Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vacation All I Ever Wanted




Kids finish school today and so summer starts officially for us although with the weather we've been having it seems like it started about two months ago. When I was in Dublin it was in the twenties here and that was before Easter. Crazy but after last summer we are owed some decent weather.

Its been hectic but in a good way. Kids are playing soccer. We've been partying a little bit here and there, getting out when we can, sometimes with friends, sometimes just the two of us, we're good like that. I'm not playing hockey this summer but I am rollerblading to and from work two or three times a week so probably coming out on top in terms of the exercise thing there. Jenn's soccer season was cut short a couple of weeks ago when she was marking an opponent and they both went over hard. I'd like to say you should see the other girl but she got up and walked away. My wife on the other hand is out six weeks with a fractured heel which is about as bad as it sounds. She's not laid up but its no fun.

Other than the soccer the injury hasn't really put a damper on the summer although you might want to ask me that come this weekend. We're off to Ottawa tomorrow and if you were wondering if we are gluttons for punishment going to Ottawa for Canada Day whilst the Queen (by the way, up the Republic!) is there then yes, yes we are. Anyhow if I run into old Betty I'll tell her to go back to her own country thank you very much but the likelihood is that we won't be anywhere near the madness, here's hoping anyhow.

We've done the crosscountry trip with the kids of course, Ontario to PEI, and are doing it in August again but its strange to me because this little venture has a little more of a chance to go off the rails I think. We like these little three to four day family getaways but we just missed out on getting a suite and so there wil be five of us in a room and one of the five is almost two and acting like it and the other two are four and six and the fourth is going to be trying to walk all about Ottawa on a bad wheel so what all this means is that when all is said and done the fifth, that would be me, might be in the bathroom with a fifth of something trying to kill off that edge.

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A busy busy week for the Oilers.

I liked the work they did at the draft. The first two picks were terrific and I didn't much mind what came after. The Slovak kid on D and then Hamilton and Martindale - pretty good stuff. I'm not a draft guy and I know that some folks would have preferred other picks in that range but these guys aren't crazy off the board picks at all. They all sound like picks that you get in that range. Marincin is inconsistent, Hamilton had some injury issues, Martindale could use a little more intensity by the sounds of it. At that point in the draft that's what you run into. All three have potential. After that of course its mostly guys we'll never see or hear from again although Blain and the other defenceman (Davidson?) might be longshots. No complaints here though. I know some folks wanted the Russian kid but I think that with the Nash move and the moves today we can see that the Oilers are looking to avoid any drama of any sort which may not be a bad thing considering the past few seasons. As for Kabanov or whatever his name is, pass pass pass on him. All the talent in the world and a huge problem on top of it. Forget it.

And now they are slashing and burning up front. Yesterday Pouliot and Potulny got let go as they were not qualified. The addition of Fraser has given the Oilers three legitimate pivots, albeit of varying ability, and it was no surprise to see these two get the axe. Potulny is a tweener on a team full of them (although not so much now I guess) and while he was decent he was really one of those guys who added little. With Hall and probably another hotshot kid or two coming in his PP time was going to get cut. He doesn't PK, he's not physical, he's not a great skater. I hope he catches on somewhere but you knew his time was up. As for Pouliot I think this comes down to money a bit. I've always liked Pouliot but he's injury prone and he's never really caught on. He showed flashes last season but he has done that before. My guess is that he has a career elsewhere but I don't think the Oilers wanted to pay him over nine hundred grand for what he provides when they can probably find someone to do the same for less. Of course the question with the Oilers always is will they replace him, this has been the problem for them these past few years, but I'm not surprised to see him go. Jacques is a surprise to me. He's terrible but he's cheaper and I think they figure he might still emerge. I don't see it but the difference in his salary and the other guys plus his size made all the difference there. Be nice if he could play hockey though.

And today we find out that not one, not two, but three players have been waived - Nilsson, O'Sullivan, Moreau.

Wow.

So much for that logjam up front, especially as Pisani and Stone are UFA as well. Presently this is what we have going on.

Horcoff, Gagner, Cogliano, Fraser

Penner, Hall, Jones, Jacques, Paajarvi
Hemsky, Brule, Stortini, Eberle

Now I am guessing that they sign Stone and Reddox being qualified is good news for him as he tried to stick once and for all because this lot is a little thin. Tambellini has said that July first will see him trying to fill holes in the bottom six and that is the obvious place to start and of course we still await what is going to happen with Souray and for that matter with Cogliano.

Crazy day to see three guys get gassed but really no surprise. Moreau is done and its sad to see because he gave the Oilers a lot of good years but the past couple of years he's been a shadow of his former self. O'Sullivan is an enigma. Nilsson had two good months in 2008 to earn his present contract and one thinks that his career is on the line because he is a dogfucker of the highest degree. Maybe O'Sullivan's too although he has that pedigree so he may get a chance somewhere. Moreau, I think, is finished. Its obvious that nobody wanted any of these guys but maybe they can catch on somewhere playing for peanuts.

Relative peanuts I mean.

Can't accuse Tambellini of sitting on his hands anymore.

On the road for a few days but the laptop is accompanying so hopefully I can get some thoughts up on Canada Day. If not it will be the weekend.
By the way, as you can imagine, I love the Go Gos. Favourite 80s girl band, although Bananarama gives them a run.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Draught, er, Draft, Thoughts


Taylor Hall with the come hither look, the little scamp.

I watched the whole damn thing somehow. I swear if someone could invent a button that would automute the TV everytime Pierre Maguire opened his mouth then they would make millions. And here's hoping that he interviews in Calgary next and gets that job. The most inane moment out of many was when he questioned Dallas for picking Campbell because they have Lehtonen. In Pierre's world every first round pick is a future hall of famer who is ready to step into the NHL and be an impact player RIGHT NOW (remember his ranting that Paajarvi would be the best player on the Oilers right now at the WJC) and one imagines the longterm damage he could do to a franchise if he was in charge if only for a few years.

