Thursday, July 02, 2009
As we made our way across Northern Ontario from Goulais along the north shore of Huron and then further east past Nipissing and down into the Ottawa Valley, skirting Algonquin Park, we could see hints of the past everywhere we turned. Along the highways from Montreal to Quebec City you have either forest or neatly arranged fields and in New Brunswick you have nothing but wilderness as you drive the TransCanada, rugged hills heavy with pine between the odd town.
As you wind through Northern Ontario though along highway 17 you can see history right out your window. Old farmhouses and barns grey with age, some collapsing in on themselves, some still standing. And often you can see old highways running parallel to the one you travel on, the asphalt cracked and wearied by decades of neglect once they were replaced by the new TransCanada, no longer a highway but just an old sideroad called "Old Highway ###" and in some cases completely abandoned and tumbling back into the brush, a true road to nowhere.
Its been another odd week for the Oilers, just another in an endless list of odd weeks since June 19th, 2006. Apparently it wasn't just Kevin Lowe.
Like Lowe often did this regime seems to get the small things right, although calling the draft small is being silly, of course. Maybe a better description for what they do right would be the simple business like parts of things. I do think that this draft, like the last few, will likely pan out pretty well when all is said and done, barring any catastrophic injuries. The draft is always a crapshoot, a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo and even the most successful clubs like the Wings and Devils fall on their faces more often then not.
I know a whole lot of nothing about this stuff but other then the enforcer Abney who likely could have been had a lot later I don't really have any issues with any of the picks. I like the two Swedes a lot. Both Bigos and Hesketh have promise and Rajala and Roy may both be steals.
Of course they all may be busts but I think we'll see a few careers out of this bunch. I have no issues with the draft.
Its everything else that gives me the heebie jeebies. If you had asked me what I had wanted to see before the summer began I would have come up with something like this as a wishlist:
1/ Replace MacT with a quality alternative. Done.
2/ Get the farm system in order. I believe that this in the process of being done.
3/ Try and move some of the poor contracts if possible - I would include Moreau, Staios and Penner in this group. Nothing yet although they obviously are trying to move Penner.
4/ Try and shed further salary in order to get this team in a more viable cap position going forward. They are a cap team with not even a playoff spot to show for it and they have very little flexibility going forward. Nothing yet. Instead they have added one contract and are trying to add another one that will limit their ability to move.
5/ Quality goaltending for half the price. I liked Roloson but two years was too much if that is what he wanted. JDD is not a guy to hang your hat on. I would have liked a bet on two low cost vets from the Garon school. Poorly done. Khabibulin was a disaster in Chicago until his job was in jeopardy and his contract was almost up. Giving him four years at his age is a recipe for disaster. He misses plenty of games which means JDD will likely be the difference between this club making the playoffs and not. Do you want to bet on that working out?
6/ Try to keep as many young valuable players as possible. Brodziak has been moved with Brule apparently tabbed to take his place. And apparently Cogliano and Smid are part of the Heatley deal. Not what I had in mind.
7/ Add some low cost veterans up front who can get the puck moving the right way. Nothing yet.
Hey there I know that a lot of folks have different ideas of what they want to see but right at this moment I would not say that this team is any better then last season's club. Brodziak could win draws and PK and he had some experience and now he is gone. I would rather have had Roloson for two years then Khabibulin for four years. That is just plain poor. And there have been no additions at all to last year's roster and there have been no deletions of guys who really underachieved.
Maybe it was all MacT's fault.
And the Heatley situation has become another embarassment. Why they would get on the plane to go and see this guy to try and convince him to come is beyond me. As soon as he said that he would sleep on it they should have withdrawn the offer right then and there. Damien Cox put it quite right - your man signs a longterm deal, asks out a year later and then puts a kibosh on the trade. Why would you want this guy on your club? He is about himself only, nobody else. What a headcase.
All is not lost although its getting there. While Chicago and Columbus and Philadelphia make some nice moves, big and small, the Oilers' song remains the same. Tyler Dellow's judgement is harsh but I certainly don't blame him. The Canucks sign their two stars for a nice rate in money and term after another nice year. Down the highway Sutter again makes a bold stroke and signs the most coveted free agent on the market. The Wild add a few professional hockey players, including Kyle Brodziak, who will make their team better. And the Avs shore up their goaltending issues for a fraction of the cost that the Oilers pay.
And Edmonton overpays for an aging netminder who underachieved nearly the entire length of his last contract and reup Strudwick. And they move a kid centre who at the very least can provide quality depth. And they open themselves up to ridicule on the whole Heatley mess.
All is not lost but they need to figure things out. If they want to add a winger for Hemsky, again, then they better get to it because the Leafs and the Canucks have cap space and the Rangers are itching to spend that Gomez money and we may end up being the only ones still standing when the music stops, again.
Wandering in the woods on the crumbling grey, looking up at the blue sky, the buzz of a million wild creatures in our ears, wondering how we got here and why our pants are so big.
The glory years are fading away. I am as proud as anybody of those great clubs - they are arguably the greatest team ever assembled. But talking about the past and the victories then does little of me. Since 1990 the Flames have had more success then the Oilers and this decade they have been the better run organization. At some point talking about past triumphs strikes me as silly and pointless, sort of like if you walked in to a Vienna cafe and a bunch of dudes were lamenting their lost empire.
We may be nobodies now but remember the Habsburgs? Remember when we bestrode Europe like a colossus? Ah, for the days of Gretzky, er, Franz Joseph.
Three poor summers and its shaping up to be a fourth. The conductor has changed but the music remains the same.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:12 PM