Friday, August 26, 2011

Making Good Time

Whenever we go up to see my folks the first thing my old man asks after 'Do you want a beer?' is 'Did you make good time?' Now I wouldn't call it a family obsession but its an important part of the McLean vernacular - up there with 'Everything will work out' and 'that's a good deal' and 'mind your business'.

(As an aside we were having dinner Wednesday night. We're all pretty draggy after this year's odyssey. Our eldest was complaining about something and so I said to her that neither her mother or I wanted to hear her complaints, in fact she needed to go to the new head of the complaints in the household, Helen Waite. 'Who?' she asked. Helen Waite, I said, from now on if you have a complaint you can go to Helen Waite. This inspired confusion amongst the younger ranks and my wife blew garlic bread out of her nose.)

I call Dad when we get home and its 'ah you made good time' or 'hm, you didn't make very good time'.

You see I understand this though and I have the same fixation. Its a guy thing. My wife was once punctual. No more. She blames it on the kids but fact is if its the kids and I I manage to make it happen, be on time I mean. Take the kids out of the equation and she still remains ... late. Oh well, no biggie, she is allowed to have her delusions. Anyhow for her its not such a big deal but for me, when we are on the road, the less time we spend on the road the better. So, some tips for those of you who have kids.

- for the short (four or five hour) trip, schedule your departure so it doesn't cut across mealtime, if you have to stop for lunch you're adding an hour right there

- bring snacks so the little buggers don't have to stop for lunch if you run a little behind

- no water, not only will the kids not need pee breaks but if dehydration sets in they may even pass out a bit, if they're asleep you can go further

- be a fucker, a couple of years ago we were up the DVP when my wife remarked that she had left a necklace at home - I ignored her, stared straight ahead and accelerated, she was pissed but no way I was turning around and going home and then coming back, that is nearly forty fucking minutes and adding that to the trip would mean that we did not make good time

- be willing to break your normal rules if it means keeping the little buggers happy, as a general rule I hate their little handheld video games and those things don't see the light of day unless I'm severely hungover; in the car I'm happy to let them play forever as long as behind me its quiet

Now there are two parts of any trip, driving and not driving and when it comes to making good time there are tricks and expectations when it comes to both. If I am driving to Sudbury my expectation is to do it in under four hours if I'm going on a straight shot, four and a half if we need to stop for lunch. Its just over four hundred kilometres from door to door but its slow getting going and its slow finishing up as we get out of and into the cities. This was once a two lane highway for three quarters of the trip and it was an awful drive, five hours at minimum, but its four lanes for all but just over a quarter now and the remainder will be four laned soon. Someday I see us doing it in three and a half hours and when that day comes I will be truly cock of the walk.

(As a secondary note I'm not a speeder. Those of you who drive fast probably look at my expectations and laugh but I go about 15km over the limit at most - have a family you know plus I got a ticket a few years back and I have an aversion to paying those stiff goddamn fines.)

Of course there is always the unexpected circumstance. It was Easter that we were heading up the DVP nice and early when our youngest tossed all over herself. It was 9:30 and I was thinking 1:30 home and cooled before the unexpected event. Instead we had to pull over, clean her up, clean the carseat up, then we travelleed around trying to find Gravol, try and find a drug store open on Good Friday, motherfucker, and of course we had to stop for lunch because at noon we had barely gotten out of Barrie. We got in at 4:00 pm.

Yes I'll take that beer. No we did not make good time.

Now Sudbury is a sprint. PEI is a marathon.

1700 km. Break it down, its four segemnts. You can't get around it unless you drive a Vespa. You need gas. First of all there's the stops. When we stop we break out the cooler and get out the lunches. While they are getting ready I run the van over for a fillup and pick up drinks and ice or whatever we need. We used to take an hour for our breaks, now we're looking at thirty to forty minutes tops. I get back, eat up while the kids go to the pissoir and then we're off again.

