Wednesday, December 24, 2014

So This Is Christmas

 Tomorrow morning the kids will be up early but they aren't allowed downstairs until 8am. We like to build the suspense. :) Plus Jenn is working today so a couple of extra hours sleep will be welcome. We will go downstairs and open our stockings and then Jenn will put the turkey in and we will have breakfast. My oldest has a homemade cocoa recipe so we will have that, probably with a bit of Carolans in it, and then once we have eaten we will open the presents. This is a tradition from Jenn's house and it's a great one, the kids go a bit mental waiting but it also draws out the morning and makes it last.

 We visited my folks last weekend and we saw friends in Sudbury as well and we had company Monday night and are having people over next week and we will see a lot of friends over the holidays. It's my favourite part of Christmas other than Christmas morning itself.

With three kids in the house Christmas is a big deal, of course, a really big deal. Our oldest is now eleven and her enthusiasm has not waned one bit. She loves receiving gifts but she has also become immersed in the idea of the whole holiday, not the baby Jesus part, we are not church goers, but in the joy and the excitement and the pleasure that it can bring, the giving of gifts, the feasting, the parties with family and friends. She has spent weeks making gifts, homemade treats and hot chocolates and handmade soaps and scrubs. Seriously. She has become ... challenging over the last few months, asserting herself and pushing Jenn's buttons and after being told this she retorted that Jenn pushes her buttons so yeah there you go, it's going to be a fun ride. She's a wonderful kid, smart and funny and generous and she is growing up and it's breaking our hearts.

 The boy is facing some adversity in between the pipes. His last game his team, previously undefeated, was shelled 9-2. He didn't get an ounce of help and afterwards he was choking back some tears. I hate being the father of a goalie but he enjoys it and now he has to work hard and try and bounce back. I'm going to be taking a lot of shots on him over the next few days I think. He's the rock of the family though, a golden boy. He works hard and never complains and he is a brilliant boy and curious about the world around him. He is all me, Jenn says, but the truth is he is all of the best of me, with none of the bullshit and we could not have a better son.

 Our youngest is a bright shining star. When she laughs it is a roaring rolling series of giggles and chortles and howls and it makes everyone around her smile. She is in grade one now and still at the stage where she makes great leaps in the space of weeks, at one point in September she learned how to read, swim and tie her shoes in a matter of weeks. Unreal. She has always been a bit wild, certainly less serious than her siblings, and so we were surprised, happily, when we found out that she is killing it in school.  She is the heart and soul of the family.

 Jenn turned forty this year and celebrated by going to Vegas where she ran her first and only full marathon. She remains the love of my life, brilliant and hilarious and beautiful, and we make a damn good team. I'm a lucky man.

 As for me things are great, mostly because of what I have just told you. We have been very fortunate this year after the great sorrow from last year. Mom and Dad keep on trucking, at 82 and 81, and I am fully aware that some day this will no longer be the case. They are active and they are enjoying themselves and they are teaching us how it's done. I have my health too, just turned 47, can you believe it? And I have a good job that I enjoy and we were lucky enough to travel this year, New York with Jenn and Germany with a dear old friend. We are very very fortunate. Some of that good fortune we have earned. Most of it is the luck of the draw. Jenn works Christmas Eve day and Boxing Day this year and she is caring for children who have not been so lucky and I could not imagine what it would be like to be the father of one of those kids.

 I've been writing here for nearly nine years now. Isn't that mental? I don't write so much anymore, it's hard to say the Oilers suck in a different manner. The team is a disgrace but through this blog I have met so many good people and have been part of a fun community for nearly a decade. I have a rich and wonderful life and this has been a good part of it and I am lucky beyond measure.

 Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to you and yours and a safe and healthy and happy 2015.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A Golden God

 On my beer league team it's a bit of a running joke that I take it pretty seriously. Not seriously in that I yell at guys or get pissed off when mistakes get made, I'd be looking for a new team within a week if I pulled that shit, but seriously in that I know the teams we play against, I know who needs close checking and I remember games and moments from games in years past.

 Part of this is I'm a bit of a savant when it comes to remembering numbers and events but mostly it's because I'm a beer league geek, if there's such a thing.

 I love it.

 I'll be 47 in a few weeks and I hope, well I hope like one of my uncles I play into my seventies. I've slowed down slightly but I'm skating a few times a week on my own this winter, partially to stay (get back into) shape and partially to try and improve myself as a skater.

 As for Capsule, well we are on the run of our lives right now. Eleven wins and two ties in thirteen games so far. Unreal. We're enjoying it but there is some trepidation, last year we had a terrific start, hit the skids at Christmas, roared back by sweeping all of our main rivals aside and then fell apart down the stretch, finishing our year by losing six straight games, bombing out of the playoffs.

 So we'll see. It has been fun though.

