A weekend out in Hogtown

Jason Gregor
February 09 2009 12:08PM

gregorhogtown

Monday musings from a hockey world so screwed up that it seems more people are for Sean Avery returning to the NHL than those who want to keep fighting in the game. Ridiculous.

Who cares about Avery? He’s a third line player. The fans don’t miss him, but I guarantee you most of them would miss fighting...

What’s the difference between Erik Cole and Ethan Moreau this year? Skate hard up and down the wing, neither passes very often and both have had a hat trick. Outside of $2 million more for Cole, I haven’t seen much of a difference.

In their three worst losses of the season, the Oilers have been outscored 27-7, yet Grebeshkov is +1 in those games. Unreal!

Sure Dwayne Roloson has made lots of saves recently, excluding the Detroit game, but it’s a bit disturbing that he’s letting in one softie a game. The Belanger goal was terrible yesterday.

The difference between a very good and elite player is Ales Hemsky. He is very good, but not elite just yet. He didn’t do anything on this three-game road trip.

Are the Kings for real? They just won in Washington and NJ. They’ve scored 28 goals in their last seven games and won six of them. They still have two five-game road trips and another six-game trip, but their offence has been really good in the last month.

For the [Off] the Record...

Flying the red-eye to Toronto is awesome. I can sleep on a plane, so the trip felt like a drive to Millet. Took off then woke up and we were there. I don’t know how people can drive in a city that big. You think the morning commute sucks here? You should see the carnage in Toronto. The freeways (yes actual freeways with no lights, unlike the garbage we have on the Henday) were jammed, and I saw more one-finger salutes in the hour trek to my hotel, than I have in the last six months on the Whitemud.

The Rush always stay at the Hilton on Richmond right in the heart of downtown, so everything you want is within walking distance... well except the TSN studio. They used to do OTR in a studio at Rogers Centre, but they recently moved the show back to the CTV/TSN studios in Scarborough. An hour cab ride.

I got to the studio at 3pm, and met the guy who set up my appearance on OTR, Collin Sood. I found out that he’s from E-town, and that he’s good buddies with some of my friends. He wants more western guys on the show. We probably met at some party in college but were too bombed to remember.

There’s a little green room where the guests sit and wait for the show or makeup. Yes, they like to touch up the guests. Michael Landsberg walks in and says hi. I had him on my show last year, but still said “nice to meet you.” I was distracted by the incredibly sexy assistant, Stephanie, a very nice girl and absolutely stunning. I think it’s a must that TV sport shows have a hot girl either on air or working behind the scenes. I can’t think of one that doesn’t. This is just another reason why sports broadcasting rocks.

I’m there for about 15 minutes, and finally Lewis Ratcliff comes out of makeup. I was juicing him pretty hard about that one. Just as he walks out of makeup Bob McGill walks in the green room. McGill grew up in Leduc, and I knew of him, so we start talking about Leduc, the Riggers and have some laughs. He has shed 25 pounds since being on the show last, so the crew is giving him props. His hat is what got him props from me. Not many guys can rock the Joey Jeremiah hat, but I thought he pulled it off quite well. I think it would be awesome if the Fedora made a come back. Who knows if the recession gets really bleak, maybe we should start wearing them to re-enact the ‘20s.

Collin says I have to get to makeup, so I make the 15 foot walk down the hall from green room and sit in the barber chair. Spring (great name for a makeup lady) dabs a few types of foundation on the chrome dome and in a matter of a minutes, I’m done. I still have no idea how Ratcliffe spent 15 minutes in here. I had just enough to cover the glare for the cameras, but was nowhere near Landsberg range. He doesn’t care what people think about his makeup, since everyone wears it. He just wears more. His son Cory works on the show, and he looked at least mid-twenties, so unless Michael started early he has to be close to 50. Looks good for the half-century mark.

We get called to the set. Landsberg is already in his chair, and looks fired up. The guy has loads of energy before coming on (in the green room they have these ENERGY balls... I wonder how many he eats before a show). Just before I went to makeup he gave me a quick inspirational speech about not holding back.

