Friday, July 31, 2009

Feels Like The First Time


Whenever you try something new you are likely going to rely on something or someone to give you a frame of reference. Building a deck? You will talk to your Dad or have a buddy who has built one himself come over or take a class at Home Depot. Playing a new sport? Well you will take lessons or take something learned from watching it being played or you will have a coach teaching you what to do when you hit the ice/court/field/links.

When I began jerking off I was twelve, I believe.

If jerking off were an Olympic sport I would be like that jugeared pothead Michael Phelps, only better. I’d win relays by myself if jerking off were an Olympic sport. When I was in my teens and early twenties I would have a pull anywhere, anytime, multiple times a day, taking a breather only when I required some scabbing over to relieve some of the pain.

Mad pulling. Bloody palms and all.

But when I first gave myself that tentative little tug I had not the foggiest and so I referred to my inspiration to jack and often the fodder for same, my constant companion in those formative years.

Penthouse.

It was a Penthouse letter that first gave me the idea and in this particular tale your man, while spying on his landlady/third cousin/stepsister/babysitter, pulled into a baggie.

Why? I have no idea.

But that is where I first read about masturbation and so when I decided to give it a whirl I figured I might as well follow the old saying and grab myself a Ziplock.

When in Ireland and all that, you know.

So I gave it a try and discovered that this undiscovered country was a hell of a wonderful country and so I began to take many excursions there each day. And it was early on and for some reason (inexperience and stupidity fighting tooth and nail) I thought that it might be a good idea to strip down when partaking in my new pastime.

So it came to be that one hot summer afternoon I had the house to myself and so I geared down, got my sandwich bag and sat down on the living room couch. I was just about at the moment of truth when the back door opened and I heard a buddy of mine call my name.

Now you could imagine the disaster that now was suddenly erupting in front of me. One does not survive such a moment. I would have been the guy whose buddy found him stark naked with a baggy on his cock if he had walked up the four steps from the back door, walked past the kitchen and done a hard left into the living room. This would have followed me to high school, university, my working life, my wedding day. I would be in a home and some old fucker would wheel into my room, cackle, and throw my dessicated self a box of baggies.

Voice breaking, ready to leap through the front window if necessary, I called out “hey man, just go down to the basement, I’ll be down in a sec.”

And he complied and tragedy was averted.

I picked up my clothes, hustled to the bathroom, locked the door and finished my favourite thing.

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

Steve Tambellini has had himself one uneven summer.
The promise is there.

But sometimes I feel like I’ve just walked in on him and he’s sitting there in the buff, pecker in one hand, little baggie full of jizz in the other. Its embarassing as hell and I have to avert my eyes at the mess that he is making.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Serenity. Again.


No phone. No interweb. No electricity. No running water.


Serious shit folks.


Drinking wine and Guinness. Saunas. Stars. Good friends. Family. Food. The silence. The quiet warm nights. The eee eee eee eee.
Beauty.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

His Brain is Squirming Like A Toad


The boy likes to kill things.

He is a gentle little fellow, really, but he’s all boy. He showed it in soccer when as a young three year old in a three and four year old league he was quite happy to charge into the pack, knocking others sprawling (accidentally I assure you), often getting sent for a spill himself. And unlike his older sister he will express his anger or frustration with a fist the odd time.

And he likes to kill things.

He sees a bug and next thing you know it’s a foot or a rock or a piece of wood and the bug is a smear on the sidewalk. An ant walks by on our retaining wall and a grubby little finger comes down from the heavens and the ant is a dead ant.

Dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant.

A few weeks ago a spider was making its way across the porch. The boy noticed it. He walked over and stood over it silently.

Hey there, don’t step on that spider, I said, able to read his the malevolence in his gaze.

He looked at me with complete innocence.

Why not? And he was being absolutely sincere. Why wouldn't I? they are made to be stepped on.

So I’ve been working on instilling some respect for nature in him. Its hit and miss. We were on the Island and my wife called the kids outside to check out a gigantic slug. She turned for a moment and then was startled by a thwacking noise. She turned to see the little guy commiting insecticide with a bat. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

The problem is that my wife has an unreal fear of bugs. If one shows up in the house (spiders or stinging insects are the problem) she goes a little mental. She used to sic the big fellow on them, with varied results. She once had a neighbour come over to kill a wasp after she fled the house.

Now the boy has taken over. The problem is that he has not differentiated between our castle and theirs.

Now I am an animal lover. Not one of those goofy folks who thinks that chickens are just geniuses suppressed by poor communication skills and their circumstances (ie/ that they are chickens) – hell I love a good steak and one of my favourite meats is lamb.

Bahhh.

But if I catch a spider in the house I’ll try and release it into the wild rather than flushing it.


Back when I was a kid there was a movie where the animals basically turned on the people in this resort, iirc. I just saw the commercials but I found it terrifying – what if the family poodle went bad in the middle of the night? Would he rip our throats out as we slept? Pump carbon monoxide into the house? Make us eat Dr. Ballards?

On the other hand part of me was cheering on the animals. I’ve always been partial to the Far Side cartoons where the moose are sitting around the fire drinking and smoking, cleaning their rifles, while a couple of guys are draped over their pick up trucks. Or the wolves sitting in front of the fire surrounded by the heads of people mounted on the walls, resting their paws on a human rug. This is coming from a guy whose Dad was a moose hunter and whose great uncle trapped for a living but I just never really saw the sport in killing animals with guns or using traps to catch them for fur.

