Monday, March 29, 2010

The Little Things


Flying out tomorrow morning, first to New York and then to Dublin. Wednesday in Dublin, Thursday in a village about a half hour outside of the city and then Friday is up in the air. Its Good Friday which means I won't be able to buy one single pint if you can imagine, which means it likely won't be that good a Friday after all.

Will figure some sort of mischief to get into though I'm sure.

Then back on a plane Saturday to get back in time for Easter.

A whirlwind of a trip. What do they say, going to be going out on the lash? Should be fun.

Wednesday will be the day I take a wander down into Dublin city and I'm really looking forward to it. I've seen the south side of the Liffey inside and out so other than nipping over there for some Indian and a pint or two at a couple of my favourite pubs, maybe a short walk around St. Stephen's Green, I think I'll take a look at the other side of the river this time around. Maybe take a walk up to Glasnevin. See what I can find.

I've seen a lot of Dublin, big and small, and while I enjoy the cathedrals and the museums and the famous old pubs (and Dublin has the most wonderful pubs) I also like the more obscure spots, the alleyways and streets away from the bustle, the less famous Ha'Penny Inn and walking along the Liffey just at that moment when the clouds part and the sun hits the brightly coloured building across the river. Looking forward to finding more hidden gems on this little trip.

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Another Oilers' season lurches to an end, groaning as the life seeps out of it. Its tough to cheer for a franchise that has not had an important game in four years and the way management works it may be a while longer yet. As I said a number of months ago, the last time the Oilers were in the playoffs my son was barely eight months old by the end of it. Now he's in school. I was in my thirties, my daughter was two (she is now in grade one and is a voracious reader) and we only had two kids. We didn't have these amazing flying cars and there were only nine provinces in Canada.

Crazy shit.

And when your team sucks bag like the Oilers do you can bet there's little to hang your hat on. Dustin Penner was a pleasure to watch early on and Tom Gilbert is always a joy. Hemsky and Lubo made it fun until they went away. Other than that it was a whole lot of shit basically, so awful that trying to think of joy in this past season is almost impossible but I'll try just because that's the type of guy I am, always look on the bright side, cross to the sunny side of the street etc etc blah blah blah.

Devan Dubnyk's first win was a lot of fun, especially after the club did its best to snatch the victory away at the last possible moment. The fact that he then won his second over the Sharks a couple of days later was nice too. Don't know if he will amount to anything although I would place my bets on him over ADD but it was a nice moment.

Theo Peckham's enthusiastic rambunctiousness.

Mike Comrie's weird return, his engagement 'party' and dropping the mitts the odd time.

Ryan Whitney's promising debut which has made the loss of Lubo a little less painful at this point.

Stortini's willingness to do whatever it takes every time he hits the ice.

Dean Arsene finally making the show, even if just for a cup of coffee.

Alex Plante not looking out of place.

Um, yeah that's about it. Glad I don't spend money on tickets because that's a mighty short and mighty poor list but anyways hooray for those guys!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hanging In There


So I'm off to Dublin in just a few days now and while I'm looking forward to it last week a situation reared its ugly head that had me a little concerned.

It was Friday night and the old fellow had not really looked right since I'd been home. He'd thrown up overnight and had done so the day before as well and he just wasn't himself. Listless is probably how I'd describe him. Even as he has aged, and he has aged quite a bit this winter, he has not lost his essential dogginess. He is cheerful and he is affectionate and he hovers outside of the dining room waiting for the baby to declare that supper is over by tossing the remnants of her food onto the floor, whereupon the cleaning staff (him) rushes in and does its duty.

But for a couple of days he had been doing nothing but laying by the door, which is his normal spot and activity, but no welcome was there from him for me when I came home, no bated breath waiting for the splat of chicken on the hardwood, no wagging tail for any of the kids. His breathing had become pronounced when he slept and at night I could no longer hear him wandering the main floor as he often does.

And so as he lay there on the kitchen floor I sat down beside him and rubbed his greying head and even then, no happy wag, no lean into my hand, no contented sigh.

And so I sat with him and held him for a while.

The next morning I came down to find him panting heavily. We walked into the kitchen and he stood beside his water dish, which was full.

For five minutes this went on as I asked him to please have a drink. Nothing.

I walked over and picked up the water dish and dumped it and filled it and then he acted as if I had just filled an empty dish except he took one lap and then stopped.

My wife came home from work and I told her I was worried and she said that he's been dying for three years now goddamnit and I told her to just keep an eye for the next ten minutes and after that she looked at me and then she went over and gave him a pat on the head and she looked at me and said, oh, poor old Ben.

And then being practical she asked what would happen if he passed while I was away. He's tipping the scales at around seventy five pounds and we live fifteen steps up from the street and unless she was going to launch him from the porch on a toboggan she was going to have an issue.

Not to worry I assured her and I emailed a buddy of mine down the street with what is certainly one of the weirdest favours he's ever been asked but he's a good guy and so he agreed that if worse came to worse he'd come over and help dispose of the big fellow's earthly remains.

Now I'm happy to relay that it must have just been a flu or perhaps he just had a bad couple of days or maybe he got a hold of some bad cheese because he's turned it around and he's back in the canine saddle if there was such a thing. Last night he slurped some succotash that had tumbled to the floor and after dinner we walked down the street and while his top speed these days is a fast walk he did manage that and he got up those stairs besides, all the while his tail a wagging and sure enough when we came into the house, both of us dumb grins a mile wide, the wife looked over and sighed and said, three years, three years.

So things are back to normal and while everytime the boy mentions the August birthday when the old man turns thirteen he throws in the caveat 'if he makes it', it definitely looks better than it did a week ago and here's hoping that warm summer air loosens up those old bones and puts a spring back into that step at least for a little while.

Have a great weekend everybody.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Horror


Things are moving along quite nicely here in the McLean household thank you very much. Spring is coming and not a moment too soon as we were getting tired of the short days. Funny that, even though we had the easiest winter ever it still got us into a funk. Too many grey days I guess.

Last week though we had May weather in March for the kids' break so they got out on their Santa gifts (scooter and two wheeler) and hit the park and the zoo and the maple sugar bush and basically spent days outside in warm sunshine. The local ice cream joint opens up in less than two weeks and Capsule is in the semifinals (though in tough) and the wife is wearing less and less and so life is good and there are no complaints.

The two oldest are growing like mad. Our eldest has lost her front teeth and has picked up a lisp as a result and we're just waiting for one last fang to drop (think Jewel for that snaggle tooth look) and she is a reading talking growing up little machine. Its a lot of fun these days. The two oldest will get up now and she'll get breakfast ready for the two of them. Anything that means more sleep for the parents means life is golden.

And the boy is a cool little dude. We got one of those Franklin Rod Hockey games for Christmas and he had a tough time when he started playing it but now he's getting the hang of it, so much so that I am afraid I'll be getting sand kicked in my face pretty soon. I'm not all that great but I am ten times his age and when we first started playing I would take it easy on him but there wasn't much really happening out there on the 'ice'. But we played late last week and the margin of victory was three and then we played last night and I only barely eked out a win and while I'm not going full tilt as it were I'm not really fucking around. But he's figured out the goalie and the D and so its not that easy to score on him and I have a feeling that it won't be too long before I'm going to have to face off against the dog or the baby if I want victory.

Ahhh, the baby. The third one is interesting. The boy was ahead of the curve at her age because he followed his older sister everywhere when he was a tot and as a result he picked up the talking pretty quickly. With the youngest well the two oldest can now go into the basement or upstairs by themselves and she cannot go with them and so as a result she often is on her own and her parents are pretty harried so its not like we sit with her and give her our full attention. We have friends who have one who is about the same age and he knows it all the little bugger and of course he should he's got all of their time and attention. So our little one is smart as a whip but she's just catching up on the verbal. She'll be ok of course, they all come along at their own pace.

