Thursday, March 29, 2007


Big Win

The Flames just beat Minnesota 4-2, a win that was:
  1. on the road
  2. in regulation
  3. against a team in a playoff position
According to my lovingly kept records, that's the first time this has happened since... Game 3 vs. the Ducks in the '06 playoffs. It's only the 3rd reg. road win this season against a team that is presently in a playoff position; on Nov. 11 they beat Vancouver (Canucks record at the time was 8-8-1), and on Oct. 12 they beat Ottawa 1-0 (Sens record at the time was 1-2-0).

Not to be forgotten: before this little two-game set, Minnesota had won 9 straight games (7 in regulation, 2 in OT, 0 in shootouts). The Wild is a good team.

I am not about to claim that the Flames are now a great road team -- they're not. They're a much better home team. But as I had noted for a couple of months, the Flames were not as horrible on the road as their record indicated -- they lost an inordinate amount of one-goal games, never won in OT/SO, etc etc. What would seem to be obvious now though, with 3 straight road wins under their belt, is that they are not cursed, victims of Murphy's Law, lacking that little extra something, whatever. There is no special, existential reason that the Flames are extra-bad on the road.

A win in Vancouver on Saturday would be a pissah exclamation point on the end of the trip. I'm taking a weekend trip with the fam to Montana -- I may not be able to catch the game, and I definitely will not have a Game Day post -- but I sure don't see why they can't pull off the 4-0-0. Go Flames.


Flames Game Night

One of these Flames-Wild games has got to be a barnburner! (Well, not really, but whatever.)

Calgary 5, Minnesota 4. Iginla scores all 5; Edith Macgregor of Kindersley, SK hits the Safeway Million Dollar Score & Win. Go Flames.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007



Also, this is mainly for me, so I can stop looking it up elsewhere -- Games Remaining:
Here I see a decent chance for the Sharks or Stars to overtake Anaheim for the Pacific title, and I see an obvious opportunity for the Canucks to secure the #2 seed if they stay hot -- or to drop the NW title to the Wild if they do not.

Very unlikely:
the Flames finishing anywhere but 8th; the Preds/Wings finishing anything but 1st & 4th.

Wildcard: how will the Avalanche perform now that their hopes have dimmed? And if they're eliminated (mathematically or effectively) by Saturday night, how good will they be in those final 4 games?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007



...that should just about do it, shouldn't it? Calgary wins in a shootout, Colorado loses 3-0 (a 5-on-3 goal and two empty-netters). The Flames magic number is now 6, which is a pretty small one with six games left.

Dallas killed the Coyotes tonight; Vancouver won; Minnesota got a point; and the Sharks are leading L.A. In other words, tomorrow morning the 7th place team will probably have 98 points. Flames have 92, and have virtually no chance of moving up (as such, their 1st-round opponent will be whichever of Nashville, Detroit, or Anaheim heads into the playoffs on the biggest roll).

Should be interesting. If there's one thing I have in common with nearly every Oiler fan, it's that I'm ready for the regular season to be over. Go Flames.


Flames Game Day

The Flames are in St. Paul tonight for the 1st of two games against the very, very, very hot Minnesota Wild (6PM MT, Flames PPV). The Wild have won 9 straight, and are 24-5-4 in their last 33. Unlike earlier in the season, a lot more of these wins have been in regulation time, too: 19 of those 24, by my count.

Their goaltending is just sick. Nominal #1 Manny Fernandez is out for the rest of the regular season, at minimum, but Acting #1 Nicklas Backstrom is 2nd in the NHL in GAA and T-1st in SV% (unheralded Finnish goalie comes from out of nowhere to lead league -- where have I heard this one before...). And then there's acting backup Josh Harding, who has only played 243 minutes this year but nevertheless has a 0.74GAA and a .976SV%.

Their Dmen are unspectacular but clearly pretty solid; team GAA is best in the league, bolstered by the #2-ranked PK. Their powerplay is 10th, which bumps their GF totals from the bottom third up into the middle of the pack.

