Monday, April 29, 2013

The Lottery

I've written about this before. Luck. So much of life depends on it for better or worse. For me, well, I won the lottery when I was born. Thanks to Ontario's stone age adoption laws all I know is that I was born in North Bay to a young couple. An accident I was. He was a student, engineering of some sort, which is ironic because I can barely tie my shoes I'm so mechanically inept. She was a Bell telephone operator. Back then times were different. They chose to give me up and I was with Children's Aid for a couple of months until Jack McLean decided that I was the one for him and Shirley.

I always picture my old man walking by a bunch of pens, stopping at mine and saying that he liked the look of me and that he'd 'take this one'.

Of course things were different then. Dad bought our house when he was looking at the house next door. That one didn't work out but the owner said the neighbours, an elderly French couple, were selling and moving back to Timmins. He went over, knocked on the door and a couple of hours later came home and told my mom he had bought a house. No for sale sign, no real estate agent, nothing.

But that's the way it was back then. You could buy a house without a bunch of bureaucrats and hagners on making money off of you. And healthy perfectly fine (and very handsome) babies apparently abounded.

So I came home to a young couple and it turned out that I was the lucky one. I grew up in a house and in an extended family where love and patience and fun were the main things and so I got the grounding to become who I am today.

Luck? I could go on and on. Nearly everything in my life after 1986 has been determined by a choice made by a guy named Jeff Charbonneau. Its a long story but basically my path in school was determined by him and by his brother whom I lived with first year. And from there I got a job after school working in a video store and from there I met a girl whose sister became my love for two years. That fling with the girl from Rawlins Cross died but her uncle gave me an opportunity and 15 years later that opportunity became my career. As part of that opportunity I moved to PEI for a year and there I met a girl named Jenn and a dog named Ben and now here we are. All because this guy knocked on a door.

 Crazy. Luck.


Last year the Oilers won the lottery for the third year in a row and were actually lucky, moving up a slot to do it. They did what you have to do when you get lucky. They capitalized on it and picked the consensus number one. Nail Yakupov did nothing to show that they made a mistake in any way. He can score goals, which is the toughest thing to do in the NHL, and I would bet that he, like Hall, will be a superstar. (BTW I think Nugent Hopkins explodes next year just as Hall did this year.)

This year the odds were pretty long and they ended up with the seventh pick overall. Its an interesting spot to be. The feeling is that that is where the dropoff is and the reality is that (read Gare Joyce's book if you haven't) teams have their own boards. That's why Grigorenko and Fowler fell and Hickey got picked fourth overall. Which means that probably the Oilers will, if they choose to do so, be able to pick between a couple of those top seven guys.

So what do they do?

The mandate for MacTavish is to put together a playoff team. I don't think there is any doubt about it. He has a ton of work ahead of him to make this happen. The Oilers have finished out of the playoffs seven years in a row for good reason. They're terrible. And as a result they have a bunch of guys who have little value on the trade market.

 How do I see it? Untouchables are Hall, Nugent Hopkins, Yakupov, Schultz, Klefbom. That's it.

 But I have a long list of guys who I don't move unless they get a clear upgrade to replace them. Paajarvi, Gagner, Eberle, Horcoff, Hemsky, Smid, Petry, Dubnyk. Compliance buying out Horcoff or trading Hemsky for picks is a no go for me unless they have real replacements coming in to take their place. For years this club has moved out good NHL players for nothing or for less value and this is why they are where they are.

 Don't get me wrong. I'm not married to anyone on that list (although I admit I am a sentimentallist and would love to see Horcoff and Hemsky hang them up as Oilers) but I'm happy to move them if I see a clear upgrade coming in. The goal is to win after all. But this club is so thin that they can't afford any more trades of the Gilbert/Nick Schultz ilk. If you move Petry or buy out Horcoff you need a guy who can step in and at least provide the same, if not better.

 Now the good news for MacTavish. Last summer you could get a top four Dman (Michalek/Lubo) for a second round pick and this year the cap is coming down. When he had his first press conference and it became clear that there may be few sacred cows on his roster many got nervous but its probable that he can fill out a lot of his roster cheaply by trading picks or prospects to teams looking to move salary or by picking up compliance buyouts.

 What does he need?

 Two top four D.

 One or two top nine forwards. (Or three if they are moving a guy like Hemsky, Gagner or Paajarvi for another piece).

 A couple of fourth liners who can play the game. Think guys like McClement.

 A 1B goalie.

 That's a lot. But its doable. And imo, as I said, it can be done without dipping into the core of the team.

 And this brings us back to the pick.

 Seventh overall. Looking at guys like Nurse or Zadorov I think its probable, as I said, that they could have a choice between two of the consensus top seven because someone takes one of those guys.

 So what do you do? Well, four of the top seven are centres and I think they don't see Gagner as a top two C longterm. And Horcoff is getting older. And there are no kids on the horizon. So if one of those Cs is there (although Lindholm's size may scare them away) I think they have to take him unless the BPA is a W or a Dman.

 A lot of folks are saying the Oilers covet Lazar. True or not that's a pretty big reach and considering that they passed on Parise once to trade down and drafted Niinimaki another time they may be a bit gunshy about going off the board. (Although Pouliot was rated in 2003. People don't remember that though).

 But if that's the case and the Oilers are willing to trade down what am I looking at? Those teams between eight and fourteen who might have something to give up. Buffalo. Jersey. Dallas. Philadelphia. Phoenix. Winnipeg. Columbus. Non playoff teams that might want to move someone out that the Oilers can use whether that be to shake up their roster, shed cap space or shed payroll.

 What we don't know is what is going to be available on the market. MacT might find that he can get what he wants for very little and decide to keep the pick but if he finds prices too high or the available players not to his liking then I would bet that the pick comes into play.

 Me? I keep it unless I get a sweet sweet deal. I don't see that happening but maybe I'm wrong.

 But luck. Luck is going to play a part. Then its up to MacTavish to make it happen.


