Monday, November 15, 2010
My involvement in sports has involved playing and coaching and there's been a big difference in results between the two. As a coach I've always had a lot of success. Coaching the boy's soccer team this summer was my ninth go around as a soccer coach, of the nine I've had only one losing record, five teams won either their league title or their playoff title (two won both) and a sixth, perhaps my favourite of the lot, lost in an epic final to a huge favourite, this after slogging through a brutal playoff run in which there were no easy touches.
As for hockey its been a little less successful but still pretty good. Ten teams. Six had winning records. Two won their playoff championships including one of those losing clubs, probably my favourite team of all time. Four others won tournament titles.
So pretty solid.
As a player though its been a lot more losing than winning. Always has been. As a kid we won the city championship for handball for my grade school as well as the intramural championship in both grades of middle school. This handball was not the European version, this was sort of a hybrid of basketball and hockey where you threw the ball at a hockey goal defended by a guy in full out pads. The ball was small enough that you could palm it. There was a constant on both teams. In grade six and on both of the seven/eight teams, we had a guy who could just bring it. The fellow on our middle school team would end up being one of the best pitchers in the city as a teenager and the fellow in grade six was a guy I've talked about before, he was a hardscrabble kid who was the captain of the only hockey team I've ever been a part of that's won anything, with one exception.
Times have changed because you'd never see this game being played nowadays. Our set play on all of these teams was to get this guy open where he could wind up and just heave it with a clear line to the net. And in both cases what these guys would do early in the game is they would try and hit the goalie in the head. If you were defending and Rick or Lou were able to follow through and you got hit, well, you wouldn't get in the way next time. So you could imagine being the goalie. In the city tournament a goalie got knocked out by a headshot and we had a few guys bloodied even in the intramural games.
Imagine. Anyways this was the highlight of the athletic career pretty well.
So there were those and then in hockey growing up I played for a club which was the Sudbury equivalent of the Broad Street Bullies. I haven't told the story about these guys but it was truly amazing. The first year I played with them we brawled our way to our division title and then beat (and beat up) every team in the city to win the city championship. Two years later we won our division again but fell short in the playoffs. That season was highlighted by a game we forfeited because of a line brawl on our own bench which included a player coming out of the penalty box and attacking the coach. To repeat - a line brawl involving our own club and coaches.
I kid you not. Good times.
All of this happened between when I was twelve and fourteen. Since then its been nothing for the most part, with one exception, again a story for another time. A lot of mediocrity with the odd gust to very good and sometimes a gust the other way. When you get to my age its more about having fun than anything else and Capsule is competitive and we usually win a couple more than we lose and the guys are terrific and that's what its all about although damn I'd love to just once win it all with these guys. That would be awesome.
We play year round and while we're competitive in the winter we also play in a summer league in which we are generally over our heads. Some of our better players don't play in the summer and the competition is stiffer and usually we finish seventh out of eight. Or worse.
And everything got worse two summers ago when the two teams who we could beat usually both had enough and dropped out. So here we are getting older and the two new teams are good, of course, and more kids are in the league, of course. (We had one game where one of our guys knocked a fellow over accidentally and had to defend himself when the guy's son stepped in. Problem is there aren't enough guys the old fellow's age and too many the kid's age.)
So this summer in question was a disaster. We lost every single game. Every single one. The low point was when we had a one goal lead over the defending champs and the faceoff in their end with a minute left and the dman bobbled it and buddy races down to score to tie it up.
And then off of the draw at centre they dump it in, retrieve it and score the winner with twenty seconds left.
But mostly we just got pulverized. Game after game we got our brains beat in. One game I was a minus three after two shifts, this playing on a line which is actually very good defensively. We just got killed. It was awful.
It was a disaster. I took last summer off. I couldn't take it. I'm just too competitive, even at my age. And really you play for fun by my age. Getting pounded every night isn't fun.
The Oilers really really took a beating this past week. It was awful
We knew it was going to be a long season and really there is a big part of me that is just sitting back waiting for that next lottery pick. I figured they would be in the conversation for number one overall and they certainly are and remember folks this is with pretty well a totally healthy club right now. Think about that. It could get a lot lot worse. And right now they are in second last with an Isles' team which has had some bad luck with injuries.
After yesterday's disaster the thread at Lowetide's had a lot of interesting comments. I want to riff on a couple of these, if I may. First of all there was longtime Oilogosphere man RiversQ:
The only thing I really hate about this rebuild is that the Oilers' terrible management is in a can't lose situation.If the team stinks to high heaven, well they meant to do that. If the team manages to be competitive, then they think they're kind of a big deal.That's what is so frustrating.Not only do you have to wait through a painful rebuild, you have to wait until these buffoons fuck it up over the next 2-3 years before any changes happen.
