Friday, December 30, 2011

Mad Tom


The fellow in the picture who is giving the handsome little fellow a smooch is Tom, a Scot who we met when we were in the Dominican celebrating our tenth anniversary this year. We had a fantastic time. I always thought I'd go mental just sitting around doing nothing but I loved it. I think when I was younger I wouldn't have been able to handle it but after years of never stopping with the kids it proved to be perfect.

We met some fine folks on our trip, a couple from Wisconsin, three couples from the Maritimes (finest kind) and then Tom and his girlfriend. I've been to Scotland and we have clients in Scotland and Tom was, in my experience, a pretty typical Scot. He was a bright guy and possessed an acerbic wit and he, like the Irish and English and Canadians, was well informed. I always found that strange about Americans when I lived there (and we have an office there as well) - they are a very incurious people when it comes to the world around them for the most part.

Our last night there we hung out at the bar but for the most part we'd bump into Tommy in our daily wanderings, seeing him by the pool or getting a drink. We'd shoot the shit for a bit and then move on. The funny thing about Tom is that out of the blue he'd explode with anger, usually when the talk came around to politics. We'd be talking about oil prices and suddenly he's start ranting and myself and one of the fellows from out east, another smart aleck like myself, would smirk and then he's stalk off shouting at 'you stupid Canadian fucking bastards'.

You'd see him an hour later and it was as if nothing had happened. Strange cat.

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

Looks like this roadtrip is going to be the anchor that drops the Oilers into the lottery for another year. The club has been playing better but the damage was done on that homestand and there's no getting around the fact that the D is shallow as a kiddie turtle pool. And this is with what Gilbert and Smid have become this year. Imagine if they hadn't stepped up? Jesus.

Whitney has confirmed what has been noticeable to anyone that has a pulse, his ankle is not quite right (and thanks for the hustle and sticktoitiveness on that story, you crack Edmonton media members). And those same media members have demo'd that the fix is in and Hemsky is going to get dealt with their increasingly critical comments about the Czech. They're greasing the skids for him and a good number of the fanbase are falling right in line with the narrative because, well, they're idiots plain and simple. Hemsky is injury prone and he's not a perfect hockey player but last time I checked there are few of those. He is a damn good player when healthy and he's a better option than nearly every player in the organization but the media and many fans would dump him for futures because he's had a poor couple of months.

Someone on twitter or perhaps it was at Lowetide's said last night that Oiler fans get what they deserve because they are so stupid and sometimes its hard to argue that point. We've a team that hasn't won a Cup in over twenty years, that is about to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year and has finished last overall two years in a row. They've been shipping quality NHL players out the door for pretty well nothing since June of 2006 and the result has been as one would expect. The team is shitty.

But yeah its Ales Hemsky's fault.

I wonder what Tom would say to that. His fucking head would probably explode.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Oh Hossa Night


I'm sure you've all seen this by now. My favourites - Frolik Navidad, Grandms Got Run Over By A Reindeer (You might think there's no such thing as John Scott) and of course Oh Hossa Night. But I've always been a Hossa man, what can I say.

Wife is at work, kids are abed (although I went upstairs an hour after bedtime to find my youngest sitting up with her light on 'reading' for the second night in a row - that one is trouble, we're doomed basically), all of the gifts have been wrapped and the house is returning to a semblance of order after weeks of chaotic neglect.

So I'm having a rum and egg nog (rum being the great 'discovery' for us this year, suddenly we have numerous bottles of it after years of Nunavut) and watching a little exhibition action of Dennis King's favourite tournament. I've got one day to work in the next ten and I'm looking forward to a few drinks, relaxing with family and friends and maybe a blowjob or two if I'm lucky. Its been a very good year and hopefully we'll wrap it up nicely here.

The kids are mental right now. Absolutely menatl. The boy said the other day that 'Christmas is the best day of the year' and its that childish enthusiasm which gives Jenn and I, who need very little to get us going for this time of year anyways, that extra little charge. I remember the look on our youngest's face last year when she came down the stairs and saw the tree Christmas morning and always will. Just such a look of awe and joy and it was so wonderful.

I'll be getting my books (I always ask for books and I alwsys get about a dozen) and hopefully a new stick, the timing is good, my last Sherwood gave up the ghost last Saturday night. Hopefully this one will have a few more goals in it than the last one. Then again maybe I should ask for new hands ;). Need new legs and lungs though too.

No new dog though. Not yet anyhow.

Merry Christmas to all of you and to all of yours. Have a safe and happy one, eat, drink, be merry and enjoy the company of your loved ones.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Robot


So December has become a little harrowing for us the last couple of years and its clear that this is the way of it and will be for some time. Our regular everyday lives are hectic as it is and on top of this we have gifts to buy, wrap and ship, plans to make, Christmas concerts and parties, food to be cooked, a tree to be killed and decorated, the house to be also decorated (which we do very little of really, of course my parents' house looked like Santa threw up all over it so I'm a bit biased), cards to be mailed, the list goes on and on. Jenn is responsible for the majority of it, partially because she'd have it no other way (I'm not allowed near wrapping paper for good reason), partially because shift work trumps a 9 to 5 job when it comes to getting a lot of this completed. In any case I pick up the slack in other areas, pulling down more kid duty, for example, while she rushes about.

So like last year I have found the leadup to the big day to be a bit much. Its exhausting, quite frankly, and for the second year in a row I'm looking forward to Christmas morning because it will mark the end of the craziness and the beginning of a few days of fun. I remember back in school how we'd get in the spirit a few weeks before, at least, mostly because we finished school in early December and began celebrating immediately. Not so much these days though.

This week though I must say I have seen a turnabout in attitude. We had our company Christmas party and Sunday we got the tree up. That night I met Murat (known in these parts as Showerhead) at the Communist Bar along with other Manitobans and many pints were drank and a wonderful time was had. The following night it was back to the same place to meet an old friend and as we have for nearly twenty five years now (!) we drank and talked about books and hockey and all that is happening in our crazy lives.

Tuesday I rested.

And then last night we went for dinner with friends of ours who live on our street. We ate a lot and drank a lot and at the end of the night I even got birthday sex, offered and accepted and enjoyed fully.

And so this morning I came to work with a spring in my step. Its been a very good number of days and we're pretty well done, with only a few things left to wrap, and so maybe tonight, certainly tomorrow night, we're going to be able to kick back a bit.

Having said all of that there has been one fly in the ointment, so to speak. Our kids are getting ramped up, to the point where they can barely sit still for the excitement. Its a great age for it. Our oldest is eight and she had some doubts about Santa last year but she is either a wonderful little actress or she has decided to emulate her parents and throw herself behind the whole fun magical idea of a little fat man coming into our house and leaving presents for all of us. I am sure this may be our last year where she believes but its added to the fun all of the same.

Lists were submitted long ago (mine is nearly all books - I usually get about a dozen or so and already have three (!) plus some cash to go towards more so we may be talking record haul here ;) ) and our youngest, being unable to either read or write (she is three), maybe asked for a Barbie but nothing else.

And then about a week ago she says, out of the blue, that she wanted a robot.

We laughed. A robot. But the next day she said the same thing and the day after that again. We have no idea where she got this idea so we asked our kids and of course it was the goddamn television, although it wasn't a commercial, they were watching a show and there was 'a flying yellow robot' and so the idea was planted in her little head.

Tuesday Jenn was off and so she drove here and there and called everywhere for these 'Fijits' which are not flying yellow robots but rather a small thing that talks and so on and comes in pink and purple and other pleasing colours. They also happen to be one of the most popular toys of 2011 and what costs 40.00 at Walmart can be had for twice or three times that on Kijiji. My wife (and I) was loathe to spend that and so Tuesday night we told our little one that sometimes you don't get everything you want at Christmas. She replied that she didn't want anything but a robot so there would be no problem fulfilling this request.

Panic at the disco. Relatively speaking.

We made a couple of more calls to obscure toy stores downtown. One said they might be getting a shipment the next day so yesterday I sauntered over, only to be told that no such thing was happening. Then after work I went to the other, a store we had called a number of times the previous day and that very morning, only to get a busy signal.

A store which, until that very morning, had had a plethora of fijits onhand.

lol

I went home with the bad news and was greeted by my wife with this year's Santa photo and the news that once upon old St Nick's knee our smallest had replied to the question of what she wanted for Christmas with 'a Barbie'

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Go you Oilers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

LOL As The Kids Say



Best Picture Ever.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Irk


Still alive. No, seriously ... Am starting to get to the point though where I long for Christmas morning to arrive, just to get everything beforehand over with. Am enjoying the kids' excitement but other than that I am finding, for the second straight year, that I could do without the preceding stress. Humbug, right? I thought last year's grumpiness was a one off but again this year I find myself not really in the Christmas spirit, despite having done some pretty fun stuff these past two weeks. And Christmas Day and the week after look to be grand so here's hoping the spirit strikes me then. Just worn out maybe ... so as always will try and drink my way out of it, tonight will be the third in four and last night had a good time out with longtime Oilogosphere regular Showerhead and a few of his pals. Have to say have not had a bad experience with a man I have met through the interweb yet, although that time I woke up in an alleyway with a sore bum after meeting Winters was a bit uncomfortabe. Just meet him in group settings now.

