Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Out Of This World



 Paris?

 Paris was, for us, better than we ever imagined. Loved it. Absolutely loved it.

 My favourite moments involved the kids. Taking a boat cruise on the Seine when suddenly around a bend and there the Eiffel Tower looming over us, our oldest's eyes widen and mouth gapes and she whispers 'Wow'. At a cafe on Rue Cler, the boy ordering confit de canard, the man size portion, finishing it all, loving it. Our youngest dragging us around the Louvre (we're not big art museum people, we tend to see the big stuff and get out for a drink) from hall to hall, especially exited by 'the Stinx' in the Egyptian exhibit.

 And for me, wandering the streets, day after day. An espresso here, a glass of wine there, wandering the streets of Paris with my family. Trip of a lifetime.

 By the way, the ruse worked. Jenn, though slightly suspicious (she knows me well), was convinced it was Barcelona, so much so that she had a Spanish/English dictionary, borrowed from a friend.

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Returned from France vaguely aware of some of the goings on with the Oilers that had come to pass, the two wins at the end of the road trip and Dubnyk rebounding being two positives, the Hall injury being the major negative although it appears he may not be out for four weeks, which is great, although the season is likely already doomed by the poor start.

Getting a fourth for Mike Brown was a stroke of luck or genius, I respect the guy for carving out a career but he's waiver wire fodder and paying a fourth for him originally was really stupid but that was Tambo through and through, he pulled the same shit when he acquired Smithson and Fistric. He will never be a GM again and its a career path well earned.

 I get the frustration of fans, if the Oilers miss the playoffs this year then it will be eight years out, only Florida has had a longer run amongst franchises that still actually exist. I figured them for a team with a legitimate shot at the postseason this year but its likely that dream is already over, they need to go on a massive run and while anything is possible, its probably not going to happen. The season has been sunk already and its tough to take and while the team has taken strides forward on the ice for sure, it cannot be ignored that they have deserved better based on the run of play in their games, the bad goaltending and defensive lapses and brutal special teams have done them in. If its not one thing its another and the team already has the look of one on a death march.

 What will probably happen is they will pull out of it. They will get some bounces. Dubnyk will return to normal. Hall and Gagner will be healthy and some pucks will start going in. They will fall short though.

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 Fans are freaking out and WANT SOMETHING DONE NOW but dealing from a position of weakness is stupid and giving up on Yakupov or Schultz who have ~ sixty NHL games under their belt is something that Mike Milbury would do. Same with firing Eakins. He has to figure out the PK and he has to figure out the lapses in defensive coverage and I am pretty confident that he will. Ignore the media snarkiness about him. For the most part Edmonton sports media are a perfect explanation as to why newspapers are dying, sadly many of them are involved in TV and radio as well and so we'll never be rid of them.

 LT took a look at MacT's moves this summer right here and basically I agree. He added a lot at minimal cost but the problem, as RiversQ has pointed out numerous times since last spring, is that he was starting from so far back that it was impossible for him to make up the lost ground. The work that Tambo and Lowe did to put this club in the ditch was so thorough, so scorched earth, that MacTavish was stuck from day one unless he could convince clubs to part with quality NHL players for futures, a Coburn for a second type deal. I thought this might be possible based on the cap crunch and the fact that summer 2012 saw two legitimate top four guys moved for just that. It didn't happen though.

 The other issue is that unlike Chicago, for example, who brought up Pirri from the AHL and installed them as their second line centre or even Toronto, who has supplemented their injury riddled forward corps with guys who have been able to take a regular shift, the Oilers depth on the farm is almost all on the back end and not yet ready. The departure of Hartikainen and Rajala left their forwards in OKC that much thinner, with only Pitlick, now hurt, and Lander looking to be guys who might be able to contribute in some way in the NHL. There is no Pirri in OKC. What you see in Edmonton is what you get and when the injuries hit, as they have, then you have Denis Grebeshkov playing in your top nine. Not a recipe for success.

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 So, as LT says, what does it all mean?

 Don't fire the coach.