I've said it before.

I will say it again.

Pierre Maguire is a tool. Massive tool. Keep on trucking stupid.

Watching Dale Tallon work to get his picks was impressive. Watching Burke and Sutter sulk and grump and sweat for nothing for three hours was even better.

I would have been happy with Seguin but I've barely seen either kid play and I trust in the choice of Hall absolutely. I think in either case the Oilers would have been right and the enthusiasm and recklessness of Hall will be a terrific addition to a club that seems to have been lacking both recently. Having a prospect's stable that now includes he, Paajarvi and Eberle on the wings to go along with veterans Penner and Hemsky certainly makes one smile. Here's hoping for a long and healthy and productive career as an Oiler for the kid.

Apparently the Oilers had a deal in place (according to TSN) for the fifteenth to pick McIlrath (LT predicted as such weeks ago - impressive!) but when Sather took him at ten then it was moot. Good to see that Tambellini at least trying to do something and also to have outside confirmation of such (rather than the Oilers' say so - God knows over the years the stories we have heard of the the one who just got away).

Its early but winners so far are as follows:

Oilers and Bruins.

Ducks - somehow had two players fall ten spots to them. Coming away with Fowler and Etem where they got them - nice.

Panthers - three first rounders and five second rounders plus a couple of players for Ballard. Nice work from Tallon.

Hawks - a first rounder and four second rounders? Seriously? Restocking the cupboard with cheap kids to replace guys who have to be moved over the next few years. Good work by Bowman.

The losers are the Leafs and the Flames. At least the Leafs have Kessel to show for it. The Flames' trade for Jokinen meant they could not resign Cammalleri. They gave up Lombardi. And no first rounder this year. That's pretty awesome.

We'll see what goes down today. There are some quality guys who have slid to the second round who the Oilers get first crack at. That's exciting. This Pitlick kid sounds good to me. My guess is that they may be able to pry another pick or two out of someone. It will cost them Cogliano or Nash though. And then when all is said and done we'll see if they buy out Nilsson, POS and Moreau. My guess is yes. There is no market for these guys and with Hall and Fraser added to the depth chart up front there's no room at all.
Fun night last night and a fun week to come.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Draft Day Live Blog


I sit here close to ground zero of the G20 summit, the streets are deserted, the windows are boarded up, the city is empty.

My eyes are bleeding all over my keyboard thanks to some hijinks last night. Hit a place called The Victory Cafe with my good friend Higgins. They have a terrific patio and yesterday was a beautiful night so there were no tables available and I don't wait in line anymore so we went inside and grabbed a romantic little booth because we're gay like that. The thing about the Vic is the beer. Around a dozen local and regional on tap including a cask ale. Its pretty fucking groovy. So we had three pints between 8:30 and 10 and then we decided we should hit the street and see if we could find somewhere to sit outside.

We wandered down Bloor through Koreatown until we got to Clinton's which used to be a terrific place, its still not bad but not what it once was. Had a pint or maybe two there, its a little foggy, also some wings, why the hell I don't know. Sat outside in the gloom and watched the world go by and it was good.

Sometime later we picked up and left, walking east to clear our heads. It was mighty fine, as my old man says. Ducked into a back street to find an alley to have a piss and managed to find ourselves near the Duke of York at which point we decided to head in for a nightcap.

At this point our night took an odd turn. If there were a hundred people I knew as acquaintances from university who live and work in the city I would say that I have not seen ninety five of them in twenty years. Not hide nor hair. And then there are maybe three who I have run into once.

And there is one guy who I have bumped into, oddly enough, maybe a half dozen times, a stuttering paranoid who actually was at Paupers briefly for G6 back in 2006, the last happy moment for Oiler fans.

And then there is a guy named Dooley, who like Forrest Gump, is everywhere. I run into this guy at least once a year. I bump into him on the street, on the subway, in restaurants and bars. I turn around and he is there grinning and I shit my pants.

And he was there last night.

