Beware the ides of March?

This is Dwayne Roloson, an NHL caliber goalie playing for an AHL caliber team. He is the only thing preventing the Edmonton Oilers from being the doormats of the Northwest Division.

In my mind, Roli the Goalie is the only Oiler who bleeds copper and blue every night. He is a fierce competitor, and even at 39 years old, manages to stand on his head most games he plays, rarely gets a night off, and the team lives and dies with his willingness to battle. This man will fight anyone who gets near blue paint, use his stick as either a weapon or a baseball bat, and his long bomb to Peca in '06 will remain an epic tale in these parts for generations to come. And he is wily, knowing that a good, clean helmet toss can be the difference between a third defense pairing scrambling for dear life against the opposition's snipers, and a D-zone face-off with fresh legs. This man has heart.

Hi everyone. I'm back.... I have recently ended my self imposed second exile (like the wandering Jew that I am) and returned home to my nesting ground in Edmonton for a little while. It seemed like a great idea, complete with the boyish dream of being able to watch the Oilers play on a TV, or perhaps even live and in the flesh as opposed to the terrible stream on the weak and sketchy Internet connection I had been stealing from an unsuspecting female neighbor in my building in Kelowna. She is from Van City originally and something of a Canucks fan, so I didn't mind stealing from her. She also has far more money then I do so I had absolutely no guilt, a rarity for my people.

Anyhoo, Internet piracy aside, I actually have a point to my little story. I came home with the hopes of witnessing a wonderful stretch run, the annual playoff push that tends to have the Oilers playing the best hockey of the year. As several other writers on the Oiler network of blogs, journals, boards and fansites have indicated, it has been proven that aside from the injury filled, Ryan Smyth departure plagued 06-07 season, this team plays their best hockey right about well, now. So where is it? Why has the suck of November returned? Should I truly be thinking to myself "Beware the Ides of March"? Because I am...

As I have long ranted about, this team has no heart, and it starts from those who are supposed to lead. There is something to be said about charismatic leadership. Some of history's greatest heroes have been in that camp, from JFK to Pierre Trudeau (though he's not so well liked in these parts), to Che Guevara to newly minted "savior of the free world" Barack Obama, to even people like John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen; leaders with that kind of charisma are able to inspire an unconditional love from those who follow them. Even Jesus apparently was one helluva speaker, but I wouldn't know these things... Some of history's greatest monsters have also been in this camp, from Caesar to Genghis Khan to Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler, not to mention Richard M. Nixon also had this gift, to raise peoples spirits and collective wills to do their bidding, even if the people knew it was wrong. They were doing it for the cause, for the greater good.

This is Ethan Moreau. See where he is sitting? Yes, the penalty box where he always seems to be. The "C" on his jersey? that means he is supposed to be the leader, the charismatic one who leads us to victory, inspires the team and rallies the troops. A lot of good he does sitting there. I'm lovin' it indeed. Captain Stupid took two more lazy, unnecessary penalties at shitty times. Ethan, stop it. Please. You can't lead anyone sitting down. This is taking the team in a bad, undisciplined direction, this is like Napoleon at Waterloo. Quit while you're ahead, ask to play a reduced role, turn into Bucky and play within your limits. You shouldn't be on the ice in the final minute. You'll take another damn penalty. How is that for the greater good?

The team lacks real leadership. The quasi-erotic relationship between coach MacBlender, Captain Stupid and Assistant Captain (not so) Steady Stevie is enough to drive me to cheer for someone else for a little while, just to remember what it is like to play consistent. Ok, that is not entirely true. My beloved Oil are a very consistent team, in that they consistently underperform.
This team, at critical times, lacks an identity, and have very little heart aside from their goalie, Scorcoff, and as of late, Jason (the Swingman) Strudwick, who followed up his goal and +3 night against tampa with a fight and one helluva defensive play to break up a 2on1 in the second tonight. Where are the skill players? Mini Magic was skating for miles tonight, but hamster balls and the hobbit couldn't find their hands to bury it. Hemsky, another who wears an "A" on his chest, was a ghost despite being the RW on virtually every line at different points in the game, floating around and not pushing the game the way he is capable of. It is crazy to think that this team is still only 1 point out of a playoff spot. It drives me crazy. There is a distinct lack of charismatic leadership in the room, and it shows on the ice. A fractured team is going to shit the bed at critical junctures, and this looks like a fractured team. Someone else needs to step up. Souray, another of the "A" team has been critical of the powerplay design, Moreau makes fun of Fernando for not being a skilled player, even in jest, the kids look lost, and Horcoff is being run ragged due to a lack of skill at the C position behind him, and is burning out despite his best efforts and incredible conditioning. Who will step up? At least Souray has the courage to be publicly critical, and he has the charisma and grit needed to lead a team of soldiers to battle, the intensity, the will to win, the desire to defend others in a proper, disciplined fashion. And has a bit more scoring touch too. Why is this team divided? Because coach plays favorites, the leaders don't inspire (Souray and Horc don't appear to have as much "clout" as Moreau, Stevie and Hemmer), and the team has as much personality as an inanimate carbon rod!

