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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Kimberley and Fernie and the Roads To and From

Spent a week in the mountians, wanna hear about it?  Of course you do, why else would you be here?

Yes, it was time once again for our annual ski/snowboard trip, this time to Fernie.  There were 13 of us, and we had 6 nights booked in a beautiful ski in/ski out that featured more kitchens than we needed, but could have used another bathroom.  Alan, Kelsey, Scott and I left a day early and drove to Kimberley, so we could spend one day riding there before meeting up with the rest of the crew in Fernie.

OK, so Kimberley.  Kimberley is beautiful, we stayed in a cute little motel where the German gentleman running the place gave us a cake when we checked in, saying "For your breakfast.  With your coffee."  We had supper in a place called the Bauernhaus, and let me tell you this place was something else.  The building was first constructed in 1640 or something, and then like 300 years later the owners decided to dismantle it, ship all the pieces to Canada, and RE-ASSEMBLE THE DANG THING IN KIMBERLEY.  Seriously, if you're ever in Kimberley, check this place out, the food and service were both excellent, plus there aren't too many opportunities to have dinner in a building from the 1600s in Canada.

After a night of sharing a very small bed with Scott, we were up early to hit the slopes.  Conditions in Kimberley were basically perfect, we couldn't have asked for a better day.  Shortly before lunch, Alan asked if I wanted to switch boards for a run, and when we did, I learned something very important: my snowboard just completely sucks shit.  The second I tried out Alan's board, everything got 10 times easier, and when we got to the bottom, Alan said something to the effect of, "dude this thing is horrible, we gotta get you a new one."  So we go in for lunch, and Scott gets on Kijiji, and 10 minutes later he's messaging some guy in Fernie.  We spend the rest of the afternoon on the mountain, (Alan lets me ride his board for the rest of the day because he's a swell guy) and get ready to call it a day.

One small mis-adventure, on our last run of the day, I fall behind because even on Alan's board I'm a pretty terrible snowboarder, and I take a wrong turn.  Rather than meeting the rest of the crew at the bottom, I end up on the WRONG SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN.  The dude working the lift is not impressed, since the lift is supposed to be shut, but I apologise profusely and he says "well I gotta let you back up, it's not like I can leave you out here".  So I ride back up and then ski down the proper side, knowing full well that Scott/Kelsey/Alan are probably beside themselves not knowing where I am.  Good thing I don't carry a cell phone.

Anyway, long story long I get my ass down the proper side of the mountain, and explain that I didn't cripple myself I just got lost because I'm a dumbass, and I get made fun of, and then we pile back in the car for the drive to Fernie.

Fernie was an absolute blast.  The days all kind of run together a bit, but there was food and drink and laughs and games and music, and even some more snowboarding on my sweet new-to-me snowboard that some liftie christened "Franken-board", an apt description if ever there was one.  Seriously, my new board is awesome and I love it, and the dude talked himself down from $150 to $140, which I don't really understand but hey, I'll take it.

Somehow Scott and I ended up sharing the master suite in Fernie, which was certainly an improvement over the tight quarters in Kimberley, the new bed was quite literally double the size of the old one, though even that didn't stop Scott from taking half the blankets for himself and dumping the other half on the floor beside him.

This trip had plenty of in-jokes, as these things tend to, we all spent an entire day making up cheese-related puns, and making fun of Grant and Chad for not knowing how to take the lid off the hot tub, and giving Andrea and Alan a hard time for failing at coffee-making (Andrea used the wrong shape of filter and made a huge mess, Alan forgot to put grounds in the machine and just made hot water).  We also wrote a song called "Increase Your Loads", but the less said about that the better, if I'm honest.  Wednesday night and all day Thursday it poured, so we spent our last day in the mountains drinking drinks and playing games, and it was an excellent way to wrap up an excellent vacation.

