Thursday, March 06, 2014
Every once in a while you'll see the phrase 'Get good players, keep good players' floating around this part of the interweb or on the twitters. Now its not the most original thought but I'm the guy who coined it around here. Do you want to have a good team? Acquire quality. Hold onto it or move it for other quality.
The Oilers don't do that. What they do, better than any other club in the NHL (or professional sports most likely) is turn good players into nothing. The opposite of the paper clip into a house guy.
I've compiled a list of players who were Oiler property for whom they have nothing on their NHL roster to show for. I have not included players who were out of the league within a year or two due to retirement or waivers or who have moved onto Europe (although I'm pretty sure Patrick Thoreson could play in the NHL he doesn't have a gig right now so he is not included). I have included a couple of players who by all accounts were willing to sign with Edmonton for cheap but for whatever reason were allowed to move on. I have also included players who were traded for picks and / or prospects who have not arrived yet. When Klefbom becomes a regular then Penner comes off the list. Until then, no dice especially seeing as nearly all of these guys were traded for picks or prospects who have never panned out.
I've also included Horcoff because face it if Larsen can't grab a spot on this blueline he is no NHL player. Finally I've made decisions as to value so I have included Lubo instead of Stoll and Greene and Cole over Pitkanen or Lupul although you could substitute any of these guys in over the other if you prefer. In the end all that remained was nothing. They had something and they ended up with nothing.
Of course there were circumstances and this and that but hilariously all of these guys went on to play for better teams (everybody is better than the Oilers of course). Give this team a goalie and they probably kick the Oilers' ass 99 out of 100 times even though they are a bit thin up the middle. Great on the wings and a solid blueline though.
Anyhow if you want to know why the Oilers are so bad check this list out.
Colin McDonald (thanks Bruce)
Am I missing anyone?
Posted by Black Dog at 11:32 AM
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
The goal pictured above is one of the great goals in Oilers' history and sits with the Marchant goal and the Pisani OT shortie in the holy trinity of Oiler goals post dynasty. And he scored it minutes after tying the game against the Wings and shortly after scoring the goal that put the Oilers in the playoffs and keyed that beautiful run.
Only Ryan Smyth in his second goround remains from the last good team the Oilers had. When he is gone (maybe later today) all we will have is a bunch of losing losers who lose. Hopefully this will change some day.
Good luck to Ales Hemsky. He deserved better and hopefully he will see success and good health over the remainder of his career. Thanks for the memories you beauty.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:34 PM
Monday, March 03, 2014
I wrote this two years ago, the last time Ales Hemsky looked to be a goner, along with two other posts, one on why I would extend him and one on why Oiler fans seemed indifferent to the idea of trading one of their franchise's all time greats for a pick or two.
This time Ales Hemsky is almost certainly about to become what all Oilers become, an ex Oiler. If it were me I would extend him if he wanted to stay, you can never have enough good hockey players and Ales Hemsky remains a good hockey player. My guess is that Ales Hemsky doesn't want anything more to do with this laughing stock franchise and who could blame him. Its the worst franchise in hockey, one of the worst in professional sports. He's done his time and like Andy Dufresne he is almost through the river of shit.
What I wrote below is dated (note the references to Iginla and Alfredsson) but it still holds true. Ales Hemsky was a great Oiler and deserves to be remembered as such. Life isn't fair of course but I hope that Ales lands in San Jose or St Louis or some such team and in June when they hand out the Cup he raises it over his head and takes it for a spin. I would cheer for that with all of my heart.
Thanks for the memories.
This is the last I will say about Ales Hemsky. What is about to happen is something we are used to as Oiler fans. A good player, in this case the best of the last decade, is about to be shipped out. The move is being met with indifference or, worse yet, happiness from the fans. The media is complicit in the move. So is the organization. The end result is a good player is going to be gone, the team will be worse and blame will fall on the player (not good enough, greedy, he was going to test UFA anyway, bad body language) and the city (nobody wants to play here).
Despite the fact that plenty of players have signed in Edmonton and Ales Hemsky, as well as others, has spoken about how much he enjoys playing in Edmonton and most likely if he were offered a fair deal he would sign it.
Its the way of professional sports and in Edmonton more than anywhere fans are used to waving goodbye to their players. In the old days players stayed with the same franchise forever except for maybe a last gasp cup of coffee in another city by guys desperate for money or the life or just unwilling to believe it was over. Look at a Chicago roster in the early 70s and you see a collection of guys who either played their entire career with the Blackhawks or stayed with them once they arrived early in their careers or stayed with them until that last cup of coffee elsewhere. And this was the same wherever you went.
Those days are no longer but some guys still play their entire careers with one club. Usually its the franchise icons - Yzerman, Sakic, probably Brodeur and Alfredsson and Iginla. Sometimes its a guy like Ken Daneyko. With the Oilers well the list of guys who should have been lifelong Oilers is a long one but only Randy Gregg and Fernando Pisani have come close.
(The irony is that the guy who finally may be a lifetime Oiler is a guy the fans despise, the captain, Shawn Horcoff, an honest workmanlike player doomed to be disliked because of a contract that he was offered and signed in good faith. Horcoff has suffered injuries and has been asked to do more than he is capable of, playing huge and difficult minutes on a team which has gotten progressively worse. He could do with a lesser workload and its likely that day is coming. Its also probable that at his age and with that contract that he cannot be moved and that he will retire an Oiler, the first of any note to go wire to wire in Edmonton.)
Of course that should have been Ryan Smyth who engineered his trade BACK TO EDMONTON last summer but that ship sailed long ago thanks to EIG and Kevin Lowe.
And now it could be Ales Hemsky. But as is the Oiler way it will not be.
Hemsky's departure is sparking little outrage in many quarters but there is some anger out there and its not the dull smouldering type but white hot, similar to (if not as intense as) what happened when Smyth was moved years ago.
Why is this? Well Ales Hemsky is, along with Horcoff and Smyth, the last connection to those little teams that could, that era that began with Todd Marchant blowing by a stumbling Ledyard and burying the Dallas Stars and ended on June 19th when they fell barely short of the Stanley Cup. Those clubs were nearly always short of talent and the best they could hope for was a first round loss to Dallas but they worked hard and laid a beating on their opponents and the cobbled together rosters always were greater than the sum of their parts. Most of them have hung them up now, showing how quickly time passes. Joseph and his glorious save on Nieuwendyk, Tommy Salo whose game sadly fell apart, Jussi Markannen who almost gave us glory and then suffered such tragic loss. Jason Smith, whose departure changed the club's identity for the worse. Janne 'Spaz' Niinimma who wept when he was dealt. Eric Brewer and Roman Hamrlik, still carrying on, and Tom Poti and poor Cory Cross, booed out of town and Igor Ulanov, one of the toughest men to ever wear copper and blue. And of course Steve Staios, an unwanted journeyman who became a hard rock top four dman through hard work and guts.
Dougie Weight and Bill Guerin and that fucking midget Mike Comrie, who was pretty accurate about Communism and the Oilers, it turns out. Anson Carter and speedy Marchant and Mike Grier and Rem Murray and Ethan Moreau before it turned sour for him. And of course enormous Georges Laraque and Jason Chimera and Mike York and Dan Cleary rediscovering his game and his career. And joyful Marty Reasoner and the underrated Radek Dvorak. And Smytty who defined the whole wonderful era and a team that usually fell short but always gave the fans their money's worth, playing with speed and passion and an elan that had always been the signature of a great franchise. And San Fernando Pisani and Shawn Horcoff, two lower round picks, unknowns who through hard work and determination became very good NHL players and key members of the 2006 squad that captured out hearts.
The heirs to this legacy were Stoll and Torres and Hemsky, the kids on that 2006 squad and all three were big parts of that club, none moreso than the young Czech. He led the club in scoring and was very good in the playoffs. He scored one of his virtuoso goals in G1 of the Finals to tie the game in the third after the Canes had roared back and of course against the Wings, well against the Wings he showed that he was special.
Game six a must win and the Oilers flat and down two going into the third, the Wings choking the life out of them, ready to haul them back to Detroit and finish them. Pisani scoring two (2!) to tie the game, the Wings coming right back to take the lead.
And then Hemsky in on top of the goalie, scoring the ugliest goal imaginable, the puck bouncing off his gut and in. And then the dagger that did the Wings in with time winding down, blowing by Steve Yzerman in what would be the last game of his career, heading to the net, making no mistake.
And from there through the years, the artisty, the magic, the stickhandling and passes that you'd want have sex with (hat tip Dave Berry). On a team that got progressively worse Hemsky became the only guy worth watching. Every night the other club only had to shut him down and he took a beating but he came back for more every time, most notably against Robin Reghyr. And he still produced year in and year out, never complaining, putting his head down and working.