 Saw some ridiculous stat the other day about Pittsburgh and their record against the other eastern playoff teams. Its something so unreal that its hard to even believe. And watching talking heads on The Reporters last night three of the four picked the Pens to win it all with the fourth picking Chicago basically to be contrary.

 And I sit here wondering if I am missing something. Does nobody remember last spring?

 Anyhow, the East.

 Pittsburgh v Islanders

 OK so for starters I think the Pens are the favourites in the East. After all I'm the guy who keeps going on about depth and they added Jokinen, Morrow and Iginla so that their fourth line is what, Kennedy, Cooke and Adams? Holy shit. The problem for the Pens, however, remains the back end. They got filled in the first round by the Flyers last year, just absolutely filled, and I see a blueline which is still unimpressive plus in net they have that grinning bucktoothed bastard Fleury (I went heavy Pens in my pool last year so yeah I'm bitter) who has to be the most overrated goaltender in the league.

 With that said I can't see them having much issue with the Islanders. Much like Chicago they have a pretty easy matchup. The Isles were even in GD, the Pens plus 46. Pittsburgh won 13 more in regulation or overtime too. The Isles have a nice team, no doubt, and Snow deserves credit for getting them here but Nabokov isn't stealing this series and the Isles don't have the horses to keep up. I think its Pens in five, maybe even a sweep.

 Montreal v Ottawa

 This one is pretty well a pick em imo and I think Ottawa might pull the upset here. Habs had five more ROW and their GD is eleven better but as we all know the Sens were ravaged by injury and now have both Anderson and Karlsson back. The Sens have problems scoring goals (look at their roster, what the hell?!) but the Habs have a hard time stopping them and for some reason Price has gone off the rails. Goddamnit!!

 Ugh. OK going with the Habs even though my gut says Ottawa. Even though Anderson is the better goaltender I just don't see Ottawa scoring enough. Habs in seven.

 Washington v Rangers

 Another pick em, very very little to choose between them in terms of wins/GD. Caps have to get dinged for being in that division though and while the Rangers still don't score enough to make me believe they are a true contender (ninth in the conference, although top half of the league at least) I am going to err on the side of Henrik Lundqvist. If Staal was in the lineup I'd feel really good about it but as it is I am still pretty confident. Rangers in 6.

 Boston v Toronto

 I saw the Leafs play the Bruins live just over a month ago. The Leafs won 3-2 because of James Reimer and a lot of luck. So basically a snapshot of their season. They were actually outshot 39-13 iirc.

  And while I'm not one to put much stock in past records and so on the Bruins have owned the Leafs and Phil Kessel for a while now. Where the Leafs might have gotten either Washington or the Habs this is probably the worst possible matchup for them.

 Is it an impossible task? No. The Leafs actually have more ROW than the Bruins. Again, a lot of this can be attributed to luck but its not like Boston finished thirty points ahead of them.

 But ... the Bruins are, as they were in 2011, a deep team, especially up front. No facepunchers on their fourth line except for Thornton and he can actually play. And they have Chara to shut down Kessel and I think that if they can shut down Kessel then they win pretty handily.

 If Reimer plays out of his mind, which he might, then the Leafs might pull it off but when I look at that Leafs' D, well, they aren't up to snuff. Like the Oilers they only have two actual top four guys. Therein lies the problem.

 The shitty thing for the Leaf fans that I know is that when the Bruins win (in six) invariably it will be blamed on Phaneuf, Kessel and Reimer. And that's just plain dumb.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Here We Go

 I wanted to get a sense of the playoff picks I have made in the past seven years and so I looked back at the posts dating back to 2006. I discovered a number of themes that pop up over and over again, like that case of herpes I contracted back in '91 that I just can't seem to shake.

 The first thing is that, as anybody who knows me will attest, I tend to repeat myself.  In real life I tend to start stories with 'tell me if you've heard this before' because I love to tell stories and I constantly forget who I've told them to. On this blog it looks like I basically say the same thing every year when it comes to playoff picks, starting with 'its a crapshoot'.

 Which of course is true, especially in the first round.

 Also it seems that every year I complain about sleep deprivation usually a combination of staying up late to watch playoff hockey and the fact that we quite often had a baby in the house because we like to have the sex and have babies.

 Now with all that said my record for the first round over the past seven years?

 40 and 16.

 So on average I go about six and two.

 I was pretty shocked by that. Seriously. I figured it would be almost even.

 So now that I feel pretty good about myself I'm sure I will go 0 and 8 this year. :) Actually looking at the west I am only really confident in one pick and I think I will feel as leery when the eastern matchups are decided.

 I usually look at four things when I am picking, none of these are earth shattering. I look at total wins, schedule, goal differential and a club's depth.

 Anyhow for starters, the west.


 The past number of years out west the number of contenders in the playoffs has often run eight deep. Its a brutal conference. In 2006 the bottom four seeds all won the first round matchups, the Ducks and Sharks had both gotten rolling near the end of 2005 and were two of the best clubs in the league in the second half and the Oilers were sabotaged by poor goaltending all season. With Roloson on board they were probably the best eighth seed until Chicago in 2011 and then of course we had the Kings last year. Even those years where you had, as an example, a team like Calgary in the eighth spot you often had a solid veteran club which could pull an upset.

 This season though things don't run so deep. I'm not sold on Anaheim really and neither of the bottom two clubs strikes me as being anything dangerous to the real contenders at all. As usual anything can happen but I picture a bloodbath in two first round series which will probably make Chicago's life a little easier and if Anaheim flops then the Hawks will have a pretty decent road right to the conference final.

 Chicago v Minnesota

 The Hawks had a magnificent season and their reward is a pretty good matchup in the first round. Chicago only lost seven games in regulation (!) and nobody comes close to their goal differential except for the Penguins. The Wild actually allowed more goals than they scored and this is with having bonus games with Calgary, Colorado and the Oilers. So basically they're pretty shit, definitely the worst team in the playoffs.

