Monday, May 28, 2012

The Greatest Game Ever Played

 The ironic thing about my sporting life is that nearly every bit of success I have had has been as a coach. As a player, not so much, and I was a kid who always played sports growing up. I've played hockey since I was five years old, albeit with a large gap from my mid teens to my early thirties (with the exception of a few years in my early twenties) and I played for my school as well as intramurals for years. Winning, I have not known you. In grade six our school won the city championship in handball, not the European variety, but a hybrid of basketball and hockey, I guess would be the best description, and in my middle school my class won the intramural league in the same sport. (You can tell you haven't won much when you can remember these as the highlights of your athletic career!). When I was bantam my hockey team won the city championship and while that should have been enormous it was not but that is for another post. And then nine summers ago, when Jenn was pregnant with our oldest, I played in a mini tournament one weekend. Four teams and we won it all, in overtime, and yours truly had the winner. Biggest sporting moment of my life as a player.

Sadness.

 So yeah the wins are few and far between and for the most part the teams I have played on have been mediocre. One team I played on when I was 21 or 22 lost in the championship final and when I returned to Toronto I played on three pretty decent clubs in summer leagues but for the most part the teams I have played for have generally lost more than they have won. A couple have been absymal but for the most part they have just been so-so, the type of club that is just below the top half of the table, that can give the best team a game but never beats them, that can beat the good clubs now and then and will, every once in a while, lose to the bottom feeders.

 These were the clubs I played on as a kid, as a teenager, in my early twenties and the first couple of winters after I returned from Florida to this good country. And so when my pal Higgins and I, disillusioned after a rotten year playing out in Scarborough, were casting about for a new club, and we ended up with Capsule, well, it turned out to be a good fit because, well, we're mediocre.

lol

 Capsule has been together forever, the core of the club four guys who have known each other since they were kids plus the husband of a girl they went to school with and a sixth guy who owns a bar right near Capsule Music. I don't even know how long they have been playing, at least a dozen years, probably more. Then we have another four guys who have been on the team for as long as I have or more and another couple who have been with us for four or five years.

 So in other words we've been together for a long time. And its really a great bunch of guys. Lots of laughs and when we lose, which is often, there's no bullshit or sniping. We have guys who can't score (raises hand) and guys who cough up the puck at inopportune times and guys who can't check their hat. We're a beer league team. Our families get together usually two or three times a year at someone's house. (As one guy noted to me at one get together this year as we surveyed the mob of kids 'well we may not shoot straight on the ice but we don't have that problem elsewhere') Its a great thing to be a part of.

 Its been seven years with Capsule Music for me and our best league finish was second overall one year and a loss in the semifinals. After that year we lost four of our five defencemen and we've never looked back. We've won a playoff series here and there but generally we hang around the middle of the table and then we begin to slide until we get moved down a division. We're getting older, with only one guy on the other side of forty and plenty on the wrong side of forty five, and with age the the speed and conditioning, which was never really there for many of us, is abandoning us. We finally joined a new summer league last year after it became clear that we were nothing but fodder in our old one, where we could once compete, and we did alright and this summer I am playing again after two years out of it. We won our first game so here's hoping we can compete and do well.

 The most success for Capsule has been in the annual Easter Exclaim Cup. We won in 2005 (alas I was not on that team) and we've made it to the finals and usually we at least make it out of our group. Before this year I had played twice and both times we swept through our group easily, only to fall in the semis, both times a bitter taste left as we didn't play our best games.

 The last year has not been kind. Last Easter the club went winless and then in our winter league we struggled. Too many good players lost over the years and a margin for error too thin. We don't score much and we only have a handful of Dmen so if one of them doesn't come out or our goalie has an off night the result is too often a good effort and a 2-1 or 3-2 loss. We saw plenty of those this year.

 So we headed into the tournament on a low note and our expectations not that high but we came up with a tie in our first game and a win in our second and so going into our third game we were already through our division, regardless of the result. We had a good game but lost and so we ended up second in our group and, it turns out, in deep shit.

 The Exclaim Cup is about sportsmanship. It can get heated of course but teams that take a lot of penalties get penalized in the standings, literally. The plus side of all of this is that the divisions are generally made up of teams that are pretty evenly matched. You may get a new club that comes in and cleans up (this year a club from Newfoundland flew in and crushed everyone in their group) but its usually the same teams year after year and the number of ringers are few.

 Unfortunately in our group there was an exception. While teams like us came up with 1-1-1 records a team from Montreal cruised through their side of the bracket, beating teams by four and five goals, including the team from Edmonton that we had tied.

