Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Oilers Game Day-The Return of Conkannen?

Record: 21-25-5Record: 24-22-4

• I'm shitting bricks about this game. The thought of losing to Ty Conklin has me...speechless. I don't think I've actually been this nervous about a hockey game since Game 7. I can't even imagine what Winters will do if we lose.

• These ain't your Daddy's Blue Jackets, that's for sure. They've just rolled of four straight wins, against some good hockey teams (Detroit, Buffalo, Minnesota, Vancouver). And they've got Oil-killer Ken Hitchcock behind the bench. Ungrateful bastard. I let you sharpen my skates, man! Good news is, they played last night. Bad news is, that really hasn't helped the Oilers this year.

• Matt paints a pretty dismal picture for the Oilers. Other than thinking he talks about the Oilers so much I'm pretty certain he actually loves them (he could never talk to his wife about another women this much and get away with it), I have to agree that the odds are getting tougher and tougher for the Oil. At the same time, looking at the Oilers February schedule shows that a) it is their "easiest" month of the season, and b) a lot of ground can be covered by beating the Canucks, Wild and Avalanche. Moral of the story: Matt is probably gay.

• I loved Mac T's quote yesterday about playing only two lines if need be. It tells me he's had enough. Us too, coach. Us too. Personally, I'd be fine with Smytty, Hemsky and Horcoff playing all 60 minutes if they play like they did against the Kings. Sure they may "puke," or "die," or some such thing, but this game is about dedication and commitment. Give me that 110% you are always talking about, Smytty!

• To date, all of these players have been rumoured to be coming to Edmonton: Brad Stuart, Joni Pitkanen, Rob Blake, Sean Avery, Darcy Tucker, Chris Phillips, Dan Boyle, Wade Redden, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Slimer, Mo Wanchuk, Tyrion Lannister, Barack Obama, and some others I'm probably forgetting. My point? I'm getting tired of this.

Prediction: 5-4, Oilers. Four goals off of Smytty's face, and one that Conks puts in off of his own defenceman to give us the win. You owe us, motherf**ker.


Game theory?

In the 2005/06 season the home team won slightly more shootouts than the road team (75-70, 51.7%). By rule, when they alternated shooters, the home team always went last.

This season the rule was changed so that the home team could elect to shoot first. It appears that most teams do indeed elect to do so (3 of 4 last night, for example). The home team's record this season is 43-49 (46.7%).

Both numbers are close enough to 50% that the difference is probably just random, but clearly there is nothing from either season that would suggest, let alone prove, that it's an advantage to shoot first. Questions:
  1. Why do so many home teams choose to go first?
  2. Why did the NHL change the rule, anyway? Is there a story (or person) behind it?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Dizzying highs, terrifying lows, creamy middles

- Conroy. Wow.
- The fan reaction to Conroy. Wow. If the Beatles had taken Lorne Michaels up on his offer in 1975, I'm not sure that the crowd would have been more excited about a comeback.
- The 5 minute mark of the 2nd to the 11 minute mark of the 3rd. Ooof. The Flames were leading the shot count 17-7 after the 1st, 22-8 early in the 2nd, and the final count was 36-33 Kings.
- Lombardi. Ooof. He looked like a guy who had no confidence. (!)
- Nilson. Ooof. I think he's next on the list after Friesen; he's proven over a very long sample of time that he simply cannot produce. Tonight, that was reflected in the anecdotal sense: couldn't make a pass, receive a pass, or move the puck up the ice. Bad combination. Plus, he made a play on the PK that was insane for someone who earns their keep with defensive play.

If you're going to stay on the ice after you break your stick, the only thing you're good for is (A) blocking shots and (B) getting between the other guy and the place he wants to go. Having Rob Blake stickhandle around you at low speed (for of course the goal shortly thereafter) is totally incompatible with these aims...

-The Oilers season going down the tubes. Wow. Calgary wins, Minnesota wins, Colorado wins, Vancouver with the OTL. A finish like 19-11-2 would give them 92 points and might - maybe - get them past the Wild, if enough of those 19 are head-to-head. 95 points means they need to finish 20-9-3. As the wise Dog said:
The Oilers have become the Ducks, the Canes, the Capitals, the Panthers - surprise teams who marched to the finals, fell short and then fell back to earth the next year. Hard.

Also, here's Peter's account of tonight's festivities:
Oh my, what a great game. I just got back, and that was as much fun as I have had in the Dome all year. The crowd was bouncing and Craig Conroy now has two more goals in a Flames uniform than Lundmark.

Just awesome. Go Flames. Go Blue Jackets.

Indeed. Go Flames.


Oh, it does not

I'm not nearly mature enough to resist posting this screencap. (Article here).


Flames Game Day

The Flames kick off a four-game homestand (woo-hoo!) tonight against the Los Angeles Kings (7PM MT, RSN West). Conroy and Lundmark should both be in the lineup for their new teams.

Aside from the Conroy pickup, yesterday's good news was that Iginla was back skating with the team, doing "impact" drills, and may be ready to go for Friday vs. Columbus or Saturday vs. Vancouver; it sounds like the worst-case scenario at the moment is a return one week from today vs. Chicago.

The bad news comes from, and the projected lineup tonight. First of all, what's up with Kobasew? He played 13 minutes against the Wild on Friday (including a shift in OT), but then didn't dress against Chicago and apparently won't be tonight -- and I haven't heard thing-one as to the specifics. Still having headaches? Did he injure something else? Also, here's the "3rd line" from practice:

Ritchie - Lombardi - Nilson

We'll have to wait and see how things shape up once Iginla and Kobasew draw back in (and once Conroy gets integrated into his "permanent" role), but I sincerely hope that Conroy's ice time (quantity and quality) does not come at the expense of Lombardi, of all people. Putting a plugger on one of his wings is fine, but not both -- surely by now we're at the point where his explosiveness is a net positive for the team.

Hey, wouldn't it be hilarious if Lundmark scored his first goal of the season tonight? I probably would laugh (the crying-on-the-inside kind, natch). Not the kind of thing you gamble hard currency on, though.

Calgary 4 (Lombardi, Phaneuf, Amonte, Moss)
L.A. 2 (Spanakopitar, "Luby" (ÞJim Hughson) Visnovsky)

Go Flames.


Like a Saskatchewan pothole

So yeah, I'm pleased as punch with the Conroy trade. The hook for the national media seems to be the reunification of Conroy with Jarome Iginla, and while I don't want to totally discount the "getting the magic back" angle, I think it misses the main point, which is that it makes the Flames pretty deep in the middle. Bruce Dowbiggin and Eric Francis, who follow the Flames on a day-to-day basis, pin things down a lot better. Dowbiggin first:
As much as the crimson crowd at the Saddledome will rejoice that Conroy is back with his buddy Jarome Iginla, he was mostly brought back to this area to push and cajole other members of the team. [...]

The repatriation of Conroy means that head coach Jim Playfair can now say to his forwards, "Gentlemen, Craig Conroy is going to play 17 to 20 minutes a night. That means someone will lose 17 to 20 minutes of ice time. From whom will he take those minutes?" Which should be followed by a number of people checking their security index.

Better yet for Playfair, Conroy is conversant with the Calgary system and with him as well.

No, the 35-year-old American won't supplant Daymond Langkow from the top line he used to anchor, he won't wear the captain's C again or post a point a game like he did in 2001. (He won't even get his old stall or No. 22 back -- he'll wear Lundmark's 24).

Jury's out on whether he'll even be able to bump Matthew Lombardi from the second line.

What he will be able to do is fill in for any of the aforementioned, if need be, as well as provide the club with the type of stellar third- or fourth-line checking assignments that earned him a pair of Selke Trophy nominations years ago.

Make no mistake, he'll see plenty of time playing alongside the team's top guns on a Jim Playfair squad that loves to mix lines.

However, he will likely spend his time roaming between the second and third units, taking crucial faceoffs and showcasing the type of defence that got his Flames to the 2004 final while providing leadership that made him one of most popular players in town from 2001 to 2004.

Whatever is asked of him, Sutter knows Conroy can and will do it.

That about covers it, I think, especially Francis' piece. Surely the #1 reason why this is a good deal for the present is that it bolsters the Flames' depth up front. I don't want to overlook the fact that Conroy is 35 and unquestionably on the downslope of his career, but I'm pretty sure he can still play. shows him as being 47th in the league (28th among forwards) in Quality of Opposition, which surely goes partway to explaining his -13 on the season (Cloutier, Brust et al go some more of the way).