Anyhow I'm hungover and I have to get some bacon in me. Next, some draft talk.
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10:36am
You could fire a cannon down Yonge Street and not hit a soul. The only time I have seen the streets this deserted was when the hockey club was playing for gold in SLC and Vancouver.
My sandwich shop was shuttered up. No bacon for me. Cowardly sexy small women of some undetermined extraction, likely Mediterranean of some sort.
Damn.
Went to the bank machine and there were eight cops there. I think they were protecting the cop who was getting baton money.
Pierre Maguire remains the biggest tool on TV. I forgot he is on tonight and I will have to listen to him describe each and every kid as a future hall of famer because its not what you say its HOW LOUD YOU CAN SHOUT INANITY!!!!!
Fucking tool.
As for me well I am a Seguin man but the Oilers really can't go wrong either way. I think these guys are both quality and either pick is going to be a very good one. Never mind trying to read the tea leaves as to what buddy says or how he looks when he says it or what his dad is like. They're both good picks. I think they are both going to be very good NHL players. I'd take Seguin because if they're equal and I think they are then I think you take the pivot. He has a greater impact on the game than a winger, pure and simple.
I think the Oilers pick Hall. I think they do so because they think he is the better prospect. I also think that the hype, the sexiness, the fame doesn't hurt when it comes to making Hall the choice.
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11:26am
Dreger says the 4th, 8th and 15th are in play and the Oilers are supposed to be hot to trot to get another first rounder so I would expect they will be after one of those, most likely one of the top ten picks. The problem? Looking at the roster you're probably going to have to give up Penner, Hemsky or a couple of topnotch kids to get one of them. Can't say I like any of those scenarios. POS, Nilsson and Souray aren't going to get it done.
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1:05pm
Second helping of grease today to try and work the poison out of my system. Overall not too bad. Drank water and had a couple Tylenol before bed, that's the key. Five hours of sleep isn't cutting it though.
Latest rumour is Souray back to Jersey and names are being thrown about. The guy who is a fit when it comes to the money is Zubrus. Its almost an exact match in terms of cap space. Zubrus is overpaid but he's a big dude and he can play the game iirc. Could do a lot worse if that's the match.
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1:49pm
According to Peter The Brown the Islanders' first pick is also in play. So the 4th, 5th, 8th and 15th that we know of. One thing to note is the BJs still want a top ten pick so unless the Oilers get the 8th and then swap it they're not getting that one.
Again I think that any of these picks is going to cost Penner or Hemsky and I'll take a pass on that. I wonder if Cogliano and Brule would fly? Probably not.
Other than the odd rumour though its quiet.
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2:19pm
Goofy rumour which makes no sense to me. This idea that Boston is shopping Savard to make room for Seguin. Here's a club that has one more year before Chara and Bergeron are UFA. They may sign both but this may also be their last year with both. So why would they trade the guy who stirs their offensive drink in a go for it year and replace him with an 18 year old kid? Not happening folks.
The other thing is the eagerness to move proven players for draft picks. I might consider moving a guy like Penner for the second overall but other than that the idea of moving either he or Hemsky for a roll of the dice doesn't make sense to me. If you have a guy who is a very good player in the NHL then you probably should hold onto him if you can.
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3:02pm
Latest rumours - Hamhuis and Philly are far apart. Bold move by Holmgren looks like it may not work out. Have to admire him for trying though. Apparently the Canucks are interested according to McKenzie. A replacement for Mitchell I guess.
Mitchell is the type of guy the Oilers could use but unless he has absolutely no suitors he will not come to Edmonton. Once he's cleared medically he'll get his contract.
UFA always make out like bandits but one guesses that this year guys like Hamhuis are really going to get their cash. So many guys have already signed extensions and the pool is shallow, kind of like the gene pool at a backwoods wedding.
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3:46pm
Peter The Brown reports that Chiarelli says that Tambellini has made an offer on that second pick but the answer is no.
Off home in a moment here. Rollerblading. I'm at a nice even 35 minutes door to door. Looking to push that number down but doubt that tonight is the night.
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5:43pm
34 minutes, a new record. And still nothing new. A nation yawns. The reports are tweeting things like 'Two GMs just went behind the stands". Sounds like someone's going to get a reacharound. Guaranteed Maguire is involved in that.
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7:00 pm
Here we go. Taylor or Tyler? I'm sure it will be Hall.
7:18pm
Its Hall.
OK as you might have guessed I'm done for now unless the Oilers make a move here. Over at Ty's trading pithy remarks. More on Hall later. Congrats to the young man.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Holy Mackerel!


The Oilers added Colin Fraser from the Chicago Blackhawks for a sixth round pick last night. Fraser is basically a fourth line centre. He scored seven goals and twelve assists this year in seventy games but when Bolland returned from his back surgery he lost his spot in the lineup, not surprising considering the Hawks lined up at centre with Toews, Sharp, Bolland and Madden. Rumours have been that the Hawks were going to hold onto Sharp and Bolland and try and move wingers to fix their cap issues (a strategy which is a good one I think) and last night's 'other' move in which Byfuglien, Sopel and Eager were moved to Atlanta for picks, prospects and Marty Reasoner seems to be the big one for them in terms of clearing space.

Reasoner slides into Madden's spot and if Huet goes to Russia, as rumoured, then the Hawks' cap crunch is almost under control. Great move by Bowman. Sopel and Eager did good work for Chicago this spring but of course both are absolutely replaceable parts and while Byfuglien did some excellent work for sure he was probably the most expendable of the expensive Hawk forwards. He's not as versatile as Versteeg and while he presented a difficult case for opposing defences he has not shown consistency and he gets extraordinary icetime in terms of where he starts his shifts. I think Troy Brouwer, who scored more goals than Byfuglien this year, steps in and replaces him just fine.

For the Oilers this is a depth move and its a fine one. Fraser is a solid fourth line centre. I have only seen him good. He can skate, he's hard on the puck, he's an agitator, he does the little things. I believe that he also is a PK guy. In short he is a good fourth line centre to have.

Its likely the first of many moves Edmonton makes and I think we are going to see a purge of forwards. Tambellini has said that in FA he is going after a couple of guys to play in the bottom six. Seeing as the majority of the Oilers' forwards are bottom six and a few of them are centres I think we are going to see a bit of a bloodbath between now and the beginning of July - Moreau, Pisani, Potulny, Pouliot, O'Sullivan, Nilsson, Stone, Jones, Jacques.

Holy mackerel we have a lot of bottom end forwards!

A couple will survive. But the acquisition of Fraser makes that number one less.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Old Man At Sea


Well I think it may be time to admit that Tambellini isn't sitting around on his hands anymore. Hard to say how much of Pat Quinn's reassignment was Quinn's decision that his heart wasn't in another year of coaching this bunch of losers or if it was Tambellini's realization that while this club was flawed Quinn wasn't exactly the man for the job.

Now Tom Renney will get his shot. Don't know much about your man Renney except his demeanour and methods always struck me as very MacTavishish. Calm, cerebral, the type of guy that critics call dull and passive. He's a tactician, a linematcher, of course nearly all coaches are, with the exception of Pat Quinn who was of the roll them over the boards school.

Old time hockey.

Will the promotion of Renney make this a better club? Well if he shelters a few of the kids then it will likely be a bit better although like MacT he certainly realizes that its pretty hard to hide nine of your twelve forwards from the other club's big guns.

Interesting to me is how this was couched to Katz. Was Quinn Lowe's choice? If not how does Tambo explain away that choice and the big contract that came with it? Or does Quinn let him off the hook with a "Its me, not you" resignation.

