Saturday, September 30, 2006


The Taming Of The Puck Bunny

This post may have uncovered the Canadian quote of this, and the last, century.

To squee, or not to squee, that is the Canadian woman's question
Whether 'tis nobler in the ovaries to suffer
The snaps and wrists of outrageous fortuners,
Or to take arms against a C of troubles,
And by opposing end them?


Moleeds in the desert

Regular correspondent A. Grabia asks in a comment thread why Georges Laraque was wearing jersey #37 when he scored the winning goal against the Oilers the other night. It seems Grabia has stumbled onto the truth: le GG's traditional #27 really is being kept aside for Teppo Numminen, the only NHL player to have also been a Marx brother.

I never did see the Laraque goal, but since Grabia brought it up, it's a useful example of why I may sometimes appear unusually confident when I'm writing about the Oilers. Part of the reason, of course, is that I'm an old bastard lurking around the Oilogosphere, the equivalent of a graying Pete Townshend trying to carry on a barroom conversation with the Sex Pistols. The Oilers were contenders continuously between the year I was taught long division and the year I was arrested for the first time; everything since is just a blur. I even still associate the name "Craig Simpson" with something other than ineptitude.

But part of it is just my unworthy instinct for conceptual compartmentalization. I can profess publicly that Laraque's goal was merely a welcome clearing of karmic accounts and that we should be glad it happened in the preseason instead of on February 27. At precisely the same time, despite the contradiction, I can lie awake shaking with rage because I suspect someone may finally have convinced or cajoled or even just asked Laraque to actually use his strength to attack the goalmouth after all these years. If you meet someone who appears to have more integrity about these matters than I do, it's probably because he does.

Friday, September 29, 2006


"Some people just don't get it."'s Allan Muir's take on the top starting goalies in the NHL is not at all the most interesting thing he's written lately. I've been intending to post a Last Word on Pronger for awhile, and Muir's piece from last week seems like as good an excuse as any, because he gets as close to the heart of the matter as a pro pundit has:
"I knew I'd be Public Enemy No. 1," he told the Journal. "But I'm pissed off by all the rumors and innuendo surrounding my leaving."

He's pissed off? Before he started blasting the fans, he needed to spend some time in front of a six-foot-six mirror.

All right, on one hand, you can see where he's coming from. The talk, particularly about his wife, hasn't been flattering. But what did he expect?

What did he expect, indeed. More from Muir:
Pronger can't have it both ways. He can't blame the fans for making an issue of his personal life. He was the one who introduced his family into the discussion in the first place.

If family was the issue behind his trade request -- and no one is suggesting otherwise -- why even bring them into it?

Sure. Considering how accommodating (and prompt) the Oilers were with his request, surely they could have cooperated with Pronger to construct a semi-plausible professional reasons back story.

Alternatively, he could have been more direct: said flat-out (in person!) that he and his family didn't like Edmonton, could not be happy there, and that he had made the hard decision to request a trade as a result. Instead, he went the way he did (i.e. via Mexico), presumably calculated to minimize the damage to his reputation, and the hurt to his family and the people of Edmonton. How's that working out, by the way?

Sidebar-type-dealy: a player's leverage when he requests a trade is the implied threat of non-performance. Implied only, of course, because this is the 2nd paragraph of the Standard Player Contract between the Player and the Club (my emphasis):
The Player agrees to give his services and to play hockey in all NHL Games, All Star Games, International Hockey Games, and Exhibition Games to the best of his ability under the direction and control of the Club in accordance with the provisions hereof.

The only permissible explicit threat of non-performance is the threat to retire; any other is a contract violation. Chris Pronger lacks a certain humility about what he's managed, which I suppose is not surprising from a guy who basically hasn't acted like a man throughout this whole process.

Pronger's implied threat of non-performance was effective, and he suffered no hardship, because there were numerous other teams that were interested in his services at the salary he earns. Other players are less fortunate; Gary Roberts asked for a trade for reasons that may be more or less valid than Pronger's, to no avail. If Roberts was to do what he wished regarding his family, he'd have to quit his job and forsake two million dollars that can never be recovered.

I'll leave the rest to Muir. I'm not much for the fan-populism stuff, but I think he nails it:
Apparently it never crossed his mind to apologize to those in Edmonton -- including TV reporter Christie Chorley -- whose names were unfairly dragged into this whole mess by his evasiveness.

The Journal interview was an opportunity missed, but not an opportunity lost. There will be other interviews, other chances to set things right. Pronger should make the most of them.

And it should be a good lesson to other players who might find themselves in this position one day. You're the one in the public eye. If you're going to make a tough call, you need to be the one to take the heat.

And don't be upset at the fans for caring so much. If they didn't, you'd be out of a job.



My worst nightmare. He probably jumped into the glass after scoring, too. I can't even stand the thought of it. Sob.

The good news is that The Hockey Jesus and Traktor Boy both scored. And Snorri Thoresen fought Mike Fucking Comrie. YES!Could I love that guy any more?

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Widget...Widget Good

I'm going to ask Cosh to stay up in the show for a week longer, but I just wanted to throw a quick link up that I thought some of the other über-dorks like me might enjoy. It's a site called Hockey Widgets, and it is a site of, well, hockey widgets. They also have widgets for other sports, but those are irrelevant here. On his blog, the owner of the site indicates that he will have an NHL season schedule widget available for download next week, but in the meantime fans can download widgets for all their favorite NHL teams.

Oilers fans will notice that the newest Oilers widget still has (cough) Pronger (cough) on it, but they are all pretty awesome. It should also be noted that the Oilers have four widgets, while the Flames only have two. If a widget were to be awarded for every Stanley Cup won, that would make the Flames the equivalent of Prince Edward Island in the House of Commons. That is to say, grossly overrepresented. Of course the Oilers would share the same burden as so many other great powers, held back by the envious mauling of the unwashed.

By the by, I don't have the time right now, but if anyone out there were to decide to create a cool, highly operational and aesthetically pleasing widget for this site, I certainly wouldn't mind. If not, I'll learn and toil at another time.


Don't get up, Fenwick, I'll field this one

"It's not easy to anoint the NHL's best starting goalie" -Sports Illustrated headline
Assuming Allan Muir and his editor intended "anoint" as a metaphor for "identify," I have to say I'd be pretty cheesed if I were a Flames fan. On the other hand, maybe they meant it literally, in which case I can totally understand; Kiprusoff seems like a pretty easygoing fella but I wouldn't want to try sneaking up behind him and massaging a handful of scented grease into his head.


Classic Kipper Dept.

So in last night's loss to the Sharks, Vezina Trophy holder Miikka Kiprusoff let in 2 goals on consecutive shots, 43 seconds apart. Call it overreacting (or whatever you please), but after his next routine save, a "smattering" of fans engaged in the time-honoured hockey tradition of sarcastically cheering the goalie's fine work. No keeper is immune to this (clearly): the Flames potted 2 quick ones against the Devils last season, and anyone else who watched on TSN can back me up that Marty Brodeur got the same treatment.

Naturally, this overreaction inspired the opposite, greater overreaction on the radio this morning, and by George Johnson in today's Calgary Herald: Fervent fans should cut Kipper some slack.

