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Black Dog Hates Skunks

What is this ..... 'winning'?

Updated: 2018-03-14T07:27:00.069-04:00


This Is Not Goodbye


As people who have been coming around these parts know my posts have been far and few between over the past few years, our lives have been growing busier and to be honest after a decade of horrible results I was suffering from a bit of Oiler fatigue. Even the resurgence of the club last year, while welcome, didn't get the creative juices flowing.

 A few days ago James Mirtle contacted me and asked me if I was interested in doing more writing and I jumped at the chance. I am excited and grateful to James for the opportunity to be writing for The Athletic. I have been a subscriber since almost the beginning and the writers and content cannot be beat and the fact that he has asked me to be a part of it, well, I don't even know what to say, I am very thankful. I am really excited for the chance to reach a larger audience and to be part of such a great team, both of the Oilers' group of writers, and of the larger group employed by The Athletic.

 So for the short term at least, this site will be shuttered and there will be no new content. (So no different some wags might say). It will remain up and I am sure that some day in the future it may live again. For all of you who have come by over the years I say thank you. I have always loved writing and finding an outlet for it was always something I dreamed of. I hope that you have enjoyed my tales and I hope that some of you follow me to The Athletic.

 Take care.


Process and Results or Wing and a Prayer?


OK so yesterday I talked about the boy's game on Monday and how the team were playing just unreal but that the score wasn't reflecting this. We have a big game this upcoming Monday against the team to beat and it will be a real test to see if in the last few weeks we have improved at all. I suspect that we will lose but that it will be much closer than our first game in which we got throttled.Here's the problem we are facing. This is a recreational league through and through. We play once a week, no practices, and after next week school ends and the kids will scatter. We will play through August but will be missing many players every game. And then in September we play a tournament to determine the championship. So we play Monday and then won't have our full team back for 10 weeks at which point we will finish our season. Our opponent is better than us. They are bigger, faster, older and they have played together for years. So it's a tall order. We are strong up front and in the midfield, mostly small quick players, with a few senior guys who are big and talented. On the back end, well we are in a bit of a tough spot. We're big but not fast and not especially, um, good. Now against the other teams in the league we have been able to make this work. We generally control the ball and when we are on offence we give them fits. When the other teams gain possession our midfield is quick and talented enough to track back and harry the other team into giving the ball back to us. The problem comes when they attack quickly or we get outnumbered deep in our end, then it gets hairy.So here is the conundrum, as I see it I have four options:1/ Give it a whirl as is and hope. The problem I see already (and saw in our first game against these guys) is that this team is big and fast, our smaller players don't have a lot of time, they tend to get overpowered and so while it is easy to say 'hold onto the ball' it's easier said than done.2/ Adjust our lineup. I could strengthen our D at the expense of other parts of the formation. The problem here is that in game one the only respite we ever got was when the ball was forward and our guys were running rampant up there. Remove a midfielder and forward from that mix and the ball is going to be in our end even more.3/ Adjust our tactics slightly. The boy and his counterpart on the wings of our midfield are tenacious defenders and can run for miles. Dropping them back means maybe we can blunt their attacks early and turn the ball the other way. Gives us less support up front though.4/ Park the bus. Play everyone back, clog it up and hope for a goal on a counterattack. Number one is not going to work, they are better than us. Just play and basically we are going on a wing and a prayer, hoping for a miracle, like Mike and the Mechanics but without those dulcet harmonies. Two, three or four may work but we have no way to practice to get guys comfortable with new roles or tactics. Monday is going to be a real testing ground. A wing and a prayer isn't going to do it so it's going to be the blender.----------------------------------------- I haven't really talked about the Oilers' season yet but now, a couple of hours after Jordan Eberle has been traded, is a good start. The Oilers had a good year and I was pleased with it. A bounce or two and they were in the conference final and after years of misery that was a good start. This year was really gravy in a lot of ways, there were no expectations and so while I was disappointed in the final results I was not destroyed like back in 2006. Now, we have discussed this before here - the end goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Nothing else matters. Literally nothing else. So when folks discuss the Oilers and their moves (and the summers are always agonizing after the second week of July, six weeks rehashing everything, gord help us) you really get two camps. We really saw this after last June but it has been going on for over a decade now. On one side you get folks who believe in the pr[...]

Process, Results, the champs and Hossa


 It's been a long time since I rock and rolled, no? I am coaching the boy's soccer team this year. Our first game we got massacred, there is one team of boys in their second year, apparently they have been together for years, it is a recreational league but they allow player requests to play with other players and between those and requests for a coach and from the coach they have managed to create a chain where basically they put together their team. It's our second year in the league and last year I coached my daughter's team so we don't really know anybody and as a result we have a hodgepodge of some second years, some first years, some good, some not so much and from this we need to reach our goal, after having an awesome time, learning how to play properly and how to act properly on the field, which is to beat said team. I don't think any sport lends itself to massive upsets more than soccer, except for maybe baseball with the variable of pitching. American football and basketball will almost always see a clear favourite win and even in hockey with all of it's randomness you will very rarely see a Miracle on Ice. (I am not talking about a 90 point team beating a 100 point team) It happens in hockey, the minnow coming out on top, but in soccer you get miracles on the pitch all of the time. Park the bus, hope for a bit of luck, counterattack once or twice and bingo, you get Iceland advancing. In soccer you can be out of your league but with good tactics and a bit of luck you can slay the giant. It happens all of the time, in international play, in the top leagues, in tournaments. To me one of my favourite tournaments is the FA Cup, where you can get a bunch of part timers playing a top professional team from the Premier League, and, sometimes, coming out on top. Defend defend defend and one counter attack and boom. So we will see. The odds are long but after the first game (we lost 7-2) I said 'we're going to beat those guys'. There were some eyerolls and startled looks and I am no Mark Messier but we will see. Since our original defeat we have run through the league once. We had a tie suspended by lightening where we played the other team even. We had a tie that we deserved to win but could have lost. And we had a win that we deserved to win but could have lost. Soccer! The last game we were dominant in the first half, just dominant. The boys owned the ball, passing it amongst themselves, probing for opportunities and then attacking. They played with confidence and style and elan and they were fantastic. And after a half they were down 2-1. Twice the other team counterattacked, twice they scored. (Our back line is our Achilles heel but I believe that I can teach them how to play defence and that we can figure out a way tactically to assist them without sacrificing offence. Stay tuned!) Now they are a terrific bunch of lads, no doubt. For the most part they don't know each other but there is a good camaraderie amongst them. So they were not downhearted at the half but we talked about process and results and about the fact that they were doing everything right and they just had to stay the course and not panic. They did so and shortly into the second half the other team cracked and we scored and then we scored again. The last ten minutes were a gong show (we had no subs and the boys were wrecked) but we held on and got the deserved three points. Next week we get our second shot at the team to beat. We will see how far we come in a month, if at all.---------------------------------------The NHL is a funny league and by that I don't mean they are terribly run and always have been although that is the case but rather that no matter the era there are always multiple teams that dominate. Now it's not like the 23 years after expansion when you had six teams split up the championships, those days of true dynasties are gone. But of the 26 Cups awarded since 1990 there have been 13 winners and four teams have taken home 13 S[...]

For Many, If Not All, Of The Marbles


Well here we are and it has been a mediocre year for me picking, 8 and 6 right now, if I fail this round then I will be at my lowest ever,, I haven't checked back but suspect I may have had a 9 and 6 or two back there. And in the Cup Finals I am a pretty sad 6 and 5, without going back I can tell you that five of those on the plus side were Chicago and LA so if you take them out of the equation I am awful. (My other hit was Detroit in 2008 although to be fair they would have won in 2009 if they had not been devastated by injuries, oh well, c'est la vie.) The real problem is I tend to go with my heart so for example I picked San Jose last year and believe it or not the Sens back in 07. I can't help myself and I think I am going to make the same mistake right now. I know better but talk myself into the team that I want to win and then blow it.

