Monday, February 28, 2011

Same Old Song


You know you have little faith in your club's management when you hope that the trade deadline passes with no movement, not because you think your club should stand pat but because you know that they are likely to screw things up.

And Steve Tambellini, as always, did not disappoint today. With the frenzy of the past few weeks today was quiet, so quiet indeed that it was the Oilers who made the biggest splash, moving Dustin Penner to LA for a first, Colton Teubert and a third round pick that could become a second rounder if the Kings win the Cup.

The Kings are a middling shot to do so. They have a good club, as good as anyone in the West outside of Vancouver and Detroit, and once the playoffs get rolling as we all know anything can happen. The Kings are deep and they are better today than they were yesterday. And they did this without giving up a player on their roster or any of their best prospects.

If that last statement rings a bell it should. Since they shipped Pronger out of town the Oilers have always ended up with plenty of assets when they make their moves. The problem is they seem to have an unerring ability to zero in on the other club's second or third best men.

Now this could be one of two things. The Oilers either ask for the guys they get which shows that they have poor judgement when it comes to talent evaluation or they can't close the deal, blinking when their trade partners say no to their requests.

Chris Pronger brought in Lupul instead of Getzlaf, Perry or Penner. Ryan Smyth brought in Robert Nilsson and Ryan O'Marra. And now Dustin Penner has brought in a guy who is the Kings' fourth or fifth defensive prospect, a guy who had been a healthy scratch in the AHL this season, something which apparently Tambellini was unaware of.

If this is the case then Tambellini and his boss should be fired. Of course they should have been fired for signing Khabibulin, for the Smyth trade, for five years out of the playoffs. Michael Farber remarked today that Tambellini has support from the fans. When the local media almost uniformly fails to criticize this club's management despite what they have done to this franchise than there is no wonder why.

Dustin Penner was an interesting player. Even these past two years when he really began to come into his own he always left many fans wanting for more. He looked disinterested at times and he was not the physical force you hoped for. He was also a guy who scored thirty goals last year, probably was good for close to that this year. He was a guy who kept lousy linemates afloat. He also seemed like a bright guy and he certainly had a good sense of humour which counts for points in my book. And apparently he treated Joey Moss like gold, which speaks to his character as well. He was a good NHL player, one of few on this Edmonton club. And now he is gone, following a long long list of good NHL players who have been sent packing in the last five years, mostly for little or no return.

Pronger was one of the best players in the league and he did bring in picks and Laddy Smid but the only NHL player he brought back was Lupul. Lupul wasn't good enough to bring in Pitkanen so Jason Smith had to go with him. Pitkanen was dumped for Cole who was turned into O'Sullivan who is pretty well done. They did manage to get Vandermeer for O'Sullivan but he will be UFA this summer.

Peca, Samsonov, Spacek, Dvorak all left as UFAs. So did Dwayne Roloson and Petr Sykora and Marty Reasoner. And Jan Hejda. Patrick Thoresen was lost on waivers. Ryan Smyth brought back Robert Nilsson who was bought out and Ryan O'Marra who toils in the AHL four years later. Grebeshkov went for a pick. Glencross for nothing. Brodziak for two later round picks. Pisani left as a UFA, not good enough for the Oilers, good enough to play on the defending Cup champions.

And the guys sent out for a decent return show an organization without direction. Two youngsters, Stoll and Greene, were sent out for a quality veteran who was then moved out for a younger player less than two years later. Decent return in both cases but just a mess that reveals a lack of judgement with management. You don't move two good building blocks for Visnovsky and move Pitkanen for Cole and sign Khabibulin if you think you are rebuilding. You do this if you think you are a contender. And yet shortly after the Oilers realize they are rebuilding?

Very poor.

A couple of weeks ago I opined that the Oilers should sign both Penner and Hemsky and based on his comments today I think they might have gotten an extension from Penner. If they could not sign him then I was okay with a move but they needed to get an NHL ready player back, which means they would have had to move him at the draft.

And this is the biggest disappointment of course. Once again, as they have for over two decades, the Oilers moved out a good player for less than full value. A pick that at best will be in the high teens, unless the Kings absolutely collapse. A prospect who has had injury issues, may have an attitude problem (multiple sources spoke to him sulking over not making the Kings) and who is projected as maybe being a second pairing guy at best.

Very poor.

A team that had four top six wingers now only has three. Paajarvi will move up the depth chart and he will probably be a good one but it means that someone (Jones?) will move up the depth chart into his spot and it means that the club is worse today than it was yesterday and it means that next season they will be angling for the lottery again. If they weren't then they would have kept Penner. A bad season and they might have moved him at the deadline, probably for not much less than they got today. Now its looking like this is the plan. Its the Nordiques all over again with the media on board for the ride.

So it will be six years out then and then it will be Whitney and Gilbert's turn to go and there wil be fans who say good riddance and those fans, the same who are asking why Hemsky wasn't also traded today for picks, will get what they deserve.

An Alberta based version of the New York Islanders.

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

All Or Nothing, Trade Deadline

3:22pm Dreger says thats all for the Oilers. JVM and Jones staying. Wha?

Will post later on the Penner deal. More stuff trickling in. Canucks bring in Higgins and LaPierre. Nice.

2:46pm Simmons again hits the nail on the head. Does not help them get better. Maybe longterm. Maybe.

Tuebert having a bad year in the AHL, believes he should be playing in the NHL. Um. OK then.

The Hat says he's maybe a fourth or fifth defenceman in the NHL. Maybe.

He's a fourth defenceman in the AHL right now so probably the same for this Oilers' club.

Poor.

2:39pm Its either love it or hate it on the Penner deal. Funny that all of the media think its fantastic. Although this whole thing where the Oilers are getting cap space is pretty fucking goofy. Who gives a shit.

What bugs me is that it sounds like he may have had interest in signing with the Oilers. We'll never know I would guess but if thats true then its shit. Trading a proven player for lottery tickets, and thats all they got, is poor management. Now if he was not going to sign then that changes things.

Apparently Smid and Hemsky not going anywhere. I would bet Jones and JVM still to move.

The key to this is Teubert and people a lot more connected than me are saying he's not all that good. A poor man's Alex Plante.

Doh!

2:25pm There's the big one. Penner for a first, Teubert and a conditional pick.

Pierre says a huge bounty and MacT seems to agree.

Paajarvi slides up the lineup. And I would bet that Hemsky extends this summer. Great news on that front. But the Oilers are a whole lot shittier right now.

Penner is going to help LA. A lot.

More later on this.

2:12pm Bryan Allen, who had a no trade (WTF), for Samsonov. Okayyyyy.

Brad Winchester to the Ducks for a third. If he's worth a third could Ryan Jones not bring in the same?

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2:09pm Matthew Barnaby the voice of reason when it comes to the Oilers' situation. Moving 83, 27 and 5 for picks would be stupid.

Peca makes it simple. Trade them if it makes them a better club. If not then forget it.

Smart guy that Mike Peca.

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2:03pm Campoli brings in a second and old friend Ryan Potulny. Potulny will probably get a roster spot I would think. He's good enough to play on a terrible team. He proved that last year.

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1:57pm Chicago picks up Campoli for a pick and player to be named. Pierre says they are still looking for another. Allegedly they were after Smid. I wonder if thats it for Laddy.

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1:43pm And Ferraro makes the point - why move MacArthur - he's a good player and if he goes then you need to replace him.

I made the same argument about Penner and Hemsky a couple of weeks ago. If they want to sign then moving them for futures is stupid unless we're talking can't miss kids. Hemsky leads the team in scoring, almost a point a game. Sure Hall and Eberle are great but doesn't it make sense to have as many good players as possible?

