Monday, December 28, 2009

Hurry. Hard.


Yes the holidays have been wonderful, thank you very much. Much eating and drinking and merrymaking have ensued. My only complaint thus far? There's no goddamned snow. This appears to be getting rectified right now.

We've spent the last few days pretty well hunkered down but in a couple of days we're heading up to see the folks for a few days. Plenty of snow up there.
And New Years' Eve? We're spending it at the Sudbury Curling Club. Oh, you bet. I've only curled once, when I was around twenty one. There was an annual event on Labour Day Weekend up by our camp, called the Iron Broom. A bonspiel and a golf tournament. My folks and my dad's sister and her husband and two of dad's brothers and their wives would put in a couple of rinks and a couple of foursomes for years. One year my uncle and aunt were a little late coming in from Wawa and my Dad recruited me to curl a game. Match? Whatever they call them.

So I step in and take my first shot and it, well its not as easy as it looks, right, so my rock flies right through the house. Dad comes over and tells me, ok, ok, just let up a little, no worries.

So buddy takes his shot and lays it in there and I step up and let it rip (obviously I'm not in the moment) and it zips down the ice, through the house, past the opponent's rock and into the scoreboard, which crashes to the ice. Remember I'm twenty one, so I'm kind of borderline retarded.

Dad comes over, looks at me and tells me to head up to the lounge for a beer, they'll do just fine without me.

That's the depth of my curling experience. Which is two shots more than my wife.

My old man hits the ice three or four times a week and has been curling for almost sixty years.

You know where this is going, don't you?

Anyways it should be a riot, after curling we will have a dinner and then they have a "Buddy Holly guy" to entertain. Good times coming.

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

Mocking the Oilers is far too easy these days, they really are becoming a laughing stock. The excuses for another terrible team centre around the injuries to Khabibulin and Hemsky. What if the Flames lost Kiprusoff or the Canucks lost Luongo, the apologists say, lets see how they would do. With a fourth straight year out of the playoffs looming I find it hard to believe how anyone anywhere can support the management of this club, you can tell when they arrive at the GMs meetings when the clown car pulls up. In any case its pretty clear based on the work of Sutter and Gillis that if their first string goalie went down for any length of time they would likely, oh I don't know, go out and do something about it.

I know I know, its hard to make trades.

Jesus Christ.

Oilers' management have nobody but themselves to blame for signing a goaltender with a history of injury problems, including a bad back. A four year contract.

Stupid. There's no other word for it.

So don't give me the Khabibulin excuse.

And the usual issues up front. The difference between a good team and a bad team is that when injuries strike a good team they hand in there and survive. Detroit lost Franzen, Filppula and now Cleary and Zetterberg and still they have been hanging in there. Chicago was in first place despite not even having Hossa in the lineup, never mind the very useful Dave Bolland. Boston lost Savard and Lucic and Buffalo was without Vanek and the list goes on and on.

They survived.

Losing Hemsky was a death knell for this season but it didn't have to be. Unfortunately its the same story for the Oilers as its been for the past few years. With Hemsky and Pisani out the Oilers are down to Penner and Horcoff as actual quality veteran forwards and even poor Fernando may not be part of that group any more. Luckily for them Sam Gagner seems to be taking a step forward but this has been offset by the disaster that is Patrick O'Sullivan.

Check out the lines. Horcoff playing with two kids, Stone and Brule. Jacques and Potulny and O'Sullivan. Moreau, completely done, playing with Cogliano and Stortini. Penner and Gagner, a twenty year old, playing with Robert Nilsson.

On a quality club you might have three of Brule, O'Sullivan, Cogliano, Gagner and Nilsson in your top nine. Guys like Stone, Potulny, Jacques and Stortini might fill out a fourth line with Moreau.

Instead we have this mess.

We're going to have fun on New Year's but no matter how good Dad plays we aren't going to win. Any dummy can see that. I would think so anyways.

But apparently the dummies in charge of the Oilers don't get that simple concept.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So This Is Christmas



This is the baby last Christmas. Now she's seventeen months old and a madman through and through. Any opportunity for mischief and she takes it, whether its climbing into her brother's chair and eating his supper or heading up the stairs whenever the gate is unlatched.

At least once a day I will be downstairs and hear the pitter patter over my head. A quick head count determines that the one person upstairs is the one person who should not be upstairs.

She keeps us on our toes.

She is still a little young to figure out Christmas although she is quite fascinated by the tree. Her sister and her brother, on the other hand, have had it figured out and the countdown began weeks ago. They are so excited that they are actually losing sleep. Between that and the Christmas chocolate and candy cane ice cream (seriously! can you imagine?) they are bouncing off the walls and in this case its not a figure of speech.

Meanwhile we, the oldsters, are loving every minute of it. We both love Christmas, for the time spent with family and friends, for the excitement of the children, for the sheer celebration of it all.

So from the McLeans, best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season, for belt busting meals, plenty of nog and spiced beer and red wine, for nights out with friends and nights spent with family, for the sheer delight in the eyes of your children.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Heedless of the wind and weather



On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Twelve Basement Dwellers, Eleven Loverboy Tunes, Ten Brilliant Nights, Nine Final Papers, Eight World Juniors, Seven Aching Bodies, Six Fucking Douchebags, Five ... Straight ... Road ... Wins ........ Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky



Oh its bad, really bad. The Oilers are a deserved last place in the Western Conference right now.



Last place.



Their big free agent signing from the summer, an aging goaltender with health issues signed to a four year deal that is a cap killer, is on the shelf with back problems as it comes out that the total amount of due diligence the Oilers, a multimillion dollar business, did before signing him was to ask his agent how he was feeling. The contract is completely unmovable and now one of the few strengths of the Oilers from the past few years, their goaltending, always pretty reasonable with Roloson and Markannen or Roloson and Garon, is in the hands of two unproven rookies who have no track record of success.



Their D, supposedly their strength, looks overmatched.



Their corpse of forwards consists of three quality NHLers now that Hemsky is on the shelf (Thank God that happened!) and one of those has a bad shoulder and another is twenty years old.



A generation of kids are dying on the vine. Where Ales Hemsky got to play with Ryan Smyth opposite him and Raffi Torres played with Mike Peca and Fernando Pisani in the spring of 2006 and Torres and Stoll got Pisani to shepherd them the following year, now guys like Nilsson and Cogliano and Brule and O'Sullivan get fucked. One gets to play with two NHL players, one gets to play with Horcoff and an AHLer and the other two get the dregs.



And we wonder why the kids regress.



For the fourth straight year the club is seriously unbalanced with almost nobody up front who can kill penalties, check their hat, play their position properly, win faceoffs, hit somebody, the list goes on an on. Basically beyond Horcoff, Hemsky and Penner and by the looks of it, Gagner, they have nobody who can play top nine minutes and come out on top.



And even better, we get to do this all again next year unless Lowe and Tambellini's replacement (oh please Santa make it so!) can find someone dumber than them to take the long list of big contracts that they have handed out like candy at Halloween.

Four years ago this was a terrific club filled with young veterans that came within a break of winning it all. Within a year the heart and soul of the club was torn out of it and all that remains is four years of shitty hockey, four years to match the longest stretch of futility in club history.

The fish stinks from the head and so the front office needs gutting for starters, Lowe and Tambellini have to go and probably immediately.

