Sunday, August 06, 2017

Lake Times

So I went to a party down the far end of the lake tonight, picked up a couple of friends in the boat along the way, and we had a fire on the beach and drank drinks and sang songs and told tall tales, as is tradition, and at the end of the night I dropped the girls off at their place and was riding home in Buster Boat on just the most pristine summer night, lake like glass and the moon so bright it was casting shadows, and a fellow party-goer pulled up beside me in his tin boat and offered me a rum, and who can say no to a thing like that, and then when I got home I had a slice of fresh saskatoon-berry pie, now don't get me wrong I know my life isn't perfect, but I'll be damned if nights like tonight don't make it feel pretty fuckin' close.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia

There's some real shit going down in Edmonton, huh?  I wrote a bit about this already, but some more stuff happened (or is about to) so I wanna unload on the Oilers, or more specifically their GM, a little more.

So, Peter Chiarelli.  There are some die-hard cheerleaders, and the water-carriers in the media, who will defend everything he does to the death, I mean there are still people who think he won the Hall trade, but generally speaking these are the same people who think Matt Hendricks is the reason the team was good last season, so for the most part you can just ignore these folks because they're obviously idiots.  Chia is certainly not a guy who shies away swinging for the fences, he gets up there and he takes his cuts, which is more than I can say for a lot of NHL GMs who are terrified to make a trade because they're worried it might not work out.  Chia doesn't give a shit, he'll trade anybody if he think's it's a good deal, the problem is, what he thinks is a "good deal" and what's actually a "good deal" are frequently a long way apart.

The first time he dealt away a young star was the Kessel trade, which worked out great for Boston but only because the Leafs were atrocious that year.  That got him Seguin and Hamilton, so full credit to him, he hit this one out of the park.  Problem is, he then traded Seguin for Loui Eriksson and some spare parts, and people tend to forget about this one but he also traded Blake Wheeler for Rich Peverley, and boy that didn't age well.  He also mangled the Bruins' salary cap to the point where they had to give Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders, which I think was the last straw for his Bruins bosses.

Now people will say, "yeah but he won a cup" and that's true, you can't take that away from him, but when he was hired the Bs had Bergeron and Krejci down the middle, Chara on the blueline, and Tim Thomas in net.  He didn't build a cup-winner so much as inherit it.  Anyway, a couple of years ago the Bruins finish 9th and miss the playoffs, and Chia gets canned, so the Oilers scoop him up.  And what's the first thing he does as Oilers GM?  He trades a 1st and a 2nd for Griffin Reinhart, who spent most of the last 2 years in the AHL and is now a Vegas Golden Knight.  In fairness, he also got Cam Talbot out of New York, and that worked out pretty well.

Now the Oilers stunk for a decade, but that's OK, because it meant they got to pick at or near the top of the draft a bunch of times in a row (including falling ass-backward into Connor McDavid).  And what do you get when you have a bunch of high picks?  You get a bunch of talented young players.  And what does Chia do with talented youngsters?  That's right!  He trades them!  Last summer it was Hall for Larsson, and this summer it's Eberle for Strome, and right now the smart money is next summer it'll be Nuge for a new zamboni and some port-a-potties for the concourse.

Any way you spin it, the Oil just didn't get good value for either of those guys, but that's not all Chia did.  Last summer he gave big money and term to his old Bruin buddy Milan Lucic, now I didn't hate this move but if his play drops off at all that contract is going to be a problem, and this offseason he re-upped Kris Russel to a 4X4 deal, like I said last time I think Russel's OK but he's not with 16 million bucks.  So I don't love the Russell extension, but now it comes out that Florida is under orders to slash $$ from their payroll, and the guy they want to move is Jason Demers.   He makes a little more money than Russell does but unlike Russell, Demers can actually pass the puck and doesn't spend all of his time trapped in his own end, and if you could have him for a song why on earth would you take Russell instead?

On to Draisaitl and McDavid.  We all know that offer sheets basically never happen in the NHL, but there was some chatter on the interwebs that maybe some team out there would try and offer-sheet Draisaitl.  I guess this story got enough traction that Chia got asked about it in an interview, and he went on record saying that the Oilers would match any offer made.  Now that is just a damn stupid thing to say, because if I'm an NHL GM and I hear that, why wouldn't I drop a 4-year, 40-million dollar offer on him just like, "have fun with that, idiot".  Like I said it almost certainly won't happen, but it really, really should.  And why should NHL GMs want to force Chia to over-pay Draisaitl?  Because McDavid is on the verge of signing a deal that's going to pay him 13+ million dollars a year, that's why.  Now no matter what it ends up costing, McDavid is worth it, no question, if he's not already the best player in the world, then he will be soon.  But 13 million bucks is a lot of cake, so if you can make him over-pay for Drais, then maybe you force him to make some other questionable moves, like what happened with Boychuk...

