Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Finals' Thoughts




As anybody who frequents this corner of the interweb knows the boy started playing hockey last fall and in his first season he equalled the total number of championships I have won in ~ 40 seasons. The little bugger.

 He absolutely loved it and so he was pushing to play summer hockey. Personally I don't believe in such a thing and he wasn't too happy with me but then suddenly we lucked out and discovered that the hockey association he plays for also has a short spring season of about seventeen games compressed into a couple of months. So we signed him up for that.

It became clear pretty early on that his team was pretty good. They had two elite skaters, a big bruiser with a heavy shot and then a small speedy kid with old time stickhandling skills. Each could be counted on to score three goals a game (the league limits goals per player per game) and on top of that there were a couple of other pretty good players. There was one other team that could skate with them, they had the best player in the league plus a nice group behind him and a tremendous young goalie. They split their season series and pummelled the rest of the league and so they met for everything two weeks ago.

 (Did I mention that in around 40 seasons of hockey I have played for a championship twice, winning once?)

 Their opposition scored early but it was pretty clear from the beginning that my son's team was the superior team by far. His coach had doled out icetime evenly all year and had struck a nice balance in his lineup and so slowly but surely the ice tilted. There was just one problem. The kid between the pipes at the other end.

 In one shift our young shifty star went end to end FOUR TIMES and got in all alone, just to be turned away. After a period it was still one nothing but then they finally got to the young goalie and pulled ahead by one. From there it went back and forth. They tied it and we pulled ahead and then they scored a stinker as will often happen and while Jack's team had carried the play all game the game was in doubt when the buzzer went and the last shift started. And here, well here our coach proved his mettle. He had rotated five D all game and so whenever the opposition's superstar was out he faced one of our two best players. He had scored twice but had only one scoring chance (his second goal was a long ranger) so they had done their job. And now he came out for the last three minutes and the way the rotation came up neither of our top guys were up.

 Now I've coached for years and I believe in fair and even play for all but I also know I would have thrown one of the big boys out there with everything on the line but as I and other parents watched with disbelief my son's coach, with the season in the balance, did not.

 For two minutes it was an absolute fire drill as six guys tried to survive until overtime. Shots whistled wide or into the goalie. And then with just over a minute left 'the guy' got it in the slot and let it rip ... right into the belly of a diving defenceman.

 He was hurt and came off and so the big guy came on for us and still the last minute was bedlam and another player injured by a shot and then the buzzer went and it was sudden death.

 And it wasn't even a minute in and our little speedster picked up the puck in our end and wove through everyone. He had scored once and set up the other two and so now he bore in on the star of the game one last time and juked this way and that and then slid the puck into the open net.

 VICTORY!

 When Jack won his first championship he, like a lot of his teammates, didn't really know what to do. He was happy sure but after the buzzer he came off the bench, skated around aimlessly and then, not even knowing there were trophies, headed with a good part of the team to the dressing room, getting turned back as they tried to leave the ice.

 This time there was no doubt that he has this thing down. There were no FUCKING RIGHTS (as far as I know) but his face was red and he was screaming like a madman as he piled into his teammates as they streamed off the bench because on top of everything my little guy was on the ice when they scored the winner.

 Some guys eh? Lucky.

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 Best final I've seen in years, every game a one goal game, two ancient franchises, two fantastic teams with championship pedigree and probably a number of future hall of famers - Jagr, Chara and Hossa are sure things and certainly Toews, Kane and Keith will get there if they keep this up. I told my son after four games were done that while Chicago had carried the play for the most part there are bounces and hockey gods and it could have been, with luck, a Bruins' sweep.

 The better team won, I thought, and in the end it was the depth of talent Chicago has at its disposal that made the difference, as it usually is in these cases. Boston is a deep team as well but even if Campbell had played their 'best fourth line in hockey' was nothing compared to Chicago's. While Thornton and Daugvanins found themselves generally stapled to the bench, Frolik and Kruger and Bolland took a regular shift and indeed with the game suddenly tied and a minute left they were sent out to bring the game to overtime along with Oduya and Hjalmarsson against Lucic and all the rest and they did it one better and finished the series.

