Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Not A Gambler By Nature



Other than heavy drinking and the anonymous sex when I was a young man I've never been much of a risk taker. I have a fairly strong sense of self preservation and based on the fact that I have sperm of steel I have been apparently hardwired to try and go forth and multiply.

I don't like flying. I don't like high speeds. Roller coasters? Forget it. You'd never catch me jumping off of a bridge tied to a big rubber band or jumping out of an airplane or any of that type of shit. Never mind that I might end up in pieces on the ground, I'm also concerned that the old ticker might explode in my chest. Same reason I avoid cocaine.

I'm all for enjoying life, I just don't get off on thrills and spills. I like your general pleasures that life affords - eating, drinking, fucking, the beauty of the outdoors, having a family and friends - that's just the way I'm built.

Here's the thing. I found out this summer that even the most mundane of pursuits have become fraught for me. I blame it on my kids.

We were at a cottage outside of Lindsay with good friends. Terrific spot they have. We lucked out with great weather this year and that weekend was no different. One afternoon we figured we'd head out on the boat for some tubing. There were three Dads and four kids, my oldest didn't want any part of it but the boy figured he'd come along. Once we got out there though he was quite content to observe as everyone took turns heading out on the big three man tube we were hauling about at a relatively slow speed.

I asked the boy if he wanted to go out and he said no. A while later I asked him again, telling him that I would go with him and he said no thank you. He was quite content to sit on the boat and watch. We were just about to head back so I asked him one last time and apparently he had screwed his courage up and he said yes.

We clambered out of the boat and onto the tube along with one of the other kids. Now when I was in PEI that summer where I was once again a young lion I had a pal who had a boat and we used to hit the harbour a few times a week and generally we'd haul out the tube and go for a spin. I'm not a big dude although I am exceptionally wiry and my buddies would get a kick because Trev would gun it and whip me around the harbour like a rag doll. I'd hit those waves and next thing you know I'd be flying, literally. It was a riot. Great fun. Also very painful at times.

What I'm saying, because it needs to be said, is I'm no baby.

And the reason this needs to be said is as we sat in the tube, myself and my boy, I was suddenly gripped by total panic. Before we began I told him that if he was scared he just had to let me know and I'd give the signal.

Well we got going and we're going at a reasonable clip but really its not that fast and I sneak a peek at him and he's having the time of his life. Me, I'm shitting my pants. Should we stop, I shout, and he turns to me, laughing, and says FASTER FASTER.

All the while I'm praying for it to end.

Why? Well its the boy being with me, that's all it could be, the thought that something might happen while we're out there. Only when the other lad with us raised his hand to stop did I breathe a sigh of relief at which point my son wanted to go again. I climbed out, replaced by another, and watched from the boat as he took another ride.

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When it comes to gambles that's a pretty low level one, which makes my terror all the more amusing, well at least for you, you bastards.

Steve Tambellini has made some nice low cost gambles since June and so far these have been paying off nicely.

- Corey Potter was signed for a song and has been, so far, a top four defenceman for the Oilers

- Lennart Petrell was also signed for nothing and has emerged as a nice role player

- Ryan Smyth basically traded himself to the Oilers and he has added to the PK, the PP and to Tom Renney's ability to match lines by giving Horcoff a winger who can help him with the toughs

- by giving Eric Belanger some term, satisfying his desire for a little bit of stability, Tambellini added a big centreman who can PK, be low event and win a lot fo draws. The offence has not come yet but it most certainly will

Throw in the emergence of Ted and the rebound of Khabibulin and the fantastic play of Gilbert and Smid and the Oilers have had a nice start despite Whitney and Hemsky being hurt, the bottom six forwards having not contributed a goal yet and Ted Peckman (a different Ted) falling off the face of the earth.

And now, well now it gets difficult. I'm not talking about this road trip which will probably bring these guys back to earth somewhat. I think its clear that we have something happening here and that this year may be the start of something good.

I'm talking about the fact that the next ten months or so are going to determine if this place is going to get wrecked, maybe not by the winds of change and the weeds of sex, but still the possibility is there for a mess to be made.

This is going to take some smarts and there are going to be calculated risks taken. Does our man have what it takes? I feel better about Tambo now than I did six months ago but I really don't know if he does or not. Here is what he needs to figure out:

- what about Ales? Does he sign him? My guess is Ales would sign if he's given the right offer. The question is what is that offer and how much term and cash do you gamble on a guy who cannot stay healthy at all? Anything at all? A healthy Ales Hemsky makes this team that much more dangerous and either makes the Horcoff line an absolute killer or makes Belanger and Paajarvi a lot more dangerous. You have to keep your good players, right? Right? We always say that here. But what about the good player who only plays forty or fifty games a year? Damnit!

- do you sign Smyth for a year or two? A no brainer really. He wants to be here and he adds so much. Let him go and suddenly that vaunted depth up front is a lot thinner.

- Sam Gagner? When Hemsky comes back one thinks Jones will slide back down the depth chart, right? But what about Sam's future? You have two kid centres now plus the two vets and while its nice to have so much depth up the middle that you can move 89 to the wing, does it mean that you also move him out the door? I think we may be seeing the near future now, meaning Hemsky and Omark will be gone and they'll run Eberle, Jones and Gagner on RW until Hartikainen is ready. Then Gagner will get moved too.

- and there is Linus Omark. A lot of gnashing of teeth about Omark. I think the guy is a player and myself I would like to see him slot in beside Horcoff. Lets see what we have in the guy, right? I can see the logic behind the move though. Its a winning lineup and its better to have him play than sit in the pressbox. The problem for the Oilers and for Linus is that they are suddenly flush with forwards. He needs someone to get hurt basically. And to stay hurt.

Here's the thing about the Oilers this year. They suddenly have depth, especially up front. Here's the problem. That depth can evaporate pretty quickly if the situation is not correctly handled. You want to use the depth up front to add a top four Dman I think, especially with Whitney being such a mess. Plus its doubtful that Khabibulin can keep it up and even if he does he won't be around when things really matter. But if they move Omark or Gagner (or both) and then let Hemsky and Smyth walk suddenly that lineup is a lot less impressive.

Its a tightrope. Lets see if Tambo can figure it out. If he makes the right bets then this team is going to be set for a while. If he blows it then its possibly back to the wilderness and he'll be unemployed.

3 comments:

Unknown said...

Nice piece Mac, love the fact that you answered all of your own questions. My kids are all grown now and out of the house but sometimes I'll pour a drink, light up a fat one and remember those good times and all the crazy things we did. This Halloween was one of those times. We used to buy a pumpkin for each, three boys, and the day before Hallows eve would be carving day. Taking them trick or treating on cold foggy sometimes rainy nights here on the Island and coming home with a sackful of loot. Good Times now just distant memories ahhh. Keep up the good work squire and if your ever in these parts well I know a great little pub that brews there own ales where we can talk all things Oilers...Brian

Black Dog said...

Thanks for the kind words Brian and thanks for your own memories. Good stuff.

Bruce said...

the rebound of Khabibulin

Maybe this doesn't mean what I think it means, but it's a scary thought.