Monday, July 26, 2010

The Summit Series Project


With the dog days of summer upon us and nothing really happening with the Oilers at all I've stumbled upon a new project. As with a lot of what happens in this corner of the web, the two guys who deserve a lot of the credit, at least for tweaking my curiousity, if not more than that, are Vic Ferrari and Bruce McCurdy. Their musings on the 72 Series in a thread at Lowetide's were the impetus behind some work that longtime Oilogosphere members Julian and Colin, as well as Julian's girlfriend Ellen, the brilliant writer of Theory of Ice, and myself are going to take on.

Some more recent work by Vic shows that the idea of Corsi was being used even forty years ago to track what was happening and we are going to try and track that metric game by game as well as scoring chances, another useful tool that has been tracked by Dennis King and Scott Reynolds, amongst others, over the past two years. Unfamiliarity with some of the Russians as well as poor video quality may hinder us a bit but hopefully by the end of this exercise we will have an interesting snapshot of the most famous hockey series of all time.

It should give us some cool results. A few things that I will be looking for - how my boyhood idol, Stan Mikita, who only got in two games, fared. How Gilbert Perrault, who I recently read a description of as being dominant, yet only got into two games, did. How Canada did once the series shifted to Russia, where a lot of of players claimed simple improved fitness made a difference. And also a look at the goaltending. Looking at the numbers it would appear to me that Esposito was the better goaltender. Should be interesting to see if there are underlying numbers that prove that this is true, untrue or perhaps really just a wash.

Stay tuned and if you have any suggestions lay them on me. Yo.

Monday, July 19, 2010

One Tough Town


Growing up in Sudbury, well, growing up in Sudbury was far different than growing up in, say, Toronto or London or Kitchener-Waterloo. Sudbury is a tough town. The winters are long and vicious and you have to be able to take them. Growing up we played most of our hockey outdoors and when I first began coaching it was the same. Thirty below and you'd be out there, wind pushing at the plywood box of the players' bench, a bunch of seven year olds aching to get out there to warm up their freezing feet, the rink surrounded by parents in their snowmobile suits and heavy boots, moms and dads stomping their feet and cheering, if the snow was heavy we'd break and they would descend onto the ice with scrapers to clean it up while we had a five minute respite in the shack, skates off and rubbing hands and feet to get them warm again and then skates on again and out into it once more.

Sudbury was a railroad town and a logging town over a century ago but first and foremost it was a mining town and the Finns and Italians and French Canadians who came to work for Inco and Falconbridge along with the Irish and Scots were tough tough men. You can't work in the mines if you don't have some nerve. Its not just a northern Ontario thing, its a western thing and a Newfoundland thing and a Maritime thing. Its Canadian, the work outdoors and underground, the battle with the elements. Its not for the faint of heart and seeing as this country was built by people who travelled from around the world to build a new life here you know that they were made of stern stuff.

It was when I moved to Toronto that I really realized from whence I came. In my hometown I was a lightweight, maybe a middleweight when it came to the drinking. I could put them back but compared to a lot of the kids that I grew up with I was a nobody. It was only when I came south that I realized that where I was from was different. Folks worked hard and they played hard and they drank hard and this was the way it was. I would go out with big men from Hamilton, a pretty tough town itself, and match them beer for beer and we'd talk about our old men and 'old men strength' and some of their exploits which we could never match and the funny thing is when I talk to my Dad, a little guy with enormous hands and nerves of steel, a guy who can throw up a building or rebuild a car or pilot his boat through a storm on Lake Superior, a guy who was a terrific hockey player and ball player and boxer, who played guitar and left home at fourteen to get a good education, then I am in awe. And then my father talks about his own old man, one hundred and thirty pounds at most, a softspoken little guy who once laid out a man with a hundred pounds on him at the Soo Legion because your man was yapping, one punch and he hit the floor, and I think about how times have changed. The generations before us built the land with their bare hands, men and women, and it wasn't easy. No room if you were soft and most had to make their own way, that's the way it was.

My uncle whose son's wedding I am attending this week was born on a train, the sixth and youngest of his family. He was delivered by the brakeman and his initials A.C.R. are homage to the Algoma Central Railroad, my grandfather's employer, the railroad on which my uncle came into this world. The train pulled into the Soo into an unholy blizzard and he and my grandmother were loaded onto a sleigh and pulled through the storm to the hospital.

Holy shit right?