He could be maddening with his preference to pass instead of shooting and his turnovers and his stubborn desire to play the game his way.
But damn his way has been worth the price of admission in itself for years. Perhaps he was born in the wrong time, the solo dashes and fantastic puckhandling more fitting for days of yore when players like Richard and Mikita and Perreault and those old Oilers played with flair and elan, the way the game was meant to be played, the way we play it on Wednesday nights on the outdoor rink beside the train tracks on Queen Street or on a lake north of Peterborough scraped off and turned into a shrine to the game. A boy playing a man's game, a genius of sorts.
Its a sad day coming and while I doubt it will happen when Ales Hemsky returns to Edmonton he deserves a long roaring ovation for the memories he gave us. He deserves nothing less than that, one of the best players the franchise has seen, certainly the best of this last decade.
And then I hope he fills the net behind Khabibulin and rides his stick to centre ice pointing at Tambellini and Lowe. ;)
Posted by Black Dog at 8:30 AM
Sunday, February 23, 2014
No you have to go back to 1991 to see such a dominant performance. No Ray Bourque or Patrick Roy or Mario Lemieux (though there was an 18 year old Eric Lindros) and no real challenge despite two ties, I was lucky enough to witness a few of those games live, including the semifinal. There was tension, of course, but when it came down to it there was no doubt.
And this year, these Olympics, the same.
Surely there were nervous moments early in the final and a 1-0 lead is not the most dangerous lead in hockey but its certainly unsettling, even more so when the opponent's roster includes Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel.
The reality though is that if this team had lost it would have been due to a serious miscarriage of hockey justice.
In 2010 we watched the gold medal game at the home of very good friends, really very dear friends who I have known for (gulp) over twenty five years. We suffered through the tension of a game in which Canada was the better team, were devastated by the Parise goal and then elated at Crosby's overtime winner, jumping up and down and hugging and roaring our approval, standing and singing the anthem with that great team after the gold medals were presented.
After the win over Latvia we exchanged texts and I wondered if Canada were to beat the Americans on Friday whether we should reconvene and the answer was 'FUCK YEAH' and so on Sunday morning at 6:25 am I dragged the kids from their beds (though honestly the boy was up and ready when he heard me stir), put on our Canada Best shirts (The boy and I wore ours for every game from Finland on) and we drove across town ahead of the sun's rise. As we drove down the Danforth we saw people in jerseys making their way to bars and out of Tim Hortons in preparation. Seriously. We arrived in the Annex with time to spare and sat us down. While last time around it was the dads and moms who sat and watched this time all of the kids did as well with the exception of our youngest who made mischief elsewhere.
The Swedes had their moments early and at first it seemed that this game might be a battle. Bergeron missed his early chance and then Hagelin hit the post and the game was even steven and then, well, then Canada rolled over Sweden just as they had rolled over everybody. Lundqvist and his posts were all that came between the Canadians reaching double figures. Toews' goal gave them the dreaded 1-0 lead but the dreaded Swedish power play was nullified and the Swedes never got a sniff really. When Crosby scored it was over. There was little tension and so we ate our pancakes and drank our coffee cheerfully and while my nerves kicked in briefly before the third started (it was for the gold medal for Christ Sakes!!) it became clear that the Swedes could not keep up. Lacking Zetterberg and Sedin and Backstrom did them in but then again Canada was missing Tavares and Stamkos and Subban was in the pressbox and Hall and Thornton and Seguin and Neal were all at home.
But of course as we know that is the depth that Canada has, its the advantage we have over everyone, the odd time a country will have a golden generation such as the Americans in the 90s or the Swedes in the oughts and then maybe we will see a team that can match the talent that Canada can run out there but decade after decade we do the same thing. We produce hockey players.
The only lull in my lifetime was the late nineties between the 'Oilers' generation and what followed when the offence seemed to dry up and even then, even then, it was Mike Richter in 1996 and Dominick Hasek in 1998 and without these two even that lull would have produced champions.
Watching this team and its perfection, for that was what it was, perfect, I began to muse, is this the greatest generation of players? For a moment I thought there is no doubt. I think of '87 and Crossman and Rochefort on the blue line and look at '91 with Corson, Dirk Graham, Tinordi and Russ Courtnall and I think that other than 1976 there may not be a better collection of talent than what we saw this time around. 76 will always be the gold standard for a team but they were a one off really.
Of course the tale is yet to be written. There is no doubt that we produce elite hockey players like no other country but the Gretzkys did win three of these tourneys in a row. I don't doubt that if the NHL goes to Korea or if its a World Cup that comes next that we will see Crosby and Toews and Doughty make it three in a row but until that time we must reserve judgement.
There have been thirteen of these best on best tournaments and Canada has now won nine of them. Since the Olympics became best on best Canada has won three of five and with this victory, in Europe and on the big ice, the last dragon has been slain. Results are results and its hard to argue with them. The Czechs are no longer the Czechs. The Russians haven't won since 1991. The Swedes have seen Sundin and Forsberg and Lidstrom go and soon the Sedins and Alfredsson and Lundqvist will follow. The Americans are coming but they lack the talent up the middle and on the blue line to be a serious threat right now.
Yzerman is done and his successor will have a tough act to follow. One could quibble with Yzerman's selections and with Babcock's deployment of these selections (Subban being the major question) and while the lazy amongst the media might say that a gold medal means there should be no questions I prefer to look to the process and think could this team have been better? I believe that probably the answer is yes. Chris Kunitz had a very good tournament from the Finland game on and good for him. He's an excellent player of course and he proved his worth but even with all of that said I think a better player might have been chosen over him. And I think Subban over Bouwmeester is a no brainer although I've always liked Bouwmeester who now has two golds in best on best. He's a guy who can play.
Canada's greatest strength is its depth of talent. Happily we are beyond bringing Rob Zamuner and Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby to these tournaments as we have learned (remembered) that if you bring Dale Hawerchuk and tell him to check that indeed he can check and on top of that he can provide offence as well and so Nash and Carter and Sharp and Marleau were brought along and played the roles that those who run the junior selection process still like to slot with actual junior role players.
It was a wonderful day today, one to celebrate. Its just a game of course, a distraction, but a wonderful one all the same. I'm a proud Canadian, I'm not afraid to say so. I think this is a great country. Some of this is due to luck and some is due to good policy and much of it is plain old geography which provides us with great wealth and a history of peace. Like all nations much of our history and national mythology is littered with shameful acts and lies. This is true. But it is a great country all the same and its wonderful to have a game which we do well at and which can bring us together on days like today.
Go Canada. Until next time!
Posted by Black Dog at 10:05 PM
Saturday, February 22, 2014
I've referred to Nick Hornby's outstanding book 'Fever Pitch' here many times. He makes the point that attending Arsenal matches was nothing enjoyable in any way, save the result when they triumphed. The gut wrenching tension, the stress, the frustration, all eating at you. Are you not entertained?
When Jenn and I were in London in 2006 we went to a Tottenham match at White Hart Lane. They were playing Portsmouth, an also ran, and as usual Spurs, while not a great side, were quite good. They tallied twice early on and controlled the match entirely from that point. It was fairly dull for quite a while though the spectacle itself was very enjoyable. I highly recommend it. It was a lovely autumn afternoon and the crowd was in full voice, cheering and singing and chanting. And then late in the first half a long ball against the run of play, a quick pass, a defensive blunder and the lead cut in half.
As the second half progressed the tension in the stadium mounted. The singing was no more and the fans worried as Portsmouth began to come on.
In the row in front of us was a man of about my age. His leather jacket was worth more than my entire wardrobe, his haircut certainly worth a decade worth of haircut's at Sam's Nice Haircuts. As the game wore on I noted that he became angrier and angrier, his face a knot of tense disappointment and worry. He muttered curses under his breath as Portsmouth slowly pushed and pushed and pushed into Tottenham's end. His fists clenched, his jaw spasmed, his face a mask of terrified disgust and finally with about ten minutes left, unable to take it anymore, he got up and tore out of there.
Spurs held on and when the final whistle blew the crowd exhaled as one and then sang with joy as we streamed out into the gloomy high road, back to the pubs and the tube station, flooding by the mounted riot police.
For us it was an exhilarating experience. I'm a Spurs' fan but a casual one. It was fun. For the hardcore supporters it was more of a relief. They were happy of course but there weren't a lot of smiles after Portsmouth drew within reach. It was agonizing.