Say what you will about Steve Tambellini he is certainly putting his stamp on the organization this summer. Now we will see if he can effect the same change on the ice.
Additionally - following the Twitter and Elliotte Friedman thinks that Quinn was pushed -

Can't imagine Quinn took this very well. When I spoke to him in April about coaching future, he was surprised I'd even bring it up.
So there you go.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Three Lions




The kids started their soccer season a couple of weeks ago. Its the third year for my oldest and the second year for the boy and they've both been looking forward to it for a while. My daughter was a little ambivalent about it last summer but she wanted to play again this year and she has been practicing in the backyard and in both her first practice and her first game she was right into it. She's full of confidence, this one, and she's quick and she's got a sense of what to do, of getting to the right place, of timing, she's an athlete in other words and while she's more of an individual sports girl she has a couple of buddies on her team and so I think that she's going to have a good season.

The league that they play in issued the uniforms last week, they're World Cup kits and her team wears the white jerseys of England, right down to the crest with the three lions on it.

The boy played last year and while he was playing against kids a year or so older than him he did quite well. He had that single minded determined personality that a lot of athletes do - like Taylor Hall for example - he would see the ball, he would chase the ball, he would get the ball and run with it. He is absolutely the opposite of his father as a child. As a boy when it came to sports I was small and passive. I worked pretty hard and I was a smart little player, I could read the play and I was a good playmaker but I never had the personality to go after it, as it were.

Little kids playing soccer is basically a pack of them chasing the ball, elbowing and trampling each other as they pursue the object of their desire like a pack of wolves after a stricken whitetail deer. Its about as ugly too, the only thing missing is the splayed entrails on the pitch. And then you have your wandering stragglers who are checking out the clouds, roaming over to the sidelines to chat with their folks and stopping and sitting down and picking the clover as the game rages about them.

And the boy was also outfitted with an England uni.

In his first game against 'Germany' he and his teammates ran wild. It was a slaughter. There are a half dozen kids on his club who are aggressive and fast, who want the ball, who need the ball and so they spent most of the game charging through the hapless 'Germans' in a way that the real English team could only dream of in their wildest and wettest of fantasies.

As for the boy well, he was a bit of a revelation because, well if I may boast a little, he gets it. When one of his teammates took the ball the wrong way he was calling out directions. When the other team threatened it was he who rushed back first and moved the ball out of danger. He came off for a quick break and grumped that 'nobody here passes the ball'.

He's got midfielder written all over him, a guy who can control the game at both ends of the field. He's not going to score the most goals, he's not going to be the sexiest player but he's going to be the guy who makes that engine hum.

The real Three Lions could use a guy like that, eh?

We're right into the World Cup over here. So far its looking like a lot of the old favourites may be fading away but I've seen this story before and until the round of sixteen begins and a handful of the old powers of the game are gone then I won't hold my breath. Still with the cheating French not even bothering to show up (seriously, they should have just allowed the Irish to come, at least they would have shown some try) and the English reaching a new low and the Italians looking absolutely underwhelming this may be an interesting tournament. Only the Argentines have looked really good so far. I'm hoping that we might see some newer blood do well - the Dutch, the Danes, the Ivory Coast or the Mexicans, the Slovaks or my favourite underdog, the Slovenes:

Slovenia greatest country in the world.
All other countries are run by little girls.
Slovenia number one exporter of potassium.
Other countries have inferior potassium.

Sorry Kazakhstan.

The Frigging English though. Aren't they something? They are like us with hockey except they haven't won a damn thing since 1966. Haven't even been close. They're like the Leafs! ;) Seriously though this one is the worst of all. They cruised through the qualifying and for once they looked good but when you have guys like Rooney saying before Algeria that they could win at less than their best well then you know the problem right there. As Sather once said about Jimmy Carson, if I recall correctly, you can have all of the talent in the world but it doesn't mean a damn thing if you haven't got the ticker.

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So what does this all have to do with the Oilers? Well the silly season has started in earnest and so far we have seen Halak moved to the Blues and Hamhuis and Arnott shipped out by the Predators. Also Patrick Thoresen has been waived through the league by the Flyers as he returns for his second goround in the league. Go Patrick Thoresen!

As what passes for debate (Seguin sucks! Hall sucks!) these days rages around us we wait for Tambellini to make his moves. Bob McKenzie tweets that the Oilers will be busy and I think that they will be. Its interesting to see the moves that have already happened and it has become clear that good players can be had. They can be had for very little. Indeed they could have had Patrick Thoresen for nothing.

Because it always comes back to the same thing or at least it does with me. You need good players. You have to accumulate good players. The Oilers had a lot of good players in 2006. Then they got rid of nearly all of them and didn't replace them.

Here are the Chicago Blackhawks, this is the roster that won the Cup plus a couple of their spares and Kim Jonsson:

Toews, Hossa, Kopecky, Ladd, Sharp, Kane, Bolland, Versteeg, Byfuglien, Brouwer, Madden, Eager, Fraser, Burish, Keith, Seabrook, Campbell, Hjalmarsson, Sopel, Boynton, Jonsson, Hendry, Niemi, Huet

How many Oilers could make that club? Here are the Oilers right now:

Horcoff, Penner, Hemsky, Gagner, Brule, Cogliano, Moreau, O'Sullivan, Nilsson, Stortini, Pouliot, Jacques, Jones, Potulny, Stone, Whitney, Gilbert, Souray, Smid, Chorney, Peckham, Khabibulin, Dubnyk, JDD

That is one heaping pile of stink.
If you were Stan Bowman and you could pick over that roster how many guys would you take to replace the guys on your club? Very few I would say. Very very few. The Oilers don't have a long way to go. They have forever to go right now.

So please Tambo, no overpriced players, no players who are famous for being famous, no sizzle without the steak. Bring in those guys who can play the toughs, guys who can score, guys who do the little things, guys who are hard on the puck, guys who can play.

Guys who can play.

Like the boy. ;)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feast


We were up north a couple of weeks ago for a few days to visit the folks. Good time was had by all as we brought the madness to the grandparents and the grandparents loved it.

When we head north after the warm weather has come we always hit a chip wagon on the way up. And we always visit with dear friends of ours, whether its warm or cold, but when its warm enough for their pool to be open then then kids are in there. They'd be in there day and night if they could.

