Friday, February 27, 2009

Dad's Mental


My father's father never raised a hand against his kids. There were six of them and they were mental.

There's not much to my old man and his Dad was even smaller but my father has the old man strength, just like my grandfather did. The type of ropey muscled, broad shouldered, massive forearmed, huge handed power that all of those generations before ours had, even those little guys, sprung from a life lived outdoors at work and at play, chopping wood and digging, building and lifting, physical labour, not sitting at a desk in front of a computer.

My Dad has a couple of pretty good stories about his Dad that capture him pretty good. My grandparents started their married life in the Soo, just up the road from Goulais, and my Dad talks about going downtown when he was five or so with his old man. Of course this was long ago now, it would have been the late thirties, and people didn't have much. My Dad and his brothers and sister had it better then a lot of people but you know what a different time it was when they still talk about the time they got canned Carnation milk, a case of it. They all remember that, it was such a huge deal.

So it wasn't Angela's Ashes with the kids dropping like flies at every turn, they didn't starve, but they hadn't any luxuries either.

So this one day they walk down the hill into town, just my Dad and his old man. My father would have been my daughter's age now. And they did a little wander and then as they passed a store my grandfather stopped and pointed in the store window where there was a red wagon, brilliant and shiny, and he said to my Dad "Do you like that, Jack?"

And my Dad nods, speechless at the beauty of it, and my grandfather tells him to wait right there and he walks in and he pays the man and comes out with the wagon.

When he tells the story my Dad pops his eyes out and opens his mouth wide wide wide to show what he looked like all of those years ago when his dad came out the door with that wagon.

He talks about how when they had moved up to Franz, hours north of the Soo, only accessible by train (my Dad's youngest brother was delivered by the brakeman on the train as it brought her into the Soo to go to the hospital - when the train got to the station they wrapped them up and brought them by sleigh to see the doctor - it was the middle of a Northern Ontario storm and the roads were impassable) and the six of them would be all upstairs in bed, being rambunctious and they'd hear the deep voice, low and rumbling from below, "Everyone quiet up there", and that was it, silence would reign.

He never raised his voice and he never raised his hand and all he would need to do is give a look and they'd snap to.

Good thing too based on a story my Dad told me once when we were at the Legion in the Soo. His brother Don had just passed away and the family was gathering and so a few of us cousins wandered over to the Legion to meet Dad and his remaining three brothers and their sister's husband. We drank and told stories and laughed because we'd already done some crying (and would do some more) and my Uncle Don would have wanted us to be doing what we were doing. So the oldtimers told stories and my Dad talked about the time that my grandfather was in the same building, having a few, and some big fellow was sitting across from him getting a little rowdy. And my grandfather, just a little fellow, not even five and a half feet tall, told your man to settle down and he was ignored. So he said it again, low and rumbling, and the big man stood up and the little man stood up and there was one punch and then the little man sat down and the big man had a little liedown.

Tough, my Dad said, clenching his own massive fist and smiled.

My Dad was cut from the same cloth as his father when it came to discipline. He never laid a hand on us, never raised his voice. But when he said jump we would always smile and say how high.

Me, on the other hand, well, I bring a little less calm and a little more, lets say, flair, to my role as father. Of course, first thing is I am more involved in my family then my Dad or his Dad were. That's not a slap or anything, that's just the way it is and the way it was. My wife works and she works shift work besides plus I don't travel at all for work and I take my role as dad super seriously. That cliche, that they grow up so fast, is true and I'll be goddamned if I'm going to miss my kids growing up, as long as I can help it.

So right now I'm having a Caledonian and carrying the baby around (I can feel, hear and smell her pooping - its a big one) while the two older ones are rampaging about upstairs; my wife is out for a run. She said she'd be back Sunday.

So I'm a full partner is raising these maniacs and let me tell you, its mental. They're mental. I'm mental. My poor wife.

What I do is try and keep them off balance. Just have them a little bit on edge. Fuck with them. One time my daughter was not doing something I required. She had been to a party a couple of days before and so there were some nice big balloons floating around. So I walk into the kitchen, come back with a knife and tell her if she doesn't get moving then the balloons say sayonara.

She moved pretty fast then.

Parenting is not easy but its also pretty straight forward.

1. Always be fair. Kids can smell a fraud a mile away. I came back from Buffalo with a litle Zamboni for the boy and nothing for my daughter. Before I took out the Zamboni I explained to her that because she had gotten a stuffed frog the week before for something and he had gotten nothing now it was his turn. She was totally cool. The week before he had been okay. They know we're not going to cheat one or the other.

2. Pick your battles. Kids are kids. They're mental. The other night the boy was in bed when my daughter came home from swimming. As I put her to bed she began to whine that she wanted a blanket that he had on his bed. If they had both been awake I would have told her to stuff it, walked out and closed the door. Because he was sleeping I gave her the blanket so she'd shut her piehole. Now Dr. Phil would say that by giving into her I was setting myself up for failure and teaching her that she could get what she wants by whining. Dr. Phil is a multimillionaire ass who doesn't live in my house. If I had fought with her she would have screamed bloody murder and woken up the boy. Two days later when my daughter threw a tantrum to try and get a honey sandwich for breakfast things didn't quite work out for her that way.

3. Make sure you can follow through on what you say. Threatening that they won't go to the birthday party tomorrow if they don't get to sleep right now is a losing proposition because you're going to take them to the party. Threatening to take away their truck or teddy bear is something that is easy to follow up on and it gets their attention just as fast.

4. You have to make the best decision for right now and for the future. Little kids love candy. They love TV. They love junk food. They love toys. When we're at Grandma and Grandpa's and Grandma gives them ice cream with chocolate sauce for breakfast we let them go to it. If we're all beat and they just want to veg out and watch some Scooby then that's ok. If I see a shiny new bike for my daughter and I can afford it then I'm going to buy it. But there's no candy in our house except after Halloween and Easter because we have friends whose kids have had their teeth pulled before they turn five because they are so rotten. My wife worked at a hospital in Florida where parents gave their toddlers bottlers with Coke in them. Our kids are only allowed a little bit of TV and the rest of their time is spent drawing, painting, running and you know, playing. And if my daughter is at the store and she asks for a toy I tell her to put it on her Santa list or get a job.

5. Let them take charge as much as possible. My daughter gets five bucks a week to do little chores around the house. We're buying her a new leotard and she wants one that is more then what we want to spend. We told her if she wanted it she could chip in and she decided to. A few weeks back she went to the movies with my wife and wanted the upsized popcorn and treat and she was told that she could chip in for that if she wanted it. She decided not to.

We let them make as many decisions as we can. We want them to have fun as kids but this is a longterm deal here. Giving them everything they want and waiting on them hand and foot isn't going to help them succeed down the road. We want to win now and in the future.

There's no guarantee that we are doing things the right way. We believe that we are. The scary thing is that we could be doing everything right and they could still end up a mess. You just do your best and hope for the best. We are strict but fair and we give them all of the love that we can. We don't run them down or hit them or treat them like they are afterthoughts but at the same time we don't dote on them, spoiling them rotten.
We all have this crazy mental wonderful life and hopefully seventy years from now my boy will be telling his grandkids about his old man with the same respect and love that my dad has when he talks about his.

------------------------------

I've said this before and I will say it again. I'm a MacT guy.

But its time for him to go. They're not going to get rid of him before the end of the season but this summer he has to go.

The roster is unbalanced, yes, and there are plenty of kids, yes, and I know that there are many people out there who I have a lot of respect for saying the devil you know, yes, but this game against the BJS was a microcosm of what has gone wrong this season.

A poor effort in an important game. Last season I think you could count on one hand the number of games where the Oilers were not into the game. They were losers but they tried hard, at least. Now I wonder was it who they moved, were these heart and soul guys who went out the door? Well Greene and Glencross certainly were. Reasoner was. Pitkanen was a good player but I think he had moments where you wondered where his head was. And Stoll and Torres as well. Is that fair?

In comes Cole, a guy noted for being a consistent player. Souray and Moreau were injured last season so I would consider them additions to the mix and they would certainly be considered hard workers, I think. And certainly Reddox and Strudwick and Peckham all make their living right now by playing with grit and determination. And Lubo is a skilled player but he certainly comes to play every night.

Not a lot of floaters coming this way.

So at worst I would say its a wash, at best you might argue that this club should be more consistent, especially considering the fact that the kids are more experienced.

And yet how many games have they come out flat? Plenty. A dozen. More?

And I'm not trying to sell the BJs short. They're a good club. But the lack of compete Thursday night was right there for everyone to see.

Then you have the weird tactical decisions. There have been a hundred of them this year and it has cost this club points. Considering where they are right now I would say that not playing Penner on the top line or playing Cole with Brodziak and Moreau or not playing Cogliano on the wing or icing a putrid PK with odd personnel or not playing Penner on the PP or playing Fernando at centre or playing Roli into the ground are all issues that have cost this club. You might defend one but you can't defend the body of work.Last night we saw another example as Moreau and Pisani were out at the end trying to score the tying goal.

Probably almost the last two guys you want out there.

And then you have the Moreau situation. Two more mind numbingly stupid penalties taken two hundred feet from his own net. Again.

How does he escape censure while guys like Penner, Nilsson and Pouliot find the bench or the pressbox every time? How does this double standard play in the room?

