Back at it: let's get started

Robin Brownlee
August 17 2009 04:41PM

georges

Georges Laraque was dangling, Jason Chimera was hamming it up, Jay Bouwmeester was gliding around effortlessly despite the weight of his wallet and Kevin Westgarth was bleeding.

Nothing says the NHL season is upon us like the opening of Perry Pearn's Three-on-Three conditioning camp, and so it was today as the first group of NHLers tried to shake off the effects of summer with an on-ice twirl at the K of C Arenas.

Laraque, his braided locks approaching Kelly Malveaux length, barged around with the puck as he tends to do at these things. Who's going to take it off him?

Chimera, the local boy who has found a home and a nice contract in Columbus since the Oilers gave up on him too soon, staggered around on the side boards to emphasize a hit he'd taken, looking a like he'd forgotten to take his skate guards off.

Bouwmeester, who never looks like he's forgotten his guards because he's the best skater I've ever seen for a guy who is six-foot-four, sashayed about as he does, then proved again he's the worst interview in the NHL.

As for Westgarth, a minor league tough guy, he took a wayward puck near the right eye, leaving the session to look for repairs. He wanted Super Glue, but settled for a fix out of a first-aid kit and returned to the ice.

It's hockey season, alright.

The Fight Club

Laraque, who is part owner of the Body By Bennett gyms in Edmonton, has spent the past several months showing fellow tough guys Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre of the Oilers the ropes in training sessions both on and off the ice.

If Stortini and MacIntyre want to be at the top of their game, and in their job description their careers and NHL pay cheques depend on it, then they're learning from the best -- even if Georges does all his damage from the port side.

"We did a lot of fighting this summer," Laraque said. "A lot of technique and a lot of strength stuff to get everybody to be better. It's just giving a couple of tricks and pointers.

"Those guys work out at my gym. If they're tough guys, I'm going to train them to be tough guys and train them how to be better at what they do. I do everything I can so they can be as strong as they can be and do well."

For those who weren't exactly big fans of Stortini during his rookie season and chimed in on the Huggy Bear handle before he opened up last season and led the NHL in fighting majors, Laraque has a message.

"First of all, Zack is a really good player," Laraque said. "He's a good skater and he can play hockey. He's not a one-dimensional tough guy.

"It doesn't matter what people say about his style of fighting. When you fight heavyweights, big guys like me, you have to know how to defend yourself. The goal in a fight is not to get punched because you don't want to get knocked out.

"It depends what guy you're fighting. Some guys you fight are bigger than you. You can't fight open against guys that are six-foot-nine and outweigh you by 30 pounds. You've got to be smart and fight smart. Fans have no reason to criticize the way he fights."

As for Laraque, he's looking to overcome a herniated disc  that kept him out of the line-up too often last season. A bad back is particularly problematic for somebody Laraque's size, but he's putting himself through a demanding off-ice regimen, including  yoga, to remedy the problem.

Cowtown Jay

The Oilers never got a crack at Bouwmeester, the most sought-after UFA this summer, because he and agent Bryon Baltimore opted for a stack of cash from the Calgary Flames before hearing offers from other bidders, including the Oilers here in his hometown.

So now Bouwmeester,  a sweet skater but a brutal interview, will wear the Flaming C in the Battle of Alberta.

"It's different," Bouwmeester said of trading the beaches and obscurity of Miami for Calgary. "Only because hockey is more a focus here. In Florida, it's a battle to get people out to the games.

"Hockey-wise, it's exciting because people get it and they're excited about it. There's stuff that goes with it, but you just kind of deal with it. You're not the only guy in that situation. It is what it is."

Out of sight and out of mind in the hockey hotbed that is Florida, it'll be interesting to see how Bouwmeester handles all the media attention he'll get in Cowtown.

It's not that Bouwmeester dislikes the media per say, but he's less than comfortable when cornered by notepads and microphones. The feeling is mutual -- choosing between interviewing the immensely talented blue liner and poking yourself in the eye with a sharp stick is a toss-up.

Waiting game

UFA Mike Comrie is playing a waiting game when it comes to where he might sign. The former Oiler could end up back in Ottawa, but that will depend what happens with Dany Heatley.

"When you're in this situation, you have to be patient," Comrie said. "There's still a few deals that need to get done, so it's not really a rush until you find the right place."