Hmmm. Perhaps a coup would be for the greater good? At the very least, maybe it will light a fire, bring back the passion and the will to win. Otherwise, this team will continue on the road to mediocrity and yet another year without any hope for glory. The trade deadline will potentially give this team some life, and perhaps a fighting chance. Beware the ides of march? I hope not, but should this team not be in a playoff spot by the 15th, I think it will be a long and tumultuous off-season

Go Oilers


Means and Deviations: AP/GP and LP/GP

So here is the picture of Marty McSorley I was looking for to put in the last post. Sorry, he is not as easy on the eyes as the substitution I had to use last time but those Jets uniforms in the background are sure a welcome sight. I hope PHX goes broke, they return to Winnipeg, and we have SMac patrolling the Coliseum in McSorley's old number.

Well, this man was never a stranger to the penalty box with 3381 PIM in his 17 year career. Over that time he averaged 3.52 PiM/GP in those years; along with over 100 goals and 359 total points (0.37 Pts/GP). Those are respectable numbers, and we can only hope that Zorg has that kind of career (3.35 PiM/GP and 0.15Pts/GP), but since he wouldn't get that much time playing with Gretzky/Crosby I don't know if that could happen. But why do I bring up McSorley, you ask?

Well as we have seen, he was never afraid of taking a penalty: good/bad, aggressive/lazy. While most of us (under thirty) will remember the time he took a stick to Brashear's head more than his great fights, I mostly remember him, to be honest, in a Kings uniform. Nonetheless, he was a fighter who had a tendency to take bad penalties at bad times. These might not be what I consider lazy penalties, but McSorely sitting in the box for tripping or holding was not exactly an exotic image. Unfortunately I can't waste a week or two counting up his LPs and APs, but I can tell you about the math I have worked out for the numbers I posted a week ago.

So at the end of the last post I had worked out the average and the standard deviation for the (penalty) Differentials. I will use the four broad categories that I used to judge these numbers last time, these are:
  • A) All forwards
  • B) Forwards without Zorg and SMac
  • C) Defense men (without Peckham)
  • D) All Skaters (without Peckham)
I don't use Peckham because he screws everything up, I round to the nearest hundredth of a penalty (after calculations), and I will refer to the categories by the associated letter in a discussion of LP/GP and AP/GP. For AP/GP, I will use category B to judge the forwards because it doesn't compare fourth line goons to first line players, but still leaves room to compare the skilled players trying to break into the top six, and the physical, or non-physical, players on every line. For LP/GP, I will use category A to judge the forwards because I think all players should be held accountable for their LPs. For judging Defensemen, I'll use category C.

  • Category B: the average is 0.05 AP/GP, and the Standard deviation is 0.07.
The players that fall into the first deviation below the average are: Hemsky, Horcoff, Cogliano, Penner, Nilsson, Pisani, Pouliot, Brodziak, and Schremp.
The players that fall into the first deviation above the average are: Cole, Gagner, Reddox, and Brule.
The players that fall into the third deviation above the average are: Moreau.

There are a couple of things I am not so happy with in this: that most forwards are below the average in aggression and specifically that Penner is below Gagner. Penner needs to be more aggressive and stand-up for Hemsky. Only does the first line have all three of its players below the average aggression score (the 2nd line has two players above average; the third line has a player above average; and the 4th has one above average, plus you can add one of the two goons). Hemsky and Horcoff have better things to do then throw an elbow at Nash, but someone needs to fight Regehr if he even look sideways at Hemsky. I think that Brule and Gagner are above average in AP/GP because of their tendency to take a lot of minors rather then their aggressiveness: but Gagner does fight and Brule's sample size is small.

