Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Deadline Thoughts While I Dry Out



Lucky enough to get over to Dublin where I managed to get in a few pints. The pub pictured at left was the scene of the crime one night. Em, some fun was had, like. I actually have another blog which I have not updated in nearly a year, which I can barely believe. Anyways lots of posts for that one so if you're interested in pubs, Dublin or boring drinking stories then take a look in the next few days as I try and get things rolling over there again.

Landed yesterday, got my car at the airport and turned on the radio, jonsing for deadline news. It was a busy day, as it always is but nothing happened in Edmonton, which was my expectation.

If the Oilers owned their first round pick I think you may have seen a couple of moves but when you have very few NHL players, last year's post deadline abomination is fresh in your mind and its Brian Burke who will benefit from the mess I think we could all see this one coming. The veteran guys are few and far between on this team and you're going to have a hard time getting Staios' replacement for the money he is making, I think. Looking at what guys like Marty Lapointe brought in (sixth rounder), its clear that moving Reasoner would have brought something similar in while dampening morale in the room. What's the point? And Geoff Sanderson would have no value. You might have to throw in a pick just to get someone to take the poor guy. Nice goal last night but he's a stiff.

And yeah nobody's taking Roloson. That contract. They might be able to move him to someone looking to get to the cap floor this summer but even that is unlikely. At least there's only one year left.

Stoll and a couple of kids seem to have been the ones in play but I have said may times and will continue to do so - Stoll is going nowhere until Horcoff's contract is resolved. Trading your one present bonafide NHL centre when your other one is due for UFA in a year's time would be the height of stupidity. Well not as bad as say signing Sheldon Souray to a five year big money contract, say, but you know what I am saying. Naw they will wait on Horc to extend. If he does then the Oilers can trade Stoll and line up at centre thusly :

Horcoff - Gagner - Cogliano - Brodziak

Horcoff gets moved then you have a weaker lineup:

Stoll - Gagner - Cogliano - Brodziak

Now say you move Stoll and then Horcoff walks:

Gagner - Cogliano - Brodziak - Take Your Pick Because We're Fucked

Like those apples? I'm guessing (hoping?) that they extend Horcoff this summer and then trade Stoll. He has value and could bring something in a package maybe.

Anyways other notes from around the league:

- Jay Feaster got a nice deal for Richards who is a nice fit in Dallas but his signing of Dan Boyle (who I like a lot btw) makes me wonder if he gets it? After a couple of years of struggling with a top heavy team salary wise he turns around and gives a thirty one year old guy a six year monster deal. Boyle is a terrific player and Tampa got some nice return for Richards but huh? Of course they are in the SE so they probably could run the table there for a few years now. As for Dallas, they can fit Richards' salary in apparently and he will likely sign with them for less when its all over methinks so why the fuck not, right?

- the Hossa deal is nutty; you have to admire the Pens for going for it. I look at the East and nobody stands out at all. Adding Hossa and yes, Hal Gill, moves them to the front of the line. They could easily go to the final and lose Hossa and you would say its worthwhile. But they gave up a shitload or so it seems. As for Atlanta they got some interesting pieces but I wonder how long hockey is that town. Savard and Hossa gone now and does anyone care? Likely not. Waddell said today that dealing Hossa didn't mean they were throwing in the towel on the season. In other news, D. Wilson was shopping Joe Thornton. Righto.

- big mess in Ottawa but there is still a quarter season to right the ship - yep that's right. Have to feel bad for Paddock who for years was considered one of the best guys out there not coaching. He finally gets his shot again and doesn't last the season. Hopefully Sens' players didn't scrap their goggles - with Murray back spitting and lisping they'll need them.

- can't say much more about the Leafs but har har har - what a mess. Not sure how JFJ can blame this whole lot on MLSE. God knows I hate those wankers, esp. Mr, R. Peddie, but the guy left a team that was full of virtually untradeable guys. And who really believes there is a lineup for Darcy Tucker or Jason Blake's services anyways? Where would that be?

- what may be really interesting this summer is the Sundin situation - do the Leafs lowball him and if they do does he walk away? Fact is, they can likely have him signed for two years and to me that is a far better option then giving five years to some stiff UFA. So we can expect Mats to sign on for two years in Detroit or Calgary I am sure while the Leafs give thirty million bucks to Vinny Prospal.