For now, Comrie and agent Ritch Winter will keep tabs and see what their options are. Cap space, or lack of it, is a huge factor in player movement these days.

"When you get to be a certain age, you realize you want to be in a better position rather than jump at the first or second opportunity," Comrie said.

"I want to be in a good spot, get a chance to win and play some important minutes."

I'd be keeping an eye on Los Angeles.

This and that

UFA Blair Betts, considered by some an answer as the checking centre the Oilers need, didn't skate today but is registered at the camp . . . others on the ice in the first session included Stortini, Brian Sutherby, Matt Kassian, Jason Strudwick and Kyle Brodziak.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
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 Librarian Mike
August 17 2009, 04:53PM
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So Robin, I'm curious as to who you think are the most consistently great and awful interviews in the NHL.

Also, if you were invited to a rookie camp as a lecturer on 'how to talk to the media', what pointers would you give?

As always, this was a great article.

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#2 oilitsinyoutogive
August 17 2009, 05:09PM
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@ Librarian Mike: i "uhhh" know i "uhhhhh" would "uhhhh" tell them to "Uhhhh" stop saying "uhhh" so much

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#3 David S
August 17 2009, 05:15PM
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Strudwick and Stortini, the most maligned guys by fans, yet they're the poster boys for "First on - last off". Good for them. I have nothing but respect for both of them.

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#4 jeanshorts
August 17 2009, 05:21PM
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Am I the only one who read the Laraque quotes with a super deep voice and a French accent? I didn't even mean to. That's just how it happened.

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#5 Fiveandagame
August 17 2009, 05:24PM
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Coooool! Storts and Smackintyre learning from the best. Look out Boogyman you're gonna get SMACKED!

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#6 Fiveandagame
August 17 2009, 05:25PM
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@ jeanshorts:

Yeah totally weird how that happened. I also read the Comrie quotes with a high pitched Mickey Mouse voice in my head.

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#7 Ender the Dragon
August 17 2009, 05:30PM
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Huggy Bear's come a long way and I genuinely like the guy as a regular 4th liner. I still call him that because no one's come up with anything better, but I realize it started to fit a lot less last season.

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#8 Robin Brownlee
August 17 2009, 05:34PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

So Robin, I’m curious as to who you think are the most consistently great and awful interviews in the NHL. Also, if you were invited to a rookie camp as a lecturer on ‘how to talk to the media’, what pointers would you give? As always, this was a great article.

Great interviews (in no particular order): Sheldon Souray, Joe Sakic, Rob Schremp, Ken Hitchcock, Steve Ott, Niklas Lidstrom, Teemu Selanne, Matt Greene, Georges Laraque, Alex Ovechkin, Barry Trotz, Jarkko Ruutu, Rob Blake, Doug Weight, Colby Armstrong, John Torterella, Brendan Shanahan.

Brutal interviews: Dion Phaneuf, Gary Bettman, Ryan Smyth, Jay Bouwmeester, Ron Wilson, Jason Spezza, Joni Pitkanen, Daniel Sedin and honorable mention to Tommy Salo (retired).

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#9 Word
August 17 2009, 05:37PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

I was surprised to see Lidstrom in your list. Is it 'cause he's funny or just 'cause he's smarter than most of the guys?

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#10 Word
August 17 2009, 05:37PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

And how much worse is Daniel than Henrik?

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#11 Robin Brownlee
August 17 2009, 05:43PM
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Word wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: I was surprised to see Lidstrom in your list. Is it ’cause he’s funny or just ’cause he’s smarter than most of the guys?

I don't know if Lidstrom is smarter, but he's more well-spoken than most.

The thing is with almost every player and coach, you get next-to-nothing in post-game interview situations, save for the occasional meltdown, because it's such a rush. Lame questions. Lame answers.

But if you're doing a feature or a topical item on an off-day and have time time to talk, guys like Lidstrom and the others I've mentioned, are very sharp and very opinionated. I'd add Scott Howson, Ken Holland and Mike Modano to that list as well.

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#12 Librarian Mike
August 17 2009, 05:45PM
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Thanks! Now whenever I hear an interview with them I can visualize you standing there staring through them with disgust while slowly shaking your head (like you're doing right now).

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#13 Word
August 17 2009, 05:48PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Thanks RB - appreciate the response.