 Minnesota does have some nice pieces but they're not that deep up front or on the back end and on top of everything Pominville is questionable for game one. Meanwhile the Hawks can send out a line with Toews and Hossa and rookie Brandon Saad and then another line with Kane and Sharp and then follow that with a wave of useful forwards who can check and chip in offence - Shaw, Bickell, Stallberg, Frolik and Kruger amongst them. Throw in the fact that Duncan Keith's minutes were reasonable this year meaning he's not worn down and that behind him Chicago has a deep blueline that features a THIRD pairing of Michal Rozsival and Nick Leddy and good goaltending and its not really a fair fight. Hawks in five, maybe six if the Wild get all of the breaks and standout goaltending.

 Anaheim v Detroit

 I'm not a big fancy stat guy but a lot of people I know and respect suggest that the Ducks have been doing it with mirrors this season. Even if you don't take Corwick and Fensi into account the Wings and Ducks are a lot closer than one would think when one sees a 2 v 7 matchup. Anaheim has a GD of +22, the Wings are +9. The Ducks had two more ROWs than Detroit and while I may be wrong I sense that the Wings have been a club that has been hit pretty hard by injuries besides.

I look at both rosters and I'm not really that impressed with either to be honest, not up front and not on the back end. There just doesn't seem to be a lot of depth in both cases. On paper I guess the Ducks would be considered the better club but I just have a gut feeling (these usually betray me by the way) that its Detroit that will come out on top in seven. I have no good reason for this pick and I know this. It may just be that I don't like betting against Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Babcock.

 Vancouver v San Jose

 Pick em pick em pick em pick em.

 Canucks finished with two more points than the Sharks, Sharks GD was two better. Canucks were in a weak division, had more injuries to key players. Sharks did have four less ROW wins as well. If either club went all the way I honestly would not be surprised but for both clubs this may be it as their windows close with no Cups and aging cores.

 Usually when a team starts to slide its noticeable in its depth and so you can see it with Vancouver's top six D. I like their top four a lot but Tanev is out and so its a bit if a mess in them thar parts. With that said the top four is very good imo and up front they have some really nice depth, they go nine deep even without David Booth in the lineup. One wildcard is Schneider possibly being out. While the drop off to Luongo is not as massive as it would be for many teams going to their backups there still is a drop off.

 I look at San Jose and the problem there is they are a bit top heavy. Great top six, probably slightly better than Vancouver but I would love their third line if it were their fourth line. Similarily their blue doesn't impress me much, now in truth that is more my problem than theirs, I just don't know a lot of these guys. Where the Sharks look very good is in net, with Niemi having a great season.

 So ... oh man. While the goaltending matchup favours San Jose I think the Canucks are the better team. Of course then again San Jose has only lost two games in regulation at home and swept the season series against Vancouver.

 Flip a coin. San Jose in six.

 St Louis v Los Angeles

 Now you want a pick em? This one is ridiculous. One point between them in the standings. LA had one more ROW and were one better in GD. And both clubs are big and strong and tough. Its going to be a war and while LA is (reasonably) picked by many to be a serious contender I wonder how beaten up they might be after this series.

 Both teams scored more than they did last year (LA is 3rd in WC in GF, the Blues 5th) although of course LA's GF was a bit of a mirage last year imo. In any case I didn't think the Blues scored enough last year to go very far but this year they look better and I would consider both teams true contenders.

 With that said ... I look at both teams' rosters and its a wash. Love the Blues' D but while they have a deep forwards corps its more of a bunch of 15 to 20 goal scorers. Meanwhile LA's D looks a bit weaker but up front they have the depth (again) but also have the gamebreakers that the Blues lack.

 It will probably come down to goaltending and in both cases last year's heroes have struggled for most of the year, though apparently Elliott and Quick have turned the corner recently.

 Seeing as I can't tell if either of those guys will fall off a cliff (they both may) I will go with the Kings based on their elite offensive talent. They will take it in seven.

 Man I'm going one and three aren't I?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Through The Looking Glass

 Two months ago I saw the Hip at the ACC. It was the fifth time I've seen them, first time in a decade. It was a great show. They always put on a great show.

 At one point they kicked off some obscure gem and the crowd burst into song, Downie grinned and he wandered about the stage, letting us take it away, after every line he'd raise the mic and say 'Yes, yes, that's it' 'You're right, yes that's it' 'Very good, very good' and so on.

 So it was today as the news came out that Tambo had been fired and replaced by MacTavish until ... until ...

'Yes, yes, that's it' 'You're right, yes that's it' 'Very good, very good, Holy shit its a big fucking bear!!!!!'

 To throw in a quote from another of his famous in concert solioquoys.


Any dummy could have seen today coming and I say that because I'm one dummy that did. At the beginning of the season I said that with a bit of luck the Oilers could make the playoffs. I also said that if they didn't make the playoffs that it would probably be a win for Oiler fans because it would mean that Tambellini would get the gaspipe. It wouldn't be Kreuger, not when he was the fourth coach in five years. The players have all been turned over. The scouts, the minor league organization, the equipment guys and trainers.

 It would have to be Tambo.

 He deserved it. He carried on Lowe's work in sending out good players for bad players or less. The players he acquired through trade or in signings demonstrated his inability to evaluate talent. He traded picks for waiver wire fodder and time and again his own signings passed through waivers themselves, to be paid NHL salaries to play in the minors. And last summer, with a possible playoff spot a handful of moves away, he stood pat, other than adding two more rookies to the mix, talented rookies to be sure but not the guys to turn a perennial also ran into a playoff team. Instead he gambled that two of Justin Schultz, Nick Schultz and Ryan Whitney would be able to provide top four minutes.

 None were able to do this.

 And still the team muddled through.

