#SadOilersPoetry

I’m not used to losing. My athletic career has been above average. I was a dual-sport university athlete and recruited to play a third. I’ve played alongside national team soccer players. I’ve been ranked as a top-10 track and field athlete in the country. I’ve won city and provincial championships in other sports. I was rarely the top player on any of these teams, but I was, like I said, above average.

In sports like soccer and basketball, I was fast, smart and had a way of getting under the skin of opposing teams. In volleyball, I was calm and capable, managing to dig almost anything that came my way.

Not every team I played on was championship-winning, but I struggle to think of any teams that weren’t competitive. Even in recent years as I turned to more recreational sport, we were rarely embarrassed. Every second season or so, our poor co-ed team would upset far better teams in the playoffs thanks to some good goaltending and timely goals by yours truly.

I sound pretty full of myself. But it’s the truth. If I was was put on this earth to do one thing, it was probably play sports. Even today, out of shape from months of concussion recovery, I could probably out-sprint most of you.

The other thing I’d probably beat you at is board games. I’m not sure why I’m so good at games, but even when I don’t think I understand the strategy, I’m getting ahead.

Oh, and I’m competitive. I think this is a natural by-product of being used to winning.

Unsurprisingly, this has proven problematic in some of my past relationships. God forbid you’re beaten by a girl. Manhood is a curious thing.

Orgle has me figured out though. He’s a smart guy who picks up board games almost as quick as I do. But he has more patience than I do. He takes the time to really make the right move. He also takes the time to really annoy me into playing aggressively and without due care. On the field (side note: we met playing soccer), he doesn’t have the natural speed or shot, but he can outplay me everytime. He just keeps jogging until I get tired.

I’m tired of the Oilers and the losing. Even Orgle’s patience has run out. A 10 game losing streak tends to do that. Two more losses and the Oilers will have failed to win in a month.

Let’s say you’re like me and you know a thing or two about winning… How can you stand being part of this organization?

Top to bottom is in disarray. You can point to everyone and shell out a little bit of the blame (except maybe Boyd Gordon, the man in a knight in shining armour). There’s a culture of losing that has gotten into the players, the air, the ice, the fibres of the carpets…

So there’s only one solution.

Start over in a new arena.

I’m kidding. That’s a terrible idea and I still can’t believe the people of Edmonton are shelling out for a billionaire’s new playground for his millionaire kids. What a kick in the shin to Oiler fans and people in the city who couldn’t care less.

So what’s the solution? How do the Oilers stop the bleeding?

Hell if I know. The team is broken.

As fans, we can push for whatever we think best: Fire Lowe, fire Eakins, fire MacT, trade Eberle, trade Nuge, put Jultz in the stocks in the town square, put two goalies in net and play with four players…

There are thousands of options and, at this point, no clear solution. The problems are deep. Just like I think of myself as a winner, I think these guys are thinking of themselves as losers. And they are right, for now.

Just like there is no clear solution to improve the on-ice performance, there is not just one way to deal with this truly dark part of the Oilers franchise. As fans we all have a right to deal with it in our own way. Some will quit the team, others will fill with apathy, many will be angry, and I will write #SadOilersPoetry.

I had a guy on twitter recently call me a bitch for giving up on the Oilers one night. I’m in the East and sleep is important to me. I don’t remember my exact wording but I think I added a #OilersPositives to my departure announcement. Still, it’s not uncommon for me to go to bed after the first period – regardless of how the team is doing (usually it’s not good). But apparently, that’s enough to demean me on Twitter.

If the Oilers ever win again, it will break the internet. But if they don’t, can’t we all grieve in our own way?

To gritfinity… and beyond.

Ribbet Edit

(I was going to start this post with, “The dictionary definition of grit is…”)

Since moving to Ottawa, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a lot more Oilers games. That seems counter-intuitive, considering the time difference and distance, but when you’re starting out in a new city, you also have a lot more time. Also, actual (non-Vancouver) winter weather makes it feel apt to watch hockey, eat stew and drink stout.

It’s easy to see why this team of the last year and a month has not been successful. One team is scoring more goals than the other (or one team is letting more goals in than the other).

That’s the basis for all the fancy stats that internet commenters rant or rave about.

To make your team better, you add players who create opportunities for goals or prevent opportunities for goals.

Or maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s about having the best damn bunch of try-hards who ever did try.

Yesterday came the news of two moves that would infuriate everyone I follow on the Twitters.

