Friday, December 30, 2011
The fellow in the picture who is giving the handsome little fellow a smooch is Tom, a Scot who we met when we were in the Dominican celebrating our tenth anniversary this year. We had a fantastic time. I always thought I'd go mental just sitting around doing nothing but I loved it. I think when I was younger I wouldn't have been able to handle it but after years of never stopping with the kids it proved to be perfect.
We met some fine folks on our trip, a couple from Wisconsin, three couples from the Maritimes (finest kind) and then Tom and his girlfriend. I've been to Scotland and we have clients in Scotland and Tom was, in my experience, a pretty typical Scot. He was a bright guy and possessed an acerbic wit and he, like the Irish and English and Canadians, was well informed. I always found that strange about Americans when I lived there (and we have an office there as well) - they are a very incurious people when it comes to the world around them for the most part.
Our last night there we hung out at the bar but for the most part we'd bump into Tommy in our daily wanderings, seeing him by the pool or getting a drink. We'd shoot the shit for a bit and then move on. The funny thing about Tom is that out of the blue he'd explode with anger, usually when the talk came around to politics. We'd be talking about oil prices and suddenly he's start ranting and myself and one of the fellows from out east, another smart aleck like myself, would smirk and then he's stalk off shouting at 'you stupid Canadian fucking bastards'.
You'd see him an hour later and it was as if nothing had happened. Strange cat.
Looks like this roadtrip is going to be the anchor that drops the Oilers into the lottery for another year. The club has been playing better but the damage was done on that homestand and there's no getting around the fact that the D is shallow as a kiddie turtle pool. And this is with what Gilbert and Smid have become this year. Imagine if they hadn't stepped up? Jesus.
Whitney has confirmed what has been noticeable to anyone that has a pulse, his ankle is not quite right (and thanks for the hustle and sticktoitiveness on that story, you crack Edmonton media members). And those same media members have demo'd that the fix is in and Hemsky is going to get dealt with their increasingly critical comments about the Czech. They're greasing the skids for him and a good number of the fanbase are falling right in line with the narrative because, well, they're idiots plain and simple. Hemsky is injury prone and he's not a perfect hockey player but last time I checked there are few of those. He is a damn good player when healthy and he's a better option than nearly every player in the organization but the media and many fans would dump him for futures because he's had a poor couple of months.
Someone on twitter or perhaps it was at Lowetide's said last night that Oiler fans get what they deserve because they are so stupid and sometimes its hard to argue that point. We've a team that hasn't won a Cup in over twenty years, that is about to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year and has finished last overall two years in a row. They've been shipping quality NHL players out the door for pretty well nothing since June of 2006 and the result has been as one would expect. The team is shitty.
But yeah its Ales Hemsky's fault.
I wonder what Tom would say to that. His fucking head would probably explode.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:05 PM
Friday, December 23, 2011
I'm sure you've all seen this by now. My favourites - Frolik Navidad, Grandms Got Run Over By A Reindeer (You might think there's no such thing as John Scott) and of course Oh Hossa Night. But I've always been a Hossa man, what can I say.
Wife is at work, kids are abed (although I went upstairs an hour after bedtime to find my youngest sitting up with her light on 'reading' for the second night in a row - that one is trouble, we're doomed basically), all of the gifts have been wrapped and the house is returning to a semblance of order after weeks of chaotic neglect.
So I'm having a rum and egg nog (rum being the great 'discovery' for us this year, suddenly we have numerous bottles of it after years of Nunavut) and watching a little exhibition action of Dennis King's favourite tournament. I've got one day to work in the next ten and I'm looking forward to a few drinks, relaxing with family and friends and maybe a blowjob or two if I'm lucky. Its been a very good year and hopefully we'll wrap it up nicely here.
The kids are mental right now. Absolutely menatl. The boy said the other day that 'Christmas is the best day of the year' and its that childish enthusiasm which gives Jenn and I, who need very little to get us going for this time of year anyways, that extra little charge. I remember the look on our youngest's face last year when she came down the stairs and saw the tree Christmas morning and always will. Just such a look of awe and joy and it was so wonderful.
