Oilers potpourri: Brownlee's brain dump

Robin Brownlee
March 14 2008 01:08PM

warrior.jpg  (WARRIOR, pictured above, is consoled by his teddy after Brownlee tears a strip off of him.) I thought I'd be like the Oilers in Denver and not show up today, but there's so many things rattling around my big, empty head... Opinions on defenceman Joni Pitkanen are definitely split. On one hand, there's no denying Pitkanen's physical tools, skating ability and the fact he's a very intelligent player. People in that camp don't even flinch at the thought that agent Larry Kelly is said to be asking $4.5 million a season for his client in a new deal with the Oilers. "Pay it! That's a bargain," they say. On the other hand, there's a legion of fans who question his emotion and intensity. Pitkanen's about as much of a blood-and-guts guy as the average librarian or accountant. The unsettling thing about the often-injured Pitkanen is the question about his ability to play with pain. Igor Ulanov he isn't. I shudder to think what might have happened had Pitkanen and Ulanov, who had the pain threshold of a cadaver, sat side-by-side in the dressing room. Ulanov once had to be forced off the ice by officials at Madison Square Garden after taking a slapper in the mouth because he wanted to wait until the end of the period for repairs—he ended up needing 30 stitches. Uli was wicked tough. When I asked him what the hell he was thinking, he seemed offended. "What?" he scowled. "It's blood on my face. My leg is not broken." My guess is Joni and Igor would've had issues. But I digress... Anyway, I was talking with Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock before he did an interview with Bob Stauffer and I on Total Sports Thursday. Hitch, coach in Philadelphia when Pitkanen broke in, has his own take. He says Pitkanen hasn't been the same player since he suffered knee and ankle injuries in 2005-06, a campaign in which the big Finn was tearing it up before he got injured and was limited to 58 games. "Look at 2005-06," Hitchcock said. "You're going to see 46 points. What people don't realize is he had 41 points in 40 games before he got hurt. "He was over a point a game before he got hurt. He got injured, then he came back and got injured again. He went knee and then ankle... he has not been the same player since. "He was a reckless, go-to-the-net guy. He was getting game-winners. He's become a very careful player now. He's missed games this year with a knee, hasn't he?" A knee. A back. A hip. The flu... "I just think when you get banged up that many times, it takes a lot to come back," Hitchcock said. So it seems, Hitch. So it seems. AND... —After a debate on radio with the obnoxious wannabe who calls himself THE WARRIOR, I've got one question: WARRIOR, when you get your butt kicked around the block in the third person like you did yesterday, does it hurt first-hand? THE WARRIOR, frantic and absorbing much scorn on the popular fan site Hockey's Future after our exchange, made a lame attempt at taking a poke at me, saying he hated to see me "reduced" to becoming a blogger. I haven't been reduced to anything. If an old-school hack who spent almost 25 years in the traditional newspaper business like me can embrace new media, anybody can. If this internet thing ever catches on, THE BIRDMAN wants to be part of it. —Between bumps, bruises and the wear and tear of 17 straight starts, I wouldn't be surprised if Mathieu Garon gets a night off in Phoenix or San Jose. Garon left the game in Colorado with the score 3-0 after Steve Staios rode Milan Hejduk into him. In Chicago, Matt Greene dumped big load Dustin Byfuglien on him. The Oilers record for consecutive starts, by the way, is 20. —I get the part about the Hockey Hall of Fame wanting Andrew Cogliano's stick, but did they have to take Ladislav Smid's brain, as well? What was he thinking on that 2–0 goal in Denver? —Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

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A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 risto
March 14 2008, 02:13PM
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Seeing how hard it is to keep a team healthy these days, I become more amazed by the durability of the 1980's Oilers, and I suppose to be fair, the Islanders also.

Thanks for the Hitchcock take on Pitkanen, it speaks volumes to his mindset.

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#2 grease trap
March 14 2008, 02:37PM
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It's a tougher game these days.