1. Marincin sitting in favour of Keith Aulie. “We’re looking for some grit and not just out of Keith. It has to come from everybody on our team but especially our back end,” said Eakins. EDIT: Marincin has now been assigned to Oklahoma City, so things are even worse than when I started this post. But here’s to hoping it’s just a roster management move. (Though I can’t help but think the Oilers will stuff this up.)

2. Will Acton on waivers… is not a bad thing in itself. But… @JirelandEJ: Coach Dallas Eakins said Will Acton deserved Flyers game for time he’s put in as Oilers 13th forward.

I’m not going to go into the details but… You could have a defenseman who has been trusted with the hardest zone starts and was the second best defenseman the Oilers had last year, or you can start a guy who has the footspeed of my Australian husband who learned to skate last year. (He’s going to read this and point out to me that he actually learned to skate three years ago, but the cadence sounds better my way.)

As for the Acton thing, I think Ryan Batty does a good job of explaining why the move isn’t bad, but the rationale is.

I’m used to bad decisions by the Oilers. That’s my expectation after eight years of disappointment. I think this off-season had more good than bad for the first time in recent memory, but it will take more than the signing of Fayne to change my perspective long-term.

What I hate more than anything is the justification for the bad decisions. Justification that so often relies on TERRIBLE MEANINGLESS HOCKEY WORDS.

Grit.
Compete.
Intangibles.
Heart.
Truculence.
Sandpaper.
Growl. (@EdmontonOilers·Jan 31: Coach Eakins says Fraser will likely make #Oilers debut tomorrow vs. Boston, adds he’s “highly competitive and has a growl to him”. – Personal favourite, had to throw it in.)
Hustle.
Size.
Mean.

I’m sure you have your favourite. And don’t get me started on the verbification of some of these words.

If I could ask one thing of journalists, media, broadcasters and anyone talking about the Oilers, let’s keep the vocabulary to actual things. If it means telling me about home and away powerplay numbers, then so be it. At least it’s measurable – even if it is pointless. The hit count is pointless too, especially because teams that are hitting tend to not have the puck. But at least it is real. (Sportsnet’s Grit Metric is dead right? Using stats to pump up an immeasurable metric is one of the worst things we see in sport.)

I know it is hard. I’ve been a broadcaster having to fill time talking about the Vancouver Canucks during that unfortunate cup run of theirs. It’s hard not to delve into the world of intangibles. But the difference between me anchoring a news station and the broadcasts Rogers is producing is staff. Instead of writing puns, Gene could be scouring the internet and past game footage for things to pass to the broadcast team.

Just don’t tell me about grit. Grit is not a thing.

Good players who score and prevent scoring are a thing.

I don’t know who originated the line, but I know BlackDogPat and Lowetide are fans: Get good players and keep them.

Grit be damned.

How bad is bad?

four-tops-its-the-same-old-song-motown

Three games into the season and I’m already thinking of throwing in the towel. That has to be a record, right?

I decided to look back at the dark days of Oilers hockey, the years since the cup run, to see if this is the worst start yet.

In short, it is.

But it can still turn around.

(Not if you’re sitting your best defenseman. But that’s a post for another day.)

Season Record after 3 games Record after 10 games # of games to 5 wins # of games to 10 wins # of games to sub .500* Final record
2014-15 0-2-1
2013-14 1-2-0 3-6-1 22 31 1 29-44-9
2012-13 2-1-0 4-3-3 12 26 39 19-22-7
2011-12 1-1-1 6-2-2 9 19 31 32-40-10
2010-11 2-1-0 3-5-2 19 26 5 25-45-12
2009-10 1-1-1 6-3-1 8 24 34 27-47-8
2008-09 3-0-0 5-4-1 10 22 Never stayed below .500 38-35-9

*This is the point at which the team fell below .500, never to reach it again.

I think the season to beat is last year. The Oilers, if you’ve blocked it from your memory, went 1-6-1 in the first 8 games and 5 of those 7 losses were to teams that would not end up making the playoffs. Things turned around slightly in game 9 as the Oilers visited Ottawa. Yours truly was in the crowd and while it wasn’t an impressive effort by any description, it was a win.

So how do we think the Oilers will actually do in their next seven games?

There are some fancy stats circulating that imply things aren’t as dire as a winless team (there were moments of greatness in both the Vancouver and Calgary games) but decision-making in the organization (both at a management and coaching level with the trade rumours and sitting of Petry) is poor. Any gains made from stats-smarts are being lost.