I'll be getting my books (I always ask for books and I alwsys get about a dozen) and hopefully a new stick, the timing is good, my last Sherwood gave up the ghost last Saturday night. Hopefully this one will have a few more goals in it than the last one. Then again maybe I should ask for new hands ;). Need new legs and lungs though too.
No new dog though. Not yet anyhow.
Merry Christmas to all of you and to all of yours. Have a safe and happy one, eat, drink, be merry and enjoy the company of your loved ones.
Posted by Black Dog at 9:43 PM
Thursday, December 22, 2011
So December has become a little harrowing for us the last couple of years and its clear that this is the way of it and will be for some time. Our regular everyday lives are hectic as it is and on top of this we have gifts to buy, wrap and ship, plans to make, Christmas concerts and parties, food to be cooked, a tree to be killed and decorated, the house to be also decorated (which we do very little of really, of course my parents' house looked like Santa threw up all over it so I'm a bit biased), cards to be mailed, the list goes on and on. Jenn is responsible for the majority of it, partially because she'd have it no other way (I'm not allowed near wrapping paper for good reason), partially because shift work trumps a 9 to 5 job when it comes to getting a lot of this completed. In any case I pick up the slack in other areas, pulling down more kid duty, for example, while she rushes about.
So like last year I have found the leadup to the big day to be a bit much. Its exhausting, quite frankly, and for the second year in a row I'm looking forward to Christmas morning because it will mark the end of the craziness and the beginning of a few days of fun. I remember back in school how we'd get in the spirit a few weeks before, at least, mostly because we finished school in early December and began celebrating immediately. Not so much these days though.
This week though I must say I have seen a turnabout in attitude. We had our company Christmas party and Sunday we got the tree up. That night I met Murat (known in these parts as Showerhead) at the Communist Bar along with other Manitobans and many pints were drank and a wonderful time was had. The following night it was back to the same place to meet an old friend and as we have for nearly twenty five years now (!) we drank and talked about books and hockey and all that is happening in our crazy lives.
Tuesday I rested.
And then last night we went for dinner with friends of ours who live on our street. We ate a lot and drank a lot and at the end of the night I even got birthday sex, offered and accepted and enjoyed fully.
And so this morning I came to work with a spring in my step. Its been a very good number of days and we're pretty well done, with only a few things left to wrap, and so maybe tonight, certainly tomorrow night, we're going to be able to kick back a bit.
Having said all of that there has been one fly in the ointment, so to speak. Our kids are getting ramped up, to the point where they can barely sit still for the excitement. Its a great age for it. Our oldest is eight and she had some doubts about Santa last year but she is either a wonderful little actress or she has decided to emulate her parents and throw herself behind the whole fun magical idea of a little fat man coming into our house and leaving presents for all of us. I am sure this may be our last year where she believes but its added to the fun all of the same.
Lists were submitted long ago (mine is nearly all books - I usually get about a dozen or so and already have three (!) plus some cash to go towards more so we may be talking record haul here ;) ) and our youngest, being unable to either read or write (she is three), maybe asked for a Barbie but nothing else.
And then about a week ago she says, out of the blue, that she wanted a robot.
We laughed. A robot. But the next day she said the same thing and the day after that again. We have no idea where she got this idea so we asked our kids and of course it was the goddamn television, although it wasn't a commercial, they were watching a show and there was 'a flying yellow robot' and so the idea was planted in her little head.
Tuesday Jenn was off and so she drove here and there and called everywhere for these 'Fijits' which are not flying yellow robots but rather a small thing that talks and so on and comes in pink and purple and other pleasing colours. They also happen to be one of the most popular toys of 2011 and what costs 40.00 at Walmart can be had for twice or three times that on Kijiji. My wife (and I) was loathe to spend that and so Tuesday night we told our little one that sometimes you don't get everything you want at Christmas. She replied that she didn't want anything but a robot so there would be no problem fulfilling this request.
