Sunday, December 31, 2006


Battle Game Day

Holiday hockey is almost over, as is holiday hockeyblogging. I hope everyone's time has been spent enjoyably over the past week.

Tonight the Flames play the Oilers on RSN West at 6PM MT. Last year's NYEve game was a barnburner, but with some shitty officiating and at least a couple of comically lucky goals. This year, neither team is exactly on a heater coming in. I admit it, even though I think the Oilers are the more dangerous team in the long run, I was hoping they'd beat the Canucks last night and maybe soften up a bit tonight.

Fortunately, the Oilers D doesn't need self-satisfaction to make them soft. I'll say that last night was not rock bottom; that'll come tonight or in January.

Calgary wins 4-1 (Hamrlik, Huselius, Hislop, & Tim Hunter; Hemsky). H-H-Happy New Year everyone, and Go Flames.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Oilers Game Day-Canucks

Quick post here. Jussi is in tonight, which is fine by me. A year ago, if you had told me he was drawing in, I'd be counting on one bad goal and an Oilers loss. Now, I'm oddly comforted. The boys will be, too, and get the win. I'm so confident of a good game I'm even going to watch this one.

Here's my question for today: where is Kevin Lowe? When was the last time anyone saw him on the television, or quoted in one of our fine local newspapers? I ask this knowing that I haven't read a newspaper in about five days, and he could be all over them. But I doubt it. How is it that the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, with its current record, current performance, and current woes in particular areas--thrown in with the insanely high expectations of its fanbase--has been completely incognito for this long? Is he not granting interviews? Is no one requesting them? What, exactly, is the dilly?

Prediction: 4-3, Oilers. San Pisani, Stoll, Smytty and MAB. Donald Brashear will bully Jaromir Jagr, leading to Brendan Shanahan calling him out on the bench. The two will fight, and then Brashear will sucker punch Aaron Ward in the head on his way to the penalty box. Since Brashear isn't Alexander Ovechkin, he'll get a 2-5 game suspension, and we will all have to hear about "the code" for the next six days.

Cassie Campbell and Craig Simpson! Please ask him about the PP. PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

No go. Damn. There goes my treat for the night.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Flames Game Night

The Flames are back at home tonight, hosting the Canucks (7PM MT, RSN West), and I will be there. My brother-in-law and I have tickets, and in the Avison Young Club no less.

If any of you all are going to be there as well, please pop by and say hello. Our plan is to be in the Bar Whose Name Eludes Me At The Moment (underneath the Fan Attic by the west overpass) by about 6PM, as well as in the intermissions and at the end, no doubt. I'm pictured here and will be wearing the same thing; the BinL has one arm in a sling and is wearing a "retro" Iginla home jersey, retro being c. 2002 (i.e. it's white).

The pick is a 4-0 Calgary victory. Go Flames.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Christmas Treats

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Flames Game Night

The Flames finish their shortened roadtrip tonight in San Jose (8PM MT, HNIC). If you throw out the preseason, the Flames are on as good a run in the Shark Tank as they are in any building besides the Saddledome. They won all 3 games there in the 2004 WCF, and last season picked up one convincing win and one shootout loss (where they surrendered a 2-0 lead with 5 minutes left).

The glass-half-empty, though, is that the Flames have played the Sharks three times this season (two pre-, one regular) and lost 6-3, 5-1, and 4-1, the last of which was October 9th.

Like the Monday tilt against the Ducks, this is a proverbial measuring stick game; let's see if the Flames have in fact come a long way in the past 7 weeks, or if they appear to need a roster upgrade to have a decent shot at taking the West down come May. I think they have come quite a ways, and I'm predicting that tonight Drew Remenda is horrified to witness a 3-2 Calgary win.

I second Andy's good wishes to the 'sphere and the readers, be they Flames fans, Oilers fans, or misc-ellaneous. I hope all of you and your families have a terrific holiday. Go Flames.


Stars Preview/Happy Holidays

Record: 18-14-2Record: 22-13-0

Space. I imagine that will be the keyword for the Northwest Conference from here on in. Every team will be attempting to create it, and every team will be attempting to eliminate it. Tonight, the Oilers have the opportunity to create some space, as the Canucks and the Wild both lost last evening (thank-you Wings and BJs). But the Flames and Avalanche can close the gap or make the leap with victories of their own this evening. The point? Win, baby. It can be naughty, or it can be nice. But it has to be two points. Every single night. From here on in.

The Stars team the Oilers played two weeks ago was the worst Stars team I have seen in ten years. They looked lost on the ice. Phillipe Boucher is currently the Stars number one scorer and point-getter, which tells you all you need to know. Brenden Morrow is back from injury, however, as is Eric Lindros, so the Oilers should seen an improved Stars club tonight. The Oilers also have difficulty winning in Dallas, so two in a row might be a bit much. I don't know for sure if Dwayne Roloson or Jussi Markkanen will draw in tonight, but I'm going to asume it will be Roli. If so, he better step up. That junk from the other night cost the Oilers two points, against divisional rivals. Unacceptable.

This will also be my last post before Christmas, perhaps even until the New Years Eve game, so on behalf of Heat Miser Matt and myself I just want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday. Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other. Special shout outs to Van and Sarah, my litmus tests for everything. They like, me happy. Special shout outs also to Hugh, Matt, Colby, Tyler, James, Pat, Mike, Chris, Dave, Vic, Dennis, RiversQ, LT, Loxy, Alana, Prez, Avi, Abboud, and all the regular commenters. Thanks for making me a smarter hockey fan. Oh, and much love to Stephen Colbert, Zach Braff and Will Ferrell, for keeping me sane in a mad world.

Prediction: Roli works the Oilers faithful into a spiritual frenzy, like a Baptist minister. His goalie mask comes off with a "MMMM HMMMM." Rebounds are eaten up with a "PRAISE THE LOOOR-DAH!" And the glove hand gesticulates, resulting in a "HALLELUJAH, YES SIR!" The power play gets two goals, because it was on my Christmas list and Santa loves me. Plus, Ales Hemsky makes so many beautiful plays that the Baby Jesus cries. Tears of Joy, that is.

4-0, Oilers. Sykora, Stoll, Hemsky, San Fernando. AMEN.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Let It No, Let It No, Let It No

Mayor Stephen Mandel says he would support a proposal to build a new hockey arena in downtown Edmonton that could be part of a $1-billion development.
--Gordon Kent, Edmonton Journal

To be fair, Mandel does say "if we do (build a new structure), we need to be creative and not burden the taxpayers," but I have a feeling he and I have different ideas about what is meant by "burden." I'm of the "don't burden me with anything considering you can't even plough our streets properly with the money we give you" variety, for example, whereas he might be of the "it's only a burden of a few hundred million" variety.

It has been stated on this site, ad nauseum, that taxpayers should not be asked to foot the bill for new stadiums for the Oilers or Flames. Nor is there a need to move locations for any new stadium being built in Edmonton. But since it apparently hasn't gotten through to anyone at City Hall or the Legislature, let me repeat our objections, as well as the objections of some others.








Update: Mike and Tyler weigh in at Covered In Oil and mc79hockey.



The Punch Up In Piestany

Has it already been 20 years?

At the 1987 World Junior Championships in Piestany, Czechoslovakia, Team Canada (in white) and Team U.S.S.R. (in red) engaged in one of the ugliest incidents in the history of hockey. Canada was up 4-2 in the 2nd, needing to win the game by five goals to ensure winning the Gold medal (the Russians were out of medal contention). It apparently all started when Russian player Pavel Kostichkin slashed Theoren Fluery, and a fight broke out (it looks to me like a hit in the corner is what starts it all). That fight was followed by other fights, until the benches cleared and an all-out brawl ensued. The fighting went on for about twenty minutes, despite the lights being turned off in the stadium. Both teams were disqualified from the tournament, and Canada missed out on the Gold medal.

