Sunday, January 29, 2012
The boy is a chip off the old block in many ways. He's an easy going little guy and while both of his sisters often react with great drama to requests he is more likely to shrug his shoulders and get to the business at hand. Like me he is a reader and like me he is an enthusiastic and smart sportsman, if not the most physically gifted. He's got a head for numbers and he's interested in history and travel, even at his young age. He's really a terrific little guy and that's the general consensus, you can ask anyone who knows him, not just his old man. ;)
Of course he's also different from me in a lot of ways. I'm not a lazy guy but he has a put your head down and grind it out work ethic like his grandfathers that I do not and his mind has a bent to the mechanical and scientific. When he was three he famously cornered my old man in his boat and spent an hour questioning him on how the motor actually worked. At the end of it Dad referred to him as 'the son he never had'. ;)
I am more of a dreamer, an arty type, like my oldest daughter; at any time we're likely to walk outside of the house without our pants, all the while solving the problems of the universe. The boy is methodical and literal to a fault, one of is favourite phrases is 'actually' as in 'actually it didn't take her hours to get ready, only seventeen and a half minutes' or 'actually you did not pick up after us all of the time, I put my underwear away last Tuesday'.
I call him Dr. Reid now and then, after the supergenius on that Criminal Minds show. Buddy has that same habit. 'Actually ...'
The boy has another similarity to his old man. He likes touching his junk. Much like that scene in Forrest Gump where buddy tells Forrest the thousand different ways to prepare shrimp, so to are the places and scenarios where the boy has his hand on his knob endless.
The other night I was helping him shower (he prefers the shower to the tub, its quicker) and as I helped him soap up he kept his right hand on his pecker, moving it this way and that, kneading it like a lump of dough. Back and forth back and forth. I shampooed his hair and as he stepped over to rinse it I offered him a cloth to cover his eyes.
In an amazing feat of eye hand coordination and dexterity he took the cloth in his preferred masturbatory hand while seamlessly transferring his cock into his off hand. I swear his knob was left untouched for not even a fraction of a second, like the fans at Liverpool sing, it seems it will never walk alone.
I've been saying for a while now that this stretch upcoming, from the trade deadline and through the summer is the key to the Oilers' prospects and, in my mind, may make or break the franchise for years. Despite the prevailing wisdom that the Oilers are on the right track and that adding lottery picks until BAM! Stanley Cup! is a quality strategy the truth is that one only need to look at the Thrashers or Islanders or Panthers or BJS to see that simply acquiring high draft picks sometimes leads nowhere.
And the two franchises most often mentioned as the examples of what the Oilers are trying to do, the Pens and the Hawks, won their Cups not only on the backs of their high end picks but also because their management added quality everywhere so that when the window opened they had depth at every position.
The Pens roster had Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury as well as homegrown players 25 or under who played supporting roles in Kennedy, Talbot and Letang.
The remainder of the roster was made of up veterans, a few homegrown, many acquired - Orpik, Scuderi, Kunitz, Guerin, Gonchar, Sykora, Satan, Gill, Eaton, Boucher, Fedotenko, Cooke, Adams and Dupuis.
As for the Hawks well their roster had a younger look. They had a number of homegrown players 25 or under - Toews, Kane, Hjalmarsson, Seabrook (25), Versteeg, Brouwer, Bolland and Byfuglien (also 25). Plus Andrew Ladd who was 24. Also on their roster - 26 year olds Keith, Eager and Niemi. And then again the veterans - Hossa, Campbell, Sopel, Boynton, Kopecky, Madden, Sharp.
So definitely a younger club but they are augmented by a strong contingent of veterans and a lot of their homegrown 'youngsters' plus Ladd are 24 and 25 years old.
What is the point of all of this? Well first of all that the Oilers aren't going anywhere near a Cup, as presently constituted, for a few years unless a lot of quality is added. And secondly, the idea that the Oilers' present methodology of dumping anybody with any experience isn't really a good idea if they want to win anything. These two clubs were probably the youngest to win the Cup since the Oilers did so for the first time, nearly thirty years ago. And neither of them was really that young.
So if the Oilers are going to make steps towards contending then the idea, as I always say, is to add or retain their quality players. Ales Hemsky is unsettled by his status and coming off major shoulder surgery and having an off year, yes, but dumping him when he has had nearly a decade of good years as a top six forward seems counterproductive, no? And yet, like Penner, this seems to be what is about to happen.
