Mar 1, 2011

Saying Goodbye to the D-Train

There are not many players in the NHL that can pull off a black eye like big Dustin Penner can.

Yesterday the Oilers did something that was expected: they traded one of our two most important current pieces to our team.  I'm happy that Ales Hemsky is going to to stay (at least for the remainder of the season), but I'm not happy that Dustin is out in LA now (though it affords him a chance at another cup).

This is how my reaction went (all times are approximations):
12:30 PM:  TSN announces trade.
12:31 PM: A colourful string of vocabulary exits my mouth.
12:32 PM: TSN announces the return.
12:33 PM: Another string of colourful vocabulary.
12:34 PM: I consider it, remember Teubert vaguely from a past World Juniors team and decide to look into it thinking, 'maybe this will be okay'.
12:38 PM: Yet another string of colourful vocabulary.

Why it Makes Sense:

In return the Oilers received Colton Teubert, a first round draft pick this year and a conditional third round draft pick next year.  The Oilers are rebuilding, and have been for the past year and a half.  The years prior to that can be chalked up to management being in denial about just how bad we were and what needed to be done.  The trades for Visnovsky and the Khabibulin signing are good arguments for just how far into denial management was.

Now it's 2011 and management has fully embraced a rebuild.  We sold and cut out our older players (if  only for excess baggage from around the league) and drafted youngsters.  It seems like we've been playing forever with an average age of the team that's below 25.  This is a step in the right direction, and it certainly beats being in denial.

It makes sense if we weren't going to be able to sign him here in Edmonton at the end of his contract.  Yes, he recently married an LA actress, but does that mean that he would've refused to play here?  I doubt it, but it is possible.  If management was getting a different signal from Dustin (mainly that he wasn't interested in signing here, or that he was looking for similar money or more money) than we were, then good one them for getting something in return for him, rather than waiting to lose him to free agency at the end of next season.

Why it Doesn't Make Sense:

Behold the Oilers!  Come and watch us as we magically get younger year...  After year....  After year...

Yes, we are rebuilding.  Yes, this means we have to sell off our older players.  Yes, it means we need to get some high draft picks for a couple-few years.

What it doesn't mean, however, is that we have to be perpetually awful.  We've been out of the playoffs now for five years running.  Because of Management's reluctance to face facts and embrace a rebuild we are only just now into our second year of rebuilding: that is three years of wasted time (especially when you consider the returns we were getting for the players we did trade - ghastly; and what we traded for players that we received - equally awful).

Dustin Penner was not at the end of his contract.  He had another year tacked on.  This is what is one of the most confusing parts of this deal: the Oilers had time.  It's hard to say whether his value would've dropped by this time next year, but it's a chance I would've taken (as a non-GM-qualified observer).

Dustin Penner had a wide variety of skills: he was putting up 30 goal seasons and consistently in and around the top of the team for scoring; he played on the penalty kill and the power play, he was willing to go into tough areas, he had skill for playing in front of the net, he was a big body with soft hands, and when he decided that he was going to the net just about no one could prevent him from doing so.  Did I mention he is still in his twenties?

Dustin Penner was not an older player.  He was not a guy who was going to be nearing the end of his career when we, finally, were at the peak of our cycle.  Dustin Penner is a guy that was, as I saw it, part of the nucleus of this team.  From what I understand he had leadership qualities, was good in the room, and his sense of humour was the best I've seen in a hockey player since, well, I don't know when.

Hearing Dustin Penner say that he would have been willing to stay in Edmonton during the press conference was the least comforting part.  You mean we could have signed him to an extension, had an extra year on the contract to do so, and yet we still only got Teubert (projected to be a career 4-5 guy), a first rounder in a weak draft year, and a conditional third rounder next year?  My confidence (whatever was left) in Tambellini has left the building.  We couldn't even get a roster player out of LA?  One could say that we likely never even asked for one, or we weren't looking for one...  That's almost worse in my mind, because it says that we're going to be stuck in this bottomfeeder rut for at least another year or two, and that's as long as we don't end up trading any more of our valuable players for picks.