I love the mountains and I love snowboarding and I love spending time having fun with my friends, and this trip was jam-packed with laughs and good times, and in the words of Grant "I had a better time than I thought I would, and I was already expecting to have a really good time."  Thanks, friends.

  
The Mediocriskis, Fernie, 2017

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Expansion

So the holidays have come and gone, and so has my Violet.  I put her on a plane to Germany on the 19th of December, and her plan is to stay there for A WHOLE DANG YEAR.  I'm sad she's away, and I'm also pretty jealous, but we both knew that this was in the cards right from day one, and it's tremendous that she's expanding her world, so no sense bitching about it, right?

Christmas was lovely, spent at the lake of course, it was quiet and lazy and delicious, and I did a little expanding of my own, and of course the holidays were far too short, as is tradition, and I rang in the new year with beautiful people in a beautiful place; late in the game the host realised that way more people were attending his party than would fit in his house, so he commandeered the old community hall attached to the library in Waskesiu, and we shared food and drinks and music and dancing, and I didn't even wake up with a hangover, truly a christmas miracle.

Now on to the Leafs, who as of last night had squeaked into a playoff spot by beating the lowly Devils 4-2; the Buds poured in 4 goals over the space of 6 minutes in the 1st, and then gave up a couple late goals to NJ late in the 3rd, just to make things interesting.  They've also closed a 9-point gap on the Senators over the last month, and all of a sudden the last-place team from a year ago looks like a real threat to qualify for the post-season.  Yeah yeah, plan the parade and all that, but the twitter comedians who have (rightly) spent the last decade or so bagging on the Leafs are starting to sound a wee bit nervous.  We're still half a season away, and I think Tampa Bay gets their ship righted, and if the Bruins start to score they'll be trouble, but I think Ottawa slides a bit and the Flyers have dropped 5 straight, so if I were a betting man (which I am) I'd be picking the Buds for some post-season excitement this year.

This brings me to something that's been niggling at me for a while.  The last couple weeks, the rumours of JVR's imminent departure have ramped up, ad the prevailing wisdom seems to be that the Leafs are going to flip him and his tasty contract for some help on the blueline.  Now the Leafs absolutely do need help on the back end, the top 4 is great but that 3rd pairing of Polak and Hunwick is just getting caved in most nights, and if one of Gardiner or Reilly or Zaitsev misses any time this group is in deep shit, but trading JVR right now makes no sense for multiple reasons.  First, as I already mentioned, this team legitimately has the opportunity to make the playoffs, and JVR is an offensive stud.  Second, as already mentioned, he's on a great contract that doesn't expire for another year and a half.  Third, trade him to who?  The Vegas Knights expansion draft is looming this off-season, so any team that brings in JVR would have to protect him, which means exposing somebody else.  There aren't many teams who 1)are willing to trade a top D-man  2)have the cap space  3)have a protection slot free.  I'm just a dumb guy, but I don't see how a JVR trade makes sense for anybody.

My gut tells me that there will be tons of moves this off-season as teams try to minimise their expansion-draft losses, and the Leafs are in a unique position: they don't have ENOUGH GUYS worth protecting.  Assuming you protect 7F-3D-1G, what forwards do the Leafs keep?  Kadri, JVR, Bozak...maybe Komarov?  Everybody else is either exempt (all the rookies) or not worth protecting (looking at you, Ben Smith.  You too, Matt Martin).  Same deal on the back end; Zaitsev is exempt, and after Gardiner and Reilly, who else is worth protecting?  Meanwhile, the Ducks have too many good defencemen, and the Lighting are going to lose a top-6 forward, and if you offer those teams a top prospect or draft-exempt NHLer, you gotta think they jump at the chance to not lose those assets for nothing...now I don't want to jinx it, but let's just say that you add Cam Fowler and Tyler Johnson to the Leafs for next season, are they not legitimate Cup contenders?  Truly this is an exciting time to be a Leafs fan, and that hasn't been true for a long, long time.