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1:39pm I wonder if next week they'll move the show to a start date two weeks prior. Might be necessary by the looks of it. Four deals so far.

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1:27pm Oiler scrimmage, light hearted and lots of fun, guys wondering if they will be the lucky one to get moved from this horror show. ;)

Shawn Belle gets moved, this will be what, his seventh club? Can't crack this lineup, you're a career minor leaguer.

Coming back - Bernard Montgomery? Montgomery Clift?

Kevin Montgomery. I think he owns our neighbourhood deli.

Maguire says Penner is not even worth a first round pick. Oh Pierre please get a GM's job somewhere. MacT defends Penner, he's been very good the last two years he says.

MacT is pretty classy.

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1:26pm Not sure if its the inaction or the fact that I had sex last night but I feel strangely at peace.

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1:20pm Discussion as to why there have been no trades.

Bissonnette laments the loss of his running mates Lepisto and Upshall, the only two single guys on the club. Now he'll have to hang out with the married guys when they go out on a beaver hunt.

The Hat just said that Smid is the key to Chicago defending their title. Naw I must have misunderstood that.

Philly, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington may all be done. Anything that happens will probably be out west I would guess.

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12:53pm Klesla for Upshall and Lepisto. Meh.

You want excitement? I just had lunch. Chicken nuggets and fries.

Dandy.

And the cat just knocked a plant over. Fucking retard.

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12:16pm You'd think they'd just start this around noon although they did have some nice in depth look at the Canadian teams in the morning. For example Pierre found out that Hemsky is a better winger than centre.

Now replaying last year's deals. Quality.

Apparently Jones has rejected the Oilers' offer. It was low. Has Tambellini figured this out?

Not likely but there is always hope. Actually that's all we have left.

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12:08pm Just back from picking up the boy. Wideman to Washington for very little. Wonder if Vandermeer brings a third? He has been far better over the last two months - certainly a lot more anger in his game.

And Atlanta picks up Schremp. Last stop before the Italian league.

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11:15am Oh yes and Pierre asks if Hemsky is a better centre or winger.

Wow that's a fucking quality. MacT just looked at him. "Um, definitely a better winger."

Oilers asking for a tonne, again they say. Very good.

Interesting debate on whether or not Tambo HAS to make a move. I would say no. Hopefully he and his bosses think the same.

Schenn not in the conversation. The Hat says Simmionds, Forbert and a first.

Pass.

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11:03am Steve Simmons makes sense for once - trading Hemsky is stupid. Then he says Smid is their best defenceman. OK so that did not last long.

Farber says ST has done a good job selling the rebuild. Easy to do when the media does the selling for you.

Sophisticated hockey fans says the Hat. Simmons says rubes.

There are both, same as any other team. Problem is same as other teams the rubes outnumber the sophisticated.

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10:56am Hire Craig Button now, would you? He says - young players don't help you win. At some point you need to stop getting younger or it spirals out of control.

Amen.

lol, MacT begs off on the Penner or Hemsky question but he does give Hemsky a boost - big performer he says; Ferraro and Pierre also say they would take Hemsky.

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10:45am I don't know a whole lot about Bergfors but trading a kid that you wanted for Kovalchuk for a pending UFA doesn't make a lot of sense. Pressure to make the playoffs must be pretty strong because this realy makes no sense unless Bergfors is a complete bust.

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10:35am Nothing yet. Twitter says they asked for Leddy for Smid. ST definitely swinging for the fences apparently.

I say Vandermeer definitely moves. I'd bet Smid does as well. Jones apparently has an extension on the table, if he does not take it then they move him. Penner or Hemsky possibly as well.

If ST sticks to his guns then it will be interesting to see if Lombadi caves. Ownership may tell him to pull the trigger.

That's a lot of guys on the move.

First trade - Dvorak to Atlanta for Bergfors and Rissmuller. Atlanta kind of looks like they're fucked imo but it looks like they are buying.

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10:20am If Vandermeer and Smid are in play and Peckham is concussed does Gilbert play 45 minutes a night?

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10:07am Had a lot of fun at the Leafs' game Saturday night btw. Very entertaining. Saw John Shannon on the way in, he was checking his Blackberry. "Big trade to announce there John?" I said. He chuckled. "Nothing yet."

Dreger repeats that Hemsky is likely gone today. He also says that Tambellini is asking for a huge return. Better not flinch you fucker.

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10:02am Justin Williams signs four year extension with LA. Here is the thing with LA - is Brown a RW or LW? He is listed as a RW but he must play LW as well, why else would they be interested in Hemsky.

I like Williams a lot, he's injury prone but he's a good player.

Apparently the Oilers have to have Schenn in any deal for Hemsky. If that's the deal (Schenn plus) then while I'll be unhappy if Hemsky goes at least the return would be quality for once.

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9:54am Duthie remarks that Edmonton wants to go with youth youth youth and get rid of everybody; if you need me I'll be hanging from a rafter in the basement. Fuck me.

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9:45 am Working from home today so I'm going to be posting here regularly on what's happening.

Watching TSN last night and went to bed nervous and pissed off. Discussion revolving around the Oilers focussing on Hemsky and Smid with Dreger saying that with the exception of the kids all bets are off, which is fine and to be expected.

But what twigged my interest - Smid not fitting into the cluster that they are building in Edmonton, not because of his play but because of his age.

That's right folks. Laddy Smid is too old for this club.

Remember what Lowe said - four to six years? This confirms it. They're not done burning this sucker down yet. We're looking at top two pick this year and likely next year as well by the sounds of it.

Its the Nordiques' model. And all I can say is if this is the case then the only acceptable result is a Stanley Cup. If we fans are going to have to put up with a terrible team for the foreseeable future after five years out of the playoffs already then there had better be a Cup.

Dreger echoed my thoughts about today. We could see Vandermeer moved and little else or we could see a massive amount of movement. Smid is in play. Hemsky and Penner are garnering interest but the Oilers' price is apparently huge, at least for Hemsky, as it should be.

I want Hemsky to stay and extend his deal but I have a feeling today is going to be a day of sorrow for Oiler fans, much like the deadline day in 2007.

Lets hope not.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Trade Deadline Haikus




Every year I go to a Leafs' game with my best friend, a fellow I've know since I was five. We get beauty seats through his work, go for supper and some pints and then the game. We saw the Pouliot penalty shot game, one of Smyth's last as an Oiler, probably my favourite of these outings. We saw the game when Dan Cleary got hit in the face with a slapshot. Two years ago we saw a glimpse of what was to come as Chicago, down three going into the third iirc, spent the third period in the Leafs' end, winning the game in overtime. We saw Wendel Clark night and a night celebrating the 1967 Cup winning club which included some awesome casual Red Kelly racism. This will probably be our tenth I think, something like that.

Last year he asked me who I wanted to see and I said it had been a while so why not the Oilers? It was terrible, one of the worst games I've ever witnessed and he was a bit sour. This year he called me in December and said we're going to see the Penguins. Beauty, right?

Looks like its the Wilkes Barre Penguins unfortunately. Oh well at least the Guinness, the company and dinner will be good.


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Trade deadline's a coming. Rumour is the Oilers want Schenn and Simmonds. The Oilers should extend Hemsky and Penner. This whole idea that Hall and Eberle are going to be great so they can get rid of 83 and 27 is fucking stupid, there's no other way to describe it. Not sure why a club can't have four good wingers is beyond me.

