Thursday, April 30, 2009

Second Verse, Same As The First!


Generally I lose interest in the playoffs as they march on, not sure why that is. The first round is always the best one for me usually, probably because you have some upsets (8 over 1 is a lot more exciting than 5 over 3 for example), they seem to be the most physical of series and the long march has not yet begun to take its toll. By the time the finals roll around its June and it all seems a bit anticlimactic.

This year though I am quite happy with what awaits us in round two. There is some serious quality out there and some really nice looking matchups. Throw in the fact that we have three original six clubs, the last three Cup champs, last year's runnerup, the Capitals and a pretty good looking Canucks' team and there is quite a bit of sizzle. And while I may be proven wrong, I don't see a huge gap between teams, which we often see in the second round. The Ducks are an eighth seed but they, like the Oilers in 2006, are better than that. I think the Caps and Canes may be a little bit below the Pens and Bruins in quality but not by much.

So here goes nothing, quick and dirty, just like Grabia likes it.

Clan Campbell Conference

Wings v. Ducks

Goaltending goaltending goaltending. The Ducks have it and a killer top line and enough experience and quality left over from their championship team to definitely pose a threat. Having said that the Sharks and Wings are two different animals and this year's Ducks' club is more like their 2006 club then the 2007 one that won it all. Not a lot of offence after their big line and while they're going to give the Wings a run the defending champions are way too deep.

Wings in six.

Canucks v. Hawks

A nice matchup here. The Canucks got some needed rest as they were pretty banged up after round one. The Hawks are a fun team to watch. I wonder if they regret giving all of that money to Campbell though. Good player but they're going to have to pay the three kids on the blue and they have a ton of money tied up in him. I think this one is as close to a pick 'em as you can get but I'm leaning towards the Canucks. They beat a very good Blues team and while they had some puck luck to sweep I think they were full value. The Hawks are sweet but they got some breaks facing a Flames team that was devastated by injuries. That happens but fact is if the Flames had won one or both of the first two games, which they could have, then they probably make it out of the first round.

Great goaltending for both clubs and the Canucks are going to have to grind out some goals but I think they take it and I will go with them in six, maybe even less.

Prince of Peace Conference

Bruins v. Canes

I think the Bruins are the team to beat in the East. Depth will do it everytime and they go three lines deep. I haven't seen much of the Canes but they did a nice number on the Devils. Hard to believe that Jokinen was unwanted and how would he look as a low cost alternative shootout specialist? And of course gutless Joni Pitkanen with the world class play on the tying goal in G7. Definitely a guy the Oilers wouldn't want though. Jerk.

(I didn't mind the trade so much actually, I just found it annoying how it got spun that the guy was a bad teammate, soft etc etc. I think he's a very good player who can help you win. Just my opinion, of course.)

Anyways Cam Ward is playing well for the second time in his career ;) but I think the Bruins are too much and take it in six, maybe even five.

Pens v. Caps

The sexy matchup but I think it actually won't be much of a contest. The Pens are a far better club than the Rangers and unlike NY I am sure they will actually test the rook goalie who doesn't speak English. It will be snarly and a lot of fun and the Pens will prevail in five. Anticlimactic.

Hmm, so there you go. I go on and on about how I think there are a lot of good clubs here and then predict short series all round.
Stupid dink, make up your mind.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When You're Hot You're Hot

Na na na na na na , when you're hot you're hot.

I first heard this song on HNIC the Saturday after Sittler scored ten points. They rolled a montage of his awesome night while Jerry Reed sang.

And for weeks after when we were at the rink or on the road or in the schoolyard and one of us was having a great game we'd sing it.

Last week we played our last game of shinny before the summer. This past season was a weird one for me. I had a really good year. I'm slowing down but I've learned to get around that with guile and positioning and guts and as a result I hung in there and did a pretty nice job. Except for one minor detail. After I scored three goals in our first two games, within about fifteen hours of each other, I went without a goal for the rest of the year. I had a breakaway goal waved off for no reason, I hit a post or two, I got robbed a couple of times. I wear #28 and like Patrick Thoresen I was doing everything out there but that one teensy little detail.

I'm no goal scorer but this was the worst one for me. I always get a few that bounce off of something.

So we had shinny organized a few times before the summer season started and I began to get my legs and last week I played what may have been the bext game of my life, except for it was, um, shinny.

I was weaving in and out of traffic, looking guys off (I never fucking do that shit) and twice threw the puck into the goalie's skates from a weird angle, on purpose, catching him off guard, scoring once. (Yes I am a sad little man but I can tell you about actual games I played years ago in beer leagues, right down to specific plays. Case in point to follow. *)

And right near the end of the hour I gathered the puck up in the slot and charged up the ice, stickhandling around a guy and crossing the blueline at full tilt (pretty slow really) with two pretty good defencemen between me and the net. So I went right up the gut and as I twisted by them one of them got his stick on me and as I lost my balance, veering to the right, I shot the puck as I fell and it went top shelf.

I was tempted, as I slid on my arse into the boards, to hang them up right there.

We started summer season tonight. Its a bastard of a league but I think we are going to be competitive. We have added two guys who can play, one on the blue who is likely our best defenceman based on how he played tonight, and a guy up front with nice hands. He potted one and I got the other, puck in the slot and top corner. My passes were crisp and hard and I almost set up another with the old bounce it off the back of the net and spin away from the D move that Gretzky used to do.

I have never ever even attempted that. And it worked.