 We were in shit.

 I watched them warm up. They could all skate like the wind and they had heavy shots and of course they were all kids. I was out for our first shift and it was like being on one of those amusement park rides in our zone. They swirled around us and we never touched the puck and we headed for the bench gasping for breath. I turned to my centreman and said 'Holy fuck they can skate' and he just grimaced.

 And then a minute or so later, a draw in their end, a puck free in the slot and we scored.

 What the hell.

 And then they came at us. Our few forays were torn up by their speed on the backcheck and the few times we got it deep they chipped it up to their speedy wingers who flew by our back pedalling D. Again and again they swept into our zone, stopped by desparate lunges by our defencemen, the odd time the puck getting through to our goalie, who turned them aside. They churned around our zone, moving the puck here and there and yet we held our positions and so, for the most part, they were kept to the outside.

 This kept on for the first half of the game and then they struck quickly. A chip past a Dman and away to the races, a puck tucked just under our sprawling keeper, just minutes later, a failed attempt to clear, too soft on it and then the pressure on tired legs and a shot from the slot, top corner.

 Down one and tiring. The end.

 On the bench, calm. And a plan. (And we never have a plan). Play it like we're up one. No pinches. Hard out, hard in. Third man high on the forecheck. Stay by your man. No panic.

 No way we come back from two down.

 Hold on and then make our push at the end.

 And so they kept coming and we held . Blocked shots, sprawling. Battles along the boards. Collisions and stickwork and pushing back. A man delaying in the slot, all alone, our goalie stacking the pads, the puck laying there, their second man, rebound, all alone, the leg kicked out, sure goal harmlessly into the corner of the rink.

 Puck ringing off iron. Glove save. Kick save. A shot whistles wide.

 We hung on.

 And then with just minutes left we began to push back. A hard forecheck and an easy shot. A won draw and another shot. A shot tipped just wide. A battle won along the boards and suddenly the ice tilting the other way. A scrum in the corner ends up in harsh words and pushing and grappling, sportsmanship forgotten in curses, fuck you in a thick French accent, my reply fuck you cocksucker, his wide eyes and
shove back admission that he understands that at least. Bodies flying, a slash deadens an arm, a fall ends up with my centreman groaning in pain on the bench, thumb bending a way it should not for a moment.

 A minute left and Higgins wins the draw, spinning on his forehand, the clang of the puck off the post, it spins into the corner, there a war ensues, bodies flying, the mass of flailing sticks and skates inching closer to their goal, like a rugby scrum, suddenly battle joined at the corner of the crease as we hack and whack at the puck, it bounces off of shins and skates, their goalie on his knees, reaching for it, I stand behind him, edge of the crease, waiting.

 And then the puck squirts under him and through him and I reach for it and there is a Dman sprawled along the goal line in desperation and no problem, it all slows down, I will pull it back and put it upstairs and then he grabs the puck and pulls it under him.

 I go absolutely mental. He put his hand on the fucking puck, he put his fucking hand on it, I am screaming and the chorus rises and they shake their heads and jeer us and the ref, who was right there, saw it all and points to centre.

 Penalty shot.

 Thirty seconds left.

 Higgins the man to take it. He has been dynamite for us all tournament. He swoops in, feints, the goalie sags.

 Crossbar.

 Thirty seconds later its over.

 In the room afterwards there are smiles. We are exhausted, bruised, knees and shoulders and backs aching. But no recriminations, no balls of tape or equipment flung in disgust, no shaking heads or sidelong glances, no bitterness.

 We've lost but this is not a loss due to soft play or dumb mistakes. We haven't lost to a weaker team or for that matter an equal, done in by indifference or foolishness.

 We've lost to the better team and its hard to say that its a game we deserved to win, because that would be a lie. But we have given it everything, left nothing on the ice, we are battered and bruised and so are they and while we have lost we have probably never played a better game.

 Magnificent.

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I've spoken of this before. I think one of the illusions we hold as fans is that the club we cheer for is made up of great guys, the type of guys who play on our beer league teams, guys who would make great teammates, guys who we go out for beers with, guys whose families we get together with. Of course the reality is different. Back in the day when the money meant that guys had to work summer jobs I am sure that players were very much regular guys but nowadays they are nearly all millionaires and with that comes a disconnect from reality that in most cases is probably already there, a sense of entitlement brought on by years and years of getting what top athletes get in our society, which is whatever they want.

