Thursday, July 12, 2012
I coached the boy two summers ago. Had a good time. I had also coached my oldest daughter, wow, it must be five years ago now. The team wore yellow. For our cheer I had them buzz like bees.
For many many years I coached both hockey and soccer. I had a lot of success at both but especially with soccer which is ironic because I never played the game. My coaching philosophy remains the same as it was twenty five years ago. Have fun. Play as a team. Good sportsmanship. Work your ass off.
Pretty basic stuff eh? Technically I'm no wizard but I'm great with the kids (toots own horn) and we do crazy cheers and I spend the entire game yelling encouragement until I'm hoarse. Jenn works gamedays but was able to make it out a couple of weeks ago and after the game she said that I was a natural, it just came easy to me and I looked the coach, striding up and down the sidelines, kicking over water bottles. (Ok so I made that last one up.)
And for me its a great age (6 and 7 year olds) because the fact is that I am a pretty competitive guy and having youngsters is probably a better fit than the older kids where things, even at the recreational level, can get a bit tense. Helps me keep my more, lets say, base instincts in check, when you're teaching the most basic skills and its possible that an opposing player can score while your goalie has run off the field to get a snack. (This happened a few weeks ago).
The season started slowly. A nil nil tie and how that happened I will never know. Have never seen that in hundreds of games I have coached. Then we got thumped four to nothing. No goals in two games and we wondered if they would ever come. But in our third game we scored two in the first two minutes and then promptly lost seven to three.
Its about having fun but you need to win now and then too, right?
I wasn't too worried though. The second and third games we had been rotating goalies in and out as everyone who wanted to play got a shot and so I knew we'd be better there. And it was obvious that there was something going on. We had a kid on the back end who could run like the wind, kick it the length of the field and was tough as nails to boot. When he was on the field nobody got near our goal. We had another little guy who could dribble through the entire opposition, the problem being that once he beat the last guy he turned around and did it all over again instead of going to the net with it. And we had a tall motormouth of a girl who could run like the wind and who scored the last goal of our most recent game.
When you're playing six on the field if you can get two strong players out there then you're in great shape and if your supporting cast can play then you're going to win a lot of games, if not most of them. So by my count we had three top notch players. The problem was getting everyone involved and hopefully finding a fourth.
Before Tuesday's game we added another player, a soft spoken little guy, I barely caught his name after asking him four times.
My boy started in net. He's probably our best goalie, he loves it. He's a mental case, like his grandfather.
Before the game I told the midgets that we wanted to get after the ball. I asked them if the ball had teeth and they all laughed and said 'no'. I told them to look over the field and tell me if they saw any gators or sharks (landshark!) or lions or tigers or bears oh my and they all laughed and said 'no'. Then, I said, there's no reason for you to stop running like maniacs when you a) get to the ball or b) get in front of the other team's net.
Because this is what had been happening.
And oh my goodness friends what followed was absolutely glorious. I haven't coached much in the past 20 years or so but this reminded me of the old days. My pack of loveable little guys and girls turned into a pack of ravening ballhounds. The new hire turned out to be solid on defence but more importantly, he's an old school goal poacher. After holding our own for a while the ball was sent up and he outran everyone and put it in the top corner.
This doesn't happen at this level.
A few minutes later a ball deflected into the open and the kid with fancy footwork drove it into the net and we were on our way.
They came close, sure, but the D was solid and the boy made a handful of good saves (at this level any save is a good save really but he made a couple of difficult ones).
At the half the message was repeated and in the second half we tore after them, it wasn't even close. The new guy scored another and then in a vicious scrum in front of their net two of our little girls rampaged through the mob, with our little motormouth scoring while lying on the ground, kicking furiously at the loose ball.
Our goalie was barely troubled in the second half as we swarmed every loose ball, pushed their players who had run rampant just a couple of weeks before all over the field, always outside, always outside. One little girl, who had nearly scored a couple of times, charged again and again into the crowds, knocking opposition players sprawling, coming away with the ball each time. And when your smaller players are doing that you know you're golden.
And when the final whistle blew and the kids and their parents cheered it became clear that this is going to be a very good summer for our team, a very good summer indeed.
Its been six years out of the playoffs for the Oilers but this summer looks a lot like the past six summers. Hope springs eternal, of course, and Edmonton fans tend to be bigger prospectphiles than most so with the kids the Oilers have there's no surprise really that many fans are predicting playoffs for sure.
For the past few summers (since 2007 really) I've cast a pretty jaundiced eye at the Oilers' chances. Every summer I predict failure and every summer commenters rip me for being negative, for ignoring the surefire participation in the big spring fling for the Oilers that is to come.
And every year I am right. I get no pleasure from it. But facts are facts. Oiler management stinks. The proof is in the standings.
Now the Oilers aren't done yet or so we have to think. Rumours about a top four Dman coming Edmonton's way continue to fly and another year out of the playoffs will probably mean Tambo getting kicked out of the GM's chair so one thinks he will finally do something.
A top four Dman would go a long way to getting this squad back where it needs to be. Presently we're looking at three top four types and one of those is still a kid (Petry) and on top of everything there is no Doughty or Chara or Weber in the trio. They're solid but not fantastic.
So your fourth is either a kid who hasn't played an NHL game yet or a guy who couldn't make a turn last year.
Now if that's your bottom pair and Sutton is your seventh and you have an honest to goodness top four guy added to the mix then you know what? This team, with some luck and good health, might make the playoffs.
After the D the biggest issue is the goaltending. If Dubnyk takes a step back then its a lost year. If he can provide quality for 55 plus games then things look good.
Except for those other 25 games.
Up front there are a lot of ifs as well but they are a lot fewer than in years past. Finally. But there are still plenty. Will Hall be alright after surgery? Will Hemsky rebound? Can Yakupov play? Will Paajarvi or Hartikainen take a top nine role and score fifteen goals or more?
One day the light is going to go on for all of these kids and there will be enough veterans surrounding them (if management does their job) that they will be a force to be reckoned with. But unless a couple of more moves get made I don't think this is the year yet.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:02 PM