The summer that I was twenty a couple of buddies came up to visit me from Canton Ohio. We went to the family camp and ate steak and drank beer and alternated stints in the sauna with swims in the lake under the stars. (One of them exclaimed that it was like being touched by God.) We went to the bars in town and one night in particular we went to the University pub, a popular place to go on Thursday nights. At the time it was also where a lot of guys went to settle scores because the most popular bar in town, a converted grocery store called City Lights, was manned by a pack of roided up bouncers who stomped (literally) on any outbreak of violence. So the violence found an outlet elsewhere, quite often at the pub which was staffed pretty minimally.

So we got nice and full and at night's end we wandered out into the summer air. On our way to the parking lot where my girlfriend at the time was going to (graciously) take us home, we came upon a guy a little worse for wear sitting on the curb. One of the Americans, a tall lanky fellow, he was well over six feet, knelt down to see how buddy was (buddy was a mess) and when he did he began to catch flak from a friend of your man who was down and out.

Now I knew both of these guys from high school, they were a year younger than me, and the guy who was mouthing was, like me, not all that big. He was what you'd call a regular guy too, not a noted tough guy or anything. But the booze was going and so he told my American friend to beat it, to mind his own business, and my pal stepped up and made a comment or two and next thing you know they were into it and next thing we know the bigger man in lying on the pavement and his nose is broken and there's blood everywhere.

We get home and my Mom laughs and shrugs and takes his shirt which is soaked in blood and the next morning its bright and white and shiny. Years of living in the north teaches you how to remove blood from clothes I guess. ;)

The funny thing is that the next week another buddy of mine comes up from Toronto and again we hit the town and again on Thursday night we go to the university pub and this time we get through the night without any trouble and we're out waiting for our ride when another buddy of mine comes out and he's been cut pretty bad and it turns out that after he realized we had left he came running through the pub, hoping to catch a lift home and a buddy of his, a guy he went to school and worked with, thought that he was coming at him and so he let him have it as soon as he came into range, split his face right open. With friends like that right? You know the old saw.

What a town.

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Steve Tambellini has avowed to make the Edmonton Oilers a tougher team to play against and one cannot blame him. This club has been getting pushed around since June 19th of 2006 and every season we fans are forced to watch as Jarret Stoll and Ladi Smid and Tom Gilbert and Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray and others have been knocked out for lengthy periods of time by questionable acts by opposing players. Its been ugly and Tambellini wants it to stop and that's great.

Now the best way to be tough to play against is to actually have a really good team. Teams like Detroit and Chicago and Pittsburgh and Carolina have won the Stanley Cup since the lockout and by my eye the biggest goon who actually took a regular shift for any of these teams was Ben Eager and calling him a goon is probably a bit of a stretch. The Ducks were loaded with fighters who fought but they also had a blue that included Pronger and Niedermeyer and Beauchemin as well as four decent to excellent lines plus Giguere and Bryzgalov between the pipes so if that's the model you want to follow then I guess you had better start with two future Hall of Fame defencemen who have won every damn thing and go from there. Add Selanne and have MacDonald/Getzlaf/Marchant/Pahlsson up the middle and then add a goon or two in there once all is said and done I guess.

Point is that the toughest teams to play against are the ones that always have the puck and while in some minds toughness means fighting (hello Mr. Cherry) the reality is that the most valuable toughness comes in the form of guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg, Crosby and Gonchar, Keith and Toews and the whole rest of that lot. Can't say I've ever seen Marion Hossa or any of the aforementioned in a fight but playing through torn ligaments or a bad shoulder or returning to the ice after losing a goodly number of teeth, fighting through your checks and winning the puck time and time again, taking that hit to get the puck out or taking a beating in front of the net or playing thirty minutes a game rank a lot higher to me than dropping them and wrestling with Eric Godard or Donald Brashear.

Its those folks who say Ales Hemsky isn't tough who think that a guy like JF Jacques or Steve MacIntyre will make a difference who are sadly mistaken. If you're going to have thugs on your team then its probably best that they can play, like Shore and Howe and Lindsay and early Mikita and Bob Clarke and Messier and that lot. Give me Claude Lemieux or Matt Cooke, dirty pricks who can play a bit. Those guys will help you win. Guys like Jason Smith or Chris Pronger or Raffi Torres will help you win.

