Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bucket


When I moved to PEI I didn't know a soul there so looking back things worked out pretty well. After eleven months there I ended up with a girl who would become my wife, my wonderful dog and a number of friends, including one fellow who I would have to count amongst my best friends. He worked at the company I signed on for and after a few weeks he asked me if I wanted to get out one night and as Rick Blaine once said, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. He's a bit of a madman and a great fellow most of all and we've had some terrific times.

Every year when we get back there he and I get together a few times and one of those involves a night out on the town and some heavy drinking. Last summer's episode was the usual good fun but overall it left us cold. Dealing with the kids, the sad cougars and a fairly high percentage of arseholes (maybe we're just getting old but it seems like said number is increasing), all while spending a boatload of money got us, and especially him, thinking. So this year when he suggested that we head down east to his family cottage with some steaks, some beer, a few cigars and a bottle of scotch I wholeheartedly agreed that this sounded like a capital idea (twirls cane and wipes monocle with monogrammed handkerchief).

The weather out east has been the shits but it broke for us when we got out there. After working for a few days my holiday started on the Thursday and from then on it was sunny skies so when we headed down to the Montague River it was a hot beautiful day, just perfect. We sat on the porch and polished off the beer and steaks and then settled in to smoke and drink scotch, which I am beginning to acquire a taste for. We traded tales and solved the problems of the world and sometime after nine he remarked that it was strange that his old man had not called him yet, he did every Friday night to briefly shoot the shit. About fifteen minutes later, on cue, the phone rang.

Unfortunately I can't, writing this, make you hear his voice or his accent. He has a unique sound, so to speak, thick, growly, mumbling PEI brogue. After a few hellos and some laughs, he asks us if we're going to be getting some tail. We laugh and say no and he then says the following:

Well now lets say you do want to, this is what you want to do. Drive into Montague and go to the Kentucky Fried Chicken. OK? Get yourself a bucket of chicken and you want to put that bucket of chicken on your dashboard and drive up and down the main street of Montague in your truck. And guaranteed you're going to get all the tail you'd ever want because the girls there are going to see that bucket and think you're rich!

We stopped laughing sometime the next afternoon I think. That evening we (Jenn and I) went to my pal's place for a party and his old man was at the top of the drive having a smoke when we arrived. We walked up, I shook hands, nodded at my wife and thanked him for the bucket idea, it had worked like a charm.

Haw haw haw, he said. Haw haw haw.

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This season, like last season, the bucket for us Oiler fans, as noted already here a few times, will be the future. There are rumours of a trade for a defenceman and of course something may shake loose from some capstrung club but the Oilers need at least two top four defencemen (unless one of the kids makes a leap) plus some goaltending to really make a move. Plus some luck, yes?

Do we agree on that?

Even the most jaded Oilers' fan would have to agree that the kids look to be alright. The list of guys who showed they have chops last year is a long one: Hall, Everle, Paajarvi, Omark, Peckham, Petry, Dubnyk. Shit is going to happen but barring injury or other disaster we're talking seven guys who are going to have NHL careers. Add in Hartikainen and this year's collection of up and comers led by Lander and Hamilton and then all of the kids in junior and in Europe and who are in limbo right now (Nugent Hopkins, Pitlick and so on) and the future looks bright. If Hemsky and Smyth are dealt at the deadline then more pieces will be added and of course the likelihood is another top ten (and very likely a lottery) pick will be added next summer.

The question for the fan (or this fan, anyhow) is when will the future arrive? Will Hemsky and Smyth get moved at the deadline or Smyth ignored as a possible veteran presence for next year's club when it comes to summer signings? How about when Whitney and Gilbert's deals come up? This is coming sooner than we think. Will the club keep pushing the future back? Or is the signing of Belanger a sign that finally the present is almost here? Is the rumour being floated by Bra and Panties a possibility, that the Oilers are going to bring in a top four Dman for a kid or two? Is this a good thing or is it too early?

I'm tired of losing and I am sure the players are too. We're looking at six years out of the playoffs coming up around the bend. Thing is this club is still probably so iffy that a top four Dman might not be enough to get it out of a top ten pick anyways. We may be able to have our cake and eat it too, getting a player who can help when the team becomes good while still getting that high pick.