 So next time Mark Spector or any of that HNIC crew or any other dope tells you that a team needs facepunchers galore remember that moment. Depth of talent wins out everytime and if you choose to waste a roster spot or two on a guy like Hordichuk or MacLaren or Orr or Mike Brown then you're most likely not going to go very far in the playoffs.

 Get real hockey players and keep them. Works every time.

 I was a bit surprised in that after game one I thought the Bruins D would be run ragged, in that game everyone but Chara did not look up to snuff. Ironically Quenneville ended up shortening his bench on the back end as Leddy rode pine a lot but as the series wore on it became clear that while Julien wasn't benching guys he was riding Chara and Seidenberg into the ground. He had no choice really and anybody who saw the last three games could see that the Bruins' top pair was exhausted.

 And what didn't help at all was that up front the Hawks depth was far superior. With Campbell out and Thornton unreliable Julien was forced to go with three lines to Chicago's four and while Horton was at least available if ineffective so that Seguin did not have to move up and leave Julien with even less options the reality is that Boston could not keep up the pace. After they strangled the Hawks in game three the games began to open up as the Bruins tired and were unable to keep their shape and while Hossa and Handzus (and certainly others) nursed injuries, Bergeron and Horton more than made up for that on the Boston side.

 What is amazing about all of this is that the Hawks and Bruins are both built to last although the Bs need a D or two to step up and ease the load on Chara. The Bruins have a Cup and a trip to the Final in the last three years and they're in decent shape cap wise. They have to pay Rask but other than maybe moving out Peverley they probably can stand pat. Meanwhile the Hawks will not face another gutting like they did after 2010 (Niemi, Campbell, Brouwer, Versteeg, Kopecky, Ladd, Byfuglien - wow, imagine if they had kept that gang together!) and as a matter of fact they may need only minor tweaks this summer. I thought that Bolland and Oduya may have to be moved but its possible that buying out Montador may do the trick or at the very least limit the damage to Bolland. What happens to Bickell and Stallberg is another matter altogether but the Hawks have some more nice kids on the way and if Kruger and Frolik slide up the lineup they may be back again soon. There is some talk about Hossa getting bought out but its not going to happen. He's too big a part of the team and they need to take advantage of Saad still being cheap and Sharp, Seabrook and Keith all still being young enough to put together another run or two.

 It was a great playoffs and an astounding finish and I'm happy for my Dad and all other long suffering Hawk fans who waited nearly a lifetime between Cup wins and now get to enjoy another one. And its a nice legacy for a terrific core. Lots of clubs win one. Its a lot harder to win two. With all the talent they had the Forsberg/Sakic Avs and the Lemieux Penguins only won two and now this group joins them and in a thirty team league with a salary cap to boot. Very nice.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fathers and Sons

 Dad turns eighty one this week, its hard to believe. He's slowed down a bit, as has Mom (just turned eighty) but of course its all relative, them slowing down puts them at about the same level as a typical sixty year old I think. They're getting ready to head up to the cabin for another summer, I think this is their forty sixth up there. No running water, no electric, its paradise for them and they'll go up as long as they are able.

 We've had a bit of a run of bad news over the past couple of months, one of Jenn's best friends and two of my cousins diagnosed with cancer, a dear friend's mom passing away, sometimes you go through these stretches, as you get older they pop up more often of course, and its been a bit of a tough row for me.

 With that said I'm hanging in there and a lot of it is thanks to my old man, I think that when he is long gone, years and years from now (hopefully many long years) he will have left something positive in this world, that being an infectious enthusiasm for life and what it offers. Sometimes life isn't easy but its a pretty damn fine ride and its important to enjoy it when you can and when you get knocked on your ass to pick yourself up and have at it again. My Dad has never been one to lecture or tell me what to do, he will give advice when asked but for the most part what I have learned from him is from watching him, for better or worse, enthusiastic, optimistic, careful with money, I like my beer ;) , calm and unflappable, a guy who enjoys the company of his family and friends.