 And then when Horcoff, Belanger and Lander all went down, all while Nugent Hopkins struggled, he failed to add a centre. Typical Tambo and with everything that passed this season that was the stretch that doomed their shot at the playoffs and lost him his job. Rather than finding a veteran fill in Tambo forced Kreuger to ice lineups that included Ryan Smyth and Vandevelde as two of the four centres.

 And so seven years without playoffs. And he's a goner.


 As for his replacement, well a month ago this is what I wrote.

 Tyler Dellow put together a pretty interesting article last night (timing!!) where he argued, pretty convincingly, that Tambo probably had more of a hand in what has passed these last few years than we thought.

 Was Tambo in charge or was it Lowe? Well if it was Lowe then not much is going to change and as I have said hey it is the Chicago model and there's Bob Pulford and we're all going to die without seeing another playoff spot, never mind a Cup.

 If it was Tambo then things can certainly be no worse. Am I on board with MacT? Yes I am. He's an ex player and an ex Oiler, yes, but, like Howson, he's actually an educated man and yes that matters. What he said at the press conference made perfect sense, mostly because a lot of it is what I have been saying for years ;) but seriously. Get good players. Acquire depth. Gritty players without skill are useless (no more facepunchers).

 In other words build a deep quality club, like the 2006 club. Like every club that has won the Stanley Cup since 2006.

 The 'I'm impatient' side of it made me a bit nervous but that may just be part of being an Oiler fan. We've been getting burned since June 17th 2006. Nothing has gone right. So while I trust MacT as a guy who coached good teams and bad teams in the NHL and thus recognizes that a guy like, say, Jack Johnson, may be famous but really isn't very good, there is a part of me that expects we will see him coming to Edmonton this summer while Paajarvi and Klefbom (or as Spector calls them 'tradebait') head the other way.

 But mostly I trust him to do the right thing. The hard part is over after all. The elite talent is in Edmonton. Fill in around it and you've got at least a playoff team.


 So Tambo and MacT we could predict pretty easily. What we could not predict was how the press conference played out. There was an inkling of what was coming when shortly after it was leaked that Tambo was gone and that MacT was coming in Mark Spector and Robert Tychkowski both tweeted that the Oilers hadn't gone far enough. Tychkowski:

Firing Tambellini is fair. Ignoring Kevin Lowe's culpability in this mess is laughable

 OK fair enough, there are certain Oiler media members who talk tough on the tweeter but, as we know, the Edmonton media has been beyond soft on the Oilers for years. Its one of the reasons we are where we are.

 And then, well, then, it was wonderful theatre. MacTavish was great, especially after years of Tambo mumbling and stumbling, He was excited, almost too excited, he misspoke a couple of times, but as I noted above, he said all of the things I wanted to hear.

 The entertainment was elsewhere though. It started when Lowe made a fairly lame joke and those assembled didn't react. 'That was a joke' said Lowe and they laughed and I said 'there go the monkeys' and then the floor was opened for questions and the first one came and oh boy.

 It was my favourite whipping boy Mark Spector and then later on it was MacKinnon and they got to the point and good. Lowe was responsible for this mess and yet still he was here. MacT and Howson had been around when it all started going off the rails and now they were in charge? And Lowe was still here? Basically, what the fuck?

Lowe, after years of not being questioned, was not expecting it and he lost his temper and it made for a terrific scene. His comments about two different strata of fans and about his Stanley Cup rings were awful and embarassing and its clear from the press conference and the response of the majority of fans that whatever cachet Lowe had before is long gone. Some have said that today proved that Lowe is bulletproof but I really believe that today is the beginning of the end for him. He is in the crosshairs now and if MacTavish fails then Lowe will fall on his sword rather than put up with the abuse that will come his way. Don't think so? The media is after him and the view outside of Edmonton is that the Oilers are a joke. If this doesn't get turned around its over for Lowe.

 So either the club turns a corner or longterm the one guy who has been around for the whole disaster will be gone. Win-win.

 But damn I hope MacT succeeds.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hot Garbage

 As a rule I don't read, listen to or pay attention to anything that comes from the Edmonton media unless its Jason Gregor or erstwhile bloggers Bruce McCurdy and young Willis. I've been blocked by Terry Jones and Mark Spector on Twitter (deservedly I might add) and have unfollowed the rest, with the exception of the aforementioned and the Sun's Tychkowski. Also I respect David Staples as a guy who at least tries new ideas and who is willing to engage his critics. He takes a lot of abuse and stands in there and while I rarely agree with him that deserves mentioning.

 The loss of Dan Barnes was a deathblow to what was already a wasteland, mostly devoid of sense or critical thought. Strong words? Sure, deservedly so. These guys get it consistently wrong. There was Jones writing that any six D at the WJC would be better than the Oilers D and Matheson musing on a three year extension for Whitney at ~ 3 million per. And there are none worse than Spector who felt that Ben Eager, waived through the league, should play in the Oilers' top six and that Cam Barker was a top three defenceman last winter.

 With Spector one often thinks he is trolling with such comments or his assertions that Europeans can't be trusted in a third line/checking/grinding role on a contender (Sami Pahlsson, Tomas Kopecky, Sergei Brylin, Radek Dvorak all come to mind immediately as players who did just that) but its pretty clear that he's just that out of touch.

 One suspects that last spring he was probably one of the many who was bashing Ilya Kovalchuk as someone who didn't care about winning. This despite Kovalchuk playing like a man possessed until his bad back finally felled him. Instead of pointing this out though dummies like Stock and Hughson and Cherry and Healy pushed the narrative that Kovalchuk did not care. Sure he was amazing for the first three rounds but once the Finals came he stopped caring. Yes. Exactly.

 Hilariously there were only minutes left in the final game and Hughson put down Kovalchuk again and was admonished by Healy with an acknowledgement of something that everyone watching the games knew: he was badly hurt.

 Hughson's response? 'Well he shouldn't be playing then'

 The absurdity of the double standard to which Europeans are held cannot be overstated. The Swedes, Russians and Czechs have all won best on best competitions and I doubt anybody would question the competitiveness of the Finns. Pretty well every Stanley Cup champion since the eighties has had Europeans play prominent roles. Europeans have captained Cup champs and contenders. And yet the myth lives on. Euros don't care.