So how do you beat the Wild in Minnesota? Let's take it as a given that "play 60 minutes, do the little things right, stay out of the penalty box, etc." is part of the answer. I don't really know the rest of the answer, but I do like the way A.C. Rob Cookson is talking:
"You have to make [Gaborik & Demitra] play in areas they don't want to play and that's their zone.

"If you watch the games, you'll see they spend very little time in their end. They rely on Wes Walz to be a checking centreman in their zone and, when the puck is turned over, they're gone out of the zone, so you make sure to pull them back in their zone to defend when you're on offence.

"When you do that, they don't have the puck as much."

Makes sense to me. Those guys are playing extremely well and being very productive, but they're still not Lehtinen and Modano c.1999 in their own half of the ice. Also, the Flames should stay out of the penalty box...

I actually have a pretty good feeling about this game. Iginla and Conroy are off a bit in the past few games, but Huselius and Langkow are making a lotta shit happen, and Tanguay is playing as well as he has all season. Final score prediction: Calgary 4 (Iginla x2, Langkow, Phaneuf) Minnesota 2 (Wes Walz' Leg, Brad Stuart's Leg). Go Flames.

Monday, March 26, 2007


What it Takes to Compete

This past week was an excellent one for the Flames. Three games, three wins. Solid little STR, which is presently... 4th-longest in the Division. Colorado has points in 12 straight (10-0-2, last reg.L Feb.25th); Minnesota has won 9 straight (9-0-0, last reg.L Mar.6th); and Vancouver has points in 6 straight (4-0-2, last reg.L Mar.11th -- and previous to that they won 5 straight).

Despite being well ahead of last season's pace in scoring/preventing goals -- they're +37, compared to last season's +23 -- the Flames have to go 6-0-1 in their last 7 to match last season's record. Also notable: if the Flames finish 5-2-0, or some other combination resulting in 10 or more points, then -- barring a total collapse by SJ/MIN/DAL/VAN -- all eight WC playoff teams will have 100 or more points.

The number 100 isn't magic or anything, but let's say that you're a fan of a West team that's already been eliminated from this postseason, and you're contemplating what kind of improvements and additions your GM will have to make (or how big a leap your young players will have to make) in order to make the 2008 2nd season. "Do adjustments X, Y, & Z make us a 100-point team?" might be a sound way of looking at things. Just sayin'.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Avs/Oilers Open Thread

Looks like Ales Hemsky, Marty Reasoner and Tom "Brad" Gilbert are drawing in tonight. Booooo. Hey Ken Lowe, you couldn't wait a game to give these guys clearance? Don't make us turn on another Lowe boy, man. It can get ugly, fast.



And, af-ter the lovin'...

Some assorted thoughts from the past few days:

**Good results for the Flames last night and Tuesday. Pretty wins, ugly wins, high-scoring wins, low-scoring wins, lopsided wins, close wins... I would have been happy with any of them.

I know some will take a particular lesson from the scores -- roughly, that the Flames need to play conservative, 2-1 type games to be successful -- but I still generally reject that. Obviously, I don't object to trying to make fewer defensive mistakes. I don't even object to the notion of the system working from the goaltender out. What I do object to (strenuously object!) is this rhetoric about "we want to win games 1-0". It's nutty. The Flames comparative advantage over most of the WC playoff teams is scoring.

To rephrase: if the Flames want to play tight, low-scoring games where the deciding goal comes on special teams, or on a fortunate bounce, or on a rare mistake, they're going to be in a coin-flip situation, at best, with every other WC playoff team. If they're willing to open it up a bit though, and trade a few chances, it offers them an advantage. See below.

**Fun fact: the Flames are 11th/30 in the NHL in Goals Against. Of the 8 Western Conference playoff teams, they are 8th/8. I find this incredible -- the Top 8 teams in the NHL in GAA are, in order, Minnesota, San Jose, Dallas, Vancouver, New Jersey, Detroit, Anaheim, and Nashville.

