Saturday, October 29, 2011

Looking Good


Ten games in and the Oilers are first in the conference and sitting at 6-2-2. A fantastic start and except for the last two games its been bought and paid for. Of course 4-4-2 is a lot different animal than 6-2-2 but then again early on the Oilers had a couple of games where they outchanced the opposition and didn't get the two points so I'm not going to pick nits here. Is this the best team in the conference? No of course not. Are they a playoff team? Unlikely. They've banked a lot of points at home but they are about to hit the road and my guess is they will find it tougher sledding there. Are they better than everyone figured them for? Yes. I figured them to be ~ 25th or so and I had a lot of people say I was mental even for that. A lot of folks have them pegged for last overall, again.

I was trying to find a post I remembered writing this summer where I was trying to figure out how this club could perform. I finally found it

Here's the key passage:


I think the Oilers will likely be in the lottery next year if they are done with their moves. Too many issues from the blueline on back. Now having said that nothing is a sure thing. Nobody saw the Devils in the lottery last summer and two years ago nobody saw the Avs in the playoffs. Teams will collapse and the Oilers may rise above those clubs and because its sport and luck plays a role you never ever know what can happen. But for the Oilers to be a competitive club this season, for them to make the leap they will need, well, everything to go right.

They will need Dubnyk to become a very good goaltender or for Khabibulin to turn back the clock.

They will need Sutton to turn the clock back two years and for two or more of Petry, Peckham and Smid to take a big leap forward. Gagner too.

They will need Whitney and Horcoff and Hemsky to stay healthy. And pretty well anyone else of value.

They will have to fix the special teams especially the PK because they will likely be in the box a lot.

They need Hall and Eberle and Omark and Paajarvi to improve on their nice starts to their careers. No going sideways. No backsliding. Improvement across the board.

They will need a couple of other kids to step up. Maybe Lander.

They will need some luck on top of all that.

Is it possible? Of course. Anything is. Its unlikely, very unlikely really, but its possible.


Now we're looking at a small sample size here but lets look st these one by one:


They will need Dubnyk to become a very good goaltender or for Khabibulin to turn back the clock.

Probably the story so far. Both goalies have been excellent. Khabibulin shuts the door on Washington on Thursday night. One night later Dubnyk stops forty. Anything you can do I can do better.


They will need Sutton to turn the clock back two years and for two or more of Petry, Peckham and Smid to take a big leap forward. Gagner too.

Sutton has been better than expected. Smid has been wonderful. Petry has been in OKC, Peckham in the pressbox and Gagner has just gotten back from his injury.

They will need Whitney and Horcoff and Hemsky to stay healthy. And pretty well anyone else of value.

lol, well Horcoff has been healthy so far.


They will have to fix the special teams especially the PK because they will likely be in the box a lot.

PK has been outstanding. Rolling three pairs of forwards who know what they are doing, very good goaltending and some pretty good work from the D. Its been night and day compared to last year. And the PP has been better, a lot of puck and player movement, none of this standing around shit. Special teams won the day against the Caps. Last year they were brutal.


They need Hall and Eberle and Omark and Paajarvi to improve on their nice starts to their careers. No going sideways. No backsliding. Improvement across the board.

Hall and Eberle have been very good. Paajarvi has struggled offensively and Omark is in the pressbox.

They will need a couple of other kids to step up. Maybe Lander.

Lander has been a reasonable fourth line option, chipping in on the PK. Petrell and Potter aren't kids per se, but both have contributed, especially Potter. Of course the big story here is Ted, who has been terrific, at least at home. The next few weeks will be a test or the kid but his play has sparked the PP and allowed Renney to play Horcoff and Belanger in tougher minute roles. Huge help.

They will need some luck on top of all that.

Shots for and against were pretty well even until the last two games and then they faced one of the best teams in the league and then the Avs in the second night of a back to back. So I'm not too concerned about where they are at. Again, do I think they are a playoff club? I don't think so but we'll have a lot better handle on how good they are in a ocuple of weeks after this tough road trip.

Its funny though eh? Look at that list above. This is what I figured they needed to be respectable and the reality is a lot of what I felt they needed has not come to pass. Omark and Paajarvi have stalled. Whitney, Hemsky and Gagner have all been hurt. Petry and Peckham have done nothing. Of course Potter has come from nowhere, Smyth and Horcoff (and yes Jones) have been doing the heavy lifting and doing it well and Belanger has added to this club as well. Not to mention Gilbert's excellence.

I guess if you're a glass half full type of guy you look at this team and see Whitney and Hemsky coming back and a bunch of guys yet to get untracked and the reality is they could still get better. Sure the goaltending is not going to be all world and there are going to be some tough nights ahead but I would say they are better than any of us figured them to be. They still need a Dman or two, imo, or at least they need Whitney to come back and stay healthy and Potter to keep it up somehow.

But ten games in things are good. Its been fun and for the most part its been bought and paid for, not smoke and mirrors. So lets enjoy it, yeah?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

painfull To Bow! painfulltobow!


If you're on the twitter you need to check out @oldmansearch - I suspect its a put on but it looks suspiciously like what my old man's search history would look like if he ever took to Google so who knows. Regardless of whether its truth or not its certainly funny shit. Some examples:

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weather forecast for indianapolis tonight

squirrel poison

re-using stamps

cat traps

what is a pride parade for? Indianapolis

gyms with no teenagers? indianapolis

cream cheese jewish

mother in french? m something something e

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My old man, like this old man, is also obsessed, at least mildly so, with the weather, killing varmints (anything smaller than a medium sized dog has to go - the other night he referred to raccoons as creatures that threaten humanity) and saving money. Apparently these traits know no borders.

Like Moe Berg sang once, I'm an adult know. My back aches and my knees hurt and I find myself waking up before the crack of crow's piss (that's before dawn for all of you non Islanders out there). We did family pictures on Sunday and I was constantly stuffing all of this newly arrived hair up my nose and back into my ears.

Hmmm.

As I get older I wonder what will amaze me when my time comes. My Dad talks about computers like they are witchcraft and every one of the three emails he has ever sent me begins and ends with the line "I'm sure you won't get this" but I'm not far behind him when it comes to being astounded by it all. We figured by now we'd have flying cars but the fact that we can use these little handheld devices to do almost anything blows that idea away any day I think. Just the other day I was back and forth with a guy from Stockholm who was pub crawling through Dublin on recommendations I wrote in a post from a while ago. He went to Davy Byrne's and Neary's as we chatted and he gave me Toner's and The Hairy Lemon as two new possibilities for my next time in that wonderful old town.

Crazy if you think about it. All of that just like that across the width of the world.

So who knows what is coming around the corner. I'm sure fifty years from now my grandson will be doing something so far beyond our understanding and laughing with his buddies about how his grandfather was using the flux capacitor to pleasure himself.

