Sunday, February 28, 2010

BROBDINGNAGIAN, MAMMOTH, COLOSSAL, HUGE, WHOPPING GAME


Every game is a story unto itself and within a single game a story will weave and wander. Slovakia beat the Russians and then struggled against Norway and then turned around and beat the Swedes. On Friday night Canada handed the Slovaks their lunch for fifty two minutes and then Lubo scored a softie and then the Slovaks came in waves and by the end of it Canada was lucky that time ran out.

Does it mean anything now? Not really. No more than the American victory over the Finns or what happened last Sunday means anything.

These are two good teams but if you were a betting man you would lay money on Canada who have outplayed and outchanced every opponent by a wide margin. Its likely that they will do so again tonight and that the only way that they will lose is if Ryan Miller is outstanding and the Americans are a little lucky.

And based on what has happened in this tournament before today and what we know about the game of hockey we know that this is entirely possible.

Canada is going to come out in a tremendous wave. Here's hoping that that wave washes the game young Yankees right out of the rink.

Lets go you Canucks! Lets go now! Lets bring home that gold!

Friday, February 26, 2010

ENORMOUS GAME! GIGANTIC GOALS! ELEPHANTINE SAVES! CLUTCHING FANTASTIC THIGHS!!!!!!!


(Runs around living room, flailing madly until, clutching heart, he sags onto the couch and, gasping, expires.)

If last weekend was the lost weekend for Canada's Olympic team then this past Wednesday was the snowball gathering momentum until, roaring down the mountain, it flattened that poor coyote as well as Bykov and his charges.

Right? I said RIGHT?? The short track relay team and the bobsleigh teams and Clara Hughes, God bless her.
As for the hockey Wednesday night was so absolutely and completely ridiculous that it baffles the mind. I have seen junior games go the right way for Canada quickly like that and decades ago the Canadians did a number on some of their quality rivals in the Canada Cups although I can't remember those exactly, I had to look it up. I was at the semifinal of the Canada Cup in 1991 where the Canadians dispatched the Swedes 4-0 quite easily and in both that tournament and in 2004 the result never seemed in doubt, even when the scores were close (although of course the semifinal in 2004 went to OT against the Czechs).

But I have never seen a game of that magnitude, an elimination game against the Russians no less, go so well for Canada. My wife came in just as the first period was winding up and so we began to switch channels because there was shorttrack and the bobsleigh and while she's okay with watching hockey she didn't want to miss anything else because of it. As I pondered heading downstairs I realized that Olympic hockey games run far quicker than the pros and so I flipped it over just in time to see the replay of Weber's goal. 5-1! I exclaimed and was astounded to see that it was actually 6-1 at this point.

A leisurely evening of channel surfing resulted and we were able to keep everybody happy.

And then later that night Sweden fell to the Slovaks and so tonight we have Canada and Slovakia.

Personally the best result would be to see the Slovaks and Amerians fall tonight and then for Canada to beat the Finns for the gold and Slovakia win the bronze over the Yanks. When it comes to international hockey when we are not involved its the Slovaks and Finns who I root for, two small countries living in the shadow of bigger neighbours (sound familiar) who punch above their weight when it comes to the good old hockey game.

I think it was Bruce McCurdy who posted a video a short while back of the Slovak celebration after they won the Worlds a few years ago and the absolute joy in that moment is pretty amazing.

With all that of course we're hoping for an end to their run to gold tonight. This should happen but this is a team that beat the Russians and the Swedes. On the other hand they barely eked out a win over Norway.

I expect that we will see a repeat of pretty well every other Canadian game this tournament. The Canadians will probably dominate the shot clock and the puck will be in the right end of the rink the majority of the night. Tuesday and Wednesday nights were different in that suddenly the entire team is going now, not just a couple of lines. Wednesday night saw Getzlaf and Perry and Boyle, guys who had not been factors yet, join the party, and Nash and Richards continue to emerge in the roles that they have found themselves in.

So things are looking good.

Could the Slovaks win? You bet. They have very good goaltending and they have enough offence to snipe one or two and if everything falls their way then they could absolutely do it. They're quality but if you look at their club like most clubs they do not have the depth of the Canadians. The Slovaks can run out Chara and Lubo and Hossa and Gaborik against their poison and then Palffy, Satan, Handzus, Kopecky and so on have to handle the rest of the gorillas running amuck.

Doubt they can do it.
Lets go you Canucks! Lets go now!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

HUGE Game, BIG Goals, CLUTCH Saves, ENORMOUS MUSCULAR Thighs


Here's what I'm hoping, post game handshake tonight, dejected Russians, smiling Hoser millionaires:

goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame, goodgame

good game

Should be a good one. Four years ago the Canadians were nowhere near this quality and they still gave the Reds a good run in the quarters.

They're closely matched and its going to come down to luck and goaltending likely. The Russians came with a dozen forwards and eight D and have lost a centreman so apparently they may go with three centres, one of those being Fedorov. So this may be something in favour of Canada if they can take advantage of old Sergei or wear out Malkin and Datsyuk.

The Russian D may be had but I worry about seeing Pronger and Boyle facing the fleeter forwards like Ovechkin. I haven't seen Boyle that good at all. For that matter Niedermeyer worries me too. I'd like to see Seabrook out there but then again what do I know.

The Canadians have pretty well outplayed everyone, including the Americans, by a pretty good margin, and last night seemed to be their best game in terms of winning puck battles and all of that jazz. I know a few folks give the big pshaw to the notion of intensity and all of that but I thought last night had a solid effort start to finish from all of the forwards. Guys like Perry and Nash and Staal and, well, everyone, seemed to be on the ball all the way through. Have not seen that in a few cases.

Final thoughts.

If Getzlaf is hurt then either he pulled one over on management (selfish/dumb) or they took a chance on him (dumb). If he is not hurt then maybe he ought to do a little more because he's been unimpressive to me.

Coming out party for Keith, Doughty, Toews. Toews has not been the best forward for Canada but he's up there. He always comes away with the puck.

I've liked Heatley, Marleau, Thornton. I've liked Thornton a lot. I think he's been terrific. There, I said it.

In the end its Luongo. If he has a good game then I say they win unless the hockey gods absolutely abandon the Canadians.

Lets go you Canucks!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thinking, Um, Good Thoughts


My God this sweet beautiful girl.

What a performance last night. What a couple of cool kids. Moir's answer to the question about how they are going to celebrate was pretty funny shit.

Having said all of that I watched it and I had no idea. Seriously. I looked at my wife after each skate and shrugged as did she.

Still, good for them.

And tonight? Go Canada. I'm onto one problem already though. They haven't even dropped the puck and everyone is talking about tomorrow night. I think that maybe they should win tonight first of all. They were supposed to pound the Swiss too, remember?

And Babcock? Play the shit out of Toews would you?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pierre Maguire And I Agree. The End Of The World Is Nigh!


Its true, I know, its hard to believe, anyone who is even an occasional visitor here knows how I feel about Pierre Maguire. Can't stand him.

But at the beginning of the game between Canada and the US he said, after all of the analysis and opinions that really nothing mattered except who had the better goaltending. And he was right.

It was a disappointing weekend for Canada. It was this weekend in Torino that launched the Canadian team to a best ever showing. This weekend in Vancouver there was Montgomery and there was Groves and other than that there was a lot of disappointment for our athletes. Hollingsworth's heartbreak and Morrison's fade and the bobsleigh crash and the Hamelins' loss and Del Bosco. God bless him, crashing because he didn't want to play it safe and win the bronze.

Oh dear. Leuders' surprising last hurrah and the unprecedented cross country success, two small moral victories, aren't enough to overcome a tough couple of days.

And tonight, just to cap it all off, the Americans beat the Canadians, so that the road now lies through Germany and then, just like in Italy, through the Russians in the quarters if they can get that far.

I think that they will beat the Germans and I think that they have a shot against the Russians. Unlike the Torino club this team has looked good; I could see them getting on a roll.

But Ryan Miller out goaltended Martin Brodeur tonight plain and simple. That was the difference. We could talk about mistakes and there were quite a few but the Americans made plenty as well, the problem was that it seemed that the Canadian mistakes ended up in their net.

