Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Budapest





 No hockey talk today, actually this is a serious piece, or as serious as I get anyhow. So if you don't want talk about terrorists and the world today (and I wouldn't blame you one bit) then come another time. I won't hold it against you. ;)

 Last spring I was out for pints with my good friend. Jenn was in the middle of a whirlwind of trips, some business, some personal, and she had said to me that I should probably do something, it had been a while for me and she felt bad.

 So I was talking to my pal on the back patio of the Only Cafe, I am pretty sure that's where we were, we had kicked this around a bit and so he mentioned that he had a work trip in the fall and the conference was being held in Frankfurt. Now Frankfurt held no interest for us but he said that Budapest was not that far away and it was supposed to be a pretty cool place and so maybe we could figure something out there.

 As it turned out his show ended up actually taking place in Hamburg. No regrets there, I flew in and we hung out in Hamburg and Berlin and we had an amazing time.

 So this year Jenn ended up lucky enough to go to Cambodia to do some volunteer work (a cause that we were astounded to have many of the folks who regularly come here generously contribute to) and so I floated the idea that I might also like to hit the road once again. She agreed and when I spoke to Higgins I found out that one of his company's shows was going to be held in ... you guessed it, Budapest.

 So Jenn booked the time off and I began to research it. It's funny, I don't think of myself as well travelled but of course that is more my circle of friends than reality. I never thought of Germany or Hungary as places I would visit but Germany was fantastic and it became clear that Budapest might be really amazing.

 As early November neared though a snag hit and my friend could not make it. Jenn's only caveat for these trips is that I have a travelling companion and so it looked like my plans were scuttled and I might end up going back to Dublin where I have friends who could put me up, keep me out of trouble and put my body on a plane home if shit went awry. No complaints, I love Dublin, but I've been a few times and was hoping for somewhere new.

 And then my inlaws, bless them, suggested that as they were coming at the time that Jenn and I, planning to travel next year for our fifteenth anniversary, take this opportunity to celebrate a bit early. And not knowing what tomorrow might bring we thought why the hell not.

 Jenn would say 'Why Budapest, what is there' but when I put alternatives to her she said no let's go, it looks interesting and this has been the plan all along. So we flew direct into Vienna, spent some time there and then took the train to Budapest.

 Vienna was lovely and I don't want to sell it short but Budapest. Oh Budapest. Man I would go back tomorrow if I could. Beautiful and vibrant and gritty and elegant and we walked through the markets and spent the afternoon at a bath and hiked the hills of Buda overlooking the Danube and ate and drank on patios and in bars hidden down alleyways in the old Jewish Quarter and when we left we looked at each other and we could barely believe our good fortune at having experienced it. Lovely Budapest.

 And shortly after our return Paris happened.

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

 I talked to Mom and Dad last night, checking in, planning our trip up in a few weeks to see them and celebrate the holidays. My parents aren't fearful folk but Mom said oh I was glad to know that you were back home and it's not even safe to travel anymore and we talked about how horrible these events were.

 And it's frightening of course. I think of those poor people minding their business and what happened and I am sad and I am scared. We were in Paris two years ago in late October, us and the kids, and I cannot even imagine it, the terror, the sorrow, the heartbreak.

 But we'll go back. As I said I'd go back to Budapest tomorrow and if you said hey Pat here's the money and the time off, go to Paris, I would go in a heartbeat.

  I stay away from the big picture in this space. If you come here at all then you know that to me the big picture is my family and friends and our neighbourhood, good food and drink, some laughs, enjoying what life brings that is good, enduring the inevitable sorrow.

 But our world is a horrible place in many ways. It always has been, humans have been slaughtering each other since they came down from the trees. Things are better than they have ever been, I truly believe that, but people will always do awful things until there are no people left to do them.

 The longterm fixes to what is going on are complicated and difficult and you know what is scary? You could resolve Syria and resolve young men, the sons of immigrants, feeling alienated and angry and you could fix all of these problems somehow (and believe me I am aware that there may not be the political will power or smarts to do so) and we will still see what we saw a couple of weeks ago.