Personally if the right player is available and the right guys are going back (I know I know hedge your bets you fencesitter, right) then I think its time to start shoring up this roster, adding to the kids, making amove. And I'd sign Hemsky too as long as he's not asking for the moon.

Its time to get things moving in the right direction.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dirty Girl



I once dated a lovely girl one summer long ago. It was a summer fling and when fall came we went our separate ways.

It was pretty casual, we would catch a movie or go for drinks or hit the beach and then head to her place, we both knew that it was to be a shortlived thing.

When it came to between the sheets we had some good times, she was passionate and eager and a lot of fun. She wasn't a talker though, certainly not one of those women you hear about where the neighbours call in the cops because of the noise.

So one day we're hanging out on a patio on a sunny Saturday having a few cold beer, its one of those glorious summer days that you live for, one of the few things I miss about the old days before the kids, those days where you get slowly and pleasantly sloshed in the sun, watching the world ease by as your body and mind slowly get warmly numb. So we be hanging out for a few hours with nothing going on and no particular place to go on the horizon, drinking those beer and as evening comes calling we decide to head home to prepare for a night out with the gang. We get back to her place and one thing leads to another and we're rolling about and then all of a sudden out of nowhere she starts talking a mile of filth.

She was no prude and she could curse with the best of them but I had never imagined her talking like this in this situation, imagine your little old grey granny or your toddler walking in and riffing Samuel L. in Pulp Fiction and you get the idea of the surprise.

(As an aside our youngest is going to be an absolute potty mouth. Presently her favourite word is vagina, not as in 'I had a peepee with my vagina', more like 'You don't do that you vagina!')

It was crazy and a huge turnon and while 'Dirty Girl' (as I called her alterego later) didn't show up all of the time, her occasional appearance made for interesting times.

Yowza.

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With camp right around the corner and another long year ahead of us (I believe) the question is what will get us through another Greyhound trip of a season. Will there be enough anonymous handjobs to make it worth our while. Last year started with a beauty of a game and it wound up with a bit more of the same and while the kids provided us with some thrills overall it wasn't enough to wash the bitter taste from my gullet.

What about this year then? To compare the Oilers' season to a sexual encounter is misleading because a sexual encounter is enjoyable but I'm going to run with this one anyhow because when it comes to sex, as you know, I never pass up an opportunity to use it as a metaphor, no matter how awkward. So if the Oilers' season is going to be the dullest most depressing sex that you can conjure up in your mind then what sort of scenarios will be the equivalent of said dull, depressing partner yelling at you to stick it in their ass?

There are some obvious ones. We know that barring injury we are going to get some beauty moments from Hall and Eberle, Paajarvi and Omark, moments that briefly will ease our boredom and cynicism. Ted Peckman is going to blow some guys up and bring that spirit and elan to the ice that has been missing for years. Ben Eager will viciously assault a Sedin or Kiprusoff and for a moment we will taste a little revenge for all of the years of Reghyr pounding Ales or various Canucks abusing the kids. We will get the return of Smyth and the magic of Hemsky and there will be wonderful comebacks and glory here and there.

What I am looking for though are the really out of the blue thunderbolts that will make us stand up and cheer. Right? Right? That's the whole idea of this thought process. I'm not talking a pounding of the Flames on opening night but rather something unexpected and amazing, although really that opening night last year was just that.

So here are some possibilities.

1/ Teemu Hartikainen comes up when one of the wingers in the top nine goes down and establishes himself as a bona fide option in that role.

2/ One of the kids, Lander or Hamilton most likely, gets a shot with the big club and makes the most of it, solving another problem and filling another roster spot.

3/ Nugent Hopkins not only makes the club but thrives and has an outstanding season.

4/ Dubnyk establishes himself as a true number one goalie with a very good year.

5/ One of Smid, Peckham or Petry arrives as a top four defenceman.

What say you? Any ideas on what may give you a twinkle in your eye and an extra spring in your step when you roll out of bed the next morning? ;)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Making Good Time



Whenever we go up to see my folks the first thing my old man asks after 'Do you want a beer?' is 'Did you make good time?' Now I wouldn't call it a family obsession but its an important part of the McLean vernacular - up there with 'Everything will work out' and 'that's a good deal' and 'mind your business'.