- wonder what Sutter thinks when he sees Stuart going for a second and a fourth

- at least the Oilers aren't curling up and dying - lets hope they give her right until the end, my guess is that they will pass a few teams that start to mail it in

- the darkhorse team for me now is the Avs; granted they still have to get in and they'll have a mountain to climb if they do get in but they have an impressive lineup now, certainly deeper up front then most

- Lowe's worst nightmare, a year after Pronger hoisted the Cup - Smytty doing the same, followed by Brian Burke picking first overall - hell, if that happens even "Jonesy" might have a thing or two to say. OK, you're right. Probably not.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hockey Nomad


In Dublin this weekend, returning to Canada on Tuesday. Read Dave Bidini's terrific book, The Tropic of Hockey, on the flight over.
When I was in Edmonton on Grey Cup weekend and flew back on the Sunday night the pilot came over the intercom to tell us that the Riders had won. I wonder if he will give us continuous updates on the frenetic activity of the trade deadline.
Folks, Keith Carney was just traded for a fifth rounder. Again.
I remember last season's trade deadline, trying to work while keeping an eye on what was going on, mostly concerned about the future of Smytty. The rumours that he had signed and then the trade.
This year of course the usual media madness is already reaching a fever pitch as Fletcher tries to move Maple Leafs and its possible that at the end of the day there will be one trade reported (Sundin) and two dozen others forgotten.
I'm thinking that we may see a new trend very soon, one that is already starting to show its face. I remember last year, I believe it was, and Matt Fenwick had a post about players sticking with the same team. Now before the 1980s it was a matter of course that guys played their entire careers with one squad. In the thread for that post I talked about a team that I had picked out of a hat, the '71 Blackhawks I think it was. It was amazing. Over half of that team played their entire career with Chicago and another group either played a handful of games at the beginning of their career (Tony Esposito) before coming to Chicago and playing 90% or more of their career there or they were moved at the very end of it all.
It was easy to identify with your team back then. They were a team. Same faces, for better or worse, year in and year out.
Now that has all changed. The guys who play their entire careers with one team can be counted on one hand. There was Yzerman and Danyko most recently. Likely Sakic, Modano, Lidstrom, Brodeur and some others will join the club soon.
With the change brought on by the CBA I think that we may, may, see a little bit of a return to this, at least with star players. The Hat said the other day that hockey players are creatures of habit and that given their druthers they will stick with what they know. Its the truth, I think, and with so many young stars signing longterm deals with their current clubs it seems that we may see a few more guys playing their careers with one club.
On the other hand, of course, we have the other side of it. Guys like Comrie getting one year deals and then getting rented at the deadline, year after year. A lot of guys who will be breaking Brent Ashton's record.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kids


A terrific tilt last night against Vancouver, probably the most entertaining game I've seen all year. Disappointing that the Oilers lost, of course, but a game that really illustrated a lot of nice things going on with this team.
First and foremost is that this team has been playing what the franchise likes to call "Oilers' Hockey" - fast paced and aggressive. Last night's game was a war and the Oilers did not back down. Led by Brodziak, Stortini and Glencross, who dominated pretty well every time they were on the ice, the Oilers took it to the Canucks every chance they could get. Not sure how this happened. Just a few weeks ago this was a different team. The arrival of Glencross, Moreau's assault on Phaneuf, the creation of a fourth line with a definitive role that they could carry out ... a few possibilities as to why the sudden change but its good to see and when you have guys like Gagner and Smid getting out there and throwing them its pretty clear that its becoming a team trademark. I like that.
Secondly its all about the kids. Gagner has eight points in the six games since Horcoff went down and looks to be on pace to hit forty points. There's Cogliano and there's Brodziak who now has ten goals, tied for fourth on the club. Gilbert has hit the wall and he had a dreadful giveaway last night but the kid is being asked to do it all and even with his rough stretch of late I can't say enough good about him. And yes its time to add Stortini to the list of rookies who have established themselves on this team. Say what you want about the guy. I've always cheered for him as he captained my hometown junior team and if nothing you have to admire his try but like most fans I had my doubts as to the guy's usefulness.
Its all about results and you can't argue with what he has done over the last little while. Last night in a huge game when his line was on the ice the rink was tilted the right way. He was hitting guys all night, knocking Pyatt right out of the game. He's an agitator more then an enforcer but that's okay. He certainly was under the Canucks' skin. His line was a plus again. When the puck was in their end his line got it out. When they faced the Sedins they did their part and actually picked up a plus against them.
So Gagner, Cogliano, Brodziak, Gilbert and Stortini. Throw in Greene and Smid and yes Laddy had an awful game last night but he's been good of late. Remember a short time ago when those types of games were regular outings for him and Grebeshkov and Greene. Not so much now.
Glencross has been a nice addition, a big fellow who can skate and will hit.
Nilsson remains the guy who the jury is out on. Politics says he gets another shot next year and really he has done quite alright, alright enough to get that shot.
But there's too many forwards. Something has to give.
In my last post I mentioned Ken Holland and how he felt that young cheap players are needed and are gaining value in this league. The Oilers have plenty of these going forward and most of them look to be players. Its good to see.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Handsome Man Enters