I have a good feeling about this season.

* October 26th 2007 playing the Bombers, our arch rivals, we won 2-1. I set up both goals. First one I was in the corner and fired a pass into the slot right onto Dave Dobson's stick for an easy tap in. On the winner I had curled back to the point to cover for a Dman who had pinched and the puck came back to me. I moved to the centre of the ice along the blue and as their goalie came out to challenge I rifled a pass to Leo Magnetta who had snuck just a foot behind him and deflected it into the open net.

Beauty game. Of course I also remember that one because after a couple of pints at the Communist Bar I came home, had a couple more and proceeded to put one top shelf, after weaving through the whole team. Nine months later my second daughter was born.

Na na na na na, when you're hot you're hot!

Seven and One on the first round predictions - I only fell short with Anaheim although I did predict that one had possibilities. Second round and musings on who to cheer for when your club is out coming right up.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Summer


Oh me, oh my, its going to be hot and sunny here this weekend and while I do understand the economics and all of that other shit around it the reality of the situation is that they should be finishing up the playoffs this weekend. Instead we are going to foray into June. That is so dum that I can't even spell dum correctly. Just to signify how dum this is.

Anyways a taste of summer this weekend and I may hit a patio tonight and then the beach tomorrow to roller blade and check out this year's crop of teenage girls in their bikinis, oh yeah! Um, I mean, oh never mind.

Who am I trying to kid anyways? Like Wooderson said:

That's what I like about high school girls. I keep getting older and they stay the same age.

Yee haw.

And of course I have two daughters so I am genuinely fucked.

Now I love summer. Absolutely love it. When I think about summer I get an erection so massive that I thank my lucky stars that I am sitting at a desk right now. Any wander through these 'pages' will reveal that, for me, summer represents glory and youth and riotous times spent in tiny pubs and fully wandering city streets and nights spent sweaty rolling about between the sheets. Walking down long roads with the heat rising visible, eating steak, cool waters, road trips, nights on patios, driving down a back road to go fishing, boating in Charlottetown harbour, beers and stories consumed by the thousands in backyards and on decks and in bars and everywhere.

And we are almost there.

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

I play summer hockey but other then that I would prefer that hockey have an offseason, I think. I love it, hockey that is, but with the media and the money its become a year round thing. Playoffs run into June and then the draft and then free agency and next thing you know training camp is open. Of course for the players its not like the old days either where they would go back to their hometowns and drink and play golf (or work) - now its all about prepping for the next year. I guess that is the way it is and I won't lie about it. I'll still follow the shit all the way through, just as I always do.

Can't help it.

And of course it will be like every other summer since the lockout for the Oilers - interesting. Tambellini is really in charge now, so they say, and thank God for that. Every time Bobby Ryan scores another wonderful goal I realize again why this team has been treading water for so many years - the guy who ran it thought Ryan was a bum. That tells you something.

And the old boys are going to get scattered according to Barnes and while that means some good soldiers (Huddy) take the hit as well its likely for the best. This organization was an embarassment top to bottom this season. Like Hercules they need to divert a river and wash out the stables.

Now if all of this means that the Crow is coming then its worrisome but I'd have to think that Tambellini looks at his last gig and figures he'd best not ruin his first hire for the sake of old times. Me, I'm thinking that someone like Scott Arniel may be where they are looking.

Salary hell is coming and the Oilers have to move some bodies. I believe they keep Pisani because he is most useful of the three vets plus he only has a year left on his contract. Staios and Moreau still have value, I believe, and are replaceable. Moving them out will save almost 5. I think Nilsson also goes now that O'Sullivan is here.

Will they move Penner? I think not. I think they wait and see if coach #3 can get through to him without going mental. He is useful anyhow and that contract would be a tough one to move.

How about moving a Dman? Well if they go after Bouwmeester then someone goes for sure and my guess is its Souray. He had a great year and I like him a lot but you don't move a young guy with 40 assists in his second year in the league , a guy who kept his head above water playing good opposition, a guy who stays out of the box and who was tough enough to play every game this season despite a bad back. I read Bob McCown's book on hockey arguments this year and the first thing he said was how ten people can watch a game and see ten totally different things. I guess so because I just don't get the rush to denigrate Tom Gilbert. Guy is a terrific hockey player. Moving him would be a dummy move, I think.

If the Oilers either lose on Bouwmeester or don't even give him a sniff then I think they keep all of their top four around.

Sounds like Roloson wants two years (no surprise) and that the Oilers only want to give him one (fine with me).

The Jagr rumours continue to fly and I could see him coming in to play RW with Gagner and O'Sullivan next season, just long enough to make Gagner a PPG player so he breaks the bank.

Hossa will sign with Detroit.

The Sedins will sign in Vancouver.

That is all.




Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Twenty Dollars


My Dad and my wife have at least one thing in common. They both don’t like dogs. And as it often happens in these cases, dogs like them. That’s what they do, dogs that is. They love you unconditionally and will brook no dissent on the matter.

