Friday, January 03, 2014

A Better Place

Scrolling through Twitter on the streetcar today I noted that diehard Oiler fan (I think any Oiler fans left have to be diehards maybe) and fun follow Shauna (@SLShockeyfan) had noted after another Oiler disaster:

I feel for bloggers and even MSM. What is there to write about?

 So true, so true. I came back to work yesterday after nine days off. Five years ago, even three years ago, nine days off would have seen a half dozen or more posts on this site, tales of old leading to musings on many things copper and blue.

 But as I told Ben Massey recently there are only so many ways of saying that your favourite team is garbage.

 I remember back in 2008 or thereabouts a fellow who trolled the Oiler blogs pretty regularly, a guy who went by McLea iirc, saying that he couldn't wait for the Oilers to prove all of the naysayers wrong, guys like Dellow and Dennis King and RiversQ and Vic Ferrari and myself, guys who were tearing into Lowe as he began to destroy the franchise. I remember replying that I would be happy to eat crow, nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong.

 Still waiting.

 The dismissal of Steve Tambellini and hiring of Dallas Eakins and the additions over the summer (not enough but MacTavish had too many holes to fill and not enough chips to move to fill them imo) brought me some hope, surely all of this and more experience for the kids would mean, if not a playoff spot, at least meaningful games for the first time in nearly a decade. (It was Dennis King who noted recently that in a stretch of ~ 8 seasons leading to the 2006 run, I can't remember exactly how many, that by his count the Oilers played a total of two meaningless games or something like that. They were always in the mix for a playoff spot. Always.)

 I was wrong.

 Early days saw the team deserving more than they got, even with injuries up the middle, but poor goaltending did them in and since then the club has lurched from disaster to disaster. The team is not good enough but losing tends to lead to more losing and so almost to a man the club has underperformed and this is despite it being healthier than it has been in years. Eakins has said all of the right things but his moves often stink of panic. The abandonment of the five forward power play which was humming along after a shortie against Chicago is a perfect example of this. And of course the double standard, benchings for Yakupov and Petry and Arcobello, free passes for Hall and Eberle and Gagner (although last night the golden boys sat for a while). But what the hell do you do, fire another coach? Can't be done, especially when the D is basically Jeff Petry, Andrew Ference and five guys who may as well be called Scott Ferguson. (And no I have not given up on Justin Schultz, he just completed his first full season of games this week, still buddy is drowning out there.)

 The problem with this awful slide is that the mess feeds on itself. Players are losing confidence and in a lot of cases the 'give a shit meter' seems to be broken. The problem for the franchise as a whole is threefold.

 Players are not going to want to come to play for such a shitshow unless they are overpaid in a major way.

 Players who MacT might want to move are losing value which means more ten cents on the dollar moves where the club started with a house (Joni Pitkanen, Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Brodziak, Tom Gilbert, Sheldon Souray, Lubo Visnovsky etc etc etc) and ended up with a paper clip (Nick Schultz, a bunch of guys out of the league now or nothing at all).

 And most important of all, sooner or later, guys are going to want out or are going to get ruined by the Oilers.

 Will it get turned around? Well you might ask fans of the Panthers or Islanders or Thrashers (if they still existed) what year after year of high picks means. Sometimes it means nothing because the reason you are getting high picks is that management is garbage. Its easy to destroy a franchise, Tambo and Lowe burned it to the ground and sowed the earth with salt over a few years. The problem is with the present cap system UFAs of value are tending to extend with their current clubs and movement up the ladder is a lot more difficult unless you can find value where others see none and you can, get ready for it, acquire and keep good players.

 The pursuit of Clarkson breaks rule number one and the trade of Smid for magic beans, soon to be followed by Freedom for Ales Hemsky, break the second.

 (And at this point I am sure Ales has told MacT that he will not extend and who could blame him, my God I hope he gets a ticket to San Jose or Chicago, he's suffered enough.)

 So what does it all mean?

 Well I think I noted this a couple of months ago, either here or on Twitter, and I've been following my own advice. Over the holidays I watched zero minutes of Oilers' hockey.

 I played for Capsule. I played shinny. I played road hockey with the boy and a neighbour. I read four books. I celebrated my birthday by going out for dinner at Foxley's (highly recommended) followed by drinks and dancing with Jenn and friends and then a night at a hotel while the inlaws wrangled our little ones. I took the kids skating with my father in law. I read books to my youngest. I went to a neighbour's for New Years and rang in 2014 with my two youngest and a bunch of folks from our wonderful little street. I ate a lot. I drank a lot. I napped a lot. I went to a friend's and watched the Winter Classic with friends. I laughed a lot.

