Friday, January 25, 2013

Uphill Both Ways

We don't have real winters in Toronto anymore, haven't in a number of years. We used to. I remember in my first year of University, in early November of 1986, a massive snowstorm which led to a snowball fight with the adjoining residence house, which then snowballed (HAHAHA DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!) to include all of the residences at our college at which point we marched on the next college where after a great battle we joined forces and rushed across campus like I picture my ancestors coming out of the moors down into England, howling and naked, slaughtering the pasty English with their bad teeth and haircuts. Except we weren't naked. And we didn't kill anybody. Threw a lot of snowballs through open windows though.

 Now this wouldn't happen nowadays. The cops would be called and we would be dispersed or at least sent home to put on helmets and other protective equipment. There's a school in my neighbourhood which banned ball playing for a while after a parent was hit by a ball in the playground. Don't get me fucking started.

 Of course the other issue is there is no snow. No winter. Nothing. Even when we moved back to Canada in 2001 there were winters. And then, four or five years ago they began to taper off. Last year we had one truly cold day. The year before the same. Last winter two of my kids got out tobogganing not once. The third was at a sleepover, got up in the morning, rushed out and go a few runs in. By noon the snow was gone. Toronto winters aren't much to speak of anyhow. Relatively speaking I mean. We can get decent storms but we're not talking the sixty or seventy cm monsters they get out east or in Quebec. Twenty cm is a big one for us. And it doesn't get that cold. Not Alberta or Sudbury cold that's for sure. Its a damp cold and you get some wind and that makes it unpleasant but we're not talking Call of The Wild shit here. So this week when the temperature suddenly crashed folks were a bit stunned. Just two weeks ago it was PLUS 15 degrees over the weekend. This week it was minus fifteen and lower every day and that's without 'that windchill bullshit' as my Uncle Ray calls it. So on the minus 20s every day pretty well and yeah it was cold. I know cold. I grew up in cold and played hockey in cold and I know cold. It was cold.

 I loved it to be honest although I don't think I could take much more. I've grown soft here although its also an age thing. Even my old man doesn't like the cold much anymore and he was raised in a snowbank if you believe the stories. The kids love it or at least the novelty of it. When confronted with the fact that it was almost thirty below or something ridiculous the boy asked if school was going to be cancelled. My reply, without even a thought of the irony of it all:

When I was your age I used to walk to school every day, it didn't matter how cold. Thirty below. Blizzards. it didn't matter.

Yeah. I actually said that.

His reply, not being a smartass, I think he had me confused with the milkman, his real Dad I guess:

 I thought your school was across the road from your house.

 LOL. It wasn't. Still it was funny. Not as funny as me pulling out the old 'When I was your age' line though. God help me.

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 I said it while the game Tuesday was being played - it didn't mean a thing. Every team gets clobbered once and a while, every team does some clobbering. The Oilers destroying Chicago twice last year meant nothing other than twice they had games where everything went right for them and everything went poorly for their opponent.

The Oilers bounced back last night and now they are two and one after games against three likely playoff teams. They could be oh and three of course, both the Canucks and Kings might have won with some luck here or there but both wins were full value for the Oilers too. I'm not saying that Edmonton is a sure bet for the playoffs because I don't believe that they are (I think they have a chance though, a better chance than I figured even a week ago) but its not like either win was one of those Roli specials we used to see where he would stop 50 and somehow Edmonton would eke out a 2-1 win.

No, the Oilers looked like they belonged on the ice with both Vancouver and Los Angeles and in some ways getting blown out by San Jose was not an awful thing. Reading your press clippings and all that you know? Bob MacKenzie tweeted last night or the night before that he doesn't put much in one week' results but he said come back in a month and then you'll know what you have. Even with that said I am going to point out a few things:

 - one of the keys for the club was what the kids could do and so far Hall, Nugent Hopkins and Eberle have dominated at times despite getting some tough matchups and, imo, not really playing that great yet. I know that sounds crazy but you see them put it into another gear and then ... wow

- Yakupov can do the most difficult thing there is to do in hockey, score goals. He's a boy still but physically he is not afraid to engage and I think this was the biggest worry for me

- I know for a few people the day that Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner get shown the door will be a great day but this past week has shown us what a team with offensive depth can do. Suddenly other teams have to pick their poison. Try and stop the kids and you get 83, 89 and 64 with an easier matchup. Or you can go the other way. Some teams, the elite ones, can match up with two good scoring lines. There are few elite teams in the league.

 - Paajarvi getting a push after an autumn where it appeared Teemu was eating his lunch is a good sign to me. He's not a thumper but he can skate like the wind and if his future is on a line that's going to take on the toughs then so be it. You need those guys.

- Schultz squared have done better defensively that I expected

- I liked Fistric in limited viewing

- I am afraid that Whitney is done. I can't see them shipping him out but if they are serious about playoffs I think they need to do what we figured months ago, add another D. And he's the odd man. Shitty but his mobility is gone.

- Dubnyk with a great game last night. I have faith in him.

- Belanger far better than last year and I think Kreuger is giving he and Petrell tougher matchups than we might be comfortable with to see what they can handle. They haven't been getting destroyed out there so far.

That's all. I'm hoping that they thump Calgary tomorrow night, a loss and its really a case of one step forward, one step back. Four of their next five are on the road and its the Avs twice, the Coyotes and the Sharks besides the Flames. So tough sledding most likely. A win Saturday would be nice, three and one before a tough week.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Was It Over When The Germans Bombed Pearl Harbour?

The team was a bit smug after Sunday.

They wanted to put on a show for their fans and were nervous.

Dubnyk was bad.

Bad penalties (again) put them in the hole early.

Kreuger, trying to see what he has, (I hope), chose not to match Horcoff against Thornton.

Team defence was atrocious.

San Jose is a good club.

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Last year the Oilers smoked Chicago. Twice. Did that mean that the Oilers are a better club than Chicago or that Chicago should have blown it up?

No.

Shit happens.

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And then there is this.

Four months later Vancouver was burning.

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In other words have a beer. This club may make the playoffs with some luck, as I said. They may not. They're a bunch of kids. Relax.

Now who's with me? Seriously, I'm on a roll. *drinks, smashes guitar*

Monday, January 21, 2013

SPORTS!!

Had a pretty good weekend, in terms of sports, it ranged from good to very good. Spurs coming back to tie Man U in Fergie time for starters was sweet. Talking to another Spurs fan on Twitter I asked him when he thought the last time Spurs took four points from United, he replied that it was likely before we were born. And I'm old.