This team has been out of sync nearly all year. They look bereft of passion. Lost at sea.

A coach has two jobs really. The main one is to win hockey games now. The second one is to develop players to win in the future if the present is not that promising.

They're not doing a very good job of winning games now. And the kids are nearly all running in place or taking steps backwards.

Dad is watching the Hee Haw marathon while the older kids are lighting the dog on fire and the baby is eating its poo.

My grandfather would not approve. I certainly don't.

Don't Stop Believing People

Seriously. Don't stop believing. Without hope there's nothing. It would be like living in Bulgaria in the 50s. Or Detroit right now.

So keep the faith people. A little Journey. For Andy. Remember, so long ago, Andy, when we met in Edmonton. It seems like another time, another age.

Strangely enough we were both dressed like Steve Perry in this video.

Andy was beautiful that weekend. I will never forget it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Ramblings of Someone Who Stays Up Too Late Because He's A Dummy (Make Stortini Captain Now!)


Had a great time in Buffalo and will write up my impressions very soon. Best place I have ever seen a game. A passionate and knowledgeable crowd. And afterwards beers at the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, just up the road from the rink. We drank stouts and double IPAs and watched the Oilers hang on as long as they could before they were finally dispatched by the Flames.

Terrific night. Got a nice pleasant drunk in and was home by noon on Sunday.

One last thing, after seeing this game it was absolutely no surprise that Renney got canned. In a game against a team trying to leapfrog them in the standings the Rangers were absolutely lifeless and all of their big names - Drury, Gomez, Redden, Naslund - were invisible.

I don't know a girl in Kalamazoo but I'd like to. It would be fun to be able to say that.

A victory last night as we await the Oilers' GM, old whatshisname, to make his moves. Grebeshkov makes his return on Saturday, apparently, just in time to save poor Souray and Gilbert who were logging thirty minutes a game, but this club misses Lubo dreadfully.

The good news? As we suspected, Theo Peckham is a player. The kid has been ok out there. He certainly hasn't looked overmatched for the most part. Remember the Matt Greene Penalty Box Tour of 2006-2007? Peckham has spent some time in the box but its mostly because he likes to smash people in the face. Smash them good Theo. Smash them good. But he can play too. Somehow he and Strudwick ended up out there against Vinny last night and St. Louis centred it and the kid just poked it away as calm as can be.

I was on board with moving Matt Greene because of the return but if the Oilers move either Smid or Peckham I will be plenty unhappy. This club has some hard choices to make salary cap wise over the next year or so. Paying a defenceman nearly 3 million to play on the third pair? Not such a good idea. They need to keep those young cheap guys who can play.

You know what else I like besides blowjobs? I like Liam Reddox and I like Zach Stortini. These guys get a lot of grief and I think a lot of it is the perception that they are MacT creations, nothing more.

Fact is these guys are becoming useful NHL players. Once again, young and cheap is a good combination to have when it comes to the bottom part of the roster and it does not hurt that both of these guys have to bust their fucking humps and do all of the little things right to be successful. Reddox had been on the plus side of the ledger when it comes to scoring chances ever since the LA game and Stortini has been in the ballpark except for against the Flames. And both have been chipping in some offence.

Ten to fifteen goals a year, defensively responsible and bringing along some nice intangibles. Good to see.

Also good to see - the rise of a few more prospects. I'm thinking of Nash's strong play as of late, the emergence of Linus Omark and the play of the young Finn Teemu Hartikainen. You can never have too many Finns.

We'll get a good indication this week about management when we see who gets moved for help. If its any of the guys mentioned or Eberle or Brodziak or anyone with a real upside moved for a rental well then we know that we have a real problem here. With Grebeshkov coming back things are looking up but lets not fool ourselves. This club isn't going anywhere once they make the playoffs (yeah I'm pretty sure that's going to happen). I know I've been beating this drum for a while but desperation from management (see Waddell, Don) generally results in failure.

BJS and Wild on Jack Lemaire next. Fuck those guys.

Roloson is going to look like one of those poor bastards who survived the Japanese prison camps when this season is over if they don't give him a break. He's almost my age for Chrissakes! He's played, what, eight straight games? Only twenty two left to go.

I can't see that being a good idea.

I take back everything I said about Sheldon Souray by the way. He's ridiculous.

Did I just say ridicirous?

Also, whenever I think about the Winter Olympics I get a massive erection. I really do. I love Jennifer Heil. I love them all really.

Where's my peyote?

And Tom Gilbert is the man.

Despite what happened last night though I still think Cogliano should be playing with Potulny and someone else. I like Stortini but I'm afraid young Cogliano is being wasted between he and Moreau. I know some would disagree (Stortini's agent Bruce McCurdy ;) ) but the 13 is pretty well naught but offence right now. If Stortini and Moreau are going to do the heavy lifting until Pisani returns have Brodziak in between them and give the kid soft minutes with some skill guys.

I'd love to think that Rupert Murdoch is going to burn in hell for eternity but I'm afraid I don't really believe in that stuff.

Man you can talk about Gagner doing a lot better with the little things and the underlying numbers but he has to produce more. He really just does.

I don't think trading Cole makes any sense to me at all unless you're getting a blue chip back and the guy you are bringing in to replace him costs you fuck all. What's the point? Why not just bring in Bill Guerin, play him with Gagner and Cole, drop Nilsson to play with Cogliano and Pisani and then have that aforementioned line centred by Brodziak.

I don't understand.

I have come to a realization though. I'm a lucky lucky guy. Life is great. I think I follow the Oilers because I need some yang to go with the yin. To remind me that things don't always work out.

And also Zach Stortini should be captain.

Purple monkey dishwasher.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Born On Third Base


My kids are mental.

The boy is obsessed with testicles ever since my operation and if it weren't for the sheer entertainment value of our conversations I would regret ever being frank with him about why I couldn't pick him up for a few days. Besides the fact that he asks me multiple times a day if I'm in any pain, including one very public question, there are questions about how many testicles everyone has, whether or not the doctor who cut me is going to return for another round and who has testicles. When told that only boys do, he remarked to his sister:

"See, I told you that girls don't have testicles. Only boys. And pirates!"

The boy is an interesting case. He really is a sweet little guy but lately he has been feeling his oats. Unlike his sister, who will fly into hysterics, all the while trying to con you out of your decision, the boy prefers the direct approach.

Me: Eat your dinner or you'll be going straight to bed.

Him: No I will not. I will go to bed when I want to.

Threaten him with removal of a favourite toy if he doesn't comply immediately and he will lecture you on his theory of ownership, which essentially boils down to "Don't dare touch my shit."

Tell him to eat his vegetables or there will be no dessert and he shrugs his shoulders like a Parisian waiter.

Put him in time out and he walks over to the designated step, sits down and sneers. I half expect him to light a smoke and snarl at me to do my worst.

Don't get me wrong. He's a terrific little guy. Since the baby was born he has not even flashed a moment of jealousy even though she has now taken over his room and forced him in with his older sister. He's a thinker and a musician and an athlete and he has a very good heart. He's also stubborn as a mule. He's a stoic and like his old man and his old man's old man he is calm and has the unerring belief that things will work out. After he drove his remote control truck down the stairs last night, I calmly told him that that was a good way to break it. He replied that it was okay and when I asked him how he knew, he replied that he just knew that it wasn't broken. He was right by the way and now I understand my wife's frustration when I opine that everything will work out fine, whatever the case.

Our oldest on the other hand is an artist in very way you can imagine, including her temperment. Dramatic and emotional and charismatic she is. Challenge her and she will argue with you loudly and persuasively. Give her a piece of paper or a chalkboard or a sidewalk and some chalk, paint, crayons and she will give you something in minutes that will have you shaking your head - its her gift. She deconstructs words and reads to her little brother and takes books off of my bookshelf and reads the titles. (I had to put away Welsh's Porno after she pulled that one out a few times. She likes the pink cover.)

She is brilliant and maddening and volatile, one moment sweet as pie, the next she is driving her brother to tears or her mother into a rage.

Physically they are both me. Unfortunate for her, she's a beauty right now but a monobrow is obviously in her future. Look at pictures of me as a kid and we're talking twins, my God, its frightening.

And my poor wife is holding out hope for the third and early on we figured she may have the greater influence there but more and more it looks like the baby has the wide head, squinty grinning mug and short legs of her father, just like her brother and sister.

The McLean genes are strong!

We do our best to raise our kids the same. Our first got more attention because she was the only one for two years and frankly we were tougher on her then the second. And now we have to make sure the boy doesn't caught in the shuffle. For the most part I think we have been pretty good at bringing them up in the same manner.

And so we can see some similarities. They like to have fun, like any good McLean does. They're social and they spend more time playing and running around then they do in front of the TV. They like their junk food but don't get a lot of it and they prefer naan and butter chicken to cheeseburgers and fries, though its a squeaker at the wire. They're pretty self centred, as all little kids are, but they are generous and polite and don't have to be prompted to treat others with kindness. They like to laugh and they're affectionate little buggers and while they're both pretty wild (and I'm sure #3 will fall right into step) the fact is we encourage them to have strong personalities and make choices and take chances when and where it is safe to do so.

And yet for all that they are as different as different can be. Its a bit scary to realize that whatever we do in a lot of ways we are just going to have to play the hand that we have been dealt, whatever our best efforts may be.