Is that unfair to Brodeur? Perhaps. The first goal Bergeron was not on his point and Crosby deflected it into the net. The second was pretty awful all round on Brodeur although Rafalski had all day to slide that shot in there. On the third goal Boyle flubbed it and then the defensive coverage was a gong show but Martin was all over the place. And I thought he could have had the fourth as well, I do.

You might disagree. Maybe its just a case of Miller being that good. And he was. Thing is he was on and even the shit he didn't see hit him. Martin Brodeur was not. Interesting to see if Babcock goes back to him. I would guess that he does. I don't know if that's a very good idea.

As for the team in front of him well, they could be better. Lack of discipline hurt them in the third especially. Crosby was a minus three I think and wasn't the factor they need him to be nor was Nash until the end of the game. Of course its difficult in a game like this. Every player is so good that guys who dominate shifts in their club league are just another piece of the puzzle here. Having said that you noticed Iginla in a good way and the San Jose line has been terrific, in my opinion, probably Canada's best line. Toews has been a real sparkplug and Morrow has done his job. The disappointments for me have been Getzlaf and Perry most of all. Considering Getzlaf was supposed to be a major factor I wonder if his ankle is bothering him. He has not had any impact at all.

On the blue Duncan Keith has been wonderful and Doughty was a real factor as the game went on. Seabrook was decent and I liked both Weber and Niedermeyer although how they gave up two breakaways on one shift is absolutely beyond me. Boyle doesn't do a damn thing for me but I can't say a thing about it. I would have liked Bouwmeester on the club but I wouldn't have bumped Boyle so there you go.

As for our old friend, the big pinhead, well he's lost a step but strangest of all is seeing him fight the puck as much as he has. If they make it through to Wednesday night he might get exposed.

Its really too too bad but for some reason I am not as invested in this club as I have been in past teams. For Nagano and Salt Lake City I was a mess but I think once we won the gold in 2002 and then the World Cup in 2004 I figured the world was right again. In 2006 you could see from the hop that they weren't going anywhere.

As for this club, well maybe I'm getting older and so I don't care as much or maybe its because I've realized that the competition is so brutal that it may just be the luckiest club that wins or maybe its the high level of douchebaggery on this team that I find it hard to really live and die with them. Or maybe its just because its not life or death just yet.

Oh, well I guess actually it is now.

Weird thing is, I can see them going all the way. I could also see them being done Tuesday although I doubt that will happen. Wednesday on the other hand ....

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In This Country - Hoser Nation


Watching a replay of Montgomery's night right now. Jenn Hedger says that at this point he can do whatever he wants.

He smirks and I can imagine what he's thinking as he gives the girl with the giant hands the eye.

After poor Melissa Hollingsworth showed us the heartbreak of these Games, joining Wotherspoon and Felicien and others whose dreams ended in sorrow Jon Montgomery showed us the absolute best that these Olympics have to offer.

Smalltown boy with a quick grin and a closeknit family and a thirst for beer gave us what may be the greatest moment of these Games and certainly his walk through Whistler will be remembered for years to come. I have never seen anything like that, ever. Absolutely brilliant and another example of what is becoming very clear. Despite the tragedy on the luge track and the weirdness of the pickup track and the fiasco with the Olympia ice surfacer these Games have become a success and they have become a success where it matters most, with the athletes and the spectators. On the ground, as it were, its terrific.

I've enjoyed the Games so far. Canadians have done well. For every athlete that has fallen a little short, another has exceeded expectations, which is always the way. Just look at Julia Mancuso who has been a one woman wrecking crew. Nobody saw that coming.

Montgomery is an interesting cat. He's really a mix of what used to be Canadian and what Canada is becoming. Canada when I was growing up was a smalltown country, nearly completely white. We ate meat and potatoes and canned vegetables. Spaghetti was exotic. We were quiet and while we were proud of being Canadian our patriotism was restrained and at times indifferent, a reflection, I think, of the staid Protestant roots of a dominant Ontario, dull and grey.

In the years that have passed since I was a boy this country has changed and continues to change before my eyes. Even in the smaller towns and cities new Canadians are changing the face of the country and for the better I might add. Our kids eat Pad Thai and butter chicken and we have to get on the Ethiopian kick next I think, as a new joint opens in our neighbourhood every second week. Ease of travel means that what was once rare has become commonplace, Canadians going far afield and seeing the world. The wealth and future of what is now an urban country is edging away from the centre and into a bold and proud west and north and yes, even east. Canadian cities are vibrant and thriving and so is our country, even as we struggle through difficult economic times.

And Jon Montgomery is a reflection of this new Canada. From the west. Bold and bright and quick with a joke and self deprecating all at the same time, he reflects the best of this country, the confident young smart man who has conquered the physical domain, the young man secure in himself and in his future.

For us older folk (and I'm not really that old I know but I am old enough to remember different times) its an interesting thing to see. Our country has gone from being quiet to a pride that was at times insecure and smug and now is passing into a new and different patriotism. It marks my age I guess that although I am a fierce patriot I am a little uncomfortable with the chest thumping and the offputting Own The Podium campaign. Having said that when I read Canadians putting our country down I find it even more frustrating. I guess I'm of a generation that believes that we live in the world's greatest country (and I know all of you non Canucks will have varying mileage here, I would expect nothing less of course ;) ) but are quite happy to keep that little secret a little closer to the heart, to quote another great Canadian.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Favourites


So far so good for Canada at these Olympics, although not for the organizers. Oh well.

I think I rarely loathe the media as much as I do when it comes to the Olympic Games. And my day to day esteem of the fifth estate is pretty low, let me tell you.

But at the Olympics, well then the laziness, the incompetence, the hype, the fearmongering about Canadian results, everything just seems to be magnified. It makes me crazy.

How do you think the Canadian team is doing? Wait, first of all, let me ask you this? In Bejiing did you expect Kyle Shewfelt to win a medal? Do you expect Cindy Klaussen to win an individual medal here? Because if you answer yes to either of those then it might be best for you to move on from these here parts.

Kyle Shewfelt broke both of his legs the year before the 2008 Games. Both of his legs. Think about that. Now somehow (well because he's an elite athlete with the heart of a fucking lion) he was able to rehab, rehab, now, not train, to the point where he was able to make the Olympic team and his showing was pretty reasonable, if I recall, maybe top ten. And yet there were many on the message boards and in the letters to the paper who called him, get this, a choker.
You see here's the deal. If you are one of the best athletes in the world and you cannot train properly then you are not going to win a damn thing.

Cindy Klaussen had double knee surgery a year ago. She basically just started competing recently. She's not going to win a medal here, an individual one anyways. I'll bet when this happens that there are those who will say that her results are disappointing.

The margin of error at the Olympic level is miniscule as in there is no margin for error. One of the short trackers missed the final yesterday by one one thousandth of a second.

If you have not been able to train properly or you are injured in a way that effects your performance you are probably not going to win. (Colour me skeptical about Lindsay Vonn's injury then. She may have been hurt but either it was not that bad or it healed fairly quickly. You don't blow out the field if you're really hurt.)

What's frustrating for me is the bubble that the media live in when it comes to projections. Not all of them but many of them, you know, the ones who either never cover the sports (which is everyone outside of Randy Starkman, who is a must read for accurate material by the way) or, at the least, who do not do the research on them.

On the first Saturday of the games a reporter on the CBC talking about Canada's likelihood of winning four golds that day.

Four.

Jenn Heil - yes, definitely, she was a favourite.

Osborne-Paradis - a contender but unless you are head and shoulders above everyone, like Vonn, there are no shoo ins to medal in the downhill. Only one of the past six five or six gold medallists in the men's downhill had any real pedigree as a downhill skier with quality results. Most had one or two career victories. Mancuso, the womens' silver medallist, had not been on the podium for two years before Wednesday.

Osborne-Paradis was a contender but no shoo in. The downhill is a crapshoot.

Hamelin - Hamelin should win two medals and has a good shot at three. His event on Saturday was one that he has won two career races in. He was a longshot.

The fourth on this woman's list? Someone so far beyond that I cannot even remember who it was.

