Monday, January 03, 2011

Brick By Brick

And a Happy New Year to everybody out there. Hopefully it will be a healthy one and a happy one.

We've been in our house for just over eight years now. When we came back to Canada from Florida I had already been looking on MLS for a while, trying to gauge what a home would cost us. My wife is from PEI where even though prices have gone up you can still get a nice house for a song and you can actually buy land (!) and build a house (!) without selling your children into slavery so you can see the problem we might have faced when it came to expectations. We had been living here for about eight months when we decided that we were going to stay here and we figured we needed to take the plunge. We started doing open houses and one of the first we saw was exactly what Jenn wanted. It was also over a half of a million dollars.

We were well and truly fucked.

Well. not really. Although I thank Dog that we began our search eight years ago and not now. We scaled down our expectations, turned our sights from the tonier neighbourhoods we were looking at and began to use our heads. We ended up looking at a total of seven places once we got an agent. They were all in the east end of Toronto, all along the subway or streetcar line, all in what agents call "up and coming" neighbourhoods, meaning there is a rub and tug beside the pawn shop and any bar in the neighbourhood is a decent place to go for a stabbing. Other than that though there wasn't much too worry about. There were plenty of schools, a beautiful park, the subway was right there, the neighbourhood was safe, if a little scruffy, and there were more and more young families moving in because of the affordable nature of the duplexes built in rows in the mid twenties. So many young families that nearly a decade later the same duplex which cost us a couple of hundred grand nearly runs, you guessed it, half a million. Its totally absurd.

My wife is the one who deserves the credit. We had a checklist and like every place we looked at there were some things that fit and some that did not. There were three bedrooms that were reasonable size. There was a backyard. It was minutes walking distance from the subway. It had a large kitchen. It was reasonably attractive brick and siding on the outside.

There was no driveway and only one bathroom and we would have preferred detached.

And it was twenty grand less than the average price for the same house everywhere else (we ended up getting it for thirty grand other) for a pretty good reason.

The inside.

We had it on good authority that this was a deterrent, indeed our neighbours, who were renters, had thought about buying but had been frightened off. The house had been on the market for a couple of months and the asking price had dropped, sure signs that something was off here.

It wasn't the carpet that covered the main and second floors. It wasn't the basement, unfinished except for the flimsy seventies style bar that I smashed to pieces one weekend with a crowbar.

It was the walls.

The entire main floor was wood panelling. The stairs going to the second floor. The second floor hallway. Two of the three bedrooms.

(The funny thing was that at least three other homes on the street had the exact same panelling. Must have been a sale. Or some damn good peyote that made its way around.)

The kitchen was fine.

The bathroom did not have panelling but the ceiling was done in cedar and the walls were covered in enormous cedar shingles.

The master bedroom had two walls with the same shingles. The other two were stucco.

I kid you not. And on top or actually underneath all of this was wallpaper. Five layers right down to the plaster on the main floor. A couple of layers on the second floor. In the master there were three layers that had been painted over.

The fuckers.

People had been walking in and turning around and walking out but when my wife walked in she saw what might be. The two of us checked it out the next night. I could see that she was right, we put in an offer, got a great place and, a shitload of work later, have a great looking place as well.

Although I think my old man has never forgiven us for redoing the bathroom. On his first tour of the joint his eyes lit up when he saw that bathroom. Rip out the tub and put a cot and a Coleman in and I think he would have bought it from us, it was his dream. A cedar bathroom!

When I told him we were ripping down the shingles and painting the ceiling he gave me the old "I have no son" headshake.


Another lost season for the Oilers and another lottery pick as well. With Eberle joining Horcoff and Whitney on the sidelines, a defensive rotation that regularly includes Strudwick and a centre corpse that features Andrew Cogliano in the number two spot, well, its all over except for the, um, forty or so games that we now have to suffer through before Lowe's monkey strides to the podium and selects another top pick.

This year, unlike last, there is no definitive one and two. Apparently a couple of teams have the Swedish winger Landeskog ranked number one and of course there are the two Canadian centres and Larssen. Let the debate begin although I would have to think the Oilers would like the big centre Couturier if they had their druthers. First they have to catch the Devils and the Islanders first, tough work considering Martin Brodeur has gone from the starting goaltender at the Olympics to a guy who seems to get pulled every start and Snow has already started trading all of his good players over twenty five (I think he's done though, they only had two, right?).

If the Islanders know one thing, its being shitty. They make the recent incarnations of the Oilers look like the seventies' Habs.