Hockey Canada has Team Canada's roster from the tournament, which included future NHLers Fluery, Brendan Shanahan, Luke Richardson, Steve Chiasson, Greg Hawgood, Glen Wesley, Chris Joseph, Mike Keane and, of all people, Pierre Turgeon ( I just can't picture him throwing haymakers, no matter how hard I try). Pat Burns was an assistant coach. There's also some great footage of Don Cherry and Michael Farber arguing over who was to blame for the brawl, with Barbara Frum watching, in the CBC archives.

Mirtle has also pointed out the publication of a book on the incident, called When The Lights Went Out. I will most certainly be picking up a copy. I'm interested in hearing the Russians' side of the story, for one (in Canada, the story has always been that the Russians "started it" by leaving the bench first). I'd bet a bunch of money that Keane and Fluery were doing a disproportionate share of shit-disturbing, myself. I'd also like to know who was on that Russian team (Fedorov and Mogilny, I believe, and you can hear Don Whitman saying that Keane is beating the snot out of Valeri Zelepukin), and how the hell major injuries were avoided, especially in the dark.

I watched the game live, with my father, and I'll never forget it. I was 12 at the time. It's surreal to look at it all now. It's like a scene right out of Slap Shot, a bizarre manifestation of the Cold War. It just went on and on and on. The crowd goes from frenzied approval to disgusted in a matter of minutes. The officials clearly had no idea what to do. Many of the players are so tired they just stand and watch, or leave the ice for a rest before coming back on. It's just crazy. Like Whitman says, "you just don't see this in international hockey."

*My apologies if the YouTube clip is missing. It keeps popping in and out of existence. YouTube seems to be having some difficulties today. You might have to refresh a couple times to see it.


And they shall be named Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe

Bob McKenzie is reporting that "the NHL is floating an aggressive trial balloon" regarding schedule and alignment, the most interesting feature of which (to me) is going back to four divisions.

I could definitely get behind this, as well as playing each team in the opposite conference once (meaning each team would get to your building at least every other year). My one condition for support, though, would be that if this realignment takes place, then your division placement has to be the only thing that matters when it comes to "playoff-reaching" and seeding.

Based on what Bob is reporting, teams would continue to play division opponents about twice as often as other conference rivals (presently it's 8 Div, 4 Conf; would change to 6 or 7 Div, 3 or 4 Conf). But because their are (A) more teams in your division and (B) five extra games against the opposite conference, teams would be playing about 63% (~42/67) of their in-conference games against their own division, way up from the 44% (32/72) now.

This is sufficiently unbalanced that it would be ludicrous to award the 5th-best team in one division a playoff spot over the 4th place team in another just because their 82-game record is better. It has to be the top 4 teams in each division that make the playoffs (assuming we're still going with 4 rounds), and the 1st/2nd/3rd/4th rank in-division has to be the only factor that's relevant to seeding. This leaves a couple of possibilities:

1) Back to the divisional playoff format. I like it. There's a bunch of rivalries in this league that are still pretty epic thanks in large part to the divisional playoffs (that ran from about 1982-94, IIRC), not the least of which is this site's namesake. The Pens and Caps have been rivals since long before Crosby/Ovechkin, before Jagr went to DC and screwed the dog.

2) A pool format, kind of like international play or the World Cup of Soccer. If the Divisions are A/B/C/D, then the first round goes A1vB4, A2vB3, C1vD4, etc. etc.. The upside of this format is that if the two best teams happen to be in the same division, they don't have to meet in Rd2.

In fact, there's 2 different ways that this can go, too. If you need one Stanley Cup finalist from each conference, then Rd2 goes [Winner of A1vB4] v [Winner of A3vB2], and onward: the Champion of A/B plays the Champion of C/D.

However, if that's not a priority -- and I don't know that it necessarily is (I'm sure a Rangers-Flyers final, or Hawks-Wings, would be a godsend in some way) -- then you can mix it up a bit a la World Cup. Make Rd2 [Winner of A1vB4] v [Winner of C2vD3], so East and West are mixing it up already. Hell, you could even do that in Rd1 (A1vD4, etc.).

The other upside of this is that the whole playoffs have a bit more of a wild card, March Madness vibe. (The downside of course is that you're not torquing the divisional rivalries that are ostensibly developed during the regular season.) As usual, your mileage may vary.


Friday Morning Laugh

I just about pulled the apocryphal "coffee all over the screen and keyboard" at the second sentence here:
An equally sound interpretation of the same correlation [from that bogus fighting = winning "study"] would be that good teams pile up major penalties, not because fighting makes them better, but because their games with other good teams are more urgent, passionate and inherently violent. A member of the ghastly Coyotes really has no reason to take a swing at anybody, with the possible exception of his general manager.

Whole thing here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


*Stink. Stank. Stunk.

That was ugg-leeeee, any way you look at it. Horrible officiating, bad ice, weird goals, and Cujo with the stinker at the end. But two points are two points, especially when it means...1st Place, Baby!!! Enjoy the hot cocoa in the chalet tonight, Flames and Avalanche players. Maybe you can make some snow angels, or trim Jake Plummer's mustache. Either way, you'll be doing it from the 7th and 9th spot in the Western Conference. Bwaahahaha!!!


Flames Snow Day

The Flames will not, in fact, be playing the Avs in Denver tonight, as there has been a big-ass blizzard. Or as the Denver Post puts it: "State of emergency: Colorado paralyzed, hundreds stranded".

I was just flipping through the schedule, trying to guess when the game might be rescheduled, and it'll be tough. My best guess is that they play it on the last day of the season (Sun. Apr. 8th), though it looks like maybe April 1st or 2nd would be possible. At any rate, there's no chance that it will be played before March; every date before then that's open for both teams (and not filled by the NBA's Nuggets) would result in one of them playing either games on 3 consecutive nights or 4 games in 5 nights, and that's not done.

Like Peter, I'll probably put the Oilers game on instead. It's win-win: if the Oil stinks again, yay; if they win and look good, I can do my Kent Brockman impersonation.
[shakes fist at heaven] Damn you snow!


Ideas and Words Matter dept.

I feel like I should have a take on the whole Penguins business, but I'm having a tough time getting past the absolute absurdity of the thing as a whole to get into details.
"We want the Penguins to stay here in Pittsburgh. This is a great market; there are great hockey fans. We’d like nothing better than for the Penguins to have a new arena on the right economic terms so we don’t have to worry about the long-term viability of this franchise." - Gary Bettman

I'm not interested in picking on Bettman's role in this shmozzle, but what can someone who respects the meaning of words make of this statement?

If Hooters said that Pittsburgh was a "great market" for beer and chicken wings, but that the only way they could open a restaurant there was if someone else paid for it to be built, what would you think? To be polite about it, you'd think that you and Hooters had different definitions of what constitutes a great market. (Also, only in B-S-Land does "on the right economic terms" = "paid for with someone else's money".)

Much, much more ridiculous than this element of the story, though, was the whole Isle of Capri thing. We're all still clear that, strictly speaking, the Penguins and slot machines have nothing to do with each other, right?

Let's see: three groups make applications to a political body for (A) the "right" to build a casino, and (B) for said casino to be a local monopoly enforced by men with guns from another political body (I'm not trying to be obtuse here -- if the Penguins or someone else decided, "Sod it, we're building a casino without your permission", it would end with police occupying the construction site).

As part of their applications, the groups make numerous promises that are not at all connected to operating a casino, but that are expressly intended to gain political favour (we'll build X, we'll donate to Y, etc. etc.). Other politicians express their opinions on the various merits of the proposals.