And yet there were people on Twitter and elsewhere calling Hamelin a choke artist. Who wondered why Groves only won a bronze in the 3000, despite her only winning one medal, a bronze, in four races this year at that distance. Why? Because the media proclaimed her a gold medal favourite at that distance.

Here's the deal. And don't get me wrong. When someone who is expected to do well fails, it is disappointing to me, although I don't chew the cushions with rage. I suspect that these kids hurt pretty bad when they fall short and don't give a damn about how someone sitting on their couch pouring back another beer feels. But as I preach quite a bit around here, context is everything. to survive the constant bombardment of hype we need to consider:

The athlete. A medal at a world cup or world championships does not a contender make. Maybe it was a poorly attended race in Bulgaria, maybe all the favourites were missing or hungover or trying new wax or just jacking around because it was a minor event in Bulgaria. Not to say that a guy like Robertson or a kid like St. Gelais won't come out of the pack, because it is one race, after all. But saying that Joe Schmoe is a gold medal favourite because they won one event two winters ago is nonsensical. It happens all of the time though.

The sport. Some of this shit is mental. Short track, snowboarding, downhill. Crashes happen constantly and in a lot of ways its a crapshoot. Now often the cream rises - Vonn, Ricker - but sometimes everyone crashes and you end up with Bradbury.

The athlete II - Referring to Vonn and Ricker, Shani Davis, The Flying Tomato, Jenn Heil, Begg Smith and so on.

Some of these guys are so good that they are guaranteed to win a medal and usually its going to be gold. Not always. Sometimes they get beat by someone who puts on the show of their life, like Bilodeau, who actually had only a so-so season up to this point. But these are the ones who we should have high expectations for.

Its a question of knowing your shit. Read Starkman. Don't believe the hype. Enjoy. We've had some terrific performances so far. Denny Morrison was a legitimate contender yesterday as was Roberge in short track, so their performances were a little disappointing, moreso Morrison, but other than that the team has been doing great, imo. Bilodeau and his teammates were awesome. Robertson and St. Gelais with their surprises. People like Edney and LeGuellec, who have done extremely well in sports that Canadians never do well in. Great stuff.

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

Which leads us to hockey. The game against the Swiss will be a great measuring stick. Four years ago our sorry ass club got shut out by the Swiss and pretty well everyone else. The worst team, by far, of any club we have ever sent to a best on best, both in results and performance. This wasn't getting beat by a hot goalie like in 1998, although that Canadian club, coming at the end of an era when we had our greatest generation of players, when future hall of famers were left off rosters all of the time, was pretty well punch and judy when it came to its offence. Lemieux and Kariya did not play and Sakic was out for the fateful game against the Czechs. That club was solid but they didn't have a lot of firepower. And in 1996 we were done in by a combination of Richter and Cujo.

But 2006. My God what a disgrace of a team. Hubris, a lack of speed, injuries, too few puckmovers on the back end, too many dinks on the roster, a coach past his due date, the list goes on and on.

The game on Tuesday was a nice start against plucky Norway and first of all count me in as a guy who wouldn't mind the Oilers signing Thoresen to a one way deal for a few years to get him back from the KHL. Tuesday we saw it - a competitor, a guy who makes all of the plays, a guy who gets things going in the right direction. He's a better player than some of the options the Oilers have now, you bet.

Tonight is a different story and then of course the Americans, who are a tough nut. Winning the group and winning it big would be huge. They have the advantage already as some of the competition have won but not with huge numbers. A big win tonight and then a win over the Yanks would get them first or second seed and yes the first seed is preferable. Germany or the Swiss in the quarters would be preferable to any number of others and avoiding the Russians and Swedes in the semi would be nice too.

And of course right there I shatter my own argument because in 1998 and in 2002 and in 2006 nothing has really gone to form. In 98 it was the Czechs winning and the Americans not even making the semis and in 2002 Belarus shocked the Swedes and then four years ago Canada collapsed and the Finns nearly went all the way. So who's to say that one of the favourites doesn't start poorly and show up in the quarters?

Scott Reynolds put it nicely, Canada is the favourite which gives them a 25% of winning the tournament. Its pretty well short track all over again except Steven Bradbury (Norway) isn't winning it.

But tick off that list of goaltenders. Hillier. Kiprusoff. Lundqvist. Nabokov. Miller. Halak. Vokuon.

Any one of them can beat you in one given game. That's all it takes.

The Canadians have the best lineup top to bottom. Nobody has our depth up front, although the Swedes, Russians and Americans are pretty damn good. Nobody has it on the back end either but nobody ever does.

But even the teams I remember as the best in recent memory - 1991 and 2004 - two clubs that were barely challenged, imo, didn't waltz through their tournaments by blowing everyone out.

The games are going to be close. A misstep against the Swiss tonight or Miller and the Americans on the weekend and suddenly they have a tough tough road.

They're the favourites. They should win a medal. But they are Maelle Ricker. In Torino she was a favourite and crashed out of the final. Here she won it all but had some nervous moments in qualifying. Nothing is guaranteed. They look good (had to like the size and speed and elan of the club on Tuesday) but they are no sure thing.

There are very few of those.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Celebration


Sunday night, like many, most, all of you (Canadians anyways) I was a mess.

Because the professional, wait scratch that, the hockey team I cheer for has not played a meaningful game in four years I haven't experienced that tingle on the edge of your seat, heart pounding stress that it seems only sports can produce.

And yes we have had a baby and my father in law fought for his life and won during that time. And yes I was stressed during those times but not too much. I am calm by nature and I have, like my father, a ridiculously optimistic faith that things will work out for the best when it comes to life's challenges.

But when it comes to sports, well I become a basket case.

I had already suffered Sunday afternoon when Kristina Groves won her bronze medal by a hair (and suffering is the right word) and when it came to the mogul finals I was a disaster because you can do your best and still lose and all it takes is a minor mistake to drop you a dozen spots in the standings. The weekend had been terrific for Canada already. Ignore pretty well all of the media when it comes to what's happening. Heil was favoured to win gold and she was beaten fair and square for a silver but Charles Hamelin was a longshot in the 1500 and Kristina Groves had a shot at third (she had won a bronze in one of four races this season) and Alex Bilodeau had a shot at a medal, no more, no less.

Yet according to some media they were all guaranteed godl medal favourites. Sheerly lazy and incompetent reporting.

So Groves won her bronze and Clara Hughes and Edney and the biathlete all surpassed expectations and so its quite apparent that this Canadian team is ready to go.

And then the men's moguls and two Canadians sitting one two with only six to go and two of those Canadians and I'm worrying and worrying some more that surefire medals will slip away and sure enough they start getting pushed over on that couch and all I can think is that Bilodeau is going to crash and then the Frenchman is going to win it and its going to be an oh fer.

And what does young Bilodeau do?

He wins it all.

And in his interviews, his emotions as he talks about being surrounded by his family.

Now I'm a wreck here. Buddy gives his wife a coffee at the airport, I well up. Buddy finds out that his wife's tumour is operable. Buddy's little guy goes for a twirl and then takes his hand.

Make it stop! I give already. I haven't completely lost it but if I start crying when the talking cars come on then I'll have to smash my TV and call for the wagon with the rubber walls.

Not long after we began to celebrate the phone rang, a Northern Ontario number, I pick it up, I hear my name and I hear a roar in the background, singing and shouting and an exaltation pouring over the wires from thousands of miles away, from a mountain in British Columbia.

Two very good friends of mine, family really, brothers, are in Vancouver to take in a few days of events. You can guess where they were on Sunday night.

A few exchanged words, barely audible over the cacophony, best wishes from me, unbridled joy from him and the thousands (millions?) around him. I said goodbye and the two of them wandered off to celebrate a moment that they will never forget.

Unbelievable stuff.