Mere words say so little.
Since Shawn Horcoff went down the Oilers have beaten the Flames and Hawks handily, competed hard in a rematch against Calgary, beaten Wild on Jack Lemaire, which never happens, and then handled the Sharks. That's four and one in a stretch which one likely would have predicted the opposite result and gotten agreement from most quarters.
The team is at .500 now and what follows does not mean that I am on board with what Lowe has done over the last two years. He has way more misses then hits and this team would have been better last season and this season if he had been a little smarter. A lot of fans point to the kids and think that its The Boys On The Bus redux but the truth is that kids get hurt, their careers derail, things don't turn out and the next thing you know you're the Islanders, wandering in the wilderness for a quarter century. Its all about smarts now and with Katz's money the Oilers are on a level playing field with, well, pretty much everyone. Giving the farm to Sheldon Souray when you could get someone who could play tough minutes and stay healthy for a third of the money (hell Jan Hejda took a million!) is NOT VERY SMART!
Its about getting bang for your buck. Interesting to note what has happened since the lockout. The feeling was that the lower UFA age would see the league's young stars the subject of insane summer bidding wars. I remember many Toronto pundits talking about how the Leafs were going to position themselves for Thornton, Iginla, Lecavalier. Now we've seen the younger stars cash in but we have also seen an interesting trend. For the most part they have cashed in with their current teams and we have seen RFA stars trading their own years of unrestricted free agency for big cabbage. There are still a handful of guys getting loose each summer and these guys will get paid too because there are fewer of them but the cash is finite in a capped league and soon some teams are going to start to get squeezed. The Leafs are stuck already. There is talk that Philly will have to move Carter and may have to walk away from Jason Smith because of the money they have tied up in Richards, Timmonen, Hartnell and Briere. The Rangers just committed big money to Lundqvist, adding his contract to those of Gomez and Drury (interesting to note how the Rangers looked like such a nice team the last couple of years and then reverted to their old ways last summer and suddenly look in tough shape again) and so what of Shanahan, Avery, Jagr? The Ducks have Pronger, Schneider, Giguere and Getzlaf signed to big money and still have Perry to sign this summer. You get the picture. Throw in teams like the Flames as well as those teams that will only spend to the floor and I think that soon, very soon, they're going to throw a party for the UFAs and nobody's going to come.
This summer I see the following "big names", so to speak - I am sure I have missed a couple - Langkow, Huselius, Campbell, Hossa, Cleary, Rolston, Demitra, Huet, Redden, Vrbata, Boyle, Prospal, Sundin. I would bet that Langkow, Cleary, Rolston, Vrbata, Boyle and Sundin return to their existing teams. Maybe Campbell too. Duhatschek said last week that given their druthers most hockey players would prefer to stay where they are. They are creatures of habit for the most part. The last couple of years bear this out. These guys aren't getting chicken feed but it is amazing how many players have chosen to sign rather then test the open market or see if they can get an offer sheet as RFAs. Giguere, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Spezza, Heatley, Redden, Iginla, Kiprusoff, Reghyr, Phaneuf, McCabe, Tucker, Elias, Lundqvist, Thornton, Marleau, Crosby, Ovechkin. Etc etc.
I think this summer there are going to be some bargains and I think we might be surprised by who is available for a reasonable price. I think next year it may be even better. So it is important that Lowe is smart.
I think the best thing that could happen to the Oilers would be for Sheldon Souray to retire with a career ending chronic shoulder injury. But back to praising Lowe, not burying him, for once at least.
The team had a winning record in January, albeit aided by our old friend the shootout. It was in January though that the Oilers started to try something a little crazy, winning in regulation. Four and two in February and all four of these without a Bettman gimmick. Good to see. Other things to like lately:
- the return of some grit to the Oilers' game, led by Ethan Moreau; they're playing with a bit of an edge and I think its translated into some room for the skill guys and a little bit of respect from the opposition