Dirty old man.

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Change is scary but change is good or at least so far it has been for the Oilers. Its so damn early (although its fun to see panic in the streets of other cities) although those clubs off to good starts certainly shouldn't complain. Bylasma and his injury riddled Pens run rampant without Crosby and Malkin and Orpik (and now Michalek) and the Caps are blowing everyone out (and we get them tonight hoo boy). The Avs and Stars are making the pundits look dumb and Chicago looks like they're getting the bounces they did not get last year while Marian Hossa shows, once again, that when healthy he may be their best player.

Its early but none of those clubs are complaining about the points they are racking up or how they are getting them nor should the Edmonton Oilers who have had a nice start and one that has some nice underlying numbers. Tom Renney is coaching again, after a year off, and the addition of Smyth and Belanger and Petrell and even young Lander and Eager has given him options aplenty. Horcoff is healthy so far and suddenly the PK is humming and they are winning faceoffs and he can send the kids out for those offensive zone draws and protect them from the other teams' big guns if he wants to.

Its going to get tougher, and soon, as they are going to hit the road but I would submit that this club looks to be better than we expected. Here are some reasons why:

1/ Depth up front. Hemsky is out but they can still send out three reasonable lines and when is the last time we could say that? Omark sits in the pressbox and Gagner is playing the wing and what happens when Ales comes back? Someone else drops in the lineup and possibly Lander or Petrell gets sent down. This club has more up front than at anytime since 2006/2007. And unlike that club there are some up and coming stars up front.

2/ Guys up front who can play different roles. Smyth and Belanger and Petrell and Lander can PK. Belanger can win draws. Even the kids - Paajarvi and Lander - have pro experience and can play in their own end.

3/ Ted is the real thing. He'll take his lumps on the road but the kid is a player. That allows Renney to let the kids run together and send Horcoff and Belanger out to handle tougher roles.

4/ Sifting for coal. I bust Tambellini's chops as much as most but he needs some credit here. I liked his summer for the most part but that was even without considering Petrell and Potter. Good management teams find guys like these guys. Low cost, low rish, great return on both so far. Good work especially with Potter who is playing a bigger role than anybody would expect.

5/ Defence. This was supposed to be an issue but so far even without Whitney they are hanging in there and doing far better than we ever thought. Tom Gilbert has been tremendous and Ladi Smid may have finally arrived. Sutton has been solid, immovable even (!) on the third pair. Peckham has been disappointing but he will bounce back (he says adoringly). They still need to shore this position up with a top four guy but its not so much of a gong show so far.

6/ Khabibulin and Dubnyk. Both have been very good. Not sure how long Khabibulin will keep it up but he's been great.

I suspect that they take a beating tonight. Caps are flying. Even so its been a nice start. Now, can they stay healthy and can they sustain it, especially once they go on the road?

We will see soon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Three Day Blow



I am a pretty big Hemingway fan. The Sun Also Rises is one of my favourite novels but more than anything I enjoy his short stories. He was a master of the art form. One of these stories is Three Day Blow. Its pretty typical Hemingway. Two young men drink a bottle of whiskey as the beginning of a storm rages outside. They talk about ball and fishing and whiskey and girls. Its great stuff.

Last week the boy and I ventured up north to help my old man close the family camp. (In Northern Ontario we call cottages camps.) September and October have been ridiculous in our household. Three birthdays fall over just over three weeks plus we are winding up summer activities and starting fall activities and school. And Jenn was finishing up her training and then running her second half marathon. She killed it by the way, cutting ten minutes off of her time from her first one, which she ran five years ago.

So when I told Dad we'd come up and give him a hand little did I realize that our window to get this done would be a three day one. That's all once everything was taken into account. What a life, eh? And nearer the end of October than the beginning. Still the weather looked good, highs of fifteen and sunny in the forecast just a few days beforehand. A true Indian summer.

But then just a day or two before the forecast abruptly changed to cold and rainy, as Gord Downie would say 'outside its cold and shitty', my Dad apparently thought about calling and telling us not to bother. We would have come anyhow. He'll be eighty next year and while he would not admit it, its probably best for him to have company when he heads into the woods.

My old man would fit in well in one of those old Hemingway stories. He'd be perfectly happy heading into the bush with a sleeping bag, a fishing rod, a knife, some apples and a bunch of onion sandwiches. Nothing better to him than being in the middle of nowhere.

The boy and I rose at 6:30am and a half hour later we were on the road with our one small bag and his lifejacket. A lot different than when we're taking three girls along. Then its like preparing to assault the Atlantic Wall and free Europe from the Nazis for all of the planning and gear. ;)

We made great time and so it was not long that we were loading the 14 foot for the trip across the lake. The boy hauled gear from the truck to the dock without a complaint and then we bundled him up and started across into the drizzle and cold wind. Reminded me of when I was a boy. We made that trip rain or shine every weekend, usually Friday nights right after Dad got home from work.

We got to camp and unloaded the boat and started the wood stove. I've talked about camp a number of times. There's no electricity and no running water (although they've rigged a pump and a water tank so there is water at the kitchen sink. Beats hauling buckets up the hill) and no toilet. Your heating is a wood stove and your lights, stove and fridge are on a propane tank. As I worked to get feeling back into my fingers the boy says to me:

When are we going to get to work? We're here to work.

So apparently laziness skips a generation or the boy is a Calvinist. We headed down the hill and my old man asks me if I want a beer and I say apparently happy hour has been postponed, nodding to the little guy, and so we get to it.

We put the canoe in the shed and put away the outdoor furniture and took apart the gazebo. We cut up an enormous poplar that the beavers got last winter and tacked old stovepipe around another that was their next target and we split wood and stacked wood and hauled wood through the woods. We emptied the water tank and towed the floating dock to the leeward side of an island so that the ice would not take it away and we winterized the 9.9 and put it away. It was difficult work in a lot of cases with two adults and my old man said a few times that it was a lot easier than when he was there alone.

Holy shit I could not even imagine.

It rained incessantly and the temperature dropped to just above freezing and at night we huddled under a pile of old blankets which kept us nice and warm until morning when we had to face the fact that the fire had gone out.

We ate sausages and eggs and stew and soup and chili and ham sandwiches. Once we called each day we sat in the dim light cast by the propane lamp and had a few beers and talked while the boy sat and listened or fired a ball into a little hockey net or read or amused himself in other ways. And after he was off to bed we talked into the night until we hauled our tired bodies to bed and my old man remarked on the makeup of his grandson and how he worked right beside us, not complaining, and how he wished he could see him when he was a man.