If you click on the link at the right (Torch Relay Day 66) you can read his story about his experience about being a torch bearer. I could try and tell you the story but I'll just let his own words speak for themselves. Upon finding out that he had been selected to be a torch bearer he said:

What does it mean to carry the torch? It touched down in Canada yesterday and began its nation-wide trek across this great country of ours ... I start thinking of what this really does mean. I’m not Rick Hanson or Cindy Klassen or Simon Whitfield, or any of those great Canadians being mentioned as confirmed or possible torch carriers... I’m a guy who has loved sport since birth and who has been a fan of amateur sport and the Olympic Games forever. My family has always been big fans of the Olympics and all the schools I attended throughout my youth continued to pave the way for my interest and involvement in sport. It’s afforded me countless opportunities. It’s developed lifelong friendships. It has taken me all over the world. It was the basis for my university education in Sports Administration, and was also my first area of employment after finishing school. I’ve met athletes and coaches, organizers and administrators from all over this planet who all have this unifying theme tying them all together. I’ve gotten to see first hand the excitement of having a role in the Olympic Games. There’s a vibe that’s unexplainable. There’s a passion that every person from every country that’s made the trek to the Games in the air that is incomparable. The passion resonates to everyone’s home country across the world.

And there it is again, that theme, the connection between people, between people from around the world, between people within this country, between friends, between family members. As Joey talks about what's happening he refers again and again to his family, a tightknit clan who have taken me and mine into their hearts over the years. It is his mom and dad who inspired his love of sports from a very young age, who coached him in hockey and in soccer, all of those long trips on winter highways, all of those mornings getting up at dawn, teaching him and his brother, cheering them on, supporting them in whatever they chose to do.

Family.

And so it is that on the day that he ran with the torch in Wawa his dad ran beside him in the bitter cold and he was joined by his girlfriend and some close friends who made the trek along the north shore of Lake Huron and then through the matchless beauty of the Shield at the head of Lake Superior, all the while cheered on by his biggest fan, his mom.

Here is his story, you can hear his mom and dad and his friends cheering him on if you watch the video, especially his mom. Please read it, at the end there is one final twist that once again reminds us that for all of our differences, for the distances between us, both physical and otherwise, we are all linked together.

And that, again, in my mind, is what this is all about.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Community




A theme which I have referred to many times here is that of community.

What makes a community?

One of my best friends came here from the Island for a few days once, a guys' weekend. As we took a break from carousing and wandered through our little neighbourhood I was greeted by neighbours and owners of local businesses and he turned to me and remarked that Toronto was unlike everything he had thought it was. It was intensely local and friendly and compact.

Toronto is made up of many tiny communities, just as Vancouver and Montreal and Halifax and Winnipeg and Edmonton and New York and London and Dublin and Berlin and every other city and town in the world is. Just as Canada is.

Its shared goals and beliefs, shared values and geography and history that make us what we are but the ties that bind, more than anything, are shared experiences. Its what has passed in our lives that defines us, shapes our families, our friendships and our communities more than or as much as anything because even in our tiny neighbourhood there are people who have come from everywhere in this wide wide world, people of different faiths, if any at all, wealthy and poor and those in between, those for whom family defines their lives, those who believe in enjoying the little things, those who believe in giving to those around them, those who believe in the pursuit of wealth, those who believe in the creation of art. Indeed our little community is made up of hundreds and hundreds of individuals, each completely different.

And yet we pull together, as one.

The Olympics can piss us off. The money and made for television sports, the ridiculous media hype (btw if you are on Twitter follow Randy Starkman, the Star's reporter who follows Olympic sports all of the time, not just every four years; Randy, unlike CTV or so many others out there, will give you the straight dope on what's happening, more than any reporter out there he understands what its all about and when the hype is over the top), the slimy Olympic and sporting honchos, who, for example, blame a young man's death on him, rather than taking any responsibility at all, the enormous cost to the public purse.

And in the end, its all worth it. It really is. Cut through the layer of greasy fat and get to the heart of the matter, to the celebration of sport and youth and country, and its all worth it. Watching youngsters, for the most part anyways, competing, striving to be the best that they can be, succeeding, sadly sometimes failing, putting the thousands of hours of hard work and preparation on the line, there's nothing better. Nobody takes shortcuts in the Olympics and the margin between a medal of any colour and not being on the podium is miniscule.

And this experience brings us together. Twenty six million Canadians watched the Opening Ceremonies, which I loved by the way, although the whole Gretzky in a pickup truck was absolutely bizarre. Almost that many watched the Salt Lake City gold medal hockey game, I don't know a single person who did not and I remember a shot of Yonge Street during the game, you could have fired a cannon the length of it and you would not have hit a soul. And when Sakic put the game away I, sitting on my couch in our little apartment in midtown Toronto, teared up, just as I had when the women had won a couple of days earlier. And when the final buzzer sounded, the roar from the streets outside and out in the hallways as people rushed out to celebrate.

Even as I watch television today, Walter Gretzky being interviewed and Fernie, Emily Brydon's home, also home to my aunt and uncle, even the damn Tim's commercial where buddy welcomes his wife and children to Canada with a coffee and parkas, in some cases its something we all know, sometimes just what I know, sometimes experiences that I have not had but others have had.

Things that ties us together.

Just as Barbara Ann Scott and Nancy Greene and others were the heroes of previous generations so do certain names stir me. Boucher, Gartner, Percy, Bedard, Auch, LeMay Doan, Baumann, Davis, Bernier, Tewksbury, Bailey, McBean and Heddle, Hughes, Heymans, Whitfield, Shewfelt, Verbeek, Cockburn, Igali, Van Koeverden, Klaussen, Montminy, Heil, Leuders, Cochrane.

The list is endless really and after these games other names will come to me when I think of what I have seen and experienced and some of those names will be ones that inspire you and that you remember and this will be something that brings you and I and all of us, people who have never met, people who live all over this wonderful country, these names will bring us together and help make us, well, us, as weird and crazy as that sounds.

If you were to ask me who my favourite Olympian is I would have to say Beckie Scott and here is why. My Olympic experience is different from many of you, especially those who are younger, because when I was growing up Canadian medals were rare. The whole idea of a jinx for Canada on Canadian soil is silly because it was a different era. Canadian athletes won very few medals in those days anywhere, never mind in Canada. Our teams were small and poorly funded and unprepared. Against the Eastern Bloc sporting machinery and the countries who cared more than we did, we were fodder. Our swimmers were strong and our skiers as well but other medals were few and far between.

And then things began to change. In 1984 we set a record, easy to do with no competition from the East, but overlooked in the excuse making by the media was the fact that men like Alex Baumann and Victor Davis were world champions and world record holders and they crushed all comers in those days. They expected to win and they did win and all of a sudden a slightly different attitude began to take hold. We began to find sports that we could build powerhouses in and suddenly we were the premier rowing team in the world and then our speedskaters, inspired by Boucher, began to make the world stand up and take notice.

Success breeds success and so in Olympics after Olympics we win medals in those sports and in kayaking and in short track and the freestyle skiing and the sliding sports and wrestling and watch in ten years when a generation inspired by Kyle Shewfelt begins to make its presence felt on the world stage.

So why Beckie Scott? Well before Beckie Scott, cross country skiing for Canadians was a death valley for results. Placings in the fifties and sixties and seventies.

And suddenly here comes Beckie Scott and not only does she win a medal but she wins a gold medal. She stands up for herself and for her country and for competing properly and cleanly. And then in Torino there are more medals for Canada in a sport which used to be a wasteland for our country and its Scott and Sara Renner with a silver and a relative unknown, Chandra Crawford, with a gold.

And I will bet that in the years to follow there will be others, inspired by Scott.

She's my favourite Olympian. Your mileage may vary.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Evolution


Here's a funny thing. Just over four years ago I started this blog. In my first post I said:

Stay tuned for musings on nearing 40, life with a wife, two kids (how did that happen!?) and Satan's Foreign Minister (our dog), the exciting times we live in, pubs I've known and loved, Guinness and the Edmonton Oilers, among other things.

After a couple of weeks of posting, mostly very short huzzahs for our successes in Torino at the time (post number twelve was for Jennifer Heil, the first Canadian gold of that Games), I started writing about the Oilers exclusively, inspired by LT, Hugh and Matt, Chris, Mike and Dave, Vic, Rivers, Speeds and Dennis, Ty, Colby Cosh, Loxy, Andy Grabia, James Mirtle.

I had always loved hockey and I had always loved writing but perusals of my early posts make me cringe. Poorly written overwrought attempts at analysis ... irk.

Over the next four months we went on a crazy ride. Times were weirdly different then. I remember the night that the Oilers clinched a playoff spot. I logged onto LT's site and commented, I was beside myself with excitement. Some minutes later, LT replied.