 If a Canadian or American plays hurt he is gutting it out (remember how Yzerman was deified?) but when Kovalchuk tried to do the same? He gets pilloried. He should not be playing! Imagine if he had not played the Finals the shitstorm that would have rained down on him?

 Its a sad joke. If a European player slumps then he doesn't care. If a team loses the prominent Euros (Malkin last spring) don't care about winning while the prominent Canadians (Fleury) get little if no blame.

 A dirty Euro breaks the mythical code or is a diver or does not belong in the league. A dirty Canadian is doing everything he can to win. And going back through the greatest Canadian players? Howe was dirty, Richard too. When provoked both Harvey and Orr would try to hurt their opponents, Orr in a sociopathic cold rage. Mikita was a vicious stickman early in his career, much like Anderson and (sneakily) Yzerman. Watch the 72 series and see what our heroes did on the road to victory. And that's without mentioning Mark Messier.

 Anyway the reason for this rant? On Twitter the other day and someone mentioned that Spector again had the knives out for his favourite target, Ales Hemsky. Here is what that idiot Spector had to say:

But who on the team takes responsibility for Ales Hemsky, the epitome of poor leadership and professional indifference, who stands as an awful example for an impressionable core.

When you talk about changing a losing culture, you talk about moving out Hemsky – a player seemingly satisfied with an April exit, season after season.

Hemsky doesn’t work on his game post-practice; he doesn’t produce during games; he is eternally injured; he is overpaid for his production. If he had signed a five-year deal instead of a two-year contract, and cared a bit more, he’d be Mikhail Grabovski.

When it’s all over, and the 19th game has passed in which Hemsky has delivered but a single goal for his $5-million salary, he didn’t even have the stones to stand in front of a media microphone Wednesday. Again he refused to talk post-game, leaving his coach Ralph Krueger to trot out the litany of excuses that this organization has collectively proffered for No. 83 for years now.

“It’s been a month on a foot injury…,” said Ralph Krueger. “He’s not at 100 per cent … You know he’s limited with the injury he has… That’s been a factor in his lack of production….”

 My fucking blog is tainted just by having these words on it but I sure as shit am not going to link to where he wrote this garbage.
 So much to say. Where to start?

 Grabovski hasn't produced this year because while Bozak and Kadri get to start in the offensive zone against the other club's softies, Grabovski gets to do the heavy lifting. You know, defensive zone draws against the other team's stars. All the while while playing with an illness. But 'hockey journalist' Mark Spector doesn't recognize Grabovski's role (JUST WATCH THE GAMES) or know that the little centre is ill. Nice work pal.

 Hemsky is a bad influence. Yes of course. His coach has basically excused him from practice for weeks because he is injured. I once had a cracked bone in my foot. I could barely walk, never mind play hockey. The injury that Ales Hemsky has would probably put keyboard warrior Mark Spector on the couch for weeks but Hemsky has played with it for a month. Spector calls this an excuse and calls Hemsky out for not producing. JOURNALIZM! Not only that Hemsky is setting a bad example, playing hurt as the team tries to make the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Right.

 Also on Hemsky's resume as a bad teammate? The fact that Taylor Hall said they had better well sign him last spring and the fact that he helps younger teammates with their games in practice. I know this and I am not a superstar journalist with access< I don't even live in Edmonton. But who do you believe? The dummy? Or Ales Hemsky's own teammates?

 The cherry on top of this joke? The fact that almost immediately after  'writing' that garbage Spector published a long whine about how unfair it is to him and to us that he doesn't get proper access to players. This is self important garbage, please turn your head so you don't vomit on your keyboard or smart phone.

You probably didn’t know this, but there are actual written rules in place — “NHL MEDIA ACCESS POLICY,” as agreed upon by the league and the NHL Players’ Association — in place to guarantee access to players so that you, the reader and the viewer, can hear from your favorite players.

So that when a player becomes the focal point of a game, or ‘The Story’ on an off day, you, the reader or viewer, can learn more about it through your friendly neighbourhood journalist.

 Now think about how laughable that is for a second. In a world where we all have access to information at the click of a button we need Mark Spector to have access to players so he can ask his canned questions so he can get his canned answers. Because that's what his precious access brings us. Tyler Dellow (who Spector called an idiot on the radio the other day - class), LT, Willis and McCurdy all give us better analysis than 'Eager belongs in the top six' Spector and when is the last time you learned anything from a Spector column, from his amazing access?


 What a joke.

 And then the topper:

Every team has their Henrik or Daniel, and every team has an Ales Hemsky or Dustin Byfuglien — two guys who wouldn’t pour their beer on a burning hockey writer.

 So on top of the fact that Spector ignores basic facts when talking about Hemsky (not to mention how this guy who 'doesn't care' hurt his foot blocking a shot or that the reason he has chronically bad shoulders is because over the years he has taken a beating from huge nasty men like Regher going into the corners and to the front of the net) but he then admits that Hemsky despises hockey writers. Or at least one specific hockey writer I would guess.

 I'm sure that a standup guy like Mark Spector doesn't let that fact colour his writing though, right?

 Good job, good effort.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Failure Plus A Lesson In Parenting From A Veteran

When you have a four year old you have to take the good with the bad and one can follow the other in the blink of an eye. They are mental, absolutely and completely insane, that's the way it is and there's no way around it. I remember when our two oldest were toddlers and in each case the 'terrible twos' weren't too bad and then a friend of ours laughed and said wait until the 'fucking fours' for some real fun and games and she was right on with that one.

 Of course the other side of that is at four they are really coming into their own, they're making those leaps and bounds when it comes to learning, real learning, in the past few months our youngest has learned how to skate, she has started swimming lessons, her drawing has taken a huge leap forward as has her counting and we're starting to see that maybe, just maybe, she will be reading soon as well. (She's behind both older siblings in that case, third child and all, poor kid, she's really on her own).

