Monday, November 15, 2010


My involvement in sports has involved playing and coaching and there's been a big difference in results between the two. As a coach I've always had a lot of success. Coaching the boy's soccer team this summer was my ninth go around as a soccer coach, of the nine I've had only one losing record, five teams won either their league title or their playoff title (two won both) and a sixth, perhaps my favourite of the lot, lost in an epic final to a huge favourite, this after slogging through a brutal playoff run in which there were no easy touches.

As for hockey its been a little less successful but still pretty good. Ten teams. Six had winning records. Two won their playoff championships including one of those losing clubs, probably my favourite team of all time. Four others won tournament titles.

So pretty solid.

As a player though its been a lot more losing than winning. Always has been. As a kid we won the city championship for handball for my grade school as well as the intramural championship in both grades of middle school. This handball was not the European version, this was sort of a hybrid of basketball and hockey where you threw the ball at a hockey goal defended by a guy in full out pads. The ball was small enough that you could palm it. There was a constant on both teams. In grade six and on both of the seven/eight teams, we had a guy who could just bring it. The fellow on our middle school team would end up being one of the best pitchers in the city as a teenager and the fellow in grade six was a guy I've talked about before, he was a hardscrabble kid who was the captain of the only hockey team I've ever been a part of that's won anything, with one exception.

Times have changed because you'd never see this game being played nowadays. Our set play on all of these teams was to get this guy open where he could wind up and just heave it with a clear line to the net. And in both cases what these guys would do early in the game is they would try and hit the goalie in the head. If you were defending and Rick or Lou were able to follow through and you got hit, well, you wouldn't get in the way next time. So you could imagine being the goalie. In the city tournament a goalie got knocked out by a headshot and we had a few guys bloodied even in the intramural games.

Imagine. Anyways this was the highlight of the athletic career pretty well.

So there were those and then in hockey growing up I played for a club which was the Sudbury equivalent of the Broad Street Bullies. I haven't told the story about these guys but it was truly amazing. The first year I played with them we brawled our way to our division title and then beat (and beat up) every team in the city to win the city championship. Two years later we won our division again but fell short in the playoffs. That season was highlighted by a game we forfeited because of a line brawl on our own bench which included a player coming out of the penalty box and attacking the coach. To repeat - a line brawl involving our own club and coaches.

I kid you not. Good times.

All of this happened between when I was twelve and fourteen. Since then its been nothing for the most part, with one exception, again a story for another time. A lot of mediocrity with the odd gust to very good and sometimes a gust the other way. When you get to my age its more about having fun than anything else and Capsule is competitive and we usually win a couple more than we lose and the guys are terrific and that's what its all about although damn I'd love to just once win it all with these guys. That would be awesome.

We play year round and while we're competitive in the winter we also play in a summer league in which we are generally over our heads. Some of our better players don't play in the summer and the competition is stiffer and usually we finish seventh out of eight. Or worse.

And everything got worse two summers ago when the two teams who we could beat usually both had enough and dropped out. So here we are getting older and the two new teams are good, of course, and more kids are in the league, of course. (We had one game where one of our guys knocked a fellow over accidentally and had to defend himself when the guy's son stepped in. Problem is there aren't enough guys the old fellow's age and too many the kid's age.)

So this summer in question was a disaster. We lost every single game. Every single one. The low point was when we had a one goal lead over the defending champs and the faceoff in their end with a minute left and the dman bobbled it and buddy races down to score to tie it up.

And then off of the draw at centre they dump it in, retrieve it and score the winner with twenty seconds left.

Oh yeah.

But mostly we just got pulverized. Game after game we got our brains beat in. One game I was a minus three after two shifts, this playing on a line which is actually very good defensively. We just got killed. It was awful.

It was a disaster. I took last summer off. I couldn't take it. I'm just too competitive, even at my age. And really you play for fun by my age. Getting pounded every night isn't fun.


The Oilers really really took a beating this past week. It was awful

We knew it was going to be a long season and really there is a big part of me that is just sitting back waiting for that next lottery pick. I figured they would be in the conversation for number one overall and they certainly are and remember folks this is with pretty well a totally healthy club right now. Think about that. It could get a lot lot worse. And right now they are in second last with an Isles' team which has had some bad luck with injuries.