  • Category C: the average is 0.12 AP/GP, and the standard deviation is 0.11.
Visnovsky was the only player that was in the second deviation below average. In the first deviation below average are Gilbert and Grebs.
Staios and Strudwick are the the first deviation above average. In the heavy hitter category is Souray and Smid, which are in the second deviation above average.

This make qualitative sense: Visnovsky is the least aggressive to my eyes, then Gilbert and Grebs, Staios and Strud are above average, and Souray and Smid the most aggressive. In the off season, I would have switched Smid and Souray based on their last seasons, but I like how Smid has stepped up his aggression (both before and after the whistle). I wouldn't mind Strudwick being more aggressive and even taking more penalties, since that is the only thing that seems to keep him off the PK.

  • Category A: the average is 0.18 LP/GP, with a standard deviation of 0.11
The only players in the second deviation below average are the goons (Stortini and MacIntyre).
The players are that are in the first deviation below average are: Hemsky, Cogliano, Nilsson, Pisani, Pouliot, Brodziak, and Reddox
The players that are in the 1st deviation above average are: Horcoff, Penner, Moreau, Cole, and Schremp.
Ganger is in the second deviation above average, and Brule is in the third deviation above average.

The fact the the sluggers are in the lowest category is a good thing, it means they are doing their jobs, moving their feet, and limiting the number of unnecessary calls against them. The fact Cap'n 'two-minute-minor' Moreau is in the same lumping as Horcoff and Penner is shocking because I can't remember Horc-nner getting a hooking penalty 220ft from our net that cost us a win. The fact Gagner and Brule are in such high categories is because they are young, immature, and need a captain that is a role model, not a douche-bag.

  • Category C: the average is 0.20 LP/GP, with a 0.08 standard deviation

In the 2nd deviation below average you have Gilbert and Strudwick. Smid is in the first deviation below average. Grebs is exactly average. In the first deviation above average is Staios. Lastly in the second deviation above average is Souray and Visnovsky.

This is the hardest category to draw any statements from. Vish and Souray are in the category that takes the most LP, but I would say this is because they play the most, a lot of PK, and against the oppositions best players. The fact Strudsie is so low is shocking, especially since he looks like he is a chicken without a head against the dregs. Gilbert's calm and cool play is reflected in his Dman low LP/GP, but his categorization with 43 is confusing. Smid has played his best season, and maybe this is a reflection of this but maybe not. I don't get the groupings in this categories . . . these numbers are difficult to make any qualitative statements from.

Talking Football 'cause the Oilers are losing

This is the coolest picture I could find of Jesse Lumsden, the newest coolest Eskimo: I mean look at the mud and the nondescript eyes.  I have wanted to get this guy since he came back to the CFL.  I know this blog is supposed to be about the Oilers, but since they are losing I am going to think about my second favorite team in pro sports (and it is a close tie with AS Roma, but home town barely beats favorite city and coolest colours in all of pro sports).

We here is a couple list of the folks we have gained and lost in this off season, they are ranked in order of importance:

New Faces
Jesse Lumsden (NI) Running Back: best running back in the game when healthy, oh, and Canadian
Maurice Llyod (I) Line Backer: CFL all star, great legs, 74 tackles
Kai Ellis (I) Defensive End: a mystery to me, but trade for Shabazz, so he better be good
Scott Gordon (NI) Safety: Canadian and must be better then the American Younger, 33 tackles
Jason Nugget (NI) Defensive Back: liked him last time in town
Graeme Bell (NI) Full Back: don't know much about him
Kyle Koch (NI) Offensive Line: Esks website says steady play, but only appeared in 5 games in 08

Lost Bodies 
Siddeeq Shabazz (I) Line Backer: dominant scary force, used to be my favorite player on the Defense. Photo to the right.
Kelly Campbell (I) Receiver: explosive dangerous deep receiver
Agustin Barrenechea (NI) Line Backer: leading tackler in 2008 season, sometimes his aggression got the better of him
Kenny Onatolu (I) Line Backer: Good enough to get a NFL tryout
Joe McGrath (NI) Offensive Line: solid not spectacular 
Brock Ralph (NI) Reciever: Speedy, but ok hands last year

