Monday, January 31, 2011

When The Cat's Away The Mouse Will ... ZZZZZ


Yesterday afternoon the family got onto one of those newfangled flying machines and headed east, to the fair Prince Edward Island, for two weeks with the inlaws.

They take this trip every year or two, leaving me to my own devices. When we had one baby I took the opportunity to drywall the basement (I'm a hack but I did a good enough job that my father-in-law actually did little but smooth the rough edges when he saw it.). Last year I spent most of the time working so I could make some extra cash to pay for my trip to Ireland for my man Patrick Broe's wedding. A few years back I actually went to Dublin for meetings (my company never requires me to travel anymore because of the family so it was a nice diversion) and I was able to mix quite a bit of pleasure in with my work.

And of course, being a chronic masturbator this really is ideal for me. I can let her rip at anytime without having to worry that anybody will walk in on me. Just have to remember to keep the blinds closed. Also that I am inside the house.

Its a weird feeling, coming home to an empty house. Weirder still is the realization that there is nothing that needs doing right at this moment. No laundry, no dishes, no cleaning, no diapers, no supervision. Its a strange strange thing and last year I remember being at loose ends until I got to work. (Actually to be honest I was at loose ends until I realized that I was home alone. I immediately cracked a beer and turned on some porn. Sometimes, as I read on twitter a few weeks back, I like to watch movies where people make love.)

This year I have no big plans. No extra work. No household projects. No big benders. Yesterday I got home from the airport and laid down for a nap. When I got up I cooked up some dinner, grabbed a book and a glass of wine and relaxed. Tonight I believe I will do the same. I have meat in the fridge which means I'm all set. By the time the family returns I should have a nice dose of heart disease as well as some scurvy. Ground beef and onions tonight. That's solo. Nothing else. Don't judge me until you've tried it yourself.

I have a couple of nights out planned but nothing over the top. One night I'll probably grab some Indian at our favourite joint and then head to McCarthys for some pints. I'm getting together with friends late this week and I will get drunk.

But overall its just time to recharge the batteries. I'm tired. Worn out. Feeling my age. Not a good thing, that.

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What would be nice is if the Oilers could show some spark now that the break is over and provide some sort of pleasant diversion to help get us through the remainder of the winter. The boy is learning how to skate and is making great progress. The other day he exclaimed that he was really bad at falling down to which I replied that he was definitely getting better at falling down, he barely did so anymore. He then corrected me (this happens a lot these days) telling me that he rarely fell down, making him bad at that particular activity. When he fell down a lot he was very good at it, falling down that is.

No wonder I am tired.

Using the boy's logic then I guess we can say that the Oilers are very good at falling down and reaping the rewards from such. For the fifth straight season we are left twiddling our thumbs and for the second straight year we're looking at a top pick in the draft, perhaps first overall.

Even the most sour of us agrees that the Oilers' future, based on the kids they have accumulated, looks bright. Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Omark, Petry, Peckham, Dubnyk - all are rookies who are establishing themselves as NHL players, joining kids like Smid and Gagner and some good veterans in Penner, Hemsky, Horcoff, Gilbert and Whitney to form the nucleus of what could be a team that competes for a playoff spot very soon. Add to this the kids in the system and in junior and the picks coming this summer and the future looks bright. The question is what Tambellini makes of this. If he makes a hash of it then this will be his first and last job as GM and the Oilers will be the Islanders or the Panthers, an irrelevant franchise.

We have our doubts about old Stevo but the next few months promise little movement which of course will suit him just fine. The Oilers may be the only sellers in the West right now but they are lacking in big tickets to sell. The good news is that what may get moved should get a bit of a premium because so many teams are in the mix in the west. The bad news is that Jim Vandermeer probably has the highest value of the available players.

Here are a few things that I think will happen in the next month or two as well as a few things that I would like to see happen. And a few things that have piqued my interest.

1/ Dubnyk. A bright spot this season. Yesterday there was a debate over at LT's with many thinking he should be playing more. Now I don't know a lot about goaltenders but I think that we can all agree that Dubnyk has been terrific this season. He has been better than Khabibulin, I think that is fair to say. Honestly though I am happy with how he is being used. Its hard to argue with his development path considering what he has become. They might win a few more games if he starts taking the lion's share of starts. Because this is a really shitty team he might also get shelled a few times. He's a big boy and he can handle that I am sure but I am thinking steady as she goes is fine with the big guy. His confidence is growing. He looks like the real deal. Don't mess with what looks to be working. Increase his workload somewhat, next year do the same.

2/ Petry. The lads at Copper and Blue have been writing about the Oilers' kids and they have a lot of good things to say about Petry. Much like Tom Gilbert did a few years back he has stpped into the NHL and has done so painlessly. How important is this to the Oilers? Well the blueline is a blackhole. If Petry has emerged as an NHL defenceman then suddenly the Oilers have five of them, all under thirty, three of them under twenty five. Find a sixth who can play, really play I mean, and they're set. So lets see if this guy can finish strong.

3/ The decisions. If this club can get healthy then some decisions have to be made up front. Do they ship Reddox out and keep Jacques or MacIntyre? How about Omark? He is still learning the ropes but he's already a better player than Brule.

4/ The deadline. Who stays? Who goes? Vandermeer is the obvious guy to go and I think we all know that Stortini is a goner too, even though he brings more to the table than JFJ or MacIntyre (shave those sideburns!!) Can they find a taker for either Foster, Brule or Fraser (unlikely)? Will they make a bigger move? Again, unlikely. The biggest drama come the deadline will be whether or not they keep Ryan Jones. Not exactly riveting stuff.