And that little aside, thrown into the conversation, was a poignant moment for me. Its been a grand decade for me, marriage and a house and travelling and three wonderful children but I lay awake later and realized that this coming decade will probably see me laying both of my parents into the ground.

Oh man that's tough. And I thought to myself that I should try and enjoy these moments as best I can but the fact is I could not have enjoyed them anymore than I did.

It was a fine time.

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This season has seen a nice start for the Oilers. I think its surpassed all of our expectations. In nearly every game they have outchanced their opposition or they have been in the ballpark. The biggest surprise has been the goals against but the club has been full value in limiting scoring chances. The goaltending has been good. Tom Gilbert has been outstanding and Ladi Smid seems to have settled in as his partner quite nicely. Ryan Whitney's return from injury and Potter's emergence have added a little more calm on the blue and Andy Sutton has been better than expected. The result is a lot fewer fire drills in our own end.

Adding to the success has been the addition of Belanger and Smyth. Belanger has been fantastic on the dot and Horcoff has done better without having to handle every draw of importance. Smyth and Horcoff have handled the toughs along with Ryan Jones (!) and they ate Richards and Gaborik's lunch on Saturday. With Belanger and Smyth Renney is finally coaching, matching lines and giving the appropriate players the appropriate zonestarts.

The end result has been a far tighter defensive ship.

And of course the PK has been wonderful.

Health has a lot to do with it too with only Hemsky and Hordichuk out now. Up front there is serious depth for the first time in years. We suspected this might be the case but its playing itself out so much so that Gagner finds himself on the wing and Omark in the pressbox and while you may not agree with these moves its not like either is completely ridiculous based on results so far. And when Hemsky comes back the fight for lineup spots is going to get even tighter and when is the last time that the Oilers could say that?

Now we all know that Khabibulin is not going to be up where he is right now forever but its also true that sooner or later the percentages up front are going to start working too and they are going to begin to start to score some goals.

And things could still go sour especially if some key guys go down.

And the next twelve months is going to see a lot of key decisions - Hemsky, Smyth, Omark, adding to the D. Wrong moves could set it all back.

But you know what? There is a bit of blue sky shining through that gloom. And that is not too hard to take.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cats and Dogs


Have been a dog guy since day one. I can't remember anyone having a cat when I was a kid. Most of my friends and all of our family were campers and when you go camping you best have a dog. You certainly can't take a cat into the woods with you for three weeks. In our neighbourhood now there are pussies galore, in most Toronto neighbourhoods actually, but in Sudbury with its wide avenues and pickup trucks and brutal cold winters people didn't have outdoor cats. Plus folks don't like seeing them outside because they get at the baby birds. Seriously. My Dad would have shot any cat he saw snooping around the robins who nested every year outside of our house.

So I didn't know cats forever and that was fine by me and then I met the Girl from Rawlins Cross. She had a big furry cat that was about as dumb as you can get. We're talking brain smaller than a pea, so dumb that if it could spell it would spell dumb without the 'b'.

And of course the fucker loved me. Loved me. The feeling was not mutual.

One of the reasons it loved me so is that it was an early riser and when I was staying over, which was often, it could rely on my attention whilst my girl slumbered on, oblivious to the meowing of her mentally handicapped ward. We'd close the door to the bedroom to no effect, it would butt its head against it until I reacted in some way, which was usually to replenish the bowl she emptied overnight.

So up I would get and feed the cat and back to bed I would go and after a number of months the Girl from Rawlins Cross remarked that the cat was looking good, not so fat I mean. Now at this point we might have figured something out because the cat wasn't exercising or anything. It was an indoor cat and I swear the most exercise it ever got was banging its head into the door (and of course this might explain its stupidity, brain damage and all) but somehow we figured that it was doing laps when we were out or some damn thing. Maybe it had a membership at a feline gym or something, who knows what we were thinking.

And now she continued to lose weight and the Girl from Rawlins Cross began to worry. Perhaps this was cancer or cat AIDs or some such thing. And as the cat wasted away before our eyes she made plans to take it to the vet.

Until one day she happened to catch me feeding the cat. How come you're only putting that much into her dish, she said.

One cup it says, I said, brandishing the little cup I used to scoop the chicken flavoured cereal from the bag. (I always wonder why the big fellow didn't take out one of the kids for the taste of good red meat. I mean seriously, chicken flavoured cheerios for the descendant of an animal that kills deer and elk. Good god.)

One CUP, she said, brandishing a measuring cup, which held three of the scoops at the very least.

Hm.

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Like pie is to cake for me, so to are dogs to cats. I can't say I mind our little one too much but its all rather pointless. I had a boon companion. Now I have, well, nothing is too harsh because she is an affectionate little thing and about as good a cat as one could have I guess. But she is mercurial and prone to hissing and swatting at the kids and at those times I think I probably could punt her over that house across the street no problem. My old guy wouldn't even dream of looking sideways at the kids, even when he was riddled with cancer if the baby came a calling he smiled nad put up with her abuse.

Plus the cat has a habit of getting up around six am and coming looking for me or one of the kids. Must be related to that other fool somehow. Maybe I'll start cutting back on her meals as well, until lethargy and weakness prevent her from climbing to the second floor.

Not cool. The cat I mean.

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Saturday night we had a gathering of Oiler fans here in Toronto (Oiler fans plus E. from The Theory of Ice) and a grand time was had by all despite the result. And as we watched the game there was a bit of a sense of disbelief. We looked at each other in wonder and as the game wore on the general consensus was that this team is a better team than many of the recent incarnations of Edmonton hockey clubs, certainly better than the motley crew from the past two years. There were some pretty cynical dudes amongst us, this wasn't a bunch of fanboys, but there were some smiles even with the result. Something may be happening as long as Tambellini and Lowe don't fuck it all up.

Its early, its oh so early, but despite Whitney and Gagner not playing a game and Hemsky only playing just over one, this club has outchanced their opposition in three games so far. For the most part the defensive zone fire drills have been few and far between. Renney has been linematching which has helped a ton. Last night the kids did not get a defensive zone faceoff all night, that heavy lifting went to Horcoff, Smyth and Jones.

Horcoff and Belanger are winning faceoffs. The powerplay has featured players and pucks moving and chances being created. The penalty kill has been very good.

Tom Gilbert has been fantastic and Ladislav Smid has been good, especially on the PK. Potter has been a find and Sutton has been better than expected. If Whitney comes back and stays healthy and can carry a pairing, perhaps with Petry, then the blue may be ok as long as Smid keeps it up.

The goaltending has been good, if not great, but in a lot of cases their workload has been minimal, which I think nobody saw coming.

And the kids have been good. At times they have been very good. Ted has been better than expected, especially in the defensive side of thing. And of course the hattrick, which Tyler especially enjoyed. ;)

I joked with Little Fury on Saturday that Ted was going to break ground on the new arena on Sunday morning, just for something to do, and that he would have it completed within a week, at no cost to the taxpayers. Kid does it all.

