Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Not Making Good Time



 Heading to PEI tomorrow, our twelfth trip if you can believe it. I could do the trip blindfolded I am sure.

 So let's talk about Pete Chiarelli our wonderful GM.

 Did you see what I did there?

 When I got up this morning I tweeted that while I trusted Chia (despite Reinhart and Korpse, his body of work has been pretty good I think) a decade of suffering has made me a pessimistic worrier about the Oilers and it would take a lot to change that. I'm the most positive guy in the world but when it comes to the Oilers I'm a broken man drinking a nice cold beer, a Cup I'll never see I fear ...

 Oh I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!

 Lowe, Tambo and MacT took a house and turned it into a paper clip. That is a very difficult thing to do but slowly but surely they turned a Stanley Cup finallist with great underlying numbers into a last place team that spent to the cap. Can you imagine the incompetence necessary to pull that off? But they did it. They lurched from trading their best two players for futures (rebuild!) to sending out futures and young players and money for veterans (we're going to contend!), all the while sending out quality players for literally nothing for ten years. I won't go through the moves because it's a litany of failure and it's terribly depressing is what it is. That's all it is. Very very sad. So hard to take.

 There was one silver lining. The kids. The Oilers managed to screw up with Gagner and Paajarvi and Yakupov and they shipped out Cogliano, Brodziak, Dubnyk, Gilbert and Petry for literally nothing and (see I told you it was depressing) their drafting outside of the guys in the top ten was generally atrocious but they still managed to load up on some nice talent - Klefbom and Nurse and Davidson on the back end, Draisatl and Eberle and Ted up front.

 And of course the crown jewels - McDavid and Hall. The book end number ones to the cluster and the best two players on the team. Hall had established himself as one of the best left wingers in the game when the Oilers won the golden ticket last summer. A passionate speedster who has won everywhere but in Edmonton (he's a loser mumbles the stupid idiot on the couch as he reaches for his pork rinds and screams at the TV, moaning as he suddenly sprains his fat) - an under 18 gold, WJC silver, two Memorial Cups, two Memorial Cup MVPS, two World Championship Golds - Hall is a throwback to the Oilers of the 80s, he played with speed and heart and most importantly elan.

 This being the Oilers there were always grumblings, Oiler fans are pissed off at anyone who doesn't play like Gordie Howe basically, a combination of sheer talent and viciousness that we saw in Messier and Pronger and of course we are tired of the losing and so while Hall's teams had no goaltending usually and no defence ever and basically no bottom six forwards either it became his fault (him and Ted and Eberle, the latest golden boys) that management continued to fail to build any sort of team around them.

 It became clear after last season that the D needed shoring up most of all and so we waited for Chia to make his move. At the draft the Oilers got lucky again when Columbus, perhaps the only franchise as bad as Edmonton, screwed up again and gifted them. And then the talks with UFAs began and Lucic and Demers came to town and the Oilers were definitely front runners on the former and in the game on the latter and suddenly, suddenly things were looking up. Sign Demers for cash only and find one more D and ... we might have a real team.

 We knew that likely someone was going but the feeling was it might be Draisatl or Ted or Eberle. We didn't want to give them away, sure, but you need to do what you need to do and you have to give to get. There were rumours that Hall's name was out there too but the fair return for a player of that calibre was rare. We were talking about guys like Subban and Ekman-Larsen and Lindholm and that ilk. Established young top pairing guys. The media was talking Hamonic or Fowler (love that Matheson parody account, oh man, the guy running that plays the senile out of touch joker so well it's amazing!) and we laughed. Check out Draisatl's numbers when he wasn't playing with Taylor Hall and weep. Our man number four drives play, he can carry a line as Jason Strudwick said the other day.

 And then today the storm broke. Rishaug set the table, fed his lines by management surely, and Twitter blew up and then Bob broke the news and you knew it was true.

 One for one deal for Adam Larsson.

