Relative peanuts I mean.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Relative peanuts I mean.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
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.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
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.
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
Monday, June 07, 2010
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 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.
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
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.