Capsule has been on a tear but Saturday night our six game win streak ended. Too bad, it turns out a win would have left us tied for first place. Really though the score was the only bad news about the whole thing. We had eight skaters and we were playing a young fast team and yet despite this we would have won the game if the hockey gods had even remained neutral. Their first goal pinballed in on two deflections. Third goal ended up in our net after two of the luckiest bounces you will ever see. Fifth goal was knocked down by a high stick which in our league is an automatic whistle (and penalty). Refs didn't know the rule. Seriously.

 Meanwhile we hit three posts and outshot them. Lost by two, could have won by a half dozen.

 So it goes. At the end of the game I joked that we should have taken our helmets off to show them that they barely beat a shorthanded group of old men.

 Sledding gets tougher the next month, there are four teams at the top of the league, we're one of them, and three of our games are against the other three. So we'll see how we match up. Its been a fun year.

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 Even more exciting was our Saturday morning. The boy's team has started to put it together although a bit of that has to do with the quality of the competition. There are eight teams in their league and its now been divided into two divisions of four. The boy's club was 1-4-1 before they split the divisions but literally lost two games and ended up with a tie in three of those. Plus in the 'preseason' they were 2 and 1 including a win over the second best team in the league. In other words they're not really B division material, same as one of the other teams playing with them now. The other two teams? They're fodder. But you can't have a division of six and a division of two so they get to pound on these poor little guys.

 Saturday they held their opponent to one measly shot and won six to one and if it wasn't for the tiny goalie they would have scored a couple of dozen. We're talking glove saves, stick saves, sliding across the crease to make pad saves, reaching behind him to snag the puck saves, throwing his stick out at the last minute to deflect the puck away saves. I've not seen anything like it ever. I swear it was amazing.

 The boy is improving, his skating is his biggest weakness and we're starting to get out to get him some practice. But he gets right in there and battles and he's around the puck more and more. He loves it. After last game I got his rod hockey game and told him that when the time is right to stand at the corner of the crease and wait for rebounds. Its the first piece of advice I've given to him and he took it to heart.

 Three times Saturday, after eleven games without a sniff, he got the puck on his stick n scoring position. One shot trickled wide, the two others were stopped by the miniature Rogie Vachon.

 If he had put one in I might have leapt onto the ice and ridden my stick to centre. I always have it with me, as is custom where I am from in Northern Ontario. :)

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 I doubt I will be able to write up comments on every Oilers' game as much as I'd love to but I did want to say a few things about last night. The Canucks' depth was lacking up front without Kesler and Booth but even still I cannot remember the last time an Oiler club went into Vancouver and had a game like this one. Sure there have been games where they came out strong and Luongo weathered an early storm but invariably the Canucks take the Oilers out to the woodshed and make them feel shame. I think Vancouver's window may be about to close, which means they will join the Sens and the Sharks as elite clubs of recent vintage who have fallen short of Stanley, but as I noted the other day I think they are still one of the elite clubs in the league and they're not done yet.

 And still the Oilers were full value for the two points and probably deserved the win in regulation if not for some poor (rusty?) shooting. A lot of missed nets.

 A lot of interesting opinions out there on the tweeter. Here's what I thought, trying to avoid the trap of small sample sizes and all of that.

 - a lot of Oiler fans have a hard time believing that quality veteran players help you win. This attitude isn't limited to Oiler fans or even to hockey fans but Oiler fans REALLY love their prospects. Some guy was chirping @shorcov the other day, which was awesome in and of itself, but his main point was that Horcoff and Smyth should be cut loose.

 Now we won't get into it about Horcoff's contract, yes he's overpaid, but the fact remains that, as many have noted this year, buddy is actually a decent hockey player. Someone has to do the dirty work so that the kids (RNH struggled at ES on the road in the AHL for chrissakes) can get their opportunities. On this club that heavy lifting is going to fall to Horcoff, Smyth, Belanger and Nick Schultz. Throw in Ales Hemsky with a virtuoso performance, Petrell doing some nice work on the PK and Eager having a decent game, that is, hitting but not taking any dummy penalties or blowing up defensively (despite Ralph getting him out there verse the Sedins, what the hell?) and well, this looks like a pretty good team. And yet there are many fans who would be happy to run the majority of those guys out of town and replace them with, um, Lander, Pitlick and Moroz I guess.

 Its been a particular peeve of mine for years that the Oilers loved to shed good veteran hockey players without replacing them with same. There's a reason that the Oilers went from a Stanley Cup finallist to the worst team in the league pretty quickly. The 2006 team had veteran Dman Dick Tarnstrom in the pressbox (I still think that was dumb, he had to have been hurt) and Ethan Moreau and Radek Dvorak playing mostly fourth line minutes. That's a hell of a team. For years now the Oilers have shipped out quality and let quality walk and to replace the quality they have plugged in kids and plugs and the result is six years out of the playoffs.

 The Oilers are a long way from that spring 2006 club but when you consider that Fistric, Paajarvi and Jones all did not play last night and they still won then you can see that there is progress. Moving a guy like Hemsky or cutting Horcoff loose does nothing but cut into what is suddenly a club with a bit of depth. Maybe two years from now they need to do it for cap reasons when they have to pay Petry, Schultz younger and Nugent Hopkins but for now, revel in the fact that we actually can send out three lines with actual NHL players.

 And for that matter when Jones returns Kreuger could run a fourth line with him, Belanger and Paajarvi on it. That's a very good fourth line.

- I found Kreuger's use of the fourth line interesting, Tyler has a nice piece on it. Essentially because the power play uses the kids, Hemsky, Horcoff and Smyth Kreuger elected to send Belanger out after each PP expired where they inevitably had to face the Sedins. He got away with it too (they were even in scoring chances and took no bad penalties) and it left me wondering what the story is here. Is he trying to see if these guys can carry on in this role going forward? Is the plan going to change once Jones comes back? What about Paajarvi?

 Kreuger has stated, I believe, that guys will have defined roles, especially when it comes to special teams. Some guys will play the PP, others will PK and the twain usually shall not meet. I think that when Hartikainen has a few more games under his belt that he will take a spot on the PP. Horcoff and Smyth did terrific work on the PK yesterday, killing two thirds of each of five penalties. Add their ES work, generally the tough sledding, and suddenly one can see that having them out on the PP might be a bit much, especially as they're doing the dirty work there too, taking a pounding in front of the net.

I'm not a huge believer in the Eager/Hordichuk player type personally, although Eager can at least take and make a pass, and if it were up to me they wouldn't be a factor but then again I 'never played the game' as Tie Domi was always happy to point out to anybody who questioned a particularly selfish move on his part. I'd like to see a fourth line of Teemu, Belanger and Jones though, if everyone gets healthy, and Paajarvi moved in alongside Smyth and Horcoff. Have Hartikainen and Jones get the 'stand in front of the net' role on the PP, have Paajarvi PK and then run out the Horcoff line after the PP is done. Strikes me as a pretty reasonable option.