Having said that, Schenn and Simmonds? That's LA's best prospect and a young NHL player and a pretty good one at that. Sign Penner and get that for Hemsky and while I don't know if I could get totally behind it I could probably live with it. Schenn is about as good a bet as you can find outside of the NHL I would say.

We'll see. I can't see LA giving up that much and if Tambo is asking for that and sticking to it then good on him.

Here's a little haiku action.

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Two year old daughter
Sociopathic antics
Make Daddy mental

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Hemsky and Penner
Going away for more picks?
Trade Tambo instead

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Oh Khabibulin
An ice chip in your left eye
Flew up from your drink?

(hat tip to Deano for the gag)

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"The smallest market"
Needs a new rink to compete
Playoffs help profit

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Franchise in the ditch
The drivers still at the wheel
What the fuck is that?

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Sore vagina flu
Minor stroke gout ankle sprain
Gil Brule's ailments

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Tambo Lowe LaForge
Unemployment awaits you
Make it happen Katz

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Souray on the farm
How will he spend millions?
Fan of chocolate?

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Tom Selleck's moustache
I have to believe it is
A popular ride

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Oh Anne Hathaway
I'd give you my Oscar
Do not call the cops

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oo ee oo ahh ahh, wing WANG wolla wolla bing bang



Heh.



Wang.



Was in Twitter blackout yesterday for nearly six hours and I almost died. I remember a while back I was at The Communist Bar with messrs Dellow and Winters and not really getting it. Now ... well its like the crank for me ... the reason for the blackout was getting together with same to watch Spurs cough one up versus Blackpool ... I mentioned to Ty beforehand that this was the classic trap game, Spurs coming off of their big victory, Bale and van De Vaart, amongst others, out, and so it was although I have never seen so many golden chancesgo awry. In the end though Blackpool was full value making their biggest (only?) fans in Canada very very happy.



Although I could have done without the taunting and stabbing when I tried to take my leave.



Afterwards we turned it to the Oilers' game and oh dear, from an exciting passionate sporting event to probably the worst thing a person can watch. Oilers versus the Wild and it contained everything we'd expect from such a matchup. Gilbert and Hemsky getting drilled from behind into the boards with no retribution of any sort. Smid making a bonehead play to allow a Pierre Marc Bouchard goal. Khabibulin losing. A 5 on 3 wasted (ah memories of the SCF in 2006) without even a moderately dangerous play by our side. An ex Oiler traded for nothing excelling for a club way ahead of the Oilers in the standings. (If I had a dollar for every time a guy dismissed an Oiler moved out as lousy "what does it matter - Brodziak is a dime a dozen" I'd be awash in cocaine and hookers RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT!!!).



As we watched a club that once motivated all three of us to write about them (and still has the same effect on two of us) thoughts turned to the incompetence of Oilers' management and what a hateful disaster this has become.



Good times. It is always good to get together with men you have met on the Internet.

Other big news, Jenn and I are celebrating our tenth anniversary this year and are getting away, just the two of us, to the Dominican. Going to be fucking awesome. Will miss a week of the playoffs, which will be weird, but of course as an Oilers fan I can probably book a spring vacation every year until my kids graduate university and I'm probably not going to miss much.

It really is going to be great - we're going to an adults only resort and if you are like me you are thinking about porn right now. Every time I hear 'adults only' I hear the cheesy music and in this case I imagine Ron Jeremy asking who ordered the pina colada in a bad Spanish accent.

There is close to a fever pitch about Hemsky and Penner getting traded. Personally I think that Hemsky is not on the block and will sign an extension this summer but that they have gotten calls about him. Get a call, have to take it but by all accounts they are asking for a ton, as it should be.

As for Penner I think he's a goner. He's a fairly smart guy I believe and while he is not going public with any requests I am certain that he looks at this shitshow and has a calendar at home with numbers counting down to July 1st, 2012. I do not think he will extend and if that is the case then the Oilers have to move him. Unless its a miracle I would doubt that the return is reasonable value - replacing a guy who drives results and scores 25 goals or so a year is not likely.



Had to laugh at some moron at the EJ who said in comments that they should trade Hemsky and Penner because the Oilers are a 30th place club with them. Nice reasoning. I presume someone wrote the comment for him because someone that dumb likely cannot read or write. Without Hemsky and Penner these jokers would have about a dozen wins.



Keep your good players and add more. Its really pretty straight forward. Trading everyone over 21 guarantees that the team will be worse and also guarantees that those guys who are still around will get out as soon as they can.



Oh well. Job security for Lowe and Tambellini.



I will try my best to do a live blog on deadline day and I'm going to try and post on all that has transpired so far before then. It certainly has been an exciting couple of weeks. My guess for the Oilers is either a meh day with Vandermeer moved and not much else or some seriously over the top shit.



We'll see.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Life's Funny Unless You're The Punchline


I'm behind on the times. I admit it. With the exception of books and movies (and even there) I'm playing the role of Secret Aging Man very well. I just got my first cellphone for crying out loud. And the last CD I bought was the latest release by the Hip. Before that the last one I bought was the previous latest by the Hip.

You get the picture.

So excuse me as I rave about my latest 'discovery' The Ricky Gervais Show. I got into it a month or so ago and now of course their latest project 'An Idiot Abroad' is airing now and its pure genius.

The Ricky Gervais Show is basically an animation of podcasts that Gervais has had with two gents, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington. I'm sure everyone is aware of who Gervais is but its Pilkington who is the star of the show. Essentially the show consists of Pilkington being asked his thoughts on various subjects, answering questions from listener emails and telling stories. Its absolute genius. Pilkington rambles, he stretches the truth, he misquotes and mispronounces, all the while being abused by Gervais and Merchant. As a quick example there is one episode where he tells a story about a fire in NYC where the fire department arrives but discover they only have brought their short ladders. They recruit a monkey from a nearby zoo, outfit him in a fireman's outfit and he climbs the building and rescues a man from the burning apartment, carrying him down the side of the building out of harm's way. As he tells this tale Gervais constantly shouts "You're talking shit!" at him and, along with Merchant, derides him without mercy.

Its absolutely terrific stuff and I presume Pilkington must be making pretty good coin considering the abuse he takes. I highly recommend it and I highly recommend An Idiot Abroad as well. Terrific television.

The thing that strikes me in terms of relevance is that Steve Tambellini is Karl Pilkington. He is a buffoon and a failure. He is barely articulate. He has made a hash of the Oilers in what will likely be his only kick at a GM's job. And of course the genius of it all is that Lowe is the guy pulling the strings. Every time you turn on the television and there is a national broadcast and there is talk of trades and moves for the Oilers the commentators always refer to Lowe as the GM and then catch themselves.

So Tambo not only if the guy taking the abuse but apparently he doesn't deserve it. My goodness.

Anyways I was inspired by Ricky Gervais and I called my good friend Tyler Dellow, who, like Gervais, is a very bright fellow with a rather acerbic wit. Strangely enough like Merchant I am also an enormous human being, standing at just over six foot seven, so it was obvious what was meant to be. We arranged to have a converastion with Mr. Tambellini and here is a transcript:

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For the past few years Tyler Dellow, Pat McLean and Steve Tambellini have been meeting regularly for a series of pointless conversations. This is one of them..

Pat - Testing.

Tyler - Hello and welcome to the Tyler Dellow show with me, Tyler Dellow, Pat McLean


Pat - Hello

Tyler - And the little sleepy eyed buffoon that is Steve Tambellini

Steve - Wha?