 What is funny about this season is that I would have a much better record except I underestimated Nashville and Ottawa, in the series that they won I only picked Nashville over the Blues. So there is an 0 for 4 right there. Nice job.

So here we are and this to me is as close to a pick em as you will ever see. And my record in these close series - 2006, 2009, 2011, 2016 - is the shits. Oh well, here goes.

 I literally am going back and forth on this. I think they both have great coaches. I like Pittsburgh's goaltending but of course Nashville's D is miles beyond anything the Pens have faced yet. Up front the Pens have the edge, especially up the middle. Huge advantage with Crosby and Malkin there.

 I like the Nashville bottom six more than Pittsburgh's, I guess you can't really question Sullivan, they have gotten this far, but the fact that they had three lines going last year made them so hard to beat. It's easier to stop two lines than to stop three.

 And the Preds have the wherewithal to stop two lines with those top four D. And while the whole 'they have four Erik Karlssons' is of course silly, there is only one Erik Karlsson and he is sublime, I do get what they are saying, they have four D who can skate and move the puck and counterattack and the Pens have not faced that yet.

Oh boy, lol.

 I think the Preds have the speed to disrupt the Pens and to get at that D and tear it apart and I think Laviolette is a very good coach and that he is going to come up with a gameplan to make things miserable for Pittsburgh. Nashville can trap and counter and we saw how Pittsburgh struggled with that at times against Ottawa (Ottawa!) and they can also attack and run a team ragged, we saw that against Anaheim, who had a far better D than the Pens do.

 I think the problem for the Preds is they may not score much.

 Can I pass on this? Lol.

 My heart says Nashville because of PK.

 My head says it's a coin flip and that I should really defer to Crosby and Malkin in that case.

 But because I am a dummy, I am going Nashville in 7. I think that D shuts the Pens down enough and their speed plays enough havoc with the Pens D that they can score just enough to come out on top. They beat three teams with better D than Pittsburgh and all three of those teams had quality up front too. Not Crosby and Malkin no but still they all had quality. Getzlaf was having a Conn Smythe campaign and then he was gone. I think they do just enough to take it.

Dog's Breakfast


A little late here but you can check the tweeter for what I said before this round started, I am sticking with it, more in a moment. 3 and 1 in round two, so 7 and 5 now and a chance for redemption on my picks. The conference finals is where I do good work, 16 and 6 overall since I started doing this. Gary Bettman has his NHL now and it's ugly as sin. Any team can win it when you get down to it, Ottawa scored less goals than they allowed this season and here they are in the conference finals and it's not like they have been riding a hot goalie, although Anderson has been good, they have been actually better than their opponents. It's parity. Parity and the league throwing away the rulebook in the playoffs to further even things out. Faceoff battles like Malkin and Turris had at the end of last night's game? I don't really have any issues with dick measuring contests like that. But the Ducks were allowed to turn their second round series into a rodeo at times and they are doing the same against the Preds.  Johansson is letting Kesler get to him but the fact that Kesler and Perry and Getzlaf are allowed too basically do what they want because ... they're vets? Carlyle is a good guy? you have to 'play through it'? ... well this is just reason number 3,784,637 why the NHL has always been and always will be a junior circuit compared to other pro sports' leagues. It's a league run by amateurs who are enabled by a primary rights' holder that employs a bunch of ex scrubs who, surprise surprise, tear down the stars at every turn, all the while pushing the narrative that guys like Tanner Glass and Chris Neil are the reason that their clubs win. Would you rather see Crosby and Malkin and Kessel in full flight or Kesler wrestling a top player to the ice after every draw? The latter is not hockey, except in the NHL. Joke league. Anyhow on to the predictions:Pens v SensThe Caps are the new Sharks/Sens/Wings (that's going way back, 25 years, before they broke through). They always always always find a way to lose. And yes they outshot and outplayed the Pens just as they always seem to outshoot and outplay whomever they lose to but like Boudreau's Caps/Ducks/Wild one has to start to wonder what gives? Fleury was very good, sure, and yes if that Ovechkin shot doesn't hit the shaft of Fleury's stick (!!!!) then we may not be having this conversation but ..... You can say what you will about the Oilers (I thought they were outplayed but if they had not collapsed in G5 they probably win that series) but at least in game seven in the third period they came on and had their chances. The Caps never even got a sniff. Trotz? Personnel? Tactics? Sullivan's tactics?  (A quick digression. You know what I would like too know? What is Sullivan's system? How do the Pens play that won them a Cup last year with a D that was Kris Letang and five guys named Moe and how are they three wins from another final with six guys named Moe back there. Maybe HNIC could stop talking about how Tanner Glass and Chris Neil are the most important guys on their teams and how Russians are terrible people and actual FUCKING ANALYZE SOME FUCKING HOCKEY!) So here we are Pens against the Sens and I got the impression that the Ottawas barely broke a sweat against the Rangers. And when did the latter become such a nondescript generic team of nobodies anyhow? A good team, sure never good enough of course, but they are basically Columbus in New York at this point.  They don't have Erik frigging Karlsson that's for sure. What a player. What a player. Amazing. The problem for Ottawa is the Pens have Crosby and Malkin and Kessel. Three game breakers to the Sens' one. And the Sens' gameplan, trap trap trap, isn't going to exploit the Pens' weakness, that D. Pens in 6.Ducks v Preds I despised the Ducks before they beat the Oilers - Kesler, Bieksa, Perry, Carlyle - and I would hate to see Kesler win the [...]

Oh Boy!


  Well that was a crazy first round. I went a mediocre 4 and 4 and based on my pools I am not the only one who got bamboozled. The admin of our one said that in 23 years he has never seen so many people go into the ditch after one round and in my other pool I lost four of ten players, which was about par for the course. While nobody I know went so hilariously out there as professional blowhard troll Steve Simmons who said THERE WAS NO WAY CHICAGO COULD BE STOPPED nearly everyone felt that while Nashville might have a shot there was no way anyone predicted a sweep. Boston was a darling and most folks picked the Habs and the Wild even though both were definitely flawed. Anyhow here we are.  So first round 'all time' (12 years) I am 67 and 29 even with this junk performance. The second round is always the one I struggle in the most, 25 and 19. The first round survivors include the real deal and the second tier contenders and those that rode hot goaltending or luck past their first round opponent. In some cases the ride ends abruptly, in others Cinderella may go another round. I have never had a lot of success and I wish I knew the answer as to why this is the case. So here goes nothing, I think there are two tossups and two clearer picks. Much like last year we are down to one survivor from the short list of recent Cup winners.  A new champion? I am beginning to think that we may have a repeat Cup winner for the first time in twenty years.Rags v SensI picked both of these teams to lose their first round matchups. The Rangers are one of those teams – they are good but never good enough – and I certainly don’t think this year is any different. They handled the Habs relatively easily though but then again Daneault somehow ended up first on the Hab’s depth chart up the middle and no team has ever won a Cup with such weakness up the middle. The Sens have a lot of guys that are easy to cheer for – Karlsson and Anderson and Clark MacArthur most of all - they also have Alex Burrows and a gross owner who is, well, he is like pretty well every other NHL owner, hell my team is owned by a grifter with a Napoleon complex as big as the chip on Theo Fleury’s shoulder. The Rags have Lundqvist who one suspects will join Price and Luongo as great goaltenders who will always be compared unfavourably to the slightly above average who had the good fortune to land on powerhouses. The last run of Cup winners – Khabibulin, Cam Ward (*spits*), Giguere, Osnotthatgood, Fleury, Niemi (!!!), Thomas, Quick, Crawford and Matt Murray – includes a handful of pretty good goalies and some very average names and yet there are those who will tell you that Carey Price is not a winner based on his resume playing on a decidedly average club. Put him on Chicago and he has four Cups. (Reminds me of the guy who told me that Toews was a better player than Stan Mikita because, you guessed it, Cupzzzz. Never mind that Mikita was the premier centre in the NHL for close to a decade and that he, like Toews, was an excellent defensive player. The difference with Stan is that he could actually score a bit too, four scoring titles worth, and was one of the actual best players of all time. Again, put him in his prime on Chicago now and they have four Cups and it’s not even close.  Oh well.) I DIGRESS!!!! Anderson is a good goalie but Lundqvist is better and while the Rags’ D is iffy, the Sens after Karlsson are iffier. The winner of this series is going to be mulch for the winner out of the Patrick. Looks like Lundqvist will be falling short again. Rags in 6. Pens v CapsMan oh man I want to pick the Caps. This is their year, it has to be it, right? There is nothing out there that frightening and then Chicago crashed and on top of that the Pens are without Letang and have that bucktoothed grinning little bastard between the pipes. All those years I picked th[...]

