Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Summer's half over

Okay, so we're at the midway point now of summer 2006. I set a goal in January that I would make this one the second best summer ever. Nothing will ever come close to 2001, let's face it. That summer involved flying, football, and hanging out with friends. I wanted this summer to emphasize all three of those things as well. Let's see how I'm doing so far:

1. Graduation application denied (that's the big one...)

2. I live in St. Albert. With my parents. That makes it very difficult to have people over and the St. Albert thing means it's difficult to hang out with friends. I see Mick about every 2 weeks, I haven't seen Blobra in 3 months, Andre is always around, but he's moving to Fort Mac this month, and Wallace works an afternoon shift with Thursdays and Sundays off so I'll be seeing even less of her. It also means I spend a lot of money on gas. I drive half an hour every morning to work and it's about as far to the Stallions practice field.

3. The football thing has become more challenging than I ever thought possible. I know I lack athletic talent at the best of times, but when I stand next to these guys I just look like a piece of shit. It's like the hockey thing...sometimes I feel like such a fraud out there.

4. I flew for 2.4 hours yesterday. That was the first time this summer I've been up flying. I think that I'll be going up maybe twice more over the next two months as I never seem to have any money and should think about saving some. See #1.

5. The end of the Oilers Stanley Cup run was extremely disappointing. It's good that I had NHL hockey well into June though. Sometimes I wish I wasn't such a fan because the stress levels in my life would plummet. Seriously. It's worth being hardcore when your team wins, but it's really hard when they lose.

6. Work sucks the life out of me. I'm up at 4:30 AM every day and don't go to bed until 11:30 or midnight. I just can't go to bed early. So I'm half-asleep and unmotivated at work nearly all the time. There are also disadvantages to working days since there are a lot more people around so you kind of need to look busy all the time.

7. I have let just about everyone down in one way or another. God, why is it that when I find a group of people that I like to hang out with I have to fuck it up by acting like myself? I guess not everyone's a cold-hearted cynic like me so maybe that has to change. That's going to be kind of hard though.

Other than that, things have been awesome! But damned if I don't have a lot of work to do to save this summer from completely tanking.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Not in MY NHL!

I'm not going to blog about what took place in the actual game. Even though he was wrong about everything else, Anonymotron hit the nail on the head with this quote: "Do I seriously have to go sit in my cubicle and listen to people HAVE THE SAME GODDAMN OBVIOUS DISCUSSIONS about the loss, ALL GODDAMN DAY LONG?" Good thing I'm stuck off in a corner of the basement where my human contact is very infrequent, and I don't work in a cube. It will be a miracle if Weeds makes it through today without dismembering a certain idiot meddler co-worker of hers.

I'm really glad the Angry Guy didn't show up last night. I think it's because I came to terms with this when I was driving around the city for an hour after game one of the series; Betsy and I were having our own little pity party. Does this mean all my neg-head downer shit can be good sometimes? I can understand how hard it must have been for people who, you know...still believe in things. I certainly didn't help matters much, with my "Game Over!" declaration and prediction of a 4-1 Carolina win after the first period, just to press the buttons of everyone I was watching the game with.

I can't wait for Saturday and the Stampeders/Eskimos at Commonwealth. I know the Stamps fans will be out in full force wonk-wonk-wonking about the Oilers, despite the fact that hockey and football are two different sports (no, really!) These are the fans who showed up to Stampeders games all 2004 season wearing their Flames jerseys, so Andre responded during the labour day rematch by wearing his Lightning jersey. So I hope to see a Hurricanes jersey this Saturday. If not, I will be very disappointed. And of course, if the Edmonton fans show up in their Oilers jerseys, they're going to get a faceful of knuckles. Except for that one guy in College Corner who has always worn his Oilers jersey...I guess it's bad form to beat up retards.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Great Oilers Moment #1

1. EIG buys the team

I think this is a fantastic story. Few people remember, or even knew in the first place, how close Edmonton came to losing its NHL franchise. Here’s how it all happened:

Peter Pocklington was a pretty respected businessman in Edmonton during the 70’s and early to mid-80s. He brought jobs to the city through his thriving meat packing empire and brought an NHL franchise to the team. Through a shrewd business move, he managed to keep Gretzky from going to an expansion draft when the Oilers joined the NHL. And at great personal expense, he put together a winning roster and the team won its first Stanley Cup within five years of joining the league…something that’s almost unheard of for an expansion team. But the Gainers strike of 1986 was the beginning of the end for Pocklington. He was blasted for his use of replacement workers and his business never really recovered. Also, in ’88, many fans chose to blame Pocklington for the Gretzky trade, while Pocklington tried to shift the blame back on Gretzky and his new wife Janet. Few believed him, however, and all of a sudden, Pocklington became Edmonton’s very own Mr. Burns. The shenanigans would not stop there, however. Pocklington frequently got into spats with Northlands over his lease agreement there and threatened to move the team several times when negotiations didn’t go his way. The fans got fed up with this and the team saw dismal season ticket sales in the mid 1990s. Finally, in 1998, the Alberta Treasury Branch seized control of the team over Pocklington’s accumulated debts and put the team up for sale. And since no single local person offered up the money to buy the team, it appeared the Oilers’ days in Edmonton were numbered. It seemed they were doomed to suffer the same fate as the Quebec Nordiques in 1995, and the Winnipeg Jets in 1996.

However, a number of factors at least stalled the process for the time-being. The very same lease at Northlands that Pocklington tried to void prevented him from unilaterally moving the team or selling it to someone who intended to move the team. The lease also stipulated that an ownership group willing to keep the team in Edmonton had six weeks to purchase the team for $70 million USD if an outside buyer declared their intentions to buy the team.

Since no single buyer could be found, Cal Nichols, owner of Gasland Properties, was forced to come up with a more creative solution: securing smaller investments from a large number of buyers. Lenders were willing to finance 40% of the purchase price, meaning Nichols needed to scrape together $60 million. He had raised about $35 million when an offer came in from Les Alexander, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, to purchase the team for $85 million USD. Alexander originally offered to keep the team in Edmonton, provided the lease at Northlands was terminated, attendance remained at acceptable levels, and a local ownership group was eventually found and he would be granted an expansion franchise in Houston. City council rejected these terms, believing the lease at Northlands was still their best chance to keep the Oilers in the city for the long term. Alexander then went to the ATB and gave them $5 million USD as a deposit and committed to buying the team for $85 million USD and moving it to Houston. Cal Nichols and his group now had 6 weeks to come up with the $70 million USD as stipulated by the lease agreement. As the deadline approached, the group committed to purchase by matching Alexander’s $5 million deposit and paid the ATB the remainder of the $70 million 40 days later.

The Edmonton Investor’s Group is the sole reason why there is still NHL hockey in Edmonton today and thus ranks as the most important moment in the team’s history. However, the group was quite wary of its bottom line and the team could not afford to bring in big talent. The team under the new ownership group struggled to make the playoffs every season and didn’t win a playoff round until 2006, when the new collective bargaining agreement made it possible for all teams to ice a competitive roster.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Great Oilers Moment #2

Well! 2 more wins until I am forced to eat a big steamy plate of crow for my bold prediction after Game 1. I kept thinking Game 6 was never going to happen and that I would never get to see a Stanley Cup Final game. Who knows when the next time the Oilers will be in the finals will be and I was fortunate enough to have season tickets this season. It's paid off big time.

2. 1990 Stanley Cup Win

So at the turn of the decade, the Oilers sat second in the Smythe Division, the Flames had won the Cup the previous season, Wayne Gretzky had departed to the LA Kings two seasons ago, the Oilers lost in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1981-82 the previous year, and Grant Fuhr had injured himself. It would seem that the Oilers were in their autumn years and had no chance in the 1990 playoffs.

Or not.

However, from the very early going, the Oilers looked terrible. In the first round, the Winnipeg Jets held a 3-1 series lead over Edmonton and the Oilers' only win had come by way of overtime. In the next two, the Oilers earned a pair of 4-3 wins, and got a decisive 4-1 victory in Game 7 to advance to the Smythe Division final. Here, they faced the team that eliminated them from the playoffs the previous year. However, the Oilers were not at all intimidated, and led by Bill Ranford's heroics, they swept the Kings, outscoring them 24-10. In a hard fought Campbell Conference final, the Oilers beat the Blackhawks 4 games to 2 and went on to face a familiar foe from the 1988 series: the Boston Bruins. Game 1 still holds the record as the longest Stanley Cup Final game ever played. It ended when Petr Klima scored at 15:13 of the third overtime period giving the Oilers a 3-2 win. Ranford stood on his head all series as he never allowed more than 2 goals in any of the games. The Oilers would win the series 4 games to 1 and Ranford would win the Conn Smythe.