Try and catch them and kill them with your bare hands. Now that would be sporting.

As for the boy, no worries for now. When the neighbourhood cats begin to disappear then I will begin to get concerned.

--------


A lot of interesting talk, mainly from Ty and a bit from J. Willis, on the value of fighting.

I’ve always laughed when Don Cherry and others go crazy talking about stickwork in the game and how in the old days you never saw such stuff. Any reading on hockey history will reveal a vicious, violent, brutal sport. A hundred years ago the brawls would include the fans and the officials and often the police and up until twenty years ago or so bloody ugly incidents were still quite common.

What has changed (and why people like Cherry rant about the stickwork) is that until expansion at least, the stars fought their own battles and not just guys like Howe and Maurice Richard who were noted thugs. One of my favourite pictures of all time is one of Stan Mikita and Henri Richard, bloodied and wild eyes, each of them rearing back to throw another punch in their never ending feud. Imagine? Two of the greatest stars in the game. It would be like Sakic and Yzerman trying to kill each other every game.

And it goes on and on. Bobby Orr rarely had to fight once he was tested because as it turned out he was pretty well a sociopath when the gloves came off.

Things changed once money came into the game but we all recall the 80s and 90s when Messier used elbows and stick to great effect and Anderson was a vicious stickman. Stevens and Manson eyegouging and biting, Manson (again) coming out of the tunnel to pound Gary Leeman, the brawls between the Wings and the Avalanche.

So in those days it was important to have guys like Semenko and McClelland and McSorley, guys who could play and handle your shit, and it was important that your stars/prominent players either could handle themselves (Messier, Lowe, Tikkanen, Anderson) or handle the beating they would invariably take (Kurri, Coffey and yes even Gretzky) and you can see why an oldtimer like Bruce (sorry Bruce ;) ) places a greater premium on toughness than most of us might.

Nowadays you cannot look at a club like Detroit or Pittsburgh and say they are not tough, as much as many would have you believe that they are not. These guys can take it. They just don’t dish it out.

Now I can’t speak to team toughness or how any of that stuff works. I play with a pretty closeknit bunch of guys and while the shit usually doesn’t go down in our league when it does guys are quick to stand up for each other but I don’t know that it makes us a better team. Some guys are hard on the puck and some aren’t and there are times when the guys who aren’t are and when they are we play better but I can’t really think of a situation where we pounded on a guy who jumped our goalie or drove a guy who fucked with one of us into the boards and how suddenly we became inspired to play better. We have gotten emotional lifts and we have had our guts torn out and our play has been impacted as a result either way so I guess a physical altercation might get us going. Personally I play better when I get my noise dirty and I’ve gotten a little more space when I have given someone a stick in the balls or across the arm but I find a hard time giving credence to the whole idea of team toughness and all that jazz.

But is it all lip service when guys who do this for a living talk about Ethan Moreau as an excellent leader based on his toughness? When Moreau fought Gratton, was it, with a separated shoulder Kevin Lowe called it the toughest thing that he ever saw. One thinks of Moreau firing Cole into the boards in G6 of the SCF or of Souray pushing Moreau aside and coldcocking your man or even of Gagner fighting Kesler and of how their teammates and the fans are excited by this and whether or not it actually means something. If the men who play the game professionally say that it does then can we argue with them or is it all a myth as some would call clutchness?

Personally I think that if you’re hard to the puck and can take it then you have all the toughness that you need but its not like I’ve succeeded at any level remotely close to professional hockey. I mean Steve MacIntyre has a job in the NHL. Nice story though that is, he’s not much of a hockey player but he's getting paid a lot more than me for his few minutes a game where he twirls around the ice looking for something to stop against.

If its true, this thing, then when is Tambellini going to add the toughness he keeps talking about? Or is it lip service for the fans and a message to the players.


Get hard on the puck and go to the dirty areas.


I guess we'll know come the fall.

Monday, July 20, 2009

This Thing We Do


Five thousand kilometres, Toronto to the Soo and then the Soo to PEI and then PEI back to Toronto.

Mental.

We have it down to a science now though. We drive the morning and then stop for lunch/gas/pee breaks for an hour and then drive until we reach our destination. 1700 kilometres in seventeen and a half hours. Yowza.

Big deal, you say? Try it with three kids five and under.

And we’re not done yet, another thousand to get under our belts before the end of the month.

A little worn down though I must say but all smiles these days. Our youngest just turned one and there’s not a much better feeling than knowing that you have made it through that year with your sanity and marriage still intact. It’s a tough one – this one, our third, was probably the easiest really. The first one was an easier baby but the first goround is tough – you’re a little overwhelmed and you’re afraid they’ll break and you have just one to concentrate on. It gets easier the more times you get your wife pregnant.

Trust me on that one – do give it a whirl. You’ll thank me later.

!!

And Tuesday we celebrate eight years of marriage. The babysitter will be at our place at 8. Of course I will already be on the ice by that time, trying to stave off a winless season (oh its shameful, it really is a goddamned disgrace) and my wife will head out to her soccer game. By the time she comes home I will likely be abed.

We’ll celebrate properly on Wednesday with a bottle of wine or two and, if she’s lucky, a little bit of the ee ee ee ee. We’ll try not to break any furniture this time – we’re just a couple of animals really.