 Guns are easy to get a hold of and there are no shortage of young men who are willing to use them. Call them crazy or fanatical or bigots or whatever you will but you can arm half the populace and still get Columbine and Sandy Hook and theatres and parks and restaurants and churches shot up in the States.

 So it's going to happen. It will happen again in Paris and it will happen in London and New York and in cities in Africa and Asia and Australia and South and Central America. It will happen here in Canada some day too and just pray (or if you don't pray, I'm not one for prayer, then hope) that you are not around when it does, unluckily in the wrong place at the wrong time, like poor Nathan Cirillo was.

 I guess that sounds like a horrible thing to think, a dark and pessimistic way of looking at things but I look at it as a simple reality.

 What do we do? Well I'm not smart enough to answer that regarding the big picture and I'm not getting into the politics of it but unless you intend to deport every person you think may be a threat to the citizens of this country (and for some people that is, well that's a lot of people including millions who are citizens of this country) and have soldiers on every street corner then you're not going to prevent awful things from happening. And even then awful things would happen, It's sad but true.

 So I intend to travel and go to cafes and restaurants and pubs. I intend to think the best of people and to try and make my corner of the world better and to teach my kids about what is right and what is wrong. I can see some of you sneering at this, it's airy-fairy shit you are thinking, but the truth is that it's all I can do and really it's all that most of us can do. Try and make your little corner of the world a better place. Try and be kind. Try not to let hatred and fear rule the day. Live and enjoy what you can.

 That's all.

 Anyhow it's been nearly ten years here and I have never written anything like this before, probably for good reason. Back to our regularly scheduled posts about beer league hockey, my kids and those Oilers, I promise. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Now Just Wait A Cotton Picking Minute!



 The Hamonic revelation has the rumour mill churning and as you can imagine things are getting a bit mental. Apparently Myers is off the table in Winnipeg, why I don't know, I think Hamonic is a clear upgrade and so I think the Wild are the clear frontrunner right now. The Oilers have a shot but man oh man the deals being proposed, all the way from Fayne and a mid round pick to Eberle + and I don't even know what to say in either case.

 I like Mark Fayne, I think he is a top four NHL Dman when paired with a guy who can move the puck but that deal isn't happening. And while I would move Eberle for Hamonic the idea that you would need to add to a legitimate top line winger to get Hamonic strikes me as .... not likely.

 Now of course we don't know what is out there and in any case all it takes is one GM to make THAT offer whether we are talking about a trade or free agency (remember Souray's bemused take on how the Oilers basically bid against themselves with a come out of nowhere offer that blew him away) and we see that nearly every summer, though less so this past one, where bottom six guys get the moon when equivalent or better players sign for less money and term.

 Derek Dorsett's extension being a case in point.

 Anyhow we all know that the Oilers' Achilles' heel remains the blue line, ahead of bottom six scoring and (sighs) goaltending (AGAIN!) but the reality is that the blue is better than it has been foor a while. It's so green but Davidson and Nurse have both been decent and Klefbom looks good and the veterans Sekera and Fayne have been solid, especially the former. It's not a playoff quality blue (oh if only MacT had had a clue about Petry) but it's better and with Schultz coming back we should see, hopefully, Gryba sent to the PB and Reinhart to the minor.

 BTW I'm not down on Reinhart. Didn't like the deal but some are pronouncing him DOA, I certainly don't think that and would like to see him paired with a better option. Of course I would like to see that with Nurse and so on. It's the way it has been in Edmonton for a decade. Guys playing above their best slot and suffering as a result.

 Anyhow back to point. The secondary scoring thing is temporary, once McDavid comes back there will be three scoring lines and oh my. As for the goaltending well we've been talking about this forever and if you're ready to give up on Talbot I say Dubnyk and that's all for now. I don't know if Talbot is the answer, he has been underwhelming, if that's a word, and relying on Nilsson is probably not a great idea. Broissot has been fantastic and may be the answer but only time will tell. Anyhow we all know that goaltending is voodoo and all that, who knows. My guess is they muddle along there until they can see Broissot up with the big boys.