 But with all that there is still the innocence, even with this one, who with the influence of an older brother and sister comes out with remarks loaded with snark and pop culture references already. The other day she went on a school trip down to the university to see a play which was based on the three little pigs. I picked her up at school and she said that she enjoyed it very much but that she was disappointed that neither the pigs nor the wolf were played by pigs and a wolf but by people.

 Now on the flip side of that it was later that night that she threw a massive tantrum, mostly due to tiredness. We're talking lying on the floor kicking and screaming over something ridiculous. I kept my cool admirably throughout, came up with a nuclear option to end it all and dropped that bad boy, leaving her picking up the pieces, acknowledging that for one night at least, I was her better. I asked her to make a choice and she stubbornly refused and so after repeated requests I told her that I would make the choice for her and then I did so. At which point she told me that she was not happy with my choice which I followed up by calling her 'a little knob'.

 Quality parenting there folks. You can use that any time.


 And so in a week the Oilers have gone from having a shot at the playoffs to having that faint hope strangled, chopped up and buried. Seven years out, are we having fun yet?

 I think that after 2006/2007 this is probably the most exasperating season of all. That one was awful, mostly because the Oilers were essentially the same team as they had been the autumn before. Peca and Dvorak were gone but Roloson was there and it was obvious that losing Pronger was a massive blow but it was also very clear that bringing in one or two capable top four NHL defencemen would not replace CFP but it would probably mean playoffs again. That was a good team. But Lowe did not do that and so when the patchwork D corps (Smid in the top four my God) fell apart when Tjarnqvist and Staios went down the season went south and then Smyth was shipped out and so began the first of many death marches we would endure as Oiler fans.

 That summer Gator was shipped out as well and it was pretty clear what needed doing. The best two defencemen, the best forward plus Peca and Dvorak were gone. It was time to rebuild with the three first round picks, the second round pick, Smid, Pitkanen, Gagner, Nilsson and O'Marra. (I know I know lol) But really the writing was on the wall. Time to start over. Except Lowe signed Souray and offer sheeted Penner. One step forward, one step back and so it was. Both moves were overpays although I ended up liking both players but the bigger issue was that the Penner move cost three picks, including a first, and by adding both players and not shipping out other vets while they had value Lowe delayed the formal rebuild and doomed us to a couple more seasons of terrible hockey with lineups pieced together with too many kids, too many plugs but just enough vets to make the team just a bit too good, if you know what I mean. And so it went until they finally blew it up.

 We've known for years that this club's management is garbage. Lowe is our Pulford and like Chicago our club is going to be garbage as long as he's around. It took Bill Wirtz DYING to resolve that issue in Chicago. We're doomed.

 Because here we are, seven years out of the playoffs, with three #1 overall picks plus three more top tens in Smid, Gagner and Paajarvi plus Eberle, Dubnyk, Justin Schultz, Petry and Hemsky and still management has shown that they have no idea how to build a team.

 Not a single clue.

 That is an awful lot of talent right there and yet this season has gone to waste, another one thrown on the scrapheap and no help coming from the farm except probably Teemu but who would know considering his roster spot this year was taken by useless facepunchers like Hordichuk and Eager and Brown and never will bes like Jones and Petrell. And maybe maybe Anton Lander, who sits in the pressbox in the NHL rather than playing somewhere, anywhere.

 What an absolute disgrace.

 The thing with Tambo and Lowe is its their body of work, it is so absolutely damning. You can argue piece by piece why this guy had to go or that guy had to go but the proof is in the standings. Over the last seven years there has been no worse team in the NHL. And still Kevin Lowe is employed.

 Two legitimate top four NHL defencemen. After Smid and Petry they gambled that a raw rookie, a fading veteran and a guy who can't turn anymore could fill the other two slots. And like nearly every other bet they have made it didn't work out.

 Every GM has bets that don't work, even the best ones. This club's management has almost none that do work.

 Picks traded for waiver wire garbage - Smithson, Brown, Fistric

 Absolutely nothing done when the team was devastated with injuries at centre.

 Contracts doles out like candy to players who pass through waivers with no takers.

 But worst of all is the theme of this past seven years, the overwhelming issue, that is management's inability to recognize good players and, in turn, their predisposition to remove good players from the roster without replacing them. Every team makes mistakes but the Oilers literally have a half of a roster of them, players who have been sent away for nothing or for returns so rapidly diminishing that the mind boggles. Indeed they have sent so many good players that there would not be enough room on the present club for all of them.

 Imagine an Oilers' roster with the following players on it. So the present roster plus these players:

 Tom Gilbert, Joni Pitkanen, Sheldon Souray, Jan Hejda, Matt Greene, Kyle Brodziak, Curtis Glencross, Andrew Cogliano, Jarret Stoll, Raffi Torres.

 What do all of these players have in common?

 They were all let go for nothing or for what turned out to be almost immediately less value. They were all, with the exceptions of Glencross and Hejda, under contract to the Oilers when they were sent away and in those two cases the players, from anecdotal evidence (and the fact that neither signed for a king's ransom elsewhere) could have easily been had. They all play for teams much better than the Oilers with the exceptions being Glencross and Hejda this year. Greene and Stoll won a Stanley Cup. Torres was a bottom sixer on a Cup finallist. Cogliano and Souray play for one of the top teams in the league this year. And on and on it goes. The only guys sent away for anything worthwhile were Stoll and Greene but Lubo Visnovsky, now playing for another playoff team, was turned into Ryan Whitney, who, like Brule and O'Sullivan and so many other Oilers of recent vintage will soon be out of hockey altogether. Oh you know who one of Lubo's teammates is? Colin McDonald. Remember him, cast away. He's played 37 games, has 7 goals and nine assists.

 Going to the playoffs. Way to go Colin.