In completely unrelated news, the Oilers announced today that they'd be buying out Benoit Pouliot, and there's so much wrong with this that I don't know where to start.  Now sure, he had a rough year, and he's got 2 years left at 4 million per, but by buying him out, that becomes 4 years at 1.33 million per.  So yeah, you're freeing up some space now, but at the expense of space down the road, which is when you're actually going to need it.  And rather than buying him out, could you not have moved him someplace by agreeing to retain half of his salary?  Surely some team out there would be willing to take a chance on him for 2 million a year, that's less than friggin' Matt Martin makes for crying out loud.  And if you CAN'T move him even if you retain 50%, then could you not just ride this out for 1 more year, and then buy him out next summer, when it'll hurt you less?  Send him to the AHL?  Something?  Maybe they've got big plans for that 2.75 million in cap space this season, but if that's the case then Oilers fans should REALLY be worried.

So yeah, there's Chiarelli, digging into the batter's box and flailing away, hoping to connect on a no-doubter.  I want the Oilers to be good, I really do, and I expect that next year they will be, but I just look at his body of work, and it seems to me the misses far outnumber the hits, and the task gets a hell of a lot harder after this year because Connor's salary increases by a cool 10 million bucks, and does Chia really seem like the right guy for the job?  I dunno.  When the Oilers win the cup in 4 years, don't forget to remind me what an idiot I am.



Friday, June 23, 2017

Silly Season

The Vegas expansion draft was a couple days ago, and the entry draft goes tonight/tomorrow, and it's been a wild couple of days for the NHL, made all the more exciting because this league is so goddamn boring so much of the time.

So what in the sam heck are the Blackhawks doing?  Panarin for Saad looks like a big downgrade for me, those guys have identical cap hits and are basically the same age, and Panarin has cracked 70 points the last two years and I doubt Saad ever even gets a sniff at 60.  So what gives?  Saad is signed for 4 more years, while Panarin is signed for 2, so I guess you could argue that long-term cost-certainty has some value, but I just don't understand this move at all.  Chicago followed that up by trading Hjalmarsson for Connor Murphy, at least in this deal the Hawks get younger but again these players make basically the same $$ and Hjalmarsson is pretty good, while Murphy is, to my mind, massively overpaid; when he wasn't paired with OEL in ARI he looked seriously out of his depth, I guess you could say "well he's good when he plays with someone good so let's play him with Keith" but, as near as I can tell, Chicago got the worse player in both deals and didn't save any money, so WT actual F?

The other side of this coin?  The Coyotes.  The water-carriers around the NHL have been blasting them for dumping Shane Doan, and trading Mike Smith, and now getting rid of Dave Tippett, but I looked at those moves and went "41-year-old who needs to retire, 36-year-old who can't stay healthy, and a coach who's missed the playoffs 5 straight years and has never won a damn thing" and I think yeah, those decisions look pretty smart to me, Arizona have some decent young pieces so let's get rid of the deadfall and maybe something will start to grow there.  Then today the other shoe drops, they get the good end of the Hjalmarsson/Murphy deal, and they follow that up by getting Raanta and Stepan from the Rangers for Anthony DeAngelo and a 1st-round pick.  Now maybe in the long run DeAngelo turns into a top-tier defender and that pick (7th overall) could be a winning lottery ticket, but Stepan and Raanta are massive upgrades and all of a sudden, the Yotes have added a 1C and a top-4 D and a starting goalie, and I don't wanna jinx it but is this team a playoff contender next year?  The big issue has always been money, the team doesn't have any and doesn't want to spend any, and the last couple years they've been taking on dead contracts just to get to the salary floor, but I think Chayka looked around that division and saw an opportunity.  SJ/LA/ANA aren't the terrifying trio they were a couple of years ago, Vancouver's a dumpster fire, and Edmonton still seems committed to their strategy of trading elite forwards for pennies on the dollar...as much as I like poking fun at the Oilers, they should be the class of that division next year, and after them it might be Calgary (though I have my reservations about Mike Smith), and beyond that it's wide open in the Pacific.  Now perhaps I'm underestimating the Ducks, that blueline is still stacked and Getzlaf is still a stud but every team that Randy Carlyle has ever coached has gotten worse the longer he's been there, and my money is on that trend continuing, so I really think Arizona could catch some people with their pants down this year and push for a wildcard spot, if not top 3 in the division.