After yesterday's disaster the thread at Lowetide's had a lot of interesting comments. I want to riff on a couple of these, if I may. First of all there was longtime Oilogosphere man RiversQ:

The only thing I really hate about this rebuild is that the Oilers' terrible management is in a can't lose situation.If the team stinks to high heaven, well they meant to do that. If the team manages to be competitive, then they think they're kind of a big deal.That's what is so frustrating.Not only do you have to wait through a painful rebuild, you have to wait until these buffoons fuck it up over the next 2-3 years before any changes happen.

Cam hits the nail on the head here. I think the most frustrating part of this situation is that the guys who have driven this franchise into the ground are still in charge of it. Think about that for a moment. What he is saying isn't new. He's said it before and so have I and so have a lot of people. A couple of months ago I compared it to being in a car and buddy who is driving puts you in the ditch for no reason other than he is a fucking spaz. When you get the car out of the ditch, he isn't getting behind the wheel. Right? If he tries to then you beat him to death or you get your shit and get a ride with the tow truck driver.

This ground has been covered a million times, here and elsewhere, but to sum it up the issue is that neither Lowe nor Tambellini has shown the wherewithal to judge this club properly. In some cases it comes down to individual players - note the obsession with doorstops MacIntyre, Jacques and Strudwick. For the most part the issue though is that they misread or ignore the problems with the club entirely.

In 05/06 the club, an excellent club, almost died because of the lack of competent goaltending. I'm not slagging them for going into the season with what they had but once Conklin was found wanting, which was pretty quickly, they needed to fix it and instead they waited until the last possible moment to do so. It almost cost them a playoff spot.

In 06/07 they dumped Pronger and did not replace him. Now at this point you're running a blueline out that includes three rookies - Greene and Smid and Hejda - and Bergeron. So you either need to bring in some help or you need to move out a bunch of guys who have a lot of cachet coming off of a run to the Stanley Cup final. Lowe does neither and the team dies on the vine. And then he trades Smyth for two prospects and a first rounder. The team crashes and burns. But its a rebuild now, right? They have three first rounders, a second, Smid, Lupul, Nilsson and O'Marra to start with. Plus the aforementioned guys on the blue, Hemsky, Stoll, Torres, Thoreson. So some kids to go with a few vets. Lupul doesn't work out so you move him and Smith for Pitkanen. Pretty astute move. Things are looking like we're getting a rebuild and then ....

In 07/08 they try and sign Vanek which would have cost them a boatload of first rounders. They fail and sign Penner instead which costs them draft picks, including a first. They also sign Souray. And they lose Hejda. So what are we doing exactly? Well its a rebuild right because they bring in Gagner and Cogliano and Brodziak and they trade a filler in Tarnstrom for Glencross and the team struggles but its to be expected. They're mostly kids. Its a rebuild, right? RIGHT?

Except they dump Greene and Stoll for Visnovsky. And Thoresen is let go. And then Glencross too. And they trade Pitkanen for Cole.

So five kids out the door in return for two veterans, one of whom will be gone before the end of the season.

Can you see what I am getting at here? I'm like an Oliver Stone movie I'm so subtle.

So lets fast forward to last season because I know I'm boring you. I'm boring myself. Now for the fifth straight year the Oilers are going into a season with an unbalanced lineup. They are too small and soft up front. They have few forwards who can check or PK or win a draw. Their D is full of guys cut from the same cloth but its supposed to be a strength. And their new goaltender is a veteran with a four year contract. Never mind the wisdom of that but here's the rub - if you are rebuilding then why would you sign Khabibulin?


So lets take a step back here because while my end point is that the management of this club is a disaster it needs pointing out that ownership was probably behind a lot of this. EIG didn't want to spend the Pronger money and they didn't want to pay Smyth - my opinion but I think that's reasonable to say. It still comes down on Lowe however that the roster was left so unbalanced.