(As an aside we were having dinner Wednesday night. We're all pretty draggy after this year's odyssey. Our eldest was complaining about something and so I said to her that neither her mother or I wanted to hear her complaints, in fact she needed to go to the new head of the complaints in the household, Helen Waite. 'Who?' she asked. Helen Waite, I said, from now on if you have a complaint you can go to Helen Waite. This inspired confusion amongst the younger ranks and my wife blew garlic bread out of her nose.)

I call Dad when we get home and its 'ah you made good time' or 'hm, you didn't make very good time'.

You see I understand this though and I have the same fixation. Its a guy thing. My wife was once punctual. No more. She blames it on the kids but fact is if its the kids and I I manage to make it happen, be on time I mean. Take the kids out of the equation and she still remains ... late. Oh well, no biggie, she is allowed to have her delusions. Anyhow for her its not such a big deal but for me, when we are on the road, the less time we spend on the road the better. So, some tips for those of you who have kids.

- for the short (four or five hour) trip, schedule your departure so it doesn't cut across mealtime, if you have to stop for lunch you're adding an hour right there

- bring snacks so the little buggers don't have to stop for lunch if you run a little behind

- no water, not only will the kids not need pee breaks but if dehydration sets in they may even pass out a bit, if they're asleep you can go further

- be a fucker, a couple of years ago we were up the DVP when my wife remarked that she had left a necklace at home - I ignored her, stared straight ahead and accelerated, she was pissed but no way I was turning around and going home and then coming back, that is nearly forty fucking minutes and adding that to the trip would mean that we did not make good time

- be willing to break your normal rules if it means keeping the little buggers happy, as a general rule I hate their little handheld video games and those things don't see the light of day unless I'm severely hungover; in the car I'm happy to let them play forever as long as behind me its quiet

Now there are two parts of any trip, driving and not driving and when it comes to making good time there are tricks and expectations when it comes to both. If I am driving to Sudbury my expectation is to do it in under four hours if I'm going on a straight shot, four and a half if we need to stop for lunch. Its just over four hundred kilometres from door to door but its slow getting going and its slow finishing up as we get out of and into the cities. This was once a two lane highway for three quarters of the trip and it was an awful drive, five hours at minimum, but its four lanes for all but just over a quarter now and the remainder will be four laned soon. Someday I see us doing it in three and a half hours and when that day comes I will be truly cock of the walk.

(As a secondary note I'm not a speeder. Those of you who drive fast probably look at my expectations and laugh but I go about 15km over the limit at most - have a family you know plus I got a ticket a few years back and I have an aversion to paying those stiff goddamn fines.)

Of course there is always the unexpected circumstance. It was Easter that we were heading up the DVP nice and early when our youngest tossed all over herself. It was 9:30 and I was thinking 1:30 home and cooled before the unexpected event. Instead we had to pull over, clean her up, clean the carseat up, then we travelleed around trying to find Gravol, try and find a drug store open on Good Friday, motherfucker, and of course we had to stop for lunch because at noon we had barely gotten out of Barrie. We got in at 4:00 pm.

Yes I'll take that beer. No we did not make good time.

Now Sudbury is a sprint. PEI is a marathon.

1700 km. Break it down, its four segemnts. You can't get around it unless you drive a Vespa. You need gas. First of all there's the stops. When we stop we break out the cooler and get out the lunches. While they are getting ready I run the van over for a fillup and pick up drinks and ice or whatever we need. We used to take an hour for our breaks, now we're looking at thirty to forty minutes tops. I get back, eat up while the kids go to the pissoir and then we're off again.

On a trip like this I'm shooting for anything over 100 km per hour. If I hit that I'm happy. You hit traffic and you hit construction and if you can get that rate you're good I think. But as always you're at the whim of fate. This trip we were rolling along the shore of Lake Ontario, I mean really rolling. We were shooting for over a grand, all the way to Edmundston New Brunswick. We were killing it when we hit Montreal. We took highway twenty through Montreal and we were looking at 7pm in New Brunswick when it happened. Just about to the St. Lawrence (and what a grand sight that is) when we came to a stop. Two hours and four kilometres later we crossed the St. Lawrence (we travelled 200 metres in a half hour at one point) and the construction and our day was done, we lost two hours and had to stop for supper and at ten pm we rolled into New Brunswick.