This squad is going to be awful next year too. May as well bring someone in who knows what they are doing before these guys give Brule a massive extension and pry Jason Blake from the Leafs the next time he has a nice week. I exaggerate but only so slightly. They are that terrible. The proof is on the ice.

Which is also crappy, by the way. It hasn't been quality in years.

Sing We Joyous, All Together

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me Eleven Loverboy Tunes, Ten Brilliant Nights, Nine Final Papers, Eight World Juniors, Seven Aching Bodies, Six Fucking Douchebags, Five ... Straight ... Road ... Wins ........ Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky


Tight red leather pants, a bandanna around his neck and a headband.

Seriously, there is no better representative of early 80s Canadian rock than Mike Reno.

Rock on!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hail the new, ye lads and lasses


On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Ten Brilliant Nights, Nine Final Papers, Eight World Juniors, Seven Aching Bodies, Six Fucking Douchebags, Five ... Straight ... Road ... Wins ........ Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky

Forty two today and took the day off to relax a little, just some me time, so of course I started the day off with a jack and a nap. Quality.

The real celebration was Saturday night. It was fairly low key. Forty two is no sort of milestone, certainly not one to drag folks away from their Christmas rounds for, so we met up with a couple who I have been very good friends with for as long as they have been together, somewhere around twenty years. They're great fun and so the plan was to meet them and my wife at a midtown pub after Capsule took the ice at seven.

Capsule has been trundling a long, we've had a couple of injuries and a few key guys have missed a lot of games because of other commitments, so while we aren't burning up the league I think we might be in a position to do some damage this year. Saturday night was typical, a game against a quality opponent, we were missing three of our four regular Dmen as well as one of our top two centres and so we cobbled together a defence corps and I was pressed into service up the middle. I used to play a lot of centre but the legs and lungs are shot so it was over to the wing for me until this summer where I played a lot of centre and did so pretty well and so now this winter I'm the emergency option. Two weeks ago I centred a grind line and we scored three and ended up plus two on an Olympic sized rink so I guess the lungs are okay now. Its all veteran guile now and I seem to be doing alright on that count.

Saturday night we put together another grind line, three of us muckers, and loaded up the other line for bear. It was a fine game, they had a quick youngster who scored two, including the winner with just over a minute left, but it was one of those where anyone could have won it, we gave a good account of ourselves. The score was the only blemish on the night.
For me it was one of my best games for I scored both of our goals, our first on a two on one after the winger did the classic chip past the pinching Dman. I picked up the puck and up my off wing and into the zone and snapped a shot past the defenceman and we were on the board. They answered with two but it wasn't on our watch as while our line was on the ice they hadn't a scoring chance. And on top of that I lost maybe one draw all night. Which is a sure sign that you are reading a post written by someone who has sold his soul to Satan. ;) With about seven minutes left we kept it in on a hard forecheck and caught them trying to jail break, I took a pass at the hashmarks, turned and swept it in. Two more goals, giving me five on the season in eleven games. A career year at forty two. ;)

I showered and got dropped off and headed down to the pub, a beautiful little place. We sat in a booth and midway through our night another couple dropped by for a quick drink, again two of my best friends, I've known them for nearly twenty five years now (and when you start throwing phrases like that around then you know you're getting up there) and we talked into the night, laughter and wonderful memories and lively conversation, the finest of nights, four pints for me and a round of whiskies bought by the first couple to depart, and so home, warm and boozy on the subway, a night to remember behind me although truth be told it got far better still once I got home. ;) The best of times.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fast away the old year passes


On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Nine Final Papers, Eight World Juniors, Seven Aching Bodies, Six Fucking Douchebags, Five ... Straight ... Road ... Wins ........ Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky

I was an awful student. I spent most of my time pursuing a good time rather than a higher education. I survived despite rarely attending class which says something about me and also says something about the state of higher education but what can you do?

Bygones.

I have a few tales of those days that actually involve schoolwork, for example the time that I had to write my year ending paper for a class I took on children's literature, yes you did read that right.

And so it was the night before it was due that I sat down and first thought about what I should do and it came to me, as in a vision, perhaps fuelled by my lemon gin hangover or the pot of coffee on my desk or perhaps by the girl on girl Penthouse letters I had just read.

Alice is a lesbian.

And so it was written that Alice in Wonderland likes to eat box, as they say, though I never would be that crude, no, not me, and that the whole crazy story was the drug addled pornographic fantasy of some repressed English whack job.

B -

Thursday, December 17, 2009

While I tell of Yule tide treasure


On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Eight World Juniors, Seven Aching Bodies, Six Fucking Douchebags, Five ... Straight ... Road ... Wins ........ Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky

When I was a kid there were no World Juniors and even when the tournament started it was way way below the radar, even for someone who was as hockey crazy as I was.

I was aware of it before the 1987 tournament in Piestany where Canada and the Russians were thrown out (I'm rereading Joyce's book now, that's Gare, not James, Joyce, its a terrific read) but most likely it had been just the year or two previous where I started following it.

TSN has turned it into their centrepiece, an example of what marketing can do for you. Its become must see holiday TV and many folks I know look at it as the highlight of their hockey year, even moreso than the Stanley Cup playoffs, a tournament that takes place in the spring. As a fan of the Edmonton Oilers I must admit that is more or less a mythical creature to me, like a unicorn or Kate Winslet.

I enjoy it and its always interesting to look back and see the players who take part in the tournament. There are the hyped stars like Crosby and Tavares, Ovechkin and Malkin. There are the guys like Iginla and Toews, Phaneuf and Mark Staal who announce their arrival as major league prospects with their tournament performances. You have guys like Eric Daze who use the tournament as a coming out party. (Daze was an unknown before his WJC appearance; he was dominant in the tournament, one wonders what he might have done before back woes did his career in.) And you have guys like John Slaney and Jimmy Waite who win gold with their heroics and then fade from sight, unable to find success in the pros.

My two most memorable World Junior moments are personal ones. After over twenty years the faces and moments and teams all kind of blend together.

The year after the Piestany tournament the Canadians were life and death to win the gold. It was the old format, just a basic round robin, best record wins. Canada's last two games were against patsies West Germany and Poland (they would win 8-1 and 9-1) but to win the gold they had to beat the Soviets . I believe it was new Year's Day because a couple of us had crashed at a buddy's. The three of us got up early, eyes bleeding, to watch the big game in his folks' basement and saw Jimmy Waite put on the performance of his life as the Canadians beat their rivals 3-2 despite being badly outplayed. Five star chance after five star chance ended up in Waite's glove.

Waite was phenomenal. Even better was the interview after the game. In Joyce's book players like Fleury and Shanahan talk about how their backup the year previous, pressed into action because of an injury to starter Shawn Simpson, could not speak a word of English. Not a single word. A year later he had learned a few but still not many. When asked for his thoughts on his performance in the dressing room afterwards Waite said, matter a factedly:

I think I played good game, fuck.

My other personal memory to do with the tournament came after the 1992 tournament. Canada had won two straight gold medals and was expected to easily win again with a team that included Paul Kariya and Eric Lindros (both who would play in the Olympics shortly afterwards, Lindros had also played in the Canada Cup, remember), Scott Niedermeyer and a whole slew of highly touted prospects. Instead they bombed out badly, finishing sixth out of eight clubs, barely edging Germany and the Swiss and getting smoked by the Czechs and the Russians. Their coach was Rick Cornacchia.