And always we eat. Joan is Italian and so her home is always warm and welcoming and always there is food. There are butter tarts and raisin squares and pastries and sweets of every description. Soups and pastas and meat and bread and by the time its all over we can barely push back from the table.

When I met them many years ago their sons were seven and four and now the boys are both grown men and friends of mine. They are loud and boisterous and the air is thick with the give and take of good natured insults, the needle is always out in that house and any bullshit is called quickly and any big heads get popped pretty quickly.

We are family when it gets down to it and so when we can get over there and spend an evening its a time that I look forward to and enjoy almost more than anything. And so on this visit the kids were in the pool and we had a couple of beers and then the boys came over with their girlfriends and soon we were all sitting around the table with a couple of bottles of wine and some beer and a massive feed of ribs. One of the guys has been seeing a sweet wonderful girl for a few years now and it was good to see her and and the second brother brought over a girl for the first time (when we have been there anyhow) and she was sly and sarcastic and so she fit right in with the rest of the zoo. It was boisterous to say the least.

When it was over we pushed back from the table and the kids ran wildly, amped up on multiple desserts, chased by various adults around the house. As for me I sprawled in the living room and caught part of game four as Joan (a huge Hawks fan) fretted and cursed while her husband (a Leafs' fan, the poor bastard) and sons (Bruins/Wings) mocked and teased and derided her club.

Guess she had the last laugh though.

I've been roller blading back and forth to work a couple of days a week to try and stay (get back) into shape. Might take a month before I work off that night. All worth it though. What a time.

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With Chicago victorious its now time for us to tune into the Oilers again in what has become THE time for hockey fans. The playoffs are great but if your club is not involved then its not as all consuming. As much as I loved Chicago's run this season it did not compare to 2006. And the regular season can become meaningless before the trees are naked if you are unlucky. And while training camp is fun and the start of the season brings with it hope its not as meaningful as, say, spring training in baseball. Its not an event.

But the offseason now? Well with trades in the regular season limited to deadline day now for the most part the last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July, that month or so, has become Christmas for hockey fans. After the Cup has been presented its like a fantasy league gone wild. Not only is there the draft and the free agent frenzy but all of that pent up trading action happens plus you get your buyouts.

So every team tries to do what it can to position itself for next season. They draft for the future, try and purge past mistakes, try and bring in the guys who will put the team over the top or at least into the playoffs.

A feast indeed.

What is going to have an impact next spring will be how Chicago manages their cap issues, what moves San Jose makes, whether the Penguins bring in guys who can play with their big guns, if the Caps sit tight or change their makeup.

What Edmonton does isn't going to have an impact next spring but its going to hopefully change the course for this sadsack franchise so that maybe there will be some better springs for us in the future.

Some things I think we may see, keeping in mind that I have a terrible record at predicting this shit. Seriously I run at about thirty percent when it comes to this.

1/ They're going to pick Hall over Seguin. I think its a coin flip myself and I'd take the pivot but Hall is the sexy pick and I think that matters to the Oilers. Not the best reason to pick him but in the end I think either will be a good pick. So it will be Dopey. Me like hockey.

And that's ok.

2/ And they're going to load up at the draft. They're going to try and move up, they're going to try and trade for more picks, they're going to load up as best they can.

3/ Souray is gone but its a similarly flawed player coming back. No team can just take in a big contract like that without sending money back. So we will probably get one or two guys back for him. The cap hit will be around five million per for the next two seasons and the players will be flawed. What do you expect for a guy who is aging and has played one of the last three seasons. Might get some of that size the club needs here though, maybe an overpriced guy to play in the bottom pair and a big man to play in the bottom six forwards.

4/ Moreau is as well and I think its the same type of deal. They'll send him somewhere for a change of scenery and get the same money and same type of player back. Remember Geoff Sanderson? They aren't sending him to the minors and he isn't coming back so I think this is where they go. If not then they will buy him out.

5/ O'Sullivan and Nilsson are gone. The fact that the Oilers can buy them out for a third of their contracts means if they can't be moved (and someone might take a gamble that one of them wakes up I guess) then they will suck it up and take the hit. With Omark and Eberle on the way and Gagner, Brule and Cogliano still there there aren't enough roster spots for all of the shrimps. And these two dogfuckers have had their chance and failed miserably.

6/ I would guess that one of Cogliano or Brule is gone as well and it will probably be Cogliano for another youngster gone astray, similar to the Mueller deal this spring. The Oilers want a bigger team and the kid needs a change of scenery.

7/ I think JDD will not get moved unless they bring in a veteran to backstop Oklahoma. And even if he gets moved it will be a nothing deal. Halak brought a couple of prospects who are decent. What do you think JDD is worth? Pffft. And he is going. That WC call to Dubnyk was all you need to know about that race being over.

8/ No whale hunts this year. They'll bring in some vets through trade or the UFA market, the former will be guys that clubs need to move to clear space and the latter will be the guys trying to keep their careers alive, just like Comrie last year. Actual NHL players to help protect the kids and make the club a little bit better. Nothing that exciting though.

That's about all I have. Rumours of a big move (Hemsky or Penner) don't strike me as being reasonable. If this year goes awry then next summer they will make the decision on these guys but if you want to avoid being the Islanders then you're going to try and keep two of the very few good NHL players that you have.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chicago


An excellent playoffs and an excellent year for hockey all around as long as we don't think about YOUR EDMONTON OILERSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!

Of course we had the Olympics and that was such a wonderful tournament, terrific hockey, and Canada winning it all, ending our best on best losing streak at one. The team struggling early, the revelation that was Duncan Keith, the Toews/Richards/Nash line, the destruction of the Russians, never seen before, the near disaster against the Slovaks (and the overall run that the Slovaks had) and then the final against the young Americans, victory snatched away at the end of regulation and then IGGY! and Crosby Crosbies the Crosby with strong muscular thighs and proven leadership abilities and Pierre Maguire stark naked fully erect as well as all of us, lets be honest.