And when the decision is finally made, the unsuccessful bidders express dismay that the decision may have been political. Aieeee!!! I just shake my head thinking about the millions and millions of dollars spent to win a license that is now gone with the wind. All of the following seem less insane to me that what the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania actually did:
Instead, we got this terribly wasteful and expensive process guaranteed to satisfy a few and disappoint many.

I think Andy's right: the Pens' best shot is Mark Cuban, or someone like him. He's an entrepreneur (by which I mean I guy who owns his challenges, not a deal-making highwayman). There are presently NHL franchises that have less in the way of natural advantages (i.e. hockey culture and history) that are successful on the whole. If there is a way for the Penguins to be viable in Pittsburgh without the need for a nine-figure sum of Other People's Money, then he'd be the guy to find it and make it happen.

If the Pens' survival continues to be dependent on their success in elbowing around the lip of the cannibal pot, then I doubt it'll end well, and I sure as hell don't care to pay attention to the jostling.


Oilers Game Day -VNEVDVC

Record: 17-14-2Record: 12-19-1

Last Ten Games: 4-6 record. 25 goals for. 31 goals ggainst. 2 power play goals, dropping the team to 26th, ahead of Philly, Chicago, Phoenix and St. Louis. A .892 SV% from Dwayne Roloson.

Prediction: I have no idea. Really. It could be 6-2 either way. Any Oilers fan who suggests otherwise is lying to themselves, and to the world. But my fingers are crossed, and I'm hopeful. C'mon, boys!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Filed under "Reasons to order Centre Ice"

Since they're playing again tonight, I thought I'd reset this bit from Razor on Monday:
I'm billboarding tonight's game between Columbus and Detroit as the "Central Division Cockfight"... Hitchcock vs Babcock, on Versus... I'll be calling this sure to be vicious cockfight with Hall of Famer Mike Emrick so I'd better have my head on a swivel.

I'm not getting anything from Santa am I?

Question for Americans: is his game colour anywhere near as good as his weblog?


March of the Penguins, Act V. Scene 66.

Just checked my Blackberry, and noticed that the Isle of Kid Capri failed to secure their casino license in Pennsylvania this morning. It's a good thing the NHL hasn't handcuffed the future sale of the team by placing a giant list of conditions in front of potential buyers. Because that would be very, very stupid, considering the team has been on the block and/or looking for an arena deal since Rob Brown had hair, and nothing has ever worked out. You wouldn't want to chase rich, successful suitors away by attempting to dictate to them what they can or can not do with a team they own, after all. That would be bad for business, plain and simple.

Oh, what's that? They did place a list of conditions in front of a potential buyer? Conditions that included keeping the team in Pittsburgh under "any" circumstance, and the ability of the league to take over the team if it was deemed "necessary?" You don't say. Huh. Well, bravo National Hockey League. Bravo.

Ladies and gentlemen...your attention, please. This evening, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will be playing the role of Bud Selig. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be playing the role of the Montreal Expos. We hope you enjoy the circus show!




Peter wrapped things up nicely, I think. Amazing: Dan Cloutier had a .840SV% tonight, and let in a unscreened shot from Tony Amonte from the far side of the blueline, and probably won't win J.P.'s Aiken Award tomorrow morning.

Much better than the win tonight, though, was the performance of Boyd and Moss. I don't know that they'll stick with the team; I don't know that they'll deserve to. But tonight, I have hope that the 3rd/4th lines may not be an offensive void for indefinitely.

They weren't awesome, by any means. But Moss scored a goal, Boyd assisted on it, and Boyd had a breakaway too. Pro-duc-tion. Moss could get shut out for the next dozen games and still have a better goal scoring rate than Marcus Nilson, Byron Richie, Darren McCarty, Jeff Friesen, and Jamie Lundmark do right now. Whatever - I wanted to point out one last thing, bedtime contrast.

Last night, the Flames were faced with a deficit that they weren't going to come back from, and Robyn Regehr -- who fights about once a year -- took on Anaheim's enforcer Moustache Parros and fought him to a draw (and apparently referred to him as Yanni in a postgame interview).

Tonight, the Leafs were faced with a deficit that they weren't going to come back from, and Mike Peca -- who is still occasionally described as having "heart" -- took an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty, a 10-minute Misconduct, and a Game Misconduct.

But his faceoffs! ...and the blah, blah claven

UPDATE: Eastern media bias strikes again! J.P. has given Andrew Raycroft the Aiken Award. I dunno... did Raycroft allow two from behind the goal line? I know you can't blame Roloson's problems on Hal Gill breakaway passes.

Ah, who cares. The creation of the Aiken Award was such a stroke of genius, I could never stay mad at J.P., up in his ivory tower in the District, watching TSN and reading Damien Cox...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Flames Game Night

The Flames are in Ell-Ehh! tonight to take on the Kings at 830PM MT. The game is on Flames Pay-Per-View, and wonder of wonders, I'll be watching it. Mrs. Matt did indeed call to crack some skulls the day after the last abomination.

Apparently the "Customer Service" lady I talked to the night of the game was any or all of grumpy, poorly directed, and not-bright: when Mrs. Matt talked to StarChoice the next day, we got the price of the PPV refunded, and the next one (tonight!) free, plus the two free PPV movies (not recommended: American Dreamz).

The combination of the tardy post and the late game puts me in an interesting spot here. There's games that are over already...
Lowetide actually summed up last night's game pretty well. The Ducks had the slight edge in play through 40, but the tie score was probably fair. By all rights though, it should have been 3-3, not 1-1. Despite the craptastic ice, the Flames probably created more tic-tac-toe and one-timer scoring chances vs. Niederpronger than in any other game this year -- but Giguere was right on top of it almost every time. Iginla is playing damn well -- he was hitting and getting hit last night. Kipper let in his worst goal in 20 games, but was otherwise excellent.

And call it Lowetide Karma, but the Flames called up Dustin Boyd and David Moss from Omaha and they're playing tonight. Friesen is apparently out with a Wrist Injury (write your own joke!); unfortunately the other guy out is Tanguay with some kind of Charlie.

The bad news is that our 2nd-best forward is out. The good news is that our worst forward is out (Flames record with Friesen out of the lineup: 4-0-0), and the two guys who are drawing in have something to bring to the table that he does not. If they can demonstrate that tonight, it could be a milestone towards improving this team.

If they can stay out of the penalty box, I'm looking at a 3-0 win (Phaneuf, Iginla, Boyd; Noodles gets the shutout for his 1st win of the year). Go Flames.


Oilers Game Day -- Colorado

Record: 17-13-2
Record: 16-15-2


I don't know know if Grabia has fallen off the face of the earth, or if the news that Tom Brady is single has excited him so much that he decided to move to Boston.

Regardless, tonight is Game Night.

And what a game it promises to be. The good news is that the Oil are in the driver's seat in the NW division, a whopping 1 point up on Flames and Canucks, and a massive two point margin splitting them from the hapless Avs and Wild. The bad news is that a two point lead just ain't what it used to be, and the Oil could, conceivably, fall to the basement with a regulation loss combined with a Flames win and a Van-Minny tie. Yeesh.

I've been too busy watching England get their asses handed to them by the Aussies to see any Oilers games, so I'm afraid I have little insight other than to note that Hemsky is back in the lineup, and that can never be a bad thing . . .

Let's go with a 4-2 Oil win (Dvorak with the hattrick, Rollie with two assists, and oh, why not, let's say Hemsky with the game winner).

Monday, December 18, 2006


Flames Game Night

The Flames make their 2nd and final visit of the (regular) season to the Pond-a Center to take on the Anaheim Ducks (8PM MT, RSN West). In some ways, it's a pretty big game. A Flames win would:
It's been a strange couple of games to start the road trip. I said beforehand that the key was "not being totally dominated on special teams". So far, they have 1 SHG and 3 PPG, against zero GA on special teams. Big checkmark! ...except that they've somehow allowed 6 EVGA in the 2 games.