That noted, I wouldn't exactly say that Calgary is the weakest defensive team in the WC Top 8. For starters, again, that GAA is 11th in the NHL, which doesn't exactly scream weakness. And 2nd, that ranking is mostly a function of their poor PK, which really does stink. Only the Wings and Stars have allowed fewer 5-on-5 goals, but the Flames' PK% is 24th in the NHL: the other 7 playoff teams in the WC are ranked 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th, 11th, 12th, & 13th.

**Fun fact #2: the success that Calgary's neighbours in the standings have had this month is just ludicrous, it's so good. Calgary's L10 record is 5-4-1; pretty mediocre, but not atrocious, basically a 90-point pace. However:
**He is, The Warrener! #44's "overall body soreness" was obviously OK last night, as he was playing like Scott Niedermayer. And before the OT winner, I would not have meant that as a compliment, since he lacks Nieds' playmaking ability, instincts, and ability to recover from being out of position. On Fiddler's go-ahead goal early in the 3rd, John Garrett singled out Huselius as the main culprit for losing Fiddler on the backcheck, but is there a good reason that Right Defenceman Warrener was way over by the left dot?

I thought the backchecker's job was generally to pick up the trailer (behind Forsberg), not to defend the entire lane out from the goal. I may be wrong (in this specific situation, it's quite likely that I am), but Warrener was nevertheless in no man's land. Surely in 2007, it's not a big concern that Forsberg will beat your D partner 1-on-1; the concern is to where is he going to move the puck.

**Alex Tanguay had another pair of those is-that-all-there-is-to-this-guy games, where all he accomplished was setting up both game-winning goals, and scoring a PP goal on a brutally accurate shot. Ho-hum. Wake me up when he makes a real impact. [/sarcasm]

**Is there any point to me choking down the bile and throwing out a GOILERS! for tonight? Did you know that since he had that terrific game against the Flames, Marc Pouliot has 1 assist in 8 games? Or that the Oil has 1 PP goal since the Smyth trade (39 Opps)? Or that Craig Simpson has, instead of attending practice and "coaching", been spending most of his time working on his Beauticontrol franchise? (Note: may not be true)

Horc, Gator, Roli & Friends: it would sure be helpful. If you could put away the Avs this one time, it would help the Flames a lot. Then, a mere split in the two Flames/Avs games that remain would mean that Colorado would have to make up 6 points in the other 6. Yes, Goilers. (Then feel free to lose out after that, I don't care).

Hear Engelbert Humperdinck's After The Lovin', Calgary-style, here. And, Go Flames.


The Bipolar Express

"I'm not exactly sure when they quit on themselves, their coaches and their fans, but capitulation was so complete Wednesday in a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, on Fan Appreciation Night no less, that the last of the shills and sycophants, boosters and backers finally fell off the bandwagon."
--Dan Barnes, Edmonton Journal

Barnes has been nothing less than fantastic this year, but I'm more than a little surprised that he didn't include management and the coaching staff in this article (I'd also like to know, by name, which shills he was talking about). Sure, lots of older players need to be called out, but you can't spend too much time picking on Pouliot, Syvret, Young and the like. These kids are in over their heads, sacrificed to the Gods of hockey and bad management. Ten players on the current Oilers roster are 23 and under (Greene, Smid, Nilsson, Lupul, Jacques, Thoresen, Syvret, Stortini, Young, Pouliot). That doesn't even include Kyle Brodziak and Sebastien Bisaillon, just sent back down to the AHL and QMJHL, or other youngsters who are injured (Hemsky, Gilbert, Roy, and Stoll are all 24 and under). Now I'm not suggesting that they get a free pass (I've been pretty clear about how I feel about Joffrey Lupul, for example) but I think it is appropriate to acknowledge the fact that Kevin Lowe, the loss of Ryan Smyth, mediocre coaching, and an insane run of injuries have sent these lambs to slaughter. So there, I just did. Now, having said that, the Sabres have had a bunch of bad injuries this year, and it hasn't slowed them down. And apparently the game on Wednesday was particularly brutal (I didn't watch, of course). So stop making excuses already, and win some hockey games. Except don't, because we need Colorado to catch Calgary, and I want this team to suck so hard that everyone in this city turns on Kevin Lowe and the EIG. So...yeah.

