Thursday, August 20, 2009

In a happier place now...

As you can probably guess from the musty Dustin Penner entry below, this blog is about as defunct as a pair of Hartford Whaler Cooperalls (barring some sort of miracle resurrection, of course). I figured I'd throw up a post saying as much, but hey, whenever you're feeling nostalgic feel free to browse through the archives -- you'll need proof when your kids stare at you in disbelief after you tell them about the Oilers' Stanley Cup Finals run back in aught six.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Big Dog House

"When we signed Dustin we thought he'd be a top-two-line player," said MacTavish as the team prepares to face the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night.

"We thought the contract ($4.25 million average for five years) was a starting point for him, but he views it as a finish line. I can't watch it, certainly not for another 2 1/2 years," he said.

Actually, it's 3 1/2 years. Edmonton Journal, Nov. 16, 2008.

Sixteen games into this young season, and Craig MacTavish has had it up to here with Dustin Penner sleeping on his furniture and pissing on his rug. In a must-read post and thread from yesterday, Lowetide suggests that in calling out Penner, MacT has chosen his hill to die on (can we call it Hamburger Hill?). No doubt it's a bad spot for the coach — what happens next is completely up to Penner. If he manages to crawl out of the dog house with a little more offensive consistency and a lot more dedication to becoming the player the Oilers hoped he would be, than MacT has shown he still has one hand on the whip and will live another day. If Penner quits on him, though, than MacTavish's days are officially numbered. Not just speculatively. For realsies.

Frankly, I'm not optimistic that Penner can pull it out. An argument has emerged as to whether Penner's terrible counting numbers this year are a result of MacT's not using him in the right situations (not enough time on the PP, too much time on defensive assignments). Like Tyler, I'm not sure this is the issue. Bottom line is for $4.25M a year, you've got to be one of the players who is driving the bus. If Penner wants out of the dog house, he has to make things happen. To be honest, I've yet to be convinced he is capable of that.

Going to be a long, cold stay outside, boy. But hey — there are worse dog houses to be stuck in, I suppose. (WARNING: Do not watch these videos until you are ready to have your mind COMPLETELY FUCKING BLOWN.)

Part 1

Part 2

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sitting on a mountain of regret

“It’s just the mental mistakes and the stubbornness, I don’t get it.”—
Coach Craig MacTavish, on recurring mistakes that have haunted the team all season.
It's never a good sign when the guy whose exact job it is to make his team "get" why they keep losing doesn't himself seem to get, you know, why his team keeps losing. I mean, sure, I understand that part of the reason you go into interviews and throw up your hands with statements like these is to shame your club into getting its shit together. But I don't know — this season, it feels like there's been more behind Craig MacTavish's post-game chidings than a predilection for tough love and motivational posturing; there's an undeniable tinge of bewilderment, a palpable sense of exasperation. These are the musings of a man who just doesn't get why his club doesn't win. As a fan who, already has trouble working up the enthusiasm to hunch in front of his computer and squint at a choppy video stream of the Oilers getting their asses handed to them by a theoretically inferior Maple Leafs club, this is a concern for me.

Had some time on my hands on this cold and dreary afternoon in Toronto, so I went and took a look at the kind of stuff MacT is saying after each Oilers loss. (I'm missing a game or two here where I couldn't readily find a post-game MacT quote. Feel free to fill in the blanks.) No doubt about it, the Silver Fox is an thoughtful, eloquent man, probably the best coach interview in the game, and there are some fine observances made. But man, you know that point when you're just kind of getting sick of your job and all the things that the little adversities that you used to work really hard at overcoming start to seem like frustratingly insurmountable annoyances? You think you're fooling everyone into thinking that you still care, but that underlying negativity permeates everything you say about your work?

I can't help but think this is the point that MacT has reached.

Oct. 23: 3-0 loss to Chicago
“In the first period we weren’t ready to play at the start again,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “We’ve gotten away with it in at least two of the first four games. We knew it wasn’t going to be long before it bit us in the rear end and it took a good chunk out of us.”

“Rolie was our best player,” MacTavish said. “It’s unfortunate it had to be on a night like this when our team didn’t play very well.”
Oct. 26: 6-3 loss to Vancouver
Our penalty killing was bad. It was brutal,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “When they’re 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-for-4 on their special teams, you can’t overcome that. You’ve got to be able to kill the penalties.”
Oct. 28: 1-0 OT loss to Boston
I was expecting a lot more and I’ve seen enough not to expect it now,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “Roli kept us in it and we were going to put some window dressing on it if we were able to win the game in overtime or a shootout. But it would have just masked what has been plaguing us for the last number of games, almost since the inception of the season.