Its weird shit to see. Its a completely different animal than last year. And suddenly with the return of Smyth this club has become a lot easier to cheer for too.

Its nice to enjoy Oilers' hockey for a change.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Girl On The Stairs


When we were in senior year of high school our weekends generally went as follows. Fridays were THE night out. By Tuesday or Wednesday the plans were made. We might go to a one of the rare dances at our school or our sister school or at one of the many ethnic halls (we had a buddy who ran a dance almost weekly at wherever he could book - Croatian, Polish, Serbian). During hockey season we'd go watch our team pulverize their opposition - they were OFSAA bronze medallists four years running, including our senior year - and then head to the afterparty. Or we would go to a house party at one of the gang's. When we went to the ethnic halls it was our own small group, about a half dozen of us, in other cases there was a wider group of twenty five to thirty guys or more, plus the same number of girls from our sister school plus a handful of folks from other schools. And each week we'd get some fellows come in from the outlying towns or some others who we would see every few weeks, drifting in and out of our circle.

Saturday nights we'd usually get together, maybe with a few beers, watch the hockey game, play some cards. Sometimes that would be the night but other nights the phone would ring (this was long before cell phones) and someone on the other end would say that something might be happening and then we might make a couple of calls and we'd wait a while and if we were in luck the phone owuld ring again and one of the guys or girls would have their house for the night or there might be another party that popped up somewhere, perhaps someone we might not even know, and so we'd make a couple more calls and it usually meant that the guy who ran the Friday parties would come on over, he was ready to go after a Friday night of working. His name was Bruno and he had a big van and the look of a grown man and so he'd come and pick us up and we'd go and he'd buy beer or rye or whatever our poison was that night and then we'd go careening through the snowpacked streets until we found our destination.

We'd pile out of the van and into the place and we'd find our crew, usually in the kitchen, and you'd crack a beer and wander around and if you ever saw Dazed and Confused, the pool hall scene, well that's how I remember it. You'd go for a walk in the smoke and beer smell of the place, nodding at some, shaking hands with others, Sudbury's a big small town and so you knew everyone or at least knew their faces enough to say hello.

I was just a regular little dude back then, not so lucky with the ladies but I was pretty well liked I think. I was a bit of Joe OffWhite even then but then again a lot of teenagers are. We had a lot of good times, we'd drink a lot and smoke some and there was usually a joint or two passed around.

(One of the guys always was smoking up. One time we were sitting in a sauna (not on mind you) getting high and he told us that the reason his folks had sent him to our school (it was a Catholic private all boys) was to keep him away from the drugs at Sudbury Sec. We had a good laugh about that because a) we smoked a lot and b) he invariably ended up passing out in a closet or under a bed or somewhere else private a couple of hours into any night we were out. Buddy is a wildly successful businessman last I heard.)

There were two girls who we used to see about once a month or two. They were from Secondary and they didn't really travel in our circles but as I said, smalltown, so we'd see them now and then. Both were gorgeous, tall and blonde, and they cultivated a bored above it all look. I remember coming back from University my first year for Thanksgiving and of course someone organized a gettogether and so we all met at one of the guy's houses (iirc it was one of the fellows who stayed in town) and had a few beers and compared notes on our first six weeks away from home. It was the usual crew and it was a good time and amongst the crowd were these two girls, I can still remember them, why I don't know, they were both sitting on the stairs coming down into the basement, long legged in jeans, both barefoot, hair teased out in that eighties style, both looking as bored as can be.

I don't think I even ever said hello to them. Out of my league.

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So its a few years later now and I'm at a party in Toronto and all of a sudden one of my buddies who is from North Bay (we Northerners stick together) comes over with a buddy from his hometown who goes to York and with him is a girl who goes to York and its one of the girls from the stairs. And I'm a bit older and a lot more confident and probably somewhat drunk and so we strike up a conversation and I have her laughing and next thing you know she is asking me if I want to go out sometime.

Um, yeah!

We're talking the highschool dream realized here.

And so we go out and you know what?

That was it.

I never called her again.

Apparently that blank face wasn't haughty boredom. It was just that there was nobody home, like when they show what Homer is thinking and its nothing but Meowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeowmeow.

Its like a girl we know back on the Island. She is beautiful and smart and funny but as an exboyfriend said she may be perfect on paper but she's a mental case.

Perfect on paper.

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I love Ales Hemsky. Love him. He's not a perfect player but nobody is. On a team that has been both bad and boring for years now he has been neither. He is brilliant. He is tough. He is the one player on the Oilers right now who can win a game singlehandedly and along with Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney he is the only guy in his prime on a team full of kids.

I was against trading Dustin Penner. I have always been against trading Ales Hemsky as long as his new deal isn't ridiculous. A healthy Ales Hemsky will bring futures, again. A contending team isn't going to trade a top four dman for him. If they trade him they will be a weaker team. Guaranteed.

Keep your good players I have always said. Keep them. You can never have too many good players, however many sexy kids are in the pipeline. Ales Hemsky is a very good player and he is the type of player who can contribute to a championship team in a meaningful way.

And Ales Hemsky has injury issues, specifically his shoulders. In the first game of the season and the first period of the second game, he was the best Oiler, the guy who stirred the drink, who led a dynamic first line that was running roughshod over the opposition.

Before the end of the first period of that second game he had to leave because of shoulder pain. He has not been on the ice since.

There was no big hit, no crash into the boards, no crazy torquing of his skinny frame by Robin Reghyr. The tipping point may have been a crossice pass.

It may be nothing, it may just be a little precaution until they see what happens with the MRI, in fact it may just be residual soreness and the club is being careful for once. He may miss tonight and be back out for their next game.

Or he may be done for an extensive period of time.

And if that is the case then can they really sign the guy? I doubt that he could get a longterm deal anywhere so perhaps a one year deal might work, its not like the Oilers have cap issues anyhow.

But really if this is it, if he's going to be gone for months then the truth of the matter is they can't really afford to give him money or term and that breaks my heart. He's a wonderful wonderful player. Here's hoping that its a bump in the road and he plays eighty one games this seaosn and they sign him forever and a day.

But sadly likely not the case.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

East


Here is my son in a picture taken when the Oilers were last in the playoffs. Today he is six.

Happy birthday son.

Nice work Oilers.

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An interesting first week so far. Everything in the first few weeks is so overblown it makes for some good times. Slow starts (we're talking a couple of losses) lead to panic and calls for bloodletting in the Haymarket. Scott Howson is about to be fired, Alain Vigneault should be called on the carpet and what about those Flames??