With three of their regular D out for these two games (Warrener, + Hamrlik & Zyuzin who were hurt early in the VAN game), I'd expect the GA to suffer a bit. But check this out. Here's the defense pairs who got the EV- on those six goals:
  1. Phaneuf/A-Fence
  2. Zyuzin/Robyn Regehr
  3. Phaneuf/Robyn Regehr
  4. Phaneuf/Giordano
  5. Phaneuf/B-Fence
  6. Phaneuf/B-Fence
Which reminds me of a post Tyler put up about Dion Phaneuf back in September. Here's the gist:
My basic objection to the Phaneuf deification - and according to someone who claims to know at Calgarypuck, he was seriously considered for the Olympic taxi squad - is that he doesn't play the tough minutes and you've therefore got to take the hype with a grain of salt - lots of guys can knock the crap out of the Jaarko Ruutu's of the world but it's a little more difficult to do it against elite competition.

I have arguments with elements of his post. Phaneuf was never spitballed for the Olympics so he could go shut down Russia's top line, nor would it be wise to pick a D-corps for the seven guys who most likely can. And any Random Defenceman who scores at a 20PPG/yr pace would rank higher than "80-100", even if he never saw the ice at ES/PK.

But Tyler is correct with the main thrust of his post. Phaneuf is a unique player, he's fantastic for his age as a Dman, and he's got all the physical tools and a load of upside, but: right now he is not a Norris-calibre defenseman, and the hockey media isn't doing him any favours by pretending that he is. He's a lot more Sheldon Souray than he is Chris Pronger right now. From my perspective, this isn't a problem -- it isn't even criticism -- it's just the state of the union.

I'm excited about the game. So long as the Flames didn't catch a case of the "We Beat the Coyotes, We Must Be Awesome" disease on Saturday, it should be a beauty:

Calgary 2 (Dion Phaneuf, Matthew Lombardi)
Anaheim 1 (Joshua Jackson)

Go Flames.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Flames Game Night

The Flames head into Phoenix to play the Coyotes tonight (7PM MT, radio only). I think JR is getting back into the PHX lineup -- uh, he should be really motivated and have a strong game?

For you Oiler fans while Andy's still in the basement, Scott Cruickshank had a neat piece in the Herald. Can you believe who the Coyotes' best line has been in the last month? OMG!
"OK, the media, they call it the OMG line, which stands for Oh My God," says Laraque, still chortling. "And, you know, O for Oleg, M for Mike and G for Georges. But I don't know about giving a whole line a name. The only line that was deserving of a name was the Legion of Doom (Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Mikael Renberg).

"But the Oh My God line? Of all things."

Nevertheless, over the past 14 National Hockey League games, the trio has cranked out 30 points, including 14 goals.

Apparently Brad Ference has been recalled from Omaha, but I'm not clear on whether he or Richie Regehr will be drawing in for Hamrlik. Question: can't we get a Ference named Doug or David? My brother-in-law inspired a half-gag where when Andrew Ference cocks up, it's because he's not playing Defence, he's playing A-Fence. Anyway, I hope we don't see too much B-Fence tonight; plain old effective Defence would be just fine.

Or, thereabouts. I'll predict a 4-3 Calgary win (Iginla, Huselius, Richie, Kobasew). Go Flames.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Friday Kitchen Sink post

How about those Ottawa Senators! Also, does Tortorella miss John Grahame and Sean Burke yet? I see the Lightning outshot the Habs 43-20 last night and lost, again.

**Still a bit steamed about the PPV experience last night. That darn Moosehead made it tough to string my take together coherently (slightly related fun-link here). I see the CalgaryPuck forum has lots of reports of refunds, so presumably I have that going for me today when Mrs. Matt calls to raise hell. Here's a take from "TurnedTheCorner" that's worth considering:
To the Flames - seriously, get out of the PPV business. Cancel the rest of them for the year, refund people who have pre-paid, huddle up and re-think your PPV strategy. The technical quality of the broadcasts is consistently horrible. The production values are non-existent. The bonus features like the interactive polls and Q&A with the broadcasters are coma inducing.

Stick to your core competencies. You are a hockey club, not a hockey broadcaster. And with each progressively worse PPV broadcast, you continue to hammer this point home.

Yes indeed -- though I gotta give ups to Charlie Simmer, he's a solid colour guy. When the Flames were getting denied on the PP in the 2nd period, he suggested several times that it was going to come back and bite them in the ass -- which was terribly irritating mainly because it was true... hey, I wonder if Roger Millions is getting up in anyone's face today?

**I've been meaning to note this for months now -- does anyone else find it both hilarious and obnoxious that's web content from the TV guys is headlined under TSN TALENT? It makes me think of Groundhog Day every time, where Rita and Larry roll their eyes at how full of himself Phil Connors is ("Did he actually refer to himself as 'the talent'?").

**Razor: "To the Blue Jackets, Hitchcock is a lot like Dolly Parton's bra." If Kelly Hrudey (who had a very enjoyable sit-in on Mike Richards in the Morning yesterday, btw) wants to learn more about Internet Blog People, this seems like the natural place to start.

**Sleek: "My baloney has a first name, it's...". That really is un-friggin-believable.

**Washing Machine Friesen got a point last night, assisting on Lombardi's shorty. Not only does that double his season total, but it gives him a PK scoring rate (0.87pts/hr) that's higher than his EV rate (0.26pts/hr) and his PP rate (0.00pts/hr). Wowza.

**Hell of a nice job by Giordano last night. He played 20 minutes, created some chances on the PP, and did a beauty job killing the 5-on-2.5 with Iginla and a stick-less Andrew Ference. If we're not there already, the time is near when Zyuzin starts getting scratched to keep Giordano in the lineup.

Go Flames.


StarChoice: you're on the list

Ahh, what a terrible experience that was... and I'm not even talking about the 0/8 PP.

I bought the Flames PPV from StarChoice, my regular tee-vee provider. Early on, apart from the usual complaints about PPV broadcasts (i.e. how is it possible to make the stuff that they run in lieu of ads more boring and less informative than ads), there was also technical problems. Basically, the feed kept cutting out: I didn't have a stopwatch on it, but if you're trying to understand the annoying factor, I'd say it was for a couple seconds at a time every minute for ten or so minutes. It wasn't the StarChoice feed; it was the feed out of the game in Vancouver. Because it was early on, obviously there was an "am I going to get what I paid for" suspense to the thing.

To me, who is not at all confrontational nor a real big whiner, it was something that at that point was an annoyance: if it kept cutting out for the entire game, then yeah, I'd complain, but otherwise it would already be forgotten.

And indeed, most of the 2nd period went smoothly, to the point where I had entirely forgotten about the early prospect that the whole broadcast might just go to the dogs. Then partway through the 3rd, the picture went to black, and stayed that way. A couple of minutes into the black, Canucks made it 3-1, audio provided by Millions & Simmer for $11.95 + $1 handling.

