Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God Bless Anne Hathaway







I love movies. I worked in the industry for a couple of years. I was a video store clerk for a few years after I got out of university.

I dig the moving pictures is what I am saying.

When I worked at the video store I saw hundreds of movies easily, especially in the winter. I would work the evening shift and when I closed at ten I would grab three or four videos, walk to my apartment about twenty minutes away and I would end my day with a couple of shows. To bed and then up late in the morning and I'd while away the afternoon with a couple of more and then I'd head into work again. I watched everything. The classics. Foreign films. Indies. This was the early to mid nineties so it was just when Tarantino emerged and so you had an explosion of small films, many of them quite good, nearly every one starring Eric Stoltz or Parker Posey or both of them. A lot of Steve Buschemi and Bridget Fonda too. Quality.

I loved the old black and whites, especially To Have And Have Not and Key Largo. I watched epics from Japan, bloody and sad, with gorgeous swirling colours. Films from France and Germany and Italy. We got everything in our little store and so I saw pretty well anything that came out, right down to the most obscure B movie.

The first couple of times I hung out with the Girl From Rawlins Cross we went to the movies. When we were in school we regularly skipped class to go to the movies. Well we regularly skipped class to do plenty but that was a regular reason. My first date ever - a movie. You get the picture.

Jenn and I used to go to the movies quite a bit, now with us there is a bit of an issue. She and I have different tastes when it comes to movies, television, music. We watch some TV together but when it comes to music we're a million miles apart. With film we're somewhere in the middle. We usually have a tough time finding something that appeals to both of us and so we alternate choices. Quite often it doesn't work out.

And once we had kids going to the movies disappeared off of our social calendar. Nights out were spent having dinner or a few drinks usually - since we had our first child you could probably count on one hand the number of movies we have been to together in seven years so its been a big turnaround for a guy who used to go to the theatre at least once a week never mind what I watched at home.

We always find something we'd rather do and of course its not helped along by the fact that a) we have a hard time agreeing on a flick and b) most of what comes out these days is really shitty anyway and c) my taste for movies that involve a lot of violence has pretty well disappeared since we had kids. Same as television. Just cuts too close to the bone, makes me damn uncomfortable. I just don't find it entertaining. And this is from a guy who loved Reservoir Dogs.

Now we have this new invention (well not that new) called the PVR and I've gotten back into it a bit. The best thing about PVR is that it doesn't cost a thing so you can record a hundred movies and if its crap then you just dump it. And we have a reasonable package so that we can get some pretty decent shit.

And so lately I have seen some old classics, including To Have And Have Not and Raiders of the Lost Ark (perhaps my favourite of all time) and Animal House. And I have also seen some newer stuff and a lot of it has been very good or at least somewhat entertaining. The Hangover and Youth in Revolt (wherein Michael Cera who I like, does not play himself, at least for part of it - way to stretch those acting chops buddy!), Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (hooray for Kat Dennings!), Inglourious Basterds (beauty Tarantino), A History of Violence, The Runaways, The Reader, The Young Victoria. And I saw Monster's Ball for the first time a few weeks ago. Always loved that weirdo Billy Bob.

Coming up this week - Chloe, Kick Ass, She's Out Of My League

And yes you can see that I like the comedies these days when I can get them.

And yes I am aware of the irony that my two favourite movies in that list, the Tarantino and Cronenberg movies, are both extremely violent.

What can I say, I'm an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. That's way the ladies love me. They can't figure me out. I'm el mysterio. ;)

As for Anne Hathaway, well, she has nothing to do with this except she is indeed a woman who works in the motion picture industry. Regardless I say God Bless Her! She deserves nothing less.

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

One of the issues between my wife and I when it comes to movies is that she prefers pat happy endings, the type that Hollywood delights in churning out. I don't blame her. She works with kids who have cancer so she sees enough tragedy in real life but for me, well I prefer a little more ambiguity, lets just say. I'm not into unhappy endings but if it fits the story then so be it.
We have no idea what the story will be when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers and their rebuild. After June 19th 2006 the Oilers' tale was one of momentous failure, think Ishtar on ice (isn't that a Disney show?) except at least Ishtar got made. The Oilers were like a screenplay gathering dust on the shelf while nothing got done to get it made.
After nearly four years of floundering it suddenly became apparent that enough good players had been shipped away without replacing them that yes it was time for an actual rebuild.
And so here we are.
Its early. They haven't even rolled the credits after the opening scene where Anne and I have a roll in the hay (dream sequence for Linus Omark as he deals with culture shock in Oklahoma City - its symbolism man!) and we have no idea if this is going to be Anne Loves Black Dog (hugely satisfying hit that leaves everyone ecstatic!!!), Rudy (uplifting tale but not really that satisfying, I mean buddy gets into the game and we should be amazed?) or The Virgin Suicides (where everyone that is pure and beautiful ends up dead).
But as an Oiler fan one only needs to look at Lowetide's latest top twenty Oiler prospects to feel a little bit of hope. He's six in and doesn't have the potential starting goalie for Canada's WJC club, one of the leading scorers in the AHL, two young right handed defencemen who are growing by leaps and bounds in the minors, another young goalie who has had a pretty nice run in the big leagues, small sample and all, one of the leading scorers in the OHL, a nice two way player in Sweden, a big Finn power forward who is doing pretty well in his first year in the AHL ....
You get the picture. There's a lot of nice young kids on their way and we haven't even mentioned 'the big three' who all look like players or Teddy Peckman. Hell I forgot about Pitlick in that list.
Its going to be a long road (hopefully not one that reminds us of The Road) and who knows where it will lead but at this moment as an Oilers' fan one can just put Tambo and Lowe out of mind (temporarily at least) and smile at what the last week has brought us.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rock And Roll







My Dad is old school country music, Hank Williams and John Cash, and about the most rock and roll he ever got was Buddy Holly. We went to Sudbury for New Year's last year at the curling club and part of the entertainment was a Buddy Holly impersonator or as my Dad said 'they're having a Buddy Holly guy'. He was pretty excited about that.