5/ Hartkinen. The big Finn has taken off down in OKC and is doing very well in a tough league. If the Oilers clear some of the flotsom out will they give Teemu a cup of coffee with the big club? I'd like to see him spend a full year down there, he is getting lots of minutes and running with it. Why bring him up to play a handful of minutes a night. Let him play. Kid looks like a steal though considering where he was picked.

6/ The kids. Will Hall make a run for the ROY or will he hit the wall. Will Eberle come back and pick up where he left off? Will Paajarvi continue to improve?

7/ Cogliano. Is he being pumped and dumped or does he actually fit in the organization's plans?

8/ Gagner. Its been a long and winding road for Sam, who is now in a dip once again. Will he be okay or if the Oilers draft Couturier or Nugent-Hopkins will that mean he becomes tradebait?

9/ Can the fucking special teams get a clue? The PK once was great but the PP has been abysmal for years (it cost the Oilers the Cup in '06 imo). Can anybody get these not so special teams to work?

10/ If Vandermeer gets moved does Chorney get the call again or do we get to see Alex Plante get some time in? It would be nice to see the big kid get a few weeks under his belt to see what he can do in the big league.

A few things to hold our interest. God help me if next year is another meaningless season though. I don't know how much more I can take of this shit.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two Gretzky Stories




This will be a big surprise to many of you but Wayne Gretzky turned 50 yesterday. I know, I know! It almost snuck through the news cycle without a mention at all.

I saw Wayne Gretzky play against the local junior club as a teenager with the Soo Greyhounds (my Dad's verdict - too small, he'll never make it ;) ) and cheered for him as an Oiler unless Edmonton was dismantling the Blackhawks, which they always did in the playoffs. Until the Oilers came along my memories of the Stanley Cup had been limited to victories by the Flyers, the Habs and the Islanders, three teams I disliked for various reasons.

The Oilers were a Canadian team and they were fun to watch and they were easy to cheer for. When they hit their stride only the Flames ever really troubled them, although Hextall and the Flyers nearly did them in that one year.

Unless you saw Gretzky play its difficult to explain how good he really was. He was like Babe Ruth (iirc there was one season where Ruth hit more home runs than the entire league combined or some ridiculous thing like that) - yes the era was different, yes the goalies were smaller, goalscoring was high and so on and so on but Gretzky was that much better than everyone else. He was a genius, its as simple as that, and when he was on the ice you could not take your eyes off of him. If you did then you might miss something that would never ever happen again. The beauty of hockey is that more than any other sport it allows for creativity, both for the individual and for the collective and the Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers were the most beautiful team of all time. They were magical and Gretzky was the conductor.

Despite the fame and the wealth that he has accumulated Gretzky's image remains that of the smalltown Canuck made good. Even the rare missteps have not tripped him up and if anything he is more popular now than when he was a player. (As an Oiler there were plenty of fans who would cheer against him and even amongst his own club's fans he suffered from Tom Gilbert Syndrome - fans complained that he was not tough enough, didn't hit enough and so on - the eruptions of violence and malice from Messier made him more admired by many.)

The reason that Gretzky has that reputation is because its not too far from the truth. Former Ranger and Maple Leaf Bill Berg once remarked on a radio show here that in the dressing room Gretzky was just another one of the guys, an incessant chatterbox, a hoser at heart. Gretzky is Gretzky because, as seen in the tributes yesterday people don't have a bad word to say about the guy.

I have two good Gretzky stories and both are secondhand. I've never met him.
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I have a good friend who lives in Edmonton and he was in university during the glory years of the Oilers. One night he was on his way to the Sherlock Holmes pub downtown. It was a vicious winter night, bitterly cold. As he neared the pub, the fellow in front of him, bundled up in a long coat, opened the door and walked in, letting it close behind him.

Now my buddy is pretty old school and as he yanked the door open he was pretty pissed off at this breach of etiquette, especially as he was sure the guy knew he was right behind him. Grumbling, he found his pals and sat down, taking off his coat. He suddenly noticed that everyone was looking behind him, mouths agape, in awe. He turned and there was the guy in the long coat, Wayne Gretzky, who immediately apologized profusely for not holding the door open for him, shaking his hand and making sure that he knew that he was sorry that he had screwed up.

A little thing? Sure it is but we all have heard enough stories about surly, spoiled pro athletes to appreciate even this small gesture. When Mick told me the story I smiled. I was not surprised in the least either.
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When I was a young man and living my salad summer days one of the fellows I got around with roomed with a Kings' prospect. Gretzky, he said, was a terrific guy. He also had the biggest dong he had ever seen.

There you go. Some guys have all the luck.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Scorched Earth




After three and a half seasons where apparently the Oilers 'braintrust' figured they were just a lucky break or two from contending they suddenly came on the realization that maybe, just maybe, they needed to rebuild this sucker.

Considering that this braintrust consisted of Kevin Lowe, who completely dismantled a club which came within a break or two of winning the Stanley Cup, and Steve Tambellini, whose signature move at the time was to sign a veteran goalie to an absurd contract, displaying an absolute lack of understanding of his own team's quality and of managing the salary cap, one can only wonder why they have been entrusted with getting the franchise out of the ditch into which they had plunged it quite merrily, like teenagers on a bender.

But that is a topic that I have beaten often enough, so that now very little remains of that horse but a slightly rusty stain on the pavement, noticeable to none but the odd stray dog which wanders by and whining and panting, sniffs out the faint odour of horsemeat and begins to lick the asphalt greedily, longing for a hint of fleshy sustenance.

That metaphor might apply to us Oiler fans, come to think of it, dreaming of a championship and getting nothing but garbage.

But I digress.