Last, the Oilers.  Black Dog Hates Skunks broke it down way better than I ever could, so you should just go read that, but I'll just sum it up by saying I think the Eberle trade sucks, they sold low again on a first-line talent, Eb's "bad" year this year was better than anything Strome has done so far, maybe Strome plays with McDavid and puts up some big numbers in Edmonton and maybe Eberle goes to the Island and sucks, but I think the Isles fleeced the Oilers here.  Now you can say that Edmonton needed the cap space, and maybe they did, but they turned around and used all the $$ they saved on re-signing Kris Russell to a 4X4.  Now Russell is a place where opinions strongly divide, I don't hate him as much as some people do, but I think he's been drastically over-valued, he's an ok option as a depth defenseman, but you don't give depth defensemen 16 million bucks.  Serviceable player, bad contract, and if that deal was the reason you traded Eberle then it just goes from bad to worse, I mean it's not "buy out Grabo to sign Clarkson" bad but it's pretty bad.  Next on the chopping block is probably Nuge, my guess is he's the one to go next off-season, and then after he's gone, who knows?

I'm sure there will be plenty of other shit to hit the fan before the draft is finished, but that's all I've got for now.  So let me just end by saying, if Kris Russell is still an Oiler in 4 years and Connor McDavid isn't, it'll be some of the funniest shit ever.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Camping

So somehow I made it through yet another year, and to celebrate some friends and I went camping up in the national park.  Adam got out there Friday morning, and I joined him Friday afternoon, and the two of us held down the fort until Friday evening when the bulk of the merry-makers showed up.  Everybody managed to get their tents up before the rains came, which was lucky, because holy ding-dongs did it rain hard Friday night.  It rained so hard that we had to stop drinking around the fire and go drink under tarps instead!  That's pretty hard rain if you ask me.

Saturday morning I awoke to two unpleasant realities:  first, that my old tent leaks like a sonofabitch, and second, my shoes were missing.  There wasn't much I could do about the lake in my tent, at least not while it was still raining, but I figured I should at least go have a look for my shoes.  Sure enough, I found them in the underbrush about 30 feet away from where I'd left them, sopping wet but otherwise unharmed.  I suppose it's possible that one of my friends though it would be funny to chuck my shoes into the bushes, but I don't want to believe that any of my friends would do something like that to me, so I think it was probably a fox.

Another round of party guests arrived around lunchtime on Saturday, shortly before the rain finally broke, and with the campground no longer filling with water, we decided to fill it up with other things instead.  There was food and drink and music and stories and laughs, and if you don't think that's just about the best dang way you can celebrate a birthday, then you and I have very different opinions on the subject of birthdays, and your opinions are wrong.

Saturday night was spent around the fire, shooting the shit and passing the bottle around and just generally having a both a hoot AND a holler.  Sunday morning most of the guests had to back up and head home, but a few of my friends had arranged to stay a couple extra days, and I figured what the hell, I'm not doing anything, I might as well stay too, so I did!  Sunday was nice and relaxing, and my mom and my Omi showed up in the afternoon with a bottle of Kraken and a birthday cake, which was pretty much the best.  I cooked them supper and then we all had cake, and then Sunday night was spent around the fire, listening to music and telling stupid jokes.  

Monday?  Monday was gorgeous, blue skies, sun, a bit of a breeze, just perfect.  Those of us who were left went and hiked the Spruce River trail, which mostly consisted of going up some hills, and then down some hills, and then through some bogs, and then up and down some more hills.  It was better than I'm making it sound.  After the hike we walked down to the little park by the marina and played some frisbee and chucked a football around, and then back to camp to cook supper and do some more fire-sittin'. 

 I know it sounds like we didn't do much with our four days in the woods, and I guess maybe we didn't, but that's kind of the whole point of going camping; beginning by getting a fire going and ending at doing the dishes, breakfast might take you two hours start-to-finish, but so what?  It's not like you have anything else you gotta go do, except maybe chop enough wood to get you through lunch.  I already live life at a much less hectic pace than most people seem to, and I still appreciate the opportunity to get out of the city and slow things down a little.  

Anyway, Tuesday rolled around and it was back to the reality of life in the city, but not before we stopped in Waskesiu for ice cream (we tried to go to Big Olaf but it was closed, so we had to settle for The Scoop).  Back home, all that was left for me to do was return all the stuff that people forgot to take with them when they left, holy hell did you guys leave a bunch of your shit in the woods. 