One big issue that has reared its pug ugly head recently is that she has an interesting new quirk to her personality in that she's not really a big fan of her diaper. So this is leading to problems. She has taken her diaper off while sitting on the couch and had a pee there and she has done the same while in her crib. Even worse is an alarming trend wherein she fills her diaper while having a nap, immediately wakes up, removes her clothes, unhitches the diaper and fires it out of the crib.

That is about as disgusting as it sounds. And on top of this she's damn smart. One afternoon before we put her down for her nap we put her sleeper on backwards so she couldn't remove it. Right? Right? All the buttons in the back.

Went to get her, she's stark naked, poopy diaper on the floor.

Last night was the nadir though. My wife was hitting the sack and then she called down that the baby needed changing and then she called down and said that she needed a new crib sheet and then she called down and said she needed me right away and so I come up the stairs and the baby has taken a big shit and then she's reached down into that motherlode and done a number on her crib, everything in the crib and on herself. So out come the wipes and the crib is disinfected and the sheet and blanket and stuffies go downstairs into the laundry tub where the poop is sprayed off and then into the washer they go and meanwhile the baby is bathed not once but twice because after the first time we still discover shit in her hair, behind her ear and on an eyelash.

All in all it was a pretty shitty situation.

What? What!?

;)

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Its been an awful year and the weekend was a welcome relief from the awful awfulness of it all as the Oilers beat both the Sharks and the Wings and were actually full value for one of them and for that matter even though the ice was tilted by the Wings once they started skating it wasn't like Dubnyk stood on his head to get his first win.

For me this is not the worst. I mean its definitely the worst team but it still doesn't compare to three seasons ago. That was the beginning of this process but at the time after the Oilers had come within a break or two of winning it all we had high hopes and while we waited for Lowe to address the gaping holes on a team whose core still remained instead we got nothing until Smyth was traded and then the bottom fell out. And then we knew we were in trouble.

These days of course there is no faith in management at all. They destroyed this club and the idea that now they will fix what they have ruined leaves me cold. Even if they manage to move some of the deadweight contracts this summer I have no faith that Lowe and his monkey will make any good moves. Rather I expect that they will spend the money on overrated anchors once again.

Because lets face it the holes on this club are not so much holes as gaping bloody wounds. In goal we have an aging goalie with a bad back whose contract is on the books for three more years guaranteed. ADD is rotten. I'd dump him in a second. Dubnyk looks like a goalie at least and if he could cut down on those softies then maybe he might make something of himself but can you see him carrying the mail anytime soon?

On the blue I like the looks of Gilbert and Whitney and then its chaos. Can Smid do it without Lubo? Can they move Souray's contract? Peckham is a guy who is raw but he looks like a player at least and Johnson might work as a 6/7 but no matter which way you cut it these guys don't engender confidence.

And nowhere is it worse than up front, especially on the wings. Run through this roster and the big rallying cry is all of the injuries. Then look at the guys on the IR. Its Hemsky and a bunch of fourth liners. Look at the present roster. Two NHL centres in Gagner and Horcoff, a guy who might do well against the butter soft if given the right linemates in Cogliano and a couple of guys in Pouliot and Potulny who are tweeners at this point, fourth liners who can slide up the scale for a while at least.

And this is the strength up front.

On the wings there are two legitimate guys in Penner and Hemsky and then a long list of fourth liners as far as I am concerned. There are the hard working grinders in Stortini and Stone and Jones and the over the hill checkers in Moreau and Pisani and the little soft guys in Nilsson and Comrie and a guy who can't even play the game in JF Jacques.

You have Brule who might be able to shine still. He's little too but he's aggressive at least and he's got a dynamite shot and I say give him the softs next year and see what he can do.

And then you have O'Sullivan and who knows what goes on there?

So in a previous thread the question about wingers came up and why Gagner was dragging around Minard and well there just isn't anybody and so over at LT's the question is will Eberle be on this club sooner rather than later and the answer is pretty clear. Your man has gone to the A and he's doing quite well after a nice year in junior and of course he has to play his way onto the team and then you look at this roster and do you think he might not? Or how about the Swede?

They're kids and I'm not a big fan of feeding kids to the lions but goddamn look at this team, who the hell is going to beat them out for a spot on the wing. Its not like any of these guys do anything well. If it were up to me I'd pretty well cut the lot of them.

They are that bad.

But you know what's fucking funny?

Have Horcoff or Gagner play between Hemsky and Penner and then have Cogliano or Seguin centre Brule and the Swede or Eberle and give them the most buttery, soft as a plump pillowy ass minutes you can and then pick up a couple of big tough minutes wingers for Horcoff or Gagner and you know what, with a fourth line made up of the plethora of guys they can choose from this team suddenly looks better, at least up front. Stone and Pouliot and Jones and Stortini and Potulny as your scrubs lets say.

But I'm not holding my breath. There's shit everywhere and I do mean everywhere.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Amateur Night - More HNIC Reflections


Heading to Ireland for a wedding in just under two weeks. Life has been busy plus I'm a pretty mellow guy so I haven't really been thinking about it but I'm starting to get excited a little. This will be my third trip to Ireland and this will give me an opportunity to explore Dublin a little bit more. As I have written about before travelling to the same place is something I enjoy, you get to know where you are going and as a result you can go a little more native, as it were. Most of the time I will be celebrating my man in Dublin's wedding with his friends and family and when I do get out it will be partially familiar haunts and partially north of the Liffey, which I have seen little of. Other than Montreal and the Island I've no real places that I can claim even partially as my own (outside of my hometown and my home now) other than Dublin. I am looking forward to returning once again.

St. Patrick's Day just past and expectations amongst many was that I'd be out drinking but I'm not a big March 17th guy. I'll have a pint of Guinness at home and once in a while I'll make a wicked Irish stew but I've only ever been out once on St. Patrick's Day. Its a little funny because most of my favourite pubs here are Irish ones but on the 17th they're just mental. I was once at McVeighs on the 16th having a pint and the place was manic as they prepared. A patron asked the bartender what the next day would be like and he replied that they'd be lined up at ten outside, for a noon opening, and that the bar would be full of poured pints before they opened. They'd be hard pressed to keep up.

Not my scene.

The best line I ever heard was a time we were at the Communist Bar on the 18th of March and we were talking to the dear sweet bartender and asked her how it was the night before and she grimaced and said that it was the worst day of the year for her.

Amateur night. Place is packed as hell and not a single one of them can hold their alcohol. Its a disaster.

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Amateur night is a perfect description of what we witnessed last weekend at the ACC. I wanted to revisit that experience because in my original post I spent most of my time ranting and raving and so I just wanted to give a few more impressions.

Bruce always gives terrific recaps and I need to echo something that he says quite often, that I am always amazed at the size, speed and skill of these guys, its just incredible and I am always astounded. Anyhow, some more thoughts.

As I said before the Oilers are small. The difference between them and the Leafs was pronounced. Gagner, Cogliano, Brule, Comrie, Potulny, Nilsson plus Chorney on the back end. All of them small. And of course O'Sullivan was not out there either. And on top of it for the most part they were not strong on the puck, either unwilling or unable to win puck battles. Brule is nice and aggressive and was not afraid of anybody. Cogliano also quite aggressive, probably buoyed by playing in front of family and also by having Penner on his flank. He was less effective than Brule physically though. He was willing but not really any more than a nuisance when it came to that part of the game.

Gagner shows well but he was between Minard and Pouliot. Pouliot was aggressive but the wing is not his thing and Minard was absolutely invisible. Gagner was wasted there but the options are limited of course.

Horcoff was in the same situation. Comrie played little because of the penalties but when he did he did not do much. Crazy soft hands though. Unbelievable. Memorable moment from him was cutting across the Leafs' blue in the second waving his stick like a madman for the pass from the Oilers' blue. I'm talking waving it like a guy trying to get rescued from a desert island. Totally over the top and a little odd.