So yeah, then I get on the phone to StarChoice to register a complaint. I'm cuddling the little one listening to the Hold Music, and eventually the picture comes back. (I'd guess 5 minutes of picture-less game, but it might be a bit more or less). Then after 13-ish minutes on the We Value Your Call music, I got the StarChoice lady. Fair warning -- like most Transcripts From Memory, this undoubtedly makes me more eloquent that I actually was, but I assure y'all that I was not rude in the slightest (cripes, when it was over I was actually glad that they had (or "may have!") recorded me for Quality Assurance Purposes):
Me: Hi, I was hoping to beat the rush on requesting a refund on my Flames PPV, but it looks like I was a bit slow actually, ha ha ha
Her: Can I get your acct # etc. etc.., Me yes of course, blah blah
Her: So your PPV kept cutting out?
Me: Yes.
Her: I can offer you two free movies.
Me: Whoa, I'm not really interested in that. I'll take a refund or a credit on the next Flames PPV.
Her: We can't offer you that. We're not responsible for the weather.
Me: I believe you, and it obviously wasn't StarChoice's fault, but I would like a refund or a credit for the next Flames PPV.
Her: All I can offer you is a credit for two PPV movies.
Me: Well, that's not really satisfactory to me. [Ed. note: I was holding my daughter at this point and was also drinking - I had zero desire to actually debate someone] I don't accept the offer; can I just register a complaint on my file, or whatever, and deal with this tomorrow?
Her: No.
Me: You can't just put a note there saying "Customer called to complain about PPV Dec. 14th"?
Her: No. It has to be dealt with by the agent at the time or else... [not sure what she said here]
Me: Well, I'm not happy about this. I don't want free movies, OK? Thanks anyway.
Her: Thank you for calling StarChoice customer service.

And at that moment, with about 60 seconds left and the Flames in the Vancouver zone trailing 3-1, Channel 238 cuts back to the Haven't-Paid-For-It screen. Were it not for the Tiny Person on my shoulder at the time, my StarChoice receiver might be in the back alley right now.

I clued a few minutes after this that StarChoice had probably been fielding Outraged Demands for a Refund since the first time the screen went a little fuzzy at 8:01PM, and that the woman I talked to had no idea about the Blackout in the broadcast that had prompted my own call in the first place. But still, I'm not happy to talk to Customer Service and get the impression that Company Policy is "assume Matt Fenwick is trying to rip us off".

I pay StarChoice about $100 a month for what we get. They are "resellers" of the PPV games, not the producers -- every other channel worked fine tonight -- and yet I couldn't even get my fucking objection logged when I called their toll-free number. I guess I already have a place to log objections though, don't I. OK, here we go then:
I thought that the problems with the feed out of Vancouver were serious enough that What Was Delivered was not What Was Promised. I'm quite clear that there may be interruptions between StarChoice's satellite and my dish, but that's not what this was. StarChoice was reselling a sub-standard product, and they don't seem to care. And not only that, but they accepted a return on their product (cutting off my PPV) while still denying me a refund. That is exceedingly annoying.

Amazingly, all this is with two more PPVs in the next seven days. By not refunding my money, the Flames and StarChoice get to keep today's money while forfeiting the PPV price for Tuesday and Thursday. Scaled up, I assume that would be a loser for them, so I assume that it doesn't scale up. The Calgary Flames and StarChoice are both much more successful businesses than Matt Fenwick Engineering (let alone The Battle of Alberta), so I would be batshit to sit here and pass judgement on their business practices. I can only assume that The Market is telling them that -- between actual cashflow and perverse incentives -- it would be worse for them to offer refunds for tonight's piece of HeyHey! than to accept responsibility.

Fine. This is my contribution. I'm not proposing a big grassroots movement; I'm not against PPV games in principle at all; I'm not trying to raise money for anything; and I'm not trying to garner attention. I'm just a Flames fan (and a goddamned capitalist one at that!) reminding the organization and my soon-to-be-former TV provider that they can "eat it".

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Flames Game Day

The Flames kick off their 6-games-in-10-nights road trip tonight in Vancouver against the Canucks (8PM MT, Flames PPV). Again, it's 6 games, not one, so I'm not looking at tonight's game in particular as must-win, but clearly I'm hoping to see Results. Out of 12 points, here's how I figure I'll assess this road trip:
Some miscellany from around TEH INTARWEB:

**Eric Francis had a No Shit! piece on Theo Fleury in the Sun on Tuesday. Theo is running a concrete coatings biz in Calgary. Nut graf:
Although the NHL is now better suited to smaller, faster players, the 5-ft. 6-in. agitator is disgusted by the sanitized version of the game.

"I don't see the game as being fun -- you don't have to get your nose dirty any more," said Fleury.

"You can't be a (jerk) on the ice because there are two officials and 12 guys in Toronto watching every move you make. For a guy like me, I needed that aspect of my game to be effective. The craziness, the intimidation, the unpredictability -- there's no more of that in the game. They've taken personality right out."

I love Fleury, but I am not endorsing his judgement per se. To borrow a phrase, he's still living in a Boys' Own rocket-ship adventure of the mind:
"I know I was a great player, probably one of the top-10 guys that ever played the game. Creative. Electrifying. All that stuff. Yeah, I could have worked harder but I was extremely talented. If I had taken care of myself, I probably could have been better."

What a guy.

**Yesterday I linked to The Forechecker's breakdown of Goal Prevention. It's great stuff, same idea as what Tyler was doing last year with xGA, xSV%, etc.. Basically, the idea is that your team's defense can be broken down into 3 elements relative to the rest of the NHL, all 3 of which will impact GA.
  1. Does your team allow more or fewer total shots than average?
  2. Is the Quality of the shots allowed better or worse than average (Quality being a function of (A) distance from the net and (B) if I understand it correctly, slap/wrist/backhand)?
  3. Does your goaltender stop more or fewer shots than average?
It's very illuminating. The data on the Flames confirmed my own-eyes suspicion: while the allow an average number of shots, they are #1 in Shot Quality Against, and then on top of that Kipper stops a bunch more than average. The Oilers, however, kind of surprised me. They also allow an average number of shots, but are #2 in SQA (maybe they don't need to upgrade the D!), plus Roli is stopping a few extra, which is why they're 7th in the NHL in GAA.

Combining SA and SQA gives you Expected Goals Against, about the best goalie-independent stat on defense you could imagine. The top 3 are DET, DAL, & NJD -- no surprise. CGY is 5th, EDM is 8th. 4th? The freaking L.A. Kings. How bad is your goaltending when your xGA is 4th in the NHL but your actual GA is 26th? Very, very, very bad. The Lightning, who seem like they should be better that 13th in the EC, are also getting torched by this measure.

The goalie who's saving his team the greatest number of goals per game? One Monsieur J-S Giguere. Giggy, Teemu, and 18 guys named Duane? Well, no -- but a slump by (or injury to) Giguere would hurt the Ducks more than I think most people realize.

**That whole defensive breakdown and analysis is somewhat intuitive to semi-serious fans, I think. The offensive one is a bit tougher to get your head around, by which I mean not only is it tougher to reconcile with your biases, but it's tougher to draw conclusions from.

The Oil illustrates this difficulty quite well, I think. By the Forechecker's numbers:
So, for the season to date, the numbers say that the Oilers are not getting enough pucks on the net, nor are they doing it a manner that would promote a lot of scoring, but they are shooting very accurately -- bumping them from 29th to 19th in scoring.

That said, I don't know what that really means. I'd love to think that the high Shoot% is in large part luck, and that if anything the Vaunt will suffer even more... but it could be that the Shoot% is an accurate reflection of their forwards' ability to beat goalies, and that once they start "playing better" (creating better scoring chances, or acquire a D-man who knows how to initiate a breakout, or whatever), their GF/Game will surge upwards. [shrug]

**Tyler has a follow-up to my post yesterday about the discrepancy in home-ice advantage between the two conferences. Yeah, it's hard to explain, but apparently it's not a fluke: it's pretty persistent year-to-year. The likely reason has got to be Travel, doesn't it? Meaning, the relevant concept is not actually Home Ice Advantage but Road Ice Disadvantage: the greater HIA we see in the West is basically a mirage created by the fact that it's much more likely that they're hosting a team on a road trip than a team in the East (who are more likely to be hosting a team that's just there for the evening or night).

I dunno. If I get some energy, I might look for some clues in MLB and the NBA.

