Blood In The Water

Just when you thought it was safe to be an Oilers fan...

via three frames

With everyone's favourite non-Oiler in town, one look at our bloodied roster should have us preparing for a feeding frenzy. The Sharks of San Jose will be out for retribution after an embarrassing 7-2 loss to their closest competition for the Presidents' and the top spot in the West. What's worse is the aforementioned Heater will be riding a wave of 19 points in 18 games into Rexall.

Assuming they make it out of Friday's game alive, the Oil will be marched out to the plane and shipped West for another run at the Canucks, kicking off a six-game road trip. The last trip didn't go so well (4 points out of a possible 10) and this one could be even worse. Starting with a back-to-back likely means DD will be starting in Vancouver, so we'll be essentially icing a squad that's half-Falcon at GM Place.

Man Games Lost to Injury Watch: 146

With Hemsky out and awaiting an MRI, multiple players on day-to-day, and no timeline for the return of Comrie, Grebs, or Pisani, I'm prepared for this number to rise steadily over the next month. Clearly that does not bode well for our chances over the mid-season stretch, but hey at least we'll have the Olympic break to rest up. It's not like we'll be sending any players to Vancouver then.


Matt Dillon and Brian Burke: Like Two Peas in a Pod

Do you remember the movie Crash a few years back? Not the Cronenberg one, but the one by Paul Haggis? Damn fine movie. Near the beginning, we meet Matt Dillon's character, a cop in the LAPD, and we learn that he is not a guy to like. He's an abrasive, unfriendly, racist, sexually-assaulting-Terrence-Howard's-wife kind of a guy. His actions, and his prejudices, are inexcusable.

Later on in the movie, after we've gotten our fill of Brendan Fraser and Ludacris, we learn that Dillon's character actually has some depth to him, and he's not just the monster we're supposed to paint him as based on the scenes earlier on. While his actions on the job are despicable, he spends his time off-duty caring for his dad, who is very ill, and whose business has been very hurt over the years (or at least it has in Dillon's eyes) by affirmative action.

The point was, I think, that even though it's easy to condemn people for the stupid, ignorant things they say and do, we need to remember that there's usually more than meets the eye. I haven't seen Revenge of the Fallen, but I assume you come away with a similar lesson from that movie.

Which brings me to Brian Burke...

He's a moron, first of all. But I do have to give him a glove-tap for his comments to John Buccigross about his son (via Mirtle). It's a bit of a sad statement that having someone stand by and support their child can make you dramatically reexamine your own view of them, but I'm honestly not sure if that's more a reflection on how I see Brian Burke, or on the out-of-step attitudes we can usually find in professional sports.

Either way, Burke is slowly shifting in my mind from Matt Dillon at the beginning of Crash to Matt Dillon near the end of Crash. Next step: Matt Dillon in There's Something About Mary. As much as I still dislike the man, I do truly believe he could rock a fine leisure suit.


The Kissing Disease

News has spread like... well, mono that one Mr. Michael Comrie is out indefinitely with mononucleosis. The poor guy should only be knocked out for a couple weeks, but it's another unfortunate visit from the injury bug in an already busy year for the Oilers medical staff. The Organization is saying 122 Man Games Lost to Injury after 22 games, while James Mirtle (the only person who seems to compile these stats) has us listed at 105 MGLtI after 21 games. It's a bit odd for the numbers to not line up, so let's just take them in a min-max scenario.

Projecting from these numbers, we can approximate losing 410 to 455 games to the injury bug this year. How does this compare to the past few seasons? Now, I've been unable to track down the actual MGLtI for the Oil last year, so I'm going to have to go off of the projected numbers (once again, via Mirtle).

2005-06: 134 MGLtI
2006-07: 286 MGLtI
2007-08: 340 MGLtI
2008-09: 241 MGLtI*
*(projected on March 18, 2009)

Clearly the Oilers are outpacing themselves but, considering the law of averages, one must believe that our injuries will tail off towards the end of the season. Or will they?

As we can see in Mirtle's chart, teams like Philly and St. Louis still handily made the playoffs despite posting high MGLtI numbers in 2008-09. This doesn't mean that they lost less important players or that their injuries were less severe, the clubs simply had the depth and experience to handle the losses. Leaving us with the excruciating reality of the unbalanced Peewee team the Oilers front office calls an NHL-caliber squad. Maybe it's just me, but icing an undersized, inexperienced team with lack of depth seems to be the perfect recipe for an injury-dominated season.