The lethargy I am feeling has extended to the Oilers. Its going to be another year out of the playoffs, the present spiral has confirmed that. The club had a nice start, bought and paid for too, which makes this swoon even harder to take, especially when we saw Whitney, Potter, Hemsky and Gagner come back, I mean this should mean the team would be better still, right? Right?

But Hemsky looks like he knows he's a goner and have to say the guy is letting the uncertainty wear at him. Smyth and Horcoff look tired and are both slumping and opposing teams look to have figured out how to defend the PP by taking away Ted's time and space aggressively.

And of course there is the usual litany of bad penalties and dumb line changes to make it that more grating.

Once this next road trip is done its going to be more of the usual for us Oiler fans and while its a process and we know its going to take time perhaps the worst thing that could happen was that beauty start. All of the losing is getting tiresome and one can only imagine how the players feel. When Hemsky gets moved and then Whitney and Gagner probably soon after, one wonders if for them it will be a sigh of relief that they take when it ends. And with the third of the last kid line moved out the door it will be a reminder of how what looks to be future glory can turn sour quickly. For us fans though there is no escape other than increasing boredom and indifference. We've been sold on the Chicago model but until this team actually becomes good and more good veterans get shown the door one thinks that this may be the Islanders' model after all, right down to the haunting glorious past fading into the gloom.

!!!

Terrible attitude, eh? But then again I am slightly hungover. Perhaps I need to drink more. Not sure if that's possible with going all Nick Cage in Vegas though.

And that's Leaving Las Vegas, not the one with the skydiving Elvises.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Trim Those Sideburns


As the Oilers continue to slide, news today that Paajarvi will follow Teubert to Oklahoma where hopefully he will find his confidence playing on one of the best teams in the AHL.

On one hand its hard to argue with Paajarvi going down. Scratched at times and with no goals and three assists in twenty five games, its clear that he needs to play and to get his mojo back.

On the other hand one could argue that it didn't have to come to this. Its quite clear that the Oilers and Tom Renney (like every other team and coach, to be honest) have their pecking order and presently Paajarvi and Omark are down that list of young players.

(Quick aside. Glenn Murray played his junior in Sudbury and boarded with an acquaintance. Great guy by all accounts. Anyways when he was in Boston as a kid the coach was Sutter (Brian iirc) and he didn't like the cut of his jib at all. After one performance that ended badly Sutter is reaming out the team on the bus on way to the airport and inflicts his wrath on Murray, sitting near the front, ranting and raving about how poorly he had played (the Sutters sound like great guys, don't they)
until finally Murray was able to point out that he had, in fact, been a scratch that night.)

I'm not arguing that Hall and Eberle are not the better options up front but for Paajarvi it must be difficult to get placed in a plugger's role after a rookie season that saw him produce 15 goals, a dozen of those at ES, and saw him produce more frequently as his icetime and opportunity increased.

Instead this season he began on a line with Belanger, another guy who has struggled and who is not a big scorer anyways. Its reminiscent of when they had Erik Cole on a line with Brodziak and Moreau and then fans bitched about his lack of production.

Has Paajarvi helped his cause? No, he has looked gunshy at times. But I wonder what the guy thinks when Hall goes down and he gets all of one game in the top six. Meanwhile Gagner gets all of the time in the world to work out of his funk.

Maybe its all part of the plan. Maybe they're pumping Gagner to be traded. Maybe Paajarvi and Omark will be back in the New Year and will be given a better shot.

Personally I'd be running Omark and Paajarvi with Gagner, leave the top six as is (was) and then have Belanger centre the fourth line/key the PK and maybe it will come to that with the season starting to slide.

I've always seen this upcoming number of months, including the summer, as the key time in this process. Remember all of the talk - so many quality wingers! Six of them! - well now we have two pending UFAs and two young Swedes banished to the minors.

All of those folks calling for Hemsky to get dealt (and he hasn't been great, I know), need to remember, good NHL players. Need to keep them. Especially when we're relying on kids to make it big down the road.

Hope Magnus gets back soon and gets his chance.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Boar Hunt Was Not Success


Weird stuff out there on the Interweb folks. There has been plenty of talk of how the captain of the Oilers is in fact a dirty Russian, this speculation spurred in part by letters leaked to THIS VERY BLOG from Russian Poobah for Life, Vlad Putin, to a man he calls 'Horcov'.

Adding fuel to the fire is the recent appearance on Twitter of one 'shorcov' - if you're on the twitter you may want to check it out. Not sure if its proof of what has been suspected or if its just the Oiler Captain taking the piss but regardless its a fascinating look at the personal life of a NHL hockey player. Worth the read just for the inside look at his teammates and the day to day preparation he makes to be the best player he can be.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Scott Parker?


I remember back in the day, twenty years ago or so (!), when I had all the time in the world, and like many (most?) young men, I spent the majority of it in three pursuits - drinking, chasing tail and following sports.

I watched hockey and baseball and basketball and Sundays were spent in front of the TV watching the NFL. I knew the ninth place hitter for the Detroit Tigers and the backup goalie in Buffalo and the coach of the Cleveland Browns. I watched the majors in golf and tennis and the Grey Cup and I could even tell you a bit (though not much) about car racing, horse racing and boxing.

Nowadays I watch hockey and I follow European soccer somewhat and I'll watch an NFL playoff game here and there. I tuned into the Grey Cup for a few minutes this year and I also may have watched a couple of baseball playoff games or portions of them.

What has happened? Well I haven't the time of course but even before the kids arrived my love affair with sports had waned. Too many teams was a starting point. The money turned me off. The lockouts and strikes. The billionaire owners holding a gun to taxpayers. The millionaire players whining about having to provide for their families. The behavign badly. The splintering of boxing and car racing into multiple series and associations ended whatever interest I had there. The ridiculous lengthening of games for commercials (NFL), preening/timeouts (baseball), scrums and timewasting (hockey until they cut that shit out). And on and on and on. Slowly, one by one, they dropped away until I was left with hockey and when hockey went away for a year, I turned to soccer and became interested enough in it to continue to follow it when hockey came back.

I'm a Spurs' fan. Now, compared to a lot of folks out there fan might be too strong a word. I follow them on Twitter when they are playing. I visit their website and a couple of sites about them a few times a week. I don't think I've seen them play once this year and when some guy named Scott Parker won their award for player of the month my first reaction was 'who's he?'. ;)

I've educated myself on that since. ;)

So I'm a casual fan lets say. Now they have had a nice run the last few years. They were in Champions' League last year and had a great run to the quarters but they fell short of qualifying for it again. They were done in by a stretch of ~ six games, if I recall it was January or so, when they had a patsy schedule like you would not believe, a half dozen games in a row against the dregs of the league. Should have been, even with the vagaries of luck thrown into it, at least 15 points from it.

I can't remember exactly but maybe they got six. Maybe. Out of a possible 18.

And that was their season. They had a couple of injuries at the time but every club always has a couple of injuries. They have a wonderful player Van De Vaert, who makes Hemsky look like Steve Larmer. Buddy plays a half a game, gets pulled after he tweaks something, doesn't play again for another three weeks. And their nominal captain, Ledley King, just a fantastic defender, plays a few times a year. Literally. Nothing left of his knees.

But it wasn't injuries, it was some bad luck (I watched them play Blackpool at Tyler Dellow's house, Blackpool must have cleared four or five balls from the goalline at least) and it was some poor play (also evident in the defending in that game) and in the end they got what they deserved.

This year they're in the second European competition and look to be on their way out early but in the Premier League they are running rampant. And what is important is that they are winning those games they should win. Every week. Sometimes they get a bit lucky but for the most part they are full value for it and so for now a return to the Champions League may be in the offing. Long way to go though. Still it has been a pleasant season.

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For the Oilers this six game homestand looked like a chance to right the ship after a tough and lengthy road trip. When it started they were right there with the pack and things were looking good for them to make some hay, its not like they had a murderer's row of clubs coming in. And on top of everything they were getting (mostly) healthy at the right time.

And here we are five games in and they have a paltry three points to show for it. There have been blown leads galore. Dumb penalties. Shoddy goaltending. The first two games they could not score. The last two they could not defend. The team has been defended as 'tired' from their time on the road in November and the guys who have been carrying the team offensively (Ted, Smyth, Eberle) have indeed looked worn out and ineffective lately. And on top of that it looks like, based on decisions like the one where the fourth line faced Iggy in the third last Saturday, that Renney just got a memo that the club wants another lottery puck just to be sure.

The biggest worry is how Ryan Whitney looks like barely a shadow of himself. He looks slower than Sutton out there. Way slower. He's a disaster. Its too bad. It was assumed that his return would give the club two decent pairs to work with. Its not happening.