Panic at the disco. Relatively speaking.
We made a couple of more calls to obscure toy stores downtown. One said they might be getting a shipment the next day so yesterday I sauntered over, only to be told that no such thing was happening. Then after work I went to the other, a store we had called a number of times the previous day and that very morning, only to get a busy signal.
A store which, until that very morning, had had a plethora of fijits onhand.
I went home with the bad news and was greeted by my wife with this year's Santa photo and the news that once upon old St Nick's knee our smallest had replied to the question of what she wanted for Christmas with 'a Barbie'
Go you Oilers.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:30 PM
Monday, December 19, 2011
Still alive. No, seriously ... Am starting to get to the point though where I long for Christmas morning to arrive, just to get everything beforehand over with. Am enjoying the kids' excitement but other than that I am finding, for the second straight year, that I could do without the preceding stress. Humbug, right? I thought last year's grumpiness was a one off but again this year I find myself not really in the Christmas spirit, despite having done some pretty fun stuff these past two weeks. And Christmas Day and the week after look to be grand so here's hoping the spirit strikes me then. Just worn out maybe ... so as always will try and drink my way out of it, tonight will be the third in four and last night had a good time out with longtime Oilogosphere regular Showerhead and a few of his pals. Have to say have not had a bad experience with a man I have met through the interweb yet, although that time I woke up in an alleyway with a sore bum after meeting Winters was a bit uncomfortabe. Just meet him in group settings now.
The lethargy I am feeling has extended to the Oilers. Its going to be another year out of the playoffs, the present spiral has confirmed that. The club had a nice start, bought and paid for too, which makes this swoon even harder to take, especially when we saw Whitney, Potter, Hemsky and Gagner come back, I mean this should mean the team would be better still, right? Right?
But Hemsky looks like he knows he's a goner and have to say the guy is letting the uncertainty wear at him. Smyth and Horcoff look tired and are both slumping and opposing teams look to have figured out how to defend the PP by taking away Ted's time and space aggressively.
And of course there is the usual litany of bad penalties and dumb line changes to make it that more grating.
Once this next road trip is done its going to be more of the usual for us Oiler fans and while its a process and we know its going to take time perhaps the worst thing that could happen was that beauty start. All of the losing is getting tiresome and one can only imagine how the players feel. When Hemsky gets moved and then Whitney and Gagner probably soon after, one wonders if for them it will be a sigh of relief that they take when it ends. And with the third of the last kid line moved out the door it will be a reminder of how what looks to be future glory can turn sour quickly. For us fans though there is no escape other than increasing boredom and indifference. We've been sold on the Chicago model but until this team actually becomes good and more good veterans get shown the door one thinks that this may be the Islanders' model after all, right down to the haunting glorious past fading into the gloom.
Terrible attitude, eh? But then again I am slightly hungover. Perhaps I need to drink more. Not sure if that's possible with going all Nick Cage in Vegas though.
And that's Leaving Las Vegas, not the one with the skydiving Elvises.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:52 PM
Friday, December 16, 2011
As the Oilers continue to slide, news today that Paajarvi will follow Teubert to Oklahoma where hopefully he will find his confidence playing on one of the best teams in the AHL.
On one hand its hard to argue with Paajarvi going down. Scratched at times and with no goals and three assists in twenty five games, its clear that he needs to play and to get his mojo back.
On the other hand one could argue that it didn't have to come to this. Its quite clear that the Oilers and Tom Renney (like every other team and coach, to be honest) have their pecking order and presently Paajarvi and Omark are down that list of young players.
(Quick aside. Glenn Murray played his junior in Sudbury and boarded with an acquaintance. Great guy by all accounts. Anyways when he was in Boston as a kid the coach was Sutter (Brian iirc) and he didn't like the cut of his jib at all. After one performance that ended badly Sutter is reaming out the team on the bus on way to the airport and inflicts his wrath on Murray, sitting near the front, ranting and raving about how poorly he had played (the Sutters sound like great guys, don't they)
until finally Murray was able to point out that he had, in fact, been a scratch that night.)