Not sure if it was later that winter or the following winter, I was back home and headed down to the old Sudbury Memorial Arena (the type of arena that the phrase 'old barn' was made for) to check out the local junior club, the Sudbury Wolves. Winners of the Memorial Cup in 1932, runnersup in 1935 and winners of the World Championships in 1938.

Sudbury folks are pretty passionate about their club and they're tough fans. The visiting club that night was the Oshawa Generals, post Lindros, no longer the club who had won the Memorial Cup a couple of years previous. The Wolves would actually knock them out of the playoffs that year. The Generals were disliked and their coach happened to be Rick Cornacchia.

Between periods we were wandering about the arena and we happened upon Cornacchia, huddled with an assistant. My friend's son, who would have been in his early teens, and who has always carried a gigantic needle with him wherever he goes, says:

hey Rick, nice job at the world juniors

Cornacchia's face fell as if his pet kitten had just been strangled before his eyes. He mumbled something about how some people's kids etc etc and then walked away.

Good times.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Follow me in merry measure


On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me Seven Aching Bodies, Six Fucking Douchebags, Five ... Straight ... Road ... Wins ........ Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.

My little French Canadian grandmother said once, with a little bit of bitterness:

I would like to talk to ooever call them 'The Golden Year'

She buried my grandfather and then her second husband had a massive stroke that left him an invalid for seven years before she laid him in the ground too. He was unable to talk and could not get around very well and she took care of him every single day and night for all of those years. Her mother and three of her siblings lived to be over a hundred and so when she passed at eighty eight there was some anger in our family, for the feeling was that she had been worn down over all of those years of being a caregiver.

Probably right but when his family offered little more than 'put him in a home' after his stroke, my grandmother, stubborn and tough, declined and took it upon herself to keep him in their home as long as she could. He was ninety when a second stroke felled him, we lived in Florida at the time, fifteen minutes away, he had collapsed on the floor and somehow my tiny grandmother had lifted him on top of the bed where we found him sprawled, rushing over when she called, the paramedics there just before us. He lasted a few days in the hospital and then came back home to die.

Getting old is an awful thing. Last winter my dad tore a bicep muscle yanking at a frozen shed door, it gave him trouble until the spring and then he had a problem with his shoulder, likely related to that. We were visiting in the summer and he was achy and Mom had lost her balance and scraped up her arm nicely and so one night he cleaned her arm and applied the bandages and then he turned and she put some salve on his shoulder. Mom winked and said 'Ah the golden years' and they began to laugh their heads off.

The big fellow keeps trundling along but his hips are bad. Getting down is easy, he just lets those hind legs slide out from under him. Getting up is a little harder. He's not in any pain or so it seems - maybe he's just being stoic. I can knead those hind quarters pretty good and he doesn't give a whimper. Of course that also seems to be a fairly sizeable erogenous zone for him so maybe its all a put on like when I tell my wife that I need my groin massaged after a game.

Unlike me, she doesn't seem to fall for it though.

I've been lucky so far but let me tell you its amazing as you get older how suddenly things that were once easy to do become a little more difficult. After a game it takes me a couple of days to get going again. Now I'm not in the greatest shape but I'm not a mess either.

Its a bit of a bad deal.

Not as bad as the deal that the Oilers have Khabibulin though. Of course nobody could have seen this coming.

Oh right. Nearly everyone but Steve Tambellini did.
!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Strike the harp and join the chorus


On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Six Fucking Douchebags, Five ... Straight ... Road ... Wins ........ Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.

Played hockey with Capsule Saturday night, we came in looking for our third straight win, we'd had a nice start and then a couple of injuries and some other attendance issues left us fighting an uphill battle in a few games and we fell off the pace a bit. But we got back on the rails and so we headed out to St. Mike's, an arena where we play poorly more often than not, for whatever reason. Our opponent is a team we had handled pretty easily last month and so while we were missing a couple of guys, including our best player, we still figured to come out on top. When we hit the ice we saw that they had but seven skaters and we quickly fell into the trap. You see that many players and you let down right away, we had won a game back in October when we were shorthanded as well. When you are in that situation there's no fucking around, its basic survival, man the barricades but when you see an opponent who is short its tough not to let down.

I was a little late and got to the bench with three minutes gone and we were already down. Before I hit the ice we were down two. They may have had seven guys but it became pretty clear that two were going to play pretty well the whole game, a quality older defenceman and a young stocky guy who could fly. He had potted both goals, floating a bit and then charging to the attack, catching us flatfooted.

We spent the next while getting our skating legs and then we began to come on. Attack after attack was blunted at their blue and they dumped it out and we regrouped. We started to get some penetration and their keeper made three terrific stops to keep us off the board until we finally potted one.

Problem is their guy completed his trick almost immediately afterwards.

Down two again it soon became clear that we weren't going to be denied. We began to get the puck deep and their guys, already pretty tired, began to have to engage in battles along the boards. They started to get pretty weary. We pulled within one, then evened it up, then pulled ahead with about six minutes left. They had little going on.

The danger remained though as their single weapon began to float out behind our D, looking for that one break to get them back to evens. With about three minutes left we got the power play, I jumped over the boards, skated by our blue and warned them to be aware.

Problem is we played it like we were down one instead of up one. First one D pinched to keep the puck in and then as he circled the net our second D cruised into the slot looking for the pass. Problem is only one forward thought to cover, that being me.

Did I mention I can barely skate backwards?

There was a flurry out front and the puck squirted loose right to the one guy we did not want to have it. He cut across the zone and headed up ice, blowing by our two other forwards. I was skating towards our net. I'd like to say I got on my horse but its more like a mule at this point. My horse, that is.

So I turned at our blue and buddy came flying in on my right. I had a great angle on him, although I knew that if he knew my capabilities he would have gone outside on me. This summer I had found myself in the same position against another big strong kid half my age and buddy had gone right by me like nothing.

He had scored on a bullet earlier but his angle was iffy and so he cut in.

Did I mention I hate losing?

I remembered what I always taught kids, whether it be hockey or soccer, about defending. I looked directly at his chest and then did what any desperate oldtimer would do faced with that situation.

I laid him out.

Like most players I play best when I am aggressive and in the past I have done things in the heat of the moment but I'm not really a dirty player. I used to be one to give a guy a whack when he skated by but that's rare these days. I get in there and I'll battle and if someone gives me a shot I won't just take it but I'm not one to initiate shit.

This was out and out cold though, I knew as soon as he cut in what I was going to do. If we had been up by two or more I would have tried the stick check but this was it and so I drove right into him.

Lets get one thing straight, like a father says before he spanks his son, it hurt me a lot more than it hurt him. My shoulder is killing me and my throat isn't quite right. Well deserved of course. Buddy was all muscle and had a few inches and twenty pounds on me and I'm not Charles Atlas by any means.

He was pissed, rightfully so, and as we got up I skated directly to the box, joining one of my teammates. They had two guys in the box already and one of them called me a fucking douchebag. Seeing as he was in there for punching one of our guys in the head and had also sent one of our guys into the boards feet first at a good rate by sticking his stick between his legs as he headed into the corner I wasn't too worried about that.

There were but two minutes left and we won the game and shaking hands buddy wasn't in a forgiving mood, calling me a 'fucking little prick' if I heard him correctly. I'm sure he's got my number and next time we play I'm going to pay the price.

All for an extra point in beer league hockey.

Fuck am I dumb.

Still, it was nice to get the win.

Monday, December 14, 2009

See the blazing Yule before us


On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Five ... Straight ... Road ...Wins ........ Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.