 With that said and yes it was only one game one can see that both Eager and Belanger maybe had their best games as Oilers last night. Eager was concussed in camp last year and seemed lost all season. Rumour had it that Belanger had a bad back and it never got better. Ever have a bad back? Think about trying to play professional hockey in that state. Belanger had been a decent NHLer for a long time and based on last night's performance he may indeed be back in form which will make a positive impact.

- as for the D well Nick Schultz was fantastic and Schultz younger was just fine in his own end, rarely in trouble. He moves the puck as advertised and while there will be adventures one suspects that longterm he is going to be very good. Smid and Petry picked up where they left off last year, which is to say they are a legitimate top pair in this league. Put it this way if last night was a sign of things to come for these four then this club makes the playoffs. Crazy to say I know.

- the issue is on the bottom pair but luckily that's the one that is easily replaced. One suspects Fistric comes in for Potter quite soon, for Potter that nice stretch last year is a distant memory. As for Whitney, well he can still move the puck but his 'new normal' means that his skating is limited. There was one point, it might have been on an Oiler PP when a Canuck rushed up the wing, Whitney angled him off pretty well but when the Vancouver player suddenly cut back to the net from below the Oiler goal line old number six could do nothing but watch buddy go right by him and try and stuff it by Dubnyk. He couldn't pivot and it was a simple play.

 This is after eight months off. In other words its not getting better. As noted the good news is that its the bottom pair. We know Klefbom will be the rookie they throw to the wolves next year. Unless they plan to throw him into the top four (it is the Oiler way after all) one suspects he will take Whitney's spot alongside Fistric or whoever his replacement is.

- what else? well Yakupov didn't look out of place, most importantly physically. He wasn't getting pushed around at all

- I didn't really think either Hall or Nugent Hopkins played very well at all, the latter especially looked a bit nervous, and there were a couple of shifts, including their first, where they got hemmed in their own zone in a bit of a firedrill. The good news? They had a bit of a shit game and they still outchanced their opposition

- I know a lot of folks didn't like that first goal on Dubnyk, I for one didn't mind it. Potter basically backed into his lap, screened him and then tipped it. Good work. I found that the big man looked great myself. Confident. I have faith in him.

 Two points in Vancouver after being down two? And without smoke and mirrors? That's a good two points. Tough road ahead with San Jose and LA this week, two teams with more going on up fron than Vancouver. Should be a couple of great tests, interested to see what Kreuger does with the last change and if we see Fistric.

 Go Oilers.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oillerrrzzzz

Your Edmonton Oilers open their season tomorrow and for the first time in six years folks with sense are feeling positive about the club's chances. Are they a sure thing for the playoffs? Absolutely not. Might they crash to the bottom of the standings again? Maybe, although I suspect it would take a mighty bad run of injuries for that to occur. As an Oiler fan I know that's possible of course. Hell, we're used to it.

But my best guess is that this club will contend for the playoffs and with good health and a bit of luck they may actually make it. They are deeper up front than they have been since 2006/2007 and I think Dubnyk is, if not a star, at the very least a solid number one goalie. The blue is a concern, again, but we know Smid and Petry can handle the toughs and do well in that situation (they did so last year) and Schultz senior is competent, if no Tom Gilbert, and even Fistric, the new kid, while a bottom pairing guy, put together good numbers in that role in Dallas. Plus he's solid on the PK apparently.

As usual they are throwing a rookie Dman to the wolves and I am sure young Schultz is going to get exposed but based on how he tore apart the AHL I think its safe to say that he is the real deal, or will be, give time.

Matt Fenwick just wrote his annual post over at Battle Of Alberta (man I miss Battle of Alberta, Covered in Oil, Irreverent Oil Fans, my God those were the days) and in his too brief note he points out that the Oilers have been losers forever and that they actually haven't done anything yet.

He's right of course and as Tyler Dellow pointed out recently, its not like Tambo has shown that he can build a team. I think Ty said that Tambo's idea of rebuilding is to lay on the floor passively and wait for everything to happen. That is sort of my feeling as well. I don't trust Tambo one bit to take this club to the next step and of course the problem is that his boss, Lowe, is the guy who started this mess.

We can all agree on that right? Really both (and everyone else) should have been fired after 2009/2010 when the team they put together with the maximum allowed payroll finished dead last. (RiversQ pointed out on Twitter last night that Lowe should have been canned after he followed the Pronger and Smyth trades, full on rebuild moves, with the attempted signing of Nylander and the signings of Souray and Penner (which cost a pile of picks). There was obviously no plan and all it did was prolong our agony).

I think if the Oilers don't make the playoffs this year that Tambo gets fired and so I am looking forward to this season in that either way I think we're going to win. Playoffs would be great. Tambo getting canned and replaced (hopefully) by someone who knows what they are doing, well that would be great too.

The problem for the Oilers and Tambo is that the easy part is done. They have the top end talent now. Hall and Nugent Hopkins and Yakupov and Schultz and Eberle. They have Smid and Petry and Dubnyk and Gagner who are all quality NHLers. They have Paajarvi and Hartikainen who look to be guys who can play a supporting role and while the majority of their prospects had a shit autumn the reality is that just as we wouldn't be going mental if they all were awesome for three months (well I guess some of us would be) I'm not one to say well they have no prospects now, as some are saying, because of a bad run. Small sample size and development isn't a straight line and all that. Right? Remember Kyle Brodziak?

Wow could we do with a guy like Kyle Brodziak, amIright?

Rambling now but in any case the Oilers have the core now and its really just a case of filling in the blanks. The great thing is that the blanks, with the exception of another top four Dman, if Schultz younger can cut it, could be filled in easily.

 If management is up to it. I see nothing in their work of the past three years (with the exception of the Schultz signing) to show that they are up to it. And that's what worries me somewhat. The talk, again, of moving Hemsky along is irksome. If Jones were healthy Kreuger could run:

Hall/Gagner/Hemsky, Yakupov/Nugent Hopkins/Eberle, Smyth/Horcoff/Paajarvi, Hartikainen/Belanger/Jones

That's a pretty solid set of forwards. And yet already there is talk of dumping Hemsky or of moving Paajarvi or of doing both. I have no problem with moving guys if good players are coming back but I suspect that we're going to see young Paajarvi moved out the door so they can bring in guys like Mike Brown. You know what I mean?

WHY CAN'T WE HAVE A LOT OF GOOD PLAYERS FOR ONCE?

Ugh.

I guess I'm being a worrywart when it comes down to it really. I should just relax up in my drug attic with a six pack of Old Milwaukee.