!!!
As for the playoffs well the hockey was very very good and so were the storylines. I ended up nine and six in the prediction department and it was in the east where I fell flat. I figured Detroit to beat the Sharks and that did not happen but other than that I was golden in the west. Out East though, well Jesus. Here was a conference where I figured, like the West, that the gap between the top seeds and the lower ones was a fair bit. Instead the six, seven and eight went through. Then Montreal beat the Pens and the Flyers got healthy just as Boston's injuries did them in and so the end result was a seven and an eight out east. Crazy crazy shit out east. One of those years.

Very satisfying in the end though and not just because Chicago ended their long drought or because of my past ties to them although I have to admit I cannot remember a Stanley Cup result more pleasing to me. Watching Wednesday night and Jenn and a couple of friends were here, having just polished off a couple of bottles of red and Kane shot and suddenly his arms were in the air and as soon as I saw that I shouted "Its in! Its in! They've won! They've won!" and then watched the celebration afterwards which I always really enjoy. Actually my wife joined me and pointed out that Sopel's wife was wearing sweat pants and heels and then we both laughed at Keith and his hobospeak. Right down to the slurring lisp. And then because I had it PVR'd we had drunken couch sex while Keith was interviewed in the background. When it was over I remarked that this was the Canadian dream, Stanley Cup celebrations, wine and beer, sex. She said it wasn't her dream and I said that I wasn't talking about her. And then I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning drinking and basically killed the rest of my week. Seriously though I will remember that night forever. Great great night.

The Hawks were the best team in the league this year by my eye and yet their path to the Cup proved that regardless of how good you are or how deep you are its a long and perilous road. Against Nashville they looked nervous to me and Keith really looked off. Kane was Kane. Kid gives back a lot but in terms of offence he has a flair for the dramatic and that shortie against Nashville to tie it with only seconds left was probably what got them rolling. That and the return of Campbell. Campbell is one of those guys who is a good player who will forever be overshadowed by that contract. His return to form allowed them to move Byfuglien up and gave them a top four Dman basically. Big addition. After that they didn't seem in danger to me against the Preds and they deserved to beat the Canucks. Superior depth again.

The Sharks' series was closer than a sweep but then again so was the Sharks' sweep of the Wings. Niemi was the difference, he and the superior depth of the Hawks again. Put it this way, no other club would have scratched a twenty two goal scorer or shunted him to the fourth line as the Hawks did with Brouwer. Pretty crazy shit. And a guy like Colin Fraser who I rate pretty well based on admittedly limited viewing didn't even get on the ice.

Philadelphia did better than I thought and really they could have been up four games in (although a Hawks' win in OT in game three would have finished it early). Pronger did what Pronger does. Buddy is one of the alltime greats. He's vicious and he's a prick and so have been so many of the greats through the years - from Eddie Shore through Howe and Lindsay and Mikita in his younger days and all the way through Bobby Clarke and Messier and Anderson and Chelios and all the rest. We had him on our side and we saw what he could do and he did it again this year until Quenneville came up with his stroke of genius and split up his top line.

And that is where the Hawks had it won. The Flyers could shuffle their lines to try and get guys going but when you have Asham in your top nine and a kid like Giroux who showed well at home but disappeared in Chicago and Carter playing on a broken foot well your options are limited. If Leino and Hartnell had not caught fire this sucker probably would have never have been close. Hawks were five deep on the back end and then threw Boynton out there who proved to be reliable when called upon.

And up front they were just too much. Hossa and Toews could drag Kopecky around just as Smyth and Horcoff drug around Winchester and Harvey whilst playing the toughs four years ago (and seriously based on that should Lowe not have signed Smyth, the dummy, Lowe that is) and when they were out there the puck was in Philly's end pretty well steady and while they got scored on by the Briere line a couple of times they made them play defence and when they were playing D they couldn't get close to Niemi. And that left Sharp and Kane to do some damage and Bolland and Byfuglien and Vertseeg to do some more and in the end that killed the Flyers. Line after line over the boards, chipping it past the Flyer D, making them turn and work and Pronger and Timmonen and Carle and Coburn all had tough games those last two outings. Same as everyone else Chicago faced though.

Of course the shitty goaltending didn't help. Niemi was no hell games one through four either but Leighton was out and out bad a number of times and in game six Niemi was stellar in the third. He was very good those first three rounds and I figured that if he could have one very good game that would do it for Chicago once they won game five and he came back next game and did it for them.

And so now Chicago celebrates and its a wonderful thing to see and then Stan Bowman will have to do something (seriously did he make a single move after Tallon got canned?). Well he will have to do a lot of things. With the bonuses that Kane and Toews earned this club is even in deeper shit than before.

Still the favourite though. Lidstrom is a year older and the Sharks have some choices to make themselves and the Hawks themselves are likely to be better next year, the ones who remain. You would think so anyhow, they're still mostly a bunch of kids. What is going to happen to them is what happened to Detroit more than what happened to the Pens. The Pens lost some pretty good players and ended up with a couple of superstars and a lot of average players. The Wings meanwhile have had their depth eaten at for years, slowly but surely, and this is what is about to happen to the Hawks. If they stay healthy next spring they will be the team to beat again but they won't have a guy with twenty two goals on the fourth line or a handy veteran like Madden to PK and act as the insurance guy on draws.

They'll bury Huet and they'll move heaven and earth to move Campbell and if they succeed there then they'll be set. If they can't move Campbell well then it will be Sopel and either Versteeg or Byfuglien who get the gate, probably Ladd too. I'd move Byfuglein myself but my guess is it will be Versteeg.

So they will be thinner up front but running out a forward group of Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Kane, Bolland, Versteeg, Brouwer, Kopecky in their top nine plus the role players they have, well they could throw a kid out there and then bring in cheap help at the deadline if need be.

Nice looking club still I think. And if they can move Campbell well then they'll be set for a few years.

