Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro
1/ It was founded in May 1878 by Frederick and Sarah Tilley who sailed across Lake Huron, into Lake Superior, looked around and decided that nobody would ever ever ever find them here. No word on whether they were wearing Tilley hats when they made their voyage.
2/ The actual Goulais River comes tumbling down out of the Algoma Highlands and then wends its way through the granite and spruce until it empties gently into Superior, passing under a bridge that allows the TransCanada to pass. On either side of the river a road takes off of the highway and heads down towards the lake and the town lies along these two roads. Near the mouth of the river a bridge joins the two again. As you drive along the northern road you pass a cottage here and a modern home there, the odd church and a ball field and then a beautiful ornate sign that reads "Welcome To Downtown Goulais River".
And there is a general store and then you have gone through downtown.
3/ People from the Soo call people from Goulais "Gouligans". And the Soo is a pretty tough town.
We’re up there for the weekend and then sometime Sunday, depending on the degree of hangover, we will begin the trek east. Its times like these that one wishes one lived in Belgium, a country that you could cycle the length of in a day. Of course there is a reason that the Germans and French and countless other hordes of invaders always rolled right through Belgium but never quite were able to do the same in the Russian steppes. Thousands of miles and you’re still not even halfway there. Canada too. What a country! The entire trip is going to be just under 5000km when all is said and done, 800 of that from Toronto to Goulais, 2200 from Goulais to the Island. And then the trip back once we’ve recovered from the journey out there. ;)
We’ll be in the Soo for the draft and I might even be able to do a quick post Saturday morning – here’s hoping anyhow. Sunday and Monday we’ll be on the road so for selfish reasons I hope Tambellini doesn’t put the pedal down until the 30th but likely he will get something done before then.
This could be an amazing two weeks and at the end of it we could be looking at a vastly different league. The list of players who are free agents or rumoured to be on the block is a who’s who of NHL talent – the Sedins, Ohlund, Cammelleri, Pronger, Smyth, Gaborik, Frolov, Marleau (and any number of other Sharks), Bouwmeester, Vinny L., Hossa, Havlat, Kovalev, Koivu, Tanguay, Komiserek, Kessel, Briere, Gionta, Spezza, some guy named Heatley etc etc ad nauseum.
Not to mention the guys who we don't know about who teams may move in order to take runs at the aforementioned.
And rumours swirl. The latest, as noted by PDO in the last thread, has Horcoff going to Ottawa and Mike Fisher coming back along with Heatley.
Seems like pretty well everyone is in play.
I miss that but of course that is also why I would be an absolute failure as a general manager. You think Lowe handed out beauty contracts to his veterans or hangs onto obviously failed prospects for far too long?
If I were in charge Marchant would still be centring Grier and Moreau and Floppy Neck Murray would be on an airplane back from Finland or Glasgow or wherever he's playing right now. (Outer Mongolia?)
That's my problem. In my mind these guys are like my beer league team. They're all terrific guys who are good friends and are fun to go out for beers with after the game. Trade one of them? Even if it meant getting better?
Shut yo mouf!
Having said that I draw the line at Horcoff.
You don't want to see me beg, do you? Its an awful sight. Just ask my wife.
Heart of Darkness, indeed.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The draft is easy enough. Pick the best player available. Now I know little about who is out there. As usual there is a separation. Apparently there are three and then there are six and then there's the rest of the lot. And the Oilers are picking tenth.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
What they are doing is living. No boat trips to Superior in the plans but the clan will be gathering at Goulais next weekend. We will be attending, packing up the van and wandering up the shield along Georgian Bay and then the north shore of Huron, blue deep waters, endless forests of spruce and pine, red granite and then past the Soo and Superior looming, the road winding and climbing into the rugged Algoma Highlands.
There will be plenty of food and plenty of drink and most of all there will be laughter as the descendants of Neil McLean and Margaret Bell gather. I’ll likely wander along the Goulais, stopping at the cemetery, the resting place of so many McLeans, and then down to the mouth of the ancient river, where the original homestead was. Most of those who come remain in the north of Ontario but some will come from far away, including my Dad’s youngest brother who will fly in from British Columbia.