--------------------------

Interesting debates over at Lowetide over last week in a couple of threads. LT took a look at Springfield here and here and then had a nice post about Chorney that resulted in a nice debate about Oilers' drafting and development.

Unfortunately he has deleted the post - hopefully he gets it back up.

This year's Oilers' team has the following players on it who were drafted by the organization - Horcoff, Hemsky, Gagner, Cogliano, Pisani, Pouliot, Brodziak, Stortini, Reddox and Deslauriers. Also Rob Schremp and Theo Peckham have had cups of coffee with Peckham about to get a bit more of an extended look, at least for a week or so.

Tom Gilbert was acquired by the Oilers while he was still in college.

Denis Grebeshkov, Laddy Smid and Robert Nilsson started their pro careers in other organizations but have cut their teeth in the NHL with the Oilers.

Visnovsky was acquired for two guys who have established NHL careers who were drafted and developed by the Oilers - Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene. And Gilbert Brule was picked up for a player who was developed into an NHLer by the Oilers, Raffi Torres.

I think this a reasonable list of guys who we could say have come up through the organization in the last while.

Let me just say the following too so you know where I am coming from here. I think regular readers know that I'm a pretty balanced guy but before I talk about the work of Lowe and MacT when it comes to developing kids I want to let you know what I think of the two, just so you have some context.

I think Kevin Lowe, like Glen Sather, is a better GM when he doesn't have a ton of money to throw around.

I think before the lockout Lowe did a good job for the most part, considering the financial constraints he had to work within. He iced a team that was always competitive and it played entertaining hockey.

I think Lowe deserves a ton of credit for 2006. He did a terrific job that season although he left the goaltending issue too long. Saying that he does not deserve credit, that it was a fluke, that he only deserves blame for when things have gone wrong is wrongheaded.

After June 19th 2006 Lowe has done a poor job, I think. He has careened about without an apparent plan. You can defend this move or that move but there have been far too many moves that need defending and as a whole he has failed the fans of the Oilers. From a break away from winning the Cup to two years out of the postseason and possibly a third, all while dealing from a position of strength (roster of veterans, ability to spend to the cap) is unacceptable.

I think that Craig MacTavish was a better coach when he had a bunch of kids who weren't making a lot of money. That can probably be said about a lot of coaches but I think its very true for MacT.

I think that he, like Lowe, deserves credit for 2006, a lot of it.

I think he has not done a very good job this season and that if the team does not make the playoffs he should be fired.

---------------------

As an organization the Oilers inspire a lot of, um, lets say, emotion. ;) Lowe and MacTavish have been around for a long time and so both have their supporters and detractors who can point to a long list of examples to support their arguments.

What do I think? Well the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as always. In the end success is measured by championships I think and competing for them. Since Lowe and MacTavish have been in charge six teams have won Stanley Cups - Colorado, Tampa, Carolina, Jersey, Anaheim and the Wings, with two. Three of those teams also went to the Final and lost once - Carolina, Jersey and Anaheim.

Edmonton is one of the next tier of teams who have won their conference, only to fall short of the Cup, along with Calgary, Ottawa and Pittsburgh.

That's better then twenty other teams in the league although I would rank Calgary, Ottawa and the Pens ahead of Edmonton because they have had more playoff appearances (or in the Pens' case, series' wins) in that time period as well as that Finals appearance.

So while we are pissed off that there has been no Cup in the Lowe era the fact is that the team has gone further then two thirds of the league in this time.

Of course you might argue that, for example, Philly has been more successful during this time based on having more playoff appearances. I guess it depends on how you look at it.

---------------------------------

So the question is - do the Oilers do a good job of developing players? I think its an important question, especially seeing how two first round picks, Marc Pouliot and Rob Schremp, are surely going to be shipped out by Canada Day at the very latest, while many other Oiler youngsters have struggled this season. The lifeblood of an organization is drafting and development. If you don't do this right then you'll go nowhere for a very long time.

For the Oilers this was made that much more important by their inability/unwillingness to pay veteran players and also by the fact that they have always been a middle of the road club and as a result they did not have the picks in the top five or even the top ten, with the exception of Sam Gagner a couple of years back. When you're picking 15th or 17th or 21st every year then you had better get it right.

The Oilers have had one major cockup in recent memory, the year where they did not have their own farm club. That was a huge problem. And this season looks like there may have been some odd decisions down in Springfield; the club has struggled and it remains to be seen whether this could impact a lot of prospects who are on their way up.

Anyhow if you look at the Oilers its very obvious that MacT can develop young players. Saying that he does a shitty job at this ignores a long list of guys who have become NHL players under his watch. And Hemsky, Gilbert, Grebeshkov and Comrie are examples of 'skill' guys who have done well under him, putting to rest the notion that he cannot coach skill or that he turns guys into grinders. Strangely enough Comrie never really did as well elsewhere as he did in Edmonton, weird considering his comments and the bitter divorce between he and Edmonton.

You might argue that Hemsky was born on third base but he's not the only guy so I don't think its the blind squirrel thing.

And we still have to see how Gagner, Cogliano and Nilsson turn out. All exceeded expectations last year. All have struggled this year at times. With Nilsson its a question of maturity. With the other two it may be growing pains, injury, coaching (Cogliano certainly went south once Moreau became his linemate). It remains to be seen.

But even with these guys and this next generation coming along its safe to say that the Oilers have done a decent job on bringing their young guys a long. All of the guys aforementioned plus Horcoff, Pisani, Brodziak, Stortini, Reddox, Greene, Stoll, Torres, Smid, Chimera, Cleary.

Not bad. But not great either and definitely a tilt towards guys at the bottom end of the roster in a lot of cases. Better that these picks turned into something then nothing but also these types of guys are replaceable for cheap.

So this might be a case of being wishy washy but I think that the next couple of years will really tell the tale and cement the legacy of Lowe and MacT either way. If the youngsters that Lowe has acquired do turn out then he gets forgiven, at least partially, for what he did after June 19, 2006, and he cements his reputation as a guy who did decent work in the draft. If they do not then its either his failure or MacT's.

As for MacT well I think his legacy depends on the current crop of kids. If Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Pouliot, Schremp and Jacques are all failures then I think you would have to pin a lot of that on coaching. MacT's quotes about how Pouliot and Brule need to find their roles don't strike me as, well, very smart, to be honest. Pouliot in particular strikes me a guy who could be a good NHL player with the right coaching. I may be wrong and when he goes elsewhere if he fails folks will point to that and say that, see, MacT was right and he was just a failed pick.

That is an accepted argument by most but I don't know if I buy it. Time lost to injury can ruin a career - see Doug Lynch and probably Ryan O'Marra as well - well then can it not be argued that years of misuse would have the same effect? If a guy spends two or three years of his prime developmental years being miscast then would that not derail his career? I think that is a legitimate argument.

As for Schremp well he is the other test case. He will be gone elsewhere this summer and will probably get a shot next fall. He will put up points - of course the question is whether he will be a guy who can help his team win.

And so in Rob Schremp and Marc Pouliot we have the ultimate referendum on the Lowe/MacT era. Are they guys who never got a fair shot who will blossom elsewhere? Or is they just bad picks by Kevin Lowe?

Or is the truth somewhere in between - that they were flawed guys who are in that 15-30 pick range where you get some quality and some dross and that Lowe picking them was a reasonable bet that just did not pan out and never would have, regardless of the coaching they received. Schremp did get passed over by the majority of the league for a reason, I would say.

My head hurts.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Give Me A Home Where The Mustaches Roam




Off to Buffalo tomorrow afternoon to catch Les Sabres against the Rangers tomorrow night. The East has become a little bit more interesting, thanks to the freefall of New York and the Habs. Buffalo is in eighth but a win tomorrow and they could find themselves in fifth, just three points out of fourth.
Going with my pal, a rabid Sabres' fan, and it should be great. I have heard that the atmosphere is terrific and that there are a lot of moustaches so the opportunity for mocking may actually be overwhelming, although I have also heard that Buffalo folks are not to be trifled with. This same friend was at a Bills' game years ago and a couple of rows back there was an extremely large, hairy and hammered man who yelled "Marino, you're a pussy!" every thirty seconds from the moment he sat down. Finally, late in the game, my buddy nudges the guy beside him and says "hey, did you know Dan Marino's a pussy?"

Next thing you know buddy is in his face and my pal is pretty well begging for his life, repeating over and over again that he is actually a Bills' fan. Now luckily for him, like Bruce or Dennis he is a bit of a rainman so he knew the third string centre from the 1975 Bills or something like that and was able to prove that he was a true fan. His new best friend gave him a slug of "Clear" Southern Comfort to consummate their relationship and show that there were no hard feelings.

Should be fun, we're staying overnight and while probably the best thing to do would be to go to the game and then go back to the hotel and try and get a good night's sleepin for once the truth is we will do what we have been doing for over twenty years now, drink ourselves into a state of madness and then engage in some brutally rough sex.

Good times.

-------------------

The Oilers come back from what could have been a season killer of a road trip and they are still in the playoffs and my TSN ticker tells me the deadline is a week and a half away and so that clinches it, they will be buyers. The Canucks finally look to be doing what we figured they would do and if they keep it up they will separate from the pack. Surprisingly it looks like the BJS may be the other team to do so with Mason back healthy and I would probably not want to face them in the playoffs I would think.

