Damian Cox should stick to writing about eastern teams he knows nothing about

Jonathan Willis
December 19 2008 06:00AM

Toronto journalist Damian Cox compares the Toronto Maple Leafs to other Canadian teams in his latest column. Along the way, he decides that he need not confine his lack of knowledge to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that he should also comment on the Edmonton Oilers. The following is an actual quote:

Lowe seemed to have a magic touch when he organized a team that made it to the '06 Stanley Cup final, but not these days. Over the summer, he traded for Lubomir Visnovsky and Erik Cole and apparently believed the goaltending was sound, which has not been the case. Long-term commitments to Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff appear, at the moment, to be less than visionary.

Cox isn’t entirely wrong. Erik Cole has been a disappointment, and while two out of three goaltenders have been good, Mathieu Garon has been very disappointing after a strong 2007-08. Finally, the merits of Shawn Horcoff’s contract are certainly debatable.

With that said, there are two enormously stupid comments in that quotation:

  1. The implication that Lubomir Visnovsky has been sub-par.
  2. The long-term commitment to Ales Hemsky was a mistake.

For starters, Lubomir Visnovsky has been solid in every aspect of the game. With Visnovsky on the ice at even strength, the Oilers have outscored their opponents 14 to 7. His Corsi rating is +44. He’s on pace for eight powerplay goals and 41 points. He’s carrying a +4 rating, all while averaging over 23 minutes a night. There has been nothing wrong with the play of Lubomir Visnovsky.

The second statement is mind-boggling. Ales Hemsky is on pace for a 27-goal, 85-point season. He’s one of the best offensive weapons in the Western Conference, and an elite option on the powerplay. When he’s on the ice, the Oilers outscore their opponents 19-15 at even strength, and he has a +72 Corsi rating. All of this, and he has an average cap hit just over $4 million for this season and the next three. To suggest that Hemsky’s contract is a bad thing for the Edmonton Oilers shows nothing less than either an ignorance of the basic facts, or stupidity too great to comprehend them.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Jim Korchinski
December 19 2008, 06:51AM
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Oilers are guilty of not performing, finishing last for three years would be the best approach. Review the following:

Lowe - Guilty of Mistakes (Penner, Cole, 2nd line centre Horcoff, three headed goalie..... when you sign Penner, Horcoff, Pisani and even my favorite Rollie ... ask yourself if things change - can you trade the contract - not the player - the answer in most cases is NO. Curtis GlenX would look really good at $1.2 - 1.4 mm and he was turned away....

MacT - taking over from Maciocia as the favourite whipping boy - changing a winning lineup last week... The fans have more disdain for MacT than Tom Poti

Players - low faceoff percentage (Stoll is 57%), passengers Cole (Adam Oates comparison), low shot count on most nights, and the failure to start the game on time.

Fans - paid their money and are patiently waiting for more than a 0.500 rating - I really hope the Oil tank and take a top 2 pick this year - as Lowe has given many away throwing money around like a credit card shopper - the VISA bill has arrived - BIG TIME.

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#2 Milli
December 19 2008, 07:41AM
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@ Jim Korchinski: I dunno, Big Dustin Penner is looking pretty good of late, he'll score close to 30 (unless CracT can mess him up). We can debate all of Klo's mistakes, but lets face it, the guy is from Toronto, need I say more.

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#3 The Towel Boy
December 19 2008, 08:04AM
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I read this article at the toronto star's website yesterday and was dumbfounded by its overall stupidity. Glad you wrote something about it JW.

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#4 BUCK75
December 19 2008, 08:23AM
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Damien Cox is a douche. The Messiah will get rid of I bet 6 or 7 of the top 10 point getters on the Leafs, then how will their team look?

Matt Stajan 30 7 17 24 Nik Antropov 31 12 11 23 Alexei Ponikarovsky 31 9 12 21 Mikhail Grabovski 31 11 9 20 Tomas Kaberle 31 2 18 20 Niklas Hagman 27 8 11 19 Lee Stempniak 25 4 14 18 Jason Blake 27 6 11 17 Pavel Kubina 31 6 9 15 Dominic Moore 31 5 8 13

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#5 Zamboni Driver
December 19 2008, 08:32AM
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While I agree Cox is a douche (there's probably a joke in there somewhere, but it's too early and too cold)...