I'm going to assume that for starters (and when healthy), Langkow & Lombardi are the 1/2 centres, and Iginla, Tanguay, Huselius, & Kobasew are the 1/2 wingers. Having Conroy and Yelle as the 3/4 centres seems like a nice thing for the coach, as they really don't need to be shielded from anyone in the league. In fact, this might go a ways toward pulling the road record out of the dumper.

Having two real solid defensive guys as the 3/4 centres also affords Playfair some flexibility as to who he dresses at the wing on the 3/4 lines. One of his more inspired moves this season, I thought, was the game in LA where he put Yelle between Moss and Boyd. The idea was (as I interpreted it) that the rookies would still have to do their jobs at both ends, but that it took some of the pressure to be perfect off of them as they had Old Yeller covering for them a bit. It meant that they could attack, or forecheck, with a bit more abandon -- no panicking about being a bit out of position for a few seconds.

There are four slots at wing on the 3/4 lines, that will be filled by Amonte plus any three of: Moss, Boyd, Friesen, Nilson, Ritchie, Godard, McCarty, Prust. Coach can make his lineup decisions based on the opponent, on who's hot/not, on line chemistry, or on who might need a punch in mouth that night.

At any rate, time will tell if Conroy can still perform, and if his contribution to the team exceeds what is (or will be) reflected in his stats. There is a second big reason (or #1A) why I think this is a great deal, though. I love the message it sends from the organization to the players.

I've been on a bit recently about how Kevin Lowe's failure to improve his defensive corps has had a negative effect beyond the tangible (the Wait and See attitude at the top trickles down to the team, to some extent). What Sutter did yesterday represents the flip side of this phenomenon.

They're asking the team to play their asses off, to take risks by sacrificing their bodies and their stats for the greater good, to do all the little things, and to do everything else they're asked, toward the goal of winning the Stanley Cup this year. Acquiring Conroy, and his likely-overpriced '07/08 contract, shows the players that the organization is willing to do the same: to take risks for the good of the here & now. We're not waiting until February 27, we want to run away with the division now. We want to load up, get it together, and win in the playoffs. We'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. In other words, it demonstrates the same kind of committment that they want to see from the players, or really, that they need to see from the players, if the team is to make a deep run.

It'll be interesting to see if this jolts K-Lo out of Monitor & Assess mode, won't it? The best thing to happen to the '05/06 Oilers was the Flames '04 playoff run; maybe this deal will have a similar, kick-in-the-ass, excuse-neutralizing effect on the organization up north, and they can take that run at 8th place. Go Flames.

UPDATE, moments later: Metrognome covers some of these angles and a few more in a good piece.


Good Night, And Good Puck

Man, I'm just owning it with the cheesy titles lately.

Anyhoo, Mirtle has a great link up about media credentials for hockey bloggers. It seems to be deteriorating into a thread about Eklund, but there is some interesting stuff in there from some of the American hockey bloggers who have been picked up by the MSM. I'll keep my own thoughts on the issue to myself for a while, but I'd be interested to see what the admittedly biased readers of this site think about the issue.


The Eugoogaly of Joffrey Zoolander?

I wonder: can Dennis, Tyler and the rest of the Oilogosphere take full credit/blame for this story, and this confession, or should it be spread around the entire city of Edmonton? And then I have to ask: people, do you understand that the world does not revolve around you and your "do whatever it takes, ruin as many people's lives, so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied along the way, just so long so you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way?"

Monday, January 29, 2007


To be fair, I've actually watched the Flames this season

I'll come in tomorrow with a longer take on why I like the Conroy trade, but for now, be assured that it won't much resemble Al Maki's:
A happy Conroy likely means a revitalized Iginla, who practiced today in full gear and is gearing up for a return to the line-up sometime this week, he said. Iginla has been sidelined almost a month with a sprained knee ligament.

Should the Flames stick with their top line of Daymond Langkow, Alex Tanguay and Kristian Huselius, they could reunite Conroy and Iginla on a second line that could carry the team some nights, assuming the Conroy-Iggy chemistry can be rekindled.

Oh good, anything to get Iginla out of the awful funk he's been in this season.



Craig Conroy is heading back to Calgary.

Other way: Lundmark, '07 4th-rounder, '08 2nd-rounder.

Cap implications: +700k this season, +2.394M next season

Medium-term implications: Nilson (and probably Ritchie) are almost certainly playing their final seasons in Calgary (Friesen and Amonte were already gonzo). The Flames will have even less flexibility this offseason.

Immediate implications: the Flames are better today than they were yesterday. Langkow, Lombardi, Conroy, and Yelle down the middle is a terrific crew.

Addendum -- updated depth chart is something like this:

Tanguay - Langkow - Iginla
Huselius - Lombardi - Kobasew
Amonte - Conroy - Moss
Nilson - Yelle - Ritchie
(Friesen, McCarty, Boyd, Godard)

Phaneuf - Hamrlik
Regehr - Warrener
AFence - Giordano


Addendum #2: Per Chris!, this probably means (doesn't it?) that the Flames will bow out of the Darcy Tucker Sweepstakes, which suits me. I don't mind Tucker's assholishness [sic!], and he could do nothing but help the Flames' PP. The flip side, though, is that to fit in overall, he'd need to either (A) quickly adjust to becoming a solid two-way EV player or (B) quickly adjust to becoming a role player, and I don't get the impression that he's terribly well-suited to do either.

Andy Update: I said it on CIO, and I'll say it again here: if the Oilers acquire Darcy Tucker, I will seriously consider never cheering for them again. That is how much I dislike the guy.

Okay, I may not stop cheering for them forever, but I'll certainly not cheer for them while he is on the roster. Especially if he's coming in because Kevin Lowe screwed up on signing Ryan Smyth.


From the BoA Archives

This post (specifically the comment thread) from two months ago today is pretty interesting to look back on.

The one concept that wasn't discussed in that thread (but was since) is the [opposite of inspirational] effect that Kevin Lowe's Patience would have/has had on the team as a day-to-day concern; I don't think there's any doubt that most of us underestimated its impact.


Sowing The Seeds Of Glove

In this, the winter of Oil fans discontent, let me be the first to stir up this particular pot of plot: play Jussi Markkanen against Columbus, and stage me a goalie controversy.

Good morning, Edmonton!!!


You're My Only Hope

Favour to ask: could people click on this link today for me? It takes you to my neglected child, The NQ (not hockey related in any way, shape or form). The reason I ask is that the Site Meter counter on the site went nutso on me last week, refusing to measure traffic. It appears to be working again, but I'd like to verify. A surge in traffic, rather than the slow trickle the site receives now, will help me do so. So yes, in this case, I am totally abusing this site to acquire hits for another. And could I just say, once again, how much I loathe the WordPress blog program? Course, Blogger makes me insanely angry, too, but I'm actually starting to prefer it to WordPress. God. You'd really think that completely free programs would be tailor-made to suit all my personal demands, right?

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Flames Game Day-Hawks

Helooooooooo? Is anybody out there ere ere ere ere?

Good to see the Flames lost to the Blackhawks this afternoon, even if it was in overtime. Ecstatic to see they blew the lead in the last minute, too. I mean, the Hawks had only lost like what, ten in a row? Yet it took Calgary twelve minutes to even get a shot on net. Real contenders, those Flames.

Kudos must also go out to Jean Lefebvre of the Calgary Herald. He wrote an article on the NHL's twenty best young players in the "Hockey Sunday" edition of the Herald, yet somehow failed to mention a twenty-three year-old Czech by the name of Ales Hemsky. Of course, Dion Phaneuf made the list (gasp!), but so too did the offensive juggernaut that is Tuomo Ruutu. Career points for Ruutu (age twenty-three): 71. Points for Ales Hemsky in 05/06: 77. I wouldn't possibly suggest Lefebvre has his blinders on; it's just comforting to know a Calgary writer was as accomplished as his hockey team today in missing the mark.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Oilers Game Day-Sharks/Kings

Here's my novel idea for Kevin Lowe. If you don't get that coveted rental for the point in the next two weeks, go the exact opposite way. Sell, rather than buy. First item up for bid: Dwayne Roloson. And make sure the return is some young defensive prospects and/or a couple picks. Ironically, this move gives you a greater chance at signing a senior player that no one wants to see go (Smyth), while also getting more depth and youth on the back end. We already have youth and depth at the forward position. We also have some on defence (Smid and Greene). But if the marketplace is telling you that defencemen are at a premium, it makes sense to acquire young ones, sign them for the long term, and then develop them. As a fan, I can be patient, so long as I know what you are doing. Right now, nothing makes sense. A 37 year-old goalie signed for three years on a team that doesn't seem too concerned with making a Cup push right now is a prime example.