Dad’s generation is greying now. He lost his best friend a number of years ago and then one by one his old moose hunting party passed on, including the greatest blow of all, his brother Don. Don’s wife passed late last year, followed closely by another old friend.
Its tough times when your generation passes but Dad’s eyes remain clear and his back is not yet stooped. Broad shoulders and confident powerful stride, he walks for miles each night in the northern dusk of my hometown. In the winters he curls three times a week and while he has a snow blower finally he will still shovel for the most part. He still has his big boat although its getting tougher to handle it. How long should I keep it, do you think? he asks me, and I answer that as long as he can handle it he may as well keep it for the pleasure he gets from it and he smiles because that is the right answer. My wife is away and Mom and Dad drive down and run the house so I can work and by day’s end the kids collapse into bed exhausted and Dad cracks open a beer for each of us and talks about how the kids enjoyed a proper “six freezie lunch.”
From Goulais we will begin the long trip to the Island. We will be three weeks there and then when we return we will head back north to the woods to meet with my folks and our friends for our annual week at camp. The big fellow will be there – he is staying with them while we go East – and in August he will be twelve. It may be his last birthday. He is grey now and he is slowing but he remains true, as only a dog can. He sneaks into the dining room and the baby giggles and drops food to the floor for him. He repays her with kisses when he can and while all of this goes on my wife simmers in disapproval. The oldest two roar around the house, bouncing off the furniture and climbing the walls. (Literally – the oldest has figured out how to climb up a doorway by bracing her legs on either side and then shimmying up. Usually brings gasps from unsuspecting guests, much to her delight as she hovers eight feet in the air). The baby is near walking but for now she charges after them on all fours, screaming with delight, while your man Ben barks and I laugh and my wife rolls her eyes and wonders what happened to the nice quiet genetics that were prevalent in her family.
Slaughtered in the streets by naked howling clansmen, I warrant.
So some journeys are just beginning. The baby is about to turn one. As for the rest of us, well they are all going to end sooner or later.
Just doing our best to enjoy the trip.
With the Pens (Crosby.) hoisting the Cup the Oilers are about to embark on a journey which has proven to be less then successful the past three summers. Instead of a week in Dublin or a roadtrip to Montreal they’ve been visiting their crazy great uncle in his rooming house downtown, his apartment walls brown with cigarette smoke, burn marks in the couch, bottles of sherry scattered about the kitchen. He hasn’t been the same since he crashed headfirst into the boards back in ’53.
The Lowe era ended with a whimper. It built into the crescendo of the spring of 2006 and then in three subsequent summers the good will was squandered as the club shed veterans, left gaping holes in the roster and spent money like a kid who has just won the lottery – after years of watching every nickel the Oilers couldn’t handle being a have and spent like they were educated at the Glen Sather school of team building, Rangers edition. The results have been predictable.
And so another summer is here and in a little over two weeks this club’s future will be altered, for next season, and far beyond. The draft, the UFA silly season and a frenzy of trades are all looming and we will see if Tambellini is made of better stuff then his predecessor.
Will he go for the big fish again and will he be successful this time? Bouwmeester is on the radar and Heatley as well and of course there is talk of Jagr and there will be plenty of big names up for grabs through trade as clubs try and shed salary in order to take a crack at the new crop of free agents (Philly/Rangers) or to just try and shed salary (Tampa, Phoenix, Dallas, Anaheim, Florida, the line starts here and ends who knows where).
Will they be able to shed salary in order to get their finances in order? If they add a Heatley then their problems become pretty serious. Even if they move guys like Moreau and Staios and Nilsson they will have to begin to move some pieces they probably do not want to move, especially next summer if the cap falls. Otherwise they risk losing some of the kids.
Keep in mind that my summer projections are usually horrible but here is what I think will happen. Some of it is pretty obvious shit. I think that Tambellini has to get this team to the playoffs. That is his mandate from his boss. So far I’m pretty happy with what he has done, as minimal as that is. His moves at the deadline were fine. Twenty games of Cole for O’Sullivan is slick. The second for Kotalik left some people cold but its reasonable. I liked the coaching moves. His deliberate approach to Springfield leads me to believe that he will fix that too. So all that remains (!) is the big club.