Now I don't pretend to know if Hemsky would sign, same as I didn't know if Penner was going to sign but lets say for argument that the Oilers had kept Penner and planned to keep Hemsky. Here is their top nine in this case:
And their fourth line is then Eager/Belanger/Jones
That's a far better lineup than right now, no? Renney has more options, you have Paajarvi playing with two quality vets and Gagner is in the same boat. Belanger and Jones slide down the lineup a bit and then can jump up where necessary.
Instead it looks like Hemsky is a goner and there is talk of trading Gagner for a defenceman, which the club of course desperately needs. And Penner is gone. And because the wings are thin we have seen Gagner playing the wing and best guess is is will return there when Ted comes back.
So now here is the depth chart up front:
Now your mileage may vary of course. Maybe Gagner is back at centre but you cannot look at this lineup and say that it is anywhere close to the first one I posted.
Moving Penner and now the probable move of Hemsky is gutting the forward depth and if they rob Peter to pay Paul by moving Gagner for a Dman well then you can see how it even further damages this club up front.
Do I have the answers? No of course not but presently the club has this as their depth chart:
Hemsky is a goner and maybe Gagner too. Smyth, Horcoff and Belanger are getting older. Paajarvi has taken a step back and Omark and Hartikainen have been in OKC pretty well all year. Who knows if the last three kids will contribute as NHLers. They may but there's no guarantee. In other words, the forward depth ranges from mediocre to abysmal unless all of the secondary group of kids turn out.
Now as for the blue:
Sutton is a UFA and Barker is garbage and Whitney may be done and even if he isn't done he and Smid are unrestricted after next season.
So yeah its pretty thin back there too. Now robbing the forwards to add to the blueline might help but if they lose Smid it sets this club back enormously, imo. Six years it took to get him here (and this is a guy who had pedigree so don't think that all of the prospects bubbling under are going to step right in - maybe one or two may get ahead of the curve if Edmonton is lucky) and if they lose a guy who is a legitimate top pairing guy just as he enters his prime, well then what does that do to the franchise?
And of course in goal there are intriguing prospects who are years away, Khabibulin and Dubnyk, who does not look like a guy, just yet, who can backstop a contender. So add G to D and F as issues. Not a surprise, there's a reason this team has been out of the playoffs for six years and probably in the lottery for three.
So there are holes everywhere and the very real possibility that things could get worse and the problem is, as I have said before, if things get worse then you risk losing your quality upcoming UFAs like Smid and Gilbert, which makes things worse still, and then you are risking alienating the kids the franchise is depending on.
Do I have the answers? Well, no. But I certainly reject the apologists who say that management deserves slack when these are the guys who have put the team off the rails in the first place. Four years they tried to contend and finished 25th, 19th, 21st and DEAD LAST in those years, including a couple of years where they spent to the Cap.
Think about that for a second. And don't try to tell me that as a fan I don't know what I am talking about and that the job is hard. Of course its a difficult job but you know what? If a guy is BAD AT THE JOB then he should get unemployed and fast. If you think your club can contend and spend to the cap and finish last well then that says a lot about you as a talent evaluator and that is what being a GM is all about when it comes down to it.
What would I do if I were GM?
- sign Hemsky unless the price tag is ridiculous. I can't see it being so
- keep Gagner. He may not be the answer but if you are a rebuilding club then you don't trade a 22 year old C. If you take a C in the draft and he makes the club next fall then move Gagner to the wing and then move him later.
- sign Smid as soon as possible
- add another top four D on the cheap somehow, pick one up with a year left on their contract or from a team that is capstrapped or find a Hejda - a quality guy who can be had on the cheap. Ideally the club would add two. Impossible you say? Look around the league. It happens all of the time. The Oilers used to do it all of the time.
- move Khabi, if possible, and address the goaltending with a Craig Anderson type. Again do I know who exactly? No but quality goaltending is out there and can be found for cheap, I have no doubt of this. Again look around the league.
Retain the quality you have, add pieces to shore up the D and goaltending if possible. Do so without hamstringing the franchise with bad contracts. Does Tambo have the chops to do this, to make the team better for the short and long term, to do something other than waiting on last place finishes to bring us to the Promised Land?
Despite the full court press from the Oilers and their media lackeys (excepting Brownlee and Gregor who have both come out as skeptical on this point imo) that Tambellini is doing a bang up job and deserves an extension, I would say that history tells us that he is not up to it and that his boss and likely replacement, Lowe, the guy who got us into this mess, is not either.
Posted by Black Dog at 3:45 PM