Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Over the Hump?

I know how much Sacamano appreciates attention from the hockey wizards at Sports Illustrated, so I thought I'd flash back to a photo gallery from December, where SI called Chris Pronger the "Best Active NHL Player Without a Title":
His best chance came in 2001, when St. Louis lost to the Colorado Avalanche in five games in the Western Conference final, when the Blues were undermined by some Roman Turek goaltending so egregious that Turek appeared to be a fifth column.

I love that line. Also, this Photoshop was forwarded to me by "friend of the blog" Geoff. It's a little crude for my taste, but I thought I'd post it in honour of legendary CinO commenter "Duke".

Last but not least, James Mirtle is saying that "...the Cup is theirs to lose". I agree with that statement 100%.

ADDENDUM: This is really neither here nor there, and superstitions are what they are (i.e. nonsense, but inescapable nonsense). But does anyone else find it slightly ironic, or weird, that Jason Smith declined to touch the Clarence Campbell Bowl while wearing a Western Conference Champions hat? I always thought the idea of not touching the Bowl was roughly "this isn't what we came here to win". Sacamano is rightly the arbiter of such things, but this photo of the behatted Smith, arms held stiffly by his sides, just seems kind of, incongruous.


Impending Tragedy

David Shoalts (hattip Mirtle) has confirmed my worst nightmare.

Stanley Cup Schedule:
Don't worry you say, there will be a tee-vee where you are going, right? At the very least there will be internet, right?

Sadly, no. Fire up the ole google earth or mapquest and punch in these coordinates: 53o05'28"N and 106o48'44"E. Go ahead, check of all those search parameters for "bars/clubs", "lodging" "sports venues". Heck, save yourself some time and just check off "populated places".

I'm so depressed.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Flames Miscellany

**Soon-to-be UFA Stephane Yelle was resigned right on the heels of Calgary's elimination from the playoffs. The Flames' news release does not disclose terms; TSN.ca says his salary for 2006/07 will be $2.8M.

I love Yelle; as such, I'm going to reserve comment on the deal until the numbers are confirmed. I HAVE to assume that the $2.8 mil is actually for the next two years, not one year.

**News-To-Me Dept. (I stopped reading the Calgary papers after the 1st round): Dion Phaneuf broke his foot in Game 80 of the regular season, and sprained his knee in Game 5 of the Anaheim series.

I think it's Dennis at IOF who has pointed out a few times than Phaneuf's raw G/A/Pts numbers, combined with his flair for the huge hit, flattered his actual value/performance in his rookie season. I'm not inclined to rebut this, exactly. (At least, I don't think he was as good an offensive defenseman this past season as you would think from a quick glance at his stats: just from memory, quite a few of his PP goals were at 5-on-3, to boot).

That said, I'm relieved to learn that he was hurt, because he looked pretty weak in the playoffs. I don't agree with Dennis that Phaneuf was basically a 5th/6th defenseman with some gaudy PP stats. He really was very good this season, and I think the bodychecking aspect of his game was overblown (in a Monster way, so to speak). His play in transition, going both directions, was exactly what you want to see from a presumptive Norris candidate going forward. He makes plays, I don't know of a better way to put it. Hopefully next postseason, being a little older, a little wiser, and a little healthier, he'll be a lot better.

**Good to see Peter Maher headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The timing is perfect, I'd say: he's got another 2-3 good years before Bob Cole Disease sets in and becomes irreversible. He's just what you want from a home broadcaster. I've said this before at least once: there is nothing wrong or shameful about a broadcaster "cheering" for one team; the problem is only if/when his bias affects his ability to give a decently accurate account of what's going on. Maher is good this way; if the opponent scores because so-and-so missed a backchecking assignment, I hear about it (instead of, say, a rehashing of the last call/non-call that didn't go the Flames' way).

**Where Do The Flames Go From Here is a topic for the offseason, but for a hint of the way I'm thinking, check out Tyler's commentary on this season's Panthers:
Playing a game that has a ton of shots each way is a point in their favour -- the bigger the role played by the goaltender, the better the chance that Florida is going to win the game.

Of course. It's hard to call the Flames #27 Rank in Goals For this season simply a personnel issue: they were T-11th in PP%. Flames fans have been drilled that the team "can't win by trading scoring chances", but I don't know that this is actually true: with a Top 3 NHL goalie and a pretty talented D-corps, "trading chances" should work in the Flames favour more often than not. (Further "data" points: they did come back from 1 and 2-goal deficits frequently this season, and the two 6-5 games of the season were both wins).

You don't turn a team's identity inside-out in one offseason, nor would you want to, but there's some things to think about here. Anyway, more on this another day.


Next round

We've all got a week off to actually get things accomplished at work in order to make up for all the time we have wasted spent over the last three weeks sending scathing letters to CBC, cruching spreadsheets to show that Dvorak kicks ass, frantically analyzing shift charts, recovering from hangovers, lighting bonfires in shopping carts, getting treated for electrical burns on our hands, etc.

But in the meantime, anyone know anything at all about either Carolina or Buffalo? This unbalanced schedule has ensured that I know next to nothing about either of them.

On paper it looks like the Oil matchup best against Buffalo, because then we can employ the taunting animal metaphors that have worked so well in the last two series -- three if you count octopus.

On the other hand, I really like those Hurricanes bloggers (Red and Black Hockey, Cason, Sweet Tea, Barbecue, and Body Checks, Hokejowy Blog, and, naturally, Ronnie Franchise.

I get the sense that those folks can give it as well as they can take it. Especially that Acid Queen -- she frightens me a little bit.

I'm going to spend the week reading those guys so that I can exploit their weaknesses come Saturday, or whenever this shindig actually kicks off.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Stanley Bound, Baby!

"It's good for the soul of the city"


Western Conference Finals -- Game V


Okay, it's time to stop fooling around. All the mojo talk was fun as a distraction when the games, themselves, weren't all that interesting; but this series is official real now.