A lot of folks have Dallas as another one to break away and my only concern there would be how the loss of Richards hurts them. Having said that the Stars are like Jersey. Doesn't matter who is out they always just chug along. Tippett is a terrific coach.

So that leaves the Oilers and everyone else and I think its them and the Kings to be honest. the Ducks are fading and the Wild and Predators just seem to be iffier then the Oilers. Plus we know that the Oilers are going to buy. MacT's job depends on it.

If I were the Kings honestly I'd just stand pat, they might make it anyways and if they don't well, hell there were no expectations for this year anyways.

I'm glass half full guy and I will take the .500 record and the spot the Oilers are in right now considering they have Smid and Staios in the top four and young Peckham back there with Strudwick as well. Although Strudwick is 'flawless' according to his coach.

Hmmm.

But with this team there are always things that piss you off and MacT is going to play Roli until he drops by the look of it. No surprise but its a terrible plan. Of course if you look at the alternative then you can't blame him. Its some hand he's been dealt.

And now Cogliano gets the Cole treatment and people wonder where the goals are as he drags Moreau around with him. Poor kid looks lost out there. That's bad.

The good news is that the fourth line is scoring a goal a game and these guys are always easy to cheer for and and the big guys are producing as well. I love Horcoff. He's such a terrific player. Having said that though all of the underlying numbers in the world can't hide those fourteen goals. If come April he has over twenty then they're in the playoffs. If not then probably not.

And Stortini continues to make himself into a hockey player and Liam Reddox is going to have a career too, you can bet on it. Ten to fifteen goals a year and a guy who wil take care of his own end. Pisani Jr.

As for Ethan Moreau, no more can be said. Last night was disgraceful and while MacT alluded to a lack of discipline hurting them, the strongest statement he has made about the captain this year, the fact that he has allowed this to go on all season while throwing player after player under the bus for less ... well I just don't know what to say. Moreau is a tough as nails guy and this club needs more guys like that but if anyone else took the types of penalties that he does they'd be roasted in the media. I wonder what his teammates think as they kill themselves trying to kill off his penalties. Probably its fine with them. Being aggressive type penalties its not like they have to do much but coast around out there to kill them

I am without speech.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-evenge


Watching the Habs play Washington and there's Plekanec going for a twirl while Grebeshkov is laid up somewhere.

For fuck's sakes.

Oh and you'll be seeing this goal that Ovechkin just scored on the highlight reels for years. Pierre is gearing down right now he's so excited.

Liam Neeson looks like a boxer, eh? He's a big man. His latest movie is your revenge fantasy writ large. His daughter gets kidnapped and it turns out that he's an operative of some sort and apparently he hunts down every single guy involved and kills them slowly. Real slowly.

These movies have been around forever. The first one I remember was Death Wish with Charles Bronson. They made a whack of those. And of course there was Mad Max, the Lethal Weapon where Patsy Kensit gets drowned and all of Gibson and Glover's squad get murdered, Braveheart, The Patriot.

Hmm. A lot of Mel Gibson, huh? Weird. I think he might have some issues. ;)

Its a pretty elemental desire, the one for revenge, the desire to smack someone when things piss you off.

I've acted out on the rink before, more than once but nothing compares to what this old buddy of mine did once. He's just a little guy, probably 5'8 if that, but he's solid. He's a roofer and is all muscle, ropey sinew and Popeye forearms and enormous hands. Funny thing is he has the baby face too, think Liam Reddox. He's a fair hockey player and one winter we lost a couple of guys to injuries for a bit and he stepped in and played a few games for us on the blue.

Well he's one of these guys who makes a big difference, he's that good a player and we had a nice run with him in the lineup. We're playing one team who usually takes us to the woodshed and we had a terrific game and by the end it was out of reach. They were young guys, pretty cocky and they had a couple of hotheads. One of them was a big fucker and he would lay the stick on you, oh boy, he was a prick. So he gets into it with one of the boys and then lays in wait and as our guy picks up the puck and carries it into the zone he just lays him out.

Its noncontact so that's a big no-no even though our guy is ok, no real damage done, and this big fucker is standing there with this grin and you know he's thinking what the hell are you going to do about it and we're all thinking the same because buddy is way over 6 foot and who knows how heavy.

And my buddy skates over and he just looks at him and he says real quiet:

'Lets go you fucking pussy'

And the big fellow smirks and down go the gloves and this little guy, quick as a cat, reaches up and pop, this big fucker's mask flips up, and next thing you know, I mean you've barely blinked, and this big guy is lying on the ice and there's blood everywhere and he's sobbing because his nose has just exploded and I look at the guy standing next to me, some little skinny fucker with a porn stash and he looks at me and looks at the ice and looks back at me and says:

"Jesus look at all of the teeth"

--------------

I have to say that I'm glad that that fucking rat Claude Lemieux is back in the league because now he and Chelios are older then me; I think they may be the only ones. So the dream lives on ;) - actually I swear when I am older then anyone in the NHL I may sit down on the steps and have a good cry.

I'm so old I remember when Claude Lemieux was a rookie, that fucker. 1986 and I still remember sitting in the cafeteria at old SCC listening to all of the Habs fans crow as Patrick Roy carried that team of rookies (I think there were 11 if I recall correctly) all the way to the Cup.

Growing up in Sudbury it was all Habs on HNIC and Jesus I was tired of those guys by the time I hit high school. Four straight Cups and they owned the Hawks who went into decline after those trips to the Finals in '71 and '73 where of course they lost to the Habs. Stan Mikita was their best player even as his back started to give out and he neared forty (of course Stan was one for the ages) and they had poor Pit Martin, R.I.P., he was a nice player as well, and Tony O in net and a decent team but this was when Pulford was just getting his hooks in there and the results were predictable. Everytime the Hawks played the Habs they got thumped, so much so that I actually remember one Hawk victory, it may have been the only one in the decade, it still sticks with me. The Hawks were up by one with seconds left and the draw was in their zone and the Habs won it, it was probably Wild on Jack Lemaire, and it came back to Robinson and he misplayed it and Chicago won.

And Dick Irvin complained for fifteen minutes, he wouldn't give the Hawks their due, even this once, it was the ice or the lighting or the spin the linesman put on the drop or Robinson's optometrist. After that I hated Dick Irvin for probably 25 years. I just got over it recently.

So by 1986 of course the Habs were still pretty quality but it was the Oilers who were running the league and then Steve Smith made a primary error, as Staples would say, and next thing you know the Habs have the Flames who have already won their Cup by beating Edmonton and they fucking win it again and the whole time these guys at school are talking about Roy and this dirty, nasty Claude Lemieux.

They're going to win. They are going to win. Have you seen this Lemieux? He can't even speak English. They interview him and all he says is "I want to drink from Stanley Cup", said one of my buddies.

Every day he said that. Over and over again.

And he did. Lemieux, I mean.

Guy was a damn good player and he was also beyond filthy. Take whoever you hate, Matt Cooke, Dion Phaneuf, Todd Bertuzzi, Darcy Tucker. Lemieux was so dirty he would make any of those guys look like the baby Jesus Himself, asleep in the manger.

So when Theo Peckham started tossing him around yesterday my heart sang a song. It could have better; I mean if, for example, they had carried Lemieux off on a stretcher, but this Peckham kid is a keeper.

Nice numbers the last two games on the road, including last night, and I'm not suggesting in any way that the kid is really ready for prime time fulltime. He's raw and he has a ways to go but he's a player, as they say. When Gilbert came up I had a feeling (you can look it up) and Peckham is the same. He's a hockey player. He's a kid and he's going to make mistakes but he'll be just fine. The fact that he's rugged as hell and isn't afraid to go makes him that much more valuable on a club that lacks a little nastiness.

(I think the Cole for Ruutu rumours may be another example, if they are true, of management looking to add some grit to this club. Ruutu is an abrasive guy as well. Pretty good player as long as he stays healthy.)

We know Theo is going to take his lumps, like Greene did and Smid is doing, but with contracts the way they are now he will probably see the NHL next fall. To me its not the best way to develop players, especially young defencemen, but they get rushed these days, don't they?

He's a player though and I think he will be fine. The only thing that is going to be a pain in the ass is that you know that if he pounds a few more guys then when he gets sent down for more seasoning then the 'backup quarterback' crowd are going to start crying for him to come up to replace Gilbert. Just when we're likely to get rid of one of these guys in old Rob Schremp, tied for ninth on Springfield in ES goals (tied with six other guys btw) and who the hell is going to centre Hemsky next year now, we're going to have to listen to the braying for Theo to get the call.

Still, he's going to be a good one.
By the way, that story about my buddy isn't plagarized. Its totally made up though.
Mel Gibson isn't the only one to have revenge fantasies. ;)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Goo Goo Gaa Gaa


Good times around the McLean household these days. Baby has been sleeping through the night for the most part for coming on a month. When she wakes up and can't settle I get on in there, which has been entirely effective. When Mommy goes in Baby K figures its time to belly up to the Boobie Bar. When its Daddy its rockabye and back to sleepies in 5.

If you haven't had kids or only have one for that matter, then you have no idea. My wife went through nine months of discomfort and poor sleep being pregnant and then six more months with basically no sleep.

This isn't good.

