Wednesday, December 23, 2015
It's been a very good year. Busy, it's always busy and we have to work hard to stay connected amid the daily bustle. I was talking to a father of a friend of my eldest the other day and he grumped for a moment about the leadup to Christmas itself. Too much he said, too much for one day.
And then he smiled and took it all back. They'll be gone soon, he said, grown up and gone. So I won't complain.
I can't complain. Went out with one of my dearest friends last night, it has been a while and we had more pints than we planned and some good food and as we have done for years now we talked about it all and the conclusion was the same as it always is, life is short and we must live it and we are doing a pretty damn good job of it. We have been lucky, the two of us, and now as we near fifty what was once in the background, a little dull, a little blurry, is becoming sharper. Call it a realization of our own mortality or something less dramatic than that if you will, that's alright, because while we are getting older we are still playing hockey and doing so pretty well and we're still wandering the streets here and elsewhere, taking it all in, the drink and music and food and all of it, we are getting older but other than a little stiffness and a memory that is slowly getting shot to hell we're ok.
But we see the time passing in our children who are growing up and in our parents who are getting older and, for the first time, noticeably so. Dad is pushing 84 now and for the first time he is slowing down a bit, a little bit less vigourous although of course it is all relative. Mom worries because he is tired now and then and he is not as strong as he once was and there is nothing I can say except 'Mom, he's starting to age' and it's a damn shame but it comes for all of us, damn time, so it goes. And as I noted it's all relative, when I turned my back this fall at the cabin he was hauling the outboard out to the dock, same as always.
We celebrated Christmas up north with Mom and Dad a couple of weeks ago and as always it was a wonderful time, I'm a lucky man and we enjoyed ourselves, much laughter and good times. And in a couple of days we will celebrate quietly here. The kids love it more than anything and so do we. Our oldest is almost a teenager and she has figured out Santa, did so a while back we know but she plays along for her siblings and she gets that it is about family and being together and just ... celebrating. Sounds hokey but of course the whole thing is, which is fine. The boy is wavering, he has the mind of an engineer and he knows the truth but his heart wants to believe still. And as for our youngest well, she believes whole heartedly, fully and completely, as is her nature.
All of the best of the season to all of you and yours. Enjoy. Eat too much. Drink. Be merry, as they say. Merry Christmas!
Posted by Black Dog at 11:54 AM
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
No hockey talk today, actually this is a serious piece, or as serious as I get anyhow. So if you don't want talk about terrorists and the world today (and I wouldn't blame you one bit) then come another time. I won't hold it against you. ;)
Last spring I was out for pints with my good friend. Jenn was in the middle of a whirlwind of trips, some business, some personal, and she had said to me that I should probably do something, it had been a while for me and she felt bad.
So I was talking to my pal on the back patio of the Only Cafe, I am pretty sure that's where we were, we had kicked this around a bit and so he mentioned that he had a work trip in the fall and the conference was being held in Frankfurt. Now Frankfurt held no interest for us but he said that Budapest was not that far away and it was supposed to be a pretty cool place and so maybe we could figure something out there.
As it turned out his show ended up actually taking place in Hamburg. No regrets there, I flew in and we hung out in Hamburg and Berlin and we had an amazing time.
So this year Jenn ended up lucky enough to go to Cambodia to do some volunteer work (a cause that we were astounded to have many of the folks who regularly come here generously contribute to) and so I floated the idea that I might also like to hit the road once again. She agreed and when I spoke to Higgins I found out that one of his company's shows was going to be held in ... you guessed it, Budapest.
So Jenn booked the time off and I began to research it. It's funny, I don't think of myself as well travelled but of course that is more my circle of friends than reality. I never thought of Germany or Hungary as places I would visit but Germany was fantastic and it became clear that Budapest might be really amazing.
As early November neared though a snag hit and my friend could not make it. Jenn's only caveat for these trips is that I have a travelling companion and so it looked like my plans were scuttled and I might end up going back to Dublin where I have friends who could put me up, keep me out of trouble and put my body on a plane home if shit went awry. No complaints, I love Dublin, but I've been a few times and was hoping for somewhere new.
And then my inlaws, bless them, suggested that as they were coming at the time that Jenn and I, planning to travel next year for our fifteenth anniversary, take this opportunity to celebrate a bit early. And not knowing what tomorrow might bring we thought why the hell not.
Jenn would say 'Why Budapest, what is there' but when I put alternatives to her she said no let's go, it looks interesting and this has been the plan all along. So we flew direct into Vienna, spent some time there and then took the train to Budapest.
Vienna was lovely and I don't want to sell it short but Budapest. Oh Budapest. Man I would go back tomorrow if I could. Beautiful and vibrant and gritty and elegant and we walked through the markets and spent the afternoon at a bath and hiked the hills of Buda overlooking the Danube and ate and drank on patios and in bars hidden down alleyways in the old Jewish Quarter and when we left we looked at each other and we could barely believe our good fortune at having experienced it. Lovely Budapest.
And shortly after our return Paris happened.
I talked to Mom and Dad last night, checking in, planning our trip up in a few weeks to see them and celebrate the holidays. My parents aren't fearful folk but Mom said oh I was glad to know that you were back home and it's not even safe to travel anymore and we talked about how horrible these events were.
And it's frightening of course. I think of those poor people minding their business and what happened and I am sad and I am scared. We were in Paris two years ago in late October, us and the kids, and I cannot even imagine it, the terror, the sorrow, the heartbreak.
But we'll go back. As I said I'd go back to Budapest tomorrow and if you said hey Pat here's the money and the time off, go to Paris, I would go in a heartbeat.
I stay away from the big picture in this space. If you come here at all then you know that to me the big picture is my family and friends and our neighbourhood, good food and drink, some laughs, enjoying what life brings that is good, enduring the inevitable sorrow.
But our world is a horrible place in many ways. It always has been, humans have been slaughtering each other since they came down from the trees. Things are better than they have ever been, I truly believe that, but people will always do awful things until there are no people left to do them.
The longterm fixes to what is going on are complicated and difficult and you know what is scary? You could resolve Syria and resolve young men, the sons of immigrants, feeling alienated and angry and you could fix all of these problems somehow (and believe me I am aware that there may not be the political will power or smarts to do so) and we will still see what we saw a couple of weeks ago.
Guns are easy to get a hold of and there are no shortage of young men who are willing to use them. Call them crazy or fanatical or bigots or whatever you will but you can arm half the populace and still get Columbine and Sandy Hook and theatres and parks and restaurants and churches shot up in the States.
So it's going to happen. It will happen again in Paris and it will happen in London and New York and in cities in Africa and Asia and Australia and South and Central America. It will happen here in Canada some day too and just pray (or if you don't pray, I'm not one for prayer, then hope) that you are not around when it does, unluckily in the wrong place at the wrong time, like poor Nathan Cirillo was.
I guess that sounds like a horrible thing to think, a dark and pessimistic way of looking at things but I look at it as a simple reality.
What do we do? Well I'm not smart enough to answer that regarding the big picture and I'm not getting into the politics of it but unless you intend to deport every person you think may be a threat to the citizens of this country (and for some people that is, well that's a lot of people including millions who are citizens of this country) and have soldiers on every street corner then you're not going to prevent awful things from happening. And even then awful things would happen, It's sad but true.
So I intend to travel and go to cafes and restaurants and pubs. I intend to think the best of people and to try and make my corner of the world better and to teach my kids about what is right and what is wrong. I can see some of you sneering at this, it's airy-fairy shit you are thinking, but the truth is that it's all I can do and really it's all that most of us can do. Try and make your little corner of the world a better place. Try and be kind. Try not to let hatred and fear rule the day. Live and enjoy what you can.
Anyhow it's been nearly ten years here and I have never written anything like this before, probably for good reason. Back to our regularly scheduled posts about beer league hockey, my kids and those Oilers, I promise. :)
Posted by Black Dog at 4:06 PM
Sunday, November 22, 2015
The Hamonic revelation has the rumour mill churning and as you can imagine things are getting a bit mental. Apparently Myers is off the table in Winnipeg, why I don't know, I think Hamonic is a clear upgrade and so I think the Wild are the clear frontrunner right now. The Oilers have a shot but man oh man the deals being proposed, all the way from Fayne and a mid round pick to Eberle + and I don't even know what to say in either case.
I like Mark Fayne, I think he is a top four NHL Dman when paired with a guy who can move the puck but that deal isn't happening. And while I would move Eberle for Hamonic the idea that you would need to add to a legitimate top line winger to get Hamonic strikes me as .... not likely.
Now of course we don't know what is out there and in any case all it takes is one GM to make THAT offer whether we are talking about a trade or free agency (remember Souray's bemused take on how the Oilers basically bid against themselves with a come out of nowhere offer that blew him away) and we see that nearly every summer, though less so this past one, where bottom six guys get the moon when equivalent or better players sign for less money and term.
Derek Dorsett's extension being a case in point.
Anyhow we all know that the Oilers' Achilles' heel remains the blue line, ahead of bottom six scoring and (sighs) goaltending (AGAIN!) but the reality is that the blue is better than it has been foor a while. It's so green but Davidson and Nurse have both been decent and Klefbom looks good and the veterans Sekera and Fayne have been solid, especially the former. It's not a playoff quality blue (oh if only MacT had had a clue about Petry) but it's better and with Schultz coming back we should see, hopefully, Gryba sent to the PB and Reinhart to the minor.