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#3 breakerdog
March 14 2008, 02:58PM
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I caught the interview with Hitch. Very interesting. He said some things not only about Joni's skill set but mentioned that he was one of the smartest athletes he has ever had. Hitch said that Joni could tell you what happened on every shift he played and who was on the ice. I really, really don't think that the Oil can let this kind of player go. At his worst he is an average, 10 goal, 25 assist a year defenceman who logs 20 minutes a night and plays in all situations. At his best , which we may or may not see due to attitude or injuries, he is a Norris candidate. Please keep in mind that he is only 24. Do not let this type of player leave your roster until you are sure that there isn't any more upside and you are getting market value for the player he is. Sign him to a 2 year deal for 3.5 and 4.

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#4 The Warrior
March 14 2008, 10:17PM
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That kid is much to skinny to be me. I took the part off this am about the blog deal because thats how I got started before I landed the radio deal in the old WPHL. As for the butt kicking screaming shut your mouth shut your mouth shut your mouth isnt kicking my butt. The fact that Pronger was suspended today proved I was wrong. Warrior would only be frantic if he truly cared and to be honest Brownlee I am honored that after 25 years in the bizz you would put that picture up. I got a good chuckle out of it

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#5 RobinB
March 14 2008, 11:13PM
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Warrior: You know enough about hockey to drop the BS schtick you trot out and just say what's on your mind. That's not my problem with you, though.

You've phoned up and tried to embarrass me more than once. You started on John Short's show many years ago and you've done it at least four or five times since then. I have a long memory.

I've earned my stripes in this business. I didn't become the senior beat writer covering the Oilers at the Journal and the Sun for more than a decade by being a fool, a homer or a butt-kisser. You've implied that often -- and in the same conversation in which you've started out saying "I respect you as a writer, but . . ."

I don't take that from anybody, and damn sure not from somebody like you who, at best, has worked on the fringes of a profession I take very seriously.

So don't phone me, like you did on Bob's show Thursday, screaming and telling me what my motives are when it comes to Chris Pronger. What response did you expect?

Let me assure you of this: I don't need Bob or anybody else to shut off your microphone, as you keep claiming, to get the better of you one-on-one.

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#6 The Warrior
March 14 2008, 11:50PM
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Robin I didnt mind your response I admire passion. Your suppossed to stand up for yourself and take pride in your view. My problem was with Stauffer. Several people said that was awesome yesterday but also stated today in my normal daily coffee session Staufer took it to far. It was a Chicken manure act on his part. I have made a living controlling peoples passion, be it at south Korean student siege or selling vehicles or having 100 people show up at a road game in Shreveport greeting the bus with Warrior sucks signs. 2 more minutes on the air and it would have been a fair exchange. Its no claim its the truth my mic was shut off and bob cut me off. i wasn't andefeated wrestler in high schoool but I was the only wrestler to capt a debate team and go undefeated and I am proud of that. This issue is dead between you and I but Stauffer has left a bad taste. Get me straight up like you did I respect that but do it like Stauffer did and you leave yourself open.

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#7 Wanye Gretz
March 14 2008, 11:55PM
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Dang it, did I pick a bad week to leave town and miss this Warrior drama.

"Being reduced to being a blogger." I can't help but laugh when I read that. Warrior - I am a blogger playboy. I don't call the Oilers, cant get near anyone of note, and basically write whatever pops into my head.

Robin Brownlee is a sports personality in this town thats featured in print, on the radio and online. He has pretty much the entire NHL in his speed dial and commands respect in any medium he chooses.

When we were setting up this site we had a "best case" scenario of who we could attract here who would bring kick ass writing and legitimacy to our site. Brownlee is the bomb, and any Oilers fan worth his salt knows it.

Before you start shooting your mouth off about someone being a blogger, you might want to give the raisins in your skull that pass for brains a shake. Perhaps you have heard of the internet? Its you might know it as another name "Where advertisers are going lining up, as they run screaming from newspapers."

I guess you are considered a douche in three different mediums Warrior. I went and read how they ripped you on futures. Maybe when something replaces the internet you can start again.

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#8 1011011
March 15 2008, 01:03AM
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Wanye is right. I bet if this site keeps it up it will be huge in a couple years. Then Browlnee will look like the first guy to abandon the horse and cart for a car.

And the warrior will still be a nerd. I love the late hit from Wanye defending Brownlee.

"raisins in yuor skull that pass for brains" - classic

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#9 theoil
March 15 2008, 11:51AM
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So what is your take on Pitkannen. Can he still recover from those injuries or are we seeing a decline already at age 24?