I'd advise you to ignore it, except that he pries this choice quote out of Kipper:
"They probably didn't like the way I played"

Ahhh... Kipper speaking the only dialect of English he knows -- deadpan.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Carnival of the Groin Updates's Ice Chips today, I think, represents a remarkable milestone in sports journalism (what an age we live in!). Let me sum it up for you:
...left before the end of practice yesterday, being cautious after groin-strain troubles... groin problem... slight groin pull... left the ice early Tuesday after feeling some discomfort in his groin... groin strain... an ailing groin had kept him out for the first 10 days of camp... has played in one exhibition game because his groin is bothering him... groin and hip issues kept him out of Sunday's game... missed Carolina's preseason games last weekend with a sore groin... (groin)... a "sore groin."...

Uh, Kipper still stretches for 90 minutes before every game, right?


The Toque

It's Andrei Taratukhin Day in the local papers, and the news is good.

Back around when he was signed on Russia Day, the Flames organization itself was touting The Toque as a guy with the capability of making the big team (apart from, you know, the little detail of the total lack of an available roster spot). But he struggled when camp opened, and the reviews from his first couple of appearances in the preseason were mighty tepid (see: Alexei Kegger-Road-Off).

Now, the shine is back on. Sun/Macfarlane:
Although he has a great feel for the game, he admits he was lost initially and had no idea how organized and specific the drills would be in an NHL camp.

"I didn't understand what to do on the ice in the drills. All the game drills," said Taratukhin.

"Now I understand more. I just watch the guys doing it and try to do the same thing. I'm getting better."

Taratukhin's performance Saturday at Edmonton -- his third appearance of the fall -- was by far his best. Still no points, but his rising confidence was evident.

"The potential is huge. Tremendous skills," said [Andrew] Ference. "Obviously, it's going to take a while to learn the North American game. But my first impression, from the last couple weeks, is that he's got the right kind of attitude."

Because you want to know: no word on any reporter or fan erections.


A "me" kinda guy

The funk from Darryl Sutter's Cohibas has yet to clear in the head coach's office at the Saddledome, but ESPN correspondent George Johnson already feels comfortable screwing in his sharpest nib and shivving Sutter in the back with some harsh adjectives:
After waiting so long to be put in charge of an NHL team, [Jim] Playfair is fully aware the skeptics think he'll merely be playing Charlie McCarthy to Sutter's Edgar Bergen this winter, that the general perception out there is of Sutter the omnipotent, Sutter the manipulative, Sutter the overbearing... Sutter took a fading franchise and pumped oxygen into its lungs. His blunt (some might say toxic) style in the dressing room had perhaps played itself out, though.
The closing paragraphs of Johnson's piece, however, have the astonishing effect of making me like Sutter—by casting Playfair in what, for my money, is the worst possible light.
Playfair recalls vividly the night the Sutter-coached Indianapolis Ice won the American Hockey League championship. Playfair was the captain of that team. "He was really tough on us, very, very demanding, but in the end it was worth it. We won," Playfair said. "I remember Darryl wouldn't come on the ice when the game was over and join in the celebrations. We all skated over to the bench and 'Come on! Come on!' But he wouldn't. He just kept shaking his head and saying 'This is your time. You deserve it. Enjoy it. As I said before, all about the players."
So years later, when Playfair coached the baby Flames to an AHL title, his mind drifted back to that night years before. How did he handle the identical situation?
"I went on the ice. I had my kids passed down out of the stands and I told them, 'This is for all the school plays I missed and all the times I wasn't there. Go on,'" he said. "And they were running around the ice, having a great time. And I joined them."
Welcome to the 21st century, where, thanks to Playfair and people like him, the celebration after a league championship is now considered a fucking play date. (And the stoic, gruff, self-abnegating attitude that has characterized winning sports coaches since the days of Amos Alonzo Stagg is now considered "toxic.") Weren't there other people you could have invited down out of the stands, Jim? How did your mother-in-law feel about the snub after all the free babysitting she did during your road trips? Your chiropractor works hard, shouldn't he have been invited down to the ice? And I'm sure he has kids of his own. And of course they all have cheap digital cameras. Hey, any way we can we move this trophy out of the way?

Prediction: Calgary isn't winning a goddamn thing with this guy in charge.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


'C' is for 'СПАРТАК'

Readers of my personal site will have already heard the earth-shaking news that Japan's Kokudo Bunnies, former team of Randy Gregg and Bill Moores, have suddenly matured into slightly-more-intimidating Rabbits. But I neglected to report even more shocking news in hockey branding that some may have missed. Spartak Moscow--an occasional transatlantic visitor in Cold War days, a five-time Spengler Cup champion, and traditionally the top Soviet team that didn't have the advantage of being run by the KGB or the Red Army--has been disbanded and will not participate in Russian pro play for 2006-07. For busy readers, here's the d'oh paragraph:

The Russian Hockey Federation was ready to exclude Spartak from the Superleague, but gave the club a postponement until July 1 to make a final decision. The day before the deadline expired, Vadim Melkov, the then head of Spartak Moscow, said the club settled the issue with the RHF and would play in the Superleague next season. He said financial guarantees would be presented next week. On July 9 Melkov was killed in a traffic accident.

Hopefully it wasn't one of those Russian "traffic accidents" wherein a driver is killed by crashing at high speed into several dozen airborne particles of lead.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Gord Mark for the defense, your honour

Every time I read a run-down of the Oilers depth chart on D (in this case, from Mirtle), my eyebrows go a little higher. I'm familiar with most of the rationalizations:
Etcetera - and note by rationalizations I do not mean lies; hey, these are the things I'd be clinging to too if I was an Oil fan. But from another couple of steps back, things are not looking too good. Most of the focus seems to be on which young guys are going to step in, but I'd say the big problem is the top pair. Jason Smith and Steve Staios are each a year older and will be counted on for more and tougher minutes. This is not something you want to take to the bank... and looking at how MAB managed last season outside of the (literal) shadow of Pronger, he's not exactly money yet either.

Perhaps Roloson will thrive with a high volume of shots; perhaps Captain Jason Smith will step up with consistent and dependable performances without a margin of error beside him or behind him; perhaps this will be the season when Staios stops temporarily forgetting how to play hockey every 4th game. Or, perhaps Kevin Lowe should have gotten an NHL defenseman or two in exchange for Pronger.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Gooood Morning Cal-ga-reeeee!!!

Such a lovely stroll down memory lane, isn't it? I thought it would help you all start off your day. I know it made me feel better.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Battle of Alberta 0.2

Pre-Season Record: 4-0Pre-Season Record: 2-1

The Oilers and the Small Gray Face reconvene at Pill Plaza in Edmonton tonight for the second half of an exhibition home-and-home tilt. Key subplot: the defence corps being dressed by Edmonton forms what might have been jocularly called a Survivor episode before that series turned into a televised race war. Smith, Staios, Bergeron, Matt Greene, Tjarnqvist, and Ladislav Smid will all sit and watch their teammates fight for a spot on the lifeboat. We will, however, get to watch Smytty and Joffrey Lupul play, apparently on a line centred by Toby Petersen, no less. And those who couldn't make it to Grande Prairie for public workouts get a chance to watch Sykora and Hemsky repeat the magic they reportedly displayed amidst in the frozen wastes of the Peace block.