“Jump in the conversation early and often,” he said and then he punched my shoulder. He takes his show seriously, so now I’m thinking I better not be a lame ass. Then I’m thinking you just punched my shoulder. I love guys who get amped up before any sporting event, and Landsberg takes his show really seriously. I respect that.

Just before the show starts, he leans in and does the fist bump with every guy. He is really fired up. I wonder if MacT does this before games? If not, he should think about it, because all the guys are ready to go. Sure we are just talking, but I swear if he gave McGill the nod, Bobby would have dropped the Jeremiah and tossed some knuckles.

We do the first set, and during commercial Michael is pumping the guys up again.

“Good work guys... Gregor, Ratcliffe pretty good for your first time. Bobby good... John, be better,” he says laughing.

In John’s defence, he arrived a minute before the show due to traffic. They did his makeup in the chair on set, so he might have been rattled.

And just before coming out of break, the knuckle touch occurs again. I never would have picked Landsberg as a touch-knuckles kind of guy. But it was just a knuckle touch, no dynamite exploding after. I wonder why that is? I guess a knuckle touch is good, but exploding dynamite too personal.

The show was fun. Afterwards I wheel over to Sportscentre. Rishaug is in town working the desk, so he gives me a tour of their set.

The war room has at least 15 desks just for guys assigned to watch games and find the best clips. Then there are writers, producers, etc. There are at least 35 people in total in one big room, and each has their own desk. It’s a pretty unique set up.

Hockey fans have it best out west

Hockey fans have it way better out west. In Toronto you get the Leafs and nothing else. Here you can watch eastern games on TSN or Sportsnet and then the Oil, and if you are really bored the Flamers. Highlights from an Oilers or Flames game involve a 45-second package. No wonder all of the Oiler fans out east come to the Nation now.

We also have a way better airline. West Jet kicks all of the American airlines. WJ has TVs in every row, and the seats are at least three inches wider. Flying on Alaska or Horizon sucks compared to WJ, so chalk one up for the Canadian airline. And WJ has the sweetest smelling washroom going. None of us ever want to use the airplane john, but with an early flight some times your internal clock forces you too. And the WJ john was the best.

And finally we should send a petition to Mayor Mandel for more cabs. In Toronto when you leave the club at 2 or 3 am it takes you 30 seconds to get a cab. Here in E-town, they are as rare as an Oilers four-game winning streak. How often have you almost come to blows with some guy trying to get a cab? Or you do your best Donovan Bailey impersonation down the street to flag one. Would getting fifty more cabs on Friday and Saturday nights be that tough?

In the Big Smoke they are everywhere, not to mention the sweet polish sausage street vendors. Why don’t we have those? I love Funky Pickle Pizza at the end of the night, but the Polish sausages were money. And I saw one of the toughest cat fights ever on Friday night. These two ladies -- and I use that term loosely -- chucked them hard outside of the Century club. Normally watching two chicks go at it is a freaky turn-on because you hope they might start groping each other, but these two were throwing bombs. Both were bloodied after. Another reason why Edmonton ladies are better.

And the Oilers don’t practice today. They’re back at it tomorrow in preparation for their tilt against the Habs. No one is more excited about a possible Laraque/MacIntyre battle than Brownlee. He’s been talking about it all year, and I guarantee he will stir the pot in the next few days leading up to Wednesday.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#101 Rick
February 10 2009, 10:25AM
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mwhite.dking@nf.sympatico.ca wrote:

And I’m not gonna give him much credit for having good Plan A’s when one of those aforementioned plans included Lupul and Smid. You get it done or you don’t.

Meh, in that instance I consider Pronger plan A and when that went south he panicked and ended up with Lupul and Smid which I consider plan B.

I guess I see it differently just because he never even sniffs around for those guys if Pronger doesn't demand a ticket out of town.

Mind you I agree that not all of his plan A's have been shining examples of good management, most obvious one for me being his attempt to get Nylander.

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#102 rindog
February 10 2009, 11:34AM
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@ Travis Dakin:

I don't want my #1 center handling all of those unnecessary duties - it wears him out. I never said that he isn't important or a good fit with Hemsky. I don't think he is a guy that should be out on the PP everytime. He doesn't have the skill set we need on the PP. It is clearly evident when the other team focuses on Hemsky - our PP becomes a total nonfactor.