Like others, I've started to develop a real hate-on for these Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Carlyle with his smug post-game interviews, Getzlaf and Lupul with their cocky smirks, Teemu with his wacky catsup similies--I hate them all.

I really think the Oilers were just plain tuckered out last game. Bob McKenzie had a graphic up last night looking something like this, only prettier:

In the last 21 days:
  • Games Played: Oilers 11 vs Ducks 9
  • Days Rest: Oilers 10 vs Ducks 14
  • OT Time: Oilers 42:24 vs Ducks 16:30
  • Plane Rides: Oilers 7 vs Ducks 4
  • km travelled: Oilers 8000+ vs Ducks 4000+
Throw on the flu (No, Randy, it wasn't fake), and that all adds up to a brutal schedule no matter how you slice it.

There isn't a lot of insight needed on this one. The Ducks D has been erratic under pressure all series, and so the Oilers just have to put together a solid 60 minutes of up-tempo, hard-forechecking hockey, and they should win. A quick goal or two on Giggy would also allow me to watch the game a little bit easier.

Prediction: 3-1 Oil (Smyth, Horc, Samsonov).

Go Oil!

Thursday, May 25, 2006



Hey, blame me if you want. Blame the refs if you want. Blame the Norwalk Virus, or whatever it was that caused Raffi to lose 12 pounds and Horcoff to burst blood vessels in his eyeball from throwing up so violently.

Me, I blame the players.

You can only have mediocre games for so long and expect to keep on winning. Fact is, they probably didn't deserve to be up 3-0 in the first place, and the whole strategy of only playing for 10 or 12 minutes/game can't work all the time.

Most frustrating part -- our 5 on 3's. Man are the Oilers terrible at 5 on 3's. The only option they look for is the one-timer from the top. Here they have Samsonov and Horcoff down low-- two pretty creative guys around the net-- and those three jokers Stoll, Pronger, and Bergeron play keep away around the horn for 45 seconds.

Still, I'm with Lowetide. Things are looking up again. The Oil are at their best when they need to be at their best, and I'm thinking that they win in Anaheim. Or back in Edmonton. Or back in Anaheim.

Right? Right? It's not time to panic yet, right? Right?


Western Conference Finals -- Game IV


What are everyone's feelings? Do you lift the Clarence S. Campbell bowl or is this bad luck?

Good news, folks, we can start to wear our Oilers sweaters to work! I know I've been holding off, but now that Mayor Mandel has put it into writing, hell, I might wear only my sweater to work.

Mac-T has promised some fresh legs for this game, including playing Murray/LeGG/Petersen more. I'm not exactly sure who else he had in mind. Maybe D-vo is back. Or Ullie. God forbid they put in Schremp -- the HF message board might explode.

There are some rumours that Hemsky may be hurt since--as MC notes--he didn't get any ice after the Oil went up 2-0, including no time on the 5 on 3. Jason Gregor also reported yesterday that both Moreau and Smyth might be out. None of this thrills me.

Some folks are worried that the the Ducks* almost comeback will give them the confidence to come back and win a game or two. I'm going to go the other way and say that a scare was just what the doctor ordered for the Oilers to ensure that they keep the pedal pressed tonight.

The Ducks--and others--are all a titter about LeGG mugging for the camera. As a "Live by the Unwritten Fighters Code" kinda guy, it was somewhat out of character for Georges, but hey, it's playoffs. And, to be fair, the Ducks game plan--led by Ole Granite Todd Marchant--was to come out and try to intimidate the Oilers by running Roli**, etc. They deserved a little smack down for that kind of punk playing, and they deserved a little mocking for thinking that Teemu could physically intimidate anyone on the Oilers. Andy crushes the notion that it was Georges' actions that sparked the Ducks' comeback. I actually think it might have been a bit of a mistake for Mac-T to call out Georges for that -- a passive Georges is a useless Georges.

Mirtle links to a few nice article -- one on Pisani and one on the Boys on the Bus calling home. I think it is a bit early for this nostalgia talk -- that, more than anything, has been shown to kill the Oilers (think Heritage Classic, Sweater Retirements, Banner Raisings, etc.).

Anyway, I thinking the Ducks will come out the same way as they did last game. The first period will features lots of penalties and a few fights, but it is the Oiler's powerplay that will take advantage. Tonight's game will be a blowout. The Oil will get something like 5 or 6 goals.

Sacamano's Key to the Game:

Prediction: 4-2 Oil (Bergeron, Dvorak, Smyth, Peca empty netter).

* Am I the only one who didn't know that the opposition's true name is not 'The Anaheim Mighty Ducks', but in fact 'The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim'? That actually sounds better for some reason.

**Since we're talking terminology, occasional commentor and self-professed "die-hard Roloson fan" Courtney pointed out that the preferred spelling is 'Roli' not "Rollie" as evidenced by his mask. Interestingly, the Sun seems to go with 'Rolie' to fit with goalie.

Go Oil!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006



One of the common bonds between most longtime serious NHL fans is nostalgia for the old non-geographic Division names. For you utes: in the pre-Bettman days, the two conferences were the Wales Conference and the Campbell Conference, and the four divisions were the Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe Divisions. The first four Battles of Alberta were Smythe Division Finals. Chris Berman used to refer to the NFC Central Division (before the NFL realigned to 8 divisions) as the NFC Norris, on account of the membership of Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit.

The change, as I understand it, was part of an effort to broaden hockey's appeal, the thought being that these weird division names might be a barrier for new fans. I thought this was wrong then, and I still do: the NHL's unique aspects are, on balance, a selling point. (The Stanley Cup is still widely regarded as the most coveted trophy in all of sports; some of its cachet would certainly be lost if it was renamed the NHL Championship Trophy.)

Anyway, all that aside: if the league were to go back to Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe, there's still the matter of two extra divisions to name. What to call them?