For the Flames Brad Ference will get what some Calgarians think might be a last look. (I hear somebody finally tipped off Sutter that he and Andrew aren't actually a brother act. Dude went ballistic.) Andrei Taratukhin, who seems destined to play the False Dmitry to Alexei Mikhnov's anointed Tsar, is also at a crossroads down the middle. In the official Flames game preview he is quoted as saying, with a certain Balki Stereopolous insouciance, that "You can't lower your hat" in the highly physical, small-surface NHL game.

In pre-game media action we have a Calgary Sun piece that puts Rob Schremp under the microscope. (Schremp makes a joke at the end about Oiler fans pulling the letters "PRONGER" off their #44 custom jerseys and "throwing a 'SCHREMP' on there"; I wonder if he realizes just how often this has probably been done already.) Up north, Rob Tychkowski is interpreting recent praise for Patrick Thoresen as a signal that the mystery Swede enigmatic Norseman is all but a lock to make the team. The real big news is that Lowetide woke up early to break his self-imposed moratorium on weblogging about the Oilers defence.

PREDICTION: No Iginla, no Kiprusoff, no problem: Oilers 6, Flames 2. I may have a Rexall seat for this game and I'll be downright disappointed if Hemsky doesn't score a hat trick.

Friday, September 22, 2006


The science of hope

It's the question that haunts us all this time of year, but never more so than when your team is 4-0, looks overwhelming with every possible arrangement of players, and has just spanked its chief rival using a bunch of kids against veterans.

Do the standings in the preseason really mean anything?

If you're like me your operating assumption has always been that they don't—and that, in fact, a good preseason record might even be a bad omen. I strongly suspect this is true, for instance, in football, where smart coaches are hiding strategies and keeping star players out of danger for the exhibition games. I've never noticed any strong connection in baseball between the teams that clean up in the preseason and the ones that do well when the games count. (Kansas City always seems to devastate the rest of the Cactus League every spring.)

But hockey might be another story. After the Oilers won the Battle of Alberta preview last night, I decided to take a look at the '05-'06 preseason standings and see if they told us anything we should have been paying attention to. The top six teams league-wide in that preseason, with their records, were:

San Jose (7-0-0)
Ottawa (7-1-0)
Philadelphia (6-1-0)
Colorado (4-0-2)
Buffalo (6-2-0)
Carolina (5-2-1)

Hard to know what to make of that, but the list does contain five 99-point teams, including the eventual champion. The bottom six were:

NY Rangers (2-3-1)
Washington (2-4-2)
Tampa Bay (2-4-1)
Pittsburgh (2-5-2)
Columbus (3-6-0)
Phoenix (2-6-0)

Four awful teams, one that limped into the playoffs, and one that pulled Henrik Lundqvist out of its hindquarters. This was convincing enough to make me choose a broader statistical test for comparing preseason performance to regular-season performance.

What I found was pretty startling. Reaching into my meager quant toolbox, I pulled out Spearman's rank correlation test, which does what it says on the box--it tells you whether there is a strong correlation between paired sets of ordinal, or ranked, data. I don't know that this is the most appropriate instrument for the job, but it has the advantage of being a nonparametric test, which in English means that it doesn't depend on too many assumptions about the underlying data and is good for making thumbnail judgments of this sort. Moreover, a sample size of 30 is usually considered the ideal number for the Spearman test.

So I made a big table of preseason rankings and regular-season rankings for all the teams: Philadelphia, for instance, finished 3rd in the league in the preseason and 8.5th in the league during the regular season. 8.5th? Yeah, they tied with the Devils for 9th, so to fit them into a table of Spearman pairs you say both teams finished 8.5th. Just go with me on this.

The test ends up giving you a number, representing the correlation between the sets of pairs, symbolized by the Greek letter rho (ρ). The number can be anywhere from -1 to 1. If it's -0.5 or less, you've found a strong negative relationship between the two sets of rankings; bad in one column would be good in the other, and vice versa. If it's 0.5 or greater, you've found a strong positive relationship: one ranking can be used to predict the other.

The number for the '05-'06 preseason and regular season is, if my math is right, 0.56. Is that high? It's high enough that on its own this data could, according to the ordinary standards of social science, persuade you to reject the null hypothesis of no relationship between the two sets of standings (technical note: the critical value of ρ yielding 95% confidence for a two-tailed test with n=30 is much lower, 0.43). In other words it's a pretty persuasive demonstration that the preseason is not meaningless, and that success in exhibition games does predict success in the regular season.

So, Oiler fans: are you excited yet? If the lads actually go on to finish 7-1-0 or 6-0-2 or something like that through the end of September, you probably should be. (Better-trained math people are encouraged to check my work, extend it to other NHL preseasons, and engage in vicious personal attacks on my grooming and ancestry.)


On Notice

I'm actually convinced that Christie Prongley broke into my house for "family reasons," got caught, and fled to California. As such, he is on my "On Notice" list, as well as others I blame for this fiasco.

Thanx to Cosh and Matt for helping out, and to all who sent along the nice comments. I feel much better today. It's not the worst thing that could happen, I know (knock on wood), but it still left us rattled to our core. I'm working on a PC that could explode at any minute, so although I'll probably comment, I won't be posting much. Plus, much of my gold was on the stolen computer, and may be lost forever. Actually, maybe it was Matt and some Flames fans...Can I edit this thing?


Hang 'em high

How stupid and/or evil do you have to be to choose burglary as a trade in a land of zero unemployment and rapidly escalating wages? (Answer: very.)

Anyway, Andy will be busy and offline for the next while, TCB, and Colby Cosh has graciously offered to fill in as this site's North correspondent in the meantime. I wish both he and Andy well. As for me, the time demands of Real LifeTM/(Work Division) appear to be easing up a bit, and you can expect posting to ramp back up over the final two weeks of the pre-season. Go Flames.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Battle of Alberta 0.1

Pre-Season Record: 3-0Pre-Season Record: 2-0

Woo-hoooo!!! The lopsided rivalry continues! This will be the first of ten games between these two teams. Looks like only three of the Oilers regular forwards from last season are in the game, with Smytty, Hemsky, Lupul, Sykora, Tracktor Boy, Gator, and Gilbert sitting out. The Flames seem to be dressing all their regulars. Good to know. An absolute win-win situation for the Oilers. We lose, it doesn't matter. We win, and the Lames got beat by a bunch of kids.

For the Oilers, an interesting training camp has turned into an interesting pre-season. Personally, I don't know how the team can keep Winchester, Mikhnov and Schremp off the roster. And Gilbert and Thoreson continue to impress. What to do? I'd feel a lot easier about this situation if Schremp, Mikhnov and Thoreson could go down to a farm team together. But if they are sent down, they're likely to be split up, and receive ice time at another team's discretion. It's well known that I'm not one of those on the "we have to trade for a defenceman now!" bandwagon, but it does seem logical that if these guys continue to impress at camp, another forward is on the move. I mean, you look at this roster, and tell me how to make all the pieces fit.

(click image to enlarge)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Silver(ware) Anniversary


I've had a realization.

We are entering the 25th season for the current on-ice incarnation of the Battle of Alberta. Yes, the first season with the Flames in the Smythe Conference was 1981-82. In 80-81 they were in Calgary but stuck in the Patrick Division with the Islanders, Flyers, Rangers and Caps (while we had St Louis, Colorado and Winnipeg).