Now Lowetide has already taken this angle a bit, the question being what does Tambellini do between now and the trade deadline. And the reality is not much unless something breaks with Penner or Hemsky because right now that is the biggest question facing the organization and how Tambellini answers that question will tell us if he is up to the job, which I personally doubt.

If both players are willing to sign and the terms are reasonable I say sign them both unless you get an offer that is absolutely brilliant - I'm talking blue chip kid playing in the league right now basically. Why, you may ask? Its a rebuild, accumulate the kids and the picks, that's the way to go.

Because the whole idea of building a team, and lets throw out all of the blahblahblah about different models, is to accumulate as many good players as you can. And Hemsky and Penner are good players and they are young enough that when/if this team gets good enough again they can help it win.

With them in the lineup this club has seven top nine forwards - them, Horcoff, Gagner, Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi. The gap between needing two top nine guys and four top nine guys is pretty big. For all we know the Oilers may have those two guys in their system right now.

Move them out and you need to fill four holes which means a longer run and guess what - its not long before Whitney and Gilbert's contracts are up. And so on and on it goes.

Keep your good players.

So what does Tambellini have to do? Well, the pieces that he has to move are not going to address those top nine forward spots and they aren't going to address the horrible blue either. I'd say they have three guys who they'd want to keep - Whitney, Gilbert, Peckham. And I'd keep Smid still even though he appears to have stalled. He's not getting paid much and he may still become more and worse case he is a young guy who can play in the bottom pair.

So who can go? Well everyone else although the problem is that you aren't getting much for anyone. Vandermeer will bring in a midround pick but Fraser, Foster and Brule all have another year on their deals and none of them are worth a damn anyhow. MacIntyre, Strudwick and Jacques are worth even less.

The three guys who may go and who may have some value - Cogliano, Khabibulin, Jones.

I think Cogliano still sticks around though. Kid needs a change in scenery and he may never amount to much but if he goes then do you really run O'Marra out there for the rest of the year? He's not in the plans though so really that protest is a pointless one. If you can get a pick or someone back, then go for it.

I cannot see Khabibulin going with those two years left on his deal but there's a sucker born ... and he's not going to be around when this team is worth anything. Plus they need to see what they have in Dubnyk. Doesn't matter - he's not going anywhere as much as we may dream.

As for Jones well here's a guy who has value I think. Third on the club in goals despite limited (at times) icetime. He's a tweener, not a great skater, not all that physical. But I can see someone coming calling with a pick and if that happens I'd say move him unless they can get him on a very reasonable deal. Not sure if that will happen.

So that's it. This summer will be the real tell. We'll see if the big two get signed or moved and we'll see if management finally moves to fill some holes or if we're going to shoot for the lottery for a third time. Between now and then there's not much but housekeeping though.


Anonymous said...

Great read, I never knew this was an Oilers related blog. Just saw the article on and I'm now hooked.

Have a happy new year!

macaotim said...

Anonymous...get ready to read about The Dog masturbating...and the odd insight about hand-jobs and the like!

I completely agree with your assessment of Tambo. He is not the man for such a massive job. Most of your ideas about moves are good too. I think you try to get both Hemsky and Penner to deals and use them as part of the master plan. What time frame do you suppose for a quality team? At some point you need to dig in and build with a combo of vets and youth...the revolving door of youth yields nothing in the long run.

Black Dog said...

Tim - A quality team? Well ... lets say that the kids and quality vets stay relatively healthy (meaning no absolute mess as we've had the past couple of years).

Especially Whitney.

And they keep Penner and Hemsky.

They need a top four defenceman, maybe two depending on what you think of Peckham.

They need two top nine forwards.

They need that third line centre and a new fourth line centre who can win draws. And they need to shore up the PK by adding guys on the fourth line who can do so.

If they shore these things up and bring in a couple of placeholders next summer in case the kids are not ready up front then I think they can compete for a playoff spot next season.

Replace the placeholders with whatever kids make the grade (I'm thinking Lander and Hamilton and Pitlick first of all) and then its just a question of luck, development and good management as to when they become a contender or not.

The prospects are definitely there for longterm success and if the right moves are made without sacrificing kids then I do think they should be competitive next season.

macaotim said...

I agree that next year the goal should be playoffs. I think a few players and some good luck with injuries could allow for an exciting year. I was more optimistic about this year's outlook...but key injuries killed that in a hurry.

I'll be back in E-town next year and wouldn't mind celebrating a win or two on home soil.