**Alert readers may recall that in my season preview, I predicted Sidney Crosby would win the Hart Trophy. Having watched parts of last night's game on TSN, all I have to say is that if he drags that sorry crew into the playoffs, he'll deserve it.

How are otherwise-reasonable Caps bloggers reacting to Sid's 6-point night, I wonder? Hmm... as of noon MT, Eric doesn't have his usual roundup/Man of the Night post up... neither does J.P. -- busy day in the District, I assume? It's not like they're usually sensitive about data points that might possibly maybe suggest that Crosby's a better player than the Ocho. [Disclaimer: I kid. I have no horse in this race, and do not know or care which one's better.]

**Game prediction: Calgary 2, Vancouver 1 -- Amonte in regulation, Iginla extends his goal scoring streak to 7 in OT. Go Flames.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Iron men, plastic visors

Late last month I alluded to Cosh's Iron-Man spreadsheet -- background for a magazine column he was preparing. That column is now online (free reg.). The gist:
It's a sign, perhaps, that the health benefits of helmets, visors, and other safety innovations are overrated. If the league's increasing concern with player health had accomplished anything, we would expect today's players to shatter routinely team "ironman" records like MacTavish's. A quick survey of NHL clubs, however, shows that he is no anomaly.


A Tale of Two Leagues, cont'd.

Tom Benjamin, among many many others, has noted that it's almost like the two conferences are playing different games -- among other bits of evidence, it's rather stunning that 24 of the NHL's Top 30 scorers come from the East.

It would be unwise to overstate things (the average EC team outscores the average WC team by ~0.25 G/gm), but roughly speaking, the West seems to be tighter checking with most of the league's best goalies, while the East seems more wide open with most of the league's sieves (apologies to Cloutier and Joseph).

Along these lines, inspired by a comment by Roger Millions(!), I took a look at some other stats, and found a difference between the two conferences that is sufficiently large that I assume it's a fluke.

Home-ice advantage in the NHL has been relatively consistent over time. Naturally adjustments need to be made re: the shootout and the loser-point, but so far this season (prior to last night's games), the overall numbers are right in line.
To date this season:
Travel matters, for sure (I took a less rigourous but more historical look at this last year), and I would expect the advantage to be greater in the WC, but that doesn't go halfway to explaining this discrepancy. It certainly wouldn't explain why home-ice advantage has been virtually negligible in the EC.

By division, home-ice advantage is ranked like so:
  1. Northwest: 60.9%
  2. Pacific: 33.3%
  3. Central: 16.8%
  4. Southeast: 9.3%
  5. Atlantic: 9.1%
  6. Northeast: -5.6%
13 of the top 16 teams ranked this way are from the WC (the Devils, Panthers, and Hurricanes are the only teams who can actually claim that they have a home-ice advantage). There are 12 teams with worse records at home than on the road (though not by a ton) -- 11 are from the EC.

I don't know what the explanation for such a huge discrepancy here is, or even if that explanation would be interesting. I just thought I'd point it out. As you were.


It's good to be the king

The Flames now head out on a 6-game roadie that takes them to the (2-day) Christmas break. If -- and that's still a substantial if at this point -- they have success out there (say 4 Wins and/or 8 points), I don't know what to say except look the hell out.

Jarome Iginla is now leading the NHL in even-strength scoring with 27 points. The team leads the NHL at +29 (the roster is a combined +140). They lead the NHL with only 29 "minus" events; by way of comparison, Dallas is 3rd with 45 and Philly is 30th with 89.

12/22/40 has suddenly got to be considered as maybe the toughest line in the league to play against -- they take but they do not give. All 18/19/20 do is wreak havoc with their speed every shift. Kipper is T-2nd in the league in SV%, augmenting the advantage gained by allowing the poorest quality shots in the league. And not to be forgotten, their best pure defensive forward has been injured since October 19th.

Hell yeah I'm feeling good right now. The Flames pretty much have but two flaws right now. One is that their 3rd/4th lines produce nothing, but that is entirely compensated for by the fact that they also allow virtually nothing. The other is the PP/PK away from the 'Dome, and the next 6 games will tell the tale. If they can achieve the modest goal of not being totally dominated on special teams, they're going to have a good road trip, and we're off to the races. Go Flames.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Flames Game Day

The Flames host the Minnesota Wild tonight at the 'Dome, and will be aiming for their record 10th consecutive home win (7PM MT, RSN West). Above (click to enlarge) is three different expressions of the Northwest Division standings, which I don't imagine need too much in the way of explanation. The left is the real standings; the centre shows all shootout results as ties; and the right shows all regulation ties as ties.

For all three, W% is % of possible points earned. The fourth table here at the left is the same as the third, but with W% shown simply as Wins/GP. I don't begrudge Minnesota their success in extra time at all, but it is interesting, and it's also hard to believe that this pace (in OT/SO) is sustainable, the Rolston Rocket notwithstanding.

Last note on this topic: you see how in Table #3, there's a 10.2% gap between EDM and COL? There's actually no other team in the conference in that gap either; ranking the whole conference in the same way, CGY is 6th, EDM is 7th, and COL is 8th.

Injuries are a big wild card (as are trades), and sometimes teams simply improve (or start to suck). But what it looks like right now is that there are 7 Western Conference teams (including the Flames and Oilers) that are perceptibly better than the other 8 (including the Wild). I know it's easy (everybody's doing it!) to predict that the NW Division will stay tight all season, but I just don't see it. It looks to me like there are 7 at the top, 7 at the bottom, and the Wild -- who will either improve their regulation play with the returns of Demitra and (eventually) Gaborik and thus join the top group, or they will not... in other words, I don't see a dogfight in April for the bottom few seeds in the WC; I see either a fight for 8th, or all teams mathematically clinching their spots with a week or so left in the sked.

Of course, after all that, I know where tonight's game is going. There's a regrettably, but considerable, likelihood that most of the Flames have mentally already headed out on their 6-game road trip; yes folks, it's a Classic Trap GameTM!!! Call it anti-karma, but I'm picking a disgusting, boring, agonizing, frustrating, 2-0 Calgary loss. I really hope I'm wrong, i.e., Go Flames.

Postscript: sometimes I miss Darryl Sutter's grunting. The Herald game preview has a quote from Coach Playfair that sounds like it was ripped out of a Dilbert cartoon:
"It's not about looking at the bottom end and saying we're this close to not being there. It's about pushing ourselves to make a push for first place. And doing it right away."

Who is responsible for discouraging Jim Playfair from speaking English? I want answers.

AH-NUTS-TO-THAT UPDATE, 130PM: I see that Warrener and Zyuzin are both out for tonight's game, and Yelle/Nilson are still out, meaning Richie Regehr, Mark Giordano, and Tomi Maki are all in the lineup. They might lose, but none of the veterans are thinking cakewalk now -- no Trap Game. I'm changing my prediction to call for a statistically-most-probable 3-1 Win. Hah! And, Go Flames.


Oilers Game Day-Predators

Record: 16-11-2Record: 18-8-3

Busy, busy with work this week, so no preview. I actually had to interrupt my viewing of all 105 unedited episodes of Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets, if you can believe it. Talk about a downer. Oh Zoltar, you villianous hemaphrodite, will you never learn?!

Choose Your Own Prediction:

If you decide to pick the Oilers, include the words, "Ca$hville," "Trotz," and "Gaylord," and discover The Antimatter Formula.

If you decide to pick the Predators, include the words, "Frist," "Upshall," and "Opry," and find out Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey.

If you decide to wait, you become a Prisoner of the Ant People, and are forced to eat ten Fool's Gold Loaves in the Cave of Time whilst listening to the music of Steven Curtis Chapman.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Thith potht ith a thymbol of the Griswold family Chrithmath

Off day for both the Oilers and the Flames today, so maybe this is a good time to assess the two teams' seasons to date. It's been a while since I did anything "fun", so in the spirit of the season, Meet The F**kers, and The Sports Guy's NBA previews, let's go through the Battle of Alberta with quotes from everyone's favourite Christmas flick, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

1. "Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?"