For some people, this one is the forgotten Stanley Cup. To me, it was the greatest one of the five the Oilers won during their dynasty. They proved that they could win it all without Gretzky. They would come close again, making the Conference finals in the two subsequent seasons, being upset by the Minnesota North Stars and then swept by the Blackhawks.

Alright, so now that the five cups are all out of the way, what could possibly be the greatest Oilers moment of all time? The answer's coming soon.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Great Oilers Moment #3

I suppose I'd better finish this thing off...

3. 1984 Stanley Cup Win

The Oilers made it to their first Stanley Cup final the previous season, but were swept by the New York Islanders as they won their fourth Stanley Cup in as many years. They outscored the Oilers 17-6 despite all of the Oilers' goal-scoring records and boasted superstars such as Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin and Billy Smith. So after a seven game series with the Flames, and a sweep of the Jets and Northstars, the Oilers found themselves in the finals again with the Islanders. It seemed history was doomed to repeat itself; the Islanders had home ice advantage and many hockey writers, even in Edmonton, confidently predicted that the Islanders would be successful in their "drive for five."

Game 1 was a battle of the goaltenders, with Grant Fuhr coming out on top in a 1-0 contest. Game 2 was more lopsided as the Islanders routed the Oilers 6-1. The series then headed up to Northlands, where the Oilers offence overpowered Billy Smith as they recorded back to back 7-2 wins. After two periods of Game 5, the Oilers found themselves up 4-0. But two quick goals by Pat LaFontaine put the outcome in doubt. The Oilers knew that if the series had to go back to Long Island, they would never have come back winners. However, despite this momentum shift, Andy Moog stood tall for the rest of the game, and an empty-netter by Dave Lumley made the final score 5-2.

The Oilers had just ended the greatest Stanley Cup dynasty in the post-expansion NHL. Celebrations erupted down Jasper Ave. and Mayor Laurence Decore declared that the win was "the greatest thing that's ever happened here."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Game Over

"The Oilers, on the other hand, can choose between D-Wayne and Bozo the Clown on any given night."

And now they don't get to choose anymore. It's Bozo the Clown for the next three games. I say this because D-Wayne is gone for the series. I know some people are going to say "Christ, Adam, you need to hold onto some hope...some faith." And because of the shit blizzard that I'm trapped in, I'll say "Sorry, pal. Hope, faith...tank's empty on that count." This is not just me trying to pull a reverse jinx. These are my prognostication skills telling me that it will all be over by next Monday. Face it, we're back to square one: the goaltending circus that plagued the team for most of the season and managed to win 41 games by pure dumb luck.

I suppose it all depends on how the team responds, but they have relied very heavily on Roloson to get them this far. I should probably wait one more game, but I've been watching this Conklin/Markkanen/Morrison shit all season and I'm so goddamn sick of it. Don't accuse me of being off the bandwagon...if I'm wrong, I'll eat my crow with a smile on my face, but I would prefer to be prepared for what's ineviteably going to happen.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

NHL Playoffs - Round 4

I went 2 for 2 in the last series (so did the monkey) while the “experts” went 0 for 2. That makes me 8-6 in the postseason. I guess that means you have to listen to what I say now.

(8) Edmonton vs. (2) Carolina

Two former WHA teams competing for the Stanley Cup…man, that warms the old heart. But who would have thought this at the beginning of the season? Carolina was the big surprise in the regular season, and the Oilers barely squeaked into the playoffs.