Koo Koo Bananas


Just a week ago I bemoaned the fact that the first round looked like a dud. No big rivalries, nothing to see here. And yet, and yet, *adjusts monocle*, this has been a great first week, perhaps the best I remember in many moons. And believe me I have seen many many moons. Of course if you are a fan of Chicago, Minnesota (is there such a thing) , the BJs (lol) or the Falmes, you might disagree with the comment on how great it has been. The boy asked me to PVR the second Chicago game, when he got up I told him not to bother, he is young but he still should not be wasting any precious hours. And this morning when I told him that Chicago had lost in overtime his face fell and he muttered something angrily. Balancing out his disappointment is the fact that Steve Simmons pronounced that THERE IS NO WAY THE HAWKS CAN LOSE and man oh man seeing that blowhard on a losing streak like no other ... ahhhh, let me just crack open another beer. Now I do have a rant about narratives, you know, same as every year, but I will hold off until next post. You guys are like my kids, sure the boy gets to stay up late and watch playoff hockey and kid around with his old man, who is a totally great guy, but it means fetching me a beer now and then and listening to me drone on about when I was 12 and out with my buddies Steve and Pete and Doug and Gord and Dwayne and Norm and Dennis and Pete and Steve and Jeff and we were trying to find the ravine porn that Pete stole from Steve's Dad's huge collection and then it was given to me for safekeeping because a) when they did find my porn my parents didn't really care and b) I was excellent at the storage and the hiding (only got caught once!) and c) I liked looking at naked women with huge 70s bushes more than any of them and so DEMANDED the responsibility. So yeah old man yells at clouds next post. You've been warned. There's a guy named Tyler, he goes by Rosscreeknation online, he has been around forever, anyhow he's a great guy for a Falmes' fan and pretty astute when it comes to the hockey and a few days ago he was lamenting his pool and how he had gone heavily with, I think it was the Wild, and why did he do that in a pick em series and, well, I did the same in one pool (them and the Caps) and in the other I went Hawks and Caps and I am pooched unless the Caps come back. Funnily enough though I looked at the first pool and everyone is in the same boat. Basically we are all going to lose half our rosters. Why? Well because it seems that in the end we have eight pick em series, yes even with the four that may end as sweeps (and this after years where every single series went at least six and it was proclaimed that NOBODY GETS SWEPT ANYMORE).  24 games, 11 OT, 17 decided by one goal, another 5 by two goals. We are talking bounces folks. The Wild score 3 more and allow 3 less and they are up 3 to 0. Chicago could be up 2-1, the Leafs and Caps could be up 3 or down 3. You get the picture.  Anyhow first round thoughts so far .... (please note that most of these hot taeks will be obsolete by Thurday morning)Trotz and BoudreauWhat is the story here anyhow? Is there even a story? A week ago I said that Boudreau was awfully unlucky. Is his system something that is easy to take apart? Can he not adjust on the fly, which is needed in the playoffs? Is it a 'shot quality' thing? I know that for a lot of smart people shot quality is to be sneered at. I believe in it although I sure don't know how to measure it. Dennis King did scoring chances for a couple of years and while subjective I saw a lot of value in it. And we know that teams work to keep shots to the outside, they have done so for years and I suspect some would be better at it than others. But it is as simple as Boudreau and Trotz's teams shoot from the outside? I haven't seen any of the Wild/Blues but I know the Caps have had some terri[...]



And let's get friendship rightGet life day to dayIn the forget yer skates dreamFull of countervailing woesIn diverse as ever scenesProceeding on a need to knowIn a face so full of meaningAs to almost make it glowFor for a good lifeWe just might have to weakenAnd find somewhere to goGo somewhere we're neededFind somewhere to growGo somewhere we're neededFind somewhere to goLet's go somewhere we're neededFind somewhere to growGo where we're needed'Cause in the forget-yer-skates dreamYou can hang your head in woeAnd this diverse as ever sceneKnow which way to go The boy had his first of what will certainly be many forget yer skate dreams this past season. I still have them, all these years gone past, I get to the rink, it's always a big game, playoffs or tournament or my shot in the NHL and I have no skates or in other twists, my stick is a junior stick or the wrong hand or something else is wrong with my gear that ruins the day, no gloves, no helmet. I had a buddy once, best player on our team too, he forgot his skates for a playoff game. In real life I have forgotten my pants and had to make due with these enormous arena pants, I felt like I was dragging Lauri Korpikoski around with me out there.  (I wear a pair of thin cotton hockey pants, they were my old man's. A cardboard pad slipped into a pouch in each thigh for protection. Light as hell and pretty snug, they make my ass look fantastic. Jenn hates them, my teammates love them because they love looking at my fantastic ass. They are so light that when I wear regular bulky pants I slow down from very very slow to almost immobile out there). And once I forgot my helmet, that's a bad one. Went into the room of the guys who had just played and asked to borrow one, they all looked at me like I was nuts except one dude who cheerfully agreed. Brought it back to him in Cabbagetown along with a six pack, his girlfriend said the same thing had happened to him the year before. When I coached a million years ago we used to tell the kids that before every game they needed to make their little man, get their gear out, lay it out in order, make sure. They were good but our number one goalie forgot something key once, I can't remember, it may have been a goddamn pad or something. It was a must win and so I turned to the backup goalie and he and his dad looked pretty hopeful and I said 'give him your gear'. The poor kid, the look on him. He was pretty happy in the picture from when we won the tournament though. Actually lived the dream just last week, got to shinny, was half dressed and no skates to be found. Texted Jenn, I knew where they were, was home and back in ten minutes and didn't miss a shift. Exclaim for Capsule this weekend. I'll be making my little man tomorrow night in preparation. Make your little man! Now the forget yer skates dream is a universal one for those of us who play but if you want to get to a universal truth then let's talk about singing. Right? Who of us does not dream of belting it out, not in the shower, but in front of 20000 screaming fans or in a smokey bar somewhere? Right! This is why the karaoke is so popular. Well, lately in our house we have been binge watching Glee on Netflix. Oh yeah. And suddenly at any moment someone is bursting into song or dance. Personally I am a huge believer in the idea of a spontaneous song and dance number breaking out on the streetcar or at the bakery but we can't seem to get it right even in our house goddamnit. I love the thought of it though, it makes me happy. And that daydream makes me a lot less anxious than when I wake up in a cold sweat, wondering where my goddamn skates are.----------------------------------- You know what makes me happy? The Oilers in the playoffs. Hard to believe it's been this long and this had better become a regular occurrence. Our team had a terri[...]