So now we're talking a month of solid sleeps under her belt and she's got some energy so she's out training for a half marathon and playing some soccer and going out for beers afterwards and now when I make plans like my trip to Buffalo this upcoming Saturday night to watch Les Sabres and get wasted then its smiles and a fare thee well.

We're on a roll and its great.

This morning I stirred with a crack of light coming through the shutters and leaned over into my beautiful wife and listened to my youngest daughter waking up. Up until today this was a sudden happening, an uproar of sorrow and rage. This morning there was a sigh and then a squeak and then another. For five minutes she talked to her feet or God or the picture of her brother or Banquo's ghost.

Whatever, it was the cutest thing I've heard since the boy used to do it.

-----------------------------

Speaking of not making a lick of sense, I've seen a few Sens games in the last couple of weeks and after Hartsburg got let go they had a few close calls and now they are on a roll and one that they are full value for. As a quick aside if there's one guy who ever deserved his name on the Stanley Cup its Jason Smith. Lowe pulled the trigger at the right time, just like he did with Janne, but the old fellow plays hockey the way its meant to be played, so help me he's terrific, mean and nasty and tough as nails.

Anyways the Sens are flying and yet there was Tortorella echoing McGuire and Damien Cox and pretty well every other media guy in the country who has said that Hartsburg is a terrific coach and the Ottawas are basically gutless and let a good man down.

And this is the problem I have with the hockey media in this country and it was repeated in McGuire's projected Olympic lineup, full of monsters! who dominated, wait for it, the World Juniors. Carey Price was included, despite his complete collapse this season, partially because, wait for it, he's from BC.

And of course so was Phaneuf. No Duncan Keith. No Chris Pronger. No Regehr.

Now these choices are up for debate, of course, after hockey that is our second national sport, talking about hockey, but you knew and I knew that Phaneuf and Price would be on McGuire's list because conventional wisdom says that they are the next great things. I think Phaneuf is a bunch of sound and fury signifying not a lot and I think a lot of folks would agree but we know from the Norris voting last season that a lot of folks believe the hype.

And so all of the talking heads fail to give the young Ottawa coach credit and of course a lot of this has to do with the old boys' network which is everywhere and looks out for its own. Craig Hartsburg was a star in junior (I remember him in junior - talk about dating myself) and was a very good NHL defenceman and he is a very good junior coach. He has also had three cracks at this NHL thing now as a coach and in every single case he has failed. So why does everyone treat him like the second coming of Scott Bowman.

I think maybe he is not cut out to coach in the NHL.

See this makes me mental. Its like the free ride that Kevin Lowe got after June 19th 2006 from the Edmonton media.

Although very funny last night was the end of the segment where Duthie said it was interesting to see teams going with newer blood and having a lot of success - the end of recycling old tired coaches.

Fonzie suddenly looked a little distressed.

Hey, these guys are always talking about how smart they are and how much access they have and all of that shit. it would be nice if they made a little sense, you know, actually talked a little sense. At least the baby is a cutie.

--------------------------

Another win last night and the Oilers are playing with house money on this trip now as Ty says. Every time I think they're done for they show that after all they are a resilient bunch.

And speaking of Goo Goo Gaa Gaa how is it that Liam Reddox has as many ES goals as Rob Schremp in a third of the amount of games in Springfield and yet Schremp is getting screwed somehow?

Other Springfield players with as many or more ES goals then our friend, the offensive genius: Potulny, Corazzini, Brule, Stone, Lerg, Peckham, Trukhno, Spurgeon, Sestito, Colin McDonald, Guillaume Lefebvre and some guy named Derek Bekar.

Hey I know its not as simple as that but let me also be clear that I could not care less about Rob Schremp. I have nothing vested in him more then hoping that he helps the Edmonton Oilers - if he can do that, great. If not, oh well. I would love for him to be the second coming of 99.

I just don't get what all of the fuss is about for three goals at ES in the American League when he is supposed to be some offensive whiz kid.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Just Say No


A week ago good old Capsule faced off and won and jumped over the team we beat in the standings. Last night we faced the team we caught with that win with an opportunity to jump another place. Instead we laid an egg - our worst game of the year. We didn't skate, we were soft, we coughed up the puck. It was ugly. We were missing our two leading scorers, a couple of guys who produce offence every game, and we are an offensively challenged bunch, so that didn't help. (Our leading scorer is a newlywed so no escape for him on Valentine's Day.)

And we still could have won it. We have a terrific player who is usually money in close. He had two last week including a terrific solo dash but last night he had about a half dozen five bell chances and he couldn't cash.

We found out later that he had mistakenly taken my hands when he hit the ice so that explained a lot.

Down 2-1 we were applying some nice pressure and one of our D took a nice low shot that hit their goalie and bounced right down in front of him. I had gotten position on my man and so was all alone, not a lot of time mind you as buddy was about to level me, and I actually got the shot up where I wanted, over the goalie and ... high and wide.

(At the beginning of the year we played on a Saturday night and then again on the Sunday afternoon. I scored three goals in eighteen hours and joked that I was good until 2011. Well, we're getting there! For Fuck's Sakes!)

They chipped it out, got it deep in our zone, one of our guys missed his man and they were up two. Off the draw they got it deep again, potted another and that was it.

Game.

Its a weird league this year, really its anyone's to take. If we could pick someone up at the deadline, if there was a deadline, we'd trade futures for Tyler Dellow, a young hotshot out of BC. All we need is a bit more offence and we'd be golden. He'd put us over the top.

----------------------

Big win in a big game yesterday (big big game) and hopefully the Oilers can take the Yotes and then anything more would be gravy on this trip.

Speaking of big games I was listening to the radio last night and some radio guy for the Sabres was talking about Derek Roy. Apparently he scores big goals in big games.

A nice skill to have.

The Oilers are hanging in there. But with Lubo gone for the season and Grebs out for pretty well the remainder of the season things are not looking good.

The best case for this club with all hands on deck was the fifth or sixth seed and a series with Chicago or Calgary. Underdogs but with an inkling of a chance.

Now Dallas has roared by and the Canucks are playing like we thought they would. My guess is there are two spots left. The ones that lead to a date with the Wings or the Sharks. Even with Lubo in the lineup we're talking lucky to win a game against either of those clubs I think.

So what are the Oilers to do? Well, before Lubo got hurt this was my take and I still stand by it.

I'd really like to see this club make the playoffs, especially after Lowe's botch job in 2006 and 2007. They're rebuilding and some of these kids need some playoff experience, sooner better then later, and it would just be, well, nice to actually have them play hockey that matters for a change.

What scares me is talk of moving guys for rentals. Nilsson, Smid, Brodziak, Stortini, Pouliot - if twenty games of Kuba or Guerin costs us one of those guys, a cheap useful player, then I don't want any part of it.

Make a list of prospects who you like - same goes for those guys.

This is the list I had: Don't move Peckham or Wild or Chorney or Plante, Brule or Nash or Eberle or Omark or Jean Vande Velde or Reddox or Dubnyk

Make sense? Don't get me wrong. I'm not married to any of these guys and other then a few players I'd move pretty well anybody if it meant making the club better.

But moving a kid who can fill a role, even that of a fourth line agitator or PK man, on the cheap for twenty games of a guy when the end result is going to be getting waxed in the first round anyways?

That's just plain short sighted and the type of move that franchises like Atlanta and the Islanders make.

Bill Guerin isn't going to put this club over the top. Sending the Islanders Linus Omark for him would be criminally stupid.

Friday, February 13, 2009

being a fan







The black and white was taken the night of June 17th. Its actually probably the morning of June 18th at this point. The Oilers have just beaten the Hurricanes soundly to force a seventh game. We had watched the game at Paupers surrounded by Oilers' fans. From there we headed into the night, myself and one of my best friends, four Irishmen and assorted others, meandering through the warm streets to the Cloak and Dagger for pints and then on to Parkdale, ending our night at Ted's Wrecking Yard. I think. I was so so drunk.

That was probably my best night as an Oilers' fan. The worst one followed two nights later, although actually for me the first game of the final is probably the lowest point of all if I really think about it.

I just presume that anyone who comes here is also a regular visitor to James Mirtle and Tom Benjamin. If you are not then you should get yourself over to both. Terrific stuff. Last week Benjamin, a Canucks' fan, wrote this in response to a post Mirtle did on the Canucks and their sorry history. Its an interesting read and its pertinent for Oiler fans who are disappointed in their club again this season.

I've beaten this drum many times but Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby is one of my favourite books. I think it stands on its own as entertainment but it also is very interesting to read Hornby's take on being a fan and a lot of what Tom wrote last week is echoed in this book.

Hornby is a fan of Arsenal. There is a fellow named Darren who is a regular visitor here, I guess; at least he certainly comments whenever the subject turns to soccer, which is every few weeks or so. Darren is an Arsenal fan while I am a Spurs fan. Arsenal is one of the big four in English soccer, or football if you prefer, along with Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, a recent arrival to the club due to their billionaire Russian owner. These four clubs are the ones who compete every year for the titles that are available - the League Championship, the FA Cup, the League Cup (also known as Carling Cup) and the European Champions' League. All have had success of some sort over the last number of years. The odd year another team will sneak into the top four and get a Champions' League spot (Everton did a few years back, Spurs came within a whisker just recently as well) and these big clubs' concentration on Europe and the Premier League title has meant that they have been a little less diligent in the English tournaments. Last year Portsmouth won the FA Cup and Spurs the lesser Carling Cup.