Because that is a pretty decent set of forwards. Hall and Hemsky are healthy, which they were not last year, and the kids are going to hit the ground running and the old guys probably benefitted from the extended layoff I would think. You can run the kids out on the PP, using Teemu and either Smyth or Horcoff as the guy to do the dirty work. And then Smyth/Horcoff/Paajarvi/Belanger/Jones on the PK with one of the kids getting some time out there as well.

Not bad.

Where the season is going to make or break is on the blueline though. An injury or two and it all falls apart. The good news for Edmonton is that a lot of other clubs are in the same boat (thanks parity). Look at Detroit for one. Wow. The bad news is that if Smid or Petry go then the season is probably gone as well.

And on top of that Whitney is not what he once was apparently and so really we are relying on the Schultzes to be able to handle some tough sledding. There have been kids who have done so in the past so its not out of the question that young Schultz can do it. If he can or if he cannot and by some miracle Whitney can step in then this club will be in the mix for the playoffs.

If he cannot and Whitney cannot step in ( I don't think that he can) then they finish up the track for the seventh straight year.

That's what I'm thinking. Its possible, if not probable, but that's a big step. And looking at the West there are a few good teams but other than the Kings, Chicago, Vancouver and St. Louis I don't think the conference is that good. So there's a chance.

Which is a lot better than we have had in a long long time.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Buddies Doug, Steve, Steve, Pete and Pete

Sitting around the dinner table the other day and somehow the conversation turned to names. When I was in grade six there were twelve boys and somewhere around eighteen girls. The other boys' names were Doug, Steve, Steve, Pete, Pete, Dean, Felix, Rick, Mike and I can't remember the other two but I'm pretty sure there was another Steve in there.

Other guys we knew? There was Dwayne Moulton, Dave Burnett, the Shute brothers (Darryl and Dennis, there were more of them too). We played hockey with Norm Pilon and Denis Pelletier and of course my buddy Doug had his brothers Norm and Dave and my buddy Pete had his brothers Rich and Jim and then Steve had an older brother Mike. We also played hockey with brothers Mike and Marc Larcher, Tim Stiller, John Lister (brother Norm) and Danny Scott. My best friends in university? Mark (brother Dan), Mike (brothers Rick and Chris), Todd (brothers Rob and Jeff), Rob (brother Rich), Dave (brother Chris).

And in my summer job in uni I worked with Jim, Jeff and Dale. And when I partied on the weekends it was with Frank, Mike, Mike, Dan, Dean, Dale.

And a bunch of Italian guys. A few of them were named Dan and Rob.

Get the picture?

So I'm telling my kids some of these old stories and they're killing themselves. Not because of the story when I came to Frank's house after a night of boozing, proceeded to fill a huge bowl up with everything I could find in the fridge and put it under his bed, where it remained undiscovered for weeks. Not because of the girl I saw for a while who was nicknamed 'Iguana' or because we used to tape my boss' smokes together so that when he pulled one from the pack they all came out.

Nope, they were killing themselves because of the names of the people I knew when I was a kid. They thought Doug and Dwayne and Wayne and Gary (two more oldies but goodies) and Dwight and Norm and Darryl were the most hilarious things they ever heard.

I kid you not.

Of course they don't know anybody by any of these names with the exception of a few Michaels floating around. And these aren't names like Brayden or Hayden or Jaden or Taylor/Tyler/Jordan - you know what I mean? Hugely popular trendy names that a cohort of about a decade will have and then thankfully the name will disappear from history. For the most part names like Doug and Steve and Jeff (or their more formal versions) were around for a good century before they disappeared in the 1970s.

Or is it just a Toronto thing? It could be. My kids go to school (thankfully) with every race/colour/creed going. In terms of acceptance of others and exposure to the world they are already where I didn't get to until I was in my mid twenties. Its fantastic but Doug and Wayne aren't hugely popular names in Bangladesh and Angola I'm taking it.

So what's the story out there? In Edmonton and Moose Jaw and St. John and the Soo and Trail and Flin Flon are the kindergartens still teeming with the hoser names of my youth? Are roll calls for Joanne and Jim and Michelle and Steve and Jennifer and Jerry, Gary and Barry? (Not to mention Larry?) Do Tracey and Rick (or is it Richard or Rich) make googly eyes at each other during quiet time? Do Rob and Wayne eat paste while Kelly rolls her eyes? And on the local rink do Doug, Darryl, Darren, Dave, Dwight, Dwayne, Dean, Dennis and Dale get together for a D-lightful game of shinny (seriously though parents in the 60s and 70s liked their D names eh?)

Or are the MacKenzie brothers now named Ruso and Jupiter?

Say it ain't so.

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Opening weekend.

Have been reading a lot about parity in the NHL these days and how 'any team' can win the Cup and while the gap between teams has narrowed considerably (with the exception of the truly horrible) I don't buy this narrative at all. There's parity but when it comes to playoff time the cream still rises to the top.

Of course this was all spawned by the Kings winning the Cup as an 8 seed except that if you looked at the Kings' roster they were no more an eighth seed than the 2006 Edmonton Oilers were. Whereas the Oilers were done in by bad goaltending for the majority of that season the Kings had some bad luck and underperformed as well but 8th seed? Really? Look at the roster. Brown, Kopitar, Williams, Carter, Richards, Penner, Stoll as their top seven forwards. Doughty, Mitchell, Scuderi, Voynov, Greene on D. Very good young goaltending. I remember being leery of their depth, especially on the bottom half of their roster but the top six were so good that the bottom six just had to play to a sawoff (and of course when King got hot they did even more than that.)

 Put it this way. If Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are on your SECOND LINE you're a pretty good team. And no Melnyk, the Sens aren't even in the same league.

 Well I mean, they are, but figuratively oh fuck never mind.

 With that said what will we see this year? Honestly I have no idea. Its a sprint and a slow start like LA had last year could doom a team. A jump out of the gates, some luck, good health early, could mean a playoff seed for a team that otherwise does not deserve it.

 Not as much time to work out the kinks which should make for a few more surprises.

 So what do I think? Well if you were to ask me who could win the Cup right now I would go with the following. Its a long list, or longer than it would have been a few years back (that's the parity) but in three months I would guess that probably half of these clubs will be out of the running due to injuries or because while they are good clubs they have issues which might do them in pretty easily. There are no dynasties here folks. Thanks Gary.

Prince of Whales

Contenders

Rangers - they're a favourite pick and why not? Eastern champs last year, third best GA in the league, tons of great youth up and down the lineup. I'm not a huge Nash guy but he's going to help. I'm more of a fan because of their great young D plus I like Tortorella a lot.

Bruins - The issue for Boston is whether or not Rask is up to the job. If he's good then they will be in the mix again. If not then they have problems. Shit division means they pile up the points regardless, a little more margin for error.

Penguins - Health for Crosby and Malkin plus ton of young talent bubbling under, especially on D. Not a Fleury guy though, not at all.

