Friday, November 13, 2009

Moving on

After some time here at Spilled Oil I have moved on and will now be posting at HockeyIndependent.com.

Come on by and pay me a visit.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eskimo Game Day - The Labour Day Rematch

It’s the Labour Day rematch, are you excited? This is my favorite game of the year so you know I’m jacked up. In my five years as a season ticket holder I’ve only missed this game one time and was only because I went to Red Deer to watch the Canada/Russia Super Series and to see the Oilers newest draft pick Sam Gagner in action. I have a crazy weird man crush on Sam Gagner, I won’t deny it.

If you’re not excited about this game tonight you seriously need to check your pulse. Reasons to be excited:
  • it’s a Calgary/Edmonton game
  • we got lit up on Monday and should come out looking to kill the Stamps
  • the Esks are in a three way tie for first place with BC and Calgary
  • it’s an absolutely beautiful day for football
  • the crowd is going to be huge
  • the game isn’t on a Thursday night
Those are six solid reasons to get yourself down to Commonwealth tonight. Perhaps the best is that the game is going to be blacked out so if you want to see it you’re going to have to come out. The last two games have been absolute beauties but the crowd just hasn’t been there, tonight will be different. I’m thinking we’ll see a crowd over 45,000. And we could really use a big crowd. Calgary used it to their advantage on Monday and there is no reason why we can’t do the same thing tonight.

The Eskimos had two major problems on Monday; they couldn’t run and they couldn’t tackle. There were other problems for sure, but those we’re the two most obvious. Far too often Calgary would pick up four or five yards after contact, you can’t win when you do that. And without a running game Calgary simply dropped into a zone defense that forces Ray to throw five yard passes. Granted the result is a great completion percentage but it is hard as hell to put points on the board when you have to be perfect the whole way down the field.

How will the Esks be better in these areas tonight? Well for starters, Lloyd will be back in uniform tonight so the tackling will be better, especially against the Calgary run game. And just like he did after his tough game against the Als, I think Whitlock will have a big bounce back tonight. Look for him to find the end zone twice. I also don’t see Prefontaine missing anything tonight so the Esks should be good for a pile of points tonight.

It’s not just me who thinks this is going to be a hell of a game. The odds makers have the spread at 0 and the over/under at 59.5. That is a huge over under in a game they think could go either way. It’ll be high scoring but its going to go the Esks way, 38-35 is my prediction.

The return of Comrie - Day 2

I’ve had a night to sleep on the Comrie signing and while I still don’t think there is anyway that the move makes the Oilers a contender, I am willing to accept that it probably does make the team better than they were yesterday.

My dislike of the signing has everything to do with what Mike Comrie isn’t, I haven’t really taken the time to look at what he is. Last season was an ugly one for Comrie, but in the three previous he averaged 23+ goals a year and 0.7 points per game. Those are good numbers and with a $1.125 M cap hit if his production this season is anywhere near those numbers then he’ll be an absolute steal. If not he's a small cap hit and worst case scenario he gets sent down.

Although I’m still not sure exactly where he fits in I do think it fairly obvious that Comrie probably puts either Penner or Nilsson on the hot seat. Penner is most likely the safer of the two if for no other reason than he’s taller than an eighth grader. So if you look strictly at the lineup it’s hard to not think that the Oil are better of with Comrie occupying a spot in the top six rather than Nilsson.

The other upside with Comrie is the one year deal. At the end of the season the Oil are going to have to find some dollars for both Gagner and Cogliano as they’re entry level deals are done. As of today the teams already committed over $44 M towards next seasons cap. If Comrie makes Nilsson expendable (even if it’s through waivers) that would take his $2.5 M salary and $2 M cap hit off the books for next season, opening up a spot for one of the youngsters and resulting in a cap savings in the $1.2 M range. It’s not a lot but every little bit helps.

The Comrie signing certainly doesn’t bump the Oil into the upper tier of the Western Conference but it does make us just a little bit better. Baby steps I guess.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My fears have been realized

It started as a rumour, and a crazy one at that. Then last week it built momentum and seemed like it might actually happen. Today it did happen; the Oilers have signed Mike Comrie to a one year deal.

I am simply stunned by this move. I said last week that I didn’t like it. And I still don’t like it. Comrie simply does not address the most pressing issues this team faces. Fans in Edmonton have been calling for Malhotra or Betts to be brought in to play on the third line as both would help shore up some of the weaknesses in the lineup. Now I guess it’s possible that Tambellini offered contracts to both and was turned down, you can’t force players to sign here. But even if that is the case the Comrie signing is like rearranging deck chair on the Titanic, it simply doesn’t accomplish anything.