Prediction: 6-4, Oilers.

Saturday Update:Thes guys don't get a second post from me.

Prediction: 106-102, Kings.


Flames Game Day

Calgary at Minnesota, 6PM MT, Flames PPV.

The next 7 games represents a massive opportunity for the Flames to set the pace in the NW. They play home & away with Columbus, home & away with Chicago, host LA, host the Canucks, and visit Minnesota tonight. Compared to the last stretch of 7 (in which they went 5-2), that's pretty soft, but, who knows what the hockey gods may bring.

It's probably time for the Wild to get their mojo back at home, but sod it. I'll predict a 2-1 victory (Langkow, Nilson). Go Flames.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Oh, say does tha-at

A few thoughts on the All-Star game:

**New uniforms: so far, so good, for the most part. All-Star jerseys always look stupid, so it's pretty hard to judge just on that basis, but they did still look like hockey players.

The real test will be when we see the new team jerseys, and can compare them to the old ones. Preliminary indications are fairly promising; Uni Watch's Paul Lukas is all over it with lots and lots of photo links:
For example, the Blackhawks' jersey logo will still be chain-stitched, the Red Wings will still use vertically arched nameplate lettering, and the Rangers can still use a lace-up collar.

I wish the commissioner wouldn't insult my intelligence by saying, "This was never about fashion, it was never about marketing." Oh, heaven forfend! I realize I'm well outside the mainstream in my enthusiasm for the free market, and voluntary exchanges between buyers and sellers. But is it seriously better to blatantly lie than to simply say, "We think they're really cool, and hope that jillions of people will want to buy one!"???

**I enjoyed the game itself, at least relative to my expectations. Especially compared to the YoungStars game the night before, the players were battling, by which I mean although they weren't hitting, they certainly didn't look scared to touch each other.

My appreciation of Joe Sakic continues to grow year by year. He never seems to do anything "fancy", yet continues to make phenomenal plays. Head and hands -- he gets rid of that puck so damn fast, to the right place. I also like that he seems to be getting a bit more opinionated (or at least, willing to share his opinion) as the years go by.

I can't find a link right now, but there was at least one story early this week that had Brendan Shanahan crediting the emergence of Crosby (among others) to the obstruction crackdown ("Just ask Mario, Hull about how bad it was, how tough it was" etc.). Further down, the same story had Joe Sakic's take, where he disagreed about as strongly as he could without using the word "bullshit"; he basically said that Crosby would be a dominant player regardless of the era.

Well, yeah. I don't see how you could watch a few Penguins games and conclude otherwise. He has 72 points in 43 games, and likes to mix it up. If he was 19 in the '03/04 season, am I supposed to believe that he'd have (say) 30 points? Ridiculous.

**Dallas. I didn't pay much attention to the crowd, but I love how they bellow STARS! at the two appropriate moments in the national anthem the song.

I'm surprised, but it seems like the Stars did a pretty shitty job of organizing the whole thing. Mirtle noted a couple of "bush-league" things. And the PA announcer - brutal. Good on Hrudey for pointing out in the intermission how stupid and pointless it was to begin Andy McDonald's announcement with, "Replacing Henrik Zetterberg, ...". What the hell? Plus, dude butchered about a third of the names, on Tuesday night at least.

Also, by way of illustrating a couple of points I've been making this week, here is a question and answer from Gary Bettman's press conference yesterday:
Q: Talk about all the growth of hockey in the sport in Dallas, but look at south Florida as a market, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, do you think it's stagnated and does that worry you it hasn't grown as much as other places?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: It's grown. There's more hockey than there was. Are there as many rinks in South Florida, by way of example, as there are in Dallas? The answer is no. But that will take time.

Adopting a sport is something that doesn't happen in five or ten years. It takes time. It gets passed on from generation. From parents to kids. But I have no doubt in the future of the south Florida market. It's a great market. They're great sports fans.

The climate, I suppose, poses a challenge, but that's something that you can deal with over time. I'm not concerned.

I think it's unfair to perhaps compare south Florida to Dallas. The Stars have done an amazingly spectacular job. And they've had, you know, Tom Hicks as an owner for a very long period of time. He's been committed to developing the sport here.

I think he gets it right in the last three sentences, which is why it's perfectly sensible to compare south Florida to Dallas. Those franchises have been in operation for roughly the same length of time, working under the same Economic System good or bad. I hope you'll forgive me for dismissing climate as the reason for the difference in the present fortunes of their respective markets.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


All-Star Game Night


Short-odds: Phaneuf gets abused on at least one odd-man rush; Kipper makes a spectacular pad save on a cross-ice play

Medium-odds: Phaneuf scores; Kipper gets torched for about 4 in his 20 minutes

Longshots: Kipper puts up the goose-egg; Phaneuf fustigates Eric Staal with a shoulder-on-chin open-ice hit and becomes the most hated player in the NHL

Score: 7-4 West, Marty Havlat gets the truck.

Go Flames (both of you).


Best of the Best

What can I say -- I enjoyed this Allan Muir piece tremendously. And apparently, he's the rare national writer who actually watches Mountain- and Pacific-time games. Among his selections in rating the best:


Fun in the Sun (latest in a series)

The Suns of Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa all ran "the same" Bruce Garrioch column today, which begins with the possibility of Joe Corvo being dealt to the Oil. See if you can spot the editing differences in the graf that follows the sentence, "What would the Oilers offer in return?"

Edmonton Sun:
The names of forwards Joffrey Lupul and Raffi Torres have been tied to just about every trade rumour involving the Oilers this season.

Ottawa Sun (Garrioch's home base):
The names of Fs Joffrey Lupul and Raffi Torres have been tied to just about trade rumour involving Edmonton this season. [sic]

Calgary Sun:
That probably doesn't matter but Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe has been trying to deal Joffrey Lupul and Raffi Torres all season.

Man, that's just weird. David Veitch, que pasa?


Picking Up My Traktor And Going Home

As if losing to Calgary on Saturday wasn't enough; now Alexei Mikhnov's heading back to Russia. What a week. Some will likely argue that he didn't work hard enough to earn a spot on the roster. My own take is that he wasn't placed in a situation where he could succeed. Then again, that's happening to a lot of prospects in the Oilers organization this year, isn' it?

So long, Traktor Boy. So long...


Growth and the NHL, cont'd.

There's some interesting comments on the State of the Union post below that I'd like to delve into. Tom Benjamin notes:
I agree that the CBA creates disincentives for revenue growth, but surely that is an unintended consequence, or if the consequence was foreseen, one that would be offset by other revenue benefits.

The explicitly stated objective (and belief in my view) on the revenue side was that increased parity would sell more tickets in places where tickets were not being sold.

They were (hopefully) trading off some revenue growth in Detroit for more revenue growth in Nashville.

It's my view that the consequence was unwanted perhaps, but certainly foreseen, and accepted nonetheless. I don't doubt that they hoped that arenas all over the league would fill up -- we have as good a shot as any team, thanks to the salary cap! -- but I do doubt that it was expected. I absolutely concede that the salary cap increases the possibility that your lousy team will get better faster, but it would appear that hope only sells so well. (Plus, if the feature of the salary cap is that my lousy team has a better-than-previous chance of improving a lot in the offseason, that still doesn't prod me to buy a ticket now. Why not wait to see how things are panning out in July? Or next January?)

At any rate, it hasn't happened. There's two more broader concepts I want to look at arising from the comments. One, here's dirty jane:
What advantage does it give to current fans if the NHL grows? As far as I can tell growth means increased ticket prices and more teams in US cities.

A good question, and one that's difficult to provide a satisfying (let alone accurate) answer to. Analogies can be lousy and painful sometimes, but here we go:

Take a time machine, and ask your average midde-class person 30 years ago how it would be to their advantage if the grocery business grew. If I'm that person, I say, "I can't imagine. I have no idea." I might even be wary, as I know that growth generally means change, and I'm pretty happy with my present grocery experience.

Back to 2006. I have more places to shop, more selection, and for better deals. Despite the fact that the industry appears to be insanely competitive, grocery companies are constantly renovating and expanding their stores, and building new ones. There's a few people who are unhappy, but most of us are much better off. In 1976, I could not have predicted how the grocery business would improve, nor prescribed how to go about it. In 2006, I cannot predict how it will be improved in 2036 nor how it will happen, but I have a pretty good idea that it will be.