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#14 rOILty
August 17 2009, 06:01PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

Huggy Bear’s come a long way and I genuinely like the guy as a regular 4th liner. I still call him that because no one’s come up with anything better, but I realize it started to fit a lot less last season.

How about Scoretini

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#15 Travis Dakin
August 17 2009, 06:30PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

Am I the only one who read the Laraque quotes with a super deep voice and a French accent? I didn’t even mean to. That’s just how it happened.

Am I the only one that practically gets a chub when you hit refresh and see a new article up? Damn I'm getting pumped about the season.

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#16 Fiveandagame
August 17 2009, 08:06PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Am I the only one that practically gets a chub when you hit refresh and see a new article up? Damn I’m getting pumped about the season.

Practically? Come on are you an Oilers fan or not!

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#17 misfit
August 17 2009, 08:12PM
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Lidstrom isn't as surprising to see on that list as Sakic.

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#18 your old editor :)
August 17 2009, 08:12PM
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Per se? or Per say?

"By itself. Thus, a contract clause may be inherently unconscionable per se"

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#19 Bettman4PM
August 17 2009, 08:12PM
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LOL at the Oilers wanting to sign Bouwmeester, the Oilers never had the cap space to sign him at that price. He also made it fairly well known that Edmonton was not at the top of list of places he wanted to play. If Comrie ends up LA i'm sure his girlfriend won't mind to much (smile).

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#20 Ogden Brother
August 17 2009, 08:25PM
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Bettman4PM wrote:

LOL at the Oilers wanting to sign Bouwmeester, the Oilers never had the cap space to sign him at that price. He also made it fairly well known that Edmonton was not at the top of list of places he wanted to play. If Comrie ends up LA i’m sure his girlfriend won’t mind to much (smile).

Sure they did, no Bulin and trade/let Grebs go via free agency and voila, space for Bo.

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#21 Bettman4PM
August 17 2009, 08:31PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

Bouwmeester did not want to come play for the Oilers though. Not to start a 'nobody wants to be in Edmonton' thread, but this is the case as far as Bouwmeester was concerned.

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#22 Jonathan Willis
August 17 2009, 08:51PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Ron Wilson, eh? I've always enjoyed listening to his interviews. He's got an ego no doubt, but he isn't afraid to say what he thinks.

Is it just his general level of arrogance that earns him a spot on your list?

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#23 oilFan
August 17 2009, 09:07PM
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You really don't know if JBO didn't want to play for the Oil. He owns a house in Edmonton my buddy built it last summer. He got a good offer and took it. Plus Vish is better.

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#24 Racki
August 17 2009, 09:08PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Sure they did, no Bulin and trade/let Grebs go via free agency and voila, space for Bo.

Then what, we fight for cheap goalie scraps and have even more money tied up on the backend?

And even with Roloson, we still take on more than 2M with that choice. Roloson - +2.5M Bouwmeester - +6.68M Khabi - -3.75M Grebs - 3.15M

I think Khabi was a bad signing though, but that's a whole other can of worms (and I'm just purely referring to his salary.. I think he's great and will be an upgrade on Roli).

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#25 Hanson#4
August 17 2009, 09:13PM
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I have not heard ANY mention of the Chad M. training 'camp' in LA (i.e. camp Mendelbaum). Did it happen this year ?

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#26 Dallas
August 17 2009, 09:27PM
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I am really starting to get worried bout the state of the oil. I have a feeling that the reason tambo has not signed or traded for anyone is because their is a VERY large percentage of NHL players that do not want to play here. I hope not but it sure seems like it. I'm predicting 3rd last in the west this year. Dark times for the oil IMO .

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#27 Ogden Brother
August 17 2009, 09:28PM
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Bettman4PM wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Bouwmeester did not want to come play for the Oilers though. Not to start a ‘nobody wants to be in Edmonton’ thread, but this is the case as far as Bouwmeester was concerned.

Ya I'd imagine that was the case, just commenting on the "no cap space" comment, Calgary is/was tighter then Edmonton.... where their a will theirs a way.

