Monday, November 19

Hey Everyone, I Just Heard! Leafs 3, Senators 0!

Dateline: 2 Nights Ago. The Place: The ACC! The Event: The Best Leaf Game of the Season! And not a game too soon. Losing the last 5 home games and playing a horseshit match in Boston, in the Senators, the Leafs face a team that at best can be called ultra-dangerous, and at worst can be called a bunch of ultra shit-eating, dog-fuckers. But hey, that's just me saying that. Oh, and everyone in Canada during last season's final.

Amazingly, the Leafs actually learned from past mistakes playing the Senators, and did just what they do, which is NOT commit everyone on the forecheck leaving no one back to stem an avalanche of ugly sweaters coming down the other way. The sent one man high, clogged the middle to stem the Senator rush which has killed the Leafs time and time and time again.

Toskala played like he has to, and as much as I'm not a Raycroft downer, Toskala just does things, and gets to places that in my heart I don't think Andrew can or would do. Vesa is just smooth, even in a crisis, and it's hard to predict when or if he'll get scored on in any given situation. Raycroft, well let's just say he wants to make it interesting. NOTE TO ALL CURRENT AND FUTURE LEAF GOALERS: DO NOT MAKE IT INTERESTING!

Great to see Tlusty score. Hopefully he feels like a hockey player again, and not someone living in a fishbowl having everyone in Canada debating if he's gay or not. That's exactly what teenagers love isn't it? When everyone in the world is questioning their sexuality. Considering what a huge job he has to do, the fact he's bore the brunt of this, and comes out and scores a great, patient, smart goal (at home) speaks of this kids' guts and character. If any of you fatso's would have had a quarter of the stress he's been under the past two weeks at his age, you'd have called in sick to your part-time job at Sam the Record Man and spent the weekend cutting yourselves.

2-4 on the power play. Again, fantastic time for that to actually work again. Tucker to start, and a beautiful Sundin one-timer, smooth along the ice beating Martin Gerber. Great checking line work with Bell finding second line time later in the game, with his pressure forecheck leading directly to Tlusty's goal. How about Antropov stick handling behind the net?! He, he has hands! Beautiful, supple, Jergens in the morning and again just before bed, hands. The defense had their man every time, with the only blown coverage was Wozniewski getting caught too high, but getting bailed out by Toskala with what looked like a video game goalie blocker save. Gorgeous.

The Bruins are in Toronto, and I so very, very hope that the assholes who decide which game feed to play on Center Ice play the LeafsTV or TSN broadcast, and not the unintelligible NESN Boston call with Andy "I Think It's English" Brickley, who sounds like he's got sandwich in his mouth every time he tries to say that everything the Bruins do is good, and everything the other team does is bad.

OK Leafs, here's your homework. Very simple: Do what you did against the best team in the league, again. Watch the tapes, do the same drills, and do it all again. Love, Everyone.

SEXY, JUST READ MOOSE'S LAST POST UPDATE: You should fucking be so lucky to look like us for 1 minute, let alone 40.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

The First Quarter Report Card

This has been a unique year for me personally. Entering the season, I had no expectations for the Oilers. I knew we were going to be a mediocre hockey team and therefore, I've been able to watch each game with a relatively low level of anxiety and keep my insane screaming at the television to a minimum. I've just wanted to see the team make strides and improve. It's the first time in my 27+ years as an Oiler fan that I've been able to say/do that.

That being said, I lost my shit on Saturday night. As I was telling Wash the other day, there are generally 6 or 7 games each year that make me never want to watch the Oilers again. Needless to say, Saturday was one of those games. In addition to doing a really good imitation of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first 40 minutes, the Oilers have become a stupid hockey team. There were several times when guys were beaten to loose pucks, not because they were slower or in bad position, but because they simply didn't know if they were supposed to go and get it. Before you start with the "fire MacT" bullshit, it's NOT coaching, it's confidence. These were simple reads that guys have made thousands of times. They wouldn't be in the NHL if they hadn't. When you're playing like shit, you forget how to play. Simple as.