Of course the exact opposite reaction, the one that says points now don't matter as much as in the spring, is almost as foolish. Best to get as many points as you can now really. The Avs rode a hot start to the playoffs a few years back.

A few quick thoughts:

I liked the Oilers' win on Sunday. They outchanced a good Penguins' club. The PK was excellent. A lot of good things went on. Rumours have Whitney returning next week. If he can stay healthy this will be a better club. Of course Hemsky has already gone down. Dog giveth and Dog taketh away.

Its early but I am pretty sure based on returns so far that plenty of teams are poorer than Edmonton. The Sens, the Jets, the BJs - all look to be pretty sad. And there are more.

Watched a bit of the Flyers' game last night. I thought this was a club that would take a step back with the trades they made but Voracek has had a nice start and how about Couturier being out there with minutes left taking the draw to start the PK? As a raw rookie. Against the Sedins. When's the last time that happened?

Are the Flames as bad as they have looked? That little rush they made after New Year's last year may have just postponed the inevitable. I don't think they are that bad but I sure don't think they're much good.

Now a look at the Wales:

Contenders

Boston


No team has repeated since the late nineties although the Wings would have if they had not had Lidstrom Datsyuk and Hossa hobbled in 2009. I doubt the Bruins will do it but they are a damn good team. Unlike most recent Cup champions (except Detroit) they have loss little personnel, they are deep at every position and one would guess that Marchand and Seguin may take some big strides (Seguin played over 20 minutes last night). Do I think they can repeat? No but just because its hard to do, they are still in the mix.

Pens

Dan Bylsma may be the best coach in the league. I really rate him. Last year the Penguins were excellent despite losing Crosby, Malkin and Staal for extensive periods of time. As usual the stars are surrounded by a great cast of professionals, guys like Kunitz and Dupuis, good solid players. If Crosby and Malkin come back and stay healthy I would take the Pens over anyone in the east.

Caps


Caps are in Sharks and Sens territory now, a great club that hasn't won a damn thing yet. Some would look at their playoff failures and say 'just bad breaks' but at some point the window closes whatever the cause. I like the Caps and I like Boudreau and Ovechkin but I also think the club takes a lot of its personality from those two and (here's my theory) they're a bit hyper. I like my bench bosses and my star players to exude some calm. May be part of the growing process, may (most likely) be bullshit on my part. ;) Like the Sharks and the Canucks though the regular season is just a prelude for this club.

The next tier:

Les Sabres

Buffalo may deserve to be part of the top group but I think they may be a year or two away, just waiting on their latest crowd of youngsters to emerge. I liked their pickups this past summer and I think the guy who may be a lot better than we think is Leino. Buddy can play, remember how he did with the Flyers two springs ago? He'll see more minutes with the Sabres too.

Philly

Not sure about the Flyers yet. They are one team that has a ton of depth up front but dumping Richards and Carter? Wow. The bounty they received looks good but the problem is so many key guys here are aging they need these new kids to grow up quickly or once they are ready they will need to replace Pronger, Briere and Timmonen. Early returns are good, especially for Voracek and Couturier.

Tampa


I loved the work Yzerman did in Tampa last year. Like Boston, like Pittsburgh, Tampa's lineup is loaded with quality veterans now and that makes a big difference. Low cost, low risk moves and they ended up a goal away from the Cup Final. Well done.

Playoff teams:

Habs

I didn't like Jack Martin when he had the Sens, I think he had the horses but held them back with his conservative style. With the Habs though I think he is a good fit. He's got a terrific goalie and some solid steady Dmen and a couple of guys who can score and so they are a team that can win some games 2-1 and 3-2. Adding Cole and having Pacioretty return will help.

Chiefs


I like the work Burke has done. Of course so much depends on Reimer here but the GM has added quality guys at every position year by year until a guy like Aulie, who showed well last season, got sent down this fall. The Grabovski/Kulemin/MacArthur line is fabulous and if Connolly can get healthy he will help as well. Throw in Lombardi and Armstrong and suddenly the forwards look decent, not top top drawer but not bad. And the blue has improved as well. Not a bad club at all I think.

Bubble:

Rangers

Something about New York I don't like, not sure what it is but I see them on the outside looking in. Missing Staal for any period of time will really hurt. Not sure why and if anyone falters they'll get in there but something about them just doesn't do it for me.

Joisey

Again, not a big fan of this club. No explanation really, maybe its just because they're Jersey.

The dregs:

Isles

Team on the rise, I think we'll see them move up the ladder this year. Don't think they are good enough or deep enough to challenge for a playoff spot but next year. Love how Snow fills his roster out every year.

Canes


Meh, they have a few nice players but I think Paul Maurice gets canned this seaosn. Again.

Florida


Weirdest off season spending spree ever and really? If you wanted to fill out your roster and get to the salary floor you could have done better than to go out and give a bunch of plugs long term deals. Christ, go out and give clubs cap relief by picking up their one year and two year deals. Like Khabibulin for example. Relentless in their mediocrity.

J.E.T.S.

This team is bad. I think they are worse than the Oilers.

Sens

This team is awful and their two best players are injury prone. First pick overall.

Speeds asked me a few days ago who I figured would finish behind the Oilers - I figure the Avs, BJs, Sens and Jets and then somebody will have enough injuries or bad luck to get the Oil out of the lottery.

Big year!! Big steps!!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Prediction Sure To Provoke Scorn


Predictions are a mug's game but here I go. Looking back I'm usually on the money out west when it comes to predicting which teams make the playoffs, if not the exact order. I've nailed seven out of eight each of the last two years. Out east I'm far less successful generally, although last year I got six, an improvement over the four of the previous year. Of course I picked Ottawa to make it last year so .... here goes nothing.


Campbells

Like most years I think there are a handful of clubs that are shoo-ins, those clubs so good and so deep that they can survive injuries and slumps easily. This year I think there are three teams that are Cup contenders imo.

Vancouver

The Canucks remain the best team in the conference imo. They said goodbye to Ehrloff and Torres but they will have Higgins and Lapierre for a full year and have Edler and Tanev rising on the blue. Raymond is out longterm but Kesler apparently is only out for a couple of more weeks. The plus for Vancouver? Their division is so poor that they probably will win the Conference beating up the patsies they get to play six games each. Still a really unlikeable group and in reality nothing matters until the playoffs for them.

Sharks

Lots of folks picking San Jose to come out of the west, same as its been for nearly a decade. Again a bit of a bleah division, expect them to pick up a lot of points playing weak sisters Phoenix and Dallas. Havlat is an upgrade over A-Rod Heatley and Burns and White will aid the blue but like the Canucks its all about the playoffs for these guys. If Couture becomes as good as he looks to become then this is a different club and Handzus gives them another element.