Where does he fit in? Let’s look at the potential top six forwards on this team:
  • Hemsky
  • Horcoff
  • Gagner
  • Penner
  • O’Sullivan
  • Nilsson
  • Comrie
I did take the seven year route to get an undergrad degree but eight players and six spots doesn’t seem to add up. Maybe a trade is coming down the pipe, I don’t know. Maybe we plan to pay NHL dollars to players playing in the AHL (which would do wonders for bringing in role players in the future by the way). But without another move on the way the Oil are basically set up front when you add in Moreau and Pisani. That group should only scare Oiler fans since I can't see how this season won't simply be more of what we all saw last season.

Some folks have said that there really isn’t a downside to this deal and in a way I can see that. The Oilers have added a 28 year old player who has scored 30 goals in a season (he’s the only one on the team who has) for less than $1.5 M unless we went over the cap on this signing (imagine how pissed I'd be if that was the case). If he were to find some of that old touch and scored 25 and 25 for 50 he’d be a steal for his salary.

But I’d hate to see us flounder through another season where we don’t make the playoffs and Comrie does little more than take away ice time from players like Gagner and Cogliano. They’re the future of the team, Comrie isn’t. If the Oilers are ever going to be more than a 7th-11th place team we have to make sure our future is given time to develop.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mike Comrie the sequel?

Based on a couple things I’ve heard on the radio and read online today, it looks as if Comrie returning to the Oilers is a legitimate possibility. Why in the name of all things holy would the Oilers even be looking at this making this move?

Put aside the way things ended between Edmonton and Comrie the first time around and just look at the fit with the team for a second. Yes he did score 30 goals once (he’d be the only Oilers who has) but that was a long time ago. Now he is a 20 goal a year player, we have lots of those. Besides some offense this team needs to have more grit to their game, they need to be better on the penalty kill, and better in the faceoff circle. Those are probably the three biggest weaknesses on this team. Comrie addresses none of those issues. He’s small, he doesn’t win faceoffs (41% last season), and he doesn’t kill penalties (2:11 of short handed ice time all of last season). So what is the point?

I don’t think for a minute that we don’t need help on the left side but there is no way he would be ahead of Penner or Nilsson on the depth chart. And if the team has that little faith in those two, how about giving Cogliano or Schremp (both are left handed) a shot there first. He’s not a top six forward on this team and I don’t see how playing him on the third line would have any value at all. At league minimum maybe but even that would be a stretch.

Last week this just seemed like some random garbage internet rumour, now it seems scary close to being true. Please, please, please don’t let this be true.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Caps look to bounce back

Enough is enough already. Last year the Cracker Cats (pre name change) made the playoffs of the Golden League only to get bounced in three straight by the Calgary Vipers. This spring the Oil Kings made the playoffs in a one game playoff only to be swept out in four by the Hitmen. As a fan I don’t ever want to be swept in a series, but to me being swept by a team from Calgary is the equivalent of being subjected to some sort of CIA interrogation technique. All in all I’d prefer if it just didn’t happen.

And now our most recent playoff match up with a Calgary team has gotten off to a really rocky start with a 15-4 beating of the Caps at the hand of the Vipers. Make no mistake, the Vipers are a good team (disclaimer: good for the GBL). They hit the ball really well and steal bases at an amazing rate. Calgary was far and away the best team in the league all year long and I really think that the Caps are in a tough spot to take this series and move onto the league finals. Admittedly, the Caps did do pretty well against the Vipers down the stretch but I’m not sure just how hard the Vipers had their foot on the gas during those series as they had long ago wrapped up their playoff spot.

If the Caps don’t advance to the finals, tonight will be the last home game of the season. Since they’re sending Lima to the bump tonight they’re at least going to go out with a bang if nothing else. Lima is a shell of what he once was during his days in the bigs but he’s still got pretty good heat (disclaimer: good for the GBL) even though his change is border line embarrassing. A good change should have the same arm speed as your fast ball, Lima’s is just thrown slower.

But anything Lima has lost in his game, his personality more than makes up for. I really think he is border line crazy. If you’re going tonight, watch him. He’s always walking around talking to himself. When he strikes a guy out, he walks damn near all the way the third base for some reason. When the Caps score in a game he’s pitching in he is the first to meet them at the dugout. I’m sure the money isn’t what it once was for him but he sure seems to enjoy playing the game.