Five straight wins on the road for the Oilers. A franchise record. Huh?

Hard to believe either of those statements.

In some circles this little streak is being looked at with suspicion but here is what we have so far since San Jose. Forget about the Vancouver game.

The Oilers outchanced the Sharks and the Wings by a wide margin, the Stars slightly.

Outchanced by Florida, although even at evens. Chances even with Tampa, although outchanced at evens.

And then badly outplayed by St.Louis for half of the game before they turned it around.

So the results have been great, obviously, and while they have not been full value for their wins, much like their early season run, they're also not getting run out of the rink and winning games due to sixty save performances. So its the same sort of deal, I think. I saw nearly every game at the beginning of the year and by my eye they may have been getting outshot but I really didn't see them as getting outplayed. Just my opinion. And in this little run its been more of the same, other than St. Lou the chances have pretty well been even or in the Oilers' favour.

In any case its been enjoyable especially when it looked for a while like we might be in for an extended death march to the lottery. As usual its good news bad news, despite this run they are still only tenth in the conference, three points from fifteenth in the conference, five points from twenty ninth in the league. The truth about this team lies in between this hot run and the great start and the disaster in between the two but with Horcoff apparently on the mend rather than facing surgery, Deslauriers providing decent goaltending and the Penner line still carrying the load offensively it seems that doom and gloom may not be right around the corner.

Of course it would still be nice if this club had a little more depth up front. Interesting to see if Stone gets a turn on Horcoff's wing and if O'Sullivan were to show up one of these days that might be a help too. The forwards still look a little bit too much like they are being held together with twine and chewing gum for my taste. A LW for Horcoff would be nice and one thinks that if the Penner line can keep its pace then we are looking at that line as a soft minutes killer next year and Horcoff and Hemsky with a solid LW handling the toughs. We know the Oilers have enough solid players to fill out a nice fourth line to murder the other team's dregs and all that leaves is another line to handle some tough sledding. Easy enough, right? Well maybe not.

A couple of things to close. Its still a small sample size but I think its apparent that Stone is an actual NHLer, as we say, and Brule, at the very least, is a guy who can do some damage to the soft minutes. The kid can shoot the puck. Gagner continues to progress, despite the hiccups, and this is another positive. Finally with Grebs returning soon one has to like the look of the blue, especially now that Gilbert looks much better since he has been paired with Souray. And Deslauriers at least looks like a guy who is a viable NHL backup.

And Nilsson seems to be on a roll, again. We will see if its another one of his teases. And of course Stortini needs to be mentioned when we are talking about the positives.

Finally Shawn Horcoff with three game winners in this stretch, two in the shootout of course, and as a big fan of a guy who has played most of the year hurt I have to say it warms the cockles to see him get some success. Horcoff is a guy who has earned his position on this club through plain old hard work but fans have never taken to him really and its too bad. Here's hoping that he gets on a roll although with those linemates its surely going to be a difficult task.

Unfortunately it seems that Cogliano has become the forgotten man and, as mentioned, O'Sullivan is a bit of a disaster right now. And Moreau still looks like he is pretty much done. So its not all rosy.

It sure would be nice to see a little more quality up front but we've been beating that horse until its not only dead but nothing more than a rusty hint of a smear on the road. What the hell can you do?

I'm enjoying this latest run, I must say, but I do want to say one more thing as folks are suddenly coming out of the woodwork pointing fingers at the people who have doubted this club and still doubt it. I've been a part of the Oilogosphere pretty much since the beginning and guys like Ty Dellow and Vic and Dennis and RiversQ predate me. These guys are often criticized for being too negative but what a lot of newer arrivals to the sphere fail to realize is that these guys call them as they see them. In 05/06 these guys proclaimed quite loudly that the Oilers were actually far better than their results (check the posts, its true) and while many of us were gnashing our teeth at the club's situation that spring these guys were quick to point out that given good goaltending this team would be a contender. They were right and they have been right since then when they have pointed out that management's failures have made for a flawed team year after year.

Now these guys don't need me to defend them, that's for sure, but I've read comments lately which have basically mocked them for their pronouncements about this club based on this latest run. First and foremost these guys are fans and if the Oilers do go against the grain then I think they'd be pretty damn happy about it. Having said that they've been right about this team four seasons out of four since I've been part of this scene; their observations are far more astute than any I have read from any other sources regarding the Oilers.

Anyhow we will see how things work out over the next little while, it appears that some of the kids are coming along up front, which is terrific stuff, and certainly the club plays an entertaining brand of hockey and seems to have very little quit in it, all positives to be sure. Can't really cheer for the team to lose but I still have very little faith in management so in this case its a bit of a catch 22. Dennis remarked the other day how much better this club would look with a couple more veterans up front and he's right of course. My biggest fear is that come February Tambellini will sacrifice Cogliano and some other kids for a quick fix to try and eke out eighth place.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Troll the ancient Yule tide carol


On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.

We have a bag with about one hundred Christmas bows in it and the baby is working hard here, bringing them to me from the living room, one by one.

I don't get out as much as I used to, at all. After hockey we'll generally get out for a pint or two but I'm either driving or have a driver and so its a short night. As for really tying one on, well those nights are far and few between, almost always reserved for nights on the Island or when my inlaws are visiting. Our last time out where we really fired them back was a surprise birthday get together I had for my wife, twenty five friends meeting at a bar for drinks. We ended up downtown at a hotel and were able to get a sleep in. This was nearly two months ago and before that it was in July, a pub crawl across Charlottetown that ended at four a.m. in a boat on the harbour.

When you have little kids you can't really justify missing a day becaue you've had too many beers.

These days the highlight of my social calendar is the once or twice monthly nights out at a pub with a friend or two. And on those nights, I have found, I drink four pints. No more, no less.

Its a wonderful number really. You can take your time and drink them over hours or you can fire them back quickly. I remember one time when my oldest was a toddler and my wife was pregnant with the boy, as usual our lives were quite busy and I had a friend who had become the father of twins a few months beforehand. It was late May, one of those first glorious warm sunny days that lets us know that summer is coming. We hadn't gotten out in months and we've been getting around for nearly twenty five years now so it was a bit of a hard case, anyhow, out of the blue he calls and says he has a window, can I do it, and my wife is sainted when it comes to these things and so I trotted down to the Communist Bar and we shook hands and we sat down and just over an hour later we headed home, four pints heavier.

I got home and my wife said that after we had our daughter in bed that maybe I could run down and get some fish and chips from the neighbourhood takeaway and I said that unfortunately I could not as I just had had four pints very quickly and was a little drunk. (I stand about five nine maybe.) Meanwhile my buddy got home where his wife accused him of being drunk to which he replied that it was impossible, he had only been out for an hour and that the pint he had just had had hit him a little hard, that is all, how many pints do you think a guy can drink in an hour anyways?

So twice in the past couple of weeks I have been out and twice I have had four pints. The perfect number. Space them out over three hours and have a glass of water at the pub and one at home and even getting to bed at one you're okay to get up five or six hours later and get to work, no harm done. With four you can have one of a type and then one of another and then finish up with whatever hits the spot that night. You ease into that first and then the second and you get that slow warm boozy feeling, not too jumpy or excited, just nice and easy, the conversation flowing, looking at the pretty girls, enjoying the evening and then handshakes and out into the warm summer's night or the silent snow falling, walking home in a slight daze or swaying on the subway car.