 Its not a bad formula and of course like him I am flawed, we all are, but overall we do pretty well I think.

 My own kids are growing like crazy of course, the 'baby' is five in a month and our oldest is nearly ten. Its the best thing in the world, being a Dad, I love it and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, being a good father is probably the most important thing in my life to me. Its not easy, here I am nearly ten years into it and while I can now sleep in I don't think I'll ever catch up on all of those lost hours of slumber. Anyhow they are finishing up another year of school and the summer should be a great one and then in the fall we are going on a big family trip to celebrate Jenn's fortieth (its actually in 2014 but I figured why wait, who knows what can change in a year). Its their first trip overseas and the two oldest are very excited, they want to travel and so this will be their first introduction to that world. Jenn doesn't know where we are going and its making her mental and the kids are enjoying that part of it as well.

 Jenn is working this weekend so I have the kids to myself. Yesterday morning the boy played his spring hockey championship and it was tight and tense and they won it all. Two seasons, two championships, we'll have to build a shelf for the trophies pretty soon. Then I played shinny in the afternoon at the old Gardens while they played mini hockey and their video games and ran the new sitter we are trying out ragged. Today we're just hanging out, they got me up with breakfast in bed that they made themselves and then we went to the local bakery for treats and coffee. Its a lazy day, its raining here and quite frankly we all kind of need one of those days where we sit around and do nothing.

 And that's just fine with me.

 Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there. Enjoy your day and be the best Dad you can be all of the time. Nothing more rewarding, nothing more important.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

MUST WIN OH MY GOD

The boy, as you all know, started playing hockey last September and capped off his rookie season with a championship the little bastard, matching my total after ~ forty seasons in his first year. And this Saturday he caps off his second season, in a spring league, with, you guessed it, a trip to the championship game. Two teams, two trips to the final. Same as I have in all my years. If his club wins and its absolutely a coin flip then he will have surpassed me already.

 Some guys have all the luck.

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 Game one of the final was one for the ages eh? I hate drawing conclusions from just one game unlike Healy, Hughson and Simpson who were writing the Hawks obituary before the second period was half over. The Hawks took the Bruins lightly (really? what the fuck). The Bruins playing hockey like a machine. Healy falling over himself exclaiming how Rask was unbeatable just before the Hawks started pumping pucks by him.

 God how HNIC has fallen. Its depressing for an old hand like me. I grew up watching Peter Puck and Showdown and Howie Meeker between periods and of course back then Hockey Night was the only game in town. Literally. Two channels, no internet and all that. Now of course I don't remember Hockey Night back then but I remember it from more recent times and the level of discourse and commentary has fallen off a cliff. Its almost unwatchable.

 The game itself on the other hand was fantastic. Now I picked the Hawks to win the series but have no doubt that Boston could take it. Both clubs are very good. Going into the first game I really felt that it was a must win for Chicago. I know that sounds crazy and I'm not one to talk about intangible mumbo jumbo bullshit but Boston came out of the conference final on a huge roll and a win for them in game one would mean that the margin for error for Chicago in game two would be very slim. A bit of Boston luck or a huge game from Rask in game two or quite simply a game where Boston outplayed Chicago would mean a two game deficit going back to Boston. Series over.

 For me the big advantage Chicago has is that they are very fast and very skilled (derr) and if they skated and played their game then they could give Boston trouble just as Toronto did and at the beginning of the game they did exactly that. There was a lot of white noise from the crew about Chicago playing physical and how, like the Pens, they were falling into some sort of Boston trap but the Hawks were hitting to separate Bruins from the puck, they weren't running around like idiots and as Justin Bourne noted even the missed hit on Krejci was understandable and part of the Hawks' gameplan.