Mom is what the old radio stations would call 'easy listening'. Old school crooners and singers like Englebert Humpyourdink and Tom Jones. Awful stuff in my opinion but music is whatever you dig so who am I to say. I can't stand a bit of what my wife listens to and she feels the same way for the most part. Makes long drives excruciating unless its around Christmas and then we put on the carols.

So I'm working on the little ones and they can recognize the Beatles and U2 and they like Van Morrison and I hope it can stem the tide oozing out of Jenn's IPod but really I don't expect them to like what I like. Maybe thirty years down the road they'll dig the Hip and Blue Rodeo and Neil Young and Pearl Jam. God if they're worth anything they'll know that Neil Young is the
rock and roll.
I didn't learn about rock and roll from my folks that's for sure so I don't think the midgets will follow in my footsteps. My first exposure to the rock music was in Doug Catton's basement. I would have been around ten. Doug's family lived across from the neighbourhood rink. He was the third of four and he and his younger brother shared a room and his sister had the other bedroom and his oldest brother lived in the basement. His brother was in high school and he had a job and a big 70s muscle car and he smoked and he barely tolerated it when we lingered downstairs. But that was the first time I heard Kiss and Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

Rock and roll.

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

Although I wouldn't call the win over the Avs a total handjob I don't think I have enjoyed a game more in a long time and that includes the handjobs against the Blackhawks and the Flames earlier in the year. The kids took advantage of a tired Colorado club to have a nice third period and the last two minutes were worth the price of admission, first Paajarvi's rushes and then the final foray by Eberle and the crosscrease pass to Hall who made no mistake.

Throw in some typical Stortini doggedness and an unusually angry (and thus more effective) Penner (maybe they told him that he's stuck in Edmonton until the end of his contract?) and it was an enjoyable game to watch.

But there was one guy who made the night for me.

Theo Peckham.

It helps that Theo can actually play. He can skate and he can move the puck pretty well. He's got decent instincts and while there are times he gets the yips out there for the most part he's not running around like, say, Matt Greene did back in the day. And speaking of Greene for the most part Theo stays out of the box unless he's been after somebody. He doesn't beat a steady path there for getting his stick on someone after they've gone around him.

Theo has had some seasoning and it shows. He's played in the minors for a while and he's not a teenager and he can play.

And man he is entertaining. He runs guys over and takes no prisoners and he hurts guys and the Oilers have been waiting for a guy like this for a while, a guy who can play defence and punish the other team with exuberance. He's a throwback too, a guy who goes after little fuckers like Sean Avery when they go running down the tunnel, a guy who punishes the rats like Matt Cooke and Claude Lemieux.

I was watching last night and everytime Theo ran someone over I was laughing and snorting and scratching myself with great enthusiasm. This kid makes this terrible terrible team awfully fun to watch when he's on the ice.

He's like couch sex after the kids have been put to bed. Raw and rough and a little bit dirty and a goddamn good show all the way.

Fucking rock and roll. Theo Peckham.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Accept All Of Your Conditions




A number of years ago I was out with a couple of buddies and the one fellow says that if you put a jellybean into a jar every time you had sex with your girlfriend and then once you got married you took one out every time you had sex you would never empty the jar.

I was all like, jellybeans?

I fucking love jellybeans. Love them.

Now here's the thing and I'm sure the married fellows out there will agree. Its not marriage that does in the sex life, its the arrival of kids on the scene. Which is kind of ironic when you think about it. You come home after hockey with a few pints in you, the wife has had some wine, next thing you know you're doing the eee-eee eee-eee and the result, the baby, puts the damper on the situation repeating itself. The will is there but its finding the time and the energy that is the problem.

That's irony, right? I always find myself questioning the whole irony thing ever since Alanis called a bunch of nonironic things ironic. If you have ten thousand spoons and no knives that's not ironic, that's plain old mental illness. And rain on your wedding day?

Its called the weather.

Now I can't complain, let me start by saying this. My wife enjoys a little roll in the hay as much as I do, the issue is that same old song, men and women are different. A buddy of mine was telling me how one night with the kids abed he and his wife were watching a movie and she turns to him and asks if he wants to have sex and here's the thing for all two or three women who read this, if there are that many.

You don't ever have to ask a guy if he wants to have sex. Give me a sock and some lotion and I'll figure something out, ok. We get repetitive strain disorders from masturbating. Its the way we are wired. I will be on the subway coming home from work and I will have to hold my coat in front of my crotch because I am thinking of a time we had sex six years ago.

As my pal said, she could have whipped out a fifty page contract and he would not even have read it. He would have said 'I accept all of your conditions', signed the bottom and dropped his pants.

Always ready and willing. And you know what? It doesn't change. When Jenn moved down to Florida I had been there for a few months already. I got us an apartment and after she arrived we went to visit my grandmother who lived a short distance away with her second husband. About a decade before he had suffered a massive stroke which had robbed him of his speech and had done a lot of damage to his body but not his mind. He was three months short of ninety at this time, two months away from the stroke that would finally lay him low but he was still sharp. His mind was all there. And apparently his libido as well.

So we arrive and now Jenn is twenty three at this time, all legs and beautiful body and flashing eyes and ok you get the picture. And she comes in and I introduce her and as my grandmother talks to her I look over at Walter and he is staring at her like he's about ready to leap out of his wheelchair and he catches me looking at him and he grins and winks and nods.

