Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Death of Cerebus

Our little Cerebus, the Tarantula in the fuzzy picture to the right, first appeared on the back porch the evening we moved into Chateau CasonBlog, lurking about the edge of the shadows, and spooking the dog. By dawn next morning, he(?) was on duty in the front yard, keeping watch from a shady nook in a corner near the front stoop.

Over the past month, he appeared in numerous places, but alas, two days ago he expired at his post. I buried Cerebus under the shade of a Sweet Acacia tree in the front yard. With its fragrant early spring flowers and year round long and nasty thorns, the Acacia tree should serve as a fitting headstone for our departed guardian.

Things are just different in the desert...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Storm Squad tryouts are upon us

Ok, so they're and institution now

The Storm Squad, your Carolina Hurricanes most dubious contribution to the evolution of modern hockey culture, is set to hold tryouts in August. Former Buzz Babes, aspiring singers with wholesome southern girl looks and wavering falsettos, and big fat guys hovering on the verge of cardiac arrest are encouraged to audition.

I think I'd prefer a 2006-2007 squad composed solely of guys like Mike pictured left. If the Canes are not willing recruit gymnast/strippers and embrace the Daisy Duke shorts and plunging halter tops that define the modern cheerleader, then they should just go the regular guy-Texas A&M cheerleading route and create a corps of beer swilling, nacho cheese stained and sweaty Bubbas. They'll look just as good launching t-shirts between periods and hollering from the corners of the 100 level during TV timeouts.

As the sole returning member of a new and improved Storm Squad, and logical heir to the Holly Wilver role, maybe we might one day see Mike busting out a little Barry White during anthem time. "Oh say can you see, baby...Yeah I'm talkin' to you baby..."

In other news, the Detroit Red Wings signed CasonBlog immortal Danny Markov. He went for one year and $2.5 mil. I think JR could have afforded that. Hell, that's Oleg Tverdovsky money...on second thought, maybe that fact alone explains why JR took a pass. Still only have three NHL caliber centermen and a salary commitment of around $39 mil.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Steely Dan and Michael McDonald

Takin' it to the streets-circa 1978
In the late seventies, I got to drive the family Dodge Omni to school if I dropped my dad off at the train station every morning at o-dark-thirty. The Omni had nice and sticky vinyl seats and a swingin' 8-track player slung under the dash. In the summer of 1978, I wore out my 8-track of Steely Dan's, Aja, and I've been a huge fan ever since. I saw the reunited Becker and Fagen in Virginia during the 2000 tour in support of their Grammy winning album, Two Against Nature. Great show. The band was tight. They even played Boston Rag that night.

When I found out they were touring again this summer, a friend and I bought tix months ago to the show in Phoenix. Well, that friend is a Navy Reservist, and he left for Iraq last week. So, I took my oldest son up to smoggy Phoenix for his first show.

The Michael McDonald portion was led by a nasty sandstorm that pretty much continued throughout the night. Michael McDonald has to be the Celine Dion of blue-eyed soul. He filled every off-lyric portion of every song with high-pitched and mumbled wails. He also frequently turned his head off mike in a move that looked Ray Charles-like, but only deprived us of hearing whether he was on or off key while he was free-styling. McDonald played a lot of old Motown and Doobie Brothers tunes. The crowd reacted with energy every time he began one of his Doobie hits, but he lost momentum by the end of every song. His Motown takes were better. He even brought on a local Baptist choir to sing backup on Taking to the Streets and Ain't No Mountain High Enough. The gem of the night was You Belong to Me, which I remember as a Carly Simon song, but one I found out later he wrote with her. Overall, a solid show from a slick professional.

Steely Dan was just not the same band I saw in 2000. Many of the same musicians were still in the touring band, but everything seemed an rpm slow and uninspired. They played only the 70's stuff. Nothing from Two Against Nature, Everything Must Go, or Fagen's brand new Morph the Cat. That's unfortunate, cause H-Gang from Morph is a fantastic song. I also really like Cousin Dupree, Almost Gothic and Jack of Speed from Two Against Nature.

I'm no sound engineer, but it sounded like the technical crew mixed out all but the highest treble across the board. Fagen sounded like he was singing thru a bullhorn much of the night. I also often couldn't hear Fagen at all, his voice being lost behind the two female vocalists. One of the most distinctive Michael McDonald moments as a member of Steely Dan were his backing vocals on Peg. I was excited to see McDonald join the Dan for a few numbers at the end of the show, including Peg. Once again, the chicks drowned out both McDonald and Fagen. But they were hot signing, "The Cuervo Gold-the fine Columbian, make tonight a wonderful thing..."

Back in the day, Steely Dan would bring in the best session musicians to play on their albums. Walter Becker usually got credit for playing some guitar and some bass. Live and in 2006, Becker plays a lot of the classic guitar solos. He seems to play the same stuff on the same guitar on every solo. Becker is half of a truly great musical partnership, but he doesn't bring what Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Rick Derringer or Larry Carlton brought to the mix.

On the positive side, a real keeper from this show was hearing Don't Take Me Alive, an obscure but tight rocker, laced with black humor in typical Dan-style from The Royal Scam. Three songs I'd still love to hear them do live-Rikki Don't Lose That Number (which they never play live-Yeah I dig the basic bump, but it's the guitar solo I love), Doctor Wu (check out the multi-tracked Fagen harmonies) and Caves of Altimira (with its Chicagoesque horns).