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Pat - So we have an email here for Steve, its from Andy in Edmonton. He says 'Steve, what were you thinking of when you signed Nikolai Khabibulin last summer?'

Tyler - Oh that's a good one. That's rich. What were you thinking about there?

Steve - Well, er, em, you know

Pat - er, em, I guess that's the answer, there was no thinking involved.

Tyler - HAHAHAHA thinking?! Ha, stop talking shit!!

Steve - Well, you know, I was thinking

Pat and Tyler - HAHAHAHAHA

Tyler - Stop talking fucking shit! Stop it! Fucking lying wanker!

Steve - Well I thought that it would be a good idea to sign him to a contract, you know. I thought it would be good for the hockey team.

Tyler - Wait a second. Wait a second. You thought it would be a good signing.

Pat - Hahaha

Tyler - A broken down old shitty goalie and you gave him a contract for four years. Four fucking years, you stupid fucking wanker.

Pat - 3.75 million a year.

Tyler - 3.75 million a year.

Steve - Well, er, um, he won a Stanley Cup.

Tyler - A fucking Stanley Cup. But he's shit!! Everyone knew he was shit. A Stanley Cup. Why not sign Glenn Hall.

Steve - he wasn't available.

Tyler and Pat - HAHAHAHAHA

Steve - He works for the Flames, I think. Plus he has a ranch.

Tyler - He's fucking 100 years old.

Steve - No. I saw him on the television. He was, what do you call that, when you ride a bull?

Tyler - You're talking shit!!!!

Steve - He was, you know, when they ride a bull, you know its bucking, you know, the bull is pissed off, he's like 'hey get off of me'. I don't blame him though. I wouldn't like it, you know.

Pat - Wouldn't like what?

Steve - Well you're a bull see. You're minding your own business, doing bull stuff.

Pat and Tyler - snicker

Steve - And all of a sudden here is this old guy he comes over and he's just like, well here we go, I'm climbing on top of you. I wouldn't like that.

Tyler and Pat - HAHAHAHA

Tyler - oh I think you'd love that, some guy climbing on top of you. Wouldn't you?

Steve - No not at all.

Tyler - Oh I bet you would you stupid little sleepy eyed git. So you would have signed Glenn Hall except he was busy

Pat - Bull riding.

Steve - Yeah, I saw it. So he was at the top of the list but he was busy.

Tyler - Talking Shit!

Steve - And Terry Sawchuk is dead ....

Pat - So here's one from Bob from Vancouver. Its relevant too. After signing Khabibulin to this big contract, seven months later you decide its time to rebuild. What changed?

Tyler - Yes what the fuck was that? One minute you're spending big money on an ancient goalie with "a Stanley Cup ring" and then the next you're going to burn it down to the ground. How do you explain that?

Steve - Well, I looked at the team and I thought, well, if everything breaks right we might need a veteran goaltender, you know, who could win us the Cup.

Tyler/Pat - HAHAHAHAHAHA

Tyler - You thought the Oilers could win the Cup with that roster.

Steve - well, yeah

Tyler - that shitty roster

Steve - well, you never know, its like that fellow, you heard about him, he was killed by a gorilla

Pat - By a gorilla, where was that?

Steve - on Whyte Avenue

Tyler/Pat - HAHAHAHA

Tyler - You're talking shit! That never happened!

Steve - Oh yeah, last summer. This fella was walking down Whyte Avenue and then a gorilla leapt out from an alley and it tore him to pieces.

Pat - A gorilla! Where did it come from? (snickering)

Steve - Well, he was at at the zoo see. And you know he was tired of it so he escaped.

Tyler - How did he escape?

Steve - Well, he was dressed like a man, see, and so he's ...

Tyler - Wait wait. He's dressed like a man. How the fuck does a gorilla get dressed up?

Steve - Well what he was doing is, people would come by, see, and you know they're hot, so they take off say, a hat, or a jacket, or their pants ...

Tyler/Pat - HAHAHAHA

Steve - right and so they put it down and he reaches out and grabs it

Tyler - So he assembled a wardrobe ....

Steve - Yeah

Pat - So there's some guy, he's at the zoo and he takes off his pants. Why would he take off his pants? And even more interesting, why would he not notice that they were gone?

Steve - Well, he'd be hot you know. So he'd take off his pants, to cool off.

Tyler - Talking Shit!!

Steve - And you know he'd be nice and comfortable and wearing his boxers and you know nobody noticed so he just figures well, I'll walk around like this, see. And then the gorilla grabs his pants. And so after a few weeks he has everything he needs and he's all like 'hey' to the zookeeper, 'hey, I got in here by accident, can you let me out?'

Tyler - What nonsense is this? And he believes it all, yeah?

Pat - Yeah.

Steve - And so the zookeeper is like 'oh well yeah', and he let him out you know and he says 'thanks very much for letting me out, it was unsafe in there with all of those gorillas'

Tyler/Pat - HAHAHAHHA

Tyler - You are so full of shit. So this gorilla steals a wardrobe, escaped from the zoo and then killed a man on Whyte Avenue? None of this ever happened. None of this ever happened.

Pat - Never mind that is all a figment of imagination but what does this have to do with signing Khabibulin?

Steve - well, see, your man who's walking down Whyte Avenue, you know, he gets up that morning, you know, maybe he's a little hungover, so he's on his way, to get a burger maybe or maybe he's going to Boston Pizza, well anyhow he leaves his house and if you said to him, 'well now you're going to get killed by a gorilla' well, he would say 'that's not going to happen, its a load of bullocks' but of course it did happen. So you know, its why I signed Khabibulin, you know, it was best to hedge my bets just in case we actually contended, well it would have been bad if we didn't have a Cup winning goalie, right?

Pat - so you signed Khabibulin because basically anything can happen, like you might get killed by a gorilla walking down Whyte Avenue. Which is something that never actually happened.

Steve - It did.

Tyler - That explains a lot. Steve Tambellini logic. Is there any intelligent life behind those dopey eyes you wanker? I guess we know the answer to that question would be no.

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Stay tuned for the next episode when we discuss another Oilers' management disaster, Sheldon Souray, who Daryl Katz has paid an NHL salary, along with Jeff Drouin Deslauriers and Zack Stortini, to play in the minors. Souray is on waivers and, if claimed, will get paid only half of his remaining salary by Katz.

Its nice to be rich.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Joy and Pain, A Rambling Man




Its been an interesting few days in Pat McLean Sportstown, (just take a left once you get out of Drinkyville, its in between Smokington and Sexbury) a handful of days where I swung from cynicism to joy and back again and then once more to joy.

Was chatting over at LT's the other day and frequent commenter (there, not here) Smarmy Boss made the point to me, after I ranted for a little bit about something or another, that really the whole thing should not be taken that seriously, its just games after all. I'm paraphrasing but I think I'm representing what he said fairly.

Now the reality is that I don't take it all that seriously, which of course is going to sound funny coming from a guy who has written hundreds of posts on the subject of the Edmonton Oilers but it is true. I certainly cared far more about sport when I was younger, when I had a lot more time on my hands and a lot less to care about. And when it comes to the Olympics and for that matter if the Oilers were to ever make the playoffs again (hahahahahaha, my imagination really does know no bounds, I'm like a child), then I certainly can become quite obsessive. I lose sleep during the Olympics, if you can imagine, (I also teared up quite frequently and still do as I see the retrospectives now airing on the anniversary) and although the memory is quite foggy (Iwas barely out of short pants!) I know that I took the 2006 run quite to heart.