Chiarelli seemed a man defeated at the presser and I guess now we know that maybe Neely wasn't behind that Seguin move after all eh? Of course Boston got a Cup out of it before Seguin got moved even if they are heading for the dumpster now. He kept coming back to having to pay a price but I have never seen a move like this honestly. An elite winger for Adam Larsson.

 A couple of guys I trust, Dennis King and Darcy McLeod, like Larsson and that means something. They're not dummies and Darcy said he would have traded Ted for Larsson so there is that. He is a legit top four guy in the league.

 But he's not worth Taylor Hall.

 The Oilers will try and couch this as Hall for Larssen and Lucic but of course that is bullshit. Lucic costs money, probably too much money and term, like all UFAs. He's a good player but he is no Hall and his signing here has nothing to do with Hall other than he plays left wing.

 Hall was traded for Adam Larssen. Full stop.

 I don't know if I will be back in the fall to watch this team. I may be, of course, I'm not saying I am out but knowing that the new guy is basically the same as the old guy, that is he gets back fifty cents for a dollar when he makes a move, well that says a lot about his lack of ability to gauge talent and negotiate. This strikes me as a man panicking is how it strikes me. And after ten years of this club being the worst team in history, a run of historical awfulness, well it is very difficult to take, a trade that many are calling one of the worst in hockey history, a trade that brought laughter from fans of twenty nine other teams (the laughter stopped soon after in Montreal though).

 It's brutal is what it is. Absolutely brutal. It's a bad day to be an Oilers' fan and Gord knows we've seen a decade of them and this, along with the Pronger and Smyth deals is right up there for a kick in the nuts. Just devastated.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Happy Thoughts







Isn't that fantastic?

 As everyone here knows I love to travel and I had a six month stretch from November to April where the stars aligned, it will unlikely ever be matched to be honest. It started last spring when we decided that a trip was in the cards for me as Jenn had again been away. So I began to poll various friends to see who would accompany and I will tell you something, it was impossible. (Maybe it's me!, wait a second that never occurred to me ...) The only exception was my buddy who I had been to Berlin with the year previous who said hey we have a show in Budapest and why don't we meet there and man we were on like donkey kong as the kids say I believe.

 Except his work hemmed and hawwed and so really about six weeks before he told me I was on my own by the looks of it and I figured I was stuck ... except Jenn's parents were coming to stay while I was gone and they said why don't the two of you go and it is our fifteenth anniversary in 2016 and we do a trip every fifth anniversary and so away we went. I told Jenn we didn't have to go to Budapest but she said ah why not and there you are. Vienna was cool but Budapest blew us away, seriously if you can, you have to get there, what a wonderful trip.

 And then in February I was lucky enough to get to Dublin, which is where our head office is, and while it was a work trip, well I was able to get into town three times in five nights (!) and when I got to the airport I was astounded that I was able to order a Guinness as I felt that there should have been none left based on my hard work that week at depleting the stores.

 With our anniversary trip done we had decided on no travel this year, Jenn is going to school in the fall and we have braces coming for the oldest and so last fall we decided NO TRAVEL but I had a feeling and sure enough Jenn's running buddies said hey no anniversary trip in 2016 now? let's do a run and so they booked a trail run in Vegas and I said well I'm not sitting on the sidelines and so in April I went to Barcelona!!!!

 I have a good friend who had never been to Europe and he had shown a lot of interest last year but had been unable to pull it off. When I emailed him in the winter he said I'm in if we can make the dates work. Summer and fall were out and slowly but surely the weeks were eliminated until we realized that we each only had one option and they matched! Looked at flights and amongst the options (we looked for direct flights that arrived early so we could hit the ground running) were Istanbul, Brussels, Copenhagen and Barcelona. So Spain it was!

 What can I say about Barcelona? It was wonderful. We didn't book much of anything, preferring to let our feet take us wandering. We checked out the Sagrada Familia, which was outstanding, and we did a walking tour of the old Gothic Quarter and otherwise we walked here and there, eating and drinking and taking in the sights. We were lucky to have sunny days with the exception of one drizzly morning and we took advantage, sitting on patios when we could and watching the world go by. We would go back to our flat late in the afternoon, it was about twenty minutes walk from the main plaza, and we'd hang out there and drink wine and relax and then we would have dinner in a neighbourhood restaurant, which meant cheap but delicious food. Sangria with the Mediterranean just metres away, tapas lunches (the food was unreal) and wine and beer at little hole in the wall joints and brew pubs.