BTW I'm not down on Reinhart. Didn't like the deal but some are pronouncing him DOA, I certainly don't think that and would like to see him paired with a better option. Of course I would like to see that with Nurse and so on. It's the way it has been in Edmonton for a decade. Guys playing above their best slot and suffering as a result.
Anyhow back to point. The secondary scoring thing is temporary, once McDavid comes back there will be three scoring lines and oh my. As for the goaltending well we've been talking about this forever and if you're ready to give up on Talbot I say Dubnyk and that's all for now. I don't know if Talbot is the answer, he has been underwhelming, if that's a word, and relying on Nilsson is probably not a great idea. Broissot has been fantastic and may be the answer but only time will tell. Anyhow we all know that goaltending is voodoo and all that, who knows. My guess is they muddle along there until they can see Broissot up with the big boys.
But the blue. Back to the blue. Hamonic or someone like him would go a long way to curing what ails but at what cost? Because the latest, and to be fair this is just floating out there, nothing concrete, is the idea of moving Ted for a Dman, because Draisatil, see, makes him redundant.
Now let's just wait a minute here.
I love Draisatl and I think he is going to be excellent but he has played ten (!) games in the NHL this season so let's take a step back.
Actually first let me say this so you know where I am coming from. I am not against trading anyone as long as the team gets better. I think the Oilers have a long list of 'untouchable' players but other than McDavid and Hall I would probably move any of them for the right deal. My list goes like this:
McDavid, Hall, Nugent Hopkins, Draisatl, Nurse, Klefbom.
Now this will change in the future. For example if Draisatl proves this year that he is a two way centre who can drive play then he probably passes Ted. But not yet, bigger body of work and all that. And yes Nurse and Klefbom are kids but we're talking about guys who are probably going to be real top four guys for a decade or more. I don't trade them for Hamonic because the Oilers need as much D as they can get. I trade them for a guy like Oliver Ekman Larsson or Doughty, basically a young established number one guy but guys like that, they aren't getting moved.
So anyhow you can see that Eberle, Yakupov and Schultz are not on my list, Schultz for obvious reasons, of course the reality is neither he nor Yak are bringing much back anyhow. Eberle would bring back the biggest return and really if Chiarelli wants to speed this thing up then number 14 will probably be the guy he moves, not because he wants to, but because he will bring back the biggest return and be the easiest to replace. See Yakupov score a PPG playing with McDavid. Watch Pouliot kill it with Ted and Eberle. Look at Teddy Purcell rip it up with Hall and Leon. I'm not saying good wingers are easy to find (and Ebs is not in the same league as these guys) but I am kind of saying this.
Trade Nugent Hopkins and if McDavid or Leon go down then Lander is your number two centre. Do you like that? I don't think so. Keep him and you have a lineup soo deep at C that you almost don't need a fourth guy. You can move Leon to the wing if you're pushing for an equalizer.
After goalie centre is the most important position in the game. To have three (!!!!!) young guys who can play the position, well, you don't break that up until you absolutely have to do so.
Edmonton fans are like other fans, always looking for the next shiny thing. We're big on it (well some of us are) but we're not the only ones. When we lived in Florida the Buccaneers were coming on strong under Tony Dungy. They would win the Super Bowl as the culmination of that era although Dungy was gone by then. They were a club built on a fantastic defence and the offence was almost an afterthought. It was built on the run and the quarterback was expected to manage the ball, throw it only when necessary (the receiving corps was mediocre) and basically score ten to fourteen points as that was usually all that was needed. The QB when we were there was a guy named Trent Dilfer. Classic big quarterback, not very mobile, decidedly average. The problem with Dilfer is he wasn't that good and when the Bucs won he too was long gone. (Ironically Dilfer won his own Super Bowl with the Ravens, thus proving that there was an exception to the general rule that to win you need a great or at least very good quarterback, same as the exception to the rule that you need a great goaltender or stud number one Dman to win the Stanley Cup).
Now Tampa had a young backup by the name of Shaun King. King was mobile and dynamic and when Dilfer got hurt he came in and the team won some games. Now the team won most of their games because they were very good, regardless of who was behind centre, but when Dilfer came back the hue and cry for King was over the top. The main reason for this was that he was NEW and that he wasn't Dilfer. Dilfer wasn't much good but time would tell that King was actually worse. There was a legitimate reason that he was a backup (weak arm, not great decision making) but but NEWNEWNEWNEWNEW.
Fans get familiar with the established players, the guys who they see night in and night out and they become weary of their flaws and yes pretty well every player is flawed (this is another pet theory of mine that Oiler fans, spoiled by a dynasty of superstars, easily find fault when faced with mere mortals). Ryan Smyth wasn't a dynamic enough player to create something out of nothing. Ales Hemsky wasn't consistently brilliant. Tom Gilbert wasn't a thumper. Jeff Petry turned it over too much. Taylor Hall is ... well, I'm not even sure what the deal is there but there are people who think he's a bad hockey player. AND DON'T GET ME GOING ON HORCOFF!!!!!
Not just an Edmonton thing, Christ ask a Leafs' fan about Kessel or Phaneuf or Gardiner or Reimer. Bruins' fans (a minority of them certainly but still) wanted to run Chara out of town after 2013. And how about Pens' fans and Sydney Crombie!?!?!
In any case let's take a step back on the Nuge talk. Is he untouchable? No. Is he as close to it as you can get without being untouchable? Yes, because the return you would need for him is not available, at least right now. Trade Nuge and the team is not going to be better most likely. And that is the main thing, right?
Posted by Black Dog at 5:56 PM
Thursday, November 19, 2015
I tried to tweet about this but I need to write more than that will allow.
A few words on Travis Hamonic who apparently wants out of the Island, asked for a trade out before the season started and wants to move closer to home, which is Manitoba, for family reasons.
Hamonic is, well he is exactly what Edmonton needs. Top pairing RH Dman, young but established, and on a sweet sweet deal.
He isn't a project, he isn't going to be unrestricted in a summer, he isn't a guy with a bunch of question marks. Slot him in with Klefbom, have Nurse play with Sekera and Fayne with whomever you want on the left (Reinhart? Davidson?) or make it work however your mileage varies and this team is, well it's legit or a lot closer to it.
The problem is that he is a top pairing RH Dman, young but established, and on a sweet sweet deal. Everyone is going to want in on this.
Snow has two problems. One is that he has a pretty good team right now. They may not be an elite EC team (I would list Tampa, the Rangers and the Habs as those clubs, maybe the Caps) but they are a good team, good enough that they could come out of the conference with the right draw and if things fall the right way for them. So for him to trade one of his top pair for a pick or a prospect or a prayer, well, he doesn't want to do that obviously.
And secondly he is pooched. He doesn't have to trade Hamonic right now but he has to trade him and the result is he is not going to get full value, as much as he needs it.
So ... what is out there and do the Oilers have a shot?
If Snow decides to make the move in season then the Oilers are a longer shot. I love Klefbom and Nurse but neither is going to step into the Isles' top pair right now. (And personally I would trade neither. I know the Oilers need to make strides but trading a 20 or 21 year old Dman who is the real deal when you are short on the backend does not make sense) So that means Chiarelli either has to convince Snow to take a forward or Justin Schultz.
If Snow wants a Dman he may not get Dougie Hamilton or Trouba or Pietrangelo but a guy like Myers or Spurgeon is better than Justin Schultz and for both the Jets and Wild that is an upgrade.
An option that my pal Dennis King floated is the idea of a three way, which doesn't surprise me, seeing as our summit over many pints at the Horseshoe this summer continually digressed into that territory (but now I digress) and of course this works. I am going to totally steal his idea here - Nashville sends a D to the Island. The Oilers get Hamonic and they send a forward to Nashville.
Easier said than done though.
The other possibility is Snow waits until the offseason. In his public comments Hamonic is not pushing the issue (of course privately this may not be the case) and if Snow waits until the summer then he may be more amenable to an Oiler package that includes picks or prospects or a forward and he can fill the Hamonic hole another way.
The problem with waiting until the summer is that then you have a wider range of clubs competing with you. A team like Minnesota, for example, may like Hamonic but not want to make a move right now. A first round exit might make them decide to throw their hat in the ring.
Whatever susses out I expect Chiarelli is in on this hot and heavy as he should be. Bring in Hamonic and especially in the weak Pacific they're a lot closer than before.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:04 PM
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Capsule is fighting time more than anything man. We have a few guys over fifty and a whole lot of guys getting close but we've been a top club in our division the last few years regardless. Two weeks ago we opened up our season, we were missing three pretty solid players as we faced a club that had a streak of two straight championship seasons ended last year. They're quality but so are we and the last two seasons we've split our games with them.
And they waxed us. I mean, they killed us. It was ugly.
And so we came out this past weekend maybe a bit nervous, maybe a little worried. We were playing a club that finished a point behind us in the standings last year (we were third in a ten team league) and they are solid.
