Monday, January 20, 2014
For the boy its been a wonderful year. Last year he won championships with both his winter and spring clubs but he was a passenger on both teams, a young seven on seven/eight teams, a lot of try and enthusiasm but he was just starting out. This year he is one of the older guys, he's bigger, he's stronger and he's improved by leaps and bounds.
He's found his niche on the blueline and game after game I find myself saying to him 'buddy that's the best game you've ever played'. Last game he began to suddenly step into the oncoming rush at times, breaking up the onslaught at the opposing blue or centre ice, turning the play the other way. The funny thing is that he is improving so fast that he is beginning to run into trouble at times as he suddenly finds himself in unfamiliar situations. As he has gotten better he has ended up with the puck on his stick a lot more often, quite often in traffic in his own zone. He's figuring it out (he's a smart little guy) but there have been a couple of instances where he's had the puck, hesitated, and suddenly not had the puck.
As well as playing on the blue he has strapped on the pads three times. He's three and oh, with all of his wins coming against the top echelon clubs, and he loves it. He loves the fact that he can make the big save and that after the game his teammates stream out onto the ice and congratulate him before handshakes and that back in the room the coaches and parents give three cheers for him. When you're in net you're a big part of it.
Saturday his team had a typical game, a 9-4 win, never in doubt. He got beat twice just fine and let in two others in the time honoured tradition of little goalies everywhere, as the puck slid along the ice towards him (once from the blueline) and rather then keep his stick on the ice he fell on the puck and watched in horror as it went under him and into the net.
Now I remember playing almost forty years ago and seeing goalies make the same mistake but of course I felt bad for him. He redeemed himself when twice he faced the other team's best shooter, in all alone, and did the superman dive to stop pucks labelled for the corner, saving the second one with his head of all things, leaving the sniper literally shaking his head and yelling 'YOU'RE KIDDING ME!'
Pretty good stuff.
And so the next day before Capsule hit the ice for our own big game (more on this later, we won a war and it was spectacular) I chatted with his coach and we talked about the playoffs for the boy and his team. The issue is they don't have a regular goalie and the boy has told Mark (his coach) that he would like to have the job for the playoffs. He's a good choice but the problem that Higgs is facing is that if he puts him in net then he loses a pretty good player on the blueline. So he's trying to figure it out and we're going to bounce some ideas around over pints in a couple of weeks and he'll talk to the other coaches and try and come to a decision as to what the best course of action is. I know he'll make a good decision based on what he has seen and that while one never knows how the chips may fall the team will be in its best position to win as a result of it. That is all you can ask the coach to do when it comes to that sort of stuff and while it sounds goofy to say so hockey is really the same when it comes down to it at whatever the level, even a squirt houseleague. Figure out what you have and then put the team in a position that maximizes their chance to win. Then you just hope that the hockey gods smile on you.
Its been a tough day in a tough week in a tough month in another tough season for the Oilers. Disaster. Fiasco. Gong show. Clusterfuck. Pick a word or phrase to describe it. What a mess.
The week that has just passed has really summed the last eight years up though with the only missing piece of the puzzle being the trade of a useful NHL player for a pick or never will be prospect. Other than that we had it all. Here come the Oilers!
We had the once decent NHLer, now identified as a problem, run out of town, confidence shattered.
We had the random injuries that decimated a shallow lineup.
We had a plug on the wrong side of thirty brought in for grit and character all for the low low price of nearly two million a year for four years.
We had losses, of course, because that is what the Oilers have been all about for eight years now, losing, and there were four of them, four in four games.
We had the young talent all going backwards.
And to cap it off the owner, tone deaf as always, publishes an open letter to the fans today which basically says they will not panic (good) but otherwise making laughable assertions as to Kevin Lowe's abilities and the fact that all's well that rebuilds well and that DON'T WORRY WE ALL KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING AND NEVER MIND EIGHT YEARS OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS AND ... you get the picture.
Its amateur hour at Rexall, it has been for a while now, and people are starting to clue in although hilariously you still get fans who assert that if you are critical of the team then you are not a real fan or that the problem remains the fact that there are too many veterans, such as the moron who tweeted that they have to get rid of Ales Hemsky, get rid of him for nothing, because no Ales Hemsky is better than Ales Hemsky.