Guys like Jacques or MacIntyre or Greg Stewart. Not so much. Even Zach Storini, a guy who isn't much of a player, is going to help you win more than these guys and God help Tom Renney if Stortini sees the PB so one of these jokers can take a shift or two.

A guy like Stortini, well God bless him. He pulled down a three year contract and the life of it pays him less than that joker O'Sullivan got in one season. If POS or Robert Nilsson had anywhere near the heart of Storini well that would be something to see. But they don't and so they are gone and good riddance. At least Zach, given a couple of reasonable linemates like Brodziak and Glencross, will help eat those dregs alive. Because those dregs usually include that NHL GMs' cowbell, the useless goon or two.

Its not just an Oiler thing. Its an NHL thing. The guy who can barely play, who takes up a roster spot, who gets pounded by any measure when he's on the ice. these guys are supposed to have value. These guys who can't find a spot on the rosters in Chicago or Detroit or Pittsburgh.

Or apparently in Tampa either as Yzerman was quoted as saying that fighting is an overemphasized part of the game. Now Yzerman had Bob Probert on his side for a number of years but of course poor old Bob could play too, people forget that. Years after Probert was gone though and the Wings won a few Cups there wasn't a lot of fighters in Detroit. There was that famous brawl against the Avs when they finally pushed back and that meant something, it really did, and of course McCarty was a guy who could throw them, Shanahan too, but again there's a Hall of Famer and another guy who could play. And when it comes down to it that's what it comes down to. Having guys who can play who can take it. That's the type of toughness you want. Not some guy whose presence means you have a short bench every game.

I guess the thing for me is that while I appreciate what Tambellini is trying to do I don't think he's going about it the right way. We'll see when camp breaks I guess. certainly adding Jones and Fraser and Vandermeer will help and it looks like there will be more size and talent up front in Hall and Paajarvi and certainly anybody who has seen Hall play won't question his toughness. And if Peckham makes the team and can play well that will help too.

Just mark me down as a guy who would be a lot happier if Vande Velde, who is supposed to have a little bit of an edge and some nice skill as well, makes the club instead of MacIntyre. MacIntyre's presence on this club for two seasons didn't prevent guys from getting run. I'd prefer a guy who can play thank you very much. And MacIntyre cannot and Jacques gave us very little reason to believe that he can either.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Awe and Wonder, Terror and Disgust



Going to British Columbia in a week for my youngest cousin's wedding. He's a very very cool dude, a mountain man through and through, into the hiking and the back country skiing and all that inner BC mad shit that is foreign to someone from my neck of the woods. He's marrying a sweet girl from a little town in Alberta and they're going to make beautiful music together, one hopes, for another half century or so.

Brendan is an adventurous sort. He did a workterm for a year in Europe, living in Switzerland, which suited him fine. Probably the greatest thing about Europe, other than the fact that it is Europe, is the ease of travelling about. Its cheap to fly anywhere and the distances are short and so my cousin did what any young fellow would do and went to Munich for Oktoberest and went to the fiesta in Pamplona and ran with the bulls and generally took as much in as he could. He also skied a lot, some recreationally and some competitively as he managed to hook up with a minor circuit that held races in the Balkans. I used to have a picture of him on a podium somewhere in Bulgaria, with a huge beard and one of those oversized cheques for 10000 euros.

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This will be my third trip to BC. Its really something else out there. My first trip to the coast was in 1999. We were living in Florida at the time and we were having a family reunion up by Wawa. One of my best friends had left Sudbury in the early nineties and moved out west. Unable to find work (the early nineties were a little barren in terms of work when you got out of school) he packed up his old Jeep and headed for the coast. He came back a few times, most notably to get married to a girl he met on Vancouver Island, and at the turn of the century he was living the life in Kelowna, married, a new baby, a house in the valley. And so after drinking beer and kicking ass all over Ontario I flew out to see him.

Started in Vancouver and took the bus to Kelowna where I spent a week between there and Salmon Arm, drinking beer and being a goof. At the end of my week I was scheduled to go to Cranbrook to upgrade a customer's hardware and software there (this was during the whole Y2K preparations) and then from there I would go to Fernie to hang with my cousins who had returned from the reunion and then to Calgary to fly back to Florida.

It was a one way trip to Calgary and so when I went to get my rent a car to take me through BC I was given probably the least likely vehicle one can get, a full sized van. No problem, right?