Not to say that they are all jerks because the anecdotal evidence suggests that many hockey players actually are pretty good guys. Just means that the jerk quotient is likely higher than it was in the old days and higher than in your work a day life.

 As an aside I was on Twitter a while back and the subject of Stan Mikita came up and Ellen Etchingham (you all know Ellen, right? Theory of Ice and Backhand Shelf? You had better start reading her if you do not) who is from Chicago began telling me Stan Mikita stories.

 Mikita was my favourite player as a boy and so you can imagine how I felt as Ellen described how he had once been a regular at a coffee shop many of her family used to frequent back when he starred for the Blackhawks.

 Nicest guy in the world, they said. Most regular down to earth fellow you would ever meet. When things got busy and staff were getting overwhelmed he'd grab the coffee pot and help out.

 Imagine that. One of the greatest players who ever lived. I got way too excited than a forty four year old guy should get about a seventy two year old guy at that moment.

 Terrific stuff. He'd fit right in with old Capsule. He's probably be our best player too, even in his seventies. I wonder if he's free ....

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I didn't publish picks for the conference finals so you'll have to trust me when I say I figured it would be LA and New York playing for the Cup, which means I'm seven and seven so far.

One big meh.

I think the Kings do it but I think its a tough go for them. I always (at least recently) look at the western representative and figure they are good to go but of course it does not always end up that way. Kings are just so deep though, far more so up front than the Rangers and they are big and fast and experienced and of course they have the goaltending as well. It would be nice to see a 67 expansion team win their first Cup although I'd prefer to see them do it in purple and gold.

 I've never been a Jersey guy and even though now they play a terrific aggressive style I'll never forgive them for the nineties ;) - they might win it of course but I am cheering for LA. Penner and Stoll and Matt Greene escaped the disaster in Edmonton and both Penner and Greene are bright funny guys who are easy to cheer for and Stoll was a huge part of that 2006 run. Willie Mitchell has been around forever and is one of those veteran guys who it would be awesome to see win, especially after that bad injury he suffered a few years back. And of course Doughty is a wonderful player and Williams is one of those fantastic pros (although I will never forgive him for 2006) and imagine if Simon Gagne played in the final and won after all of his injury issues? And then there is Kopitar and then Richards and Carter who the Flyers moved.

 A lot of great stories. We'll just ignore Dustin Brown. Although of course he could play on my team any day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Brakes ... Brakes ... BRAKES!!!!

Took the boy out to buy a new bike on Saturday. It was time. You know it was time because a new bike is expensive and you know that old saying about buddy's wallet being like an onion? Yeah that's me. It was necessary.

So we went here and we went there and we decided on a real beauty of a bike that will probably last him a couple of years at least, red and black with fat tires, a real sturdy sharp looking piece of work. We bought it from a shop close to our place and when we decided that was the one he and I walked over to pick it up, he carrying his helmet so he could ride it home.

I paid the man and we got out into the sun and he hopped up and we headed down the Danforth until we could dodge down a little sidestreet. It soon became apparent that we had a few problems. The boy has not been on a bike since the fall and this bike was bigger and heavier than what he was used to. It wasn't too big for him but it was a different feel and he was struggling a bit.

 With all that said though he was getting the hang of it as we got close to our house. A few minor mishaps but nothing awful. We were nearing the neighbourhood park and I told him to take a turn nice and easy and he did but then he, well, he went off course a bit.

 Brakes, I said, as he did not turn but instead went straight onto the grassy boulevard.

 Brakes! I said with a little more urgency as he headed for the curb.

 BRAKES! I said as he went over the curb towards the parked pickup truck.

 Now everyone knows my little guy is a smart little dude. Smart is probably an understatement. He's brilliant. And he's calm. And he's reasonable. And so this should have been a walk in the park, right. Hit the brakes, son, piece of cake.

 Instead he flung his arms and legs out, shrieked and ran into the back of the truck.

 He was totally fine, he was barely even moving when he jumped the curb.. He's a bit of a sook, like most little dudes are but he didn't even shed a tear. And the brand new bike didn't even have a scratch.

 We went to the park and I had him ride his brand new bike around for an hour and yeah we practiced the whole braking thing. Get that old muscle memory tuned up a bit.

 Oh yeah as an aside when I put him to bed at the end of the long weekend I asked him what he liked best about his long weekend and his answer?

 A tie between getting his new bike and going out to get ice cream.

 Mental case.

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

As I watch ex Oiler after ex Oiler score goals or set up goals or make an impact on this Kings/Coyotes series my thoughts turn to the annual rite of summer for Oiler fans, the first round pick, actually the first overall for the third year running. And then of course July 1st and the UFA frenzy.