Moreau didn't do a damn thing. Weird little vignette early in the game during a TV timeout. He cruised over and talked Whitney's ear off. He then went over to Gilbert and began talking to him. Gilbert half listened for a second and then skated away while Ethan kept yapping. Funny stuff.

Horcoff looked more like his old puck hawking self but he wasn't the player I saw three years ago here - that game he and his linemates owned everyone the Leafs threw at them. Of course his linemates that night were Smyth and Hemsky. He's a favourite of mine though and he had a decent game, making some nice plays on the defensive side of the puck.

Brule's goal was terrific. A heavy shot, extraordinary release and this in traffic. I can see why the Oilers like him. The breakaway flub was unreal though. Not as unreal as the three on oh for the Leafs though. Looked like beer league all the way to Stallberg going in alone. Of course he probably didn't even know he had company. How often do you get a three on none anyhow?

Very little to say about the fourth line. They did little. Ended up getting minused by the Leafs twice although neither was really their fault except for Potulny losing the draw on the Kulemin goal. Quinn had them out after a couple of TV timeouts though and Wilson immediately responded with what little quality he had, the end result was a lot of trouble for the Oilers. Poor bench management by Quinn.

On the blue well I mentioned before that Gilbert was great and he really was. He's a smart smart player. The Leafs are shitty but they are big and they are fast and Gilbert played keepaway most of the night with them with deft passes and quick little reverses against the flow of play. Just wonderful intelligent hockey, all quick stick, fine positioning and excellent decisions. Whitney was fine too and a couple of big guys like this might do alright for the Oilers going forward. They're not bangers but they're mobile and they can move the puck.

Chorney and Strudwick were awful. Strudwick got beaten outside by EVERYBODY. Terrible.

Johnson was solid. He's aggressive, certainly not afraid of anyone and I'm hopeful they sign him as a bottom pairing guy.

Peckham was ... interesting. I was really watching him and he had an strange strange game. Before the Bozak goal he looked just fine. He's a big big kid and he's rugged. He makes guys pay the price. I like Peckham. His comments show that he knows what he has to do - play a simple aggressive game and use his size and that's what he does. He skates well and he moves the puck smartly. His positioning and angling on the cycle is pretty good. His reads are where he's struggling. The Bozak goal was a killer, came out of nowhere, just boom he was behind him and after that he got a little tentative and he struggled. Of course he certainly kept the Leafs honest with his reactions to Phaneuf. Maybe a little over the top but he's trying to earn his spot.

He looked better than he showed early this year and the potential is there. He showed better than either Greene or Smid did early on and he's a better defenceman than Chorney. Interesting to see where he ends up. He strikes me as a guy who will improve with experience and lets hope so.

The goaltending? Well, JDD was brutal. Just brutal. Scrambly and too deep in his net and got beaten high twice. Dubnyk was better but the Kessel goal should have never happened.

A word or two about the opposition. The Leafs I think are in tough down the road, I don't think they have the prospects coming up that the Oilers do. Having said that they have a ton of speed and size up front and on the back end. Hard to say if Bozak, Kulemin, Hanson and Stallberg will amount to much but they are big and they are fast and worst case I think the Leafs might have some solid bottom sixers. Kessel looked good. Fast and a terrific set of hands. Amazing release.

The Leafs aren't much but boy the Oilers barely pressured them. Second to the puck all night and lost all of the puck battles. No surprise though. Their two best centres were saddled with awful wingers. Gagner or Horcoff and Penner might have done a little more but there's so little there its hard to make anything out of that roster.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Heart of Darkness











Wandered down to the ACC Saturday night. We were late getting downtown as we usually are so we were tight for time when it came to dinner. Ran into the Irish Embassy which is a beautiful pub. I think it once was a bank maybe? Anyhow I normally avoid the Embassy, at least during the week, I'm more of a McVeighs' man myself, a little grungy and yellowed walls and frayed carpet and old Republican and ancient surly Jimmy behind the bar; the Embassy is shiny brass and dark wood and high ceilings and redfaced obnoxious Bay Street types braying at each other during the week. Not my scene. They pour a nice pint though and the weekend brings a different crowd and on hockey nights you can walk in and tell them you're going to the game and they get you in and out like a flash and so Saturday night we got there at five after six and had two pints each and dinner and got to our seats with just under ten minutes to spare.

We always get great seats and so we were five rows from the ice, in the visiting Oilers' end to start, just at the top of the circle on ADD's left. Right there amongst the hoi polloi. Jennifer Hedger and her husband, another sports broadcast type I believe, although I can't remember the name, were sitting in front of us a few seats over. She is a very pretty girl, much prettier than on TV. Just a tiny one, which is surprising, she's so mannish on the TV. Nothing to her in her tall black boots and fuzzy vintage Leafs sweater. Yowza. Buddy was wearing a Ranford jersey and between beers he ate sushi. Can't remember what she was eating but not that high faluting, let me tell you! ;)

Oilers probably could have put your man between the pipes and he would have done much better, let me just start with that. The Oilers came out and my pal says who's that in net, he's a big guy, and I said oh just you wait. he's going to get beat upstairs for sure even though you'd think that would basically be against the law of physics or something.

So here's the deal about the Leafs and I. I grew up in Northern Ontario in the 70s and 80s and the Leafs were basically irrelevant. We knew who they were and we got the odd game. I saw the Sittler ten point game for example and we saw a lot of the Hound line in the mid eighties when Wendel Clark arrived but for the most part it was all Habs. That was who we got and nearly everyone I knew was a Montreal fan. Those who weren't cheered for Boston maybe or Philly or les Sabres. The Leafs had a decent team but they didn't matter, not to us anyhow, and when the Habs were supplanted by the Islanders as the premier club in the league it was the Oilers who came to the fore in Northern Ontario as they rose to prominence.

The Leafs were afterthoughts. They flirted with being good in the seventies momentarily and then Ballard ruined it again and that was that. They just were not important, not in an era which featured probably the two greatest hockey clubs to ever hit the ice. Basically they were a joke.

The funny thing is that they made money in those days but when I came to Toronto in 1986 and went to my first NHL game I sat in the greys for eight dollars.

Eight bucks. Imagine. Now times were different of course. We spent twenty bucks for two medium Molson Canadians on Saturday night and my buddy smiled and said he remembered going to the school pub and getting a dozen beers for that amount but still even the greens, which were pretty good seats, could be had two for less than fifty bucks at the old Gardens. For Christmas for a few years I bought a pair for my dad and I and he would come down and we would have a steak dinner and then walk over to Maple Leaf Gardens and catch a game. The team was terrible but it was a different crowd at those prices and the ingame presentation was Jimmy Holmstrom on the organ, if I recall his name correctly. And it was the Gardens. It was a cool old rink. It was a weird vibe overall though. The team was poor and the owner was a crank and the whole organization was pretty mickey mouse but the fans were rowdier and a game was pretty fun.

Now I can take or leave the ingame presentation anywhere in any case these days but something about the Leafs' whole deal just pisses me off and so after about ten seconds on Saturday night I was wholeheartedly behind the Oilers even if it meant a stall in the fall for Hall. It may be just because I live in Toronto, I guess, surrounded by Leaf fans, because I know that Leaf fans are the same as any other fanbase. My friends who are Leaf fans are amongst the smartest fans I know. There are Leaf fans who are idiots just as there are Oiler fans who are idiots. So while Vito from Woodbridge who figures the Leafs could trade Boyd Devereaux for Crosby exists, so to does the Oiler fan who thinks that Ryan O'Marra for Ovechkin is a possibility as well.

Stupidity crosses divisional lines.