- the play of Garon; he's been on more then a bit of a run now and based on his play in LA a couple of years back I think that the Oilers may have found themselves a number 1. He has put up decent numbers before. He reminds some people of Tretiak. I think Lowe signs him soon. He doesn't remind me of Tretiak but I think signing him is a good idea. Starting to warm up to it. Actually he does remind me of Tretiak, Igor Tretiak, the hot dog vendor near my work. Same haircut and he also has a heavy accent. And he smells like mystery meat.
- a bottom six that can do some damage. Brodziak, Glencross and Stortini have had a great couple of games (+3 at ES, is that right?) - its a nice role for Brodziak who gets a lot of time on the PK and can bump up to the third line if need be (hard to believe the rook was there most of the year, maybe that's why he's eating the scrubs alive - after playing tough minutes most of the year he's ready for some scrubicide and finding it a piece of cake). Throw in Moreau and Fernando and Cogliano and you have a bottom six that can hold their own pretty well. If they sign Glencross then you throw in Thoresen and another kid or maybe a true heavyweight who can play and you've got the bottom half of your roster set.
- a D that is developing nicely. Gilbert has hit the wall but that's to be expected. Greene and Smid have both made some strides and Grebeshkov has as well. I think Staios might be in demand at the deadline. I also think there are a lot of similar guys whose contracts expire who teams are going to prefer. Staios has had his struggles but his play of late has been fine and if you move him you have to replace him. Unless the plan is to move Roy into the top six longterm then I can't see them moving him. No D coming up through the ranks until '09/10 from what I can see. I think Stevie sticks. Joni too unless Lowe gets a killer offer. He'll get a raise but this idea that they have to move him is silly. I would say sign him longterm but if you're not comfortable with that (and I can see why some might not be) then sign him for a year or two. What's he going to do, hold out? Trading him for a pick or a kid prospect makes little sense. I think next year's D looks a lot like this year's and that's OK with me. See what you have. Turning guys over for the sake of turning guys over does nothing for me. Unless you can move Souray. ;)
- so that leaves the top six - Hemsky, Penner, Gagner, Stoll, Nilsson and, um, Reasoner. Definitely happy with Gagner, six points in five games and showing a lot more as his confidence grows. Two forty point plus rookies by the looks of it and that's damn good. Nilsson is Nilsson and I think he may have shown enough to stay. Politics involved there too. So if its those two kids, Penner, Hemsky (and damn has he arrived this year or what!?) and Horcoff then what's left?
Well Stoll seems to be back in form and that's good and so I think he sticks around until they sign Horcoff, if they do so. You trade Stoll and then Horcoff walks and then what do you have up the middle? Yep. And Torres comes back and he's the guy who gets dealt. If there are no takers then he slides down and he and Moreau are in the bottom six - nice pair on the LW there.
I think Lowe stands pat this summer. Unless he can do a quantity for quality - moving Stoll and Torres for a top sixer who can give them more offence - then I think not much goes on. Too few UFAs and its not the right time for that now anyway (just as last year was not). Some interesting bottom six options but I think the bottom six looks ok. Do you sign a Nagy for a year like you did Sykora? You might but at this point you still are trying to figure out Nilsson and there's Schremp, the one kid who might fit in that top six role as well.
Some teams are painting themselves into corners and Holmgren said the other day that the cheap young player is becoming more valuable as teams need these guys to fill out their rosters. So maybe Lowe can make that deal he was hoping to do last summer - a bunch of kids for a real player whose team can't afford any salary in return. The other side for Lowe is that the problem is that moving a guy like Torres or Pisani or Moreau isn't as easy anymore. They are valuable hockey players - we have seen how the Oilers have gotten better since Pisani and Moreau returned - but for some GMs having a guy who will play bottom six minutes, score ten to fifteen goals, play a role, this guy should be making a million. So moving any of these guys may be out of the question unless they can move them to a team trying to get to the floor with reasonable contracts.
A quiet deadline. A quiet summer. And hopefully a spring that builds on a little bit of the promise that we have seen recently.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Think Man Think!