And we took it to them and they never really got a sniff. It was 5-2 when it ended and that flatters them pretty well and helped ease the sting of what was apparently an anomaly in the opener. Man I love playing. Still do even though I'm slowing down a bit. Legs are going but I still have my brains. About midway through the game one of their guys lost it at our blue line and I picked it up, looked up ice and saw our centre pulling 'a Phil Esposito' as he later said, just cruising back out of their zone. He turned and I hit him tape to tape and he raced in and wired one through the goalie. I gave a whoop, man I loved it, what a play.
I have an uncle who played into his seventies and another who played into his sixties and would still be playing if it weren't for those damn blood thinners he has to take because of his heart attack.
I want to beat those guys man. I want to pass them by.
So a new NHL season starts and ARE YOU EXCITED? I am, well, I am not I guess. Not as excited as I was for beer league beginning. I think as I get older my world is shrinking and by that I mean not that I am becoming a hermit or inward looking, unlike my old man I don't have EVERYTHING I NEED RIGHT HERE!!!! (Jenn and I are heading to Budapest and Vienna in a few weeks, woot!!!) but that the things that matter to me are the personal. My family, my friends, my community. I was thinking the other day and if you gave me the choice between a beer league or Exclaim Cup championship for Capsule and a Cup for the Oilers I would choose the former. Don't get me wrong, if the Oilers ever win (they have not since I became a fan ~ 1999) I would be over the moon, 2006 almost ruined me, my dog, but to whoop it up with my brothers on the ice. Man ... that would be sweet.
NHL hockey is great entertainment for sure, well, for the most part. It's also a league run by cynical grifters whose primary goal always is to maximize profit. When I forget about that then I'm okay with things but it's difficult to explain to your nine year old son that his favourite player on his favourite team is a guy who he should not emulate in any way and this is why .....
Anyhow let's forget for a moment the shitty summer the league had off of the ice (you had to say they had it coming with their smug sneering at other leagues' issues) and concentrate on hockey, yes? Ok let's do that.
I consider myself a fairly astute hockey guy and am always pretty proud of the fact that I have made a pretty good run at predicting playoff winners over the past decade here. Before I started this post I figured I would look back at my thoughts from the beginning of last season and oh boy .... what a gong show.
Now to be fair to me (ie make excuses) the league has more parity than ever before and really I think a lot of what I believed last fall was pretty reasonable. Teams are damn close to each other and all it takes is a key injury or two or a run of luck to either lift a club into the playoffs or knock them out of the race. I don't think anyone saw the Kings finishing out of it last year, indeed in the stretch run most were anointing them as a favourite to win the Cup if/when they made it. And then they didn't make the playoffs. Unreal.
So here is what I think but first of all here is what I thought last year. In other words what I am about to say is worthless:
Real contenders - Chicago (on the money), Blues (out first round), Kings (no playoffs), Sharks (no playoffs)
Second tier - Ducks (conference final), Tampa (Cup final), Habs (out in second round), Bruins (no playoffs), Stars (no playoffs)
Other playoff teams - Wild, Pens, Rangers, Isles (all on the money) Avs or Canucks as last spot in west (Canucks made it), Devils in the east (nope) and I had no idea on the 8th seed in the east
So I predicted 5 out of 8 western clubs (!) and 6 out of 8 eastern clubs. All that said other than the Avs and Devils none of these picks are horrible.
Anyhow, here goes nothing. Again I am going to break this down into tiers of clubs with the teams that I think will win the Cup at the top of the list. And if you are asking I am figuring on the Ducks and Tampa in the final with the Ducks winning it all. Can't cheer for a Cup for Kesler or Bieksa or another one for Perry but I would cheer like crazy if that old Russian pictured above got to hoist it.
Ducks - I think the Ducks do it all this year, they may have a nice window of a couple of years here. They have a deep quality team. So many good young players and adding Hagelin, man what a coup. Getzlaf and Perry carrying the mail up front, good role players and a relatively weak division. I think they win the division, the conference and then the Cup.
Wild on Jack Lemaire - before the playoffs started last year I predicted whoever won between the Wild and the Blues would go all the way but I reneged once it became clear that Chicago had been sleep walking the last few months of the season. That said with Chicago now weakened and the Wild having Dubnyk for a full season I think they tear it up and win the division. Too much talent.
Tampa - once they got rolling last year there was nobody stopping them out East and I don't see any other team from out there posing a threat. They are young and they are hungry and they will be better most likely. They almost won it all last year and I would not be surprised to see them do so this year. First Eastern team in years and years that can honestly compete with the best Western teams.
Kings - the Kings' depth is beginning to take a hit, as often happens with Cup winners, and I would rather Williams over Lucic any day. All that said there was a reason everyone was terrified even when they were out of the playoffs last year and the extra two months of rest will likely help them get off to a good start and they will probably cruise to the playoffs. I would not want to face them but they are not unbeatable, folks forget that in their 2014 Cup was won on the basis of three game seven victories. That's amazing and also playing with fire and I don't think this team is better than that one. Dangerous though.
Chicago - Chicago has undergone their usual roster gutting and this one probably falls between the minor surgery performed in 2013 (remember they fell a bounce short of beating the Kings after that and probably repeat of they did) and the absolute dismemberment of 2010. On paper it looks like they don't have a shot. Their LW depth chart has basically been erased. Saad, Sharp, Vermette, Richards, Oduya. Man oh man. All that said the guy they will really miss is Saad and after that ... Sharp was shunted down the lineup after his injury, Vermette was a deadline deal, Richards is not as good as Anisimov and Oduya, well he had his struggles for much of the season as well.
Too rosy a picture? Maybe except that core is still there. Daley was a gong show in Dallas but Oduya was no hell before he came to Chicago either and Daley will be asked to do a lot less with the Hawks. Teemu will have a chance to shine all season and Panarin and Tikhonov (as well as Dano at some point) may very well be real players.
The Hawks might miss the playoffs. That division is unreal. But unlike 2010 they brought in a ton of real NHL players, not picks, and ... well, I won't bet against the Hawks until I see them falling apart.
(As an aside in the spring I wrote about what I thought the Hawks would do. I never thought Saad would be part of the purge and I didn't really see them bringing so many NHLers back in their deals. One is a big negative, the other a positive. At the time I suggested that the probable best move, in my opinion, would have been for them to move Sharp, Crawford and Seabrook, in other words go really big, clear cap space by the ton and then reload with young cheap talent. I still think this would have been the best move but it would have taken enormous balls for Bowman to make the latter two deals especially. And so he chose, well, he chose what likely most GMs would have chosen. The sure thing. In about five or six years Chicago will probably be awful, their prospects' cupboard bare, their roster weighed down by the massive deals they have given out to players who won't be able to give them value on those deals. But their window is now, it is still now and while Seabrook and Keith and Hossa are all on the wrong side of thirty the latter two are still amongst the best at their position in the game and Seabrook is pretty damn good. I think GMs are too loyal and I didn't like either the Crawford or Seabrook contracts but I can understand why Bowman did it. And that window is going to close at some point. It is still open right now. May as well go for it.)
Blues - these clowns keep falling short in the first round and I am starting to wonder if they are always going to be also rans. I mean at least the Sharks won some rounds! That all said ... they are still a very good club, they have great talent on the back end and Tarasenko is a game breaker. It is getting more difficult for them but if it is a down year for the Hawks and they get a good draw in the first round then maybe they finally get over the hump.
If we end up with a year like 93 then maybe one of these teams win it all but other than that I don't really rate many of them. In other words they will need a lot of luck.
Dallas - really really tempted to put Dallas in the next tier. They were let down by their goatending in a huge way last season and one would expect that that bounces back. And they have that top six - Sharp, a healthy Nichushkin and hopefully a better Ales Hemsky - to go with Benn, Seguin and Spezza.
I don't trust their D fully yet though. Some nice youngsters there but not quality enough to put them in the conversation for the big prize.
Jets - they were ravaged by injuries and still made the playoffs and gave the Ducks a battle. A lot of great kids on the horizon. Nice looking D. Doubt they go anywhere with that goaltending but they will make the playoffs and lay a beating on whoever they meet there, maybe even win a round
Rags - Rangers have been quality the last two years, love Alain Vigneault. Speaking of closing windows this is a club that needs Tampa to stumble and then some luck - they could make the Finals but hard to see them beating a Western club
Habs - Can't bet against a team with the best goalie in the league. Petry was a great add. They need to dump Therrien of course. The team has skill and he is wasting it. With Price they could make a run to the Final and of course who knows if they get that far but again I can't see them beating a big boy from the West
Pens - loaded up front, what an offseason they had. That D is so young and of course you never bet on a team with that bucktoothed bastard in net. Eat me Fleury.
Caps - Caps are everyone's darling this fall. I have to say that I like them, I really like Holtby and of course Ovi is an all time great but I have a hard time seeing them getting anywhere. Like the Blues they never really go anywhere. Maybe that chages this year but I don't see them as anything special.
So that is seven western playoff teams and five eastern. The remainder:
Falmes - yeah I think they make it again. I don't believe in Nashville and I think the Avs are worse than last year with O'Reilly gone. The Canucks continue to shed talent and Arizona is going to be terrible and while I like the Oilers they aren't making the playoffs unless a couple of teams fall off of cliffs and Norris Schultz channels Doug Harvey. Ain't happening. Falmes did it with smoke and mirrors last year and added Hamilton and Frolik and have Giordano back. They're going to be legit enough this year to make it, tanks Bob 'Artley!