And so it was Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. Canada triumphed three times but there was no 'gorillas from a cage' game, no blowout that allowed us to sit back, crack a beer and fully enjoy the spectacle. The hockey was great on Friday, the best game of these Games by far but despite Canada's dominant performance it was still one shot away from being a tie and despite Glenn Healy's assertion that a two goal lead would be insurmountable (Healy says a lot of things that are dumb but oh boy) it wasn't until the final whistle went that we could exhale and relax, at least until Sunday.
More thoughts on the men's team but first, Thursday's game.
I thought I saw it all four years ago when Parise tied it and then Crosby won it all and then the Bruins came back last spring from three down (and two down with barely a minute left) and I thought wow ok now that will never be topped and then just weeks after that Chicago turned the tables on Boston and tied it and then won it just like that. Won the Cup. Now I had seen it all.
And then Thursday. I expected the Americans to win. They were quicker. They had beaten the Canadian women handily in the leadup to the Games. Wickenheiser is no longer Wickenheiser and the new hope, Poulin, had been mostly invisible. The Americans were up by two as the game wound down it looked like a valiant effort was going to fall short.
Then a lucky break (its nearly always a lucky break) and it was a one goal game and then the linesman bumped Ward and the puck skittered down and thudded against the post and then another break and it was Poulin and it was overtime.
There were two keys. The goaltending of Szabados in the first two minutes of overtime saved the Canadians. And then with the Americans on a powerplay the slashing call on Lamoureux. Dreadful call? Yes. Except if you play hockey you know that if the ref gives your team a warning, as had happened earlier, then you heed that warning. And Lamoureux, being Lamoureux, couldn't help herself and gave Szabados a whack.
And then it was almost inevitable. Knight clipping Wickenheiser, taking her down on the break, the ensuing powerplay, the goal by Poulin. I'd say it will never be matched but we know that on Sunday it could be.
I don't think I've ever seen a 1-0 game that was a bigger blowout than the game on Friday. Now you can argue player selection and deployment even with the results. I'm always of the mind that you should push to be better and Hockey Canada's conservative approach has cost us, especially at the world juniors these past few years where there seems to be an obsession with pedigree (winning programs) and bringing role players. At the Olympic level we have such an embarrassment of riches its hard to believe. I've been around forever ;) and really since 76 I don't think I can remember so many great Canadian players. The teams that ran the table in 84, 87 and 91 had the most successful run in best on best play but in 87, for example, you had Doug Crossman and Normand Rochfort on defence. On this team PK Subban can't get into the lineup and Martin St Louis doesn't play a shift and Joe Thornton, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and James Neal (to mention a few) are at home, along with the injured Stamkos and Tavares.
Take those latter six players. No country can match that as a top six. Maybe the Swedes.
You could argue for different player selection for sure I think, even with the team where its at but I do appreciate Babcock's choices and gameplan. They have dominated and the fact is they have beaten two good teams and handily (despite the scores). I'd love to see what Babcock could do with this team given a month, find out if they can find a way to break out on the big ice. Watching the game on Friday you will note that when the Canadians had possession the Americans had all five players below the hashmarks. That's a difficult nut to crack regardless of how much skill you have on the ice And yet they had multiple chances in close. Benn's one timer. Sharp and Crosby and Kunitz all in close. In the other games Perry twice had the puck on the doorstep all alone and could not stuff it in.
The gold medal game could go one of three ways. I respect the Swedes but this is not the 2002 or 2006 team. They can be had and I could see a 'gorillas out of the cage' game for Canada. Unlikely but a bit of puck luck will make it happen. More likely it will be more of what we have seen. It will be close, Canada will deserve it but as we all know that means not a thing. The team has done well though and worse case I see a deal like 96 or 98 where we deserved it and got beaten by the better goaltender. It happens but I'm thinking a gold medal is in the offing. Canada is too loaded front to back. They're going to run the Swedes into the ice.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:08 PM
Thursday, February 20, 2014
The adaptation of Swiss tactics by nearly every team Canada has played so far has made it difficult. Luckily unless Canada meets the Finns in the final (a real possibility of course) they likely won't see this strategy again.
I heard that some dummy was on Toronto radio yesterday proclaiming that the Canadians were a disgrace and of course such talk is the sign of a weak mind or looking for ratings, most likely the former I would think.
Spoiled by a stretch of world junior results where Canada blew out everyone, including the Russians twice in consecutive finals, and with memories of the quarter final victory over Russia still fresh in everybody's mind Canadians think that this is the way hockey works. This idea is bolstered by video games where a team of all stars can score at will and by the dumbing down of the national discussion of hockey at all levels, a good part of which can be blamed on the CBC and its embrace of the fourth line thug as a more important part of a team than a skilled player, especially if the latter is European or French Canadian. The Cherryfication of hockey we'll call it, its gospel spread by its disciples, dummies like Healy and Stock and Spector, Doug MacLean and Kypreos and the rest of that lot, shouting and posturing and mocking all reason and intelligence, a collection of feces throwing, hooting, moronic apes.
We not only expect to win but we expect to win in a landslide, leaving our opponents bloodied, broken and humiliated, and if we do not then it is because we are not tough enough or aren't passionate enough and so the same mouth breathers who claim that the Edmonton Oilers would be better off if they waived Ales Hemsky right off the team, replacing him with nothing to maybe top sixer Ben Eager, are the ones who say that the biggest issue with Team Canada is Sid Crosby because best on best hockey is a video game and he should score five goals a game.
Now if you've played the game, even at a lower level like myself, and you have even a modicum of sense then you know that in hockey anything can happen. If the teams in this tournament formed a league and played an eighty two game schedule Canada would beat Latvia every time most likely and probably plenty of those games would be blowouts but Latvia might squeak a game out here or there, much like the perennial doormat Oilers did to Chicago a couple of times in past years. As a matter of fact the Oilers whipped Chicago. Anything can happen.
And in a tournament one game and your out format with teams thrown together ten days ago? Well take that 'anything can happen' and ramp it up a few notches and even more so when the opponents throw tactics at you that are almost impossible to unlock (so far).
Should Canadians be worried? Well their team has pretty well dominated every game in terms of possession, shots, scoring chances. Not much else can be done. If Kunitz beats Rask and Toews doesn't stumble and Carter pots that backhand then they blow the Finns out.
Now of course they didn't and while its nice to think that 'the goals will start to come' the reality is that they may not come at all. I would guess that playing a team that does not collapse around its net will help the Canadians open up their offence and most likely we will see a lot of goals tomorrow for the good guys but of course as we saw in Vancouver there is no guarantee. We were the better team there in both games and the end result was a loss and an overtime win.
My main concern Friday afternoon is that the Americans come out like the proverbial gorillas out of a cage and the Canadians end up on their heels, unused to the speed and quality of their opponent. Kessel and Kane are no longer callow kids but at the height of their powers but then again the same can be said about Toews and Doughty, amongst others on the Canadian side.
On paper the Canadians should win, their defence is especially superior, but the games aren't played on paper ARE THEY?
Here is what I wrote four years ago.
And specifically note this:
These are two good teams but if you were a betting man you would lay money on Canada who have outplayed and outchanced every opponent by a wide margin. Its likely that they will do so again tonight and that the only way that they will lose is if Ryan Miller is outstanding and the Americans are a little lucky.
And based on what has happened in this tournament before today and what we know about the game of hockey we know that this is entirely possible.
Four years later and not a thing has changed basically.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Both his winter league and spring league clubs won it all last year, making him two for two as a hockey player in seasons played and championships won and he has a really good chance of making it three for three in a few weeks which would give him three times as many hockey championships as a player as I have won in approximately thirty five attempts.
The little jerk.
Its been a great year for him. Last year on both of his clubs he was a spare part, one of the youngest and smallest players in a two year age division. This year his team has a trio of very strong players and then a handful more who form a good supporting cast and he is in that group. He's found his niche in two ways, first as a solid defensive defenceman who can move the puck decently and secondly as a pretty decent goalie.
His coach is a very good friend of mine. He's a terrific coach. He never loses sight of the fact that these are young kids and that fun and being fair is what its all about. With that said he wants to give his little guys and girls a chance to win everything and so, after a lot of thought, he has asked if my guy will be the goalie for the playoffs.
It was a while back that my son actually asked his coach for this chance. They have rotated goalies through the year and while there are two or three who are probably a bit better than him they are also more important to the team as skaters. The boy looked at this, thought about it (he's a thinker) and told me that it was best for the team if he was in net. He told his coach he wanted it and after some thought his coach agreed.
It is best for the team. They have lost two games and both had major extenuating circumstances. In other words if they have their team out they should run the table here. Should being the operative word. Its hockey. Anything can happen.