Actually Dad doesn’t mind the big fellow. We has a couple of dogs growing up and he wasn’t much of a fan, mostly because of the barking really. Although he actually mourned the first one, who passed at the age of twelve, he barely tolerated the second, quite likely because this one probably freaked him out a little. Probably I'm projecting, I don't think anything freaks out my old man. This dog though - he freaked me out. He did not age gracefully. His mouth became a foul hole as he aged so before he entered the room you could smell his approach. He was hit by a car and as a result ended up blind in one eye. (I used to bring my hand around to the front of his face around the blind side; it always made him jump.) He had a skin condition and his hearing failed (I’d clap my hands right beside his head and he would cock his noggin just a little at the faint echo) and by the end he was a shambling wreck but he wasn’t in any pain (so it seemed) and my mom delighted in him and so he lived to be fifteen, despite looking like something that had dug itself out of the Pet Semetary.

As for the big fellow, well my wife has never been a fan and when I first mused about buying a puppy almost twelve years ago she opined that she did not think it was a good idea. Considering that we had been going out for around two months at the time and also the fact that I am who I am, I ignored her. I still remember the look on her face when she came over to my apartment and found me sitting on the step watching the little guy wrestle a dandelion.

Not impressed.

She did not mind him too much in our younger days and for the most part she tolerates him these days except for one major problem – the fur. Everytime a black tumbleweed carries the boy off into another room she rages about how she can’t take it anymore. My reply, these days at least, is that he’ll be dead soon enough. She retorts that I have been saying this for two years now.

He is going to be twelve in August and he is slowing down. Last winter I came downstairs and he rose up to greet me and could not get any purchase for what seemed like hours until he finally found his footing. I went into the basement, leaned against the beer fridge and cried my eyes out.

That was fifteen months ago now and while he has slowed down somewhat since that January morning there have been no other episodes like that. He has lived to see another baby born and this one may love him most of all. This morning she knew he was lurking and tossed a good part of her breakfast his way and when he ambles over to the exersaucer to give her a kiss she opens her mouth wide.

Its quite disgusting really. We had company the other day and as our dog made out with our baby my wife went bananas.

He just had his mouth on his ass and now he is licking our baby’s mouth!

Yep.

One concession I have had to make to his age (and my own) is his rare bath time. When we lived in Florida it was a run down to Tampa Bay and since we moved back to the good country the summers have meant random lakes to clean the stink off of him. It’s the rest of the year that brings problems. We used to have a fair size laundry tub that I would heave him into but that exercise was leading me to a wrenched back for sure, lifting an unwilling seventy five pound mutt up four feet and wrestling him into soapy water. And when the tub was replaced by one just a little smaller the decision was made for me.

I officially became someone who has too much money for their own damn good as I began to bring him to ‘Wash your own’ facilities, with ramps for him to walk up into a tub, shampoo, towels, blowdryer and apron, all for the 20 bucks.

Its worth it, believe you me.

Now when my wife was out east recently it soon became apparent that the time was nigh. Walking into the house meant hitting a wall of stink as six to seven months of not being washed plus multiple rolls each day in the spring dirt of our backyard was adding up to a vortex of death. Throw in the fact that I was indiscriminately feeding him pasta and casseroles and we’re talking one seriously ripe canine.

So my folks are helping out with the kids when my wife is away and I mention that I’m going to get the dog washed the next night.

Mom: Oh Patrick, you’re not going to try and lift him into that tub are you? You’ll hurt your back.

Me: No, I’ll just bring him to that shop up on the Danforth. They have a tub there. Twenty bucks and he’s cleaned, dried and they take care of the mess.

Dad: Twenty bucks. (Dad was born in 1932)

Me: Yeah.

Dad: Do you drop him off? (Dad grew up during the great Depression and World War Two.)

Me: No, I wash him.

Dad: You pay them twenty bucks to wash him yourself. (Dad throws nickels around like manhole covers.)

Me: Um, yeah.

Dad (pause as he thinks): You know son, twenty bucks would buy an awful lot of bullets. (Looks at dog meaningfully)

(Dog looks back smirking, thanking his arse licking god that he is my dog. Smirk fades as he realizes that he is getting a bath).

If the Sharks lose tonight Doug Wilson might be reaching into his wallet. Or maybe he can borrow a twenty from Tambellini.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Price Is Wrong Bitch!


Catching as much as I can of the playoffs and what I have seen and heard so far has confirmed a lot of truisms about playoff hockey.

First of all luck does play a huge part. Anyone who has watched the Hawks and Flames series, a terrific terrific tilt, can see that the Flames have really played a lot better then most expected and with a break or two the series could actually be two up in their favour. There is not a lot to choose between these clubs and yet so much of the narrative for these franchises, items that will be taken as lore in years to come, is being written right now. Of course the Flames could come back and win two quickly and put everything back to square one but if things go as they have then years from now there will be talk of how a Hawks powerhouse (if it so happens) was first built in the crucible of their first playoff matchup, this one. The Flames window will have closed and there will be talk of how Sutter rolled the dice and failed miserably. If Jokinen does not produce then his reputation will shrink further, though by my eye he has been just fine thus far. Meanwhile Jonathan Toews is already being elevated to Iginla like status.

Reputations are made and broken in the playoffs and people like Pierre Maguire propagate them loudly. Maguire was the guy who was entirely contemptuous of Hossa’s playoff record last spring before his nice run with the Penguins when in reality his performance in the postseason had been solid with gusts to excellent. Anyone listening to Maguire’s shouting early in both of these games would have thought that the Flames were taking the Hawks to the woodshed repeatedly but while the Flames’ physical play was effective, though unsustainable, the young Hawks have acquitted themselves admirably, hanging in there, taking the punishment and, in coming back in both games, have demonstrated that they are ready for the big stage.