Had the annual night, or in this case day, out with my best friend yesterday. Four seats this year so two of our longtime pals made the trek down from Sudbury to catch the Leafs, followed up with dinner and many pints. Good times.
The Leafs beat the Wings so cue Tony From Woodbridge calling in and opining on how Fletcher needs to load up at the deadline so The Passion That Unites Us All can make their annual run to the Cup. They actually played a nice game, conservative and smart, and Toskela outplayed Hasek who was terrible on Sundin's equalizer and the overtime winner. Another thing to note is that after Cleary went down the Wings generated very little offensive pressure outside of their big line. On a night like this one can see the effect of the cap on this league. Only two years ago when the Oilers upset the Wings, Detroit had three pretty dangerous lines rolling plus a fourth line of Maltby, Cleary and Franzen iirc. Now I have seen little of the Wings this year and they seem to be in a little bit of a February downturn but this team can be beaten, I would say. If you have the guys who can shut down Zetterberg and Datsyuk then I think they may be had. I would think they'll be shopping over the next two weeks.
So, back to the Leafs, who are really the poster boys for what not to do in a league that has a salary cap. JFJ is considered to have gotten a bum rap here and there is no doubt that MLSE's treatment of him at the end was beyond disgraceful but this team is littered with his mistakes and, as a result, are likely going to finish up the road for at least the next couple of years much like the Oilers. Problem is they can't even point to a nice collection of kids like the Oilers can.
Now MLSE makes our concerns about EIG look teeny tiny in comparison. Larry Tanenbaum's fingerprints were all over the two year deal that thuggish pinhead Tahir Domi got and its likely that this was not the only case where ownership was involved however JFJ's penchant for handing out large longterm deals to players has handcuffed this team. Toronto fans point to Paul Holmgren's masterful job at turning around Philly but the fact is that Holmgren had a pretty decent collection of young talent that the Leafs cannot match - Gagne, Richards, Carter, Pitkanen, to name a few. He had Forsberg and Zhitnik who he could move. Here the Leafs have Sundin and you might say Hal Gill is a comp to Zhitnik contract wise, at least. And finally when it came to the summer Holmgren had a pile of cap room which he used to acquire Briere, Hartnell and Timmonen. The Leafs have absolutely none. He used Pitkanen to bring in Smith and Lupul, moved Zhitnik for Coburn and made a nice little move to get Biron and boom! Rebuild complete. Not to mention the haul for Forsberg and the number two pick in last year's draft. Pretty amazing to see what some guys having off years and a lot of injuries will bring you if you're smart about it.
The Toronto media is trumpeting that there is a lot of interest out there in a lot of the Leafs but the truth of the matter is that I would guess that the guys teams are looking at are the guys the Leafs do not want to move. Kids like Steen and Stajan and Anton Stralman as well as Tjulsty who played against the Datsyuk line and handled himself pretty well. Toskela. Kaberle. McCabe. Antropov. To shake things up they might have to move a guy like Kaberle who would likely bring a nice return but it hurts when you have to move a guy to make space because you're a bunch of dummies.
I think if they could move McCabe (Islanders) they would but the guys they really want to move aren't going anywhere. And this is where JFJ has fucked the Leafs. Its really a cautionary tale for Kevin Lowe and any GMs. There is only a finite amount of money to go around as Tyler Dellow points out and while the fallout from this so far has hit fading guys like Anson Carter, Tony Amonte, Jeff O'Neill, Jason Allison and so on, guys who made a pile of cash and who can retire rather then play for the minimum, the fact is that pretty soon there are going to be a lot of guys like, yes, Mike Johnson, a pretty decent player who barely found a job this season. The smart GM is going to be able to pick up some pretty good players for bargains pretty soon, guys like Dominic Moore who played a terrific game for the Leafs yesterday.