While this early black-and-blue streak is bringing out the doomsayers in all of us, I think there still has to be some glimmer of hope. If the boys do get healed up and provide some artillery support for our outstanding first line, we could still be in fair shape come April. Unfortunately, without a major depth move before the deadline, Tambellini & Co. are not giving this team a fair shake. As gritty and determined as he is, the Red Ox cannot do it all alone.


Rexall Begins

Through our various connections in the film and television industry, Slow Fresh Oil is occasionally able to get our hands on inside information and other pieces of Hollywood gossip. It's pretty rare that these insider tips have any relevance at all to what we do, but when it does, we're always glad to pass it along to the Oilogosphere. So with that in mind, below we have an excerpt from a Darryl Katz biopic that was apparently abandoned in the early stages of production after its financing was pulled. Slow Fresh Oil is not sure of the movie's current status or if there are any plans to resume filming at any point in the future.

Stately Katz Manor


Katz Manor sits perched upon its riverbank vantage, looking down on the river below. Moonlight shines onto dark clouds in the sky.


The study is adorned with fine furniture and expensive-looking artifacts. Among them is a wooden bust that appears to be of Mark Messier. Near the entrance is an intercom system. A window along one wall looks out into the night. A fireplace burns along the adjacent wall. DARRYL is seated in a modern leather chair, reading the newspaper. He is dressed in slacks and shirt, with a tie draped over the back of the chair. Next to him, on a side table, is a conspicuous red phone, placed under a circular glass case.

Darryl peers over the top of his newspaper towards the window. Noticing something, he stands up and we follow him over to the window.


Outside, against the clouds, is a large, oil-drop shaped spotlight being shone from somewhere in the city's distance.


The phone RINGS.

Darryl quickly strides over to the phone, removes the glass case, and picks up the receiver.

Commissioner Bettman. What can I do for you this evening?
Yeah, I just saw it. What seems to be the trouble this time? Is it that Penguin again? I thought that we had already dealt with him and that he would be staying retired for good this time.
Who then? Kings? Sabers? Lighting? Whoever it is, just say the word and I'll take care of them for you.
Look, Bettman, just come out with it.
You mean...that two faced lawyer-turned-evil? My god. Alright, I'm on it. You just make sure that if things get ugly, there aren't any innocent fans around to get hurt. Goodbye.

Darryl hangs up the phone. He walks over to the intercom, and presses a button. On the other end, we hear the squeaky voice of KEVIN.

What is it, Darryl?

Kevin, get up. We've got work to do. It's Burke. He's out of control.

Holy overreaction, Darryl. Why should we care about what that guy says or thinks anyways?

Because, Kevin, it's not up to us to decide when we're needed. Because there are hockey fans out there in trouble. Because he's the GM Toronto deserves, but not the one it needs right now. Either you're in or you're out. I'm leaving in five minutes. Tonight, I think we'll take the plane.

Darryl releases the intercom button and walks over to the wooden bust. He lifts its head to reveal a large red button. He presses the button, and the fireplace slides away to reveal a pair of fireman's poles. Darryl walks over, grabs the pole on the right, and slides out of the scene.



Popping Collars and Mustachioed Men: A Blog Post

In the fourteen days since my last post, the Oil got worked up and down the ice in three straight divisional tilts, eked out a shootout they had no business going to, and then got trounced by three teams out of the East. In seven games we've been shutout three times and outscored by a margin of 14 goals. Compared to this time last year, we're in a very similar place:

November 6, 2008: 6-6-1, 34 GF/36 GA
November 6, 2009: 7-8-1, 47 GF/50 GA

While our offense has increased, our defense has become even less competent. The rest of the NHL has been treating us like a medieval surgery patient and the routine bloodletting hasn't yet shown signs of stopping. We simply cannot blame Nikolai, because any casual observer can see our ragtag band of lost boys is just not made up of "actual" NHL players.

If they were, they'd be inoculated well in advance of the unwashed masses.