So much for youth being unable to get it done in the playoffs (although if the Flames come back watch for this to be trotted out as the main reason for Chicago’s failure.)

Although Khabibulin’s performance has not hurt. And Kiprusoff, while good, looked bad on Barker’s goal in G1 at least. And of course all things being equal, in the end, goaltending trumps all. It is true in this series and its true in Washington where Theodore was poor in G1 and Lundqvist has been sublime. The Bruins are the better team but Carey Price’s mistakes are killing any chance that his club has. He was weak on a goal in G1 when the Habs traded punches with Boston quite well and he was iffy again Saturday night when by all appearances he may have to be perfect to give Montreal, sorely missing Markov, any chance at all.

Boston looks for real though, don’t they? Thomas is solid and they are deep up and down the lineup especially up front where Phil Kessel is a cautionary tale on the fact that young players take time to develop and Marc Savard and Chuck Kobasew prove the same and Michael Ryder shows that sometimes a guy just might have an off year.

The rest of the East really looks unimpressive except for the Pens who are handling Philadelphia pretty well. The Devils have faltered already and the loss of Langenbrunner is going to hurt them a lot, I think. And the Caps have been done in by goaltending, the Rangers and their own. But Boston might be able to hang with whoever comes out of the west.

Out west things can turn on a dime and the Sharks are already hearing whispers about playoff failures past after one loss. They were unlucky but Thornton did not have a shot until a minute left in G1 or some damn thing and one would think he might get a little more done. Another playoff failure for San Jose and it will be some of the players who get moved along this time. I figured Anaheim to be a tough out although I stopped short of predicting an upset. Probably a long tough haul for the Sharks though.

St. Louis has looked good but the Canucks have been better. Tonight will be where the tale is told, as it will be in so many of these series heading to game three. If the Blues can win, and they might, then it could go a while, but I think the Canucks are built for a long run and with Luongo playing like he can it essentially means that they can win any game that they play.

And Detroit looks like they are going to just brush aside the Jackets. We’ll see if things change when they get back to Ohio (*high in the middle and round on both ends, hyuk hyuk hyuk) but I don’t see it. Really really early to say this but if the Sharks go out then the Wings will have a nice road to the Conference finals.


So they’re about to drop the puck in Philly and in twelve hours from now half of what I have written may be out the window. That’s the playoffs though. Good stuff.


* Bonus points if you can name the comic genius who came up with that classic beauty.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The End Of Something


I dated the girl from Rawlins Cross for just under two years. For the most part it was very good but it also became obvious early on that in this relationship I was the coyote. It soon became clear to me that I had a big problem. I was in too deep and the result was that what made me me, what had made her fall for me in the first place, began to slip away from me as I scrambled to gain purchase on the hillside. Like one of those old adventure movies, the ground was beginning to slide out from beneath my feet and its hard to keep your cool when you are grabbing for tree roots to try and keep yourself from sliding away with the face of the mountain.

It was around fourteen months into it when she announced to me, out of the blue, that she was done with it and I was thrown onto the rocks. I wandered the streets at night wracked with anguish and friends were astounded by sudden outbursts of absolute heartwrenching grief. I called my folks and spoke to my Mom and broke down.

Disaster.

A few days later my parents called to check up on me. They were each on a phone, calling to lend me support. The conversation went something like this:

Mom : How are you? Are you better? We’re just calling to check in on you.

Me: (Barely choking it out) Oh, I’m ok.

Dad: You do realize that there are plenty of fish in the sea right, son? You have heard of that expression? I think it applies here.

Mom: Jesus Murphy Jack, that’s not helping.

Me: But … but, I love her. I …

Dad: Son, do you know when you’re walking on a beach do you realize that there are millions and millions of grains of sand under your feet. Millions of them. Do you get my drift here?

Me: Gah.

Dad: Or say the beach is up by Goulais. You look out and you see the north shore and there are trees stretching as far as the eye can see. Millions of trees all of the way up to the tundra.

Mom: Jesus Murphy, Jack.

Me: Irk.


Dad: Son, have you ever kicked over an anthill? And all of the ants come streaming out of the hill into the hot hot sunlight ….


About a week later I had a small soiree at a little sublet I had for the summer out at Ossington and Bloor. There was a little deck out back of the second floor apartment and from it you could see downtown through the haze. My friends came out in force that day and we drank beer in the hot sun and laughed a lot and I forgot my problems and then a few hours in (midafternoon) the girl from Rawlins Cross dropped by and we talked and I made my case and that night after everyone had gone I heard a knock at the door and there she was and we were back just like that. Drunken sweaty make up sex that night.

It was temporary of course and seven months later things had really begun to slide and it was apparent that her heart was not in it and by that time mine was not either. Just after New Year’s I walked away but it was really mutual, I just took the step that she didn’t have the heart to. It was sad and on my part there was bitterness but I knew that it was time and that it was the right and only thing to do. A month later I was landing at Charlottetown Airport.


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

MacT is gone and there are a few people a lot smarter then me questioning this and I really don’t understand why. Lets begin with what I believe.

1/ The fault behind the last three years and what this team has become is primarily Kevin Lowe’s. From botching the Pronger and Smyth situations to the Penner offer sheet to letting cheap outperformers like Hejda and Glencross walk to letting the team leave training camp incomplete each year, Lowe’s fingerprints are all over the mess that this club is in today. He should have been forced to walk the plank yesterday along with MacT.