Flyers - Great up front but goaltending an issue here as well. Sooner or later you're not going to be able to outscore your opponents in the playoffs.

Rangers are best team here but the big thing is winning the Patrick or whatever its called. Win it and you get a patsy first round. Finish fourth or fifth and you get a war.

Best of the Rest

Caps - Washington is better than they showed last year. If Oates can be a decent coach I think they're a team that could be a contender, especially with those goaltending issues mentioned. Rangers falter and suddenly its wide open.

The rest.

A lot of shit out east. Isle of Misfit Toys in Florida. Tampa is somewhat intriguing. Buffalo too if Miller can bounce back. And if the Leafs get goaltending I think maybe playoffs for them ( picked them last year I think, meh). But overall a lot of dull faceless squads. Including Jersey. Losing Parise is a kick in the nuts for them. Maybe a playoff team again but nothing more.

Larry Campbell

Contenders

Kings - lots of rest for the defending champs. Mitchell is out longterm apparently and he is a big part of this club. Kopitar too. Still would expect them to be in the mix.

Blues - like the Rangers a sexy pick, like the Rangers they don't score a lot, unlike the Rangers I don't think they score enough to go all the way

Canucks - for these guys I think the window is starting to close a bit but still a great team and certainly a Cup contender no doubt. They're at the level where with a bit of luck (same as the other big boys) they could easily win it all. No real weaknesses.

Blackhawks - Chicago could easily run away with it if their latest cohort is ready. Could be still a year away but if the likes of Saad, Shaw, Leddy can give them the depth they lost after '10 then they're the favourite imo, especially with their top end talent. That's a big if though and so is Crawford in net. If he bounces back they're there. There.

Best of the Rest

Coyotes - I don't think Phoenix has the offence or the talent, quite frankly, to go all the way but again, if eveything falls their way and the big boys go by the wayside or run into trouble then they could make a run especially if they can get a favourable seed to start the playoffs.

The rest

The west is the weakest its been in a long time, we're not talking Chicago in the 8th seed anymore. Nashville will be there because they are always there, Suter or not, and I think the Wings have just enough to get a playoff spot (though barely and maybe not) but if either club did not make the playoffs it would not be a huge shock. After that you have the Northwest clubs coming on strong - the Avs, the Wild and your EDMONTON OILERS!!!!

 Not having O'Reilly in there sets the Avs back out of the gate thank goodness. The Wild have some terrific kids on the way but I think they are a bit top heavy especially on the blue. Suter or Gilbert go down and its a problem. As for the Oilers, well they're a Smid or Petry injury away from disaster but a healthy Hall and Hemsky, the additions of Yakupov and Schultz and a full year of Dubnyk in the net ... lets just say that this is the best Oilers' club since 2006/2007. They actually have a bit of depth up front (they'll resolve this by dumping Hemsky asap I am sure of it) but as I have said with some luck and good health I think they compete for the playoffs. I'll have a detailed post on the Oilers this weekend but that's what I think.

 As for the rest of the west well San Jose is another year older and I can't take Dallas seriously. Ducks? Falmes? BJs (lol BJs)? Lottery territory imo.

 Let ... the games ... begin.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A New Dawn?

I was 19 years old that summer, it was another one of those summers. We drank and danced and swam and wandered through the woods on crooked uneven paths, we were young and our skin was brown from the sun and when we weren't laughing it was because we had a cold beer to our lips. Those were wonderful days. There was a gang of us that got around together and outside of the centre of about fifteen or so there were a few dozen more who would drop in and out from weekend to weekend, showing up in a backyard or a bar or at the field for an impromptu game of ball or at the union hall where we drank trays of 80 cent draft and played shuffleboard. One of these was a young woman, she was funny and quirky and a bit of a worrier, I remember one time we were playing pool and she was lamenting a number of things and a pal and I laughed and remarked that our biggest worries were whether we'd finish our beers before they got warm (we did, easily) and whether or not we'd make our next shot (I can't remember if we did or not because it didn't matter one bit). Charmed lives we led, charmed lives, far from troubles or cares, mortgages and careers and the fear that having kids brings.

So one Friday night we changed things up and went to our usual Saturday night hangout, an old grocery store which had been converted into an enormous bar. Place was always packed Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for years. Beer was relatively cheap and the peace was kept by a pack of steroid jacked bouncers who would pound anyone who started any trouble. In a town (and at a time) where fighting was part of a night out it was good policy and so a night at City Lights was almost guaranteed to be a peaceful one. I had been testing the waters with a woman I had known for a little while and so this night I asked her out and she let me down gently, it wasn't to be. Shortly after this as I drank to drown my (slight) sorrows I was approached by a woman with whom I had had (sounds like a car stuttering) a one night deal a couple of weeks before.

(As an aside when I was married one of the fellows who stood for me was the guy who was the centre of this social maelstrom, the guy who made it happen, the Reggie Jackson of the summers of our youth. Seriously. A year after graduating, unable to find work, he packed up his old jeep and drove to BC, taking our summers with him. I was in Toronto by then but whenever I returned to Sudbury for a weekend I was amazed how it all had fallen apart. He was the man.

Our wedding was in PEI and at the time Frank was actually living in California but he flew out anyhow. He knows the value of a nickel, same as me, so I was always appreciative of the gesture. So at the wedding he stands up and gives a 'speech' that lasted about a half a minute. Basically he listed ten things that everyone should know about me but he did so smartly. He didn't get up and talk about this time or that, talking about some drink addled night I had with some girl here or there. Instead he said ten words or phrases, each fraught with meaning, pausing as this table or that, in on the joke, roared with laughter as grandparents and old aunts blinked with confusion.

I still have that list and one of those comments was simply 'The Nurse'.)

The Nurse was a nurse (!) who I had a short dalliance with that summer, basically it was two one night stands (a two night stand?). What my pals thought hilarious is that she was a head taller than me, for one, and thirty years old, for another.

Thirty, lol. My first morning after my first night over, we were in the shower and I got out and as I wandered her place, snooping, I saw a whack of birthday cards on a shelf. Picked one up and it said Happy 30! Laughed and thought ha her friend is funny. Picked up the next and discovered that either she was thirty or this was some sort of weird joke that all of her friends were in on.

Scary thought. She is now 56.

Scarier thought. I am 45.

In any case she was at the bar again this night and so being a nineteen year old dude even though I had promised myself I wouldn't I did and we headed back to her place. It was sometime around three a.m. that I realized I was a guy with a problem. I had promised my old man, who would have been 54 at the time (ok all of this age stuff is really starting to freak me out) that first thing in the morning we would head up to camp and do some logging.

That's right. The logging we did this past fall was to replace the dock that we built in the summer of 1987. Dad builds them to last.