Maybe the NHL business would be worse off if it was more entrepreneurial. I suspect it would be much better off (and have hundreds of years of market history bolstering that suspicion), but I haven't the foggiest idea how so. See? Very unsatisfying.

Two, franchise values. When McLea says
The whole idea of the CBA was to increase franchise values. Period.

I don't think we're disagreeing, as Doogie notes. Most of the franchises have seen immediate and substantial increases in their value, because a lot of the risk that previously existed has been removed or reduced.
Plus, if you're having trouble bringing in the ca$h, the richer franchises will subsidize you. Clearly an outfit like Forbes will look at most franchises and decide that, with the risk reduced and the rate-of-return stabilized, the franchise is worth more than before.

There is a flip-side to this, though. Independent valuators like Forbes are very good at assessing the financials of a company, and pretty good at assessing risk. They are much less able to assess opportunity.

What would happen if you took Google Inc. right now and said, "No more investments in new businesses. 90% of your present revenue is now to be paid to shareholders as dividends. We're going to reduce your risk." Google would become a more attractive investment to some people (e.g. old ladies on a pension), sure, but clearly today's share price would plummet. Google Inc. is valuable to its present investors because of the opportunities; not just the ones they can imagine (say, a slice of the market for TV/movies over the 'Net), but the ones that they can't yet imagine.

It's a fact that the "investor profiles" of most NHL owners resemble the old lady on a pension more than they resemble the venture capitalist in his mid-30's. Fine. But that does not mean that in the long run, the value of an NHL franchise is best protected by structuring it more like a 10-year government bond than like GOOG. What opportunities are being missed? I dunno.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Lighten up, Matt

OK! Bill Simmons has argued for years that the NBA All-Star Weekend should have a half-court shot contest and a HORSE competition. Agreed, I'd tune in to that for sure.

With the NHL Skills competition going tonight, is there anything they could modify or add to make it better? It's been a lot of years since I was jacking around at the end of a hockey practice, so I'm not really sure what kind of "fun" they could add, if any.

The one thing I can suggest is that I think the Shooting Accuracy competition would be a lot more entertaining if they were blasting slapshots off of cross-ice passes from inside the blueline (or the top of the circle); I think this would provide an actual (little) thrill when that target exploded. A wrist-shot from the hashmarks off of a dinky saucer pass from next to the net just doesn't do it for me.

Any others?


State of the Union, meta

Now's the time of year (didn't you miss this in '05 and '06!) when the media comes out with their What's Wrong With the NHL stories, generally punctuated with a colon (not a question mark). The alarm, such as it is, is that the NHL does not appear to be growing. NHL marketing is "not working very well", and they still haven't gotten the "Great American TV Contract... the economic foundation for modern day professional sport". Attendance, or at least filled seats, appears to be down in many cities.

I have to admit to a little frustration at these pieces, in particular Mark Spector's, as he was one of the louder proponents of the owner's side in the CBA. I'm frustrated because the CBA is working exactly as it was designed, yet guys like Spector seem unable or unwilling to put two and two together.

The whole idea of the CBA was to trade off uncontrolled (spiralling!) growth to achieve stability and profitability. The explicit premise of the thing was that organizations like the Detroit Red Wings were killing the NHL. Spend lots of money on players, improve the team, get more fans, increase the value of their brand, earn more money to spend on players, etc. etc. -- that was growth, and that was the problem.

The Dallas Stars and the Florida Panthers came to their respective cities at about the same time, neither with any particular natural advantage over the other. Dallas is now one of the better American hockey markets (i.e. it grew), while Florida is one of the worst, yet you'll recall that it was the Stars who were ruining the league by doing stuff like paying Bill Guerin millions of dollars.

The CBA worked. There are fewer franchises in dire financial difficulties. The investments of the 30 owners were protected. It worked -- now all the franchises are behaving as "responsibly" as the Blackhawks and the Panthers. The trade-off has been, and was always going to be, less growth. This is what I wrote in July 2005:
Every innovation in the past 50 years of the NHL has been initiated by a team, not by the league as a whole. (I use innovation not in the sense of "new technology", but rather "new idea designed to extract money from fans voluntarily".) Many of these innovations have been widely adopted, or even uniformly adopted as NHL policy, but the fact remains that they all came from businesses seeking to grow, improve, and gain profit.

Third jerseys, seat licenses, Pizza Hut in the concourse, game packs, coaches' radio shows, reserved parking lots, etc. etc. etc...none of these things came as a result of a partnership committee in the NHL offices. Individual teams initiated these things to grow revenue, improve their teams, and/or make more profit.

Both a salary cap and revenue sharing act as disincentives for this kind of innovation. In the case of (say) the Leafs, it's a powerful one. Proponents of revenue sharing seem to take the pile of league revenues as a given, as if redistributing them won't change anyone's behaviour. This is economically illiterate.

[...]Suddenly the Leafs are in a situation where their revenues far exceed what they are allowed to spend on players. What will they do?
  • At the one extreme, they could maintain or raise ticket prices, and continue to take risks to develop new revenue streams, all so that a good portion of their excess revenue can be mailed to Nashville and Pittsburgh.
  • At the other extreme, they could drop ticket and beer prices to a level where they spend the full cap, cover their other expenses, and make a tidy but not gaudy profit. Obviously much less, if any, revenue is available to redistribute in this case.
The reality will no doubt fall somewhere between these two extremes. But note that the first extreme is pleasing to people in Nashville, whereas the second is pleasing to people in Toronto. I'll leave it to you to determine how that might affect the Toronto Maple Leafs' planning.

When a team like the Leafs isn't even sure that they want to grab all the revenues that they know are available, they will absolutely not be risking anything on ventures where they don't know that money is available. This means zero growth.

Maximizing growth in an industry necessarily involves some creative destruction, and some of the weaker firms in the industry being left in the dust. The 30 NHL owners decided that this wasn't the way they wanted to proceed, and even lost a full season to ensure it. They were backed loudly by the fans along the way. Problem? What problem?

Here's a question (one of 21) I posed even further back, in February 2005:
Based on their observed performance managing their respective brands, whose business model should be the freaking last one outlawed, not the first?
  1. Mike Ilitch
  2. Bill Wirtz
  3. Gary Bettman

Yeah, so the NHL isn't growing. The die was cast in July of '05. Maybe they will be able to achieve some moderate growth going forward, but I'm skeptical -- central planning usually accomplishes it pretty poorly.

Contrary to the impression I'm giving, I'm not down on the NHL. I like the game. I don't think I'm "missing" an innovation that hasn't happened, but who knows? Something significant that improves my enjoyment of hockey would have been much more likely to come from one of 30 capitalists (and then copied by others) than it will from a majority vote of an NHL marketing committee.


Symphony No. 1941 in F(rogger) Major

With no hockey scheduled Monday, I thought I'd check out some more refined entertainment. Turns out it was worth it.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Fun and irrelevant

It seems like everyone else has an opinion on the All-Star Game, so why not me.

The short version is, I like it. I think it's fun, even if it is "irrelevant" in the grand scheme. The game itself and the skills competition are varying degrees of silly, but it doesn't really bother me. The fact that perennial All-Stars beg off actually showing up, to recuperate from whatever, doesn't bother me either. I like that the guys who do show up, especially the first-timers, seem genuinely excited and honoured to be a part of it. It's one of those things that make seem superstar athletes seem more real (nothing humanizes a person quite like humility, imho).

I'm a lot less enamoured with the YoungStars game. I think that format is better suited for basketball or baseball, mainly because forwards and defencemen develop at such different rates. Just look at the rosters: virtually all the forwards are already genuine Top-6 quality guys, in some cases worthy of being in the grown-ups game; the defensemen are mostly guys who are (or should be) platooned into the 3rd pair. Not to slag the individual D chosen, but at this point they're just not at the same level as the forwards. (Or, maybe Magic Beans Smid will break up a bunch of Malkin/Vanek 2-on-1's, and I'll look like an idiot.)

For the most part, though, this is all just a matter of taste. I certainly understand the take of many "serious" fans that don't care and won't watch. If there's one major element of the criticism that I think is objectively wrong, though, it's the bit about how it's just a big put-on for the corporate crowd, and that this is a bad thing (example: Dowbiggin).