Four pints.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don we now our GAY apparel (not that there's anything wrong with that)


On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me Three Frenchmen, Two sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.

Our neighbourhood in Sudbury had a couple of French schools. Sudbury is pretty bilingual, Timmins too. Lots of French in Northern Ontario. Not so much in the Soo, which has a large Italian population, but Sudbury definitely has a fair size French community, both in the city and in the outlying towns. Quite a few Italians and a good number of Finns as well, descendants of the loggers and miners who built the North.

So playing hockey growing up there were always plenty of French kids on our clubs. On my atom team the two best players were cousins, Bouthillier and Roy. Our neighbourhood club team all the way through included a big defenceman by the name of Pelletier and a left wing with a nice touch around the net, Pilon. He was also a pussy. Got hurt every single game. Both of these guys were on our bantam team that won the city championship (not as exciting as it should have been for me, more on that another time) along with kids named Legace and Lajeunnesse, our captain. They were all fine players. Legace was a winger who could put the puck in the net, a pure finisher who could do the dirty work in the corners as well. Rick Lajeunnesse was a kid from the government housing, a tough kid who was smoking cigarettes in grade six. He was a hard as nails player, not a huge guy but all muscle and hard sinew, even at fourteen, a guy who charged up and down the wing with abandon, the fiercest player on a team loaded with hard cases and goons. He was also a terrific guy.

My own team now has two French Canadians, Bernard and Lefevbre. Every once in a while they'll start talking to each other in French in the room. It adds a little, hard to explain how. It just seems right to have French guys on your team.

In their short rich history the Edmonton Oilers have employed few French Canadians. The dynasty included some Alberta boys, a few Finnlanders, some kid from Brantford, a couple of guys from the left coast and Kevin Lowe, from Lachute, a guy who played his junior in the Q, but not pur laine by any measure. Indeed the two greatest draft picks from the Q for the Oilers are an Irishman and a Czech.

The little teams that could again employed a lot of Western Canadians, some Americans, a few Ontario boys and a Finn here and there (never enough though ;) ) but French Canadians, like Russians, were few and far between. After Vince Damphousse and Martin Gelinas you'd be hard pressed to name any player of note from Quebec who has played for Edmonton.

The Oilers have had as many impact players named Smith as they have had Quebecois. Count Smyth as a Smith and the Smiths have it.

Bruce McCurdy might correct me but I would bet that the present club, with those three Frenchmen referred to in the song, Deslauriers, Jacques and Pouliot, has more French guys than any other Oiler club in history.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tis The Season To Be Jolly


On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.

I'm just finishing up a sausage from John, my friendly neighbourhood sausage guy. He cuts a fine figure with his cap, his mustache and his charming European accent.

I always get the Polish sausage. Throw a little corn relish on there and I'm ready to go.

I ask for it and he always smiles:

Polish Polish, yessir. No box!

No sir, no box.

When I was a single man living on the Island in my apartment I would have sausages for lunch and sausages for supper. Fry em up, yes sir. Eat them right out of the pan. Alternate that with a fry up of ground beef and onions.

Quality.

Of course the entire triplex reeked of my culinary masterpieces and I forever suffered from a pretty good case of bad gas.

Oh well. If I had a last meal planned a steak would probably be tops on the list or maybe bacon and eggs. And lamb. I fucking love lamb, those little wooly bastards taste so good. But a good old sausage on a bun and a beer sits right up there.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me ... Lubomir Visnovsky.

Before Lubo came to the Oilers his name came up a few times amongst us (I seem to recall Dennis especially pushing him) as a guy who might be a good fit for the club. When he signed a longterm deal with LA it looked like any chances of that had gone out the window until Lombardi did the perfectly legal but quite skanky, trading the Slovak the day before his no trade clause kicked in.

Talk about violating the spirit of an agreement. Jeez.

The Lubo deal cost the Oilers a lot but most fans would tell you that they would do the deal over and over again. If Lowe had bothered to replace what Stoll and Greene brought to the club nobody would even question it.

Its not just what Lubo brings to the table, the terrific skating, the passing, the shooting, the underrated defending and strength. He played with Grebeshkov last year and the young Russian had a terrific year. This year Laddy Smid got the sweetest spot on the roster and the kid has turned into a world beater by any measure.

Its not the fact that for two years now when he is on the ice the Oilers massively outchance their opposition.

(I've no time for management's excuses but one wonders how last year would have turned out if Lubo had not been injured.)

Its the way he plays the game. The joy. The elan as he darts here and there, grinning, looking like a boy on a frozen pond as he slides away from a massive forechecker, darting up ice, spinning and dancing.

Ales Hemsky can pull you out of your seat with his genius.

Lubo makes the game so much fun to watch, perhaps even more than the great Czech winger.

Rudy Kelly over at Battle of California loved Lubo. Here are a few of his comments.

I love him too.

There I said it. It makes me no less of a man. And if you think it does, well ... you can eat me.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

So, How Are We Making Out?


Our last year of high school was a dandy one and a lot of it was spent in pursuit of a good time.

I went to an all guys school. It had its obvious drawback, first of all, but other than that it was a pretty fun place to grow up. Of course it did retard one stage of development for a lot of us. (Years later after a series of coincidences a guy I knew from high school ended up being my roommate for a year or so in a house I shared with a couple of musicians. He was studying for the bar and was a conservative ex jock type guy so it was an odd dynamic, him living with me and a couple of dope smoking communist musicians. But it worked. One night we were talking about one of the old high school guys, a guy who was very bright and funny, pretty good looking (I guess anyway, I mean I'd sleep with him, of course I would sleep with anybody), an athlete, you know the whole package. And here we are, like seven or eight years later and my roommate is shaking his head - 'That goddamned school ruined him', he said. 'Fucking guy still cannot talk to a woman to save his life'.

He wasn't the only one, although I had climbed over that wall a few years before, thank God. I recalled it all too well though.

After I kissed my first girl to the dulcet tones of Toto singing Africa I spent a couple of years living the dream. Well not really. My sex life, if you can call it that, its definitely overstating things by a lot, okay never mind the whole reference to sex, consisted of the odd night at a high school dance or a party at one of the local ethnic halls, slow dancing and making out with a girl to Stairway To Heaven or a similar rock anthem. I actually dated a couple of girls for a couple of months but generally the action consisted of the odd night at a high school dance or a party at one of the local ethnic halls, slow dancing and making out with her to Stairway to Heaven or a similar rock anthem.

It was Sudbury after all.

There were a few instances that I still recall.

There was the tall blonde in the sweater with the lovely big breasts at the Croatian Hall. She had what I call 50s boobs, the ones you saw in the oldest Playboys, long before implants, enormous and perky and natural, points riding way up high, impossible I know, yet true. I was loaded and we were dancing to the band, a punk/rock outfit of some sort. I was a shrimp and she towered over me. Anyhow we ended up sitting at a table making out for a good part of the night. We actually went out on a date or two but it went nowhere, most likely because I hadn't my driver's license and she got tired of being the DD.

There was the girl, who, well, um, taught me that girls, like boys, were horny dogs. While previous encounters I had had been relatively tentative, like a few hundred British commandos raiding a French port to remind Hitler that the Brits weren't dead yet, this girl's assault was full out D-Day, we're talking the entire fleet, the tens of thousands of troops, the bombers, the squadrons of fighters, the paratroopers. It was the first time I was left exhausted and spent by simply kissing. Jesus.