So the Oilers, having gotten rid of nearly every good player on the roster and thrown a generation of kids into the deep end of the pool to sink, finally decided it was time to get serious about getting competitive, down the road of course. To that end they rebuilt their farm system and the results there have been good. They concentrated on the draft and while it wil be years before we see the results right now last year's draft looks like a home run and both in quality and in quantity the Oilers' system is overflowing.

They have seven rookies on this year's club right now and all of them look like they will have NHL careers. Hall. Eberle. Paajarvi. Omark. Peckham. Petry. Dubnyk.

Of the first three this was expected. The fact that the other four have arrived and look to be reasonable quality was unexpected and is terrific.

Now we have talked about what the Oilers have right now - lets look at this once more:

Eight top nine forwards - Hall, Horcoff, Eberle, Penner, Hemsky, Gagner, Paajarvi, Omark

Five top six defencemen - Whitney, Gilbert, Peckham, Smid, Petry

One goaltender - Dubnyk

I think Omark can produce as a guy who faces soft opposition at ES as well on the PP. In my mind he is the only maybe on that list. I have not included Cogliano or Brule. So that leaves the need for one centre to play top nine minutes.

On D I think right now you have to consider Smid and Petry as the third pair, which is fine. So that leaves the need for a top pairing Dman to play with Whitney.

In net I don't think we know what we have in Dubnyk yet. At worst I think he can be a quality backup. He may be better. I have not included Khabibulin because he won't be around when this team is good and frankly I think he is shitty now. I know a lot of folks disagree, which is fine.

Fill those positions, add some fourth line guys who can PK (and one who can win draws) and let time take its course and suddenly you're looking at a pretty good club I would say. As a matter of fact the future could arrive a lot sooner than we think.

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Here's the deal. There has been plenty of talk of models. The Chicago model. The Pittsburgh model. Basically suck really bad for years and reap the rewards. Of course the Islanders and the Thrashers also have followed that model, at least the first part of it, they haven't quite figured out the second part yet.

Atlanta had five top TWO picks. They have one playoff appearance to show for it and not a one of those players remains with them.

Yet right now, with our second straight last overall coming, there are folks who are demanding that the earth get even more scorched and that it starts with moving Penner and Hemsky. And apparently, according to Elliotte Friedman, a preety reliable source, the Oilers will entertain offers for the two. Never mind that both Chicago and Pittsburgh had some quality veterans, both homegrown and imported, that were big parts of their Cup runs. Never mind that these two guys are quality players on a club lacking said necessity to compete.

Here's the thing. If management has a very clear idea that either player is definitely not going to sign an extension then they probably have to move them and get something for them but otherwise they need to fullcourt press these guys and get their signatures on paper.

Why? Because when it comes to building a champion there is one model that stands above all others. Its a simple one. Accumulate good players. Keep them. Its what Detroit has been doing for two decades now and in that time period they have six appearances in the Cup Finals, four Stanley Cups and they have been a contender every single year.

Think about that. I would argue that that run is the greatest run in sports history, all things considered. To be at that level for that long in an era with this many clubs, free agency and a salary cap is mind boggling.

And yes I know they had advantages prior to the lockout.

But twenty years.

And the key is simple. They get good players and they keep them.

On twitter the other day James Mirtle was talking to the Down Goes Brown guy about Clarke MacArthur, who is having a terrific year for the Leafs. Mirtle's argument (they were talking about extending him) was essentially this: if they do not sign him they need to replace him and that is just not that simple a thing to do. Burke made a nice bet on the former Sabre and it looks like it is paying off. If he gets rid of him then he has to replace him which means he either needs the return for MacArthur to do what MacArthur does (not likely) or he needs to move someone or something else to get MacArthur v2 or he needs to probably overpay a UFA.

Now James was not talking about giving away the store and neither am I but his point is an excellent one and absolutely relevant here. The Oilers are so very thin when it comes to NHL players, even now. Yes Hemsky is injured quite a bit and yes neither he nor Penner are perfect players but they are two young NHL veterans who drive results the right way. Penner is good for twenty five to thirty goals and Hemsky has been averaging just under a point per game for years now.

If you trade them for picks do the picks do what they do?

If you trade them for prospects, can the prospects?

Some might argue that Hall and Eberle will step into their roles and I think that absolutely the two kids are going to be outscorers and good for around thirty or more goals apiece but then who replaces those two spots in the lineup?

Tambellini may HAVE to move these two guys and if he does well so it goes although rumours say that Hemsky is already talking extension. But if he does not have to move them and chooses to do so then he had better bring back absolute sweetness in the return. None of the horseshit they got for Ryan Smyth. It has to be quality and it cannot be fucking guesswork. It has to be a sure bet or we are going to be seven years out of the playoffs and figuring out the return for Whitney, Gilbert and Gagner and then ten years out and doing the same for Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi.
Keep your good players. Acquire more good players. Its not rocket science.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lying Liars And The Lies They Tell




My kids are liars. Its almost pathological. Given the choice between lying and telling the truth they will invariably lie and they will do so easily and happily.

I don't blame them. Faced with catching hell or maybe escaping it is an easy choice for a five year old. You try to go out through that little escape hatch. If it works then you're golden. If it doesn't well the increased punishment, if there is one, is too obscure of a concept for them to understand and the reality is that the punishment may just be a whole bunch of yelling anyhow so what's five minutes of yelling or six minutes of yelling anyways.

(That's why I tend to make my punishments concrete, swift and inventive. Keep them off balance is my motto but also, don't fuck around. Don't threaten with something you won't pull the trigger on, let it fit the crime and make sure that you hit them where it hurts.)