I think.

The guy they HAVE to sign is Niklas Hjalmarsson. If Smid could turn into that guy that would be a start.

And of course if you're a Hawks fan it doesn't matter anyhow. I talked to my Dad last night and I could hear him beaming through the phone. They were due he kept saying, they were due.

I actually made a mistake before, I thought my folks had gotten married in April of '61 but it was actually '62. Consider though for my Dad what happened since Mikita and Hull and the rest won back in 1961. He was twenty eight, not yet married. His son was six years away from being born.

Now he's been married forty eight years. He worked over thirty years for a company in between those Cups, started, worked his way up, retired. His son is forty two and has three children of his own. His parents passed on as did his brother and some very good friends. He bought a house and a camp and he travelled across Canada and a good part of the United States. Like anyone, like you, like me, he has a million stories. A rich rich life full of them.

Could you imagine? That's crazy. No wonder Chicago has been partying like its Nineteen Ninety Nine.

Check out those fuckers!! Whoo, gotta love the 80s. Headbands and doctors' shirts and eyeshadow and purple sparkly shit everywhere. Whoo whoo whoo!!! Whoo!

Okay so I'm a little overtired. I'll leave you with this though. This is from just before the last Hawks' win. And its apropos because Hawks fans also had not seen the sunshine in oh so long.

And finally this cool little interview from SI with two of the all time greats.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stanley
























Dad is smiling and so is my dear friend Joan. More thoughts to come.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Walk In The Woods


Last summer we were up in the woods at the family cabin. We're talking middle of nowhere here folks. Boat access only. No electricity, no running water, no phone.

Its great.

Its never more peaceful than at night. The darkness falls in the forest first of all, under the ancient pines and dense spruce and cedar, the swaying white birch and tall poplar, it comes stealing out of the woods then, down to the lake as the sun sets over the forest.

Sitting on the dock, looking up at the silent sky, I am always astounded. It is absolutely white with stars and visitors from the city are always knocked silly by the brilliance of it all. As you step back from the lake and into the beginning of the forest, the scattered trees that stand on the gentle slope down from our camp, the darkness surrounds you quickly and silently and you disappear.

Its hard to describe how black it gets, especially to an increasingly urban nation. When you sit in the cabin you can press your nose against the glass looking outside and you won't see a damn thing. Step outside and you can't see your hand in front of your face. You don't find that sort of darkness in the city. You don't find it in the Muskokas. You find it in the middle of nowhere.

Last summer we sat by a bonfire late into the night at our neighbour's place and when we decided to call it a night I picked up a flashlight and took our two oldest down the path to our place. Its a few hundred yards through the forest, a few minutes I guess, not very far.

Unless you are five and three years old.

That little walk gave me a little insight into the world as seen through the eyes of a child. They were both terrified. They cried the whole time, completely freaked out, and I am sure if the big fellow had ambled out of the forest at some point (he would often wander in the woods) they would have both shit their pants. (Probably me too I have to admit).

It wasn't until we emerged into the clearing at the end of the path and our old cabin stood there, a light in the gloom, that the sobbing and moaning stopped.

We were back in town a few nights later and they were acting up at bedtime, as they are wont to do, and I gave them some rope and they kept going, because sometimes that's how they roll, and so I walked into the bedroom and announced that if they didn't get to sleep right away then I was going to bundle them up, we were going to drive back to the landing, hop into the boat, go back to camp and take a walk in the woods.

Immediate looks of terror and then complete silence.

Keep them off balance is what I always say.

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

As an Oilers' fan the playoffs have been a lesson in how far this club has to go. Compete with Chicago or San Jose or Philadelphia? Hah! A million years away right now.

So while the news has been good so far this summer its a little funny. We're excited because the Oilers are SIGNING their prospects. That's how far management has fallen in our estimation. The fact that they get their picks under contract is cause for celebration.

Hooray!

Don't get me wrong. Paajarvi signing is great and he looks like he is ready. Eberle, other than that huge game against Norway, not so much. Of course Heatley generally has the same type of international results (fill Poland and Japan, not so much against the big boys) so maybe he's already ahead of the game. ;)

And of course there wil be Seguin or Hall and there are a lot of other prospects who look to have some value as guys who may be able to contribute down the road. We will get a look see at Vande Velde and Hartikainen and Cornet and Omark this fall and they may be O'Marra and Trukhno and Lerg all over again but then again maybe there will be something there. There.

The problem for Tambellini and I have said this before is that he has a credibility problem right now. Everything he does is questioned and mocked and laughed at and part of that is his fault and part of it is fallout from Lowe and part of it is just fans being sick of the failure that is this organization. It has to be said that since season's end it appears that things are moving in the right direction. Moves are being made to shore up the organization. It seems that some light is bring let into the musty corners of this old boys' club. It may just be words but they are the right words.

But then there is talk of another whalehunt or words of support for JF Jacques and then you can understand why Oiler fans can be forgiven if they too feel like they are walking through the darkness, waiting for some terror to leap from the woods into their path. its only been happening this way for four years now.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Fear And Loathing


I really don't expect the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup and until I see Jonathan Toews take the Cup from the worm Bettman and raise it over his head then I will await the inevitable crushing defeat. They may be up two games to nil and that may be a lead that has been cashed ninety five percent of the time or whatever the stat is but the Hawks aren't winning.

My story and I am sticking to it.

In Fever Pitch, which I have referenced a number of times here, Hornby describes being a fan as an excruciating experience for the most part. In the era that he was writing about his club Arsenal was pretty mediocre. They never won anything, they were boring and their defeats were absolutely spectacular so one could forgive him for being a wee bit negative. I wonder now what he would write after a fairly successful stretch for the Gunners this last while (if not these past couple of years).

For many fans though Hornby's description of being a fan rings true. While you hope for the best you are expecting the worst and when it comes you are not surprised except for how the dreaded collapse comes.

