PLAYING CATCH-UP: THREE WEEKS UNPLUGGED

After almost 30 years of making a living with a keyboard, it’s amazing how just three weeks away from it has rendered me almost completely unable to type a sentence.

That first world-beating paragraph, for example, took almost 10 minutes to complete, meaning I’ve got some serious catching up to do and a lot of rust to knock off the old peck-and-search technique before jumping a jet to the NHL Entry Draft in Minneapolis next week.

From what I’ve been able to make out in the wake of a 20-hour travel day from Manila to Edmonton after spending 22 days completely out of the hockey loop in the Philippines — I had not read even a single word about hockey until this morning — the NHL has ticked along quite nicely without me. And me without it.

So, the NHL is back in Winnipeg, Terry Jones has been inducted into the writers’ wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame and hockey fans in Vancouver are still waiting to celebrate something for the first time since their team was called the Millionaires. Does that about cover it?

While I’ll be attempting to get back up to speed before I hit the air on the Jason Gregor Show tomorrow — no smart-ass, I’m not secretly cheering for the Canucks, as Gregor suggested today — I’m going to have to ease my way into things.

So, if you’re looking for some insight into what Steve Tambellini and Stu MacGregor have cooking going into the draft and a statistical analysis of which free agents the Oilers should be targeting and why, you’ll have to look elsewhere for a day or two on the former and a forever on the latter.

WHAT I MISSED

I knew I was back in Canada when I arrived at Vancouver International Airport yesterday and saw all the long faces in a bar adjacent to the gate where I was catching my connecting flight to Edmonton.

A sour bunch they were. I didn’t much care, though, after taking 12 hours just to get to the Left Coast from Manila and then finding out a three-hour lay-over for a 7 p.m. flight had become a five-hour lay-over and a 9 p.m. flight because of fracking job action by Air Canada employees.

NHL Back In The ‘Peg: This is a good thing. Despite all the challenges facing Winnipeg in getting back into the NHL fold, my bottom line is I’d rather have a franchise in a city where the game matters to the people who live there than in bigger market where people don’t give a damn.

Large To The Hall: Congratulations to Jonesy on getting the nod as an Elmer Ferguson Award recipient. Say what you want about TJ, people read him and he’s been at or near the top of the writing game for a long, long time. Who, Jim Matheson aside, has written better or longer about the Oilers than Jonesy? Nobody, that’s who.

Canucks A Win Away: Then again, so are the Bruins. Contrary to what Gregor might say and despite growing up in Vancouver, I’d be fine seeing the Bruins hoist The Mug tomorrow. It would be a nice exclamation mark on the career of Mark Recchi, one of the good guys in the game.

Doug Weight Retires: Former Oiler captain not only talked the talk about enjoying his years in Edmonton, he walked the walk. In all his NHL stops, Weight never had anything but good things to say about this town. A great career. Class act.

New Deal for MacGregor: Good to see the Oilers reward MacGregor for a job well done with a contract extension. I had this item before I jumped a jet for Manila, but MacGregor asked me to sit on it — I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t matter — and let the team announce it.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Oilersnation Invades Guimba: I’m happy to say my brother-in-law Arman is now proudly wearing Oilers colours. I’m also pretty confident he is the only person in the province of Nueva Ecija in possession of Oilersnation stickers. I didn’t see one NHL logo in Guimba, or Manila for that matter, the entire time I was in the Philippines.

That Was Close: I was walking along the highway in Guimba when a transport truck lost a set of its rear wheels — as in they fell off at about 80 km-h. As the truck went skidding by me on the left, throwing a shower of sparks from the axle gouging a rut in the pavement, about 200 pounds of dual wheel rims and rubber zipped by me on the right. They missed me by about three feet before tearing a hole in a chain link fence. The driver looked a lot like Wanye.

Reality Check: A stomach virus and a fever of 38.8 landed Sam in a hospital ward in Guimba. For all the issues we have with health care here, and they are many, we are very, very lucky in terms of the professionals and facilities, waiting lists and all, we enjoy in this part of the world.

No Bull: While traffic looks like absolute chaos in places like Manila, it’s really nuts in outlying areas like Guimba. Even with that, I didn’t once see anybody flip the bird or run their mouth at another driver there. Likewise, I did not see single a set of rubber bull testicles hanging from the rear bumper of a pick-up truck. Coincidence? I think not.