Now that would be the smart GM. The Leafs are stuck with Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft and Pavel Kubina for starters plus they have big money tied up in McCabe and Kaberle and if they sign Sundin ... well, that's about it for them. Huge contracts with lengthy term and guys who are not even close to outperforming that money - its a combination that will kill you. The media can trumpet all they want how teams covet Tucker and Blake and McCabe but the Leafs are not moving the first two - their contracts and performance preclude it. Indeed the Leafs would have gotten a huge return if they had moved Tucker last spring and McCabe the spring before as both finished up career years but it did not happen and now its likely that they are stuck with all three of these guys for a while yet. At least McCabe is a decent player. Not worth what he's getting but he's decent.
So what does this have to do with the Oilers? Well Lowe has been on a terrible run for almost the last two years now and its likely that with Katz coming in the clock is ticking on our man Kevin. What I fear and what most Oiler fans should fear is that Lowe will be tempted to go for the sexy home run again this summer. I'm thinking it may really be a dull six months coming up and I would certainly prefer that to Lowe giving Michael Ryder 4 per or something goofy like that. The talk now is that the Oilers may move Pitkanen, with one of the main issues being that they have so much cash tied up in Souray. This Souray deal has the potential to hobble this franchise for a couple of years and its a perfect example of the stupid PR related deal (like the Tucker deal) that a good GM will always avoid. Some people squawk about the deals given to Moreau, Roloson, Pisani, Staios and Torres but these are really small potatoes - with the exception of the Roloson contract I think Lowe could move any of these if he wanted to. Staios is the highest at 2.7 but that's relatively small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. And in two years three of these contracts will be off the books.
I think it was Tyler who described the job of a GM to be a series of gambles and its true. Who you draft, who you trade for and trade away, who you sign, for how much and for how long - its a never ending series of bets that you are making. Some choices are easy - signing Lidstrom or Sakic to a neverending series of one or two year deals or drafting Mario Lemieux. Some look easy, for example Chicago drafting Patrick Kane, but how many people remember the questions a lot of people had about him, legitimate questions? Some are difficult - do you sign Ryan Smyth for five years for big money? Do you gamble on Dustin Penner?
You don't bet on Sheldon Souray - that, friends, is an easy one.
In gambling on Souray, Lowe has made a huge mistake, one that JFJ made over and over again - he paid big bucks for a one trick pony Dman and gave him the term to boot. Consider Norris trophy candidate Jan Hejda (thanks Heed). A lot of people look at the Oilers failure to sign this guy and say good riddance but considering that they might have had him, a solid top four guy on a team that needs a solid top four guy, and had him for cheap at that - well this is what I am talking about. Go through the list of players who signed to one or two year deals last summer who would have given more to this team then Souray. If you are a Leafs' fan and look at the production of Blake or Tucker and think that you could have had two years of Comrie or Guerin or a year of Petr Sykora. The Oilers could have had Hejda and Ryan Smyth for a little more then Souray. And they could made up the difference there by moving Torres. LW would have been Smyth, Penner, Moreau. Not too shabby. Too bad Lowe didn't have a Globe and Mail subscription (we'll chip in) seeing as David Shoalts gave the cap number for this season around Christmas of last year. Might have ponied up that extra 100 grand.
You HAVE to use your fucking noggin. You just do. We'll see if Lowe has learned anything this summer. He had better have or in a year and a half we'll be minus Pitkanen and Horcoff but we'll have eleven million wrapped up in Souray and Markus Naslund. Forever.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Come Back Kevin, All Is Forgiven!