 Our first night went off the rails, albeit slightly, up for over thirty hours and both punchy from sleep deprivation and pretty loaded to boot we ended up in a dive joint right near our flat for what would end up being our nightcap, though we didn't know it at the time. (At 9 we went to bed, setting our alarms for 11 to head out for a late dinner and more drinks, we both screwed up our alarms and woke up at 8 the next morning, probably for the best really).

 The bartender knew a bit of English but none of the patrons, nearly all grizzled seniors, though nattily dressed, did not. Still they pointed and gestured and made sure we knew to try this cheese and that ham and yes these sardines floating in vinegar and then the most enthusiastic of them, probably in his eighties, in a fine suit and cap, grabbed Trev and dragged him to the back of the shop where the barrels of wine lived and soon we were staggering home with two bottles of wine and a bottle of vermouth, 1.5 litre bottles mind, purchased for the princely sum, in total, of five Euros.

 Oh it was a good time alright!

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

 I am thinking a lot of those sunny days in Barcelona with the silly season upon us. On Twitter today someone asked me if my feeling of upcoming doom was based on anything other than the beatings we received over the last decade from Lowe, Tambo and MacT and truthfully I said that this was the case. I don't love Chia but other than the Reinhart deal (I was hammered all draft weekend last year on a boys' weekend, thank gord, man I called that one a stinker from day one) and of course Korpsikoski he has done pretty good work. And his track record with Boston was pretty good as well.

 Now let's get one thing straight. I am not one of these guys who says you can't trade anybody. Other than McDavid anybody can be had as long as the return makes the team better. Which means that you can't really trade Taylor Hall, who yes is that good a player.

( Quick aside, if you're going to talk about the need to trade a youngster because of culture change or because he hasn't won anything or you don't want someone because they have never won anything then seriously get the fuck out now. Now. See you later.

 The Oilers' problem is not the culture it's the fact that they have had terrible players for years. Not enough forwards, not enough D, poor goaltending. Lowe and Tambo turned a house into a paper clip. Hockey is not a video game and it's not basketball, you can't win with a couple of stars. You need talent all through your lineup and if you think that Hall or Eberle or Nugent Hopkins are the problem, well, I hate to come off as a jerk, but grow up. And spare me the 'he's a cancer in the room' bs. Who got the loudest cheer from his teammates when he took his skate with the Cup? That's right, that guy with no character, that terrible person, Phil Kessel.

 Quick story - Robbie Alomar was the best player the Toronto Blue Jays ever had and the catalyst for those great teams in the early 90s that won two World Series. There was never anything but praise for the guy until his contract began to wind down. There were negotiations and they didn't go well and all of a sudden guess what? The papers began to publish columns bashing Alomar, not for his play on the field, which was still outstanding, but for his character. Nothing that was said out loud, just whispered allusions about how he was a cancer in the clubhouse.

 What had changed? His contract status. Nothing more. And in exchange for 'insider' info more than a few of the media gladly assassinated his character in print and over the airwaves so that as the season wound down some fans began to lustily boo the greatest player in franchise history.

 So when you read or hear about a player and how he is a cancer in the locker room consider the source. It is almost certain that the messenger has an axe to grind (remember Spector and Hemsky), is carrying management's water or literally (in the case of any fan who 'knows' the inner workings of a professional hockey team) knows nothing at all.

 So dumb.)

 Now ... that rant over with, nobody is untouchable and yes the Oilers need D and, well, a lot of everything if we are honest. And if Chia gets a call that will improve the team and it will cost them Hall well then he has to make the deal. But as noted that had better be a full on number one Dman, young and under contract, no fading vet on an enormous ticket like Weber or Seabrook. And if you make that move then you still need to fill in that suddenly enormous gap up front.