There are a few people saying 'wait a second something has to happen, this team is awesome' but of course they are not. There are also a few people saying 'this team is terrible and now we are seeing it' and I think these people are wrong too. They're not as good as they showed in October and not as bad as they look now but they are playing poorly and this stretch, while not one that we will look back as a defining one for this year's club, will probably be the one that costs them the playoffs if they right things and get back on track.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Questions Questions


When you're a father you're expected to have all of the answers all of the time. About thirty times a day one of the two oldest come up to me and invariably, with a quizzical look, begin with a 'Daddy' that has little ????? built right into it. And this is without the third one getting in on the act yet.

Some of the questions require lengthy detailed answers like those about sex or the other day when the boy and I sat down for twenty minutes and talked about war of all things. Some I cannot answer and in these cases I refer them to their mother, their Poppy on his next visit or to our Great Father, the Interweb. Others are a little more straight forward - what is the capital of Belgium? Does that beer taste good? Why do you smell like marajauna? What type of wrestling were you and Mommy doing on the couch last night? Was that Greco-Roman style?

Its part and parcel of this Dad thing, the questions, and you know what, I have some of my own.

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

The Oilers are sliding a bit now and unlike many I'm remaining pretty calm about the whole thing. The team is coming along. Young players mean inconsistency and mind numbing mistakes and the nature of the game means that at times the team looks better than it is (earlier this year) and at times it looks worse than it is (these days). The club looks a bit tired and a bit full of themselves at times and of course they are still a bit thin everywhere. That's alright. They are young and they are getting better and if its a rebuild then we're going to take our lumps.

Here's the thing though. There are some questions that I would like answered and the problem is, as Vic Ferrari said many times, when it comes to the media Edmonton is Lawrence, Kansas. Lowe destroyed a good team through mismanagement - barely a peep. Tambellini brought in a veteran goalie because he thought the team was a winner, a terrible lack of judgement there, and yet when the rebuild is brought up, this is not mentioned. Oilers' management gets a free ride and I'm not even bringing up the absurd cheerleading for the new monorail led by the Edmonton Journal.

Someone (maybe Dennis King) said it best this week on Twitter, noting how many snarky comments Edmonton media have had for Penner since he left, far far more than any criticism of a management team responsible for the longest playoff drought in franchise history.

So do I expect any hard questions from the media? Not at all. Late last game Terry Jones remarked how Smyth's penalty had cost the Oilers the game. He received a barrage of questions then and snarkily replied that he was getting orders to ask questions and that he couldn't ask them under pressure of a deadline.

Now remember this is the guy who the Oilers had a ceremony for earlier this week. The same guy who also thsi week tried to paint the Pronger trade as Pronger for basically every good young player in the Oiler system right now. I almost expected him to include Messier and Kurri, circa 1981, in the deal. Later he said 'oh it was tongue in cheek'.

Right.

Here's the deal. If the big trump card for these guys is 'access' and they a)don't ask critical questions or b) let us in on anything that may be behind what we can see on the ice than what is their point?

I can go to the Journal or Sun and read a stale recap of the game. 'Then Gagner scored his first goal and he was happy' with the only opinions or analysis being backhanded slaps at players who will soon be out the door (watch for the hatchet job coming on Ales Hemsky) or unfettered praise for the geniuses who have run this club into the ground and lied (again) about the profits the team has made, even without a playoff date since 2006.

Or I can read Lowetide or Tyler Dellow or Ellen at Theory of Ice or others and get analysis of what is happening that is well written and critical. I wonder if people who run newspapers wonder why their business is dying? The answer is right there. I haven't bought a newspaper in years. I used to all the time. But when I go online and read Jones fellating Lowe or Allan Maki's error ridden analysis of the Oilers a few weeks ago in the Globe and Mail, I think, why would I spend a dime on this shit when I can get an article that is more informative, thought provoking and well written from 'some blogger in his basement'.

(As an aside does Feaster ever look like an ass. Hey Jay you dummy, you know where all of this Iginla talk has been coming from? Turn on the TV and go to TSN or Sportsnet. What an ass.)

Anywho, Terry Jones, maybe at the next scrum when you are not under pressure from your deadline, you can ask Tom Renney the following:

1/ Tom, almost immediately after Nugent Hopkins scored in the third period you had your fourth line out against the Iginla line and the result was the tying goal. What was your thought process there, considering this was a divisional game against your biggest rival? You're at home so you control the matchups. What happened there?

2/ Ryan Whitney is either still hurt, lacks confidence in his body or both. What is the story here? You said Ales Hemsky has to just get over the fact that he is still hurting. Are you taking the same tactic with Whitney even though he is just a shadow of himself right now?

3/ Why do you keep running Belanger out on the power play? Why not have Petry or Paajarvi out there?

4/ What is the story with Paajarvi? Why do him and Omark have to trim their sideburns while Hall, Eberle and Gagner have all had chances to play their way out of slumps? Theo Peckham too. Are the Oilers in the business of developing these guys or are some players more equal than others? For example why was Paajarvi given one game with 10 and 83 and then dropped? Why not give him a dozen games to see if we can get him going?

I'm not claiming to have the answers here folks but as a fan I would like to hear what Tom Renney has to say on these subjects and others. Unfortunately for me, as a fan, the guys who have access to Renney (and brag on it) won't ask the questions.

Very poor. Very very poor.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

All I Ever Wanted


As frequent visitors here know my Mom had a bit of a tough time last year. She came home about a year ago at this time after four months in the hospital and twice that of some pretty severe pain. Whatever it was (we actually don't know, imagine that) robbed her of her ability to walk but little else.

She's a tough bird and so she spent the past year getting her life back. She has gained enough strength that her doctor gave her the okay to start driving again. Dad suggested a trip to the mall parking lot after closing. Of course she hopped in her van and headed down main street. Stubborn. She's also back doing physio to try and get to walking again.

Pretty cool, eh?

And to top it off next spring she is going to Europe with friends on a Mediterranean cruise. Mental. But good for her. She has been pretty well everywhere in North America, including Alaska, as well as Hawaii and the Caribbean, so this is her first trip over there. At 78.

Ha.

So when the boy and I were up north closing the camp my old man and I were sitting in the evening with a couple of beer. The boy was under a mountain of blankets asleep and I asked Dad why he wasn't going on the trip.

Why would I want to do that? I have everything I want right here!

Now at this point the temperature was nearing 0 and the rain on the roof and swaying pines were singing a miserable song and we were sitting in the dark, only one sputtering propane lamp lighting the room. We had the door to the kitchen closed to keep in the heat and going out of the room meant a parka and a flashlight were necessary.

So basically, I thought, you need a roof over your head and you're happy.

Of course we did have beer. And chili.

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As an Oilers' fan at this point all we want is progress. We had some last year and so far this year we are seeing more of the same. Despite some injuries and some regression this team is better than last year's club. Ted and Eberle and Hall are all the real deal and Smid has become a man and Lander and Petry look like one day they will be as well. Gilbert has gone from being quality to the next level and the veterans Smyth, Jones (!) and Horcoff are getting it done. And in a bit of a surprise it should be noted that Teubert has hung in there okay as well.

Timing is everything and its tough for Omark and Hartikainen that they have come up lame when Hall has gone down but someone else (tonight its Gagner) is going to get their shot in the top six and hopefully some hay will be made.

The club has been inconsistent the last couple of weeks but that's what young clubs will do. As long as they keep it together and within shouting distance of the pack then this year is a success. After years of shit it doesn't take much to make me happy.

Of course we had better see this progress continue year after year.

But for now a roof over my head is just fine.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Five Bees For A Quarter We Used To Say


A quarter of the way through the season and the Oilers look to be a club that may be in the playoff race this season despite injuries to Hemsky, Gagner and Whitney, a decimation of the D corps and a lack of production up front from anyone outside of the top six. The special teams are humming, the goaltending has ranged from good to great, Smid and Gilbert have been dreamy and they have become a very good home club. If they can put it together on the road (and for all of the angst there they are 4-6-1 away from Edmonton) and Whitney can actually stay healthy then this may very well be a playoff club.

Wow. Can't believe I said that.

A quick look at the club at the quarter pole:

A+

Ted - Nugent Hopkins is eighteen years old and is averaging over a point per game. He has been sheltered, sure, but really who gives a shit. Lets say it again. 18. Over a PPG. And on top of everything he can take the physical play, he can play in his own zone and he has fantastic instincts. Oh yeah, he can score too. A special player.

Ryan Smyth - its only right that the most popular player since the dynasty days has returned and its only right that he has had an astounding start. Never should have left. Just a tremendous story. Unlikely to keep up the pace but probably the club MVP at this point, except for one guy.

Tom Gilbert - and this is the guy. Crazy, right? He's had a tough game or two but Gilbert has anchored the top pair, given the club 25 minutes or so every night and contributed offence on top of everything. Playing with a bit of an edge this year. A guy who has always been rated as a top four guy, a full year like the first quarter will raise him to top pair status. Irreplaceable.

A

Jordan Eberle - a bit of a slump the first time out on the road and a bit of a slow start but he's in great form now. Twenty points. Future captain.

Shawn Horcoff - present captain is healthy and playing great, superb in circle and on PK, showing the kids how to get it done on the PP by going to the dirty areas. A minus one considering where he starts most shifts and who he plays against is tremendous. Healthy and playing with quality for first time in years. On pace for 20 plus goals, fifty plus points. Souray called him the most professional player he has ever played with, right? Great role model for the kids.