I set out on a beautiful morning and made my way south through the Okanagan. I had discovered upon arriving in Vancouver that basically everytime I turned a corner I would stumble upon the most amazing scenery I had ever seen, until I turned the next corner, and so it was this morning as I wandered lazily through the valley. And then in the distance I saw where I would turn east to head to my destination, the foothills of the mountains and then I realized what lay before me and then I began to sweat.

Because I, my friends, am terrified of heights. Not a little nervous. Not a little queasy. Full out completely pathologically terrified. When we were in London we went to St. Paul's, one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen and we decided to go up the stairs that run up the hidden blackness of this wonderful structure and check out the circular gallery that overlooks its centre, right under the famous dome. We got up there and Jenn immediately began sauntering about, looking over the rail at the people below, checking out the sights.

Me, I shrank against the wall and cowered on the narrow bench that ran around the outer wall. And then slowly I began to scootch along the bench on my ass like a dog on a lawn towards the exit and a way out of my nightmare. I saw a woman doing the exact same thing coming from the other side and in her hollow eyed, pale, sweaty face I saw myself and we exchanged weak frightened smiles.

Go back a number of years and that jaunt up the steps in London had nothing on my journey across the Kootenays. Up and down and around mountains, one after the other. I remember rounding a curve after climbing and climbing and seeing the climb continue a couple of miles in the distance and nearly breaking down in tears. There was sweating and swearing and shitting of the pants. I considered pulling over and abandoning my vehicle except then I would have been stuck up there. I drove in the middle lane and hugged the yellow line and anyone stuck behind me was cursing me as I drove thirty kilometres an hour on the highway.

I kid you not. And the worst part about it was that I was sitting so high up I could not ignore where I was. I could see it all, the deep valley awaiting me if I tumbled over the absolutely tiny and useless barricades on the absolutely tiny and useless shoulders, the miles of climbing before me until I rounded another peak and began my descent.

It was horrible.

It was nothing compared to what awaited me at my destination however. I arrived in Cranbrook a couple of hours later than expected due to my quality mountain driving. I went to the lab, kicked off the switchover and then went over to the customers' home. With a lot of smaller customers they often asked us to stay with them to save on the cost of hotel and food and as long as they were reasonable it was usually not a bad deal. Homecooked meals are better than restaurant food. And so we sat on their back deck, eating steak and new potatoes right out of their garden, drinking cold beer as the tension drained from me. They were a couple in their fifties and they ran the business themselves. After the meal he told me that I was free to do as I pleased in the house and brought me downstairs to show how the TV worked. he had a big big screen and he had satellite and he was flicking through the channels as we sat in gigantic easy chairs. His wife was just bringing us another beer when he turned it to the nastiest, hardest core porn I have ever seen. He chortled, she didn't blink, and I had a sinking feeling that they were about to bring out the gimp. They did not, although we sat in silence, all three of us, while he cackled as some pizza guy gave it to a bored housewife up the ass while that porn music played.

I slept with one eye open the rest of my stay thre, let me tell you.

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The summer for the Oilers has not been such a roller coaster ride of emotions as my first trip to beautiful British Columbia. Even for someone who has little faith in Oilers' management, like me, I have to say that I am pleased with what has happened so far and any complaints (like JFJ)I have are pretty minor.

They still have Souray to deal with and I think that Cogliano is going away as well but there seems to be a lot of waiting going on around the league these days. Clubs with money have no cap space and clubs with cap space have no money and so we have a logjam and there are an awful lot of useful players who are waiting around for work. A guy like Frolov would have had a ton of cash thrown at him in years past but nothing so far. Its pretty crazy and one certainly has to believe that if the Oilers wanted they could or will be able to pick up a couple of useful veterans for cheap, either as free agents or in trades from clubs who are looking to sign free agents.

The thing about the Oilers is that they have three goalies (and it certainly looks like Dubnyk had passed ADD by, imo) but with Khabibulin's health issues and legal problems they may be running the two kids out again. Which means that with that defence they may be in lottery territory once again. This blueline is a lot thinner than last year's and if you believe that Foster and Smid make a credible second pairing then you may be the only one. An injury to Gilbert or Whitney and they are going to be totally and absolutely screwed unless they bring at least one more legitimate top four guy and I don't think its going to happen. They have the four aforementioned and Vandermeer and Strudwick and one guesses that Peckham will be the last man standing after camp.

That's a pretty piss poor defence and the uncertainty of the goaltending and the green forwards mean that this team is going to give up a lot of goals. Even if Khabibulin in healthy and a free man.