I'm not arguing that Hall and Eberle are not the better options up front but for Paajarvi it must be difficult to get placed in a plugger's role after a rookie season that saw him produce 15 goals, a dozen of those at ES, and saw him produce more frequently as his icetime and opportunity increased.
Instead this season he began on a line with Belanger, another guy who has struggled and who is not a big scorer anyways. Its reminiscent of when they had Erik Cole on a line with Brodziak and Moreau and then fans bitched about his lack of production.
Has Paajarvi helped his cause? No, he has looked gunshy at times. But I wonder what the guy thinks when Hall goes down and he gets all of one game in the top six. Meanwhile Gagner gets all of the time in the world to work out of his funk.
Maybe its all part of the plan. Maybe they're pumping Gagner to be traded. Maybe Paajarvi and Omark will be back in the New Year and will be given a better shot.
Personally I'd be running Omark and Paajarvi with Gagner, leave the top six as is (was) and then have Belanger centre the fourth line/key the PK and maybe it will come to that with the season starting to slide.
I've always seen this upcoming number of months, including the summer, as the key time in this process. Remember all of the talk - so many quality wingers! Six of them! - well now we have two pending UFAs and two young Swedes banished to the minors.
All of those folks calling for Hemsky to get dealt (and he hasn't been great, I know), need to remember, good NHL players. Need to keep them. Especially when we're relying on kids to make it big down the road.
Hope Magnus gets back soon and gets his chance.
Posted by Black Dog at 3:05 PM
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Weird stuff out there on the Interweb folks. There has been plenty of talk of how the captain of the Oilers is in fact a dirty Russian, this speculation spurred in part by letters leaked to THIS VERY BLOG from Russian Poobah for Life, Vlad Putin, to a man he calls 'Horcov'.
Adding fuel to the fire is the recent appearance on Twitter of one 'shorcov' - if you're on the twitter you may want to check it out. Not sure if its proof of what has been suspected or if its just the Oiler Captain taking the piss but regardless its a fascinating look at the personal life of a NHL hockey player. Worth the read just for the inside look at his teammates and the day to day preparation he makes to be the best player he can be.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:27 PM
Thursday, December 08, 2011
I remember back in the day, twenty years ago or so (!), when I had all the time in the world, and like many (most?) young men, I spent the majority of it in three pursuits - drinking, chasing tail and following sports.
I watched hockey and baseball and basketball and Sundays were spent in front of the TV watching the NFL. I knew the ninth place hitter for the Detroit Tigers and the backup goalie in Buffalo and the coach of the Cleveland Browns. I watched the majors in golf and tennis and the Grey Cup and I could even tell you a bit (though not much) about car racing, horse racing and boxing.
Nowadays I watch hockey and I follow European soccer somewhat and I'll watch an NFL playoff game here and there. I tuned into the Grey Cup for a few minutes this year and I also may have watched a couple of baseball playoff games or portions of them.
What has happened? Well I haven't the time of course but even before the kids arrived my love affair with sports had waned. Too many teams was a starting point. The money turned me off. The lockouts and strikes. The billionaire owners holding a gun to taxpayers. The millionaire players whining about having to provide for their families. The behavign badly. The splintering of boxing and car racing into multiple series and associations ended whatever interest I had there. The ridiculous lengthening of games for commercials (NFL), preening/timeouts (baseball), scrums and timewasting (hockey until they cut that shit out). And on and on and on. Slowly, one by one, they dropped away until I was left with hockey and when hockey went away for a year, I turned to soccer and became interested enough in it to continue to follow it when hockey came back.