Someone should probably let Tambo know that eventually you have to stop rebuilding.  Eventually you have to have built a team that is capable of winning games consistently.  Eventually we have to bloody well stand up and deliver.  For most teams that year would've likely been next year.  But our flight to the land of contenders has thusly been delayed...  For at least a year.

And so I say goodbye to Dustin Penner. You're a good player, and I enjoyed watching you play (your interviews were also gold).  There were a lot of people here in Edmonton who didn't appreciate you, and I'm sure that your value will become painfully obvious with you gone to LA.  Enjoy the warm weather, and say hello to Smytty for us.

The LA Kings have got themselves at least one more temporary fan this offseason.

Jan 6, 2011

A Monumental Eff-Up

I don't want to say much about last night's game.  It didn't feel as bad to lose last night as it did a year ago.  Thanks to the Oilers I am more than well-versed in ways to deal with losses, and I felt bad last night for a total of maybe an hour.

Of course that could have something to do with the consumption of a certain mind-altering beverage, but either way my night was not ruined by the loss (although it was definitely tarnished).

On the bright side though, I found my new favourite hockey watching venue.  The Canadian Brewhouse on Ellerslie is beyond awesome.  More television screens than you could hope for, they play the audio of the game, and they have their own air-horn for goals scored by the home team.  My girlfriends and I had an awesome time last night.

Also, congratulations to the Russians on their win last night.  Let this be a warning to future Canadian teams: don't take your opponent lightly.  Just because they didn't have the best first couple periods doesn't mean they won't come out flying in the third.  Every team has to potential to come back at any point in the game.  Never let your pedal off the gas, and always give your opponent the respect they deserve.

Russia deserved that win more than we did last night.

Congratulations Russia, we'll see you next year.

Jan 2, 2011

My Favourite Time of Year

This post is a bit late, but I've been incredibly busy for a long time.

Lately, though, I've just been lazy.

In any event, I haven't even posted to commemorate my favourite time of the year yet: World Junior season.

Every year around Christmas the World Junior tournament gets started.  This year Canada was in the group some called the 'Group of Death'.  Unlike most years Canada, Russia, Sweden, and the USA - what I would consider the 'power nations' in hockey - were not distributed evenly between the two groups.  Canada, Russia and Sweden were in the same group this year with the Czech Republic and Norway, while the USA was in a group with Finland, Germany, Switzerland and Slovakia.  This meant that for Canada, Sweden and Russia there was little room for error.

On top of this, Canada was icing a team that was different than the teams from the 5 or 6 years previous: light on skill; heavy on grit, determination and size.  Of course, when I say 'light' on skill I don't mean 'low' on skill; however, most were expecting a low scoring Team Canada with, in all likelihood, high penalty minutes due to the hard-hitting style that they would likely play.

So, here we are.  Eight days into the tournament, and there are a few things to discuss:

First, Team Canada has absolutely no trouble scoring.  Moreover, the scoring is balanced among the lines in a way that previous teams couldn't have dreamed of.

Second, the Kassian suspension.  I don't want to say too much on this, so I'll leave it at the following: I humbly disagree with the suspension, and the fact that it was extended over the mandatory 1-game was a joke.

Third, the goaltending.  Last year goaltending was a weak spot.  One could argue that it lost us the tournament (if you consider silver losing).  This tournament it seems that our goaltending is, once again, the weak point of the team.  Everyone thought that goal scoring would be the weakness, but tending has been the issue thus far.

Today Team Canada beat Switzerland.  It was a close game early, due, in part (a large part), to their phenomenal goaltending, but Canada came out with the 4-1 win.  Visentin played this game, and I thought he looked shaky in the net.  He wasn't tested past the first period, and many of the shots that he did face were never far from being behind him.  He wasn't strong in his start against Norway either.  Roy was very shaky in the game against Sweden, the SO loss that ended in Canada having to play a Quarterfinal game against the Swiss, and hasn't had a strong game since his debut in the pre-tournament games.  I don't know which goaltender is the 'right' choice.  I don't know if there is one.  Tomorrow we play the United States: a team that has yet to be tested by one of the 'power nations'.  This makes them a wildcard.  The USA won the tournament last year, and they will be looking to repeat this year.  They have several returning members, their goaltending is stronger than ours, and they have several high-level offensive players.