And a well placed lie can confuse and deflect. The two oldest are experts at this. Ask them who the responsible party is and they each blame the other and they do so quickly and without conscience and with enough detail to cast doubt. In the end its sometimes easier to let it pass because you may risk punishing the wrong one. The boy especially has a stone cold heart when it comes to this thing. One time his sister was punished despite the usual finger pointing from both. Weeks later he let it slip that he had been lying and he should have been punished. His lie had been so convincing that we had swallowed it, hook line and so on. He let it slip and smirked, walking away a free man.

They come by this dishonesty honestly by the way as I am an inveterate liar. I started in the same way as they did and quickly graduated as a teenager to those things that teenager boys lie about to their parents - drinking mostly. When I was seventeen I got caught out by a girl who I was dating who I din't feel like seeing one night. Rather than say 'hey I don't feel like going out tonight (I didn't want to hurt her feelings)', I told her I was quite ill. Of course when she called me later to see if I was feeling any better and it turns out I was not at home (I'd gone to a buddy's to play cards) well then things didn't work out so well.

Those are two common themes to my lies. I'd rather lie than hurt someone. I also lie to avoid conflict quite a bit. Also I use the illness excuse quite a bit. I'm not the only one.

Play along and tell me how many if these you recognize.

Are you mad at me?

No.

(Absolutely furious but its easier to let it fester inside than deal with it now).

Are you listening?

Yes.

(To this same old complaint? No. Plus the game is on.)

Did you call (so and so - your parents, the client, the plumber, the neighbour)?

Yes of course.

(Nope. Don't feel like it. Will call when I do.)

Were you just jerking off in there?

What?! No of course not.

(Third time today baby! Barely anything coming out now.)

Have you been drinking?

Oh I just had one.

(Have I ever, four pints in an hour. Whoooo!)

Its ok that I don't want to have sex, right?

Oh sure.

(Holy fuck shoot me now.)

See? Its easy. And its easy if you get caught out as well. Be detailed if necessary when lying but sometimes its best to also be vague. Do so naturally. Have no conscience.

The one thing that we have had going for us is that we only have two liars but number three is coming along, she is talking up a storm now and its adding to the confusion. This is going to be awful. Case in point we were visiting my folks over the weekend and the youngest comes in with a huge pink streak in her hair.

What happened we asked? Our eldest, whose hair colouring toy it was, said that the youngest grabbed the tube from her and squeezed it on her head.

Ok, no problem except the shit is almost impossible to get out and she still has faintly pink hair a week later.

And when I was picking her and the boy up from daycare (they do daycare Mondays and Tuesdays) I was told that apparently the oldest was responsible. And so I asked our youngest what had happened and she pointed the finger of blame right at her older sister. And the boy immediately chimes in that yes this is what happened, his oldest sister had squirted it in her hair all along.

Information that he did not volunteer last week.

So once again someone is lying and what the hell do you do? Its impossible to figure out the truth, the little bastards.

I couldn't be prouder!

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Tyler goes over the whole Hemsky situation and as per usual its pretty good stuff. A few people are willing to give the Oilers the benefit of the doubt on this one but I have to agree with a few of the commenters who say that while its not absolutely black and white they cannot help but think that the Oilers have fucked up again. When Gene Principe is aware (While his medical condition was a surprise to fans, it wasn't a surprise to the Edmonton media. Gene Principe, on the simply awe-inspiring Sportsnet intermission panel, said that Hemsky wasn't feeling well against Anaheim and expressed no surprise at all. source Derek Zona Copper and Blue)that Hemsky has had concussion like symptoms before the game then anyone who says that the Oilers could not have been aware is ignoring this pretty clear indication that somebody did. Either Principe thought so on his own (and if it was apparent to him then its not a stretch to think that it was apparent to others) or someone told him so.

Concussions are tricky things. I have been concussed once that I know of and I only went to the doctor after a few days because I felt a little off. No nausea, no headaches, just didn't feel right.

But again if Principe was aware then there's little doubt that there was concern and if there was concern then it should have been acted on.

A lot of people are taking potshots at the Oilers for this and some people feel that this is unfair but the fact is that the Oilers' organization has brought this upon themselves. For years now management has exhibited such an absolute lack of competence that even when things go right its chalked up to a blind squirrel finding a random nut. The worst is assumed every time and of course they have nobody to blame but themselves for the cynicism of their fanbase. Five years out of the playoffs, the endless (and slimy) politicking for a new arena built with public money, the constant bleating that money is being lost when common sense tells us differently, the disastrous trades, the poor management of young players, the shitshow that they put out on the ice and yes, the historical tendency of this organization to rush players back from injury, have left us jaded, so much so that even the apparent bright future of this club is taken with a grain of salt because there seems to be little doubt that these clowns will pile out of their buggy and fuck things up.

The cynicism and anger and frustration was summed up brilliantly the other night when after someone commented at Lowetide's that Tencer had tweeted that Hemsky was having an MRI on his noggin Dennis King replied:

I think they're checking to see if he's stupid enough to resign with them.

Absolutely fucking right.

There is a reason that people don't trust government or big business or the Church anymore. Years and years of dishonesty and bullshit and absolutely fucking disgusting behaviour will make you leery of pronouncements from politicians and CEOs and clergy as to what is right for you. (The latest on the Vatican's response to issues with pedophiles in the Church in Ireland makes one's stomach turn and then thoughts of murderous intent begin to appear. And my wife wonders why I have no lower opinion that that of organized religion.) Of course in comparison the Oilers are small potatoes but the Principe (ha!) is the same
Did the Oilers know that Hemsky might be concussed? Hard to say although the Principe comment, as mentioned by Derek, strikes me as the smoking gun.

If so then its just another in a long list of pretty good reasons why the upper management of this club, the only ones who have survived this past five years, should be run out of town.