 But the blue. Back to the blue. Hamonic or someone like him would go a long way to curing what ails but at what cost? Because the latest, and to be fair this is just floating out there, nothing concrete, is the idea of moving Ted for a Dman, because Draisatil, see, makes him redundant.

 Now let's just wait a minute here.

 I love Draisatl and I think he is going to be excellent but he has played ten (!) games in the NHL this season so let's take a step back.

 Actually first let me say this so you know where I am coming from. I am not against trading anyone as long as the team gets better. I think the Oilers have a long list of 'untouchable' players but other than McDavid and Hall I would probably move any of them for the right deal. My list goes like this:

McDavid, Hall, Nugent Hopkins, Draisatl, Nurse, Klefbom.

 Now this will change in the future. For example if Draisatl proves this year that he is a two way centre who can drive play then he probably passes Ted. But not yet, bigger body of work and all that. And yes Nurse and Klefbom are kids but we're talking about guys who are probably going to be real top four guys for a decade or more. I don't trade them for Hamonic because the Oilers need as much D as they can get. I trade them for a guy like Oliver Ekman Larsson or Doughty, basically a young established number one guy but guys like that, they aren't getting moved.

 So anyhow you can see that Eberle, Yakupov and Schultz are not on my list, Schultz for obvious reasons, of course the reality is neither he nor Yak are bringing much back anyhow. Eberle would bring back the biggest return and really if Chiarelli wants to speed this thing up then number 14 will probably be the guy he moves, not because he wants to, but because he will bring back the biggest return and be the easiest to replace. See Yakupov score a PPG playing with McDavid. Watch Pouliot kill it with Ted and Eberle. Look at Teddy Purcell rip it up with Hall and Leon. I'm not saying good wingers are easy to find (and Ebs is not in the same league as these guys) but I am kind of saying this.

 Trade Nugent Hopkins and if McDavid or Leon go down then Lander is your number two centre. Do you like that? I don't think so. Keep him and you have a lineup soo deep at C that you almost don't need a fourth guy. You can move Leon to the wing if you're pushing for an equalizer.

 After goalie centre is the most important position in the game. To have three (!!!!!) young guys who can play the position, well, you don't break that up until you absolutely have to do so.

 Edmonton fans are like other fans, always looking for the next shiny thing. We're big on it (well some of us are) but we're not the only ones. When we lived in Florida the Buccaneers were coming on strong under Tony Dungy. They would win the Super Bowl as the culmination of that era although Dungy was gone by then. They were a club built on a fantastic defence and the offence was almost an afterthought. It was built on the run and the quarterback was expected to manage the ball, throw it only when necessary (the receiving corps was mediocre) and basically score ten to fourteen points as that was usually all that was needed. The QB when we were there was a guy named Trent Dilfer. Classic big quarterback, not very mobile, decidedly average. The problem with Dilfer is he wasn't that good and when the Bucs won he too was long gone. (Ironically Dilfer won his own Super Bowl with the Ravens, thus proving that there was an exception to the general rule that to win you need a great or at least very good quarterback, same as the exception to the rule that you need a great goaltender or stud number one Dman to win the Stanley Cup).

 Now Tampa had a young backup by the name of Shaun King. King was mobile and dynamic and when Dilfer got hurt he came in and the team won some games. Now the team won most of their games because they were very good, regardless of who was behind centre, but when Dilfer came back the hue and cry for King was over the top. The main reason for this was that he was NEW and that he wasn't Dilfer. Dilfer wasn't much good but time would tell that King was actually worse. There was a legitimate reason that he was a backup (weak arm, not great decision making) but but NEWNEWNEWNEWNEW.