Cam hits the nail on the head here. I think the most frustrating part of this situation is that the guys who have driven this franchise into the ground are still in charge of it. Think about that for a moment. What he is saying isn't new. He's said it before and so have I and so have a lot of people. A couple of months ago I compared it to being in a car and buddy who is driving puts you in the ditch for no reason other than he is a fucking spaz. When you get the car out of the ditch, he isn't getting behind the wheel. Right? If he tries to then you beat him to death or you get your shit and get a ride with the tow truck driver.
This ground has been covered a million times, here and elsewhere, but to sum it up the issue is that neither Lowe nor Tambellini has shown the wherewithal to judge this club properly. In some cases it comes down to individual players - note the obsession with doorstops MacIntyre, Jacques and Strudwick. For the most part the issue though is that they misread or ignore the problems with the club entirely.
In 05/06 the club, an excellent club, almost died because of the lack of competent goaltending. I'm not slagging them for going into the season with what they had but once Conklin was found wanting, which was pretty quickly, they needed to fix it and instead they waited until the last possible moment to do so. It almost cost them a playoff spot.
In 06/07 they dumped Pronger and did not replace him. Now at this point you're running a blueline out that includes three rookies - Greene and Smid and Hejda - and Bergeron. So you either need to bring in some help or you need to move out a bunch of guys who have a lot of cachet coming off of a run to the Stanley Cup final. Lowe does neither and the team dies on the vine. And then he trades Smyth for two prospects and a first rounder. The team crashes and burns. But its a rebuild now, right? They have three first rounders, a second, Smid, Lupul, Nilsson and O'Marra to start with. Plus the aforementioned guys on the blue, Hemsky, Stoll, Torres, Thoreson. So some kids to go with a few vets. Lupul doesn't work out so you move him and Smith for Pitkanen. Pretty astute move. Things are looking like we're getting a rebuild and then ....
In 07/08 they try and sign Vanek which would have cost them a boatload of first rounders. They fail and sign Penner instead which costs them draft picks, including a first. They also sign Souray. And they lose Hejda. So what are we doing exactly? Well its a rebuild right because they bring in Gagner and Cogliano and Brodziak and they trade a filler in Tarnstrom for Glencross and the team struggles but its to be expected. They're mostly kids. Its a rebuild, right? RIGHT?
Except they dump Greene and Stoll for Visnovsky. And Thoresen is let go. And then Glencross too. And they trade Pitkanen for Cole.
So five kids out the door in return for two veterans, one of whom will be gone before the end of the season.
Can you see what I am getting at here? I'm like an Oliver Stone movie I'm so subtle.
So lets fast forward to last season because I know I'm boring you. I'm boring myself. Now for the fifth straight year the Oilers are going into a season with an unbalanced lineup. They are too small and soft up front. They have few forwards who can check or PK or win a draw. Their D is full of guys cut from the same cloth but its supposed to be a strength. And their new goaltender is a veteran with a four year contract. Never mind the wisdom of that but here's the rub - if you are rebuilding then why would you sign Khabibulin?
So lets take a step back here because while my end point is that the management of this club is a disaster it needs pointing out that ownership was probably behind a lot of this. EIG didn't want to spend the Pronger money and they didn't want to pay Smyth - my opinion but I think that's reasonable to say. It still comes down on Lowe however that the roster was left so unbalanced.
And Katz wanted to make a splash - thus the whale hunts. Again though it falls on Lowe and Tambellini that there was a failure to fill in the holes that needed filling. Katz wants to spend money and make the playoffs - that's fine. Get a couple of guys who can check because you know what? That might help.
So even if we agree that there are circumstances out there it still comes down to these fuckers Lowe and Tambellini.
So last season they were figuring on being a playoff team. Otherwise why get Khabibulin? But why would they think that? And this is the issue I have with these guys. They just haven't a clue.
So last year's club ends up a disaster. Hemsky goes down and so does Souray and Khabibulin and the whole thing turns into a gong show and they luck into the lottery because if healthy the team would have been bad but not historically bad.
And so now, now they decide to rebuild. And of course this is frustrating because is they had started this a few years back then we would have been a few years ahead of the game if everything broke right. Because sometimes it does not break right.