But I digress - back to the bigger picture. At the 20 game mark the Oilers stand at 7-12-1, and you can't tell me that Ethan Moreau wouldn't have made the difference in a couple of those lifeless efforts. They could very easily be 10-10 or 9-11, and in the thick of the playoff race. I don't use injuries as an excuse when it comes to wins and losses, but when it comes to rationally analyzing a hockey club as a whole, it makes no sense to pass judgement using a bunch of incomplete data. This is how the Oil grade out in my eyes:


Roloson: (C)
Hasn't found any consistency and has been fighting the puck lately. People who are calling for a trade based on Garon's play of late should look at Bryzgalov's situation. If the Ducks couldn't get a conditional pick for a guy making $1.3m ahead of UFA status, how are the Oilers gonna find a taker for a guy with another year at $3.6m? Rollie's game is about control and making the first save, it's hard to do that when Denis Grebeshkov is tossing hand grenades in your crease a few times per period. Having a 38-year-old goalie on a rebuilding team isn't ideal, but he'll likely be an Oiler until the 2009 trade deadline.

Garon: (B+) Great signing by Lowe, he's delivered what everyone hoped he would. Been spectacular of late; just needs to maintain some consistency.

Deslauriers: (A+) Has any Oiler done his job more ably and completely? Was awesome working the bench door in Vancouver.


Pitkanen: (B-)
Question - when you're a millionaire, shouldn't your stick rep be able to get you the proper size hockey stick? When the Oilers played the Flyers in the second game of the year, I heard the Flyers TV announcers talk about how Pitkanen plays with a stick that's waaaay too short for him because he can't find a longer one with the proper flex. I mean look at it, it's really short. Apparently it really hinders his play, and last year Flyers management was not pleased. As an Oiler he started slow, but I thought he got better just before he got hurt. Still another week or two away from returning.

Staios: (B-) His usual solid self, nothing flashy. Does seem to have lost a half-step, meaning he and his 4yr/$10.8m contract is right on schedule to become a financial liability in another year or two.

Souray: (C+) For the short time he was healthy, he seemed to master his role as the highest paid decoy in the NHL. Unfortunately his teammates kept fucking it up by constantly passing him the puck while opposing players were dry humping his leg.

Greene: (B) Seemed to turn the corner before his injury (ahem, ctrl+v). Valuable physical presence on the back-end.

Gilbert: (A) Best defender and even their best player on a few nights. Tommy Salo and a 6th rounder...Kevin Lowe sure is stupid.

Tarnstrom: (B) During the streak of games when Grebeshkov was playing 28 minutes a night, I never quite saw what MacT saw, blaming every goal against on Tarnstrom. He's been great the last week or two, stepping up physically when that's clearly not his game. Calming influence; has moved the puck well.

Smid: (B-) Still makes the odd youthful mistake (see: pass up the middle), but has been great at skating the puck out of pressure in his zone; has a bit of mean streak too.

Roy: (F)

Grebeshkov: (F) Doesn't play well with others.

Rourke and Young (C+) I like that they're not named Denis Grebeshkov.


Torres: (B-)
I predicted he would score 25-30 this year. He's got 3. He's streaky enough that he could still do it, but on a team starved for goals, it would be nice if he got tomorrow against Vancouver. He has been more consistent with his effort this year, but could still get on the body a bit more.

Penner: (C+) At 6'4", and 245 pounds, I see the size. I can see the soft hands, and, as he gets better conditioned, I can see the skating. The package is there. But every time I see him bearing down on a defender in the corner, I'm like, "Awww yeah, run 'em Dusty!!!" And then...

Of course being the 'new guy' on the team, I'm sure he was just trying to fit in with the rest of these no-hitters. Suffice to say he needs to do more.