We did not make good time.

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

Depending on who you talk to the Oilers are either making good time or not so much.

If you were to talk to Steve Tambellini or any management apologist you get the old 'second year of a rebuild' tale. Based on the Khabibulin signing we know that for a fact this club's management thought they would be competitive in 2009 just as they thought they'd be competitive in 2008 when they brought in Lubo and Cole and in 2007 when they signed Souray.

Sigh.

This is where the worry about management comes in for me and a lot of other fans I think. Three seasons of missing the boat entirely on how good this club actually was is not indicative of strong management just as four seasons of alternately trading off veterans for draft picks and prospects and trading off/losing young players while bringing in older ones shows, well, confusion, no?

Its too late now and hindsight is, as we know, a clear day but for a guy like me (I'm not getting any younger) its a bitter pill to swallow to see four years wasted while management slowly and surely fucked the roster, spending tons of cash to put a disaster on the ice. Now we are rebuilding the right way which means that we are about to see our sixth year out of the playoffs.

Its hard to take.

I like Tambellini's work this summer, I do. Its not knock your socks off but the team is better than last year, if only marginally. The problem I see is that the club strength right now, on the wings, is going to be depleted in a year when Hemsky and Smyth are gone and so it will be another step back.

With all of this said there is little that we can do but wait. The good news is that there is a nice looking bunch of kids up front. Even further to the good is that there are a lot of prospects on the blue and in net who are looking pretty good as well. Some of this prospect pool will get derailed by injuries, some just won't make it but overall things look pretty cool. The bad news is that this latter group is going to take longer to develop. Eighteen and nineteen year olds don't generally star in the NHL at all but especially not as defencemen or goaltenders.

The elephant in the room? Does Tambellini have the chops to put this all together when the time comes and the kids mature a bit? You know where I stand on this. I don't think so. I hope I am wrong.

Because six poor years is really really ridiculous.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Learning To Fly


I've said it before and I will say it again. I don't know if there is a greater thing about being a parent than watching your kids achieve new milestones. When they are really young they change quickly and so in a year you get all of those baby things - first smile, sitting up, sleeping through the night, new foods, first word, first step, first this, first that. Now these things are exciting (especially the sleeping through the night thing) but as the kids get older the milestones become, how do I say it, more what they are working towards achieving than natural progressions. Every kids learns to talk, know what I mean? It just happens.

But things like reading, writing, skating, swimming, riding a bike - of course most kids master these if they are exposed to them but learning how to skate or how to read, these take patience and work and so when it happens its a huge deal. Plus when a kid learns how to sit up he's not all smiles and breaking out the cigars, see? Riding a bike though, now that is a big deal to a little boy or a little girl.

These past few months have seen some exciting milestones for the boy. While our oldest has mastered riding a bike and is becoming a good swimmer, the boy faced down both challenges this summer. First he dropped the training wheels over the course of a couple of hours of an afternoon. He doesn't ride with the confidence of his sister yet but he's getting there. The bigger deal though is the swimming.

When they finished their spring lessons he was to the point where he could push off from the edge of the pool and then paddle back those few feet. Not bad, you have to start somewhere. But with a number of visits to pools and lakes and beaches this summer he is still at the point where he's wearing a lifejacket. He's not a swimmer.

We were up at camp a few weeks back and a lot of time was spent on the lake and jumping off our old dock. The kids, even the oldest, were happy to jump off of the dock wearing a lifejacket until our oldest finally got rid of it and began throwing herself into the lake with abandon.

Now the boy is a bit cautious by nature. Put it this way, he is a daredevil but he is very aware of the possibilities of harm that lurk for little kids who misstep. So while he is happy to climb and run and jump he is pretty smart about it. You won't find him doing anything stupid as a general rule.

He was a bit leery about going off the dock without the lifejacket, even though we were in the water to help him out. So we were standing on the dock in the sunshine, him standing there shivering a bit, Jenn in the water waiting, me calmly telling me that is would be cool if he jumped, no worries, him not so sure about the whole thing, mumbling that he would probably just take a pass thank you very much.