What do the Oilers need? Same as they always need. More good players. They've added a few through the draft and adding Smyth and retaining Hemsky were steps in the right direction. And while I did not like moving Gilbert at least Schultz is quality as well.

But lets be honest folks, they need help and they need it everywhere. They need forwards and D and goaltending and they need it both on the big team and in terms of prospects. I saw OKC play Sunday and let me say that after that game I do feel a lot better about some of their youngsters. A farm club's success often means little but while there are a ton of vets on the Barons the guys who stood out up front were mostly kids - Paajarvi, Hartikainen, Lander, Pitlick and even tweeners like Cornet and Vandevelde. The first four were all impressive and Pitlick was excellent, he has made big strides since I saw him in January. Oh yeah also playing was Hamilton. A long way to go but definitely noticed him as well.

But for that good news (and I will have a more detailed report on it later this week I hope) the fact remains that the Oilers are shitty. What would I do to alleviate this?

1/ Draft Yakupov. EVERYBODY says this guy is the best guy in the draft. Yes if the scouts like someone else better then take him but when everybody says Yakupov is the guy then I can't see MacGregor seeing something else really. The only way you trade him is if a guy like OEL or Pietrangelo or Doughty is available. And they aren't. You do not trade him for a project or a maybe. If you do then you are a stupid idiot.

2/ Look for bargains in the UFA bin. Dvorak/Pisani/Stoll types. Good players. Don't give a thug or some flash in the pan big bucks or term. Just look for those good solid guys and sign one or two or three. Whatever you need.

3/ Look to teams in financial trouble or looking to shed salary so they can make a UFA splash or sign their own FAs. That is what killed me about the Gilbert deal. Keep Gilbert and then trade a pick or prospect to a club looking to dump salary. Get a guy with a year or two left on his deal that way. Now you have Gilbert plus that guy. Christ there are enough teams with financial issues, never mind the guys who will be after Parise or Nash.

Add good players. Add as many as you can. Be smart about it, the club is still growing and you want to make sure that you have a spot or two available for up and coming kids but add what you can.

Keep Smyth. Go Hall/Paajarvi/Smyth/Hartikainen on LW.

Either trade Gagner for a Dman and pick up another C or stick with him for another year. Ted/Gagner/Horcoff/Belanger

RW is beautiful. Eberle/Hemsky/Yakupov/Jones

Add a goalie to share duties with Dubnyk.

Shuffle Sutton down to the 7th D spot. Go with a D by committee with Whitney on  the third pair if he has no setbacks this summer. Which means you add two Dmen. And veteran solid guys. Not bottom sixers. Actual quality NHL defenders like Mitchell, Volchenkov, Scuderi. Guys like that. So your D is Smid/Petry/Schultz/Whitney/newguy/newguy/Sutton

That's what I'd do.

Unfortunately everytime I think of Tambo approaching the draft I think of him realizing that this is probably it and somewhere in those dull eyes, a flicker of an idea. The knives are out and nothing is sticking to Lowe, as usual. The way Renney was treated has people up in arms (watching TSN reporters Sunday morning, they roasted Tambo for Renney and then for Quinn as well lol) and Tambo is now on the clock (I think Farber said it was 'about time' when someone said that Tambo was in the firing line now).

Buddy will never get another GM job unless he turns it around and the problem is he is poor at what he does and on top of that is absolutely unimaginative. What this means is that instead of staying the course and doing what is right he is probably going to throw ridiculous money and term at a bunch of bums AND trade Yakupov for Luke Schenn and a guy who is not even the consensus top dman available.

He's going to throw his arms and legs out and shriek as he takes us back into the ditch, the stupid bastard.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I'm An Adult Now



When it comes to Twitter most of the folks I follow fall in one of three groups. There are sports columnists and broadcasters. There are friends or 'acquaintances', most whom I have met through blogging or through Twitter itself. And then there is an eclectic mix of parody accounts, political commentators and celebrities. When I first started tweeting I had a lot of athletes and entertainers on my list but most of them I have winnowed out (although I have kept the Oilers on my list) mostly because they are dull or their tweeting consists of promoting the new episode of their TV show. The athletes especially, other that @shorcov its the usual platitudes and dreck. I still follow a few though and one of these is Moe Berg. I've seen him here and there on the streets of Toronto over the years, he stands out in a crowd, he's a tall dude and has petty distinctive features. I was always a big Pursuit of Happiness guy back in the day and still fire the CD in there now and then. Good driving music. Catchy. Can't really dance to it but hey ....