2/ Expectations for this club this season were unrealistic, to a point. The idea that a nice run last spring and a record heavily augmented by shootout wins would lead to a contender was off base. Realistic expectations for the club would have been to contend for the playoffs, which they did.

3/ MacT is a good coach. He will have another job in the NHL, as soon as next season if he likes.

4/ MacT did not do a good job coaching this club this season and while there is a lot of blame to go around the fact is that there are a lot of unbalanced or young or injury riddled (far worse then the Oilers) clubs that did better then Edmonton this year and a lot of this can be laid at the feet of the coach. Saying that MacTavish could not have gotten this team into the playoffs is ignoring a whole lot of evidence that he certainly did not do a lot to help them, that’s for sure.

Start with the things we know a coach controls, the special teams. The PP, which cost the Oilers the Cup in 2006, remains abysmal, regardless of the personnel that are sent out there. Its static and predictable and in its best year under MacT it was average. The PK, after three very nice years, floundered this season. Part of this can be laid at the loss of Stoll, Reasoner and Greene but a lot can be put down to the lack of downice pressure, the use of the wrong players in the role, the sudden inexplicable refusal to block shots.

From there we can look at the misuse of players. Early in the year MacT made my Spidey sense tingle when he said that Pouliot had to find himself a role on the team. Contrast that with what Jonathan Toews said recently about Quenneville, as quoted in a thread at LT’s, and how the new Hawks’ coach made sure to define for each player what their role on the club was to be and what was to be expected of them. The same has been said about Ted Nolan. He tells each player what expectations there are for each and what they have to do. I would guess that if you talked to guys playing for Andy Murray or Ken Hitchcock you would get the same response. The idea that a guy has to find his role or might get moved helter skelter around the lineup is ridiculous to me.


And yet here we see Pisani playing centre, Cole playing out of position, Cole playing with Brodziak and Moreau, Kotalik out of position, Pouliot out of position and bumped from role to role from game to game, one game a fourth liner, the next on a scoring line, the next on a tough minutes line. Throw in Penner (who is infuriating I know) not being used in the position where he most likely will help the club win (first line LW/PP), Stortini in the pressbox, Reddox on the first line, Smid on the LW of all places. Playing Strudwick in OT in order to try and get to a shootout. The whole idea of playing for a shootout in the first place.

You see, its like Lowe. One mistake can be rationalized or it can be said simply that it is one mistake.

Two or three are a little less easily explained.

A mess of them means that you have a mess.

And finally there is the whole idea of the room being lost and whether or not that actually carries any weight, the idea of guys not playing hard in response to their coach.

I think that anyone who watched the Oilers this year knows that this club came out flat more often then not, that in game after game there was a decided lack of interest shown in playing hard, not just by one but by many players. In many crucial games the team did not compete at all. Players like Cole, a terrific professional with a long record of success in this league, looked lost out there, never mind so many of the kids. And team wide so very few players had decent years, much less improved.

And then you see a team like St. Louis, injury riddled, full of kids, sent their starting goalie to the minors, roar from last in the conference to sixth place.


Again, I can buy the fact that a kid steps back or that a guy has an off year but who had a good year for the Oilers this year? Grebeshkov. Roloson. Visnovsky. You might argue for Souray and Gilbert and maybe Stortini. Maybe. A lot of folks would not. That's a lot of guys not playing well or underachieving in some way.

And of course the final argument, that MacT should stay because changing coaches might not have an effect, might make things worse.

Could they get worse? I guess so though I wonder how having player after player, kids and veterans, struggle through another year of bland static hockey, having successful players arrive in Edmonton and lose their way, only to find it again when they leave, of having a coach unable to get the most out of the players given him, flawed as they may be, when that is his job, his only job really, is something that we, as fans, should accept.

MacT is a good coach. He did not have a good year. I would bet almost anything that if Andy Murray or Ken Hitchcock were coaching this team they would be playing tonight.


That is all. It was time for him to go and while things might slide sideways the fact is the mountainside was already crumbling. Standing by and watching another year pass us by while the puck got sent back to Souray on the PP again would have made me just sick.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Bit Unexpected


In that MacTavish got cut loose. It was believed that he might resign but he either did not get the chance or decided that he was not going to.

I am inclined to believe that it was the latter and that that was his statement on the team that he was given. And perhaps the teams that he was given over the past three seasons.

I've said it a hundred times. I think MacTavish is a good coach. I also think he did a poor job this year. The team was flawed but there was enough there that they should have made the playoffs.

I think that its fair to say that this is Tambellini's team now. It will be interesting to see what else transpires in the next few months and who they have in mind for a successor. I would guess Crawford is near the top of the list. Bleah.

We will likely see MacTavish on television next season and then back behind another bench the following season.

Good luck to him.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fun


Every year I take a whirl at this and usually I do pretty well, although I certainly don't blow the doors off of everybody. This year has a lot of potential to be an interesting one. I think that there are three favourites - Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver and I could also see none of the three making it out of the first round. Yeah it might be one of those years. And yeah I can sit on the fence with the best of them. ;)

I think that an Eastern team could win it if one of the top teams makes it through and they get either a lower Western seed or a club battered by a tough run through the West I believe it will be a Western club that wins it though.

Anyways right now I am thinking Boston or Pittsburgh against one of the aforementioned clubs. We'll see.

And here goes nothing.