Ladi Smid - dmen development can be timed by sundial and here's the perfect example. No offence but neither did Jason Smith and that worked out quite well. Great on the PK. Big leap this year.

Nikolai Khabibulin - butt of jokes has cooled off a bit after his all world start but has been mostly good to excellent in all of his starts. Physical breakdown possible but until then he has pushed back. Always seems to play his best when job is at stake (see Chicago the last year of his last contract), when he gets comfortable he's awful

Ryan Jones - the smart set's whipping boy either has made a deal with the devil or he is damn lucky or he just has a great shooting %, period. Who the hell knows but he's doing it again. Five goals and four assists. More impressive is the fact that he has managed a tough minutes role and he has been a big part of an improved PK. A likeable goof of a guy, here's hoping he keeps it up.

B+

Taylor Hall - the golden boy from last season has struggled at times, pressing a little, trying to do too much. Still on pace for 25/60 which is good for a soph asked to carry a lot of the load. Here's guessing that he gains his comfort zone and tears it up. He had a slow start last season too.

Corey Potter - enormous surprise was tailing off a bit when he got hurt but had a tremendous start. If Whitney can stay healthy looks like a guy who can play top four minutes with him. Great find by the org.

B -

Devan Dubnyk - big man has stumbled a bit here and there but overall he has been good. A little more consistency would be nice, would be more reassuring to know he could carry the load of Khabibulin goes down.

Ales Hemsky - injured again (sigh) and ineffective at first when he returned, he looks to be starting to heat up again. A big key to this club's success, if he can stay healthy and gets rolling they suddenly have two lines that can score. When's the last time they've been able to say that?

Andy Sutton - big man is what he is, veteran D man, slow of foot, helps on the PK and clears the front of the net, has been the best of the three brought in to keep other clubs 'honest' although much better PP has probably been best deterrent to other clubs' thugs

Jeff Petry - coming on now after struggling early on, gets a shot with Whitney which should be great fit. No doubt that kid is going to be a big time player for this club imo.

C

Anton Lander - kid centre should be back in OKC one thinks but Renney keeps rolling him out there in different roles. Getting killed by most metrics but has been good on PK and does a lot of little things right. Decent start to career.

C -

Sam Gagner - injury and then returning from that injury and also playing the wing has made it a tough slog for Gagner who must look around and wonder where he fits. Would prefer him centring Paajarvi and Jones, perhaps, or Paajarvi and Omark when the latter returns. Seems to have a bit more jump lately. Sometimes wonder if he had a spot going forward with Ted and Lander, maybe tradebait but value right now is not great. Needs to get rolling.

Eric Belanger - has helped a lot, adds size, good D, faceoff acumen, PK, nicking him because of the nonexistent offence.

Lennart Petrell - Finnish rookie has been decent role player, helps PK, no offence though. Thoresen was better, ;)

D

Magnus Paajarvi - poor kid, I love him and a lot of this has to do with his linemates but having said that he hasn't helped himself, needs to play with more elan and confidence, chicken and egg thing though, I would bet that a few games with good linemates would get him going, fair play to him though his defensive game has not sagged

Linus Omark - the only one of the OKC brigade I have included in here, Renney doesn't like his sideburns I guess? I like Omark but he doesn't get as much rope as everyone else. Unfair? Yes but again, needed to do more when he was up. Would definitely like to see him get a chance to play with quality linemates for a while to see what they have here. I think he's a player.

F

Ben Eager - when you're brought in to create mayhem and you don't do it and you don't add anything offensively or defensively then you're failing. I blame it on the concussion, I don't think he's right yet.

Darcy Hordichuk - waste of a roster spot, the way Dallas ran roughshod earlier this week with him in the lineup belies the very reason they brought him in. No point

Cam Barker - I didn't mind the signing at all, a low cost gamble, and maybe he was hurting, hopefully that's why. Added little on the PP and is slower than Sutton. Impossible! as the French say. Only they say it like this: Impossibla! Silly French.

Incomplete

Ryan Whitney

Seriously buddy, stay healthy. A healthy Whitney probably means a playoff spot or at least forcing Tambellini's hand to shore up the D

A-

Tom Renney

I would like to see Renney figure out that bottom six and I don't like his handling of the two kid Swedes but he's line matched like a madman and the special teams have been grand. Good job. Man deserves a lot of credit.

B

Steve Tambellini

I liked his summer. He has been lucky. Nobody thought Ted would be this good, Smyth basically traded himself home and Khabibulin has risen from the dead but Belanger, Potter Petrell and Sutton have all added quality. Barker has been a miss but for a one year deal who cares? Cheap gambles are what good GMs do. Another legitimate top four Dman would have been great of course. Interesting to see what he does if club stays in the playoff race. Plus he has to deal with pending UFAs Hemsky, Smyth and Potter.

A

OKC Barons

Near the top of their league and have been a reliable shuttle for reinforcements. If there is one thing Tambellini deserves credit for its turning this part of the organization around.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Damn Lies


Kids lie. They all do. If you think your kids don't lie you are either lying to yourself or you are in for a fun ride once they become teenagers. Plus you are dumb.

I was a born liar. Still am. Pathological almost. And the kids take after me. Although it is pretty funny listening to my wife sputter 'why do they lie?!' while glaring at me and then later that night over another bottle of wine laughing about how she used to pull the wool over her parents' eyes by covering up her breaking of their rules about sloth and drunkenness as a teenager.

LIAR!!!!

Now of course it sometimes works against them, as it did this morning when my eldest tried to wear a dress to school that I am pretty sure she's not allowed to wear to school. But Mommy lets me she wailed, along with lamentations about the unfairness of it all, to which I replied that she and her brother are lying liars who lie and as a result I really could not trust her on this point. Her brother smirked, because she was the one getting called on it this time.

Evidence from this weekend points to our youngest lapping the field in this particular talent however, perhaps even putting her old man to shame (and I've told some dandies in my days). The difference between her and us is her absolute shamelessness, coupled with a killer's lack of conscience and an incredible ability to think on her feet.

My inlaws are here to visit and on Sunday afternoon my mother in law came downstairs and found my youngest in her purse, rummaging about. She had applied some lipstick and eyeliner and was chewing a piece of gum that she had thieved, the little rat. My mother in law called her a rascal or a scallywag or some such, shooed her upstairs with a scolding and placed the purse where it could not be reached by dirty little hands.

Next time downstairs mother in law discovers our sweet baby (she is three) has pushed furniture over, climbed atop it and is standing there holding the pack of gum in her hand. Before she can say a thing, little miss K turns to her, smiles sweetly and says:

Oh there you are Nanny. I was just getting a piece of gum for you because I thought you'd like one.

Did I mention that she is three? Also that we are doomed.

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

So the Oilers are halfway there anyhow. Great at home. Lousy on the road though, where Renney can't protect the kids and the team is too thin on the blueline to be any damn good. One wonders what Tambellini is going to do here. The club is good enough to be in the mix for the playoff race I think but not as presently constituted. They need Whitney to come back and they need to shore up that D with a trade. Rumours are Carle is available for a pick. If Philly isn't asking for a first do you make that move? A D that goes as follows - 5/77, 6/Carle, 25/58 with Potter also in the mix - is probably good enough to keep this team in the hunt and don't we want the kids to play some meaningful games?

Some other thoughts, mostly concerning damnable lies told by fans and others:

1/ Hordichuk and Eager have some value. Intangibles, right? Well anyone who saw the Stars run roughshod last night has to admit that Hordichuk is a waste of lineup space. Seriously, what is the point of his handful of minutes each night? Nobody is getting intimidated by this plug and Tom Renney thought so much of Ben Eager, the other ruffian, that he sat him. Might be sending a message to Eager or maybe he's still not over that concussion, Eager, that is, not Renney.

Seriously though the argument is always 'you never played the game' and 'they bring a lot to the table in terms of intangibles' - well they don't score or defend or hit or intimidate the other team or stop the other team from running the kids so ....

2/ Get rid of the useless vets!! They're useless. Well, there are so few on this team one can take a quick look around and see Smyth leading the team in scoring, Horcoff leading the team in icetime amongst forwards, taking the tough competition and tough zonestarts and Gilbert, well, what can one say about Tom Gilbert. Averaging five minutes more than anyone else on the club in icetime. Playing the toughs. On pace for forty points. And what, one bad game to show in twenty?

Back to Horcoff for a second. Nobody can get past the contract but I've never been able to understand why folks hate this guy. Andy Grabia was asking me how he could win an argument about Horcoff being a good player with someone who despised him. No advanced stats, Andy said.

Watch the game I said. Buddy starts in his own zone against the heaviest dudes the league has to offer, he is barely a minus, he's on pace for just under fifty points. What the hell else do you want? You don't like the fancy stats? Watch the fucking game then and if you don't see his value or the fact that because of the role he plays the kids get some shelter (and I love the kids don't get me wrong) then you. don't. know. hockey.

3/ This team is really really good. This team is really really bad.