Other than that it was crickets and tumbleweeds.

The Sphere took off after that though, right through that glorious playoff run. If you ever have time to kill go back into the archives and check it out. Last month I logged onto IOF and read the very earliest stuff. Vic's first explanation of Corsi, Dennis' stream of consciousness live blogs on a Saturday night of action, great stuff from Riv and Speeds during the playoffs. Its killer shit.

And the same could be said about all of the Sphere at that time. It was a small community - six sites and then Colby, Loxy and Andy posting about the Oilers as well as other matters on their own sites. And of course Mirtle on his general hockey site. Check it out if you like good writing. Check it out if you want to remember when the Oilers were good. Check it out if you need proof that guys like Tyler and Vic aren't the cynics that everyone makes them out to be. That winter they were the ones proclaiming that the Oilers had the goods if they could only get goaltending. And guess what, they were right, as they usually are.

As for me, well if we were the original six Oiler sites then I was Chicago, poorly run and at the mercy of the big boys. Think the Oilers now as a comparison. I learned from the best though and this corner of the Interweb is a poorer one with so many of them no longer writing. So goes life I guess. Things change. We grow older. Interest rates fluctuate. Clothing goes out of style ... remember desert boots? Probably not.

Of course the ironic thing is that after a few years of writing about the Oilers exclusively I've gone back to that original idea. Now I've passed forty and there are three kids instead of two and the list of pubs and adventures has grown and I'm still wondering how the hell its all happened. I guess, as Robbie Robertson said, the wind just kind of pushed me this way.

Here we are, Olympic time again. I'll likely post a couple of times about the Games. I love them, I'm not embarassed to say. I'll tear up numerous times over these next couple of weeks just as I did last night watching the opening ceremonies. Hopefully there will be much glory for Canada and our wonderful young athletes.

As for the Oilers, well I'm glad for the break. Since those early heady days its been a long slow painful decline and at times its difficult to muster enthusiasm for an organization that seems to have taken its eye off of the ball.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Smoke Em If You've Got Em



The biggest problem for the Oilers? Up front.

What a disaster.

The goaltending is a mess but it could be fixed by Khabibulin staying healthy or the Oilers getting out from under his cap hit using the obscure loophole or by simply signing a co-number one, if they can find one.

The D, while struggling this season, is a nice mix of kids and vets and if it were status quo next season I think they'd be okay if they could stay healthy. Weird to say based on the shitshow last night when the Yotes blew them out with all hands but Souray on deck but I don't mind the D all that much. And there's quality on the farm and guys with different skillsets amongst those prospects.

But the forwards?

My God.

They are too small. Too inexperienced. Too one dimensional. Too inconsistent. Too soft. Too shitty.

Out of the whole lot of them there are only a handful worth a damn.

And even the good news isn't really that good. The Oilers have some interesting guys on the way, some possible quality. Paarjavi-Svensson, Eberle, Lander, Nash, Vande Velde, the Finn, Omark, Cornet. Plus they will have a top pick this summer, likely either Hall or Seguin.

The Swedes and the Finn have all played against men already so that's a plus. Lander and Nash and Van De Velde bring a wider range of skills than the others. (Hell they bring a wider range of skills than most of the guys with the big club right now.)

Here's the problem. The last few years the Oilers have been guilty of throwing out kid after kid into positions where they certainly cannot succeed. And now they have a whack of guys on the way and a whack of guys at the big league level who should be flushed and I'm envisioning Eberle playing with Moreau and Stone and MPS in the pressbox and another line of kids getting eaten alive.

The Oilers barely have any NHL players as it is and now they have a bunch of choices to make.

But first they have to answer these questions.

Will the younger Euros come over? Should they?

Does it make sense for MPS and Lander and the Finn to make their way over? I would guess the latter two would be in Oklahoma City and that's probably fine but does MPS go to the minors? Despite Maguire's bleatings he's not an elite NHLer now nor is he the Oilers' best forward RIGHT NOW but he's probably better than, say Jacques, or Cogliano. He's playing in a pretty good league, against men, and his numbers show that he is holding his own as does word of mouth. But he's another kid.

Is there a spot for Omark?

The Youtube shit aside, we know that Omark has put up pretty good numbers for two years in real leagues. We don't know much else though. We certainly don't know what he can do in the NHL. His equivalencies are good though. Does he deserve a shot or is he a throwin on a deal? If they bring him over there's another spot for an untested smaller youngster.

How about Eberle?

The Oilers are going to be selling hope and Eberle is famous. To me this is the easiest choice of all. Despite his pedigree he is still behind MPS, I would think, and he's still a smaller skill guy. He's a guy who starts in the minors. Same as Getzlaf and Perry and a whole bunch of others have.

What about Seguin or Hall?

Based on the WJC Hall is quality but he's not as good as Eberle. So then he or Seguin should go back to junior, right?

When's the last time a top two pick from junior didn't make the big club? And in a case where a kid dominates junior and has no other option is it helpful to his game to go back to play against kids?

I have no idea and of course it depends on the player but rightly or wrongly this kid is going to probably be breaking camp with the big club.

Now Do You See The Problem?

Of course you do. The Oilers are going to move Moreau and Pisani and Comrie if anyone will have them although strangely enough I have enjoyed the second comring of Comrie. If this club had some fucking size I'd seriously consider keeping him.

And so you have Penner, Hemsky, Gagner and Horcoff as four of your top nine.

And you can cobble together a fourth line from Stortini, Pouliot, Potulny, Stone and Reddox. Maybe even big Vande Velde earns a spot there.

I'd cut Jacques loose although I'll bet management does not. Anyways for the sake of argument lets do it. Other than hitting he doesn't do a damn thing.

So we need to fit five spots in the top nine. And we have Cogliano, Brule, O'Sullivan and Nilsson.

Have I missed anybody? Does anybody care?

Plus the kids I just mentioned.

Now we still have a big mess if that's what we run with.

Now so far my wishlist is a veteran 5/6 Dman, a shutdown type guy for the top four and a goalie (Scott convinced me).

What I'm also looking for is a couple of young guys who can play in the top nine, a couple of guys with size, a couple of guys who can do the little things. I'd like them to be ready to step into the lineup so they should have some experience, a couple of guys who haven't been able to crack a deeper lineup somewhere.

Ideally of course we'd be picking up a couple of vets of this ilk, Dvorak types lets call them, guys you can fit in throughout the lineup.

But here again your mileage may vary. Vets would be better, I think, and they would be available, but if the Oilers are trying to build then you may as well go with kids. See if you can find a young Kesler type somewhere.

I move Nilsson, the dogfucker, and I move O'Sullivan too. I know he only has one more year on his deal but for the scratch he's making he does not bring enough to the table.

And I probably move Cogliano although I'm not sold on that. Thing is either he or Brule have some value and with MPS and Hall/Seguin and Eberle rising how long are these two guys going to be around anyways?

But ... I think there's more there for both of them. Cogliano has been brutal but I'd like to see him with a couple of guys with skill and Brule is just starting as a pro really. And even though he's smaller he's got some toughness and he's a bit of a dirty little fucker and this club could use that.

Again, Your Mileage May Vary

There are those who will argue that O'Sullivan and Nilsson are better players right now than any of the leftover kids and they'd probably be right but both guys need to go I think.

There are those who would say get rid of Cogliano and Brule. How many kids can you have? Replace them with MPS and Hall/Seguin and bring in three veteran forwards and sprinkle them through the lineup.

There are those who would say forget the veterans, its a rebuild, bring in a couple of kids who can grind and throw them into the mix.

There are those who would say run out the new kids and keep the old kids too. Let them take their lumps and get another high pick.

There are those who would say hell, keep the status quo, lottery picks two years in a row won't hurt.

Remember though, looming over all of this are the pending contract expirations of Hemsky and Penner. Are they going to want to hang around through much more of this?

And to those who say lets burn it to the ground and pull a Pittsburgh or Chicago remember a couple of things - with four years of shit behind us how much more can you put up with? And what if it doesn't work out? The rebuild I mean. Because sometimes they don't.

What Would I Do?