Har Har! Yeah right.

One truth about the Oilers going back for years and years is that things are rarely dull. From about ten years ago on to the spring of 2006 there was the annual rush for the last playoff spot. As players outgrew the Oilers' budget there was management's attempt to get a good return for them. Off the ice there was the concern about the future of the Oilers in Edmonton. On the ice the team may have lacked skill but played a hard driving, fast, aggressive game that entertained its fans.

2006 saw the beauty run that just fell short and then most of the drama shifted off of the ice. The Pronger departure, last year's disastrous campaign which culminated in the trade of Ryan Smyth, this summer's dramatic offer sheets to Vanek and Penner, the Nylander fiasco, the Souray fiasco, the acquisition of Pitkanen.

And looming in the background, Daryl Katz.

This week, after all that has happened in the past two years, saw the end of the Katz saga, the loss of the Oilers' best player for the season and two unlikely victories, games that showed that this team isn't going to roll over at least. A tougher road lies ahead over the rest of the month and all of the talk of the playoff push is as silly as the same talk here in Toronto but with the exception of Horcoff's injury it has been a good week to be an Oilers' fan.

EIG rides into the sunset finally and they should not be forgotten for what they did to keep the Oilers in Edmonton. Without them we're talking about the Houston Oilers. Having said that it was time for them to go. I didn't begrudge Cal Nichols and EIG as much as some but the past couple of months demonstrated why they had to go as Bill Butler and some media, led by Fat Terry, disparaged Katz, called into question his motives, raised the threat of the team being moved.

Now I was a fan of Katz coming in from day one but having said that I certainly believed that EIG had the right to maximize the money they made off of the deal just as they had the right to make money off this club when they were owners. However, Butler's tactics echoed the same issue that a lot of fans had with EIG over the past number of years, that damn spin. Claiming the team was on death's door for so many years when number crunching shows that they were doing ok was unnecessary and so were the holdouts' tactics over the past months. They came off as unprofessional smalltimers and any credibility that Jones had (none anyway?) was lost as he embarrassed himself repeatedly.

What do I think about Katz? Hey, he could be Harold Ballard which would be the worst case I think but my impression is that he is going to be a terrific owner. He's a fan of the club. He has a pile of money. He's successful. He also has a huge ego and he wants to win. Put yourself in his shoes. You now own your hometown team, the team that you cheered for as a young man, who you saw in their glory years. Think of what you would do to bring them back to their former standing. He has the means and the drive and I think its great for the Oilers. I think he leaves the team to the Lowe for the next couple of years and if things don't progress then he pulls the plug on him. You don't amass that much wealth without being ruthless and I would say that we may see that side if Lowe doesn't produce. That's a good thing.

You know what? Anyone around my age will never have to worry about this club moving again in our lifetimes, about them not being able to compete with the Detroits and the Rangers. How good does that feel?

As for the team on the ice, it received a huge blow on Monday when Horcoff decided to go under the knife. Then they went out and kicked Calgary's ass.

Last night they did a job on the admittedly terrible Blackhawks.

A lot of things to like about these two wins.

First of all the shot Moreau took at Phaneuf. This team has been pushovers for the last eighteen months on too many nights and too many guys have been knocked out of games. Phaneuf, a big man who sometimes plays a cowardly game in my opinion, took a run at Glencross and then Cogliano. Both were clean hits. Moreau's retaliation, a forearm shiver, was not. And I loved it. It sent a message and threw the Flames off early on. The remainder of the game, like the Dallas game (from what I ahve read) and then the Chicago game, saw the Oilers being the aggressors, hitting, skating, standing their ground. We'll see how it goes Saturday night but watching Stortini tee off on Lapointe and fight Reghyr, Glencross take on Sarich and guys like Nilsson (?) and Gagner throw hits was a reminder of when this team played hard aggressive hockey as a matter of course. It was good to see and it was no surprise that two wins resulted.

The special teams were terrific. The PP saw players moving and the puck getting thrown about with abandon. Players were shooting from everywhere and Lalime looked like Denis Lemieux flailing about in a shooting gallery. The PK was sticks in the passing lanes and bodies in the shooting lanes and good hard plays on the puck - reminiscent of spring 2006.

As for specific players well a one handed Ales Hemsky is better then most players in the league. He has taken the proverbial next step. The argument over Penner will continue, I am sure, but my guess is next year he comes in fit and probably pots nearly forty. The difference between now and the fall for this guy - unbelievable. And a good interview to boot.

Gagner looked good although he may eat it on the road - we'll see. In any case both he and young Marchant look to hit around forty points and that's damn good for a couple of kids.

Nilsson is fighting for his job. He looks good and then he looks terrible and I wonder if he may be a guy who gets shipped out for a veteran who can help this team this spring and next season.

And Pitkanen's walking the blue line and then firing home his seventh - well, this guy is a special talent. I don't know what he's asking but with him the Oilers have seven guys on the blueline for next year and if they sign him longterm then they have two guys who look to be able to play on the top pair for years. Is he worth 5 or more? I don't know but I think he's a bet you have to take. He's been hurt and he's coming off an offyear and other then Horcoff and Hemsky he's been the Oilers' best player for all that. And I think he's just scratching the surface.

Trading him would be stupid. If you can find 5.4 to give to a one trick pony like Souray then you better figure out a way to keep a much younger player who could anchor your defence for years. The whole idea of rebuilding a team is to find young players who are special and bring your team back to the promised land. I think Pitkanen is one of those guys.