Sanderson: (C-) Been too quiet for one of the few healthy veterans in the lineup. Decent on the penalty kill, but has provided little 5-on-5. Makes $1.5m and is a UFA next year; will have some value at the trade deadline as a depth player for a playoff team.

Moreau: (Who the fuck knows) Expected to announce his retirement next week.

Stoll: (C+) I don't think he's been bad, he just hasn't DONE much. Got a couple goals against the Wild, and seems to be rounding into form a bit. Will get the shutdown job against the Sedin's tomorrow night. Perhaps focusing on defence will simplify things and help get his offence going.

Stortini: (C) If his skating didn't look like a man wading through a pool of peanut butter, he would be just what the doctor ordered to address the lack of physical play and team toughness. Still MacT seems to like him, but I imagine that's due to lack of options.

Cogliano: (B-) Going to be a very good player once he learns how to use his speed more effectively. The skill and awareness is there. Has started to look more like a rookie of late, taking a few bad penalties and turning the puck over, but that's part of the process.

Gagner: (B) Fantastic vision and poise with the puck, he usually makes something happen when he has it. Skating is decent enough, but needs to get bigger and stronger - as most 18-year-old boys in the NHL do. He's replaced Raffi as my girlfriends favorite Oiler (she's nicknamed him "Yummy"). I must say, his signature shoot-out move is quite tasty. As bad as he makes a Conn Smythe winning goalie look in the first clip, watch the goalie and listen to the crowd in the second one. Sick.

Reasoner: (C) Hard guy to rate, he does a little bit of everything and he's a great locker room guy. UFA next year and another one who's likely to be dealt at the deadline.

Hemsky: (B+) For all the talk in the off-season about getting a guy that could throw the puck around with Ales, I'm surprised they haven't tried him with Nilsson yet (that may happen against Vancouver tomorrow night). Most of the offense still flows through him and that's not a good thing. The lack of finishers on this club has actually caused him to start shooting the puck. THAT'S how desperate we are.

Nilsson: (C+) Exceptional talent, but every time I sing his praises he lays an egg. As with most young skill guys, he has to learn to take what the defence gives him. For example: dumping the puck in on occasion. You suck Ro-bear! (That should be good for 2 goals tomorrow).

Brodziak: (B-) He's going to have a NHL career doing exactly what he's doing. Killing penalties, responsible third line play, and chipping in the odd goal. Not much to knock.

Horcoff: (A-) Don't know what more he can do. He wins faceoffs, he's good defensively, and he puts up points, yet people knock him because he's not pretty doing it. Would you say this guy isn't pretty?! At least 75% of NHL play-by-play announcers still call him HORCROFT.

Jacques: (D-) Apparently he's the greatest AHL player of all-time.

Schremp, Pouliot, and Pisani: One of these guys will play in the NHL again this year. Hint: It's the guy with Ulcerative Colitis.


MacTavish: (C+) I think the guy is a really good coach, but this team - the way it's constructed - is not his cup of tea. He's been very patient and stayed positive with a young team that's been killed by injuries, and that's a credit to him. The guy is a good teacher, and thinks the game very well. The power play is ridiculous - it doesn't work because good power plays have SKILL. Why he hasn't thrown Gagner, Nilsson and Hemsky out there together is a mystery to me. Is it going to get worse? Overall, he and Lowe are hard to judge without a healthy team to assess.

Lowe: (B-) I think the team on paper has the elements to be competitive, but we haven't been able to see it on the ice yet. I actually heard him use the 'R' word today in an interview, which was nice. I think most fans knew we were rebuilding, they just wanted to hear him say it. There's a good core to build around, the difficult part is getting the high-end pieces to put the team back into the Cup hunt. It's hard to acquire those types of players when you don't have a lot of NHL-calibre players to give up in a trade, and your prospects haven't developed as expected. The Oilers do have some nice veterans that other teams will want, so when the team falls out of the race, it will be interesting to see who stays and who goes at the deadline.