 Don't panic in any way.

 What do the Oilers need? They need top four D men. If Dubnyk is hurt longterm then they need a goaltender. They need some guys up front like Gordon, bigger guys who can play.

  Nobody is untouchable but the kids and anyone of value really, the core of what is going on here, and I am including Nurse, Klefbom and Marancin in this, cannot be moved for fliers, possibilities, stopgaps, ten cents on the dollar. If you are going to move any of these guys it has to be for equal value or better, similar to the Paajarvi move. You cannot move Yakupov for a goalie because there is no goalie who can bring the guaranteed long term value that Yakupov may bring. You cannot move any of these guys unless it is a sure thing.

 You know what happens when you repeated send out NHL value for lesser value? Then you end up with what we have now.

 A few years ago the Oilers forward depth was Horcoff, Penner, Hemsky,  a few kids with promise and some garbage. On D they had Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert, Smid, Staios, Grebsehkov.

 Not too bad on the blue right?

 Now Staios got old and Smid is still here but Souray they railroaded out of town and for Visnovsky and Gilbert they have nothing to show. All three are still in the NHL, all three are playing top four minutes on teams better than the Oilers, though in Florida's case this is a marginal difference. Still Tom Gilbert is playing nearly 22 minutes a game and is an even player on a garbage team, basically the same as he did all of his years in Edmonton.

 Three top four defencemen. Gone for nothing. Brodziak. Gone for nothing. Pitkanen. Gone for Cole who was in turn traded for nothing. Cogliano. Gone for nothing.

 On such moves are disasters created. Calling for more of these types of moves will only add fuel to the conflagration.

 Do you want to blame someone for this mess? Blame Tambo if you want but he will get his. He got his shot and botched it and he will be remembered as a terribly failed manager, a punchline.

 No sir the man to blame, the one who has survived all of this, the coaches and all of the players come and gone, the changes in scouting, the changes on the farm, the change in ownership and the changes in the training staff, the one guy left standing, the architect of this disaster, our Bob Pulford, is Kevin Lowe.

 His is the only head left to roll and as we saw during his performance last spring when he sputtered indignantly about knowing about winning he lacks the self awareness to step aside or he would have done so years ago.

 Lowe's departure would not change a thing but to gladden our hearts and clear our minds somewhat in any case. The die was cast when they traded Pronger and didn't replace Spacek and Peca and then when they shipped Smyth out months later. Seven years of bungling cannot be turned about in the matter of a few months, not when you are dealing from weakness.

 And so we must still abide and hope that MacTavish and Eakins are the right men for the job. A dozen games does not say that they are not. Here is hoping that a year or two down the road does not prove that they are not. If this is the case then we are well and truly fucked.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Don't Mess WIth The Master

 Jenn turns forty next October and so a couple of years I ago I began kicking around the idea of a trip for her birthday. My folks are getting way up there and her folks, while younger, were gassed in April of 2012 when they helped me with the kids when Jenn was in Qatar for two weeks so while the idea of a trip for two is preferable it also became clear to me that this was going to be a family trip.

 We began talking about it and I made it clear that the destination was going to be a surprise with the only caveat being that it would not be somewhere we had been before. So no England, no Scotland, no Ireland. We would book the time off and then look at prices and go from there. And then I began to wonder why we were waiting for 2014. A lot could happen before then. At this time we are lucky enough to have our health and to be able to afford it so lets go.

 So six months ago or so we booked the time off and I began to look at possibilities. Europe was always the only destination really and we had the money so I began to look at flights. The choices were endless. Italy. Barcelona. Prague. The Low Countries.

 And of course France and Paris in particular.

 The problem was the prices were up there, of course we're talking months out here but for a while Prague was the frontrunner. Prague and a train trip to Vienna. Ideally I wanted to stay in one place but Prague/Vienna looked pretty sweet, it fit our budget and I didn't want to wait and wait and then get stuck.

 And then a buddy of mine who is a travel agent (one of the last I think, he's like a flightless bird on some island a few months after the Europeans arrived) got me a sweet deal and so Paris it was.