Rowr.

A fun year coming up, my wife goes back to work in a few weeks which means another level of stress and me with three kids alone instead of two for a few days or evenings a week. No worries.

And the boy starts school and our oldest is in grade one and we have a couple of weddings already next year, one that will take me back to Dublin for a third time. Sweet fair Dublin town.

We were on the south shore of the Island drinking wine in the gazebo before we went inside and smashed some furniture and we were talking about this upcoming year and the challenges it poses. My wife is a worrier, as I think most women are, and I, like most men, worry most about the next time I can get out of the house for some pints or whether or not the Oilers will pick up that veteran centre to take the load off Horcoff.

Pretty standard stuff. It makes her mental but there’s not much I can do about it. I am like my old man. I can’t worry about what may be because a whole lot of things may be. Have to enjoy it when I can. For all of us we don’t know what tomorrow might bring, a cell somewhere inside us or a loved one gone awry, a synapse misfiring, someone driving too fast or after too many beers, a patch of ice on a highway.

So when I said to her that what we do, this thing we do, we are pretty good at it, I meant it not in a bold or boastful way. We’re lucky as hell and we sure recognize it but at the same time I look at her going back to work and that challenge and I know that we'll rise to it. Piece of cake. This thing, our life, its what we do.

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

Not much happening in Oiler land these days and I'm ok with that. Looks like the Heatley deal is dead, probably a good thing. They have their goaltender. They have a nice looking new coaching staff. The farm team is being rebuilt with the addition of some quality AHL vets. The draft looks pretty good although of course that won't be known for sure until years pass.

Tambellini has had a solid summer.

With Heatley out of the picture and things beginning to slow down the latest question is whether or not this club looks the same in September as it does now. The departure of Kotalik is one less NHL forward on a roster that has been short of them for a few years now. Brodziak was a fourth liner, sure, but he had some experience and did a few things (PK, faceoffs) that the roster is short on. Plus he could score a little. And the unlamented Liam Reddox was at least a quality AHL guy who could do a little at the NHL level. Those who mocked his departure forget that he and Potulny were by far the best players in Springfield last season. To say that he didn't earn his shot with the big club is overlooking that simple fact.

Having said that the loss of Liam Reddox isn't going to be one the club cannot recover from.

So what's next? Anything? There's just enough forwards for the available spots - Penner, Horcoff, Hemsky, O'Sullivan, Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, Moreau, Pisani, Stortini, Pouliot, MacIntyre, Brule, Jacques.

Fourteen. Is that it? The team isn't bigger or tougher and its probably a little weaker up front. Will Quinn and Renney make that big a difference? I think Tambellini figures they are going to have a very big impact.

But he still needs to make at least a move or two doesn't he? Malholtra? Moore? Betts? Halpern? Ponikarovsky?

Darryl Sutter doesn't seem to have any problems finding low cost guys to shore up his roster. Lets hope that Tambellini, who has had a decent summer, imo, can find a player or two or three who can give this team some cheap vets to lean on without giving up any of the prize kids.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Road Less Travelled


I have a friend who deals a lot with the Japanese in his line of work. The Japanese love Canada or parts of it anyway. A Japanese tourist has the following must sees when they come here - Vancouver, Whistler, downtown Toronto, Niagara Falls, PEI.

Quebec City and/ or Ottawa may also be on that list but I cannot remember and I think that maybe one is but not the other.

Why PEI? Because they love Anne of Green Gables. In Japan you can buy prefabricated houses that are replicas of houses from the Anne stories. I'm not shitting you. Just the other day my wife and mother in law took the kids out to Cavendish to check it out and a Japanese woman almost absconded with the boy - she wanted a picture taken with him. Crazy.

That's the whole country to them. They're missing a lot. That's the danger of travel. You can miss the point pretty easily.

If I were a travel agent and had a foreign visitor for whom money and time were no object I would tell them to do the following:

1/ Walk around Montreal for a weekend. Go into as many brew pubs as you can and eat and drink as much as you can. Wear sunglasses or your eyes will give away where you are looking. Pervert.

2/ Drive from Vancouver to Calgary. Spend a couple of days in Vancouver and a couple of days in the Okanagan Valley. Drive across the Kootenays. Make sure you rent a small car so you don't shit your pants.

3/ Go to a hockey game in Edmonton in the dead of winter. Before you go to the game go to the Sherlock Holmes pub. Afterwards go drinking. Don't freeze to death in a snowbank. (I'd say go to a playoff game in Edmonton but your man can't travel back in time).

4/ Go to a junior hockey game at the Sudbury Arena. If you're cheering against the Wolves be prepared to get into a fight.

5/ Drive from Parry Sound to Thunder Bay. Camp along the way. Go to Killarney. Eat at chip wagons. Go underground in Sudbury. Swim in Lake Superior. Try not to get swallowed up by the stars at night. Fish for pickerel on White Lake. Try and find someone who'll let you have a sauna. Marvel at it the wonder of it all.

6/ Go to Kensington Market on a Saturday. Catch a matinee at Graffiti's. Do a pub crawl in Toronto. Do two. Drink regional beers exclusively except when you are at McCarthy's, McVeigh's, PJ O'Brien's and the Dora. Then you can drink Guinness. Go to Gerrard Street for Indian food. That's not pemmican by the way.