We haven’t, as a team, been able to dominate anybody. It’s time for us to realize that,” he said. “It was hidden in the record but that is over.”
Oct. 31: 3-1 loss to Nashville
“[Nashville goaltender Pekka] Rinne played well, but I have seen it enough to know that we have to be more productive,” MacTavish said. “A constant for us has been missed shots. We are not producing offensively. It’s that simple.”
Nov. 5: 5-4 L to Columbus
“It’s a painful, painful lesson,” Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. “There’s a right way to play this game and a wrong way to play it and we got on the wrong side of it early and it looked like we were going to get away with it. But we didn’t.”

“The thing that I said at the end of the second period was, ‘Let’s just go out there and have a good third period and not be sitting on a bunch of regret,”’ he said. “And we’re sitting on a mountain of regret right now.”
Nov. 14: 5-2 L to Toronto
“I give credit because they are a hard-working group that is structured and we lack that structure in our game right now,” MacTavish said. “And that’s why we got pounded.”
The Oilers line up against the Avalanche for second time this season tonight at 10 p.m. ET. Will this be one of those games where the MacT's Oilers "get it"? Or will we be left once again sitting on a mountain of regret?

Heat of the Moment

A bat-winged steed rears! Mighty space dragons thrash! Falcons swoop in for the kill as some kind of mushroom-headed dude looks on! And as if these things weren't cool enough, they're all inside a labyrinth in motherfucking OUTER SPACE! If I ever own a house, I will have no problem airbrushing the entire front fa├žade with this exact scene. Money will be no object.

Real post coming later. I just couldn't ignore all this talk of Asia any longer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Two worlds collide

WUH-BOOM! Fuck yeah! Look at those world chunks fly! Well, that's space for you. Just two planets floating around, going about their own planetary business, their little planet minds preoccupied with their myriad planetary hopes and dreams and insecurities and fears until one day fucking BAM! Instant prog-rock LP cover. Only ashes and silence remain. Just another day in the cold, unknowable vastness of an uncaring universe. If you ask me, that smaller planet should have kept its head up. All part of the game.

ANY-WAYS, the team from my old town takes on the team from my new town tonight. Where oh where will my allegiance fall? On the side of the sad-sack, piece of shit, mercifully easy to ignore Maple Leafs whose defence has barfed up 23 goals against while losing four of their five with no hope in sight? Or on the side of the plucky Oilers, winners of their last two and seemingly destined to ride the sublimely skilled Hemsky, suddenly non-shitty Souray, magically delicious Deslauriers and newly-acquired human jackhammer Jesse Boulerice to an all-but-assured victory?

It's a tough call. I've yet to decide.

Rexall is going to packed to the rafters with patently obnoxious Leafers tonight. The Oilers would do well to silence them early en route to a... oh, I don't know... 7-2 win. Gonna be a blowout, kids. Keep your heads up out there!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brian Burke can't wait to get out of Anaheim

Now THIS is interesting. The Anaheim Ducks have called a press conference for 3:30 p.m. ET today, and apparently Brian Burke is expected to announce his resignation. From the National Post:

Brian Burke's path to Toronto might be a little clearer.

As first reported by Fan 590 reporter Howard Berger, the Anaheim Ducks general manager is in the process of resigning from his position with the team. The Ducks have a news conference scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Wednesday.

According to one report, Burke is expected to remain as a consultant through the end of the season, with Ducks senior vice president Bob Murray taking over as general manager.
We'll check back in on this after the newser, but yeah. The "consultant" thing is the right move, as everyone and their cat knows Burke has Leafs on the brain and likely checked out completely. Wonder how Ducks fans feel about their GM's abandonment?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm staying until someone drags me out!

Huh? What? Isn't this blog dead or something? Who knows what the future holds! For now, let's just revel in the Oilers' acquisition of Jesse Boulerice, the latest AHL thug to be claimed by the Oilers this season.

With The Safe Word now on IR, Boulerice will be called upon to assume face-smashing duties until a suitable replacement can be found. He looks up to the challenge.

In the meantime, please enjoy this video of Boulerice making Ryan Kesler get sad and fall down.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Goodbye to all that

Considering that this blog hasn't been updated since October, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I haven't been "feeling it" as of late. I tried to re-double my efforts on the blog as the season began, but I found my mind wandering to other things like making tasteless animations, Sarah Palin and not spending a Mormon's tithe's worth of salary on NHL Centre Ice.