Not going to talk much, but here are some observations:
  • The Eskimos seem to going with an all Canadian running team: with Lumsdem the all-star and powerback; Calvin MacCarthy the talented dump pass magnet and scat back, hopefully; Bell as full back, so some dump passes, blocks and special teams play; and lastly Mathieu Bertrand as the other full back, with the same job as Bell (I hope he doesn't lose his job, based on an slightly below average season last year).  This could be interesting because this is a traditionally American position and it opens up having other "imports" in other positions (as insiders say a ratio-breaker).  But what happens to the Americans AJ Harris and Damien Anderson? Trade bait at this position . . .
  • Who do we have for receivers?  As for Canadian receivers, Ralph doesn't hurt much because we kept Peterson (clearly the best "non-import"), Nowacki, Luciani, and Challanger.  But the lose of Campbell is devestating, as he was the deep threat, I hope the Mann can pick it up.  The Americans are Mann, Stamps, Practor (hasn't played in the CFL), and Jamaica Rector (no CFL experince, but love the name).  We need another American receiver or two: I want them have talent, because we are a little thin in this department.  Without Tucker and his heir apparent Campell gone, and Lumsden in the back field so less dump passes, I think Ray's passing numbers are going down.
  • Revamping the Line Backer core.  Three guys gone, including the top tackler, and only one guy picked up (but he is a goody).  We are going to be adding to this department, if you ask me; because St. Pierre is a special teams guy, Garrett is getting old, and Cole was almost done last year.  Kemp is going to have his hands full, unless Maciocia gets him some good help. 

Update: Advance PIM Stats

Man I spent half an hour looking for a good picture of Marty McSorley and a referee, but nope: everyone will have to settle for her (she took ten seconds to find: Why Al Gore, Why? Can't you be used for the good of hockey blogs rather then helping me fall in to depravity).

Well a while a go, I attempted to develop another set of statistical measurements for dissecting penalty minutes: you can find the original post here. Those numbers were up until after the Dec. 11, 2008 game, and now I am up dating the numbers to Feb. 13, 2009.

As a quick reminder, I'll go over the scheme I am using: I have calculated both PIM/GP and PIM/TOI as a tool to gage aggressiveness. I found this to be an inadequate tool for judging aggressiveness because many penalties are cause by a lack of skating or playing out of position.

I further categorized penalties in to Lazy Penalties (LP) or Aggressive Penalties. Instead of re-watching the games to figure out which penalties are which, I have used a crude division by the type of penalty (which has problems but is the best I can do, see the old post for details). AP or LP are calculated by counting the number of penalties, not the number of PIM, so that a major or a misconduct counts the same as a minor. Then I worked out the number of penalties per game played (in AP/GP and LP/GP). This time I as have calculated a differential: which is the AP/GP minus the LP/GP, to discover the tendency to take more lazy penalties.

This is not the number of total penalties the Oilers have taken, but how the penalties are distributed by the skaters. None of Roli's penalties are included, nor are the bench minors, and neither are players such as Boulerice or Sestito. It is supposed to demonstrate tendencies in how the Oilers players take penalties.

Team Overall
Number of Penalties: 291
Number of AP: 108
% of AP: 37% (last time 34%)
Number of LP: 183
% of LP: 63% (last time 66%)
Ratio of Aggressive to Lazy: 1 : 1.69 (last time 1 : 1.94)
The Lazy Penalty % and the ratio has drop, and the % of Aggressive Penalties has gone up. I think this is a step in the right direction

A Break Down of Aggressive Penalties:
Fighting- 43
Instigating- 2
Boarding- 4
Charging- 2
Cross Checking- 9
Elbowing- 2
Misconduct- 5
Roughing- 33
Unsportsmanlike Conduct- 4
Goalie Interference- 5

A Break down of Lazy Penalties:
Tripping- 29
Holding- 21
High Sticking- 19
Interference- 20
Diving- 1
Delay of Game- 4
Kneeing- 2
Holding the stick- 2
Slashing- 22