7/ Spend a weekend in Niagara on the Lake. Rent a cottage built in the 1800s. Take a bicycle tour of the wineries. If you sober up drive along the Niagara gorge to the Falls. Check them out too.

8/ Rent a cottage on the south shore of PEI by the ferry to Pictou. Go to a lobster supper in a church or town hall. Wander the back roads and look at the old farmhouses, the churches, the harbours, the lighthouses, the red clay cliffs. Buy some lobster and mussels off of the wharf and eat them when you get home. Find Jack's road (pictured), step back in time and drive down it (or better yet, walk it). Take a day in Charlottetown and wander the old town. Go to the Olde Dublin for a pint. Find an Islander to take you out on his boat into the Harbour. Don't drown. You will be drunk. Afterwards pub crawl across Charlottetown. One last hint. You have to call a cab. They don't pick you up if you hail them. Of course, walking for three hours is a good way to sober up. Or so I've heard. Forget about Anne and the rest of the touristy shit. I've been coming here for a dozen years and haven't even been to Cavendish.

9/ Fly into St. John's in the dead of winter. It may take you a few attempts, depending on the fog and whether or not its storming. Try and find a room around Rawlins Cross so you can look out at Signal Hill and out onto the Atlantic. Traipse up and down the streets of St. Johns. Lean into the wind and snow and keep going. Don't be a pussy. Eat and drink and laugh it all off. Don't kiss a cod. Don't get screeched in.

10/ Visit a bathhouse in Toronto and get a rubdown from a handsome man. I would give you an excellent recommendation but frankly its a special place for Andy Grabia and I and I don't kiss and tell. Plus he'd cry like a little girl from jealousy. Because he's like that.

Now that's for starters and I haven't even touched on a thousand places that I have not been.

And yes, you're welcome.

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You want to talk about a crazy idea for the Edmonton Oilers? How about a playoff spot? Hmm?

Because I'm getting damn tired of these overpriced, poor quality results we're getting these last few years.

I feel like I'm at the damn Hard Rock Cafe, any single one of them, eating a 15.00 burger that has come right out of a no name box of frozen patties.

Yrch.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Truth Is That We Never Liked Her


When the girl from Rawlins Cross and I broke up for the first time my Dad was not really all that sympathetic. I was too distraught to really wonder why plus I'm pretty thick when it comes to these things. We got back together and then another eight months or so passed and then the whole thing died a quiet, sad and totally necessary death. Very soon after I was on an airplane to the Island, going into willing exile from the city where I had lived on and off for over a decade. I didn't see my folks until nearly a year later when I got home for Christmas. I was about to move south to Florida after an eventful year which left me, in the end, with a wife, one of my best friends and the big fellow. On Christmas Eve I had no idea where the road would lead me and so I talked about the girl I had met to my folks and I wondered where we would end up once I lwft the Island. My Dad said that I would figure it out and in any case they were glad that I had moved on from my last relationship. He said it in such a way that I asked him what he meant and he shrugged and said:
We're just glad it didn't work out - the truth is that we never liked her.

I never knew. My folks just bit their tongues for over two years. If we had gotten married they would have taken it to their graves.

Its an odd spot to be in - you want to be happy for your friend or family member who brings the new person over to meet you. You want to like them. You want to love them. Your pal is happy and you want this to work out, to be able to go out for beers and to hang out with the new couple. For the most part my friends are all with terrific girls or guys - we're all lucky that way.

But of course there have been the cases where when the night is over and they have left we who have remained have looked at each other and wondered what the fuck? She's dull/cold/stupid/annoying/cunty.

This is not going to work out or so we hope. Because if it does then we are going to have to spend a lot of years smiling and lying our asses off.

Usually they don't work out (my folks weren't the only ones who applauded my good sense, although truth be told it was just luck in the end - I would have married her if she had asked, almost right up until I got on that airplane) but sometimes they do.

The key is if they don't work out then you had better hold your tongue until you know that its truly over and done with because if you want to see awkward then tell your pal that its the best thing that he ever did, breaking up with that so and so, only to watch them put it back together shortly afterwards. My wife had a friend who was dumped and came for a shoulder to cry on. She was pretty clear about how she felt about your man (my wife hasn't an issue with beating around the bush and she was never a fan of this fellow). And then soon after they ended up patching the fences.

Try and explain that one next time you're over for dinner.

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

I think that every week that passes says a lot about what Steve Tambellini thought about Craig MacTavish's work behind the bench last season. He's just too much of a gentleman to say anything.

But his lack of action speak volumes about what he thought about the longterm Oilers' bench boss.

Coming into this offseason I would have thought the Oilers would have had the following plans:

1/ Ensure that there is quality goaltending. With Roloson a UFA and only Deslauriers on board this was an obvious necessity and Tambellini ensured that it was addressed immediately. One would suggest that this was his top priority based on the speed with which it was addressed as well as the obvious overpay to make sure that the Oilers got their man.

2/ A LW to play with Hemsky. The Heatley pursuit shows that the Oilers are serious about trying to upgrade their top line LW but the fact that they did not move to plan B on the FA market or via trade makes me think that they are going with Heatley or with the status quo.