And suddenly he spun around when we weren't expecting, threw caution to the wind and flew off of the dock. Into the water he went, under the water he went and then up he came arms and legs churning furiously until he reached a spot (albeit not very far) where he could stand.

And from then on he was golden.

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

We're not far away from camp opening for the Oilers and most likely its going to be another long year. So far the highest finish I have seen predicted for them is thirteenth with a third straight last place finish predicted by THN already.

(BTW I love how Oiler fans get all upset and jump up and down when a guy like Tyler Dellow predicts the club is going to do poorly and blames management for this mess. Whose fault is it anyhow and why should he believe that the guys who ran the club into the ditch are going to be able to get us out of it? I know Ty and he is a fan of the Oilers. He'd have to be to keep watching this disaster year after year. To get angry at him for pointing out that the club is shitty and that management is to blame makes no sense to me. Oh well.)

I spoke about this earlier this summer. If the team stays healthy and the kids all take a leap forward and they get a lot of luck and a few other clubs get the shit kicked out of them by injuries and bad luck (who saw NJ in the lottery last year anyhow - it happens) then they may actually surprise. That's a whole lot of ifs though. Adding Smyth and Belanger will help. I can't remember the last time the club looked this good up front. I guess 2006/2007. They have two veteran centres, they have Smyth and Hemsky, they have two kids in Hall and Eberle who played the toughs last year and did pretty well. Gagner is in his fifth year in the league which is crazy, Omark has been a pro for years and young Paajarvi may need shelter but its not like he's completely lost out there.

Of course the problem lies on the blueline and beyond. Can Whitney stay healthy and carry a kid and will Smid or Peckham have the chops to play tough minutes with Gilbert? Right now, as usual, there are two top four defencemen and that is all. And don't even get me started about the goaltending.

Here's the thing. If the Oilers were to turn everything on its collective coconut and have a good year I would gladly admit I am wrong. Gladly. Problem is I remember five years ago when fan boys were telling the skeptical that they would be eating crow. Its getting old all of this losing. And on top of it all we are going to see Ales Hemsky shipped away for another mid first round pick and kid who is years away on top of it all plus we will have to hear the howls for the heads of the remaining veterans (Gagner is now a veteran whose head is being howled for so you can see how fast the worm turns, some Oiler fans would be better served watching juniors to satisfy their preference for teenagers I think) and then more rounds of management spinning how its all part of the plan.

Bah.

And so once again we will be left to take the small enjoyments from this season. The return of Smyth. The last stylings of Hemsky in an Oiler uniform. Most of all though it will be the steps the kid take. Hall's exposive speed and shot. Eberle's deft hands. Paajarvi's wonderful skating. Omark's work with the puck and along the boards. Dubnyk's (hopeful) emergence. Petry. Peckham. The sure to come cups of coffee for Hartikainen and Lander and maybe other kids.

Its what we'll have to hang our hats on again and while their development will be fun personally I would prefer and actual hockey team that wins hockey games. I hope that day comes soon. Until then we'll have to watch the kids learn to fly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 'Odge Podge