1/ They will address the goaltending. Roloson will not be back. Sounds like he wants two years. There are plenty of equivalent keepers out there. I think the Oilers will go in a different direction, either trading for Halak or Harding or picking up a UFA. I think they will go with a veteran backup. Risking a playoff spot on Deslauriers? I doubt it.
2/ Peckham, Smid and a cheap vet will make up the bottom three of the blue. If Souray is moving along, as rumoured, then the next move will depend on Bouwmeester. If they land him then Staios will move too. If not then I think he gets top four minutes. Yikes!
I know I am going to rue saying this but if Souray goes then Lubo, Gilbert and Grebeskkov all stick. If he stays then Gilbert may go. A big mistake to move him I think.
3/ The bottom six ( I say this in the traditional sense) will be revamped. What Traktor called ‘vanilla’ players over at Lowetide’s – guys like Pouliot – will be gone. I think Brodziak and Stortini and Pisani remain, Pisani because he is useful, of course, and also because his expiring contract is valuable. Better to have him with one year left then Moreau with two.
I believe Moreau will be gone. I hope he will be gone. I think he has some value and now is the time to move him and replace him with someone making half as much as he is. If he were making a million I would keep him. But he is not and so he needs to go.
Jacques will likely have a spot and so they need a centreman and a LW and then they have to figure out the extra guy or guys they will carry. The first two will be cheap vets they will bring in. Brule and a darkhorse (imported or from the farm) will be the spares.
4/ Pencil in Horcoff, Hemsky and Gagner. One of Cogliano or O’Sullivan will also remain. The other one will go out to bring in your fifth forward who fits in this group. Your sixth man will be Penner or someone new and it will be interesting to see if they dump him or if they give him another shot, this time under Quinn.
And Nilsson? Gone or buried in the minors.
I think Tambellini is going to be aggressive. He has money and he has license to spend it and if worse comes to worse he will bury guys in the minors. I think this club will be bigger and more experienced across the board come the end of the summer. I would say that I worry about next summer except I’m not the worrying type.
Its not in my bones and I come by that naturally. Summer is here. Last night we sat in a pub and the front was open and the warm air surrounded us as the street hummed. Another summer begins. Lets hope it’s a good one for all of us and for the Oilers as well.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I called a Wings’ victory with the caveat that if Datsyuk or Lidstrom missed any significant parts of the series that the Pens might pull it off. (Who’s playing politics now?) Of course everyone is banged up by this point but Datsyuk really only had one game where he looked like Datsyuk and that likely cost the Wings the series. Zetterberg had to take more on and he wore down and Hossa missed his centreman and so it went.
No wonder Babcock groused about the short turnaround. The road through the Western Conference obviously took its toll on his club and while this series went the distance keep in mind that the Pens had awful puck luck in the first two games on top of everything. It might have been over pretty quickly.
For me the most enjoyable part of the whole ride is the final chapter when you see guys explode in joy as they raise the Cup and for sure the Pens had the better stories there. The Wings have all done it before with the exception of Hossa and a couple of kids but for the Pens it was nearly entirely new. And so a long list of veterans got to lift the Cup for the first time. Sergei Gonchar, a wonderful defenceman, who played through a badly injured knee and, in a sweet moment, reflected on the victory in the dressing room, alone but for his young daughter. The towering Hal Gill and his partner Rob Scuderi who held the fort in the final minute. Miro Satan, who must be a gigantic pussy considering how his teammates marvelled again and again at how he, wait for it, blocked a shot. The classy veterans Phillipe Boucher and Pascal Dupuis. The not so classy Matt Cooke. Mathieu Garon, rescued from a disaster in Edmonton. And two guys who have won it before, both former Oilers – Bill Guerin, picking up his second Cup 15 years after his first, and the wholly engaging Petr Sykora.
Great stuff, although I preferred it far more when the players actually skated around the rink then this ridiculous skate for ten feet and back set up.
Who would you rather be, Sidney Crosby or Eugene Malkin? An amazing moment to me was a shot of the Pens’ dressing room – Crosby being followed by a mob of reporters and cameras, Malkin sidestepping the rush and wandering, by himself, to the near end of the room. Gonchar wanders by, also unmolested by any media.
I think I’d prefer to be Malkin, even though it would mean trading in my handsome mug for that ogre face.