And then there was one of my buddy's sisters. I knew when I met her at the dance who she was, my God there was no mistaking her with the resemblance. And once again the usual ritual, the awkward white Canadian boy shuffle to a slew of 80s one hit wonders (I remember on the aforementioned night that almost immediately before Africa played dancing, if you can call it that, to Footloose by Kenny Loggins. Everyone cut Footloose indeed.) followed by the series of slow dances, then the lean in and .... paydirt! Tongue.

I would quickly outgrow the self conscious dance stylings of my very youthful youth, by the way, aided by my friend and yours, alcohol. Even to this day I will not step onto the dance floor until I have had a few drinks, then Gregory Hines, eat your fucking heart out, I become a gyrating, pulsating, automatic, spazmatic, hydromatic dancing fool. Think Travolta in Pulp Fiction only about one thousand times more awesome.

Seriously. Fucking. Awesome.

Anyhow in this instance we did the little kkkkkissy and then wandered out into the Sudbury February night in our parkas and Kodiaks, hand in hand, a bunch of my pals and hers hanging about, her brother staring in anguish.

Pat McLean and my sister!

It never came of anything, on Monday morning we were hanging about, shooting the breeze, a buddy of ours (we were pretty well all buddies, there were only ninety of is in our graduating class, if that) smirking:

So, basically, looking at her, it was like making out with Claudio. How was it?

Yeah that was it for that.

Anyhow my last year of high school and our social lives changed. The weekly event became the house party, usually at one of the guy's houses or one of our counterparts from Marymount, almost always on the Friday night. Saturday nights were a little more chaotic but Friday night was the event night for the week. It was generally the same group of kids and a lot of the same shit happened week after week. There was a guy who smoked rather than drank and always passed out early in the evening. There was another guy who always pulled out his guitar around 11 or so; he always 'just happened' to have it around when the girls asked. ;)

Anyhow partially because of familiarity with everyone, partially because there was just no interest from anyone, partially because I ended up with a massive crush my last year in high school, partially because I was a schrimp, partially because for me a lot of the year was about hanging with the guys, my senior year in high school was pretty barren when it came to girls. Indeed I can only recall one encounter. There may have been another one or two but I only remember the one.

It was New Year's Eve, one of those classic nights from high school, I remember about a half dozen of them. It was at one of the guys' places, his folks were away although I am pretty sure they were aware of what was going on. It was a fair sized gettogether and although now, years later, most of the details elude me, I do know that it was one of the best parties of my youth. All the gang, guys and girls, my best friends, the beer was flowing, good music. It was a terrific time. And at one point as we stood around shooting the breeze one of the girls, one of three sisters actually, staggered into the room, completely loaded. She'd never given me the time of day, barely to say hello even, until now, when she stumbled up to me, grabbed me and planted a big one on me. I responded. And then we fell over.

I jumped up and as she slowly got up I prepared myself for the onslaught, thinking certainly that my host was one of seven kids (Irish Catholics) and as a result there must be a bedroom somewhere and oh boy this is it and she got up and immediately grabbed someone else and planted one on them.

So you see it is true what they say about blind squirrels and all that. ;)

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

What can you say about the Oilers? Its pretty fucking typical of this club in most of its incarnations over the last long while. When they are expected to win, they usually do not; when we write them off then they surprise us. Often its mirrors and smoke, as Comrade Putin would say, but still they never fail to surprise us.

Ales Hemsky goes down and so we expect the season to go down the toilet, especially with Deslauriers becoming the starter with Khabibulin also going down.

Never saw that coming, Khabibulin being injured that is.

Shawn Horcoff, battling a shoulder injury so bad he cannot even take a faceoff as well as the whispers that he is in fact, a dirty Russian, begs Quinn for a chance at the shootout in Dallas. He finishes off the Stars and then does the same to the Panthers two nights later.

The aforementioned Deslauriers somehow manages to win three in a row on the road despite looking, lets say, uncomfortable when the puck comes near him.

Laddy Smid continues his breakout season with a timely goal, riding shotgun for the brilliance of Lubo Visnovsky.

Robert Nilsson reborn, at least this week.

Tom Gilbert, paired with Souray, a good combination, same as last season.

Cogliano awake.

Moreau too.

And Ryan Potulny, gaining traction, maybe an NHL career finally?

Although apparently the answer to the question for this club is Ryan Stone. Who knew?

Again, some of this little streak is that smoke and mirrors thing but the Oilers did a job on Detroit, outchanced Dallas (even at EV) and were a minus one in chances at EV against the Panthers (all of these numbers thanks to Dennis King).

So its not like they're getting away with murder out there.

Would it be best if this team went down the tubes, taking management with them? The answer is yes, to me anyhow. I think the club hasn't a chance with this management team in place. They have to go.

But they're hanging in there and winning is a lot more fun than losing. Remember the death march of spring 2007.

That was unbearable, even though it resulted in the highest Oiler pick in years and years.
So here we are, Oilers' fans, betwixt and between again. Longterm the best thing for the franchise would be a disaster of a season, a franchise player picked, management purged, players exposed and shipped out if possible.
But where's the fun in that?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Enemy At The Gates











Comrade.

I must now write you to express greatest disappointment in what has occurred. Ever since degenerate blogger Pat McLean revealed the truth at site run by the one they call Lowetide, the talk has continued and continued, so typical of these lazy Westerners, who have nothing better to do then to gossip like old women lining up for black bread and salted meat in freezing cold.

It is most discouraging that it was McLean who revealed your secret. He is a disgraceful example of spoiled Canadian man, raised to be fat and happy, talking only of consuming alcohol and drugs, sleeping with young women and masturbating into sandwich bags. He is perfect example of why Comrade Brezhnev failed so badly when he did not roll tanks into Europe. The West is soft and corrupt, they would have rolled over like Kyle Wellwood looking for jelly donut in his sheets.

Unfortunately Leonid saw film Red Dawn and was convinced that attack would be suicide. He was also frightened by Rocky film with Ivan Drago. I tell him it is fiction. Stallone is size of Oilers' forward, it is only mirrors and smoke, the Hollywood starmaking machine. As if he could defeat Dolph Lundgren with his excellent flattop haircut. Impossible! I shouted but Breshnev was old man and he was easily frightened. I had much anger for many years after that. Victory would have been ours but for Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell. Ah for a man like Stalin again.

Forgive me comrade. Where was I? Oh yes, it is quite frustrating that out best laid plans are looking to fail because of these bloggers. I have utmost respect, I must admit, for this old man, Lowetide, as they call him. I imagine him with his gigantic bearskin hat, likely he killed the bear with his bare hands, as befits a hero of the great patriotic war and one who knew vicious Canadian thug player Eddie Shore. Yes I must think that if I were to sit across table from Lowetide I would drink much vodka with him, despite his being capitalist running dog who has sold his soul for the almighty greenback like all of his compatriots. Still I wonder if he was in Murmansk in 1944. I imagine him as naval man.

But the rest of them! Bah! Sitting in their parents' basements, masturbating to disgusting pornography, their weak sperm splattering on their Superman pajamas, orange with the dust of Cheezies or Cheetos or whatever it is that they stuff their fat faces with.