 Krejci is wonderful isn't he? What a player. One advantage they have for sure, having him and Bergeron as one and two up the middle. It looked like Q was trying to match the Hjalmarsson/Oduya pair against them and they seemed to struggle a bit, especially early, maybe just nerves though. Oduya has rebounded from a rough stretch late in the Wings' series and Hjalmarsson has really turned into a terrific player. I would bet though, especially if Chicago wins, that Oduya gets moved this summer and Leddy slides up in the order. They'll extend Roscival or pick up another vet and then break in another kid I think. That and Bolland will be gone as well now that Shaw has taken his job and Kruger likely gets his shot between Kane and Sharp. Or maybe Shaw does for that matter. This is the Hawk model. Core (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson) locked up, cycle kids on cheap contracts/vets on short deals through.  Anyways both Bolland and Oduya would bring back some more kids most likely for 2016. Two good players, reasonable contracts.

 What I thought would be the Bruins' biggest problem became apparent as the game wore on and indeed it has actually gotten worse and this is the question of depth. The Hawks run four lines and three D pairs deep and prior to last night I felt Chicago was superior when it came to their bottom six forwards and bottom two defence pairings.

 The difference, I think, is on the blueline and here is where Chicago has a real edge. They are six deep, unlike the Bruins' previous opponents, and the Hawks' D, for the most part, are speedy and skilled enough to avoid the forecheck, as they proved against LA. Compare Chicago's top pair to Pittsburgh's. There is no comparison. The Bruins are obviously pretty solid back there as well but I don't know how guys like Ference, McQuaid and Krug will fare. I think this may be where the Cup is won

 If you look at last night Krug ended up getting benched for a good part of the game after his gaffe and McQuaid didn't see a lot of the ice as well for a while and what I noticed in the third period is that Seidenberg, Boychuk and Ference were all labouring. Seidenberg, who is terrific, was really struggling late in the game and it all has to do with the fact that the Hawks roll four lines of fast players out constantly. Chicago is also a team that has the puck a lot and so the Bruins defence were doing a lot of defending. And defending is tiring. And when two of your teammates can't keep up or can't handle it then you have to play even more.

 If this thing goes seven then anything can happen of course but for the Bruins to win I really believe they had to win last night and then end the series quickly because of they're going to be forced to go with four D then Chicago is going to run them out of the rink.

 To add to their problems it looks like Horton is out for at least one game and while Seguin strikes me as a guy who is due you have a bottom six which is now without him and Campbell and things are starting to get a bit dicey down there. I don't even know who draws in but again you're talking about a drop off in quality while the Hawks actually have Stallberg in the pressbox. (Don't get that at all although Bollig held his own. Of course his linemates are unreal too).

 Two other notes. Anyone who follows me on Twitter or comes here often knows I'm a big fan of Marian Hossa. Probably my favourite player. (Chara is up there too). Hall of Famer imo and if Hawks win this I think he may be first ballot if the class is not out of this world. Its funny how things work eh? For years Hossa was derided as a playoff choker (this despite unreal numbers in the spring, even when he was a Sen) and of course as usual the Euro double standard applied. He played badly hurt in 2009, never complained or made excuses, but there was Pierre Maguire calling him Maid Marian and man sometimes I wonder why someone doesn't fire a puck at that loudmouth. Pick off him and Healy. Time to pass the hat for that one.

 Anyhow Hossa was always a terrific playoff performer and did everything you would want. Nothing has changed except he has won a Cup and lo and behold here was PJ Stock (Bruins will win because they are meaner!) lavishing Hossa was praise.

 And there was hellfire. FIRE! *groovy beat*

 Watching Hossa last night though, what a player. Boston would have the puck, exit their zone, three on two and then here was Hossa, like a missile, tracking the puck carrier and either taking the puck back or destroying the Bruins' thrust. Unreal.

 And then there is Brad Marchand. Fantastic player but unbelievable what the league lets him get away with. Its almost like he's a wrestling heel and they are encouraging his persona. That water bottle stunt should have been a penalty and a suspension and I can't believe his antics last night didn't get penalized either.

 The league lets him run wild. Not sure why. One day probably soon he is going to get absolutely filled though. Someone will have had enough and they will step in and that will be it.

 Hell of a player though.