Prince of Wales

Boston v. Habs - Up north over Easter and there are a million Habs fans and each and every one of those dirty bastards, most of them close friends, says that the Bruins are done but the reality is that the Habs season went south when Carey Price began sucking bag pretty solid. Throw in the fact that their best player and the key to their PP, Markov, is out and I think the Habs don't have a shot. The Bruins have a GD of +78, 25 better then everyone else and 76 better then Montreal. They're a terrific club. Kovalev et al will give them fits but they will win in six games, maybe less.

Washington v. Rangers - I saw the Rangers in Buffalo, it was the Tom Renney's second last game as coach, and when he got fired it was no surprise to me. The big name guys were all but invisible. Redden? Terrible. Beyond terrible. First the Sens and then the Rangers blew it on their big decisions with this guy. Anyways could the Rangers beat the Caps? Sure. I would say that they have the edge in net and if they can find a way to stop Ovechkin, Semin, Green and Backstrom there's not a lot of scoring after those guys and Laich. Of course stopping those guys is easier said then done and I don't think the Rangers have the horses anyways. Caps in six.

Devils v. Canes - Ice opens up and swallows both teams.

Naw, the Devils are my first hate and it pained me when they looked so strong earlier this season. Weird because the reality is everything they do is exactly how I would want the Oilers to do things. Excellent drafting and development, team oriented philosophy, players taking less rather then going on the open market and so on. Just never have gotten over the Wild on Jack Lemaire trapping days I guess. Plus the fact that they are in Jersey.

So Canes in a minor upset, winning it in six with Cole having a huge series. Then the Canes get waxed in round two.

Pens v. Flyers - Have to like how Shero runs his club. He has his big money invested in his two superstars and that makes it tough but as long as he can find low cost veterans to play the wings for these guys this club can be a threat. The Flyers are nice and deep up front but then again so are the Pens and Pittsburgh has the edge on the blue and in net. The Pens were not even in the playoff picture a couple of months ago but they've been tearing it up. Could be the best series of round one - Pittsburgh takes it in game seven of a bloodbath.

Clarence Campbell

San Jose v. Ducks - Talking to a buddy and we both agreed that we'd believe the Sharks could win it when and only when Marleau actually raised the Cup. The Sharks are the Sens of this cycle. They roared out to a beauty start this season and coasted home and by all rights they should pound the Ducks but I think this is a tough matchup for them. The Ducks have a nice blue and good goaltending and enough offence and toughness to make life miserable for San Jose. I think the Sharks win but it takes them seven and the pounding they take may cost them down the road.

Detroit v. Columbus - another tough matchup; I'd hate to have to face the BJs. Scott Howson has done a terrific job. I like the BJs a lot and I think Detroit's goaltending is going to be their downfall at some point but I think the Wings can shut down Nash and make the goaltending matchup moot. Columbus could throw a scare into the Wings but I don't think they have the offensive depth to get deep into Detroit's roster. And Detroit's roster just happens to be the deepest in the league. Wings in five, maybe six.

Vancouver v. St. Louis - the Blues are the real deal, from last in the conference to sixth in the space of a couple of months. Great coach. Nice depth up front and a whole bunch of terrific looking kids. Plus Chris Mason has really done a job for them in net. This is going to be a great series and they could upset the Canucks but I don't think so. Actually I think the Canucks could go all the way. Goal scoring from up and down the lineup, including the backend (one weakness for the Blues). Solid D including Mitchell and Ohlund who are terrific shutdown guys, imo. Two of the best players in the league in Kesler and Burrows (I can't believe I just said that). And Roberto Luongo. A lot of folks don't rate the Canucks and I could see them getting dumped in this series but if they get some traction I think they will be tough to beat. I'm taking them to beat the Blues in six but I could see it going the distance.

Chicago v. Calgary - Goaltending will make or break you but when you start the playoffs with the injuries that the Flames are contending with then you are pretty well doomed from the start. Giordano is out for the year, Phaneuf is hurting and Regehr and Sarich sound doubtful. Bourque is not back yet either I believe and even if he comes back how effective will he be?

The Flames are dead meat. This may not be the Hawks' year although looking at the teams above them they might wonder why not us? Young, fast, skilled and deep with quality goaltending. If a team or two above them fall early then they may arrive a year early.

As for the Flames well Sutter gambled by bringing in Jokinen and Leopold and I don't blame him one bit. The window for Iginla, Kiprusoff et al is closing and he rolled the dice.

Unlucky though with all of those injuries. Hawks in five.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Here We Go Again, Here We Go Again




Two summers ago I was standing on a downtown street, likely staring at someone I shouldn't have been staring at, when I heard a voice say hello. I turned and there was a pretty girl, stopped on her bike, tall and brown hair and lean in shorts and a tshirt and her sandals, grinning at me.

"You went to St. Charles, right?", she said.

"I did", I replied.

"I thought so", she laughed and then she hopped on her bike and pedalled away, leaving me, mouth agape.

For I had and have no idea who she was although she remembered me twenty years after high school.

Now for me this moment was huge. First of all pretty girls rarely came up to me and said hello even back in the day when I was devasatingly handsome and unattached. ;) Second of all the fact that she recognized me was flattering. In high school I was beyond skinny, I think I may have been 120 pounds when I graduated. I've added just under a half of my 18 year old self since then although I'm working on shedding some more of that. Its mostly baby weight. Each time my wife was pregnant I put on the pounds in a big way.

First of all we ate out a lot more because she cooked less and often craved burgers, chicken and so on.

Secondly I love ice cream. Conversations often went like this:

Me: You want ice cream?