At the very least you need to work some sort of 25th anniversary logo into your side-bar/header.


p.s. The first game against Calgary that season was an 8-4 win at home on October 16, 1981. That was followed by an October 20th win in Calgary (5-4). The teams split the next pair of games, the Oil winning away (5-4, Dec. 17), and losing at home (5-7, Dec. 19). They also split their third pairing in January (7-2, Jan 9/82 at home; 1-5, Jan 10/82 at Calgary). The season ended with a 3-3 tie at home on March 19, 1982 and a 7-2 win in Calgary on March 25, 1982. Final results for the Oilers from that glorious first season: 5 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie, and 43 goals to 29 (an average of 9 goals per game).

Game log here.

And it stayed that way, happily ever after. THE END.


More Than Words

Remember Matt's heated defence of Jarmoe from last season? Remember how he pledged to talk about his value in July? No? Well, here's a reminder, from April 20, 2006:

Jarome Iginla had a good, not great, season, and now is the time when he will, or will not, earn his money. Am I saying that if the Flames go deep in the playoffs, he gets a pass on his non-Hart Trophy-contending regular season? Well YEAH!

Go forth, Jarome, and show everyone what you're made of. We can have this discussion in July.

Ahem. It is now September, and there has been zero discussion on Jerome Iginla, his salary, or his regular/playoff performance from last season. At least not on this blog. But recently, I think, Matt said everything he wanted to say about Jerome Iginla and his value. In fact, he shared his thoughts on the entire Calgary Flames roster, through his drafting in the "07 Hockey Blogger Invitational" fantasy draft.

The league is the brain-child of Mirtle, and has twenty teams in it. Almost every team is managed by a hockey blogger. A couple of weeks ago, we held our live draft. Let's take a look at how things went down.

(click image to enlarge)

Note that Matt passed on Iginla in Round 1, and Phaneuf in Round 2, before choosing Tanguay in Round 3. I, on the other hand, took the first Oiler, Ales Hemsky, in Round 3. My plan was to take Horcoff coming back around in Round 4, but Mike at Covered In Oil beat me to it. Also note that Mike picked He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the 1st Round, and Chris! from Covered in Oil took Phaneuf in Round 2.

(click image to enlarge)

In hindsight, I should have taken Smytty in Round 4. I thought I could hold off. Little did I know how popular Oilers players would be to non-Oilers bloggers. Apparently the guys at COI are closet Flames fans, though, as Pleasure Motors followed Chris'! lead by taking Daymond Langkow in Round 6. Don't let his autodraft defence fool you, by the way. You have the ability to exclude players on Yahoo!, but he didn't. Makes a man wonder, is all.

(click image to enlarge)

In these middle rounds, I went for Bouwmeester and Van Ryan, who should be Oilers right now. At this point, I've taken 3 Oilers, to Matt's 1 Flame. I've also lost out on Horc, Roli, Smytty and Staois, who I'm going to have to try and trade for now.

(click image to enlarge)

4 to 1. Oilers keep getting picked up by non-Oilers bloggers (I miss out on Sykora and Lupul), but the Flames have been abandoned by all.

(click image to enlarge)

Matt now decides to takes some Flames, in the 13th, 14th and 15th Rounds. I boldy take the Hockey Jesus in the 14th Round, once again proving that I am a genius. 5-4 for me.

(click image to enlarge)

Pleasure Motors takes ANOTHER Flame, this time opting for Tony Amonte, who apparently is still alive. I had no idea. I take Jussi, making it 6-4.

(click image to enlarge)

I take Pouliot in the last round, making it 7-4. I also picked up Traktor Boy after the game against the Jets this week, giving me 8 Oilers on my roster. Matt took one guy in Round 3, and then three more starting ten rounds later. I am eagerly looking to picking up more from the Oilers lovers throughout the fantasy league, because I believe in my team. As for Matt, who knows? I guess his drafting really does speak louder than his words.


Monday, September 18, 2006


Oilers Camp Videos

The first one is from Leduc, the last three are from Grande Prairie.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


So, Umm... I supposed to comment on pre-season games now? I'm not going to lie, I totally forgot about the game against the Jets Coyotes tonight. It looks like we won 5-0, and Traktor boy potted 3 points. That's all I got. Sorry. I'm actually busy as hell right now, so I might not be on track with this until later in the week. It's strange. I actually feel weirder about covering pre-season games than I do about spending last Sunday morning in a Leduc rink I haven't been in since I was 12 (I scored a highlight reel goal that day, by the way, capping off an amazing pre-pubescent hockey career. I moved onto D&D and dry-humping shortly thereafter). Go check out CoI for full coverage on tonight's game.

***Update*** Did anyone else see who The Score had covering the Oilers in Grande Prairie? I shouldn't mention her name, because apparently I might get a cease and desist order from her lawyer (I'd link, you know, but that would probably be deemed "irresponsible", sourcing be damned). But I just about spit up my left nut. She did a piece on Joffrey Lupul, and I had the shakes the entire time. I know. I know. It's not true. But it makes you wonder if The Score is intentionally trying to mind-fuck a million Oilers fans.


Poll Question: Colby Cosh. Dead Or Dead Drunk?

They lost to the Tiger-Cats? Wow. That's like losing to the Washington Generals. Wow. Wow. Wow. Even I'm flabbergasted, and I couldn't care less about the CFL.

Friday, September 15, 2006



If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this little blog has been very flattered in its year of existence. First came the Battle of Ontario:
A friendly face-wash to our inspiration, Battle of Alberta, where sacamano and Matt are representin' North and South, respectively.

Then the Battle of California:
Now taking applications for the BoC editions of Matt (South: Anaheim) and Sacamano (North: San Jose).

That's right boys, you're being (potentially) replaced.

And now, we have: the Battle of Alberta?

Apparently someone noticed that we are exploiting the commercial potential of our little niche here approximately 0% effectively, and has decided to see if they can do better. (I first noticed the site go live the day after both Calgary and Edmonton won G5 in the 1st round to take 3-2 leads). What do I think of this, you ask?

Well, I do find it kind of weird that someone would want to start a blog with the exact same name as an existing one with a decent number of readers. But past that, I offer the same prediction as I do with every new blog: it will either (A) be interesting to read and be successful, or (B) be boring to read and be unsuccessful. There are really no other relevant factors. Time, and nothing else, will tell.

And speaking of branding confusion, I would like to recommend to all of you the book at the right: The Battle of Alberta, by Steven Sandor ( I got it for Christmas last year, and enjoyed it tremendously. The second half is Oilers/Flames and is terrific, as you would expect. The first half chronicles pro and semi-pro hockey in Alberta up until that point, beginning in 1895 on the North Saskatchewan River (apparently ice conditions were nearly as bad as your average Florida Panthers home game).

It's a nice, brisk lesson for hockey fans -- especially those of us in these parts, where treatments of pro hockey history generally stretch back as far as 1972, if that. Enjoy.



Looks like TSN might have been under some deadline pressure to put up their NHL Preview for the start of training camp, as the evidence from the Flames preview is that the copy-editing step was skipped. From a first glance through:
The writer also, as far as I can tell, makes a bunch of shit up in the Forwards section:
GM Darryl Sutter needed an established No. 1 centre in the offseason, and got right to work at the NHL Draft by acquiring Alex Tanguay. He spent most of his time in Colorado playing on the wing and should compliment new linemate Jarome Iginla well. Having Tanguay in the lineup also moves Daymond Langkow to the second unit, and he should gel well with Kristian Huselius and Tony Amonte.

