice, the Sharks again, the Wings twice, the Canucks, the Devils.

We'll not think about that though, right? One game at a time. Here's looking at what hopefully will be a nice game against what should be another lottery club, the Panthers. To quote, well, any hockey player, one game at a time. We're going to have our train wrecks this season but hopefully Thursday has shown us that there will be nights that this band will make beautiful music.

22 comments:

hunter1909 said...

As one of the younger witnesses to the dynasty, I can state unequivocally that it was the best regular season Oilers team perfomance I've seen since Messier was in town.

It's like the 2006 Penguins or Capitals - a young, exciting hockey team.

Sure they're not winning the cup this year, but since I already put my head in the noose and predicted 6th in the West, I'll happily stick to my guns and feel like a genius if it happens to pan out.

Slats will be happy - now he can dream about restocking his Rangers with some of these young Oilers, lol.

Peckham is going to be really good - he's so tough it's already causing the opposition to give him extra space and time with the puck - which considering his skills aren't exactly Bobby Orr like is a good thing.

Anyway, even if they totally collapse, the Flames fans have just spent the most miserable 48 hours of their lives - plus, they're going to be showing that Eberle goal all season long. And even worse, Phaneuf might turn out to be a brilliant captain for the Leafs.

Swabbubba said...

GnR was the shit. I had few cold ones with Slash & Duff in the bar across the street for Rexall. It was strip joint their 1st tour. Axl showed up little later on.
The Kids are alright you know I think even we may be in for a rough road I can see them playing old time Oilers hockey. Firewagon hockey... eff the trap.. Welcome to the Jungle... do u know where u are. I can see we get one play a game that show the promise. I want a year of an entire team playing not just bits and pieces. Like I said I am cool that we did not get swept by the Lames... that would been too much. I know the Lames have injuries but I see what is on the shelf I say it does add up to game changers.
Go Oil... the stuff on TSN about Eberle 1st goal reminded me of Boys on the Bus stuff.

Coach pb9617 said...

Paajarvi didn't get the highlight reel goal but he was first man back on his line all night and had that head on a swivel on the backcheck. That, for me, was a reassuring sight.

Except that he was the best defensive player on that line.

Pete. said...

Except that he was the best defensive player on that line.

Ha ha, yeah. Well.

Look to the future, I guess.

I've stopped drinking for the duration of the season (crapped out on the quitting smoking; it's a lot harder), so I'm hoping the starry-eyed optimists have it right for once. You can't watch a season like the last few sober; it's inhuman.

I'm sort of excited about the game, though. It's a strange, unfamiliar, nostalgic feeling. Will listen to Appetite at some point today to further reawaken youthful feelings long dormant.

macaotim said...

Dog,

The best thing about the Eberle goal is where he started from in his own zone. He was in our crease defending with his stick behind hobbibooz-whatever and ended up crumpled in a heap behind the fLames net. That's pretty good shit if you ask me. Not nearly as impressive if he would have been hanging out at our blue line!!!

Black Dog said...

Two wins now but G2 was certainly not up there with G1.

Hunter - lol, your enthusiasm is infectious. Well something you have is infectious anyhow. ;) You could certainly crow if your prediction comes true but last night showed they have a long long way to go still. And as coach pointed out they just don't have the horses. Paajarvi was the best player on his line again last night. That's not good. These guys are going to get eaten alive when they start playing tougher clubs.

Pete - quit drinking? man, I have to say, as an exsmoker, that I couldn't even imagine. Love it too much.

Black Dog said...

Tim - Eberle has been really really good. Good on the PK, good in his own zone, good in the neutral zone. Hes the oldest of the three so you would hope for that but I liked Hall last night too. Chipping it out, getting it deep. He's playing it smart.

And as Hunter said Peckham has looked fine as well. Got caught looking at the puck on Marty's second goal last night but overall he's done well.

hunter1909 said...

LMAO we're talking about the Western Conference Number one team here.

Oilers have looked great in both of theor games.

Sucks to be a pussy whipped Oilers fan, grovelling in the dust before the other less sad ones.

The team is playing excellent defence, hammered the flames into the ice, hello? what do we expect from this team hahahaha

hunter1909 said...

I would happily trade a 2-8 start with the first game alone - Flames fans already realising the eberle goal will be getting shown the rest of the season lol

Their 2-0 record?

My position is simple: They should win every goddamned game.

Until they lose of course, then rationalisation central kicks in.

Black Dog: Why not get the house a puppy to go with the kitten? Jesus Christ, you spund like you're living the very last human being lifestyle, and in the belly of the proverbial(Canadian) beast,.

Oiler Mag said...

here is something I wrote on Thursday morning while I was sitting around saving democracy

What a wonderful turn of phrase you have Mr McLean

Black Dog said...

thanks Oiler Mag

Hunter - lol, well I watched Sunday's game and they were pretty shitty but they won and a win is a win, I'm not complaining about it.

Kitty is going to be lucky to get through the week, had me up at 5:30 this morning.

Darren said...

BD- I don't think you have been the most positive guy around in the last 4 years actually. That title belongs to anyone from the MSM.

Not that I blame you of course.

hunter1909 said...

I thought the Oilers played good positional hockey in their last game.

They're not going to be able to whip everyone like the Flames :)

Something the separates good teams from bad is winning - Oilers looked like a team trying to learn how to win the last game, which I'll take in a month of Sundays over the old MacT uptight palookas.

hunter1909 said...

Of course it can't be easy to play on a team coached by a gay shopteacher.

Black Dog said...

lol Hunter, poor MacT

Darren - actually Lowetide is the most positive in the blog world but iirc I figured the Oilers for serious contenders in 06/07 if Lowe augmented the D (he did not) and absolutely playoff locks even if he did not.

07/08 I called them to miss the playoffs

08/09 I called them to be in the mix and a playoff team if things broke well.

09/10 I figured no playoffs but not as bad as they ended up.

So two of the last four seasons I actually thought they were a playoff squad.

No more though!

;)

spOILer said...

Hey Pat,

Fun birthday last night? Hope the boy liked the puzzle.

I kind of wish we were playing the old Minny trap tonight. I'd like to see what this team of young firewagons would do with a wet blanket thrown over them.

spOILer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
spOILer said...

stupid blogger.

Black Dog said...

Yeah he loved it, wanted to crack it this morning before school. Tonight I know what I'm doing when I get home.

And he had a good birthday overall. He's a cool little cat.

I'd say if this was the old Wild on Jack Lemaire then the Oilers would get their asses handed to them but they might have a chance, they are no longer the same team.

Darren said...

BD - You can predict them to make the playoffs and still be negative.

Just saying! :)

Black Dog said...

True enough.

Ah, I miss those salad days. In '06 I predicted them to win each series. Not as a fanboy, just 'here are the reasons I think they will win'.

They've ripped my heart out since then, the pricks. ;)

Darren said...

I just wish I had known about this place and the other originals back in 06. Especially since I was in London, Ontario for that year, and away from all Oiler fans...
My brothers and friends claim its my fault they are so terrible because they sucked before I left, and suck again now that I'm back.
oh well, c'est le vie