I'm a Spurs' fan. Now, compared to a lot of folks out there fan might be too strong a word. I follow them on Twitter when they are playing. I visit their website and a couple of sites about them a few times a week. I don't think I've seen them play once this year and when some guy named Scott Parker won their award for player of the month my first reaction was 'who's he?'. ;)
I've educated myself on that since. ;)
So I'm a casual fan lets say. Now they have had a nice run the last few years. They were in Champions' League last year and had a great run to the quarters but they fell short of qualifying for it again. They were done in by a stretch of ~ six games, if I recall it was January or so, when they had a patsy schedule like you would not believe, a half dozen games in a row against the dregs of the league. Should have been, even with the vagaries of luck thrown into it, at least 15 points from it.
I can't remember exactly but maybe they got six. Maybe. Out of a possible 18.
And that was their season. They had a couple of injuries at the time but every club always has a couple of injuries. They have a wonderful player Van De Vaert, who makes Hemsky look like Steve Larmer. Buddy plays a half a game, gets pulled after he tweaks something, doesn't play again for another three weeks. And their nominal captain, Ledley King, just a fantastic defender, plays a few times a year. Literally. Nothing left of his knees.
But it wasn't injuries, it was some bad luck (I watched them play Blackpool at Tyler Dellow's house, Blackpool must have cleared four or five balls from the goalline at least) and it was some poor play (also evident in the defending in that game) and in the end they got what they deserved.
This year they're in the second European competition and look to be on their way out early but in the Premier League they are running rampant. And what is important is that they are winning those games they should win. Every week. Sometimes they get a bit lucky but for the most part they are full value for it and so for now a return to the Champions League may be in the offing. Long way to go though. Still it has been a pleasant season.
For the Oilers this six game homestand looked like a chance to right the ship after a tough and lengthy road trip. When it started they were right there with the pack and things were looking good for them to make some hay, its not like they had a murderer's row of clubs coming in. And on top of everything they were getting (mostly) healthy at the right time.
And here we are five games in and they have a paltry three points to show for it. There have been blown leads galore. Dumb penalties. Shoddy goaltending. The first two games they could not score. The last two they could not defend. The team has been defended as 'tired' from their time on the road in November and the guys who have been carrying the team offensively (Ted, Smyth, Eberle) have indeed looked worn out and ineffective lately. And on top of that it looks like, based on decisions like the one where the fourth line faced Iggy in the third last Saturday, that Renney just got a memo that the club wants another lottery puck just to be sure.
The biggest worry is how Ryan Whitney looks like barely a shadow of himself. He looks slower than Sutton out there. Way slower. He's a disaster. Its too bad. It was assumed that his return would give the club two decent pairs to work with. Its not happening.
There are a few people saying 'wait a second something has to happen, this team is awesome' but of course they are not. There are also a few people saying 'this team is terrible and now we are seeing it' and I think these people are wrong too. They're not as good as they showed in October and not as bad as they look now but they are playing poorly and this stretch, while not one that we will look back as a defining one for this year's club, will probably be the one that costs them the playoffs if they right things and get back on track.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:20 PM
Sunday, December 04, 2011
When you're a father you're expected to have all of the answers all of the time. About thirty times a day one of the two oldest come up to me and invariably, with a quizzical look, begin with a 'Daddy' that has little ????? built right into it. And this is without the third one getting in on the act yet.
Some of the questions require lengthy detailed answers like those about sex or the other day when the boy and I sat down for twenty minutes and talked about war of all things. Some I cannot answer and in these cases I refer them to their mother, their Poppy on his next visit or to our Great Father, the Interweb. Others are a little more straight forward - what is the capital of Belgium? Does that beer taste good? Why do you smell like marajauna? What type of wrestling were you and Mommy doing on the couch last night? Was that Greco-Roman style?
Its part and parcel of this Dad thing, the questions, and you know what, I have some of my own.
The Oilers are sliding a bit now and unlike many I'm remaining pretty calm about the whole thing. The team is coming along. Young players mean inconsistency and mind numbing mistakes and the nature of the game means that at times the team looks better than it is (earlier this year) and at times it looks worse than it is (these days). The club looks a bit tired and a bit full of themselves at times and of course they are still a bit thin everywhere. That's alright. They are young and they are getting better and if its a rebuild then we're going to take our lumps.