Soupy Campbell Conference


The time of the West being the home of the six or seven best teams in the league has passed, the balance of power is shifting east with the California teams and Chicago aging and St. Louis in transition and Dallas falling apart. With Kris Letang hurt though I think we have one team that is head and shoulders above the rest in the Caps, then Chicago and then the rest of the pack. If Washington and the Hawks fall then I think the tournament is wide open. That's parity for you and based on the last few years the days of 'great' champions may be at an end. The Pens won last year with a D that consisted of Kris Letang and five guys named Moe as well as a rookie goalie. The Hawks were once very high quality (that 2010 team - wow!) but they basically won the 2015 Cup with four D and then three when Oduya went down briefly. Gone are the days where to win the Cup you needed the proven star goaltender, the deep quality D, led by a man who could play thirty minutes in a pinch and run both ends of the rink, the incomparable depth up the middle. Not so much any more.Hawks v PredsI had the Preds as my preseason Cup runnerup (to Tampa!) so while everyone (in the MSM at least) is picking the Hawks to win this, and in many cases, to go all the way, I think the chances are there for an upset. Of course the Preds, like the Wild and the Blues, (until last year anyhow) have a sad playoff history facing the Hawks over the past while. It's always the same script, Preds jump out to a series' lead, have the Hawks reeling and then get run out of the rink.  Will this year be any different? The Preds have a great top four on the blue and a nice set of forwards including a couple of game breakers. The problem is Rinne is not a guy I believe in, certainly not against Chicago. I thought Chicago was going to be like the Kings, with last year being the start of the fade but kudos to Bowman and their drafting, suddenly the lineup is sprinkled with kids, cheap and quality. The D is a bit grey but better than last year and probably better then 2015. And while Crawford isn't elite he is very good and his backup is ready to step in if he falters. (Some say the Preds might be better served by starting their own backup). Early this year the Hawks got by on percentages and a hot goalie but as the year wore on they were the real deal and they began to look like the team of old. That said the GD for these teams is pretty close. I think the Preds get closer this year and that next year we see them take that final step but I can't bet against Chicago. Too much depth up front, again. They take it in 7.Wild v BluesIs it just me or is this year's playoffs blah to start? There is the excitement of the return of the Oilers and the Leafs, sure, but the matchups in the first round really lack oomph and the injury to Letang even takes the shine off a possible Caps/Pens showdown. A Caps' run to that elusive Cup might cure the blahs or maybe a run by a real underdog but a Habs/Leafs showdown or Battle of Alberta or Battle of Ontario or Pens/Flyers would have gone a long way to adding some excitement. Instead we have eight generic series. Oh well. Minnesota had that big run mid season and so, like the BJs lol, I am a bit loathe to give them credit. They are better than the Blues though. What happened to the Blues? Well they were right to not give big money to Backes and Brouwer but losing two top nine Fs and then moving Shattenkirk out as well ... it hurt them.  Yeo, well, I don't know a lot about him but he's not a guy who I worry about outcoaching Boudreau. (I love the little fat man but there has to be something there, no? Year after year his teams fall short and while a lot of that comes down to luck man oh man at some point that luck would run the other way, no? Sure the dice have no memory but come on. Anyhow that i[...]

Playoffs Playoffs! Are Great! Playoffs Playoffs! Can't Wait!


HI THERE! 'oo is it ......? It's me! Every few months I write a post and think to myself  'that was great, I have to do that more often' and then nothing happens. Anyhow here we are! Playoffs! And the Edmonton Oilers are in the playoffs! (Although I expect we are all in a large van, sleeping, while the little guy from Third Rock, he's all grown up now, bounces and sways beside us. It's all a fevered dream!) I will write something in depth on the Oilers probably tomorrow, definitely before the series starts, hey they make it once a decade so I can probably put in the time. But first, the rest! I have been doing this since the blog started, so spring of 2006, the last time the Oilers made it. Me do alright in predictions, after last year in the first round I am a tidy 63 and 25, so just over 70%. Pretty good but honestly a lot of luck. Here is what I look at when I make my picks, this is a few years old but nothing has changed so here you go, if you give a damn:First of all I do not look at how a team finished the season or at the head to head matchups. To me they don't mean a thing. Sometimes a team will finish strongly and go all the way and sometimes they will not and they will win the Cup. Every year people say 'oh they finished such and such a way' and it really doesn't matter. Same for head to head, a game in November or January doesn't tell me anything now.  The huge thing for me is depth. Obviously injuries play a huge part in the playoffs but also year after year we see that clubs with deep rosters go farther. If you can roll four lines, as Chicago and Boston did last year for example, then you're going to go a long way. For example if Toronto had dressed an actual hockey player rather than Colton Orr last spring I believe they may have survived game seven. Certainly having someone you could throw out there who could play a reliable shift would have helped. In a similar vein as the Bruins began to get banged up their depth suffered and as the series wore on against Chicago the Hawks were able to use their superior depth to push the pace. As a result they had the puck more, Chara especially was forced to defend more and by the end of the series the Bruins were done. To me I always look for teams that run four lines deep and six defencemen as well.  When I look at records the big thing for me is goal differential. A team that is even or maybe even in the red is a team that I always avoid. The real heavyweights are the clubs that have a big goal differential. This may seem like common sense but I look at that even more than I look at a club's win loss record.  I don't put a lot of stock in your usual narratives, teams that 'know how to win' and all of that. Nearly every year since the end of that stretch where the Cup was always won by the Wings, Avs, Stars or Devils has had a different starting goalie lead his team to the Cup (except for when the Wings won in '08 I think) as an example. So I don't look at the Blues and think that they can't win because Miller has never won the Cup for example or at San Jose and think that they are going to fail because they're San Jose. Intangibles like this are just a lot of noise imo.  Of course as an out I always say that anything can happen (because it can) - injuries, hot goalie, bad luck. Its hockey so sometimes that's the way it goes but generally I feel pretty good about how I make my picks.**** Addendum 2017 - and another thing! ;) when in doubt, all things considered, if it's a coin flip, go with the team with the offensive star power. The playoffs often come down to a bounce and the team with the guys who can create something out of nothing - Chicago, Pittsburgh and such - because often there is nothing, well those teams are a better bet than the team [...]

What Is ... Playoff?


A great thread on Twitter a couple of weeks ago with folks describing where their lives were the last time the Oilers were in the playoffs, back in the spring of 2006. For me, I was pushing forty, I am now just months short of fifty. I had a two year old and a baby, pictured above. Now I have three kids, the youngest is almost nine, the oldest is starting high school in the fall and the boy is, as I write this, playing D on his peewee team, probably no worse than about two dozen Oiler defenders from this past lost decade. The other night at the table, his voice deepening and cracking a bit, he explained how he was hitting puberty and was growing hair on his legs and 'in other places'.With the Oilers' win last night they are eleven points up on the 9th place Blues, 10 up on the 8th place Kings and in second in the division. Heady days and the playoffs are, well I will just say it, the playoffs are going to happen. We Oiler fans have been traumatized and I know many of us won't believe we will see playoff hockey until the buzzer goes in game 82 and we realize this has not been some fevered dream, brought on by a bottle of Pernod, those funny smelling brownies your unkempt coworker gifted you and years of watching Jason Strudwick and Taylor Chorney trying to clear the zone on an endless loop. It reminds me of when any long suffering teams have won in the past for me. Not the Blackhawks whose victory came suddenly in overtime or strangely enough the Cubs, who seemed determined to extend their drought in that roller coaster game seven, no, I am thinking of the Red Sox and White Sox. Up three games to none and blowing out their opponents in game four, I waited for it all to fall to pieces even with two outs in the ninth and was mildly surprised when the final outs were recorded in both cases. I remember watching the Red Sox cough up game six back in 86 (everyone remembers Bill Buckner but the true goats that day were Bob Stanley and Calvin Schiraldi, both failing to get that third strike on the third out multiple times), sitting stunned in the lovely old Cameron with my pal Jeff Noonan, having blown off my classes that afternoon (a pattern that would repeat itself daily throughout my university career). We didn't care much about the Red Sox but both hated the Mets and so on a sunny autumn afternoon, the best afternoons in Toronto, we drank cheap draft in that dive bar, one of many places back in the day that would serve you underage without a second look or ask for any ID. Simpler times. When it was all over we stumbled out into the cold sunshine, buzzing but stunned at what we had witnessed. A book I have spoken about many times here, Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby, describes the feeling of being a fan perfectly. The expectation of disaster is always there, it looms like the monster down in the basement, the one you heard in every furnace rumble when you were a kid. And today in the thirty team league you have almost twenty nine disappointed fanbases. I would not say twenty nine because there are teams that never had a shot and others that are on the rise for whom any improvement is acceptable. I have always said that the end goal is one thing only, to win the Cup, but a playoff spot this season would mark a successful campaign. I figured the Oilers as a team that might compete for a spot this season, I certainly did not expect them to be firmly in possession of a playoff berth with six weeks to go. Now the expectations are higher, I think winning a round is in the cards but while they could beat the Ducks or Falmes I also think they are close enough to those teams in terms of talent that not getting out of the first round would not be a disaster either. So this spring to me is like that time I went to the bar with nothing on the go and woke up the ne[...]