 I told the kids and we began to make our plans. Really I figured one of them would cough it up, after all we're talking nearly six months of keeping a pretty big secret. I didn't tell our youngest though. She's five and a blabbermouth, I might as well have rented a plane with a banner to fly just above our house or so I figured.

 (Funnily enough she overheard us talking about it about a month ago and she's a tougher nut to crack than any of us, a hardcore secret keeper, that one.)

 So six months we've kept the secret. Pretty cool eh?

 Here's the funny thing about the whole thing though, it was mid July and we were out for drinks and she began fishing and she kept saying 'Its Paris, I know its Paris! Where else would it be!' because we have talked about Paris, though not at length, and also because, you know, its Paris.

 So a couple of days later I went online and I found a sheet of common phrases with their Spanish translation, gave it to my eldest and told her to leave it laying around. Sure enough that night Jenn comes home from work ~ 9 or so, goes upstairs, looks in on the kids and comes down.

Where are we going?

Can't say.

Did you print something off for the trip for P?

*cocks head, looks pensive* Erm, maybe.

Well she left 'something' laying out in plain sight.

*looks shocked* Wha-a-a-a-t?

*looks smug* Uh huh.

OK so you have to promise not to say anything to her, she'll be devastated.

Oh I won't, I just can't believe you would give her something like that, she's such a flake.

*sits back, crosses arms behind head* Oh, I know. I know.

I'm writing this on Tuesday night, she just asked me if we should borrow a Spanish/English dictionary from a friend who has one. I told her it might not be a bad idea. I have it on good authority that she is convinced that its Spain.

Ha.

We're at the airport right now. This is going to be good.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Panic At The Disco



The Oilers have stumbled out of the gate slightly.

 Just slightly.

 The beginning of any season is fraught with emotion. For nearly every team there is hope and a quick start brings dreams of a late spring run into mind while a bad start, well see your Edmonton Oilers and the message boards, comment sections (Never read the comments, I no longer do), blogs and social media for that over the top panicky emo reaction.

 Eakins should be replaced by Laviolette.

 Yakupov should be traded for a goalie.

 Hall is terrible. Eberle is terrible. They are all terrible.

 Etc etc.

 Now for a bunch that are supposed to be sophisticated, Oiler fans, like all fans, really are not, with some exceptions of course and neither are the media that cover them. From Terry Jones musing that any six blueliners at the WJC a few years ago would do a better job than the crew patrolling the Oiler blue at that time to pretty well anything that comes out of Mark Spector's mouth (Ben Eager a top sixer, Cam Barker a top three NHL blueliner, the fact that a team can't win with Euros in support roles - hello Chicago), you get the picture.

 And then there is Joe Average fan (or maybe I am being harsh - perhaps the folks online are the dregs though I sadly doubt it) who calls for veteran NHLers to be sent to the minors and replaced by Rob Schremp and Colton Teubert and so on. Of course said fans are not confined to Edmonton, you have Boston fans who want to get rid of Chara and Toronto fans who want to dump Kessel and Phaneuf and it goes on and on.

 A lot of white noise. A lot of bullshit from people who think Mike Brown is a better hockey player than Ales Hemsky. Dummies in other words.

 What do I take from the Oilers' start so far? Some good. Some bad. Some questions.

 The Good

 In the end its goals that matter of course but possession stats show that the Oilers are either holding their own or outplaying their opposition. Or if you hate possession stats then just watch the game and you will see that the Oilers are either holding their own or outplaying their opposition. They are 1-4-1 but they could very easily be 5-1 or any other combination. And they haven't been playing patsies. Would it better if they had more to show for it? Obviously. Is it better that they could be 5-1 but are not rather than being 5-1 and getting wildly outplayed but getting points because they have hot goaltending or have been lucky? Make sense? Sure it does.

Winning and outplaying > Outplaying but losing>Winning but being lucky>Being horrible and losing


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 We knew Perron was a player and we figured Boyd Gordon was a player too but both have been better than advertised so far. Gordon isn't going to keep up the pace offensively but he's probably going to break career marks considering the talent he is playing with. Two great gets by MacTavish.