On a trip like this I'm shooting for anything over 100 km per hour. If I hit that I'm happy. You hit traffic and you hit construction and if you can get that rate you're good I think. But as always you're at the whim of fate. This trip we were rolling along the shore of Lake Ontario, I mean really rolling. We were shooting for over a grand, all the way to Edmundston New Brunswick. We were killing it when we hit Montreal. We took highway twenty through Montreal and we were looking at 7pm in New Brunswick when it happened. Just about to the St. Lawrence (and what a grand sight that is) when we came to a stop. Two hours and four kilometres later we crossed the St. Lawrence (we travelled 200 metres in a half hour at one point) and the construction and our day was done, we lost two hours and had to stop for supper and at ten pm we rolled into New Brunswick.

We did not make good time.


Depending on who you talk to the Oilers are either making good time or not so much.

If you were to talk to Steve Tambellini or any management apologist you get the old 'second year of a rebuild' tale. Based on the Khabibulin signing we know that for a fact this club's management thought they would be competitive in 2009 just as they thought they'd be competitive in 2008 when they brought in Lubo and Cole and in 2007 when they signed Souray.


This is where the worry about management comes in for me and a lot of other fans I think. Three seasons of missing the boat entirely on how good this club actually was is not indicative of strong management just as four seasons of alternately trading off veterans for draft picks and prospects and trading off/losing young players while bringing in older ones shows, well, confusion, no?

Its too late now and hindsight is, as we know, a clear day but for a guy like me (I'm not getting any younger) its a bitter pill to swallow to see four years wasted while management slowly and surely fucked the roster, spending tons of cash to put a disaster on the ice. Now we are rebuilding the right way which means that we are about to see our sixth year out of the playoffs.

Its hard to take.

I like Tambellini's work this summer, I do. Its not knock your socks off but the team is better than last year, if only marginally. The problem I see is that the club strength right now, on the wings, is going to be depleted in a year when Hemsky and Smyth are gone and so it will be another step back.

With all of this said there is little that we can do but wait. The good news is that there is a nice looking bunch of kids up front. Even further to the good is that there are a lot of prospects on the blue and in net who are looking pretty good as well. Some of this prospect pool will get derailed by injuries, some just won't make it but overall things look pretty cool. The bad news is that this latter group is going to take longer to develop. Eighteen and nineteen year olds don't generally star in the NHL at all but especially not as defencemen or goaltenders.

The elephant in the room? Does Tambellini have the chops to put this all together when the time comes and the kids mature a bit? You know where I stand on this. I don't think so. I hope I am wrong.

Because six poor years is really really ridiculous.


Olivier said...

"We were killing it when we hit Montreal. We took highway twenty through Montreal and we were looking at 7pm in New Brunswick when it happened."

As a Montrealer, I laughed out loud when I read that.

Montreal is a marvelous city, but it's literally coming apart at the seams these days.

Black Dog said...

Montreal is my favourite city in Canada but that's two years in a row we've gotten killed on our way through time wise. Last year it was just volume, we took forty and we got screwed.


May have to go through the States next year although Jenn's uncle apparently has a workaround for Montreal. We'll see.

Chappy said...

The problem I see is that the club strength right now, on the wings, is going to be depleted in a year when Hemsky and Smyth are gone and so it will be another step back.

Perhaps childishly, I'm still holding out hope for Hemsky.

kanadienkyle said...

Love the post. My dad is the same way whenever I drive back to Sask. He only wants to know what kind of time we made, how the crops were and what gas prices were like along the way. In the winter he asks about snow cover.

My wife and I just adopted a little boy, so I am going to archive these posts for parenting advice.

Am extremely hopeful about this season and I love how Hall is predicting playoffs. It starts with him, I believe.

Black Dog said...

Chappy - I am as well, a RW depth chart of him, Eberle and Omark? Yes please.

Congrats Kyle! That's awesome news.

I wish I could say I was hopeful. I wish they had another Dman or two. And another goaltender. You never know though.

Scott Reynolds said...

You know, that 2008-09 club could've been pretty good. But as so often happens, they were chasing after more youth while still trying to win now.