And Katz wanted to make a splash - thus the whale hunts. Again though it falls on Lowe and Tambellini that there was a failure to fill in the holes that needed filling. Katz wants to spend money and make the playoffs - that's fine. Get a couple of guys who can check because you know what? That might help.

So even if we agree that there are circumstances out there it still comes down to these fuckers Lowe and Tambellini.


So last season they were figuring on being a playoff team. Otherwise why get Khabibulin? But why would they think that? And this is the issue I have with these guys. They just haven't a clue.

So last year's club ends up a disaster. Hemsky goes down and so does Souray and Khabibulin and the whole thing turns into a gong show and they luck into the lottery because if healthy the team would have been bad but not historically bad.

And so now, now they decide to rebuild. And of course this is frustrating because is they had started this a few years back then we would have been a few years ahead of the game if everything broke right. Because sometimes it does not break right.

1999 - 1st overall
2000 - 2nd overall
2001 - 1st overall
2002 - 2nd overall
2003 - 8th overall
2004 - 10th overall
2005 - 16th overall
2006 - 12th overall
2007 - traded away for a rental on Tkachuk LOL
2008 - 3rd overall
2009 - 4th overall
2010 - 8th overall

This is Woodguy's list of first round picks for Atlanta from that same thread at LT's. Its a point that has been made before of course. For every Chicago and Pittsburgh and Washington you have an Atlanta or the Islanders. High picks every year don't guarantee you anything if you don't have good management and good luck. Chicago only had one shot at the Cup due to some ridiculous overpays and the RFA offer sheet disaster and they went through the playoffs riding a rookie goalie and almost injury free. The Pens met a Wings' team with Datsyuk, Hossa and Lidstrom all far below one hundred percent. So even the teams that are the gold standard for the tank and rebuild caught some breaks.

Presently the Oilers have ten players on their roster who are first round picks and six of them are top ten picks:

Hemsky - 13
Whitney - 5
Dubnyk - 14
Eberle - 22
Brule - 6
Smid - 9
Cogliano - 25
Paajarvi - 10
Gagner - 6
Hall -1

That's some impressive pedigree right there and most of them are kids in the hockey sense of the word. And yet this team is absolutely brutal.

Some of this is because they are young. Some of it is because some of these guys aren't very good. And some of it is because a lot of the remaining roster is dreck. But point two is the thing - sometimes these guys don't turn out.

Apparently Tambellini decided this summer that he was going to leave nothing to chance when it came to getting a high pick and thus we have guys like Strudwick on this roster. But ... but ... if this is the case then why the pursuit of Malholtra, a guy who would have been a perfect fit.

And then if you recognize the need for a guy like Malholtra and cannot get him then why not go after a reasonable facsimile?

Do you see what I am saying? Even with Tambo making the moves (or not making them I guess) to ensure that this club totally sucks and they get a top pick, he still is trying to have it both ways. A guy like Malholtra would make a difference on this club. Why then were other moves not made to help these guys out?

Because you can't tell me that getting your brains beat out every night is helping these kids. And the problem as we have seen is that when you have a club that gets the shit kicked out of it every night a few things happen. You get little return from the guys on your club so that in the end Joni Pitkanen begets Jim Vandermeer. You have guys put into a position where they cannot succeed and as a result they get their brains beat in night after night and their confidence is shattered. Look at Andrew Cogliano. Look at Tom Gilbert right now, stuck with Strudwick on his other side.

We had a guy on a club I played for years ago, before Capsule, a Dman and he was out of his depth. Terrific guy. One of his brothers played on the team. He was awful. He was out of his league, literally. He was getting eaten alive and a pal of mine was sitting beside me on the bench one game and he turned to me and said that they're just going after him now and it was true and it was awful to see. And his poor partner and the goalie ended up fishing puck after puck out of the net and if you were up front and he was on the ice well you couldn't do a damn thing because you knew as soon as the other team got the puck that it was coming back up his side so the best thing to do was just to dump it in and drop back and load up that side.

Fuck it was terrible.