Look here, this team is in between. They'll have their bad home games but for the most part they're a much improved club, at least at home. They need some help on the blue though. And they'll have their good road games but for the most part they're easy prey when they hit the road, especially against those big physical grinding clubs like Dallas and Phoenix. The depth is not there yet and the kids are too callow still.

Its going to take time but really other than the strangeness surrounding Paajarvi and the absolute collapse of Theo Peckham I don't have many complaints about this club and where they're at, which is further ahead than I figured. They just need Whitney to come back and stay healthy and for something, anything, from that third line.

And that's the truth.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

LOL As The Kids Say


Heading onto the ice last night for a little Capsule action I tweeted that the Oilers' game was going to be a bloodbath. Four defencemen out, Theo Peckham on the second pair, four games lost on a row, each one worse than the last, nobody scoring, best team in the league in town, pissed off after coming off of a loss.

Bloodbath, right?

After hauling myself out of a loss where I had my worst game of the year (note to self - two pints before the game, not a good idea) - I checked in on the Twitter and caught Woodguy wondering if the Oilers could hold the lead. I figured they were somehow up by one.

Bloodbath.

I watched the game on CBC replay last night after I came home loaded drunk and then watched it again this afternoon. Good way to watch the game, in and out in an hour, the less Weekes and Lee the better, right?

Best game for the Oilers since June 17th 2006. Crazy. One of those games where everything went well and it spun out of control for the Hawks early and then it was all over. Hockey is a funny game. I think it was 4-1 and Stallberg had a great chance and if he pots one who knows what happens? Maybe it just stems the tide for a moment or maybe its a whole new game? Its a strange game, hockey.

And last night was one of the strangest we've seen in a long time. The Leafs, seven regulars shy and starting the Monster, pound the Caps and Bruce Boudreau cannot be long for that job I would think. As for the Leafs, a big night, soem kids showing well and the biggest story of their year so far, Joffery Lupul, with another big game.

Lupul was an Oiler briefly and he was absolutely awful and to me a representative of so many of these young players we see today. He had pedigree and he could score and as a result he got paid even though he was soft and got killed by real NHL hockey players and could do none of the little things that win hockey games. He is Olesz and O'Sullivan and any number of players you might name and when he started getting hurt his career began to circle the drain until last year he was an honest to goodness salary dump and it looked like it was all over for him.

Now I don't watch enough Leafs' hockey to know if Lupul is playing any sort of tough minutes but even if he is not he is doing some damage and if his ceiling is soft minutes killer well a soft minutes killer is better than where he was at. I didn't like him as an Oiler but he could have taken his money and packed it in and instead he put it the work and its paying off and good for him.

Tom Gilbert continues to play very very well and last night he put up some crooked numbers and knocked Toews around a bit and one thinks that maybe, just maybe, folks may be coming around on Tom Gilbert and I would say its about time there. Now the Oilers just need Whitney to come back healthy (I did say lol right?) and Petry to keep trending up and, well, honestly another top four guy never hurt anyone right? If rumours of Carle being available for a pick are true it might be an idea for the Oilers to jump on that action.

Last night it all came together and the move of Gagner between Hall and Hemsky certainly makes some sense. Paajarvi remains the odd man out but one must think that he will get moved up to the Horcoff line as soon as the team drops one. Poor Paajarvi might be best served with some time in OKC for the confidence but playing him with Ben Eager and then wondering where his offence is (and no mistake he needs to do some things to help himself here) is like wondering why Cole didn't score when he played with Brodziak and Moreau.

No complaints though at this point. I think its going to be another tough week ahead but this win helps ease this tough stretch. This is definitely a different club at home and that's normal I think and some day they will be good enough to do damage on the road as well.

And Ted? Yeah he's fucking ridiculous. Just unreal. What a player.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Glory


Had a fantastic weekend this weekend past in Pat McLean land.

Woke up to an email from my aunt out west. Have had a bit of stress lately as my old man's youngest brother had a major health scare. He's as fit as can be and so of course when you get the news its even more upsetting because it comes as a shock. So Saturday morning I woke up and found a message that proclaimed that all is well for now and so we were off to the best start to a Saturday that one could have.

It was gorgeous here in the centre of the universe and so we had the kids out and about in the sunshine. Raked leaves, made a pot of chili, took the boy to skating, watched the game Saturday night with my father in law and a few Neustadt 10W30s. Went to the LCBO and found some winter ales (perhaps my favourite beer) appearing. Had a big ham supper Sunday night with butterscotch pie for dessert after picking up my dad at the airport on his return from Alberta. Had a couple of beers on Saturday evening with a neighbour as our kids roared around us in the gathering dusk.

Oh it was oh so good.

Highlight of it all was Saturday afternoon when I hit the ice with good old Capsule. The vagaries of beer league hockey giveth and taketh away and so news that we were adding two quality players this season was immediately countered by one of them bailing and then two solid players from last year also taking a walk and then an old friend who is quality signing back on. So in other words in the end basically a wash.

So going into Saturday's game we were two and four with one of the losses coming to a club that got promoted soon after so kind of a mediocre start. Pretty typical Capsule in fact in a lot of ways. Losses where we carry the play but don't cash and then the opposition capitalizes on a breakdown were pretty standard last season and so far this season we had seen more of the same.

I myself have had a nice start this season. The legs are long gone but I can get from point a to point b fairly quickly and I'm about a hundred times as smart as I once was. I've played some centre, which I enjoy quite a bit, and when I play the wing I'm just up and down that side. My man on the other side has had a nice start as well (he is the prototypical winger, up and down his side of the rink, chip it in and out, has his man, goes to the net, we're talking steady, its great playing with him because you know what you get every time out.) and so we're chugging along if the team itself has struggled. Of course if I had my druthers the team would be winning a little more. Its good to be doing well but without the wins its all a bit hollow.

So Saturday we're playing a club which always gives us fits. This is our third or fourth year in the same division as them and we haven't beaten them once. Every game is the same. We carry the play, we pepper their goalie, the odd time we jump in front (one game two years back I scored on each of my first two shifts to give us a quick lead, unfortunately it was the worst lead in hockey) but in the end the result is the same. They have a couple of guys who are deadly in close and they are quality with the man advantage and we always get burned on a stretch pass at least once a game and so every time the score ends 4-2 or 3-1 or 3-2 and we are left shaking our heads.

Saturday afternoon it was more of the same, we're carrying the play pretty well and its late in the first period (we only play two long periods, why I have no idea. Its definitely hurt us through the years as we're totally a third period team, especially with our fantastic conditioning) and we get a shot from the point, low and hard and the winger is there to flip in the rebound over the fallen keeper and we're on our way, right?

Except our next shift one of their dman fires the perfect headman to their best player who has snuck behind everyone and now its tied and then our next shift what starts as a simple two on two ends up with a bad bounce and then their man manages a changeup which floats in with seconds left in the period and its a case of dejavualloveragain.

Shitty.

And so we spent the remainder of the game attacking and they tired but nothing was happening. Shots were blocked and passes into the slot were lost in a morass of men as they collapsed around their goalie. Our best player, a burly young RW, was kept to the outside whenever he charged into their zone and they were content to let us throw long shots at the net all day. We were looking at little time left and as we sat on the bench we talked about how we had to get pucks to the net and create traffic (big league or small time its all the same eh?). And so next shift I took a perfect pass on my offwing and walked into their zone as their D collapsed around the other winger driving the net. And then I saw my centreman, my pal, fan of Les Sabres, suddenly roaring in down the right side, making a beeline to the net. Now I've known Higgs for nearly twenty five years now (terrifying) and we've been playing shinny or organized hockey together on and off for just as long and as we joked afterwards about once every six months you see that chemistry rear her lovely red head and so I sent the puck at the net, low and hard and he and that puck met about a foot in front of the goalie and he tipped it perfectly into the top corner.

Oh it was a thing of beauty.

And then after they almost snuck in a shorthanded chance we were swarming their zone with under a minute left and the dman fired one up the boards and they had a jailbreak. Problem is our man on the boards knocked it down, stood his ground when the dman crashed into him and walked off of the boards, suddenly three on one from the hashmarks in, making no mistake and with under thirty seconds left he fired it in.

Glory!

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

Glory all around for me but for the Oilers its turning into an awful awful run. The promise of early days bought and paid for has disappeared into the ether. The old adage says you win a couple near the end of a win streak that you shouldn't and so it was that in a five game stretch the Oilers won three they probably should not have - Caps, Avs and Habs, were full value for their win over the Kings and were beaten soundly by Phoenix. Since then its been four games of suck with things getting progressively worse. Its one thing to get slapped around by the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Red Wings and the Hawks, likely the best team in the league right now, all on the road, but when you come home and get buried by Ottawa then you're at a different level.

The list of things going wrong is a long and varied one. Everyone is slumping except for Ryan Smyth pretty well at this point. Gilbert and Smid are starting to sag under the workload, Khabibulin has fallen back to earth, the injuries on an already thin D are mounting and nobody is scoring.

Nobody.

The number of players slumping offensively is mind boggling. There is nothing happening for so many guys.

Paajarvi.

Gagner.

Hemsky.

Hall.