No. This is a good thing. Everyone's always on the NHL to market their product better, so why is a "corporate schmooze" getting a hard time? Decisions by major corporations on sponsorship are made on the basis of all sorts of objective factors (size of target audience, demographics, tie-in opportunities, etc. etc.), but the fact is that in the end, they are made by humans who act for these corporations. Getting these humans to an event like the All-Star game, where they can meet players, have fun, see their abilities up close, and maybe decide that NHL hockey is pretty cool, is a terrific idea.

There's another reason why the ASG is good marketing; bear with me for a second here. Hockey has the same problem as most sports, but to a greater degree: national TV viewership is heavily dependent on what 2 cities are involved in the game. The NHL had trouble selling their national rights, and in fact are being paid by NBC on a profit-sharing basis. In the 30 individual markets, though, we haven't really seen this; even in some of the lousier NHL cities, they have a decently lucrative TV deal.

What this means, roughly: the much-discussed "casual hockey fan" is not someone who checks out the NHL once in a while but can take it or leave it. She is actually a fan of one of the 30 teams, and keeps up with that team at the rink or on TV/radio, but does not watch the NHL otherwise. In other words: she's already a hockey fan.

One of the ways she might change her habits (increase her NHL consumption) is if the NBC game involves a player who has impressed her; one of the obvious ways this might happen is from watching the All-Star game, where (A) one of her players is in it and (B) there are likely to be impressive individual performances. I realize that there's 15+ years of declining TV ratings proving me wrong, but there you go.

Addendum: it's just reality that, especially in the U.S., hockey fandom is tightly tied to individual teams. I happen to think the fact that the NHL (and most pundits) treat this like a bug rather than a feature is a big part of their problem, but that's a whole other post.


State of the Union

Eastern Conference first: even though the playoff race is still fairly compressed, I'm going to guess that the eight teams above the line right now are the eight that will make the playoffs. I don't think Boston has anywhere to go but down; I don't think the Rangers are good enough; and Toronto has myriad problems, not the least of which is their goaltending. I'd give the Isles the best odds at breaking back into the Top 8, but only if something drastic happens to improve their special teams.

Fun fact: even if the Flyers play as well in their last 35 games as Buffalo has all season, they'll finish with 77 points, which might just squeak them into 14th place.

Western Conference: I'll happily count out Phoenix, C-Bus, Chicago, and L.A., but I'm not quite ready to throw dirt on the Blues yet. Their recent run (sweeping through California!) shows me something, but more than that, I don't think they were ever as bad as their early season record indicated. Their goaltending was injured and also sucked, but Manny Legace has historically been a goalie who saves his teams goals (relative to an average guy) rather than costing them, and he seems to have his mojo back (and is healthy). Their shoot% was also brutal six weeks ago, and has been reverting to the mean.

NSH/ANA/SJS/DET are clearly in. Dallas could have completely fallen apart recently, but has hung on; now they're going to start getting healthy again, and although their schedule looks pretty tough in the next month, a 4.5-game cushion on 9th should be more than enough. They're in. I'll also stun all our readers by predicting that the Flames will qualify.

You won't find me shrugging off the Canucks' recent success; however, they are 10-2 in OT/SO games (including a remarkable 7-0 in games settled in OT). If they keep playing as well as they have been lately, they won't need to keep up that pace, but going forward, they can expect to win about half their OT/SO games, with a corresponding effect on their record.

So there's 1 or 2 playoff spots available, there for the taking by the Oilers, Avs, Wild, or (longshot) Blues. My take, for what it's worth, is that Kevin Lowe would be crazy not to mortgage the future a bit to try and snag one. The case goes something like this:
  1. You never really know about your prospects: when and if they'll pan out (or which ones)
  2. Even if a prospect becomes a good player, your team might not be any good when he blossoms
  3. The Oil have forwards and a goalie that are playoff-tested and capable of beating a better team in a 7-game series
  4. Based on comments from the fwds and the coach (not to mention the fans), it would do their confidence (or perhaps, enthusiasm) a world of good to see the GM make a move for the present
Seriously, folks: the Oilers have been (roughly speaking) pretty crappy this year, with some injury problems and some bad play by rookie and veteran D alike who have been leaned on too much (among other things). And yet, they're only 4 points out of a playoff spot, they only have to vault the Avs (3 H2H games remaining) and the Wild (5 H2H games remaining).

"Overpaying" for someone like Brent Sopel or Aaron Miller -- right now -- just seems like a no-brainer. It might not help with the crisp breakout passes or the powerplay, but it would help with this:
I'll say one thing: if the Oilers ownership and management has decided to give up on the season, they can hardly blame me for doing the same.

The Oilers players are a bunch of highly-paid professionals, but they are also human, and it is impossible that this same thought is not infecting some of them to various degrees. Dumping a good prospect for a soon-to-be-UFA defenceman turns that all around.


Andy Grabia: Host with the Most

Soooo... not much to complain about Saturday night. The BoA get-together at the U of A's RATT was a lot of fun.

First and foremost, I need to give massive props to my co-contributor Andy, who did an awesome job preparing. He had loads of Flames, Oilers, & BoA trivia questions for the intermissions, and prizes as well. I regret that I was only able to be there for a good time, not a long time; I would have enjoyed staying longer after the game to socialize and pound a few more. Thanks to Cosh, Sarah, Abboud, Pleasure Motors, Allan, the couple of guys I ignorantly failed to introduce myself to, and more for coming out. Thanks to Peter for zipping up from Calgary; I presume that the result alone made the trip worthwhile.

Best smack of the night goes to my brother-in-law (and Flames season ticket-holder) Wayne: when it was announced that Ryan Smyth would be the After Hours guest, he said something to the effect of, "Hey, we should call up and ask him how he thinks this year's World Championship team is looking!". Heh!

My personal game-related highlight was easily, easily, the amount of hatred directed at Phaneuf from Oiler fans. I don't want to (or perhaps can't) defend Dion against the specific beefs, but Good God does it feel nice to have a guy on my team that inspires so much loathing. His 4-on-4 goal to make it 4-0 was just a delightful cherry on top of the whole game. (Runner-up highlight: seeing Roloson melt down over the course of the game. I'm pretty sure MacT yanked him out of concern that he was going to get himself suspended. Also, the number of Flames jerseys scattered throughout the bar was pretty impressive.)

To those of you who couldn't make it, whether it was other committments or that you live a plane ride away: you were missed, and you missed out. I hope we can do it again. Go Flames.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Battle Game Day: Open Thread

A One, Two, Three , Four...

Hit me! Last game before the All-Star break. Both teams bit by the injury bug. Four points on the line. Battle of Alberta Day up at RATT. I don't know karate, but I know ka-razy. Yes, I do!

It's the big Payback for the Oilers. The Flames have got down with our girlfriend, and that ain't right. I'm mad. Time for revenge! Tie up the season series, and make it tight.

Tonight has the feel of a barn-burner. We're going to see some wheelin'. We're going to see some dealin'. Hopefully, we won't see no damn squealin'. Cuz I can dig some rappin'. I can definitely dig some scrappin'. But I can't dig that backstabbin'. Oh, no!

Prediction: Time to be Super Bad. 4-3, Oilers. Joffrey Lupul has a move that tells him what to do. He shows the righteous touch, scoring a hat-trick. The Hardest Working Man In Hockey scores on its most exciting play. Zach "No Need To Be Saved By The Bell" Stortini and Jean-Luc Godard start the French New Wave with two rounds of fistacuffs, and I feel so nice, good God, I jump back and kiss myself!!! WAAAAAATTTTCH ME!!!!

Friday, January 19, 2007


Flames Game Day

Flames v. Ducks, 7PM MT, RSN West. Things that make you go Huh?:

1) Scott Niedermayer won't be playing in the All-Star game; he's being replaced by Special Ed. Apparently he has a stress fracture in his right foot, which explains why he played a mere 29:03 in last night's loss to the Oil, including 11:38 in the 2nd period.

2) The other WC All-Star replacement, going in the place of Zetterberg, is Andy McDonald. I kind of shrugged when Daymond Langkow wasn't named to the team: there's only 21 roster spots, and 16 of them had been filled once they picked a guy from every team. But taking McDonald before Langkow when Selanne is already representing the Ducks is a noodle-scratcher.

McDonald has 3 fewer points in 4 additional games, doesn't kill penalties, and is subject to the same Well, look at his linemate! skepticism as Langkow. Maybe last year's performance was a big factor, in which case you have to wonder why Datsyuk didn't get to replace his teammate. At any rate, hopefully Langkow's teammates take some offense on his behalf, and go out tonight on a mission to shut down the Selanne line, with prejudice.