Chicago

Hawks were best eighth place team in history last year, they had a terrific goal differential and if Patrick Sharpo had scored in G7 OT who knows how far they would have gone. They never recovered from the combination of winning the Cup the previous spring as well as the ravages wrought upon them by the cap that summer when they lost over a third of their roster. The Turco experiment was a failure and Duncan Keith looked a shadow of himself and they never got untracked. Crawford is the number one guy from day one this year and I'd expect bouncebacks from Keith and others. The bounty from all of those trades from 2010 is still a year or two away but even without those kids the Hawks have a ton of talent, especially at the top end. They're bigger too which should help and having Frolik for the whole year will be big.

After the big three I think you're looking at three teams that should make the playoffs easily but are likely pretenders.

LA

The KIngs haven't done a damn thing yet and they may be a step beneath the top three but on paper they are impressive. Very strong up the middle and nice top two lines, a deep blue with all types of quality, good young goaltending. Looking at their roster the one question I would have is their bottom six forwards, they haven't the depth of the clubs ahead of them imo. Should easily make the playoffs though.

Wings

Time is running out on the Wings. Ian White is a solid player, though no Rafalski, but the problem for Detroit is the same problem we all have. Time marches on. Hard to say Niklas Lidstrom is in decline when he just won another Norris but he is slipping a bit. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Holmstrom, Stuart, Franzen, Bertuzzi, Cleary - all are on the wrong side of thirty and with age comes injuries. Wings are still an excellent team but I think this year is the year the slide begins.

Nashville

An interesting year for the Preds, one might say a definitive year for the franchise, with key players Renne, Suter and Weber all nearing unrestricted free agency. Nobody does more with less than Poile and Trotz and I think they will make the playoffs pretty easily this year. The problem for them is trying to keep these players. If they do then they might actually take the next step. Without them and they become like the turn of the century Oilers, another little team that could that ended up being a farm club for the big boys.

After the top six its really iffy. The Western Conference is not what it once was. Former powers (or at least perennial playoff clubs) Dallas, Anaheim, Colorado and Calgary have all aged or bled talent while young up and coming teams like the Blues and BJs and Coyotes have never arrived or may never will. (Caution Oilers' fans.)

The level of talent on all of these clubs is so thin that I believe that a rash of injuries similar to what the Oilers had last season (and the season before that and the season before that) could easily send any of them into the elevator shaft. Scratch that ... these teams are so thin that even one or two injuries to key personnel could send them into a tailspin.

For the last two playoff spots I'm going to go with the following, just because I have to pick someone, right?

Ducks

The Ducks are thin but their top level of talent is so good - Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan, Lubo, Selanne - plus I believe in Carlyle. I didn't think they would make it last year, they proved me wrong. I think they sneak in again this year.

Dallas

I really really want to pick the Stars for the basement but I look at what they have up front and think they have enough to pull out an eighth place finish. I'm not sold on their D or their goaltending but they have enough good forwards to get them through. (Although if Lehtonen or Robidas go down then they're truly fucked.

Blues

St Louis seems to be a hot pick when it comes to young clubs taking that next step. I'm not so in love with them plus they are in the toughest division out west. If Halak has a very good year then they'll be in the mix I guess, certainly Arnott and Langenbrunner will help.

The also rans in this conference are many. Seriously I could see any of these clubs finishing last. We'll go with this order but I could see this sussing out almost any way you can think of.

Calgary Falmes

Next year they will be bottom of the conference unless Feaster can pull a rabbit out of a hat or some kids come out of nowhere. Iggy is aging, Kiprusoff is slipping, the once solid D is almost as thin as the Oilers and up front they have the makings of a nice lineup, if it were six or seven years ago. Jokinen, Stajan, Hagman, the list of guys who add nothing goes on and on. They still have solid quality in Bourque, Glencross and Moss but the remaining forwards are aging or terrible. If Giordano or Bouwmeester (or both) go down, they'll sink like a stone. I may have them ranked too high at tenth but I don't like any of the other clubs here either.

Wild

Minnesota has always been so blah and now with the addition of Heatley they are unlikeable as well. Mediocre, anonymous, they are the poster club for a league with too many teams. Koivu makes a huge difference for them, otherwise they're going nowhere.

Phoenix

THis may be too high but I have a lot of faith in Dave Tippett. That goaltending though ... if they still had Bryzgalov they'd probably be a playoff team again but losing him plus guys like Belanger, Fiddler and even Special Ed is probably enough to sink them.

Your Edmonton Oilers

Folks ask me who I could pick the Oilers above and here's how I look at it. Their GD was abysmal last year but for a couple of months they were essentially an AHL club. Could injuries happen again? Sure but they are deeper than in years past and at some point the freaky run of guys getting hurt has to stop. With Whitney out the D is awful but it looks like he may be back soon and if he and Gilbert can play the majority of the season I think they can do well enough to lift the club out of the basement. I think the PK is going to be better and I think the goaltending is as well. They're still a couple of top four Dmen short but I think Whitney can shepherd Petry well enough that they can keep their heads above water.

And looking at the rest of the conference I see teams as thin or thinner than Edmonton. A couple of injuries and they'll fall right past them. Maybe even if they stay healthy.

BJS

They added Carter but this club is bad. Like a lot of these clubs they're pretty well a one line team, their D is mediocre and their goaltending iffy. Howson will be unemployed a year from now.

Avs

And so will Greg Sherman. The Avs are poor all around from their goaltending out. They have a couple of nice players in Duchesne and Stastny but they're pretty rotten. And they don't even have their number one pick anymore. Oops!

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So that's it. I'll look at the Wales in the next day or two. Of course injuries will play a huge role this year as in every year and its hard to say what teams will emerge and which will fail (who figured on the Devils last year). Its a mug's game as I said.

But yes I do figure on the Oilers to jump four or five spots in the overall standings. They could totally finish last overall again but I think they are close in talent to a few teams now and a combination of them being better and a few teams falling apart pushes them up and out of the lottery.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Questions and Answers


A number of people who still live in their mom's basements, including our own Tyler Dellow, whose Mom yells at us a lot when we get cheezie dust all over her good chesterfield, participated in a Q and A with the Post. Although I am a dashingly handsome man and an excellent lover I am also lazy so I have copied their questions and here are my own answers:

1. Which player would you build a franchise around?

Even with the concussion I'd go with Crosby - I think he will be back and he will be okay and last year before he got hurt he had so completely separated himself from the rest of the league that its no contest.

2. Who would be the first pick in your fantasy draft this year (and where would you take Sidney Crosby)?

Fantasy? Emma Stone. Love those redheads. Fantasy hockey? I'm 43, I have no idea what that is.