The most natural fit, I'd think, is to name them after legends of the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. The namesakes of the four divisions above were coaches/builders mostly associated with Detroit, New York, Chicago, and Toronto, respectively; it seems right to pay tribute to the remaining two Original Six franchises with the remaining two division names. Perhaps the Art Ross Division and the Toe Blake Division.

The nearly equally appealing alternative would be to name them after more contemporary legends; here I'd suggest the Bowman and Neilson Divisions.

However it went, this would be a great idea. The naming would be no more nonsensical than having Dallas in the Pacific Division (distance from Dallas to LA: 1,400 miles). Suggestions?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


YeahhhhhOhhhhhNooooooo YeeeaahhhhWaitNooooOhhhhYeeeahhhBaby!


Now that was a crazy hockey game. Fantastic! I think, Earl, that you can safely stop worrying about the watchability of this series. It had it all - hitting, scoring, fighting . . . That was epic. Epic.

Talk about your range of emotions. Kudos to the Ducks for not hitting the surf after the Oil went up 4-0 -- some of those guys were definitely looking shell-shocked on the bench. When LeGG threw his arms in the air it sounded like an earthquake -- and that was just in my apartment building. I can only imagine what it must have been like in Rexall.

But after that, it was the Oilers turn to start skating around like idiots. Holy cow. I guess we should have expected that the Ducks would wake up at some point -- they were flying out there.

Stevie with a goal (have you seen a guy that excited!). Fernie with another clutch goal. Paul letting the crowd sing 'Oh Canada' -- including a close-up shot of Joey Moss just ripping it out. Wow. Has Peca earned his salary yet?

My gawd, I'm not sure what to say. I have to decompress. That was crazy.


True Fandom

There is currently a horrific thread over at HF in which self-proclaimed "True Oilers Fans" are trying to one-up each other in terms of their relative levels of fandom (usually with reference to how much money they spend, beer they drink, posts they make, etc.). I've been meaning to smack them down for a while, but I wanted to find some way to demonstrate what "true fandom" is all about.

And then, out of the blue, astute reader -- let's call him 'Darren' -- pointed me to some simply spectacular fandom over in the forums at flyangler.ca.

Check out these incredible presentation flies tied by some anglers to show their team spirit. I absolutely love them -- I actually had no idea that flies could be so beautiful. I could even see myself getting into this kind of thing if only it didn't eventually require standing in cold water for hours on end.

A Copper and Blue Oilers fly by pacres

A Flames fly by sanjuanworm

An Oilers fly by sanjuanworm after his conversion from the Flames.


Good news, Good news for the Prez, bad news, and really bad news

Allan Maki
reports from Edmonton that:


Western Conference Finals -- Game III


Wow, with the holiday yesterday (Cheers to the Queen!) this game really snuck up on me. I think we could all use another day off Mr. Bettman.

Torres and Bergy are apparently back, but Smith and perhaps Horc are out (he says writing at 7:00 am before any game day reports have come out).

I dunno; what's to say about tonight's game? At no point in this series has my blood pressure risen above a cool 90/50 mmHg. Mike w summed it up exactly:

It's the Orbs of Power effect, that even with total puck control domination I never felt really all that worried, miles away from the pure distilled fear of the Detroit series.
It's almost like the Oilers fans are in a holding pattern. Oh sure, outwardly some people are still maintaining that we can't look ahead; but I don't know anyone who hasn't (at least inwardly) already forgotten about the Ducks. Is this dangerous? Meh, I'll take my chances.

The fact is, I don't only want, I need a quick series. In fact, I need two quick series because on June 14th I leave the country. It would just about kill me if the Oiler won the Stanley Cup and the biggest party in Edmonton in over a decade happened two blocks away from my house -- and I wasn't there. It is for this reason alone that I still have my ever-growing playoff beard -- not because the Oilers need the love of the Hockey Gods, but because I do.

I'm thinking that the crowd propells the Oil to a quick start, and they go into the second up 2-1. Each team will score one in the second, and the Oil will turn the gas back on in the third.

Sacamano's Key to the Game:

Prediction: 4-2 Oil (Dvorak, Ken Lowe, Dr. John Clarke, Roloson).

Go Oil!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Ho hum, another Oilers playoff win

Not the Oil's best game--they went back to that horrific defend the lead strategy, which invariably results in them being badly outplayed for long periods--but I'll take it. Especially if this is the best we can expect from the Ducks in what was a damn-close-to-must-win game for them. Oh, yeah, and I suppose the fact that half the team had the flu was a factor.

Rollie was solid again and is on a two game point streak. He also tied Grant Fuhr's Oilers record for career playoff penalty minutes -- and in only 14 games (it took Grant 111 games). I think it is a bit much, however, to claim that he has stolen either of the last two games, which seems to be a common theme on the highlight shows I've seen.

The noise from Whyte is much more subdued tonight, despite the fact that it is a holiday. Perhaps Joe Fan has also come to the conclusion that an Oilers Stanley Cup is inevitable and so wants to save his cash for the Stampede the finals.

I only want to comment on a few items tonight:

Fernando Pisani
Much has already been made of local boy Pisani livin' the dream; but I think Horcoff nailed it when he said of Pisani: "Let's be honest, the guy's a machine . . . Give him a chance to score and he'll do it." Going into the game Pisani was fourth in the league in post-season shooting percentage at 38.9%, despite having only one fewer goal than the three people above him combined. Tonight he scored another beauty with a no-backswing quick release wrister to the top corner.

The Flu
The Oilers training staff has to nip this in the bud. I was shocked as hell to hear that Torres and Bergy were going to be flying home with the rest of the team tonight. From everything I've ever learned about communicable diseases, sitting on an airplane with its recirculated air is a guaranteed way to help the thing along. I'd have sent those two guys back on some commercial airline -- preferably the one the Ducks are taking. Or is flu one of those ones that is only contagious before outward symptoms show themselves? I still wouldn't risk it.