Apparently nothing but death can keep a good man, er, down.

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

I missed the first period on Tuesday night which sounds like it was a good thing to do but I caught the last two periods and the funny thing is that even though the Coyotes put the boots to them in the end I had no problem with what I saw of the Oilers' game. They're shitty alright but here they were playing a pretty good club and while the game was in the balance they had two lines that were putting it to Phoenix pretty good. They didn't get anything to show for it but both the Horcoff and the Hemsky lines gave their opponents fits.

Of course the problem is that you can't roll two lines in the NHL because when those guys weren't on the ice things went off the rails.

Renney's complaints after the game echoed, for me at least, the lamentations of Craig MacTavish and Pat Quinn. Tom you can ream the players all you want but you've been dealt a bum hand allround. You need two more lines of useful players and a couple of more D and then maybe you can compete. Right now running this lineup out there is like taking a knife to a gunfight. You can't win. You realize that right? You're fucked. Just like we are.

As pointed out elsewhere Dave Tippett could run out line after line of useful veteran players, guys who could hold their own against the Oilers' best and run roughshod over Cogliano and the fourth line as well as the makeshift D.

And so it comes back to the same old story for the Oilers. Not enough good players. I know, I know, obvious, right? But for all the talk of filling holes here and there it comes down to the fact that Edmonton has bled quality for five years now and hasn't replaced barely a one who has left. Lupul begets Pitkanen who begets Cole who begets O'Sullivan and now its Vandermeer.

My God.

Its between this team and the Isles for that coveted first pick and so it will be Larsson or Couturier who will get picked next summer I believe.

And at that point will the monkeys begin to actually add quality to this club or will they tank another season?

Here's the thing. They are far away but really the gap can be bridged if management is smart. All signs point to them not being smart but work with me here. Believe for a minute. Suspend all disbelief.

Presently there are six top nine forwards on this club. Horcoff. Hemsky. Penner. Gagner. Eberle. Hall. And yes I realize that Hall and Eberle are works in progress.

I think that we can all agree that while Paajarvi has struggled he probably has a bright future and so can be pencilled in as well.

So you need two more top nine guys, maybe more if Hemsky and Penner walk but lets not think about that right now. Two more top nine players.

And based on the fact that your top nine is green you probably want more than your normal filler on the fourth line. Now it seems that Renney has taken a dislike to Stortini for God who knows why so our friend from Elliot Lake may be shown the door along with Cogliano and Brule when the time comes. And Jacques and Fraser and MacIntyre are all pretty well pointless as far as I am concerned. Jones is alright but he cannot win a draw or PK so .....

And of course there is the D which is a shambles as we knew it would be. Poor Tom Gilbert started the season well and then it went ino the ditch and I've never seen a guy with the yips so bad. And after a dozen or so bad games folks are ready to run a quality NHL defender out of town so hey, maybe Edmonton fans are getting what they deserve really. But I digress. I mean the guy doesn't hit right? Get rid of him.

Smid and Peckham may top off as a 5/6 or they may get better but right now this club is short two serious quality blueliners. We knew this coming in and one wonders what the plan is. Do they hang in there and wait for Plante and Petry to come of age? Is Larsson the target if they have a shot or do they go for the big centre?

And what of Penner and Hemsky? Third period of the last game, down four, on two successive rushes it was Gagner and then Hemsky who busted their asses coming back to break up a dangerous situation. On the last goal it was Penner who was seen to be left wanting as he cruised into the zone and while that doesn't bother me as much as it would bother some, I am guessing amongst the some bothered would be his coach and probably the general manager. If I were a betting man I would bet that Penner is going to get sent away for a young Dman if they can get him.

Not saying its right, far from it, but I'm thinking they put their money on Ales, if he'll have them, and that's how it plays out.

Which means we're short another NHL player up front.

Round and round she goes.

In any case, back to point as it were. A look at the list of UFAs and you can find a lot of quality NHLers who won't break the bank. Fiddler. Glencross. Dvorak. Reasoner. Fedotenko. Belanger. Sjostrom. Brent. Asham. Nichol. Halpern. Konopka. Thoresen. Dupuis. Hejda. Wallin.
Surely to god you can pick up two or three of these guys and get this club on the road to recovery, no? Sjostrom, for example. Buddy kills penalties and works like a dog and blocks shots and you could do a lot worse.

We can see how you can do a lot worse every time the Oilers hit the ice.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Odds Sods and Clods


Just a little stream of consciousness to start off the week, sort of a la King, so like Larry let me start off with this:

Where the hell did I put my pants? Goddamnit! .... Just had a contractor in wanting to change our water pipes, he tells me he is known as Honest John. You know buddy, an honest guy wouldn't need to let me know that, I'm thinking .... Preface this with 'its early' I - Theo Peckham looks like an NHL defenceman, we're talking the real deal .... Luck and sports - I started my Capsule season with a goal in three straight games and seven points in the first four, since then I have played just as well but have a total of one assist in four games, just not getting the bounces .... Every year we do a mini family trip for four or five days. This past summer was Ottawa, looks like Montreal next summer. Montreal is fantastic, especially the strip clubs. They're going to love it!
Preface this with 'its early' II - Devan Dubnyk has had a nice little run going back to last season. Hard to say if he will be a successful starter but it looks to me that at the very least he can be a reasonable backup in this league .... To say Chicago has the Canucks' number is like saying that ... well, something that is extremely obvious, like the Sutter brothers are going to have a lot more time to ranch after this season .... say what you will about the Wings but damn they're ridiculous .... Datsyuk and Lidstrom last night were beyond absurd .... also the first time I have seen Bouwmeester show any emotion whatsoever when he reacted to that penalty call .... Made a fancy dinner for the wife Saturday, pork medallions in red wine and cranberries, garlic mash, asparagus, vanilla ice cream with homemade butterscotch sauce, told friends of ours about it on Sunday, she was really giving him the gears .... had to take a cab home, he slashed my tires
Just to quickly chime in on Tyler Dellow's work last week, first of all it was just terrific stuff and secondly it was interesting to see the reaction .... you had douchebags like Damien Cox attacking Tyler personally, guys like Kypreos dismissing it and then actually backtracking, a number of columnists coming out with the 'Colie' is a terrific guy angle and then a surprisingly large number (and wide range) of folks not buying the weak defence that the NHL and Campbell came up with - Larry Brooks, Steve Simmons, Bruce Arthur and others taking the evidence and running with it. My take? Basically another example of why the NHL is regarded as bush or a garbage league. There's no way that Campbell should be in his position, regardless of his integrity, which absolutely everyone vouches for. If the conflict of interest is apparent then he should be removed. And yes, its true that this was never raised despite Greg Campbell's being in the league for a few years now but these emails show that Campbell is questioning officials on calls about his son. That is a conflict of interest.

Sign Ales Hemsky now. That is all .... And Penner too and yes I know he's suddenly the goat. Again .... Lose these two guys and the rebuild becomes another year or two longer .... I know this is really out there but I'm a big fan of the hot sex with my wife. Big big fan. Hard to believe I know .... Two years ago I was lamenting how Tottenham Hotspur had just torn the guts out of a perfectly fine team that was coming off a League Cup title but I have to say that they seem to have known what they were doing .... here we are in the Champions League, coming off a tremendous win over Inter Milan and then this past weekend knocking off Arsenal on their pitch .... so apparently they knew what they were doing?? .... Nothing better than being a parent and hearing glowing reports on them from anyone, parent teacher night left me with a swelled head about Thing #1 and Thing #2, lets just say. Great stuff.

Hall and Eberle are hanging in there. Paajarvi not so much. If you're going to give him five fourth line minutes a night then send him to OKC and give him twenty a night. This isn't about marketing, its about what's best for the kid's career .... Andrew Cogliano, dying on the vine .... Gilbert Brule, Robert Nilsson's contract all over again .... the Cogliano/Brule pairing is where LWs and the Oilers' hopes and dreams go to die .... the biggest problem with the Oilers, this year and every year for a while now, not enough good hockey players, stating the obvious there, I know .... Great Lakes Winter Ale and Trafalgar Oatmeal Stout, St. Peter's Winters Ale and Cream Stout, my God I love winter beers .... I actually injured myself masturbating this summer, no word of a lie, pulled something in my shoulder, it was really painful .... speaking of jerking off I have a buddy who is pretty sure he has a form of Carpal Tunnel because of his predeliction for pulling .... I don't know if the Leafs are going to be bad enough to be in the lottery but I'm kind of hoping just because it would be absolutely hilarious if they gave up two lottery picks for Phil Kessel. Oopsy .... Except for the Oilers just an absolutely terrific year for sports all round with long suffering fans in New Orleans and San Francisco celebrating championships, the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Cup, Spurs' return to some form of relevance, Canadian success at the Olympics .... Pretty cool all round.

Oilers lack for personnel on the PK I know but when you need over twenty stright PK successes to move to twenty ninth in the league it might be time to look at the strategy, no? .... Tom Gilbert has lost all confidence, I haven't seen a guy have such a tough time in a while .... Feel good story of the year for the Oilers - Shawn Horcoff bouncing back .... cats are retarded. I have firsthand knowledge of this now .... Someone should tell Daryl Katz that one way to make more money would be to get some playoff revenue once in a while. What's that? Not happening? hey Daryl, what do you do with underperforming executives at Rexall? Just saying .... When Pat LaForge is shown the door I am going to hold a parade. It may just be me but I have a feeling we might get a good showing .... LaForge just oozes sincerity doesn't he? Or something anyhow.

Back in October I noted that November's schedule was a bastard and it has been. December is slightly softer, eight at home, five away and a few teams that might be beaten. Should see a few more wins before the new year comes. Looks like its a two horse race for number thirty at this point - Oilers and Islanders all the way. My how the once mighty have fallen.

Lets have a great week everyone! Wife is working quite a bit and with American Thanksgiving work may be a little slack so hopefully I can make up for the dearth of posts lately.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is A Handjob Out Of The Question When I Come Home?


This is for Travis who is worried that I am losing my sense of humour or something.

The funny thing about this is that as longtime followers of this blog know we actually conceived our third kid after a night of beer league hockey. Friday, October 26th 2008. We beat our longtime rivals the Bombers 2-1 at De La Salle. I assisted on both goals and both were beauts. First of all I looked off the D and then whipped a pass from the corner cross crease for a Dave Dobson tap in. And then while covering the point for a pinching Dman, I slap passed to that same Dman, Leo Magnatta, who had an easy tap in himself for the winning goal.

Yes I take my beer league hockey far too seriously. But you knew that.

Later after a few pints I came home to find Jenn with a few glasses of wine inside her and ended up putting it top shelf where she keeps her ovaries.

And yeah, this is genius, an oldie but a goodie:


When I come home I will get in bed, tell you about a goal I scored and then we can feel sexy and fool around like we did twenty years ago.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Uncle



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.



Oh yeah.