For obvious karma-related reasons, I'm not going to dwell on the Ducks' present struggles (that's Sleek's job); suffice it to say that a Flames loss tonight would be extremely disappointing. I'll call it as Calgary 3 (Lombardi, Huselius, Yelle) Anaheim 1 (Selanne on the PP). Go Flames.

Special BoA Postscript: note that Saturday night's 1st period will feature the heavyweight bout of Godard vs. Stortini. Don't be late!


High Fidelity

Make sure to head over to Hot Oil today and get your vote in on the Oilogosphere Hot Off. My opponent and I are in a dead heat, and I need your vote to secure a victory.

A vote for my opponent is a vote for tyranny. A mustache leads to hatred, oppression, and moral decay. A vote for me, on the other hand, is a vote for sex, drugs and rock n' roll. It's a vote for FREEDOM. Freedom needs your help, my friends. Get out and vote today!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Muh Mum Ma My...Arena

TSN has a story from the Canadian Press up, on the Oilers looking for a new stadium. Man, the Edmonton Investors Group is good. The team says a couple of things officially, but they let the rest of their story get spun told by someone else. That way, they didn't start the conversation, right? Or feed that info to anyone. It's just out there, floating in the ether, looking for a home. To wit:

1) We now have a timeline for the new building, from Pat Laforge himself: seven years, which is when the contract with Northlands runs out.

2) We have the implied threat of movement, from the writer (I'm going to guess it is Pierre Lebrun):
Built in 1974, Rexall Place is the oldest Canadian home in the NHL and third-oldest in the league, behind Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, home to the New York Islanders. In Pittsburgh, failure to reach a deal on a new rink has left the future of the franchise in doubt in the Pennsylvania city.(emphasis mine)

3) We have the writer painting a picture of Rexall wherein the stadium is similar to the streets of Calcutta in its crowdedness and dilapidation:
Between periods, patrons lining up for the washroom snake out the door, becoming a human dam for a streaming river of fans shuffling, elbowing and bumping along to grab food and souvenirs.

The locker room is tiny, media facilities need upgrading and TV trucks are forced to wedge in under the seats with no room to spare.

4) We have the team president say that the building leaves them no choice but to raise ticket prices:
"It causes us to have to increase ticket prices because we don't have that bottom-end price at the top end of the bowl like a lot of other buildings do."

5) We have the writer telling us that the team is trying really, really hard to do this on the cheap:
Edmonton Northlands has commissioned a report from a U.S. architect on whether Rexall can realistically be upgraded to the size of modern NHL rinks. It's expected to be ready next month.

6) We have the writer reinforcing the price tag:
The downtown arena proposal hasn't gone beyond informal discussions among business leaders. The rough price tag is $300 million.

Mayor Stephen Mandel has said he would look seriously at building a new downtown rink that would be part of a $1-billion complex of shops, businesses and a hotel. Who would pay for what is part of the discussion.

7) And least but not least, we have the economist, the guy who is really going to spin the bullshit tell it like it is for the Edmonton Ownership Group.
Sports studies professor Dan Mason said building a rink downtown is part of the new economic model for sports facilities and cities.

More activity in the businesses around a downtown rink can translate into more retail, commercial and real estate tax money to help service the arena debt, he said.

"You can look at it as the arena can pay for itself," said Mason, who studies sports and stadium financing at the University of Alberta.

All in all, a pretty good story for the Edmonton Investors Group. They touch all the bases, without even really needing to move past first.

Just to be clear, let's look at the timeline:

1) On November 14th, 2006, an editorial runs in the Edmonton Journal about the potential for a new arena. The writer, Paula Simons, just wants to start the dialogue. She says the backers of the plan are "anonymous." No timeline is given, Rexall is functional, it is admitted that there are pros and cons to building a new arena in the downtown area, and it all has to be about what is right for the citizens of Edmonton.

2) On December 11th, 2006, an editorial runs in the Edmonton Journal. The writer, Dan Barnes, is fine with the idea, as long as taxpayers don't have to foot the entire bill. He says that it is the Oilers who want a new arena, that the stadium should not be financed primarily by public dollars, that the total cost is around $250 million, that the team should stop with its not-so-subtle references about how old the arena is, and that a clear vision of what the EIG wants to do, and how they wish to see it accomplished, is required.

3) On December 22nd, a story runs in the Edmonton Journal. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel states his support for the building of a new arena in downtown Edmonton. The arena could be part of a development plan costing $1 billion. The arena itself could cost $300-400 million. Rexall is old, may or may not be able to be renovated, and a creative plan that will not burden the taxpayer must be sought out.

Which gets us to today. Notice what has been shed, and how defined it has become in a two month period. It's no longer an anonymous plan, but one the Oilers and the Mayor both support. There is now a timeline, where before there was none. Cost has gone from $0 to $250 million to $300 or $400 million, to maybe even $1 billion if it includes hotels and such. Rexall has gone from functional to run down. An increase in ticket prices isn't the EIG gouging the fans, it's the fault of the building. It has gone from possibly building a new arena on the Rexall site or a new downtown site to just building a new arena downtown. The economic cons have disappeared to the point where a downtown arena is simply the cost of doing business. And the concern about what is best for the citizens of Edmonton has been shed, along with a funding formula whereby the EIG foots most of the bill, in favour of doing what is best for the owners of the Edmonton Oilers. But remember, don't be mad: "you can look at it as the arena can pay for itself."

Concurrent with these articles has been the conversation on the blogs. I have consistently opposed the idea, skeptical about the motivations of the Journal and the EIG, and refusing to use public dollars to the tune of $250 million + for a hockey rink that the owners should pay for themselves. Mike at Covered in Oil has also rejected the idea. Avi at SportsMatters has written the best piece on the subject, deconstructing much of the spin about economic benefits and the responsibility of taxpayers. Though it was done in the National Post, Colby Cosh also deconstructed the arguments in favour of a new building, then proceeded to support the idea in his concluding paragraph. And finally, Tyler has written on the issue at mc79hockey, supporting the use of taxpayer dollars on the grounds that other entertainment events and cultural activities receive government funding. I haven't given a perfect summary here, and I completely left Matt's view out in the cold, but my point is that the Oilogosphere has been on the issue from the get go. I'm also certain it's engaging in a much more balanced and informed debate about the issue than the public at large, and probably the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Oilers Investors Group, and the Province of Alberta, for that matter.

Having again expressed my disapproval of using $250 million + of public funds to build a new Oilers arena, I'd like to pick up on a point Cosh made in his National Post article. I disagree with his and Dellow's assertion that giving private owners of a profit earning hockey club hundreds of millions of dollars is the same as supporting scientists, artists and non-profit organizations like the Edmonton Folk Festival, but I do agree with his point about a new arena being built on the basis of a competitive advantage. I have been thinking about this for some time, and have come up with some conditions whereby I can buy into the building of a new Oilers arena. Not that my aceptance matters at all. I'm just having some fun. Most, if not all of the conditions, centre on the notion of a competitive edge.

1) The new arena must have a European-sized ice surface.

The NHL Rulebook states that the "official size of the rink shall be two hundred feet (200') long and eighty-five feet (85') wide. The corners shall be rounded in the arc of a circle with a radius of twenty-eight feet (28')." International rinks are wider, at 98.5 ft, and have more space behind the net. That is the kind of rink I want in Edmonton: 200 feet long, 98.5 feet wide, and corners with a radius of 28 feet. I also want 13 feet from end board to goal line, 58 feet from goal line to blue line, and 58 feet between blue lines. Such a rink size would never happen in Rexall, because it would cut out seats in the lower bowl. But with a new arena, it can happen. I suppose Gary Bettman and other owners might object, but I say forget them. Build it, and then build a team around it. It's no different from what the Flyers, Bruins and other teams did for years, and it's how it works in baseball. It's a unique feature for fans to enjoy, and it will help the team draw in a specific type of free agent: the fast and tremendously skilled one.

2) The new arena must be tailored to be as loud as humanly possible.