And so another year is in the books, at the risk of getting saccharine, I'd like to say "thank you" to all the people who came out and made the weekend so memorable, it was a genuine pleasure to celebrate my birthday with all of you.  I have better friends than I deserve.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dissecting the Hawks

So the big bad Hawks laid an egg in the first round, getting thoroughly trounced by the Nashville Mustard Tigers.  The Hawks are the first ever #1 seed to be swept in the first round of the playoffs, and Bowman is promising "big changes".  I'm quite curious to see what these "big changes" are.  They won their cups, and full credit to them, but now the bill has come due; their core is mostly old/expensive/both, and their cap situation is a tire fire.  So what do you do?  Hossa's a 1st-ballot hall-of-famer, maybe the best 2-way winger to ever play the game, but he's got 4 years left on his contract and he'll be 42 when it runs out.  Whatever your opinion on Toews, it's impossible to argue that he's work 10.5 mil for 6 more years, and if Kane's production slips at all, he'll be in the same boat.  Seabrook's 32 and under contract for 7 more years at 7 million per, not great now and it'll only get worse as he slides down the bell curve.  Keith has been one of the best bargains in the league for years, and that's still true, but he'll be 39 by the time his contract is up.  Today's NHL isn't just about "how good is this guy", it's about "what are you getting for your money" and none of those guys look like great value for your dollar right now.  The lone bright spot is Panarin, he's on a sweetheart deal for 2 more years, but then he's a UFA and almost certainly gone to somebody who can pay him what he's worth.

So what's the solution?  My guess is you just have to commit to these guys, do your best to patch up the bottom half of the roster with capable bums, and hope you can get another deep playoff run or two out of this core before the wheels come off the wagon.  It's not like it would be a huge shock if this team ended up back in the finals next year.  The only other option is to try and tear it all down, but how many of those guys could you get anything for?  For sure there are teams who'd take Kane, but how many are in a position to take on that contract?  Seabrook's even less attractive, and if I was an NHL GM I'm not sure I'd claim Toews off waivers.  Keith you could definitely move for a nice return, that contract will still be reasonable through his mid- and late-30s, but you do that and you might as well burn the whole thing to the ground, because that's the end of Chicago as contenders.

The icing on the cake?  Kane, Toews, Seabrook, and Keith all have no-movement clauses in their contract, so good luck convincing any of them that they should accept a trade to Vegas or whatever.  I'm not even really joking about that, the expansion Knights might be the only team with the cap space (or real-world dollars) to take on a contract like Toews or Seabrook's.  

Long story short is, Bowman built a great team, and he has the rings to prove it, but he's painted himself into a corner trying to keep it all together ,and if he over-reacts to one bad playoff series there's a real good chance he makes the situation worse rather than better.  Any deal he makes in the next little while won't be from a position of strength, and I just don't see a lot of outs that don't involve something drastic.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Buds All Day

OK so I missed most of the Leafs game tonight because I went out with some friends to celebrate a birthday and were watching the Rush play, and now it's 2:00 AM and I'm finally getting caught up on what happened tonight, and man oh man what a game.  If you saw it in a movie you'd be like, "come on, that's so unrealistic."  Kessel opens the scoring, because of course he fucking does.  JVR ties it up with a RUDE goal, dude picked that puck out of mid-air and chipped it forward to himself AND stayed on-side, and then fires a perfect shot, that's a goal-of-the-year candidate in my books.  Then Andersen gets run over by that shit-bag Sestito, so now it's 1-1 in the biggest game of the year and Curits Mcelhinney, your backup goalie who you got off the goddamn waiver wire, has to come in and save the day.  It's cool though, because Dreamboat Willie will straight-up murder you on the power-play, and he sells the shot before firing a perfect pass to old man Bozak for a tap-in, 2-1 good guys.  Couple minutes later, Pens PP, Mcelhinney gets caught out of position and Crosby buries it, 2-2.  3rd period, 13 minutes left, and some Penguins plug floats a wrister from the half-wall and somehow it deflects off of both Leafs d-men and through Mcelhinney's legs, 3-2 Penguins and of course it was Gardiner who kicked it in, of course it was, and of course those two garbage goals are going to torpedo Toronto's whole season and DAMMIT MCELHINNEY YOU SUCK .  Down to 5 minutes and change, and it turns out the Leafs won the Kessel trade after all because Kasperi Kapanen gets his FIRST NHL GOAL off a sweet pass from Matt fucking Hunwick of all people, and then a couple minutes later, Connor Brown tips home Gardiner's point shot and holy shit the Leafs have the lead! Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown jumping into one another's arms when that goal went in is about as pure an expression of joy as I've ever seen, these kids are so damn precious and also Brown's like the 5th-best rookie on the team, and he has 20 goals which is just stupid.  So now down to the final minute, just gotta hang on, but oh no the Penguins are pressing and oh no Crosby's all alone and OH NO he's got the puck OH SHIT and MCELHINNEY ROBS HIM I LOVE YOU CURTIS and then, the icing on the cake, Auston Matthews gets his 40th goal of the year into the empty net with 3.4 seconds left on the clock because, of course.