It was about three years ago now one summer evening where three of us friends decided to go out and hit the town. As we sat on a porch in the August heat having a few cold drinks before heading downtown my friend Sharon and I got to talking about how the year had seen its share of tough times, older relatives and the parents of our friends falling ill or passing on, the odd peer, just turned forty, suddenly stricken with an awful twist of fate, maybe illness, maybe the end of a marriage, maybe a sick child.

And we talked and talked and we came to the conclusion that possibly, just possibly, this was not a sudden blip, a momentary downturn in our worlds, but perhaps this was the new normal.

 And with that in mind that night we drank and we smoked and we laughed as we wandered hot summer streets.

 Its been a few years now and we were right. For all of us who were there that night life has gone on and for the most part it has been very very good but as we get older it becomes clear that those carefree days untouched by sorrow (if we were lucky) are long gone. Its not those two generations removed who are dying off now, although a few of them are still hanging around, tough as nails, its the ones next to us who are starting to go and the odd time its one of us that gets picked off as well.

 I've always had a fair respect for the idea of my own mortality and I've forever been part of the 'live for today' brigade and the former has been honed to a keen edge by recent events (illness has claimed another family member on Jenn's side, another has but weeks to live and a client at work is watching his wife waste away) and the latter I come by naturally as my Mom, at 79, has just returned from her first trip to Europe. Also, despite having been told it would not could not ever walk again, she is now doing so.

 So there.

 And so there are pints and dinners and last Sunday we had an impromptu street party with our neighbours that saw the drinking and the smoking and the eating and a good time was had by all. So this is all and good but also we are renewing our mortgage and the lease on our van is up and work is busier than its ever been and there is the usual day to day to day grind that has worn me down to the nubbiest of nubs.

 Nubs.

 Me I'm tired.

I'll be alright. Here's the thing I've realized about being an adult. If you use your head and act your age then things will be okay. Have a positive attitude. Treat people with respect. Don't spend more money than you make. Plan for the future but remember to enjoy today. Know who you are and act accordingly. If you have kids be tough but fair. And give them all of the love you have.

Its like I always say - life isn't easy but its not hard either. Laugh and love and battle through those tough times.

That's all I have to say about that Bubba.

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

So its been busy as hell and on top of everything, here's the thing, how many times can you write about how many things your sadsack team needs to do to compete next year? We've seen six years out of the playoffs and summer for an Oilers' fan consists of draft day, July 1st and then two months of waiting in vain for those moves that never come. In 2006 after Pronger and Spacek left we waited for those two veteran Dmen to come in to replace them and for Smyth to be signed. We waited and waited until the team went into the toilet for lack of quality D and then Smyth was traded.

And so it has gone year after year. Any fool can see what the Oilers needed to do but unfortunately the guys at Oilers' HQ aren't just any kind of fool. They're leading the parade apparently.

And now we wait again. The problem is that the holes in the Oilers' lineup are massive. You don't finish 30th, 30th, 29th because of poor coaching. You have that kind of run because your team is otherworldly bad. And while there are a lot of terrific kids the fact is the Oilers need help everywhere. They need it on the blueline where after Smid, Schultz and young Petry you have a bunch of bottom pairing guys unless you believe Ryan Whitney can come back and stay healthy and return to his previous level of play. (I don't). They need it up front where they have some great high end talent but a lack of depth, size and two way players. And they need it in net where Dubnyk had a good season but is certainly not at a spot where you would be able to run with him for sixty plus games.

 Its the same old story. You need good players. The more good players that get off the bus the better your team is. And the better your coach is.

 I think we are in the death throes of the Tambo regime and that Lowe is getting ready to step back in. Mr Six Rings has been in the public eye a bit more and there are rumours (they are just rumours) that Tambo wanted Renney to stay. And if there is a bit of a power struggle that would explain the way Renney was left to twist in the wind. That sort of move has Lowe's fingerprints all over it, he is the consummate amateur.

 The plus to this is that he may put the kibosh on any desperation moves Tambo may make to save his job. The minus is that it is Lowe and so if the word from Katz is make the playoffs then we're liable to see some kids moved for guys like Colby Armstrong and Mike Komisarek. The gang in charge at Oilers' HQ is nothing if not unimaginative.