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 The team can score. They've run into some hot goaltending here and there but without Yakupov doing anything and without Gagner in the lineup they're still scoring some and its balanced, eight players with four or more points plus Ted had three in four games.

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Faceoffs. If you think they matter and I'm not really sure that they do other than its important to have guys who can win them in your zone, especially on the PK, then you're probably happy. They've gone from being terrible to pretty good. Of course Acton lost two last night on the PK and both times the puck ended up in the net.

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Arcobello's lack of finish might be the only thing preventing him from having an NHL career right now. Small sample size but can they really send him back down once Gagner is healthy? I don't think so. Considering they have no F depth in OKC (although early returns on Pitlick sound positive) this is an unexpected pleasant surprise.

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 The Bad

 The goaltending has been awful and with even average goaltending they are at least 3-3. It is hilarious though that people are ready to throw out three years where Dubnyk has been a pretty decent starter over four games. That said he has to be better though and one suspects he has to be get it together really soon or MacT is going to pull the trigger. There are more issues than goaltending but its the most obvious and probably easiest to fix.

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 Team D has been, um, interesting. Case in point, Lupul's first goal on Saturday night. Belov has the puck carrier contained just fine and next thing you know there are four Oilers within about a ten foot square area and Lupul is wide open in the slot. I guess its a system thing? Whatever it is their coverage has been terrible at times.  That's stuff you get taught in atom right there although Bryan McCabe never figured it out either.

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 Schultz younger has been pretty terrible in his own end, if anything he looks like he has regressed. Tyler Dellow brought up Andy Dellmore the other night and that sound you heard was my tears, they flowed in a very copious manner, drowning the cat and flooding our main floor.

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The fourth line has been a joke. Whenever they are on the ice they invariably chase the other team around the offensive end for a few seconds, then the neutral zone for a few seconds and then finally around their own end for a minute or so in a total gongshow. I respect guys who make the NHL through hard work and determination despite lack of talent but these guys are playing about five minutes a night too much. So essentially all of their shifts. Last night was the epitome of how useless the whole exercise is with Chimera, unintimidated, running Schultz younger and then later skating away from Gazdic who was left going to the bench without his gloves or stick, having dropped them, and then later, Ovechkin, a guy who is supposed to be intimidated, I guess, running Brown.

 Too fucking much. Get rid of them and bring in some guys who can PK or at least play a semiregular shift of hockey please. You know like the fourth lines in Chicago and Boston. Good teams.

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Questions

 I really only have one right now and that is Eakins. I can't figure him out. Benching Yakupov to get his attention for a game made some sense, I guess, but when you're not winning keeping a guy out of the lineup over Mike Brown or Luke Gazdic for a second game makes little sense. Yakupov has looked awful but so did Hall when he played C and Eberle was terrible for the first week. Make your point and then put him in a position where he can succeed.

 Beyond that there is that fourth line and there is the 'system'. I like Eakins, I am a sucker for a guy who is articulate and who seems smart, but presently I am wanting more.

 One More Thing

 I think the Oilers are a possible playoff team, I do, if they can iron out the goaltending and the coverage issues. I do find it funny how fans and media are freaking out. The team has been garbage for seven years and now people are getting upset? Hilarious.

 Cam Thomson (RiversQ to you), who is a pretty smart guy, pointed out in the summer that MacT had too much on his plate and he was right. You gut a team for seven years, purposely tanking (and in many cases just being really stupid when it comes to judging talent) and the end result is a roster that has so many holes in it that you are going to be unable to fill all of them. In any case they have been lucky that Arcobello has been reasonable and Belov too but the D is still iffy and the fourth line is a gong show and they are lacking guys who can play a solid allround game, guys like Brouwer and Ward and Chimera, to name three members of last night's opponent.