Belanger.

What can they do? Its about to get uglier one would think with Chicago coming to town.

(Funny to read stuff about the Hawks. The feeling is that they are doing HORRIBLY and yet with Bolland hobbled, Keith and Seabrook both missing games, a PP that was ranked 30th until very recently, they are at the top of the league. Plus they have ~ 7 million in cap space and all of their key players locked up for years to come. Woe is them.)

And then they hit the road again.

They need Ryan Whitney in the worst way, its become quite clear and of course they need to find a healthy version of him if they ever want to start becoming a legitimate threat.

And they need to figure out something up front. When EVERYONE is in a funk then you need to do some things. One suspects Omark and Hartikainen and maybe Cornet (or some collection of these guys) will be on their way soon, never mind the D probably on the way.

No panic, the team is not as bad as they look right now just as they are not as good as they looked early on. Stay the course (no goofy trades like this Gagner/Pitlick for Franson one I saw floated early this week. I mean, seriously?) and ride it out.

Because it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time Stops For No One



When it comes to music I'm an 80s guy pretty well. We had this discussion here sometime back and it was the venerable Lowetide who remarked that the music of your youth is always the music that stays with you most of all. Makes perfect sense of course. Unless music is your passion as you get older and the kids come along there's no longer time for smokey bars with up and coming bands or stadiums with thousands of screaming youngsters. I still love music but I haven't bought any in years and until I saw U2 this summer the last concert I saw was over eight years ago. And of course that was the Hip. The closest I get to the scene these days is when I pass Jim Cuddy in the halls at DeLasalle arena.

What can I say? In this as in most things I'm a Philistine.

Still love it though. Have gotten the kids into Van Morrison and I've got the YouTune playlist, about once a week I put on the headphones and run through it.

Last week I listened to some stuff from the Spoons and then a little Pursuit of Happiness and some Spirit of the West (Home For A Rest remains one of my alltime favourite songs - I am sure I will stroke out forty years in the future bouncing around to it at some wedding) and I did a little Google on some of the band members and lo and behold those cute girls with the big feathered hair don't look the same anymore. Now of course none of us do really and I'm not making any comment here that should be taken in a negative in any way. Its just that sudden shock of seeing someone who has always been frozen in time as a kid suddenly age twenty five years by the click of a mouse.

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

Which makes Ryan Smyth's start such a wonderful story. He can't keep it up, he won't keep it up, all of those miles on his body, all of that battering, the ridiculous shooting percentage ... he can't keep it up, right?

So often the returning hero comes back, Wendel Clark did it twice, each time a little more dininished than the last. Doug Gilmour's own return didn't even last two shifts. Its a tough act to follow when you left town as an icon at the height of your success and then returned as an older man, beaten down by time.

And yet so far Smytty has defied all of the odds. While the kids have been up and down, as kids will be, and the team has struggled of late, Ryan Smyth comes to the rink with his thermos and brown bag lunch and punches the clock (hat tip to Twitter, sorry I cannot remember the person who tweeted that).

Its glorious.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sorrow



This is a snapshot of a project you can find here. Each poppy represents a Canadian from Toronto who died in World War Two. Tiny tree lined enclaves painted red. On Markham Street in the Annex two brothers at 745, one killed in 1942 in the air force. Two years later the second dying in Belgium with the poor bloody infantry. A few doors down towards Bloor another airman. Up towards Dupont two from a single address. Different names, half brothers perhaps? A rooming house? One gone down with his ship in early '45, the war winding down, Germany in ruins. The other killed liberating France with the Toronto Scottish.

A few streets away at 248 and 250 Albany, another airman and his neighbour, a rifleman, killed on June 6th, 1944.

If I go to eastern Toronto I find a home across the street from my own. Friends of ours once lived there. Long before they did so did a young man named Malcolm Bell, son of Malcolm and Elsie, shot down over Germany on November 3rd, 1943. I look at Roseheath, the street one west of my own. During the summer they close the street down and have a party, a band plays and the children play games and neighbours congregate for food and drinks. On Halloween we walked the length of the street, packed with trick o treaters, crazy colours and costumes, laughter and shouting children.

At the top of the street John O Halloran lived at 111. He was 28 years old when he died in Italy on May 30th 1944. Perhaps he left a wife and children? Perhaps he knew Norman Hunter from a few doors down at #83. They were in different units but how could they not have known each other, being neighbours. They are neighbours still, buried in the same cemetary at Cassino, Hunter falling nine days after O'Halloran.

Across the street at 84 lived Robert Sheckleton. He died along with seventeen shipmates when the corvette Levis was torpedoed in 1941 off of Greenland.

At 58 they received the news that Richard Carney, a 24 year old pilot, was killed on August 16th of 1943. Just three doors down at 52 just over a year later they learned that Raymond Boddy, a boy of 19, was killed in Belgium on September 15th.

And down a little further at #34, just about where the street ends, where we head west as we walk the kids to school, the ravine where we used to take the old dog to sniff and wander just behind the houses, lived young William Venton, who died in France on July 26th 1944.

Walk this street now, the neat duplexes and odd detached brick home, built in the mid twenties for the Irish and Scottish men who worked in the factories and brickyards and railcars just south of the neighbourhood. The pretty little yards and gardens. The street shadowed by the tall old trees. The young families that have flooded the neighbourhood.

It was a long time ago. One wonders about those years. Did the men whose sons had died in Europe gather at a pub on the Danforth, drinking and smoking, trying to obliterate the horror. Did the women bring meals to attempt to comfort their neighbours, weeping, heartbroken? What nightmares haunted their neighbours whose boys still lived somewhere over there?

What unbelievable sorrow must have clenched this quiet street all of those long years ago.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Putin's Request



My Dearest Komrade Horcov,

How is this letter finding you? I am going out on limb and saying that you are well, perhaps even you have a gap toothed smile of satisfaction on battle scarred, broken nosed face. Even though smiling is not usually way in Motherland, unless many vodka have been consumed or small country trampled underfoot by glorious Red Army, I must say I do not blame you.

Things are well with you! I know because I read horrible newspapers from remote outpost where you play and like Great Patriotic War when we marched to Berlin, none are standing before you. Is it like that Komrade? Do you sometimes pretend when you go out on ice that you are in fact leading Russian soldiers into battle, sitting astride great while stallion, naked except for cold steel of pistol in your hand as you wave them forward to victory. Oh and also large fur hat of course.

I know now things are getting more difficult for you as you leave friendly confines of windswept Arctic nothingness and go on the road. Hopefully you will hit road rather than road hitting you as it does to anyone who dares cross into Motherland, hm. Ask Napolean or little Austrian with stupid little mustache how that went.

My friend I am happy for you but as you rampage through inferior Western professional hockey league please spare thought for your old friend Vlad for with me things are not so good.

I was born in wrong time my friend. I long for days when you could starve out peasantry or execute thousands at whim or send tanks into small nation for weekend sport. I fear that we are becoming more and more like West, fat and stupid and greasy from drinking sugary drinks and eating fried chicken made by illiterate white clad old man. And who was not Colonel!! Not even private I am thinking, certainly I would not have him in Red Army with his goofy outfit and Kentucky drawl. It is not like old times when fearless leader could find ancient pottery while on diving vacation and nobody would question it. Now everyone is in everyone's business and knows everything which is job for KGB, nobody else.

I am afraid it is not good times for me my old friend. I have barely left room in weeks since embarassing diving fiasco. Why I listed to stupid LaForge and agreed to stupid stunt is beyond me. I think I looked at this Katz fellow and saw how he corrupted local politicians and newspapers to take money from local peasants and give it to him, one of richest men in country. It is move worthy of glorious Stalin in its ballsiness. He is little man, this Katz, but if you dropped his pants you would find enormous stones, much like Russian boar rampaging through vast dark woods. So from that astounding thievery I thought I will hire this LaForge fellow to improve my relations with public. They do not fear me and I cannot massacre town like old days to inspire them to do so. So I figure I kill with kindness, impressing them with amazing feat and instead that bald headed dummy created for me a disaster. It will teach me to believe snake oil salesmen and worst of all I cannot have him shot in forest.

Oh woe is me Komrade. I am hiding in dark room with nothing but case of vodka, sitting naked on poorly made chair made poorly by Swedish company that will remain nameless. If this were old days Stockholm would be nothing but ash and I would be sitting on throne of skulls while Swedish amazon licked my bumhole but instead I sit here with sore ass and no licking. I believe I actually have open wounds from sitting here so long but I do not care. Let them ooze. I have done nothing but drink for weeks now, I am like bugeyed maniac actor Cage in that movie where he goes to Vegas and jumps out of plane with skydiving Elvises. You know one where he drinks self to death, slurping whiskey as it slides down beautiful white full breasts of sister of Melrose Place guy? Or is it horsefaced wife of Ferris Beuller. No it cannot be her, she has no breasts on horrifyingly haggard frame.

It is of no matter. I am almost there Komrade. So sad am I that even thinking of perky sunkissed nipples I am unable to even get stirring of massive cock. It lays there sadly despite my feeble attempts to arouse. Indeed it shrinks away from my touch, which is ironic because so did Mrs Putin on wedding night when she was first confronted with its enormous magnificence. It is reminding me of poem Death of My Cock by long haired bloated weirdo singer of hippy band the Doors. Did he not also drink himself to death?