 And yes on Twitter the other day when I brought this up someone replied 'Well its only Colin McDonald, what does it matter, how could they have known' and of course he was right, Colin McDonald on his own, who cares, except Colin McDonald has turned into a useful NHL player and he is one of a long list of them. Colin McDonald by himself doesn't matter. Raffi Torres, on his own, had to go. But when they are two of many who have been shipped out for NOTHING then yes they matter. Body of work.

 You can excuse one of these, you can make a case here and there but that's a damning list, a half roster of players let go for nothing. So many players that even if you quibble about a couple of them we could still fill out the Oilers roster:


Paajarvi/McDonald/Jones/etc etc

Pitkanen/J Schultz

That's amazing. Its absolutely unreal. And yes maybe this guy had to go or that guy was not a fit but the real issue, the jist of this, is that all of these players were let go for nothing. Its the opposite of the guy who turned a paper clip into a house. Lowe and Tambellini have turned the house into a sack of garbage that has been ripped open and spilled into the road, stinking and useless.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

What A Feeling

This past weekend was a roller coaster for sure. Capsule's annual appearance at the Exclaim Summit of the Arts was a disaster as not only did we not win a game but we did not score a goal. (!!!!!!!) We played well in two of our three games and in the third we were beaten as badly as we have ever been beaten by a team which we play every year. Sometimes we beat them. Last year we tied them. Apparently not pleased with last year's result where they didn't even advance out of the round robin (which we did) they forgot about the fact that the tournament is literally about sportmanship and fair play (if you rack up too many penalties your team will not advance) and sent a team of ringers, top to bottom.

We got smoked and it was a total disgrace.

On the positive side we had our annual team party on the Friday night and a wonderful time was had by all. We took advantage of the lovely weather to take the annual family trip to a maple sugar bush. And we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ by having a fantastic roast lamb dinner. We're athiests. Or at least the kids and I are. Well they're undecided I guess. We don't discourage it. You don't care about that. Also we had the sex and I drank some good beer. So hooray for our side. Oh also Saturday night the Oilers smoked the Canucks. So that also helped the general mood.

 The biggest news though, the best of it all, was that Jenn finally caved in. On Friday night, unprompted, she announced that we could get a new dog. I believe her words were 'Everyone but me wants one and I can't be the bitch who denies it anymore' or something to that effect.

 Now there are conditions. She doesn't want a puppy. It has to be smaller (~30 pounds or less) and it can't shed (or at most very very little).

 So this makes it a little bit difficult but not impossible. Looking at Cairn Terriers and Scotties, preferably around a year old. So yeah. Amazing.


 What's almost as amazing is that I woke up this morning and the Oilers are in 8th place. Tough tough row to hoe the next three games but right now the Oilers are in a playoff spot. Crazy.

 Back in January I figured with some luck the Oilers would be here and they, for the most part, have been pretty lucky. They have a few guys, notably Hemsky, battling nagging injuries but for the most part they have been healthy for the first time since 2005/2006. Only the Horcoff injury has been a longterm problem they have faced. Almost killed the season but they're still in it warts and all, God knows they have warts but then again so does everyone else.

 Will they make it? Who the hell knows? Right now everything is going in just as two months ago nothing was and so if this keeps going for another three weeks then they probably will. Tough schedule and all but sometimes shit just happens. It is right now.

 I'm enjoying it. It takes time for kids to develop. We saw it with Smid and then this year Gagner came of age in his fifth year in the league and now we are literally seeing Taylor Hall become the man, all in the space of a few weeks. He is one of the best players in the game right now, the underlying numbers have been there forever, he's got the hot hand for sure but as LT says he's been pushing the river since last year. He's unreal. And it looks like Ted may finally be healthy and I would bet on his turn coming next season if he is healthy. He's not the same player as Hall but honestly I could see him top twenty in scoring next season as well.

 Its really something.

 I sure wish Tambo had made a move last summer though, they might be home and cooled right now, this is not the Oilers' way though, they're just waiting and waiting. Patience is good, it is, hell we saw Milbury trade enough good young players out of Long Island to know that a dummy can ruin a team pretty easily but man a top four Dman and top nine LW (and maybe a C when Horcoff was down) would have meant a guaranteed spot rather than a possible spot.

 Oh well. I'll enjoy it for now. It could be over in a week, literally, but its in their hands and what more could we ask for. Especially seeing as the core of the team are just kids.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

What The Bouwmeester Deal Means

So far no news from the Oilers which is good I think. Leaf fans are in the same boat, watching them fret about what may happen is like looking into an enormous mirror, smudged with angst, with cracks running here and there, the whole thing ready to shatter from the collective outrage when management either trades someone good, acquires someone useless or worst of all trades someone good for someone useless.

 If I had a nickel for every time I saw, heard or was told that GMs or sports reporters know better than someone because, you know, authority, I would be a wealthy man and at the deadline I would basically be able to earn enough to buy a home somewhere, maybe Spain, which would be nice. The deadline brings out the crazy in people. Pierre Maguire calls Ales Hemsky a centre and a grunt like Douglas Murray suddenly has value and hey whoa not only should a team with good goaltending acquire someone like Kipper but they should also EXTEND HIM. And meanwhile Mark Spector, he who has no use for Euros or any skill, who would replace Paajarvi with Ben Eager, wonders why San Jose is dumping their 'good players'. Haha.

It was interesting watching Sportsnet's table of failed GMs last night, mostly because they confirmed what I and many of you certainly believe. Some of what happens at the deadline (and at other times) is the result of an owner stepping in and saying 'DO THIS!' often with horrible results. Some of what happens is all smoke and mirrors, as Doug MacLean explained. Teams don't really want to do anything but they have to appear to be trying to do something to appease the fans. Oiler fans will recognize this gambit from draft day every year. (Oilers really worked at moving up to get so and so but just couldn't do it). Of course with the Oilers when they like a guy in junior they just wait a decade and then trade a good player for that guy and use that as part of the reasoning. Because they're dummies.