Anyway, I hope that the Oilers don’t change what they’re doing too much because from the limited time that I’ve watched Carolina play, it looks like they play very similarly to Anaheim. They look like a really fast team, but unlike Anaheim, they’ve got some more depth on offence and the scoring could really come from anywhere (Weight, Brind’Amour, Staal, Stillman, Recchi, etc.) This kind of sounds like another team the Oilers have played…San Jose Sharks anyone?? Their blue line doesn’t look all that bad either. Who would have thought that clown Mike Commodore would become such a star? Their power play for the playoffs has also been very successful…not unlike Detroit! So what we have here is a composite of all the teams the Oilers have played. We have the fierce power play of Detroit, the offensive prowess of San Jose, and the speed and hot goaltending of Anaheim all rolled into one. Although it will be interesting to see whether or not there is a full blown goaltending controversy…Peter Laviolette has not hesitated to rotate his goaltenders and it has worked for him. A goaltending change is more a mind game than anything. When a team starts its backup in a game, it signals to the other team’s forwards that they shouldn’t have to work too hard to win the game. Also, the team tends to rally around the new goalie, as seen in Game 4 of the Anaheim series. The Oilers, on the other hand, can choose between D-Wayne and Bozo the Clown on any given night. The mind game probably won’t work too well in their case.

As for the rest vs. rust debate, I tend to agree with the rust side more often. However, the move to Tarrytown was fucking brilliant. It gets the travel day out of the way and puts the team in the eastern time zone and has them working out on slushy ice.

So what’s the verdict? Well, the crystal ball is still all clouded up by homerism…or is that a cloud of smoke from a burning phone booth on Whyte Ave.? I can’t tell. Oh well, retards will be retards. Oilers in 6.

Good news is that the monkey (who is 9-5 in her postseason predictions) picked the Oilers. Unfortunately, McKenzie and McGuire (who are 7-7 and 6-8 respectively) also picked the Oilers. Also, Mayor Howie Mandel picked Oilers in 6 also, and he has called each Oilers series exactly right, including the number of games.

EDM 3.18 goals for per game vs. CAR 2.44 goals against per game
EDM 2.47 goals against per game vs. CAR 3.00 goals for per game

EDM 19.8% power play vs. CAR 83.7% penalty kill
EDM 88.6% penalty kill vs. CAR 25.9% power play

EDM 26.8 shots per game vs. CAR 26.3 shots allowed per game
EDM 35.1 shots allowed per game vs. CAR 30.9 shots per game

Great Oilers Moment #4

4. 2006 Western Conference Championship

With a new CBA in place as a result of the 2005 NHL lockout, the Oilers all of a sudden found themselves on a level playing field with the rest of the league in terms of player salaries. GM Kevin Lowe made the most of the opportunity, obtaining Chris Pronger in exchange for Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, and Doug Lynch. He then obtained Michael Peca by sending Mike York to the Islanders. However, these two did not prove to be all the missing pieces to the puzzle. Pronger struggled at first before finding his form in November and Peca was having such a bad season that late in the season, he openly questioned whether the Oilers were a good fit for him. That, and the Oilers had no number one goaltender, rotating between Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen and Mike Morrison, with none of them rising to the challenge. At the trade deadline, Kevin Lowe finally pulled the trigger, acquiring Minnesota’s backup goaltender Dwayne Roloson in exchange for a first round draft pick and conditional third round pick. This move was criticized by armchair GMs everywhere, especially when Roloson lost his first three starts as an Oiler. Sergei Samsonov was also acquired at the deadline in exchange for a second round pick. At the end of it all, the Oilers backed into the playoffs, relying on losses by the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings to get into the playoffs. As a result of their low seed, the Oilers faced the President’s Trophy winners, the Detroit Red Wings, in the first round. The Oilers dropped the first game and after four, the series was tied 2-2. The Oilers won the next two, with a miraculous comeback in the 3rd period of Game 6 with goals by Fernando Pisani and Ales Hemsky. With the game tied 3-3 with 1:05 remaining, Samsonov hit Hemsky with a picture perfect pass and he streaked in all alone and beat Manny Legace for his second of the game. The Oilers became the first 8th-seeded team to upset a #1 seed. In the second round, the Oilers found themselves down 2 games to none after back to back 2-1 losses at the hands of the San Jose Sharks. Game 3 went to triple overtime all because of Roloson’s heroics. The Oilers won the game 3-2 on a goal by Shawn Horcoff. This was the turning point of the series as the Oilers would win the next three games as well, becoming the first 8th seed to make the Conference finals. The momentum continued into the 3rd round despite being fatigued and ravaged by the flu, the Oilers took a 3-0 lead in the series and ended up winning in five games. They went on to face the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup final.