I'm 99% sure that none of these things have been discussed in public anywhere except on talk radio and Calgarypuck.
Also, Edmontonians might find this unsettling: according to the Oilers preview, "Matt Greene... will be counted on to provide offence from the point." Unless I missed something, this is the same Matt Greene who scored 3 goals in 120 NCAA games. So, good luck with that.


Festivus Pt. 3 - Final

Let me start off here on a bit of a tangent about the Alberta economy. As you probably know, it's pretty strong -- you can't go a week without seeing a story or report about it:
Alberta’s surging economy over the last four years has been unprecedented in this country’s economic history. Fuelled by investment from soaring energy exports, this China-like growth has lifted average incomes in Alberta to nearly twice the national average. [...]
...Alberta boasts the strongest labour market in North America and the highest wages in Canada.

The singular of data is anecdote, right? I live in Lethbridge, about a 2-hour drive south of Calgary. While the economy here is probably more diversified, we are unquestionably poorer (everything's relative) than Calgary.

Nonetheless, the indicators here too are everywhere. Seemingly every third retail establishment has a sign on the door saying something like, "We may close early at times, without warning, due to staff shortages. Thanks for your understanding."

It's even a good time to be a high school dropout (again, everything's relative) thanks to wage competition for unskilled labour. Gas King, the local Big Dog in the retail gasoline market, changed on Wednesday from a city-wide split of 90% Full Serve/10% Self to maybe 20%/80%, no doubt because they cannot afford to pay a full team of pump jockeys and still charge the same price as self-serve stations.

It hit home personally for me this week too. We have a 3rd Junior Flames Fan on the way at the end of November, and since we have one vehicle that is probably too small for our expanded family and a second that resembles Archie's jalopy, Mrs. Matt and I decided it was time to enter The Minivan Era.

We figured this might be a challenge to finance, though. We wanted to lease it through my company, but the company is less than two years old and has no credit history to speak of. To co-sign, my own personal credit history is fine, but my official income is unimpressive. (Business lesson if you need it: if you collect a similar sum as a proprietor as you did as a wage slave, there is "income splitting" with your spouse/co-owner/business manager, and the business covers some expenses pre-tax that you used to have to pay after-tax. Result: your family can maintain the same standard of living, but your reported income is less than half of what it used to be; in my case, comparable to the aforementioned pump jockeys.)

So anyway, we found what we wanted and went to the car dealer with some dread, basically to find out what kind of hoops we would have to jump through (or if it was even possible) to finance a vehicle lease with (A) no corporate credit and (B) a co-signer with no apparent disposable income. And the verdict was... approved on the spot at 2%.

I don't know if this was because I have a good credit history, or because my company has the word Engineering in the title, or simply because I have a business in (or hell, work in) the province of Alberta. But clearly, there is enough money flying around this end of the country that they assessed me as a good risk one way or another.

All of this is by way of making an important point:
The Calgary Flames are a large-market hockey team.

Period. No qualifiers. There's a ton of money here. People are jumping over each other to get Flames tickets. Resales at places like StubHub -- and the LRT platform -- are marked up 100, 200, 300%. Merchandising is huge; in the words of the Flames prez, talking to season ticket holders,
"We like the new jersey, we think you do too because almost every one of you bought one," said King.

Indeed. The Flames are much more Toronto Maple Leafs than they are Winnipeg Jets. But why am I even bringing this whole thing up? Because first of all, I find it annoying when the media lumps Calgary in with places like Florida and Buffalo; I find it infuriating when a Flames employee implies the same:
Seat holders also raised questions about the NHL salary cap being as high as $44 million in 2006-07. Specifically, there are concerns that a higher cap would drive ticket prices and whether the Flames, considered a small market team, would be able to survive with a rising cap.

What garbage. To Ken King's credit, he speaks somewhat proudly of being in the Top 10 payrolls, but at the same time he's quite happy to let others run with the idea that this is a Scrappy Small Market Makes Good type of thing.

The other reason I bring this up is because the Flames have begun the process of building a new arena (or massively renovating the 'Dome). Hey, good for them. They are paying for a seven-figure study of their options. Doubly good for them.

Soon enough, though, because Calgary Loves The Flames, Calgary taxpayers will be asked to kick in for this project. Despite the facts that
  1. Hundreds of thousands of Southern Albertans voluntarily give money to the Flames, in exchange for tickets, gear, PPV, etc.
  2. The Flames want the new building to increase revenue -- that is, even more people are eager to part with even more of their money towards the Flames
...the organization, along with portions of the media and the city council, will explain to us that it is somehow fair to force the minority segment of Calgarians who don't care about pro hockey to contribute to the Flames' new building via their taxes.

And I say, No. My bona fides as a Flames fan are solid, so I'm comfortable calling the bluff in advance: if the Flames owners want to move the team somewhere else where the public teat is juicier, go ahead. Calgary would immediately become the #1 candidate (by a mile) for expansion or relocation, and I'll be first in line to support -- voluntarily -- that effort.

Miscellaneous other grievances:

That's it. I'm done airing my grievances, and Hockey Festivus is over. Full training camp for the Flames started this morning, and I am psyched. Prepare for relentless optimism.


Thursday, September 14, 2006


I'm Bringing Sexy Back

I had lunch with Rob Schremp this afternoon. Well, not really. But we did eat in the same restaurant. A friend and I stopped in for lunch at Badass Jacks on 109 street. As I sat down to eat my (disgusting) Souvlaki wrap, I noticed that the guy across from me looked familar. Sure enough, tucked beneath that hat was none other than the Hockey Jesus. He left moments later, probably in no small part to my friend, who kept turning around trying to figure out who I was talking about. But he was ten feet away from me at the most. That's two hockey players I've been within ten feet of in two days, and I've yet to say a word to either.

In addition to the Schremp/Stanley shootout video I posted this afternoon, here's a splendid photo taken by Avi. I've highlighted the puck, which you can see floating about ten feet in the air. Crazy stuff. The goalie has already reacted, which is hilarious. The puck hasn't even moved forward yet. He obviously had no idea where the hell it was. His pose is the same one Bill Ranford burned onto my retinas in the early 90s.

I also want to note that 367 days ago, on September 12, 2005, The Battle of Alberta was born. Happy birthday, BoA!!! Fittingly, Matt started it off with a post about the Oilers. He loves them so. Today also marks the birthday of SportMatters, and I've thrown up a little post there to celebrate our 1st birthday. Happy birthday, SM!!!

Last, but absolutely not least, here is a slideshow of the Oilers rookie camp and game against the Bears. Credit to Avi and Cosh for the pictures. This one is dedicated to the girls at Hot Oil, and all the female Oilers fans throughout the Oilogosphere. Keep on "Squeee-ing" in the free world, ladies!


Ma(I)zed & Confused

I really don't know what to say about this. I didn't even know such a thinge existed. Totally stumped. Hat tip to Avi for the link.


Woo Hooo!!!

Here's the YouTube video of the shootout goals I mentioned in my Bears/Oilers rookie review the other night. Thanks to Julian for finding it for me. While the focus of Rishaug's piece is Schremp's lacrosse move gone wild--which missed the net--the real highlight is the goal by Dylan Stanley. They show it right before they show Schremp's missed attempt. Trust me, the buzz you hear after Schremp misses is nothing compared to the buzz after Stanley actually scored his. I'm telling you, the crowd went crazy. I felt like I was in an And 1 Streetball video. All it needed was a Chapellian "Oh Shit!!!" to be complete.