When it comes to the Oilers right now I really can't be bothered. I like a lot of the players but the management has so completely botched it that I really can't get behind the organization very much. So on Saturday afternoon as the club that was put together to fail did so, again, I was forced to listen to Kevin Weekes sing the praises of a thirtieth place team and especially their disaster of a goaltender, although even Weekes slipped when he said that Khabibulin had not played really poorly in all of the games during his losing streak. Just the majority I guess, eh Kev?

But with Weekes and then the interviews with Lowe and LaForge I got the overwhelming picture in my head of the three monkeys. You know the ones - hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Because the franchise is in the toilet and nobody has a bad thing to say about it. Its truly amazing.

And then of course, as I wrote about earlier, I went to play hockey myself and had a ball. The Girl From Rawlins Cross used to shake her head at the fact that here I was, a fairly well read fellow, a fairly bright urbane guy, into the arts and knowledgeable about the world and politics and an eager cunnilinguist and here I was a living breathing hockey player. Like she expected that as a hockey player I had emerged from a block of ice with a jutting brow, looking like Dion Phaneuf you know. Hockey Player Smash Vase! She couldn't put it together and she could not figure out the attraction at all.

Of course anyone who has played team sports, not just hockey, knows the feeling. The camraderie. The pure joy of it all. There is no other way to describe it and I won't even try.

Back to the Oilers though and they sucked ass again on Sunday and Monday the headlines read about Himself coming down from the mountain and demanding that the club play hard.

Oh dear, it truly is to laugh. I wonder what the vets think when they look around at the kids and the over the hills gang and the scrubs - I know that if I were 27 and 83 I would be pretty fucking happy because one way or another I'm out of here in just over a year.

Whitney and Gilbert must figure its like a life sentence at this point.

There was such an odd collision of events over the last few days though, it really got me thinking. We had the team sucking ass, as it usually does, and bookending this were the appearances by Lowe and Tambellini, the two architects of this mess. And in the middle of it was the latest presentation of Oil Change where a panel of Edmonton media concluded that so far the club deserves a passing grade as they flounder towards another last place finish.

And in the comments of the Tambellini story there were all sorts of comments defending Tambellini because he is stuck with all sorts of horrible contracts that he has been bequeathed, never mind the fact of course that the worst of these is the one for the goalie that he signed, and on top of that the Oilers have tons of cap room as it now stands with which they could improve their club.

And its just six months into a rebuild the chorus sang, never mind the last four years out of the playoffs.

And damnit, Horcoff, Hemsky, Penner and Gilbert are the problem.

Oh me oh my.

So a part of me, a dark, dark little part of me that thinks dirty little thoughts and awful things and has unnatural urges, would love to see the handful of good players on the club traded for picks and middling prospects because we all know that will work out well and at some point I figure the worm has to turn for the guys who ran this franchise into the ditch. Right? Right?

Except as the aforementioned Mr. S. Boss noted when Tambellini takes the gaspipe it will likely be Kevin Lowe who rides to the rescue.

Its always the players and the coaches but the guys who took a club from a break away from being a Cup winner to very possibly two consecutive last place finishes are still making a whole lot of money, all the while spouting off about culture change and doing things the right away.

LOL as the kids say.

But when Joanne Ireland leads off her column on Tuesday night's win with a tribute to Dopey and how he got the boys to finally!!! care!!! then you can see why Lowe and Karl Pilkington get their free pass. The media, for the most part, although Terry Jones is starting to get cantankerous, have given the men at the top a free pass and the fans are happy to turn around, bend over and take it.

So as fans we get what we deserve and I'm just as complicit really because here I am, complaining about these twats, but I still watch the games when I can.

Ha! Loser!!!!

But then Tuesday afternoon I remembered why I do it, why I watch these millionaires play children's games.

Tottenham Hotspur, like the Edmonton Oilers, like all of these clubs, are a big business. They are in it to make money, which of course is fine by me, the first thing I learned in grade 11 economics was that the first goal of a business is to maximize its profits. The odd thing about sports' clubs, of course, is that they have a strange relationship with their consumers, their employees become heroes (until they are run out of town), their brand loyalty is tied into their location for the most part and success results in parades, explosions of joy and in some cases violence and looting. You don't see that when Lululemon or RBC turn a nice profit or issue a dividend.

Its a really weird thing when you think about it.

Anyhow, back to Spurs. Decades ago they were an elite club and even into the early 90s they would have success now and then but then they fell into a pattern of mediocrity. I got into the EPL the year of the hockey lockout and Spurs became my team because I liked Robbie Keane ever since the World Cup when he scored to tie Germany up with time running out, same as I became an Oilers fan because of Ryan Smyth. Silly huh?

The Spurs hired a new manager the year I really started to follow them, I think he was French, and he quit before he even started basically and so they went with his assistant, a big Dutchman named Martin Jol. Under Jol the club made progress. Every year he was there they were just outside of the top four which meant a berth in Europe, if not the Champions' League. They were a good club but not great. They would get pasted by the big boys and they gave up a lot of points in last minute collapses. Just not there but still better than shitty.

Now my dates may be wrong because its all (not just soccer but everything) becoming a blur but in the fall of 2007 I believe Jol got canned and they brought in a Spaniard named Ramos to take over. Under Ramos the club had its greatest success in years, winning the League Cup tournament, which got them into Europe automatically, which was good because the team basically collapsed other than that. The summer of 2008 saw Keane sold and Dmitar Berbatov as well and I wrote a bitter post bemoaning the fate of the club.

Spurs fell apart in the 2008 season and were looking to be relegated and Ramos was gone. Imagine that, they canned the guy who they figured was responsible for the mess! They brought in Harry Redknapp and the tide turned.

Redknapp has been with Spurs for nearly two and a half years now. Last season they finished fourth and qualified for Champions' League and this year they are in fourth again. They have beaten the big boys because, as hard as it is to believe, they are the big boys now. They are the ones who pull out the last minute victories from their arses. They won their group in the Champions' League, running Italian giant Inter Milan ragged at White Hart Lane, and on Tuesday they went to Milan to face AC Milan, another storied European side, in the first leg of the round of sixteen, and did so without a youngster who, more than perhaps any other player, has vaulted them to where they are, Gareth Bale, or as he is known Welsh Jesus.

But here is the thing about Spurs. They have plenty of homegrown young talent and they have acquired talent from Europe for the equivalent of a song, making smart bets, and so even without Bale they are formidable and so on Tuesday they came out and ran wild in the first half.

The second half saw the Italian side push back and it saw the uglier cynical side of the sport as well. A Spurs' defender went down under a vicious tackle and had to be stretchered off, as AC bitterly complained that he was wasting time. (He later sat on the sideline in a walking cast). The AC Milan captain!!!! shoved Spurs' players, put his hands around the throat of a Spurs' coach and spent the entire half ranting and raving and rolling on the ground, making a total spectacle of himself and yet somehow escaping getting thrown from the game.

And then, with just minutes left, a Spurs' youngster by the name of Aaron Lennon ran the length of the pitch, vaulting a desperate defender, feeding his teammate for the easiest of tap ins.

I leapt from the couch and my daughter laughed as the cat went flying and I shouted with glee.

The end of the game was tense and with seconds left it looked to be tied but only for a moment as it was clear that the AC Milan player had shoved the defender to the ground.

This resulted in another display with one player protesting the call vehemently despite it being a no doubt call and the AC Milan captain actually headbutting the Spurs' coach this time.

Crazy crazy shit and it would have given me pause if I had thought about how these men were acting so foolishly except I was so happy that I hadn't a care in the world.

That's sport for you. And that's why I still watch those damn Oilers despite their ridiculous management team.