So while the fact that a picture of Tie Domi in some sort of montage of Leaf tough guys got a bigger cheer than Wendel Clark, for example, and would get the same reaction over Mats Sundin even, and while the guy in front of me yelled at Brule "That's why you losers are in thirtieth place" after Gilbert flubbed his breakaway and while some drunken kid behind me rambled on and on through the game about how awesome the Leafs are, I think that when it comes down to it its the Leafs themselves who I dislike, not their fans. And not even their players. Even with Phaneuf in the mix this a totally likeable club, unlike the Quinn Leafs with Corson and Tucker and Green and McCabe and a long list of petulant, dirty players who never won anything and spent much of their time referee baiting, taking the cue from their old coach. These Leafs have some nice old pros like Kaberle and Beauchemin and a gaggle of big speedy kids who play the game hard and with some verve and while they are shitty and I don't really like the looks of their prospects, Kadri seeming to me to be a fit for those old teams with his attitude and most likely not really that good period, the fact is that Burke has started building something and his club at least is big and fast and tough unlike the Oilers who are small and slow and soft.

So while the team is reasonable and I don't think its the fans really that piss me off, it comes down the organization more than anything and this was clear to me immediately on Saturday night. The latest Leaf marketing gambit is the whole idea of the Leafs being Canada's team and while I have seen the annoying commercials on TV I have not experienced the full onslaught in person and by the end of it I was expecting that we'd be shipped out to central Asia in Leaf sweaters, Sherwoods in hand, to take on the Taliban. I'm not talking about the Olympians who were present (and Tessa Virtue and Heather Moyse, oh my God) but the marrying of country and club that started at the beginning and carried on was helped by the Olympic athletes being present certainly. Pictures from across Canada and of international hockey success (!) and Canadian soldiers and waving Canadian flags interwoven with pictures of Toronto Maple Leaf players - well really its nothing more than an insult as far as I am concerned, the idea that a single crappy team, pretty well the least successful team in the NHL over the last four decades, going on five now, is Canada's team. I guess I didn't get the memo when Richard Peddie and the rest of the condo selling geniuses dreamt this up. Appeals to swelling national pride and tying into a hockey program that doesn't count nearly making the final as the highlight of its last forty three years is the act of an organization that hasn't done anything right in decades and likely will continue to fail for years to come.

So now you have a club that does one thing well and that's really really make money but in the end they are still mickey mouse and its sad for the fans, who are passionate, amongst the most loyal in sport I would say, that their organization is most concerned with their brand than actually winning. It comes right from the top though from Larry Tanenabaum whose pronouncements on the Leafs being the premier NHL franchise ignore the fact that when it comes down to it there is only one thing that counts and that is winning and that is one thing that the Leafs have done very little of, so little in fact that to clearly remember Leafs teams when they were Cup champions you have to be in your fifties or older. We're not in Cubs territory yet but we're getting there.

Now the thing that sucks about all of this is the Oilers presently are no better and lets face it folks they are heading down the same path as Peddie's team. Living on glories now twenty years past and even the most recent narrative, an attractive one for sure, the underdog little team that could, is now replaced by just another porridge franchise whose main concern seems to be public money for a new arena. The hockey men have run a Stanley Cup finallist into the shoals in four short years, going from within a break of a Cup to worst in the league and the dual faces of the franchise are the dithering puppet Tambellini, forever assessing what is now the worst roster in the league, compounding the errors of his boss, and the saleman LaForge, trotting out the well worn line that the team cannot succeed without some concession from somewhere, this time the wallets of the citizens of Edmonton themselves, dark hints about the team's survival.

And so what was once a fast exciting team playing on the fastest ice in the league has been reduced to a bunch of bums, the legendary ice now crap, just like the club that skates on it.

If you're a Leafs' fan you may have your own LaForge in the greasy scumbag Peddie but you also have Brian Burke and while your man is a blowhard he also knows waht he is doing, imo.

I've watched quite a few games this year, though fewer lately, but it really takes a live viewing to realize just how terrible the Oilers are. The Leafs are awful but they are leaps and bounds ahead of Edmonton. Looking at the roster the Oilers iced I counted maybe nine or ten guys who should be in the NHL and a few of these guys are bottom of roster players themselves. Horcoff was dragging Comrie and Moreau around the ice with him (and still managed to outchance while on the ice) and Gagner was stuck with Minard on one wing and Pouliot on the other. The last time I saw Edmonton in Toronto was one of Ryan Smyth's last games as an Oiler. That club was about to go down the tubes itself just a few days later when Smyth was dumped and after that night I remarked on how the Oilers were so much smaller than the Leafs. That club was gigantic compared to this one and that club competed hard compared to this one and that team almost beat a Leafs' club that was a lot better than this one and its hard to believe how far the Oilers have fallen. Three years later and Pouliot back on the wing and still running in place and Nilsson an absolute cipher and the fourth line put out over and over again against the Leafs top players, even after TV timeouts, and just run right over in that situation despite said top line including Bozak and Kulemin.

One line the Oilers had, one line only that showed anything, and the blue, if anything, was worse. Whitney and Gilbert came rolling over the boards every chance Quinn could get them out there and they showed well. I like Whitney, he's a big lad, and Gilbert was terrific, my God he's a good player and he even got in Phaneuf's way when ADD went ballistic. Peckham and Johnson had a lot of compete at least. Johnson can certainly play on this club's third pairing and Peckham, while raw (I'm still trying to figure out the Bozak goal), is a rugged kid and he's willing and watching Phaneuf turtle was sweet (Phaneuf actually was kicking at Peckham when the kid had him down on the ice).

As for Strudwick and Chorney they were absolutely terrible. Just brutal. If either of them is in the top six next year than we can be assured that it is a planned tank job or that management is completely out to lunch. Based on past results I would put money on the latter.

And the goaltending, well same goes for that. ADD got beaten high twice and while Dubnyk hung in there somehow Kessel scored on him in an impossible spot as well or so you would think. My pal was shaking his head because I called it but anyone who has watched these guys this year knew it was coming. If they don't cut bait on ADD this summer then we can be assured that it is a planned tank job or that management is completely out to lunch. Based on past results I would put money on the latter.

Just repeating myself now. ;)

Looking at the Leafs on Saturday night was frustrating because here is a club that in many ways is in the same boat as the Oilers and yet they are ahead of the game. Up and down their lineup are guys who they picked up from Europe and college or lower in the draft, guys who are big and who can skate, guys who the Oilers absolutely need. Players like Bozak and Hanson and Stallberg and Wallin may not pan out but watching them on Saturday night, guys like them and Gunnarsson back on D and the excellent Kulemin, and one can see that even if they do not pan out as top sixers the Leafs have the basis for a big fast bottom six of the roster that would be tough to play against. I like Zach Stortini and what he brings, I love his try and how he has made himself into an NHLer but guys like him and Potulny and, well most of the Oilers up front and on the blue, had their lunches eaten by thse kids all night because they could not compete with them physically or in terms of their speed. As I said I could see the majority of the guys dressed for the Oilers on Saturday out of the league next season and I would not be the least bit surprised. I don't think the Oilers are smart enough to find their own gang like the Leafs though I am afraid.

So while it was a terrific night for our annual game it was really an eyeopener for this Oilers' fan and that sounds a little goofy I know, I've seen enough games to know the Oil are rotten but Jesus Murphy are they ever fucking poor. I saw them play in the game I mentioned before, the year when Lowe didn't provide the club with any D, and I saw them play in Edmonton that same fall, that was the year that Lowe didn't give them much up front or on the blue but a bunch of kids, but I have never seen such a terrible terrible club.

This whole rebuild is going to take a while I am afraid.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday Night, Saturday Night


Going to the game tonight. ADD at the ACC.

I've known my best friend since we were five. He lives in the 'Shwa with his four kids, yeah that's correct, they are a third more mental than we are. When our families get together its an instant party, double figures in attendees immediately. Last time we got together, I looked over at him across the mass of little people milling about and we both began to laugh. Good times.