1999 - 1st overall
2000 - 2nd overall
2001 - 1st overall
2002 - 2nd overall
2003 - 8th overall
2004 - 10th overall
2005 - 16th overall
2006 - 12th overall
2007 - traded away for a rental on Tkachuk LOL
2008 - 3rd overall
2009 - 4th overall
2010 - 8th overall
This is Woodguy's list of first round picks for Atlanta from that same thread at LT's. Its a point that has been made before of course. For every Chicago and Pittsburgh and Washington you have an Atlanta or the Islanders. High picks every year don't guarantee you anything if you don't have good management and good luck. Chicago only had one shot at the Cup due to some ridiculous overpays and the RFA offer sheet disaster and they went through the playoffs riding a rookie goalie and almost injury free. The Pens met a Wings' team with Datsyuk, Hossa and Lidstrom all far below one hundred percent. So even the teams that are the gold standard for the tank and rebuild caught some breaks.
Presently the Oilers have ten players on their roster who are first round picks and six of them are top ten picks:
Hemsky - 13
Whitney - 5
Dubnyk - 14
Eberle - 22
Brule - 6
Smid - 9
Cogliano - 25
Paajarvi - 10
Gagner - 6
That's some impressive pedigree right there and most of them are kids in the hockey sense of the word. And yet this team is absolutely brutal.
Some of this is because they are young. Some of it is because some of these guys aren't very good. And some of it is because a lot of the remaining roster is dreck. But point two is the thing - sometimes these guys don't turn out.
Apparently Tambellini decided this summer that he was going to leave nothing to chance when it came to getting a high pick and thus we have guys like Strudwick on this roster. But ... but ... if this is the case then why the pursuit of Malholtra, a guy who would have been a perfect fit.
And then if you recognize the need for a guy like Malholtra and cannot get him then why not go after a reasonable facsimile?
Do you see what I am saying? Even with Tambo making the moves (or not making them I guess) to ensure that this club totally sucks and they get a top pick, he still is trying to have it both ways. A guy like Malholtra would make a difference on this club. Why then were other moves not made to help these guys out?
Because you can't tell me that getting your brains beat out every night is helping these kids. And the problem as we have seen is that when you have a club that gets the shit kicked out of it every night a few things happen. You get little return from the guys on your club so that in the end Joni Pitkanen begets Jim Vandermeer. You have guys put into a position where they cannot succeed and as a result they get their brains beat in night after night and their confidence is shattered. Look at Andrew Cogliano. Look at Tom Gilbert right now, stuck with Strudwick on his other side.
We had a guy on a club I played for years ago, before Capsule, a Dman and he was out of his depth. Terrific guy. One of his brothers played on the team. He was awful. He was out of his league, literally. He was getting eaten alive and a pal of mine was sitting beside me on the bench one game and he turned to me and said that they're just going after him now and it was true and it was awful to see. And his poor partner and the goalie ended up fishing puck after puck out of the net and if you were up front and he was on the ice well you couldn't do a damn thing because you knew as soon as the other team got the puck that it was coming back up his side so the best thing to do was just to dump it in and drop back and load up that side.
Fuck it was terrible.
Anyhow I know its a rebuild but they have to do something because having Paajarvi and Hall spend most of their season chasing the other team around their own zone isn't doing a damn thing for them. And Penner and Hemsky are going to get out as soon as they can, which is soon, and that sets us back two pretty good players that need replacing and then it just keeps on turning like that.
Right now you can point at Smid being an even somehow and Dubnyk having good numbers and Peckham having a nice run and then after that you have Hall and Eberle showing good things and Horcoff rebounding but really the list of good things here is short. And if the losses pile up its going to get shorter.
Dump Strudwick. Bring up Belle or Petoit or Taylor or find someone out there. Get rid of the guy. I'm sure he's terrific and by all accounts he's hilarious but he could be a combination of George Patton and Buster Keaton for all I care. He's fucking terrible.
Play your top four guys, as they were, with each other. Gilbert with Whitney or Smid. Foster with the other. Run Peckham out with Strudwick's replacement (and I don't mean Vandermeer either). The D is terrible. Don't make it worse with the setup now. And for Christ sakes protect the guys who need protecting.
Cobble together two lines that can hold their own. Figure it out and do it. Run Hall out with Horcoff and Hemsky and Penner out with Gagner and Eberle. Or put Paajarvi with Horcoff and Brule with Gagner. Whatever.
And then shelter the third line, whoever they are. Even if it means giving the Fraser line out against tougher opps.
Jesus, some bench management.
Because this is obscene.
Really though I am with Rivers. I think we're having this same conversation four years from now. I don't think Tambo has it. And that, more than the losses, is what's depressing if you're an Oilers' fan.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:40 PM