Her: No thanks.

Me: I had better get some just in case. (Goes to store and gets tub of ice cream.)

Two days later.

Her: Can you get me some of that ice cream you bought, please?

Me: Excuse me while I run out and get some ice cream.

Lastly when she was pregnant the first time I convinced my wife that I should be allowed to go on a nine month bender as "this might be the last chance I ever get to drink". We both knew I was lying but she threw me a bone and I spent a glorious summer stumbling about drunkenly. I'm a drinker but since my eldest was born I've always put the kids first and my old time nights of boozing have been done while the kids were away or we or I were. So I was lying in a way but not really. Times have changed.

Anyhow the end result of the burgers and ice cream and beer was that I got fat.

I'm better now.

Its a different world these days then way back when. I actually have a few friends who are skinnier then they were back in the day and probably the majority of them look the same or thereabouts. A little worn, a little (or lot) less hair, a little thicker. I often wonder about some of the girls I once knew and the odd time I will bump into someone and they look pretty well the same as well. Maybe a little more worn. A little thicker. Its weird to think of a girl you knew and lusted after when she was twenty being twice that age now.

Tawny Kitean was a bit of an icon years ago. Kind of a fringe celebrity. Although, like Wooderson, I love those redheads, Tawny never really did it for me with her big fake boobs and her vaguely simian countenance. It may have been that she was just such an unredeemable skid. Yet when she writhed about in Whitesnake's awesome hair band anthem "Here I Go Again" video, I have to admit that I was moved to unzip my fly numerous times, in order to express my appreciation for her, um, skills?

Now if you have seen Tawny these days she looks pretty awful, a picture of what hard living will do to you, oh man it will age you quickly. And therein lies a lesson for all you youngsters out there. Especially you Hbomb. ;)

Living a little too hard will do you in. Similar to what will happen to you if you are an Oilers' fan.

And so we are a few days away from the summer, Oilers style (starts at Easter), and while there is the draft and the July 1st frenzy and the inevitable trades for the most part the summer drags on and on in the blog world. Last summer degenerated into a neverending mudslinging contest and bored people who should have been sitting on patios somewhere drinking (Goddamnit if I can't do it you had better pick up the slack) "debated" the merits of, well I can't really remember anymore. The summer before that it was Smyth and Souray and Lowe. The summer before that it was Pronger and Lupul and Smid and Lowe.

Barnes writes today that MacT is a goner (self inflicted it will be) and that Lowe will fade further from view (believe it when I see it).

Guaranteed to happen to encourage outraged argument and name calling and convoluted stats everywhere:

MacT will resign and his replacement will inspire vicious anger or outlandish joy.

The Oilers will take a major run at Bouwmeester and Hossa (if he is still on the market) and fall justthisshort despite offering ridiculous contracts.

They will move Pouliot, Nilsson, Smid and Schremp and will likely regret at least half of those moves.

They will move Gilbert or Cogliano or both in the search for big game and will most certainly regret it.

They will not move Moreau or Staios. They will certainly regret it.

Next summer they will be in trouble with the salary cap.

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst Oiler fans all summer long.

In September we will be back for more. We can't help ourselves.

Now excuse me while I watch a little Whitesnake!

Zipppppppppp.

Monday, April 06, 2009

This Makes Me Crazy


"The subtle changes we made in our system play really paid off. I think the changes Mac has made in our system play, are going to allow us to be more aggressive and take the play to the opposition."

I'd tell some crazy story about the time I was raped in prison (not true) or by a bulldog (true) or about how my kids are mental (true) or how I am mental (true) or about how we'd go up to camp in January and my Dad and his best friend, a Finnlander (not Ipaaaaaa, another Finnlander), would have a sauna and some beers and then cut a hole in the ice and go for a swim (true) or about the fling I had with a bicurious girl who shaved her head but had hairier legs then I (true) or about how I am a certified mouth breather because when I was in university my roommate's feet smelled so bad that I taught myself to breath through my mouth rather then my nose. He was a terrific guy, the perfect roommate, so I did what I had to do.

Problem is all of these years later I can barely smell a damn thing. I'm a sense short basically. Definitely the most overrated sense if you ask me. The dog smells like ass at the best of times apparently and I have no idea. Allegedly when you walk into our house its like burying your face in a mutt sandwich.

No idea.

And so here I sit, wife coming home in two days, we've survived so far although the journey is far from done. Work is crazy, life is crazy and so I get through it and after the kids are in bed ... Ipaaaaa.

That and porn are getting me through this.

So yeah I could tell some beauty story which would make you shake your head (like the guy at HF Boards who commented that he didn't mind my shit but when I started talking about jerking off it made him a little uneasy) but I really don't think it could top Moreau's comment in terms of getting a rise out of you.

Or maybe its just me but when there are three games left in the season and the Oilers dead as ducks, Moreau comes out with this beauty comment and Gagner also refers to it, how a young team full of guys who can skate and have skill, with five games left in the season, suddenly change to a system that might flatter a team of kids who can skate, a system that sounds something like the Oilers before the lockout, a system based on skating and pressing and pushing the opposition rather than sitting on a one goal lead or sending out Jason Strudwick and Steve Staios in overtime to try and play for a FUCKING SHOOTOUT! then it kind of gets my goat. A little.