To Peter Sykora, the #1 reason why the Flames are trailing the head-to-head Battle this season. The Oilers have scored six goals on Kipper; Sykora has four of them.

2. Frances: "Talk about pissing your money away. I hope you kids see what a silly waste of resources this was."
Audrey: "He worked really hard, Grandma."
Art: "So do washing machines."

To Darryl Sutter and Jeff Friesen. That Friesen's $1.3M contract would turn out to be a poor investment by Sutter was more predictable than a celebratory stabbing on Whyte Avenue. As for Friesen himself, is "Washing Machine" too unwieldy to be a nickname? His stat line now is 23GP, 0G/1A, team worst -1.

3. Margo: "You just march over there and slug that creep in the face."
Todd: "I can't just attack someone."
Margo: "Alright then, if you're not man enough to put an end to this SHIT, then I am."

To Kristian Huselius, for the best response to a challenge. Through 12 games this season, he had 2G/2A and was a -3. After being a healthy scratch in G13 @STL, he's come through in the last 14 games with 8G/6A and a +8. He's killing penalties, and his opening goal against the Canucks on Saturday was just a classic goal-scorer's goal: patience and a sweet backhand.

4A. "Honey, this is family we're talking about, not some strangers off the street."
4B. "Well if you need any help, gimme a holler, I'll be upstairs asleep."

To Kevin Lowe. (A) is how I imagine him responding to Pat Laforge when asked why he won't upgrade the powerplay coaching (note to younger readers: looking at the Oilers' roster for their last Cup season really pounds this home). (B) of course is his response when MacT grumbles about the quality of his corps of defensemen.

5. Clark: "How'd you get through it?"
Clark Sr.: "I had a lot of help from Jack Daniels."

To Coach Playfair, and the Flames' recovery from a brutal start. I can't imagine that JP cared much that the likes of Bob McKenzie and Steve Simmons had him on FireWatch, but he had to have been feeling a lot of pressure nonetheless. At 3-7-2, the Flames had recorded one convincing win, two close one-goal wins, a whole bunch of so-so performances with poor results, and three horrible home losses (SJS, NSH, WSH) where they were simply abused in their own house.

And he's still got some work to do. The PP and the PK are still well below average, and if the officiating the past few days is a sign of things to come, that's going to bite them hard. Starting tomorrow, the team plays 21 games in 40 days, with a total of one two-day break until the All-Star Break.

But, the team is playing well right now, and they look really good. Even compared to last season (and obviously I'm assuming here that the special teams will come around to a degree), they don't have glaring weaknesses. Oh, except...

6. Art: "The little lights aren't twinkling, Clark."
Clark: "I know Art, and, thanks for noticing."

To everyone feigning concern about the Flames' poor shootout record. We have the best goalie in the league, and we now have two lines that can not only score, but outscore the opposition. And we've only had two shootouts. Yeah, they're "wasted" points, but I just can't be moved to devote any concern to this minor (to-date) flaw.

7. "Is there going to be room for the angel, Clark?"

To Oiler fans and Fernando Pisani. Ellen Griswold wants desperately for everything to work out, and for her beloved to succeed in his quest, but she knows full well that this question is entirely rhetorical. "Can Pisani pick up this season where he left off in the playoffs?" Ooof.

8. "Oh, Eddie... If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now."

To the Oilers offense. Unlike the specific case of Pisani, the NHL Rank = 20th of Oilers goal-scoring is a genuine shocker. And it's not like they've free-fallen since Smyth and Hemsky went out either. They just aren't putting it together. The Vaunt is naunt, indeed.

9. Clark: "My cousin in-law, whose heart is bigger than his brain..."
Eddie: "I appreciate that, Clark."

To... well, it feels unfair to single any one player out here. The list probably starts with Ethan Moreau and Darren McCarty, though.

10. "Every time Catherine would turn on the microwave, I'd piss my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour."

Wild card! Honour your least-loved, non-Freedom-55-taking member of the Edmonton media here. Here's to you, Bryan Hall, and I'd also like to wish Gene Principe a long and stable career.

11. "I simply solved the problem. We needed a coffin... Er, a tree. There are no lots open on Christmas Eve. Lewis burned down my tree so I replaced it as best I could. Voilà."

"A coffin" -- that kills me every time. Anyway, to Bill Daly, for the most unintentionally revealing statement of the year.

12. Ruby Sue: "Rocky bit my thumb. He's nervous."
Clark: "Nervous or excited?"
Ruby Sue: "Shittin' bricks."
Clark: "You shouldn't use that word."
Ruby Sue: "Sorry. Shittin' rocks."

To Joffrey Lupul and Matthew Lombardi, for their way with words. Ron Maclean tried to interview Lombardi after the 1st vs. Vancouver the other night; regrettably, ML not only had the autopilot on, but failed to actually listen to any question. If it was Steve Armitage, I'd give him a pass, but jeez...

And finally (add your own in the comments if you like),
13. "Hey. If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is. Hallelujah, holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?"

To Craig Mactavish... if you're going to spend ten grand insulting the ref, you might as well get your money's worth.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Oilers/Hawks Post-game

Full disclosure: I chose to watch the Saints/Cowboys game over the Oilers game tonight. Booo!!! Hissssss!!! Yes, it's true. I didn't miss much, from the sounds of it. But I'd like to hear more from those who watched the game. I'll start it off with some notes from BoA reader Dale, who watched the game from the United Center, and then emailed me some thoughts after its completion. Thank you very much for the email, Dale, and let's hear from the rest of you! How'd we look? Why did we lose? Did we deserve to be shorthanded ten times? Was it the Martin Havlat show? Tell, tell!

"Hi Andy,

Well, this won't exactly be worthy of a guest post, but if you want some info from the United Centre for your post-game I can pass that along:

• We splurged for the $15 tickets this time, although the $10 tickets were still available at the door.

• Before the puck dropped, my friend said to me, "It's so empty, I bet you can yell to the players from way up here and they'll hear you. We can hear each individual person clapping."

• There were entire sections that had not a single person sitting in them.

Other than that, I think you saw the game. They got the early goals, we spent more time down two men than I think any team in the history of the NHL has, and I completely lost my voice screaming "We Surrender!" at the referees. I liked the second period, but that was about it. In the first we took all those penalties because the Hawks were skating circles around us. In the second I was convinced we would rise above and win this, and in the third the refs decided they wanted to dictate the game again.

Last comment: in an empty stadium, hitting the post sounds SO LOUD. We had two really loud ringers tonight."


Big Deal. I Am Very Professional.

"Obviously, he has no job and no life."

That's Hall of Fame journalist Jim Matheson posing as Ron Burgundy in the Edmonton Journal this morning. Matheson's commenting on a fan who claims he voted 500 times in two days to see Canucks defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick in the NHL All-Star Game. Rather than attack the inherent flaw in the NHL's actual fan balloting system--which is that it assumes popularity and excellence are one and the same--Matheson has decided to attack the fans who are doing his job for him. As Cosh has pointed out, the Fitzpatrick campaign is unduly harsh on Fitzpatrick himself, especially considering most of us couldn't make it through a day of training camp, let alone a day in the show. But Matheson shows no such concern for Fitzpatrick the human being. He seems more concerned with maintaining the integrity of the sacred institution known as the NHL All-Star Game. Matheson complains that Fitzpatrick is injured, while ignoring the fact that other injured players have been gathering votes all season (see Martin Havlat, Brenden Morrow, Mike Modano, Ryan Smyth, Marian Gaborik, Ales Hemsky, Pavol Demitra, and Nikolai Zherdev, amongst others). He also complains that other defencemen deserve to be in the All-Star Game more than Fitzpatrick, choosing to forget that deserving players are left off the roster every year thanks to fan balloting. Most importantly (and this is sad, because he obviously gets paid to do this for a living), Matheson simply doesn't follow the dots: if fans have been asked by the NHL to vote for players they want to see in the All-Star game, you can't blame them when they actually do so.