 Thankfully the Oilers are a point out of the playoffs right now so there's no way anybody of value heads out the door. Could you imagine Tambellini trying to sell moving Ales Hemsky for magic beans to the fans? Could you imagine him trying to sell that to the team? Not going to happen. I expect minor moves, if any.

 And here is the other thing we have learned from these past two days as the cream of the crop of guys on the market get picked up. Despite deadline prices usually being high guys are being picked up for nothing more than picks and middling prospects and this isn't just the UFAs but a guy like Bouwmeester who the Blues have under contract for another year. Bouwmeester is no Pronger in his prime but a guy who logs all of those minutes is pretty valuable and he cost the Blues no more than Penner did a couple of years back. Unreal.

 And this speaks to a point that I have been making for a while. Come the summer when the Oilers need to make some moves to finally balance out this team they can add what they need and not give up a Paajarvi or a Hemsky or a Gagner. They can pick up that top four Dman (or ideally two) and that top nine winger without paying a mediocre free agent the world or gutting their still shallow depth chart or dealing a Klefbom or Marancin. Of course if their target is a #1 Dman of the Subban or Pietrangelo family then they'll have to deal off serious assets but if we're looking at the Streits and Michaleks and Visnovskys of the world, you know the guys, solid top four guys, then this can be done and it can be done on the cheap.

That's what last night tells us. Hopefully it tells Oilers' management the same thing.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Precocious, Precarious, Precious

My youngest daughter, well I could write a book about her. Every once in a while we look at her and say 'where did she come from?' and then I laugh and say to my wife that she is a reflection of how she was made. While the oldest two were carefully planned the youngest was the result of a wild drunken night of passion and so I believe she carries that wildness in her.

Both Jenn and I have our crazier sides and we are outgoing but when we were young we were both pretty reticent (so she says, I certainly was) and both of our oldest kids are the same. They have a lot of personality and great senses of humour but both also have a quiet reserved side.

Not this one. Life of the party wherever she goes, bold, quick with the smart remark.

Saturday we went out to get a birthday present for her little friend and she insisted on wearing her little rabbit mask. Everywhere we went she was greeted with smiles and upon entering a shop one of the staff said:

Oh look there's a little bunny in our store.

 My daughter turned to me and said in a whisper:

See, I told you people would think I was a real bunny.

 We have very good friends and every couple of months we get over to their place in the Annex. I believe it was last year we discovered that she had 'fed the fish' and she did this in a subsequent visit as well, dumping an entire package of fish food into the water. Recently we were visiting again and the kids were charmed by the latest addition to their family, a little lovebird named Basie. Basie hangs around with the family (literally, my pal has described being in the shower and the bird holding onto him for dear life) and so the kids enjoyed this but after a while he was brought downstairs while we ate brunch. After she was done our youngest excused herself and disappeared and it wasn't but a minute that Basie reappeared, followed soon by our daughter who exclaimed that Basie wanted to come and see us again.

 So yeah. This was her in a snapshot.


This time of the season is generally a terrifying one for Oiler fans. Except for
2006 when Lowe brought in Roloson to FINALLY solve our goaltending woes as well as Samsonov to augment the roster (not to mention earlier acquisitions Spacek and Tarnstrom) the deadline has almost always meant favourites going out the door for futures. The worst ever was the Smytty kick in the nuts in 2007 but we have also seen Erik Cole, Lubo, Penner, Grebeshkov and Gilbert dealt in the past few years. Add up the return for a half dozen actual NHL players and you get Klefbom, who looks promising, Nick Schultz, who is fading, and Whitney, who is pretty well done.

There's a reason this team has been in the basement forever.

 Last year brought us the fear of losing Ales Hemsky for futures, somehow they figured out that depth at RW (or any position) might actually be a positive and so they signed him and so RW may be the Oilers' deepest position today. Of course they immediately turned around and traded Gilbert so even that joy was shortlived.

 What will this year bring? Well they signed Smid this morning to a very nice deal and so that is no longer a concern. When having very few experienced quality defencemen is your biggest problem its a good idea to keep one of the few that you have.

 So very happy about that.

 And if the Oilers beat Calgary tonight then they will have a playoff spot if everything else falls right for them on the OOT scoreboard and even if they don't they are only a few points out and with that being the case I cannot see the Oilers subtracting. They might stand pat, they might add but I can't see them sell being a seller to either the players or the fans.

 Having signed Smid I would look for the following moves but I don't think we see them until this summer.

1/ Add another actual top four D. Really ideally they would add two and have the Schultzes play bottom pair next year (plus you know ... depth!!!) but I think they definitely add one. Good news is come summer guys like this can be had for a pick. Best way to go, more likely they trade Hemsky for one which leads me to

2/ Keep Hemsky. A RW depth chart of Hemsky, Eberle, Yakupov is outstanding, take Hemsky out of the mix and its not so hot.

3/ Add a LW. I've mentioned MacArthur and Stallberg. Your might have someone else in mind.

4/ Keep Horcoff. I am starting to think they aren't going to buy him out unless his game falls off a cliff next season. His return has made a big difference in the lineup. Even with the cap coming down he fits and the following year its sure to rise again. Can't see Katz paying a useful player to go away and then paying someone else to replace him.

5/ Clear out the deadwood. This we might see at the deadline if the Oilers can find replacements/takers for the likes of Whitney, Khabibulin and so on. Then again there are rumours those two might be extended. Anyhow we will see guys get culled between now and Wednesday as well as this summer.

That's all. Nothing too sexy. Don't give up your good players unless the return is other good players. No magic beans. The team is past that. I figured with luck the Oilers would be where they are now, in the race, and the reality is their shooting % was dreadful for most of the year. Suddenly guys are starting to get hot and maybe, just maybe, they can make it into the second season.

This year playoffs would be gravy. Next year its expected. Keep your good players, like Smid. Add more of them. Its pretty straight forward.