 As an aside Colton Orr was extended today which I found totally hilarious. Now some people say that over the regular season a facepuncher has value although I look at a team like Chicago which was last in the league in fights and I really can't see it but anyhow it was interesting to see folks come out of the woodwork defending the signing when Orr barely saw the ice as the Leafs' series against the Bruins went on and indeed didn't see the ice at all when the chips were down. Meanwhile Frolik and Kruger had the Kings hemmed in their zone with a minute left to close out game five (before the first line came out and blew it) and then worked the tying goal in the third last night. Plus they are the Hawks' premier penalty killers. In other words they are invaluable members of one of the two best (and perhaps the best) teams in the league. But some fans would rather have a guy like Colton Orr. Or Mike Brown. Man I don't get it.

 Best was guy who accused me of using advanced stats to make my case on the Twitter (I did not) and told me to watch the game to which I replied that in the games I watched Orr was usually stapled to the bench. And in the second game of a back to back, the biggest Leafs' game in a decade, he barely saw the ice at all. Not sure where the advanced stats are there. Just watch the game. He was on the bench. MacLaren was in the pressbox.

 Oh well.

 Anyhow the issue for the Bruins is that the game Saturday is now a must win for them. I truly believe this. Julien can say that they came back from two games down two years ago and they did but I don't see them winning four of five against the Hawks. As a matter of fact I would bet that if Chicago wins Saturday that we might see a sweep or the Bruins out in five. Can Boston win Saturday? Of course. They almost won yesterday. But their margin for error shrank a bit last night - it works both ways - and with that edge in depth for Chicago growing with Horton's injury and the difficulty Boston's bottom pairing is having they really need to have a fantastic game and probably get some luck as well to do so.

Monday, June 10, 2013

For Every Marble


 For the fifth time in the last six years the Stanley Cup Final is going to be a matchup between two premier franchises with only the Devils' presence last year ruining what has been a very nice run for the league after a decade of finals which usually featured clubs whose entire fanbase would barely fill their own arena.

Boston.

Chicago.

 For two long suffering franchises its an opportunity to add another Cup to one which just recently broke a long streak of futility. You know how hard it is to win two Cups? Lemieux and Jagr only won two. Sakic and Forberg only won two. Orr and Esposito only won two. Mikita and Hull only won one despite being a premier club for over a decade. Those great Calgary clubs? One. Dallas? One.

 Its really hard to do and yet here both the core guys for Chicago and Boston have a chance to do it for a second time. Its pretty amazing, especially with a thirty team league and a salary cap that saw Chicago dump the following players after their Cup win three years ago: Niemi, Campbell, Brouwer, Versteeg, Ladd, Byfuglien, Kopecky. Four top nine forwards plus Brouwer who played on their fourth line that spring after scoring 23 goals. Also a guy who is now one of the best goalies in the league and a premier defenceman. And yet they're back.

 As for the Bruins, its only been two years since they won and its almost the exact same club, with the exception of Jaromir Jagr and some spare parts. Fantastic cap management by Chiarelli.

 So ... about the Finals.

 Because of the lockout we have no head to head matchups to look at, no conference v conference data to parse. A lot of really smart guys I respect think the Hawks will run away with this and that the East is the vastly inferior conference. I tend to agree with this to a point. I generally think that the top teams on either side are pretty closely matched but that the quality runs deeper in the west all the way down the ladder. So for example before the playoffs I would say (and did) that other than Anaheim the top six teams out west would crush anyone except Boston and Pittsburgh.

 However as we have seen since the lockout once you get to a seven game series the superiority of one conference means nothing. Its gone E-W-W-E-W-E-W

 Now with that said all four Western champs have been pretty clearly top notch while the Pens barely won their Cup against a Wings' team with Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Hossa hobbled and the Carolina Hurricanes clearly were the luckiest and least deserving Stanley Cup champ of all time.

 Still, Boston is a really good team with quality and depth all through their lineup, they're no patsies.

 A few folks on the twitter pointed out to me that I was wrong to think so highly of the Pens, citing their D as a major issue and we already knew Fleury was garbage coming in. They were right but it also turned out that their quality up front after their stars was seriously lacking as well.