3/ A C to play tough opposition, win faceoffs and kill penalties. There are still available and known qualitities out there (Malholtra, Moore, Betts, to name a few) and one would think that if the Oilers were going to move on any of these guys they would have already. As July moves along their price is likely dropping but at some point if you want a guy you should get him. Tambellini's swift consummation of the Khabibulin situation would make me think that if he really had someone in mind out there they would be signed already.

4/ Size, toughness, grit - whatever you want to call it - personally I think this club needs guys who are just plain hard on the puck for starters. Tambellini referred to this specifically and yet nothing has been done yet. Again there are available options remaining, vets who could slot in on the bottom line, guys who could add to the PK. And yet nothing is doing.

Its one thing to have a hard time picking up a first line LW. Its not like there are a lot out there. Heatley is definitely the best option although I think I would pass, to be honest. Too much risk - I can just see him wilting in Edmonton and asking for a trade a year from now and at that point what type of value would you get for him?

The contract is a bastard too.

YKOil makes probably the most convincing argument against the Heatley pursuit - scathing stuff - you wonder why someone in the mainstream media could not a) write something as critical and b) write something as well.

In any case that's not the point.

The point is that this club was not a playoff club last year and on paper, right now, very little has changed. A healthy Khabibulin who plays like did last season is an upgrade over Roloson, imo, though not a huge one. And Brodziak out and Brule in? A downgrade.

And still not much is happening and I would bet that very little does before September. With every passing day clubs spend their money and get against the cap or their budget and soon enough there will be nothing doing.

I think Steve Tambellini may be willing to go into next season with almost the same club as last season.

I think that says a lot about the confidence he has in Pat Quinn and Tom Renney.

I think that says a lot about what he thinks about Craig MacTavish.

I don't think he looked at Craig MacTavish and thought happy thoughts. At all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Going Out Shirt Classic


It was 1987 when I took our Chevy truck into downtown Sudbury and parked it outside one of the premier (the only?) menswear stores in town. I was flush with cash thanks to a terrific summer job that put me through university without incurring a penny of debt and I walked into the shop with the intention of buying not one, but two, shirts.

Anyone who knows me would know that this is a big deal. I wear shorts and sandals to work and pretty well every other waking moment. I own one pair of pants that is not denim. I have a suit that is a nice suit but only sees the light of day for weddings, wakes and funerals. Two years ago when we were on the Island for a wedding I wore it four times in six days, which is four times more than I have worn it in the past eighteen months. A few weeks ago the boy saw it hanging in the closet and asked me 'what is that thing?'

When my wife met me for the first time two thoughts ran through her head:

What's with his hair?

Why isn't he wearing a belt?

I own a belt now and I actually wear it sometimes meaning it has been removed from the list of items that I never have on my person. That list still includes a watch, an umbrella and a cellphone.

I have a lot of friends who have nice clothes and some of them are men although in my heart of hearts I think that they are probably all quite quite gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

If you were to ask people who know me about my fashion sense you would get a blank look or a snicker and then you might get references to corduroy coats, dead guy shoes and the going out shirt, both modern and classic versions.

(As an aside I just finished another of Bidini's books and will soon pass on a terrific story about Steve Larmer - apparently he is cut from the same sartorial cloth as me. Good read.)

You get the point.

So it was on that fateful day twenty two years ago when a young handsome man dropped fifty dollars (!) on two cotton mock turtlenecks, one a dark wine colour, the second more of a classic reddish hue.

They were too heavy and too fancy for summer wear but for years when I wanted to impress or was feeling especially well heeled I broke one or the other out to hit the town. As time wore on it was the red version that became my primary choice, my go-to guy as it were. And the best thing about the shirt (other than the fact that it is softer than my wife's sweet ass, I kid you not) is that as it began to wear a little at the sleeves and the neck and as it faded quietly and slowly it became more truly me than when it was in its fresh bright newborn state. Pictures of me with ragged jeans and swirling giant hair and dusty sandals, cigarette in one hand, beer in another, are completed quite nicely by this splendid hall of fame mock.

When we began to date, my one day to be wife made it pretty clear that she wasn't so impressed by tattered dress and so Going Out Shirt (as he was now known) was retired in favour of a new shirt, soon to be called Going Out Shirt.
I never said I was that imaginative now, did I?

But for trips to my local or to the Communist Bar or for nights out in the Market, Going Out Shirt Classic emerges from his drawer, once more to roam the city streets to be admired by the ladies and envied by the fellows. Even the gay ones.

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

A whole lot to talk about now that I have returned from the glorious southern shore of this Island. Old churches and crumbling rusty cliffs, coffee with Baileys on freezing mornings and forgotten red clay roads that disappear into lost forests, red wine and cold beer and skin taut with the sun and salt of the sea and Nova Scotia's ruggedness through the mist.

And the Oilers, in doing nothing still, saying a lot really and giving us a lot to talk about.

But first I wanted to say a quick farewell to Joe Sakic who retired last week while I was away.

Sakic was the premier Canadian offensive player of his generation, the one between the Oilers/Yzerman/Lemieux cluster and the next terrific generation led by Joe Thornton. His greatest years came when the other top players seemed to be Russian or Czech, Swedish or American, and Canada's stars were either between the pipes or on the blueline. Sakic's peers were guys like Nolan and Linden, Shanahan and Primeau, Fleury and Nieuwendyk and Lindros. A lot of quality to be sure and a lot of guys who could help win you hockey games but none at the level of Joe Sakic.