Monday, February 04, 2008

With The First Overall Pick The Anaheim Ducks Select ...

The last guy they could afford to lose is gone.

We could be talking last spring bad now.

I picked a bad week to quit smoking. And drinking. Amphetimines. Heroin.

You get the picture.

Somebody obviously sold their soul to the devil for that '06 run because this is just getting silly.

Friday, February 01, 2008

So Enough About You, Lets Talk About Me For A While

So, I turn on TSN after the All Star game and after the obligatory shot of Pierre Maguire giving Phaneuf a reacharound they go to a panel. Now Glenn Healy is a jackass but MacKenzie knows his shit, Milbury is both entertaining and informative and even Maguire, once he's on his meds, can actually make good sense, so I don't mind these things. Especially when one turns to the CBC and sees PJ Stock explaining how he blows somebody regularly in order to keep this gig.

Seriously I have not heard anyone anywhere say a good thing about this dolt. At least TSN had the sense to pull the plug on that selfish punk Tie Domi when it became clear that he was about as good a broadcaster as he was a hockey player.

Must be some sort of affirmative action thing. But I digress.

So your panel gets introduced and the topic is the post All Star game run to the playoffs and the myriad storylines. I'm thinking, hey here we go - we've got the Wings and the Ducks, the two frontrunners. We've got the Sharks who are lurking and the Sens who have to figure out their goaltending and seem to be the class of the East. And there are three other pretty good Canadian teams who could make an endaround if Lidstrom gets hurt or the Ducks falter or if the Sens' goaltending implodes (likely). And Philly who might be the most dangerous team in the East. And the playoff races with nobody but the Kings and the Oilers really dead and done. I'm getting a boner just typing about it.

So Duthie turns to Darren Dreger to kick it off and Dreger looks at the camera and says:

"Well the last thirty games look really interesting for the Toronto Maple Leafs ..."

[click]

Back to my book.

Hey I live in Toronto but I'm from Sudbury and Jenn is from the Island and while I love it here I can certainly see why the rest of the country wishes that this city or at least a lot of the people who live here might disappear into Lake Ontario. Today was a perfect example. My lovely wife, the saint, has a wedding to attend in Banff and was flying out tonight. (By the way don't pray for me, left here with my progeny. Jenn works a lot of weekends so this is old hat for me. Pray for the citizens of Hogtown. With the civilizing influence in our family gone its only bad news for the neighbours. My kids are all me, which means, well, lets just say Cloverfield might be a reasonable comparison for what awaits this town.). But I digress.

So last night we are watching the news to see what is happening. Now we all know that weather is the new Communism. That and the bird flu. So once again Toronto is going to be hit by the storm of the century. Again. I remember the last one, in December. It was unbearable. Dad and I took twenty minutes to walk to the pub. Usually it takes eighteen minutes. It was brutal. Mom almost had to send out a search party. With dogs.

The horror.

So it looks like its all over. No wedding for Jenn. As a matter of fact we might have to do a little Sophies' Choice to survive this bad boy. JESUS HELP US! Its almost as bad as, say , if Kevin Lowe were destroying my favourite hockey club. Not quite. Close though.

Anyways, presently my wife is winging her way across the nation. A little late (although we got her to the airport right on time, no worries) - I have no idea how we managed it. So, how about those Oilers?

- Dick Tarnstrom is probably pretty happy right now

- I actually saw Curtis Glencross score two goals against the Flames earlier this season. If I had not I would have had no idea who he was. Having said that this guy who nobody has ever heard of has more goals and points then a whole lot of Oilers, including PP catalyst Sheldon Souray

- Kevin Lowe should be fired for that Souray signing alone. And I said that the signing was shit the day it happened. Just fucking terrible.

- Its early but I am going to say that barring major injuries that whoever comes out of the Wings/Ducks is going to win the Cup, just like last season.

- Any bets on the package Fletcher would get for Sundin if Mats were to waive his notrade clause? How about the Oilers' first and Bobby Ryan to start if Anaheim gets involved? And if I'm Burke I make that trade.

- Kevin Lowe should be fired. The horror.

- Kevin Lowe was a better GM when he had no money and he had to, you know, think.

- I like Kevin Lowe but he should be fired.

Have to go, the kids have hogtied the big fellow and I smell gasoline.