If not, well its too bad that the Oilers are taking heat for it but the reality is that they have nobody to blame but themselves for the pessimism about their actions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

After The Lawyers, Then We Take Out The Cats




I'm a dog guy, always have been, always will be. My wife is a cat person and while the death of our dear pal hit her very very hard there were a lot of times that she basically tolerated his presence. There were issues with shedding most of all (we're talking tumbleweeds of black fur, we actually had a child carried away by one) but really she did not get his essential dogginess.

Her loss of course. But despite her coming from the wrong side of the tracks, in terms of affinity to animals that is, she was convinced by the absolute genius that was Ben that we should probably get another dog, with the caveat that it should be a few years, so that the kids were a little older. Her sole worry - that this new dog might not be as wonderful as the old dog.

Yes I had definitely gone down the rabbit hole when I heard that.

Now, dogs are to cats what pie is to cake. A far far superior species. But when a couple of months after the big guy's passing my wife mentioned getting a kitten I really could not argue with her. I'm not a big fan of cats but neither was she a big fan of dogs and our marriage, like all good marriages, is built on compromise or some other bullshit like that, what can I say, as long as I'm getting some and get left alone for most of the time I don't really care to much what goes on.

Let me do my thing and give me a ride fairly frequently and I am good. That is all.

And so we got a kitten.

So far returns are mixed. The cat, like all cats, has a brain the size of a pea. I had a pretty good idea that they were fucking dumb, cats that is, but its been confirmed.

(As an aside I once gave the big guy a dog IQ test. Seriously. It included memory, problem solving, it was pretty heavy duty shit. And he aced it. Did better than the neighbour. Of course we were living in Florida at the time so that explains that.)

But yeah the cat is a fucking dummy. And its a pain in the ass. It rises pretty early some days, reminding me of those salad days when we had babies and got no sleep.

Some of this is genetic but let is also be said that our youngest likes to run around with the cat and then throw herself on top of it. She also likes throwing it in the air and cats do not always land on their feet. That's a lie.

And of course it loves me most of all. So much so that it will jump onto me and climb me so that it can perch on my head, like a little furry hat, which is probably its final destination, one that it will probably be arriving at pretty soon if all things continue as they have. Especially if it keeps doing the climbing me thing when I'm taking a piss in my boxers in the middle of the night.

No jury would convict!

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Its hard to say if Steve Tambellini is a cat or a dog. I don't like him and I don't think he's very smart so I'm leaning towards the former.

I read a beauty comment somewhere the other day, something about how he was able to build an absolutely terrible team (last year) without meaning to and how he did the same this year on purpose. The problem of course is whether or not he can actually build a club that can, you now, compete.

Its a lottery pick this year again and with the Devils maybe waking up a little and Whitney going for surgery I think last overall is within striking distance.

Which means that the Oilers will have Hall and another lottery pick, perhaps first overall, to show for these last two years of misery.

And a top nine forwards that susses out like this going into next season if the Hall at centre experiment continues:

Penner/Hall/Hemsky
Omark/Gagner/Paajarvi
???/Horcoff/Eberle

That's two lines that can probably handle tough matchups and a third that can probably handle the soft minutes. I think Omark is the key there and I believe that he is an NHL player and probably a better one than Cogliano and Brule already.

That leaves one spot and if Hall is a centre then its Landeskog if they can get him and if Hall is a winger its one of the two kid centres.

Unless its Larssen. ;)

And the emergence of Petry on the blue (yes its a small sample size but the kid looks like a player just like Tom Gilbert did - he's not a turnstile and he's got size and smarts and he does not look out of place) means that now this club looks to have five NHL defencemen of a reasonable age - Whitney, Gilbert, Peckham, Petry, Smid.

Which means that going into the summer our GM should be looking for the following:

a top nine forward
guys to fill out the fourth line who can do all of those little things
a top four D man
a starting goalie or at least someone to share duties with Dubnyk
Hemsky and Penner's signatures on extensions

Don't get that last item handled and its two or three top nine forwards. Get it done and this club is ready to grow together.

Now lets see if our man Steve can figure out where the cookie is and how to get it or if he's going to sit outside the door and bang his head against it like a moron.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Grading Out


Well the Oilers have passed the halfway point and for the fifth straight year they are going to miss the playoffs and for the second straight year they are heading to the lottery.

Not yet Isle Country but really at this point, as I've said before, this franchise is like Carthage or Austria or some faded high school football player pumping gas at the Piggly Wiggly. Oooh, remember when we were great? Oooh remember before we got fat? Before we were all hauled off into slavery and our city burned to the ground.

Yeah.

The one positive about this year is that there are many positives. The kids have been very good. So have some of the veterans. The problem is that the good players on this team are far and few beteeen and are for the most part, very young. And the bad players are very very bad. Not much in between.

Grades. Take them for what they are worth.

A Ryan Whitney - The trade for Lubo was debated at the time but Whitney was the MVP of this club the first half of the season. Leading scorer, a +13 on this shitshow, eating up major minutes and, like Penner, a guy who makes pretty well anyone look good. A lot of this had to do with good health and we can only hope that this latest injury is more of a freak thing than part of a trend. Best player this season, the team has gone south (even more so) with him out of the lineup.

A Taylor Hall - Hall looked the least ready of the kids when the season started and struggled for a bit and now he's one of the Oilers' best forwards. Outchances the other club regularly as a rookie which is absolutely ridiculous, even more so when he and Eberle were playing the toughs on many nights with Horcoff. A dynamic and enthusiastic player who is a joy to watch. Absolutely the real deal.

A Jordan Eberle - the one kid who has surprised more than any other, there were questions about Eberle due to his size and skating but he has delivered. The biggest and best surprise has been his awareness in the defensive zone and his ability to win puck battles, two skills sorely lacking on this club for years.