Tomorrow, Team Canada will be in deep against an American squad that just might be better than ours.  There is a reason that they were labeled as the favourites this year.

A win tomorrow and we play for gold.

A loss, and we play for bronze.

Go Canada Go.

Oct 10, 2010

Okay, So I Missed It...

Okay, so stop criticizing me.  What I meant was, I didn't post to commemorate the first game of the year.  I didn't talk about the excitement of a new season, or the hope that the Oilers Organization has been slipping into every mention of the team since the draft; I didn't talk about how Hall, Eberle, or Paajarvi were making their NHL debuts, or how I was looking forward to watching Hemsky in a regular season game again.

I'm sorry, I figured that much was obvious.

Regardless, it was a phenomenal game, and I can't help but feel that I don't really care how the rest of the season goes.  On Thursday I watched potential.  I watched what the Oilers could be. I watched what the Oilers will be in a few years.  I watched as Rexall Place exploded with ecstasy, with roars of appreciation, with euphoric relief.  Relief that we weren't going to be both the worst team in the league and the most boring to watch.  Relief that the kids were fitting in alright with an NHL pace.  Relief that Hemsky seemed his old self out there.  Relief that we shot the puck while on the powerplay.  Relief that the Oilers weren't going to suffer another series sweep at the hands of our neighbours to the south.  Relief that we scored more than one or two goals.

Relief that there really was light at the end of this tunnel.

That's right Oilers Faithful, after all these years of drastically less than repetitive mediocrity, we have something to look forward to.  It's been awfully dark in Edmonton these last few seasons, and to see the light of day coming on the horizon is a most welcome change.

The Oilers are at home once again tonight.  The Florida Panthers are in town.  Good luck boys, and I look forward to watching you in a couple hours.

Oct 3, 2010

Last Pre-Season Game of the 2010-2011 Season

It's the last game before the regular season starts, and the Oilers overall have been better than I expected.  Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle have performed at a level that I wasn't expecting them to reach.  Hall, while a little less impressive, is also the youngest of the three and has the least playing experience, so I think he'll come along with age.   Paajarvi has some nice size to him, and so does Hall, and that will work to their advantage.  Eberle, while smaller, has insane hockey sense, and some pretty decent chemistry with Horcoff.  I'm excited to see if Paajarvi can click with Hemsky the way that some people have suggested. 

Some of the smaller name guys have been rather impressive as well.  I like Ondrus, and Vande Velde; also Jones and Giroux have their moments.  On the back end things get a little murkier.  It's obvious that Whitney, Gilbert, Smid, and Foster will likely make up the top four.  The bottom two are a little less obvious. Peckham, while a favourite heading into camp, has not been all that impressive, and some guys that are lower on the depth chart, like Petiot and Belle, have out-performed him come game-time.  Vandermeer is also in the mix, though he has his moments of lackluster play to consider, and a penchant for taking penalties at terrible times, which Peckham has been guilty of as well.

The goaltending situation is something that needs to be dealt with.  To be honest I though Khabibulin looked terrible against Calgary on Friday.  Granted, his team didn't give him a whole lot of help, but he wasn't stealing
the show either, and some of those saves that a team needs a goaltender to make?  He missed them.  He looked good against Vancouver though, and anyone who bets money that he doesn't make the team is probably a fool.  The JDD-DD debate is one that a lot of people have weighed in on, and I don't know where I stand.  Personally I think that Dubnyk is a more composed goaltender, and I think he would be my choice over Deslauriers, though he has his share of upside as well.  I won't even pretend I know the answer, and I'll try to do my best to stand behind whatever management's decision is on the netminders.