Note how Lupul verifies that he was right beside me when the goal occurred. He was even wearing that hat. And keep an eye out for the second attempt that Schremp actually scores on. It's near the end of the clip, and is pretty fan-dan-tastic on its own. So is Schremp doing his Tiger Woods impression at the end.

If anyone sees a YouTube video of the Stanley goal, holla at your boy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Riddle Me This

The Oilers rookies beat the Golden Bears 6-3 at Clare Drake arena this evening, which means I owe Pleasure Motors a haiku. But before I get to that, I'd like to provide some background information on these games, most of which I learned from a poorly written write-up by Bob Stauffer.

• Prior to tonight, the University of Alberta Golden Bears, the two-time defending CIS National Champions, had won the five previous games against the Oilers rookies.

• Over those five games, the Bears had outscored the Oilers rookies 26-8.

• Prior to tonight, the Bears lead the all-time series 10-8.

• This year, the Bears had to replace 10 of the 18 skaters that they dressed in the CIS Finals last year.

Had I known this last bit, I probably wouldn't have made the bet with Pleasure Motors. The reason the Bears have dominated this series recently is that they play together all the time. Well, and they have had some awesome fucking teams over the past six or seven years. The Oilers rookies, however, are thrown together two days before the game and expected to perform. The Bears players didn't even have their names on their jerseys yet, and they looked like a rookie roster themselves. Hindsight is 20-20 I guess, although in fairness to the Bears the loss really wasn't their fault. Which leads me to the game summary, brought to you by my girlfriend and Avi, who both attended the game with me, and helped me hash out these thoughts.

• Clare Drake arena was absolutely packed. I've never seen it that full. We actually had to stand for the entire game, at ice level, behind the home team net. Bob Stauffer, who has obviously never heard of a comma, is reporting that the total attendance for the game was 3009. I believe it, and am convinced they oversold the game. It's amazing what a Stanley Cup run and a couple of hot rookies will do for crowds, but I hope in the future they either sell fewer tickets, or play it at Rexall.

• The enthusiasm didn't end with the attendance, either. The crowd was decidedly pro-Oilers, despite the fact that both teams play in Edmonton. Again, I've never seen it that partisan, and I'm sure it has to do with the Stanley Cup run and two rookies named Schremp and Mikhnov.

• This was the most poorly officiated game I have ever, and I mean ever, seen. Take your least favorite referee, and multiply his shittiness by ten thousand. That was how atrocious referee John Potter was this evening. If this had been a meaningful game, there would have surely been a Jim Schoenfeld/Don Koharski moment afterwards. The crowd booed him for most of the 3rd period--regardless of which team was penalized and the fact that it was an exhibition game--and we actually caught a linesman mouthing the words "I'm sorry" to Bears goalie Blake Grenier in the 3rd, after one of Potter's chincy calls lead to an Oilers goal.

In case you don't believe me, check out the box score from the game: Twenty-nine total penalties called. Twelve against the Oilers, seventeen against the Bears. Nine consecutive penalties for the Bears between the end of the 2nd period and the middle of the 3rd. At 6:07 of the 3rd, three consecutive penalties are called against one team (the Bears), at the EXACT same time (another first for me). Around this time, the Bears have FIVE men in the penalty box. They actually can't see the ice, because the condensation from five panting hockey players has fogged up the glass. And the girl opening the penalty box door has to stand on a bench behind all the players, who are openly laughing at how ridiculous the game has become.

Needless to say, Mr. Potter ruined the game. The calls were 90% bullshit, and they killed any hope of watching, or playing in, a fast, exciting FUCKING EXHIBITION GAME, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE. I hope he's forced to eat donuts in hell, for all eternity.

• The Bears were 3-11 on the powerplay, while the Oilers were 2-16. I'm positively shocked to see that both Oilers powerplay goals were scored on the 5-on-3, because their 5-on-3 play looked abysmal. I was even ready to drop a joke about how well Craig Simpson had taught them to shit the bed on a two-man advantage in such a limited time. I can't use the joke now, but I'm not fooled. The Oilers powerplay sucks ass, even at the rookie level.

• Theo Peckham continued to impress me tonight, because I never once noticed him. Looking at the box score, I see that he was +4 for the game. My dad, himself a defenceman, used to tell me that the best defenders were the guys whose name you never heard during a game. The silence meant that they were doing their jobs. Theo, keep it up with the disappearing.

• Strangely, at least to me, Devan Dubnyk played the whole game for the Oilers.

• During the 2nd intermission, there was a shootout contest between Robbie Schremp, Bob Stauffer, and Bears forward Dylan Stanley. Stauffer missed both shots, to the delight of his media colleagues standing nearby. Schremp missed on his first attempt, which involved picking the puck up on his stick, wildly cradling it around like he was a lacrosse player, and throwing it at the net. His second attempt was successful; he pulled the goalie across to one side of the net, then tucked it back and between his legs, and took the shot--with his stick between his legs--for the score. Stanley scored on both his attempts. The first one was a nifty little deke and shelf shot that knocked the goalie's water bottle in the air. The second one was perhaps the most dazzling move I've ever seen. I'm not even sure if I can describe it properly, it was so disgustingly beautiful. He came in wide, pulled the goalie to one side of the net, let the puck slide back, reached back, picked it up on his stick, cradled it, brought his stick and blade back around the front of his body, curled it around himself back to where he originally picked it up, and threw it into the net. I think that was what happened, anyway. I was maybe eight feet away, but it was like being blinded by the sun. The crowd went ape-shit, and Schremp was killing himself laughing. I really wish someone had that one on videotape.

Stanley is one of the few returning members of the Bears championship squad. He is an Edmonton boy, and scored 90 points for the Tri-City Americans in 2002. He is only 22, and appears to be undrafted. Stanley will be on this year's edition of "Making the Cut," along with two other Bears players. If I was Kevin Lowe, I'd invite him to camp for that move he made alone. I will be interested to see how this year goes for him.

• Joffrey Lupul, who today signed a 3-year, $6.935 million dollar deal with the Oilers, stood behind us for most of the game. He had a hat on, and tried to hide during the 1st period. By the end of the 1st intermission, though, the secret was out, and lots of people came and asked for autographs. He politely signed them all, even when a bunch of his buddies showed up and he was probably more inclined to just hang out and goof around with them. I was happy he was there, if for no other reason than that he was drawing hot puck bunnies in like a moth to a flame.

• While fans were asking Lupul for his autograph, a real, flesh-and-blood icon quietly walked right by. Clare Drake, the most successful coach in the history of Canadian varsity hockey, was in the building tonight. He walked right past the crowd, and no one other than us even looked twice. He appeared old and fragile, and it broke my heart. If ever a man deserved to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, it is Clare Drake. His success speaks for itself.

• Robbie Schremp, Alexei Mikhnov and Patrick Thoreson again made up a line tonight. Schremp was at centre, Mikhnov was on the left wing, and Thoreson was on the right. The few Oilers fans that still have their Chris Pronger jerseys should avoid burning them. Schremp is now wearing #44.