I'm not sure, to be honest. The Hemsky/Penner thing looms large in my mind. Moving Cogliano and Brule makes some sense to me with the kids coming if they can get some value but I don't know about that. If either takes another step then you have a guy who can outperform his contract and God knows the Oilers could use one or two of those.

Some guys with some size who can play this game would be nice. I guess they should be kids based on where this club is but really would bringing in some vets to help out the kids hurt at all? Would Radek Dvorak and Blair Betts mean a club fighting for tenth instead of a club in thirteenth? Not likely. But with only three veterans plus Gagner to go around aren't you just throwing the kids to the wolves? Look at Cogliano. His confidence is shattered and he can't do a damn thing right. How would his development have been different if he had played with Torres and Stoll or Smyth and Horcoff? Can you give up on a guy whose career has been a mess because of how he has been handled when he could go elsewhere and do well?

Not sure, not sure. The problem remains the same as it has been for years now. Too many kids.

Its a goddamned mess is all I know.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Back End


Yowza.

OK so on to the blue. This was supposed to be a strength of this club but whether they are missing Charlie Huddy or they are not as good as we thought or if its a case of injuries and lost confidence, this group has not got it done. So, how do we fix it?

Outta Here

I didn't like the Souray signing but I have to admit its turned out better than I thought it would. He had a terrific year last year and .... oh well, low expectations, right?

Anyhow, the big guy is ready to go and it sounds like there is interest in him despite the remaining two years on his contract. If he had been moved last summer there might have been a nice return but his mediocre season has lessened his value. What will they get for him? Really its clearing the cap space that is important but what I'd like to see is an NHL ready prospect, preferably a forward, to fill a hole that the Oilers have. In other words a guy who they can slot into their top nine, a bigger kid, someone who may score a dozen but more importantly can PK, check, do the little things. Is that a reasonable return? Its definitely a need.

Strudwick, well he just has to go. Great guy and all blah blah blah etc. Ship him out already.

And Staios? Well his time has come as well and apparently there may be a market for him, even with the year left on his deal. Whether the rumours are true or not about the veterans on the Oilers being a big problem he has to go, if just to clear the cap space. I've always liked Staios but he's paid too much for what he does. Send him out. You'll get nothing for him but who gives a damn.

Your Mileage May Vary

Full disclosure, I've always been a Gilbert man, even when he has struggled I've been on his side. He's no thumper but he's a heady player, he can skate and he can move that puck. He's been a guy who's been playing tough competition on and off since the beginning when injuries forced MacT to put him in that role. And for the most part he has kept his head above water.

He's signed longterm to a good contract, he's the only defenceman on the club who has any sort of durability, he has played through injury (bad back last year) and illness (this fall) which makes me a little sour on the idea that this guy lacks toughness.

Plus he's a righty.

Now I'm not saying that the Oilers need to choose between Gilbert and Grebeshkov but with Visnovsky and then Chorney coming on I think that this club has enough guys who have the same skillset. To me there is no choice between the two, you go with Gilbert. If you feel otherwise then go for it but Grebeshkov's best work came paired with Lubo and away from him he has been nothing great, in my opinion.

If you can't do better than him then keep him. He's not terrible and he's certainly better than a lot of alternatives. Having said that due to his history (great w/ Lubo, not so much otherwise), his skillset (replicated) and the fact that he probably has some value I think he's a guy that you can move.

Lubo and Laddy

Lubo has struggled lately but other then Gagner the list of those who haven't is pretty short. When Lubo is on the ice things generally go the right way, indeed he outstrips everyone when it comes to generating scoring chances. And as an added bonus whoever is his partner generally looks like a worldbeater. Grebeshkov last year. Smid this year.

Can you say pump and dump?

Having said that I think that we can agree that Smid has improved from last season. When he's away from Lubo he's not great but he's not getting pulverized either. And paired with Lubo he has done a fine job. He has size and he still has some upside (he's still a kid) and he stays.

The Kids

There's Chorney and there's Peckham and then you have Plante and Motin and Petry. Plante actually survived his first callup (he certainly looked better than Matt Greene did at the same stage of his career) pretty well and with the Swede and Peaches things certainly bode well for the blue in the future.

I think the Oilers have to start by picking up a Strudwick ++ this summer. Not a swingman, not a seventh Dman. A solid six is what they need. A vet who can kill penalties and clear the front of the net and hopefully make the first pass. This is the type of guy I think they can actually pick up as a UFA.

If you keep Grebs then you run:

X - Gilbert, Smid - Lubo, Grebs - this vet, Chorney or Peckham

If you do not keep Grebs then you're looking at the same except you're running Chorney or Peckham out in the third pair with your new vet. If either cannot do it then you grab someone off the waiver wire. I'd think that one of them can though, handle the soft stuff paired with a vet.
What about X though? Who is our mysterious Mr. X?

Searching for Nick Tortelli

The most discouraging thing for the Oilers is that Jan Hejda is the guy that they need. A guy who can play in the top pair, a defence first guy, a guy who doesn't make a lot of money. !!

Really this is job one for Oilers' management this season, imo. They have holes up front as well but I think you can pick up guys who can check, tough minute munchers. There were a few of these still available when camps opened this fall and I think that you can move a smurf with offensive upside or Grebeskov or even Souray for that type of player. But a defensive defenceman who can do the job for you?

A little tougher.

And lets be honest here, no guy of quality is signing in Edmonton this summer. Nobody wants to be part of an organization that is such a disaster.

So beat the bushes. I have no idea who is available. I have no idea who fits the mold. But X is the guy that they need and they need to figure out a way to get him. Remember my list of untouchables ( a very long list, yes)? Here is where you might need to dip into that list if you can get the right guy.
In Addition
Had a think about this and I realized that the way I have presented this may seem pie in the sky and I know it, believe me. The way to go would be the FA market but the guy they need is not going to want to come play for a last place team. So it has to be a trade and its going to be value going the other way and really I don't know if they have that value or if they can find a fit with a team that either has a wad of Dmen or the need to shed a salary.
But they need to try and figure something out, this is the one spot they need to fill more than anything. (They need to fill multiple spots up front but that's next).

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Chicken


I was going to start with the forwards but its such a fucking mess I can't even bear it. So we'll start in goal and work our way out.

First, We Kill All Of The Goalies

Was Falstaff talking about lawyers or politicians? Well in any case I'll steal the line.

The reason I'm GM is because Tambellini screwed up the Khabibulin thing so badly. A four year contract for a guy with injury problems, big money, worst of all there is no way for the Oilers to get out from under it except for the loophole, what is it exactly? If he retires this season due to the back issue?

If a guy is thirty five or over sign him to a year, two tops.

Oh well, Tambellini will never be GM again after this fiasco.

So I'm stuck with Khabibulin pretty well unless he takes the hint when he finds the horse's head in his bed. And he won't.

So I have him and I have a backup.

I like Dubnyk better myself but what I know about goalies, well, I don't know a thing about goalies. ADD is too big of a spaz to my liking. When he does well its luck for the most part, imo. And Dubnyk is just so damn raw.

I don't even know if either is a reasonable option as a backup really. And we know that which ever of them sticks is going to start at least thirty games probably.

Jesus.

Can I have a do-over?

I'm going to take a bit of a mulligan because really this final run is stil before us. If either kid looks like he is a reasonable option then we'll stick with him. The other fellow gets sent to the minors or sent out period.

Really what I'm doing is scanning the list of goalies available as UFAs this summer and I'm going to seriously consider looking for a guy I can get on a bargain deal. I'm going to need him and if Khabibulin goes down again I'm going to tell him and Grossman to fuck back off to Russia. I'll carry the goddamn contract and deal with the dead money.

So we have three options:

1/ Preferred (Dream) Option

Khabibulin goes on LTIR or whatever he needs to do to get me out of his cap hit. I sign a quality guy from the many UFAs and either ADD or Dubnyk backs up.

2/ Realistic Option

Khabibulin is my starter, one of the kids backs him up, the other goes to the minors or just goes away.

3/ Last Option

If neither of the kids does a damn thing the rest of the way here then I hedge my bets and get myself a veteran backup. I'm going to need him.

What do I think?

I think ADD is lousy but Dubnyk has a lot of people who have seen him good. I'm not ready to give up on him yet. Its likely option number two with Dubnyk as the backup.