Name PIM PIM/60 PIM/GP AP AP/GP LP LP/GP Differential
Hemsky   10   0.73   0.23   1   0.02   4   0.09   -0.07
Souray   68   2.45   1.28   13   0.25   15   0.28  -0.03
Horcoff  29   1.56   0.56   2   0.04   11   0.21   -0.17
Visnovsky 30   1.56  0.60  0   0   15   0.30   -0.30
Gilbert   14   0.74   0.26   1   0.02  6  0.11   -0.09
Cogliano 12  0.86  0.22   0     0   6   0.11    -0.11
Penner   31    2.20 0.60    0.04  11   0.21   -0.17
Moreau  74  5.27  1.40  14  0.26  14  0.26  even
Grebeshkov 22  1.28  0.43  1  0.02  10  0.20  -0.18
Nilsson  14  1.25  0.32  1  0.02  5   0.11  -0.09
Cole   47   3.06    0.87  5   0.09  12  0.22  -0.13
Pouliot  17  1.75  0.33  1   0.02  6    0.12 -0.10
Brodziak 21  1.86  0.40  2  0.04   0.12 -0.08
Gagner 36   2.66   0.75   3  0.06  15  0.31  -0.25
Strudwick 37   4.30  0.84  6  0.14  5  0.11  0.03
Schremp    2  2.22   0.50   0    0   1   0.25   -0.25
Staios   55  3.41  1.06  9  0.17  11  0.21  -0.04
Smid  43   4.48  1.10  10  0.23  7  0.16  0.07
Reddox 10 1.88 0.33  2  0.07  3  0.10 -0.03
MacIntyre  31  32.07   1.82    0.41  1  0.06  0.35
Peckham 17   17.29   8.50  3  1.50  0  0  1.50
Stortini  125  31.77   3.68  24  0.71  2  0.06  0.65
Brule   12  6.61   1.09   1   0.09   5   0.45   -0.36

Some Notes and Thought:

1) Pouliot (pictured to the left, after a fight) and Brodziak made some of the biggest jumps. Mostly Pouliot since he had a team low in PIM/60 (0.41) and LP/GP (0.04), and now is comparable to other non-physical forwards that play: such as Cogliano, Nilsson, Reddox, and Brodziak (also close to Srudwick and Gilbert on the blueline). I think this is because their play in the early season was the anomaly and the penalties taken up until now have evened them out. Team low now is held by Hemsky in PIM/60, and second in PIM/GP (by 0.01); he is also at the top of the pack in AP/GP (tied for second 0.02, which is the lowest of any players with at least one AP) and LP/GP (only forwards that beat him are Zorg and SMac).

2) Cap'n Two-Minute Minor: At this point he is 2nd for PIM, and only ranks behind Zorg and SMac in PIM/60 and PIM/GP. But his ratio between AP and LP is 1:1, which is lower then the team average, and his differential is even and this is significantly better then most forwards that are all in the negative (but Zorg and SMac are positive). His even is also an increase from his -0.11 differential at the last mark. This tells me that at least the number of AP is increasing (AP/GP is higher by 0.04) and his number of LP is decreasing (LP/GP is lower by 0.07). It may not be easier to kill off a AP then a LP (as many debates on LoweTide has shown), but I rather see 18 taking APs then LPs.

3) Gagner is becoming worrisome with his continuous penalty taking. Only Cole and Moreau have a higher PIM/60 then him, and he doesn't play a physical game. Sam-wise had 23 PIM last year and already has 36 PIM this year: is this a reflection of frustration or trying to do to much? He also has the 2nd highest LP/GP of any skater (at 0.31), only to Brule- which does not reflect well on either of them. His differential is tied- with Shremp- for 2nd lowest negative number (again to Brule). He ranks with the players that are not ready for the NHL in my opinion, and all three of them continue to take needless penalties that hurt the team. Sam-wise better wise up.

4) The Battle between Zorg and SMac: Zorg's TOI destroys SMac (235:59 to 58:27). The number of Zorg fights kills SMac (15 to 5). The number of AP, minus fights, also is in Zorg's favour (SMac has 2, both offsetting roughing calls and Zorg 2 charging, 3 misconducts, 3 roughing- one off setting-, and 1 unsportsman-like call); I think this shows that Zorg is a better pest then SMac, who can only fight. Both of Zorg and SMac PIM/60 is roughly the same (0.30 higher for the nuclear deterent) and their LP/GP is the same (0.06). Zorg rules on PIM/GP (doubling SMac), AP/GP is 0.3 higher (the difference is more then Souray's or Moreau's total number), and Zorg has the highest differential on the team (not counting Peckham's fluke number, and beats SMac by +0.3). Zorg also out hits SMac by 41 (56 to 15). Overall I think this shows that Zorg is the more aggressive fighter on the team, plus he can play the pest and play a few minutes.