And this is the killer for Jenn and I. The boy is embracing what he is about to face. He has played in net a few times and is undefeated and he likes it to be honest. He's not a goal scorer and the team has players who will take care of that and while he knows that he is contributing doing what he does best back on the blueline he also likes the team coming out to congratulate him after a win and the hip hip hoorays in the dressing room. So he wants it and most likely the team will cruise through the round robin, there are three teams they are facing and they should handle two just fine.
But the third is a good team for sure and so if they face them in the big game his play is going to matter and mistakes he makes will end up behind him and man oh man its going to be awful. We won't be able to take it although he is fine with it and win or lose it will be a great experience for him.
But oh boy I'd start drinking now if I could.
As usual we've been following the Olympics here in the McLean household. Its not the same as Vancouver of course, I don't know if there will ever be another one like Vancouver, and the time difference means its a different deal altogether too. You wake up with a good part of the events past already and by early afternoon everything is finished. So its not as all consuming which is probably a good thing.
Its been a good Olympics for Canada. I have talked before how this is strange to me, I grew up when we would win two or three medals and call it a day and most Canadians finished in the fifties and sixties in cross country skiing and biathlon and would get slaughtered in the bobsled and the luge. Those days are long gone of course, we're a powerhouse now. Quite a bit of this is that there are so many more sports and we tend to do well in them but even in the traditional sports this time around we have medals in long track and the Super G and figure skating and we were oh so close in luge which I cannot get over at all. Its just weird is all as a relative oldtimer :) - as Canadians we expect to do well and generally we do and while there are the usual disappointments where favourites fail (the short track relay team and Hamelin in the 1000 come to mind) there are also the unexpected successes such as Hudec and Morrison and Dufour Lapointe beating an almost unbeatable American in the moguls.
Its a lot of fun except of course when these kids (and most of them are kids of course) crash or fail spectacularly and this is not made any easier when 'fans' come out of the woodwork and tear into them before heading to the kitchen for another coke and bowl of cheetos.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not afraid to criticize folks, the idea that someone is beyond rebuke because they are an NHL GM has been made to me a number of times over the last eight years because I am an Oilers' fan and there are a lot of dumb Oilers' fans out there who thought Lowe and then Tambo knew what they were doing. If you know anything then you know that history is littered with incompetent presidents and prime ministers who have destroyed economies and led their countries to ruin, CEOs who have destroyed companies, generals who have lost their armies and so on and so forth. The same principle applies to something as silly as your favourite sports team, for that matter it most likely applies in the place that you work.
I just have a hard time getting on these kids. I remember Steve Simmons in one Olympics tearing Joanne Malar to shreds because, well, because he's an awful person I guess. She didn't meet expectations and so it went and it made me wonder what people think sometimes, that of all the people in the world who felt worse than Patrick Chan the other night. Its one thing to get beat like Kingsbury got beat by Bilodeau or Virtue and Moir got beat by the two muppets, its another to have it in your grasp and then to let yourself down. Its something he will remember all of his life. Literally.
I don't get the piling on. Oh well.
The hockey tournament has been great so far, hasn't it? Now the real shit begins for sure though.
The reaction to the first week has been typically over the top especially here in Canada. Before I talk about our hometown heroes though I wanted to think a few thoughts out loud and here they are.
- I think that the funny thing about these tournaments is that every time they occur nearly everyone forgets what has happened in the past. We forget Belarus beating Sweden. We forget barely beating Germany in 2002 and getting shut out by the Swiss in 2006 and barely squeaking by the Swiss and Slovaks in 2010 and all of the other upsets and near upsets that happen in every tournament. What will happen in the qualifying knockout games? Well the Russians will win and other than that who knows. We know who should win (other than the Austria/Slovenia matchup) but while we worry about the Swiss in the quarters the reality is we may never face them.
Single game knockout. Anything can happen. Everyone thinking Canada/US and Sweden/Russia for sure in the semis hasn't been paying attention for the last twenty years or so.
- You know who has more medals in the last five best on bests than anyone? The Finns. They have four. Two silvers and two bronze.
- the quarters will be really interesting. The Russians have also struggled to score and they will face the Finns. The Americans will probably face the Czechs who have been hampered by some terrible lineup choices so far. I wonder if they're just playing possum because while they're nowhere near the quality of the Czech teams of old they still have a lot of good hockey players and if they put it together with some goaltending they could surprise. To me the USA is one of the top two teams (I figured them for top three but rate them higher than the Swedes now due to the latter's injuries) and they should go through to the semis but again ... single knockout
As for the Canadians well it will likely be the Swiss and so we will see a repeat of Sunday's game. The thing with a game like that is that if shit falls your way it can turn into a blowout. If Kunitz beats Rask, if Toews doesn't stumble on the wrap, if Carter tucks that backhand in then its no contest. They didn't, sometimes you don't but I really had little problem with how Canada played. The Finns are a decent club even with their injury issues and Canada totally controlled the game. Sure it would have been nice to have more finish but Rask is excellent and the Finns played a tactically perfect game. When it went to OT I turned to the boy and said Canada will end it now and they did, that extra bit of ice was all they needed.
So against the Swiss as I noted we will see more of the same and Canada will need to either create that extra ice somehow or get a little bit more luck. Maybe they fail in both respects and lose because hockey but my guess is they will go through. The team is too good I think, its so deep up front, they are fast and they own the puck and while it would be nice for a forward other than Carter to score I honestly can't see what more they can do but to keep at it. The good news is that if they get by the Swiss then unless they see the Finns again they should see a lot more open ice and I think that is a game that plays to the team's strengths.
Would I change anything? I thought Bergeron and Benn with Crosby were just fine. Carter has been one of their best forwards (did you see him catch Grabner? Amazing.) but he and Toews and Marleau have been very good so while part of me says move him to Crosby's flank another part of me says why bother? Crosby has been excellent and his line has generated chances and what more can you want? Other than goals of course lol. But really there is no magic bullet here. All four lines generated chances against the Finns and will do the same on Wednesday and they just need to cash some of them in.
Kunitz had his best game against the Finns and this is pretty funny because he is there because of Sid and yet he was terrible in the first two games and as soon as he got demoted he had a strong game. And the Swiss game is going to need a mule who can tap one in from the corner of the crease. That said he probably should come out for St. Louis. Honestly though while I love St Louis he did nothing in Torino and he did nothing against the Austrians either. That said if the big issue is scoring you want to have your best scorers in the lineup so to me its a no brainer.
And for the same reason I'd slot Subban in in Hamhuis' place. I understand why Hamhuis was the seventh man against the Finns, as Jon Willis noted, all of the question marks are on the left side and if Vlasic or Bouwmeester faltered you wanted an alternative. They were fine so you slot in PK. He adds that creativity and offensive acumen.
That's all I'd do. Canada has the best team I think. Its what I thought before the tournament and what I still believe. So they have probably a forty to fifty percent chance of winning it, maybe less, which is also what I thought before it got underway. Its not easy to win these things. That's just the way it is.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:12 PM
Monday, January 20, 2014
For the boy its been a wonderful year. Last year he won championships with both his winter and spring clubs but he was a passenger on both teams, a young seven on seven/eight teams, a lot of try and enthusiasm but he was just starting out. This year he is one of the older guys, he's bigger, he's stronger and he's improved by leaps and bounds.
He's found his niche on the blueline and game after game I find myself saying to him 'buddy that's the best game you've ever played'. Last game he began to suddenly step into the oncoming rush at times, breaking up the onslaught at the opposing blue or centre ice, turning the play the other way. The funny thing is that he is improving so fast that he is beginning to run into trouble at times as he suddenly finds himself in unfamiliar situations. As he has gotten better he has ended up with the puck on his stick a lot more often, quite often in traffic in his own zone. He's figuring it out (he's a smart little guy) but there have been a couple of instances where he's had the puck, hesitated, and suddenly not had the puck.
As well as playing on the blue he has strapped on the pads three times. He's three and oh, with all of his wins coming against the top echelon clubs, and he loves it. He loves the fact that he can make the big save and that after the game his teammates stream out onto the ice and congratulate him before handshakes and that back in the room the coaches and parents give three cheers for him. When you're in net you're a big part of it.
Saturday his team had a typical game, a 9-4 win, never in doubt. He got beat twice just fine and let in two others in the time honoured tradition of little goalies everywhere, as the puck slid along the ice towards him (once from the blueline) and rather then keep his stick on the ice he fell on the puck and watched in horror as it went under him and into the net.