So while last year's club needed soem help with injuries and illness to clinch first overall, so to speak, I don't think its too farfetched to see this year's edition being, if not in the lottery, certainly in the top ten picks.

Up front, well its the same old story. Too many fourth liners (though less than in past seasons) and too many guys who need sheltering. In a way though Tambellini's hands are tied a little. Of course he's the one who bought the rope and tied the knots. He has the following guys on the roster presently:

Penner/Horcoff/Hemsky
Hall/Gagner/Brule
Jones/Fraser/Stortini
Cogliano
Jacques/McIntyre

So two more spots and I would bet that Paajarvi and Eberle can win those spots. Plus you have Omark who has more experience than any of the other kids.

So do you bring in a couple of vets to augment these forwards? A couple of guys who can check and PK?

I say yes although I suspect that Tambellini is waiting to see who is available and will invite a guy or two to TC. If the kids falter then they sign the invitees. If they do not then he cuts them.

Trying to have it both ways.

Personally I would sign a couple of guys. Lets say Eric Belanger for example and a guy like Owen Nolan. Whomever you want though, you get the picture.

If the kids do well then Stortini and Jones slide into the pressbox. They'll be back. Guys get hurt. If the kids do poorly then your vets just go right into the lineup.

Belanger and Nolan or whomever aren't going to make this team a playoff team but they will make it a better team and help keep the puck out of the net a little bit. And if things go south you can move them for something come the spring.

The only problem is that Jacques and McIntyre already have two spots and this is where Tambellini has fallen flat a bit I think although its minor stuff really, at least compared to his work on the farm club, which has been admirable and will have a big impact longterm. McIntyre is probably the worst player in the league and his presence didn't stop guys from getting run left right and centre the past two seasons. Tambellini is not the only GM to have this cowbell. Goons who can't play are getting hired everywhere this summer despite the fact that the last three Cup champs hadn't a single one on their roster. And so too is Jacques a usual type of choice for an NHL GM. Buddy can't play a damn lick but he gets a contract while guys like Pouliot and Potulny and Comrie and Pisani get cut loose.

For the record the culling of Pouliot and Potulny was perfectly understandable to me. They were relatively expensive and neither adds a ton, imo. I liked Pouliot but every year was a tease. Plus the injuries killed him. Comrie was fine last season but he's redundant on this roster, same as last season. He'd be a better idea than JFJ or MacIntyre of course.

And I will be doing a little writeup on Fernando once its official. I can't see him getting a contract anywhere, even at the minimum, not with that illness hanging over him. Its not like a guy with a bad knee. More like a guy with a bad back. He can get hurt tying his shoe. Same deal with old Fernando. And he's not 2006 Fernando anymore. He's a shadow. Hate to say that I hope that's it but I hope that's it and he retires as an Oiler this year.

And yet with all of the issues with these four guys they are all better players than JFJ. So is Liam Reddox.

Its not the signing of JFJ in itself that bugs me. Hey I can see the tools that make the Oilers not want to give up on him and his presence isn't going to be the difference between the Cup and lottery land. Plus he comes cheap.

What bugs me is that Tambellini thinks he is a hockey player who can help this team win when other than hitting he doesn't do a damn thing well. Could have kept Ryan Stone who was ten times the player. He'd hit too.

Oh well. Bad with the good I guess? Overall its been pretty good.

Friday, July 09, 2010

I Am Superman



It was nearly twenty five years ago that I came down the highway to Toronto to come to school. Just a kid. One of the many eyeopeners for me was an exposure to music that I had never dreamed of. This was before the interweb where a band could play in a basement in Cornerbrook and be viewed by millions of folks from around the world within a week. There were not a thousand channels, no Youtube, no Satellite radio, Muchmusic (Muchmusic!) was in its infancy.

Many nights my roommate Hacksaw, another Sudbury boy, and I would go visit another Sudbury fellow who was living with his artist uncle in an illegal loft on Richmond. We'd drink beer and smoke and listen to his uncle's records - the Velvet Underground and a thousand other bands I had never heard of. Later we'd make our way back to res and head to the basement where a fourth year man by the name of Treek had the best room in the house. A part time DJ, he had walls of vinyl and so we'd sit up late into the night with him and an American from Boston named Matt, talking and listening to music.