I actually think, other than the Hemsky part, that he's pretty right on (although not especially insightful, nor saying anything especially new).

Actually one part that I might even take issue with would be "Lowe's magic touch" taking the team to the finals. A HUGE part of that was riding an impossibly hot goalie, and having (at the time, and for that period) the best player in the league.

Following up that close-call with the C.F. that was the immediate summer (Pronger nonsense, signing his best friend to a zillion dollar, multiyear contract based on two decent months)....

So, I am on the golf course, I hit my drive in the trees 17 times...but on #18, I hit it 295 straight down the pipe.

Which one was the accident?

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#6 Gord
December 19 2008, 09:07AM
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Is it just me or does Hemmer look like he is the primary resident of a bell tower in that photo?

Cox isn't the most informed and to suggest that signing Hemsky to a long term deal is a mistake is plain lunicy! I'll stick by the Vish trade as I am happy with his performance and I still like Cole. He scoring isn't what we expected but it's not due to a lack of effort, and should only be a matter of time until some of his shots go in. I like what he brings and I think that playing with Horc and Nilsson on the new second line should turn things around for him. Penner (since coming off his press box assignment) has definitely been worth the money. If he continues as that rate for the remainder of his contract I call it a bargain.

All the rest of what Cox says seems to be vaguely accurate.

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#7 Jonathan Willis
December 19 2008, 09:23AM
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Does it seem to anyone else that someone criticizing the Oilers performance should mention their penalty-kill? Seems like to me.

Cox was being lazy - he felt like tying the Oilers and Senators together, so he used the "signing young core players to long-term contracts is a bad idea" card, despite it's obvious inaccuracy.

As for the rest, he just took a list of Oilers moves over the summer and lack of a big-name starter and argued it was all bad - the equivalent of blasting away with a scattergun at a man with a hostage.

Compare, if you will, Cox's analysis of the Oilers' problems to the one done by Robin Brownlee a few posts down - there isn't a comparison. Brownlee took time, and knows what he's talking about, whereas Cox just threw some stuff at the wall and it shouldn't be surprising that some of it stuck.

Cox was either ignorant of the facts or too stupid to comprehend them. He was certainly lazy.

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#8 Gord
December 19 2008, 09:29AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Cox was either ignorant of the facts or too stupid to comprehend them.

A little from column 'A' and a little from column 'B'

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#9 shakey
December 19 2008, 09:43AM
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Tell me the name of a GM that hasn't made a mistake along the way. Even Holland signed Bertuzzi in DET. How is Penner a mistake? He led the team in goals his first year and after a bad start is one of our best players now. Get over Glen-X, he had a decent run here for a couple months but prior to that was a no name. He asked for more than we wanted to pay and he left. He could have easily been a bust in Calgary and Lowe would have looked like he made the right move then. Adam Oates wasn't brought here to lead the team in scoring. He earned his money by being a mentor to Stoll and others for his face-off knowledge alone. You'd rather have Stoll than Visnovsky at this point in the season? I think that was a good deal, you have to give up something to get something. What other GM is radically changing his team with trades right now?

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#10 cole
December 19 2008, 10:38AM
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Its not just Damien Cox, its all the media in Canada that is not based out of Edmonton and do not follow the Oilers on a daily basis. Any move that Lowe makes or has made since the Human Rake, or Tall Boy left after 06 is judged harsher than anyone else. Lowe is either a desperate GM trying to save his job, or he is grasping a straws but signing a star whose past his prime in an effort to improve his team. When it comes to Hemsky and Visnovsky, are you freakin kidding my Damien, both are all world calibre players who if playing in Toronto would be the greatest thing since sliced bread. As for Erik Cole, Mac T deserves all the credit for that poor production, you dont take a guy who is a career 20 goal scorer playing on the off wing and try to make him reshape his game, stick with what works. Goaltending should be Roloson and Deslaurier, get Garon out as fast as you can.