A Shawn Horcoff - yes yes the contract but Horcoff has delivered exactly what this club needed, shepherding the two kids, acting as the defensive safety for them, acting the teacher. And a terrific captain, articulate and responsible. As usual injuries a concern even though this one was freakish

A Theo Peckham - I know, a lot of high marks but what the hell can I say? Seriously though Ted Peckman has far exceeded expectations. He has given the Oilers some seriously needed attitude but more important is the fact that he can play. As he gains confidence I expect that we will see a little more offence as well.

A- Dustin Penner - the big man just keeps on chugging along. He is the rising tide that floats all boats, not just Zona's anymore, and when Hemsky went down he played with a little more purpose than usual. Has played angry a little more this year, wish he would do so even more. The Oilers really need to sign him and if they cannot sign him then they need a great return because he brings a lot to the table.

B+ Ales Hemsky - Nearly a point a game again for Hemsky who has shown his usual flash and dash and has won a few games for the Oilers with his offensive outbursts. The odd offnight but he is a complete player and thus I (and you) should live with the flaws, the turnovers particularly. He competes hard, goes to the shitty areas and is good defensively. Rumour says he wants to stay at a reasonable rate. Even with the injury concern they cannot let him go, imo. A gamebreaker on top of everything.

B+ Devan Dubnyk - the youngster has established himself at the very least as a quality backup, what they really need to do is give him more work, its ridiculous that he sits much this season. He has cut down on the soft goals by a ton. A homegrown goaltender, who would have guessed?

B Ryan Jones - going for the Cy Young with 10 and 3. Riding the percentages a lot but ten goals is still pretty damn good for a guy they got for nobody who quite often plays with nobody. Problem for Jones is he doesn't drive the play the right way like Glencross did, he doesn't hit, he's not great in his own zone. He's Ryan Potulny with some luck. Just my opinion and I know I know buddy has scored a bunch, its hard to ignore it. The fear of course is that they sign him to a deal and he ends up like Brule, Nilsson, O'Sullivan. If they can get him for reasonable coin I think they keep him, if not I think they can get a nice return. Good for the kid either way. Looks like he has a career.

B Sam Gagner - Gagner remains a work in progress, slow but steadily improving. He's no superstar but he's on pace for over fifty points and his play away from the puck continues to improve. Only 21 and I know folks say well what about Kane and Stamkos and so on but those guys aren't human. Sam is a player and he's going to be a good one.

B- Tom Gilbert - he'll never be a favourite because he's not a thumper but Gilbert remains a decent top four defenceman. He started well and then went absolutely south when paired with Jason Strudwick's evil alter ego The Defenceman. Everything fell apart, most of all his confidence, but since being paired with an actual NHL defenceman he has returned to being himself. Quietly solid, moves the puck, using smart positioning to play quality D.

B- Magnus Paajarvi - I figured the Swede for the best of the rookie bunch. He's struggled somewhat and could use a boost with some real linemates. Playing with Cogliano and Brule was a disaster with Paajarvi being the only guy of the three who can play hockey at the professional level. He's going to be fine but playing opposite of Penner or Hemsky would be a nice boost for the confidence of the kid who sometimes just seems to be hanging in there. No disgrace in that though and he's another who is going to be a player. Love his enthusiasm.

C+ Linus Omark - I have the callups as a collective but I have separated Omark as he is the most interesting and the best of the bunch. Still needs to learn the finer parts of the defensive game but this kid has flair and, unlike Nilsson, brings it on a regular basis. Also not afraid to get his nose dirty and wins puck battles like crazy. I think he can be a top nine forward in this league and that he can be a fairly good one at that.

C Zack Stortini - its not Stortini's fault that Renney wants him to cut those sideburns. There's no answer really. Renney says Stortini is not all that quick but he's by far the best of the scrubs. He does his job night in and night out. He's ten times the player that either Jacques or MacIntyre are. Yet he sits. Stortini may not be a guy who could even play for a contender but we're soon going to find out and all the best to a guy who has busted his ass to become a player.

C Ladislav Smid - he is STILL developing although he may never be better than a decent third pairing guy, loathe to give up on young defenceman but he has been passed by Peckham and possibly Petry is next to go by him. As long as he is cheap and young then he'll stick around but it appears that what we see is what we get.

D Jim Vandermeer - we knew we weren't getting much but we expected some toughness at least, a guy who would make other teams pay the price, a poor man's Jason Smith. Its not happening. Had a nice run playing with Whitney but who doesn't. Seems to think he is Bobby Orr at times, unfortunately skates like Frank Orr

D Andrew Cogliano - he tries, God knows he tries, but he has four goals and has no clue in his own zone still after all of this time.

D Nikolai Khabibulin - I thought about an F but he has kept them in a few games and helped them win a few more. Overall though he has been a massive disappointment, at least Souray generally played well when he was not hurt.

F Kurtis Foster - He has overcome a lot of difficulty in his personal life, including unthinkable tragedy, but he's been awfully poor.

F Gilbert Brule - an absolute nothing out there

F Colin Fraser - the gamble was worthwhile, I still believe that, but he brings nothing to the table at all

F JF Jacques - one of the worst hockey players in Oilers history - does nothing well at all except being big and fast

F Steve MacIntyre - good for him for getting time in the NHL but he cannot play a whit and the fact that other teams still do as they please with the Oilers show that his deterrence factor is zero

F Jason Strudwick - his good alter ego, The Chaperone, is far outweighed by hie evil one, The Defenceman - great guy, I guess, but the fact that they are now calling up kids and Strudwick remains in the PB says all you need to know. Our long nightmare is almost over.