So once a year we get together and go to see the Leafs. He's a bigwig so we get beauty tickets. We've been to see the Pens (pre Crosby). We saw the Oilers in the Pouliot penalty shot game, one of Ryan Smyth's last as an Oiler. Two years ago we saw the Wings in a game when Dan Cleary took a slapshot off of his face and broke his cheekbone. Last year we saw the future as we watched a young Hawks' team fall behind to the Leafs thanks to some indifferent play and shoddy goaltending by a future Oilers' netminder. Down three, iirc, the Hawks woke up and spent the third period in the Leafs' end, catching up and then winning it in overtime.

We go for dinner and a few pints beforehand and then make our way to the arena. The seats vary but they're always down front amongst the hoi polloi with their top hats and monocles (h/t JM). We don't really fit or at least I don't with my cordoruoy coat and faded 2002 lucky Olympics toque. (Its lucky alright - I started wearing it every day on the Monday that Virtue and Moir won gold - serious mojo ;)). Plus we cheer actively against the home team.

Back in September Pete asked me who I'd like to see and I said why not the Oilers and he kind of winced and I said well its been a few years. Last time I saw him in January I spent most of my time apologizing. Christ the worst two teams in the league.

Oh well it will be fun anyhow and I'm looking forward to seeing the club live for the first time since I saw them in Edmonton in 2007, back when they were actually a better team than Chicago. I'll be watching the young D especially and I'm looking forward to seeing ADD's spaz act. Should be fun and I'll post my impressions in a few days. Its a weird one for me. An Oiler win is not really what we want but I don't think I can cheer for the Leafs. Maybe a loser point thrown in there so that we get a little bit of success/failure for both?

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

Last night Capsule moved on with a solid win over our foes from last week. Its two game total points so a tie would put us through. A win for them and we'd go to OT and then a shootout. They score in bunches and had beaten us twice this season plus both of our wins could have gone their way so we were leery.

They scored on us early but we took the faceoff immediately afterwards and got it deep. They tried to clear and they all went flying to the blue so that when our Dman stopped it and flipped it into the slot I was there all alone with all of the time in the world. Their goalie is no hell so I turned and calmly picked a corner and we were at evens. Its been a great year for me. Its all guts and guile for me now. The legs are gone but I'm in the right position nine times out of ten and the end result has been a lot of goals and assists and quality two way play. Maybe my best year ever. The one thing I've never done is score and I've put in my share so hopefully Kevin Lowe is watching and will ignore the crazy shooting percentage and give me my shot. ;)

A few shifts later our best player potted two within a minute and from there we ended up being home and cooled even though we didn't know it at the time. They had a rush for a few minutes at the beginning of the last period but even then while we were hemmed in we were really in no danger and the minutes bled away and so did their season. Probably one of the best games we have ever played. Their thrusts were blunted early, broken up at their blue or in the neutral zone. The few pucks they got in deep were cleared quickly. We scored with a couple of minutes left and that was that. They went out meekly, in the end the old guys wore them down. They tried to bang us and push us around and we pushed back and in the end they didn't have anything left.

So we move on and now it gets a lot tougher. Still, a series win is a nice year for us so its gravy now.

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

The wife works quite a few Friday nights so I'm pretty familiar with Friday night TV and it basically sucks bag. With the PVR now and the interweb plus I'm a reader I can get around it but I remember when we moved back to Toronto we had an apartment and no Interweb so I'd watch some TV and I watched some Showcase because you could get some good wacking material on a Friday night.

The show that piqued my interest momentarily was called Kink but it became quite apparent to me that like the Edmonton Oilers themselves the show was not what it was cracked up to be. I guess I was hoping for, well, I don't know what I was hoping for, but basically its a lot of oddball folks and their fetishes, whcih is fine, I'm not one to judge but I guess the best way to describe the show is it has that car accident feel. You can't turn your eyes away from it but its awful. I work with a computer programmer who is full on Revenge of the Nerds geeky and he's into the S&M and gleefully shares how he and his wife have a 'slave' and basically he's the type of guy who is on this show and frankly I'd rather think of my own parents having sex than these people. At least my parents are cool and fun and even though they are pushing eighty they're still not unattractive. These people are just gross.

So the classic episode involved some huge fetish convention that the show went to and they just had everything. Your guys and gals on leashes and your furries and all of that jazz, standard stuff. And they interviewed one guy. They started with a headshot you know and then slowly began to pan out. Buddy was beside himself he was so happy to be there. He had a gigantic grin, a mile wide. Thing is he was dressed in pink latex bunny suit, including ears. His face was uncovered although he did have the drawn on button nose and whiskers.

So he's going on and on about how this is the greatest thing ever and the camera pans out farther and farther and this suit is skin tight and at the end of the shot we get a very clear picture of just how very excited your man is.

Yep. Friday and Saturday nights. You never know what you're going to get. And yes that story has nothing to do with anything but for some reason it reminds me of the state of the Oilers these days. What can I say, I'm a weirdo.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Magic


As we enter the stretch run and teams either battle for a playoff spot or jockey for playoff positioning a few thoughts wander by, like homeless guys looking for an alleyway to get their freak on.

Other than Detroit and the Edmonton Oilers, does anyone on the outside actually have a chance to get back into the postseason picture? Maybe Boston can be caught but by the Rangers or Thrashers? And in the Campbell I'm thinking everyone behind Detroit is done. With all of the loser points available its tough to make up ground.

If Detroit makes it does anybody want them in the first round? Nope.

What the fuck was Chicago thinking when they did not pick up a goalie? Holy shit. Your window is limited. You're going to throw away a chance at a Cup on Huet? Stupid.

That's all I've got. Basically we have fourteen teams pretty well home and cooled out unless someone falls apart. Washington and the Pens look good to win their divsions as do San Jose, Chicago and the Canucks, who have had a pretty successful marathon roadtrip. The only drama is whether the Sabres or Sens win their division.

Boring.

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

I will give this to the Oilers. They have picked a good year to crap out if they want to keep us interested. The draft has two top guys and then all of the rest and of course the truth is that whoever goes at #3 or #5 or #15 may end up being the best of the lot but right now there are two guys who look like they are can't miss and that's it. Two guys.

And the Oilers aren't 'catching' anyone but the team right in front of them. The Leaves. The Chiefs. The Condo Guys. The Passion That Unites Us All. The Flagship Franchise. The team that makes oodles of money while setting records of futility which seems right now to be what the Oilers are aspiring to.

The problem is that if the Oilers catch the Leaves then there is a decent chance that they might not end up with the first pick or the second pick.

That's right.

Even when these guys fuck up, which is pretty well consistently constant, they might not be able to do it right.

Now I'm of the mind that having the guys who completely wrecked a team that was thisclose to winning the Cup, a team that had a superstar defenceman and a star forward and a plethora of quality veterans and youngsters and frittered them all away until the team stood dead last, all of this as a maximum cap team, probably are not the best choice to fix their mess. Nope. If I were Katz I'd be handing walking papers to Lowe and his monkey and that greasy salesman LaForge and anyone else remotely responsible for this disaster.

Still if I want to see this team crap out really nice I have to admit that by dumping three of the Oilers' remaining four healthy NHL defencemen at the deadline and bringing only Ryan Whitney and Aaron Johnson back to man the barricades with Tom Gilbert and an assortment of kids and scrubs then Tambellini did a pretty nice job of ensuring a craptastic finish. He does almost as good a job as trying to tank as he does not trying to tank when it comes to putting together a shitty hockey club. Not quite but close.

And yet after putting a club together with ADD in net and a second pair featuring Jason Strudwick, Tambo was rewarded with not one but two wins and last night the Oilers defied logic and led the Ottawas for a good part of the game, causing Oilers fans everywhere to have their hearts join a whole lot of residual throwup in their mouths.

