Monday, January 20, 2014

Lowe Don't Go Away Mad, Lowe Just Go Away

 The boy's team won again this past weekend. They've lost one game all year and it looks like its a two horse race in their league. They have three players who have torn the league apart and, much like last season, the supporting cast is improving by leaps and bounds and in the end this will probably be the key to it all.


 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.

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 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.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Oh ... Canada

 I spent some of my weekend watching the World Juniors and once Canada was eliminated I was quite happy to see the Finns take it all. As I explained to the boy even when (if? have they ever been?) the Finns are favoured they are underdogs, they are always underdogs and it is always right to cheer for them. He was disappointed when they won though as they had beaten Canada and he always cheers against the team that knocks his team out.

 I don't know enough about junior hockey to be able to say that THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG but one guy I follow on Twitter, Victor Carneiro (@vcarneiro), is in the business and he and @67Sound both had good points last night as to part of the problem. Victor especially 'spoke' at length on the juniors and its worth going back and checking out.

 The funny thing about these one and done tournaments is that they are just that, one and done, and international hockey has so much parity now that reading into a long winning or losing streak is to be done at its own peril. Even when Canada won five golds in a row there were times they got a little bit lucky and for that matter at the beginning of this latest streak they could have easily won it all with a break or two here or there. To me the question is 'were they in the mix'? I remember in 1998 when we lost at Nagano the hand wringing that resulted. At that point Canada's senior men really were lacking in terms of pure offensive skill and when Suter knocked Kariya out and then Joe Sakic got hurt our chances for a gold medal really took a hit. Yet even with those casualties it took probably the greatest goaltender run of all time to knock Canada off in the semis. (I'm not talking about the tournament itself but those three or four years where Hasek was unreal.)

 Building an international team is exactly like building an NHL team. I mean obviously its different in that you are not drafting and developing kids or making trades or signing free agents but the reality is that you want to put the best roster together that you can and then hopefully the chips fall where they may. You would take a Stanley Cup over years of excellence without a Cup obviously but if you were to choose a GM to build your team would you take Jim Rutherford because he won a Cup or would you take Doug Wilson who has built a team that hasn't won it all but has been in the mix to win it all for nearly ten years now?

 I'm not saying Rutherford is a bad GM don't get me wrong. He deserves credit for getting the Canes to the promised land, he built a good team that year, they were in the mix and they got some luck and they won.

 That's the key though. Build a team that is in the mix and then hope that the hockey gods smile on you. And the key is building a team that is talented enough that the chances of that are tilted as far in your favour as you can make them.

 The problem for Canada (or what would worry me if I was at Hockey Canada) is that the last three years they have not even been in the ballpark and, if anything, are getting worse. They cut Kevin Prendergast out of the mix and believe me that will help buddy is the worst but something at this point is broken.

 I read a few interesting points, one that stood out was that nearly half of the Canadian forwards brought nothing (literally) to the table offensively. In a couple of cases (Bo Horvat comes to mind) its hard to argue against the player selection, the question in that case is did he underperform or was it the system? Don't know but in other cases ... why bring a fourth line that barely plays? Why not Max Domi? Why bring a Dman who barely plays (Bigras) and not Darnell Nurse and what sort of scouting bases a guy's selection (or not) on two games rather than his body of work this season, which by all accounts has been excellent.

 I don't get it. I don't pretend to have all of the answers but when you have the deepest talent pool in the world then you should take advantage of it. In 1987 Dale Hawerchuk was the 'checking' centre. He was one of the best players in the world. They didn't take Craig MacTavish or Troy Murray to the Canada Cup. They took the best player they could and told him to figure it out. It was Dale Hawerchuk. He figured it out pretty easily.

 There is an odd Canadian obsession with intangibles - heart, grit, being a winner, as if a) they were particularly Canadian qualities, which they are not and b) that sort of thing makes up for talent

 Now I am not saying that there is such a thing as talent without heart, remember Sather's famous quote about Jimmy Carson (paraphrasing - you can have all the talent in the world but its no good if you don't have the ticker). But its this attitude, the Mark Spector attitude, that the bottom of your roster needs to be grinders and goons, that Euros can't make the grade, that leads to fourth liners who are nailed to the bench when it matters (HELLO COLTON ORR) instead of fourth liners who are on the ice in the last minute and scoring Cup winning goals (Bolland, Kruger, Frolik).