Oilers Game Day-Blackhawks

Record: 16-10-2Record: 10-12-5

• Making his first appearance in two months Saturday night, Marty Havlat potted two goals and added an assist in Chicago's overtime loss to the Wild. Quite the return, I'd say.

• The Boulin Wall was out of the Blackhawk's lineup Saturday with the flu. One more day, Sicky McSuckboy. I really want to get me some more of that Brian Boucher action.

• I'm well aware that getting a shot on net is not the same thing as a quality scoring chance, but I do hope the Oilers start getting some more pucks on pads (they are currently 30th in the NHL in Shots/Game). They haven't had thirty Shots For in a game since November 13. That was ten games ago, and includes two overtime games. Of course, they've won seven of those ten games, so maybe I'll just shut it.

• The Oilers have scored first in nineteen of twenty-eight games this season. I'd say that percentage (69%) is fairly remarkable, and unlikely to continue. In those games, their record is 13-5-1. In the nine games where they did not score first, they have a 3-5-1 record.

• If they win today, the Oilers will be back to .500 on the road. Just like that.

• From the "No Rhyme or Reason" category:

November 4th: Craig MacTavish fined $10,00 for criticizing referee Mick McGeough after McGeough blows a call that costs the Oilers a point. McGeough is not fined, suspended or even publicly reprimanded.

November 4th: Bob Hartley fined $10,000 for verbally abusing officials during a game between the Atlanta Thrashers and Washington Capitals.

December 5th: Alexander Ovechkin fined $1,000 for a boarding penalty and hit from behind on Daniel Brierre. Ovechkin is not suspended.

December 8th: Peter Schaefer fined $2,500 for waving a white towel at referees, in a sign of surrender.

• From the "Killing a Franchise's Will to Live" category: Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz still refuses to show home games on television. And this is an Original Six franchise. Shameful.

• The Oilers really are doing all the right things right now. I tend to be overly critical of the team on this site because I'm cognizant of the fact that in most instances, in my heart, my team can do no wrong. Plus, I enjoy the irony of cajoling RiversQ, who I am now convinced is a replicant, into unseemly fits of human-like rage. But they (the Oilers) sure have been easy to watch over the past week. It's no vaunt, but it's pretty in its own way.

Prediction: 6-4, Edmonton. Sykora (2), Torres, Horcoff, Stoll and Reasoner. The game gets out of control when the Oilers chase both the Waterboy and Patrick Lalime in the 1st, forcing Dirk Graham's Mustache (great name for a band, I'd say) to play goal for the remaining two periods. Head coach Dennis Savard has to be revived with smelling salts, JF Jacques is attacked in the dressing room by a deranged Al Secord, and John Cusack and Chris Chelios are caught making out on the United Center smooch cam.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Flames Game Day

The Flames host the Canucks in the back half of the HNIC doubleheader tonight (that's 8PM MT on CBC if you need it). Vancouver is coming off a thrill-ah last night in which they squandered a 3-0 lead in the 3rd, then scored a PPG in OT for the win.

The Flames' dominance at home lately has been well-chronicled. Eight straight wins in which they outscored the opposition 27-6. They've allowed a whole two goals at even strength in that stretch. Just generally kicking ass. Last season, they were an almost-equally dominant 30-7-4 at home, but as it happens, two of those 7 came at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks.

I can't think of much to say about the Canucks right now, so here's the baseball standings for the whole league:

Most notable here, I think, is how compressed the EC standings are between 5th and 13th. Also, did everyone else realize that Phoenix had climbed out of the basement? I thought it was Columbus that just got hooked up to the juvenation machine. The Coyotes have beat a couple of decent teams, too.

Could this remarkable pattern extend to a 4th consecutive season? Not likely, but of course that's exactly what was reasonable to scoff at the last three times. Hey, beat the Ducks or Sharks or Stars even once, and we'll talk.

Also, while the crack I was on Thursday night was a bit dodgy, I think it's entirely possible (though not likely) that the NW champ could still grab the #2 seed. It's not like there's too much ground to make up; it's just a question of how dominant DET/NSH are going forward, and how lousy CHI/STL/CBJ are. Yeah, things have played to form so far for those teams, but that doesn't mean it'll continue. (I'm thinking of a division in February that will have two very good teams, two mediocre teams, and one lousy team. It's quite easy to imagine that description applying almost as easily to the Central as to the Northwest, isn't it?)

Tonight's game: hmm... how about a yawner of a 2-1 Flames shootout victory. Richie or Tanguay scores, Kipper stops the first two Canucks shooters, then Iginla sends the C of Red home happy. Go Flames.

Friday, December 08, 2006



I really miss Big Georges. Vic has a great post up about him over at IOF, and this clip of him fighting Raistlin Majere Raitis Ivanans made me laugh and tear up at the same time. He's still my favorite Oiler, and I've found no one to replace him. Fernando's close, and Reasoner and Horc have been getting some Maguire-like adoration from me lately, but my heart is still with Le GG. And now I'm sad.


Oilers Game Day-Stars

Record: 15-10-2Record: 19-9-0

Key points are as follows:

1) Both teams have significant injuries (Smyth and Hemsky; Morrow, Modano, Lindros).

2) Both starting goalies are coming off shutouts (Turco's coming off two).

3) Edmonton is 7-2-1 in their last ten games, but are still just 4-6-1 on the road this season.

Dennis has an excellent preview up at Irreverent Oil Fans. I suggest checking that out.

Prediction: 3-2, Oilers. San Fernando, Torres, Lupul. GOILERS!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Oh, mercy... (road non-win edition)

I dunno. I write a long Game Day piece about how good the Flames have been at even strength, and at the 29-minute mark of the game, less than 12 minutes have been 5-on-5. Eventually they got to calling penalties on only actual fouls, not possible ones (mostly - the tripping call on Rolston in the 3rd is one of the worst I've ever seen), and it was a decent game. But 13 non-coincidental minor penalties in the first 30 minutes? F*ck*ng Brutal. A few of the calls on Calgary were cheap, but Todd White probably deserves a formal apology from Dennis LaRue.

Also, Kipper was pretty bad in shootouts last year. I wouldn't say he got abused, but he didn't make enough big stops for sure, and his record stunk. No doubt he thought a lot about this lo these many months, and wanted to be better this year... So what happens? He gets beat by two perfect, unstoppable shots, and it was over. (By the way, I loved Playfair's move of making the first 3 shooters the 3 guys who scored in the last shootout. Not that he needs my backup - no one's going to raise their eyebrows at Tanguay or Huselius, and Richie scored.) Now Minnesota is 7-2 in shootouts; 2-0 in games settled in OT; and 6-11 in games settled in regulation.

The Wild will obviously be fortified by the return of Gaborik and Demitra. That's 8 figures of high-scoring Slovak goodness. And (kinda like Smyth or Iginla) you can't not love Brian Rolston. But right now, their team doesn't look good enough to take real seriously. Hopefully, that means they'll sweep the Oil at Rexall again.

The Flames have now played the rest of the NW Division, and the only team that might be good enough to beat them for the division title is the Oilers. Problem is, they're the Oilers, which necessarily means that with 5 days left in the regular season, they will be in position to finish anywhere between 7th and 10th in the conference. Calgary is going to finish 2nd or 3rd. It'll happen. Go Flames.

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