• The title of this post, as well as the image above, was inspired by Alexei Mikhnov. In my post on the Oilers rookie camp, I noted that Mikhnov looked like he was dogging it. Well, he was up to his old tricks tonight, looking completely disinterested for large chunks of the game. I have no idea if his face and body movements betray how hard he is working, if he is still lost or lonely in North America, if he is bored of playing with kids five or six years his junior, or if he is the new poster boy for "stereotypical European hockey player," but I wasn't very impressed with him tonight. Essentially, he is the living embodiment of a matryoshka doll: an enigma within a mystery within a riddle within a question mark within a conundrum. He makes my head hurt.

I must give credit for the Lazy Eight image to Avi, by the way. It was his idea; I just added a few touches of my own to give it some pizzazz.

Avi took two rolls of pictures tonight. Once they are developed, and if they are any good, I'll post them on the site. Until then, or until I post on something else, the haiku I owe Pleasure Motors:

Covered in pleasure
The rookies oil Dave's berries
And make him c(h)ock(e)y.

He drafted two Flames
Amonte and slug Langkow
So he should not brag.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Surprised that the Flyers made an offer to Kesler?

Not if you read The Battle of Alberta, you weren't!

The linked thread has a bunch of good comments about signing RFAs, including several that address (A) putting the squeeze on teams in cap trouble, and (B) targetting <$2M/yr players. And gee, guess which young NHLer was held out as a prime target in both senses.

Matt Fenwick
Candyland Island, AB (*)

INSTANT UPDATE: I gotta give props to Bobby Clarke. I think he got a great deal on Gagne. And Ryan Kesler turned 22 less than two weeks ago; if he becomes a Top 6 forward by the end of this year, then even if Clarke "overpaid" for the upcoming season's performance, he'll easily recover that investment over the subsequent 3/4/5 years.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Festivus Pt.2

"This is a veteran team. The roster is full." - part-time Flames analyst Perry Berezan, speaking on the FAN 960, Thursday morning

Indeed. The talk from Darryl Sutter since the day after Edmonton lost the Cup has been that he expects a couple of young players to make the team. But the composition of the roster, as well as Sutter's own moves, makes me wonder if he actually believes this.

Here's the rough depth chart at forward going into training camp:
Tanguay - Langkow - Iginla
Huselius - Lombardi - Kobasew
Amonte - Yelle - McCarty
Friesen - Nilson - Lundmark

There's 13 guys with at least a year of NHL experience. Eleven make at least $800k (except Lundmark and Richie), and are mortal locks to be on the Opening Night roster. The possibility of either Lundmark or Richie starting the year in the minors is slight at best (recall that though there were lineup changes in the Anaheim series, Richie played in all 7 games).

So say you're David Moss, Andrei Taratukhin, Dustin Boyd, Eric Nystrom, Eric Godard, Carson Germyn, Brandon Prust, Tomi Maki, or Aki Seitsonen. What do think of Sutter's pronouncement that he wants a couple of young players to make the team?

It seems strange to complain about "too much depth", and that's not really what I'm trying to do. Indeed, there will be injuries in camp and the pre-season. Plus, rosters don't freeze for the season on Opening Night; a player like (say) McCarty that is assured of a spot on October 5th may play his way into the pressbox and/or onto the trading block.

But I just dislike the message to the rookies: the words say "there is room for you if you perform", but the evidence says "maybe in November -- or next fall".

Frankly, my entire objection on this count goes back to the Friesen signing. I don't like it now anymore than I did on July 8th, or July 13th. Obviously, it fills a roster spot that would otherwise been available to the best of the nine rookies listed above. But more troubling to me what I suppose you would call the Implied Rationale:

In early July, Sutter looked at what he thought Friesen could contribute, looked at what he thought his best rookie could contribute, and decided that the right move was Friesen -- at a premium of $500k-$1M. Check Friesen's numbers again in the July 13th post. They're terrible!

Clearly Sutter and I have a difference of opinion on what Jeff Friesen can bring to the team. Fine -- but what I'm much more concerned about is the youths. Does Sutter really think that his best rookie (again, that's the top performing Fwd of at least 9 guys) cannot match, or exceed, the contributions of Jeff Friesen? Or boiled down further: does Sutter think that poorly of his rookies, or is this simply the latest example of his (disproportionate) comfort with the familiar?

Here's hoping it's the latter. And just to clarify, I don't hate Jeff Friesen, or think he's useless. And at the moment, I actually feel bad for him. He's being put in the same position as 37 was last year in Edmonton: the fans are being told, or being allowed to think, that he is going to provide contributions that he cannot and will not provide.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Excuse Me, Do You Sell #8 Jerseys Yet?

Cosh, Avi and I ventured out to Leduc this morning, in order to check out Day 1 of the Oilers rookie camp. None of us had ever attended the camp before, and we all had a great time. There were probably about 300-500 people at the rink, including media and the requisite slew of Oilers staff. Sparky was outside having a smoke when we arrived, which I have to admit made me like him even more. Rod Phillips was mingling with people, and Gene Principe and Ryan Rishaug were setting up for segments. We sat about three rows in front of Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Charlie Huddy, Craig Simpson, Kevin Prendegast, Scott Howson, Frank Musil, and people I am assuming were other scouts. Billy Moores ran the practice, with assistance from Pete Peters, Kelly Buchberger, and a guy who had to be Steve Serdachny, the Skating and Skills coach. Dave Semenko was nowhere to be seen, which I was actually thankful for. He's usually at the Bears/Rookies game, and he scares me. As Cosh noted, he still has the crazy in his eyes, even after all these years.

I'm going to check out the practice again tomorrow, and I will also be attending the Bears/Rookie game on Tuesday, but here are some initial thoughts and impressions:

• No Smid, Pouliot, or Cogliano.

• The four largest players on the ice were Devan Dubnyk, Troy Brodie, David Schulz, and Alexei Mikhnov. Tom Gilbert is listed as being 6'3" and 210 pounds, but I didn't see it. Schulz, Dubnyk and Mikhnov looked positively gigantic. Buchberger took Mikhnov's stick at one point, and put it beside him. It was as tall as Bucky.

• Let's just get this out of the way: I have a HUGE man-crush on Traktor boy. I couldn't stop staring at him. I love him. Sure, he's four or five years older than everyone else at camp, but he just owned the place. His buried his first shot, over TOP of Devan Dubnyk. On a corner keep-away drill, he was positively Thornton-esque. The defender couldn't get the puck away from him. He just shouldered his way to the net, like he was Magic Johnson posting up on Spudd Webb. When he faced Schulz on the same drill, he just undressed him with a move through the legs, and put the puck on net. His speed wasn't noticeable, but he wasn't losing any races to the smaller, faster players, either. Plus, he looked to be dogging it a bit. In fact, all the high-ranked prospects did. The hardest working guys were all guys I've never even heard of. I haven't seen Mikhnov play against other rookies, and obviously playing against pros is a whole new ballgame, but sign me up as a believer. I talked about him so much, I made Cosh uncomfortable.

• Drills that involved passing were sketchy. I don't know if it was the ice, but these kids couldn't make consistently crisp passes to save their lives.

• On the defensive end, I was most impressed with David Schulz and Theo Peckham. Both handled themselves well, athough Peckham was huffing and puffing after every drill. I barely even noticed Tom Gilbert.

• I didn't notice Slava Trukhno either. I'll have to watch him tomorrow.

• There was one white team, one blue team, and three guys in red sweaters. I have no idea why. Tyler Spurgeon was one of them. There has to be a reason, though. The sweater colours always mean something. Lowetide?