Two Stanley Cups and a performance for the ages in Salt Lake City and I suspect if he had been on the ice instead of in the stands against Dom Hasek and the Czechs in Nagano then that might have had a different ending written as well.

Bruce McCurdy sums it all up here and I would not argue with a word he says. The worst thing you could say about Joe Sakic was that he wasn't colourful off the ice (Quoteless Joe, as the wags called him) but there was not a dull thing about how he played the game, which is what counts, of course. He put up some ridiculous numbers over the years, all the more impressive considering the era he played in.

One of the greatest offensive players of all time. A classic.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Serenity Now!


I'm off to bask in the sun, drink Guinness and red wine, eat charred flesh, dig clams, play with my kids on the beach, swim in the ocean, make love to my wife in the warm dark summer night. No interweb. No TV.
Life is wonderful.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

One Day Too Late


Hah! I wrote this post about three hours before our old friend was traded to the coast.
The Oilers look to still be in the Heatley chase although at this point they really can't sweeten the deal anymore, imo. I had my doubts about Heatley before and this past week certainly hasn't improved my opinion of him. Either he or his agents need a good shake and I'm afraid that if he does come to Edmonton he would be asking out within a year and at that point the law of diminished returns would kick in. Who trades for a three time quitter?
If Heatley doesn't pan out I think they go back to plan B, which is stick with the status quo, add a 3C and another grinder on the fourth line and see if Quinn and Renney can work some magic.
And as Jonathan Willis shows, Plan B might not be so bad anyhow.
But if Tambellini is still looking for a first line LW might I present an old friend?
Yes yes this ship has sailed, if he had really wanted to he would have stayed, not a true first line winger blah blah blah blah.
And the cap hit could be a killer in 2010/2011.
But he's a proven first line left winger who is available. He can play the toughs. He'll net you twenty five to thirty goals. He will give you an honest effort every night and he will set a great example for the kids.
He would not cost you any of your prize kids and he's better then pretty well everyone else out there who may be available
And as my little exercise showed you can massage the roster to fit this salary onto this club.
Plus there's the whole jinx/karma thing to reverse. You don't, once you finally have the financial wherewithal to do it, walk away from the player born to be an Oiler, a guy who would have been the first Oiler of any consequence to spend his entire career with the club. Yes it took two to tango but the hockey gods know who is in the right and who is in the wrong. How else do you explain how the once proud Oilers have become a circus, a joke, the poor man's Leafs as it were.
At least all of those years when they were losing they were known for enthusiasm, for an exciting hard driving brand of play (actually known as Oilers' hockey), for terrific ice, for being a team that was closer knit than any other, for being a team that you could cheer for, the underdogs with the big heart. And Smyth had the biggest heart of all.
Rip the heart out of the team and you end up with porridge, as LT calls it.
Think outside the box man! All is not lost!
Yet.
Only half joking here folks. Well maybe three quarters. I'll tell you one thing, if the cap were going up over sixty million I would bet we'd see him coming back.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Where Do We Go, Oh Where Do We Go Now?


I loved GNR back in the day, let me tell you.

What a band. You could drive, fuck, drink, dance or get high listening to their shit.

So now where do the Oilers go?

Basically they have no cap space. This is on a club that missed the playoffs and is, at this moment, probably a little weaker then the one that finished last season. No Brodziak. No Kotalik. Khabibulin and Roloson a wash? Lets say Khabibulin is a little better, just for kicks, although we all know what Roli did last year.

And next season only Pisani comes off the books and Gagner and Cogliano need raises and the cap likely drops. Plus you have to replace Pisani (even with Pisani for less money) so its not like you get 2.5 to work with free and clear.

Oh man are they in a world of shit.

So lets look at who is left out there and see what we can make happen.

Goal

So here's problem #1, paying over four million bucks and your backup isn't even a proven backup and your starter usually misses around twenty games. Remember he didn't finish the playoffs.

Damnit this is a mess. They could have had Roloson (and yes I did not want Roli for two years but I'd rather that than Khabi for four) and Anderson for the same amount of cash or Clemmensen and Anderson for less and would have been out from under the contracts sooner. As it stands now if Khabibulin goes down I think that the season will be a writeoff. Unless they move some money they can barely afford a guy like Legace to act as a backup.

Blueline

Too much money tied up here and they are talking about moving out one guy who might outperform his contract in Smid. Some nice options like Zanon and Montador are gone. I might be interested in Seidenberg to move into the top four.

Here is the problem and its not a bad one to have. They have a nice top six. Heck they have a pretty decent top four. But they have a lot of money sunk into it. Staios can't handle top four anymore and he's paid too much to be in the bottom pair so he really does have to go for starters. He can be replaced although there are not a lot of UFAs out there left that I like, even for the bottom pair. Maybe Bergeron will come back?

I keed.

That's number one and number two is whether or not they should move one of the top four guys (and yes that means Souray or Visnovsky) to get cap relief. I'm already thinking about next year (how's that for pessimism?) but moving guys like Staios or Nilsson is like putting a bandaid on a gangrenous limb. You have to amputate the fucker or the body will die.