Kris Russell, A Molehill.


 Remember when the boy started his hockey career? Four straight seasons and four straight championships. It was amazing. After that he played goal for a team that rode a hot start to a regular season championship but collapsed the last three months of the year, including the playoffs. Then he played for a thoroughly mediocre group and then last year he played for a very good team that could have won it all but lost to another very good team that did win it all. He's had a decent run but this winter ... hoo boy. His team started a solid oh and twelve. Yep you read that correctly. And with only two exceptions they had not been in any game. They had one game where they were down four after three minutes. Just before Christmas they were up by two with six minutes left. The boy had hurt his back so we were watching the end of the game together and he said it looks like we might win and I said son this lead is nothing and the other team suddenly seemed to realize the score and three minutes later THEY were up by two. There were some tears after that one. Four times in fifteen games they have given up 10 or more goals. Five more times they have given up nine. They can't score, they can't defend and their goalie can't stop a damn thing. Other than that things are going great! Three weeks ago they played a team that had beaten them 9-4, 9-3 and 9-4 (the other four teams in the division are all bunched together and competitive with each other). There was some balancing and the good guys did add two pretty good players just after Christmas, they had still lost both games since but only by four goals each time, so IMPROVEMENT! And this Saturday was their day. Their regular goalie wasn't there and his stand in played very well and there was no collapse and they held a kid who scored 7 on them a few weeks previous (!!!) to one goal and when the buzzer sounded they were 4-2 winners! There was much rejoicing! They then lost 10-1 and 10-3 but hey, a win! LOL.------------------------------------- The reason the boy's team is terrible is a simple one, the usual one that plagues bad teams at any level. Not enough good players. It is why the Oilers have been terrible for a decade. It has nothing to do with chemistry or leadership or intangibles of any sort. They have not had enough good players for years and now that they have added a lot of good players over the past few years suddenly they are a much better team. The fact that they are a better team has nothing to do with trading Taylor Hall. Hall is gone, the team is better, therefore Hall was the problem is ... well, go sit in the corner and think for a while if that is your line of thinking on that. They are a better team because their most important players have been healthy, Cam Talbot has been very good, they have a fourth line that can bring some offence and their D is not Jeff Petry and a bunch of rookies and minor leaguers. They are a better team because, wait for it, they have added three NHL calibre defencemen to last year's roster.And Kris Russell is one of those defencemen. Here's the thing about Kris Russell. I don't get him. Or maybe more accurately I don't get it, it being the idea of Kris Russell and why it is such a big deal. There is a guy online that I admire ( @ukranianplug ), we don't always agree on everything but he is a straight shooter and level headed and the other night he tweeted:Is Russell great at blocking shots? Yes.Does Russell tend to fall out of position & bleed chances against? Yes.It's not one or the other. A (imagine!) measured and rational view. Russell has become the lightning rod this season. Part of this is because stats people don't like him and when stats people take a[...]

Keep On Keepin' On or Why Pat Maroon is Chia's Most Important Acquisition


 Maroon reenacting the Orr shot.------------------- My daughter is going to high school in the fall, just over four years from now she will graduate high school and may be gone soon after. Sure if she goes away to school she will come back for holidays and the summer but really that will be it. I am not looking forward to it. She's a teenager now and she can be a challenge at times. She is strong willed and independent and somewhat selfish, same as we are, and so we buttheads often butt heads. She is also smart and kind and hilarious and thank dog she has finally learned how to tell a story. About a year ago we were at dinner and I interrupted her as she tried to tell an anecdote, it was agonizing, all like this and like that and pauses and her voice trailing off. (She was just a typical kid, I have never met anyone under the age of 12 who can tell a story worth a damn). Be concise with your words I said. When you digress, which is allowed (and encouraged, I go off on tangents all of the time), you have to keep it relevant and it has to be very good. Build to the ending and then let them have the punchline. Don't speak in a monotone. Don't mumble. GODDAMNIT! Just kidding on the last, I would never say that to my kids. I would think it though. Well glory be she can tell a story now, man can she nail it, the other night she had us in stitches, just had us reeled in, wait for it, wait for it, and then let us have it. We rolled about the place and the great thing was it was just some little bullshit story about something mundane that had happened to her, nothing really, and she hit it out of the park, turned it into a work of art. Great stuff, as you might guess I put a high premium on the ability to spin a good yarn. She is applying for a couple of arts high schools, dance is her passion, she is at the studio nearly every day and I have taken to doing pirouettes and flying leaps around the house in imitation of her own high flying ways, she literally dances from room to room at times. Really no surprise that she is an excellent dancer as after a number of drinks I will cut the rug like nobody's business. She got that talent from me as well as, unfortunately for her, the monobrow and hairy back. :(Last week she went to one of these schools, she had to audition and write an essay and interview with a panel. It would be nerve wracking I would think although Jenn was far more nervous than she. Afterwards we talked about it and she said that she had been a little nervous but had done well she thought except for one thing in the interview. What happened I asked. Well, she said, they asked me if I could explain the difference between dancing on my own and dancing as part of the performance team and I had a brain cramp and said that when I was dancing as part of the team there were other people there. Fuck we laughed and I will tell you that I was pretty proud of her at that moment because even though she had goofed she was not worried about it and was able to laugh at her mistake. It was a pretty cool moment. She is amazing.----------------- Another guy who can probably laugh at his mistakes right now is Peter Chiarelli. He has made some big ones but the Oilers are sitting pretty right now. After years of discarding Real NHL Players for nothing, literally, this leading to the Oilers having a historically terrible run, Chiarelli has, in 18 months added a bunch of Real NHL Players, many for nothing but cash. Amazingly this has resulted in success. WHO KNEW?!?!??! (Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish didn't and um, fuck those guys). Besides Connor McDavid the Oilers added Sekera, Letestu, Kassian, Caggiula, Benning, Talbot, Russel[...]