And that’s as far as the story gets right now, so this could move up or down in the rankings. I wonder how it’s going to end? Can’t wait to find out…

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Great Oilers Moment #5

5. 1987 Stanley Cup win

With the 1986 playoff disaster still fresh in their minds, the Oilers were looking for redemption. The Oilers didn’t encounter much resistance in getting to the finals; they went 12-2 as they disposed of the Kings, Jets, and Red Wings. For the Flyers, it wasn’t so easy. They needed seven games to win the division final and six games to win the conference. After four games in the finals, the Oilers led the series 3 games to 1. It appeared the Oilers would win their third cup in four years. Then Mike Keenan brought the Stanley Cup into his dressing room before Game 5 to motivate the troops. The trick worked: the Flyers won Game 5 4-3. Back in Philadelphia, they were able to ride their momentum and Ron Hextall’s fantastic goaltending to another win by a score of 3-2. The series headed back to Northlands with the Flyers holding all the momentum. But once again, the Oilers found a way, winning the game 3-1. Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe, becoming only the fourth player from the losing team to do so.

But I think the neatest thing about this win is that after accepting the Cup, Gretzky didn’t even hoist it…he promptly handed it off to Steve Smith.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Great Oilers Moment #6

6. Esa Tikkanen eliminates the Flames

The 1991 Smythe Division semi-final round saw the defending champion 3rd place Edmonton Oilers taking on the 2nd place Calgary Flames. The Flames were heavy favourites going into the series as they finished 20 points ahead of the Oilers in the standings. After four games, the Oilers found themselves ahead in the series 3 games to 1, but there was no quit in the Flames. Anybody who remembers this series will no doubt first recall the image of future loser Theoren Fleury sliding around on the ice in Game 6 of the series after the Flames had just knotted the series up at 3 games a piece with a 2-1 overtime victory at Northlands. That sent Game 7 back to the Saddledome. The Flames enjoy showing the Fleury celebration on their jumbotron videos, but the organization tends to have a selective memory because of what happens next. After 60 minutes, the two teams found themselves knotted at 4 goals a piece. Just before the 7 minute mark of overtime, Esa Tikkanen blasted a shot that found its way past Mike Vernon to complete the upset of the Flames.

The Oilers would defeat the LA Kings in 6 games in the Smythe final before losing to the upstart Minnesota North Stars in 5 games in the Campbell Conference Finals.

After this series was over, a temporary ceasefire was called in the Battle of Alberta. In 1993, the Oilers failed to make the playoffs for the first time, and while the Flames continued to enjoy regular season success for the next few years, they didn’t win a playoff series from 1989 until 2004. The Oilers returned to the post-season in 1997, but this time the Flames were on the outside looking in.

Tikk would be traded to the New York Rangers in 1993 for Doug Weight.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Great Oilers Moment #7

Carolina it is. Official Round 4 prediction will be posted shortly.

7. 1988 Stanley Cup Win

The Oilers already had 3 cups to their name and had won it the previous season. To get to the finals, they first disposed of the Jets in 5 games, but then found themselves matched up against the President’s Trophy winners, the Calgary Flames. The Flames had amassed an impressive 48-23-9 record, however, they surrendered almost as quickly as the Netherlands as it only took the Oilers 6 days to send the Flames back down the highway. From there, they took out the Detroit Red Wings in 5 games and then came up against the 4th best team in the league, the Boston Bruins. The Oilers won the first 3 games of the series convincingly, by a combined score of 12-6. In Game 4, the game was tied 3-3 in the 2nd period. The old Boston Garden was such a piece of shit that the wiring and breakers in the building failed, plunging it into darkness. The game was rescheduled to be played at Northlands, and the Oilers won it by a score of 6-3. Their postseason record was an amazing 16-2, and it was the second time they had won the cup in consecutive years and had now won the cup four out of the last five years.

Also of note…this would be the last game Wayne Gretzky would play in an Oilers uniform, and at the ripe old age of 27, it would also turn out to be his last Stanley Cup.