For those moments, as rare as they are these days.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeow


Remember that Simpsons' episode? Can't remember the exact situation but it had something to do with what was on Homer's mind as he sat in (apparent) deep thought. And of course then it was his voiceover with the old cat commercial. Pretty fucking funny shit.

The kids and I were sitting around a few weeks ago and I pulled that on them. Asked everyone what they were thinking and then they asked me and I started into it. They thought that was the funniest thing ever. This is what passes for conversation at the dinner table, which is rather Simpson like now that I think about it. Food flying, slurping and grunting while my wife looks on with disapproval. The barbarians (my genetic makeup) are winning, just as they always have since the first McLeans came rampaging naked out of the moors.

I was talking to the boy a while back and he asked me about sex again. I gave him the whole spiel, no holds barred (just the basics now, we didn't talk about the oral or the anal) and his favourite part, as always, was when I talked about Daddy putting his penis into Mommy's vagina. He just thinks that's the greatest.

Me too boy, me too.

The family got back yesterday after two weeks away and the first night lasted three hours before I got up with our youngest who is under the weather. About an hour of that and then she was okay. I'm glad they're back. Seriously.

When we first started having kids and Jenn would go away with however many of them there were at the time things could get mental. I organized a couple of pub crawls and spent a lot of time drinking when I wasn't tearing apart the house (we were renovating, I wasn't actually stumbling around with a crowbar). Not sure if it was the time of year or if I have aged (we've all aged) or the fact that everyone is a lot busier these days (lots more kids) but mostly I was just bored and lonely this time and with the exception of one night out plus hockey I pretty well kept to myself.

I really do attribute a lot of it to the weather though. Last week was absolute horseshit, very cold and miserable. We've been spoiled here for years and frankly the endless days of winter are taking their toll I think. It warmed up yesterday and its supposed to be warm all week except for tonight and tomorrow and its a welcome respite. Its actually raining here today.

If these are dog days well no more so than for the Oilers who are on track for a worse record than last season if that can be believed. Its playing out the string time again while every other club in the conference is within striking distance of the playoffs. The rumours are heating up about Hemsky and Penner going and the word is that a) both will be happy to stay and b) the Oilers are asking too much for them which is pretty well the only good news I've heard from those parts in a long time.

The highlight of Hockey Day in Canada was my own game. We were up 1-0 on an outmanned squad for half the game and their goalie turned away shot after shot until we scored one to double our lead. Then I had one of those shifts I seem to have now and then. First on a two on one I sent a backhand saucer over their Dman to my opposite winger for the tap in. Even the opposition complimented me on that. Then thirty seconds later I cut into the slot and picked the corner myself. And for good measure on the next shift I busted around their Dman and cut in Anderson style. I was stymied but our centre followed up for an easy dunk into the vacant net.

The game was busted open and we had a rare laugher. As in I can probably count on one hand the number of games we've had where we've blown the doors off the other team in all of the years I have played for old Capsule.

I came to the bench after the second shift and said I should take the key and get while the getting is good. I'm always joking that one of these days I'm going to do just that. Blind squirrel is going to find a nut and then skate off into the sunset right then and there.

The reality is that they're going to have to drag me off kicking and screaming. I love to play, probably more than I ever have and of course the camraderie in the room is the best part of it. We have a terrific group of guys and we always have a laugh. Plus the sex in the shower is fantastic.

Was watching Oil Change yesterday and I found the whole thing interesting, probably moreso than it deserves. Tyler Dellow got some great lines off about it but of course the best part of it was the 'passing grade' that the organization got. Never a discouraging word said, much like the broadcast on Saturday afternoon where Kevin Weekes bent over backwards to compliment the Oilers and especially Khabibulin. Buddy must be looking for a job in management somewhere because the see no evil act grew pretty thin. Hopefully he'll get a job somewhere and then he can take Khabibulin off of our hands.

Kevin Lowe talked about being a contender in four to six years. That picture up top is my son around the time the Oilers made that magical run in 2006. He's finishing kindergarten now, can skate, read and write and knows the capital cities of thirty countries. By Lowe's math then he will be almost in puberty by the time this club contends again.

Man that is awfully hard to take for two reasons. First of all this was a perfectly good club that was a break or two away from winning it all. And secondly the guys who put the whole thing in the ditch are still around.

My God.

Oh that's hard to take.

And we can talk about exciting hockey and all that but its starting to wear on everyone I think. Taylor Hall certainly didn't display his usual flair on Saturday. Losing sucks and I can't see why Hemsky and Penner would want to stick around honestly. And the expected return for the two of them is underwhelming, what I have seen anyhow. Which means the club takes another step back and then in a couple of years its Whitney and Gilbert and Gagner's turn to go. Of course for most fans it seems the shelf life of a player on this club is three years before they are all too happy to get them out the door and replace them with the next shiny object that lands on their doorstep.

So it won't bother a lot of fans I think. Five years out of the playoffs and everyone seems happy with the company line despite the fact that shoring up the blue and the goaltending might make a pretty big difference for next year's club's chances, imo. Nope its stay the course and in Lowe we trust.

I don't think this is going to end well but then again maybe that's just the weather talking.

Then again listening to Lowe and LaForge on Saturday and seeing Tambellini's dopey smile as he talks about getting another great player in the draft makes me think that maybe I'm not off the mark too much here.

I think there may not be much there there, if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Lucky Man


We've had what one would call a regular winter here in Toronto. When I first moved here, twenty five years ago this fall coming (btw saying things like that make me feel old as hell), the winters did not compare to where I came from but they were what you would call a real winter. By early December you'd have plenty of snow on the ground and it was here to stay until the end of March, maybe later. It was cold and windy, a damp cold, as they say, not as brutal as what I was used to or what you'd see out west, but cold enough that even having moved from Sudbury, where I was used to minus twenty to minus thirty on a daily basis, I didn't like it. A damp cold sneaks into your bones.

Right up until I moved away in February of 1997 the winters remained lengthy and poor. I think back and I remember when the girl from Rawlins Cross and I first hit it off and also when it all ended, the first was a December, the second was a January, and I remember lots of snow and cold that makes your boots squeak, your lungs hurt and your spit bounce when it hits the ground.

The truth about Canadian winters is that, like life, it can always get worse, so mind what you say. I'm from Northern Ontario and it only took a couple of winters here before I found the weather in my hometown to be unbearable and this was only at Christmas time, not in January and February when its an aching never ending brutal trudge, day after day of enormous snowbanks, vicious winds and grinding cold.

Now I thought that was tough and then I spent a year in PEI. I worked for a company that had shops in pretty well every fair sized town in the Maritimes and Newfoundland and every week once December came until March we ended up with at least a couple of them closed down due to storms. In Moncton and Amherst this happened pretty well every week and I was caught in a few nice blizzards during my time there. This was before the bridge opened too so I experienced a few days where the entire Island was what they call storm stayed. No planes. No ferries. No way in or out.

A Maritime winter needs to be experienced to be believed and yet in my own experience I've never seen anything to compare to my ten days in St. Johns Newfoundland. It was February and it was truly awe inspiring. No wonder I was able to afford the flight. ;)

I have not mentioned the West because my experience out there is limited to a few November days in Edmonton but I know the winters out there are awful as well. When my old man was a young man, nearly sixty years ago give or take he worked in Uranium City in northern Saskatchewan. Dad is a northerner, the furthest south he ever lived was North Bay. He grew up in Wawa and Franz, which was a couple of hours north of Wawa.