 It also leads to goalies who know how to win who have worse numbers than other goalies and who let in wrist shots from the blueline.

 And I'm not hacking on Fucale here. He's just a kid and he did his best. But maybe he shouldn't have been there. Nobody questioned that choice though and mainly because he won the Memorial Cup.

 Oh well.

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 Tomorrow Team Canada will be named and there will be much wailing and rending of garments and gnashing of teeth regardless, I guarantee it, regardless of the final roster.

 The truth is Steve Yzerman's job is easy and I really believe that. Canada's talent pool is so deep that he could run out about six or seven different rosters and they would be fine. Seriously. The only possible way he can screw it up is if he overthinks things. That's how you end up with guys like Rob Zamuner and Kris Draper on your team.

 (Kris Draper was a wonderful player and the 2004 World Cup team included him AND Kirk Maltby lol and won it pretty easily, probably the easiest best on best win I ever saw, except maybe 1991 or maybe 1976. But he didn't belong on a best on best team. Full stop.)

 I think there are two possible pitfalls that face him.

 One is excluding Subban. It sounds like he's on the team thank goodness. Subban is so good that he, like Keith and Doughty in Vancouver, could be a standout. He may be an extra part to start but I would not be surprised at all if he ends up playing a major role for Canada in a positive way.

 The second pitfall is naming Chris Kunitz to the team. I like Chris Kunitz, I really do. He's a heck of a player and I would take him on the Oilers in a second. He's not a difference maker though. I hate comparing him to Bozak because Bozak couldn't carry Kunitz's jock but without Crosby Kunitz doesn't do much and in my mind I picture Brent Seabrook in Vancouver. I have all the time in the world for Seabrook as an NHL top pairing defenceman but he couldn't handle the Olympics and I could see the same for Kunitz. He's not a world class player.

 I think he makes it due to the Crosby factor and to be honest I believe in that idea slightly. In Vancouver Crosby didn't do a lot and I think a lot of that was due to his linemates, Staal and Iginla. He needs better linemates this time around, he's going to be facing the other team's best and I would prefer that they have better options than Chris Kunitz. That said I can see the thought process here though I don't necessarily agree with it.

 Best on best reduces the best to just another cog in the machine. A guy like Seabrook (or Bergeron in Vancouver as another example) gets exposed. A guy like Toews or Thornton does well but he doesn't stand out because his opponent is a star as well.

 So if you're picking Chris Kunitz you need to know that he can do this. I don't know that he can.

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 The latest list on TSN (a mish mash of picks from MacKenzie and Dreger I guess?) is as follows:

G: Price Luongo Smith

D: Keith Doughty Bouwmeester Pietrangelo Vlasic Weber Boyle Subban

F Couture Crosby Stamkos Benn Toews Perry Duchene Getzlaf Giroux Sharp Tavares Nash Bergeron St. Louis

On the bubble: Staal Kunitz Marleau Carter Giordano Hamhuis Staal Seabrook

Not even mentioned (!) Thornton Hall Seguin Kane Letang Ryan Smyth (!!!!!) Any other goalie.

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I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers, in a lot of cases I haven't seen these guys play too much and only know them by reputation, similar to Team Canada management. (Try the veal and tip your hard working servers, I'm here all week.)

Injuries are going to change some of this of course, there is already an issue with Luongo. I'm not a big fan of Mike Smith mostly because he's a big baby and I think he's a product of the Coyotes' system. I think its Carey Price's job to run with, I don't really see anyone else who inspires confidence other than Luongo so ... GET WELL SOON ROBERTO!

 On the blue my musts are Keith, Doughty, Pietrangelo, Weber, Subban. After that I think its six of one mostly. I have no issues with Bouwmeester, he doesn't drive the bus but he's a minute muncher, a big body and he can skate miles. I think he's a good pick. After that I would run with two of Vlasic, Boyle and Hamhuis. Take your pick. I don't think Seabrook can handle it. I like Giordano a lot but I have no idea if he could handle it, I doubt it. And Staal I love but not after the injuries.