So I have no money and neither does she and remember this is at a time when bank machines were not on every corner and certainly not in cabs and I don't have a credit card (I got my first credit card when I was 30) and I'm on the other side, literally, of town from my folks' place.

And so I start to walk. And Sudbury, my friends, is not a small town. She lived on the south side and my folks lived on the very north edge, I mean you walked nine or ten houses north of their place, cross the street, cut through a yard and you were in a field and beyond the field was a marsh and beyond the marsh, hills and forest. I had walked this before and I would walk it again but those nights were followed by long sleep ins.

Not this time.

I walked and walked and I walked and as I came down the hill into the small valley where my folks bungalow was built in the late sixties the sky was bright and the sun was peeking out. I stumbled into bed shortly before six am and at seven my old man roused me.

HAHAHAHA.

We drove that hour to the landing and I dozed and we took the boat over and I dozed and then we went into the same bay we would go into just over a quarter century later (sounds impressive when you say it that way) and brought down a couple of pines. The difference between then and this past fall was that we stripped the bark off of them before we towed them back to camp and then when we got back to camp we wrestled them onto the cribs before we headed back into town.

You ever try and lift a twenty foot log, greasy as greasy can be, you can't even get a grip on it, out of a cold lake with one hour of sleep and about fifteen beer still working their way through you from the night before?

I don't recommend it. We got it done mind and back to town early enough that I grabbed a couple of hours of sleep and went back out and did it all over again. Oh glorious youth.

But damn.

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

 Hey I love Eberle and Nugent Hopkins and Yakupov and all the rest but the man, the guy who is the face of this franchise, is Taylor Hall. He is the guy who is going to, for better for worse, define this period of history for the Edmonton Oilers. He is the guy who at twenty and playing injured, drove possession in the NHL on an awful team. He is the guy who is going to go supernova, scoring forty goals as the crowd roars as he powers through the other team, blowing by suddenly weak kneed Dmen, grasping at air, shrugging off giants as he drives the net, determined, consumed by the need to win, the need to score. If he does this then the Oilers will again rise. He won't be the only one to take them back to the promised land but it will be on his back that the journey will be made for the most part.

Or ... or ... he will be Wendel Clark, Eric Lindros, maybe (I certainly hope not) Sidney Crosby. (When I say I hope not I mean that for Crosby's sake. It would be sad to see his career shortened) Wracked by injuries to shoulders and knees, some freak accidents, some the result of a reckless style, until he is just a shell of what he might have been. If this happens then while the kids may still rise the road will become a far more difficult one because this is the kid who is going to make it happen and this shortened season, I believe, will be his coming out party. The lockout allowed him not to hurry back and this my be the best thing for the Oilers about it, they with their bent towards giving a whiff of smelling salts or a shot of whatever it is that kills the pain these days and then sending the boys back out there like back in the day.

Hall is probably my favourite Oiler after the old guard of Horcoff, Hemsky and Smyth. He's a hockey player plain and simple, a bit of a dope sure but with the sense to laugh at his failings, literally. He's the straw as they say. Can't wait.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Pay By The Week

 Now we're going back a ways with the story telling and you certainly don't remember it because IT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO but give that a little read and then come back here and I'll pick up the tale. Never mind the Oilers' stuff. They were horrible. Nothing new there.

 You're back? Great. If you're too lazy to click on that link then the jist of it was that after chasing and chasing I had just gotten my first job on a movie (awesome!!!) which paid nothing (doh!). Also you're lazy.

 OK so there I was, I've gotten a foot in the door of the film industry and that's all well and good but I have two problems. Well its one problem actually. Money. I haven't got any and here I am about to take a three week job that paid nothing. Well it paid in food. Craft services and it was decent food too. After years (I'm not joking) of eating mostly toast and pasta (with the odd plate of fried ground beef and onion, that shit is the bomb) to get real food and a lot of it well, yeah that was nice. But no money.

 Now in hindsight I could have gone about this differently I am sure. I was living in a house with another four folks, three of them were musicians and I couldn't ask them to carry me so I told buddy what was happening and that I'd be back in a month or two. I talked to some folks and had couches arranged for three weeks of the month where I would be homeless.

 Its weird thinking about my younger self and his weird sense of pride or whatever the hell it was. I could have asked my folks for the rent money for that month (I think it was 300.00 maybe) plus another couple hundred to get me by and they would have given it to me I have no doubt at all but while I had been wandering in circles for a while now I hadn't asked for a handout yet and I wasn't about to start. And so I looked at where the shoot was taking place (in Parkdale) and looked at my meager savings and realized that I had about a week where I needed a place to live and about a hundred bucks to spare and so I called the Gladstone Hotel to see about getting a room.

 Now this was around twenty years ago (that's mental!) and at this time Parkdale was, if not dangerous, certainly not very pleasant. And while the Gladstone, like the Drake, has now been redone and is a boutique hotel where you can rent one of their artist designed rooms for anywhere from 189 to 495 dollars a night at the time you could get one of those rooms, not designed by an artist, for ninety dollars a week.

 Good deal.

 I packed my meager belongings in a couple of boxes and gave them to a friend (everything I owned fit into the back of his Civic hatchback) to keep for the month and after calling the Gladstone (buddy who answered the phone recommended that I come down and see the place before I rented a room) my pal dropped me off with my knapsack the night before the shoot started.

 What do you get for ninety bucks a week? A lumpy single bed and a sink. Bathroom was down the hall. I peed in the sink. I did shower a couple of times though. Didn't get stabbed.

 I'll be honest I wasn't all that comfortable during my stay there, nervous would be a good way to describe my state of mind but days on the shoot ranged from fourteen to sixteen hours long and turnaround was eight to nine hours (this was not a union shoot needless to say) so basically after we wrapped I'd stumble up the street, into the Gladstone, up the stairs and into my room where I'd pass out until my little alarm went off. There was no wakeup call service. You get what you pay for lol.

 The Gladstone. Ah, good times.

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

 The Gladstone used to be a rundown shithole. Now its a hot spot (I think? I've been to the bar once or twice since its been redone. Of course my presence is certainly not an indication of a place's 'hotness', in fact it may very well be the opposite.) or at least a spot that charges at least 189 a night for a room, twice what it used to cost for a week's stay.

 Man did I score a fucking deal. Woot!

 Speaking of rundown shitholes and making something of them how about your Edmonton Oilers?

 Cause if we're going to talk about rundown shitholes the Oilers are about forty dollars a week based on these last six years, know what I'm saying? There's no arguing it. The players have changed except for Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. The club is on their fourth coach. The GM's career is hanging by a thread. The director of scouting, the minor league operation, the training staff - all have been replaced, gutted, let go. The old owners let a franchise icon walk over nickels and dimes. The new owner has squandered all of the considerable good will he had on a messy, pigheaded, ridiculous battle over a new arena.