 I finished last season on the bench, watching as we went down with a whimper, my MCL strained earlier in the game in a weird nothing moment. Missed summer hockey. Skated well right off the hop this season with nothing to show for it and then in the last five games I have found my stride, four goals and four assists. I don't score a lot of goals so it has been nice.

 Last week we had a rotten game and so were tied at ones with a couple of minutes left. We hit the ice for a draw in their end, our centre won it back to the point. A nice low hard shot, the goalie went down, screened by my linemates, puck popped right to me, open net. Winner. That was exciting.

 This weekend we faced our nemesis, they've knocked us out the last two years. They are a solid club, play hard, good goaltender and they have a big centreman who is probably the best player in the league, just a monster of a guy who can skate, shoot and pass the puck. We were doing a good job of checking him but with him the problem is you have to play a perfect game and it's beer league so there's no such thing. Sure enough he pounced on two turnovers, blew everyone away and scored twice. Game was winding down and they had a 3 to 1 lead.

 Then with six minutes left we got one and our line went over the boards and we had them hemmed in and our leading scorer (leading scorer in the league actually, he's a hell of a player and maybe he is the best player in the league, think Hossa for a player type) picked up a rebound on a wide point shot and flipped it in. Tie game.

 And with less than a minute left we hopped over the boards again for a draw in our own end. We won it and a D to D pass and then our Dman put it on the tape of our aforementioned main man just inside our blue line.

 Little things eh? If our D rings it then Ben has to pick it up and their D man probably pinches. Instead he gets it on his tape and their D fall back right away because they have to, he'll kill them, he steps over our blue and hits me going full bore up the opposite side. Their D are flat footed, I'm by them, all alone, full flight, go backhand. Their goalie, who has killed us for years and who has had my number in particular, goes with me but the puck is behind him and I'm whooping and hollering.

 Winner. 34 seconds left.

 I always joke with the boys that one day I'm going to skate right off the ice after scoring, right to the room, hang them up right then and there and this would have been the time to do it. Of course I'm lying. They'll have to drag me away.


 What is there to say about the Oilers? Anything? Anything positive? Anything constructive?

 We can talk about grand gestures and master plans and the process outweighing the results right now but what it comes down to is that while this is the strongest Oilers' team on paper in years on the ice it is hot garbage.

 They could fire the coach but Scott Bowman couldn't get an ounce more out of these mopes I suspect, although Norris would be sitting in the pressbox so that might be a start right there.

 The majority of players either have no value or are going to bring back less in a trade than is reasonable. There is certainly a market for Jordan Eberle, as an example, but MacTavish is going to be dealing from a position of weakness.

 With first Perron and now Ference speaking up it's pretty clear that this is becoming a team divided. You can hack on Ference all you want for his play, though I think he's been better this year, but what he says is true.

 Petry is a goner. Much like Ales Hemsky there is no way he is going to stay even if the Oilers want him to stay. This franchise is poison. And what that means is another player gone for nothing which means another spot to fill by trading someone else or by overpaying a UFA.

 So what can be done? Everyone except Lowe has been fired. The entire roster has turned over. They've brought in veterans. The roster is unbalanced but ten losses in a row unbalanced? Two shorthanded goals at home in one pp against a bad team unbalanced?

 The team is rotten to the core. Literally. The Rieder shorties were both hilarious and devastating because in that minute nine years of incompetence was summed up brilliantly. The prospect discarded for a never will be goon showing that management has no idea when it comes to player evaluation. The rookie fourth rounder playing on the PK and having more goals than Yakupov and one less than Eberle and RNH displaying that the Oilers cannot develop worth a damn, screwing up even the sure things. The terrible power play. The horrible giveaway by Hall showing that even basic mistakes keep happening again and again, partially due to the lack of accountability for the organization's chosen few. The defensive gong show on the second Rieder goal, with Nikitin the goat again, either too hurt to play effective defence or just not good enough (see management's inability to evaluate talent again).

 What should happen in the short term? Honestly? Well first of all Katz and Lowe and MacTavish should get up in front of the press and explain themselves but that is unlikely to happen and so it is left to Eakins to take the brunt of it.

 What do we want to happen? Lowe's head on a pike, if only to show that there is some sort of accountability. More than anyone he is the reason for the last nine years. Such a record of failure would have resulted in dismissal a long time ago. I don't think it will happen and other than the thrill it would give us I don;t think it would make a big difference really.

 What would be the best thing for the franchise? Really? A full house cleaning. Or at the least something akin to what is happening in Toronto with Shanahan. And maybe that is what Nicholson is going to do. Certainly his remarks about scouting the other day sound ominous for that group. Maybe he is reviewing everyone and everything and come the spring Rexall will run red from the bloodletting. Maybe it will be a full purge and that purge will tear apart the roster itself.

 Based on what we've seen this year would we blame Nicholson? The Oilers are the Islanders. A once proud franchise wandering the wilderness, only worse. A laughing stock. It's a horrible disgrace. It is ruining reputations and destroying careers. What a meat grinder. Unreal.