I still like watching Oilers hockey, but what blogging really boils d
own to these days is pretending to care about the team 30% more than I actually do. My favourite posts on this blog spoke to the fan's experience (especially during the Cup run, the Pronger & Smyth trades) and the perverse cultural clout that the Oilers have on my hometown, and not so much the posts pretending that I knew who would be the Oilers Number 5 centre in 2013. Simply put, I don't have the 3-4 posts a week to make it a worthwhile blog. It also makes it an easier decision to quit when so many great and utterly-prolific Oilers blogs have emerged since we started in late 2005. But hey, we were one of the first, and I'm proud of the little piece of popular Edmonton history found in the posts and comments threads of this site. The best part was meeting other bloggers and regular commentators who were kind enough to drop by.

So with that, I'm taking a bre
ak (I'm not sure if Chris is going to soldier on but I'm done here), although if the offer still stands I will likely re-emerge Phoenix-like with an occasional post on Battle of Alberta, still my absolutely favourite hockey blog. In the meantime, here is a small sampling of my favourite images from three years of mostly feeling bad and yelling "fuck!" at the TV screen...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Oilers' very bad week

What's the Oilers' record when wearing these jerseys in the last two years? 1-8?

Ouch. Going by the one reliable measure of a team's worth, the Oilers goal differential in the last week has been 3 GF -14 GA, something even the 1992 Ottawa Senators might cluck their tongues at (I can even see Norm MacIver taking a step back, sucking air between his teeth: "Jesus Christ... dudes"). The powerplay has stalled into a 1 for 16 nosedive, and just like the end of last season the team is still routinely outshoot, 26th in the league for shots for.

While Coach MacTavish finally came out swinging in his post-game comments, Lowetide is right to point out that the Oilers are still a 4-3-1 and have started to improve overall despite the recent losses. For a finesse player that likes the middle part of the ice, Ales Hemsky couldn't be called a floater by any stretch, so it's a relief to see that he's snapped out of his inexplicable torpor in the last couple of games. And pairing him with Robert Nilsson on the first line seems like such an obvious good idea that I guess it's fitting that it never occurred to me. Nilsson has probably been the Oilers best forward early this season and he's one of the few legitimate shooting threats. I expect the Oilers forward top line to perform much better than they have (Erik Cole has been in a statistical netherworld all season) and I expect the goaltending to hold up reasonably well Roloson's game last night gives me hope.

Those are the good things right off the top. But I'm a pessimist by nature (as well as a sensation at cocktail parties), so I'd rather focus on the many troubling aspects to pick apart about this team:

1. The defence is weird. There are lots of intriguing pieces on the back end, but none of them are very well-rounded. Aside from Sheldon Souray and the glitteringly improved Denis Grebeshkov, who both have stood up well, Steve Staios has been okay, although he isn't getting any faster. After that it sometimes feels like a sheer cliff. As impressive as a bench presser as I've seen, the 5'11 Lubomir Visnovsky still has a tough time chasing opponents in his own zone, with the faintest shades on Marc-Andre Bergeron haunting that end of the Oilers ice. Tom Gilbert has taken a big step back from last year, and the puck has had an uncanny way of squirting away from him whenever it gets the chance. Laco Smid hasn't played as much, but you always have to wonder when he's going to hit the ceiling, if he hasn't already. Jason Strudwick has been okay as the 6th or 7th guy, but he shouldn't be playing over 10 minutes a game like he has.

2. The kid line doesn't work. So far. They aren't out there to prevent goals and they also aren't scoring either, so yeah. It doesn't help that Cogliano, Gagner and Nilsson are all young, smallish forwards playing on the same line.

3. The fourth line is useless. I hate to go on about a line that traditionally plays 4-5 minutes a game, but Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre are right at that Mendoza Line of effectiveness. There is also too much overlap in regards to their tough guy roles. Kyle Brodziak is simply wasted there.

4. The team is living and mostly dying by the sword. A traditional MacTavish team aggressively forechecks and uses the D to chip the puck towards the net or along the boards to create offence. While this is still somewhat true, the Oilers' forwards have leaned on using their speed to generate a lot of their chances in transition. As great as that is, this "transition" that I speak of is usually a horrific scoring chance gift-wrapped for the opposition. As much as the press talks up the Oilers as a skilled team, there are at least a dozen more actually skilled teams with point-per-game players willing to trade chances with the Oilers.

5. This team has stopped hitting. I think this is what MacTavish is talking about when he criticized the team's perimeter game and lack of aggression. From what I've seen, the Oilers pursue the puck carrier pretty well, but aside from Ethan Moreau and Erik Cole, too many players don't want to bulldoze to the net with the puck or target opposing defenceman for a big check. More chaos, please.

Anyway, that's an admittedly brazen analysis for a guy that has fast-forwarded a good portion of these games in beer-buzzed disgust. But hey, it's hard to not want to scrunch your puckhat over your eyes when the Maple Leafs are looking like the better team these days.