One has to like the Pens’ chances to return to the big stage a few times in the future. With their strength up the middle (so much for trading Staal I guess L ), a solid and relatively cheap blue, a quality young goalie and the ability to plug in cheap veterans on one year deals or from the trade deadline to fill out the roster and augment their younger muckers – the hero Talbot, the quality runt Kennedy and the versitile Adams – its hard to bet against a club that has come out of their conference two straight years and has nearly every important piece signed for the near future, at least.
As for the Wings, probably best not to bet against them yet. Their depth will take a hit this summer but I would bet that they find a way to sign Hossa. Guys like Stuart (man was he awful), Holmstrom, Samuelsson, Chelios and Maltby will be dumped and replaced by some of those prize kids and Hudler may also be moved as well. Shedding vets isn’t a good way to move forward but Lidstrom is not going to be around forever and this club has to figure out a way back to the top of the mountain. A little youthful enthusiasm, provided the kids can play, probably would help.
Plus they should probably dump Ty Conklin – your man has a little black cloud hovering over him.
What, if anything, can the Oilers learn from this year’s finallists?
Well first of all there is no substitute for good quality veterans who can play the game. The Pens especially had a long list of guys, most of them not making a ton of money, who could make the smart play, be hard on the puck, be relied on to get in front of the shot, be on the right side of their man, not make the rookie mistake. Crosby goes down and while Malkin and Staal took the brunt of it you could also see Adams and Talbot and Dupuis step up. Guys like Kunitz and Guerin didn’t score a lot but they kept the puck moving in the right direction against Zetterberg and his wingers. Fedotenko, who will be available again this summer if the Pens do not sign him, provided solid allround play.
And having said that you still need the kids – both of these clubs are loaded with homegrown players, drafted and developed. Lord knows I’ve raved enough about the Wings but the Pens have their kids too besides the big boys.
The Oilers have a long way to go though, that’s the sad thing. They have no goaltending, holes aplenty up front and far too many big contracts that give them not enough bang for their buck. Compare that situation to Pittsburgh and Detroit and ask yourself how it gets to that point. Not every team has a Crosby and a Malkin, sure, but there is no excuse for spending to the cap and not even making the playoffs.
Lowe's legacy is truly a poor one.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I have a very good friend who I have spoken of before here quite a bit. Frank’s parents’ house was our gathering place for many summers back in the day. The juvenile pranks and needling that occurred during those years are legendary in our circles and Frank was usually the lead trickster fox.
The jokes range from the very simple yet still hilarious to the complicated stings that ensnared everyone in his web.
- he called my wife one evening at 2am after we had been drinking for a dozen hours and woke her out of a dead sleep (she had to work a 12 hours shift early that morning) and pretended to be a DJ from Vancouver telling her she won a prize. Luckily for me I was at his house and not our house when this went down.
- he sent an alumni magazine that was doing profiles on graduates a mock profile in a buddy’s name, going so far as to create an email address to send it from. Said profile included references to gymnastics, interpretive dance and the joys of living alone, except for one’s cats
- our local paper had a contest when Stomping Tom Connors came to town – people who submitted the best verses for Sudbury Saturday Night could win a myriad of prizes including concert tickets to go see the legend his own self. I woke up one Saturday morning, hauled my sorry 21 year old ass out of bed and opened our hometown rag to find that not only had nearly everyone I knew sent in entries for the contest but so had I. It went something like this:
On Saturday nights
We go to City Lights
That’s our dancing heaven
We like to dance and dance and dance
And then we like to prance
On A Sudbury Saturday Night
Of course there were repercussions. Live by the sword, well, you know. He answered the phone one drunken night and was told to come into work immediately. He laughed and hung up. The phone rang again. Once again he was told to come in. This time he told the caller (whom he figured was a friend Nick, another noted prankster) to eat it. The third time the phone rang was when he realized that he shared his given name with his Dad.
Nick himself was humbled, at least briefly, when Frank had a girlfriend’s cousin who happened to be a cop call him and ask him to come into the station to discuss complaints about prank calls. Again there was the disbelief and then the realization that he was actually talking to a real police officer. When he called the station and was told that yes there was an officer so and so there, he shaved, put on a shirt and tie and was heading out the door, shitting his pants, when the phone rang to call off the dogs.