And just for clarification? You are using MacT and his player recognition as a basis for your argument? Just because MacT thinks he is the only guy we have, does that it make true? We seemed to handle those situations you speak of quite the last 20 games without Horcoff last year??

It is much like Penner.

Horcoff is put into certain situations because he is the best we got!!!

You argue that we need a topline LW, I counter that if he had a topline center we could do without the topline winger (6 of one - half dozen of another).

Horcoff, Penner and Cole (or maybe, Brule) would make a great 2nd or 3rd line (if the kids get it together). If only we had some guys to make up a FIRST line???

We have no problems with Horcoff because he is good defensively. I would rather have a first line center that can create offense, and save the defensive responsibilities for someone who isn't being paid so much...

Travis Dakin wrote:

Our best offensive guy doesn’t kill penalties. His name is Hemsky

I meant that if we were to get rid of Horcoff and get a true #1 center. You said that you didn't want to see Spezza killing penalties (neither do I).

I never said that Roli didn't play well in the playoffs (as did Markaanen after Roli got hurt). I simply stated that in the 66 games before we acquired Roli, our goalie trio managed to go 12 games over .500. They weren't great - but they couldn't have been that bad, they all had better winning percentages than Roli did for us???

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#103 Travis Dakin
February 10 2009, 12:43PM
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rindog wrote:

I don’t want my #1 center handling all of those unnecessary duties - it wears him out.

Neither do I. If we had a Center other than him that could kill penalties and take faceoffs, he wouldn't have to be used there so much. I want him to be able to focus more on Offense. rindog wrote:

Just because MacT thinks he is the only guy we have, does that it make true? We seemed to handle those situations you speak of quite the last 20 games without Horcoff last year??

Cogliano can't win face offs. Gagner can't win faceoffs. Pouliot sucks. Brodziak can't score. Last year we had Stoll who could do those things. He had a cannon from the point on the PP. killed penalties and blocked shots like a demon on the PK and hit, a lot. He's not here now. That leaves 1 good veteran. Horcoff.rindog wrote:

You argue that we need a topline LW, I counter that if he had a topline center we could do without the topline winger

Penner has to be motivated to play. If you can't score with Hemsky on your line, then you are not a top 6 forward.

rindog wrote:

We have no problems with Horcoff because he is good defensively. I would rather have a first line center that can create offense, and save the defensive responsibilities for someone who isn’t being paid so much

So you honestly believe that if we had Spezza as out top center playing with hemsky, Penner would be a suitable first line LW and this team would be better? You don't think Spezza is a product of his linemates too? Look what happens to him when they separate him and Heatley and Alfredsson.

If you really believe that this team would be better if Horcoff was gone and a different center came in then I just don't know what to say anymore.

Look at last year before he got hurt. He was a point a game player when there was other centers on the team to shoulder some of the load he has now.

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#104 Travis Dakin
February 10 2009, 12:45PM
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rindog wrote:

I meant that if we were to get rid of Horcoff and get a true #1 center. You said that you didn’t want to see Spezza killing penalties (neither do I).

hypothetically, if we traded Horcoff and a pick for Spezza... Spezza would have to be a penalty killer on this team by design and we would be worse off.

rindog wrote:

They weren’t great - but they couldn’t have been that bad, they all had better winning percentages than Roli did for us???

If they were solid in net, they wouldnt' have given up a first round pick to get a goalie.

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#105 Travis Dakin
February 10 2009, 12:49PM
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rindog wrote:

I don’t want my #1 center handling all of those unnecessary duties - it wears him out.

To sum it up, my point was that Horcoff is one of the top 15 Centers in the game that could actually handle all of that. And if this team had more balance, he wouldn't have to. Then he could go back to being a point a game player like last year and we wouldn't be having this argument.

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#106 rindog
February 10 2009, 01:29PM
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@ Travis Dakin:

Can he really handle it? He has 1 goal in his last 17 games (4 in his last 27).

Why do you want Horcoff ot focus on offense? He seems to be more valuable defensively than he is offensively, according to you?