And I'm looking to draft a keeper and for that matter in my wheeling and dealing a quality goaltending prospect is near the top of my wish list.

Friday, February 05, 2010

A Fine Balance


Wait Til Next Year! Oh Right ...

What to do about next year? Years of mismanagement have put this club in a poor position and personally I think that next year is going to bring more of the same for Oiler fans, that is, another shitty team. There are too many players who cannot out perform their contracts and too many players of the same type. That is, not very good. At least, at this point.

The most frustrating thing about the last four seasons is that management has not put together the best possible club on the ice. Even the year they went to the final the season almost withered away due to poor goaltending. Now its gotten to the point where the problems are all over the roster and instead of needing a couple of players to fill needs the Oilers need many players to solve many issues.

So here goes. This isn't a fantasyland projection. There are no trades of spare parts for quality, no rookies stepping in and leading us to the promised land. I've painted with broad strokes in some cases, so many of these players are of the same ilk that you can substitute your guy for my guy and I think the end result is the same.

Truggles? Yeah We've Got 'Em

What types of problems face the Oilers? Where to start.

The goaltending is a mess.

The defence, supposedly the strength of the club, has regressed.

They have little cap room going into next season.

They have gaping holes up front. They lack size, players who can play both ways, quality penalty killers, players who can win faceoffs, experience

Up front they have a half dozen players who are smaller, mostly one dimensional, can't kill penalties or win draws, are inexperienced. And they have more on the way.

They just don't have enough good players. (Well, duh!)

Two quality players have only two more years before they become unrestricted free agents. One has never played a playoff series as an Oiler, the other has not in four years.

For Starting, This Is What I Am Doing

So I have all of these issues staring me in the face plus I have a handful of kids coming up that I have to work in as pros in my organization.

And a disgruntled fanbase.

So here is what I do, starting right now.

The following players are untouchable unless I get a ridiculous offer. Now in a few cases due to circumstance (injury, bad contract) I'm not getting any offers anyways but just so you know where I stand these guys are Oiler property for next year: Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner, Gagner, Stortini, Pouliot, Stone, Gilbert, Visnovsky, Smid, Chorney, Plante, Peckham, Petry, MPS, Lander, Eberle, Vande Velde, Nash, the Finn, Omark, Motin, Roy. So basically any kid with any value, any young guys who look like they can play a role going forward, even those who would be "easily replaceable" (we've seen far too many of those leave lately), our four forwards who are top six guys, Lubo and Gilbert.

I am trying to actively trade Souray, Moreau and Staios in order to clear cap space next season (and in Souray's case the next two seasons). I'm not giving up anything to get the deals done for Staios or Moreau. If I can't do it then I can't do it. As for Souray I'll try and get him dealt by the deadline, if not then I will do it this summer.

Bruce made a point in the last thread about the influence of Moreau on the room. Honestly I think that this is overrblown. I don't believe the rumours, having lived through the 'Wendel Clark is living with Toller Cranston' era here in Toronto. I think if it was as bad as is rumoured then Moreau would have been deep sixed long ago. I also think its moot and that they will find a spot for him, either now or during the summer.

I'll field offers for Pisani and Comrie. There is a small part of me that thinks I may try and extend them for next season but really that's sentimentality talking when it comes to Fernando and in Comrie's case I have too many guys I need to evaluate who fill his role. He's better than the lot of them but I need to find out what they can do.

If anyone wants Strudwick they can have him.

Moving these guys is going to open up some cap space and give me some breathing room. Its over fourteen million total. Of course I have to replace these guys but now at least I have some wiggle room.

I tell Quinn to play the shit out of the following players: Brule, Nilsson, Cogliano, O'Sullivan, Potulny, Jacques, Grebeshkov, Chorney, any callups brought up to replace the guys who got moved - the guys I especially want to see are Reddox, O'Marra, Colin McDonald.

And of course we need to see the two kid goalies.

Will the last twenty five games tell us anything that we don't know? Maybe, maybe not, hopefully for a few of the kids it will be a tell.

Come The Summer

Come the end of the season this is who I have on my roster looking forward. You can see plenty of issues of course. I have included guys who I am going to consider for next year's squad.

Goal - Khabibulin, ADD, Dubnyk

D - Smid, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Visnovsky, Chorney, Peckham

I have liked what I have seen of Plante and I'm a fan of Motin as well. And I definitely like what I have heard about Petry. All three will be in the minors to start next season.

F - Penner, Horcoff, Hemsky, Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, O'Sullivan, Brule, Stone, Jacques, Pouliot, Stortini, Reddox, MPS, Omark, O'Marra, McDonald

So yeah its a big fucking mess up front. And yes Eberle isn't on that list. And I know I haven't included this June's pick.

More on that later. Anyhow this is what I'm starting the summer with and believe me I am fully aware that O'Marra and McDonald are the longest of long shots.

More in a bit.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Cleaning House


This morning my wife called to inform me that the big fellow had thrown up and that the slight slant in our kitchen floor and the consistency of the upchuck had resulted in a kitchen floor covering layer of vomitous.

And while we live in a little old duplex built in the 1920s we have a nice sized kitchen. Its bigger than the standard 50s/60s bungalow kitchens that you, if you grew up like me, would be familiar with.

That's a lot of puke.

Not the most disgusting thing the big guy has ever done. Why just the other day I was changing the baby (eighteen months now, so maybe not so much a baby) when a big old turd got away from me and he snatched it up like it was a lollipop.

He's never done that before. I guess as you get older you start to shed the remnants of your dignity. I certainly am.

And there was the time back when he was a pup when he snatched up a just used rubber (again, yes I am old, who says rubber anymore?) and tore off down the hall of my apartment. He gulped it down and passed it a day later.

Top of the pops though was also when he was a puppy and he found a pack of Halls in my jeans pocket. I was unaware of this until I found nine little wrappings in the corner of my bedroom. I was unaware of the effect until I came home and found shit splattered all over the wall, as if Jackson Pollack had been working in my living room or an axe murderer or perhaps the Polish police had unloaded on protesters with a water cannon fall of feces.

Seriously. That was fucking beyond.

My wife barely tolerates the big fellow and normally I'm the cleaning crew but she needed to use the kitchen so she didn't wait for me to come home but I'm going to be subjected to a number of comments about 'your dog', I am sure.

Comes with the territory.

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

Despite the Flyers seriously outchancing the Oilers last night the good guys pulled out a win and while they had some serious luck on their side, or ADD did anyhow, I wasn't really that impressed with Philadelphia. These guys were supposed to be contenders? Oh please. Colour me unimpressed.

ADD getting all kinds of love today but the reality is the fucker is never good, he just gets lucky now and then. Every once in a while the shit just hits him or the posts and stays out but he looks like me dancing to Bust A Move after about fifteen beers when he's between the pipes, that is he looks like a spaz on the crank.

Get rid of him. Need to replace him? Here's how. Go down to your nearest Just Hockey. First guy who comes to the cash carrying a goalie stick, sign him up.

Its audition time and the first thing I'd do if I were management is to play every defenceman who is not in the plans on Lubo's flank for a while and then move them along. First Grebs and then Smid and now Chorney have looked like world beaters playing with that little waterbug.

Really though they need to decide what the fuck gives. I have not the first iota of confidence in the dunces captaining the Oilers' ship so my guess is that even if they manage to unload some serious contracts between now and next September they'll probably blow all that space immediately. Its been obvious since June 19th 2006 that THERE IS NO PLAN and so why do we think there would be one now.

What they are trying to do requires some decisionmaking, again not an apparent strong suit.

Is this going to be a full out teardown or are they going for the quick turnaround? If its a 'burn it to the ground deal' then move the players that you can get value for but otherwise who gives a shit if Moreau and Staios are in the lineup next season if its going to cost you a pick to get someone to take them on? Seriously. Its not like this club has a bunch of guys pushing up from the AHL to take Moreau's job anyhow, right?

And despite what Pierre Maguire says, that absolute moron, the idea that MPS and Eberle HAVE to be in the lineup next season is his usual horseshit. Remember that this is the guy who called MPS an elite first line NHLer right now and a guy who would be the Oilers' best forward right now.