Look at a map. They don't have all inclusive resorts in Wawa and Franz. They's pretty far north yo.

So Dad knows winter. And whenever the subject comes up (and Dad channels the weather channel basically so it comes up frequently) he talks about that winter he spent in Saskatchewan, no contest the coldest damn winter he ever lived through.

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We used to have a customer in Edmonton. He was a terrific guy, a little guy who had come over to Canada from Vietnam, one of the boat people. He had lived in a refugee camp for quite a while and then had made his way to Canada and settled in Edmonton.

A neat story. When he was in the camp he used to sketch to make time pass. Now I cannot remember what he drew in particular this time but in any case he tacked a drawing onto the wall at his bunk before he left to start in his new life.

A few years later he was at a gathering in Edmonton, it was a little event where those in the Vietnamese community could get together and make contacts and socialize. He met a young woman and they hit it off. They talked about their experiences and it turned out they had been at the same refugee camp. As they talked about their interests he said that he enjoyed drawing and used to pass the time doing just that at which point she pulled out from her purse a worn and well travelled sketch that she had found at her bunk when she came to the refugee camp.

Pretty cool huh?

So this was years later now and our friend is a smart guy and a hard worker and by this time he has built a thriving business (he would later sell it and make a mint) and he is married to the same girl and they have a family. We're talking away and as if often does the conversation turns to the weather and its January and its brutal here and of course that means its ten times as brutal there. And we're laughing about it and suddenly he says:

You know Pat, people here they complain all of the time about the weather. It is too cold, the winters are too long, it is awful. But you know that to me this is the best country in the world. This is what we complain about. You think about that, a country where this is the problem, how cold it is. Where I am from we could only dream that we could complain about the weather.

Pretty smart guy. Pretty lucky guy. Of course one usually goes with the other.

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Yesterday TSN was all atwitter as it were about rumours about a big kid defenceman from Atlanta, Bogosian. I saw the Jets play Toronto the other night and can't say I noticed him but then again when you are a kid defenceman that's probably a good thing.

That night I had a discussion on Twitter, as much of a discussion as one can have in 140 characters or less, with a guy named Ty, not Ty Dellow, but another Ty who goes by the name of Rosscreek Nation, I think that's it. Ty basically put out a question - would you trade Hemsky for Bogosian?

The majority of replies I saw were firmly in the yes camp, including a few who were beyond the yes camp (that is they said the Oilers would have to throw in a sweetener to make it work).

And there were a few no votes, of which I was one. I was under the impression that with Byfuglien and Enstrom that Bogrosian wasn't playing the toughs and had a nice minus sixteen to show for it but the data seems to be conflicting. Ty tweeted showing that the kid is playing tough comp and is starting a ton in his own zone. I also read however that he's in the second pair with Oh Johnny I Will Do Ya and the aforementioned are taking the heavy sledding.

Interesting.

I've already made my thoughts on Hemsky and Penner made known and the news that anyone who has come calling for either veteran has grumbled that the price is very high is heartening. The price should be high.

Now we have heard rumours that Hemsky would like to stay and today Robin Brownlee posted on a conversation that Penner had today. Of course its all going to come down to contracts but if the numbers are good then I think that first thing Tambellini has to do is get these two inked.

Keep your good players. Acquire more good players.

Right now the strength of this club is on the wings. The Oilers need, in no particular order, a centre, a defenceman and a goalie. I think the way things suss out is that this summer they draft either a Dman or a centre, if they can. Landeskog is the wildcard of course but I'd have to think its a Dman or a centre. A goalie can be had pretty easily. So that will leave one spot to fill and that is when we see a winger may get moved, unless we get a curve thrown at us and its Gagner who gets dangled.

When it comes to Penner and Hemsky I say sign them if you can. Now if they cannot then they need to move them for as much as they can. Obviously I'm not in Steve Tambellini's shoes so for all we know Bogosian is way beyond what he can imagine getting for either guy.

But here's the thing, they need to get a sure thing if they can. Absolutely need to. They traded Smyth and all they have left are a couple of maybe prospects and one of those is never going to amount to much more than a role player. They traded Pronger and the centrepiece of that deal is on his fifth team today and we are still waiting on Laddy Smid. (And yes I am aware they got picks as well and that may be the saving grace.)

Those trades destroyed the competitiveness of this club. Years later we're still shitty.

I think this is where I differ with Rosscreek Nation. We really are on the same page when you get down to it. He said he'd trade Penner or Hemsky if it meant making the team better. I said hell I'll trade anyone to do that. He said we need a stud Dman and a centre and I agree, we do.

Where we differ is he thinks Bogosian is that Dman. I have my doubts. Now apparently the kid has had conflicts with the coaching staff (Torchetti, MacKenzie said) and he has been healthy scratched and he has played forward this season.

So maybe its politics. And of course we all know that young players don't develop in a straight line. And if Bogosian lives up to his pedigree then years later we might rue a trade that was never made (if such a trade is actually being considered.)

And for all I know maybe a stalled (imo) prospect is the best they can get and if they cannot sign Hemsky and that's the best you can get then you have to do it.

But maybe Bogosian just is not that good. And in any case you don't trade a good player if what's coming back isn't a sure thing. Lupul was a surer thing back then than Bogosian is now.
Has to be a sure thing. Has to be a trade that when it happens we lament our guy moving on but look at the return and say wow that's terrific. That's what we need.

A guy we know can play.

Someone said what about Penner for Z. Michalek the other day and everyone was saying no way, why would we get a guy like that.

That's exactly the type of guy we want imo, if we can get him. A guy under team control for a number of years. An established NHLer albeit a relatively young one. A guy who is ready to step in and contribute right now.

We don't need Tambo to be lucky. Luck can go either way.

We need him to be good.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

City Lights


City Lights was the bar we frequented back in the day in all of those salad summers. Thursday and Saturday nights. Those Saturdays were epic. We'd head up to Frank Kuznik's place early in the afternoon and sit on his folks' back deck and drink beer. Folks would wander in and out through the day, the music would be playing and we'd enjoy being young. Around dinner we'd throw whatever we brought to eat on the barbeque and then we'd traipse through the Donovan towards downtown. We'd go to the Steelworkers union hall and play pool and shuffleboard while the old fellow in charge brought trays of small glasses of eighty cent draughts. As the night wore on we'd pack up and walk up the street to City Lights, a Loblaws once, and complete our night there. You'd walk into the vast space and like the scene in Dazed and Confused you'd feel yourself in slow motion, nods and handshakes as you entered the dark cavern, music blaring, heading to the bar. You'd have over a thousand people there and you'd be at least nodding acquaintances with a couple of hundred of them, folks from high school or your neighbourhood, old girlfriends and past hockey teammates, revellers who you knew from nights out like this one. We'd usually camp out at the top of the steps leading to the dance floor, leaning against the rail, a couple dozen of us, the group changing constantly as we drifted away for beer or for a walk around the bar or to hit the dance floor to display quality Northern Ontario dance moves, replaced by newcomers and old pals.

Great times.

City Lights is long gone now. The Steelworkers Hall burned to the ground some years back, torched by a couple of kids if I recall correctly, a new one has risen in its place. Many of the old gang are still back in my hometown while many of us have moved on, making our lives elsewhere. If we could do it all over again, get together at the Kuzniks and spend a summer afternoon drinking cold beer, listening to Van Morrison, good natured insults flying, I'd do it a minute. And if by some miracle City Lights still existed and for old times' sake someone suggested wandering through the Donovan's winding streets, passing the small bungalows, brick and wood siding in the heat, heading into downtown for one last night at that vast bar, I'd turn, smile and shake my head. No thanks to that I'd say.