If it offense you are concerned about, lets get a pure offensive center in here and fill in the intangibles with role players. Spezza can score and Pisani, Brodziak, Moreau (or whomever we can acquire) can defend. Sign a cheap veteran centerman/PK guy and we have accomplished the same things Horcoff does defensively and we have upgraded offensively?

Travis Dakin wrote:

Penner has to be motivated to play. If you can’t score with Hemsky on your line, then you are not a top 6 forward

He has just as many goals as Horcoff does???

Travis Dakin wrote:

You don’t think Spezza is a product of his linemates too? Look what happens to him when they separate him and Heatley and Alfredsson

Why would we be splitting up Spezza and Hemsky???

I guess what I am trying to say is that I don't understand what you really want? If it is offense that you think Horcoff brings, then we should be acquiring some defensive help so he can concentrate on his offense? If you think it is his defensive skills that make him so important, we could replace those things with cheaper role players and then go after a better offensive player. Either way, we need to get defensive help...agreed??

My contention is that Horcoff is a very average offensive player with pretty good defensive capabilities. I don't think he is a stud in either regard and would have no problem farming out his responsibilities to acquire a TRUE offensive centerman.

Natural offense is a lot harder to find than defensive type players (IMO).

We don't need to have our #1 centerman doing the jobs that guys like Maltby and Draper thrive on. Our management shouldn't have too much problem finding guys (at a fiarly reasonable price) that can allow our top line players to focus on their offense.

And, at the end of of the day; has the theory of having a "hybrid #1" center been working out (in terms of getting us to the post season)?

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#107 Travis Dakin
February 10 2009, 02:02PM
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I can do this all day....

rindog wrote:

Can he really handle it? He has 1 goal in his last 17 games (4 in his last 27). Why do you want Horcoff ot focus on offense? He seems to be more valuable defensively than he is offensively, according to you?

I want him to be allowed to be the number 1 center. Not the everything every other player should be. And again, his offensive totals, I believe, are due to being over worked, and a general lack of "not sucking" on this team right now.

rindog wrote:

If it offense you are concerned about, lets get a pure offensive center in here and fill in the intangibles with role players. Spezza can score and Pisani, Brodziak, Moreau (or whomever we can acquire) can defend. Sign a cheap veteran centerman/PK guy and we have accomplished the same things Horcoff does defensively and we have upgraded offensively?

It's not only offense I am concerened about, which is why I think Horcoff IS A GOOD NUMBER 1 CENTER! Exactly what I am saying is that IF they oilers were to fill in the gaps then horcoff could focus solely on being the number 1 center like last year, and he would be a point a game player and still bring everything else that he ALWAYS brings to the table.rindog wrote:

rindog wrote:

Travis Dakin wrote: Penner has to be motivated to play. If you can’t score with Hemsky on your line, then you are not a top 6 forward He has just as many goals as Horcoff does???

Penner has ONE job. Score. He doesn't have to do EVERYTHING like Horcoff. Penner is not doing his job well. Horcoff may not be scoring as much but he is definately doing all of his other jobs.

rindog wrote:

Why would we be splitting up Spezza and Hemsky???

Lofty's original quote was

Lofty's original quote wasrindog wrote:

I have always stated that Horcoff gets HIS points because of Hemsky (and his gravy icetime).

]

My point, since you seem to be arguing the same thing as him was that These other so call number one centers don't make it happen all on their own and are usually a product of chemistry with other players. Horcoff and Hemsky have it. And with a solid LW they would be amazing. AS good as The Ottawa trio.

rindog wrote:

I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t understand what you really want? If it is offense that you think Horcoff brings, then we should be acquiring some defensive help so he can concentrate on his offense? If you think it is his defensive skills that make him so important, we could replace those things with cheaper role players and then go after a better offensive player. Either way, we need to get defensive help…agreed??