More Math
I couldn't sleep, so I have attempted to work out some math on Excel about the Differentials. I couldn't use Peckham's number because they screwed up all the means and standard deviations I was trying out (so his numbers are never included). Here are four rough categories:
  1. All Forwards: Average is -0.06 with a Standard Deviation of 0.25
  2. Forwards without Zorg and SMac: Average is -0.15 with a Standard Deviation of 0.09
  3. Defense Men: Average is -0.07 with a Standard Deviation of 0.12
  4. All Skaters: Average is -0.06 with a Standard deviation of 0.21
I think the second and third categories are the best at judging skaters, since they reflect comparable positions, numbers, and type of players.
Of all the Forwards in category two, here are the players that fall out of the 1st standard deviation: Reddox and Moreau are on the more aggressive side and Gagner, Brule, and Schremp fall in to the more lazy side.
Of all Defensemen in category three, here are the players that fall out of the 1st standard deviation: Only Smid on the more aggressive side, and Visnovsky on the more lazy side.
I am going to have to come up with a better way of separating the forwards, any ideas?

the day after: rimouski

With a convincing 5-0 victory over the absolutely despised Remparts de Québec, the Océanic de Rimouski have now won nine in a row. More importantly, if that's possible, was the return of Keven Veilleux (think Lemieux-esque skating and puck control but more Joe Thornton-like in terms of goal scoring).

Oiler draft Phillipe Cornet had a two-point night including a lovely breakaway goal as the soldout crowd sang the « hey hey goodbye » song to Patrick
Roy and his hated sons. But that wasn't the highlight of the night. No, that came around 1 am EST when the Oilers « complètement écrasé » the Habs.

While I do cheer for Montreal, there is nothing sweeter than seeing them lose to the Oil. And while my Oiler shirt wasn't all that clean, that didn't prevent me from wearing it today. You see, being an Edmontonian in Rimouski is hardly an avantage. In fact, in most situations, it is a distinct disadvantage. Even with a fairly good knowledge of French, I feel like a constant outsider (though I am not going to shoot any Arabs on the beach).

So, much like the fans at Northlands last night, today is a day to stand up tall, be proud and stick it to arrogant french people everywhere.

'so why don't you kill me' or 'aren't we into S&M?'

Obviously, a big part of being a fan is the identification that goes along with it. This identification can be to a hockey club, to an individual player or to specific individuals in general. This identification, for the oilspora, has the result that we 'feel' thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And yet, this doesn't quite explain what I'm feeling now.

After a humiliating defeat in Detroit (where was that offence on November 18th?), the Oilers followed it up with a largely lacklustre shootout loss to the Wild. I suppose compared to Saturday's game, we didn't play *terribly* tonight. We were in it right til the end and still came out of Minny (where we haven't won in two years) with a point.

Nonetheless, a loss is a lost and those who lose are losers. We, the fans of the Oilers, are consequently also losers and will be forced to carry this shame around until our team finds a way to win.

But what interests me here the most is the reaction of certain Oiler fans to this adversity: sure some will blame the coach, the players, suggests trades or jump off the bandwagon while others will adopt, maybe even flaunt (or enjoy!), this 'collective' failure.

Given our identification with the Oilers, this avowal of our loser status takes on the form of self-hatred, a point made even more clear when one looks at our facebook profile picture. According to wikipedia, this 'extreme disliking of oneself' is often linked to perceived deficiencies which manifest themselves in 'low self-esteem.'

Do Oilers fan have low self-esteem? Certainly and we ought to on nights like these. But self-hatred can also serve as a defence mechanism of sorts by which, in our case, we protect ourselves from the expected criticism of other fans. (a certain Jeff in Minnesota, various Flames fans etc.) By already acknowledging to ourselves our 'loser' status, we effectively deflect the criticism of others. The bravado which which Oiler fans, perhaps excessively, celebrate a victory over a St. Louis is but a short-lived attempt in denial to free ourselves from our low self-esteeem. This is similar to the person is both self-deprecating at times and extremely arrogant at others.