Paul Allen did this one right with Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks. He demanded that builders minimize the stadium footprint, allowing fans to get closer to the game. The final product was one where the fans are practically sitting on top of the field, rather than pushed back through the traditional bowl structure. The structure of the stadium, especially the roof, was designed to optimize fan noise. One end of the stadium was specifically designed for the hard-core fan: metal bleachers were put in, so that the fans could stomp their feet and make a ton of noise. A "12th Man" flag was put up, to recognize and honour the fans, as well as get them pumped up before the start of a game. The effect of these design features has been tangible. Opposing teams regularly get false start penalties, more than anywhere else in the NFL. They've even complained that the Seahawks are piping in the noise, it's so loud. I don't know how it can be done in a new hockey arena, but making the place ridiculously noisy should be the goal. It enhances the fan experience, and makes the place tough for opposing teams to play in (see Chicago Stadium).

3) The new arena must have state-of-the art facilities, locker rooms, and player amenities.

Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks are the model. Not only did Cuban make Dallas a destination of choice by offering nice juicy contracts; he made the amenities something the players would notice. As soon as he bought the Mavericks, he arranged for the team to fly on their own plane, and bought every member of the team and the organization a new laptop computer. He equipped the Mavericks locker room with state-of-the-art technology. Every player has a stereo system and a video game console, amongst other things. He also made sure that the opposition player's dressing room was outfitted to the max, so that they would have an idea of what it would be like to play in Dallas if they signed there as free agents. The idea is that you spend money on things outside of the cap that will draw players to your city. I would argue that the model is even similar to the creative class model expounded by Richard Florida. People increasingly care more about amenities that affect their standard of living--health care, education, parks and recreation, arts & culture etc.--than they do about pure salary. These players are getting paid millions no matter where they play. It's the details that make the difference. Like, you know, not letting Chris Pronger live in Terwilliger Towne. Stuff like that.

4) The new arena must have a real organ.

No model here, other than the legendary ambience at old-school hockey arenas. I want me an organ!

**5) The Edmonton Ownership Group must increase its commitment to maximizing the fan experience.

This one's a bonus, mostly because I want to talk about Cuban. Again, he is the exemplar. Many sports fans think of Cuban as the crazy owner who runs around the basketball court, waving his hands and yelling at referees. But despite the aloof appearance, Cuban takes his ownership, and specifically ownership's relationship with the fans, seriously. Everyone knows he sits courtside at every home game, but Cuban also sits in the $8 seats several times a year, hanging out with fans and asking for input on the product. His email address is put up on the Maverick's scoreboard every game. In 2001, he received an email from a fan suggesting that the team put up three-sided 24 second shot clocks, so that spectators too could see them (they were originally built for just the players). The new clocks were up three weeks later. He writes on his own blog, and the comments are turned on. The Mavericks maintain a database that tells them if season ticket holders have attended a game or not (tickets are scanned at the turnstile). If they have not, they get a personable phone call from a staffer the next day, inquiring about their absence and making sure all is okay. And speaking of tickets, Cuban lowered their price this season. The reason: player payroll was going down.

Granted, when Cuban took over the Mavericks they were an unsuccessful team unable to put butts in the seats. But Cuban changed that through smart business moves, and he hasn't stopped trying to please the fans now that the team is selling out every night and winning games. The lesson for the Oilers is this: don't take your fan-base for granted. I'd start off by increasing the production value of Pay-Per-Views and not increasing ticket prices without an increase in payroll. Here's an even more radical idea: tie your ticket prices to the number of wins on the ice. The team wins, the product is good, prices go up. Team stinks or underperforms, the product is no good, and prices go down.

That's all I got. I could write a fancy conclusion, tying it all together, but I'm not getting paid by the word. This took too long as is. It will all get flushed out in the comments. In short, I don't buy most of the Edmonton Investor Group's arguments, but if they want to talk about creating a competitive advantge, I'm all ears.

***Update*** PM has his own take on COI.

***Update*** Big edit here. At the beginning of this post, I said:

"And least but not least, we have the economist, the guy who is really going to spin the bullshit tell it like it is for the Edmonton Ownership Group."

Turns out, the guy I assumed would be an economist--because, you know, they were talking about the economics of building a new arena in the downtown core--doesn't have a single degree in the field. He teaches in the Faculty of Business at the UofA, but all of his degrees are in Physical Education. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and the resume is pretty stacked with research on hockey, but I would have assumed the expert would be equipped with a bit more expertise. Thanks to Tyler for the link to the Dr. Mason's CV.



California Love

Record: 30-10-8Record: 22-20-4

So I was downloading some hot pics off of HornyManatee last night, and it got me thinking about the Anaheim Ducks. Real aqua fetish, I have. And I thought to myself, self, the Oil really need to beat the living hell out of the Ducks Thursday night. There won't be the distraction of Chris Pronger's second visit to Edmonton (haven't seen a thing about it in the papers), plus the team won't have to play against his lanky yet dominating ass. The Ducks are 5-7-2 in their last 14, including a 6-2 loss to the Blues on Tuesday. Even Oilers head coach Craig simpson isn't as crazy--or historically unsuccessful-- as Randy Carlyle: see St. Louis scoring a Shorthanded Empty Net goal with three and a half minutes left in the game, and the possibility of a man dying from exhaustion while on the ice. Plus, the Oilers season started its downturn the last time they played the Ducks. They are 9-12-3 since November 28th, when they blew a 3rd period lead and lost in Overtime. They've had one impresive win since then, against the Canes on December 6th. Win tonight, the Oil stop the bleeding and turn their season around. I'm certain of it. Lose and...sigh.

I thought all that, just like that, and then watched some explicit home video footage of Prince Namor and Paris Hilton. What can I say? It was a crazeee night.

Talk in the papers today is about the Boogard hit on Hemsky Tuesday night. I'm on record following the completion of the first game of the season, saying that the Oilers were going to need a tough guy. Pinto has been getting hammered all year long, with impunity. The Oil did score the game-winner off of the penalty Boogard took on Tuesday, but I don't know if that washes out in the cost/benefit analysis. I doubt there will be a problem with the Ducks tonight, even if they have George Porthos in the lineup. But something needs to change. Either the Oilers find or bring someone up, or they start taking liberties with opposing team's star players the minute they go after ours. Or both. I second Dennis' suggestion that they start by taking a test drive on Alex Tanguay's face on Saturday night. Some leaping hits from Torres ought to do the trick. That should draw Iginla in--if he's man enough to play, that is. If not, we can at least watch Quasimodo pretend to be tough, which is always worth a laugh or two.

Round 2 of the Oilogosphere Hot Off begins today on Hot Oil, and I'm counting on your vote. The post is up now. When making your decision, don't forget that Chris! took Dion Phaneuf in the 2nd round of our Hockey Blogger Fantasy Draft. Of his own free will. He didn't pick a Oiler until the 9th round. You know how many he has on his roster now? None. Guess how many Flames he has? One. Dion Phanuef. His boyfriend. I may have the 3rd worst team in the league, but it's worth it because I'm sticking with my boys. Seven Oilers in my lineup. Seven. Chris!? Zero. He also wants to put soldiers on our streets. Soldiers with guns. In our streets. In Canada. Guns. I did not make this up.

Prediction: 4-2, Oilers. Torres, Smyth, Nedved, Hemsky. Shake, shake it baby. Shake it, shake it mama. Shake it baby.


BoA Day

Slight change of plans to the BoA Day this Saturday. Rather than going to Hudsons on Campus, we are going to host it at the Room At The Top, or RATT, on the UofA Campus. They have requested our presence, and we are more than happy to oblige. It's a great campus bar, and a great place to watch a hockey game. RATT is on the 7th Floor of the Students' Union Building (SUB), which is directly beside the Students' Union Car park and directly across from the Clare Drake arena. A map is here, for those unaware of how to find the building. Once you are in the building, find the elevators, and press 7.

Date: Saturday, January 20th, 2007
City: Edmonton
Time: Game at 8 p.m. Meet at 7.
Location: Room At The Top (RATT)

Specials (from 1 hr before the game until the game ends)
Canadian/Coors jugs $9.75
Canadian/Coors pints $3.75
Canadian/Coors bottles $3
Hiballs $3

Plus, RATT gives away 2 tickets to the game at about 7:30. So the opportunity to abandon us sure makes your presence worthwhile!

Once again, please contact Matt and I by email to let us know if you will be attending. I would like to get up to 30 confirmations by Friday, and we aren't quite there yet. Time to come out and party, people! I should also mention that Peter is coming up from Calgary, and is willing to bring up any others who might be interested. If so, drop a line in the comments here, or email Matt and I.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Flames Game Day

The Flames visit the Dallas/Iowa Stars tonight (630PM MT, TSN), to try to get a split in their little two-game roadie. Iginla, Kobasew, & McCarty are still out for the Flames; the Stars will be missing most or all of Modano, Morrow, Zubov, Barnaby, Boucher, Halpern, & Ott. I don't want to get too excited, but if there was ever a time to improve on their 27th-ranked 73.7% Road PK, this is it (presumptive #1 PP blueliners: Stephane Robidas & Darryl Sydor; #2: Jaroslav Modry & Trevor Daley).