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
Hall -1



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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lost One


I once wrote that in every small town in Canada you will find a hockey arena, a hotel and a war memorial but the truth is that even in the smallest villages of this country you may not find an arena or a hotel but you will find a war memorial.

In Toronto the churches along Bloor and the Danforth that I see daily have memorials to young men long gone. Along the widest avenue there are towering monuments similar to what you see in Edinburgh and London and Glasgow (though not in Dublin). The university has a beautiful memorial and in the fraternity houses there are solemn plaques to commemorate the fallen. In Truro and Sudbury and Fernie, in Charlottetown in the centre of the town at the end of the main street, in tiny wooden rural PEI churches built in the 1800s, overlooking rolling fields of green and the Northumberland Strait, everywhere you go in this country the names of young men are carved into stone or bronze or oak so that we will not forget them.

In Flesherton, a tiny Ontario village, eighty four young men enlisted to fight the Kaiser. Nineteen did not return.

A map of a portion of East York, not far from where I live, places poppies over the addresses of boys slaughtered in France and Belgium. The street names are obscured by a sea of red. Neighbours lost sons and husbands. Some houses have more than one poppy. A bloody sea of grief and horror.

In tiny Goulais River, west of the Soo, perched just before the Highlands of Lake Superior rise out of the granite of the Canadian Shield, there is no hotel and no hockey arena but there's a war monument and there are far more names on it than you would expect for a town perched on what would have been the edge of the world a century ago.

Sometime in the 1880s my great great grandfather, Neil McLean, his wife Margaret and his family of eight children left what had been the family homestead for decades and moved to Kincardine in Bruce County. I have been researching the family for years and for a while there was a massive gap in what I knew. Two of the sons, the oldest, Malcolm, and the youngest, Neil, had appeared in Goulais River soon after but of their parents and their siblings nothing more was to be found.

A few years ago I found that Neil and Margaret were actually buried in Goulais and the picture began to become clearer. Then this past year it came into focus as I discovered census records that showed that actually the entire family but one of the oldest sons, Duncan, had sailed across Lake Huron and settled in Goulais almost immediately after they arrived in Kincardine. After this things become murky again. Of Duncan I have found no trace. One son, John, perished on Superior. His body was never recovered. Two daughters and a son moved west and were still alive when Neil passed away in 1929. The third daughter also disappears from the picture after the turn of the century. Malcolm or Uncle Mac as he was known, lived into his nineties, a relic of times long past that my dad and his siblings remember as a kind and gentle man.

In 1901 there is someone else in the picture in Goulais. a widower, Nicholas McLean, and his son Ivan, a twelve year old. Are they related to our McLeans? Based on family stories the answer is yes but how they are related, I don't know. Nicholas, born in 1853, is almost twenty five years younger than old Neil McLean, the family patriarch. In fact he is almost Malcolm's age, just a few years younger. Perhaps he is a cousin? There are two separate accounts of Ivan being related, one mention of him being a cousin of my grandfather's brother, another of him being my grandfather's uncle. He is definitely not my grandfather's uncle but one thinks that that traditionally we called older friends of family Uncle and Aunt and so I wonder if that is how he was referred to in the McLean family by some.

We know little about Nicholas. Ivan was born on July 5th, 1889 in or around Toronto. In 1891 the baby Ivan and his parents, Nicholas and Jane show up a ways from Toronto, in Grey County. In 1893 another baby, Norman, is born.

We don't know what happened to Jane but in 1901 Nicholas is in Goulais with this oldest son. In 1911 Norman is also in Goulais, living with his father. Ivan, now in his early twenties, is on his own but still in Goulais.

In the history of Goulais River, Valley of Trees and Water, there is a picture taken from around this time. Its some sort of club or service organization, I cannot remember which one. Ivan stands in the back. He is tall for a McLean (and for the time). He has a large, drooping mustache and he looks at the camera seriously. I have not seen the picture in a couple of years but I know that at least one of the other young men in the picture went to France and did not return.

My grandfather was barely a teenager when the armistice was signed and my own father turned thirteen when the war with Hitler ended. They were both the oldest in their families. My grandfather's youngest brother Morley fought in World War Two and his wife Etna served in the WACs in the same war. Other McLean involvement in the wars is a little cloudier. Stories tell of Uncle Mac fighting in both wars (he would have been 82 at the beginning of the second war) and also of Neil the younger fighting in the Great War. I could find no record of Neil McLean in service records of the CEF though and as a father of many in his late thirties I don't think that he enlisted.

One McLean who did go to France was Ivan. His service record tells us a lot about him, although his last name is spelled MacLean. Its the same Ivan McLean though, he has the same birthday and his father is Nicholas.

Ivan was a lumberman by trade and when war broke out he was working in the west apparently. He immediately enlisted in the 31st Battalion and would have shipped out to France very early.

For a record of the exploits of the 31st battalion I would recommend The Journal of Private Fraser, a book I actually owned before discovering Ivan's service record earlier this year. Donald Fraser describes in great detail what the regular infantryman had to endure. Its a terrible tale.

In September of 1916 its the Canadian divisons' turn at the Battle of The Somme. This is before Vimy Ridge and before Arthur Currie turns the Canadian Army into the elite force it would be in the last two years of the war but even in 1916 the Canadians are recognized for their ability in battle.

On September 15th they go over the top and begin the last part of the battle, a battle which they would successfully conclude a month or so later, a battle that cost the British the flower of an entire generation.

On September 15th the artillery does little to dent the German trenches and German rifles and machine guns take a terrible toll, a toll that Fraser describes in detail as he watches his comrades killed around him.

By the end of the first day of the battle the 31st has lost over a quarter of its strength, over two hundred and seventy men. Whereas usually there are a fraction of casualties who are killed, in this battle over half of those casualties are fatal.