Sigh. Please just make it all go away.


The Soul of Baseball

This is a heads up to any baseball fans out there--in particular Tyler, Colby, Avi and LT--about the new book by Joe Posnanski. It's entitled The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America. For those who do not know, Posnanski is a columnist with the Kansas City Star, and may be the best sports writer going right now. Buck O'Neil is Buck O'Neil. If you want to know more about him, well, buy this book. Or check out the book's website and blog. I'm only about twenty pages in, but I've already choked up about three times while reading it. And I don't mean choked up in the unacceptable "Adam Morrison Curl Up Into The Fetal Position And Bawl" manner. I mean the "Watching Brian's Song or Field of Dreams" manner of choking up. That is to say, the actual choking back of tears because your Dad mocked it out of you, but like one or two tears acceptably slipping out because the story reminds of your Dad, or ties you into the valuable male life lessons that he taught you which I'm not at liberty to discuss at this point and time. Anyway, so far, so very, very good. I recommend it highly. Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Fuck Me

Man, Millions Lipnicki makes me ill. What a kiss ass.

Two fluke goals for the victory. The NHL should change the rules. It's obviously an unfair advantage.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Lowest of the Lowe

Joanne Ireland reports that this is the earliest the Oilers have ever been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. What does that mean? It means even the 92-94 Oilers weren't this bad. That's really saying something, because those teams were God-awful. I well up even thinking about them.


Simply The Next

The Edmonton Journal has finally gotten around to replacing the picture of Ryan Smyth on their Oilers page with...Joffrey Lupul? Does this mean he's the next to be traded? Because I can get behind that, if the page works as some sort of advanced warning system.

And what look is that anyway? Is that Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? That's not Magnum, is it? He hasn't actually dropped Magnum on us, right? You gotta tame the beast before you let it out of its cage, Joffrey!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have an after-funeral party to attend.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Lessons In Unintentional Comedy, Vol. 2

Well, thank God it's just a few one-goal losses. Phew. Rest easy, everyone! Close is good enough. The season is saved!!!


Flames Game Night

Detroit at Calgary, 7PM MT, RSN West, very possible Round 1 playoff preview. However, the win's the thing tonight. The Avalanche have 2 straight in Edmonton, so you have to assume that the Flames need Ws to stay ahead.

I got nothing at the moment. Win, please. How's about goals from Iginla, Phaneuf, and Primeau in the course of an important 3-1 victory. Go Flames.


For Entertainment Purposes Only, Pt.2

This is the upside-down standings, i.e. points surrendered, or points earned by opponents. I'll stress that success in OT/SO helps here, as you're not surrendering that 2nd point.

Monday, March 19, 2007


For Entertainment Purposes Only

The "60 Minute" Standings:


My Boy Kevin Lowe Is Wicked Smaht

The Oilers finally have a farm team. the AHL's Springfield Falcons. I'm a little disappointed the team isn't called either the Wicked Pissahs or the Isotopes, but it's better than nothing. Glove tap to Mark for the link.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


An Invitation

Screen capture from Yahoo!

Colby Cosh, Tyler Dellow and Andy Grabia cordially invite all Edmonton Oilers fans to join the "Official Colorado Avalanche Bandwagon Club." Membership is free. All that is required is a hatred of the Calgary Flames.