The Oilers Have Risen and So Have I (not a boner reference)


Oh hello. I know, it's been a long time since we rock and rolled here, not a reference to my own rocking and rolling, not dead yet thank Christ.It is slightly ironic, not in the Alanis Morrisette sense of purchasing 10000 spoons, that's mental illness, not irony, that other than the opening salvos of this blog, back in the spring of ought six, nearly it's entirety, all of those posts, over a thousand of them, were written when the Oilers were garbage, one of the worst stretches in NHL history and now, when they are actually good, I have written not a one. Well I am here to change that, let me tell you. Above is a picture of the boy the last time the Oilers made the playoffs. Below that is a picture of him now. He is 11 and finishing grade 6. He plays hockey and soccer, is a hell of a student, a hilarious dude who has been to France and will be going to Italy in April and yeah ... he has had a damn good run so far. When Pronger and Smytty and Horc and Ales Hemsky and Gator and Roli and the rest of that beautiful team were just falling short to that bullshit Carolina team (thanks Craig Simpson for that fucking power play that cost us the Stanley Cup) my son could not walk or talk and was still shitting his pants two or three times a day. It's been too long. This morning we wake up to the Oilers a hair out of first in their division, fourth in the conference and two points out of being alone in second, and twelve points up on the ninth place team. Their goal differential is second best in the conference and seventh best in the league. .... I am without speech. Miles still to go before we sleep and injuries could derail everything but this just in (to steal a phrase from Jeff Veillette), the Oilers are 'actually good'. This isn't a team riding ridiculous luck or hanging on to a playoff spot for dear life after a charge through October and November. The one place they have been lucky is in the injury department. Dwayne Roloson going down in G1 of the Final in 2006 was a harbinger of what was to come as increasingly talent thin teams invariably lost what little talent they had to injuries, many of the freakish variety. While this year had been very gratifying the fact is that last year's team, healthy, would have likely finished around 20th or 21st in the standings. The leap this season has been a big one but not as huge as we think. The injury bug has hit this club too but it has been third pairing D and fourth line wingers who have taken a beating. While poor Pitlick might disagree, guys like him and Khaira and Hendricks, Davidson and Fayne, Gryba and even Nurse, can be replaced pretty easily. Draisatl or Sekera or Talbot, not so much. So fingers crossed there. Playoffs? PLAYOFFS!?!?!??! Looks like.[...]

Once We Had Hope, Now We Have ... E?


 Remember when the first cluster was beginning to crash and burn - Schremp, Pouliot, Peckham, DesLauriers, Plante, O'Marra all unable to make the grade, Lupul, Glencross, Brodziak, Stoll, Nash, Torres and Pitkanen found wanting and shipped out of town, Nilsson a bust, Gagner, Cogliano, Smid and Gilbert all we could hold onto? Lowe and his media toadies wouldn't call it a rebuild but when you ship your two best players out of town for nothing but futures and let Spacek and Peca and Samsonov walk for nothing, well you need to call a spade a spade, right? Of course Lowe tried to have his cake and eat it too so while all of the signs pointed to rebuild he and his successor splashed big money at free agents like Souray and Khabibulin, blew a wad of picks to sign Dustin Penner and sent two young forwards to LA for Lubo Visnovsky. Lowe spent to the cap bless his heart and finished dead last. But remember he was a GM and you are not so you could do no better even though there is literally nothing worse than that accomplishment. Then the rebuild began in earnest and while we had been four years in the wilderness our hearts were cheered, somewhat, as the team admitted what we fans had known for years. They weren't going anywhere. And so they tanked. And tank battling was something that the Oilers showed that they were quite good at, actually peerless at. Kursk good. Tambo was Heinz Guderian. As a matter of fact they were too good at it as they shipped nearly every veteran with a pulse out the door in pursuit of those high picks. It was the Chicago model (people forgot Chicago went over 15 years with garbage teams before it paid off), the Pittsburgh model (over a decade) but it also forgot small details like drafting quality after the first round, developing your youth properly, quality pro scouting and so on.  The plan was draft high picks and BAM Stanley Cup! But despite the failure of the first cluster we had HOPE - Hall, Omark, Paajarvi, Eberle. And then we had the Nuge and then we had Yak. And then we signed JUSTIN SCHULTZ, future Norris winner! And we had some kids coming up - Lander, Pitlick, Hamilton - all were solid consensus picks - and there was Dubnyk and there was Petry and Ryan Whitney and how about those sleepers Tobias Rieder, Marty Marincin and Teemu Hartikainen and then the pick of Oscar Klefbom? Sure the Oilers blew a pick on Mitch Moroz and was it true what they said about the footspeed of David Musil and Colton Teubert?  No mind, we had hope! No longer though. Omark was the first to go and then Magnus, after a nice rookie season in which he scored 15 goals and showed he could find his own end of the rink without a map, was discovered to have sideburns that were much too long.  And we will just try and forget the rest, shall we ... The season starts today and the last four or five days have been extremely disappointing. Late last week the Oilers' depth at C and RW was as follows:C - McDavid, Ted, Draisaitl, Letestu, LanderRW - Eberle, Versteeg (PTO), Yakupov, Kassian, Caligula (rookie), Pujujarvi (rookie)Notice how I have the two rookies who are rookies at the bottom of the depth chart. You could make a case that Caligula earned a job. You could not make the same case for the young Finn. And they are rookies.Then Chia traded Yak for nothing. Fair enough, that was his value. And the good news is that they had Versteeg ready to sign and then the waiver wire spit up not one but two possible solutions, one was a young Finn who the fancy stats love, Teemu Pulkkinen, the other was a veteran, P.A. Parenteau. Now here is the thing with the NHL. It's a toug[...]

Mission Accomplished


I'm dusting off the old virtual pen and paper. I'M OKAY!!The kids' school runs a very popular cross country program every fall. Kudos to the teacher who runs it, he started it from scratch and now has ~ 150 kids coming out four mornings a week to practice for the meet. Every year he has more participants and more and more of them qualify from the meet for the next round. The boy goes out year after year and every year he improves. I don't know that he will ever qualify, The top thirty move on and he was just over thirty short this year but he improves every year and the attrition of kids with age might mean he gets over the hurdle, maybe in his last attempt in two years. He does well, he is a try hard and he sticks with it and I hope that he gets rewarded but of course it may never come to pass.Our youngest joined up this year which was a bit of a surprise. When she was younger she would run around with the kids unofficially but once she could actually join the team she demurred. Perhaps she agreed with our friends' daughter (a close friend of hers) who said 'why would I want to do that, all they do is run in circles'.But she did run in circles for five weeks and lined up for the race on Thursday morning. She is long and lean and has perhaps the most raw athleticism of any of our kids. The older two are good athletes, I call the boy a try hard but he is quick and coordinated and can play almost any sport pretty well. Our oldest is a dancer and sprinter and plays soccer as well, she is lean and has the ropy muscles of a gymnast. But our youngest, when she puts her mind to it, I think is the best of the bunch. Of course the key is that last detail.So when they blew the air horn and the herd took off I noted our daughter trailing early, jogging along, checking out the clouds and Lake Ontario and perhaps the hawk that we saw later, perched high above us with a squirrel in its' talons. Who knows what she was looking at but she certainly was enjoying the view. And so to the finish line where two of her friends, no more athletic than her, came home in the top twenty and so I waited for her appearance and the little girls ran past in their bright coloured jerseys, their parents and classmates and teachers cheering them on and they ran past and ran past and then came little girls walking, in tears from cramps or aches or exhaustion, and then the ones who were lame, limping slowly, and then the blind and the legless and the disembowelled (the hawks again) and yeah you are getting the picture. And then she came around the corner at a trot and saw me and waved and smiled for multiple pictures (I was able to get only one pick of the boy as he surged for the line, battling for his placement) and so she finished, 254th out of 263. Now don't get me wrong. I am competitive and so is Jenn, We really are. Last year the boy laid some kid out in the slot, totally by accident, and he helped the other kid up and as I watched I felt pride and shame for if that were me I would have likely cross checked the dude as he lay defenceless (I can be a dick on the ice. I am not proud of it and I am getting better but I also recognize it). The boy though, he is a better person. (And don't say that's on Jenn, who comes home from soccer with tales of 'stray' elbows and knees and stomping feet evening scores on the soccer field). In any case K is who she is. The thing I learned early on as a parent is that while there are some things you can instill in your kids - manners, respect, good work habits - you aren't going to change their personality. You might smooth out some rough edges here and there but if your kid is a contrarian who ma[...]