 The club is a disaster off the ice and on the ice its been six years out of the playoffs including two last place finishes (one of those having spent to the cap, actually the Oilers spent tons of money to finish out of the playoffs for years) and a 29th!!!

 Just the fact that they spent to the cap to finish last place should have meant that Lowe and Tambo were fired on the spot and yes that season is why I don't trust them to do the right thing now.

 But lets blue sky for a second, ok?

 Hardest thing to do is procure top end talent, we're talking top six forwards and top four blue.

 Hall, Nugent Hopkins, Eberle, Yakupov, Gagner, Hemsky.

 Smid, Petry, Schultz.

 Plus they have Paajarvi and Hartikainen who look like NHLers.

 And Dubnyk. I think he's a good one.

 Are there issues? Of course. Their depth is woeful on the back end and up front once Horcoff and Smyth are gone its not the greatest there either. Some of their remaining prospects are either hurt (Klefbom/Gernat) or struggling (basically everyone else) but history tells us that probably out of that group there will be a few players who emerge. Kyle Brodziak didn't spring fully formed from Moose Jaw or wherever he came from. It took years. Three bad months do not a prospect break just as three good ones don't a prospect make.

And would you rather have to figure out who your third line centre is going to be or your first line centre? The hard part is done, sort of. Picking the consensus number one overall three years running isn't hard of course and filling in the rest of the roster may be too much to expect of these clowns but put it this way if two years down the road they needed Taylor Hall instead of Nikolai Kulemin, well, that would be a much bigger worry.

 Still with Tambo in charge I sometimes feel like I'm back at the Gladstone, huddled under that thin blanket. waiting for the door to get kicked in and for me, screaming in terror, to be gutted from chin to my cock, blood gushing out all over my lumpy awful mattress.

 But for now I'll not think about that. Right? Right.

Shawn Horcoff, Career Oiler?

 With the revelation that each club will be allowed two buyouts under the new CBA most have assumed, in some cases quite gleefully, that Shawn Horcoff will get the axe, thus clearing up 5.5 million in cap space for each of the next two seasons.

 Except ... except.

 I don't think its going to happen. Let me qualify that. I don't think its a slam dunk.

 The buyout can happen either this summer or next so first things first. I am almost one hundred percent sure it doesn't happen this summer. Again, it may. Sure it may. But I don't think so and here's why.

 The Oilers' window isn't open yet. While some of us are cautiously optimistic that the club has a playoff shot this season the reality is that next year is probably the first year where a playoff spot should be expected. By Lowe's own pronounced timetable he figured they would be contenders (as in Cup contenders) in 2015, iirc.

 What does that mean? Well, the club has talked about adding to the young cluster for a while now and I would guess that a top four defenceman is coming this summer. But other than that I don't see them loading up quite yet. And while the reasoning behind a Horcoff buyout is 'to pay the young kids' this summer they don't need the money. Capgeek says they will have 14 players signed with 16 million in cap space as the following players come off of the cap - Whitney, Khabibulin, Sutton, Jones, Hordichuk, Petrell and the Souray buyout.

 The key here is that Hall and Eberle are signed so the only two guys looking for a raise will be Smid and Gagner. Smid makes 2.25, Gagner 3.2. I think its reasonable to say that the total of their raises would be ~ 3 million, yes? Unless Gagner absolutely goes mental this season.

 So you have 13 million to sign seven guys and who are you signing? A backup goalie. Klefbom is coming in to replace one of the Dman and he is cheap. Except for Whitney the rest of these guys are fringe players, you could probably sign the lot of them for ~ 6 million which means you have seven million for the Dman (lets say he costs four to five).

 So they have plenty of room to pick up deadline reinforcements if they want to because here's the thing.

 Katz isn't going to want to spend money if he doesn't have to. And the reality is the Oilers remain thin up the middle. RNH, Gagner, Horcoff, Belanger. And then Vande Velde and Lander. If you're trying to make the playoffs next year are you going to spend a couple of million to dump one of your top three centres (and still your top defensive guy at that)? What will you do, go with Belanger in the three hole? Lander? And if you want to go out and get a Horcoff replacement well Belanger commanded 1.75. Do you think Katz is going to okay giving Horcoff his money and then giving another guy 2.5 to 3 to do his job?

 I don't think so.

 I think Horcoff is an Oiler for next season.

 Now the issue is the following year. The following players are coming off that year - Schultz the older, Eager, Belanger, Smyth and Potter. That's only nine million in savings plus we have the extra two million (I am assuming) from the previous year. The good news is that again, these are mostly guys on the fringe, or will be by this time. Hopefully they are anyhow. So replacing them will be cheap.

 Here's the problem: RNH. Schultz Jr. Dubnyk. Petry.

 But ...

 If Hall and Eberle have set the marker for salaries on this club (the Lidstrom idea) then Nugent Hopkins and Schultz are looking at raises of just over two million apiece. Dubnyk will, if he plays well and I believe he will, get a raise. But not much. Unless he wins a Cup. In which case who gives a shit, blowjobs for everyone. Or cunnilingus. Whatever, you get oral.

 Its Petry who is the guy who will get paid. But even then, what? 4 million per?

 So what? Seven million in raises? Plus three million in replacements?

 Its cutting it close.

 And you have three wildcards.

1/ Ales Hemsky. If Hemsky comes off the books in two years that's another five million in play. If he stays (and Taylor Hall wants him to stay so if he's healthy he's staying) then Horcoff is likely a goner but if he goes then that's another chunk of change plus ...

2/ The cap may go up. Sure it may not either but if its rises, even by five percent, then you're looking at another three million to play with and ...

3/ Don't underestimate the loyalty factor. Horcoff has Katz in his corner one would think, based on what is apparently a close relationship. And ... Craig MacTavish. Its a business and if they have to cut him loose they will but if not don't underestmate this. MacT has been a Horcoff backer forever.

 Am I full of shit? Sure maybe I am. Like I said though I think they keep him this summer. There's no reason to cut him loose. As for next summer, well my guess is he is a goner but if things work out maybe not. Its not a sure thing lets just put it that way. Probable but no guarantee. If they have the cap space, and they may, then they're not going to spend a couple of million bucks just to get more.

EDIT - LOL well I never said math was my strong suit, that's my only excuse. As noted by the first comment below I did not include the base salaries for Smid and Gagner in my calculations for next year.

Plug those in there and suddenly the chances of Horcoff sticking around next season drop. Whereas before I figured it was 95% that he would remain, I'm guessing now maybe 50/50. And next summer well, he was probably a goner, now most certainly he will be.


Doh!