One of those bands was REM. They had just released Life's Rich Pageant (a wonderful title, no?) and my favourite track was a short catchy driving song at the very end, I Am Superman. Quick, to the point, very unlike most of their work to that point, which was terrific but also often unintelligible, what with Michael Stipe's mumbled verse.

(Funny that Stipe and Gord Downie, two of my favourite singers, share that bent, although Downie wandered more down that path later in his career with his vague murmuring musing).

I Am Superman is a simple singalong song, a throw together I suspect, but everytime I hear it I get a spring in my step and a smile on my face and that's what music should be about, no?

Feeling like Superman these days, its been a great year and this summer has been astounding in its brilliance. The only dark blot was the loss of our dear old Ben and even that sorrow has been leavened by memories of all of those wonderful years and all that dear friend brought to us. A few nights ago we braved the heat and sat on a patio and drank pints of Keiths, the glasses sweating, talked through the evening, smoking cigarettes and laughing at the times we have had. We walked home and had some fun in the cool dark of the living room. One of those nights you live for. We met thirteen years ago in une, married four years after that in July. Damn I love her. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

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The Oilers are going to be poor again this season but this summer has been, for the first time in four summers, an encouraging time for their fans. The management team has a ton of work to do to win back our support, our belief in them, but their work this June and July has been strong. I still want to see what happens with Souray and what remaining moves are to be made and how they handle the contracts but signing Ondrus has added to the nice stable of vets who will shepherd the kids down on the farm and a number of those kids were on display for the mobs of fans this week and while its a long way to go I am certainly heartened by the reports on Hall and Paajarvi and Eberle. Others like Hartkinen and Pitlick have shown well also and most importantly for a team bereft at the back end is the glimpses of Jeff Petry's talent. If he and Plante prove to be the real deal and Peckham can emerge as a solid 5 or 6 then a couple of years ago all of these kids may be alright after all.

Perhaps the most reassuring item - the quotes from Tom Renney on doing this thing right and making sure these kids don't drown.

Lets hope that a few of these kids turn into Superman for the Oilers.

I am I am I am Superman and I know what's happening.
I am I am I am Superman and I can do anything.

You don't really love that guy you make it with now do you?
I know you don't love that guy cause I can see right through you.

I am I am I am Superman and I know what's happening.
I am I am I am Superman and I can do anything.

If you go a million miles away I'll track you down girl.
Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart.

If you go a million miles away I'll track you down girl.
Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart.

I am I am Superman and I know what's happening.
I am I am I am Superman and I can do anything.

I am I am I am Superman and I know what's happening.
I am I am I am Superman and I can do anything.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Summertime


Driving back from Ottawa on Saturday we had the tunes going, the sun was shining, Jenn had her feet up on the dash and except for the fact that we were in in a minivan and three kids were in there with us, we were youngsters again.

Ahh, summer.

I'm a big autumn guy and I enjoy each season in turn, I missed them when we lived in Florida, but when it comes down to it I'm a summer guy first and foremost, even on a day like today when its so hot that the stink is seeping out of the pavement, wafting out of ancient greasy stains.

When I was a kid it meant summers at camp and Dad around all of the time instead of at work and long days with friends and family and running through the woods and swimming and fishing and cool nights, drifting away to the murmur of my parents in the next room, Hank Williams or Patsy Cline singing about heartbreak, waking to a woodpecker or to the wind in the pine and birch.

When I was a young man summer was genius and brilliance and joy. It was drifting from place to place in the evenings and on the weekends. It was the bar and the backyard, the soccer field and the ball diamond, the lake and the pool, crashing on the floor, roadtrips and chasing girls and drinking and playing darts and shuffleboard at the local union hall while throwing back trays of small glasses of Northern draft at less than a buck a glass. It was rattling down a cordoroy road while branches crashed into the car as we searched for a hidden fishing hole. It was driving with the window down listening to the Hip and Springsteen and Don Henley and Jackson Browne and Boston and Van Morrison and anyone else who could carry us away. It was all of us with money in our pockets and not a care in the world and only a couple of things on our mind. I remember getting slowly and carefully drunk one day with a bunch of friends and somehow we ended up playing pool somewhere and a girl we knew, a highstrung type, was going on about all that worried her and a pal and I were mocking her, we had not a care in the world and she asked us how that could be and our response was that all that was on our minds right now was making the next shot and when the waiter was coming by so we could order another cold beer and if one of us might get lucky that night. We were young and strong and full of ourselves and we were flush and we knew that it might not get any better than this.