Oilers' fans these days only need to look back to game one of the Finals four years ago. The Oilers up by three, running the Canes out of their rink. And then suddenly a goal to bring Carolina within two. The third period begins and Roloson lets a stoppable shot in and then its tied and suddenly Carolina is actually ahead. Hemsky's brilliant rush ties it but what is to come is even crueller. Roloson knocked out of the game (and the series it would turn out) and then, with overtime looming, the Conklin gaffe and the puck deposited into an open net.

It was truly awful. My wife was getting ready for bed and she came downstairs just as the game ended. I was pale and hollow eyed and she thought someone had died by the look on my face.

Funny thing is though is that even after that I didn't think that the end was inevitable. When Staios was in the box in OT in game five I didn't feel that that was it and even as game seven wound down I still thought they might pull it out (though not that strongly ;) )

I think that Hornby's theory depends on two things. One is the type of person that you are. If you are a pessimist then you will expect the worst. If you are a realist or an optimist then you are going to know that sometimes the better team loses and sometimes the weaker team wins and sometimes just plain old shit happens like your starting goalie getting run over and knocked out of the final before it has barely begun. So while you may worry its not a fatalistic expectation that things are not going to end well.

The one thing that knocks all that to hell though is history.

If you were a Habs' fan in the seventies or an Islanders' fan in the early eighties or an Oilers' fan after that first Cup then you expected to win, not only expected it but knew it was inevitable.

You knew the Habs would always beat the Bruins and that the Rangers would fall to the Isles and that Gretzky and company would run everyone out of the rink and the only times this did not happen were because of self inflicted wounds (Steve Smith in 86, Gretzky traded before 89).

The Yankees and the Lakers and the Celtics and the Spurs and Manchester United and the Canadian World Junior clubs win. they just do and if you're a fan of them or even if you're not you know that Wigan are not going to hold that lead against Man U and some kid from Alberta or Manitoba is going to stick a knife into the Russians and Andy Petitte is going to even the series in game two and poor Steve Nash doesn't have the teammates to get past Kobe or Tim Duncan.

The flip side of all of that is what losing engenders.

I remember watching the Blue Jays in the eighties and early nineties and until Roberto Alomar homered off of Eckersley in '92 my expectation was that they would always find a way to lose. They had blown it it 1985 and they had collapsed in 1987 and on top of everything when they were knocked down they never seemed to be able to get back up. After the Alomar homer I felt the exact opposite, at least for a couple of years, even though Henke coughed up the lead in the clincher in '92 and there were other pratfalls, it did not matter. They would find a way.

I am not a Red Sox fan but even when they were up three nothing in the Series a few years back and winning game four I did not believe that they were going to actually win until the twenty seventh out had been recorded. (Having watched the epic collapse in 1986 game six at the Cameron on Queen Street you would know why I felt that way). Same with the White Sox the following season. When a team loses every year forever you just take it for granted that it will never end. So both of those teams were up three games to none and leading the fourth game and I just waited and waited for it all to come crashing down. Reason told me that they would win but it didn't matter and when that last out was recorded I still could scarcely believe it.

I remember reading a year or two before the White Sox won that the odds of both they and the Cubs not winning a title for as long as they had at the time were something like five thousand to one. Imagine.

Of course anyone who saw the Cubs cruising towards the Series when Steve Bartman caught that ball knows what I am talking about. People forget that all the Cubs had to do was get five outs after that and that they had a three nothing lead in the game. Instead they completely fell apart and then coughed up a lead in game seven the next night.

It wouldn't have mattered anyhow, they would have played the Yankees in the Series. We know how that would have turned out. ;)

So you will forgive me when I say that I won't believe the Hawks will win until I see it happen.

The funny thing is that I have watched both games and in each case I, well I knew that they might lose, but I had no sense of impending doom. I figured that they could hold that lead although last night was dicier than game one. Especially with Sopel out there holding the fort. Buddy was not very good when he was supposed to be good imo and now he's old and slow. Credit to him for reinventing himself though I guess. In any case within these games I have had no sense of foreboding at all.

You know what's funny? The only time I ever really really feel that way is when I watch the Canadian men's team play in a best on best tournament and that's only since 1996 and even then its all context. In 98 and 02 I waited for the roof to fall in but after Salt Lake City I was fine in 2004 and in 2006. Then after Torino I was a wreck again this February. I watched the game with two friends and their familiies and while our wives and kids were oblivious we three were absolute and complete wrecks even after it was two to nothing. We waited and waited and when Parise scored we all looked at each other because we had known all game that that was going to happen.

And when Crosby scored we leapt about like fools, hugging and laughing, and I know that next time around I will be okay. Silly, huh? But I know at that level that anything can happen and now that Canada is defending champions I can rest easy until we no longer are anymore. Then the dread of what is coming will begin again.

----------

Two games in and much like any series between two very good teams the reality is that it could be tied or either team could be up two. Just as it was between Chicago and San Jose or San Jose and Detroit.

But Chicago's goaltending had been better and there have been stretches, most notably the last part of game one and the first part of game two where Philly didn't even get a single sniff. The Hawks may only trust five defencemen (Sopel? Sopel? Really?) but the Flyers only trust four and if the series does go for a while that favours the Hawks. They are just a little deeper back there and a little deeper up front too. Leino and Hartnell have been better than I expected but Carcillo and Asham and Giroux are all a little overmatched, imo. And on top of all that the Hawks have better goaltending and if it all sounds familiar well it was the same story against the Sharks.

The Flyers have shut down Toews so far but Hossa has been the best player on the ice in both games and what are they going to do? They have to pick their poison I guess. And that's the problem facing the Flyers.

They have no margin for error on Wednesday night and facing a club that is seven and one on the road and has not actually played all that well so far (although I think a whole lot of that can be placed on Chris Pronger - he may be a cock but he's one of the all time greats I think it has to be admitted) they have to hope to outplay the Hawks, get better goaltending and probably have some good luck besides.

If they do not then I may even begin to believe. Though not entirely.