Now I remember playing almost forty years ago and seeing goalies make the same mistake but of course I felt bad for him. He redeemed himself when twice he faced the other team's best shooter, in all alone, and did the superman dive to stop pucks labelled for the corner, saving the second one with his head of all things, leaving the sniper literally shaking his head and yelling 'YOU'RE KIDDING ME!'
Pretty good stuff.
And so the next day before Capsule hit the ice for our own big game (more on this later, we won a war and it was spectacular) I chatted with his coach and we talked about the playoffs for the boy and his team. The issue is they don't have a regular goalie and the boy has told Mark (his coach) that he would like to have the job for the playoffs. He's a good choice but the problem that Higgs is facing is that if he puts him in net then he loses a pretty good player on the blueline. So he's trying to figure it out and we're going to bounce some ideas around over pints in a couple of weeks and he'll talk to the other coaches and try and come to a decision as to what the best course of action is. I know he'll make a good decision based on what he has seen and that while one never knows how the chips may fall the team will be in its best position to win as a result of it. That is all you can ask the coach to do when it comes to that sort of stuff and while it sounds goofy to say so hockey is really the same when it comes down to it at whatever the level, even a squirt houseleague. Figure out what you have and then put the team in a position that maximizes their chance to win. Then you just hope that the hockey gods smile on you.
Its been a tough day in a tough week in a tough month in another tough season for the Oilers. Disaster. Fiasco. Gong show. Clusterfuck. Pick a word or phrase to describe it. What a mess.
The week that has just passed has really summed the last eight years up though with the only missing piece of the puzzle being the trade of a useful NHL player for a pick or never will be prospect. Other than that we had it all. Here come the Oilers!
We had the once decent NHLer, now identified as a problem, run out of town, confidence shattered.
We had the random injuries that decimated a shallow lineup.
We had a plug on the wrong side of thirty brought in for grit and character all for the low low price of nearly two million a year for four years.
We had losses, of course, because that is what the Oilers have been all about for eight years now, losing, and there were four of them, four in four games.
We had the young talent all going backwards.
And to cap it off the owner, tone deaf as always, publishes an open letter to the fans today which basically says they will not panic (good) but otherwise making laughable assertions as to Kevin Lowe's abilities and the fact that all's well that rebuilds well and that DON'T WORRY WE ALL KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING AND NEVER MIND EIGHT YEARS OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS AND ... you get the picture.
Its amateur hour at Rexall, it has been for a while now, and people are starting to clue in although hilariously you still get fans who assert that if you are critical of the team then you are not a real fan or that the problem remains the fact that there are too many veterans, such as the moron who tweeted that they have to get rid of Ales Hemsky, get rid of him for nothing, because no Ales Hemsky is better than Ales Hemsky.
That's right, get rid of the ten year veteran who actually knows how to play in the NHL and will play any role the coach asks of him and who is not getting buried despite playing tough minutes in front of a porous blue and goaltender.
That's right you fucking moron. That's a good idea.
So as the old saying goes there are a number of fans who deserve a loser team run by stupid people because they are stupid losers themselves. The problem is the rest of us have to suffer.
When you get down to it the guys running the team, and sadly I believe MacT may be part of this based on this Hendricks move, have no clue. Lowe can bleat about winning all that he wants but the fact is this team was a very good team in June of 2006 and they (mostly he) managed to run it all into the sewer. They have turned the house into a paperclip, trading away veterans and useful youth away for nothing time and time again until they have a handful of kids they picked at the top of the draft and nothing besides. The two teams the Oilers like to refer to (they never mention the Islanders or Panthers or Thrashers) are the Pens and the Hawks. The Pens had two generational kids, a handful of other youngsters and then surrounded them with veterans. The Hawks had the top end guys in Toews and Kane and then a raft of youth all through the lineup. Troy Brouwer scored 23 goals and was on their fourth line in the 2010 playoffs! On top of that Keith and Seabrook and Sharp were in their mid twenties and were battle tested and the lot of them were supported by a future Hall of Famer in Hossa, another star in Brian Campbell and a smattering of other vets in support roles.
The Oilers? Well they traded away the useful youth who may have been support players (Brodziak and Cogliano) for picks and they moved out the veteran D they had just a few years ago (Souray, Lubo and Gilbert) for nothing but the shell of Nick Schultz. Lupul begat Pitkanen who begat Cole who begat ... Patrick O'Sullivan and the only common thread is that every single one of these guys is playing or has played a pretty big role for teams better than the Oilers. Except for O'Sullivan who is out of the league and Schultz who soon will be. Of course everyone is better than the Oilers ...
Dubnyk had been a pretty good goalie for a shitshow team for a few years. Yes he was awful this fall and yes goddamnit he lets in too many softies and Scrivens, well Scrivens, is probably the same as Dubnyk, maybe a bit better, maybe a bit worse, in my mind its pretty well a wash except you could bring Hasek in his prime onto this club and they'd still get filled night after night. Dubnyk had to go anyhow and I hope he does well wherever he ends up. He deserves better, all of the players pretty well do. I can't get too worked up about it.
Its the Hendricks thing, a small move the apologists say, they always say that, what does it matter, except guys like Hendricks are a dime a dozen and somehow MacT thought that picking up one with a four year contract was a good idea. There is a kid here in Toronto, Bodie, who could probably provide the same things Hendricks does at a fraction of the cost and for far shorter term. I respect Hendricks, I do, don't get me wrong. He's earned his scratch the hard way but picking him up shows that the Oilers still don't get it and should send chills down your spine.
Its a contest you see, you only have so much money you can spend and the small moves add up just ask the Leafs who won't be able to add any reinforcements for a playoff push without subtracting players because all of these 'small moves' added up. The latest rumour for the Oilers is a long term deal for Hiller this summer and based on the all but confirmed offer they made for Clarkson who has been an enormous bust for the Leafs (nobody saw that coming! And the Oilers apparently offered MORE FUCKING MONEY THAN TORONTO!!!) one can only think that shit is really going to get worse before it gets better. They don't understand how things work.
Everyone on the D is playing a couple of slots too high and so we get to see Petry's confidence get shattered now. Yakupov has been made the scapegoat while Eberle, Gagner and Hall get to float around and do as they please and the only players worth a damn are two veterans from other organizations in Gordon and Perron and two old Oilers who will be gone come summer in Hemsky and Smyth.
Which means another couple of holes to fill and yes Smytty is only a fourth liner now but he's the best they have by far.
Get good players and keep them.
The Oilers have done the opposite of this for years and no matter of spin from Katz and Laforge and their B team of flackeys and PR people can disguise the fact that the franchise is a disaster and the people running it are abject failures.
Six rings my ass.
To paraphrase an immortal 80s hair band:
Lowe don't go away mad, Lowe just go away.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:54 PM
Monday, January 06, 2014
I don't know enough about junior hockey to be able to say that THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG but one guy I follow on Twitter, Victor Carneiro (@vcarneiro), is in the business and he and @67Sound both had good points last night as to part of the problem. Victor especially 'spoke' at length on the juniors and its worth going back and checking out.
The funny thing about these one and done tournaments is that they are just that, one and done, and international hockey has so much parity now that reading into a long winning or losing streak is to be done at its own peril. Even when Canada won five golds in a row there were times they got a little bit lucky and for that matter at the beginning of this latest streak they could have easily won it all with a break or two here or there. To me the question is 'were they in the mix'? I remember in 1998 when we lost at Nagano the hand wringing that resulted. At that point Canada's senior men really were lacking in terms of pure offensive skill and when Suter knocked Kariya out and then Joe Sakic got hurt our chances for a gold medal really took a hit. Yet even with those casualties it took probably the greatest goaltender run of all time to knock Canada off in the semis. (I'm not talking about the tournament itself but those three or four years where Hasek was unreal.)
Building an international team is exactly like building an NHL team. I mean obviously its different in that you are not drafting and developing kids or making trades or signing free agents but the reality is that you want to put the best roster together that you can and then hopefully the chips fall where they may. You would take a Stanley Cup over years of excellence without a Cup obviously but if you were to choose a GM to build your team would you take Jim Rutherford because he won a Cup or would you take Doug Wilson who has built a team that hasn't won it all but has been in the mix to win it all for nearly ten years now?
I'm not saying Rutherford is a bad GM don't get me wrong. He deserves credit for getting the Canes to the promised land, he built a good team that year, they were in the mix and they got some luck and they won.
That's the key though. Build a team that is in the mix and then hope that the hockey gods smile on you. And the key is building a team that is talented enough that the chances of that are tilted as far in your favour as you can make them.
The problem for Canada (or what would worry me if I was at Hockey Canada) is that the last three years they have not even been in the ballpark and, if anything, are getting worse. They cut Kevin Prendergast out of the mix and believe me that will help buddy is the worst but something at this point is broken.