God help me, Pierre is a stupid stupid man. He'll say anything that pops into the dim bulb of his. If the AHL was good enough for Getzlaf and Perry and Parise, even briefly, then its probably good enough for the up and coming golden boys.

So there are less than thirty games left. Here is what I would do if I were GM.

Teardown or not one of the biggest issues for the Oilers is that they have not put kids in a position to succeed. They play kids out of position, with other kids, with bad players.

So first thing is to put some kids in the minors to learn their craft. Now this is going to depend on the major league roster. If MPS is good enough to play in the NHL and there is a spot for him where he is going to have quality linemates and he will be sheltered then stick him in there. If not then ship him out. Same with Eberle, Vande Velde, Nash, whomever.

Sending them up to be massacred makes no sense. Put together a strong minor league club with vets to help them out and let them learn to be pros down there.

It should be the same everywhere. Filter a couple of kids up and see how they do. Guys who are near the end of their rope - Reddox, Jacques, Pouliot, Potulny, Stone - well these guys have to have decisions made on them, either keep them in the show or on the farm or cut them loose for good. Guys who are tweeners - Chorney - give him more icetime in the bigs or a roster spot if he has earned it. Guys who aren't in the plans by the looks of it - cut them loose if you can get something for them and if you have a replacement that can shave. If you do not then keep them, Seriously. You need roster filler. May as well be Nilsson rather than throwing Eberle to the wolves. Unless you really want to crap out properly. Then you get rid of Nilsson and replace him with Linglet. If you want to tank do it right. Of course do that and then you risk Penner and Hemsky wanting out, assuming you want to keep the two of them down the road. I would or at least I would with Ales.

So for next year this is my goal:

1/ Ensure that my young players are in a position to succeed. This is most important.

2/ Surround my NHL youngsters with veteran players. Depending on breaks it may mean a playoff spot, although this is unlikely. At the very least I do want to be competitive. Losing sixty games isn't going to help me. If I'm bad and based on what I have on my roster right now I will be then I'll end up with a top ten pick anyhow.

3/ Ensure that I am is a good cap position for 2011/2012.

4/ Separate the wheat from the chaff.

Tomorrow night: specifics, player by player.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Oh Dublin! The Onion Is A Poor Metaphor




Its not my metaphor, the idea of an onion as a way to describe discovery, although I have used it half heartedly before because of a lack of imagination. It always struck me as, well, dumb to talk about exploration of a city or of anything as the same as peeling back the layers of an onion.

When you peel back an onion's layer you get more onion. And then again. And again. Nothing more, nothing less. And while Hemingway's heroes have a thing for onion sandwiches, bread and onion now there is a taste sensation, and I certainly have nothing against the onion, hell I put it to good use all of the time, the idea that you are going to find something spectacular once you get to its core is not going to lead you to anything but disappointment.

Why the onion discussion?

Well for the third time I am returning to Dublin. It was in 2002 in the fall that my wife and I spent three days there while travelling through Ireland and Scotland. We stayed in a bungalow surrounded by farmland in Malahide, a northern suburb of the city, it was thirty minutes into the city centre by bus. We had a fine time. We wandered the streets south of the Liffey and saw all of the sights, the beautiful cathedrals (while Scottish churches were all dark and gloomy Christchurch and St. Patricks were bright and soaring), the castle, the GPO, the national museum and art gallery, the Book of Kells and the Trinity College Library, the Guinness storehouse. We ducked into some fine pubs and went out to Phoenix Park and overall it was a good time, a good beginning to my relationship with the city.

It was two years ago that I returned to Ireland, this time for a week. It was for business but I stayed over a weekend and I had my evenings free as well. I was even able to sneak out of work early a couple of afternoons. I stayed with a young fellow who had come over to Canada twice, once for training, a second time for a conference after which he had taken a couple of weeks and done some wandering. He's a terrific lad.

There was a night out with a bunch of the Irish at McDaids, a roaring old pub and an afternoon spent at a Trinity College hangout, watching the Six Nations match with the Scots that weekend. We went to dinner up in Howth and froze our asses off on the boardwalk. And the rest of the time I did what I do, I walked and walked, up streets built over ancient path ways, along the sluggish dirty old Liffey, down alleys and into hidden tiny squares and into St. Stephen's Green for quiet reflection and through the doors of pub after pub, Mulligan's and Neary's and Davy Byrnes and the Long Hall and the Old Stand and Dawson's Lounge surrounded by boozy kilted unwashed Scots and the Stag's Head and the Brazen Head and the Ha' Penny Inn and the aforementioned McDaid's. Pints and cigarettes and then into the bookstores and the writers' museum and going in circles, up, down and around until I knew the south side of the Liffey and O'Connell Street like my own neighbourhood.

And now my friend is getting married to his seniorita in Enfield, just west of fair Dublin, and I am making the trek again. Its a long way to go for a handful of days and I will have but a day or two in Dublin but its time to explore anew. Surely I will duck into one of my favourite haunts (and my favourite pub may be the Ha' Penny Inn, not as famous or as old as many of the ones I have been to but I've been there on both visits now, just stumbled on it really, after crossing the bridge also named Ha' Penny) or two but now its time to traipse about the northern part of the old river, to walk up to Glasnevin and see the cemetery, to go to Kavanaugh's for a pint, to see a side of Dublin that I have not seen, and then from there back to the Liffey and then west of the Brazen Head and past Guinness to see what there is to see there.

So peeling back another layer of Dublin I will be but its no damn onion.

Last night I helped to flood the neighbourhood rink as we tried to overcome this ridiculous 'winter' we have been having. It is surviving somehow. Afterwards I ducked into our local for a couple of pints with my buddy and then I walked home, fortified against the cold by the work of Arthur Guinness. As I walked I realized that its not the onion but the vagina which best describes a journey of discovery.

Think about it. I certainly did. Well, for a minute or so. The vagina (and I use this to describe all of the wonderful parts of a woman's anatomy, I fully realize that it is in reality just one part of the whole) has many nooks and crannies to explore, each offering up a new surprise, a different piece of the puzzle. The clitoris, not just a simple button under the hood, has eighteen different parts, for example.

Just don't ask me if this trip in March is going to be to the labia minora or labia majora because I really have no idea.

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

As for the Oilers' season, well, um, there is absolutely nothing pleasurable about it so you can throw out my wonderful little metaphor (by the way feel free to use that in any of your daily conversations when you are talking about learning new things about anything, seriously that's free of charge too). I do have one that we can probably apply to the last four years, in which management took a club which was a break or two away from winning the Stanley Cup and turned it into the absolute worst club in the league, the worst club in franchise history, a club that is starting to look like one of the all time worst clubs in league history.

Down to three quality defencemen, a handful of quality forwards (mind you this has been the case all season) and a couple of minor league goaltenders and with just under thirty games left this could end up being a club that wins less than twenty games. Seriously.

As an Oilers' fan its difficult, no, brutal to watch. And the club has major cap issues going forward.

They are a cap team folks. They spend almost as much as they possibly can and they are in last in the league.

There are myriad reasons why anyone who had a hand in this fiasco (Lowe, Tambellini, KP) should be fired but that is probably the one that is most striking. Despite spending to the maximum they can they have put a team together that has won sixteen of fifty three games, have not won at home in months, have not won at all in a month, have garnered a pair of points out of a possible, what, what is it now, forty two?

I can't even keep track.

The mantra of management for a while has been to put the players and coaches in a position to fail miserably and this is probably the most damning thing that you can say. Guys sitting in their pajamas in their parents' basements have been able to say year after year what is wrong with this club and management either does not recognize the problems or fails to fix them.

Instead they put kids with kids or kids with plugs and say 'sink or swim' as if that is any way to develop young talent.

Its an absolute fucking disgrace and there is no way that Tambellini or Lowe should be employed come June. Even more than the high pick this is what MUST result from this disaster. The Oilers must burn the whole rotten structure to the ground. Putting the fools who created the mess in charge of cleaning it up would be completely stupid and there would be no excuse for it.

You want a metaphor with an orifice for being an Oiler fan these days? Think about getting anally raped repeatedly in prison, by your fellow inmates and baton toting guards.

How's that for a pretty picture?