One of them is Ivan McLean. His body was never recovered. His name is found on the Canadian monument at Vimy Ridge.

On November 11th, remember him and remember all of them.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Polish Polish. Free Linus!


I was at my sausage guy just about an hour ago to order my usual.

And yes that's the type of guy I am. I not only have "a sausage guy" but I have a usual with him.

When it comes to eats and drinks I'm very much a guys' guy. That and my unrelenting sex drive is what I fall back on when my father in law hands me a hammer and I stare at like a dumb animal or when my Dad calls the boy 'the son I never had' after he (the boy) spends an hour quizzing my old man on the workings of an outboard motor while I sit on the deck reading a book about pleasuring my wife.

As my wife said last night when I came up between periods to cop a feel (denied! by the presence of her parents) 'Oh, he's just watching some hockey drinking his manly beer'.

Was at the LCBO the other day and was heartened by the appearance of the strong beers of winter - the stouts and winter ales. Kick. Ass. Highly recommended. Great stuff coming out of England as well as locally these days.

Anyhow I'm grabbing my sausage, as I am wont to do, and the woman in front of me is telling your man John, my sausage guy, to make sure that the sausage is well done and that its sliced a certain way and etc etc and she turns to me and says 'they boil them right' and I answer that I don't know, sometimes my wife boils them at home, but my wife doesn't work for John so she might want to ask him.

Goes right over her head.

And then John says 'yessir' and I say Polish sausage please and he replies 'Polish Polish' like he always does and I smile because all is right with the world.

But really if you're buying a sausage from a guy on the side of the road with a portable cart and you are concerned about how its being made then you may be unclear on the concept. If it doesn't taste like its been dropped on the ground a couple of times then personally I'm pretty disappointed.

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

Well, we got another handjob last night I would say, no? Another win over the defending champs in their barn and Hall was absolutely terrific I think and even the one downer, Horcoff's knee going wonky, appears to be nothing more than a day to day issue, thank dog for that.

But if he cannot make it Tuesday night or even for another game or two is it not time to call up our friend Linus Omark. Little man is tearing up the AHL. Five goals last night.

Five!

Check out the highlights and really what is impressive to me is that he's scoring from right there. Three of the four that they have tape of at the Oilers's site are scored from a couple of feet out, max. He's not scared to get in there and get dirty. I'll bet when he orders a sausage from his sausage guy he doesn't fuck around. He probably drops it on the ground himself and kicks it around, maybe butts a cigarette out into it. He doesn't fuck around, our man Linus, such a man that he pronounces his name like Penis.

Now of course all of this means is that he may be a skinny Nordic version of noted minor league whirling dervish Bruce Boudreau but I'd say it may be time to see what the kid can do in the show. When we saw him a couple of weeks ago there was no doubting his compete level or his willingness to engage bigger men to get that puck. And he has skill. The big issue, with most kids, is his play without the puck but then again its not like the Oilers are running a squad of Bob Gaineys and Steve Larmers out there, right?

Bring him up. Move Brule or Penner to centre for a game or two. After all the kid has big frigging balls. Lets see what he can do with that attitude against the best in the world.

Free Linus.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Ministic Lake Monster







We've had our log cabin for over forty years now, tucked away in a bay in the northern woods. A man named Jack Arthur had three lots on a typical lake on the Shield, pickerel and perch, bass and the odd pike and even whitefish, our neighbour caught one once, pine and spruce forest, thick tangled bush, white birch and tall poplars and maple and gnarled oak, sheer granite walls and enormous boulders scattered about by the retreat of glaciers.
I remember Jack Arthur from when I was a boy. He likely would have been my Dad's age now, in his late seventies, a quiet smiling white haired man who lived in his cabin year round, perched on a plateau overlooking the lake, to get to it you had to climb a steep hill, the path carved into the sheer drop of it. Only boat access and he was there right through the winter, thirty five below, the lake frozen, the wind whipping up that cliff and howling through the pines. We used to make that winter trip once a year, drive up an old logging road, loading our sleigh, we kids piled into it, Mom and Dad on the blue SnoJet, through the woods and then across the lake to the camp with its wood stove for heat. My Dad and his best friend Otto, who owned the camp next door, a couple of pals from work as well and their families. I remember the cold and sliding down the hill that our camp sits on with Otto's son and I remember Dad and his best friend in the sauna and then out and into the lake through a hole they had cut in the ice.

Completely mental.

So Jack Arthur had this land and sometime a half century ago he built a cabin on it. Nobody knows where it is except its somewhere back in the woods. Maybe there is nothing left but a tumbledown of rotten logs, roof caved in by a fallen tree. More likely its still standing somewhere back there although it would take some search to find it. The tangled woods claim everything quickly, a path that once connected us to the cabin on our right is long overgrown, I tried to take my kids down there this past summer and despite having travelled it a thousand times as a boy (the neighbour had the entire collection of 1979 Playboys in his outhouse) I couldn't even make a start to it.

For some reason Jack didn't like his prototype and so it was abandoned. He did build three log cabins along with sheds and outhouses and in two cases, saunas. He divided up the land and sold it. Dad bought the middle camp. His best friend bought the one on our left.