Meanwhile the Leaves, now just four points ahead and having traded pretty well every NHL calibre forward away, insist on playing the Swedish kid goaltender, as if Ron Wilson were purposely trying to give the Bruins the first pick overall. And so last night the Leaves fell behind early in the third to those same Bruins, now missing Chara and Savard, and seeing as they (The Flagship Franchise, the Flying Tanenbaums) had not been able to score three goals since 1967 or something like that it looked like the Oilers might have a shot at pulling within two if they could beat the flu ridden Sens.

And then a funny thing happened. The Leaves scored and they just kept coming at a Bruins' team who played Dennis Wideman the entire game basically and whose best forward was pretty well Mark Recchi. And then Kulemin, who is just an absolutely terrific player - big, hard on the puck, does all of the little things right - scored in OT and a couple of hours later ADD regressed to mean after playing out of his head for two periods and at the end of the night the bulge, not the one in my oh so tight brown cordoruoy slacks mind you, was six points.

I'll be at the game Saturday night, oh yes I will, hobnobbing with the wealthy in their fancy dress down by the glass at the ACC, watching ADD and the rest of the lads, and really, really, I can't believe it, but this will be the first Leafs' game I have ever attended, and I have attended many over the years, where I will be cheering right along with Vito from Woodbridge.

Damned if this year is going to be for nothing. Hall or Seguin may bust but they are no doubt picks right now and that's what I want.

Look for me Saturday night. I'll be the handsome man sitting beside Alice with a smile as wide as the great outdoors.

Magic number is fourteen or thereabouts, hard to tell with the loser points. Plus I stink with the advanced mathematics.

Crosby.

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.

Jesus.

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.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Everyone Out Of The Clown Car


Well Jesus, what can be said about the last couple of days?

The Oilers have gutted their blueline and with Souray out for the year and Smid also looking iffy its safe to say that with that blue and ADD and Dubnyk in between the pipes its looking pretty good for last overall this season. And probably next season is a decent bet as well.

The Staios move was terrific. I didn't think they could get a damn thing for him, figured they'd probably need to sweeten the pot. Instead they got Aaron Johnson and a third round pick.

Good luck Steve. Blood and guts for nine years, he never took a game off and is one of the last of the old warriors left from those underdog clubs. He did a nice job in 2006 and he got rewarded for it. He's got a lot of miles on him and was getting paid too much for a third pairing Dman and he can probably be replaced for less than half the price.

Still with his exit there are only four guys left from 2006 and two more of those will be gone this summer at least and that's a little bit sad.

As for the rest of the moves well its a mess really, nothing less. Moving Lubo hurts. He's probably the Oilers' best player and without him they're going to suck balls even worse which apparently is the plan. Whitney is nowhere near the player that Lubo is and the difference in salary is only 1.6 so its not like they're clearing all of it off of the books. I haven't heard a lot of good about Whitney. Swap the two and the Oilers are worse now and next year. Maybe that's the idea though as I said.

And then there was the Grebs move.

There are two things that frustrate me about this whole mess. First of all is that these clowns have gone and ruined a perfectly good team, taken a quality club that nearly won a Cup and basically destoyed it. The scary thing is that it was unnecessary and unintentional. There's been no plan since June 19, 2006. Veterans shipped out with no replacements signalled a rebuild but instead of going whole hog Lowe blew three picks on Penner and then signed Souray and then traded Greene and Stoll for Lubo and Pitkanen for Cole.

Three perfectly fine young players for two veterans, both who are gone now.

And then on top of all this (we're rebuilding, right?) they go after Heatley in the summer and sign Khabibulin to a longterm deal.

So this is the thing. If you had a plan, because it might be a good idea to have a plan when you're a multimillion dollar business, then you could be getting through this rebuild right now. You'd have dealt Horcoff and Roloson and you never would have signed Penner or Souray or traded for Lubo or Cole and your team would have been lousier these past years, hard to believe I know, but you would have amassed some high picks already and you would have been down the road already instead of basically starting right now.
So that's fucking frustrating. We just went through four shit years where Lowe and Tambellini wanted to have their cake and eat it too and we're no further ahead and now we're REALLY going to rebuild now.

Fuck me.

Which of course makes the whole dumping of salaries absurd as well. These clowns made their bed, their last place against the cap bed, and to solve the problem they're forced to move a defenceman who is 26 and who has some potential, as well as their best defenceman.

As always you can argue piece by piece but the whole body of work stinks and it has for years.

The worst part of it is that I don't trust these dummies to not throw all of their new found cap space away on more stupid moves. I can see it coming.

Final thoughts. I'm glad that it looks like Gilbert is going to stick around. I'd prefer to have him and Lubo but I'm awfully glad the rumours of him being moved have not come to fruition.

I guess Nilsson will get bought out in the summer? Or maybe they'll just have him and POS play out the string. And what of Moreau? Imagine that nobody wanted him. What a wake up call. And tonight he's out, I presume he's a HS. Brutal. Wonder if they will buy him out or find someone who will take him.

Finally missed in all of this mess is the fact that Fernando Pisani is likely going to finish his career where he started it. I think San Fernando hangs them up this summer. I can't see him catching on anywhere with his health issues and those same problems may just tell him its time anyways. He's done and its sad but if he's the first Oiler of note (Scott Reynolds grinds his teeth ;) ) to play his entire career in Edmonton well then that's saying something.

Deadline Day Live Blog! Blog! Blog! Blog! Echo! Echo! Echo! Echo! Crosby.

4:13pm - Heading home, a mixed couple of days for the Oilers, three defencemen out the door, a total cap savings of around 8.5 million next year certainly good but at what price? Will try and have some more thoughts later.

4:03pm - Oilers' fans' heads exploding everywhere over Lubo going away, here's a nice deal though, Staios to the Flames for Aaron Johnson and a third. Loved Staios but they had to move him and the fact that they actually got anything for him - nice move

3:46pm - Falmes trade useful Dustin Boyd to Nashville for nothing. Does Poile have nudie pictures or something, wtf?!

3:34pm - Oilers trade best player for Ryan Whitney. Colour me underwhelmed and unsurprised.

Too damn bad, Lubo is terrific and about the only fun guy to watch on this club. Whitney has a fair sized ticket so its not like they get a lot of cap relief. At least he is a younger guy but he's not much of a player yet imo. More on this later.

3:27pm - going out with a whimper? Mathieu Roy heading to the Panthers. Slips on banana peel trying to hail cab.

3:15pm - Kings pick up Modin as they hope to pick up a round at least, Canucks bring in Andrew Alberts, I expected more from them, looks like the Hawks are going with what they've got, may not be a bad idea

3:11pm - Caps match Yotes by adding their fourth player of the day, Joe Corvo, wow talking about loading up on bodies

3:07pm - Phoenix picks up their fourth player of the day, Stempniak for picks. very active Yotes looking to win at least a round, maybe more? Can't see them hanging with the big boys though.

3:01pm - all quiet but of course there will be some announced now, there were a dozen last year, Souray is out for the year with an infected hand (?!) so he isn't going anywhere

2:49pm - Caps add Jurcina, no goalie yet though, nothing for Chicago or Philly yet

2:42pm - up to 15 now as McArthur gets moved from Buffalo for two picks from Atlanta, weird kind of sideways deal I think

2:24pm - well my bottom three have come to fruition as Les Sabres pick up Torres, nice call by Regier

2:11pm - if I'm McWhinney or whatever his name is, I'm having a crisis of confidence right now. They'd rather have Toskala then me? Damn I'd better look into finishing that degree.

1:57pm - just had a piss and it had that sour asparagus smell, either that or I have the clap again

Mirtle tweets that its a dozen deals so far, only half of the average. Weird its seemed busy to me. Maybe its just age again. Did I ever tell you how I used to walk uphill to school? Both ways.

1:48pm - another useful Washington addition, Eric Belanger; apparently Kaberle may be in play as well according to all of the tweeters

1:34pm - I count eight moves with actual NHL players so far plus a handful of minor moves and I would bet a lot more to come. I'm beside myself with excitement. Seriously. I wouldn't even joke about this.