B the callups - I have these guys as a collective because many of them have only had a cup of coffee, there is a depth at the pro level now and it should be recognized, besides Omark, Gerber and Petry have come up and made positive contributions and you could throw Reddox in there too. O'Marra and Belle were up and down but neither was fodder (O'Marra actually ended up even after nine games)

B Tom Renney - its easy to criticize the coach but Tom Renney has been dealt a shitty hand and yet he still is doing alright with it. He should be commended for the good work the kids are doing, some of that is talent of course but he's the guy who is teaching them. He also has gotten a lot out of many veterans. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit but overall he's gotten decent results. Of course the PK is a sore spot and it seems they have gone back to a more conventional setup which has helped. I'd prefer he played Dubnyk more although that could be from above. And he's cost the club by having the fourth line out at key times. Overall though I like him and would like to see how he does with a better club under him.

A/F - Management - who knows who is running the show. They get an A for amateur scouting and for improving the minor pro system and for tanking really well - I presume that is the goal here and they have done a bangup job of putting a terrible team on the ice. An F for putting a terrible team on the ice for five straight years, for still sending mixed signals (trying to sign Malholtra but doing nothing else with the bottom six when that fell through), for still employing Patrick LaForge
BTW, just came upon this on Twitter, the genius that is Mike Winters (and it is mildly NSFW because of some wang action).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stairway To Heaven







Was driving to pick up my eldest at school today and Stairway To Heaven was playing on the radio.

What a song. Zeppelin were rumoured giants when I was growing up. I've talked about it before, as a youngster I would not have heard Led Zeppelin on my parents' 8 tracks or on either of the two local AM stations. Most of my friends were the oldest in their families and again, this is small town Canada in the seventies, their folks weren't exactly listening to anybody wilder than Tom Jones.

And for our two pals who had older brothers well I can't speak to their tastes but I remember a lot of Kiss action, some Sabbath and just a bit of Zeppelin. Not sure if they were a little too exotic for the basements of New Sudbury or if they were found wanting or what the story was there but that's what I recall..

But Zeppelin is the real deal of course. Today I sat in my minivan (!) and the bell did not ring until those last notes faded away and it was a good way to spend a few minutes, cocooned inside my family mobile, the music turned up, the mommies walking by, looking at me, with .... interest?
;)

I'm no sophisticate when it comes to music or really when it comes to anything. Maybe beer. I know a little bit about beer. Maybe movies and books a little. Definitely not when it comes to music though. Tragically Hip all the way pal. And yeah I love the oldies. The Beatles. The Stones. And Zeppelin, amongst others.

Can't really speak to what younger folk think about Zeppelin. Even when we were in our twenties Stairway To Heaven had become, if not a joke, a bit of a cliche, the last song of the evening where you'd slow it down, drop the hands a little lower, move in, turn that head and !!!!, although I can't remember too many nights when it actually was. I do remember one night in particular, a gang of us poured into three cars and headed up the 401 to Waterloo. Not sure why, can't remember, there were friends of friends or something I guess, an excuse to get out on the road. My best friend went to Laurier and I knew a few other folks up that way, I had first met the girl from the Valley up that way, so I was fairly familiar with the area. I really recall very very little about the night we roared up the highway in a big boat of a car and ended up in a house somewhere on campus and after many drinks and a healthy helping of mushrooms we ended up at a community centre or some damn thing where a bunch of townies in sweatpants and Wendel Clark Tshirts danced in a basement with their mulleted girlfriends. Actually everyone had mullets. Us too. Last song of the night was Stairway To Heaven and I was so fucking high I just remember being really freaked out watching a buddy of mine stagger around the dance floor, air guitar at the ready howling at the moon. He would later become a priest.

Sometimes I think that the young folks forget what was good back in the day. Its like the young fellow who had the Chicago Mount Puckmore this summer and had Bobby Hull, Bill Wirtz, Rocky Wirtz and Jonathan Toews on there. No Mikita. No Hall. No Savard. Not to say that the idea of Bill Wirtz was necessarily a bad one but to ignore Stan Mikita, one of the greatest players of all time, for a kid with three years in the league, is a little short sighted. They're not putting statues of him and Hull outside the arena for nothing you know.

Sure sure I'm rambling now. Did I tell you about the time I was on my way to Shelbyville? Used to cost a nickel to take the ferry. Back in those days nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. Five bees for a quarter we used to say. Now the important thing to remember is that I was wearing an onion on my belt because that was the style at the time.
What I'm saying is ... well goddamn it I don't know. Listen to some damn Zeppelin, would ya?!

----------

Well we're nearing the halfway point of the season, only another few months of shitty hockey left. Hey what's another forty games when we've had over three hundred pointless crappy games in the last five seasons, eh? This season has had a number of bright spots in it and all we can do is look to those and hope that better times are ahead. The play of Dubnyk who at the very least looks to be a quality backup in this league, maybe more. Theo Peckham's rambunctious and heady play. The arrival of Jeff Petry and the fact that he doesn't look terribly out of place. Tom Gilbert. Ryan Whitney before he got hurt. Shawn Horcoff before he got hurt. The veterans Hemsky and Penner. The kids Hall and Eberle and Paajarvi. The possibilities of Linus Omark. The slow and steady improvement of twenty one year old Sam Gagner.

The team is still terrible of course but for the first time in a while the future looks bright. And of course there are the kids on the way. Hamilton. Maracin. Pitlick. Lander. Hartkinen. Plante. And so on.

And the kids to come. Its looking like a three way race for number one this season and both the Devils and Islanders look to give the Oilers a run for their money. With Whitney out you have to like the Oilers' chances but the Isles have already jettisoned some guys and now Mark Eaton is gone for the year. Meanwhile the Devils look to what happened to the Flyers a few years back where they unexpectedly collapsed and then bounced back immediately (although JVR hasn't done a whole lot to contribute to that) and figure what the hell, dump who you can (bye bye Langenbrunner) and add a kid to a roster that really should be much better.