3. What player do you expect the biggest bounce-back season from?

Duncan Keith. Buddy was worn out to start last season and never got his groove back alternately doing too little and trying to do too much. With a long summer I expect him back in form.

4. Who do you expect the biggest growth from?

I'll say Jordan Eberle, he had a good rookie season, I have a feeling he really makes a huge leap. Or maybe JF Jacques. Its bound to happen.

5. What prospect/rookie are you most excited about watching this year?

Pretty well any young Oiler player for obvious reasons but most of all Ted, if he becomes a star then the Oilers will be looking fantastic in the years to come.

6. What off-season addition will have the biggest impact for his new team?

I'd have to say Mike Richards, he give the Kings great depth up the middle.


7. Who will win the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer (and with how many points)?

A Sedin, lets say Pierre-Jacques because they look the same to me and what does it matter? 120 points because they play four patsies six times each.

8. Who will win the James Norris Trophy as the top defenceman?

Keith in a big rebound year for him and his club.

9. Who will win the Brendan Shanahan Award for most games suspended?

Either Matt Cooke who cannot help himself and will pay in full for all of his sins the first time he steps over the line or some poor no name goon who blatantly headshots a star player and gets executed in the market square.

10. Who is the most overpaid player in the league?

Has to be Wade Redden, he's not even playing in the NHL and he's pulling down immense coin. If we're talking about guys still in the NHL it has to be Gomez. He's a shadow of his former self.

11. Who is the most underpaid?

Frans Nielsen, tremendous player.

12. Which team will have the biggest improvement this year?

The Devils.

13. Which team will have the biggest dropoff?

I'm tempted to say Phoenix except I believe in Dave Tippett so lets go with the Flames. Sooner or later they are going to drop off of the cliff and I look at their lineup and see a team that is getting thinner everywhere. With Kiprusoff sliding and Iginla aging I think this may be the year it falls apart.

14. Which coach would you like behind your bench?

Seeing as my team is the Edmonton Oilers I want Joel Quenneville, he has done a great job with a young Chicago team and was solid in his previous stop in St. Louis as well.

15. Which general manager would you like building your roster?

I like Chiarelli from Boston because he built the majority of that roster through trades and FA. The Oilers have a ton of kid forwards and prospects but need an astute eye to start moving up the ladder by bringing in pieces to augment the kids. He's the guy.

16. Which coach or GM is the most likely to be fired before the season ends?

Who is Colorado's coach? Sacco? I think he takes the fall early if they struggle (and they will). I think the GM screwed up with that trade and he will lose HIS job over it before the Capitals select in the lottery next summer.

17. How many Canadian teams do you expect to make the playoffs?

Vancouver, Montreal and I do think Toronto will make it this year.

18. Which Canadian team is in for the longest year?

Calgary. I think that Edmonton and Ottawa fans are resigned that their clubs will be poor so if they are then so it goes and if they do better than expected its gravy. Calgary, on the other hand, has been pretty solid for nearly a decade but are about to slide. I think most Flames' fans are going to be shocked as to how bad the club is.

19. Who will pick first in next year’s draft?

Hard to say because injuries always play a part. I'm going with Washington just because that would be almost Scott Niedermeyer/Tom Kurvers funny.

20. Who will win the Stanley Cup?

Chicago is going to rebound and win their second in three years. My Dad will be a happy little old guy and hopefully my wife and I will again have drunken couch sex whilst a toothless Duncan Keith mumbles and slurs in the background. Some memories never fade.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Num Me Vexo?




Two weeks from today the boy and I are heading north for three days to help my old man close up the camp. I haven't done this in years, maybe since I was a kid, but Dad is getting up there and needs the extra hands.

Should be an interesting trip, nothing like northern Ontario in the fall, the colours are brilliant, the days are crisp and lovely, the nights ... well the nights are going to be cold and of course we're talking a wood stove so heat will be intermittent, dependent on one of us getting up and feeding the fire.

I'm interested to see how the boy handles it. He's excited and intrigued and my old man is over the moon. Not sure how long that will last when he starts to complain about stacking wood and fetching th etwo old guys another beer.

Thing is its going to be hard work. We have to haul up the boats and stow away the canoe and tables and chairs. The floating dock has to come out, Dad went with a flaoting dock because every few years he'd come up in the spring to find that the ice had carried away portions of the dock. He'd build another (I helped him do this once, you want to talk about a bastard of a job) and then a few years later it would be gone as well.

The biggest job is disposing of a poplar that the beavers took down sometime last winter. It was a massive tree, probably a hundred and fifty years old or more. So we're turning that sucker into firewood. Of course I have the typical hands of your twentyfirst century urban Canadian, I don't put lotion on them or anything but they're softer than Lupul, by the end of the three days they'll likely be hamburger.

Jenn is a little nervous about the idea of the boy being up there, he'll have just turned six, never mind that my old man is pushing eighty. What happens if something happens, she says, and you can see the wheels turning. I shrug and say that we will be careful (we will) and that if something happens we will deal with it.

This is the McLean way and it makes her mental. We're not dopes, its not like we do things like you see in those annual lists that people use to point out that natural selection exists but we like our good times and part of our good times include removing ourselves from civilization and any possibility of prompt medical care. And if something happens, such as the time lightning struck and the camp caught on fire, true story I will tell you some day, then we figure it out In that case Mom and Dad ran up and down the hill, naked (it was the middle of the night), and hauled up buckets of water until they put it out. They then had a beer at which point we realized the neighbour's camp was also on fire, this one too big to put out so Mom took us next door to our other neighbour and then returned with the men from there and Dad took the boat across the lake in a huge thunderstorm to get the fire pump and rouse folks from other camps. They ended up saving the camp althought the damage was immense.

So shit can happen, hell I could get hit by a bus or drop dead of a heart attack tomorrow, and our attitude is to be careful (of course) but you can't live in fear or what the hell could you ever do?

If we had a family crest it would be a couple in a boat on a lonesome lake in the background, maybe a moose and a wolf with a fish jumping over them, the moose would have a paddle, the wolf a hockey stick, a bottle of wine and a case of beer and the family motto underneath:

Num Me Vexo?

It would be a bit busy but very apropos.

------------------

I think Steve Tambellini must be related to me somehow, my goodness you look at this roster and the fact that its been five years out of the playoffs and two straight last place finishes and you have to wonder, why man, why? You know you have only two top four guys, one with a chronic injury. You have a bunch of great kids up front and some dandy prospects coming on D who are going to take a while. So the D is not going to be fixed anytime soon.

Why would you not shore things up a bit? The Thin Blue Line indeed, even before Smid and Chorney and Fedun were hurt (and lets face facts the latter two weren't going to help the big club, at least this year, maybe never). I can just see my Dad having a beer with Steve saying 'we'll play it by ear' and 'it will work itself out', two of his favourite sayings (mine too) and Steve nodding with that vacant grin.