Now having said that the D is the only strength of this club from last year so if nothing shakes loose in terms of forwards then it might be best to stand pat. If JDD is going to be between the pipes then you had better have some decent defencemen.

centre

What a disaster this is. Last season you only had two guys who could win a draw and who had a reasonable idea of where to go in their own zone and they turn around and trade one of them. So now they have Horcoff, a kid who cannot win a draw (worst FO% this decade, is that right?) or play D, another kid who is marginally better in both areas and a third kid who was in the minors nearly all of last season.

So if Brule is going to centre some sort of energy line and Horcoff and Gagner are centres 1A and 1B then the Oilers have four options remaining that I can see. Cogliano is the third centre again. Cogliano moves to the wing and O'Sullivan plays centre. Both of the aforementioned are on the wing and Pouliot is the third pivot. They go out and get at least one guy to help.

This is the one area where available guys remain who can help. Malholtra. Bonk. Moore. Peca. (again I keed)

If I were building the team I would have kept Brodziak myself but that ship has sailed. My second choice would be to sign one of the three just mentioned and then pick up Betts or Marchant or Sillinger to centre the fourth line and add some more depth. But I think that they have decided to go with Brule.

If that is the case then they need a veteran pivot to play heavy minutes who can handle both ends of the rink with a little bit of aplomb. Such a guy is going to put them over the cap or close enough to it that they have no room to manouver at all. So we come back to having to move some salary out.

If they don't find a veteran guy after last season's debacle, if they go into this season weaker down the middle then last season, which they are right now, then Tambellini should be fired right on the spot. Before camp opens.

Wings

Well first of all nix Heatley and you can pretty will forget every other high priced LW out there too unless they move a highly priced Dman or bury some salary in the minors. Even if Gagne were coming Philly is not taking any salary in exchange and I doubt Lombardi saw Penner that good to take on his salary for Frolov. Tanguay would be a nice option though he's not really a shooter and you would still need to dump salary.

Penner is problem one. You aren't moving him for nothing likely, you'll be getting a salary dump right back. Nilsson is problem two. Commenter Paper Designer makes the point that he is great value for a top sixer at 1.8 but the problem is he's in the pressbox half the time.

Quinn and Renney are expected to make the team perform better as a whole and I believe that they will be able to do that. I think the PP will be better because even MacT's most ardent defenders accept that MacT did not know the PP (cost us the Cup in '06, imo) and the PK cannot get much worse although this is down to personnel more then system, I think. Still even the coaching decisions with the PK last year were flighty.

But where Quinn and Renney will make their dough and prove the anti MacT faction right is if they can get Penner and Nilsson and Pouliot and Jacques and Brule to produce in whatever roles they are in. Not all of them will be Oilers but if those that are perform consistently then there will be plenty of I told you sos from Hunter and Traktor and others.

And in the end that might be Tambellini's only option after all. Go with the status quo. If Quinn does his job then the team will be better and these guys will have more value to boot. If he flunks out then these guys will be buried in the minors or moved. One year of Nilsson with his career on the line might be something a club chances.

Anyhow lets say for argument's sake that Cogliano goes to the wing. Well someone has to go and it would likely be Robert. He is easier to move then Penner.

I'd move Moreau and replace him with a guy like Fedotenko who brings more for around the same money or Moen who brings around the same but for less money. I'd keep Pisani because he can help and his contract is expiring. Why move him when he'll be off the books and will likely come back for less anyhow.

So you have your veteran line with Pisani and the veteran centre and LW, paid for by moving Nilsson, Moreau and Staios.

Your scrubs can be Jacques, Brule and Stortini with MacIntyre and Reddox or Pouliot if you like. I can't see why they keep MacIntyre around myself. Nice story but I'd prefer my players to be able to skate.

If you really want to make this team a little better dump Brule and Jacques and Pouliot and replace them with guys like Marchant and Pyatt and Betts. Add some guys who are established professionals, even if they are a little aged.

Forget about that Heatley fucker though. What a gongshow that is.

Anyway here is my team if I could do it - I think its pretty reasonable:

Tanguay-Horcoff-Hemsky
O'Sullivan-Gagner-Cogliano
Fedotenko-Malholtra-Pisani
Moen-Marchant-Grier
Stortini/Jacques

Sauer-Gilbert
Grebeshkov-Visnovsky
Smid-McKee
Strudwick

Khabibulin
Someone other then JDD

Now by Sauer I mean a facsimile of such - a tough minutes defensive guy. McKee could be had for very cheap for the bottom pair I would think and would help the PK.

If Tanguay comes in around 5.5m or so, Sauer at 2M, McKee at 1, Fedotenko at 2 and Malholtra at 2 plus your backup at 1M your team is actually way cheap so for those who loathe the idea of dumping Souray, keep him and you're still a better team and cheaper then the present collection. The guys I'm thinking about for the fourth line are not going to cost much.

Staios, Moreau, Nilsson and Penner would all need new homes and that might mean Springfield but considering there is a Rexall pharmacy on every corner and Katz is willing to blow a wad on 'the Heater' (give him the heater, the high hard cheese), that bum, then I can't see the problem.

You have a nice PVP trio up top, your best kids are still here (and Peckham gets more seasoning) and you have a 'bottom six' that would be no fun to play against.
I say Good Day Sir.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

On The Road To Nowhere


As we made our way across Northern Ontario from Goulais along the north shore of Huron and then further east past Nipissing and down into the Ottawa Valley, skirting Algonquin Park, we could see hints of the past everywhere we turned. Along the highways from Montreal to Quebec City you have either forest or neatly arranged fields and in New Brunswick you have nothing but wilderness as you drive the TransCanada, rugged hills heavy with pine between the odd town.