Even at the most normal of times the Oilers are not much more then a pleasant distraction (so he tells himself and the smirking readers) for me but these days they are a long way down the list of shit that needs paying attention to. And that's likely a good thing for my stress level because when one sees this team playing a game that, you know, fits them - the skating, the enthusiasm, the stretch passes - then one wonders what the hell MacT was doing in the first 77 games of the year other then trying to fit a bunch of square pegs into round holes.

I mean, seriously.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Does Anyone Else Feel, I Don't Know, A Little Uncomfortable?

On Monday my wife will have been gone for three weeks and we're hanging in there but really I'm starting to get a little punchy. Buddy of mine came over tonight with one of his kids and we had some pizza and while I was talking to him I realized that I'm a just about at the tipping point. Work has been mental and while the kids have been great the lack of adult conversation, confinement to my house almost 24/7 and the whole single parent thing has me drinking more then I should. Once the kids are in bed its beer, work, hockey and porn. Whatever gets you through the night, yeah?

And strange days all around. The other day I had a little pull into a cup and brought it to the lab to check if I was sterilized (better damn well have been!) and bring it in there and its a little place and there are three young employees just hanging around with nothing better to do but watch this old man bring in his dead.

'So then, you already have your specimen'

'Yes, yes, here is my cup of cum'

'Wonderful, when did you cum into that cup?'

'Um, two hours ago.'

It went something like that. Jesus.

So here I sit, drinking my Sgt. Major IPA, courtesy of Scotch Irish Brewing of Carleton Place Ontario. I actually once dated a girl from there. Tiny little town outside of Ottawa. Terrific beer and their Porter and Session Ales are great too. Highly recommended. Totally getting into the IPAs these days. Always been a big Stout guy but the IPAs are coming up fast.

As an aside my folks were up for over a week to help us through the present crisis. Dad is going to be 77 in a couple of months. The Colonel I once called him because of his uncanny resemblance to one Harry Morgan, remember him? To know Dad is to love him. Anyways he always stops with drinking from New Years until Easter and so he was dry when they were down here which was good because someone had to stay sober to keep the kids from lighting the old dog on fire. Poor old dog. I've been working from home for a week and a half and he's just laying around being old, stinking up the place (bath tomorrow) and worst of all he's eaten something that's haunting us now. The house reeks of him. Anyways he's old, poor guy. I bought him a squeaky toy and its been so long since he's had any attention that he hasn't the first foggiest of what to do with it. And after supper tonight I threw him a pizza crust and this guy used to be Ozzie Smith when it came to catching anything in his mouth and strangely enough here he booted it. So I threw him another and again he snapped at it and it just whizzed by him. So I turned to my buddy and said 'I don't like the looks of this' and tossed him a third and caught him right between the eyes. Poor bugger.

So if the kids wanted to tie him up and light him up they certainly could I'm afraid.

So Dad was here and I cracked a Sgt. Major and he took a break from his regular scheduled programming (weather) and told me about a guy he knew back in mining school, some Finlander, and like all of them (they were Northerners and in their early 20s) buddy with the vowels and ns and ms in his name was a big drinker and what did they call him? Ipaaaaaa.

Ipaaaaaa.

Beautiful.

Now this is all apropos of nothing but I figured that would bring a smile to your face and damn it, we need one, no? The one thing about these tough weeks for me is that the whole Oilers' collapse is really not as dramatic as many would make it.

Its too bad really because MacT is a good man, I think. He is certainly thoughtful and articulate and he is a pretty good coach, I think. He was given a flawed team again this year but the realityis that he has really had a poor poor year behind the bench. I'm not talking about the stick measurement the other night. Just a whole lot of bad choices and of course the disastrous special teams and it has become apparent that what was bandied about months ago is true - he has lost this team. Eight years in Edmonton and it was bound to happen. Its happened to better. So its time for him to go. You can't trade the whole team and getting nothing for Penner, Nilsson, and Pouliot isn't going to make things any better. Not to mention that Hemsky is unhappy and I think you could probably throw out a whole bunch of other names who would not be sad to see the coach go.

Can't trade them all. Is it unfair? Well it would be easier to coach these guys if they had to augment their income with summer jobs like they did back in the day but fact is this is the way it is and a big contract didn't ruin Jeff Carter or Perry or Getzlaf or Vanek or Roy or ... well, you get the picture. The kids make big money these days. Better be able to figure it out. Ken Hitchcock hasn't had a problem getting Rick Nash to play, right?

The team has underachieved. Not by much but they should be a playoff team.

So MacT will resign. And what is funny is that in the maelstrom now surrounding this team the one guy who is handling himself with dignity is ... MacT. The media feeds the frenzy. Fans resort to rage and name calling that is beyond ridiculous. The owner texts the pregame show host (huh?) and after the game Lowe holds a press conference that made me feel like I was watching one of those old coming of age movies like Lucas where I couldn't help but feel awfully uncomfortable as the little nerd tried to impress pretty redhead Kerri Green. We're talking squirming in your seat, avert your eyes, wondering how this is happening uncomfortable.

Not the same as watching a Flock of Seagulls and realizing that these guys were actually considered very cool. Seriously. Look at these guys. They're wearing makeup. And gigantic glasses. And the hair. Jesus.

That shit makes me cringe but not for the same reasons.

Anyways once again this summer will feature a bunch of players moving around and there hasn't been a dull moment since the lockout and you know what I would like?

Next year I would just like them to finish fifth or sixth, in the clear by March.

Too much to ask?

I figured as much.

Ipaaaaaaa!