I read a few interesting points, one that stood out was that nearly half of the Canadian forwards brought nothing (literally) to the table offensively. In a couple of cases (Bo Horvat comes to mind) its hard to argue against the player selection, the question in that case is did he underperform or was it the system? Don't know but in other cases ... why bring a fourth line that barely plays? Why not Max Domi? Why bring a Dman who barely plays (Bigras) and not Darnell Nurse and what sort of scouting bases a guy's selection (or not) on two games rather than his body of work this season, which by all accounts has been excellent.
I don't get it. I don't pretend to have all of the answers but when you have the deepest talent pool in the world then you should take advantage of it. In 1987 Dale Hawerchuk was the 'checking' centre. He was one of the best players in the world. They didn't take Craig MacTavish or Troy Murray to the Canada Cup. They took the best player they could and told him to figure it out. It was Dale Hawerchuk. He figured it out pretty easily.
There is an odd Canadian obsession with intangibles - heart, grit, being a winner, as if a) they were particularly Canadian qualities, which they are not and b) that sort of thing makes up for talent
Now I am not saying that there is such a thing as talent without heart, remember Sather's famous quote about Jimmy Carson (paraphrasing - you can have all the talent in the world but its no good if you don't have the ticker). But its this attitude, the Mark Spector attitude, that the bottom of your roster needs to be grinders and goons, that Euros can't make the grade, that leads to fourth liners who are nailed to the bench when it matters (HELLO COLTON ORR) instead of fourth liners who are on the ice in the last minute and scoring Cup winning goals (Bolland, Kruger, Frolik).
It also leads to goalies who know how to win who have worse numbers than other goalies and who let in wrist shots from the blueline.
And I'm not hacking on Fucale here. He's just a kid and he did his best. But maybe he shouldn't have been there. Nobody questioned that choice though and mainly because he won the Memorial Cup.
Tomorrow Team Canada will be named and there will be much wailing and rending of garments and gnashing of teeth regardless, I guarantee it, regardless of the final roster.
The truth is Steve Yzerman's job is easy and I really believe that. Canada's talent pool is so deep that he could run out about six or seven different rosters and they would be fine. Seriously. The only possible way he can screw it up is if he overthinks things. That's how you end up with guys like Rob Zamuner and Kris Draper on your team.
(Kris Draper was a wonderful player and the 2004 World Cup team included him AND Kirk Maltby lol and won it pretty easily, probably the easiest best on best win I ever saw, except maybe 1991 or maybe 1976. But he didn't belong on a best on best team. Full stop.)
I think there are two possible pitfalls that face him.
One is excluding Subban. It sounds like he's on the team thank goodness. Subban is so good that he, like Keith and Doughty in Vancouver, could be a standout. He may be an extra part to start but I would not be surprised at all if he ends up playing a major role for Canada in a positive way.
The second pitfall is naming Chris Kunitz to the team. I like Chris Kunitz, I really do. He's a heck of a player and I would take him on the Oilers in a second. He's not a difference maker though. I hate comparing him to Bozak because Bozak couldn't carry Kunitz's jock but without Crosby Kunitz doesn't do much and in my mind I picture Brent Seabrook in Vancouver. I have all the time in the world for Seabrook as an NHL top pairing defenceman but he couldn't handle the Olympics and I could see the same for Kunitz. He's not a world class player.
I think he makes it due to the Crosby factor and to be honest I believe in that idea slightly. In Vancouver Crosby didn't do a lot and I think a lot of that was due to his linemates, Staal and Iginla. He needs better linemates this time around, he's going to be facing the other team's best and I would prefer that they have better options than Chris Kunitz. That said I can see the thought process here though I don't necessarily agree with it.
Best on best reduces the best to just another cog in the machine. A guy like Seabrook (or Bergeron in Vancouver as another example) gets exposed. A guy like Toews or Thornton does well but he doesn't stand out because his opponent is a star as well.
So if you're picking Chris Kunitz you need to know that he can do this. I don't know that he can.
The latest list on TSN (a mish mash of picks from MacKenzie and Dreger I guess?) is as follows:
G: Price Luongo Smith
D: Keith Doughty Bouwmeester Pietrangelo Vlasic Weber Boyle Subban
F Couture Crosby Stamkos Benn Toews Perry Duchene Getzlaf Giroux Sharp Tavares Nash Bergeron St. Louis
On the bubble: Staal Kunitz Marleau Carter Giordano Hamhuis Staal Seabrook
Not even mentioned (!) Thornton Hall Seguin Kane Letang Ryan Smyth (!!!!!) Any other goalie.
I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers, in a lot of cases I haven't seen these guys play too much and only know them by reputation, similar to Team Canada management. (Try the veal and tip your hard working servers, I'm here all week.)
Injuries are going to change some of this of course, there is already an issue with Luongo. I'm not a big fan of Mike Smith mostly because he's a big baby and I think he's a product of the Coyotes' system. I think its Carey Price's job to run with, I don't really see anyone else who inspires confidence other than Luongo so ... GET WELL SOON ROBERTO!
On the blue my musts are Keith, Doughty, Pietrangelo, Weber, Subban. After that I think its six of one mostly. I have no issues with Bouwmeester, he doesn't drive the bus but he's a minute muncher, a big body and he can skate miles. I think he's a good pick. After that I would run with two of Vlasic, Boyle and Hamhuis. Take your pick. I don't think Seabrook can handle it. I like Giordano a lot but I have no idea if he could handle it, I doubt it. And Staal I love but not after the injuries.
Up front my musts are Crosby, Stamkos, Toews, Perry, Duchene, Tavares and then I'd take Benn, Getzlaf, Sharp and Giroux. All of these guys are terrific players. Getzlaf did just fine in 2010 despite coming off an injury. Sharp is a shoo in, he has the skill, he has the pedigree (this doesn't matter to me but two Cup wins will matter to Yzerman) and he has 25 goals. And I think Benn is really good. (Analysis!!)
After that I do believe many of these guys are interchangeable. I'm fine with TSN's list and I also think you wouldn't lose anything putting Carter or Marleau (or Seguin) on the team over Nash or Couture.
Two final thoughts on Joe Thornton and Taylor Hall.
Joe Thornton will never get the respect he deserves. He's just one of those guys. His playoff numbers are quite good despite his reputation, he's played through injuries that would lay you or I out for weeks, he's one of the greats of his generation. He hasn't won the Cup and he suffers from big man's disease like Frank Mahovolich and Mario Lemieux and Dustin Penner and I suspect he doesn't suffer stupid reporters at all and so he doesn't get that benefit of the doubt.
He could be on this team and it would be fine, he's having another great year but I think the thing that is going to kill him is his lack of speed. He's never been a burner and while speed isn't the end all and be all it will matter in Sochi. Its not a big ice thing its the fact that nearly everyone on the ice is going to be able to skate like the wind.
Meanwhile Taylor Hall has the numbers, playing on a junk team he is one of the top left wingers in the game and I have no doubt in my mind that he could contribute to Team Canada.
I also think that he has himself to blame for what looks like a probable snub. When asked to play centre early in the year he took to the task with less than one hundred percent enthusiasm and his play on his half of centre has been spotty at times all season.
I love Taylor Hall, if anyone leads the Oilers out of the desert it will be him but he's not put his best foot forward here and while I'm not a big 'intangibles' guy I think he's made Yzerman and company question him. Based on skill he should be going but in this specific case I can see why they'd not include him on the roster. His run of late may change their minds but I suspect not and its too bad, like Iginla in Salt Lake City this should have been his coming out party.
Sunday, January 05, 2014
It was about eight years ago that I googled something on the Oilers, I can't remember what, and one of the results directed me to a website called Covered In Oil. After an hour or so of reading and crying from laughing so hard I clicked on the links there and found Battle of Alberta, Irreverent Oil Fans, Mc79Hockey and Lowetide.
Golden days. Of course this was the winter of 2006 and the Oilers were beginning what would be a wonderful trip and if you were an Oiler fan on the internet your companions and guides on this journey were Chris Boutet, Mike Winters, Dave Berry, Hugh MacKenzie (and Matt Fenwick providing the Flames' point of view at BofA), Vic Ferrari, Dennis King, Cam Thomson, Tyler Dellow and Alan Mitchell. As well Colby Cosh, Erin Loxam and Andy Grabia provided their own insights on their own websites that were not Oilercentric.
As a guy who had always read traditional media it was a wonderful and exciting new world. Coverage of my favourite team by all of these excellent writers, the great insight, the humour, the, well, the irreverence, pulled me in and inspired me and so I started this blog.