My point is that Horcoff gives you both. That is why he is a good number 1 guy. I want Stoll and Reasoner back in a nut shell. To help hime out. I said before that I Love Visnovsky but we could use Greene and Stoll more. rindog wrote:

And, at the end of of the day; has the theory of having a “hybrid #1″ center been working out (in terms of getting us to the post season)?

in 05/06 it did. But we had better players to compliment him. Again, Horcoff IS NOT THE PROBLEM on this team. That is what I have said all along. It's the lack of a Left winger to finish what him and hemsky create. It's the lack a good face off, veteran, penalty killing third line center. It's the lack of heart out of Nilsson, Penner and the lack of a mean, strong defensive defenseman.

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#108 Travis Dakin
February 10 2009, 02:05PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Lofty’s original quote was Lofty’s original quote wasrindog wrote: I have always stated that Horcoff gets HIS points because of Hemsky (and his gravy icetime).

My mistake attributing that quote to Lofty.

It was Ringdog that said that... And that was the start of my rant.

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#109 rindog
February 10 2009, 03:21PM
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@ Travis Dakin:

I'm sure you could over this all day long.

It is really very simple for me...I think???

If you are telling me that Horcoff has the same offensive upside as a guy like Spezza (if we take away Horcoff's defensive responsibilities) then I have to respectfully disagree and we might as well end the debate right now.

My stance is that either way (with Horcoff or a different offensive center) we still need to get PK/face-off/defensive help.

It seems evident by Horcoff's numbers that his defensive responsibilities are holding him back from doing his job offensively.

Now if you are telling me that you WANT to have guy like Horcoff being counted on for so many different things - we have a totally different debate.

And as far as Horcoff being able to produce without Hemsky??? There are no stats that back that up at all. Horcoff didn't produce when Hemsky was playing with Sykora. Horcoff didn't produce in the 6 games that Hemsky missed last year. And Horcoff didn't produce this year when he was apart from Hemsky. I can go over the actual numbers if you want, but we have all seen them before.

It doesn't make Horcoff a bad player - it just means that he needs a guy like Hemsky to help him with his offense.

And of course Spezza relies on his linemates to boost his numbers (tell me one offensive player that doesn't?), but if you think for one minute that a guy like Spezza can not generate more offense with or without Hemsky than Horcoff can????

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#110 Travis Dakin
February 10 2009, 03:37PM
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I'm not saying he has the offensive upside as Spezza but he can be at or near a point a game player, and with the other assts he brings, that makes him a bonafide numberr 1 center and a damn fine one at that. rindog wrote:

My stance is that either way (with Horcoff or a different offensive center) we still need to get PK/face-off/defensive help.

Pretty much exactly what I have been saying. I just want to keep horcoff as well.rindog wrote:

And of course Spezza relies on his linemates to boost his numbers (tell me one offensive player that doesn’t?),

I never said Horcoff wasn't a benefactor of Hemsky. I said whomever can't play with hemsky is not a top 6 player legitimately. What I did say was that Those top offensive players are a product of their chemistry with other players, like Horcoff and Hemsky.

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#111 rindog
February 10 2009, 04:18PM
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@ Travis Dakin:

Travis Dakin wrote:

Pretty much exactly what I have been saying. I just want to keep horcoff as well.

That is where I think we have issues.

I do not see how we can afford another big contract if we plan on keeping Horcoff. Our young guys are going to be ready for some raises in the next little while and the cap isn't going up.

So ultimately, if I have to make the choice and realize I am going to have to get defensive help for Horcoff anyway - I move Horcoff for the topliner (in a package) and work from there.

GOOD DEBATE......

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#112 Travis Dakin
February 10 2009, 06:21PM
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rindog wrote:

I do not see how we can afford another big contract if we plan on keeping Horcoff

Goodbye Cole, Nilsson, and one of the the puck moving D man. That's 10 million right now.

rindog wrote:

GOOD DEBATE

Absolutely.

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#113 Travis Dakin
February 10 2009, 06:39PM
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This is what would make me happy.

Kovalchuck type LW - Horcoff - Hemsky Penner-Cogliano-Gagner Moreau-Brodziak-Pisani JFJ- veteran shutdown/faceoff/PK Center-Stortini

Souray-Grebeshkov Visnovsky-Smid (I know he needs to be groomed more but he can do it) New big mean shutdown Dman- Peckham Staios.

Sign a 2-3 mill goalie JDD

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