The point of this ramble is that if you are a fan of any of the big four clubs you have tasted success and quite a bit of it over the last while. If you are a fan of any of the other English clubs then success is usually something that is part of your past.

But you still remain a fan of the club.

The reason I bring up Darren and Arsenal is that for nearly Hornby's entire time as a fan covered in the book (he became a fan around 1967 or so and published Fever Pitch in 1992) the Gunners were losers and losers of the worst sort. They played dull plodding soccer and their results were nearly always mediocre. No titles of any sort. Not so bad that they were relegated or close to being relegated. Just season after season of boring thuggish football played in front of disgruntled, angry fans while other teams, notably their arch rival Spurs, won title after title whilst playing a creative and exciting brand of the game.

So most of Hornby's work is dedicated to years of following a bad team playing bad football. The team rarely played a game that meant anything at all and had a long laundry list of failed players and disastrous results in big games. Hornby and his fellow fans had an expectation of disaster and mediocrity and sometimes I wonder what his take would be now, after years of success for Arsenal while former giants Tottenham are the ones who have fallen into middle of the table mediocrity.

It is in the late eighties I believe that Arsenal win their first big title in Hornby's fan lifetime and his description of it is wonderful. He describes it as a feeling like no other and of course he is right. There is nothing comparable and here I am really trying to describe what he said from my memory so bear with me. Of course you have your big lifetime moments - your wedding and the birth of your children - but having gone through these the reality is you don't have the tension, the buildup to each, right? When we married it was a terrific day and a terrific party but there wasn't the feeling of release that you get when your team wins. Now when your child is born and all turns out well there is that feeling but it is more one of relief. When my third child was born I burst into tears but it was out of thanks that she and my wife were fine more then anything. In terms of great moments in my life an Oilers' Cup win would rank behind the birth of my kids and getting married, of course, but the feeling from such a win would probably be overwhelming in terms of actually intensity at that moment.

Hornby describes the feeling as close to orgasmic and of course he is right - I remember Hemsky's goal to beat Detroit and Pisani's shortie in the fifth game of the final and game six of the final and the euphoria following each. For that matter the games against San Jose and Anaheim and all of that. Just the excitement, my heart racing, on the edge for two months.

The thing with an orgasm though is that you can have another shortly after. (Or maybe not. If so then see your doctor or look into finding someone who has read this.) And you might not have a ten year or twenty year or lifetime buildup towards it. Its like The Forty Year Old Virgin. Steve Carell gets right back in the saddle after his first go and the other thing is he hasn't been chasing Catherine Keener for all of those years either on top of that.

Think about how we Oiler fans will feel when the Oilers break a drought that is too long now but only eighteen (soon to be nineteen) years. How would Tom Benjamin react to a Canucks' victory? How about a Leafs' fan react to a Cup? A Hawks' fan? How about the Cubs winning the Series?

Unless you are a Manchester United fan there aren't many guarantees in professional sports and they (and Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea) are helped by the fact that there are four honours to win in every season. In North American sports there is only one that really counts in each major sport and even the most successful teams can go years without winning. Last year's Stanley Cup was Detroit's first in six years. The New York Yankees have not won a World Series in eight years.

I think this is also one of the reasons that the Olympics are so popular. We knew Katrina Lemay Doan and Simon Whitfield (at least this time around) and Clara Hughes and Pierre Leuders and the hockey teams in 2002 but for the most part we don't know these athletes. I had an inkling of who Jennifer Heil was in 2006 but I had never watched ski Mongols and I had never seen skeleton until I watched the fireman win in Italy. It didn't matter though - when they were competing I was going completely mental.

The tension of the competition, the anticipation, the agonizing and finally the thrill when Beckie Scott or Chandra Crawford or Ryan Cochrane or Carol Huynh win a medal is a rush that cannot be matched and of course with the Olympics while it may represent for the athlete the culmination of years of work, for the fan, for the Canadian watching the event, it is something ongoing, every two years Canadian athletes will compete and we will cheer for them and we will feel the rush when they reach the podium. I think that has something to do with the popularity of the Olympics, I really do. If you're a fan of the St. Louis Blues you don't have a lot going for you. If you're Canadian you can watch Simon Whitfield toss his cap aside and make a break for it and the excitement leaves you exhausted and sweaty and feeling like you need a cigarette for some odd reason. That or a cold shower.

The truth is there is no rhyme or reason to being a fan of a particular club. I was a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks all of my life and it wasn't the losing that made me cut the cord, it was the disconnect between the owner and the fans. Oiler fans reacted with anger and bitterness to the Ryan Smyth move and a lot of folks walked away that day, some temporarily, some for good, but imagine a team with all kinds of money cutting loose every star player when it came time to pay them, gutting the scouting staff, failing to televise local games, rejecting their greatest stars from the past, disposing of every manager or coach who brought any kind of success because of jealousy and politics. That was the Chicago Blackhawks. The losing was bad. The contempt the club had was the killer though.

It can always get worse is what I am trying to say and the Edmonton Oilers are about to test our patience as fans as they embark on a four game stretch that could make or break their season. L.A., Phoenix, San Jose, Dallas, all on the road, without Lubo, gone for the season, without Grebeshkov, and suddenly the strength of this club, the blueline, has been eroded so that Smid and Staios, who struggled as the third pair, are now in the top four and it will be Strudwick and Peckham out there on the blue.

Jesus.

This could be it and its a test of our faith. If Lowe had done a better job I think they'd be able to survive an o-fer on this trip and that doesn't even begin to take into account MacTavish's failings. In any case this could be the season right here.

And if you really want to start worrying take a look at this. Try and make it work. Use the new math or the regular old math. Then hope and pray that Shoalts is wrong. If he is not then this club is in serious trouble or Daryl Katz is going to have to eat a lot of contracts.

As for me I'll just keep on carrying on as a fan. Three years is an awfully short time in the grand scheme of things. Just ask a Leafs' fan.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dream A Little Dream


When I was a younger man I had a tendency to fall head over heels. And when I fell, I fell hard.
Mouth drying, throat tightening, stomach churning, leg weakening, groinal stirring, brain cramping crushes, man, I used to get them. Killers.
Last year in high school I met a girl and oh boy I was a mess for months. First year university as well. Disasters each time.
When I was young I struggled with the women. Part of it was going to an all guys' school and not having that daily contact and conversation in my teenage years. I roomed with a guy from high school years later and he talked about how another guy we went to school with who he kept in touch with was absolutely clueless when it came to women. Buddy was confident, funny, bright, athletic, he really had it going on, but if you're talking to him and you happen to be carrying around a vagina well he became a tongue tied loser. My roommate blamed it on high school all those years later.

I struggled myself for a while. I was a little bit shy on top of everything but as I got older and began to gain some life experience then things began to come together for me on that front. Its like anything really. You get older and you gain some confidence and then things work out just fine.

So while I was younger my crushes ended in nothingness, not even heartbreak really. They just petered out, unrequited.

But a couple of years into school I fell for someone and I acted on it. And then again. And then again after that. Things worked out pretty well each time. No worries.

It was during my last slacker years however that my shit really came together. I'd met a girl while working at the video store and we had become friends, good enough friends that we'd hang out, go to the movies, all that jazz. Good stuff. I actually stayed at her place (well her mom's place) for a week when I was working on my first shoot and found myself homeless (another story).
Anyways she had a sister who was away at school. I saw her around a couple of times but had never really met her until one day one summer the two of them come into the store and we get introduced. Both of us were taken at the time and she was just in town for a couple of weeks but we got to talking and we both wanted to see a movie that had just come out so we went a few days later.
The week following we did the same, grabbed a bite to eat as well. There was no hanky panky or shenanigans or any of that, not even implied. She headed back to school and we carried on.
A number of months later she returned for Christmas break and things had changed. Both of us were single now, for one thing. We started where we left off, just hanging out, enjoying each other's company. She was tiny and beautiful, at the time her hair was cut short short though it would grow out long and curly and lustrous. She was all personality and smarts - the type of girl who would walk into a room and you'd be drawn to her. So as the month of December wore on
and we spent more and more time together I began to realize that it was happening again and by the time I went home for Christmas I knew I had it bad.
I came back to Toronto and the night before she returned to school we hung out and had a terrific time, as we always did, and as I trudged home in the snow, a warm winter night, the sky a cloudy dome, I had to live with the fact that she was going for four more months and that I would have to live with it and, worst of all, that I hadn't said a damn thing about it.
A few days later I called her and we talked for an hour. The day after that she called me. This was fourteen years ago so we had no interweb and long distance was still expensive and I had no money so this was going to break me the way it was going and then after that second call or maybe it was the next one, we had just hung up and then the phone rang again and it was her and she was wondering what I was thinking and I told her what it was that I was thinking and the next day I took what little money I had and bought a plane ticket.
I still remember a letter she sent me before I went out to see her, the rush of emotion and I saw my feelings reflected on the page and her feeling that we would be spending plenty of our upcoming visit naked and wow holy shit man here we go and this is the greatest feeling ever, my god its going to happen.
And then I was off to Rawlins Cross.
--------------------------------
Dreams do come true, see, and interesting news has popped up recently about the Oilers. I'm not talking about our friend Mario Jr. either although it will be interesting to see if they can lure him to Canada this summer.
Nope, I'm talking about your man Jay Bouwmeester, a shutdown defenceman who plays nearly thirty minutes a game and throws in some offence to boot, unrestricted this summer, who may be in play for the Oilers if the scuttlebutt is to be believed.
With Florida in a race for the playoffs its unlikely that Bouwmeester is a rental but its also become quite clear that he's not signing there in July. The conventional wisdom is that Bouwmeester did not want to play in his hometown but when Al Strachan says that the Oilers are in play then I listen. Strachan is a dink but he's tied in, remember Pronger?
Now when it all comes down to this I will believe it when I see it but landing Bouwmeester would be a massive coup and give the Oilers a player on the back end to match Hemsky up front. A young franchise defenceman and of course then the Oilers would be able to deal from strength to address other needs.
Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper "I love you"
Birds singin' in the sycamore tree
Dream a little dream of me
Say nighty-night and kiss me
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me
While I'm alone and blue as can be
Dream a little dream of me
Stars fading but I linger on dear
Still craving your kiss
I'm longing to linger till dawn dear
Just saying this
Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

OK, Now We Can Cry



As expected, Lubo is gone for the season.