Isles - really like the Isles and the work of Garth Snow and to be honest I could see them win their division if everything falls right. Probably not but yeah playoffs.
BJs (lol) - I think they are coming on and adding Saad is going to be big for them, how's that for a hot take. Seriously though, good enough to make the playoffs though not much else.
Sens - wow is the east ever shitty huh? the Flyers, the Devils, the Leafs, the Canes. Holy fuck. And that doesn't take into account the fading Wings, the Panthers who are not there yet, the Bruins who, well I don't even know what to say about the Bruins and the Sabres who were the worst team in the league last year and may pass a whole bunch of these tire fires! What a fucking mess.
So there you go. TAKE IT TO THE BANK YO!
Posted by Black Dog at 9:09 PM
The boy and I headed up north last week to help my old man close down camp. We were relatively lucky with the weather, it dropped below freezing at night but there was no rain and the wood stove kept the cabin warm into the night, so much so that early on I was kicking the blankets off. Come the dawn though we were bundled up and there was about a half hour between getting out of bed and the fire roaring again that was a little uncomfortable. You know, because IT WAS BELOW FREEZING!!!! Dad was planning on staying up for a few days after we left but the cold convinced him that it was time to wrap it up.
So we worked pretty hard. Much like some reporters you know we hauled water and chopped some wood *rim shot* but mostly we were breaking things down and storing them for the winter. The boy works like Marian Hossa and so while my Dad and I were hauling the big stuff he kept asking 'now what do I do?' and I would give him a chore and ten minutes later he would be back. That work ethic skipped a generation in our family so that's great because he is sure to be a success and can take care of me when I am riding off into the sunset.
All in all it was really terrific. Dad will be 84 next June and he's slowing down a little bit, we weren't cutting down trees to make a new dock like we did when he was 80. Him and Mom know that every year may be their last up by the lake but damn it they are going to go there as long as they can. They're going out with their boots on, it's the only way to be.
Camp wrapped up for the Oilers and the biggest takeaway for me is that for the most part the men in charge know what they are doing. Underachieving veterans were farmed out, youngsters were sent down for more seasoning and the team looks like it is close to the best team they could ice except for fucking Luke Gazdic oh man.
I just don't get it.
To me Draisaitl has to play and play a lot so I have no issue with him going down instead of Gazdic but I'd rather have Miller or Pitlick, they're not going to wither on the vine in the pressbox and they are both guys who can play on the fourth line and be useful.
Anyhow on to more important matters.
Scrivens and The Goalers
I like Ben Scrivens because he seems like a well spoken dude and he's involved in the community but he was awful last year and there's no way around it. My guess is he bounces back, he's no Dubnyk who was a good starter before he went off the rails but he has always been a solid backup. You knew when they brought Nilsson in that he was in trouble, I mean real trouble, and the latter's solid preseason spelled the end of Scrivens in Edmonton, probably for good.
As for the goaltending well I like it but then again I thought last year was a decent bet as well so shows what I know about goaltending (very little). Personally I think you blow your wad on guys like Price and Rask and very few others and would not spend a lot of money on either Quick or Crawford, who have won four of the last five Cups, two guys who are imo slightly above average and way overpaid. Anyhow I think Talbot is a good bet and I hope he works out because this whole season getting sewered by Halloween because of dreadful goaltending is getting old.
Oh Nikita You'll Never Know
Other than the Jeff Petry failure I can't think of a move that screams 'Edmonton Oilers of the last decade' like the Nikita Nikitin disaster. Penner and Souray were dumb because of the timing and we knew Big Sexy would get hurt but they provided surprising value. We knew Khabibulin was a bad move but he wasn't completed washed up yet and Whitney was another one you could see coming but before he went all Barbaro he showed what might have been.
God this is a long list.
Belanger was actually a good bet who just didn't work out, Lupul turned out to be an actual NHLer at least, Sam Gagner was ruined by the Oilers but he was drafted where he should have been, give or take a spot, Ference got too much term but was a top four Dman on a Cup Finallist the spring he was signed. And at least they didn't extend Nick Schultz. We figured Cam Barker to be a bust for sure but hey one year and done and you never know. Etc etc etc.
But the only saving grace for old Niki Niki is that the cost to acquire him was minimal. But how horrible do you have to be at your job to trade for a guy who can barely make the roster of a very bad EASTERN CONFERENCE team and then, and then, oh man I can barely stand it, and then give him a two year deal that makes him your highest paid defenceman. All while you lowball a guy who went on to be an actual playoff team's second best Dman right off the hop.
And then he shows up out of shape.
Now what Chiarelli should have done is walk in this summer and asked who was responsible for Nikita and then he should have gone Alec Baldwin on them, no steak knives, you are gone. What a disaster.
The Oilers, like a lot of teams that make a lot of mistakes, there is a reason they've been really bad for a long time remember, now have Scrivens and Nikitin in the minors and Ference eating popcorn. Could be worse though, they could be the Flyers.
Luke, Luke, I Am Your Father, Here's a Quarter, Get The Hell Out of My House
I have no idea why Gazdic is on this roster. No idea. There are so few dancing bears left, none of the good teams employ them and Hendricks, Klinkhammer and Gryba can take care of the pests. Hell the first two guys can actually play hockey, the jury is still out on Gryba. And if a guy is going to take a run at McDavid Gazdic in the pressbox isn't deterring him.
Say it with me now. When Marc Savard had his career ended Milan Lucic was on the ice with him.
I don't fucking get it. Folks say the little things don't matter but the Canucks just lost a 22 year old RH Dman because they screwed up little things.
You can't give the other guy an edge. At all.
Schlippy Schleppy Schlip Schlup
The Slepyshev thing came out of left field a bit but the guy is not a rookie pro and he put up some good numbers in limited ice time in a good league. If the Oilers are ever going to get anywhere they need guys like this and Yakimov and Chase to come out of nowhere. If he can be a top nine or even *gasps* a top six guy it just opens up so much for the club. Suddenly you have the depth, you don't have to rush guys who aren't ready, you have the ability to move a guy to fix an area of need. Up front there is so much to like about this club. You have depth guys in the AHL plus a guy in Draisatl who could probably play top nine, maybe top six, in a sheltered role. You have guys like Lander and Letescu and Purcell who can slide up the lineup. There's a lot to like. Now about that D ....
The Damn D
The D is going to be the shoal that wrecks this ship again, the club hasn't had a good blue since they shipped out Lubo and exiled Souray. We can hope and hope some more but the reality is that until Nurse is ready and / or they move a kid forward for quality top pairing blue we will be on the outside looking in. The West is mental though luckily for the Oilers they are in the weaker division. That said they are probably looking at maybe 10th in the conference if everything breaks for them. Not ready yet.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:26 PM
Sunday, September 27, 2015
The boy and I are heading up north on Tuesday at the crack of crow's piss, as the Islanders say, to help the old man close the camp for another year. The weather looks to be decent, dropping to 4 at night, which will be a vast improvement over our first go at this, four years ago, when the temperature hovered around freezing every day and it poured rain a lot of the time.
For the three of us it is a chance to enjoy the camp one last time before winter comes. The colours will be spectacular and we will do some work, sit on the deck and have a few beers, maybe even get out and do a bit of fishing. On Father's Day the boy presented me with a craft, one of those little paper bags with a shirt and tie drawn on it, and inside were a handful of slips of paper on which he had written things that he loved about me.
So they will bury me with that bag.
Anyhow his favourite thing he said was these trips to camp with Dad and I would say that for Dad the feeling is the same. He's 83 now my old man and he is slowing down a bit. Three years ago he clambered over rocks and deadfall to bring down a couple of trees to build a new dock. This year the work will be a lot easier but of course no less satisfying and more importantly the company will be the finest kind.
Training camp is an exciting time because HEY HOCKEY IS BACK and you get a look at the new blood and of course everyone is in the best shape of their lives and for teams with new coaches the practices are always faster and crisper and cleaner and of course even down amongst the dregs of the league there is hope that maybe there will be lightning in a bottle.
The reality is that the team is pretty well decided before camp starts except for the guys who are going to be press boxed and a week or two after the team breaks camp there will be injuries or the bubble guys will have shown poorly and so the shuttle between the minors and the show will begin. So hold your fire when kids get demoted while underperforming veterans make the grade. Those kids will be up soon enough.
I can think of three instances where something happened at camp that was meaningful, there may be more but this is all that I remember. There was Patrick Thoresen coming out of nowhere to earn a job. There was Tom Gilbert, earmarked for the minors, passing pretty well everyone on the D depth chart to earn a job. And there was Kyle Brodziak seizing a job and establishing his NHL career if not out of the blue then pretty close to it.
Often the real story is what doesn't happen. Anton Lander getting waived last year and making it through without getting claimed. If he gets claimed then the Oilers are short a real NHLer this season.