And these ones are our undoing! After all of these years, all of the work that we put in. Your sly impersonation of Canadian grinder, earning the coach MacTavish's trust, pushing your way to prominence but slowly, never overplaying your hand. Then with Comrade Samsonov your club team almost raising the Stanley Cup, you still playing the hardworking grunt. Hah! If Oiler fans only knew you could have crushed Hurricanes with tiny display of skill taught by glorious sports' schools of Mother Russia. But it was not yet time. Still I must admit I was worried when you toyed with Thornton, then I thought that perhaps the facade might crack, even though any child skating on frozen Volga could outplay lazy surfer boy, typical example of entitled millionaire athlete in decadent West. But you were good soldier as befits Captain in Red Army and held back just enough, firing pucks into sievelike Cam Ward's chest. Hah!

Yet even then I wondered sometimes if your heart was truly still on frozen steppes of Caucasus instead of in rugged Canadian Shield of Sudbury or great frozen prairie of Winnipeg or windswept hill in St. John's. You played with distinct Canadian qualities of heart and grit, throwing yourself in front of shot with face first. That is not typical of Russian player. Most often they are slightly cowardly, like the soldiers who run from the Germans in that movie Enemy At The Gates, forcing their government to shoot them. You know the movie, comrade? With Jude Law? He is balding now, he was such a big heartthrob but he is getting fat and ugly and soon he will be like Val Kilmer or any of the Baldwin brothers or Marlon Brando, fat and redfaced, begging for lackeys to throw him a double cheeseburger over the fence of his compound.

And of course Rachel Weisz, ahh, she looked so hot even in Russian peasant garb. Of course once again this is silly Hollywood, Russian peasants have ankles as thick as Gordie Howe's forearms, and they are big and hairy like apes, they do not look like Rachel Weisz. Yet one cannot complain, movie about great victory at Stalingrad and also gratutious nudity when they have shot of her beautiful heart shaped ass. Of course it was nothing like Stealing Beauty where she is laying on lounge chair, her beautiful breasts, its not full frontal as I think the debauched Westerners call it, but my God she is lovely, it reminds me of the time I was at dacha in Crimea.

Just a moment comrade.

Ah, I am back, I needed to just, um, relieve myself. I was suddenly very tense.

Anyhow, back to point, as they say. I must say that the plan, as I conceived it, was brilliant. Have you rise through Canadian hockey ranks slowly but surely. We knew that there was no chance they would be stupid like in Torino, selecting players like Bertuzzi for team. No, at home they would need to win, they would pick best players. And so we have been making plans for years. To beat Canada in Canada would be devastating to them and reestablish Soviet, er, Russian superiority at hockey game. Oh sure they have won seven of eleven best on best competitions while we have won but one, same as effete Swedes, depraved Americans and the wicked Czechs. It does not matter. The Canadians worry constantly about hockey and how good they are. It is strange. They invent hockey and crush all comers yet always hear footsteps, like Joffrey Lupul going into the corner. Meanwhile English win World Cup once and act as if they have won every one.

I do not understand the West.

In any case plans were going well comrade. In Oilers run in 2006 you established yourself as excellent two way player and then in 2008, even better, you showed that you could score many goals, as befits boy taken from parents at age three and coached by only the very best that glorious and infallible party could provide. Our plan was working to perfection. You would certainly have been picked for Olympic team and then you would have been our mole, our ace in the hole, or to mix metaphors, our mole digging in a hole, as the dissolute Irish singer Bono, would say.

And then you injured your shoulder. Let me say, comrade, that I am very disappointed in you. I realize that you were trying to prove by test of strength that you are more powerful than lazy giant Penner. Even though he is fat from eating many cheeseburgers from excellent Scottish joint, as they call it, McDonalds, he is gigantic like bear in Ural mountains. You should have known when he injured the shoulder of the Big Sexy in arm wrestling match that perhaps you should swallow your pride. But you could not and you had to try and prove bigger manhood.

And that was beginning of end. We hoped that things might improve but instead that fool Lowe traded all of the good players on team. Now you play with O'Sullivan and Jacques when you once played with Hemsky and Smyth. How the hell can you succeed with Jacques on the left wing? He should be on fourth line, banging bodies and bringing energy. Instead on this shitshow of a team he is considered option on shutdown line. How fucking depressing!

And again you have hurt your shoulder! First Hemsky and then you! When will you dumbkoffs learn?! Stop trying to armwrestle Penner. He is enormous. He could hold Comrie in his bare hand and then close his fist and he would disappear, that fucking midget!

Forgive me comrade, I am quite agitated. That was a foolish thing to say. I realize Penner could not hold Comrie in his hand. That is impossible with Comrie in iron lung, quite impossible.

Still I am disappointed in you. I know Hemsky put you up to it. The Czechs hate our guts ever since 1968. They really do. I think that we have been outmanouvred. Even with Hemsky they have no chance but they know without sabotage we also have no chance with our D and goaltending. Who the hell is going to play in net for us? Khabibulin? Jesus. So they know that they have little chance anyways and so they bring us down with them, the dirty bastards!
Argh, I hate the Czechs.

Ah well, Comrade, I know you have enjoyed riches of capitalism, drinking their whiskey and sleeping with their fine women, but I think that it is time that you came home. We will make sure that you have comfortable retirement as befits hero of Soviet Union, er, Mother Russia. We will set you up with two bedroom apartment in Kiev with television and Lada.

Damn I forgot we no longer run Ukraine. Stupid Gorbachev!
Argh, I hate the Ukranians.

Before you come back though, please to fire puck at Lowe's head next time you see him. If he had kept Smyth and not signed Penner you would not have been tempted to prove bigger manhood and on top of that you would have had better counting numbers as well as underlying numbers that basement dwelling bloggers love because Smyth is still a terrific player and outscorer, even in his dotage. And likely the Oilers might have playoffs once or twice instead of being on four years without, which is frankly disgraceful if you ask me. Of course there are fans who think Lowe is great GM because he won six Stanley Cups. Which is like saying that Japanese guy who wins hot dog eating contests can run Oscar Mayer. Decadent westerners think that hockey guy can run very rich corporation because he was good at playing his man, cutting off angles and blocking shots, as well as clearing zone.

That is why we will prevail in the end, Comrade Horcov. Because in the end the entire rotten West will collapse in mess of cheeseburgers and Cokes, we will see the cheese dust rise to the heavens from the glorious motherland. Lowe and his lackey lapdog Tambellini are proof that they just too dumb to survive. Even though the degenerate bloggers have let the cat out of the box, as they say, and blown your cover, victory will be ours.

Your pal.

Vlad Putin

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

They Took Him In The Night!


As I get older I become more and more like my old man, which is entirely a good thing. When I was younger I was not a constant man. The madness was always close to the surface and would emerge from the shadows, fueled by alcohol and youthful indifference. Lust ruled. Emotions took reason into the woods and kicked the shit out of it on far too many occasions. I had a temper and I fell in and out of love at a moment's notice.

I wasn't a bad guy really. I was a normal young man I think, wild and immature. I drank and smoked and chased tail and I did so knowing full well that this was the time to do it. I sowed my oats with a vengeance. I figured that I had better because when I grew up I wanted to be a good man.

And so as I got older I began to settle and a calm came. The intemperate moments became few and far between. It wasn't a conscious thing. It just happened.

Now my father is a calm man, the calmest. I know that he too had his moments in his youth although I cannot imagine it. I have never heard him raise his voice. He never raised a hand against us when were kids, just as his own father never raised a hand against his family. My grandfather was a scrapper too, he was never bigger than 130 pounds but he had that famed old man strength that came from a physical life.