This one is a killer. The presence of Gilbert, Souray and Grebeshkov means that the club may be able to survive but the little Slovak is the team's best defenceman and his loss is a killer. Only Hemsky and Horcoff mean more to the club and one could likely argue that case. I'm one who can pretty well take a pass on Lowe's body of work since June 19th 2006 but this was a terrific trade.

And anyone who saw Staios play on Sunday knows that he's no longer up to the task of playing top four minutes. He gets the nod by default I guess but one has to think that the ripple effect on this one is going to be murder. Staios playing the toughs. Strudwick back on the blue.

Yikes.

Add a Dman to Tambellini's list of things to do, if he ever gets around to it, right after that veteran centreman.

Seriously though this could be the killer, the one that finishes this club off. And MacT as well.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Do We Laugh or Do We Cry? Do We Even Care?


I don't have any really depressing stories to tell or at least none that come to mind right now so I don't really have anything relevant to our favourite team and their struggles these days.

Of course some might say that today is like every other day then. ;)

I was going to try and write this like Larry King but I haven't the energy to tell you the truth. The kids are mental and its February and we're just trying to get to next weekend now.

This club is where we figured it would be, really, but with the exception of that nice run before the All Star break it has been a wholly unsatisfying year. Management left this team short of veterans again, especially up the middle and while one might figure the idea was to test out a kid as a tough minutes pivot, well, Fernando Pisani got that role instead. Strange coaching decisions have abounded and one wonders if MacTavish is just tired of being given an unbalanced team every year - shoddy goaltending in 2006, poor defence and no replacement for tough minutes wingers in 2007, kids up front and still no tough minutes forwards last season.

MacTavish gets a whole lot of blame for this season and while the running joke every time they win a game is that he has lost the room, the truth is that there is a disconnect between the players and their coach, I would say, probably partially as a result of the long list of odd and counterproductive decisions that have come from behind the bench this season. Add to that the disastrous PK, a lack of compete on many nights, a woeful lack of preparedness on many nights, strange decisions regarding Cole, Penner, Pisani, Brodziak, Reddox, Pouliot, Storini, MacIntyre, Smid, Strudwick, Roloson and Garon (did I miss anybody?) and mark me down as a guy who thinks that its time for MacT to move on, perhaps to the Rangers? And I am a guy who likes MacTavish, I really do, this whole idea that he deserves no credit for the run in 2006 is absurd, but its really time to go. Ted Nolan, a guy I really like as a coach, defines a role for each player on his team, spells it out for them and then does everything he can to get that guy to achieve what he has to to fill that role. The idea that a guy like Pouliot has to find his role is absurd to me - it is up to the coach to point the kid in the direction that he wants him to go into and then help to get him there.

And there are those who would say that its not the coach, that its the players, that they are just not that good and of course then we have to point fingers at the man who put this team together. I look at this club and I do think they are underachieving - look at clubs like LA or Columbus or even St. Louis, wracked by injuries, look at Chicago, these teams are loaded with kids and yet they carry on and outperform what you think they are capable of when you look at them on paper. Chicago is not loaded with wily veterans and yet they are near the top of the league already. Makes you wonder.

But in the end it all comes back to Lowe. He took a quality team and disembowelled it, leaving it to bleed out in the heat. Letting all of the UFAs walk after June 19th was one thing; failing to replace them with cheap veterans so the team could carry on was another. The Pronger deal was a disaster - oh yes it was - and the return for Smyth is looking poor as well (and remember Smyth bashers, please, that Lowe himself admitted he erred in that move just months after).

Thank God Nylander's wife stepped in too, huh?

I could go on and on but I will spare you.

I was driving the kids to gymnastics this morning. Its great, the gymnastics. The boy asked me, amidst a crowd of folks, whether my testicles were still sore.

Not too bad, thanks. Just another day in the life of an Oilers' fan.

Anyways on the radio pn the way to the club they talk about some guy they had to rescue from a chimney. He had passed out in there and woke up, stuck, no idea how he got there. I'm not sure if that's relevant to the Oilers because I think we know how we got here but maybe it is.

Now remember over the break, I talked about what the Oilers should be doing at the deadline, well more and more it sounds like they are going to be buyers which means draft picks and kids out the door for rental players, all to get smoked in the first round.

I have no faith in the current regime, I really do not, and I can just see them moving Nash and Cogliano and Smid and Brodziak for Reasoner and McAmmond and Chris Neil.

Look at the Leafs and what they have done in the last five or six years and you can see why they are where they are now. Three high picks for Toskela. A pick and Rask for Raycroft. Additional picks to move up two spots to get Schenn. Brad Boyes out the door. Prospect and a pick for Yanic Perrault. On and on. Oh man. A pick for Jamal Mayers for Christsakes.

Its no way to run a railroad.

So now you have a regime with an owner who wants to make a splash and a bunch of buddies who stand to take the fall if this Cap team can't make the playoffs and a fanbase that sees teams of youngsters outperforming their club, passing them like they are standing still. What do you think is likely to happen?

Their next six games, without their best defenceman, probably without their only veteran centre and with their best player looking like a guy who may have had his bell rung again (or maybe its the effect of having Moreau on his wing!?) are as follows: home to Montreal, at LA, at Phoenix, at San Jose, at Dallas.

Anyone think they are going to win in San Jose? In Dallas? In LA?

Anyone think they're still going to be in it when they roll back home? This is it folks. They're about to step into the elevator shaft.

Another year out of the playoffs will be hard enough to take but moves made from desperation would make it harder still to believe that this franchise has any plan at all.

And the dummies are going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As LT would say, book it.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sometimes You Can't Help Yourself


The popularity of the 'reality show' speaks to our addiction to the train wreck. When I say 'our' I mean us people, we, the people, as it were. In our household I was once a big Survivor guy (Colleen Haskell, hubba hubba!) but it wore thin after a while. I watched The Amazing Race for a couple of seasons until the series when the couple from Survivor got jobbed by the producers of the show. They had to catch a plane to Miami to finish the race and they were the only ones to make the flight and then the plane got held so that another couple would make it and make the final leg interesting. Fix!

Nowadays I can't be bothered much with any of it. My wife is addicted to the British version of Wife Swap which is completely mental. They don't fuck around. Nearly every show involves one family who are extraordinarily wealthy while the second family is a bunch of yobs living on an estate somewhere; they usually make the clan from Shameless look like the Westons, swear to God. Its really too much. Always your man is on the dole and his wife too, smoking away, explaining how they don't work for their children's sake, wink wink, and then the other family comes in and rips into them for being lazy. Spittle flies and everyone has their smokes and my God even the wealthy ones have bad teeth.

I'm an awful snob.

The one that I do watch is The Biggest Loser. I love that shit. Fat people are the last people you can make fun of really because even the politically correct hate them because they aren't into the yoga and in a lot of cases they do it to themselves with poor eating and exercise habits. Now that smoking has been killed off for the most part its fast food that is the latest target on the radar of the righteous and if you've seen Supersize Me you know that it might not be an awful crusade to be on. As long as they don't step on my toes, the fascists ;), they can go to it.

Now while sometimes I admit I watch the show and shout things like 'Come on you fat fucker, stop your crying!' the reality is that I enjoy it because these people are actually changing their lives. You have your man who is tipping the scales at 350 and he can barely get out of a chair without breaking a sweat and next thing you know he's running up and down a mountain and at the end of the show he's dropped half his weight.

That's pretty cool. I guess some people watch it and get a kick out of the poor people and how unhealthy they are but for me I feel badly for them mostly, even though in most cases its their own fault, two pounds of bacon and a dozen eggs to start their day. Breakfast sodas. The other week buddy is at home and he's supposed to be losing weight and he's got a bucket of kentucky fried and his pack of smokes.

Nice!

But the reality is that most of these shows have that quality, you know, where you can't take your eyes off of them, because its such a train wreck.

Its like this week. I'm healing quite nicely, nicely enough that I'm hitting the ice tonight. I won't be blocking any shots (or as a customer of ours said today - I hope you're not the goalie) but I'm feeling alright.