Other summers followed those glorious days in my hometown, there were days wandering Toronto streets dusty and poor and carefree still the same, looking at the buildings and the people and everything in the heat, the pretty girls everywhere, a couple of summers with the girl from Rawlins Cross, hanging out in a little apartment I sublet, sleeping and not sleeping on a mattress thrown on the floor. There was the summer I spent in Charlottetown, most of it my evenings and weekends on the harbour in a friend's boat, nights at the bars on the waterfront, drinking and smoking and getting to know a new girl with long legs and flashing green eyes who I had just met, waking up with her with the curtains stirred by the breeze, stumbling out for breakfast, coffee and a cigarette, heading to the beach or the boat or a poolhall, drinking draft beer and smoking and getting as close to each other as we possibly could. And then more recent days, back in Toronto, the odd night out on a patio drinking beer, roadtrips with the family, barbeques and pool parties and festivals and letting our kids in on the secrets of this most wonderful of seasons. Weeks at our camp up north and fishing and frogs and campfires and boat rides with Grandpa and trips out east and Island beaches and hidden red dirt roads and strawberry picking and running on sandbars.

Summer. When everything shines and even a storm is a special thing to behold. Glory.

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So far Steve Tambellini and the Edmonton Oilers have had a good summer and there is a chance that it could become a very good summer. The team is not going to be a good one next season, I have seen in some threads predictions of eleventh place if the club stays healthy and I'm not sure if I can see that but he still has the Souray card to play and one has to think that Cogliano is going to be moved and there are rumours that he is chasing Rob Niedermeyer which would be a reasonable deal as well so we may see some more useful bodies coming in. Plus the moves to shore up the AHL club, especially adding Giroux, have been nice as well.

The club is thin up front and on the blue and there is going to be a reliance on some kids being able to play and as mentioned the whole staying healthy thing but considering they were at ground zero last season this is no surprise. For a guy who garnered a reputation as a do nothing Tambellini has made sweeping changes to the organization. Every head coach is gone, Prendergast, other members of the organization, all cut loose. He managed to get out from under the last year of Moreau's contract (and wow what an exit interview from old Ethan, my God what a disgrace). He got Vandermeer who will be a useful bottom pairing guy for O'Sullivan who was absolutely horrible last season and is now without a contract. And Nilsson who is an absolute dogfucker is also gone. Guy has all of the talent in the world and not a clue.

The Foster signing is a nice one, even if he can't provide second pair duty its not a huge overpay in either dollars or term. Fraser was signed to a nice two year deal. And Tambellini is dealing with the Souray situation. I would guess he gets moved shortly and we see someone like Zubrus coming back the other way. Or maybe he gets picked up on reentry waivers.

Of course me being a cynic with all things Oiler related I still am not sold on Tambellini, come and talk to me in a couple of years. Considering MacIntyre was signed despite (a) being probably the worst hockey player in the league and (b) his presence the last two seasons not doing much to deter other clubs from running roughshod over the Oilers, colour me unimpressed. And we're still waiting to see what he can get Gagner and Brule signed for not to mention that this team could use a little fleshing out, imo. As Ty said last week, the easy stuff is over with, lets see how he does with the degree of difficulty raised a little.

here's the depth chart as it stands:

Hall-Horcoff-Hemsky
Penner-Gagner-Brule
Paajarvi-Cogliano-Omark
Jones-Fraser-Stortini
Jacques/MacIntyre

Whitney-Gilbert
Smid-Foster
Peckham-VanderMeer
Strudwick

Khabibulin
Dubnyk/ADD

I have Omark slotted in before Eberle because he's older and has played against men for a while now but your mileage may vary. As I said I can't see Cogliano being around and fully expect him to be replaced by a veteran who can win draws and PK, both of these areas being a bit of an issue still. Its only been a few years on that though so no rush.

This club is going to allow a lot of goals but they should score a little too. They are bigger and faster and more skilled and they have a little more enthusiasm and grit but damn they are green.

Still, considering the horrid summers this club has had since June 19th 2006 (some of the fallout being dealt with last week) this is a marked improvement and while its not catching a bluegrass matinee at Graffiti's while drinking Guinness and watching the Market go by out the open windows as the heat seeps in its at least having a cold beer on the front step.

And that's not that bad. Could be more like a Flames fan, getting ass fucked in an alley in the middle of a garbage strike in August. Or something like that.