I’m heading back to the park tonight hoping that Lima can, for a night, find a little of his old magic and lead the Caps to a win. If not, a third straight sweep will be looming pretty large. If that happens I guess we’ll just have to take both halves of the Labour Day match up with the Stamps next week.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A new rink coming to a downtown near you

The worst kept secret in Edmonton is now official; the Katz Group is looking to build a new area/entertainment complex in downtown. Possibly on the site of the existing Baccarat Casino.

Thankfully the plan is build the area in the downtown area. Some people had proposed sites on the outskirts near the Anthony Henday. In short I think that would be just about the worst idea ever. Any location on the outskirts would eliminate all mass transit options and would require an ocean of parking to make the site viable. As far as I’m concerned that type development is just out of place in this day and age.

So while I am happy that the new rink is proposed for downtown, I’m not so sure about the whole idea of a new rink in general. And it’s not because I don’t think the city should or shouldn’t help fund it (they say the won’t but might instead divert taxes from area redevelopment which is really just a shell game with taxpayer money) or that a seat license fee might be required to help fund it (I think this is a great idea that should be looked at more and I’m a season ticket holder who would have to pony up some serious dough) but simply because I really love Rexall Place.

With the exception of a couple of games in Calgary at the Saddledome and at the old Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, Northlans/Skyreach/Rexall is the only place I’ve ever seen an NHL game. By the time a new rink would be ready to host NHL games I will have very likely seen more than 250 games in the old building. I just don’t know how I would feel about watching games in a new arena. And forget just what I’ve seen but everything else that has happened in the building. All the great players, Stanley Cups, an All-Star game, you name it and it’s probably happened there.

Sure the concourse is a disaster between periods. If you want food you have to stand in line most of the intermission. And bathroom lineups can be a little excessive. And I’m sure a new rink would help out on both fronts but those improvements won’t make watching the game any better. As it stands there aren’t really any bad seats at Rexall Place, and since you’re there to watch hockey isn’t that really the most important thing?

One of the main rallying cries for a new building is the need to increase revenues in order to remain competitive. And to a point I can see that. But last week I was in Chicago and I went to see both the White Soxs and Cubs play. The Soxs are in a relatively new build and the Cubs of course play at Wrigley Field. Now U.S. Cellular Field is a fine place to watch a game but compared to Wrigley, it has no atmosphere, no history, and there are advertisements on everything. It seems less like a ball park and more like a monument to consumerism.

Last season I saw a game at Fenway and it’s the same as Wrigley, just a classic old ball park. In both cases Red Soxs and Cubs fans pay higher ticket prices to offset the reduced revenues that those teams would otherwise have because of their parks smaller capacities and fewer of the all important luxury boxes. But in both cases those teams generate enough revenue to remain competitive. The Cubs may not win but they certainly spend enough money that you can’t say they aren’t trying to.

Now I won’t for a minute say that Rexall Place is anything like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. I can’t really ever see people coming to Edmonton just to see a game at Rexall. But it’s only 35 years old and it is a great building. I guess before we throw it away for a nice shiny new building we think long and hard about what we’re giving up.

Friday, August 14, 2009

How can you not love the CFL?

Last night's Eskimo/Stampeders game was the best that I've seen here in Edmonton in a while. The last game even close to that entertaining was the Esk/Stamps game last season when Tucker made an unreal catch to win the game. It's 12 hours later and I still can't get over the game. And it wasn't just the last minute win, that is certainly part of it though; with three majors and three touchdowns in the last three minutes how could it not be.

The game itself was just really well played. The biggest lead either team had was a touchdown. And even though Edmonton didn't take the lead until there was just three minutes left on the clock, it seemed like they always had an answer for any major the Stamps put up on the board. There were big numbers put up by both quarterbacks, the Esks had a 100 yard rusher, the return game for both teams was great, there was only one turnover, and both teams played pretty disciplined football. How can you not love that?

I know there are people out there who think that compared to the NFL that the CFL is a total waste of time, I disagree. Sure the players in the NFL are better athletes, I would never argue that, but the game north of the border is certainly good value for your entertainment dollar. How often do you see a final three minutes like last night in the NFL? Yeah it can happen, but not nearly as often as it does in the CFL. I learned very early on that in the CFL almost any lead can be overcome and that is part of what makes our game great.

Last week in the Lions/Riders game the ball was on the ground and the Lions intentionally kicked the ball forward, picked it up and scored a touchdown. Sure technically the player wasn't onside and the score shouldn't have counted, but it was stupidly exciting for the fans and a play like that can't happen in the NFL. I watch to be entertained and the CFL is entertaining.