Yeah I bitch. But I bitch because I love. I'd see Becker and Fagen again in a heartbeat-even in another sandstorm. They'll be in Charlotte later in the tour.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tweakin' and Speculatin'

JR seems to be tweaking the roster a bit. The Joe Vasicek experience has moved on to Bubbavul' where the enigmatic Condor gets a fresh start with his new knee. Scott Walker brings that Randall Tex Cobb schnoz and a North American mean-streak any team would love to have (get the implication?). Not a ground-breaking deal, just a tweak to bring in a seasoned clubhouse enhancer with a a burning desire seize territory around his opponent's net. I'm guessing the Recchin' Ball is definitely out of the mix.

Shane Willis gets a return engagement. He hit his zenith as a Cane just prior to the time I started to pay attention to the club in '01. He might bring some Cullen-esqueness to the Hurricanes, if he can remember to keep his head up out on the ice. He'll probably be this year's Zigomanis.

Trevor Letowkski should be a nice bookend with the Adams Family on the fourth line. He's a solid grinder with slightly better hands than either of his future linemates. I think this is an upgrade for the Canes and not just a tweak.

Next on the agenda? With the departures of Weight, Cullen and Vasicek, the Hurricanes are now short a centerman. Guys in the arbitration mix who might be had might include:

  • Scott Gomez wants lots of bling (over $5mil per season) out of arbitration. Lou's gonna be stuck if he get's anywhere near it. Might he be had in a sign and trade deal? Ex-Devil, Oleg Tverdovsky, and his $2.5 might look good in the right package.
  • Mike Comrie, who spent some time in Wayner's dog house and who has an undercurrent rep as a backstabbing Cassanova could probably be had. Skills and baggage are a tempting but potentially dangerous combo (see: Bengals, Cincinnati).
  • Danny Briere or Tim Connolly. Briere seemed at odds with Lindy Ruff during the Champagne Jam and might be the odd man out.

Friday, July 14, 2006

One Good Ruskie

Sometimes we do things on impulse and it works out despite our best efforts. The crazy $38 mil deal tendered to Sergei Fedorov in '98, shows that despite the recent shrewd and cost-conscious moves PK/JR made turn the Hurricanes into Stanley Cup Champs, the boys in the executive suite might still be enticed into taking a wild ass gamble on a guy every few years.

In January of the '03 - '04 season, the Hurricanes traded Danny Markov to the Flyers for Justin Williams. Steal of a deal in retrospect. The Flyers moved Danny to the Preds for a 3rd round pick last summer.

Free agent Danny was oft-injured, unhappy and underutilized in Bubbaville, and he's still sitting out there unsigned. He's talented, hyper-aggressive, reckless, and a bit daft - the consummate + 9 pond hockey blueliner. I miss watching him in the red, white, silver and black. Might be a better mentor for young Anton Babchuk than the enigmatic Oleg Tverdovsky.

Yeah, I know Wes, Nik, Commie, and Frankie are all returning. I also know JR wants to try yet again to get Jack Johnson to embrace his ultimate destiny. I also know the team would love to get Babchuk into the lineup and have Hutchinson work the point on the PP. That being said, I think Heddy might still retire and Tverdovsky might get traded. So despite the tempting appeals of logic, reason and practicality, I say the Canes should find a way to bring back Danny Markov.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Are the Blackhawks Next Season's Most Intriguing Team?

The three-way deal and subsequent three-year signing of Martin Havlat adds a bit of intrigue to the possible transformation of one of the leagues perennially least interesting teams. Havlat will bring size, speed, scoring and a nasty streak to a totally uninspired club.

I like young/old balance among the club's skaters going into next season. They have veteran blueline leadership in Adrian Aucoin (if he stays healthy) and Jassen Cullimore (if he remembers what it takes to win) to compliment stud young defenders in Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and possibly Cam Barker. Up front, veterans Havlat, Kyle Calder (love this guy's fire) and Bryan Smolinski will join youngster Patrick Sharp and potential future stars Brandon Bochinski, Pavel Vorobiev, Rene Borque and Tuomo Ruutu on lines that should go at least two deep in scoring.

Oh yeah, they've also got Radim Vrbata floating around out there avoiding traffic and pumping up some PP scoring.

They are still way suspect between the pipes. Progress in other areas could be all for naught if their goalkeeping fails 'em. Will the Bulin Wall start playing if he sees a team around him that gives a flip? If not, they only have Patrick Lalime waiting in the wings and fresh off the embarrassment of a lengthy stint with the Peoria Rivermen last season.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Down For Moving

The new view at sunset from the back porch of Chateau CasonBlog

Technology is great - when it works. No, I haven't moved on or gotten tired of hockey or blogging. Friday-last was move day. One of the last things still inoperable in the new house is the ethernet. So I'm now literally in the closet so I can wire straight to the modem. And I'm not coming out of the closet till somebody explains to me why the Coyotes signed Jeremy Roenick and Georgeous Georges Laraque. A team in need of character guys, signed one of the league's premier Prima Donnas and an Uber Goon. Das ist Schade....

Love all the re-signings over the past week. JR has secured the future in bringing back Staal, Williams, Commie, Colesy, etc. Way surprised to see Glen Wesley back. Elway left on top, but also physically broken down. If Glen is healthy and still has the fire, good on him. Sad to see Matt Cullen and AWard go. AWard went for a hefty raise and the chance to set up his post-career broadcasting career. Aaron rose from Scotty Bowman's whipping boy to SCF stud. Time to cash in. Good luck AWard. I still have the pic with you and the Teddy Bear ready for next season when we next see you as a Ranguh.Cullen on the other hand is jumping into a meat grinder. He enjoyed a personal and pschological comfort level in Raleigh he won't get in NYC. His game developed under Lavvy, let's see if he's ready for Broadway.