But does low self-esteem totally explain our conduct? Take the Oiler fans who were chanting for a 10th Sabre goal in our recent loss to Buffalo. These fans were almost certainly earlier in the evening very disappointed and maybe even angry with the Oilers. But at a certain point (when perhaps it became clear we had no chance whatsoever of a comeback) they started to cheer for the opposition. This instance is both similar to the adoption of the logo above and distinct in that it can be seen as evidence of fans no longer identifying themselves with the club (much like bandwagon jumper-offers).

In both cases, however, there is a certain pleasure or relief to be gained in this self-hatred. I found myself tonight vacillating between sincerely hoping for a victory and wanting to see us lose (only partly in the hope that continued losses will bring about a change in personnel somewhere in the organization apart from superficial and inconsequential call-ups). I'm still not sure why.


We Need a New DefenseMan

Oh my god, Visnovsky has a separated shoulder!

I have been saying this for a while but we need another top four defensive man, and a defensive one at that. And now the unspeakable, but predictable has happened: we have lost a top four defensive defenseman. I mean we haven't had a Dman hurt in a while and it was only a matter of time before this happened.

So how does this affect our line up:
Peckham (?)

I don't think this defensive core will hold up the two months that Visnovsky will out, and I don't believe Tambo when he says we will get better from the inside. So what is next? A trade. Here is one suggestion:

To Edmonton:
Volchenkov, Anton ($2.5 million cap hit, this year and next)
QualComp 0.08 (tied 1st on team), QualTeam -0.3 (lowest on team), 0.54 GFON/60 (terrible), 2.28 GAON/60, 2G-2A-4Pts
Vermette, Antoine ($2.763 million cap hit, this year and next)
QualComp 0.04 (tied for 2nd highest), 1.4 GFON/60 (fucking terrible), 2.29 GAON/60 (second lowest on team), 58.4% on Facesoffs, 6G-12A-18Pts
for a total of $5.263 million a year ($1.966 million for the remained of this year, and the full amount next year)

To Ottawa
Grebeshkov, Denis ($1.5 million cap hit, this year and RFA next)
QualComp -0.01 (2nd pairing on team), QualTeam 0.16 (best on team), 3.16 GFON/60 (best on team), 2.46 GAON/60 (middle of the pack on team), 4G-19A-23Pts
Nilsson, Robert ($1.833 million cap hit, this year and the next two)
QualVomp -0.03 (third lowest on team), 2.19 GFON/60 (bad), 2.71 GAON/60 (worst on team), 7G-10A-17Pts
Chorney, Taylor
3 round draft pick in 2009 or 2010
for a total of$3.33 million this year ($1.26 Million remaining this year, and 1.833 plus what ever Grebeshkov gets next year)

This gives us a bonafide shut down defensive defenseman in Volchenkov, and a two-way offensively-struggling center that can play between 4-9 top forward. Volchenkov will never
bring offensive, but could play the top defensive minutes we need to be handled. Vermette can win faces offs, chip in on wing if we need him too, is one of Ottawa's best defensive forwards this year, and his offensive numbers can only go up. this trade only adds 0.706 million in salary for the reminder of this year, and assuming Grebs gets a $3.5 million contract it saves us $0.07 million next year. We give up a puck moving defenseman (which we have lots, and Ottawa needs), Nilsson playing crappy with tons of upside (if he would show up every day), a future puck-moving defenseman prospect (who is having a terrible season but has been highly rated in the NCAA), and a 3nd round pick either this year or next.
Our new Defensive Core would look like this (With Vish out):
Souray-Gilbert (lots of PP time)
Smid-Volchenkov (the toughest minutes)
Staois-Strudswick (the weaklings)
PB= Peckham
Our new Defensive Core (with Vish in):
Souray-Gilbert (the mediums)
Vish- ??? (the weakings)
Smid- Volchenkov (the toughs)
PB= Staois

(the scary things are in red) What is to done about this? Trade for another defensive man to play with Visnovsky, and fill in for Struds before hand. Why? cause if we are going to make the playoffs we will need another 4-5 defenseman to fill in for Grabagekov. So it is going to cost another 2 round pick, or a Shremp (hopefully) for this years Tarnstrum: here is hoping.