D-Zone Breakouts
The Oilers have totally solved a problem that has irritated me all season -- the blind fire around the boards in the d-zone. For the entire season the Oil would try to clear the puck by just shooting it around the boards and, invariably, it would be picked off by someone who had been standing there the entire time. Now the d-men are taking a look and, more often than not, are making the extra little pass D to D or to the forwards in the middle for the chip outs. It's fantastic.

Did I see some frustration by Bryz after he totally missed that first goal? He was looking at his blocker like it was made of swiss cheese. Do they have the option to go back to Giggy? I hope so, not because I actually want to face Giggy -- I think he is the better goaltender -- but because I want the Ducks players to have to think about it.

Goilers! Playoff Beard Pennants.
Check em out -- sooooo cool!


Record Breaking

The Edmonton Oilers official homepage has a suprisingly excellent Game Day Centre. If you haven't been checking it out, you really should.

In particular, the Lineup & Game Notes link gives you a 20 page pdf on Oilers Notes with tonnes of fun information on all of the Oil's previous 2006 playoff games, historical records in any scenario imaginable (when winning game 1, when losing game 1, when leading a series 2-0, etc.), and dozens of fantastic little tidbits (especially in the Noteworthy section on page 4). The links at the top also give you pdf docs of Ducks Notes, Game by Game, Oilers Players, Oilers Goalies, Ducks Goalies, Ducks Players.

The Oilers Notes informs us that Oilers players have broken a number of team and league records this playoff season:


Western Conference Finals -- Game II


First off, thanks again to the Sports Matters fellas for hosting a few of us for Game 1. Good times. We'll have to do it again sometime when the entire Oilogosphere is available.

I'm looking forward to this game. The Oilers have demonstrated that they can win after being down at the start of a series (one or two games); but they haven't yet had the opportunity to throttle a team right from the start. Tonight's game will be a great test of that elusive killer instinct.

Tonight should also -- in theory -- bring out the best of the Ducks, so I'm anticipating a better game than Game 1, which was pretty sloppy.
Part of the problem, apparently, is that it is ice that's more conducive for figure skating. It decomposes with all the pressure hockey players put on it.
Yep, I'd say that's a problem alright.

As predicted, MC has crunched the numbers and likes what he sees. IOF also has an interesting post up on Selanne and on Carlyle's crazy shift patterns. I know that I give these guys occassional grief for their heartless statistical evaluations; but man they do excellent work. Before MC I never looked too carefully at goal differential, and before IOF I sure as hell never paid more than passing attention to shift patterns -- now I find myself making crazy spreadsheets and watching hockey games with my laptop open to the NHL shift charts. I swear I've had a few games where I spent more time looking at my monitor than the tee-vee. Weird.

Pre-Game Laffs:
That last one made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside from all the luv flowing up the ole QE2. Speaking of which, thanks to the Fenwicks for coming up from sunny L.A. (Lethbridge, Alberta) to watch the Oilers roll over the team that ousted the Flames. I hope you got your photos taken beside the old City of Champions sign on your way out off town, because in a few weeks it will have bookends.

Fun Stat of the Day:
Sacamano's Key to the Game:

Prediction: 4-2 Oil (Smyth, Pisani, Horcoff, Dvorak).

Go Oil!

Friday, May 19, 2006


It's over

At 16:31 of the first period, it was agreed by all in the room that this series is over.

I'm thinking Cosh was right -- it's gonna be a sweep.

Did anyone, at anytime feel even remotely worried that the Oil would lose this game?


Western Conference Finals - Game 1


I can't say I know too much about these Mighty Ducks, except that Selanne seems to have found his groove again, and like the Sharks they are apparently relying on a wet behind the ears backup goaltender. Earl Sleeke has also found his groove over at the Battle of California, and he is providing some 'Meet your Mighty Ducks' vignettes -- presumably because people in California don't know anything about their team either.

Much has been made about young Bryzgalov's jocularity in the locker room; but the fact is, it is easy to be loose when your team is winning. I'm guessing that at the first sign of trouble (i.e., Ryan Smyth's moolay all up in his grill), his jock will tighten considerably. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time for these young pups to realize that they are actually playing for some important marbles -- and once that bulb goes on, it's hard to turn it off again. If he has a weak first or second outing, Anaheim will have a full on goaltending controversy just like Oilers fans enjoyed watching in Detroit and San Jose. Besides, the crack Oilers scouting staff has been watching this guy and will have identified his quirks.

I'm sure that Madcrutch and IOF will crunch the rest of the numbers, but Andy has identified three figures that stick out for me:

Sacamano's Key to the Game:

Prediction: 4-2 Oil (Dvorak, Bergeron, Pisani x 2).

Go Oil!


Glossary addition: 'Pinto'

Watching Ales Hemsky in the defensive zone is like watching that scene in Animal House where Pinto is smoking the joint with Donald Sutherland. He doesn't really know what he's doing but the older people he looks up (Sutherland, Boone and Boone's girlfriend) are doing it and he doesn't want to look uncool so he goes along with it. Hemsky threw yet another awkward looking defensive zone bodycheck last night, something that's been commented on as this series went along. That shot block in G3 though...that was like if Pinto from Animal House had said "Joints are for children" and then injected heroin into his eye. Good stuff.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Conference Finals

I don't have the gut feeling -- or the guts -- to make a prediction on Ducks-Oilers. My rough sense, based on season- and playoffs-to-date, is that the Oilers' Best is probably better than the Ducks' Best, but that in any given game you're more liable to see the latter than the former.

What I would most like to see, without a doubt, is a split of the first two in Anaheim; a split of the next two in Edmonton; a narrow win by the Ducks in Game 5; and an embarrassing home loss in Game 6 to concede the series, where the Oil is beaten handily at both ends and is never really in the game. Is this probable? No, but if you don't think it's plausible, then you haven't really followed the Oil's fortunes this year.

I'm actually going to be joining Sacamano and a host of bearded others in Edmonton tomorrow night to take in Bob & Harry's call of Game 1. So if the hockey gods would like to arrange that split so that it's Game 2 that the Oilers win, boy, that'd be swell.