I am sorry Komrade. You deserve better friend than what I am providing. I should be cheery for you with great beginning to new season but then again who knew that Komrade Nikolai could still perform like he did in old days before he became like Cold War era tank, rusted and useless. And then this Potter fellow, he is big surprise, like Lenin coming in train to turn great Revolution on ear. And this baby faced one, he is like twelve year old boy. I am certain he will enjoy road trip very much though, especially visit to Montreal. I am hoping veterans will take him to bars with best puck bunnies who will show him ropes. LOL as the decadent western children say, those French girls will break him in two. Perhaps make sure Eager goes along to protect him. He has to be good for something, yes?

I am very happy for you Komrade. For you it must be good times for certain with old friend with bad hair and monotone cliched interviews to stand by your side once again. The two of you is like turning back clock, playing other team's best players and doing so with success, it is like 2006 with Jones playing role of Todd Harvey except without the awful mustache that reminds me of child molester in old neighbourhood before we sent him to Siberia. Or did we just shoot him? Or was that Todd Harvey? I cannot remember, I am so addled with vodka.

So it is good times for you with fast start and gaptoothed smiles all around and bad times for me and so I am asking favour comrade to help me get it together. I am thinking I will come for visit. I will stay with you, yes? Just for few days I promise until I get bearings. It should not take long in little town in middle of nowhere. I will get to know places where I can eat and drink like Westerner. Perhaps I will even eat wonderfully named Poutine - as they say, when in Rome Komrade, even though idea of heartclogging fried potatoes with meat fat and cheese on it is telling me all that is wrong with fat disgusting westerners. Why not just inject air bubble directly into heart and save time, eh? Notice how I use cutesly little Canadian idiom? Eh? Ha, suddenly my spirits are lifting, even as I write this. Yes Komrade this is what I will do, I will come for visit. Tell your lovely wife Olga not to worry, I will only stay in guest room for less than week, I am sure you have room in vast mansion you must have built with millions of dollars drug oligarch has given you. Once I have found my way and met your friends I am sure they will taken with me and I will be able to find roomie. I am thinking perhaps long haired Tom Gilbert with pretty face. I would bet he gets all of the pussy and I am thinking I might get some of that.

Letting me know please and thank you.

Your pal,

Vlad.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Not A Gambler By Nature



Other than heavy drinking and the anonymous sex when I was a young man I've never been much of a risk taker. I have a fairly strong sense of self preservation and based on the fact that I have sperm of steel I have been apparently hardwired to try and go forth and multiply.

I don't like flying. I don't like high speeds. Roller coasters? Forget it. You'd never catch me jumping off of a bridge tied to a big rubber band or jumping out of an airplane or any of that type of shit. Never mind that I might end up in pieces on the ground, I'm also concerned that the old ticker might explode in my chest. Same reason I avoid cocaine.

I'm all for enjoying life, I just don't get off on thrills and spills. I like your general pleasures that life affords - eating, drinking, fucking, the beauty of the outdoors, having a family and friends - that's just the way I'm built.

Here's the thing. I found out this summer that even the most mundane of pursuits have become fraught for me. I blame it on my kids.

We were at a cottage outside of Lindsay with good friends. Terrific spot they have. We lucked out with great weather this year and that weekend was no different. One afternoon we figured we'd head out on the boat for some tubing. There were three Dads and four kids, my oldest didn't want any part of it but the boy figured he'd come along. Once we got out there though he was quite content to observe as everyone took turns heading out on the big three man tube we were hauling about at a relatively slow speed.

I asked the boy if he wanted to go out and he said no. A while later I asked him again, telling him that I would go with him and he said no thank you. He was quite content to sit on the boat and watch. We were just about to head back so I asked him one last time and apparently he had screwed his courage up and he said yes.

We clambered out of the boat and onto the tube along with one of the other kids. Now when I was in PEI that summer where I was once again a young lion I had a pal who had a boat and we used to hit the harbour a few times a week and generally we'd haul out the tube and go for a spin. I'm not a big dude although I am exceptionally wiry and my buddies would get a kick because Trev would gun it and whip me around the harbour like a rag doll. I'd hit those waves and next thing you know I'd be flying, literally. It was a riot. Great fun. Also very painful at times.

What I'm saying, because it needs to be said, is I'm no baby.

And the reason this needs to be said is as we sat in the tube, myself and my boy, I was suddenly gripped by total panic. Before we began I told him that if he was scared he just had to let me know and I'd give the signal.

Well we got going and we're going at a reasonable clip but really its not that fast and I sneak a peek at him and he's having the time of his life. Me, I'm shitting my pants. Should we stop, I shout, and he turns to me, laughing, and says FASTER FASTER.

All the while I'm praying for it to end.

Why? Well its the boy being with me, that's all it could be, the thought that something might happen while we're out there. Only when the other lad with us raised his hand to stop did I breathe a sigh of relief at which point my son wanted to go again. I climbed out, replaced by another, and watched from the boat as he took another ride.

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When it comes to gambles that's a pretty low level one, which makes my terror all the more amusing, well at least for you, you bastards.

Steve Tambellini has made some nice low cost gambles since June and so far these have been paying off nicely.

- Corey Potter was signed for a song and has been, so far, a top four defenceman for the Oilers

- Lennart Petrell was also signed for nothing and has emerged as a nice role player

- Ryan Smyth basically traded himself to the Oilers and he has added to the PK, the PP and to Tom Renney's ability to match lines by giving Horcoff a winger who can help him with the toughs

- by giving Eric Belanger some term, satisfying his desire for a little bit of stability, Tambellini added a big centreman who can PK, be low event and win a lot fo draws. The offence has not come yet but it most certainly will

Throw in the emergence of Ted and the rebound of Khabibulin and the fantastic play of Gilbert and Smid and the Oilers have had a nice start despite Whitney and Hemsky being hurt, the bottom six forwards having not contributed a goal yet and Ted Peckman (a different Ted) falling off the face of the earth.

And now, well now it gets difficult. I'm not talking about this road trip which will probably bring these guys back to earth somewhat. I think its clear that we have something happening here and that this year may be the start of something good.

I'm talking about the fact that the next ten months or so are going to determine if this place is going to get wrecked, maybe not by the winds of change and the weeds of sex, but still the possibility is there for a mess to be made.

This is going to take some smarts and there are going to be calculated risks taken. Does our man have what it takes? I feel better about Tambo now than I did six months ago but I really don't know if he does or not. Here is what he needs to figure out:

- what about Ales? Does he sign him? My guess is Ales would sign if he's given the right offer. The question is what is that offer and how much term and cash do you gamble on a guy who cannot stay healthy at all? Anything at all? A healthy Ales Hemsky makes this team that much more dangerous and either makes the Horcoff line an absolute killer or makes Belanger and Paajarvi a lot more dangerous. You have to keep your good players, right? Right? We always say that here. But what about the good player who only plays forty or fifty games a year? Damnit!

- do you sign Smyth for a year or two? A no brainer really. He wants to be here and he adds so much. Let him go and suddenly that vaunted depth up front is a lot thinner.

- Sam Gagner? When Hemsky comes back one thinks Jones will slide back down the depth chart, right? But what about Sam's future? You have two kid centres now plus the two vets and while its nice to have so much depth up the middle that you can move 89 to the wing, does it mean that you also move him out the door? I think we may be seeing the near future now, meaning Hemsky and Omark will be gone and they'll run Eberle, Jones and Gagner on RW until Hartikainen is ready. Then Gagner will get moved too.

- and there is Linus Omark. A lot of gnashing of teeth about Omark. I think the guy is a player and myself I would like to see him slot in beside Horcoff. Lets see what we have in the guy, right? I can see the logic behind the move though. Its a winning lineup and its better to have him play than sit in the pressbox. The problem for the Oilers and for Linus is that they are suddenly flush with forwards. He needs someone to get hurt basically. And to stay hurt.

Here's the thing about the Oilers this year. They suddenly have depth, especially up front. Here's the problem. That depth can evaporate pretty quickly if the situation is not correctly handled. You want to use the depth up front to add a top four Dman I think, especially with Whitney being such a mess. Plus its doubtful that Khabibulin can keep it up and even if he does he won't be around when things really matter. But if they move Omark or Gagner (or both) and then let Hemsky and Smyth walk suddenly that lineup is a lot less impressive.

Its a tightrope. Lets see if Tambo can figure it out. If he makes the right bets then this team is going to be set for a while. If he blows it then its possibly back to the wilderness and he'll be unemployed.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Looking Good


Ten games in and the Oilers are first in the conference and sitting at 6-2-2. A fantastic start and except for the last two games its been bought and paid for. Of course 4-4-2 is a lot different animal than 6-2-2 but then again early on the Oilers had a couple of games where they outchanced the opposition and didn't get the two points so I'm not going to pick nits here. Is this the best team in the conference? No of course not. Are they a playoff team? Unlikely. They've banked a lot of points at home but they are about to hit the road and my guess is they will find it tougher sledding there. Are they better than everyone figured them for? Yes. I figured them to be ~ 25th or so and I had a lot of people say I was mental even for that. A lot of folks have them pegged for last overall, again.