 Here is the issue for the Oilers. They need to start to finally make that move. Let's be honest, if they don't have such awful luck last year they are likely in the low twenties, say 21st or 22nd in the league. McDavid and Klefbom, Nuge and Davidson and Pouliot and so on and so on, they were ravaged by injuries and didn't have the depth to hang in there. But the time is now and they need to get better. Two top four D, a couple of solid bottom sixers, a quality backup. The Islanders added two top four D for a song so don't tell me it can't be done. Now if Chia has to ship someone out then so be it but the value coming back has to be there. No UFAs to be. No might be down the roads or were good once upon a times. Sure bets. Use the pick. Use prospects. Use guys off the roster when need be but remember that dealing Eberle means a hole to fill, dealing Nuge means a hole to fill, dealing Klefbom means the same. That's fine but if they can fill the holes without taking from the roster then all the better.

 All of those years where they discarded NHL players for literally nothing? (I still am not over Petry, my oh my they made a hash out of that). Well now is the time to reverse the trend, or to continue it really - Sekera, Talbot, Kassian, Maroon, Davidson. This is what they need to do.

 Here's hoping Chia can do it, it's been a long time coming. And yeah I am terrified that someone is going to be moved for ten cents on the dollar. I can't help it anymore. :(

 Think good thoughts, think good thoughts, think good thoughts .......

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dad



This one is from last fall. We go up every year, usually in the fall to close, once we helped Dad open camp in the spring. It's always a quick trip, the boy and I are out the door at 7am, at Mom and Dad's by 11, on the lake by noon. We have been lucky with the weather, the first time up was miserable but otherwise we have had sunshine which fits our outlooks and is very apropos. We spend two nights there, preparing the camp for winter and helping Dad with any jobs he has put off through the summer. A few years back we helped him prep for the dock he was going to build the next spring. He was 80 and he clambered amongst the granite and pines and laughed and said 'we're like mountain goats up here'.

 Mom and Dad are up there right now actually, he turns 84 on Father's Day this year, my sister texted me to let me know that I'd have to call up there to give him my regards. They caved in and agreed to a phone up there about a decade ago but it's unlikely that when I call that they will answer. Hopefully I will catch them at dusk, the blackflies will be terrible and they will likely be inside.

 Every year Mom says 'this will be the last year we go up' and every year Dad says no no and every year so far she has been wrong. They had a bear torment them late last summer and it was a bit of a hard go, they're slowing down and it took a bit out of them but when we were up a few weeks ago Mom was raring to get up and so they are there now and will be until the leaves turn in the fall.

 Jenn worries and says what if something happens and I say Christ they're 84 and 83 now what would you have them do sit in their chairs and watch the news until their time comes, let them live the way they want as long as they can. When I was up last time one of my best friends called, he was up as well, his Mom had suffered a massive stroke a few weeks prior and his old man is suffering from dementia and he was picking up the pieces and he couldn't believe I was also in town and we had to go out. I'm going to write about it but we started at his place and the boxes packed and bags of things to be thrown out and the pictures of kids and grandkids still about were heartbreaking and it was all a reminder of you know what and it was the saddest thing I have seen in a long time. We went out and we drank and laughed and enjoyed ourselves because what the hell are you going to do anyhow.

 Dad is slowing down, it's become noticeable the last year or so now. His memory isn't what it was and we worry about that and while he is still strong and hearty he is smaller now and a bit quiet. He still enjoys himself and it's always good times but it weighs on me a bit I can't lie. My Dad is getting old.

 And so it goes. Tomorrow I will call him and wish him a happy birthday and Happy Father's Day and thank him for everything for without him I would not be the man I am today. I lucked out let me tell you. Life is good and he's a big part of why that is and when I celebrate the day with my own kids I will remember that and when I have a beer, or two, as we wander the streets (because that was my request and that is what we will do) I will raise a glass to him.

 Happy Father's Day to all of you Dads out there. Nothing better in the world. Enjoy and make the best of it.