Sunday, December 30

SOY UN PERDEDOR (repeat and fade)

I remember during the summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea…I was watching boxing and the Canadian boxer (I believe it was Lennox Lewis) absolutely beat the shit out of his opponent. I remember as Lewis rained down blow after blow feeling incredibly sorry for the kid (he was beating). There was no pride in being beaten by the man who would go on to win Gold (for Canada…and later be the Heavyweight champ of the world) just humiliation at the men beating him with his fists.
Cut to 1998 or 1999: I am watching my team (your team) the Toronto Maple Leafs against the St. Louis Blues. We have Felix Potvin in the net. I don’t remember the game or even who won; what I do remember is the goal by Al Mac. It was the end of the 2nd…with 8 seconds or so to go…Mac takes a stride over the red line and casually, harmlessly takes a shot a Potvin. It wasn’t a booming Mac shot, nothing was going 102 miles an hour, it was a dump in. Admittedly it dropped on Potvin…and bounced, perhaps it even went up on its side. Granted the puck took on Phil Niekro like dynamics…the point is…it went in.
I remember thinking “uh oh’ as the puck bounced. And…’oh shit’ as it went in.
Last I heard Potvin was playing goal for the Horcona C.H. Jaca in the Superliga Espanola de Hockey Hielo in Spain (a league about as popular as a Culture Club comeback tour). And before you ask…there are no chants of ‘Gatto, gatto, gatto’ from the Eagles faithful as even there Potvin is playing back up for Juan Carlos Gonzalez del le Serras.
I have no doubt had Potvin stopped that shot that he would still be in the NHL.
My point is confidence, and on this fine Sunday; the last of 2007, there is no doubt in my mind that Andrew Raycroft is that Korean boxer. I don’t know if Raycroft is Potvin yet but all I can suggest to him is, aprenda cómo decir, perro pardon me los teamates... pero estoy terrible apesadumbrado que yo dejado en otra meta suave... apenas en caso de que usted realiza que... soy un goalie shitty.

It behooves me at this point to say that I don’t solely blame Raycroft for last night’s debacle or for the last few games. In fact for the first time in months and months (certainly this season) I feel for him. I wouldn’t go so far to say that I feel for him in a Chaka Khan way (Baby, baby, when I look at you I get a warm feeling inside, there’s something about the things you do, that keeps me satisfied) but I feel for him the same way I feel for the Korean boxer. My heart breaks for a defeated man.
Raycroft looked genuinely shocked when that first goal went in. This is the time to get wins, steal games. Stand on your fucking head, stack the pads and show the bobble heads at MLSE that they backed the wrong horse. A wraparound goal from the other teams checking line? Either you are not doing enough squat thrusts or it’s going to be one of those games. I don’t know about any of you…but I knew it was the latter.

I am a believer in making the best of any situation, and a massive believer in doling out the middle finger with aplomb. I would seize Toskala’s groin as the golden egg that it is. The perfect time to raise the flag and say ‘fuck you’ without really having to say the words. Of course, the other option is terrible rebound control, going down to early, an inherent inability to anticipate plays, weakness high on the glove side. And a moustache.

I remember Potvin eventually quit on the team, the same way Shane Corson did. I can and could always forgive an L but there is something despicable and low about quitting on your teammates. It’s like humping your best friend’s girl: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. As much as I want to see Raycroft run out of town, I don’t think he would quit on this team. Quite frankly I was surprised to hear Raycroft say this yesterday, "It wasn't what we drew up beforehand, it got a little out of control there in the second, lots of penalties. You can't give them that many." For Raycroft that’s tantamount to, “3 minutes of 5 on 3? What the fuck do you expect?” And he was right of course.

What bothers me is that I really like the team we have on the ice. We’re still perhaps three, definitely two moves away from another 100+ point campaign…but there is clearly chemistry going on. This looks like a team who like each other. And when the team is clicking, its playoff ready for sure. What these millionaire dummies have to realize is that unless they get their shit together on the regular…that there are going to be changes. And that means one of two things…either say Hejdå to Mats, Zijte blaze to Kaberle and Qosh sau bolyngdar to Antropov. Or get ready to see the return of Travis Green.
I don’t know about you but I am not ready for either option.

State of the Oilers Address: Suckin'

Wild 5, Oil 4 (OT)

I hope Wash is refreshed and ready to assume the mantle as HS, HS's lead Oiler correspondent, because I may never post again. Leave me the fuck alone, Greener (just getting it out of the way now)!

The Oilers were officially eliminated from the playoffs last night. Yes they were, go check again. But, putting a new twist on an old trick, the blame for last night's collapse has to go to MacT. This is not a lame "fire MacT" post, like you're likely to read on any number of Oiler blogs on any given day. I'm a big MacT fan. I think the guy has an attention to detail that 90% of the coaches in this league don't, and he can teach the game. But he's got to take some of the blame for last night.

I don't want to talk about the ref's, or the phantom penalty in overtime (apparently you can't touch Gaborik). I don't want to talk about the Penner disallowed goal (it was the right call), or the Backstrom save on Brodziak. Neither were plays that cost you a game that you're leading by three goals. Momentum is an imaginary, self-induced phenomenon. I hate when players talk about a big play giving the other team momentum. It's a fucking head game. If you want to stop momentum or take momentum back, then DO IT - with your actions on the ice. What the fuck? Some supernatural force blows into the arena, and then everybody on the bench turns to each other and says "Oh geez boys, let's just hold the fort here until this momentum dies down." Stop fucking thinking about it and PLAY HOCKEY!

But back to MacT. The game was played at a very high tempo last night, and the Wild have four lines that can skate. At 4-1, the Oilers were still rolling four lines. As soon as Rolston scored to make it 4-2 (late in the 2nd), MacT, knowing his team had blown leads in three straight games, played it cautious and shortened his bench. With Pitkanen leaving the game, the Oilers were short a defensemen and now going with 9 forwards. The pace was frenetic in the third period, with very few whistles, and the Oilers just couldn't match the Wild. Frankly, they looked tired and a step slow. After a Christmas break they shouldn't have been, and none of the ice-time totals were too out of whack, with the exception of Souray playing 28 minutes and change. The fourth line of Nilsson (4:00 of ice time), Thoresen (4:25), and Stortini (2:52) did not play badly. In fact, Nilsson made a couple of nice plays on the backcheck. So why the benching? And why the hell is Stortini dressed when Sanderson is healthy? The guy is an average AHL player and brings NOTHING to the table. He played 2:52 last night! Why is he dressed if he's not going to play? Are you telling me that adding Sanderson to that line wouldn't have given them a different dimension, and a reliable veteran that could have enabled them to contribute more.

I know you want your best players playing more minutes, and that the horrible defensive zone coverage (like the 4th goal, where all five Wild players went to the net!) was also to blame for the loss, but this is a team with a flawed and unbalanced roster. In a game like that, against a great skating team, Zack Stortini (who CAN'T SKATE) should be in a suit. Did MacT not read the lineup card? Boogaard wasn't dressed, and Todd Fedoruk is still sorting out whether he needs to wear a visor to protect the metal plates in his face. The only thing that guy is fighting is Hemochromatosis.

Where is this team going? Are we trying to win now and make the playoffs, or are we trying to develop our young players? If it's the former, then last night's lineup is curious. If it's the latter, then MacT's decisions were just as curious. It seems the team is stuck between mindsets.

Oh, yeah. Welcome back "Chopper".