Latest in a series of things I don't know if I should be saying out loud, since I don't know if it's jinx or anti-jinx: the Oilers may be tabbed by the Hockey Gods to win the Stanley Cup. Every previous time the Flames have made the Cup Finals, the Oilers have won the Cup the following season. The Flames made the Finals in '86; Oilers won the Cup in '87. Flames made the Finals in '89; Oilers won the Cup in '90. Flames made the Finals in '04; Oilers... ???

(There's similar voodoo at play, with a larger sample size, when the Flames and Canucks meet in the 1st round. The winner of that series, whenever it has happened ('82, '89, '94, '04), has gone on to the Finals.)

Per the roadtrip plans noted above, I doubt I'll be posting anything here until at least Monday, which means over the long weekend, this site will become even more lousy with Oiler fans than it already is. Hazard of the Battle, I guess.


Eight down

SINCERITY WARNING: Proceed with caution

I got a kick out of mike w's postgame piece. Excellent stuff. No one excerpt can get this across, but the theme is one of elation and "You Don't Know How It Feels". That's what made me smile. This comment is neither sarcastic nor sniffy: what is happening in Edmonton right now is exactly -- exactly -- what happened in Calgary in 2004, the most obvious (and fun) feature being an entire generation of both brand-new and decade-long-suffering fans experiencing their first run.

I happened to be at the Game 6 clincher against San Jose. Not the one yesterday, the one two years ago. And watching the 3rd period of last night's game, I had an intense feeling of deja-vu. As the series win became more and more inevitable as time ticked away, the crowd became constantly loud. There were still swells, but that base racket never went away. As the final seconds ticked away, it got louder and louder, to the point where it sounds like that's as loud as it can get. But when the horn finally went, there was another abrupt and HUGE jump in crowd noise. Watch the highlights! I would have had trouble believing it myself, if I hadn't been in the identical situation 24 months ago.

All season, the occasional jibe or insult was lobbed my way about both the bandwagon Calgary fans and our unseemly pleasure at a lesser result than the Stanley Cup. I never really engaged those taunts, and this is why. The bandwagon is one of the things that makes a playoff run exciting. It's got-dang hard to win playoff series; right now, there's 26 NHL teams filled (mostly) with players who wanted it just as bad as the Oilers players, and they're sitting at home with knots in their stomachs.

I won't be climbing on the "Covered" bandwagon myself, even for free coffee. But nor will I be scoffing at Oiler fans for their excitement (err, at least the non-armed ones). This shit is FUN; you gotta own it.

Semi-related postscript: Steve Simmons and Greg Millen aside, the most irritated I got all season at someone in the hockey media was at Grant Pollock, the Calgary Global Sports veteran. The day of the home opener in October, he went on the tube imploring Flames fans to sit on their hands while the Western Conference Championship banner was raised. It wasn't just "I'm not impressed by making the Cup finals", which is dubious enough, it was, "You shouldn't be either!" I gave his broadcast image the proverbial instruction to attempt an anatomically impossible sexual act. I assume my sentiments then are somewhat understandable to Oiler fans now.

Post-postscript: Regardless of where the Oil ends up, if you thought Edmonton was psyched before this season, with Pronger and Peca and the New Era, you ain't seen nothin' yet.



Sounds like there were some idiots down on the Ave last night; but this made me laugh for quite a while:

One young woman popped out of the sunroof of a stretch limousine to bare her breasts. At the next red light, the limo driver got out and mooned passersby on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Playoff Talk

I can see why rhuck was so averse to the his Flames advancing deep into playoffs. This totally sucks.

Quick Thoughts:


Can I Get a 'Hell Yeah'?

Time to hunt some duck.



The Oil has an awesome opportunity tonight to move into the NHL's Final Four, in front of the raucous home crowd. One can only hope that today's Oiler players take a hard look up at the rafters -- preferably during a lengthy pre-game interval from the comfort of the players' bench -- and gain some inspiration from the proof of success hanging there.

Add in the accumulated heart, guts, knowing-how-to-win, and 17 Stanley Cup rings of Lowe, Mac-T, Huddy, and Simpson, and how can they lose?

UPDATE: Cosh has photos from today's parade"support rally", which if nothing else demonstrate the upside of 30-degree weather for playoff hockey. He's characterizing it as a positive karmic development; who on earth am I to argue? The chances of the Oilers getting their "One more win" looks good.


Oilers-Sharks Game Day VI


Before talking hockey, I need to get a few things out of the way.

First, anthem booing in the context of sporting events is lame. Fronting an amnesiac holier than thou attitude about anthem booing is even more lame. Let it go, people.

Second, it would appear that my single post on playoff beards has -- in some people's eyes -- elevated me to the status of Playoff Beard Guru. I've actually received more than one email imploring me to intervene in Chris!'s decision to shave (or not). [UPDATE: the decision is in-- the beard stays]

Look, if dude wants to shave, dude's gonna shave, and it seems highly unlikely that this will have any impact on the result of the game--of course I'm not ruling out the potential for said impact. This is not to say that I apologize in any way for giving him (or Grabia) the gears over it. As Cosh noted in a comment section: "Why grow it, document it lovingly, turn it into an international celebrity that gets its own fan mail, boast that it's responsible for the team's success, and then threaten to shave it?" That kind of audacity certainly deserves, nay requires, some sort of mocking. Plus, I kinda feel like one of those Dharma Initiative white coats -- "how long can we actually keep this monkey dancing by telling him that his work is gravely important--especially given that he has never met any of us. Bwa-ha-ha-ha." [UPDATE: The monkey keeps dancing!]

All I'm saying is that, while Chris!'s beard has provided a welcome and amusing distraction during the two days off, it is now time to focus on more important issues, like figuring out the best way to flip cars on Whyte Avenue without spilling your beer, and establishing exactly where on the All-Time Athlete Baby Scale Joe Thornton ranks for wussing his way off to the dressing room with 113 seconds remaining in the last game (pretty damn high, is what I'd say).