Anyhow I know its a rebuild but they have to do something because having Paajarvi and Hall spend most of their season chasing the other team around their own zone isn't doing a damn thing for them. And Penner and Hemsky are going to get out as soon as they can, which is soon, and that sets us back two pretty good players that need replacing and then it just keeps on turning like that.

Right now you can point at Smid being an even somehow and Dubnyk having good numbers and Peckham having a nice run and then after that you have Hall and Eberle showing good things and Horcoff rebounding but really the list of good things here is short. And if the losses pile up its going to get shorter.

Dump Strudwick. Bring up Belle or Petoit or Taylor or find someone out there. Get rid of the guy. I'm sure he's terrific and by all accounts he's hilarious but he could be a combination of George Patton and Buster Keaton for all I care. He's fucking terrible.

Play your top four guys, as they were, with each other. Gilbert with Whitney or Smid. Foster with the other. Run Peckham out with Strudwick's replacement (and I don't mean Vandermeer either). The D is terrible. Don't make it worse with the setup now. And for Christ sakes protect the guys who need protecting.

Cobble together two lines that can hold their own. Figure it out and do it. Run Hall out with Horcoff and Hemsky and Penner out with Gagner and Eberle. Or put Paajarvi with Horcoff and Brule with Gagner. Whatever.

And then shelter the third line, whoever they are. Even if it means giving the Fraser line out against tougher opps.

Jesus, some bench management.

Because this is obscene.

Really though I am with Rivers. I think we're having this same conversation four years from now. I don't think Tambo has it. And that, more than the losses, is what's depressing if you're an Oilers' fan.


spOILer said...

How do we know the Oilers didn't attempt to obtain a reasonable facsimile of Malhotra?

How do we know that they didn't evaluate and say, "we need a vet that's Malhotra good to take a run at the playoffs, otherwise we might as well continue to develop a guy?" (Fraser)

Black Dog said...

That's a fair question except I would guess that based on the construction of the roster they knew this was not a playoff team. If not that's that's an even bigger indictment of their ability to judge talent.

And they already had Fraser's rights so unless the plan was to sign Malholtra and then cut Fraser loose (unlikely as they just spent a pick on him) then basically the idea was to go Horcoff/Gagner/Malholtra/Fraser. So Fraser was (and still is not) the #3 centre.

Now maybe they tried to obtain a reasonable facsimile of Malholtra but here is my issue with that.

Every year they don't get the guys they need to fill holes in the roster.

Every single year.

Its like this discussion itself. Well they didn't fill this hole. maybe there were circumstances. maybe it just didn't work out.

My issue with this management team is you can argue any one move. Hell people still argue the Pronger move or the Smyth move.

But taken as a whole there is nothing to argue. I presuem that you agree with this, no?

spOILer said...

I think bringing in good players to a team as poor as the Oilers on raiotnal deals, is a lot more difficult than what the Oilogosphere thinks.

I don't mean this as a mea culpa for "The Braintrust", but I suspect Katz is a lot more aware of what can or can't be brought to the table than we are, and he hasn't fired anyone yet.

Now it can't be completely impossible or we wouldn't have seen the phoenix arise in Phoenix.

But some of it is compounded by past mistakes. Past mistakes actually don't mean no chance of future success as the Sphere is wont to infer. In fact, learning usually takes mistakes.

There are really only a few tradeable players on the squad, and they are essentially either The Future or one of the few Actual NHL Players on the team.

Who do you move? Do you lose a trade sending Cogs the other way with no actual replacement coming back? Do you take on a bad contract for bad term if it means a real player? How quickly are you willing to trade Penner, if it makes the Fs smaller?

We also have a lot of youth learning what appears to be new systems... 16 games is not nearly enough time.

I really think we should be evaluating the team at the halfway point of the season and then again at the end and seeing if there is improvement. Use the trade deadline, other teams' cap issues and the off-season to improve the make-up of the roster (which takes years to do properly, when there's been past mistakes).

Sorry if this lacks cogency, I'm firing it out off the top of my head at work.

Black Dog said...

hey get back to work then!!!

good points and let me see if I can work through them

I agree that its ongoing process, for example it seems that this PK scheme is something Renney ran with success in NY - its obviously a disaster so far - its cost us games - but if that is what he wants to implement then I am for it.