We grew up on that lake. Had some great times as a kid but the thing I remember most is the friendship between my Dad and Otto. They were a couple of hardcore Northerners. Otto was from Porcupine and Dad was born in Wawa and grew up in the Soo and Franz. If a separatist party had ever sprung from the Shield Otto would have led the charge, his mantra was 'Proud To Be A Northerner'. They both had that legendary old man strength but whereas in Dad it was hidden in the sinew and wire of a smaller man, Otto was a bear, a big bearded Finlander with a barrel chest, massive arms and a bigger grin, pipe clenched between his teeth. I remember he and Dad having at a massive tree that had to come down, taking turns at it, first one and then the other, Dad matching him, Otto cheering him on. They were quite the pair, an intercom wire running through the woods, early in the morning, coffee on, the smell of bacon and then Otto's voice booming out of the tiny primitive box in the corner of the kitchen. Good morning Partner! What's on for today?

Usually what was on was working on a project or another. A dock needing work or a roof or deck needing repair. And then that afternoon a few (!) beers and a sauna and maybe waterskiing or company from across the lake and a barbeque and then into the night laughter and talk into the late and we kids would nod off to the rumble of our fathers' voices.

And they were trouble those two. My old man told me about the old days working in some small town and their crew in some hotel on the edge of town and the beer and rum flowing and suddenly brawling with the locals and fists flying and then Otto wading in, roaring, bodies flying about as he cracked heads and tossed men about, my old man chortling at the sheer foolishness of anyone taking on his best friend.

One time they had to go into town to pick up some supplies for a job. They had their money and so late morning they got into Otto's big aluminum boat (the Queen Mary he called it) and fired up the Merc and headed across the lake. Its about fifteen to twenty minutes to the landing and then another fifteen along an old cordorouy road to the highway and then ten into the nearest town with a lumberyard.

So a couple of hours pass and then a couple of more and now its midafternoon and no sign. But there are no worries because the thought is that they've stopped in at the hotel for a sandwich and a couple of beers.

And then its late afternoon and now there's a bit of worry creeping in but not really, they have more than a few pals on the lake, there are two other fellows from where they work and Labine, a madman whose camp sits right outside the narrows, if he saw them with a load of lumber putting along he'd certainly wave them in for a beer and God knows it was impossible to get away from his table once you were sitting at it.

And then supper comes and supper goes and darkness is falling and in the north darkness falls pretty late in the summer and now there is real worry and of course this is before cell phones and even if they had them there's no coverage in the middle of God's country and they haven't a landline even so there's no calling around to see if anyone has seen them. And just as our moms are starting to think about taking the boat across the lake to see if they can track down their wayward husbands we hear a familiar drone from out of the pitch black. (It gets so dark up there that you're flying blind if you're coming across the water after sunset but they and we had done it so many times it was second nature).

And sure enough it was them. They had tied the boat up and stumbled up the hill laughing (our moms' faces getting angrier and angrier) and the door burst open and they staggered in after a good day of drinking and as they faced the music Otto explained that they hadn't gone into town and had a couple and then spent their money at the beer store and come back to the landing hours ago and taken the boat over to a pal's where they had spent a glorious afternoon in the sun drinking cold beer until they finally realized that they could postpone their punishment any longer and so loaded up the boat with driftwood and scrap and then putted across the lake.

No what had happened is that as they had just come out of the narrows an enormous creature had risen from the depths of the lake and overturned the Queen Mary, tossing them into the water and scattering the newly purchased lumber. Why they had barely escaped with their lives! How could there be such anger when they had just survived a harrowing encounter with:

The Ministic Lake Monster

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

After ten games there have been no traumatic surprises for Oiler fans. Note - put those two words together. Traumatic. Surprises. All of the trauma was seen coming along time ago.

Everything that we thought would be shitty has been shitty. The penalty kill remains abysmal, hard to believe I know. Its only been a couple of years that everyone and his dog (!) have been calling for some help here as what was once an strength has become a disaster. Barely anybody can win a draw and very few players can check their hat. Besides the PK the biggest issue (again not a surprise) is a D where everyone is being forced to play over their head. And a small and young team is getting pushed around. Again.

Despite the presence of Steve MacIntyre! Who knew!

Lets focus on the positives, shall we? Hell, we have to at this point, its been a long four years and counting with little to cheer about. So here goes a little more than nothing.

1/ Goaltending has been decent. Dubnyk had one start and was terrific. Khabibulin as been reasonable (faint praise I guess but what can I say).

2/ Horcoff has rebounded from an awful year with a good start almost right across the board.

3/ Eberle is the real deal. Most importantly he actually knows his way around the ice outside of the opposition's end. Great stuff for a rookie.

4/ Theo Peckham has shown marked improvement. He makes mistakes, sure, but he's neither Matt Greene (always in the box) nor Laddy Smid (hopelessly out of his depth) in their early years. Plus he's an enthusiastic physical presence on the ice. God knows we need more of those.

5/ Ales Hemsky has gusted from good to great for the most part. We love Ales and we need to extend him. He's not perfect but he's serious quality.

6/ Umm, okay running out of good things already. The farm team has been pretty solid. Omark is a bit of a cherry picker but sooner or later he has to get his shot in the show I think. He wins his puck battles, he can skate and he produces at ES.

7/ Hall and Paajarvi have looked like rookies a lot but they have shown flashes of what is to come and really this year is all about hope. So that's good.

8/ Gagner has been solid if not spectacular.

9/ We've had two handjobs out of ten games. I think we had two all year last season. So that's an improvement.

10/ A bunch of players are growing stashes for Movember. For me its every second year so next year I will try and top last year's monstrousity. But good on them for raising money for a great cause so that hopefully someday we won't be getting fingers stuck up our asses as a matter of course. Of course if you're into that, then carry on.

Have a great weekend everybody.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Highway To Hell




Because of circumstance I had to get up to my folks' place last week. It had to be after work hours (out of holidays and personal days). I could not take a car as it was certainly too far (would have ended up in a ditch due to tiredness). I could not take a train or plane because, well, I'm cheap. Plus a train takes too long.