So that's that.  The Leafs make the playoffs for the 2nd time in 13 years, and unlike in 2013 they actually deserve to be there this time, and it's great just to get in and all, but win tomorrow and you avoid the Caps and get the Sens instead and I swear if you don't want to see Toronto and Ottawa play in the 1st round there is something seriously wrong with you.

It's probably a good thing I didn't watch this game live, I don't think my nerves could have taken it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Kicking Horse

I liked the mountains so much in February, I decided to go again in March.  I wasn't nailed to any particular destination, though I was leaning toward Kimberley, just because I liked it there so much the last time we went, but then it started snowing around Golden and just didn't stop, so 60+ cm of powder later, the destination became Kicking Horse instead.  Like the destination, the accomplices were also fluid; I hoped to round up 4-6 people to join me, but a bunch of "maybe"s turned into a long string of "sorry, can't make it"s, and I resigned myself to doing this trip solo.  To my surprise, my friend Andrea decided she liked snowboarding better than she disliked the idea of spending 5 days in the mountains with me, so off we went.

The trip down was easy, I drove the whole way and Andrea slept.  I guess it's not fair to say she slept the WHOLE time, she bagged like 60 horses in "horse-horse" right outside of Saskatoon, and then promptly fell asleep until the Alberta border.  Things went smoothly until Oyen, where the police had completely closed the highway due to a bad accident, so my best-laid plans went south in a hurry.  Literally, we had to detour south, which would have been fine except I missed my turn to get pointed back west...between the detour and my own idiocy, I saw way more of the countryside around Oyen than I ever wanted to, AND we tacked about an hour onto our travel time.  So that was a bit of a fuck-up, but the rest of the drive was fine, so not the end of the world.

Despite the fact that we did basically no planning, we ended up bringing enough food with us to feed ourselves for nearly the whole trip; the suite had a full kitchen, which let us cook our own meals and make coffee that didn't taste like old dishwater.  Monday, our first day of snowboarding, was the best day I've ever had on a mountain, hands down.  It was about -3 and it snowed all day, and my freshly waxed & sharpened frankenboard rode like a dream.  Have I mentioned I love my new snowboard?  Because I love my new snowboard.  

I was planning on taking the 2nd day off, because I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to ride 3 days in a row, but the conditions on Tuesday were almost as good as they'd been on Monday, and I wasn't about to sit in the hotel and watch the snow fall, so back out I went.  It was another great day, but I was gassed by 3:00, so I called quits early and went back to the hotel to sit in the hot tub.  Some time between 9:30 and 11:30, Andrea lost her lift pass and had to buy another one, so that was a bit of a fuck-up, but the rest of the day was fine, so not the end of the world.  

I was pretty beat up after 2 days on the hill, so I took Day 3 off.  Andrea, who is far less of a wuss than I am, went snowboarding again, but I just lounged around the hotel room, dinked around on my guitar, plowed through a couple hundred pages of my novel, and went into town to pick up pizza-making supplies.  On my way back, I saw a girl carrying skis, walking up the road to the resort (probably a 15K hike), and trying to thumb a ride, and since Andrea had just been telling me how dangerous it was to pick up hitch-hikers, I decided to give her a lift.  Her name was Sara, and she was from Switzerland, and she was spending the winter working part-time in Golden and skiing every day, and her parents are disappointed that she's still living like a ski-bum at 28, which made me laugh a lot.  She didn't believe me when I told her how old I was.

This morning was get up, pack up, and hit the road, we made good time on the ride back, despite a few hold-ups for road construction in the mountains and a small detour through Golden (bit of a fuck-up, not the end of the world), and once we rolled out of the mountains the sun was out, and the roads were clear, and it was a great day to be bombing across the prairies listening to Tom Petty.  In addition to beating me at horse-horse, Andrea also invented a game called "calf-calf", which she won because only she played or knew the rules, AND she invented a game called "duck-duck-goose" which, again, she won but only because she gave me -100 ducks for trying to give her some creative criticism regarding the rules to these new games.

I'm never ready to come home from trips like these, and this one was no exception, but if you've had your fun, it's better to call it quits before you're sick of it, and I've still got some time off stretching out in front of me, a blank canvas just waiting to be filled in with all manner of little fuck-ups, so hey, winter was great, but let's bring on spring.  If you're free one of these days, let's do something outside.