That's right, get rid of the ten year veteran who actually knows how to play in the NHL and will play any role the coach asks of him and who is not getting buried despite playing tough minutes in front of a porous blue and goaltender.
That's right you fucking moron. That's a good idea.
So as the old saying goes there are a number of fans who deserve a loser team run by stupid people because they are stupid losers themselves. The problem is the rest of us have to suffer.
When you get down to it the guys running the team, and sadly I believe MacT may be part of this based on this Hendricks move, have no clue. Lowe can bleat about winning all that he wants but the fact is this team was a very good team in June of 2006 and they (mostly he) managed to run it all into the sewer. They have turned the house into a paperclip, trading away veterans and useful youth away for nothing time and time again until they have a handful of kids they picked at the top of the draft and nothing besides. The two teams the Oilers like to refer to (they never mention the Islanders or Panthers or Thrashers) are the Pens and the Hawks. The Pens had two generational kids, a handful of other youngsters and then surrounded them with veterans. The Hawks had the top end guys in Toews and Kane and then a raft of youth all through the lineup. Troy Brouwer scored 23 goals and was on their fourth line in the 2010 playoffs! On top of that Keith and Seabrook and Sharp were in their mid twenties and were battle tested and the lot of them were supported by a future Hall of Famer in Hossa, another star in Brian Campbell and a smattering of other vets in support roles.
The Oilers? Well they traded away the useful youth who may have been support players (Brodziak and Cogliano) for picks and they moved out the veteran D they had just a few years ago (Souray, Lubo and Gilbert) for nothing but the shell of Nick Schultz. Lupul begat Pitkanen who begat Cole who begat ... Patrick O'Sullivan and the only common thread is that every single one of these guys is playing or has played a pretty big role for teams better than the Oilers. Except for O'Sullivan who is out of the league and Schultz who soon will be. Of course everyone is better than the Oilers ...
Dubnyk had been a pretty good goalie for a shitshow team for a few years. Yes he was awful this fall and yes goddamnit he lets in too many softies and Scrivens, well Scrivens, is probably the same as Dubnyk, maybe a bit better, maybe a bit worse, in my mind its pretty well a wash except you could bring Hasek in his prime onto this club and they'd still get filled night after night. Dubnyk had to go anyhow and I hope he does well wherever he ends up. He deserves better, all of the players pretty well do. I can't get too worked up about it.
Its the Hendricks thing, a small move the apologists say, they always say that, what does it matter, except guys like Hendricks are a dime a dozen and somehow MacT thought that picking up one with a four year contract was a good idea. There is a kid here in Toronto, Bodie, who could probably provide the same things Hendricks does at a fraction of the cost and for far shorter term. I respect Hendricks, I do, don't get me wrong. He's earned his scratch the hard way but picking him up shows that the Oilers still don't get it and should send chills down your spine.
Its a contest you see, you only have so much money you can spend and the small moves add up just ask the Leafs who won't be able to add any reinforcements for a playoff push without subtracting players because all of these 'small moves' added up. The latest rumour for the Oilers is a long term deal for Hiller this summer and based on the all but confirmed offer they made for Clarkson who has been an enormous bust for the Leafs (nobody saw that coming! And the Oilers apparently offered MORE FUCKING MONEY THAN TORONTO!!!) one can only think that shit is really going to get worse before it gets better. They don't understand how things work.
Everyone on the D is playing a couple of slots too high and so we get to see Petry's confidence get shattered now. Yakupov has been made the scapegoat while Eberle, Gagner and Hall get to float around and do as they please and the only players worth a damn are two veterans from other organizations in Gordon and Perron and two old Oilers who will be gone come summer in Hemsky and Smyth.
Which means another couple of holes to fill and yes Smytty is only a fourth liner now but he's the best they have by far.
Get good players and keep them.
The Oilers have done the opposite of this for years and no matter of spin from Katz and Laforge and their B team of flackeys and PR people can disguise the fact that the franchise is a disaster and the people running it are abject failures.
Six rings my ass.
To paraphrase an immortal 80s hair band:
Lowe don't go away mad, Lowe just go away.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:54 PM