Just Saying: Might the Oilers look at trading the 19th pick in the first round this year and their first pick in 2012, which figures to be anything from a fifth to a 10th pick, to get a second top-five pick in Minny? More on that to come.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • VMR

    If I’m willing to lose next years #1 pick I’d much rather put out an offer sheet on Shea Weber. Make it a crazy 14 year deal with a big early pay out for several years and low returns at the end to bring the cap hit down. Adding him to the lineup will have a much quicker impact on our place in the standings than Larsson.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Nah!

    You guys are just flat out wrong. As hockey fans, you’ve been living on your knees for too many years, you don’t even know which way is up anymore.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Glad we’re finally seeing eye to eye on something TUG.

        Contrary to the masses here, we’re not 3 or 4 players away from being a dynasty again. We have 2 maybe 3 decent players going forward. Khabibulin will get his when his contract expires in two yrs. I still don’t see an adaquate replacement in the system. We can hope Dubnyk developes into one but i have him pegged as a career backup, nothing more.

        • Contrary to the masses here, we’re not 3 or 4 players away from being a dynasty again.

          This was an odd direction to take.

          Whatdoes Khabibulin’s 2010-2011 season have to do with how many players we are away from contending? This is why it is sometimes hard to have a discussion with you, you go off on the strangest tangents.

          I still don’t see an adaquate replacement in the system.

          As has been repeatedly pointed out to you, Dubnyk outplayed Khabibulin with the same sad sack Oilers playing in front of him. I would guess that there are 15-20 goalies available who could put up better numbers than Khabibulin did this past year.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I as well, fail to see why you can’t see that it’s all connected. It doesn’t matter that Dubnyk had marginally better numbers that Nikolai did in front of the same hockey club, they were all nothing games, hockey that didn’t matter. We collectively got beat 10-1 last season, throw the tape out and start from scratch this coming season.

            I’ve repeatedly pointed out, you can’t measure anything accurately under these trying circumstances. There are not 15-20 goalies available in this league that would’ve put up noticeably better numbers behing this hockey team. It’s all connected and changes on a weekly basis.

          • It has already been pointed out that Dubnyk’s games were not against weaker teams. They were not nothing games.

            He also did not perform marginally better. He performed significantly better: .890 vs .916 is a massive difference in goaltending numbers.

            And as a matter of fact you CAN measure things under these circumstances. Its called save percentage and goals against average. Denying simple and undisputable facts does not mean they arent true. NK was terrible last season and he has been subpar for years. Other goalies can do a better job, we watched one do it last year in Dubnyk.

            Give it up. He was bad. That isnt a matter of Opinion. Its a matter of Public Record.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            The public record thing is a bunch of crap Archie. If you ask his 25 teamates you’ll get the same answer from every single one of them. The same guys he goes to war with every evening will say the same thing…… “We” (his teamates) let Khabby and Dubey down this year, we weren’t alot of help to them. You won’t find one player who says #35 sucked last yr, i’ll take their word for it Archie, thanks.

            Thanks for tolerating and trying to make sense of my jibberish Archie…..hopefully i’m improving.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Nobody would know him better than his teamates, their word would carry much more weight than ours…..correct?

            Maybe we should all respect their words of encouragement like we do on virtually all other fronts.

          • Nobody would know better that NK was terrible last year? We dont need to hear from the other players to confirm something so obvious.

            I’m not going to need to hear Chara tell me that Thomas was good in order to know its true.

  • CanaDave

    I don’t see any point to getting rid of Khabibulin at this point, it’s not like the Oilers have any need to dump salary for next season and it’s not he’s going to get the Oilers anything of real value back in return. I’m a Dubnyk fan too but why rush him or overload him with games and unrealistic expectations next year? If he comes out and earns the starting job away from Khabibulin like Crawford did over Turco last season then great but if not I’m sure Oilers management would rather have a vet like Khabbi getting ripped to pieces by fans and the media instead of a still relatively unproven Dubnyk, who the Oilers have invested 5+ years of development into now and the organization still probably sees as their goalie of the future, but not necessarily the present.