I haven't been able to dedicate as much time as I would've liked to watching the Oilers this preseason (University is tough sometimes), but I thought they would be much worse than they are.  That said, most of their success came from games against lackluster lineups (with the exception of the first game vs. Vancouver), but we haven't iced a full NHL lineup yet either, and by the looks of tonight's lineup we're not planning on icing an NHL lineup until the season opener.

The Oilers are playing a half-NHL, half-Minors squad against what is pretty darn close to the Flames' starting lineup tonight.  I'm not expecting much out of them, but then again, I wasn't expecting much out of the squad in the first Vancouver game either.

Surprise me?

The team lineups are as follows:


Dustin Penner (27) - Andrew Cogliano (13) - Jordan Eberle (14)
Alexandre Giroux (12) - Sam Gagner (89) - Gilbert Brule (67)
Linus Omark (23) - Colin Fraser (16) - Ryan Jones (28)
Steve MacIntyre (33) - Ryan O'Marra (42) - Ben Ondrus (25)

Ladislav Smid (5) - Theo Peckham (49)
Jason Strudwick (43) - Tom Gilbert (77)
Richard Petiot (37) - Shawn Belle (45)

Jeff Deslauriers (38)
Devan Dubnyk (40)

Tanguay - Jokinen - Iginla
Hagman - Backlund - Bourque
Glencross - Meyer - Jackman
Ivanans - Sutter - Conroy

Regehr - White
Bouwmeester - Giordano
Brodie - Pardy


Mar 3, 2010

What a joke.

Goodbye Lubo.  I'm a lot angrier than I realize right now, but you were a fantastic player, and I'd take you over Souray any day.  
Please forgive me if I seem irrational, but this trade is one of those trades that we'll look at next year, and probably the year after and ask ourselves how Tambellini ever got the job, or maybe be a little less harsh and ask ourselves what they spiked Tambellini's coffee with that morning that made him think this was a good idea.  Need cap room?  Fair enough, but Lubo's contract wasn't one of the contracts that was a problem in my eyes.

Probably spiked the coffee with whatever was in Lowe's coffee the day he offered Horcoff that damned contract that has us handcuffed to mediocrity for a long time.

Here's a question I have:  Where's our backend offense now?  We certainly don't have much going up front, so what exactly are we planning on doing?  Hall?  Eberle?  MPS?

I suppose we'll wait and see.

Feb 19, 2010

Panic? Not yet.

            Canada won last night's game against Switzerland, but that's not the part that has Canadians worried.  Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second period; a lead that was abolished by the end of the middle frame as the Swiss scored two even strength goals: one a perfect shot a little under 9 minutes in, and the other a lucky bounce with less than 10 seconds to go in the second period.  This tie held up through the third period and the OT period, and the game went to a shootout where Sidney Crosby scored on his second attempt as the fourth Canadian shooter.  Brodeur stopped the subsequent Swiss skater, and Canada won the game 3-2.

            Because we won the game in extra time we only get 2 points for a win.  This is due to the three point system that international hockey utilizes; a system that makes complete sense and which I'd like to see the same system put to use in the NHL.  We now sit in second position in our group with 5 points; the USA in first with 6 points.  We'll definitely qualify for the finals, but if we want the best shot at a good seed we'll need to beat the US on Sunday.  

            I feel like last night was an 'I'm in your head' game.  Canada was doing well while we were ahead, but once the Swiss tied the game it caused the Canadians to think, 'Oh god, not again.'  These men were under a lot of pressure: playing the team that knocked them out of competition four years ago in front of a home crowd that simply would not have tolerated another loss to the Swiss.  Canada did not play terrible last night, and I don't think we can complain about the result when the Russians lost to Slovakia last night in the shoot out.  Slovakia has some really nice pieces.  While I know that it wouldn't happen, if Czechoslovakia ever reunited we'd have to make room for them in the top nations of hockey, and even without that I can see both Slovakia and the Czech republic becoming contenders in due time.

            And to the Americans that felt the need to dig in our wounds last night: no one who is actually confident about their team's abilities talks that much.  We'll see you on Sunday, and may the best team win.