 Up front my musts are Crosby, Stamkos, Toews, Perry, Duchene, Tavares and then I'd take Benn, Getzlaf, Sharp and Giroux. All of these guys are terrific players. Getzlaf did just fine in 2010 despite coming off an injury. Sharp is a shoo in, he has the skill, he has the pedigree (this doesn't matter to me but two Cup wins will matter to Yzerman) and he has 25 goals. And I think Benn is really good. (Analysis!!)

 After that I do believe many of these guys are interchangeable. I'm fine with TSN's list and I also think you wouldn't lose anything putting Carter or Marleau (or Seguin) on the team over Nash or Couture.

 Two final thoughts on Joe Thornton and Taylor Hall.

 Joe Thornton will never get the respect he deserves. He's just one of those guys. His playoff numbers are quite good despite his reputation, he's played through injuries that would lay you or I out for weeks, he's one of the greats of his generation. He hasn't won the Cup and he suffers from big man's disease like Frank Mahovolich and Mario Lemieux and Dustin Penner and I suspect he doesn't suffer stupid reporters at all and so he doesn't get that benefit of the doubt.

 He could be on this team and it would be fine, he's having another great year but I think the thing that is going to kill him is his lack of speed. He's never been a burner and while speed isn't the end all and be all it will matter in Sochi. Its not a big ice thing its the fact that nearly everyone on the ice is going to be able to skate like the wind.

 Meanwhile Taylor Hall has the numbers, playing on a junk team he is one of the top left wingers in the game and I have no doubt in my mind that he could contribute to Team Canada.

 I also think that he has himself to blame for what looks like a probable snub. When asked to play centre early in the year he took to the task with less than one hundred percent enthusiasm and his play on his half of centre has been spotty at times all season.

 I love Taylor Hall, if anyone leads the Oilers out of the desert it will be him but he's not put his best foot forward here and while I'm not a big 'intangibles' guy I think he's made Yzerman and company question him. Based on skill he should be going but in this specific case I can see why they'd not include him on the roster. His run of late may change their minds but I suspect not and its too bad, like Iginla in Salt Lake City this should have been his coming out party.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A Long Strange Trip



It was about eight years ago that I googled something on the Oilers, I can't remember what, and one of the results directed me to a website called Covered In Oil. After an hour or so of reading and crying from laughing so hard I clicked on the links there and found Battle of Alberta, Irreverent Oil Fans, Mc79Hockey and Lowetide.

 Golden days. Of course this was the winter of 2006 and the Oilers were beginning what would be a wonderful trip and if you were an Oiler fan on the internet your companions and guides on this journey were Chris Boutet, Mike Winters, Dave Berry, Hugh MacKenzie (and Matt Fenwick providing the Flames' point of view at BofA), Vic Ferrari, Dennis King, Cam Thomson, Tyler Dellow and Alan Mitchell. As well Colby Cosh, Erin Loxam and Andy Grabia provided their own insights on their own websites that were not Oilercentric.

 As a guy who had always read traditional media it was a wonderful and exciting new world. Coverage of my favourite team by all of these excellent writers, the great insight, the humour, the, well, the irreverence, pulled me in and inspired me and so I started this blog.

 On February 8th I wrote my first post and here is what I said, short and sweet (for once):

And awayyyyy we go!

Stay tuned for musings on nearing 40, life with a wife, two kids (how did that happen!?) and Satan's Foreign Minister (our dog), the exciting times we live in, pubs I've known and loved, Guinness and the Edmonton Oilers, among other things.

Not necessarily in that order.

This may take a while for me to figure out but - as my two year old says - this is her mantra - "I do it by the self!"

Her, I trust to do it by the self.

As for me, well, good luck with that.


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

 It didn't take long before it became an Oilers' blog, period. Hugh MacKenzie pointed out my existence to the community and I learned pretty quickly that standards were high when Colby Cosh commented on Hugh's introduction over at Battle of Alberta that he would take a pass on the new guy thanks, he had read my latest post and my reference to the 'young Edmonton Oilers' was both lazy and inaccurate.