• Patrick Thoresen also looked good. He scored the goal that got the loudest "oooh" from the crowd. During one drill, he, Mikhnov and Robbie Schremp made up a line. I had an erection for all of it.

• Defenceman Sebastien Bisaillon had on Craig Ludwig's shinpads. Unfortunately, he also skated like my mother. He'll never make it in the NHL skating like that. People were actually laughing at his clumsiness. I don't know how he's made it this far skating that poorly. Liam Reddox, in contrast, looked like Katarina Witt out there. His grace had me tearing up.

• Schremp looked like he always does: impatient, petulant, and greedy. He can lose the petulance, but I'll take the rest.

• There was no scrimmage, which was unfortunate. Hopefully, they'll be one tomorrow. If not, I guess I can watch them get murdered by the Bears on Tuesday. I'm eager to see how Mikhnov handles the physical contact, and how Schulz doles it out.

I think that is about it. Here is a list of the rookie camp roster. There are pictures, and audio clips, on the Oilers main page. And Cosh has pictures up on his Flickr site. He'll be adding more as the day goes by. I don't know if he or Avi are going to post their thoughts in the commenst here, or on SportsMatters and Make sure to check them both out, just in case.

***Monday Update*** I chose to play Madden 07 late into the night last night, rather than get up and go to camp today. I'm kind of kicking myself for it now, but I was having way too much fun with Reggie Bush last night to stop. I will be at the game tomorrow, though, come hell or high water, and will report on that.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006



Flames rookie camp opens tomorrow! Full camp opens next Thursday! First preseason game is September 17th!

Generally speaking, I'm incredibly psyched about the Flames' chances this season, but I can get to that later in month. For now, I thought it might be interesting to get all the negativity out of my system. I hate promising anything in the way of future posts, but for the next few days, I'd like to go over the criticisms I have of what the team has done, and is doing. It's not to say that things won't change, and in some cases I might be misreading (or misinformed about) the intentions of the organization, but for now it all falls into the category of Stuff I Don't Like. Call it -- The Airing of Grievances.

Backup Goaltender

I'm not happy with Jamie "Noodles" McLennan as the presumptive #2 goalie (career NHL stats: 245GP, 77-104-35, 0.901Sv%). He is, by all accounts, an excellent guy and a great teammate -- good guy to have around the dressing room. But there are other things to consider here, principally the ability to stop a lot of pucks that bear Gary Bettman's signature. McLennan's career-high save percentage is 0.910, achieved playing for the Flames in the low-scoring 03/04 season. And did I mention he's 35?

I can't find, nor do I recall, any specific comments made by Darryl Sutter on the expected role of Jamie McLennan. It would thrill me to find out that he was signed as an insurance policy. That is, the team hopes that Brent Krahn or Curtis McElhinney earns the #2 job, starts one-quarter of the regular season games, and continues to improve throughout, and if Oh Crap That Doesn't Work Out, at least they have a veteran who is better that what's available on the waiver wire.

If that is in fact the case, then I take back this whole rant. My worry is that the present plan is to send Krahn and Mc-E back to Nebraska and start Noodles in 13 games. And if Kipper gets sick or injured? "We'll expect these guys to step up" and/or "we'll cross that bridge if we come to it."

A little common sense and a quick peek at the '08 expiring contracts shows us that it's probably worse than 50/50 that come Summer 2008, Miikka Kiprusoff will be all of (A) healthy, (B) elite, and (C) affordable. It would be nice if Option B at that point was better that Leland Irving off of his first pro year, or a 43-year-old sun-ravaged mummy-husk.

I have no doubt that the organization is much less indifferent about the #2 spot that are the radio jocks. But by how much, and what are they going to do about it? I do not know.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Oh Yeah!

Alexei Mikhnov has signed a one-year contract. So too has Mathieu Roy. I see no dollar amount as of yet.

MATT-UPDATE: Obviously it's Russia Day in the NHL -- the Flames have signed Andrei Taratukhin (40GP, 9-15-24 last year with Yaroslavl) to a two-year entry-level deal.

Alas, unlike Mr. Mikhnov, he does not come complete with YouTube highlight vid.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Battle of Alberta: CFL Division

Hey Hey Hey. Today is the Big Labour Day Tilt between the Stamps and the Eskimos, and since Grabia distains the CFL I thought I better come out of my semi-retirement.

As seems to have been the general pattern while I was away for the summer, the Eskimos have fallen apart at the seams and are on the verge of missing playoffs for the first time in 35 years. A feat all the more incredible considering that they are the defending Grey Cup champions, and that only one team in the West is eliminated after the regular season. Sigh.

The Stamps have won three in a row, the Eskimos have lost four of their last five. Sounds like a game ripe for an upset -- especially with Stampeders Nik Lewis shooting off his mouth:
"I mean , seriously, should any game be close with us? We have, by far, the best team in the CFL on paper."

Gawd, even Ned Flanders gets in on the act:
"No ifs ands or butts, we feel we're a very good football team and, in order for somebody to beat us, we have to beat ourselves."

Plus, haven't the Eskies won 6 of the last 7 Labour Day Classics?

Prediction: Horse for dinner

As an added bonus, Old Man Sacamano (a born 'n' bred Calgarian and fanatical Stampeders fan) is taking me to the game this afternoon. Sadly, the weather prediction is 31 degrees, and the only tickets remaining were on the sunny side of the stadium -- in the family fun zone (read: no beer allowed). Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to watching Ricky rip the Stamp's secondary apart and seeing how quickly it takes Calgary's Burris to get yanked. You can't seriously tell me that over the summer that joker became a legitimate QB.

As usual, CanadianRules has better commentary. They actually, you know, follow the CFL 'n' stuff.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Keenan Quits

What a bizarre summer. Pronger. Malkin. Snow. And now Mike Keenan resigns. It's more likely, given Keenan's history, that he was canned. Abboud delivers the Marv Albert of the day (YES!) over at SportsMatters:
"Rumors that Ed Belfour will retire and assume the role of GM are, at this time, unconfirmed."

Of course, my mind went immediately to the idea of getting Bouwmeester while the organization is in turmoil. It's unlikely, as Jacques Martin is taking over for Keenan, but I still thought it. Some dreams never die.

Friday, September 01, 2006



I was supposed to have a live draft for a football league at 7:30 MDT tonight. On Yahoo. At about 6:30, you couldn't access the Yahoo Sports page or the Yahoo Fantasy page. At about 6:45, you could get the Sports page, but not the Fantasy page. By 7, you could get into your league page, but the draft room wasn't there. It is now 8:23, and the draft room is still not up. Yahoo doesn't even seem to be doing an autodraft based on pre-rankings. There have been no messages sent to me as Commissioner, and no messages are on the Team Page either, letting us know the status of our draft. I have sent Yahoo an email, and there has been no response.

Twelve guys just wasted a few hours of their Friday night. They probably put in several hours in prep work before that, too. We probably won't here anything back from Yahoo until Tuesday, at the earliest. So now I have to email everyone over again, and try and set up a new draft with a new site. A site that works.

The moral of the story? Don't use Yahoo. Spread the word.


No Charlestown Chiefs?

The Oilers announced their Minor League affiliates today. Jesus H. Christ. Six teams, with our players losing out to players from the Stars, Canadiens, Predators, Wings, and Penguins. Super. Would it have killed them to hold on to the Roadrunners for a couple more seasons?

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