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#11 JackBauer
December 19 2008, 12:01PM
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"Get over Glen-X, he had a decent run here for a couple months but prior to that was a no name. He asked for more than we wanted to pay and he left. He could have easily been a bust in Calgary and Lowe would have looked like he made the right move then."

No that isnt what happened. We were waiting on the Hossa nonsense to come to fruition before they wanted to offer Curtis anything. It was timing, or a lack thereof on Lowe's part that led to GlenX signing with Calgary. And hes not a bust so the fans have reasons to call foul on that.

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#12 shakey
December 19 2008, 01:44PM
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Jack; I think my point here is this team has bigger fish to fry than to worry about some 4th liner that has developed into a useful hockey player. Everyone is a genius after the fact. I would rather see Lowe go after Hossa and lose Glencross than sign Glencross and not have the money for Hossa. He had a plan and it didn't turn out...move on.

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#13 Dennis
December 19 2008, 01:48PM
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JW: the more you'll read the more you'll find guys who are getting paid to cover sports really don't know as much as I think they should.

I don't know the league like I used to -- Bettman really killed a bit of me when he made all the play conference-centric but I'd still best most guys who make a living covering these stuff.

And so would you.

For instance, I used to think Pierre MacGuire knew a lot more than he did because I came across him on CJAD one spring while listening for Expos coverage and the guy was just flat out wrong about some of his Oilers opinions. So, I came to two conclusions:

1. How can a guy who's from Canada not at least concentrate on knowing as much as he can about the Can franchises?

2: if he's telling untruths about a Can team, that what else is he fudging about?

This sorta stuff is all around if you start to think about it. Another example, and just to touch on Avery for a quick second, I was watching a promo for Sportscentral on SN and do you think they actually group Avery and OJ together in a headline, "OJ and Avery to be sentenced."

Really?

Don't stop the writing, JW. You might turn out to be one of the good ones.

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#14 Jonathan Willis
December 19 2008, 01:54PM
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@ Dennis:

I don't know - most of the beat writers have a good idea of what's going on with their teams, even if we disagree on solutions/problems there's plenty of knowledge there.

Cox has been an idiot for a long time; I've been reading his crap in annual journals for years and he really doesn't have a clue with the possible exception of the Leafs.

I'm not aspiring to be a journalist - two more years and I'll be clearing more money than I know what to do with at my current job anyway :) I just like hockey and writing, so I do this.

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#15 Dennis
December 19 2008, 02:05PM
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Just remember who you learned from;)

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#16 Jonathan Willis
December 19 2008, 02:24PM
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@ Dennis:

Learn-ing, Dennis. Present tense :)

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#17 oilerman53
December 19 2008, 10:56PM
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These days we're all left wondering what team is going to show up at the opening whistle. There are some rules to being an Oiler fan that some of who have been here long enough know about. One of them is to never listen to the Toronto media, west of T.O. is a barren wasteland full of nothingness and folks who don't revolve around the center of the universe. Now to call our players a waste of a good contract is always good for an argument and fifty thousand posts from Oiler fans like me all crying foul. The real crime here is not the guy telling us how crappy our team is, the crime is really how crappy this team is run. You give a guy who was a career 30 point penalty killer a good offensive lineup and see how he runs it. The wasted contract here is to the guy with glasses, a calm demeanor and an inability to show this team how to play 60 minutes a night. Damien Cox can sleep good at night knowing that his ill-informed comments caused a bit of a kerfuffle with some people who were willing to take a bite at it. Players come and go but at the end of the day the real question here now is who is the one to make something out of these players and play them in such a fashion to be considered among the elite.

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#18 Smokin' Ray
December 19 2008, 11:57PM
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We can get paid for writing about the Oilers? All right... Sign me up!

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#19 Jonathan Willis
December 20 2008, 08:53AM
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oilerman53 wrote:

One of them is to never listen to the Toronto media, west of T.O. is a barren wasteland full of nothingness and folks who don’t revolve around the center of the universe.

I like Bob McKenzie.

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