22 April 2009

How to cover the Canucks without shooting myself

Some of you may know that I work as a news reporter in Vancouver... My shifts are evenings and weekends - prime timing for Canucks games. Unlike the sports reporters, I don't get to go to games and hear cliched answers from dreamy eyes Taylor Pyatt. During this playoff run, I get to talk to the fans. Not only do I have to go live from some sports bar every half hour all evening, I have to talk with Canucks fans at their worst. Drunken.

Part of me was happy to hear of the Canucks' sweep last night - otherwise this Friday night I would've spent my evening dealing with fans who would argue this is the best team hockey has ever seen. In 2006, every round the Oilers won, I expected it to be the last. Yet Canucks fans believe the cup is already en route.

I'll give the Canucks credit. It's a good *TEAM*. Before this round started I figured they'd do some damage in the playoffs. I don't want them to, and am praying for them to lose the next four as quickly as they swept through the the first round.

I don't want to go to another bar. I am trying to come up with ideas for how to cover a Canucks game from the fan perspective... I already did families/children. I wanted to pitch an idea where I search the city for the elusive St.Louis fan. Where should I go next?

16 April 2009

Goodbye Silver Fox

I like Craig MacTavish. I think he's a good coach who will find work elsewhere. I think his time here was done but there were some really fine moments. I wish him all the best elsewhere. It is, on some level, unfortunate that the Oilers will no longer have the hottest coach. But I digress...

I watched Tambellini's presser today and was pleased by a lot of the things he said. Sure, he's all practiced up and knows the right thing to say but what stuck with me is the fact that he did not absolve the players of their craptastic play this season. Regardless of the holes I know this team had, regardless of the coach that may have lost the room, this team underachieved.

Subpar Oilers teams have made the playoffs before, clawing their way in like the St.Louis Blues did, only to lose in the first round. (Which I anticipate will happen for them too.)

Those are the Oilers teams I miss. The ones that may have lacked skill but worked like dogs.. or like the underdogs they were.

I'm hopeful more changes are made. I'm hopeful this is the end of hiring the old boys club. I'm hopeful this team can move in the right direction.

I'm hopeful.

...and I'll miss MacT.

(my other blog has thoughts on jumping on the Canucks bandwagon)

02 April 2009

5 games left: My pre-emptive look at a failed season.

Like Lowetide, I'm not putting all of the blame on MacT for what happened this season. Should he quit or be fired at the season's end? Yes. He made some dangerous gambles (from position shifting to the stick call) but had any of them worked out, we could still be talking about post season chances (which are now at 8% and require the Oil to pretty much win-out the season). I commend him for trying things that other coaches wouldn't have attempted, but maybe he shouldn't have been put in particular situations by management.

In the off-season, the Oilers lost Stoll in the Lubo trade (I <3 Lubo), and Reasoner (a million dollar man) for free. Both could win faceoffs and kill penalties. No one was brought in to replace either. PK has gone from 5th to 27th. Stoll (now at 57%!) and Reasoner (53%) continue to win faceoffs for their respective teams and instead we see Shawn Horcoff taking all faceoffs. Seriously. He's done an admirable job at 54%, taking more than anyone else in the LEAGUE. Hot Rodz also is above 50% but just barely. I think the heavy reliance on Horcoff has been another factor in the mediocrity of the team. Dude is tired.

Horcoff fills the role of the top line centre on the Oilers. Would he do that on other teams? Very few. He's what I would call a "very good roleplayer". Hardworking, able to do a lot of things right, but not going to many (if any) all-star games. And he has been worked this year - leading Oilers forwards with 21:31 in ATOI per game. Yet his production will be around 50 points on the season.

The Oilers have enough skill to roll four lines, the problem with the skill is that it comes in small packages. Don't get me wrong, from what I've seen of Patrick O'Sullivan, I really like. And Liam Reddox plays much bigger than his frame would indicate. But the JFJ/Stortini's of the Oilers feel pretty one-dimensional right now in that they are AHL players in big bodies. The guys who legitimately have NHL skills tend to be small. Sure, Dustin Penner was brought in for his size and the numbers guys tell me he's still excelling, but he's hard to watch. His shuffle through the lineup and into the pressbox gives me the indication MacT wants to use him, but the team makeup isn't right.

That's the biggest issue that I can gather... a disconnect from the top to the front line. I commend the moves made to get the defensive corps that we have and while I'd rather see Strudwick take a 7th man role and Staios be 4 years younger, those are small issues when the team is just not clicking.

I listen to a lot of games and only see a few, but even the play-by-play seems to indicate a disconnect. Are there issues in the room? Is it the right mix of personalities? Or is everyone just really frustrated? I know I am.

The nail in the coffin was the recent "cheer for us, fans" video. Outside of Strudwick who had a certain charm to him and Grebs who just seemed sincere, it was awful. Awkward and not heartfelt speeches from Horcoff, Gilbert and Gagner. If you're trying to make us care (and most of us wouldn't be watching stupid videos on the Oilers website if we didn't already) you're just making a fool of us. We want to cheer. That's what makes the video so sad. Give us a reason to support the team because we're not going to accept losing. For the amount of money we pay to the organization, for the amount of money the players are taking home, they should be grateful we're still here despite some pathetic efforts as of late - when it matters most.

How about instead of doing it for the fans, do it for Dwayne Roloson? The man has kept the Oilers in almost every game in the second half of the season. It's so frustrating to listen to games where he is averaging nearly 40 saves yet the Oilers can't even forecheck.

This isn't going to be just a failed season, but one of the most frustrating I've dealt with as a fan. And it's not just because I'm stuck in Vancouver watching a team win games based on effort, good goaltending and performances from unlikely sources. It actually reminds me of a certain Oilers team in 2006.

Le Sigh.