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#28 Ogden Brother
August 17 2009, 09:29PM
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Racki wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: Sure they did, no Bulin and trade/let Grebs go via free agency and voila, space for Bo. Then what, we fight for cheap goalie scraps and have even more money tied up on the backend? And even with Roloson, we still take on more than 2M with that choice. Roloson - +2.5M Bouwmeester - +6.68M Khabi - -3.75M Grebs - 3.15M I think Khabi was a bad signing though, but that’s a whole other can of worms (and I’m just purely referring to his salary.. I think he’s great and will be an upgrade on Roli).

Then we do what Calgary did, make sacrifices to make room for a superior player.

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#29 Bettman4PM
August 17 2009, 09:37PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

Ya no doubt that Calgary was able to make things work by salary dumping Vandermeer on Phoenix. Although with the league running the team for the past year and a half and obviously approving all of their transactions, perhaps they allowed that transaction to take place due to the fact that Calgary took Jokinen's big ticket off their hands at the trade deadline. Perhaps Sutter called in a favour lol...

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#30 West Coast Oil
August 17 2009, 09:39PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

Huggy Bear’s come a long way and I genuinely like the guy as a regular 4th liner. I still call him that because no one’s come up with anything better, but I realize it started to fit a lot less last season.

How about Sluggy Bear!!

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#31 Robin Brownlee
August 17 2009, 09:44PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: Ron Wilson, eh? I’ve always enjoyed listening to his interviews. He’s got an ego no doubt, but he isn’t afraid to say what he thinks. Is it just his general level of arrogance that earns him a spot on your list?

He thinks reporters are dolts, which goes to show he's right only half the time. Arrogance is fine when it's warranted -- Scotty Bowman for example. Wilson's level of swagger outweighs anything in his trophy case or on his resume.your old editor :) wrote:

Per se? or Per say? “By itself. Thus, a contract clause may be inherently unconscionable per se”

My old editor? And which half-wit, copy-butchering, overtime-claiming layabout would you be?

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#32 Gerald R. Ford
August 17 2009, 10:41PM
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One thing I never got about the "J-Bo doesn't want to play here" stuff was what his old man said right before he signed with the Flamers. Something like "There are too many bad influences here in Edmonton for Jay. We're concerned about the effect those people would have on him." But... if he lives here in the off-season, aren't those same "influences" here THEN, too? So, they only care about the company he keeps DURING the season? That rings rather hollow to me...

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#33 Rival
August 17 2009, 10:46PM
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oilFan wrote:

You really don’t know if JBO didn’t want to play for the Oil. He owns a house in Edmonton my buddy built it last summer. He got a good offer and took it. Plus Vish is better.

He didn't want to sign in Edmonton. I know someone close to the family. He's close with Comrie...he knows how it went for him as a local guy. He is still going to live here in the off season. Lets leave it at that.

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#34 Tull
August 17 2009, 10:56PM
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Hey Brownlee, out of curiosity what did you ask Hemsky that led him to tell you to eff off? Also, was there a rift between you and Jiri Dopita?

Any players you hated personally?

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#35 Word
August 17 2009, 11:03PM
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@ Gerald R. Ford:

Maybe he meant on the team. Wait... we had a new coach by then didn't we?

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#36 BigE57
August 17 2009, 11:26PM
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@ Ender the Dragon:

I don't know if you noticed this but Stortini bears a striking resemblance to a young Mick Foley of prowrestling fame, though Stortini still has both ears as far as I know. So with that in mind why not "Cactus Zack"?

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#37 Harlie
August 18 2009, 12:51AM
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@ Robin Brownlee

Ever think it was your breath? just a thought.........

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#38 Nik
August 18 2009, 01:48AM
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your old editor :) wrote:

Per se? or Per say? “By itself. Thus, a contract clause may be inherently unconscionable per se”

If that's how useful editors are then I may an idea as to how the print media business can recover.

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#39 Nik
August 18 2009, 01:55AM
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The frickin editor stole the "have" out of my post!!!! Where's my editor??? This whole digital media thing is going downhill fast.

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#40 ShaunDoe
August 18 2009, 04:49AM
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Fiveandagame wrote:

Travis Dakin wrote: Am I the only one that practically gets a chub when you hit refresh and see a new article up? Damn I’m getting pumped about the season. Practically? Come on are you an Oilers fan or not!