Sacamano's Keys to the Game:
Prediction: 4-2 Oil (Stoll, Hemsky, Pronger, D-vo with the empty netter)

Quotes of the Day:

Go Oil!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


High Voltage Wednesday

In addition to the usual gameday tailgate party at Rexall, there will be an Edmonton Oilers Fan Vehicle Parade at noon.

Here are the details I received in an email through the Oilers Pipeline:

. . . the Edmonton Oilers will parade a number of local vehicles that have been ‘Oiler-ized’ for the playoffs from Rexall Place to City Hall.

The parade will feature the artistic creations of numerous Oilers fans who have painted their vehicles in team colors, erected oil derricks in the back of their trucks, and are proud to show their support of the Oilers everywhere they go.

The vehicles will gather at Rexall Place beginning at 11:00 a.m., and will set out on the parade route at 12:00 Noon. The parade route will travel from Rexall Place down Wayne Gretzky Drive, before turning right onto 112th Avenue, and left on 82nd Street. The procession will then follow Jasper Avenue to 108th Street, before turning right to 102nd Avenue. The final stop will be in front of City Hall, where the vehicles will be briefly displayed for Oilers fans.

Oilers fans are encouraged to line the parade route during the lunch hour, and show their support . . .

Judging by some of the ‘Oiler-ized’ jalopies I've seen cruising around town, my guess is that there are going to be some pretty darn funny rigs in this parade.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Oh, one of THOSE fans...


Breathlessly monitored subplot of the week: Kristine, girlfriend of Chris!, is visiting him in Toronto, and may or may not be encouraging him to shave off his playoff beard. Not surprisingly, the reaction from Chris' fellow Oiler fans is ranging roughly from "Dump her" to "Keep it, even if she dumps you" The delightful cherry on top of this non-controversy, though, comes from the lovely Kristine's Guest Appearance at CinO in February:
...what really got me into hockey was not, in fact, being disappointed time after time watching the Oilers get their asses kicked by Minnesota, believe it or not, but the—wait for it—Calgary Flames in the playoffs two years ago. Yes, I’m one of those fans.


UPDATE: Now that my role has essentially been reduced to shit-disturber around here, I might as well say that I'll also be squinting to see if Chris! does in fact shave his beard, but pretends otherwise to avoid the wrath of the Oilogosphere. Stage 4 Beard Growth is tough to monitor: will Chris! spend this evening changing shirts, mussing up his hair, and taking multiple photographs of himself for future Beardwatch entries?

The only way to avoid such slanders will be to give Robocop some company in the background: the Today's Newspaper proof, perhaps?

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Oilers-Sharks V


I'm still down in Calgary, and I've gotta say, I love this town. It is chalk full of Oilers fans. When I first arrived on Friday, I turned on my folks' tv, which is approximately the size of a cell phone screen and needs at least 20 minutes to warm up, and the first person I saw through my binoculars was Astrid Kuhn -- the Calgary CBC reporter -- wearing an Oilers sweater. "I just thought it was time to cheer for the Alberta team", she said. Beautiful.

Apparently, like rhuck, most of the city wasn't really interested in cheering for the Flames anyway -- they were just biding their time until the team from the City of Champions could make their run.

I have no comments about the previous game that hasn't already been made by everyone else.

Tonight's game should be a ring a ding dong dandy, to quote another Calgarian who probaby would have been cheering on the Oil, rest his soul.

You have to think that the Sharks are a wee bit rattled. Their coach stupidly yanked their goaltender for . . . what exactly . . . playing behind a soft D? And they can't be happy about the possibility of losing tonight and having to face bedlam at Rexall in a potential series clincher.

Sacamano's Key to the Game: only one key today -- Stan Weir and his Mother

Prediction: 4-2 Oil (D-vo x 2, Torres, Bergeron).

Go Oil!

Saturday, May 13, 2006



Great stuff in this morning's Edmonton Sun. You gotta love sports fans: they're lunatics.
One fan carried a stuffed shark atop an imitation harpoon - the shark had been dunked in real motor oil.

"It's messy, but it gets the message across," said the young man, calling himself only the Shark Slayer.

Not too sure the message that gets across is the one HE thinks is getting across, but no matter.

Also, great hed here:
Oiler fans take celebration to the street on Whyte

As the veteran scribe Anna cracked in the terrific but generally overlooked ensemble flick The Paper, "Oh yeah, god forbid this paper ever runs anything without an exclamation point."

NON-HOCKEY RELATED ADDENDUM: This is also a fantastic headline, on the story of the Blue Bombers signing Onterrio Smith to a contract:
Blue Bombers ink NFL "Whizz" kid

Hee hee...

Friday, May 12, 2006


Is Joe Thornton due?

That's gotta be a question on the minds of quite a few Sharks and Oilers fans. He won the Art Ross Trophy this season, and is a Hart nominee too, yet he's chalked up a mere 1-5-6 (-2) on 2006 playoff scoresheets.

I've never been much of a fan. For all his mad skillz, he's been a disappointment in the playoffs his whole career, and no one was raving about him at the Olympics either. But, hell, I'm just a mediocre writer who posts on a hockey website during procrastination time. For a more articulate take, the struggles and limitations of Thornton have been chronicled impressively and frequently by professional sports writer, all-star BofA commenter, and Oil SuperFan Colby Cosh. Let's go through a sampling.

May 2003:
You compare the [2002 Olympic] team Gretzky picked for Canada, and you see there's talent at every age level--especially if he'd picked Joe Thornton. (Gretz was given merry hell for leaving him off, but all has been forgiven. In fact, Thornton stayed home from the worlds, perhaps still in a snit over his Olympic non-selection. It's starting to look like the guy may be Canada's personal good-luck charm as long as he stays the hell away from the national side.)