 Kevin Lowe sniffing that he has six Cup rings is more than hilarious considering that he turned a pretty good club into a laughing stock in the blink of an eye and his man Tambo, well his legacy lives on, with guys like Souray and Cogliano and Brodziak and Visnovsky and so on and so on playing for teams better than Edmonton (news flash - everyone has been better than Edmonton these last seven years). Tambo is the guy who turned a house into a paper clip, each player brought in withering on the vine until they were moved for lesser value (or nothing), picks moved for guys like Smithson and Brown, what other teams call waiver wire fodder.

 I like MacTavish but he's part of this crew, the one that employs Buchberger and hires Messier and all of that. I wish him well and I do think he has the chops but I worry. I think the foundation is here for greatness but I keep thinking back to the darkest days of the rebuild when I'd bring up Atlanta and Florida and the Islanders, wandering the desert for decades, and people would sneer.

 Nothing is guaranteed even with the young core they have in place. These first two weeks don't matter, really, but they have exposed a few issues. I think they can be fixed but I guess we will see what MacTavish and Eakins are made of now.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

West



Anything could happen but the Stanley Cup is probably staying out west again. Probably best four teams in the league right here.

In Like Flynn

Hawks - a million things could happen, mostly injuries, but Chicago is the team to beat again. Pretty well the same squad is back with only Frolik, Stallberg, Bolland and Emery hitting the road. They need to figure out who will take Frolik's minutes on the PK but that's probably their biggest issue. A bunch of new kids have moved into the lineup and that doesn't even count Pirri who was hurt at the start of their camp and never got traction. I suspect we will see him between Sharp and Hossa before too long.

 Anyhow last year they had the best offence and best defence and its basically the same team and with the exception of Hossa and a couple of the supporting cast its still a relatively young club. If they're healthy I think they repeat.

Kings - the Kings will be in the mix again of course, they are just so good. I think their only issue might be depth on the wing, they don't score a ton after that top six and while their top end talent is fantastic I think that deeper teams with the equivalent top end quality (so, um, Chicago and maybe Boston) can beat them. Of course as I noted that's two teams and Boston's depth is not what it was so, well, one team.

Sharks - maybe the most interesting team to watch this season as Thornton, Marleau and Boyle's contracts are all expiring. The Sharks are in danger of becoming the Sens or the Canucks, a very good team that never won it all, this is their last shot or at least this group's you would have to think. I think they will be there again, a key for them might be home ice and they may have the offence to win their division and get that. They are a bit of a popular pick this autumn, I think like LA they may be just a titch below Chicago but I could see them going all the way in this gang's last hurrah.

Blues - I have the Blues just below the big three but they're close enough that they could roar right through the West if the other big boys have bad luck or injury woes. For me the difference between St Louis and the others is the lack of a gamebreaker. They have the best defence corps in the league, I like Halak and their forwards are quality as well but while Chicago had Kane and Toews and Hossa and Sharp and San Jose had Thornton and Marleau and Couture and Pavelski and the Kings have Kopitar and Carter and Williams and Brown the Blues have ... Steen?

 Without that pure offensive talent the margin for error when playing those top teams is almost none.

Canucks - Their window has closed for this team I think, the big issue for them is there are no young quality players coming up behind to support the Sedins, Kesler and Burrows. The D is certainly too good for this team to fall apart and I am sure Luongo will bounce back as well but their depth up front, once such a strength, is non existent. Who is their best young forward? Kassian? Yikes. With that said though they are still a shoo in for the playoffs.

On The Bubbles

I miss Bubbles. 'Jesus Fucking Christ Julian you mean one of those big cocksuckers out on the ocean!'

 I do a mean Bubbles. Hard to do with three young kids around though.

 Anyhow the three remaining spots out west are pretty wide open. Here are the three who I think will make it.

Ducks - Anaheim was lucky last season, big time lucky, but with the Wings and BJs (heh) gone from the second division I think they're probably the best of the rest. They have a pretty nice group of forwards and quality goaltending. I think their D is their biggest weakness, especially with Souray out, if something happens to Beauchemin then they'll be in big trouble.