On February 8th I wrote my first post and here is what I said, short and sweet (for once):
And awayyyyy we go!
Stay tuned for musings on nearing 40, life with a wife, two kids (how did that happen!?) and Satan's Foreign Minister (our dog), the exciting times we live in, pubs I've known and loved, Guinness and the Edmonton Oilers, among other things.
Not necessarily in that order.
This may take a while for me to figure out but - as my two year old says - this is her mantra - "I do it by the self!"
Her, I trust to do it by the self.
As for me, well, good luck with that.
It didn't take long before it became an Oilers' blog, period. Hugh MacKenzie pointed out my existence to the community and I learned pretty quickly that standards were high when Colby Cosh commented on Hugh's introduction over at Battle of Alberta that he would take a pass on the new guy thanks, he had read my latest post and my reference to the 'young Edmonton Oilers' was both lazy and inaccurate.
And so I learned. I have always written but I lack the talent and work ethic to do much more than I do here. The vignettes, little snapshots, that is what I can do and so that is what I did and I honed my craft, if I may be so bold as to call it this that, and so I became perhaps the best I can be. Its not much but I enjoy what I do and I think that's what matters.
A few years into this the Oilers were losing and I was finding it difficult to write about the club. How many ways can you write that a team is terrible (quite a bit we know now) and so with old favourite Fernando Pisani returning from a bout with the illness that ruined his career I wrote a story about how my old man and I weathered a winter storm to trek to the beer store to get some supplies, stopping in a pub to enjoy a fireside pint on the way. I tied this into Pisani and the response was good and so I wrote another story in my next post and then another and so the blog went back to its origins. I wrote about being a parent and a husband and about my dog and my folks and travelling and the old days and the kind words and comments left me awestruck and inspired and gave me strength in tough times, when illness struck my father in law and my mom and when my old dog passed, nearly four years now he's been gone, can you believe it.
This is post number 1000 and there have been over 425000 page views and nearly 10000 comments and while this is what LT sees (and posts) in a week ;) its been humbling to see these numbers and, yes, gratifying, what can I say, I'm not going to fake it and say that I am not proud of this. For a couple of years I was part of The Score, linked by them and so I was paid to be a writer, if only a little, and boy was I proud to get that money to pay for my beer each month.
Where does this blog go from here? Well you only have to look at the right hand side of the page to see that I don't post as much as I used to. I don't have the time I used to have but even when I do I don't post and a lot of this has to do with the sad state of the Oilers. As I noted above how often can you rage against the machine? I have better things to do and really I have little to add to the conversation other than my mantra which I see quite a bit on the twitter - get good players and keep them. The Oilers have dumped good players for years without replacing them and Horcoff, Smid and soon Hemsky will be out the door for nothing to show for them but cap space and yeah there's a reason this club has sucked for eight years and my bet is the hole is so big that we're heading into Islanders' territory, I hope I'm wrong but fear that I am not.
That said I will keep on keeping on with the odd tale of beer league (we're in a horrible slump) and the boy's evolution as a player (he's really coming on, you should have seen him play yesterday it was a joy) and my oldest becoming a teenager (its coming and its terrifying) and my parents getting older (its here and its beyond terrifying).
Because in the end this blog has gone back to its origins. Its my story and our story. I have over five hundred pages of stories parsed from this blog and if I get my shit together I will cut that in half and get it out there and maybe sell a dozen copies for cost plus shipping. I guess that's the project now. I'm not out of stories but I want to do something with what I have put out there.
Time to close now, I'm meandering which is my wont and is just fine by me. This blog, to me, has become the equivalent of a guy telling stories in a bar, with the game on in the background and my observations on that thrown in. The crowd has thinned out and my memory isn't what it was but I hope that for those of you who still come by that you still enjoy it.
Spare me a moment as I become a bit sentimental (some wags would say that I always am, to those I would say more sentimental ;) ). Thank you thank you thank you. You have made a difference in my life and I hope if you have taken anything from these wandering tales that it would be this. Be kind. Laugh. Enjoy. Love. Life is very short my internet friends. Make the best of it. Eat. Drink. Be merry.
And thank you again.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:43 PM
Friday, January 03, 2014
Scrolling through Twitter on the streetcar today I noted that diehard Oiler fan (I think any Oiler fans left have to be diehards maybe) and fun follow Shauna (@SLShockeyfan) had noted after another Oiler disaster:
I feel for bloggers and even MSM. What is there to write about?
So true, so true. I came back to work yesterday after nine days off. Five years ago, even three years ago, nine days off would have seen a half dozen or more posts on this site, tales of old leading to musings on many things copper and blue.
But as I told Ben Massey recently there are only so many ways of saying that your favourite team is garbage.
I remember back in 2008 or thereabouts a fellow who trolled the Oiler blogs pretty regularly, a guy who went by McLea iirc, saying that he couldn't wait for the Oilers to prove all of the naysayers wrong, guys like Dellow and Dennis King and RiversQ and Vic Ferrari and myself, guys who were tearing into Lowe as he began to destroy the franchise. I remember replying that I would be happy to eat crow, nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong.
The dismissal of Steve Tambellini and hiring of Dallas Eakins and the additions over the summer (not enough but MacTavish had too many holes to fill and not enough chips to move to fill them imo) brought me some hope, surely all of this and more experience for the kids would mean, if not a playoff spot, at least meaningful games for the first time in nearly a decade. (It was Dennis King who noted recently that in a stretch of ~ 8 seasons leading to the 2006 run, I can't remember exactly how many, that by his count the Oilers played a total of two meaningless games or something like that. They were always in the mix for a playoff spot. Always.)
I was wrong.
Early days saw the team deserving more than they got, even with injuries up the middle, but poor goaltending did them in and since then the club has lurched from disaster to disaster. The team is not good enough but losing tends to lead to more losing and so almost to a man the club has underperformed and this is despite it being healthier than it has been in years. Eakins has said all of the right things but his moves often stink of panic. The abandonment of the five forward power play which was humming along after a shortie against Chicago is a perfect example of this. And of course the double standard, benchings for Yakupov and Petry and Arcobello, free passes for Hall and Eberle and Gagner (although last night the golden boys sat for a while). But what the hell do you do, fire another coach? Can't be done, especially when the D is basically Jeff Petry, Andrew Ference and five guys who may as well be called Scott Ferguson. (And no I have not given up on Justin Schultz, he just completed his first full season of games this week, still buddy is drowning out there.)
The problem with this awful slide is that the mess feeds on itself. Players are losing confidence and in a lot of cases the 'give a shit meter' seems to be broken. The problem for the franchise as a whole is threefold.
Players are not going to want to come to play for such a shitshow unless they are overpaid in a major way.
Players who MacT might want to move are losing value which means more ten cents on the dollar moves where the club started with a house (Joni Pitkanen, Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Brodziak, Tom Gilbert, Sheldon Souray, Lubo Visnovsky etc etc etc) and ended up with a paper clip (Nick Schultz, a bunch of guys out of the league now or nothing at all).
And most important of all, sooner or later, guys are going to want out or are going to get ruined by the Oilers.
Will it get turned around? Well you might ask fans of the Panthers or Islanders or Thrashers (if they still existed) what year after year of high picks means. Sometimes it means nothing because the reason you are getting high picks is that management is garbage. Its easy to destroy a franchise, Tambo and Lowe burned it to the ground and sowed the earth with salt over a few years. The problem is with the present cap system UFAs of value are tending to extend with their current clubs and movement up the ladder is a lot more difficult unless you can find value where others see none and you can, get ready for it, acquire and keep good players.
The pursuit of Clarkson breaks rule number one and the trade of Smid for magic beans, soon to be followed by Freedom for Ales Hemsky, break the second.
(And at this point I am sure Ales has told MacT that he will not extend and who could blame him, my God I hope he gets a ticket to San Jose or Chicago, he's suffered enough.)
So what does it all mean?
Well I think I noted this a couple of months ago, either here or on Twitter, and I've been following my own advice. Over the holidays I watched zero minutes of Oilers' hockey.
I played for Capsule. I played shinny. I played road hockey with the boy and a neighbour. I read four books. I celebrated my birthday by going out for dinner at Foxley's (highly recommended) followed by drinks and dancing with Jenn and friends and then a night at a hotel while the inlaws wrangled our little ones. I took the kids skating with my father in law. I read books to my youngest. I went to a neighbour's for New Years and rang in 2014 with my two youngest and a bunch of folks from our wonderful little street. I ate a lot. I drank a lot. I napped a lot. I went to a friend's and watched the Winter Classic with friends. I laughed a lot.