For the most part though much of what happens in camp is meaningless and ironically so much of this is what happens in preseason games. Every year a team tears it up in preseason or some career suspect does and it's all white noise because when the real games start and teams start icing their actual lineups then the guys who are minor leaguers show that they are minor leaguers and the big boys actually show what they can do. So while your local columnist may say that Slepyshev is the next coming of Jari Kurri (and full disclosure I don't read anything from any Sun paper so if that isn't what was said apologies) because of two preseason goals I tend to, well, be a little more cautious.
That all said camp and those preseason games aren't totally meaningless, you get your important tells. Slepyshev probably won't make the team but by all accounts it sounds like he is a player and that's a big deal. The more depth the better of course but also if this kid is the real deal then it opens up possibilities down the road. There are other takeaways so far that interest me. It sounds like the issues about Reinhart's skating are overblown which is a big deal. Nilsson has been excellent. Draisatl appears as if he is going to earn a job this year, not have it handed to him. Lander has picked up where he left off last year.
All of this is excellent news for the Oilers who have been terrible for so long. Last year their forwards, as a group, were as close to being complete as they had been since 2006/2007 and this year I would say that finally we have an honest to goodness NHL forward corps.
Slepyshev isn't going to make the grade unless there are more injuries, they aren't going to keep him around to eat popcorn. Let him go to the minors where he hopefully tears it up, we will see him soon enough.
The key here is that Klinkhammer, a perfectly serviceable guy is sitting in the pressbox and Miller and Pitlick have already been farmed out, with Pakarinen to follow. None of these four guys is a world beater but even Pitlick has shown in his short stints up that he is at the very least a decent NHL fourth liner. In the not so distant past these four guys would have probably all been in the opening day lineup, the Oilers have been that horrible. Now they don't even get a sniff.
As for Gazdic well cut him I say but I don't think they will. I respect the guy for carving out a career but his role is unnecessary and it's a wasted roster spot.
The blueline is what is going to sink the Oilers this year as usual there is a plethora of bottom six guys and not enough in the top four. Let's call it Lowe and MacT's parting gift to Chiarelli. No Petry and Nikitin, Ference and Schultz are all overpaid and not helpful.
I think Sekera is a great get and I believe that he is a perfect partner for Mark Fayne so in some ways we are getting two Dmen for the price of one. I also think Klefbom is legit. After that there is a lot of flotsam and it will be a lot of hoping and wishing that McLellan can unlock Norris' Norris potential or that Nikitin can rebound.
This is old hat in E town where year after year the club's chances are dependent on a long list of ifs. If rookie A can step into the lineup and be a top pairing D and rookie B can step into the lineup and be a hard minutes top six F and veteran C can turn back the clock a decade and journeyman D can suddenly reach the potential of his draft year then maybe the club will compete for 12th in the conference.
It's a sign of a good team that the ifs are dwindling. They need Schultz to wake up and Nikitin to play like a veteran and Klefbom to continue progressing. These likely won't happen, except for Oscar, and the result will be no playoffs but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Nurse is going to get sent down, which is fine. He will be back soon and be around for years to come. Reinhart is a goner too unless they move one of their D or go with 13 forwards and if they do that and one of the 13 is Gazdic well they're spitting the bit already. So I see it as such:
Davidson will probably get waived too and he will make it through.
In net Nilsson has made it interesting which is why they brought him in and I would think that Scrivens is on thin ice here. I like him but he wrecked the Oilers' season last year and with Chiarelli having no loyalty to him I bet he gets moved or cut. I see a few folks talking about three goalies, this has been an Oilers' specialty for a decade now, they have carried three goalies how many times? Three? Four? More than the rest of the league combined I would gather. I can't see Chiarelli continuing this tradition.
So that is how I see it for now and if you look at past camps I have a knack for being consistently wrong so take it for what it's worth.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:43 PM
Thursday, September 24, 2015
We were out east for our annual trip, talking to someone I can't remember who, and Jenn remarked that 'we like to have a good time'.
This is very true.
The first time I had a drink the clan had gathered somewhere up north along Superior, probably White Lake, which was our go to camping spot, middle of nowhere what the hell. You could drop your line in anywhere and pull it up and have a nice pickerel on the hook. We used to find a remote island with a decent beach and would set up camp there for a couple of weeks. The rest of the clan that lived in Northern Ontario would set up camp near the public landing. There would be my Dad's brother Don from Wawa and Raymond from Timmins and his sister Darlene from the Soo. We had all the north covered.
Talk about a group that liked to have a good time. It reminds me of when I got married and my old man got up and made a lovely little speech, two minutes tops. He opened with 'We McLeans are a quiet peaceful bunch' and then he grinned and paused while this statement was met with laughter and clinking of glasses and farting from the tables where our family was gathered (I think they may have also gutted a waiter for kicks) and hooting and hollering from those friends of the family also gathered, while the Sandersons and Gilmores, a fairly serious and teetotalling bunch, looked on in horror and wandered what Jenn had brought upon their houses.
This was standard stuff and I think that this type of reaction has been going on for generations as we McLeans infiltrated the society of clearer thinking people. God bless my dear departed cousin Spencer, the first doctor in our branch of the clan, his father, my uncle Roy was the second, anyhow Spencer always got a kick out of a saying I had, that we Goulais McLeans were not far removed from when the McLeans came howling naked out of the moors. He loved that line.
Truth though, the aforementioned Roy, the quietest of the brothers McLean, was known as 'Crazy Roy' by his sons and their friends and the man holds a doctorate in education.
So there you go.
Anyhow it was summer and the clan had gathered, I had just finished grade 9, and my cousin Barry and I were playing crib in his dad's camper and he pulled out a bottle of vodka and away we went. By the end of it I was wrecked, man oh man and away I went.
Truth was I didn't pick up the drink again until the end of grade 10 and then year after year I started pounding back more and more and more and more frequently. We'd bomb around town in Bruno Wennerstrom's van, going to house parties and dances at different ethnic halls, the Polish and Croatian and Serbian clubs, careening through the snow covered streets looking for a good time. Homemade wine and Canadian Club straight and whatever else we could get a hold of and somehow year after year we got away with it for the most part. My parents, like most of my friends' parents, were strict but also naive. They were partiers but my Mom in particular was late to the drinking game and so had no idea that her quiet straight A golden boy son was getting his drink on every weekend.
And then in grade 13 I got caught. Can't remember the details. Mom stayed up one night, her Spidey sense was likely tingling, I came in a little drunk (I was only about 115 pounds when I graduated high school) and she got me. I bullshitted, first time etc etc. She wasn't happy but no biggies and then the following Friday she waited up for me again (dirty pool!) and bam we have a pattern.
The next morning I came into the kitchen and faced the music. My Mom was on a full out rant (and what's hilarious is she is the calmest person I know next to my old man) and my Dad looked up from his toast and coffee and gave me a look I never will forget, shaking his head slowly, a look of disgust on his face.
And I realized that he wasn't mad at me for drinking. His look was one of contempt because I had been dumb enough to not hold off for a week or two and had instead been caught. And now he had to hear my Mom raging and there went his quiet weekend and certainly she was saying to him when I was out of earshot that it came from his family, his old man was a drinker, probably learned it from his own father back in Goulais, what the hell would you do there but drink anyhow, especially in the middle of winter you may as well have been on the moon and Dad's grandmother famous in Goulais lore for putting on a good time for her neighbours on Saturday nights, these farmers and loggers in the middle of nowhere gathering in the Polly's kitchen for drinks and song and good food. My Dad and his brothers followed suit to varying degrees and his sister is famous for starting her evenings with what she calls a martoonie, one time we were up for a wedding in the Soo and stayed with her and my Uncle Bill. We got in and my aunt mixed a martoonie for her and one for Jenn and ten minutes later Jenn whispering 'I can't feel my face' and was out in the garage having a smoke with my aunt, Bill not having any of that in the house, a retired fighter pilot, neat and trim but he, having married into this family, happy to fire them back as well.
So he had to listen to that, my Mom coming from reasonable money, stern English ramrod straight father and her mother's side French Canadian Timmins upper class, I know that 54 years ago they looked on in horror at my parents' own wedding as the McLeans drank the bar dry and hit the dance floor.
My poor old man, just looking at me, shaking his head in disgust thinking 'man oh man, you are one dumb son of a bitch'.
Justin Schultz had himself a night last night apparently, he was new and improved!!!
Now I am sure that Norris figured something out this summer or at least someone in his camp did. With the Oilers handing out long term deals like candy he has probably realized that if he doesn't get his shit together he's going to be Andy Delmore or some such. From the halycon days when he looked like the future of the blue he has now been passed by Klefbom and Nurse is coming and the Oilers went out and got Reinhart and of course the last two summers have seen Fayne and Sekera hired as well. If the Oilers hadn't blown it with Petry old Norris might be looking at the pressbox right now and getting cut loose as soon as the Oilers are able.
So the writing is on the wall for the former darling, he plays D like, well he doesn't play D to be honest, making the same mistakes over and over again, all the while lollygagging about, to make it worse, and not providing a lot of offence, which is supposed to be his forte.
So yeah this is it for old Norris, his last shot at it. If it all falls apart he is still a very wealthy young man of course but his career in ruins after such promise is a sad conclusion to all of that.