Monday, January 07, 2013

The Cat Came Back

It was a few weeks before Christmas, can't remember exactly when now, I was working from home, Jenn came back from physio or something and she turned to me (this was at about noon) and she asked me if I had seen the cat.

The cat is curled up asleep on my lap right at this moment. She's not your typical cat in that she acknowledges that we exist and actually shows us (or at least me) some affection. When I am home during the day she is generally around me and at night she generally sleeps in between my legs, in my groinal area or at the crook of my knee, depending on how I am positioned.

So when I was asked if I had seen the cat I knew immediately that she was gone and that she had been gone since dinner the night before when she greeted the kids and I at the door. I also realized that she had disappeared on my watch, likely sneaking out the door as it creaked shut when I was taking out the garbage.

When it comes to cats I'm not exactly at the level of my Dad. When advised that we had a cat his response was:

A cat? A cat. When I was young if you had cats you got yourself a bag and some rocks and took them down to the river.

I always pictured my Dad and his siblings swimming in the river, the bottom littered with bags full of little kitten skeletons.

Me, I'm a dog guy and much like pie and cake (I'm a pie guy) I think you can love one but generally (and I know there are exceptions, I'm looking at you Bruce McCurdy) you can't love both. I tolerate cake. I tolerate cats. I'd a prefer a dog a million times over but Jenn is not a dog person and when Ben died it was understood that he would be the last dog we owned. At the time that was fine with me as I had watched his decline for a month or so and I was exhausted with grief when he passed. There were hints that another dog might happen but that it would be a few years down the road. A couple of months after he passed a friend of ours tweaked us to some kittens and before I knew it we were with cat.

The poor cat. Our youngest loves her dearly but for the rest of us, including Jenn, she is, well, part of the scenery I guess. You know how cats are. I like her but I can't take her to the ravine or the beach or the lake. I can't have adventures with her. And while she is affectionate it pales in comparison to the love that the dog gave to me, a love that burned with the heat of a thousand suns. That's how dogs are. I like that. I get that some people don't. People who are losers. ! ;)

So the cat is gone and both of us look at each other and I know that if it was the dog I would have called in sick the rest of the week and gone mental but its the cat and so I wandered out and walked up and down the street looking for a few minutes and then came home and got back to it while she went shopping. My main concern was the fact that maybe twenty years from now we'll be sitting around at Christmas dinner and my kids will sadly remember about the time 'Dad killed the cat'. I'm not kidding.

I picked up the kids and broke it to them and their reaction as muted. Because its a cat, see. They all agreed that she would be back soon. They're positive thinkers like me, I was of the same mind. Jenn is a pessimist, she was certain that the cat was already a smear up on the Danforth.

And then that evening as I was preparing supper, about 24 hours after the cat had snuck out, my oldest said she could hear a cat on the porch and so I went and opened the door and of course there she was, sauntering by me without barely a look.

I messaged Jenn to let her know that the cat had indeed come back and moments later she replied

Oh that's great. I've been thinking all day that with her gone we might need to get a puppy.

Now please excuse me as I go and open the front door for a while.

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

Oh what's that, NHL hockey is back? No kidding.

Do I care? Sure. I've never been one of these 'NOT ANOTHER DOLLAR MORE' guys but that's generally because I spend very little on the NHL anyhow. I watch the games on TV and once a year I go to a game with a pal on his company. So MLSE gets maybe twenty bucks from me for a beer annually.

I've written about it before, the damage the NHL has done over the years in my case is that I have some disposable income that I will not spend on them. Maybe next time we are down south I will take the family to a game but we're not spending hundreds of dollars here to watch bad hockey with the blaring music and all that NBA style in game presentation. For me the damage the NHL has done is that I am less inclined to watch NHL hockey and, unlike when I was growing up, its not part of the fabric of our household. My sister, my Dad, even my Mom, we were all NHL fans of some degree. Today I would say that in our home only I give a damn about it. The league is killing the golden goose. Oh well.

In eight years we are going to go through it all again. The salary cap is going to continue to rise and with it the salary floor and unless they are planning to contract a dozen franchises the zombie clubs are going to be dying off without another concession from the players. It doesn't matter. You need a cap of twenty million to save some of these clubs. The cycle will continue and its the league's own damn fault. Worst run league ever.

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

Speaking of worst run how about our Edmonton Oilers? Heyyyyyooooooo!

I'll have another post looking at the specifics of this year's club but for the first time in a long time the possibility of a playoff spot might be in the offing in my opinion.

I don't think they will make it and I think if they do it will be with smoke and mirrors but the reality is that the young talent is growing and now Yakupov and Schultz have been added to the mix.

It would probably be best if they don't because I believe that would be the end of Tambellini and for the longterm that would be the best for this club. He hasn't shown that he has the chops at all, more on this next time. If they do make it I don't know that they can throw him over the side.

Without going into too much detail why do I think this club can make the second season?

1/ A 48 or 50 game season means that a club can get hot / lucky and ride that streak into the playoffs. I don't know what sort of numbers there are across the league but I count seven of the Oilers top nine forwards (Hall, Gagner, Hemsky, Hartikainen, Nugent Hopkins, Eberle, Yakupov) plus Paajarvi, Schultz and Smid as guys who have all played this fall. They are in shape and ready to go. I can't see another team with this many guys being game ready. If they get a jump on everyone for even just a month it may be enough.

2/ Depth up front. Its hard to say how the lines suss out but all of the big boys are healthy, at least until next week when we have to call up Lander and Pitlick to play on the second line. We don't know how they are going to run things, I suspect Hall/Gagner/Hemsky, Yakupov/RNH/Eberle, Smyth/Horcoff/Hartikianen. You might swap Yakupov and Teemu and Paajarvi is in the mix too. Throw in Belanger and the club has eleven legitimate NHL forwards, they would have a dozen if Jones were healthy. They actually have four NHL centres for the first time since 2006. Yeah many of the kids are callow but I don't think there will be an issue scoring goals. And there are actually some options to throw out there against the toughs.

3/ Dubnyk. I think he's pretty good. Good numbers last year on a shit team. I don't think he will be a problem.

So stay healthy and get a bit lucky and they may be there come April. The biggest issue is on the back end, as usual. If Whitney can skate then I actually think they won't need much luck to make the playoffs. (I'm feeling pretty blue sky today) That is an enormous if though and there is really no depth on the blue, consider Teubert is even in the mix. And we have a rookie likely in the top four. Again.

I doubt they will add anyone because they just don't do that which is why they have been out of the playoffs for six years running. I think that this summer is the big one for this franchise. That is when we see the moves to try and get them over the hump. If Tambo is making them then I think we're fucked but again, for another day.

For now though I think playoffs are possible. They will need luck, health and a fast start. Most of all they will need Ryan Whitney to be something more than a shadow of himself. Its possible. Its unlikely but the gap is closing.