I'm not saying the CFL game is a better game than the NFL. What I'm saying is that it's great in it's own way. The NFL and CFL are completely different games; from field dimensions, to the number of players on the field, to the style of play, and even the number of downs. Both games can be great to watch and there is no reason why you can't love both. Here in Canada we seem to look at uniquley Canadian things and deem them inferior to their American counterpart. I don't know why we do that. And when it comes to football I see absolutly no reason why we should.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Not the most exciting July on record

July is a fun month for hockey fans, thanks to the free agent frenzy that is the first week of the month. Most years your team makes some moves and you can then spend the next three weeks thinking up all the ways that you will be cheering for a much improved team this upcoming season. Unfortunately your team is almost never as good as you think they will be, but it's hot out and your mind isn't functioning at it's full hockey analysis capability.

From what I saw last season, there were a few fairly obvious changes to the Oilers roster that had to be made if they wanted to go from an also ran to a contender. The team has to score more goals, be better in the face off circle, kill penalties better, and overall they need to play a more physical game. On top of that they also had to find a number one goalie. That is a fairly decent shopping list for a GM to pick up, but that's his job.

So today is August 2, how did we do? Well we signed Khabibulin to a four year deal. In a weak goalie year he's good enough. I certainly think he's an improvement over Roloson. I don't like the length of the deal but at least we addressed the need, even though it could easily kill us two years down the road.

So that leaves more goals, winning face offs, killing penalties, and adding grit. Well the team tried to trade for Heatley but we couldn't convince him to come here. And that would be about it. All those needs still remain needs. There are players out there who can still fill those roles but to date we haven't added any of them to this team.

Last year the Oilers finished with 85 points, missing the playoffs by six points. Changes from that team until now: Roloson gone and replaced by Khabibulin, Brodziak traded, and Quinn brought in to replace MacT. Three years out of the playoffs and there are no significant changes to the roster even though the needs are glaringly obvious.

Is the plan going forward to stick with this group and essentially lay all the blame for last year (and presumably the years before as well) at the feet of Craig MacTavish? It's really starting to look that way. Without additional roster changes the only conclusion that someone could draw is that Tambellini feels that this team was good enough last year and that the problem was the coach. If that's the case then I would like to know why we stuck with him through 82 games? There was never a time where the Oilers looked like they were on the verge of breaking out; it was a win two, lose three, win one, kind of season. So why then if you think the coach is the problem, do you keep hoping that he'll become the solution?

I like adding Quinn and I can live with Khabibulin but they won't add ten points in the standings. Yeah Gagner and Cogliano will be another year older and could have real breakout seasons, Horcoff could bounce back from a bad year, and Penner might start to play a full season like he did 15 games near the end of 2008. If those all happen then this team might have a shot at the playoffs and getting knocked out in the first round. But without something else being added to the lineup that is about the best we could hope for, and in July that's pretty sad.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Who is this team?

What is the deal with the Eskimos? They play an uneven game against the Bombers to open the season but they come away with the win. Then there are back-to-back games where they look like they couldn't beat a high school team. Then they fall behind 22 against the Riders on Saturday and just when you're sure this team is terrible they bounce back and actually win the game.

So are they good, bad, or terrible?

Well I'm not really sure. At this point I'm comfortable saying that I don't think they're terrible. The two losses were flat out gross, but with the talent on this team I just really don't see how those games could be true indicators of the direction this team will go this season. That they came in back-to-back weeks I think makes them seem worse than they really are. And those two game were still while the team was adjusting to a new coach and right after Lumsden went down with his shoulder injury.

But they can't be considered all that good either. This week was the first time they'd scored 30 points. Had they not scored a a garbage time TD in the BC games they wouldn't have even broken the 20 point mark this season before Saturday. This is the CFL, if you're not scoring 30 on a pretty regular basis, you will be losing on a pretty regular basis unless you have on hell of a defense. Considering that the defense has given up 30 plus in all but one game so far, I don't think the defense can at this point be considered elite.

So I guess we have to settle on bad. And really that isn't an unfair assessment. They have a 2-2 record but could be 0-4, they've only run the ball effectively in one game, the defense isn't creating much (almost nothing) in the way of turnovers, and Ray is still throwing too many six yard passes on second-and-eight. But somehow they're in a three way tie for first in the West.

This week I don't expect the Esks to win. From what I've seen from the Als so far I don't expect anyone to beat them right now. But if the Esks can keep the game close, like Hamilton did this last week, that will go a long way to showing me who this team really is. If they give up another 50 point game on home turf I might have to reevalute whether or not they're terrible.