A little stream of consciousness a la King, Larry, not Denis ... I'm working on my French, can you not tell? ... speaking of French, we left last Saturday for PEI and we were flying flying flying, almost all the way through Montreal on 20, 4km from the bridge when we hit traffic, took us two hours to go 4 km and we arrived in Edmundston three hours later than we might have ... take those two hours away and we would have had supper when we arrived, instead we got fucked ... second year in a row this has happened, next year I think we cut through the States ... we still did 1100 km on the Saturday which left Sunday a relative breeze, five and a half hours of driving in total, piece of cake ... rumours still flying about Oilers shoring up their D and goaltending, mostly from Bra and Panties girl, she is an insider methinks or somewhat of one, which worries me considering she insists the club thinks they will be in the playoffs this season ... with this D and goaltending? Seriously? If club management thinks this then they haven't learned a goddamn thing about how to put a club together ... still a little bit of help in the UFA market and its always interesting to see who is left standing when the music stops ... Schremp to Europe but somehow POS catches on in Phoenix? Buddy has nine lives, of course Mark Bell has come back so I guess anything is possible ... I guess pedigree or being famous counts for something still ... always interesting who calls it quits, Draper and Todd Marchant have done so, others that may hang them up include Marchant's old Oiler linemates Mike Grier and Ethan Moreau as well as longtime stalwart Steve Staios. Some other famous names hanging around include Stillman, Samsonov, Drury, Jarkko Ruutu, John Madden, McCabe and Hannan ... I expect a number of these guys will call it a day but expect McCabe and Hannan will find work. Hannan and a guy like Sjostrom would help the Oilers, Ray Emery too, but I expect Edmonton is done unless they make a trade ... after months of hot sunny weather we arrived in Charlottetown to damp and cool and their warmest day this summer? 25 degrees! I don't complain about the heat anyhow but for anyone back in Ontario bitching about it you'd take it over the summer they are having here ... parsed out the blog a few days ago, compling my tales so I'd have a saved copy of them somewhere, the end result after I separated the Oilers' talk from it ... over 400 pages, 160000 words in all, holy shit, like Joyce I need a good editor to help me figure out what to do with all of this... start vacation today and hopefully the weather will get better, will make the best of it regardless, anything is better than work right now ... man could I go for a good handjob right about now ... just checking to see if you're paying attention ;) ... was on OilersNation radio last Saturday if you have not heard, go to their site if you want to check it out, was a blast talking to Allan Mitchell (Lowetide) and hopefully did not talk so much that he won't invite me back. It is definitely harder than it appears, if you misspeak you cannot take it back, for example when I explained that a storm was bad 'even for Toronto'. Jesus call in the army! I meant to say the storm was bad even if you were not from Toronto. No mulligans! ... the more I look at the Oilers this season the more I like the forwards but the less I like the D and goaltending, if everything pans out, and I do mean everything, they may be in the playoff race, but I see lottery one more time and Hemsky and Smyth gone at the deadline, which means that depth up front is gone again ... a lot of folks think Omark might be trade bait but the Hemsky situation precludes that, sign Ales and then they can think about trading a kid winger, until they do though nobody moves, you cannot go from Hemsky, Eberle, Omark as your RW depth chart to trading Omark and losing Hemsky months afterwards ... the roster is pretty well set, if nobody comes in the only questions are does RNH make it (probably at least for nine games), will Petry or Chorney be the seventh Dman (I would say Petry) and do any other kids make it (I think the prize kids - Lander, Hartikainen - start in OKC, it will be O'Marra or Vande Velde who make it if anyone does)? ... my wife is sexy hot, just thought I'd throw that in there because its truth ... I'm pvring it but have to say I'm missing my weekly dose of Al Swearengen and the rest of the inhabitants of Deadwood, to quote Al

Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair, or fuckin’ beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man — and give some back.

Sounds like good advice for an Oilers' fan ;) ... alright off to start this holiday with a wander around the downtown of fair Charlottetown, perhaps a pint at some little pub, a browse through a bookstore, also in the plans are a few days at the family cottage, an afternoon hanging with the boy, a day of drinking by the pool sans la famille and an evening with one of best friends talking about man stuff on the river with a bottle of scotch and a pack of smokes I think.

Oooga oooga boooga!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Courage My Love


I've alluded to the difficulty my mom has been going through a few times and now its time to tell the tale, in brief at least.

Last spring she started having some pain in her legs. At first she thought it was arthritis but it became progressively worse until she could barely stand it. My Mom is old style, she's tough and stoic and so when we would find her in tears from the pain she was in we knew it had to be very bad.

Visits to the doctor found nothing. Specialist after specialist, test after test, all with no story to tell, no cause unmasked. The pain continued and she got weaker and weaker. She began to lose weight and her mobility was reduced and we feared the worse. By August she could not walk and she was in the hospital.

August, September, October, November. Dad visited each day, rain, shine, snow. They tested for everything and found nothing. It wasn't cancer, thank God. And when whatever it was ran its course it got no worse. It did leave Mom in a wheelchair and in some pain, although the pain can be controlled fairly well. I took a Greyhound bus up to Sudbury and Dad and I cleaned and prepped and in December she came home. Finally.