Second! Eric Francis runs down Daymond Langkow's All-Star credentials in the Sun today. Very inspired.

Speaking of the Calgary Sun, check out the screencap at left, and the bizarre sub-hed on Pierre Lebrun's article about the new Reebok unis. I read the piece four times to make sure: Joffrey Lupul is not mentioned, referenced, alluded to, etc. whatsoever. It would be funnier if it was the Edmonton Sun, but whatever.

Also, surely tonight's game will be worth watching just to catch Pierre McGuire's apology [MONSTER apology, shurely -ed.] to the Montreal Gazette's Jack Todd. I have very little use for Todd and his Poundian ethics (check out his take on Roger Clemens -- apparently he's gotten a "free ride" on the steroids scandal on account of his never being caught or credibly accused of doing anything), but since he has absolutely no motive for lying here, I'll choose to believe the he-said.

It says here that the Halpern & Boucher injuries Monday represent a tipping point, and that the Stars will no longer be able to play even mediocre hockey with a roster consisting of Eric Lindros, Mike Ribeiro, and the Finnish Olympic team's third line. Calgary 5 (Tanguay, Lombardi, Boyd, Amonte, Phaneuf), Dallas 0 (Kip-perrrr!). Go Flames.


Seasons change, tides turn

The sporadic but inimitable weblogger Evan Kirchhoff has posted a hilariously scathing review of Apple's iPhone titled, "IT IS NOT YOUR IMAGINATION THAT THE SANDWICH TASTES FUNNY". This has nothing whatsoever to do with hockey; I'm just linking it because, besides being hilariously scathing, he has a line that reminds me of the attitude shift re: the officiating standards that we're starting to see more and more, from more prominent writers and broadcasters. That is:
Just don't be surprised if Jobs is standing on the same stage in 2008 arguing with equal fervor that shit has always been a lousy sandwich ingredient.


This and That

**Since I'm ripping off Steve Simmons' sub-hed, I might as well start with him:
One year later, it's hard to imagine how Sidney Crosby and Ryan Miller were left off their respective Olympic hockey teams. The presence of either could have changed the medal picture in Turin...

No argument here on Crosby -- I said as much numerous times a year ago -- but Ryan Miller? I prefer not to use the word, because people have a tendency to equate it with "sucks" (and because the player himself has no control over it), but it looks like Ryan Miller has surpassed Scott Niedermayer as the most overrated player in the league. It's Grant Fuhr all over again.

Miller doesn't suck; he provides the Sabres with exactly what they need, which is capable goaltending to buttress their fantastic offense. He also makes some highlight-reel saves (the stick save v. the Bruins on Monday was phenomenal). But he is not (at least yet) in the top tier of goalies in the NHL.

A reasonable definition of this might be "a goalie who stops a lot of shots that the average goalie would not". The available data from Stats God JavaGeek indicates that Miller does not (click on Goalies, then SQN% at the top of the table which is SV% corrected for Shot Quality, i.e. distance from net, wrist or slapshot, etc.. Then keep scrolling down until you find him in the middle.). This backs up the Forechecker's work from December, where (at that time) Buffalo's goalies were allowing exactly as many goals as you would expect with average performances.

Give Miller credit. Just don't give him the Vezina, or the freaking Hart Trophy, as I heard recommended on XM Radio early this month. Also, apparently Simmons isn't a Crow fan: "..Reason to smile on a Sunday: Marc Crawford is in last place...". How has this guy never gotten punched in the face?

**In case you hadn't noticed, the Nashville Predators are now the #1 team in the NHL, with 21 more Ws than Ls. Anaheim has gone 2-3-2 since Pronger went out, 2-5-2 since Giguere & Beauchemin went out. The Preds look to be full value for it, too: good in all three facets of the game, good goaltending, good at home and on the road. Their 4-1 shootout record helps a bit, but it's not that gaudy.

**Mirtle has a thoughtful take on the Selke where he refers back to a previous post here. Two things:
  1. Patty from Modesto is a Jim Rome Show reference
  2. The dig at Brind'Amour was a bit off the cuff, which I try to avoid, so, Sorry. All I did was look at his 28 ES points combined with his +7 and conclude that, OK, he's not Mr. Shutdown. For all I know, on balance, he may deserve it -- but like Mirtle says, there's no reason why the discussion can't include the considerable amount of data available. Just how often are goals scored when Player X is on the ice? How effective (objectively) is his penalty-killing? How tough is his opposition?
**Related: I had an epiphany on how to restore some cachet (credibility? desirability?) to the Lady Byng Trophy, apart from dropping the "Lady" -- give the vote to the refs. Maybe no NHLer wants to be known as "gentlemanly" no matter what, but it's the refs who know best who are the whiners, the divers, and the guys who are always trying to get away with something.

Also: have them vote for a coach, same criteria. All we see on TV are coaches yelling; they all do. And sure -- arenas are loud places. But we really don't know who's abusive, and who's "asking questions", or thereabouts. Surely someone (Hockey Canada?) could use this Model Coach award as part of their efforts to promote sportsmanship (manners and perspective) in minor hockey.

**Oiler fans: if you haven't been following mudcrutch's blog, then you may not be aware that this guy is on your roster:
He is sometimes referred to by fans as the "Macedonian Bobby Orr."

So you got that going for you, which has gotta be nice.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Wild At Heart

Uh, we need to win, right? With this group, too, since its unlikely a saviour for this team is on his way. But will we? Who knows? We manhandled them four night ago, and still lost. If we play that way again, I'd like to think we win. But with this team, you never know. They find every way possible to lose.

Prediction: I watch Season 3 of The Wire, rather than the game. Someone panglossian s.o.b. tries to shame me, and I lash out with a swift chop to the mid-section. I then approach and apply the Mola Ram, ending their time on this planet.


Delicious, sir, can I have another?

"Laddie (defenceman Smid, the other kid in the trade) has overachieved and Lupes has been a little back of expectations. But it's Joffrey's second full year in the league." -- Kevin Lowe, as told by Jim Matheson

Well, I guess I'm never again going to have to hear from Oil Fan about how the Calgary fans and media kiss Darryl Sutter's butt and call it ice cream.

Set aside the Smid part, and the fact that apparently when Lowe made the Pronger trade, he was expecting even less immediate help on D than he got. Here are Joffrey Lupul's numbers from what apparently was not his first full year in the league:

He averaged 13:36 of ice time per game, so he wasn't exactly in the Mikhnov role; that's only 2:26/Gm less than he's playing this season. In fact, that's a pretty nice season for a 20-year-old rookie.

Kevin Lowe's motivations are pretty obvious, and I think we all know the Hall-of-Famer is willing to carry his water on occasion, but that is stretching the bounds of reasonable spin far too far. Actually that's too nice -- it's just utter bullshit.

But! Surely no one will remember any of this if Lupul can just overachieve like Smid in the 2nd half.


Calling All Logicians

Or, maybe English majors: can someone rationalize these two sentences? One:
Tempting as it is for Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe to do something, anything, with his team languishing in Western Conference standings going into tonight's tilt with the Minnesota Wild, he won't rush into any deal.

"I don't think much has changed with the assessment and what we figure are the needs and what we're trying to do," said Lowe.

Right, you wouldn't want to rush into addressing something you've known about for months.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Flames Game Day

The Flames start their toughest week of the season this afternoon in Nashville (4PM MT, RSN West). I think they need to earn a split of this game and the one in Dallas on Wednesday, but at the same time, I'm just about looking at this one as a freebie: it's about as low as my expectations ever get for a Flames win.

The Preds have beat the Flames 6 straight times (they were the only team to sweep them last season). They're on a 5-game winning streak (as are the Flames); they're a terrific 15-3-3 at home (Flames road record = 6-10-4); and they have no injuries to speak of.

Things to cling to hoping for a Flames win:
Ooohh, now I'm getting a warm feeling. Call it Calgary 3 (Phaneuf, Huselius, and Langkow with The Most Exciting Play in Hockey**) Nashville 1 (Jordathon Teechoo). Make sure you knock off work in time to see the 1st period. Go Flames.

**That's an empty net goal (ÞVic), I'll be adding it to the Glossary shortly.

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