Last year’s team won 11 of its 44 games against playoff teams (25%) and 18 of 38 (47%) against non-playoff teams – ignoring home ice advantage.

And because of my shred of hope that remains somewhere within me, let’s say this team is 10% better. 35% against playoff teams and 57% against non-playoff teams. (I’m MAKING stats up already on post 2 of this site)

The next 7:
Coyotes
Canucks
Lightning – P
Capitals
Hurricanes
Canadiens – P
Predators

Wow, that’s a soft 6 of 7 games at home.

Anyways, chances are they win 3 of 7. Ending up 3-6-1. Just like last year!

#SameOldSameOilers

Old Oilogosphere blogger returns to the fold

As my list of Oilers must-reads decreases as the statistically-inclined move into actual jobs, I have decided to help fill the void.

Will this be like either of your previous blogs?

It won’t be Hot Oil. There was a time and a place for Hot Oil – on the heels of the magical cup run, we were all a lot happier, footloose and fancy free. It was a world where a mid-20s woman could judge the offerings of a hockey team, on and off the ice. But at 33 and married, it’s positively creepy. Only Andrew Ference and Matt Hendricks (by a couple months) are older than I am. Nikita Nikita Nikita seems like old bones and I am five years his senior.  There will be no Hot Off.

A few months ago, I hid all my old posts on My Life on the E-List (previously You are a Blog). With it went all the old Oilers posts. The blog was actually created as I was preparing to move from Edmonton to Vancouver. On the eve of my move, Chris Pronger (or should I say the Department of Player Safety’s Chris Pronger) was traded to the Oilers. Good times.

If I’m struggling for content here, I hope to take a look back at those posts from that glorious year. I was working in an Oilers bar in Vancouver (shout out to the Black Frog), saving up to go to BCIT and become a sports broadcaster (spoiler: I ended up doing news instead), and drinking as much as a 20-something working in the hospitality industry tends to do. Some of those posts won’t be coming back.

Will you provide a new source of corsi/zone entry/video analysis/etc/etc/etc?

In short, no. I’m far too lazy to delve into that world. But having worked as a broadcaster and news anchor, there’s one thing I love to do – ask questions. My hope is that I can talk to some of the more knowledgeable folks who troll the web from their parents’ basements and ask them why they think they are smarter than a GM.

As well, I want to look further into the money. Though my Economics degree (with a minor in Canadian History and Math) is now over a decade in the past, my interest in using those skills still remains. I don’t think I’ll be breaking any stories about player value for money, but maybe I can highlight the work of others.

The other issue that is especially dear to me right now is that of concussions. Two months ago I suffered what seemed like a modest hit to the head in a soccer game. It didn’t knock me out and I played the rest of the game. Nine weeks later I am still dealing with significant symptoms and any sympathy I had for fighting in hockey is absolutely gone. Concussions related to fighting are completely preventable. I realize that huge guys hitting huge guys will inevitably mean concussions in other areas of the game, but the game can easily be made safer.  Thankfully, many teams are starting to leave face-punchers out of the lineup for other reasons (like their complete lack of positive impact on the game) but it pains me to see Baby Nuge involved in fisticuffs instead.

Are you hoping to get a job out of blogging like XXXX did?

Nope. I’m just wanting to blog about something regularly. Unless Sportsnet (hey, I could work for Rogers again!) wants someone to just pick Elliotte Friedman’s brain instead of whatever they seem to be doing with Nick Kypreos during the second intermission of Hockey Night in Canada, I think I’ll just stick with the international relations work I’m doing right now.

Do you have any idea what you’re going to do with this blog?

I guess not. Maybe this will be the only post I ever write. Or maybe there is room for more of the female perspective in the Oilogosphere, or whatever is left of it. It’s a much different beast than the six (or so) blogs back in 2005. Though as long as Black Dog Pat and Lowetide are still around, these interwebs can’t be that scary.

Also – if anyone wants to join me here, I’m game to have help. I don’t have readers, but I have room.

Lastly, a quick prediction for the season: I will rarely watch a third period (Eastern Timezone syndrome), I will make grand statements about quitting the team for good (and if they are as bad as past years, I will actually quit), I will convince my Australian husband to write something about hockey, and the Oilers will miss the playoffs again.

#Goilers