I think honestly I would have been happier if they would not have gone after Malholtra because to me it just points to this, well, wishy washiness. Are we rebuilding or not? If we are really going to tank then do it. If not then don't do it.

Of course you are right, I don't know the cost of guys out there both in terms of money or assets.

But if not Malholtra then why not Dominic Moore, for example. Or Bill Guerin? Or Owen Nolan? Or Jay McKee?

And of course we could sit and argue about each of these guys and whether or not they fit and for all I know Tambo went after all of them.

I'm not one of these guys who thinks its a snap. I know its not. But based on past performance I just don't see these guys are going to get it right.

I may be wrong. God I hope I am wrong, but I remember saying the same thing about Lowe when he began making some awfully queer decisions and then he went right off the rails.

The thing is these guys have done nothing to garner confidence in their abilities so as a result they don't get the benefit of the doubt. Its like McGregor. LT puts up the list of kids and what they are doing and they are kicking ass. They may not pan out but right now Stu gets a pass. He can do no wrong.

Don't know if that's fair.

OK now I'm rambling.

More. ;)

spOILer said...

Well I would be calling Nashville daily to see what it would take to pry Weber out and I would be willing to overpay like mad.

On the order of anything but the 3 rooks or next year's 1st.

But that doesn't mean Nash will do it.

We've seen teams in dire cap trouble and yet little to no movement. When teams can bury players in the minors or be "bailed out" by injury (for oete's sake), this becomes a very diffcicult environment for any GM.

Black Dog said...

Yeah I think Weber would need to be a target but I think he gets paid by Nashville and if they do want to move him you're definitely talking one of the three rooks plus to get him and in that case its pretty well a no go unless you can get him signed to a longterm sweet deal and even then ....

And agreed on the tough environment to make a deal but it can be done and it has been done.

Oh man it kills me. Imagine if these guys still had Greene, Stoll, Glencross, Brodziak and Thoresen?

And I was for the Lubo trade, the problem, as always is they didn't fill the holes.

These guys are good at making the first trade but not the followup moves.

spOILer said...

Gagner +, or Penner +, or Hemsky + might be enough to do it.

Weber is going to be looking in the $7M range and I don't think NASH will sign him for that kind of bread.

But there may also be better deals (more efficient) elsewhere.

TO, CAL, PIT, BOS, VAN all probably need to give up a real Dman eventually. Sadly, 3 of those teams probably won't trade with us. But the cost is not likely to be as expensive, in terms of assets and cap hit as Weber.

Olivier said...

Watching Gauthier run the habs for 6 months now, I realized something. Gainey was good at going after free agents and generally didn't get his ass handed to him in trades.

But he sucked donkey balls at evaluating depth talent. Metropolit (who, save from his PP goals playing with Gomez, was completely done), Kostopoulos, Laraque, hell, 1.5 mil on 3 years to Moen?

Gauthier, OTOH, is pretty good at this. Picard, as a 7th D, is pretty good. Halpern, signed for 600k, said he was getting desperate. etc etc etc...

My point here is: there is a ton of cheap, reliable, no-nonesense low-risk players out there. At worst you go the Moen way and overpay a bit.

You'd expect the Oilers would go that way: give the offense job to the kids, Penner and Hemsky and overpay for a bunch of journeymen whose job is to get raped by the Sedins on the backboard. There is no way in hell Halpern is in Montreal today, 2 months away from getting his lunch eaten by Eller on a one year 600k contract if the Oilers called with a 2 years 1.2 mil deal. The guy is a solid defensive specialist and a terriffic faceoff man. Dominic Moore had options, not him.

My point is: the Oil's young and inneffectife top-6 is the result of a conscious choice: we rebuild and so we let the kids learn on the job. I can understand that. But the rotten bottom of the roster is a simple, clear indication of management's incompetence.

As for trades; Markov's season is probably over and they were doing fine without him anyway. MTL now has 4+ millions under the cap, some reasonable options on the backend and a big hole in their top-6.