Times change. The perfect bar when I was 22 would make me mental today. Music's too loud! Plus its crappy! Generic beer! Bah!

These days I like my bars quiet and intimate. A wide selection of good beers and failing that, then a good pint of Guinness. My favourite pub is McCarthy's, its not much bigger than my living room. The Victory Cafe, Bar Volo, The Only, Dora Keough's, McVeighs (in the afternoon, not the evening when a band may be there), The Cloak and Dagger (when there's no band).

Perfection. Twenty years ago you wouldn't have found me at any of them or at least it would be unlikely. Today if I were to win the lottery, a difficult proposition for a guy who doesn't buy lottery tickets, I'd start with the aforementioned and go from there when designing my dream bar.

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An awesome discussion over at Tyler Dellow's this week as it evolved into a spirited argument over the merits of Zack Stortini and Tanner Glass. Only in Canada as Ty noted. It got me to thinking about fourth lines and how to build them and what the Oilers' fourth line should (and may) look like next season.

Of course the fourth line is what it it. It doesn't matter who the Pens roll out there, they are still fucked now that Malkin is done for the season. A fourth line isn't going to make you a Cup contender if your top six are brutal but I would argue that they can make you a markedly better team if you have the right mix there.

But what is the right mix and is it important? I would argue that it is. You may have a top nine that eats up the vast majority of icetime but if your fourth line can contribute then its going to make you a better club. Looking at the recent Cup winners here are the players who made up their fourth lines in the playoffs for the most part, this is by memory so throw out any names or correct me if you can.

Carolina - Kevyn Adams, Craig Adams, Chad Larose
Anaheim - Todd Marchant, Brad May, Shawn Thornton, Ryan Shannon
Detroit - Darren Helm, Dallas Drake, Darren McCarty
Pittsburgh - Craig Adams, Maxime Talbot, Matt Cooke
Chicago - Ben Eager, Troy Brouwer, John Madden

I'm fairly sure that's pretty accurate, I am leery about the Penguins but looking at their roster I'm not sure who slotted in on the fourth line if not Cooke. Maybe it was Pascal Dupuis. They had a nice deep roster up front.

So what do we see here? Well there are no Zack Stortinis or JF Jacques or Steve MacIntyres. Not to say that there are many great players here but there are a lot of useful guys. A lot of veterans. Marchant, May, Drake, McCarty, Madden. Two of these guys could win draws and kill penalties. Carolina barely played their fourth line, iirc, but both Adamses were big PK guys, a role Craig reprised for Pittsburgh.

What I see are guys that are going to hold their own against the other club's dregs, probably outplay them. And most of them can skate and / or are veterans which means that if they get caught in a bad matchup they have a reasonable chance of surviving it. Look at their numbers and most of them were around even, a few were even plus players. So they weren't getting murdered.

And very few kids. Helm stands out. Talbot. Brouwer although as a 22 goal scorer he wasn't the prototypical fourth liner (man was that Hawks' team deep?!).

Does this mean anything for the Oilers? Well they have only had one decent fourth line in the years since the 2006 run, the Glencross/Brodziak/Stortini trio. They have had other quality guys there - Thoresen and Reasoner come to mind.

But right now its an awful mess.

My guess is we're going to see kids aplenty there next season. I'd bet on O'Marra or Lander. Maybe Hamilton or Pitlick if they have very good camps. Reddox if he's still around. And Renney likes his designated fighter so MacIntyre will be around to play his thirty three seconds a game.

Pointless, huh?

For me we would see the new kids playing big minutes in the minors rather than six minutes a game in the show. Like everything I think the idea is to bring in the best players possible. Duh, right? So having JFJ there is pointless. He's big but there's no use if that size is useless. Same as MacIntyre.

You want guys who are going to help win games and that means guys who can PK and a centre who can win faceoffs. You'd start there. If O'Marra is not going to get a shot then you have to look at these models and bring in a Madden or Marchant type. On one wing I would bring in another veteran. We'll call him Mike Grier or Radek Dvorak. A guy who can PK, again. And a vet who can hold his own out there. The idea of a fourth line creating energy is a goofy one - nothing sucks energy out of a team that a unit that bleeds goals against and spends their shifts hemmed in their own zone. For every time JFJ lays someone out he spends five minutes chasing the puck in his own end. Pointless.

Throw in Liam Reddox and there is your fourth line. Sign Colin MacDonald and see if he can provide anything at this level.

Straight forward. Unless you are going to give your fourth line serious minutes there is no reason to have Hamilton, Lander and Hartikainen sitting on the bench night after night. These guys are all earmarked for top nine minutes in the future. Play the shit out of them in the minors until someone gets hurt and then they can get a shot.

Build a fourth line that addresses two of this club's weaknesses (PK and draws) and that won't get destroyed every time they hit the ice. Start there. It won't win you the Cup but it will make you a better club.

Better players. Get them.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Liam Reddox Moves Up The Depth Chart


Good news for Liam Reddox and Linus Omark today but bad bad news for Zach Stortini, whose sideburns grated Tom Renney's tit or somesuch. Stortini waived and while there are two guys who are far less useful than the former captain of my hometown junior club (I'm looking at you JF Jacques and Steve MacIntyre) Stortini's ouster is not that much of a surprise. Its been clear since day one that Renney was not a fan and the feeling was that these were the last days for Stortini as an Oiler. A comment at Lowetide's site noted that likely Stortini was offered around and there were no takers. We'll see if that's true - if the big lug clears waivers then he'll certainly be a help to OKC's chase for a playoff spot.

With Gilbert Brule's status a moving target (ankle? flu? irritated labia?) its unclear as to what is happening with him or if we will ever see him again. And for Omark and Reddox this can only mean good news. The two aforementioned plugs (Jacques and MacIntyre that is) obviously have their champions within the organization for some reason despite the fact that both Omark and Reddox are far better hockey players. In Omark's case especially its pretty imperative to see if he can play at the NHL level and contribute on the PP and against soft opposition. The bet here is that he can. And Reddox, while a replaceable sort, brings energy and speed and some creativity and hard work and that's a good combination allround to have in a guy who is on your fourth line. Plus he probably likes the paycheque after years in the minors.

As for Stortini well its a hard thing to see for two reasons. First of all buddy worked his bag off to become an NHL player. He wasn't gifted with much in the way of speed or hands or any of that but he worked hard and made himself into a relatively useful player. Its tough to see a guy like that get sent down when there are guys with tons of talent and ability floating (literally) through the league, making big bucks.

And secondly the aforementioned two plugs. Jacques has been playing better lately but it was impossible to be worse than he was before and he's still absolutely terrible. And MacIntyre? Well the whole deterrent thing is such a crock its hard to take. Its easy to cheer for a guy who is living the life but Stortini was the same type of story and a better player to boot.

We all knew this day would come. Stortini was a fourth liner on the poorest team in the league and he was in the coach's bad books for whatever reason. Not a huge deal but of course we said that when we lost Thoresen and Brodziak and Reasoner and many others it seems who were also never replaced. I would have to think that next fall Jacques will be gone and maybe Fraser too, replaced by kids like Lander and Hartikainen and Hamilton. The next wave is coming and its starting to wash away some of the guys who have been around for a bit.

Good luck to Stortini though. By all accounts he's a fine fellow on top of it all. Hope he lands on his feet. Now excuse me, I have to go talk Bruce McCurdy off of a bridge.

Actually knowing Bruce he's on his way down to Rexall right now with a heavy blunt object.