I don't put much stock in preseason and Schultz's rambunctiousness last night, while nice (wow he actually has a pulse!) won't mean a thing if he can't figure out how to pick up his man. I guess this is where McLellan comes in. If he can't get a damn thing out of Schultz then the latter is a goner, probably begging for work next summer, maybe getting a shot a la Cam Barker, soon to end up playing in Zurich.
I joke but of course the importance of Schultz cannot be overplayed. If he is able to get it together and reach his considerable potential of a few years ago well then the Oilers will have another young top four defenceman and things will be looking up, we're talking playoffs or close to it. If he fails well then it's another year up the track and he's a goner and other teams are going to look at him as damaged goods (ie even McLellan could not make a player of him).
Up until now he has shown the learning curve of a certain young man we all know and love. That same young man was not discouraged. He learned that there is more than one way to skin a cat and that was to sleep over at his buddies on weekend nights. Here's hoping that Norris can turn it around and become a hero like that young man of many years ago.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:16 PM
Monday, September 21, 2015
When I was a young man, like a lot of young men, or at least I'd like to think (!!!) I tended to leap before I looked. I was and am a talker, as one of the guys on Capsule said one time at post game beers 'Oh yeah Pat's a talker, Pat likes to talk' and it's true, Scotty (the man who coined Patty Sandpaper in a pregame stream of consciousness rant) and I are probably the talkiest on the team.
And yeah so when I was young I had a bad habit of speaking and acting without thinking. Like I said I think (hope) that's fairly typical of young men but maybe not. I wasn't trolling for reaction, I was always a bit ahead of myself, fast talking, fast thinking, a bit hyper at times which was the opposite of my old man who speaks slowly and deliberately and who is as calm a man as I have ever known. For that matter my Mom is cut from the same cloth so maybe I'm just becoming them.
And then, as I got older, well I slowed down. I don't know if it's experience or wisdom or that I am just really tired from having three kids but I learned to think before I speak. A lot of this is adapting to having kids of course. I don't make promises that I can't keep and that goes for threats as well. No quicker way to losing the room than not being able to follow through on what you say. And then of course there is work. When you're working at a video store or on a movie set you're not saying much of import that's for sure plus you're higghhhh quite a bit. In my present job, let's call it 'my career' when you're dealing with customers and staff well if you say dumb things then ... well you're not going anywhere fast is what's going to happen.
I think that like a lot of people I get frustrated by what passes for conversation in the hockey media. For me a guy like Bob MacKenzie is the gold standard. He doesn't make wild statements, he says what he believes and is open to new ideas and when he is not sure of something he says 'hey this is something I am not sure of'. To me this is what any guy in the business should be shooting for. Be informative, know what you're talking about, be open minded, keep it simple.
Of course I know that in a lot of cases guys are saying what they say because of what the producer is telling them, I am reminded of Aaron Ward saying on Twitter after one of TSN's quizzes where he took an indefensible position that someone had to, that was part of it. And of course anyone who has seen the quiet reasonable Pierre Maguire who actually makes sensible arguments can see that the loudmouth barking seal act is just that, an act.
What has gotten me on this tangent is the comment that Kelly Hrudey made last year about Ryan Nugent Hopkins being a second or even a third line centre. Not to beat this to death of course, that happened last spring, that horse is nothing but a remote rusty stain on the pavement now but I have wondered about that comment since it was made. I like Hrudey, who seems an affable fellow, although he may just compare well to what is for the most part a lineup of buffoons and angry men on the HNIC set. Maybe it is just me but I seem to recall Hrudey as a far more astute observer but then again maybe he is just part of the general dumbing down of once was the go to hockey broadcast (oh how I miss TSN, even with Jeff O'Neill's antics, it is far superior).
Anyhow Hrudey may have believed what he was saying or maybe he was just trolling, following the instructions of some callow behind the scenes genius, you know the type who thinks it's a good idea to get rid of Colonel Mustard. One has to think it was the latter because other than Hall I can't think of a more important Oiler (not including Mr. C. McDavid of course). Actually there may not be a more important man on the roster amongst the returnees.
Ted is a man now and he gives the Oilers depth at perhaps the most important position on a hockey club. Now the Chicago Blackhawks might win the Stanley Cup with Jonathan Toews and three guys named Moe at centre (Marcus Kruger is a hell of a player don't get me wrong but he's no number two centre with that offence) but they also have (had I guess, so long Saad) a raft of top flight wingers, including two future Hall of Famers in Hossa and Kane, an embarrassment of riches that shunted Patrick Sharp to a bottom six position for most of last spring. Oh and of course those D.
But go back, way back. Fedorov and Yzerman. Datsyuk and Hank. Forsberg and Sakic. Modano and Niewendyk. Crosby, Malkin and Staal. Staal and Brindamour. Kopitar and Carter and Richards and Stoll. Bergeron and Krejci. Lemieux and Francis. Gretzky and Messier. Etc, etc etc.
You get the picture. Like most hockey axioms there are exceptions. You can win without a stud defenceman. You can win without depth at centre. You can win without homegrown talent. But those are the exceptions.
The Oilers have McDavid and Ted and they have Draisatl and Lander and Letescu and four of them are kids and yeah it's wonderful.
Did you know that Ted was tied for thirteenth OVERALL in the NHL last season in ES goals. 13th. Tied with John Tavares and Patrick Kane. I did not know that until last week, tip of the hat to LT for twigging me to that.
He's a stone cold killer, he's 22 (!!!!) and he's ours.
Posted by Black Dog at 9:30 PM
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Good summer? Yes? Well a few days ago someone mentioned that I was the second oldest active blog amongst the once prolific Oilogosphere and I figured that maybe I should write something because ... well ... it's been a while.
We had a lovely summer, yes we did, just trucking along here at Chez McLean. Everyone is healthy and happening and we're back to the grind of school once again. Grades seven, five and two.
Isn't that mental?
So the other day I slog home from work, let me tell you I've been a good boy after the incident this spring, it's been a bastard but I'm not worrying about it, anyhow I get home and the kids ambush me, they ask me to play a game with them and so I say sure and we sit down to a game of Clue.
Remember Clue? Colonel Mustard and the rest of the gang? Good shit. Of course some genius marketer at headquarters decided it was a great idea to replace the original characters like Mustard and Professor Plum and so on with a generic bunch of new suspects with late 20th century names like Ashley White, who is a You Tuber or some shit and, like the rest of the characters, has the bland good looks of a Big Brother contestant and the 'biography' to match.
And yeah I know I'm getting old man, I'll bitch about anything.
So we're playing a little Clue and it's pretty obvious right from the get go who the doer is and what his weapon of choice is and so we're racing to try and figure out where it happened. They give you a little pad so you can make notes and scratch off the people/places/weapons as you eliminate them from contention.
Now I'm no dummy and my oldest is pretty damn smart and the boy, well the boy is smarter than his parents already. He's well rounded which I am happy about, I have a pal who knows a six year old who went out for Halloween as an element, I can't remember which one, the kid is, well he's a nerd is what he is. He's a genius and he can't say hello. He's like one of those guys from that show I never watch, you know the one. About the nerds.
Anyhow the boy is smart, bear with me as I brag on him. He tested for gifted last year and aced it and all that and we looked at the placement options, in the end we didn't bother for a number of reasons but yeah he's a bright one.
Now that all said he may have competition in the house. Our youngest is a free spirit, a wild child and before grade one we figured that she might do well in school or not, It was hard to say. We knew she was smart but she could be lazy and we figured she might find it challenging to sit still and learn.
And then we went to the first teacher interviews and were told that she was a model student and ahead of the grade and we looked at each other and smirked and figured that the teacher was taking the piss but she wasn't. Unreal.
So back to the game, we're playing and things are getting narrowed down and then our youngest announces that she has solved it and she has done just that and she's pretty tickled because she's the youngest and she doesn't win a lot in this house, not unless the game relies on pure luck anyhow.
And as we're packing up I notice that while the rest of us have our little sheets with notes and checkmarks and exes to denote what was happening, her own sheet is blank. And when I ask her where she marked her clues she just looks at me and shrugs and smiles and says that she just kept it all in her head.
So now I have two kids who are smarter than me apparently.
Oscar Klefbom signed long term with the Oilers yesterday. We knew it was coming, it had been rumoured for a while. Seven years.
When the rumours first started I opined on the interweb that it was crazy to me that a guy could get a seven year deal after playing less than eighty NHL games. I still believe that but of course this is the way of the league right now. I remember after the Oilers' Cup run, a couple of years after, and there were rumours of discord in the dressing room and I thought at the time that I could see why. You had guys like Moreau and Staios, guys who had ground it out in the league for nearly a decade before they got paid and in their case those paydays came in at around two million per and then you had Robert Nilsson who basically fucked the dog for three years and then rode a good eight weeks or so to a three year deal at just under two million and then immediately went in the tank again.
That would piss me off I know.
But as noted this is the way the league works now. Teams invest in youngsters, not the guys who are on the wrong side of thirty. In some cases the gamble doesn't pay off. In others - for example Hall, Eberle, Nugent Hopkins, you end up getting very good players locked up through their prime at an excellent rate.