1:31pm - seems like a lot more happening than usual, Schneider goes to Phoenix as the league tries to set the Yotes up for some sort of playoff run, that's three players added now, Jeff Halpern goes to the Kings, I liked him a lot but apparently he's not the same since he wrecked his knee. And Lukowich clears waivers so the Canucks probably about to make a move I would guess.

1:12pm - apparently two D coming up from Springfield so tonight the Oilers will possibly have two thirds of their D being minor leaguers. Definitely not fucking around on this tank job. Question is who is heading out from Gilbert, Staios, Lubo, Souray, Strudwick? Better not be Gilbert is all I can say - whcih means it will probably be him.

12:46pm - here's one I don't get Wolski goes to the Yotes for a disappointing Mueller and another prospect, apparently its about money but Wolski has size, decent numbers and is only 24. Everything I have read about Mueller suggests bust.

And Yan Stastny to the Canucks, wow is he ever well travelled already.

12:30pm - Walker to the Caps, Caps and Pens loading up for a possible second round matchup; now am I mistaken but was it Walker who sucker puched Ward last spring? and then they were teammates this season? talk about awkward

so far more trades than last year I think

12:21pm - PDO is making me hungry, luckily for lunch we have pork tenderloin and asparagus and by we I mean me

Apparently Jones is like Jacques only he can actually play hockey. First good move by Tambo ever. He's quality. I take it all back.

12:12pm - Oilers pick up Ryan Jones, good move, the Stones were never the same after he left the band. Also we have a customer in Montana and after every sentence they all say uh-huh. Funny little quirk.

11:47am - things picking up - Aaron Ward to the Ducks for Pogge and a pick. Pogge's career is going down the toilet. I remember when Ferguson made that deal with Rask and I wondered why you would move a kid goalie when there was no guarantee that the second one would pan out. Now the Leafs have no young goalies while Rask looks like the real deal.

11:41am - Seidenberg to the Bruins, nice pickup. And Steve Simmons shows once again why he should stick to something, not sure what he does well, as he wonders why the Bruins move Morris (shitty) for Seidenberg (quality)

11:18am - rumours still floating around about Tom Gilbert, considering that the Oilers had three young defencemen before they moved Grebs, moving Gilbert would be a sure sign that the apocalypse is upon us. Lets see, we are rebuilding so first thing we do is trade our young defencemen. Based on Tambellini's track record in his first gorounds as Oilers' GM I expect nothing less than this sort of thing though. Buddy can't get out his front door without a roadmap.

11:02am - another guy who was expected to be good who turned into a journeyman, Skoula, gets flipped to NJ. Oh Martin, we barely knew ya! Vito from Woodbridge didn't even get to call the Fan to explain how they were going to trade him back to the Pens for Crosby. Depth for the playoffs although I'm thinking right now that Jersey is going to have an early exit this spring. Caps and Pens with les Sabres and Philly as the darkhorses, assuming Buffalo catches Ottawa and I think that they will.

10:39am - Cox tweets Derek Morris - one of the reasons the Bruins haven't been very good this season - nice; for a fourth? If the Oilers move Staios or Moreau they're taking salary back or sweetening the deal

10:36am - if Morris isn't a bachelor he will be soon, back to Phoenix, second deadline in a row he has been traded, second goround with the Yotes, one of five teams he has played for. Morris never lived up to the expectations but strangely continues to make a lot of cash playing, kind of like McCabe, more famous than good imo. This summer he'll probably get another nice one year deal and be on the move again next spring.

10:17am - waiting for a shoe to drop, any shoe, the rumours are out of control, Carter for Vokuon being one of them, Staios to the Caps, Souray softening on list of teams he will go to, Whitney to the Caps, Oilers and Rangers talking, the list is endless

10:04am - this sandwich is really good, its a mom and daughter who make them, they are both tiny and cute, Spanish maybe? anyway the sandwich is good, how's that for excitement

9:22am - there's this little hole in the wall joint across the street, they're the best kind you know, anyhow I'm going to get a sandwich with bacon egg and cheese, oh you bet, and all for like three bucks

8:59am - a little bit of a slow day here at work here as well, nice for a change, just was over at Tyler Dellow's site. He's absolutely on fire, not literally of course, well I hope not, with all kinds of great stuff over the past couple of days. I'm sure everyone who comes here goes there as well but if not then check it out. He's hitting it out of the park, as they say. Plus he throws a nice little soiree. Its true.

8:46am - Nothing yet at all. Overhyped as always.

Actually just once I'd like to see nothing happen just to see all of the dead air on the sports networks. Nick Kypreos might throw himself in front of a bus, which might be a good thing.

8:35am - Deadline day in the old days was a time to say goodbye for Oilers' fans for the most part, to say so long to guys like Janne Niinimaa. I was saddened by that one although it quickly became apparent that it was a good move.

In 2006 Lowe added Roloson and Samsonov in what was a terrific year for him. These two, along with Spacek and Tarnstrom, four quality NHL players, obtained for Marty Reasoner, some picks and some marginal prospects. Golden.

And then the year after, the day that the music died, Ryan Smyth shipped out of town. The club still hasn't recovered.

In case you care here are my predictions from yesterday. Last year I predicted that the Oilers would not trade any kids (yes!), except for Nilsson (doh!), and that they would hang onto Cole and pick up some depth for a run at the playoffs. Also that Detroit would pick up a goalie. And that Rachel McAdams wouldn't sleep with me. So it was a mixed bag all around.

So in other words none of this shit is going to happen. Except Poni has already moved to the Pens in what is another terrific move by Shero. That's the way he works it every year. Good stuff - the big Ukranian is one of the best guys available, imo, and he will help the Pens in a pretty wide open eastern conference. So I'm at 15%, already better than last year. ;)

1/ Oilers move Moreau and Pisani but not Staios, return is negligible, Andy Grabia weeps. Me too.

2/ Oilers move someone else young and possibly useful, like Brule or Cogliano, do not move the young and relatively useless, Nilsson and O'Sullivan

3/ Oilers come out of deadline with nothing of particular value, no great prospects, no players, no first round picks.

4/ The Flyers make a splash because they always do.

5/ The Hawks and Caps pick up goaltenders, the Caps because of the Russian's injury, the Hawks because this is their time and they don't want to trust it to Huet.

6/ The biggest firesale is out of Florida.

7/ The Canucks pick up some useful players up front and on the blueline.

8/ The Flames make at least one more move.

9/ The very useful Ponikorovosky ends up in a new town.

10/Pittsburgh and Buffalo both make nice little moves.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

House On Fire


Work is absolutely ridiculous these days so I'm going to try and do a live blog tomorrow but it may not be my usually quality work that sparkles like diamonds in the sky, with Lucy, pulling away the football from Charlie Brown, who, just like we Oiler fans, is left sprawled on his back, ribs aching, staring up at a dull gray sky, after charging forth each new season with enthusiasm, hoping that this is the year that he will kick that ball. So do we too wait on management to show a modicum of sense, instead ending up staring into the dark horizon pondering on what we ever did to deserve this and wondering if the sweet release of death might be a little too much to ask for.

Too much? Maybe a little.

With it being proven that Lubo can prop up any stiff this side of Strudwick its pretty clear that Grebeshkov is probably not as good as he was last year. Of course he's not as bad as he has appeared this year either.

Its an obvious move to clear cap space which makes it frighteningly obvious that a lot of the guys who would make more sense to move for said space are not movable. Otherwise the Oilers would move them instead of one of the three NHL defencemen they have who are under thirty.

The argument that I have seen bandied about is that they need the cap space so its a win, especially considering that they were probably going to walk away from him this summer anyhow (suddenly news to me).