As you wind through Northern Ontario though along highway 17 you can see history right out your window. Old farmhouses and barns grey with age, some collapsing in on themselves, some still standing. And often you can see old highways running parallel to the one you travel on, the asphalt cracked and wearied by decades of neglect once they were replaced by the new TransCanada, no longer a highway but just an old sideroad called "Old Highway ###" and in some cases completely abandoned and tumbling back into the brush, a true road to nowhere.

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Its been another odd week for the Oilers, just another in an endless list of odd weeks since June 19th, 2006. Apparently it wasn't just Kevin Lowe.

Like Lowe often did this regime seems to get the small things right, although calling the draft small is being silly, of course. Maybe a better description for what they do right would be the simple business like parts of things. I do think that this draft, like the last few, will likely pan out pretty well when all is said and done, barring any catastrophic injuries. The draft is always a crapshoot, a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo and even the most successful clubs like the Wings and Devils fall on their faces more often then not.

I know a whole lot of nothing about this stuff but other then the enforcer Abney who likely could have been had a lot later I don't really have any issues with any of the picks. I like the two Swedes a lot. Both Bigos and Hesketh have promise and Rajala and Roy may both be steals.

Of course they all may be busts but I think we'll see a few careers out of this bunch. I have no issues with the draft.

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Its everything else that gives me the heebie jeebies. If you had asked me what I had wanted to see before the summer began I would have come up with something like this as a wishlist:

1/ Replace MacT with a quality alternative. Done.

2/ Get the farm system in order. I believe that this in the process of being done.

3/ Try and move some of the poor contracts if possible - I would include Moreau, Staios and Penner in this group. Nothing yet although they obviously are trying to move Penner.

4/ Try and shed further salary in order to get this team in a more viable cap position going forward. They are a cap team with not even a playoff spot to show for it and they have very little flexibility going forward. Nothing yet. Instead they have added one contract and are trying to add another one that will limit their ability to move.

5/ Quality goaltending for half the price. I liked Roloson but two years was too much if that is what he wanted. JDD is not a guy to hang your hat on. I would have liked a bet on two low cost vets from the Garon school. Poorly done. Khabibulin was a disaster in Chicago until his job was in jeopardy and his contract was almost up. Giving him four years at his age is a recipe for disaster. He misses plenty of games which means JDD will likely be the difference between this club making the playoffs and not. Do you want to bet on that working out?

6/ Try to keep as many young valuable players as possible. Brodziak has been moved with Brule apparently tabbed to take his place. And apparently Cogliano and Smid are part of the Heatley deal. Not what I had in mind.

7/ Add some low cost veterans up front who can get the puck moving the right way. Nothing yet.

Hey there I know that a lot of folks have different ideas of what they want to see but right at this moment I would not say that this team is any better then last season's club. Brodziak could win draws and PK and he had some experience and now he is gone. I would rather have had Roloson for two years then Khabibulin for four years. That is just plain poor. And there have been no additions at all to last year's roster and there have been no deletions of guys who really underachieved.

Maybe it was all MacT's fault.

And the Heatley situation has become another embarassment. Why they would get on the plane to go and see this guy to try and convince him to come is beyond me. As soon as he said that he would sleep on it they should have withdrawn the offer right then and there. Damien Cox put it quite right - your man signs a longterm deal, asks out a year later and then puts a kibosh on the trade. Why would you want this guy on your club? He is about himself only, nobody else. What a headcase.

All is not lost although its getting there. While Chicago and Columbus and Philadelphia make some nice moves, big and small, the Oilers' song remains the same. Tyler Dellow's judgement is harsh but I certainly don't blame him. The Canucks sign their two stars for a nice rate in money and term after another nice year. Down the highway Sutter again makes a bold stroke and signs the most coveted free agent on the market. The Wild add a few professional hockey players, including Kyle Brodziak, who will make their team better. And the Avs shore up their goaltending issues for a fraction of the cost that the Oilers pay.

And Edmonton overpays for an aging netminder who underachieved nearly the entire length of his last contract and reup Strudwick. And they move a kid centre who at the very least can provide quality depth. And they open themselves up to ridicule on the whole Heatley mess.

Le sigh.

All is not lost but they need to figure things out. If they want to add a winger for Hemsky, again, then they better get to it because the Leafs and the Canucks have cap space and the Rangers are itching to spend that Gomez money and we may end up being the only ones still standing when the music stops, again.

Wandering in the woods on the crumbling grey, looking up at the blue sky, the buzz of a million wild creatures in our ears, wondering how we got here and why our pants are so big.

The glory years are fading away. I am as proud as anybody of those great clubs - they are arguably the greatest team ever assembled. But talking about the past and the victories then does little of me. Since 1990 the Flames have had more success then the Oilers and this decade they have been the better run organization. At some point talking about past triumphs strikes me as silly and pointless, sort of like if you walked in to a Vienna cafe and a bunch of dudes were lamenting their lost empire.

We may be nobodies now but remember the Habsburgs? Remember when we bestrode Europe like a colossus? Ah, for the days of Gretzky, er, Franz Joseph.
Three poor summers and its shaping up to be a fourth. The conductor has changed but the music remains the same.