Is the Klefbom contract goofy? Sure it is, it's a roll of the dice but the dice are weighted in the Oilers' favour. Oscar is what I call a player. He has his struggles but they are the result of inexperience and once he gets more games under his belt he will be a top four, probably even a top pairing defenceman. He has the physical gifts but more importantly he can play the game. Tom Gilbert was the same when he made the leap to the NHL. So was Jeff Petry. So was Martin Marincin. They made mistakes and of course they weren't Chris Pronger or Duncan Keith but they all stepped in and knew what they were doing right away.
This of course why we worry about Norris Schultz. He still doesn't have a clue three years in and it's probable that he never will. He pinches at the absolute worst times. He finds himself on the wrong side of his man constantly and when he has his man in the slot (which he often doesn't) he invariably doesn't tie him up.
Last night the boy's team got knocked out of their playoffs in the semis. The boy is a try hard in hockey but soccer is his game. He gets it and he can play any position as a result. He's a player. He was wasted on D in the playoffs (he's best suited as a midfielder because he is a tenacious effective defender but also a deft passer and dribbler) although I can see why the coach put him there. The team was thin on talent and the boy being on D gave them a stopper back there. Anyhow last night they took an early lead against the run of the play and then in the second half the other team's rotation put two little speedsters up front and within a few minutes they were down one and that was that. The boy had the other team's best player in check the whole game but on both goals his partner came wandering over to 'help' and the ball ended up in space and his man, left alone, ran onto it and put it into the net.
It is what it is, houseleague soccer, but there was the difference. The boy knew his position, didn't panic, stayed with his man, kept him outside. The kid never got a shot on net. But the other fellow got reeled in a few times and that was that.
Reminds me of a guy who might be one of the most overrated players of the last twenty years, Bryan McCabe. Talk about a guy who got by on sizzle rather than steak for years. Big guy, big shot, rough and tumble and a ten cent head. If I had a nickel for every time he left his man open in the slot to venture into the opposite corner where Kaberle was engaged with his man I would be, well, a nickel is a nickel but we're talking a couple of nice steak dinners with a bottle of wine at least.
Anyhow to get to the point to play D well in the NHL you need three things. You need the physical skills. Some guys are too slow or too small but Oscar Klefbom is a big man who can skate like the wind. You need experience which he will get over time. And you need to have the instincts to play the game. He has those as well and because of that I think it's a great bet by the Oilers. It's crazy, sure, but it's the way of the world and now they have another piece tied up for a long time. Good deal.
Posted by Black Dog at 11:37 AM
Saturday, July 04, 2015
If you have ever seen Dazed and Confused (and if you haven't get the hell out now and go see it) there is a scene where Wooderson, Pink and Mitch Kramer walk into the emporium in slo mo and to this day that reminds me of how we would stride into City Lights, although there would be twenty of us or so. We didn't know everybody, the bar held a couple thousand people I think and so you'd have your folks from the Valley and Lively and Chemmy and all the small towns in between as well as any out of towners, it was the only place in town on Saturday nights really, but you would walk in and there would be nods and handshakes and smiles of recognition and we weren't the shit in town, if you know what I mean, but we were known and it was good. We'd drink and some of us would dance and we'd laugh and fuck around and life was great.
So a few years back we tried to set things up and it all fell apart and so at Christmas Frank and I went out for a few pints after work and we started talking about it and I said why don't we try it again, leave it to me and within a couple of weeks after Christmas we had a date and we had invited eleven of the old gang. Two were sure nos right away but everyone else said yes and in the end only one guy bailed and so we had eight come out, four for the full weekend and another four for the Saturday.
You know how you always hear people say that when they see old friends they just fall into conversation right away, never skipping a beat? Well this is how it was right from the get go. We all have different relationships now, the six guys still back home see each other, a few of them see each other frequently for that matter but there are a couple of them I had not seen in twenty years. And yet we sat down and started in on the beers and it was like not a day had past. The teasing and laughing and wisecracks and we were killing ourselves with laughter right away, we always had a lot of laughs, and we have all been relatively lucky with our lives so far and so as we continued on, going for a tool around on our host's boat and finishing off a nine pound porketta and sitting by a campfire into the night, well, you know I am a sentimental old fool but the best thing about it was that it wasn't a nostalgia trip, it was just a goddamned good time.
Oh yeah there were references to old stories here and there but most of the time we were talking about the now and the to come and about new stories and at one point I sat back in the sun, tipped back my beer, looked back at my old pals, all in conversation, shouting and laughing, and I just grinned and thought 'fuck this is great'.
We will never go back, we can't go back now. Christ just to look at us, although for the most part we have aged pretty damn well. A couple guys are heavier and a couple of guys are thinner up top but that would have been the case anyhow it was Sudbury in the late 80s you want to talk about a collection of beautiful mullets but otherwise we're still a bunch of pretty handsome dudes ;). At one point we set anchor by a cliff and a few of the guys headed out to jump. Back in the day I would have been out there for sure but when asked I said, 'naw man, too hammered' and one of the guys said 'if you know that then you're not' and I said 'yeah, can't swim well, have had ten beers and I'm clumsy, I'm not HAMMERED but this would not end well' and so yeah I'm an old man now lol. (This was also emphasized by the fact that I was out of commission until Wednesday recovering pretty well. I started drinking at 2 one day and at 9:30 in the morning the second, so while I apparently I can still do that, (with no hangover, gord bless the day drinking marathon) my body is more likely to cry uncle. Of course on Canada Day we ended up going mental again but that is for another day, that story.
And so we talked about doing it again next year and part of me thinks naw man let's wait another year or so, we're all busy as it is and if it becomes too common then guys will just start saying I'll go next year. And then part of me thinks that this was a weekend that I will never forget, because I won't, and what other things about life are better than enjoying it with your friends, very few things that's what.
It's a running joke amongst those who are not fans of the Leafs that almost any Saturday night there is a ceremony honouring some third liner from the 1964 Cup team who just made the Hall of Fame or the surviving members of the famous 1955 'Win One For Bucky Gooberson' gang or one of the ancient ushers who along with King Clancy used to pick through Harold Ballard's shit, looking for corn and other signs of the franchise's ultimate destination. As an Oilers' fan though over the past few years the smirking and snickering has begun to fade as the bumblers in charge of our once proud club tended to celebrate the glorious past, all the while hoping that this would perhaps shift our gaze from the rubble of the sad present. The Oilers, like the Leafs, have crumbled from once proud empire to a tiny rump state and a laughing stock to boot.
We cheered at the promise of McDavid and at the arrival of Chiarelli and the opening of the stables to the river's cleansing although to me that didn't go far enough. And then we waited to see what was next.
And so what of PC's first couple of weeks then? Here's what I think.
The big thing that destroyed the Oilers and turned what should have been a short rebuild into Moses in the desert (note how the Falmes have perhaps the best D in the league now and have added the immensely valuable Frolik to their lineup, just last June we were snickering at them and telling them to enjoy their bottoming out) was Lowe and then Tambo's modus operandi which consisted of shipping out quality NHL players for nothing. The list is a long one and I have talked about this before and so we won't go over it again. 'Get good players and keep them' is not a particularly brilliant idea but when I first said this a number of years ago in this corner of the internet it was just as true then as it is now. Look at good teams and that, more than anything, is what they do. They accumulate talent and when they can they keep it or they get other talent for it. For a number of years the Oilers turned a house into a paperclip. You do that and you will lose.
MacT came in and gord love him he tried to reverse this trend, he really did. He brought in some useful NHL players and in some cases did so for no more than cash or magic beans but in the end it seems that for every step forward he took a step back and so this season, for example, we saw Perron and Petry, two honest to goodness quality NHLers, shipped out for nothing. Again.
PC is here to stop the bleeding and his June and July have been pretty damn quality by me. By my count he has brought in seven NHL players at the cost of two and every move but one was an upgrade with a second being a beans for probable player move imo. Shall we?
1/ McDavid - well this one is an obvious no brainer. The kid is unreal and even old cynics like Dennis King have boners over him. As opposed to boners over other things I mean. (Dennis is not that old, I mean he's not dead yet). Him and Ted are going to be killer. No more issues at centre.
2/ Sekera - the cream of the UFA D crop and all he cost was money and I had no issue with the term or money. I think he plays with Fayne, who was a legit top D in Jersey when he had a partner who could move the puck and so I think we're actually getting two top four D for the price of one on this. He's a great fit for the team.
3/ Gordon for Korpikoski - Love Boyd Gordon. Love him. Talk about a guy who got the shit end of the stick game after game. Yet he never complained and he did his job well. Wish he was going to a contender though I bet he gets that chance in the spring. Korpikoski is a slight downgrade but he is fast as hell and he is a good bet to rebound. You know what else I like about this move? Gordon was gone by next summer anyhow, either at the deadline or as a UFA and PC turned him into another player with another year on his deal. So instead of nothing or a fourth round pick or something like that he got a guy who can play in the NHL. Imagine that. Smart.
4/ Mark Letestu - a solid bottom six player who can do everything and can slide up in the lineup if need be as well. Good UFA pickup, solid bet.