Imagine that club doesn't move Torres and listens to MacT and brings back Reasoner. Then you don't have the craziness with Pisani at center or so much youth on the roster, and in fact start with some nice depth on the wings (Penner, Moreau, Torres, Hemsky, Cole, Pisani), two centers the coach knows he can trust (Horcoff, Reasoner), a healthy battle for another center slot with the odd man out ending up in the pressbox to start the year (Brodziak, Pouliot), and a kid line that you can protect to high heaven (Nilsson, Cogliano, Gagner). The defense and goaltendind was pretty good too.

Black Dog said...

The 2006/2007 club could have been decent as well. While they dumped a lot of solid veterans if they acquired a defenceman instead of Lupul (say Pitkanen) for Pronger and signed another veteran on the blueline my guess is they would have been a playoff club. They were solid up front, if not spectacular, and Roli was in net. If they had run Hejda, Bergeron and Greene or Tjarnqvist as the bottom pair and spare Dman that would have been a nice club.

But they didn't.

Peacecountry said...

I'm not sure what the answer is on the wings. It is the strength of this club now and down the road. I think that Tambelli at some point will have to bring in talent from outside the organization to fill the holes at D and in net.
The question is does he get rid of the current NHL players to do it and hope that the youngsters will be better than the new hires and push them out the doors or does he use some of the young talent at his disposal to make the team better now?

Black Dog said...

Peacecountry - I think we're still a year or two away from the day of reckoning although obviously the Hemsky issue looms large. Until that is resolved one way or another I think Tambellini stays pat. For example Omark might fetch a young Dman if he has a strong year but they can't use him as a chip unless Hemsky is signed imo.

But you're right, the Dmen and goaltending prospects are a) generally younger than the forwards and b) they will take longer to develop - its most likely that in the next year or two, I think, they make moves to fix these holes.

Of course if Hartikainen, Hamilton and Pitlick all become players then the Oilers will really be dealing from strength.

Halfwise said...

Here's an Australian singer's take on driving the family and not stopping. Camel Train to Yamba.

I like the car-sick part.

Bar Qu said...

Thanks for the blow-by-blow on how you make your cartrips work. I need to take some of that good advice (not travelling through mealtimes is a good starter).

Last summer we went from Calgary to Winnipeg and back. The trip there was great, but on the way back we went to Saskatoon to visit my grandmother (she turned 100 this April) and then back to Calgary via Edmonton. The Winnipeg to Saskatoon stretch nearly killed all of us, 10+hrs, 2 lane all the way. Mind you, the highlight was seeing our then 4 yr old had taken a marker and diligently put stripes over his entire exposed skin. Reason? "I want to be a cheetah"

The Oilers? Majoring in imbalance for the last 5 yrs, no end in sight.

Lee said...

Montreal falling apart at the seams. Yep, I'm onboard with that assessment. The bridge situation there is truly horrendous and should be an embarrassment for all involved with keeping the city's infrastructure up to snuff.

Just did Montreal to Edmonton via car. Just a few kms over 3700 door to door. Did it in 3 1000km per day chunks and then the easy 700km push on the last day. I think I made 'good time' My strategy was drive for 5 hours, stop and golf for a couple hours and then drive 5 more. The secret I found is stop to eat only when you have to (i.e when you're stopping to rest or golf anyway) and drive when no one else is. You can rack up a lot of miles at a good rate btw 8PM and 1AM when the highways are essentially barren.

Btw, it seems the hospitality business in Canada is thriving. I rolled into Dryden ON on a Tuesday night and Saskatoon on a Wednesday night and the accommodations in both places were nearly full to brimming.

Black Dog said...

Good stuff Halfwise.

Bar Qu - lol, good stuff. As for travel its basically a conditioning thing. Get the kids used to it and they'll just roll with it.

Wow Lee, that's serious shit, 3700 km. The longest we did was one summer we started in the Soo, added another 600 so 2300 in total. But 3700.


Agreed on the hospitality industry, Riviere De Loup, Edmundston - booked solid.