So the boy asks me why I'm sore the other day and I tell him that the doctor operated on me. So he asks what he did and I explain that he cut open my testicles and did some work down there. So he asks me if he can see.

What can I do? I drop my drawers and he checks it out - this was last weekend so I had the huge bandages on still. He takes a good long look and then I pull up my pants. He looks at me and asks to see it again.

I comply.

See, its bred into us, this desire to look at the accident's aftermath. We can't help it. Right from the very beginning apparently.

--------------------

Right now it looks like the Oilers might be heading off the rails. Visnovsky's season is in doubt and last night saw Horcoff and Gilbert leave the game during the second period.

Oh well, its only Detroit and Minnesota next right? ;)

After Horcoff and Hemsky I would say Lubo is the most important player on this club and you might even argue that point. The only good thing about losing Lubo is that they have Gilbert, Grebeshkov and Souray on the back end still whereas Horcoff is the only centre with more than a year's experience.

I'm thinking he might just be tired. Maybe he's resting. The interview with him the other day certainly pointed to the fact that he may just be a little out of gas. Maybe he just needs a break.

What is making me laugh too is how the dailies talk about how the Oilers may be looking for a veteran centre at the deadline. No kidding, eh? Hey why start now, you dummies?

Incompetence runs rampant.

Anyways lets hope that both Gilbert and Horcoff are cool because if they are not then what I was talking about last week not being a possibility, that whole bottom dropping out thing, yeah I may have to eat my word on that with Smid and Staios suddenly jumping from the third pair, where they were getting murdered, Jim Matheson's talk of them becoming a 'shutdown pair' notwithstanding, to a whole other level of competition.

Oh the humanity!

And Peckham and Strudwick the third pair.

A couple of bad weeks, lets say eight or ten points lost and the reality is they would be done.

Cole and Roli likely will be moved and MacT will be done after this year.

The architect of the last three years though - well, we know he's okay. At least until the fans stop showing up. And fans will put up with a whole lot of nothing. Just look at Toronto.

Train wrecks. We should look away but we can't help ourselves.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You ... Angelo Fiaschetti?


I'm so old that when I was in high school there were thirteen grades. Its true. I went to a Catholic all boys school in Sudbury, SCC, an excellent school for academics and athletics at the time. It was funded until Grade Ten and then you had to pay six hundred bucks annually after that. There were a few dud teachers but they were few and far between and the education we got was outstanding. There were a few guys who struggled there and moved on to public schools where they pulled down straight As, there was that big of a disconnect between what we were doing and what they were doing.

In Grade Twelve as part of the curriculum we had to do a hundred hours of community service and that is how I got into coaching. From that winter on I coached hockey in the winter and soccer in the summer every year, with the exception of my first couple of winters in university. I loved it and have a lot of great memories from the experience. A lot of great kids. A lot of great teams. But my favourite team of all was a houseleague pee wee hockey club I coached in the early nineties called the Missiles.

This was in the Humber Valley houseleague. The way it worked is that they would put together four teams who would then play a number of games. Then the coaches would get together with the division head, move a player or two to address any imbalance and then we would play the rest of the schedule. My first two years there I was around twenty or so. I had two decent clubs. You had a real range of players from guys who were pretty weak to players who had played single or double A and had gotten tired of the politics and bullshit.

And somehow the first two years (likely because I was the newbie and pretty easy going) I had ended up with goalies who had never played in net before. In both cases it worked out ok. One guy had been a star defenceman in double AA until his lack of size caught up to him when they started body contact. He went to goalie school and was a natural athlete and was the best goalie in the league from the get go. The team in front of him consisted of the best player in the league, a little defenceman who turned into one of the best defencemen in the league over the course of the year (one of my favourite players of all time) and a bunch of so so players. We were mediocre. My second year the goalie turned out ok as well and we had a lot of fun but never really went anywhere.

In my third year I had also taken on another team, as we decided to put together a select (all star essentially) team that would compete in a few tournaments as well as in a Toronto wide league. That team also ranks up there for me but the houseleague team ended up being one for the ages.

Once again I ended up with a rookie goalie, a scrawny little guy, also a former defenceman who had not grown quickly enough. As for the rest of the team, well, lets just say this - out of the eighteen kids who made the all star team only one was on our club and he had been the last cut, saved by one young guy bowing out after he was picked for the selects. A little centre who could skate like the wind but had hands of stone and zero confidence, he was still probably our best player. We're talking Bad News Bears here folks. The towering Indian kid who had soft hands and was lazy as hell. The mouthy rich kid with a penchant for floating, dumb penalties and boneheaded mistakes. A slew of small, slow nonstarters with no hands. And Angelo Fiascetti, a burly Italian kid who skated like Brad Marsh, arrived every few weeks with haircuts that were self inflicted and loved his heavy metal.

We trundled through the exhibition season and got massacred. No goaltending, no goals, no defence. Got pounded every game. And then the little goalie started to get better and things got a little better. Instead of losing by six goals we were dropping games by three or four.

At the coaches' meeting we were promised a kid who had just quit double AA after years as a top player there. Other then that we were on our own in our struggle. And boy did we struggle. It was tough on the kids but slowly and surely we began to see glimmers of hope. Practice started (outdoors) and while you couldn't enforce attendance we always had everyone come out. Just like the allstars we skated them hard (the poor kid who had to do suicides for both teams!) and at the end of every practice everyone got to drop the gloves and have at it. We were still losing but we were having a lot of fun.

And it turned out that the little speedy centre could skate with anyone in the league and the big Indian kid could play hard every game as long as you gave him tough love (I taped his hands to his stick at one practice to drive a point home) and the mouthy rich kid could skate pretty well and play some pretty solid D when his head wasn't up his ass. And we got our AA refugee and he could score some and our little goalie kept getting better. And the slew of small slow wingers and Dmen? Well they were willing to be taught and they would work their asses off.

And Angelo Fiaschetti? Well think Jason Smith. Heart and soul and tough and mean and you didn't want to go into the corners or in front of the net with him. We gave him the C.

And we kept losing. But now it was by a goal here and there, a missed coverage or a game where we hit the post a couple of times.

One night before a game I heard Angelo singing quietly and I asked him what song it was - if I recall correctly it was AC DC and it had the lines about having big balls - "We have Big Balls etc etc".

And so we had our cheer. Before the game I called everyone over and said ' heres our cheer boys because we have to have the biggest balls to beat all of these other teams'; I can't recall exactly what it was but something like this:

They Have Big Balls
You Have Big Balls
But we Have The Biggest Balls Of Them All

Our guys were killing ourselves and you could see the other team and the parents in the stands looking at each other and our captain muttered "My Mom is going to kill me" and then we went out and lost again as our rich kid missed his man in front with a minute left.

On my birthday, just before Christmas, we were 0 and 10 or thereabouts and we finally got a point. A single point and the kids celebrated by firing me, fully clothed, into the shower.

After Christmas the Missiles came back emboldened by their success and won their first game of the new year. All of a sudden they were no longer a laughing stock. They won some and they lost some but other teams weren't walking away with their two points when they beat us. They were paying the price. We had four guys on the back end, led by their captain, who used their sticks and elbows and whatever else they could to make sure opposing forwards knew they had crossed into our zone. And our own forwards were hard on the puck and went to the net with abandon and we must have scored nine out of ten goals from two feet out or less.

And on the last game of the season we met the first place team and in as much of a bloodbath as a non contact game can be we shut them out. 1-0.

The playoffs were a double round robin. Six games. Best record takes all.

We didn't need six games. We didn't lose a one. We scratched and clawed our way to two or three or four goals a game and shut the other teams down. Completely. Shutout after shutout and I think we allowed two or three goals through the entire playoffs. I still have the picture in the dressing room after the clinching game. Everyone roaring at the camera.

Me wearing the jersey the boys got me - bright red, Big Balls stitched across the front. I still have that.

Best team ever. I still get chills.

--------------------------------

The Oilers could use Angelo Fiaschetti or Darris Bendara (the rich kid who turned into a terrific defenceman himself). Both guys would play a couple of games with the selects when we were short handed. They could use any of the Missiles or at least some of that grit, that humour, that toughness, that identity, that elan.

The Edmonton Oilers have been porridge since June 20th 2006 and part of that is a flood of kids and an exodus of hard nosed vets and a lot of guys getting big money that has taken away their edge. The Oilers before 2006 were very much like the Missiles - gung ho, pedal to the metal, hard at it - they might lose but they took their pound of flesh.

Personally I'm not worried about the lack of identity although it is frustrating at times. It should come. Hopefully. But damnit it would help.

And I'm not even worried too much about the way the club has sagged since the break. They remain in the playoff mix. They deserved better against Nashville and might have stolen a win last night if they had not left their hands in their other pants.

But two things do have me worried.

Other then Ales Hemsky and maybe Shawn Horcoff, and maybe even moreso than either, the guy they can least afford to lose is Lubo Visnovsky. If he is out for any length of time this season may be fucked unless you think that a partnership of Grebs and Smid or Staios can carry the mail. I don't.

Secondly, this team has taken a big step from last year. It really has. But the team they played last night has passed them by the side of the road and is disappearing into the distance. If the BJs or Kings or Blues or Coyotes happen to make the same Missile like leap in the next year or two and the Oilers do not then the Hemsky window is going to close without a sniff.

And that is worrisome.