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#10 RobinB
March 15 2008, 01:56PM
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1011011: He can recover. It's as much mental as physical -- once you get banged up a few times it's natural to try to play it safer, even if that seldom prevents injuries.

It's easier to say than do, but he's just got to go out and hang fire like he did before he got hurt.

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#11 Gord Mark
March 15 2008, 04:45PM
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How many games has Pitkanen played since he first became gun-shy? Hey, I'm as big a Pitkanen fan you'll find but once you play a couple of seasons in trepidation, what are the odds you'll ever again truly throw caution to the wind?

But, let's try and gain some perspective here, shall we? Oilers are in the minus 20's when it comes to goal differential and Pikanen is just -2 in terms of pure plus/minus, ie that's subtracting ENGF and GA.

So, I know we're wondering if we should tie him up longterm but even in this year when the offense isn't here, the guy's still doing a damn fine job for us.

I think that gets lost when people talk about Pitkanen and it's all because of his raw skill and potential. Has that been realized as an Oiler? No it hasn't. But has he still been damn good? Damn right he has.

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#12 Gord Mark
March 15 2008, 04:47PM
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One other thing, when I said Oilers are in the 20's in goal differential, I meant they are in the -20's at even strength.

OIlers are close to dead even on special teams but they're getting killed at evens.

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#13 Wanye Gretz
March 16 2008, 11:47AM
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Thats classic "Gord Mark" What a fine Oiler he once was

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#14 mAD~mOD
March 16 2008, 01:16PM
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Stauffer turned of warriors mic? Warrior wasn't in the studio he was on the phone, he got put on hold. Turning off warrior's mic please, I wish he would stop thinking that he's more important than he is. He's just a caller to a Edmonton sports call-in show. It's not like I walk around introducing myself as "The Legendary mAD~mOD" I know what the bigger picture is.

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#15 RobinB
March 16 2008, 03:29PM
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mOd: Best to let it go. I've let this guy slide five or six times when he calls up and yells and screams or takes shots at me, but I'd had enough Thursday.

I can't stand the stuff a guy like Pronger has been allowed to get away with, but Howard -- that's his real name -- suggesting Bob and I were on him just because of what happened with the Oilers was too much. It's not true, and if you've listened to Bob and I then you know I've often said Pronger was OK in dealing with me. There's no personal agenda when it comes to him.

Anyway, I'm sure Howard will call again -- some people actually think it's a routine Bob and I encourage or set-up (that's not the case) -- and I'll try to take the call for what it's worth. It just isn't easy with this guy.

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#16 David S
March 16 2008, 04:12PM
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"my mic was shut off..."

Uhh, is this guy for real? "Mic"??? Is that the new cool term for "phone". I guess everybody has their own perception of reality.

"Anyway, I’m sure Howard will call again — some people actually think it’s a routine Bob and I encourage or set-up (that’s not the case) — and I’ll try to take the call for what it’s worth."

I guess it begs the question that if this isn't some sort of routine, why do you even take a call from somebody who so obviously takes being a phone-in caller more than a little bit too seriously. Hey - it makes for interesting radio I suppose, but you know this guy is gunning for attention, so I can't hep but think you know what you're in for when you pick up his call. Stauffer did the right thing, only thing I'm amazed at is why he didn't do it right away, like I do when I get a number-blocked call from Ontario with some guy going on about time-shares.

Regardless, it must take quite a bit of courage to cross over into a new medium (blogging) and open yourself to direct interaction with your audience. I applaud you and other local media types who have made the leap. It does nothing but make the whole medium that much more credible.

I came across Oilers Nation a while ago cruising Oilers blogs. The site was high on the comedy scale, but your joining the site has really added a new dimension. Love your stuff Robin!

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#17 mAD~mOD
March 16 2008, 04:39PM
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RobinB: Shouldn't that be The Howard.

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#18 RobinB
March 16 2008, 05:29PM
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David S: We get a list of calls from the producer and Bob picks which calls are answered and in which order. There, I've passed the buck.

As for the new dimension, thanks. It's been fun not working within many of the constraints of a traditional newspaper. Having been at the biz a while, I don't miss all of the travel one bit now that Sam has come along and blown my Freedom 55 plan out of the water.

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#19 Jake
March 18 2008, 03:55AM
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I had NO idea Uli was that tough.

Seriously.

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