Now what I know about the kids coming up is probably what you know. I read LT's site and some of what he links to and what Bob MacKenzie has to say and I watch the WJC and follow the Memorial Cup a bit. So I don't know a lot. It certainly looks like this year is pretty wide open, more so than last year anyhow. There has been talk today of not much separation between the top ten, which MacKenzie snorted at, but at the very least it seems that you can make a case for four or five guys who could go number one.

There are three guys who I like based on what little I know. The big Swedish winger Landeskog. The big centre Couturier. The defenceman Larssen. Nugent Hopkins is a playmaker, which is okay, but this club seems to have enough smallish playmaking types already. Plus he doesn't score a lot at ES.

Its another horrible year but it looks the Oilers are going to get another big piece of the puzzle. The question of course is whether management is smart enough to figure out where to go from here.

We await with bated breath.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Deeper Thoughts


Liam Reddox may never be more than a tweener, a guy who is a very good AHL player but just a serviceable fourth liner in the NHL. Having said that, anyone who saw him play last night knows that he belongs on this team. Hopefully that anyone includes Lowe's monkey. Reddox can skate, he is smart, he is aggressive and he doesn't handle the puck like a case of the clap. In short he is a far better player than JFJ, MacIntyre and possibly Colin Fraser as well ... If Tambellini wants size, the one thing that Reddox cannot provide (although I would bet that despite his lack of size he is a magnificent and generous lover) then that's fine but the guy who is a bigger player should actually be able to play hockey ... Until you have that guy on the roster then play Reddox ... We have friends who are big port drinkers. When I was in university a buddy and I used to drink a port. It was cheap cheap stuff, Balls Of An Old Mule port or some such thing ... Usually we'd crack it open after a dozen beers or so because we were such sophisticates. The last time I drank it I was stone cold sober and I never touched it again until last summer when it was reintroduced to me and I discovered that all port doesn't taste like ass, its actually pretty good shit!! ... At the beginning of the WJC I tweeted that I thought this Canadian team was better than last year's which was the worst that I could remember - poor goaltending, shaky D, little up front (Nazem Kadri? Seriously?) - and still came away with the silver medal. This club may end up with a silver itself although if Visintin is solid I would guess they will beat the Russians handily ... The best international game I have ever seen Canada play was the quarterfinal rout of the Russians in Vancouver, the best junior games were the consecutive finals where they shut the Russians down a few years back ... the game Monday ranked up there in terms of executing so well that they absolutely dominated a pretty quality club.


The best news from the WJC - the play of Curtis Hamilton and Anton Lander. Both look like the real deal, big kids who can play ... Olivier Roy not so much but a goaltender's development is a twisted ridiculous path so I'm not going to put too much into a couple of bad games ... And yes I realize that I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too by saying nice things about the other two from the same small sample size ;)


Not sure if its based on anything but Terry Jones tweeted multiple times that he expects Anton Lander to be the third line centre in Edmonton next season ... based on Tambellini's work so far I don't see that as a far fetched notion ... inert is far too dynamic an adjective for him ... here is a question though, if Lander is slotted for that spot and the Oilers draft a centre then does that mean Sam Gagner gets traded? ... Gagner gets hacked on a lot but he's on pace for ~ twenty goals and fifty points, not too bad for a twenty one year old centre ... Plenty of questions about this year's draft class, Nugent Hopkins is small, Larssen has not had a great year (apparently he has had injuries) although he was great in the SF against the Russians, Couturier's skating looks Jason Allisonesque plus there is Landeskog (fucking the dog for Landeskog as someone said at LT's), this is going to make last year's 'debate' look like a tea party by comparison.


The emergence of Theo Peckham is a godsend for the Oilers, not just because of what he brings to the table - size, some skill and smarts, thuggishness - but because out of nowhere, relatively speaking, he fills a hole on the roster. A guy who looked to top out as a six or seven looks to be a possible four or five and there is one less crack that needs patching ... we expect that guys like Hall and Paajarvi and Eberle will be good NHL players but you only have so many first rounders and not all of them will work out either, as we know ... you need those guys down the draft list to become players, if so then you can start talking about a quality club ... hopefully Petry will be next, he certainly has the physical tools and he doesn't look overwhelmed at all. And if Omark can cement a spot as a top nine guy ... maybe I'm asking for too much here.


Ray Ferraro said it but I can say it better because I won't be censored - why the fuck would Jim Vandermeer think he can stickhandle through a bunch of Red Wings at their blueline? Ales Hemsky trying it is one thing (and not right either by the way) but Vandermeer? When he is the last man back? That's atom shit right there. Just terrible.


The boy cheers according to geography and geography only. He cheered for Russia over Sweden because 'Russia is closer to us, just a little jump over Alaska and a little jump over the water and you are there'.


Nothing more ridiculous then watching Andrew Cogliano try and defend. The guy tries and he should be commended for that but its time to move this little dogie along and come summer I would guess that he will be gone ... Brule too, just as Reddox > JFJ so to is Omark > Brule ... I know that first rounders seem to get a never ending series of chances but I would have to think that Brule's next club may be his last ... he just looks lost ... too bad because he doesn't seem a bad sort but I think he's going the way of POS and Nilsson soon.


And because I always beat this drum, how about bringing back Patrick Thoresen to play next season. Terrific fourth liner who can fill in on a higher line if need be. My guess is he isn't coming back unless he gets a good offer and its a one way deal, don't know what he makes in the KHL but its probably better than minimum in the NHL. Buddy can play though.

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.