It was an excellent week and a half. I hope that your own holidays, whether they were a day or still in process, were as good.
The Oilers weren't really a part of them.
Which is probably why they were so good.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:21 AM
Monday, December 23, 2013
I have over a week off starting tomorrow and I'm looking forward to it. Jenn's folks and sister are coming to town and so Christmas will indeed be a festive one. I will be taking my kids to a movie and playing hockey (with Capsule as well as shinny) and plan to spend a lot of time playing road hockey with the boy. He has turned into a solid little defenceman but has also decided that when the playoffs roll around he should be the starting goalie. Its a good idea and he put it to his coach who (rightly) deferred on making the decision. Whichever way it goes its exciting for my little guy as he's gone from being essentially a passenger last season (to be expected as it was his first year playing) to a guy who is a key contributor on a very good team. He works hard at improving and he loves it so its a great experience allround.
Though if he is in net in the playoffs I will have to drink first thing on game day, I know I won't be able to handle the stress. Like the old song goes 'Momma don't let your babies grow up to be goalies'
I'm going to take my eldest out for lunch or some outing where we can just hang out. She's ten now (we told her we would spend a long weekend somewhere to celebrate and she chose Niagara so that is on the docket for the spring) and soon she will not want to spend so much time with her old man. She has been busting her ass at school this year without complaint and her marks are through the roof and seeing as she used to show signs of being a student like me (smart guy, bad work habits) I am very proud to see that she is taking after her mom when it comes to scholastics.
And the 'baby'? Well she's five and so we will read some stories and play some games and if we get some snow to cover this ice we'll hit the park one street over and do some sledding and then go have a hot chocolate up on the Danforth.
We'll have some drinks with neighbours and one night we will go out to celebrate my birthday that just passed (I barely feel a day over 46!) and we will enjoy the feast on Christmas Day and the wonder (there is still wonder thank goodness) in the kids' eyes when they come down the stairs on Christmas morning and see the tree.
Its been a difficult year at times but all told it was a very good one for the most part. I am a lucky man and in the past week a number of people have said some lovely things about me - hopefully I won't get a swelled head but all kidding aside I appreciate the kind words, they mean a lot to these wrinkled old balls ;)
Here is to all of you, Merry Christmas. I love this time of year and I hope that wherever you are that you enjoy good food and drink and the company of friends and family. Stay safe and warm. Enjoy
Posted by Black Dog at 11:40 AM
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Last summer we trekked up to Goulais. Last summer my father turned eighty. Last summer my parents celebrated fifty years of marriage.
At Goulais we ate and drank and laughed as we McLeans do. We surprised Mom and Dad with train tickets to see the colours in Agawa and a dinner on the river and I gave a little speech and in my speech I proclaimed us lucky, for a little while yet, the previous two years having seen Mom laid low by a disease which put her in a wheelchair never to walk again the doctors said, a cousin with breast cancer, an uncle with a severe heart attack, another uncle with esophageal cancer. And here we were, all of us. Mom walking, my cousin ready to go back to work, my uncles laughing and dancing. Bullets dodged, especially for my Uncle Roy, the finest man, the youngest of the brothers and sister from Franz, diagnosed the previous fall, suddenly, his oldest son, Spencer, a surgical resident, telling me that the odds were not good, not good at all, my old man and his brother and sister making the trek west before the surgery, the surgery touch and go but better than the alternative, not saying what they all knew, that this was a trip to maybe say goodbye.
And here in Goulais, a mile from the old family homestead at the mouth of the river, my uncle dancing like there might be no tomorrow to the bluegrass stylings of the Goulais River Rats or Shovel Band or whatever they were called, they play at every McLean reunion, every reunion a different name for the same group of oldtimers, most of them related to us by marriage for certain, Goulais River is a small place and the names remain the same as a century ago.
Bullets dodged for a little while, a year of peace and good health and we raised our glasses and cheered.
And then this spring the news came fast and it was bad news again and again. My wife's best friend with breast cancer now. My cousin Darwin with cancer, the prognosis poor. And then the hardest blow, most unbelievable, an email from my Uncle Roy, stunned, disbelieving, cancer in the family again, not him this time but Spencer, weeks from getting his papers and going to California to do his fellowship.
I told Jenn the news and the diagnosis and she said that's not good at all and sure enough a week later another email and the cancer advancing rapidly, an aggressive bastard, such a fucking bastard.
I called Spencer a week or so later and we chatted for an hour, laughing and joking. He was the best of the best, you would have loved him, the type of man who was a bright light, the brightest of lights really. He told me he knew he was in tough but that he was going to fight it, it was all he could do. He was a Canucks' fan and I kidded him about how the Cup final (at this time it was pretty clear that it was going to be Chicago and Boston) must be his worst nightmare. We laughed and then he told me he was a bit tired and I said so long.
It was the last time we spoke. He had lied to me, I think, I pieced it together later when I went out west to say goodbye to my dear brother, that he knew he was a goner when we spoke but he never let on. It was just over two weeks later, Bickell and Bolland had just shocked the Bruins and the Hawks were parading the Cup around the Garden when the email came. He was gone. My wife came home to find me leaking silently, staring at the teevee.
A week later I helped carry him out of the Church. It broke my heart. He's gone. Spencer is gone forever.
That's life though right? I've talked about it here before, I know it, you probably know it. One day your number is up. If you're lucky you're like my Mom, survivor of two bouts with cancer and a virus that took away her legs, on our way up north this summer Jenn said your Mom is as tough as an ox but God don't tell her I said that laughing, she turned eighty this year and we spent our summer trip up at camp as always and in September she went up for a couple of weeks, just her and a friend, enjoying the quiet and the beauty.
My cousin Darwin survived his own bout of cancer, thank goodness, and he and his wife have been travelling and enjoying life and Jenn's friend Joanne is finishing her treatment and things look good there too and so it could have been worse of course it can always get worse that's the terrifying thing that will keep you up at night if you dwell on it.
And so what do you do? Well this summer I thought about this a lot and I talked about it a lot and a good friend of mine in Sudbury, just retired, said to me as we drank cold beer on his back deck in the sun that you can't live your life like you might drop dead tomorrow but with that said it doesn't hurt to have some of your decisions informed by this very real fact. He's a smart guy.
And so I do what I can to be the best father I can. I always have but I have become more patient, more careful with my words, more huggy, more kissy. I'm a great dad, I always have been but I've taken my game to another level lol, its the most important thing I will ever do and so it has to be done right. I take in my time with them and I enjoy each moment. My oldest is ten now and her Christmas list doesn't have toys on it, it has clothes and giftcards and money and that's fine, its the way it is but sooner than I know she will be making her own way in the world and then her brother and sister will follow and when that day comes it will be bittersweet as well for as a parent you work towards teaching your children to be strong and independent, the very characteristics that will carry them away from you one day.
We went to Paris this October and it was everything we could hope for. I had originally planned the trip for next year when Jenn turns forty but even before Spencer took ill I had decided that this year we would do it, why not, who knows what tomorrow would bring, right? And so we took three children across the Atlantic, the first trip to the continent for any of us, Jenn and I had been to Ireland and England and Scotland only. Paris was a dream.We all fell in love with it and so we joked that whatever happens we will always have Paris, eating confit de canard at a cafe on Rue Cler, 'our' bakery where the kids had pain chocolat each morning, the cafe across the street where I had 'deux espressos to go', wandering Ile De La Cite, crepes in the Marais, the Republican Guard exercising their horses in the alley right outside our flat's kitchen window, picnics in the park, the market at the Bastille, Shakespeare and Company, the Eiffel Tower at night and cruising the Seine and the carrousels and sailing a boat in Jardin Du Luxembourg and the meals and the wine and on and on, too many good memories to recount, a lovely time, a time we will always remember.
And of course that is what its all about, we don't like to think about the darkness that may lurk around the corner for us but at the same time we tend to get caught up in the grind and forget about what makes it all worthwhile and of course its all worthwhile no matter the pain that we suffer as part of the journey. Spencer McLean knew this, I have known no man who enjoyed life as much as he did, and I, for my part, have always known this too and I have done my best to live in that manner.
I'm getting older, not a lot older of course, but old enough that a Saturday night game lasts in my knees and back for a few days now and there's a lot of gray in my beard and hair coming out of my ears and nose and what the hell, when did this start happening? I would tell you but the mind isn't what it used to be either haha. I'm not dwelling on it, getting older, but with that said, well, I'm getting older.
Enjoy the holidays, the season is upon us. Eat drink and be merry my friends. Eat drink and be merry and lets hope that the next year is a better one still.
Posted by Black Dog at 3:14 PM