Friday, August 03, 2007
Getting away from it all for a week starting tomorrow and at the very least I think that the Oilers may be competitive this year. I don't like the Souray deal and I think the money they have spent there and on Penner may kill this team down the road, maybe as soon as next summer when they have to ink Stoll and Pitkanen. What makes things even more frustrating is that watching Lowe make his bold (reckless) strikes is frustrating as hell when he pissed away last season with his failure to pick up a veteran defenceman or two. In a similar vein, suddenly money is no object yet this team would not take on an established player in the Pronger deal and would not sign Smyth to a longterm deal for financial reasons.
That is difficult to take and it really reeks of a lack of a plan at all.
Now, having said all of that while I wish we could have given Penner a little less money, I'm not as down on him as a lot of people are. Twenty nine goals as a rookie is pretty sweet regardless of your opposition. His linemates were good but its not like he was playing with Lafleur and Lemaire. His play without the puck needs work but few youngsters cannot say that. He is a big big man on a team that was pushed around a lot last season and anyone who remembers the '06 playoffs (anyone :)?) remembers that the kid was pretty well impossible to move at times. So, we'll see about Dustin Penner. Could be a killer. But if the kid gets better then its a hell of a deal and I'm not sure why a lot of people say he's not going to improve. A dominant year in the AHL and a pretty good rookie year for starters is pretty good in my books.
I'm a little more optimistic then I was even a few days ago. Suddenly this team has a little more then they did before. I think it still looks like a bit of a mishmash but maybe MacT and Huddy can make it happen. Actually if anything this team reminds me a bit of the prelockout teams. You look at it and you figure they've got nothing but they may surprise. The one thing that was heartening was the enthusiasm from Shawn Horcoff. After a season where he saw management mail it in, he suddenly looks around and has hope. I think he and many others bounce back from poor seasons. If Penner can score thirty again (and again and again) and not be Lupul like without the puck and this team can be middle of the pack this season then I can live with the deal.
One last point about another young Duck who remains in California, Corey Perry. His name came up in a thread over at Covered In Oil and the consensus is the kid is a player but also an A1 asshole. Perry has all of the talent in the world but he is dirty, a diver and a guy who is constantly running his mouth. As I mentioned in the thread I saw a video of him, on HNIC iirc, where he was mic'd. This was in the series against the Wings. The entire time his mouth was running and he was threatening Hasek and Datsyuk. Now this brought to mind Lupul's famous interview before the series in '06 where he claimed the Ducks would handle Pronger by running at him constantly. All yap. Perry is hated but why?
Now I'd like to believe that ever Oiler who ever played was a blood and guts guy, the sort of guy who would be fun to play shinny with and have a beer or two after, the type of guy you could trust your girlfriend with. And of course, every Oiler who ever played the game played it clean. We all know that's bullshit all the way. Ethan Moreau spends a lot of his time on the ice muttering threats and then following through on them. We know about Torres' hits that border on the illegal. Smith loved inflicting pain. And Roloson will do anything to win. Messier was vicious. Anderson was a stickman. Tikkanen was dirtier then most and of course there was the original "rat" Ken Linseman. Plus Dave Semenko.
That's hockey. For every guy who plays it straight like Sakic and Gretzky, Coffey and Lafleur, Beliveau and Red Kelly, I can name you a dozen who played outside the rules. Eddie Shore was brutal. Maurice Richard was crazy. Ted Lindsay too. Gordie Howe was a cold blooded thug with his fists and elbows. Bobby Clarke was out and out dirty. Stan Mikita too until he changed his ways. Scott Stevens would put you under when he had the chance. Yzerman and Scott Niedermeyer were both dirty with their sticks. And on and on.
Hockey is a crazy game. I play with a bunch of guys who are nearly all on the other side of forty. Family men for the most part. The nicest bunch of guys. A terrific group on and off the ice.
And in the past couple of years I have witnessed two guys terrorizing an opponent who had given one guy a cheapshot. They spent two minutes screaming at him as the play swirled around. I believe he was called a "fucking cock" about thirty times in that time frame. He was frightened and for good reason. We had the red mist come over one of our smaller guys who ran into (and over) a defenceman on the other team who had taken liberties with him all game. We had a brawl where one father of two (with a third on the way) ended up being suspended for biting. When asked if he did it he said that he could not remember, he had been so crazy with rage. Myself, a married father of two and probably the most easy going guy that you will ever meet, have been in a fight with some punk half my age who got his stick too high on me at the end of a game. I also speared an opponent in the bag after he slewfooted me in front of their net. And I broke my stick over a guy's arm because he was, uh, holding me. (To be fair the stick was on its last legs - I barely hurt the guy). And except for the fight I spent no time in the box. So that makes it alright. Uh, right?
The point of all of these tales of mayhem and these references to Hall of Famers and Oilers, great and not so great? Hockey is a tough and brutal game. It always has been and people who talk about the violence being bad nowadays should read about the game in its infancy as a professional sport.
We cheer the violence by the guys in our jerseys. A guy who is dirty (Tikkanen) is "great when he's your teammate". The borderline hit is legal when its your man throwing the elbow. We even participate in it when we play ourselves. But we loathe Corey Perry. Why? Its not because he doesn't play the game in a certain manner. We admire Joe Sakic and Selanne and Hemsky - guys who can take a hit but don't go out there with sticks swinging or elbows flying.
Its the talk that does it. The facewash. The late hit and the hit from behind. The turtling. That's why Perry pisses people off. He talks the talk but he won't walk the walk. He's a dirty player. How he plays is against the often laughable "Code" that Don Cherry constantly refers to but in this case Cherry is right. He's a punk and one day someone is going to call him on it. Remember what McCarty did to Claude Lemieux?
We can only hope there is a McCarty in Corey Perry's future.
Posted by Black Dog at 7:35 PM