*Note: Well it looks like Gilbert is now down as well. I am not going to do anything rational, like listen to the post-game interview to find out if any information is being released, instead I am going to scream and cry like a fat man (to the left). Now we are screwed: Grebs has become too important to trade for a defensive defenseman (since he is the only true passer left), and we still don't have a top four defensive guy on the backend. I do like having four defenseman with 23 points or more at the 51 game mark; what I would like even better is if these four didn't make up 4 of the top 7 scorers on the team and if there was a top-three shut down, physical, reliable defense man. But that ain't going happen this year (fuck playoffs look doubtful now), unless the big three (Horcoff, Visnvosky, and Gilbert) come back soon.*

sweet child o' mine

This is Axl Rose. Now he probably didn't realize it when he was penning the lyrics back in 1987 that they would also serve as inspiration to a blog entry some twenty later. Nonetheless, the pre-chorus is particularly poignant today:

where do we go
where do we go now
where do we go

Indeed, Axl. Where do we go? Following a 10-2 shellacking at the hands of the Sabres, a victory against the always tough Minnesota Wild our Oil decided to mail one in this afternoon.

Now, due to a stolen weak internet connection I was unable to watch the game but instead listened to it live on as if it were 1995 all over again. (good to hear that Japanese village hasn't changed its radio commercials, by the way)

Penner of course was singled out by nearly everyone and things certainly aren't going well for the Flyin' Fridge. But, rather than talk about Dustin (would Pittsburgh be interested in another sub-par winger to try on Crosby's wing?) I want to talk about Edmonton's modus operandi.

The Oil blogosphere is hardcore. Bringing Back the Glory is hardcore. Cheering for a tenth goal when your team is down 9-2 is exceptionally hardcore. The problem is that the Oilers, much like the city they play in, is medio-core. Think about it. When was the last time we finished higher than 7th in the West? Don't know? Well never, technically. The last time I think was maybe in 91-92 when it was the Campbell conference.

Sure we had a helluva run in '06 but I'd chalk that up to being mostly lucky and having every single Oiler playing his career best. I'd even wager that no Oiler on that team prior or since had/will play better than they did for those wonderful few weeks.

The pre-season optimism that reigned without restraint was, upon closer analysis, mostly due to the newfound parity of the NHL. Really, there were probably only a handful of teams in the west that an honest Oiler fan would have said were clearly superior (Detroit, San Jose). Against most of the conference, it was thought we'd line up pretty well, and it could be argued that we have given that we were in 5th place not too long ago. But that just goes to prove my poorly articulated point: we are nothing if not medio-core.

I recently watched Junior, a documentary featuring the 2005-06 Drakkar de Baie-Comeau who play in the QMJHL. A small market team by QMJHL standards, the Drakkar built slowly to become a top-tier team last year with visions of the Memorial Cup dancing in their heads. Unfortunately for them, they fell to my Océanic de Rimouski in the first round of the playoffs last year. It was a huge upset.

Why do I mention this? Well, I saw some similarities between the desperate desire to build a winner in Baie-Comeau that year and the Oilers. I'm not suggesting we'll be a dominant team in the near future (if ever), but rather that this collective obsessive desire to win can lead to dangerously high and unlikely expectations. Indeed, sometimes I wonder if Oiler fans don't just expect to win because of our glorious history.

Really, let's forget the 5 cups in 7 years and the run of '06 for a moment. What reason do we have to think we'll ever be a contender again? Look at sport leagues and you'll see a whole wack of teams who have never won anything. Let's look at the NHL. There's Winnipeg/Phoenix (3 AVCO cups, while impressive, doesn't count), Vancouver, Washington, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Buffalo all who have been in the league for over 30 years without winning. (I didn't include the post-91 expansion teams on purpose). Admittedly, all of them, with the exception of Winnipeg (who have never made it past the second round) have made it to the finals but lost.

If we were to look at the NFL or MLB or even the NBA we would see the same thing I'm sure. Unfortunately I'm not willing to do it.

The fact that we made it the finals as an eigth place team in '06 only seems to encourage a certain kind of top-eight mediocrity in the sense that « Let's just get to the playoffs. Anything can happen from there. Remember '06? » And while it is certainly mathematically possible to win the Stanley Cup as the 8th seed, we don't seem to remember it is far from probable and that optimistic mediocrity, punctuated with some really bleak years, ('07) is something we oughta get used to.