Now if you don't like a guy then you can move him along for sure although a 26 year old guy whose rights you control would seem to me to have more value than guys like Sutton or Leopold. Maybe I'm wrong. In any case the problem I have with this entire deal is that Tambellini made it to fix a problem of he and Lowe's making. The Oilers are in a salary cap mess, mostly because of Lowe, but don't forget Tambo's insistence on handing Khabibulin a nice fat contract last summer. So while some applaud Tambo for clearing space the fact that they did so by moving a youngster (relatively) is akin to a guy telling his wife that he's emptied the chequing account in Vegas while on a cocaine fuelled bender with three redheaded hookers, but, never fear, we're okay because I cashed in some of our RRSPs to get us back in the black.

Clunky metaphor but you get the picture.

The one good thing out of this is that I think the choice was between Grebs and Gilbert and I have always liked Gilbert a lot better.

Other than that its another stupid failure, like the guy who pulled the trigger.

As for the deadline well I'm terrible at predicting what is going to happen because, well, I just am. I think last year I made ten awe inspiring predictions and I was two fer or something. Anyhow I have no pride, as you all know, so here goes.

1/ Oilers move Moreau and Pisani but not Staios, return is negligible, Andy Grabia weeps. Me too.

2/ Oilers move someone else young and possibly useful, like Brule or Cogliano, do not move the young and relatively useless, Nilsson and O'Sullivan

3/ Oilers come out of deadline with nothing of particular value, no great prospects, no players, no first round picks.

4/ The Flyers make a splash because they always do.

5/ The Hawks and Caps pick up goaltenders, the Caps because of the Russian's injury, the Hawks because this is their time and they don't want to trust it to Huet.

6/ The biggest firesale is out of Florida.

7/ The Canucks pick up some useful players up front and on the blueline.

8/ The Flames make at least one more move.

9/ The very useful Ponikorovosky ends up in a new town.

10/Pittsburgh and Buffalo both make nice little moves.

That's all. I know, not too exciting, but after Sunday night what do you expect? I'm in withdrawal here. After the closing ceremonies ended I actually flipped around the channels until I found a replay of the game and watched part of the first period before I went to bed.

Don't judge me. Have pity on me for after a wonderful two weeks I have nothing to fill the void except for the Edmonton Oilers, also know as the Bulgarian national womens' team.

Look it up if you have to.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Driving With The Window Rolled Down


When I was a university student in Toronto I would go home every summer to Sudbury. Those days were glorious. Summers up there are fine, for the most part hot, sunny and dry. I had a terrific job with the gas company from when I was sixteen until I was finished school, working outside, walking the lines checking for leaks. I'd walk miles and miles every day so I was nice and fit and I was paid well enough that I put myself through school and was flush during the summers on top of that.

That part of my life was different than this part of my life and I wouldn't trade what I have now for what I had then but those were some times. Even then I realized that this was the time to roar, that it would not come again, that when the future came knocking with bills and a home and kids, well then I had better have everything out of my system. And so I did my best to do that. ;)

I think of those days now and I think of cold beer and sunshine, pretty girls, music, friends constantly teasing and the endless laughing, soccer fields, roadtrips, cool cool waters washing over sunbrown skin, staggering out of the bar and crashing on a couch somewhere, anywhere, kissing a girl, cheap draft and shuffleboard, impromptu ball games set up at a moment's notice, barbeques and pools and bacon and eggs and coffee in a cheap diner, waking up beside someone with the cool breeze pushing in the curtains from the window overhead, the day just about to begin in one of the best ways possible.

Glory.

I remember driving my parents' truck on those summers days, window rolled down, sun hot on my arm, breeze blowing in, music blaring. The bands that were my bands, the ones that are my bands even today, the Hip and U2 and REM, guys around my age who I grew up with, well those guys weren't my summer bands. It was a lot of Van Morrison and Neil Young and Springsteen and a lot of classic rock. The song though, THE summer song for me, was More Than A Feeling by Boston. I heard it the other day and just as the lyrics say I found myself slipping away.

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

These past two weeks and the last handful of days especially are a time that I, and I think most Canadians, will remember forever. Vancouver threw a wonderful party and even a week ago when there was some disappointment with out team's performance (especially over the lost weekend which ended with the US sending Canada to qualify for the QF), there was no doubt that 'on the ground' this was going to be an extraordinary Olympics.

And then the Canadian team finally got rolling and the successes followed one upon another. There was the courage of Rochette and the youthful joy of Virtue and Moir, the daredevil McIvor and the great champion Hughes. Redemption for these games for Morrison and Rush and Hamelin and their teammates and for the past for Kevin Martin and Jasey Jay. The fantastic women bobsleigh teams! The cross country skiers, not winning any medals, yet signifying another program that has risen from nothing to be competitive with the best in the world.

And of course the hockey. The womens' club barely looked threatened, even against their archrivals, and one wonders if there will be womens' hockey for much longer at the Olympics.

And then there was yesterday. We gathered with friends and sat through the torture. After Friday night we knew that no lead was safe and while Canada carried the play up by two we knew it could turn on a dime and so it did late in the second.

The young Americans were terrific and there seems to me no doubt that they will be our chief rival in the years to come. Led by Kane and Kesler and Miller they kept coming but in the third Canada pushed back and for most of the period it was the red and white that carried the play. Two posts and Heatley's missed chance and Kane catching Crosby on his breakaway were far too many opportunities to waste and so at the end Parise stuck in a dagger and we grew quiet, just seconds from celebration.

And then in overtime again it was Canada pushing forward, going for it all, and in the end, as it often is, it was a sudden shot that did it, emerging from nowhere, a puck won along the boards by the veteran Iginla, a hero eight years ago as a kid, a hero again, getting the puck to the favourite son of the hockey gods, Crosby.

We jumped up and down and hugged and cheered and sang the anthem proudly. Years from now we'll remember sharing the experience and it will bring smiles to our faces.

Final impressions? Toews is all that and more and while the captaincy for Canada in the future will be Crosby's it will be the young Hawks' captain who will be the backbone of our national club. What a player.

Nash and Morrow and Richards and Perry all rose in my estimation. Getzlaf as well, once he got going, although he's, how would I describe it, lumbering? As for his being sent out at the end to protect the lead, well he was the only Canadian who seemed to be able to win a draw (and he did at the end, twice) and that had to have been Babcock's thinking.

I liked Marleau's compete a lot and Thornton too, although the latter is far too slow for these competitions. As for Heatley, well I'm biased of course, but he had the insurance on his stick and couldn't roof it and for me he'll always be a guy who fills the Latvians and Poles but doesn't do a damn thing when the chips are down.
Then again what can you say about a tournament where the quality of competition is so high that NHL stars are reduced to bit players? Guys like Bergeron and Stastny and Seabrook and Kessel, reduced to afterthoughts.

As for Crosby what can you say? I think he may have had a bigger tournament without those wingers. Iggy was solid but he's a soldier at this level now and Staal looked lost on the wing. After all that though the Maritimer came through with one of the big goals in Canada's long storied hockey history.

Pronger was shaky through the whole tournament until the final game where he was just fine and Boyle also overcame a slow start. Keith and Doughty are the future, well, Keith is the present really, him and Weber. And old Niedermeyer came through one more time, even though Parise got behind him and Weber there, the old man was very good, one last time.

And Luongo was as good as he had to be and that was pretty damn good I thought. Good for him.

Hell, truth be told I haven't a bad thing to say about anyone right now, who am I kidding!?!?!?!?

A dozen best on bests and Canada has won eight of them and three of the last four now and its rarely easy, if ever, but goddamn its sweet.

A terrific way to cap off a wonderful two weeks that we will all remember until we're sipping burger through a straw.

And now back to the awful reality of Edmonton Oilers' hockey. After this tournament my already waning emotions about the old club team are really at thier lowest ebb in a while.

Oh well, we'll deal. Happy thoughts and all that after all.

Crosby.