 So was Pittsburgh that bad or is Boston that good? The thing to remember is that except for the blowout in game two the Pens could have easily won the other three games, even game one where they hit the post twice and where Rask made a save for the ages.

 So basically the truth lies in between, as it usually does.

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 I was pretty surprised that the Penguins were almost a unanimous pick by many to win the Cup this year, by my eye they were favourites in the east with only Boston likely to challenge but would likely get run over by whoever came out of the west.

 The Bruins do present a different challenge though. In many ways they are a mirror image of Chicago and as an Oilers' fan I hope that MacTavish builds a club along these lines. Both are deep up front and on the blueline, both are puck possession teams, both have plenty of skill and speed and can play it any way you would like them to play.

 What do I think?

 I think the Bruins have the edge in goal but then again so did Detroit and LA. The fact that Rask has been lights out means very little, Quick was probably the leading Conn Smythe candidate before last series. Not to say that Rask might not steal some games and the Cup itself but what has gone before has no bearing on what is about to happen. He hasn't faced a team as deep and skilled as Chicago. Crawford has been very good for the Hawks as well.

 The difference, I think, is on the blueline and here is where Chicago has a real edge. They are six deep, unlike the Bruins' previous opponents, and the Hawks' D, for the most part, are speedy and skilled enough to avoid the forecheck, as they proved against LA. Compare Chicago's top pair to Pittsburgh's. There is no comparison. The Bruins are obviously pretty solid back there as well but I don't know how guys like Ference, McQuaid and Krug will fare. I think this may be where the Cup is won.

 Up front both clubs are deep but there are times the Bruins have trouble scoring, except for game two against the Pens they didn't put a lot up on the board and that was against Pittsburgh's pretty poor blue. I wouldn't underestimate the Bruins up front, especially with Bergeron and Krejci down the middle, whoever gets Handzus is going to eat his lunch, but the Hawks are even deeper than Boston, which is saying a lot. Their bottom six is better than Boston's imo and I think the top six is likely a sawoff.

 Chicago is bigger, faster and have the edge everywhere but in net. I wouldn't be surprised if Boston wins, not at all, but I think Chicago wins this one in six.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Blood In The Water


I've been coaching on and off for nearly thirty years now. In my original incarnation when I was first a teenager and then a young man in my twenties, I had a lot of success in both hockey and soccer. I was a different guy then, I was a bit fiery, lets say, and it was a different time too. Sometimes when we did well (and we did well quite a bit) it was because we had a lot of really good players. I've seen enough good teams fall apart to know that coaching matters but when I was lucky enough to have those good players I kept it simple, we played as a team, we worked hard, we played ferocious defence and the guys with the talent had free reign up front as long as they did all of the rest.

 My favourite teams were the teams with less talent, the underdogs who started slowly and came on and won it all. I had a few of those. The best. The absolute best.

 Many years passed when I did not coach and then a few years ago, when I had kids of my own, I picked it up again. Basic rec soccer. Coached my eldest for two summers. Then the boy. This summer we signed up my youngest and originally my plan was to coach both her and the boy but then the league moved the boys' time to the same as hers and so I decided it was her turn.

 So last Tuesday I met my latest collection of little guys and gals and oh boy I'm not in Kansas anymore. They are the youngest group I have ever coached, four and five year olds and let em tell you ... I have coached five and sixes and I have coached teenagers and every age in between and I think this is the biggest challenge yet.

 The little buggers hit the field except for our one sub and I made a note as to who was off and checked my phone to time the shift and then a minute in one player runs off the field 'I'm thirsty' and so I said 'ok' and sent the other on and I made my note and checked my phone and I look up and there are three kids off when there should only be one.

 And this was just the beginning. My daughter went into the net and they scored two or three while she was climbing the back of the net from inside of it. Another little girl, probably our best player, told to keep an eye on the ball, left her net as her opponent bore down on her and ran onto the adjoining field, chasing the ball in that game. At one point as a player came up the field towards our guys, all six of them ready and then like the Red Sea, they parted, running off for bathroom breaks and water breaks and 'hi mom and dad' breaks and 'look at that cloud' breaks and the one on six turned into a breakaway and a shot into an undefended net as the goalie sat in the corner of the net watching the world go by.

