August 07 2009 09:19AM
It’s Sid the Kid’s birthday today, (he needs a new nickname because he’s outgrown it and it’s stupid) and he’ll be having a parade in Cole Harbour touring with his new best friend, Stanley. Oh the fun they will have shaking hands, kissing babies and trying to avoid the legions of groupies hoping to carry his love child.
Why the hell might Oiler fans care about this - given that the rate their team team is moving it will be a long time before Sam Gagner is bringing Stanley with him on a parade through the streets of London to celebrate his Aug 10th birthday.
It’s still 35 long days until the Oilers officially arrive for training camp. When Steve Tambellini announced Craig MacTavish wasn’t coming back he declared that MacTavish’s dismissal wasn’t just solely on the former coach’s shoulders, but that the players had to realize that they were responsible as well.
I guess Dwayne Roloson, Kyle Brodziak and Ales Kotalik were the key culprits because to date they are the only ones who won’t be returning. I’m not naïve enough to think that Tambellini hasn’t looked at other moves, but right now the only differences heading into camp this year compared to last is no Brodziak, and Nikolai Khabibulin is in while Mathieu Garon and Roloson out.
I wonder if the team and management will be beating the same, “We will compete for the division title” drum that we heard last year. And if not, how come? To hell with humility, if they believe they can compete for the division there is nothing wrong with saying it, but I’m guessing you will hear a much more reserved approach come September.
Right now I don’t see the Oilers any differently than I did a year ago, other than Pat Quinn having their undivided attention, which should make this team a bit better. But right now the Oilers once again look a team that could finish between 7th to 12th. I don’t think anyone could confidently predict an exact spot, although we will before the season starts.
The veterans like Moreau, Horcoff, Staios, Pisani, Hemsky, Souray and young Gagner, will be held accountable this year. There is no way that Quinn will give them as much leeway as MacTavish did last year, and that will make them better.
While the vets will be like young kids trying to earn the respect of their teacher, the younger players better be ready to compete.
I don’t buy that just because Quinn is making out the lineup that Dustin Penner, Robert Nilsson, Ladislav Smid and Patrick O’Sullivan will automatically become consistent. While Smid and O’Sullivan aren’t close in the underachieving and uninspired levels of Penner and Nilsson all four have battled consistency.
Penner infuriated Randy Carlyle just as much as he did MacTavish, and Nilsson’s unwillingness to show up every night didn’t materialize under MacTavish. Both players need to look in the mirror and realize that the reflection is their biggest detractor, not the coach. Unless Quinn has some special Zen-master like powers the only way Penner and Nilsson show up consistently is by having the pride to do so.
Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov have improved the past few seasons, but last year both were softer in front of the net than a guy sitting front row at a peeler bar when he sees his sister stroll up on stage. (True story about a guy I went to school with, but that’s for another day).
Sure the Oilers sucked at faceoffs, and their forwards weren’t great at blocking shots, but the two G-men got a free pass far too often when it came to losing battles and position in front of the goal on the PK. (Staios was a major culprit here as well).
Quinn and the coaching staff will have a different system. It will be more up-tempo with an aggressive forechecking style that, if the players have the gonads to play consistently, should prove beneficial.
So here we sit as Sid the Kid celebrates his 22nd birthday drinking Gatorade from Stanley ’s Cup, with a real sense of déjà vu. Oiler fans have seen this movie before, but are hoping that a young Cogliano, or Gagner or maybe a veteran like Hemsky or Horcoff can lead this team offensively, while the team finds a way to keep the puck out of the net.
Are you sick of it? Probably not, because many of you have forgotten what it’s like to feel any differently about the Copper and Blue a month away from the start of the season.
ARE SOME OF YOU REALLY THIS DESPERATE?
I’m stunned at how many emails I’ve received from fans claiming Nick Zherdev is the answer.
“The Oilers need Zherdev. He has great skill and being from the Ukraine means he’ll feel at home in the winter here. Give him $6 million over two years and we’ll make the playoffs for sure.” - Tim “Zherdev for $3 million is a steal and Tambellini should sign him ASAP. I’ve watched him play and his skill is top-five in the league. Quinn will make him work hard, trust me.” - Bill from Clareview
I can understand that fans want some new blood, but at least go after a player who has enough heart to pump the blood through his veins more than once every four games.
ANOTHER LEGEND IS GONE
I was a big fan of JR, especially when he played in Chicago , but he never produced as many memories as John Hughes. Hughes wrote, produced and directed some of the most memorable movies in the 1980s.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles was my favourite. I wasn’t a fan of Steve Martin until he teamed up with John Candy in this classic. It’s filled with memorable quotes, “Those aren’t pillows…How about those Bears”…or Martin’s F-bomb tirade at Marathon Car Rental or this scene:
Candy was awesome…”How would he know where we are going”…It still cracks me up.
Hughes was also the mastermind of classics like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Uncle Buck, Pretty in Pink, The Great Outdoors and Home Alone. Interesting that Home Alone was his most successful movie of all-time. For my money it didn’t come close to PTA or Bueller, but regardless he was a force in the 80s.