Oilers - *gasp* I know, I know, hard to believe. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if Gagner and RNH were available and that fourth line has to be the worst in the league but my guess is Eakins rides his big horses for these first few weeks and they tread water long enough to survive until the centres return. I like their goaltending (note this was written before last night's disaster), I would love another top four D but with that said I think Ference and Belov will help and that Schultz younger will be improved as well. And they have a lot of firepower up front. Hall is a superstar, Hemsky is proven quality, Eberle, Gagner, RNH, Yakupov and of course Perron who I think is a big addition. Finally I also think the team took a big step backwards under Krueger and we'll see Eakins make a difference.

Stars - I'm going to say the Stars will make the playoffs as well. I like their roster, they have some quality vets all through their lineup and of course Benn and Seguin to lead the way. Its Dallas so I hate them but then again ... Horcoff!

And the three that might sneak in.

Coyotes - Can't stand this team, the drama around a club nobody cares about, the NHL grifting Glendale, the way they choke the life out of every game. With that all said they will ikely be in the mix, they're like the Wild, every year they're hanging around, one year they're in, the next they are out and nobody cares or remembers either way. They have a nice blue but Ribiero is their number one centre, really, and they have almost nothing on the wings at all. Still with all that said ... Tippett. If any of the teams ahead of them falter they might sneak in there.

Wild - they snuck in last year they might sneak in again this year do you care about this anonymous bland McFranchise no I didn't think so I certainly don't

Preds - like the Coyotes and Wild you look at the roster and there's a lot of meh but with that said they have a workmanlike group of solid forwards and Shea Weber of course and most of all they have Barry Trotz. Never underestimate the guy.


Bringing Up The Rear

There's some serious junk in the west.

Jets - Jets couldn't make the playoffs playing in the east and in the worst division to boot. Love Ladd, Kane, Byfuglien but goaltending is bad and so is the team. Claude Noel is getting so fired.

Avs - They have some wonderful young talent, Duchesne, Landeskog, O'Reilly, MacKinnon. And then a whole pile of garbage everywhere else.

Falmes - lol

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Bringing The Crazy


Was out on the street today with three of the neighbourhood moms as the kids ran wild. Best street, seriously. Maybe fifty houses, hundred year old duplexes mostly, the odd detached place. A couple of old folks hanging in there but mostly young families. Its great.

 We were discussing bedtimes and different strategies. Our guys are ten, almost eight and five and for years we'd have the lot of them in bed by seven but now its eight and sometimes a bit later for the two oldest. I dread a few years from now, we barely have any time to ourselves now and the evenings are ours but not for much longer and how the hell am I going to get any of the sex if the kids are lounging around.

 Goddamn it all to hell.

 So this reminded me of last night and so I told them about it, it was getting near bedtime and our youngest told us we had to attend her 'dance show'. She had been after us for a while but we were doing dishes and cleaning up and getting homework finished and so we kept putting her off but we all trooped down to see what she had put together. She's cute as a button our youngest all enthusiasm and giggles and joy and so we smiled and thought oh this will be great.

 After a few minutes the phone rang and Jenn smirked and excused herself as it was her sister and so I was stuck watching what could only be described as a fucking disgrace. The two oldest were enlisted in this effort and there was no dancing or singing or anything worth anything, just her running in circles with them running after her and after each circuit she'd throw herself onto the couch and so would they and then they'd do it all over again. And I'm sitting there thinking what the fuck is this shit, this is horrible and all I want right now is a drink or a cigarette or a hooker to end my misery, what a fucking disaster and then it ends and I think thank fuck and then she smiles and says its intermission and I got up and roared at them to all get to bed that was the end of that my Jesus what a disaster.

 And so I told this story to the moms and they laughed and cringed a bit and I am sure they were thinking my God he's a mental case and so I'm watching the hockey game tonight and first intermission comes on and I think well you know what maybe Cherry and I aren't that different after all, it must be all the booze and blows to the head over the years, am I right Don?

 THUMBS UP AND EVERYTHINK LIKE THAT AMIRIGHT?!?!?!?!