Black Dog said...

Olivier - that is what I am talking about - a guy like Halpern is an excellent example.

And of course on top of this you can move these guys at the deadline if things work out.

Olivier said...

Yup. And I'll repeat myself:

Montreal has to pay Halpern 600k because their top 6 is earning almost 28 millions (I'm counting Pouliot's 1.3 as the 6th man).

Bu the Oilers? Their pockets are as deep as the habs for they can spend to the cap too, but their top-6 is earning, what, half of the Habs? Vancouver and Tampa and MTL and the likes can't drive the price that much in that market. EDM can. These guys may not like EDM because it's a loosing team, but the absence of income tax and the added money is a big, big incentive. Depth players don't have many big paydays and carreer are short. Hell, even good players don't have that many paydays. The year the Oils signed Souray, people in MTL were wondering if we'd ever sign a good FA because of the taxes and the club sucked. Gainey let Souray walk and signed Hamrlik for 5.5 a year, unanimously seen as an overpay. But Gainey's point was: money is leverage. You have it, you use it.

They have two solid wingers with at least 4 years of their prime left, two rough gems (91&4) and Eberle. And Gagner. They don't need any more lottery picks. They need time and control over the environment they develop the kids in.

It's incompetence. Pure and simple. They lucked into Hall last year. Good for them. Tanking now is criminal.

Ok, I'm done rambling / rubbing it in.

Black Dog said...

lol Olivier

But yeah I agree the list of mistakes these clowns have made is a lengthy one. Its ridiculous.

spOILer - re a Dman - hard to say, I think with Nashville they have to sign someone at some point and Weber is the man. If not well, what's the point.

And if they move him well they have to sign the next wave which makes me think they go for a kid and a high pick. Could be wrong though.

They sure need a top four D man though, the Oilers I mean. Or two.

spOILer said...

Olivier, some very good points there. Not to mention I was touting Halpern as an option back in August (as were others).

I can't figure out what the fuck their plan was this year, other than to have their chewed and chopped asses handed back to themselves as sausage.

I'm trying to see the other side, but damn it is hard.

spOILer said...

I see Tyler is a very famous man today. Front page of TSN NHL. Explains why his website is down.

Olivier said...

Well Spoilers, how can I put this...

You are not Alice and it's not a mirror, it's just a turd on the floor.

No other side to that, if you catch my drift.

Ok, ramblings and now poop jokes. God I love teh internets

spOILer said...

Turd, bitchez!


Coach pb9617 said...

I'm getting tired of hearing this excuse that the Oilers can't get people to sign in Edmonton because they stink. Mike Weaver and Jason Garrison signed in Florida. Mike Mottau signed in Long Islander. Eric Belanger had to sign an emergency deal in Phoenix. Halpern had to sign an emergency deal in Montreal. Mara signed in Anaheim. Mark Eaton signed in Long Island. Patrick Thoresen is still in the KHL.

These are franchises that were and some still are in just as bad of shape as Edmonton. If you want some real NHL players, even on the cheap, they are out there, the problem is these guys don't have a creative bone in their bodies, let alone a back up plan.

Stop excusing management and hold them accountable.

Bar Qu said...

Wait, the management in Edmonton is bad?

The only good thing about the sorry state of the franchise is that everyone is now questioning the make-up of the team, to some degree. Give it another month or two and the long knives will hopefully come out for our GM. It is really the only point of optimism in this season. Stink long enough and hope the masses revolt. (there's the optimism you usually get accused of)

Travis Dakin said...

Jesus Pat, you used to be the one Oiler blogger that I could turn to for a ray of sunshine. Now you just fucking depress me. Haha

I wish you were crazy.

uni said...

And to think, I once accused BD of being a blue skier.

Black Dog said...

sorry Travis, I'll make it up to you

No longer uni, no longer. But just with the Oilers. ;)

Bar Qu - I didn't say it was new news ;) Or even news at all. But we can only hope that what you are saying is the case. Unlikely though I'm afraid.

Black Dog said...

Amen to that Derek.

Black Dog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stan the Caddy said...

Marty Reasoner please!