Way to just throw his E.D. issues out there in the open for all to see in its "Half Masted" shame. Oh and to pose a question to Brownlee:

Dear Mr. Brownlee. Have you ever conducted and interview with Marty Turco? I would think that he might be an interesting player to talk to based off of his personality and air time I have witnessed in the past. Do tell!

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#41 roadrunner
August 18 2009, 06:25AM
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Nice job Robin!

The players Robin mentioned for best interviewees is no surprise as you can tell by the depth of their answers. Not the typical "I just want to play 110% and help the team..." crap. They don't appear to be as scripted or practiced. I also think there's a certain level of charm and personality involved in the way the players answer.

I also tend to think that the type of questions an interviewer asks is just as important. After heraing the same question asked 43 different ways at games end or pr game, it's a little obvious these guys just go through the motions when answering.

Here's a thought, and Robin please give me your thoughts on this. All media personalities should have to attend a taping of "The Hour" with George Strombolopolous. He's an incredible interviewer. Very engaging, he listens and asks tough but honest questions. His guests always compliment him on his style.

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#42 Robin Brownlee
August 18 2009, 07:21AM
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Harlie wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee Ever think it was your breath? just a thought………

I have minty-fresh breath.@ ShaunDoe:

@ ShaunDoe: Many times. Very accommodating.

@ roadrunner: The problem is we don't get to interview players in the sit-down, one-on-one situation that George does. That's a format fairly rare in what we do. Like I said, a lot of the interraction is post-game and it's lame questions and lame answers. In a scrum, you don't have time to pause and think about how to perfectly frame a thoughtful question. It's get in and get out. Pause, and Dave Mitchell or some other TV Johnny will jump in and start lobbng softballs and you have to hit them across the back of the head with a two-by-four to get them to stop.

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#43 cableguy
August 18 2009, 07:23AM
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Rival wrote:

He didn’t want to sign in Edmonton. I know someone close to the family. He’s close with Comrie…he knows how it went for him as a local guy. He is still going to live here in the off season. Lets leave it at that.

nobody gives a rat f*** anways.

the chances of the oilers actually getting bouwmeester were 0.000000001% to start with.

FACT: bouwmeester, in the past, was very much against playing in edmonton.

FACT: bouwmeester had softened his stance this season, and was looking at playing in a "hockey market" and would consider edmonton, though it was far from his first choice.

the rest is nothing more than pure speculation. there is no way for anyone to know what MAY have happened had bouwmeester actually become a UFA. It was, however, highly unlikely he signed with the Oilers.

he got a great deal in calgary, and will make them a very, very good team.

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#44 OvenChicken8
August 18 2009, 07:54AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Brutal interviews: Dion Phaneuf

I can see that for sure. There would be a language barrier. You asking questions in English, him answering them in Ogrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre.

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#45 jeff
August 18 2009, 08:00AM
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Nice to see Laraque training with Big Mac and Stortini.

Also nice to see Stortini working on his conditioning. The guy sure tries hard.

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#46 The Towel Boy
August 18 2009, 08:35AM
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I always thought Craig Conroy was a good interviewee...at least from my couch he seems good.

He just seems like a positive energy guy. Even in defeat he's got something good to say.

I noticed on my MSN start page today that THN has a blogicle up in their defense of the projected Oilers' 11th place finish.

hxxp://sports.sympatico.msn.ca/NHL/ContentPosting?newsitemid=27528&feedname=TRANS-HOCKEY-NEWS&show=False&number=3&showbyline=True&subtitle=&detect=&abc=abc&date=True

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#47 Robin Brownlee
August 18 2009, 08:49AM
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The Towel Boy wrote:

I always thought Craig Conroy was a good interviewee…at least from my couch he seems good.

Fastest talker in the NHL, by a long shot. No chance, even with shorthand. Had to record him.

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#48 jeff
August 18 2009, 09:11AM
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@ The Towel Boy: I liked him too. He seemed funny when he did a few with cabbie. I like to see guys just relaxed having a good time.

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#49 Faceoff
August 18 2009, 11:18AM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Interesting information on what writers have to do to get stories from the locker room. I didn't realize there was so much competition with the TV guys.

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#50 Hemmertime
August 18 2009, 11:56AM
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cableguy wrote:

FACT: bouwmeester had softened his stance this season, and was looking at playing in a “hockey market” and would consider edmonton, though it was far from his first choice.

Heatley would "consider" Edmonton too.

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