But isn't that's what being a blue collar team all about? Suffering like the peasantry, ravaged by swine flu, while the bourgeois stroll into private clinics and have their families saved. Oh, the sweet succulence of moral highground. We may not be a high-priced team loaded with talent, but we're blue collar. We're crash and bang and bust your ass up the ice and hustle even harder back down. We don't take shit, but we dole it out by the ladleful. We look to our blue collar players with their blue collar six- to seven-figure salaries and say, "Why, you fellas are just like us." Gritty, respectable folk with mortgages and kids and drinking problems and septic tanks to replace. Folks that wait in line for their vaccines.

Look, if you haven't caught on, I'll pry my tongue out of my cheek and just say it: let's have a moratorium on the term blue collar, shall we? At least in reference to professional atheletes who are anything but.

Unfortunately, the Oilers are missing players to which the descriptor usually applies and they are paying the price. Quinn's "banger on every line, with extra jam and crust" strategy has fallen apart due to injuries that have stretched on so long, we're beginning to wonder if the concept was even working in the first place.

Meanwhile, we've got a five-game road trip against some tough customers coming up. Word from Quinn on the team site is that Shelly, Horc, and Smid will board the plane, though only Laddy will likely see any action. This leaves us as sparse as we've been in October, but maybe with a couple guys back we can steal a few on the road. Ideally, the other two will get their feet under them for the subsequent home stand and we can finally ice a (nearly) completely healthy roster.

That is, of course, if Brule doesn't pull something trying to take part in Movember:

That barely haired upper lip is a Perv 'Stache waiting to happen (or as we call it: the Crosby).

While there is sure to be plenty of impressive soup strainers on the squad by the end of the month, my early favourites are the future of our blueline:

Chorney's Push Broom is an instant classic and only further warms him to my already fluttering heart. Still, Peckham's has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes me wish we hadn't sent him down...

Ah oui, but of course.


Obligatory Lowetide Impression

He looked more like our fathers, not a goalie, player, athlete period. Smoke, half ash, stuck in that permanent smirk, tugging jersey around the beergut, "I'm strictly a whiskey man" was one of the sticks he taped up and gave to a nation of pudgy boys in beverage rooms. Favourites from Plimpton's list of objects thrown by Rangers fans: soup cans, a persimmon, eggs, a folding chair and a dead rabbit. The nervous breakdown of '68-'69 after pant-crap flights from LA, the expansion, "the shrink told me to change occupations. I had to forget it." He swore he was never afraid of the puck. We believe him. If anyone asks, the inscription should read, "My face was my mask."
Elegy for Gump Worsley by The Weakerthans

This is Lorne "Gump" Worsley, taking those Weakerthan lyrics a bit too seriously, in a photo that was clearly taken some time in the later half of the 1960s. Gump, so named apparently because of his resemblance to Andy from The Gumps, played in goal for the Edmonton Flyers for part of a season in 1952-53, more than a decade after my own grandfather spent a couple of seasons doing the same thing. That year he was called up to the big club in New York, where he would spend most of the next decade plying his trade. That year he was also apparently part of the
Hakoah de Montréal soccer team that made it to the Canadian Championship. Based on what I've seen and read about him, it sounds like the Weakerthans are right: there's no way Gump was ever afraid of the puck. With all the talk lately about 50 years of goalie masks in the NHL, I wish we would hear more about the men who said no. The men who felt that there were some things more important than avoiding pain and personal injury. The men like Gump Worsley.

Gump played his last game in the NHL more than 10 years before I was born, and played his last home game on Broadway before The Beatles had had their first number 1 hit. Since then, the Rangers have had some nice goalies, including the man who took over for Gump in New York, who everyone seems to be talking about these days. Continuing the tradition in net for the Rangers today is Henrik Lundqvist, who's off to another nice start this year (.918). Goals have been tough to come by for the Oilers lately, and going up agains Lundqvist isn't going to help. I was hoping that the Oilers had weathered the worst of their injury/flu-bug troubles, but with word Wednesday that Horcoff is out, and Hemsky may not be far behind, it looks like things are going from bad to worse. The Oilers have a couple of surprise players so far this season in Minard and Linglet putting up runs in AAA (7th and 3rd in AHL scoring respectively), but I'm not holding my breath that there are any answers in Springfield.

I don't want to sound too pessimistic, but if you've got tickets to the game, you might want to consider picking up a persimmon or two on the way to the rink.