April 2004:
I never imagined that the Habs could be out-imploded, but everything that's being written about the Bruins is true: they played worse with each consecutive chance to eliminate Montreal, and Thornton's gutless display should cost him the captaincy. His lack of mobility is excusable, but his whining to the refs, his visible indifference to the outcome of the game, and his fear of the puck in the offensive zone are not.

December 2005:
>>I feel sorry for all Bruins fans, I cann't believe it Joe Thornton Joe Thornton

I think that last guy just got a good start on a folk song. "Where have you gone, Joe Thornton, Joe Thornton? Where have you gone, our pillow-soft boy?" My take on the trade is in this BoA thread.

That'd be this one:
[...]Point two: Thornton is obviously kind of a jagoff. I do think Boston would have been distinctly better off without him in the playoffs "last year." Yeah, fine, he was hurt (inchoately). We've all seen Doug Weight and Steve Yzerman set the tone despite being hurt. Every facial expression and gesture on Thornton was screaming "We give up" in that Montreal series.

And a little further down:
It's bullshit. Everybody knew at the time that Thornton was hurt--and nobody who was actually watching the series thought it excused him losing his stick and tackling Zednik, repeatedly whining to the refs with the play still live, dodging the puck in the Habs' zone, ostentatiously giving up when his team got behind, and hiding from the media when his teammates were working overtime every day trying to defend him.

Finally, an excellent Western Standard column from that same month, "A Reluctant Superstar" (read the whole thing):
Thornton exemplifies a universal rule of sports: a player possessing an overwhelming talent will always be the de facto leader of his team and will always be held to account for its failings. This is true no matter how well that player performs. [...]

Even before that [Montreal] series, Thornton sometimes had trouble fitting the heavy garb of a superstar. It took him three years to shake the initial suspicion that he would end up as an overhyped bust. He would sometimes try to establish his bona fides by picking fights he couldn't win or by dirty stickwork, costing himself ice time and stumbling over the fine line between guts and stupidity. A couple of years ago he even threatened to retire after an evening of rough handling by the opposition.

And he's always been a little graceless with the media. On the evening of the trade, I heard him on the radio whining sarcastically--literally whining, talking through his nose like a spoiled kid. "I've been consistent all year and scored a point a game almost, I think, but I guess that's not good enough," Thornton told the reporters. "I guess getting rid of me was the answer."

I have to believe that one of these days (years?), Joe will turn in a dynamite playoff performance in spite of himself. Will it come before he's commonly known as Thornton Manning, c/w his own Face? (The Joe Thornton Face is the one you see after a bad loss that says, "That was a tough loss, but at least I still have my millions of dollars and my supermodel girlfriend.") I haven't the faintest idea.


Oilers-Sharks Game Day IV


I think Chopper speaks for all Oil fans when he says:
It would be more enjoyable if we were up in the series," said Moreau. "But I love this hockey - it's great, it's fast, it's physical. It's a great product. It's two teams that are competing very hard, two teams that skate well.
True dat.

I have no grand observations other than I think that the winner of this game will win the series.

Other random stuff:

As Shaye Gannon pointed out on this morning's Global News, Ryan Smyth ain't so tough. When Jason Smith requires stitches, he refuses to even leave the bench. Now, that's tough. And don't even get me started about how tough Stan Weir is.

Ron Wilson also pointed out that Smytty is "nothing special." "We have had plenty of guys get their teeth knocked out in major situations and come back" Some other amusing Wilson highlights:
Funny guy.

It sounds like Michalek will be back for the Sharks tonight, which is somewhat concerning. He was already blowing by our D before they all played the equivalent of 4 games in 4 nights. The Marleau line really seemed to suffer without him.

Wilson also mentioned that there is a "good chance" that "The Sheriff" Scott Parker will be in the Sharks' lineup. As if. The guy has played 10 games this year and brings nothing except the potential for a bunch of penalties? Is anyone on Edmonton really going to be intimidated by this clown?

Sacamano's Keys to the Game:
Prediction: 4-2 Oil (Moreau, Moreau shortie, Pronger, and Horc with the empty netter)

I'll be watching this one from Golf Town, so I doubt that I'll be back with a post-game recap; but I'm sure the CinO boys will have an appropriately angst ridden and/or deliriously crude post to satisfy your needs to vent and/or carouse.

Go Oil!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Confession of a Flames Fan

Every day was a Flames day: one was either talking about the game the night before, getting ready for the next game, or in some bar filled with carcenogenic smoke, spilled rye on red jerseys, a dozen TVs and make-shift projection screens. Everyone was geared up. School kids, waitresses, rap musicians, my 55-year-old Philippino woman technician who, at one point, embroiled me in an argument over the merits of having Robyn Regher quarterbacking the powerplay. It went on and on and on and on.

Man, what a stirring description. The city had some jump, some excitement. School kids, musicians, gangstas, day-labourers, and 55-year old filipinas, all coming together in a Sea of Red to cheer on their beloved Flames. Sounds terrific right? Not according to the Flames fan who wrote it.

Nope, apparently "the prevailing view from around town" is that those two months were "a shit show".
The fact is, I'm afraid to say, lest I receive attacks on my character and loyalty, but I'm actually kinda, sorta glad that the Flames are done. And I'm not the only one.

Many of my fellow Calgarians expressed that same sentiment shortly after the team lost.
It's not because these loyal Calgarians didn't want the Flames to win, mind you. Oh no, it was simply because:
I don't think anyone who experienced 2004 -- other than drunk-ass teenagers and their like-minded wannabes -- was really aching to do it all over again. It would have been too much.
You read that correctly. It would have been too much. Afterall, these poor guys and gals:
. . . went from April to the end of June and missed out on the entire spring season. Stampede was a mere two weeks away, giving us all pause as to the best way to scrape up some dollars and energy to do it all over again.
Hilariously, Cosh predicted nailed this way back on April 13th in a post entitled 'How to spot a second-rate sports town'. The knockout punch comes in his second paragraph:
The message to the team is unequivocal: a second successful playoff year by the Lames will be regarded with active hostility by the wealthy and powerful. Only the most naive fan can fail to perceive the eventual endgame--a quiet, uncontested exit in the second round or thereabouts. Some cities breed champions, some don't.

