Thursday, March 14, 2013

Out of the Darkness

Do you ever wish that you were still in the dark?  I made that comment recently on twitter regarding the Oilers. It was partly in jest but I almost meant it. Sometimes I wish I did not know all that I know.

I know so much more than I did when I was a teenager living in southern Manitoba watching the Oilers on CBC, if they happened to show them. That was rare. In those days, there was one game on Saturday night and it almost never included the Edmonton Oilers. We all know who they showed; the god damn Toronto Maples Leafs. I lived in Manitoba but they would show the damn Leafs while people in Saskatchewan and West would get the Oilers game. It was frustrating to us Oiler fans in Manitoba. I remember writing letters to the CBC bitching about this and asking them to show my team more often. Then came the double header, I think in the 1990s. Finally, the Oilers were on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada regularly.

I remember a time when anything I knew about my Edmonton Oilers came from either the CBC Hockey Night in Canada people or from the local newspapers in Manitoba and later in Alberta where I moved. This was and is still considered the MSM (mainstream media). Bloggers did not exist. Fancy stats did not exist. The internet was in its infancy. We have come a long way in a short time. The amount of information available is incredible. Anytime we want to know something, let's google it and you will have it within seconds.

When did everything change? For me it was after I moved to Alberta in 2003. I was now in a hockey city again. The Jets had been gone from Winnipeg for around seven years and it just was not the same living in Manitoba without a hockey team (sorry minor hockey does not count)!  I came here for graduate school, picking Edmonton over Toronto, a decision I would still make today, but I was more excited about being able to go to Oiler games on a regular basis more than anything.

My first year in Edmonton: I went to Grant Fuhr's jersey retirement ceremony and then the Heritage Classic. It was the first time I had seen Gretzky play in person and I was excited. I was actually more excited for Messier as he was my favorite hockey player. I had seen him play for the Rangers in Winnipeg, the last Jets game I have been to, but was glad to finally see him in Oiler colors!

By 2004, I think this is when I started my blog. Not this one on blogger, I had one on MSN. It is now long gone. When I made the switch to blogger in 2006 maybe, I never went back to msn until it was too late and never saved my old blogs before they switched over to wordpress. I wish I had just to save one post where I called the 2006 Edmonton Oilers serious Stanley Cup contenders IF they found a decent goalie.

The Oilogosphere was born around this time. Dozens upon dozens of Oiler blogs popped up around this time. I will not name them all but there were some great ones. Some are now defunct, possibly due to seven years of mediocrity, but many continue. These blogs were fun and informative. Some blogs were super into stats, particularly new stats or expanding on current stats. No longer were you looking only for goals, assists, penalty minutes and plus/minus. Now there is the Corsi, zone starts, goals and points over 60 minutes and per game averages, quality of linemates and opposition, and scoring chances. 

So when the Oilers make a bad trade or signing, I know.  Or at least, I have access to more information to know that it is probably not a good trade. One example: when the Oilers traded Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz, I know it is a horrible trade. In the preblog world, I would hear how tough and big he is, how gritty and physical he is from the media and not know that it was not entirely accurate. I would not know that trading a two-way puck-moving defenseman who is more physical than the stay-at-home tough guy was a bad trade.

I love that we have access to information. I wish more hockey fans would read these blogs and educate themselves. Do not listen to the MSM or radio people who work for the team. Read up, check the other stats and find out for yourself that adding more fourth line plugs maybe is not a good idea.  I know now that the Oilers management are completely incompetent, from Kevin Lowe to Steve Tambellini. I used to be a Lowe defender, saying he had no money to manage this team during the dark years and did the best with what he had.

After the first lockout, Lowe had a great run and made some fantastic trades which helped the team get to game seven on the Finals. What has he done since 2006? Whether it is him or Tambo making the trades (does Lowe have final approval? Who makes the decision? Is it by committee?), there is a LONG list of horrible trades and signings. From giving four years to Khabibulin or trading Visnovsky for Whitney who already had foot problems or trading Grebeshkov for a second rounder (then lamenting they did not have any puck movers any more), the GM's has mismanaged this team. Let's not even talk about the second Pronger trade which was absolute crap (funny enough former AGM Howson who has returned as a scout recently touted that trade, saying how you have to wait 4-5 years. What year are we in Scott? Yes year seven of no playoffs).

I know this. Complete mismanagement. Seven years of absolute crap. Outside the first overall pick (which were easy choices), the Oilers have botched almost everything else from the rest of the draft, pro-scouting, trades and signings. I sit here fearful that the Oilers will trade Smid for Jack Johnson or Hemsky for more dregs or prospects. If you want size and toughness, great, but do not forget to get skill WITH it. Enough with the plugs that are tough (Eager and Hordichuk who thankfully have been waived but both deals failing were foreseeable to everyone else but management); Oilers needs skill.

I have rambled enough and it is dark outside but not inside. Those days are long gone. Most days I am glad I know what I know.  :)

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