Its tough being an Oilers' fan, patience, patience right? I understand it and really at this point unless they were to add two top four guys this club wasn't going anywhere near the playoffs anyhow. Take your lumps, get another high pick, see what Lander and Hartikainen and Omark have and then next year winnow out some of the forwards for the D you need and you should be on your way as long as you make the right choices.

This has to be the plan, it certainly cannot be the case that they look at this D corps and goaltending and figure its enough, right?

Has to be although then again until last year this club was a cap team for four seasons that management expected to compete so maybe the disconnect between reality and what management has actually assembled is really a chasm. Which is terrifying.

And with rumours (and they are just rumours) that Lowe is coming back at some point in the next couple of years one wonders if Tambellini might want to actually worry a bit and maybe, maybe, try and get things moving along or his career as general manager is going to make John Ferguson Jr. look like Sam Pollack.

The thought of Lowe coming back actually sickens me a bit. He is the guy who got us into this mess and I keep thinking Bob Pulford all over again. Pulford was Bill Wirtz's righthand man for thirty years and in those thirty years the most success the club had was when he was least involved in the early nineties. Despite the franchise falling to pieces Wirtz stayed loyal to his man. When Dollar Bill died one of the first things his son did was cut Pulford loose.

Three seasons later Chicago won their first Cup since 1961.

Not a coincidence, friends, not a coincidence.

What does Pulford have to do with Lowe? Well Lowe's years as GM did not exactly bring much glory except for 2006 and even then the season almost died on the vine for the obvious want of a goalie. And his moves after June 19th 2006 bordered on the unfathomable.

If the rumours are true and Lowe returns then we are in for a long dark winter imo because it means the owner is tied to this guy despite the evidence.

And that worries me.

They are rumours though. Lets hope that they remain nothing more than that.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I Like Plaid


So today the Oilers made their final cuts until the injury situation susses itself out.

Going to OKC - Keller, Green, O'Marra, Brule all have to clear waivers and likely will. Hartikainen also gets sent out.

With Smid apparently out a month there are presently a half dozen healthy D:

Tom Gilbert - apparently will play 45 minutes a night or perhaps, like Brad McCrimmon did in the Memorial Cup Final, perhaps he will just play the entire game. No wonder he's a little cantankerous these days.

Andy Sutton - as big as a house and about as mobile, he may be the second best defenceman on the club right now. Which is terrifying.

Theo Peckham - love the way Theo plays but I think he's a bottom pairing guy right now and maybe for always

Jeff Petry - a guy who looked to be on the bubble early in camp he got better as it wore on, ideally he would be paired with Whitney I think, he's going to have his tough moments but a vet would help him immensely

Cam Barker - he looked pretty poor in preseason and likely he is going to be a top four guy by default, I didn't mind the signing, its only money, but I also thought he probably wasn't going to pan out. He's definitely going to get his chance though.

Corey Potter - veteran tweener hasn't looked too bad, with all of the injuries he may stick around for a while

So to fill the seventh spot there are four options. Whitney may be ready. I think he may be making progress as most reports are that he may be good for opening night. He can't be far away if they are saying that I would guess. Chorney tweaked his knee. He may be the seventh if he's okay to go and even if both he and Whitney are ready he may stick at Potter's expense. The other two options - picking up a quality guy via trade (next summer I expect this) or picking up filler on the waiver wire.

We knew the blue was the problem with this club. If Whitney is ready then he and Gilbert may be able to make things work (I've liked Gilbert's preseason) with whatever partners get sent their way. But then again maybe not. Too thin in any case.

-------------------------

Injuries also playing a part up front with Eager and Gagner out. Presently there are thirteen forwards ready to go. I would think that Eager may be ready for opening day although that's nothing but a hunch.

Horcov - the dirty Russian looks a little quicker. Really really hope he stays healthy and has a very good year.

Belanger - great signing, he will help

Ted - the kid is going to get his nine games and probably will be up for the season, imo. Sometimes he looks like a kid and sometimes he shows flashes of what he may be. I think he may have an impact on the PP immediately. Did about as much as he could in preseason.

Lander - a bit of a surprise in that I figured they might keep the plug O'Marra in his place so he could get the big minutes in OKC. When Gagner comes back he will get sent down but he'll be back and likely may take Gagner's job within the year, Sam will be the bait for that Dman they need. Struggled at times and was very very good at others. Another keeper.

Hall - no worries here

Paajarvi - he looks more confident and I like seeing him on the PK

Smyth - great to have him back

Hordichuk - his presence didn't deter Duco from going after Hall in the preseason, he's not the worst player ever to play for the Oilers but really a bit pointless I think.

Petrell - Zona (I think it was) described him as Thoresen without offence which I thought was impossible (and I love Thoresen). Anyhow here's exactly the type of guy the Oilers need - great on the PK, hustles, hard on the puck, a good fourth liner. A nice story and a feather in management's cap.

Hemsky - I hope they sign him. That is all.

Eberle - kid looked terrific in camp for the most part

Omark - if they move Hemsky he's going to get a big opportunity I think. He gets overlooked but he has skill and balls, I couldn't understand folks who felt he might not make the team.

Jones - A lot of folks I really respect hated that Hartikainen got cut and Jones is still here but I don't mind it. Teemu will get big minutes in OKC and as soon as a top nine guy goes down he'll be up and likely for good once they move Ales. I don't think Jones is blocking him. As for 'fan favourite' Ryan Jones well he hasn't clue anywhere but around the opposing net but he always has had that. I doubt he scores 18 again but he'll score some, he always has. I don't mind his contract other than to me its another sign that management is not too bright but of course you might argue that they are throwing fans a bone and they won't even look at him when the contract is up and they have better players around.

Anyhow that's my thoughts on Teemu, I'm not too concerned about it and I actually think its less of an affront than the Omark move a year ago. Hartikainen is a beauty but none of the top nine wingers (Hall, Paajarvi, Smyth, Hemsky, Eberle, Omark) should lose their job to him. He'll be back soon.

The only possible surprise amongst the cuts is Brule and that's mostly because he has a big ticket (how do Tambellini and Lowe explain all of the money Katz has spent on guys in the minors anyhow? Jesus.) - the kid sounds like a terrific guy but he was awful last year and worse this preseason. Throw in the medical issues and its no surprise. Too bad for the kid. Doug MacLean ruined him.

I like the forwards a lot. They are green but Smyth and Belanger are going to help a lot and the kids are really something. And Petrell and Eager I think will help somewhat as well.

The blue is shitty and the goaltending is iffy unless Dubnyk is the real deal. So ... its going to be one more long year and then one presumes some of the forwards get moved to shore up the blue.