5/ Cam Talbot - good bet and the price was reasonable. I'm a big believer in the spending not a lot on goalies. The golden age of goalies - Roy, Hasek, Belfour, Richter, Belfour and so on - is over. The last great goalie to win a Cup was Tim Thomas. Other than that it is a list of journeymen, good but not great and guys who got hot for six weeks (See Cam Ward - spits) - Khabibulin, Ward, Giguere, Osgood, Fleury, Niemi and yes I would include Quick and Crawford in that list. The last two are good and the Cup wins count for a lot but there are about a half dozen goalies who I would pay big money or assets for and they aren't on that list. The reality is most goalies are good now and if the team in front of them is quality well that is what matters. Talbot may be Scrivens though I suspect he will be better (I also bet Scrivens rebounds, I certainly hope so, he seems like a bright, fine fellow) and in any case good on PC on upgrading the position and doing so on the cheap.
6/ Gryba for Marincin - not a big fan of this mostly because I like Marincin and Gryba is another bottom pair guy on a team flush with them. Never mind the numbers which like Marincin quite a bit, the kid is still young and developing and while he may have taken a step back last year I don't get why his sideburns suddenly became an issue. Giving up young Dmen (even if his ceiling is bottom pair which I think is a low bar for him) for a guy a year away from UFA doesn't make a lot of sense to me. As usual the response was 'small move, who cares' but Chara was a nobody when he went to Ottawa as well and Duncan Keith was a second rounder in the AHL before he became Duncan Keith. Not saying Marincin is Chara or Keith at all but would have liked the club to stick with him.
7/ Reinhart - I was mostly incommunicado when this went down so I didn't catch the backlash which I understand was pretty harsh. First of all let me say that I don't give a shit that he was a fourth overall pick or a World Juniors' guy or that he is famous. None of that matters. It doesn't. Give your head a shake. What matters is can he play now. And the answer is we don't know. The price? Probably too high. I would hope that perhaps a better option was available, someone who could step in now, or perhaps that option would have become available, remember Leddy and Boychuk? That said ... I believe he is going to be an NHL player. He is still a kid and he has been a pro for a year and the blueline is a hard gig to figure out, perhaps the hardest. I would have hoped for a true NHL top four guy for the price but I also think that he is probably going to be a second pair guy in the league based on what I have read. This one is really one I will reserve judgement on.
So overall pretty good. McDavid is cheap for three years. This is the key. PC has made moves to make the team better now. The forward corps is quality. The new coach is a quality NHL coach. The goalie is an upgrade just by, well, the fact that he couldn't be worse. The kids who are coming will FINALLY have to earn their spots on the team, it is likely that Nurse and Draisatl and Slepyshev (I think he can play) will start the year in Cali. The big question, same as it has been forever, is the blue. They need another veteran Dman, preferably RH, to step into the top four to play with Oscar (and of course they need Klefbom to not regress); the Petry fuckup could really haunt them.
Look at the market. It's obvious teams have smartened up. There have been no ridiculous contracts, which I have never seen before. There are still some quality players out there and there are still teams in cap hell and so my guess, a pretty good one I think, is quality players can be had for cheap. Not sure why they didn't buy out Nikitin but if PC can dump him or Ference or Schultz and use that money on a quality Dman then we're cooking.
And then we can start talking about the present and the future instead of the past.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:02 PM
Monday, June 22, 2015
It's quite the life.
Now a number of years back I used to bemoan this a bit. I'd look at the calendar and say 'man a weekend of leisure would be good now and then' but the reality is these weekends past and present have been all about it. We've had family visiting and Jenn was in Cambodia and then Ottawa for a run. We had a ballet recital and my hockey tournament and the boy wrapped up spring hockey and this weekend I am off to a northern cabin to drink and laugh with old friends and the rest of the summer will be spent on lakes and beaches and when we are in town and Jenn is working I will take the kids to wander, like I once did when I was younger, hitting the streets dusty footed, looking for food and drink and the city. I have to admit though, the short weeks are coming at a good time.
This past weekend, well this past weekend was pretty killer.
A long time teacher at our school is retiring, we have been lucky enough to have excellent teachers all the way so far and she was the best, teaching our two oldest. Loving and creative and strict as hell, she was perfect and so Friday we went to the legion and celebrated. You want to talk about cognitive dissonance, imagine watching the teachers and staff at your kids' school having some drinks and dancing up a storm. Weird man, weird. And Jenn and I danced and it was wonderful and the night went slowly and surely off the rails, in a good way. You had to be there. Mental.
When the kids were younger Jenn and I would take turns having dates with them. So one afternoon I would take my daughter down to Kensington and we would hang out, just the two of us, and then another day Jenn would take the boy to lunch and the museum. So Saturday I took our youngest out for the day to the Annex, just west of Bathurst for a community music festival called Open Tuning. It was amazing and I highly recommend it. I'm biased because one of my buddies is a driving force behind it and his old tumble down garage is one of the venues scattered about the neighbourhood where you can see musicians, professional and not so much, play tunes. We went for ice cream and bought some books at Seekers, my favourite book store in Toronto and then we headed over. We hung out in a back alley for the day watching great music and when they had an open mic session my daughter walked up and belted out a song that had the crowd roaring and cheering. She's got guts, that one. One of my favourite days in a long long time ...
Sunday was Father's Day and I'm not sure I've had one better. A sleep in cuddled right in with my love, we dozed in and out as the sun wafted through the blinds. A big breakfast and then down to College to take in the Italian Festival. After we got home a massive Cherry Chocolate stout on my porch, taking in the late afternoon quiet, then a barbeque and finally the World Cup. I am a lucky man no doubt.
Before I went to bed the boy gave me his gift, it was a little paper bag with a tie drawn on it. He told me to open it and inside were four little notes. Excuse me while I tear up a little here because quite frankly when they scatter my ashes wherever they scatter them these notes will be part of what's left of me. To have your nine year old say, quite clearly, why he loves you and what he loves doing with you and why he things that you are a good person ....
And so that was my weekend. And the upcoming one is going to be mental, my pal Frank, who I have talked about a number of times here, has made calls and god help us we are going to be drinking in some backwoods tavern and Saturday night we have some guy named Uncle Leo picking us up in his truck so we can go watch Canada hopefully win the quarters. And this is for starters. Whatever I can remember I will pass along here at some point although my guess is there will just be a blank piece of cyberwhat when that is all said and done.
Fire Them All
I don't think anybody can be surprised by the purge going on, once LaForge got the axe and Lowe got moved over you knew anything was possible. There are two thing surprising to me. One is how like the end of the first season of Boardwalk Empire the executioner is chopping off heads a couple at a time. There is no lining up of Oilers' staff against the garage wall. Instead you have a couple gunned down in the bar, another knifed in the alley over there, a few more mowed down by a driveby. The carnage just keeps on going and the streets of Edmonton run with the blood of years of failure, as they should, but one wonders why they don't just say 'everyone's gone'.
The second thing that I am waiting on is the fate of Howson and MacT. The latter may have been given a stay and swallowed his pride to accept a lesser role but Howson's fingerprints are all over the Nikitin move and one has to believe that he's hiding in a dingy motel on the edge of town, watching his phone buzz, weeping as he wonders why Kelsey Grammar ever stepped away from their TV show, he was making a shit load playing Niles Crane with a lot less pressure than this gig.
Easy There Big Fella
I trust Chiarelli, I do, but this apparent bidding war over Cam Talbot makes me nervous. Remember that goalies are literally a dime a dozen once you get past Carey Price. I could likely name a dozen available goalies who I would prefer to Talbot. I have nothing against him, people who know a lot more than me and or are smarter than me speak highly of him but how a 27 year old with 57 games played who is a year away from UFA is suddenly a hot ticket with a 'great contract' (Dreger carrying water for Sather) is beyond me. Ben Scrivens was a 27 year old with 70 games played a year away from UFA when the Oilers acquired him and his .931 save percentage with the Kings was better than Talbot's numbers this year. Both in small sample sizes of course but if Chiarelli gives up a first round pick or young NHLer under control for this guy I will not be impressed. The Oilers got the pick for an established top six forward, would you trade David Perron for an unproven backup a year away from UFA? If your answer to that question is yes then you, like Semenko, Gare and all the rest, are fired.
Blue on Blue
Let's get one thing straight, a goalie (or two) has to be had but more important imo is the need for a couple of top four D, same as the Oilers have needed for years now. But it's impossible you say! And I say New York Islanders. Boychuk for two 2nds and a conditional 3rd. Leddy for middling prospects. So don't say it can't be done. Sure the Oilers have to outbid other suitors and they likely need to dump Nikita Nikitin's immobile corpse off the pier as well but remember how we keep being told how everyone is in salary cap hell? Well now is the time to make hay unless you think going into next year with Klefbom and Fayne as your top pairing is going to take the Oilers to the promised land. Find a team or two that needs to clear salary to get under the cap or so they can make their own moves and then pop the question, if Garth Snow can do it .... well I will leave it at that.
The Window Is Closing
The Oilers aren't Indiana Jones quite yet, just rolling under the wall before it crushes them but once they select Conor McDavid that clock starts ticking. They have three years where they have the surest thing since Sidney Crosby (or maybe even prior) under an entry level deal. If they waste a moment of that then they're doing it all wrong. They need to compete for the Stanley Cup as soon as possible because as soon as he starts getting paid then they need to start moving guys. Don't believe me? Ask the Penguins. Get on it Peter.
Posted by Black Dog at 5:06 PM