 So while I should be excited about the addition of another all world talent in Yakupov instead I await Tambo's glazed over grin as he announces that he has traded the #1 for Luke Schenn and then picks an 18 year old Dman because 'that's what we need'. Never mind that you always pick best player available, that Dmen nearly always take years to develop with few exceptions and that if anybody should know the danger of drafting for need it would be the Oilers who passed on Zach Parise because they already were small up the middle with Comrie and Marchant. A year later both were gone.

 Irk.

 What say you? Are the Oilers going to be adults about this? Are they going to think it through and make the right choice, the one that every other team in the NHL would make? Or are they going to blow the mortgage money on a weekend bender in Vegas?

 I'm hoping for the former but betting on the latter.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

As To Tom Renney

Tom Renney was let go today and it was really a perfect Oilers' day in every way. It was just a few days ago that there were comments on Twitter from Bob MacKenzie wondering about Renney's fate and gently chiding the Oilers for letting a 'good guy' (hockey is full of good guys, great guys too!) twist in the wind. The writing had been on the wall for Renney for months. When Dan Tencer began criticizing him you knew the jig was up, guys like Tencer and Stauffer don't twitch without Lowe's say-so, so we knew Renney was done. But unlike every other organization that fired their coaches when the season ended, your Edmonton Oilers made no such rash move. Instead they let Tom Renney twist in the wind for weeks. Now he was under contract and he's paid a lot of money but imagine what that was like for the guy and his family. And here's a guy who lost his dad earlier this year as well so its not like he's had a good run lately. Does he have a job? Should he be making plans? No idea because the Oilers could not or would not make a decision.

Classless. But so we have come to expect.

Don't get me wrong. I think Tom Renney is an average coach which means he is far better than all but probably forty to fifty men in the world at his profession but he's not Dan Bylsma or Ken Hitchcock or Darryl Sutter, three guys near the top of the class. Babcock is up there too I would think. But he's not Michel Thierrien either. He's interchangeable with about two dozen other guys. MacT is probably a better coach I think but Renney is in that range. Give him a very talented team and he wins. Give him an average squad and he probably makes them slightly better. Give him crap and, well, you still have crap.

I didn't like everything he did in his time in Edmonton but like MacT and Quinn he was dealt a bum hand from the beginning. No coach was getting these guys anywhere near the playoffs. He's the third coach fired on Tambellini's watch, the second one of those hired by Tambellini and we all know that Tambo is next. The stench of failure radiates from the man. He should have been gone after his first year, the year he spent to the cap and finished in thirtieth place. Such a massive and embarassing failure should have seen him cut loose but somehow he remains. He is so awful a manager though that he will be gone soon. This team's holes are so massive that it would take tremendous acumen to resolve them this summer and we all know our man doesn't have the chops. So he is likely with is for one more year.

 Sad thing is, remember what I said about it being a perfect Oilers' day. Well this morning Canada lost to Slovakia. Canada's roster was put together by Kevin Lowe, the guy who got the Oilers into this mess six summers ago. Amongst the members of his losing roster were Luke Schenn, a guy who is rumoured to be in Edmonton's sights, and Ryan Murray, a kid Dman who many expect the Oilers to draft instead of the clearcut number one, Yakupov. This despite Murray not even being ranked the number one defenceman by some observers. And the team was coached by a guy many figure to be the leading candidate to replace Renney, Brent Sutter, a terrific junior coach who has been a total failure in the pros.

So Tambo can (and probably will) do some more damage before he gets the axe and best of all his replacememt will likely be Kevin Lowe!! The guy who drove the team into the ditch in the first place.

Note too Kevin Prendergast's involvement in Hockey Canada (have they won anything since he was hired?) as well as Mark Messier's contributions recently (a guy a lot of Oiler fans figure should either manage or coach the Oilers for some reason - 6 rings I guess). For many years there was talk of a Montreal Canadiens' tree. Look around the league and you would see (and still do) management and coaches who had played or coached or learned their trade in the Habs' front office. A lot of successful teams (and in some case not) were run by guys like Fletcher and Gainey and Lemaire and Robinson. The list goes on and on.

The Oilers are like the opposite of that and maybe this should be their master plan. Howson has already destroyed Columbus. Maybe Messier can take over the Rangers and and Prendergast can move to Chicago. Let Tambo move back to Vancouver and Buchberger coach the Avs. Let them go forth and multiply and take their special brand of incompetence to the rest of the league, like the Black Plague, destroying franchises as they alight from their private jets, just as flea ridden rats destroyed cities as they swarmed ashore from ships manned by infected doomed sailors.

Maybe that's the plan. Except nobody else is dumb enough to hire these dummies. Oh well, nice thought.