The Battle of Alberta is over.



Being a fan is tough. Check out what the front page of Covered in Oil would have looked like if a bounce had gone the Sharks' way in OT. When you're busting out the Vincent D'Onofrio in FMJ pic, boy, you're despondent.

The emotional rollercoaster of the fan is even unmistakeably evident in this site's traffic. It's like the Red Mile/Whyte Ave: lively after a Victory, dead after a Defeat. On an emotional level, I understand it completely, but it's still kind of amazing. A frickin' website.

Obligatory post-game Greg Millen assessment: I basically agreed with his comments regarding OT penalties (though I don't know why he felt the need to conclude his remarks with "it's what the league wants": you're obviously aware that you're entitled to your opinions, dude, go with it).

That said, I think this is what Jim Hughson thinks about when he's falling asleep at night: "How do I gently correct my partner when the need for a correction arises from the fact that he wasn't listening to the thing I said not 10 seconds ago?" There was at least two instances of this in the first period, one of which I remember quite vividly:
Hughson: And the shots are 15-1 in favour of the Oilers
[play progresses briefly, Roloson handles a weak shot, no rebound, play stops]
Millen: It's impressive that Roloson handled the puck so well there, cause that is the first shot he's seen all game... uh, and the rebound makes it two, I guess.
Hughson: [silence]

Good times.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006



Whoooo boy! That, my friends, is what playoff hockey is all about. What an absolutely spectacular game. A pleasure to watch. I'm simultaneously exhausted and totally jacked up.

Just some quick hits before I go lie in my bed and fail to sleep:

Boy that was some good hockey, eh?


Team Building

It's been a while since I went to bat directly for Tom Benjamin's side in an argument, but I feel like chiming in here. The discussion was prompted by James Mirtle excerpting Eric Duhatschek, and the key graf is this:
"Managing a team these days is still about asset management, but the premium now is going to be on drafting well and keeping those draft choices until they get to unrestricted free agency, even if you have to take them to arbitration." - Brian Burke

Tom thinks Burke is being, ahem, disingenous here, and so do I. TB gets to the nuts down in the comments:
The issue is whether that premium [on drafting well] is now bigger or smaller than it was. It is very obviously smaller.

That's correct, period. I'm not interested (today) in determining whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, or whether Bettman has sold hockey fans a bill of goods, or whatever. But it is very obviously correct to say that when free agency is less restrictive, then in the grand relative scheme of things, pro scouting (good trades, FA signings, etc.) becomes more important and amateur scouting (good drafting etc.) becomes less important.

The key to a GM's success in all sports leagues, but especially where there is a salary cap, is simply to underpay as many of your players as possible by as much as possible. That's a bit glib, but it's another way of saying this: you need players who will outperform their contracts. Ideally, you sign young players to 2/3/4 year contracts just before they make The Leap; you sign experienced players after abnormally poor seasons when their market value is depressed; etc.

Restricted free agents help your team accomplish this, as the restrictions allow you to sign them to contracts for below their market value. Let's say I'm Kevin Lowe, in negotiations with Ales Hemsky, and that every GM in the league agrees that Hemsky's performance will be worth $4M next season. I can pay Hemsky up to $4M and be getting a "fair deal". John Ferguson Jr., however, cannot. For him to be getting a fair deal, he can only offer Hemsky a contract for [($4M) - (the $$ value of the draft picks he has to surrender to me)]. There is a ton of room for argument on what that "$$ value" should be, but it is some number greater than zero.

For the sake of this example, say it's $0.5M. JFJ can thus only offer Hemsky a $3.5M contract, or he's overpaying. I, then, can offer Hemsky $3.6M: it's the best deal he's going to get, and I'm getting a $4M performance for only $3.6M (everyone's happy!).

There are two rewards for drafting well in the NHL:
  1. Under the rookie salary structure, you underpay by a ton (in their 1st contracts) for excellent rookie performances (remember that Crosby & the Ocho are making ~$1M/yr)
  2. Having the rights to the good players you draft means that you can continue (in their 2nd/3rd contracts) to underpay them (per the JFJ example above) until they reach Unrestricted free agency
Item 2 is less of a reward now, because players reach UFA status sooner & younger. Hence, there's less of a premium on drafting well.

To wrap up, let me just reiterate once again that this does not mean that hockey as we know it is going to hell in a handbasket... if your team has the best amateur scouting department in the league, you are in great shape, because you'll have a constant stream of guys turning in multimillion dollar performances while being paid $0.5M-$1M. But this was also the case before, and now you have less of an advantage trying to re-sign your own draft picks: (A) because the compensation figure (# & Round of draft picks) for RFAs is smaller, and (B) because they become UFAs at a younger age.


Bon mots

Vic Ferrari:
They can send a man to the moon, but they can't develop the technology to put a button on my remote that gives Greg Millen a painful electric shock.

Jes Golbez:
According to the Courier Post Online, 14 players on the Flyers will be having surgeries this month. 14!!! [...]

Given that it's the Flyers, I'm not shedding any tears :)... I'm just a little bit in awe.

No kidding.

...when I got there, he told me that Spacek had scored to make it 1-0 for the Oil. I responded by saying "Cross ice pass from Hemsky on the PP?" He was surprised and responded "Uh...yeah..." while his girlfriend looked at me like I was a witch.

This too:
I like how Greg Millen is now apparently gun shy about talking about the long change, after the fiasco that was G6 in the Vancouver-Calgary series in 2003-04, when it became apparent that he didn't realize that both teams were subject to the long change at the same time.

If I ever meet Millen, I think I might actually feel a twinge of guilt (I'm way too nice), but jeeezzz...

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