Here's the thing though. There are some questions that I would like answered and the problem is, as Vic Ferrari said many times, when it comes to the media Edmonton is Lawrence, Kansas. Lowe destroyed a good team through mismanagement - barely a peep. Tambellini brought in a veteran goalie because he thought the team was a winner, a terrible lack of judgement there, and yet when the rebuild is brought up, this is not mentioned. Oilers' management gets a free ride and I'm not even bringing up the absurd cheerleading for the new monorail led by the Edmonton Journal.
Someone (maybe Dennis King) said it best this week on Twitter, noting how many snarky comments Edmonton media have had for Penner since he left, far far more than any criticism of a management team responsible for the longest playoff drought in franchise history.
So do I expect any hard questions from the media? Not at all. Late last game Terry Jones remarked how Smyth's penalty had cost the Oilers the game. He received a barrage of questions then and snarkily replied that he was getting orders to ask questions and that he couldn't ask them under pressure of a deadline.
Now remember this is the guy who the Oilers had a ceremony for earlier this week. The same guy who also thsi week tried to paint the Pronger trade as Pronger for basically every good young player in the Oiler system right now. I almost expected him to include Messier and Kurri, circa 1981, in the deal. Later he said 'oh it was tongue in cheek'.
Here's the deal. If the big trump card for these guys is 'access' and they a)don't ask critical questions or b) let us in on anything that may be behind what we can see on the ice than what is their point?
I can go to the Journal or Sun and read a stale recap of the game. 'Then Gagner scored his first goal and he was happy' with the only opinions or analysis being backhanded slaps at players who will soon be out the door (watch for the hatchet job coming on Ales Hemsky) or unfettered praise for the geniuses who have run this club into the ground and lied (again) about the profits the team has made, even without a playoff date since 2006.
Or I can read Lowetide or Tyler Dellow or Ellen at Theory of Ice or others and get analysis of what is happening that is well written and critical. I wonder if people who run newspapers wonder why their business is dying? The answer is right there. I haven't bought a newspaper in years. I used to all the time. But when I go online and read Jones fellating Lowe or Allan Maki's error ridden analysis of the Oilers a few weeks ago in the Globe and Mail, I think, why would I spend a dime on this shit when I can get an article that is more informative, thought provoking and well written from 'some blogger in his basement'.
(As an aside does Feaster ever look like an ass. Hey Jay you dummy, you know where all of this Iginla talk has been coming from? Turn on the TV and go to TSN or Sportsnet. What an ass.)
Anywho, Terry Jones, maybe at the next scrum when you are not under pressure from your deadline, you can ask Tom Renney the following:
1/ Tom, almost immediately after Nugent Hopkins scored in the third period you had your fourth line out against the Iginla line and the result was the tying goal. What was your thought process there, considering this was a divisional game against your biggest rival? You're at home so you control the matchups. What happened there?
2/ Ryan Whitney is either still hurt, lacks confidence in his body or both. What is the story here? You said Ales Hemsky has to just get over the fact that he is still hurting. Are you taking the same tactic with Whitney even though he is just a shadow of himself right now?
3/ Why do you keep running Belanger out on the power play? Why not have Petry or Paajarvi out there?
4/ What is the story with Paajarvi? Why do him and Omark have to trim their sideburns while Hall, Eberle and Gagner have all had chances to play their way out of slumps? Theo Peckham too. Are the Oilers in the business of developing these guys or are some players more equal than others? For example why was Paajarvi given one game with 10 and 83 and then dropped? Why not give him a dozen games to see if we can get him going?
I'm not claiming to have the answers here folks but as a fan I would like to hear what Tom Renney has to say on these subjects and others. Unfortunately for me, as a fan, the guys who have access to Renney (and brag on it) won't ask the questions.
Very poor. Very very poor.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:40 AM