I was trying to find a post I remembered writing this summer where I was trying to figure out how this club could perform. I finally found it

Here's the key passage:


I think the Oilers will likely be in the lottery next year if they are done with their moves. Too many issues from the blueline on back. Now having said that nothing is a sure thing. Nobody saw the Devils in the lottery last summer and two years ago nobody saw the Avs in the playoffs. Teams will collapse and the Oilers may rise above those clubs and because its sport and luck plays a role you never ever know what can happen. But for the Oilers to be a competitive club this season, for them to make the leap they will need, well, everything to go right.

They will need Dubnyk to become a very good goaltender or for Khabibulin to turn back the clock.

They will need Sutton to turn the clock back two years and for two or more of Petry, Peckham and Smid to take a big leap forward. Gagner too.

They will need Whitney and Horcoff and Hemsky to stay healthy. And pretty well anyone else of value.

They will have to fix the special teams especially the PK because they will likely be in the box a lot.

They need Hall and Eberle and Omark and Paajarvi to improve on their nice starts to their careers. No going sideways. No backsliding. Improvement across the board.

They will need a couple of other kids to step up. Maybe Lander.

They will need some luck on top of all that.

Is it possible? Of course. Anything is. Its unlikely, very unlikely really, but its possible.


Now we're looking at a small sample size here but lets look st these one by one:


They will need Dubnyk to become a very good goaltender or for Khabibulin to turn back the clock.

Probably the story so far. Both goalies have been excellent. Khabibulin shuts the door on Washington on Thursday night. One night later Dubnyk stops forty. Anything you can do I can do better.


They will need Sutton to turn the clock back two years and for two or more of Petry, Peckham and Smid to take a big leap forward. Gagner too.

Sutton has been better than expected. Smid has been wonderful. Petry has been in OKC, Peckham in the pressbox and Gagner has just gotten back from his injury.

They will need Whitney and Horcoff and Hemsky to stay healthy. And pretty well anyone else of value.

lol, well Horcoff has been healthy so far.


They will have to fix the special teams especially the PK because they will likely be in the box a lot.

PK has been outstanding. Rolling three pairs of forwards who know what they are doing, very good goaltending and some pretty good work from the D. Its been night and day compared to last year. And the PP has been better, a lot of puck and player movement, none of this standing around shit. Special teams won the day against the Caps. Last year they were brutal.


They need Hall and Eberle and Omark and Paajarvi to improve on their nice starts to their careers. No going sideways. No backsliding. Improvement across the board.

Hall and Eberle have been very good. Paajarvi has struggled offensively and Omark is in the pressbox.

They will need a couple of other kids to step up. Maybe Lander.

Lander has been a reasonable fourth line option, chipping in on the PK. Petrell and Potter aren't kids per se, but both have contributed, especially Potter. Of course the big story here is Ted, who has been terrific, at least at home. The next few weeks will be a test or the kid but his play has sparked the PP and allowed Renney to play Horcoff and Belanger in tougher minute roles. Huge help.

They will need some luck on top of all that.

Shots for and against were pretty well even until the last two games and then they faced one of the best teams in the league and then the Avs in the second night of a back to back. So I'm not too concerned about where they are at. Again, do I think they are a playoff club? I don't think so but we'll have a lot better handle on how good they are in a ocuple of weeks after this tough road trip.

Its funny though eh? Look at that list above. This is what I figured they needed to be respectable and the reality is a lot of what I felt they needed has not come to pass. Omark and Paajarvi have stalled. Whitney, Hemsky and Gagner have all been hurt. Petry and Peckham have done nothing. Of course Potter has come from nowhere, Smyth and Horcoff (and yes Jones) have been doing the heavy lifting and doing it well and Belanger has added to this club as well. Not to mention Gilbert's excellence.

I guess if you're a glass half full type of guy you look at this team and see Whitney and Hemsky coming back and a bunch of guys yet to get untracked and the reality is they could still get better. Sure the goaltending is not going to be all world and there are going to be some tough nights ahead but I would say they are better than any of us figured them to be. They still need a Dman or two, imo, or at least they need Whitney to come back and stay healthy and Potter to keep it up somehow.

But ten games in things are good. Its been fun and for the most part its been bought and paid for, not smoke and mirrors. So lets enjoy it, yeah?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

painfull To Bow! painfulltobow!


If you're on the twitter you need to check out @oldmansearch - I suspect its a put on but it looks suspiciously like what my old man's search history would look like if he ever took to Google so who knows. Regardless of whether its truth or not its certainly funny shit. Some examples:

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weather forecast for indianapolis tonight

squirrel poison

re-using stamps

cat traps

what is a pride parade for? Indianapolis

gyms with no teenagers? indianapolis

cream cheese jewish

mother in french? m something something e

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My old man, like this old man, is also obsessed, at least mildly so, with the weather, killing varmints (anything smaller than a medium sized dog has to go - the other night he referred to raccoons as creatures that threaten humanity) and saving money. Apparently these traits know no borders.

Like Moe Berg sang once, I'm an adult know. My back aches and my knees hurt and I find myself waking up before the crack of crow's piss (that's before dawn for all of you non Islanders out there). We did family pictures on Sunday and I was constantly stuffing all of this newly arrived hair up my nose and back into my ears.

Hmmm.

As I get older I wonder what will amaze me when my time comes. My Dad talks about computers like they are witchcraft and every one of the three emails he has ever sent me begins and ends with the line "I'm sure you won't get this" but I'm not far behind him when it comes to being astounded by it all. We figured by now we'd have flying cars but the fact that we can use these little handheld devices to do almost anything blows that idea away any day I think. Just the other day I was back and forth with a guy from Stockholm who was pub crawling through Dublin on recommendations I wrote in a post from a while ago. He went to Davy Byrne's and Neary's as we chatted and he gave me Toner's and The Hairy Lemon as two new possibilities for my next time in that wonderful old town.

Crazy if you think about it. All of that just like that across the width of the world.

So who knows what is coming around the corner. I'm sure fifty years from now my grandson will be doing something so far beyond our understanding and laughing with his buddies about how his grandfather was using the flux capacitor to pleasure himself.

Dirty old man.

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Change is scary but change is good or at least so far it has been for the Oilers. Its so damn early (although its fun to see panic in the streets of other cities) although those clubs off to good starts certainly shouldn't complain. Bylasma and his injury riddled Pens run rampant without Crosby and Malkin and Orpik (and now Michalek) and the Caps are blowing everyone out (and we get them tonight hoo boy). The Avs and Stars are making the pundits look dumb and Chicago looks like they're getting the bounces they did not get last year while Marian Hossa shows, once again, that when healthy he may be their best player.

Its early but none of those clubs are complaining about the points they are racking up or how they are getting them nor should the Edmonton Oilers who have had a nice start and one that has some nice underlying numbers. Tom Renney is coaching again, after a year off, and the addition of Smyth and Belanger and Petrell and even young Lander and Eager has given him options aplenty. Horcoff is healthy so far and suddenly the PK is humming and they are winning faceoffs and he can send the kids out for those offensive zone draws and protect them from the other teams' big guns if he wants to.

Its going to get tougher, and soon, as they are going to hit the road but I would submit that this club looks to be better than we expected. Here are some reasons why:

1/ Depth up front. Hemsky is out but they can still send out three reasonable lines and when is the last time we could say that? Omark sits in the pressbox and Gagner is playing the wing and what happens when Ales comes back? Someone else drops in the lineup and possibly Lander or Petrell gets sent down. This club has more up front than at anytime since 2006/2007. And unlike that club there are some up and coming stars up front.

2/ Guys up front who can play different roles. Smyth and Belanger and Petrell and Lander can PK. Belanger can win draws. Even the kids - Paajarvi and Lander - have pro experience and can play in their own end.

3/ Ted is the real thing. He'll take his lumps on the road but the kid is a player. That allows Renney to let the kids run together and send Horcoff and Belanger out to handle tougher roles.

4/ Sifting for coal. I bust Tambellini's chops as much as most but he needs some credit here. I liked his summer for the most part but that was even without considering Petrell and Potter. Good management teams find guys like these guys. Low cost, low rish, great return on both so far. Good work especially with Potter who is playing a bigger role than anybody would expect.

5/ Defence. This was supposed to be an issue but so far even without Whitney they are hanging in there and doing far better than we ever thought. Tom Gilbert has been tremendous and Ladi Smid may have finally arrived. Sutton has been solid, immovable even (!) on the third pair. Peckham has been disappointing but he will bounce back (he says adoringly). They still need to shore this position up with a top four guy but its not so much of a gong show so far.

6/ Khabibulin and Dubnyk. Both have been very good. Not sure how long Khabibulin will keep it up but he's been great.

I suspect that they take a beating tonight. Caps are flying. Even so its been a nice start. Now, can they stay healthy and can they sustain it, especially once they go on the road?

We will see soon.