My folks are the most positive people around but they were tested sorely here. Bowed, bent, not broken, they vowed to carry on as best they can. They were slowing down in any case (Dad will be eighty next year, Mom is just a year behind) but now, well now there was a challenge. Because Mom, more than anything, wanted to get back up to camp.

They've been up there very summer since 1968. Every year as long as they could get up there they would. Weekends, holidays, from the time the ice broke up until the snow was about to fly. And sometimes in the dead of winter. And on top of everything there be monsters.

Here's the thing. Its boat access. Its isolated. We're not talking a cottage on a street in the Muskokas where they are packed in cheek to cheek or a modern joint you can drive up to. We're talking a boat ride across a lake from one old worn grey dock to another, a log cabin without electricity or running water or a flush toilet. We're talking an outhouse. This is the real deal. We're not talking sidewalks or pavement, there's not an ounce of that to be found.

Its not really where you would recommend a couple of near eighty year olds, one in a wheelchair, set up shop for a lengthy period of time.

This picture above is of my folks hanging out at the annual camp picnic. They made it.

They had help. My Dad's best friend Otto passed away a number of years ago and its his son who now owns the camp next door. He and his boys and Dad built a ramp from dock to the sleepcamp deck. They cleared and levelled the path through the woods to their camp so that Mom could, with help, take her scooter through the forest to their place for dinner and beers and whatever is going on that day.

They went up the day before we did and Mick lifted my Mom into his boat nice and easy and across the lake she went and when I called that night to see how things were Mick said 'well she's sitting on the deck right now, looking out on the lake, having a beer. She's pretty happy'

Two nights later we had dinner on the porch, two close families, and looked out on the lake in the gathering gloom. Dad kept saying that we never thought she'd make it back.

But they did. Goes to show you what a couple of strong hearts can accomplish, with some help of course.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Prendergast Era - The Dregs


And now for the good news. Prendergast's record is not great but there is a lot of room for improvement. The jury is still out on Cogliano, Gagner, Petry, Peckham, Dubnyk and Omark. If these guys all turn out to be players, which is possible, then Prendergast moves into the top half of the league I think. Maybe not top ten but at least better than average which was LT's original remark. And if even a few of these guys get it together then the Oilers pass a few of the teams that guys like PDO find iffy.

What is almost certain is that nobody below them is going to catch them. There are a couple of teams below the Oilers who have had or are having some success right now but some of these clubs' draft records are just awful. Not surprisingly amongst this group are perennial losers like Atlanta, Florida and the Islanders. Read on and realize that as we always like to say around here, things can definitely get worse.

Columbus

2001 - LeClaire (8), Jackman (38), Johnson (85)
2002 - Tolleson (65)
2003 - Fritsche (46), Dupuis (104), Methot (168)
2004 - Picard (8)
2005 - Brule (6), McQuaid (55), Russell (67), Boll (101)
2006 - Brassard (6), Mason (69), Sestito (85), Dorsett (189)
2007 - Voracek (7)

The BJS have been abysmal forever and taking a look at their list its easy to see why. This includes five picks at 6, 7 or 8 of which only Brassard and Voracek look like they may have careers. The rest are mostly pluggers, thugs and journeymen who bounce between the NHL and the minors. These are from the Doug MacLean era - its easy to see why he remains unemployed. So fucking poor.

Ottawa

2001 - Gleason (23), Emery (99), Schubert (127), Laich (193), Bochenski (223)
2002 -
2003 - Eaves (29), Elliot (291)
2004 - Meszaros (23), Regin (87)
2005 - Lee (9), Bass (95)
2006 - Foligno (28)
2007 -

The Sens 'almost' clubs, those terrific clubs from the turn of the century and beyond who never could get past the Leafs despite all that talent, those clubs were built on the draft. So many quality players came up to the Sens, a lot of them due to Ottawa's poor early years but also a lot of quality mined from the later rounds and from Europe. Not so much any more. A few nice players on this list - Meszaros, Laich, Gleason but really very little in terms of quality and quantity. No wonder they fell apart as the core aged and moved on, nobody has come up to replace the old guard.