 And so I learned. I have always written but I lack the talent and work ethic to do much more than I do here. The vignettes, little snapshots, that is what I can do and so that is what I did and I honed my craft, if I may be so bold as to call it this that, and so I became perhaps the best I can be. Its not much but I enjoy what I do and I think that's what matters.

 A few years into this the Oilers were losing and I was finding it difficult to write about the club. How many ways can you write that a team is terrible (quite a bit we know now) and so with old favourite Fernando Pisani returning from a bout with the illness that ruined his career I wrote a story about how my old man and I weathered a winter storm to trek to the beer store to get some supplies, stopping in a pub to enjoy a fireside pint on the way. I tied this into Pisani and the response was good and so I wrote another story in my next post and then another and so the blog went back to its origins. I wrote about being a parent and a husband and about my dog and my folks and travelling and the old days and the kind words and comments left me awestruck and inspired and gave me strength in tough times, when illness struck my father in law and my mom and when my old dog passed, nearly four years now he's been gone, can you believe it.

 This is post number 1000 and there have been over 425000 page views and nearly 10000 comments and while this is what LT sees (and posts) in a week ;) its been humbling to see these numbers and, yes, gratifying, what can I say, I'm not going to fake it and say that I am not proud of this. For a couple of years I was part of The Score, linked by them and so I was paid to be a writer, if only a little, and boy was I proud to get that money to pay for my beer each month.

 Where does this blog go from here? Well you only have to look at the right hand side of the page to see that I don't post as much as I used to. I don't have the time I used to have but even when I do I don't post and a lot of this has to do with the sad state of the Oilers. As I noted above how often can you rage against the machine? I have better things to do and really I have little to add to the conversation other than my mantra which I see quite a bit on the twitter - get good players and keep them. The Oilers have dumped good players for years without replacing them and Horcoff, Smid and soon Hemsky will be out the door for nothing to show for them but cap space and yeah there's a reason this club has sucked for eight years and my bet is the hole is so big that we're heading into Islanders' territory, I hope I'm wrong but fear that I am not.

 That said I will keep on keeping on with the odd tale of beer league (we're in a horrible slump) and the boy's evolution as a player (he's really coming on, you should have seen him play yesterday it was a joy) and my oldest becoming a teenager (its coming and its terrifying) and my parents getting older (its here and its beyond terrifying).

 Because in the end this blog has gone back to its origins. Its my story and our story. I have over five hundred pages of stories parsed from this blog and if I get my shit together I will cut that in half and get it out there and maybe sell a dozen copies for cost plus shipping. I guess that's the project now. I'm not out of stories but I want to do something with what I have put out there.

 Time to close now, I'm meandering which is my wont and is just fine by me. This blog, to me, has become the equivalent of a guy telling stories in a bar, with the game on in the background and my observations on that thrown in. The crowd has thinned out and my memory isn't what it was but I hope that for those of you who still come by that you still enjoy it.

 And thank you. Many many thank yous. I have had a number of people over the years tell me that I have inspired them, that in dark times I have made a difference, that I have given them a laugh or a light when its been tough for them. I can't believe that, first of all, and when I have read those comments I have always been left dumbfounded and always always very grateful for the kind words. Best of all I have met many 'men from the internet' (and the odd woman) and as a result I am a richer man than I was eight years ago as I have met many good people and in some case, have made good friends as a result of this.

 Spare me a moment as I become a bit sentimental (some wags would say that I always am, to those I would say more sentimental ;) ). Thank you thank you thank you. You have made a difference in my life and I hope if you have taken anything from these wandering tales that it would be this. Be kind. Laugh. Enjoy. Love. Life is very short my internet friends. Make the best of it. Eat. Drink. Be merry.

And thank you again.

Pat

Friday, January 03, 2014

A Better Place





Scrolling through Twitter on the streetcar today I noted that diehard Oiler fan (I think any Oiler fans left have to be diehards maybe) and fun follow Shauna (@SLShockeyfan) had noted after another Oiler disaster:

I feel for bloggers and even MSM. What is there to write about?

 So true, so true. I came back to work yesterday after nine days off. Five years ago, even three years ago, nine days off would have seen a half dozen or more posts on this site, tales of old leading to musings on many things copper and blue.

 But as I told Ben Massey recently there are only so many ways of saying that your favourite team is garbage.