 They don't keep score but I do and I can tell you for certain we got it over half twice, not counting the time one of our players picked it up and ran it to their net.

 I do not have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times the ball ended up in our net.

 This, my friends, is a massive challenge. The most massive. The massivest.

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After years where management sat on their hands, we're talking all the way back to 2006 where that beautiful team almost was stillborn for lack of a goalie, having a man of action in charge of the Oilers is both refreshing and a little bit unsettling and this past week has demonstrated that when Craig MacTavish said that there would be changes this summer he was not kidding.

 I've written about Hemsky at length, especially last spring when it looked like he was a goner for sure, and when the day comes when he is moved I will write a farewell and include links to those pieces. Its no secret that I am a Hemsky man and a Horcoff man as well, always have been. We all know that life is not fair and while both men have made millions playing hockey its shitty for them that after that run in 2006 when they were both outstanding they then spent the heart of their careers playing for an absolute joke franchise.

 My reading of MacT's comments is that its probable that Horcoff has asked out. Why now, when the team looks to be maybe finally turning the corner? Well Horcoff is a pretty smart guy and he knows he only has a couple of years left and while the Oilers' time may come its not going to be in time for the wily Russian and so on HNIC tonight it was confirmed that he wants to go to a contender and most likely the Oilers will eat some salary to make it happen.

 As for Ales Hemsky, well with Yakupov and Eberle in the fold I'm thinking that management figures they need a little less dangle and a little more grititude on the right side and that the majority of minutes on that side will go towards the two kids.

 While I'm a sentimental guy the reality is that for me the main thing is anybody can be moved as long as it improves the club. Can they bring in a better player than Horcoff? Maybe. Could they bring in a better player than Hemsky? Less likely.

 So I'm skeptical.

 And there is the fact that they will be eating some of Horcoff's cap hit to move him.

 With that all said, moving both guys clears over ten million in space, less what they eat, and this summer is going to be a serious buyers' market. Cap going down. Compliance buyouts. Teams looking to move contracts. So the possibilities are there. Really they had better be there because if they move 10 and 83 that's another two NHL players they need. And this as we know has been the issue for seven years. Not enough NHL players.


So MacT has made an already difficult job even more difficult but obviously he has his plan and I guess we'll see what happens. If you believe in him you're hopeful, if you don't then you're pessimistic and whatever your opinion on the subject he will either be successful or not and we'll know soon enough.

 And we will wait, again, for the player who plays his entire career with the Oilers.

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 And after all of that today I was at a kid's birthday party and his Dad, an Oilers' fan, wanders by just as its ending and says Kreuger is out and I say 'what' and sure enough its the case.

 The word is that Eakins was being interviewed to be associate coach and I would bet real cash money that this was the plan until other clubs started to nose around him and then MacT figured 'fuck it I'm all in' and good for him, if you're GM you should have your own man in there from the beginning and good for him to ignore the optics of another new coach. It looks horrible but if you don't believe in the man in there then why bother?

 I liked Kreuger but I could do without the fourth line heading out for Dzone draws, I like my coaches to line match thanks very much.

 As to Eakins well he's been an assistant in the NHL and a head coach in the AHL so he's done everything but coach in the NHL. He's ready. As a Toronto resident I can say that what I've noticed is since he's been in charge the Marlies have sent a steady stream of kids up to the Leafs who have looked prepared, who can check and do the little things that help you win. Even the guys who are obvious career scrubs are able to get in there and not get killed. And the youngsters come up and are ready.

 That's what he's noted for, the work with the kids. And he's come to the right place for that.

 I think its a good move. He could bust but he's the most hotly pursued coach out there. A guy like Jim Matheson might ask where the retreads are (to each his own I guess, literally) but I prefer someone who might bring a little something new to the table and MacT has proven again that he's not afraid to make the bold move.

 Time will tell whether they are the right moves but at least finally none of that sitting on the hands garbage.

 I like it.