Calgary

2001 - Kobasew (14), Moss (220)
2002 - Nystrom (10), Lombardi (90), McElhinney (176)
2003 - Phaneuf (9)
2004 - Prust (70), Boyd (98), Pardy (173)
2005 - Pelech (26), Sutter (179)
2006 -
2007 - Backlund (24), Aulie (116)

Lately the Flames have moved a lot of picks as Sutter brought in veterans to try and recapture the magic of 2004 but there are some first rounders here and some fairly high ones, one wonders if something more in 2001 and 2002 might have helped those clubs that could never get out of the first round in the tough west. In a lot of ways the Flames are similar to the Oilers - the tale remains to be told for Backlund and Aulie - but the quantity is not there and you'd be hard pressed to say that any more than three guys on this list are good hockey players - Moss, Lombardi and Phaneuf. Pretty bad.

Phoenix

2001 - Sjostrom (11)
2002 - Eager (23), LeNeveau (46), Jones (80)
2003 -
2004 - Winnick (265)
2005 - Hanzal (17), Yandle (105)
2006 - Mueller (8)
2007 - MacLean (32)

2005 was a nice year for the Yotes but otherwise its a bunch of fourth liners and a top ten pick who was struggling before the concussion issues. Its hard to believe that there are clubs worse than this but there are.

Florida

2001 - Krajicek (24)
2002 - Campbell (67)
2003 - Stewart (25), Meyer (55)
2004 - Olesz (7), Booth (53)
2005 - McArdle (20)
2006 - Frolik (10)
2007 - Ellerby (10)

Booth looks like a player and Frolik does too but that's about it. A few massive underachievers, a nice role player in Colie's boy but overall its awful. No wonder the franchise looks doomed.

New Jersey

2001 - Voros (229)
2002 - Janssen (117)
2003 - Parise (17)
2004 - Zajac (20)
2005 - Bergfors (23)
2006 - Zharkov (77)
2007 - Halischuk (117)

Hard to believe that Jersey is on this list at this point, I was pretty shocked to see it. A lot of folks point to the departure of Stevens and Niedermeyer as the end of this club's heyday and a lot of quality has left over the years but with the exception of Parise (a big one I know) and Zajac there is nothing here at all. You might actually bump them up the list because of Parise I guess but my god this is abysmal drafting. And there are FOUR teams worse than this.

Atlanta

2001 - Nurminen
2002 - Slater, Dwyer
2003 - Coburn (8), Enstrom (239)
2004 - Valabik (10)
2005 - Pavalec (41)
2006 - Little (12)
2007 -

You have two nice defencemen in 2003 and Pavalec and Little might be players too but here is a pretty good reason this club is now defunct. Five picks in the top two netted them some quality but they couldn't do anything after those top guys (plus they moved Coburn, well done!) and the end result is one playoff appearance in franchise history and not a win.

New York Islanders

2001 -
2002 - Bergenheim (22), Neilsen (87)
2003 - Nilsson (15), Colliton (58), Gervais (182)
2004 - Nokelainen (16), Comeau (47), Campoli (227)
2005 -
2006 - Okposo (7)
2007 - Katic (62)

Neilsen is absolutely outstanding and Comeau may be a player. Most of the rest of these guys are crap. The Isles make the Oilers look like the seventies Canadiens when it comes to procurement although things seem to be looking up.

Carolina

2001 - Zigomanis (46)
2002 - Ward (25)
2003 -
2004 - Peters (38), Carson (109)
2005 -
2006 -
2007 - Sutter (11)

The Canes are generally competitive and of course they have a Cup, a Finals appearance and a conference finals appearance in the last decade but wow this is bad. Sutter looks like a player of course and no complaints about Cam Ward but three absolute misses and five players in total over seven years? Rutherford is pretty canny when it comes to the trades and free agency I think. I wonder if the scouts from this era are still around?

Tampa

2001 - Artyukin (94)
2002 - Ranger (183), Norrena (213), Craig (255)
2003 - Rosehill (227), Tarnasty (287)
2004 - Lundin (102)
2005 - Blair Jones (102)
2006 -
2007 - Tyrell (47)

Who is the best player on this list? Ranger maybe? He showed promise before he went to walk the earth like motherfucking Kane. Seriously this is so so so bad I can't even stand it. The Oilers have maybe a dozen players who could rank in the top two here, actually most of them would be the best player here.

Its not even close.