 Fans get familiar with the established players, the guys who they see night in and night out and they become weary of their flaws and yes pretty well every player is flawed (this is another pet theory of mine that Oiler fans, spoiled by a dynasty of superstars, easily find fault when faced with mere mortals). Ryan Smyth wasn't a dynamic enough player to create something out of nothing. Ales Hemsky wasn't consistently brilliant. Tom Gilbert wasn't a thumper. Jeff Petry turned it over too much. Taylor Hall is ... well, I'm not even sure what the deal is there but there are people who think he's a bad hockey player. AND DON'T GET ME GOING ON HORCOFF!!!!!

 Not just an Edmonton thing, Christ ask a Leafs' fan about Kessel or Phaneuf or Gardiner or Reimer. Bruins' fans (a minority of them certainly but still) wanted to run Chara out of town after 2013. And how about Pens' fans and Sydney Crombie!?!?!

 In any case let's take a step back on the Nuge talk. Is he untouchable? No. Is he as close to it as you can get without being untouchable? Yes, because the return you would need for him is not available, at least right now. Trade Nuge and the team is not going to be better most likely. And that is the main thing, right?

 Fin.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dreamland Whoa Whoa




I tried to tweet about this but I need to write more than that will allow.

A few words on Travis Hamonic who apparently wants out of the Island, asked for a trade out before the season started and wants to move closer to home, which is Manitoba, for family reasons.

 Hamonic is, well he is exactly what Edmonton needs. Top pairing RH Dman, young but established, and on a sweet sweet deal.

 He isn't a project, he isn't going to be unrestricted in a summer, he isn't a guy with a bunch of question marks. Slot him in with Klefbom, have Nurse play with Sekera and Fayne with whomever you want on the left (Reinhart? Davidson?) or make it work however your mileage varies and this team is, well it's legit or a lot closer to it.

 The problem is that he is a top pairing RH Dman, young but established, and on a sweet sweet deal. Everyone is going to want in on this.

 Snow has two problems. One is that he has a pretty good team right now. They may not be an elite EC team (I would list Tampa, the Rangers and the Habs as those clubs, maybe the Caps) but they are a good team, good enough that they could come out of the conference with the right draw and if things fall the right way for them. So for him to trade one of his top pair for a pick or a prospect or a prayer, well, he doesn't want to do that obviously.

 And secondly he is pooched. He doesn't have to trade Hamonic right now but he has to trade him and the result is he is not going to get full value, as much as he needs it.

 So ... what is out there and do the Oilers have a shot?

 If Snow decides to make the move in season then the Oilers are a longer shot. I love Klefbom and Nurse but neither is going to step into the Isles' top pair right now. (And personally I would trade neither. I know the Oilers need to make strides but trading a 20 or 21 year old Dman who is the real deal when you are short on the backend does not make sense) So that means Chiarelli either has to convince Snow to take a forward or Justin Schultz.

 If Snow wants a Dman he may not get Dougie Hamilton or Trouba or Pietrangelo but a guy like Myers or Spurgeon is better than Justin Schultz and for both the Jets and Wild that is an upgrade.

 An option that my pal Dennis King floated is the idea of a three way, which doesn't surprise me, seeing as our summit over many pints at the Horseshoe this summer continually digressed into that territory (but now I digress) and of course this works. I am going to totally steal his idea here - Nashville sends a D to the Island. The Oilers get Hamonic and they send a forward to Nashville.

 Easier said than done though.

 The other possibility is Snow waits until the offseason. In his public comments Hamonic is not pushing the issue (of course privately this may not be the case) and if Snow waits until the summer then he may be more amenable to an Oiler package that includes picks or prospects or a forward and he can fill the Hamonic hole another way.

 The problem with waiting until the summer is that then you have a wider range of clubs competing with you. A team like Minnesota, for example, may like Hamonic but not want to make a move right now. A first round exit might make them decide to throw their hat in the ring.

 Whatever susses out I expect Chiarelli is in on this hot and heavy as he should be. Bring in Hamonic and especially in the weak Pacific they're a lot closer than before.