 It was an excellent week and a half. I hope that your own holidays, whether they were a day or still in process, were as good.

 The Oilers weren't really a part of them.

 Which is probably why they were so good.


@eastcoastoilfan said...

I think living out-of-market is worse as a diehard. The games are on so late here in the maritimes, so i'm tired when I watch. On top of that, everyone remembers you're an Oil fan, because it's unique that you don't cheer for Habs/Leafs, so you're constantly engaged in talk. So I've done the same as you, pretty much stopped watching and just stopped hoping until major changes take place. I had an awesome Christmas with my 3 kids (all under 3.5 years), consumed massive amounts of coffee/baileys in the mornings and Picaroons with my buddies who came back to town for the holidays. On top of that, it's a fucking winter wonderland here, so that has added to a great Christmas (now if the snow would all just go along with the xmas tree I'd be happy)

But hey, when am I going to get props for predicting on your blog here at start of the year that they hadn't done enough? I want props! haha
The needs are still the same: (i) An elite #1 dman, (ii) 2 or 3 (depending on #1) other rugged, dependable, not-fancy dmen who you can pair as anchors to guys like Petry and J. Schultz. Think Jason Smith/Staios; (iii) Bot-6 with legit NHLers on it. The fact we didn't do that this summer boggles the mind. Not that hard to find really; (iv) Some size/grit into top-6. That's going to involve a trade or 2; and (v) A coach that can inspire the players to go through the wall for him.
Weird that those are the same needs we had in July 2013 eh? The lone bright spots have been Gordon and Perron pick ups and the Smytty semi-renaissance. Other than that, everyone has gone sideways or backwards. Eakins has been a disappointment as well. Taking training camp and 20 games to figure out the system he wants to use doesn't fit the personnel he has was ridiculous. And it cost them, having now been out of the playoff contention since before the end of October!

Calgarysux said...

I've been not watching Oilers hockey for awhile now, I think I tuned out the latter part of last season. These days I might start out watching a game but if I can see the writing on the wall I stop watching it.

IF MacT can pull off a good trade deadline and offseason, we might be able to make some movement up the standings next season. We need to remake the bottom 6 forwards, part of which will be telling Smytty his time is up and not re-signing Jones, who looks like a shadow of his former self of a player ever since that eye injury. We need veterans more than rookies, but I wouldn't mind a few key kids being put in spots, assuming they actually earn a spot. The D needs to be remade in a big way, those so-called "depth guys" like Garbagekov need to go, they didn't work out (of course I called that one a bad move to begin with, and I was proven right). Belov didn't seem to work out either, and Schultz the elder needs to go. If a minute muncher is signed (assume the big fish on are not available via trade) to play with Jeff Petry, we just might be able to salvage some semblance of a 1st pairing until Darnell Nurse is ready to take the reigns. Sign an Andy Sutton type to play on the bottom pairing, and Philip Larsen deserves a regular spot, IMO. Goaltending needs to be switched out in a big way, Dubnyk and Bryz have both fizzled out as the season wears on, Richard Bachmann deserves a shot at the backup job or at least more starts next season.

I wouldn't trade any of the wunderkids but I would trade our 1st round pick for this year and next year for the right guy coming back. Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner are 2 guys who come to mind. Mark Arcobello is at least OK in his own end, IMO he deserves to get more playing time and see what he can do with it. Perhaps Gagner needs to spend time in the AHL - it's not like anyone's going to actually pick him up on waivers. If we can get an upgrade on Jeff Petry, so much the better.

Loxy said...

I still turn the games on, but far more than I ever did before, I turn the games off.

Even being far from Edmonton, this would have been a great season for us to follow the team. We know about 2 people in Ottawa, so we have no commitments. Sure, we explore the city and I am playing soccer, but we have a lot of down time. A LOT.

And I'm watching as my lovely fiance has adopted the Oilers as team. What a time to do so. I almost feel bad for pulling him from the Vancouver Canucks. I talked of promise, of future, of hope. But there is no hope left. And when I go play on the computer or watch something else, I leave him still tied to the game. He tunes in to the bitter end.

I hate myself for getting him on board such a sinking ship. And that's the thing, it is the horror of a ship that won't stop sinking, yet doesn't give you the peaceful relief of drowning.

Anonymous said...

Happy new years Pat. I wrote a somewhat extensive post on family, hockey and the Nhl. It got deleted somehow. Great to read about your holidays, I have 3 boys now, so I can relate to the experiences you shared :) my nucks while ok,are going nowhere without luck in the spring. Your oilers though.. Yeeeesh....
All the best to you and yours this upcoming year. If your lookin for a team to support, there's a beauty city on the west coast with a "somewhat" contender sticker...