Friday, November 28, 2008

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Everything hits at once

For the past few years, I would have considered myself a soft supporter of Craig MacTavish’s work behind the Oilers’ bench. The man has never run a PP to save his life, but he’s got a good hockey head on his shoulders and has done as well as can be expected with the crap he’s had to work with during his tenure, so I’ve been willing to give him some slack.

Well, that shit is over as of now.

That the Oilers aren’t getting results is one thing. I’m used to that, I can take it. That they don’t seem to give a shit out there is a whole different story. I’m here to be entertained, goddamnit, not watch a bunch of guys making millions of dollars half-ass their way through another dull, mistake-filled loss to some mediocre club like Columbus, Toronto or L.A. I watched a good chunk of the game prior to last night’s shit show against the Kings (a 3-1 Montreal win over Detroit) and saw two strong skating teams shooting the puck, great goaltending, playing disciplined and sound positional hockey. Thirty minutes later, as Denis Grebeshkov nonchalantly poked the puck on to the stick of Anze Kopitar for the King’s first goal, net, the line separating the contenders from the pretenders couldn’t have been clearer. These goldbricking, slack-ass motherfuckers just don’t give a rip.

Granted this team isn’t exactly underperforming. Despite the early season hype, this was always a team that needed everyone to play to their full potential just to have a hope of contending for the NW title. Instead, damn near everything that could have gone wrong has. The veterans have struggled (notably Horcoff and offseason pick up Erik Cole), the kids look completely lost (Brodziak is stuck in the PB, Ganger is drowning and does Nilsson even play for this team anymore?) and the goaltending…sheeeeeiiiiit. A lot of this was probably foreseeable, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, especially coupled with the aforementioned lack of effort.

Something’s gotta give. MacT, it’s been widely observed, looks and sounds like man in the late stages of a terminal disease who is willing to try any treatment, no matter how radical (putting Smid on the wing, say), to save his ass. But you’d have a better chance of curing cancer by eating the pituitary glands of Mexican orphans than winning games with the effort these dinks are putting out there. Obviously, not all that is going to be on the coach but it sure looks like a group that’s either tuned the gaffer out or is just not responding well to his methods. Something’s gotta give.

Tying a can to the coach at this point is probably the best option for a short term boost. The team is close enough to .500 that they can see daylight, but not so comfortable that another three or four losses in their next five won’t fuck them good and proper come spring. Time is not on our side here. If nothing else, firing MacT would go a long way towards settling the debate over whether the problem was him or the players, and that alone makes it a worthwhile experiment to try.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

MacT gives you wings

Above: Erstwhile defenseman Ladislav Smid shares a prescient Red Bull with former Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon during happier times.

In a bid to add some jam to the toast that is his forward lineup, MacT has pulled the surprising move of sending d-man Ladi Smid to the wing for tonight's game against the Failing Big Three automakers Red Wings. In some circles this move is being looked at as the latest sign that the gaffer has lost the plot and/or his marbles. But I think people are forgetting that MacT has a track record of success when it comes to playing guys out of their natural position:

Ladies and gents, I give you Toby Petersen, former Oilers stalwart who moved from his natural position in the pressbox to the blueline, filling the key role of "warm body" on a injury depleted team back in '89 or something.

This Smid thing is a little different in that the Oilers' training room doesn't currently look like the triage ward in M*A*S*H, so it's not a move born out of necessity. Personally, I like it. It makes sense when you consider he'll be seeing limited minutes on the fourth line and will be looked to to provide some size and defensive zone awareness, so it's pretty low-risk/low-reward. Now, some may chirp that the Oilers should bring up a forward like "Creme" Brule or The Bust Formerly Known As Rob Schremp, but the ongoing three goalie situation has limited the team's options in that regard. Smid has grown on me with his calm and willingness to make his opponents smell his gloves after the whistle. But what I really like about this is it's abject lunacy. Either MacT is convinced it'll work, he's gone insane or he's flipping the bird to the management team. Whatever, the reason, I can't wait to see it. Oh wait: it's another fucking PPV. Er...nevermind. GOil.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Losing My Religion

Yawn. Another night, another Oilers loss. I dunno, I've been spending some time reading through the gameday threads at LT's and it's like Groundhog Day over there every fuckin' night: "the underlying numbers are good, this team is fun to watch...whoops they fucking lost again."

Maybe I'm missing something here, but how is this team any different from every other sad sack bunch of dinks we've seen sporting the Drop over the past, I dunno, 15 years? Better question: when was the last time it was actually fun to be an Oilers fan? April 2006? May 1990? Nineteen-fucking-eighty-four?

Ain't fun the point?

It's probably easier for those lucky/miserable sods back in Edmonton who are-ahem-covered in Oil. If you can't just flick on the TV or mosey down to your local and catch a game, fandom requires a bit more effort and commitment, more than most busy 30-somethings with jobs, girlfriends, interests etc can probably squeeze in.

Example: Tonight I went for a nice dinner and a couple of drinks before coming home and flicking on Sportsnet's ticker to see the score, which reminded me what a good decision it was not to crouch in front of the computer and squint at a shitty little streaming video feed, or make the trek across the creek to the expat bar for the game. Not that I needed it, because nothing I've seen or heard from this team so far has convinced me they are worthy of more than a dilettante's passing interest. In short: I'm having a few commitment issues around this team right now.

I wish it were otherwise. I would like to believe, but these peckers are making it difficult with their up and down routine, the three-headed goalie monster, the plucking psychos off the waiver wire, the continued mediocrity of guys like Horcoff and the gallingly decent play of personal whipping boys Souray and Moreau. Etcetera, etcetera.

Don't get me wrong: this is not a cri de coeur or a letter of resignation à la Berry and Winters. I'm just a little frustrated by the fact that it doesn't seem to matter who steps on stage with these guys: the song remains the same.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Old friend, Joffrey Lupul, in Hot Water

So reports Tim Panaccio

Joffrey Lupul is pretty much beside himself, after getting dropped to the fourth line at today's pratice.

The thing both myself and Tim Saunders of WIP noticed about Lupes is that when he is not being physical on the ice and not hitting, his game is off. He admitted much when I asked about his mere 13 hits in as many games this season vs. 34 in 13 games from a year ago.

But the look of frustration on his face both on and off the ice today convinces me that he is very unhappy with this move even though he said to us, the he would "suck it up."

“I’ve been up and down,” Lupul told me today. “Some games I didn’t play as well as I could. It’s different playing 12-13 minutes than 20. I’ve got to simplify my game. When I’m out there, maybe play a more physical game.”

Nothing much to say. Pretty self-explanatory.

A Change is Gonna Come

Speaking of change, the JDD head of the Oilers' Cerberus-like goaltending creature gets the call against the Blueshirts in NYC tonight (his second in a row). This goalie merry-go-round shit is crazy, but given that none of the trio have really sack'd up and grabbed the starter's job, I can't see what else there's to do. Regardless, I anticipate another L for the Oil tonight because, frankly, this team kinda sucks at the moment.
Also on the "change" front, I see Mike W is the latest CinO contributor to pull the chute on his blogging career. Read his poignant final missive here. Good night, good luck, GOILERS!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Good weekend

Two afternoon road games in a row, two points from each. Hemsky with two goals each as pretty as any you'll ever lay eyes on. And much-maligned Old Man Roloson gets both W's. Not bag, not bag at all. Could it be that the sleeping giant that is the Vaunt is starting to stir? We'll put that to the test Wednesday when the Oilers visit Columbus