Quoth The Raven: 'Oh Those Oilers!'


Well ... I wanted to come up with something pithy to segue into a look at the Oiler's moves over the past week but honestly I have nothing. So here's what I think:- the Oilers are going to be better this year. They would have finished 21st or 22nd this past season if not for getting ravaged by injuries. A full season of McDavid and Klefbom alone would have done the trick. So they were going to be better in any case and as the roster is presently constituted I think they probably will be around 20th, maybe even higher in the standings. If they can add another top four Dman without moving Ted then I think they are in the conversation for the playoffs but they fall just short. Reminder - anyone who says after the Oilers improve 'see we improved because we got rid of Hall' either is trolling you or is someone whose opinion on hockey you can totally ignore. One has nothing to do with the other.- the Lowe/Tambo/MacT/Howson years crippled this franchise beyond measure. The gift that just keeps giving, these clowns, never mind the decade of failure. Sign Jeff Petry and the Hall trade is likely not necessary as Chia would have needed one, not two, Dmen.  And remember that three of these guys STILL work for the Oilers, two in hockey ops. In an organization where the talk of accountability is a metronome that never stops that whole idea somehow goes no higher than the coach- the Hall trade was and will always be terrible unless Larsson turns into Lidstrom (this is not going to happen) but if he is Hjalmarsson, and he may be, then he is going to help this team a lot. Trading your best chip, an elite NHL forward, for less than an elite Dman is unforgiveable and Chiarelli should be fired for it of course but he would have run this by everyone so we know this is not going to happen. Remember how I said I always expected the worst when it came to this team but knew that this was not fair to Chia? Well, unless he hits a home run getting Barrie or an equvalent we know what we have and that is another guy who is over his head. I never would have thought it. We can only hope that he does no more long term damage to the franchise.- you overpay of UFAs, they always get term and money (unless you're Demers in Florida or a few others, man after last year when there were so few bad deals everything was mental again this summer) and so the Lucic deal is of course completely nuts. He was the best F on the market though and he is no David Clarkson. He is the real deal. And I don't give a hoot about how he is being framed as Mark Messier II by the dummies, what I care about is that he is a real 1LW. His deal is moveable at the end if he falls off a cliff and while he is not Taylor Hall he is, as noted, a real 1LW. He is a very very good player and he will help this team win games. (and of course he will be a fan favourite, he is in that Messier/Pronger mold, he is not at that level obviously but he is a very talented thug and that player type is beloved more than any other)- Mark Fraser couldn't play in the NHL his last goround here and I expect he won't make it to Edmonton this year, his job is to protect kids from the goons in Bakersfield, I can't get worked up about this either way though knowing the Oilers he will play 1st pair for the Condors and destory some kid's development. (See what I say about expecting the worst.) Seriously though, who cares.- I expect that Brossoit is already pencilled in as the backup, Gustavsson is absolutely awful and always has been. I don't like this at all and would have preferred they throw more money at a better alternative. If Talbot gets hurt then[...]

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 bu[...]

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 hou[...]



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.[...]

2016 Fin.


 Here we are!!! 10 and 4 after three rounds and it's the Pens and Sharks in a final that I like very much, yes I do. I would prefer a Sharks' victory, with Thornton and Marleau and Burns and James Reimer and Joel Ward who played hockey at UPEI and who I have never heard a bad word about from any Islander. That said a Cup for Phil Kessel just to shove it up that idiot at the Toronto Sun's ass ... oh that would be sweet. And maybe that would shut up the dummies who question Sidney Crosby's character every time he goes a game without scoring. Your regular reminder - the use of 'character and leadership' as reasons for a sports' team's success or failure is what lazy writers or broadcasters who cannot actually provide useful analysis fall back on because they are bad at what they do for a living. A hockey game is not a morality play. It is a game between two teams. Over seven games the better team usually wins but the outcome is determined not only by talent but by luck, injuries and often, a hot goaltender. It is not determined by who has the better character. Full stop. Joe Thornton has not suddenly learned how to win because he made the finals. He is by almost any measure, a winner. He is one of the best hockey players who has ever lived, a surefire Hall of Famer. He has won individual awards. He has won gold medals at the World Juniors, World Cup and Olympic Games. He has made literal boatloads of money playing hockey. So remember all of that when, if the Sharks lose, some fat hack journalist or idiot coworker says that Joe Thornton lacks character or is not a winner. So ... what do I think happens in the next two weeks? Well ... the Pens are fast but the Sharks aren't plodders at all so I am pretty sure they can stick with them. The big advantage for the Pens is they have three lines that can score and at some point they should be able to make hay from that. That said the Sharks are almost as deep up front. The Crosbies have Crosby, Malkin and Kessel with Hornqvist, Rust, Bonino, Hagelin and a rejuvenated Chris Kunitz but the Sharks counter with Thornton, Pavelski and Couture and a supporting cast of Marleau, Hertl, Donskoi, Ward and Tierney. Slight advantage to the Pens, sure, but their problem is that blueline. The Sharks have two excellent pairs but for the Pens after Letang there is a real dropoff and I think that is where the series is lost for them. I can't see Lovejoy, Maatta, Cole and Norris Schultz handling the Sharks' game down low and while Matt Murray has had a nice run he has tailed off - I can't see him being the difference maker he needs to be. Everyone is calling this to be too close to call and I could see it going seven but really unless Martin Jones completely melts down I could see it going six or even less. Seriously. The Sharks have handled a murderers' row of opponents pretty handily and each of those clubs were deep up front and had bluelines way deeper than the Pens. We'll split the difference and say Sharks in six.[...]

Those Melodies Come Back To Me


We hung around till the final band Called "Escape Is At Hand For The Travelling Man" You yelled in my ear this music speaks to me Absolutely gutted this morning, just shattered by the news about Gord Downie. It's been an awfiil year for musicians in general but for the Canadian music community and people of a certain age it has been especially horrible. First the devastating news about John Mann and now Downie. Both so young.  Beware of nostalgia and sentimentality coming, even more so than usual. I remember a number of years back having an online conversation about music and the soundtrack of your life and how that nearly always goes back to your youth, not so much when you are in high school but when you are in your early twenties, fancy free, having fun before the responsibilities start coming on. So it is for me, when it comes to music I am a real Philistine (to which those people who sneer at the Hip will say here's the perfect example) and while I know some newer music and enjoy it, thanks to my kids, for the most part I listen to music and bands that I listened to 25 years ago. What can I say, I am a simple man. And The Hip ... well the Hip have always been there. I was nineteen or so when we were talking about this new Kingston band and my friend Sharon, still a dear friend all of these years later, commented on their name and how she loved it and that was when it began. Within a few years they had gone from playing University pubs to headlining a show called Another Roadside Attraction. I was 23 I guess, or thereabouts. This was a two day festival up at Markham Fairgrounds, fifty thousand people, an absolute bacchanal, the show starting at noon and running until midnight, the sun blazing, stumbling about dusty and grinning. They were different times back then for sure, no security lineup. We had beer on ice in our car (we had a DD) and if we wanted a beer we'd walk out of the grounds and drink a few, the wandering cops turning a blind eye.  Maybe four or five years later I went to the second tour by the same name. One show only. This time I was with the Girl From Rawlins Cross. There was no beer in the parking lot, once you were in past the security you were in and if you wanted a beer it was the beer garden for you. It was a tremendous show once again, I never attended an average Hip show, they always brought terrific energy and Downie was a rambling madman on stage, an outstanding showman. But times were changing, at 29 I looked around at the drunken kids and thought to myself 'what is wrong with these people'. Lol. In 2002 we were married for a year and had just bought a house and Jenn and I went to Ontario Place with friends and sat on the lawn ('That night in Toronto ....') and in the cool summer evening we sat back and revelled in it all. And then just over a year ago we were at the ACC, my birthday present, three kids and over a decade after the last show. It was great, as great as ever. Gord (to me he was always simply Gord) was a bit shouty, or shoutier lol, it was a February show so maybe he was battling something or maybe all of the years were taking his toll on his vocal cords. But it was a terrific show all the same and the best birthday present I ever received. What is it about the Hip and Gord himself that spoke to me? I don't know. Their sound is simple driving rock and roll, which I enjoy, but what separated them for me were the lyrics, referencing obscure Canadiana, often digressing[...]