 I remember back in 2008 or thereabouts a fellow who trolled the Oiler blogs pretty regularly, a guy who went by McLea iirc, saying that he couldn't wait for the Oilers to prove all of the naysayers wrong, guys like Dellow and Dennis King and RiversQ and Vic Ferrari and myself, guys who were tearing into Lowe as he began to destroy the franchise. I remember replying that I would be happy to eat crow, nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong.

 Still waiting.

 The dismissal of Steve Tambellini and hiring of Dallas Eakins and the additions over the summer (not enough but MacTavish had too many holes to fill and not enough chips to move to fill them imo) brought me some hope, surely all of this and more experience for the kids would mean, if not a playoff spot, at least meaningful games for the first time in nearly a decade. (It was Dennis King who noted recently that in a stretch of ~ 8 seasons leading to the 2006 run, I can't remember exactly how many, that by his count the Oilers played a total of two meaningless games or something like that. They were always in the mix for a playoff spot. Always.)

 I was wrong.

 Early days saw the team deserving more than they got, even with injuries up the middle, but poor goaltending did them in and since then the club has lurched from disaster to disaster. The team is not good enough but losing tends to lead to more losing and so almost to a man the club has underperformed and this is despite it being healthier than it has been in years. Eakins has said all of the right things but his moves often stink of panic. The abandonment of the five forward power play which was humming along after a shortie against Chicago is a perfect example of this. And of course the double standard, benchings for Yakupov and Petry and Arcobello, free passes for Hall and Eberle and Gagner (although last night the golden boys sat for a while). But what the hell do you do, fire another coach? Can't be done, especially when the D is basically Jeff Petry, Andrew Ference and five guys who may as well be called Scott Ferguson. (And no I have not given up on Justin Schultz, he just completed his first full season of games this week, still buddy is drowning out there.)

 The problem with this awful slide is that the mess feeds on itself. Players are losing confidence and in a lot of cases the 'give a shit meter' seems to be broken. The problem for the franchise as a whole is threefold.

 Players are not going to want to come to play for such a shitshow unless they are overpaid in a major way.

 Players who MacT might want to move are losing value which means more ten cents on the dollar moves where the club started with a house (Joni Pitkanen, Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Brodziak, Tom Gilbert, Sheldon Souray, Lubo Visnovsky etc etc etc) and ended up with a paper clip (Nick Schultz, a bunch of guys out of the league now or nothing at all).

 And most important of all, sooner or later, guys are going to want out or are going to get ruined by the Oilers.

 Will it get turned around? Well you might ask fans of the Panthers or Islanders or Thrashers (if they still existed) what year after year of high picks means. Sometimes it means nothing because the reason you are getting high picks is that management is garbage. Its easy to destroy a franchise, Tambo and Lowe burned it to the ground and sowed the earth with salt over a few years. The problem is with the present cap system UFAs of value are tending to extend with their current clubs and movement up the ladder is a lot more difficult unless you can find value where others see none and you can, get ready for it, acquire and keep good players.

 The pursuit of Clarkson breaks rule number one and the trade of Smid for magic beans, soon to be followed by Freedom for Ales Hemsky, break the second.

 (And at this point I am sure Ales has told MacT that he will not extend and who could blame him, my God I hope he gets a ticket to San Jose or Chicago, he's suffered enough.)

 So what does it all mean?

 Well I think I noted this a couple of months ago, either here or on Twitter, and I've been following my own advice. Over the holidays I watched zero minutes of Oilers' hockey.

 I played for Capsule. I played shinny. I played road hockey with the boy and a neighbour. I read four books. I celebrated my birthday by going out for dinner at Foxley's (highly recommended) followed by drinks and dancing with Jenn and friends and then a night at a hotel while the inlaws wrangled our little ones. I took the kids skating with my father in law. I read books to my youngest. I went to a neighbour's for New Years and rang in 2014 with my two youngest and a bunch of folks from our wonderful little street. I ate a lot. I drank a lot. I napped a lot. I went to a friend's and watched the Winter Classic with friends. I laughed a lot.

 It was an excellent week and a half. I hope that your own holidays, whether they were a day or still in process, were as good.

 The Oilers weren't really a part of them.

 Which is probably why they were so good.