When one of my Dad's brothers passed a few years back a bunch of us cousins went to to the Legion in the Soo with Dad, his three other brothers and his sister's husband, my uncle Bill Govett, a retired fighter pilot. We had had our hearts broken the day before and there was nothing to do now but bury my poor uncle in the ground. And so this night we did what he would have wanted us to do. We had some beers and told stories about him and about the family and we laughed and sang his song, for my uncle was, like all of our family, a man who loved a good time. One of the stories my dad told was of a night at the same Legion decades before, his own father sitting at a table with a group of fellows, one man, a big big man, being an ass and my grandfather tiring of it, telling him to be quiet, once, twice, a third time, the big man rising, the little man too, one punch and the big man sagging to the floor out cold, my dad smiling as he told the story, proud of the toughness, the strength, the power that his father had, the sudden violence, not the only time for the softspoken little man by the sounds of it, a violence that never came into his home though.

My father, as all of you who have read about him before know, is a man who loves life and lives it to the fullest and he has passed that on to his son. He is an optimist and he has passed that onto his son as well. He'll look out at a snowstorm and see an opportunity for a good workout on his walk. He'll see a rainy morning and figure that the sun will come out in an hour. He lives by the maxim that you shouldn't say anything about someone unless you have something good to say so its when he's silent that you need to wonder what's going on.

But he rarely is; as he's gotten older he has become the talking man and I still remember him coming down the aisle at my wedding (he and mom were slightly late) looking like a politician on a stage, waving, pointing and smiling, a quip here, a needle there, all the while laughing, having the time of his life, his son marrying a beautiful woman on a beautiful day, his family and friends gathered around him and his.

For all of his optimism though Dad does have scorn for some. Government, big business, big labour, the media, all of them receive a shake of the head and a snort of derision. Dad is nearly eighty and he's seen it all and he has no time for the greedy, the corrupt, the foolish, the ridiculous. He doesn't waste time on them. The odd time he'll shake his head at a politician and remark as to how they're all the same but there is no anger or bitterness. Its the way of the world and as long as he is left alone then he will leave the fools to their games and their greed and their fear mongering.

As for me, well here too I am more and more like my old man. I used to be an excellent one for the emails ripe with anger and resentment. Emails to the mayor, to the premier, to the CUPE local and the giant corporation hoisted on its own greedy petard. Letters to the Prime Minister (Paul Martin, that ass, was a favourite target) and to his ministers and to our own MP, another fool. In the emails I would cajole and mock, stick in the needle and work it around, fully aware that they would end up in the hands of an underling who would hit the delete button almost immediately. Still it felt good to vent my frustrations.

My favourite was an email to another failure, a man by the name of Joe Volpe, a minister under Martin, iirc, one of the scandals involving the usual ridiculous expense padding, in this case hundreds and hundreds of dollars spent at pizza joints or some such thing. At the end of the rant about how happy I was that my tax money was going into his pocket or to pay off some goombahs or whatever he was using it for I told him to have a beer on me his next time out. And then I called him a pig.

My poor wife is convinced that the RCMP has a file on me and that if the government ever declares martial law they will come and take me in the night. (BTW you are my witnesses on this if it does happen ;) ) but the reality is that the rage and indignation disappeared as the kids began to arrive and now I, like my old man, truly don't give much of a shit. I am engaged in my community and I stay on top of what is happening around the world and in this country but the truth is I haven't the energy or inclination to get that worked up anymore. Life is too short and I have bigger fish to fry, namely my wife and my kids.

Not to say that I'm going to actually fry them up. Because that would be both weird and very very wrong.

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At the end of the summer a regular commenter here noted that for a guy who always called himself an optimist I certainly wasn't that way when it came to those Oilers. And I admitted that this was true.

Its going to be four years out of the playoffs now and for the first time that I can remember there are rumblings of discontent from the media in Edmonton, rumblings directed not at the players (always option #1) or the coach (door #2) but at the folks running this sorry show.

Dan Barnes and Robert Tychkowski have written critical articles recently and now that the dam has been breached one wonders if Lowe and Tambellini will be washed away.

See, here's the thing. Its now going to be four years out of the playoffs, which matches the worst stretch of futility in franchise history. And here is the difference. That first stretch came right after Sather dismantled the greatest hockey club of all time, winner of five Stanley Cups. The team was putrid but it was a patchwork of has beens and wannabes and it was all about bringing in the next generation, a team that would become the little team that could, a collection of youngsters that would grow together, play a hardnosed, fast skating, pleasing style of hockey, a team that would make the playoffs seven out of nine years, culminating in the nearly won Cup in 2006.

Today we have a club mired in mediocrity for the fourth consecutive season, all of this while spending to the cap mind you. Every summer management sheds guys who can play hockey in this league without replacing them. Each summer the club starts the season with obvious glaring shortcomings. And each season the club fails.

There has been illness and there have been injuries but for Lowe and Co. its a ready set of excuses for another failed season. Don't buy it. The number of fans of this club who choose to ignore that management has failed again boggles my mind. The loss of Ales Hemsky is an awful blow, sure, but on this club its a fatal one because the forward corps is so thin that the 'first line' includes a twenty year old centre and a guy whose career was almost off the rails last season and the 'tough minutes' line features a centre who can barely take draws due to injuries, a kid who has never played tough minutes and another kid who runs around his own end like he's on fire.

Stop, drop and roll.

If the club was fully healthy Quinn could put together a nice first line and a nice fourth line (they have plenty of guys to play those roles) and maybe, just maybe, a decent line to take on soft minutes. So they're still short at least one line, maybe two depending on your confidence in the abilities of the kids. Oh well, they have a good fourth line though, right?

And who could have seen Khabibulin going down with an injury, leaving JDD to carry the mail? As another puck goes top corner on this 6'4'' disaster (note the rare photo at to showing Deslauriers standing upright) we, the fans, are left to watch another season go down the toilet while Tambellini mutters about how its all going to be okay.

The problems that people have been pointing out for months still remain. Goaltending which is in a shambles with an injury prone starter and an unproven backup. And remember Khabibulin is signed for three more seasons. A forward corpse that is too small, too soft, too unproven. When you're pining for the return of Comrie from the iron lung and Ryan Stone from wherever then you know that you have problems.

And the best is yet to come with cap hell awaiting next summer with a slew of kids coming up for raises. So we will likely see some of what little quality there is on this club go out the door as management tries to figure out what to do. Nobody will take Staios or Moreau or O'Sullivan to give the Oilers relief. It will be Grebeshkov or Gilbert or Cogliano who get sent away.

And further to that there won't be any cheap veterans who can help this club coming in. Management is not inclined to find anyone who can, you know, play hockey. They haven't been in four years. And if you were a veteran guy would you want to play for a loser franchise?

No sir, it will be the next wave of kids who get fed into the meat grinder. Cogliano and Nilsson and others will be shown the door and the fans will grumble that Hemsky should go as well while cheering for Eberle and MPS and the next wave. And those kids, sent out to handle minutes that they should not be expected to handle, will struggle until some of them are also flushed after the fans turn on them.

And we fans will sit by and wonder what happened to a once proud franchise. Those of us who can be bothered to work up even the least bit of indignation about it anyways. Those numbers are growing fewer by the day.

And when people stop caring then they stop spending money and time on something.

Maybe that will get Katz's attention. The losing does not seem to be making an impact on him.