So for the first time in twenty years or so I took a Greyhound.

I took it a number of times when I was in school but as soon as I could get a hold of a car or found friends who were making the trip then I stopped. Despite the fact that as a lad I would drink anything, eat anything, smoke anything, sleep anywhere, sleep with anyone, you get the picture, there was at least one thing that even I despised.

The five hour bus ride to Sudbury.

My Dad dropped me off to come back to Toronto on Saturday afternoon and looking around he remarked that he had not taken a bus in sixty years. Again, basically as soon as he was an adult and able to find another way, it was out of the question. This from a guy who will cut a hole in the ice and GO FOR A SWIM or who enjoys, more than anything, spending weeks in the bush. Here's a guy who thinks that if you are not sleeping on the ground then you are spoiled rotten, whose idea of a good time is eating beans from a can in the pouring rain in the middle of nowhere. But the bus? Take a pass on that motherfucker, no thank you.

First of all the bus smells. It smells of exhaust and vomit and piss and smoke and despair. Its dirty and well I'm going to sound like an awful snob here but my God. For every student or backpacker there are a dozen folks who are bikers, ex convicts, meth addicts, unwashed, toothless, criminally insane, drunken, high, morbidly obese, twitchy (not in a good way), overly medicated, religiously fanatic or a varied combination of the above list. Looking around the depot I noted one fellow leaning against the lockers muttering to himself with quite a bit of agitation and noted to make sure not to sit next to him. There was another guy with a massive fu manchu exactly like the one I grew for Movember last year but of course without a hint of irony. Nor did he have a tooth in his head. There was a woman chainsmoking in the bay, talking loudly to everyone in the frantic manner of someone who was pretty fucking concerned that five hours lay before her without a hit.

And the list went on and on. I swear when I reached my destination I expected to see the Statue of Liberty out my window. I thought I'd disembark on an island with a field full of plain wooden crosses marking the poor victims of typhus, cholera and consumption who had come before me, to be met and poked and prodded by some smirking bureaucrat who would, with sympathy, tell me that from now on I would be known as Smith because who the hell can pronounce those funny sounding foreign names.

All kidding aside on my way up north on the red eye as I drifted in and out of a fitful sleep I kept noting my seatmate, face hidden deep in his hood, smelling of smoke, and all I could think of was that poor bastard out on the prairie. His name was McLean too you know!

I had a smoke with buddy at the last stop there, in Moose Jaw, you know. Buddy was a real nice guy, and so we're on the bus and suddenly I hear screaming and here's buddy getting hacked to pieces and so we all run out of the bus and I'm lighting up a smoke and here's buddy and he's got buddy's head in his hand! Jesus!

Of course as an Edmonton Oilers' fan I fit right in with the other dregs and jetsam. Probably somewhere else on the interweb some dude is writing about his trip from Toronto to Flin Flon and he's lamenting :

For every student or backpacker there are a dozen folks who are bikers, ex convicts, meth addicts, unwashed, toothless, criminally insane, drunken, high, morbidly obese, twitchy (not in a good way), overly medicated, religious fanatics or a varied combination of the above list. Plus I saw some fucker in an Oilers hat staring at my moustache, the fucker. What a fucking loser. Man they'll sell anyone a ticket. I hate the bus but I can't afford anything more on account of I was on my way to Flin Flon to get my new teeth. Plus I huff paint thinner.

The only thing that ever got my hopes up about a bus ride was the thought that at some point I was going to get an anonymous handjob. Seriously. And before you mock me let me just say that when I was talking about the bus at my hockey game on Saturday night the guy beside me said exactly the same thing. That forlorn unrequited hope was all that kept him sane back in the day too.

That's the Penthouse Forum generation for you, another thing ruined by the Internet by the way. Seriously I grew up on the "I used to read your letters and think they were bullshit until the other day .... my seventh cousin twice removed .... didn't have my swimsuit, she just smiled and said 'who cares?' .... creamy white jugs like casaba melons ... hairy pink valley of love ... my enormous love pipe".

And so yeah when I get on a Greyhound I'm expecting my handjob!

Fact is best case would be a gummer from a toothless meth head who just wants a smoke in return or maybe, just maybe, some dope fiend who, for a finski, would take your member in her chapped bleeding hand, all it would take was that simple touch for it to turn black and fall off from countless unnamed plagues.

So yeah. The bus eats it. Stupid bus ride in the dark without a handjob.

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Honestly we figured the Oilers' season would be like a cross country Greyhound ride. We knew it. Even with the rookies doing pretty well and the goaltending being, well, I think better than average, and everyone healthy so far and Horcoff rebounding for a great start, the penalty killing eats it and there's nobody to play tough minutes and the team gets pushed around and the D is pretty well horrible.

When I wrote about this club I said a whole lot of things had to go right for them to be out of the lottery but the problem is that there are far too many things. So while Eberle has really been absolutely terrific and both Hall and Paajarvi have shown flashes and Peckham has certainly been a pleasant surprise on the back end, there still is the issue of having not enough checkers and not enough size and nobody who can win a draw. And nothing is going to turn Gilbert and Whitney into a top pairing and Smid and Foster into a three/four and hell Strudwick and Vandermeer aren't even a reasonable bottom pairing.

Although Renney rolling them there lines sure isn't helping those poor bastards.

So nine games in and eight points and a regulation win on the road (!) is probably better than we had hoped, especially when we look at the kids. Really it is.

Plus we have gotten two unexpected handjobs, one in the first game against the Flames, one against the defending champs.

So, well, its been way better than the ride I took last week, that's for sure. If I can get a couple of handjobs every ten games or so. I'll take it. You?