All The Marbles


The Western Conference has pretty well dominated the NHL now for almost two decades. Thirteen Cups in nineteen years, seven of the last ten, if it weren't for New Jersey the gap would be even more ridiculous, never mind the blown Gelinas call, Roloson's knee, Chris Osgood and myriad Detroit injuries and Tim Thomas having a season for the ages (and Dan Hamhuis getting hurt). It's not just that the West wins every year it's that every spring you could pick six or seven or even eight or more western clubs that could beat anyone in the east while the eastern talent pool runs one or two or three teams deep. When those teams go down, as they often do, then the Western final essentially becomes the Cup final. Now the gap has begun to close, thanks to Gary's cap. LA and the Hawks have been pulled back to the mushy middle and will continue to lose players this summer. The window for success has become one or two years, then the kids on entry level deals need to get paid and teams need to pay the price. For a team to continue to have success they need to, well they need to do a lot of things right. They need to bring in a steady stream of young (cheap) guys who can play. They need to be ruthless with vets coming into UFA, regardless of tenure or past contributions. They need to find useful vets on value contracts. And on top of that they need to have luck of all sorts - injuries, the right draw come playoff time, simple bounces. It's not an easy path to navigate. You look at Tampa who just last year probably gave the Chicago/LA combo the toughest test in the final either team has had. With a break here or there and a healthy Tyler Johnson and Ben Bishop they may have carried the day. They fell short but it seemed that this could be their year. A slow start and then Stralman and Stamkos knocked out of the lineup (and now Bishop besides) and it seemed that their chances were doomed. And now Stamkos possibly out the door. The window closes quickly. Back to the original point, why is it that the West has been so good for so long? Well my theory is this, I call it the Norris theory. (Actually I don't call it anything but let's call it something.)) Back in the 80s the NHL has 21 teams. 16 of these made the playoffs and the setup was similar to today. You had four teams in each division make it, they played off against each other and then whoever came out faced the other division winner in the conference final. So out West you had the Smythe and there you had the Oilers, one of the best, if not the best, teams ever. You had the Flames, who were probably the second best team in the league over a five or six year span. And you had the Jets who were very good for a year or two but who never could get past either Alberta team. So every year you had two teams with 90 or more points and while the third and fourth place teams were up the track they also had to play Edmonton and Calgary 16 times. And you had the Norris - Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Minnesota, Toronto. In the early 80s Detroit was finishing up a stretch of nearly twenty years of being terrible (yes Oiler fans it could get worse). Toronto and Chicago had probably the two worst owners in hockey history. And St. Louis and Minnesota were relentlessly mediocre. Only once from 84 to 90 did a division winner top 90 points and this was playing a large number of games against other terrible teams. There were years that Norris teams made the playoffs whil[...]

Hot Dog!


Three and one in an entertaining second round, the only loss being the Caps. Hilariously enough I was going to go with the Pens and then changed my mind at the last minute, going with my gut. Stupid gut. Anyhow, now at 8 and 4 for the year and all time I am 63-25 in the first round and 25-19 in the second. On to the conference finals where I am 14-6. The Penguins really look good huh? I mean really good. Not that this is a huge surprise. When Phil Kessel is on your third line (!) it means you're a damn good team and you survive Crosby and Malkin scoring 1 goal between them. (By the way remember the time Toews scored no goals in three rounds and Chicago still winning the Cup? That's right, even the best players go cold and it has nothing to do with character or wanting it more or knowing how to win.)This of course leads into my rant (redux) about the media and in this case Rogers in particular. It is hard to believe how bad Rogers is. I mean they are terrible. Only ten years more! Shoot me right fucking now, as Daffy Duck used to say. I don't mind Strombo to be honest and of course Elliotte is Elliotte but the rest of the crew is ... well just awful. They've carried on with the Cherryification of hockey coverage that HNIC started. The talented players get insulted, their character questioned, their play sneered at. The grunts are deified  (Never forget that without Shawn Thornton the Bruins never win that Cup!) and in place of real analysis we are provided with a morality play. How did Pittsburgh beat Washington, in particular how did they shut down so many of the Caps' stars (though not Ovechkin)? I mean literally how did they do it? What did Mike Sullivan do when he came in that turned their season around? Who knows? We don't know or at least none of these guys paid a lot of money to analyze the sport have told us. Instead we get cliches about a fresh voice in the room and a team that knows how to win beating a team that does not have the character or leadership or 'winning knowledge'. You know, like the Blues and the Sharks who didn't know how to win until they suddenly ... did. Of course if the Pens end up winning it all, or Tampa, then I guess both San Jose and St Louis will not have learned to win.  My head hurts. And can you not afford to send your own crews to cover each series? How bush can you be, streaming another network feed? Unreal. And what of Phil Kessel? His career playoff stats (like Marleau and Thornton, two other guys with terrible playoff reps) are very good and yet we all know his reputation. Frankly it's disgusting to see the media members who delighted in running him out of Toronto now saying that he wasn't a cancer at all but rather a very good player who was stuck on a terrible team. Much like Mats Sundin dragging Jonas Hogland around the ice with him for years so was Kessel burdened with plugs and also rans and all he did all of his time in Toronto was score goals, the hardest thing to do in the sport. And when he was in Toronto well, he got shit on, to put it mildly, because like Ales Hemsky, to name another, he did not play the game (ie he was not a good quote/wasn't chummy with the old boys in the media).The media ran him down and the Leafs, in one of their rare missteps recently, took a page from the Oilers' management playbook and let it happen. The end result is that their best player was devalued to the point where the ret[...]

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?


 I'm not counting the Predators out but if you are San Jose things are lining up pretty well I would think. The Ducks are gone and the Kings are gone and while there are no pushovers left I could see the Sharks going a long way this spring.

 (btw while the Caps and Pens are both loaded up front did anyone watch last night's game and think that those D corps might get abused but the Sharks, Blues or Stars? Thin man, real thin.)

 So 5 and 3 in the first round and of course you read my previous post and so you know I am thinking Caps, Tampa and the Blues. And for Sharks - Preds I will take the Shorks who strike me as a team that is hitting it's stride at the right time. LA is no longer LA just as Chicago is not Chicago but the way the Thorntons handled the Kings was in strike contrast to, well, say the Blues.

 Just to note I am not selling the Preds short, man oh man that D, but the Sharks have a quality blue line themselves and the edge in goal and up front too I think. They will take it in six.

 As for the Ducks, well LeBrun tweeted how it was a brand new WC now with the Kings, Hawks and Ducks all out and all I could think of was how one of these was not the same as the others. And yeah I figured the Ducks for the Cup this year, I mean they are a quality club for sure but one conference final in four years, well, um, yeah. LA with three in four and two Cups and the Hawks with the same. So basically the Ducks are the Coyotes (I had to look it up).

 Firing Boudreau, well they aren't likely going to find a better coach out there although I don't blame Murray. His roster is locked in, this is it, and they are about to start shedding talent - Anderson and Vatanen likely out the door this summer, no? - so the window is closing. And say what you will about Boudreau and I love the guy but it's not just one game seven but multiple playoff failures. Is that on him? Well some of it has to be.

 Too bad for Boudreau though he will be unemployed for what, five minutes, and too bad for Shawn Horcoff, this might be the end of the line for our old friend. But Perry, Bieksa, Kesler?