Calgary: 10 Games Remaining, 4 Home, 6 Away
Detroit (Home)
Nashville (Home)
Chicago (Away)
Minnesota (Away)
Minnesota (Away)
Vancouver (Away)
Colorado (Home)
San Jose (Away)
Edmonton (Home)
Colorado (Away)

Colorado: 11 Games Remaining, 5 Home, 6 Away
San Jose (Home)
Edmonton (Away)
Edmonton (Away)
Vancouver (Away)
Vancouver (Home)
Phoenix (Away)
Minnesota (Home)
Calgary (Away)
Vancouver (Away)
Nashville (Home)
Calgary (Home)

Take your pick: 1) GOLANCHE!! 2) GOAVS!!! 3) GOLORADO!!!

Friday, March 16, 2007


A Tale of Two Seasons


Not So Party


Lessons In Unintentional Comedy, Vol. 1

So who is teaching who here, exactly?

Scenario 1

Kids: Okay, Joff. Now on this drill we need you to actually skate into the corner and get the puck.
Zoolander: Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.
Kids: Goddammit, Lupul! Are you even listening to what we are saying!?

Scenario 2

Zoolander: Here at the Joffrey Zoolander School For Children Who Can't Play Hockey Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too, we teach you that there's more to life than being really, really good looking.

Scenario 3

Zoolander: What is this? A hockey school for ants? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to not backcheck... if they can't even fit inside the building?
Contracter: Joffrey, this is just a small...
Zoolander:I don't wanna hear your excuses! The building has to be at least... three times bigger than this!


Try To Understand, Try To Understand, Try, Try, Try To Understand, We Don't Want No Mini-Magic Man

There seems to be some sort of enthusiasm going around this city for Robert Nilsson, in particular his nickname "Mini-Magic." This is unfortunate. Not the enthusiasm for the player, mind you--the jury is still out on that one--but the enthusiasm for the nickname. Besides being just a terrible nickname, it's completely misleading. Young Robert's nickname is an homage to his father's nickname. Kent Nilsson, former Flame and Oiler (and current scout for the Oilers), was nicknamed "The Magic Man." It really does sound super. Ooh, he is a magician with the puck. Wow, how did he do that? Ouch, is that a rabbit hanging from his ass? You know, stuff like that. John MacKinnon even mentioned it in an article today, weaving in allusions to magic and bedazzlement. The problem is, Kent Nilsson wasn't called "The Magic Man" just because of his propensity for making dazzling plays. He was also called it for an entirely other, and not-so-flattering reason. People called Kent the "Magic Man" because he disappeared in the corners. That is to say, Nilsson was soft. Hockey lore has it that in 1987 his lackadaisical attitude so infuriated linemate Mark Messier that the Moose pinned him up against a wall in an Edmonton bar and told him he'd send him "back to Sweden in a box" if he didn't start playing harder. Unfortunately, Mess didn't do the same to Joffrey Zoolander when he skated with the team two weeks ago, but that's another story. The point is, the nickname stinks. I don't want a mini-Kent Nilsson on the Oilers. Nor should any Oiler fan, however many there are left. So, like Par suggested yesterday, let's get started on a new name. I'll start the bidding with a one word doozy: Ballsoff.


Friday Baseball Standings

The Flames are, regrettably, on an island in 8th place now (sharp contrast to the EC, where 5 teams are within a single game of the 8 spot). At this point, if the Flames could just catch any team to finish 7th (best candidate = MIN, with 3 H2H games remaining), I'd feel better about the playoffs.

In the comments to the previous post, MetroGnome says he doesn't share my optimism about the postseason. I certainly don't blame him, and no one should confuse my optimism (yet, anyway) with confidence. But here it is: the Flames are a bad team on the road, but they're not 9-18-8 bad. I don't think they're even 13-18-4 bad, which is what they'd be if they had merely split their OT/SO games, instead of losing all 8.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that it is confidence, or some horrendous mental block, that causes the Flames to continuously lose 1-goal games on the road. Great! This is overcome simply, if not easily. It takes one good win, not two months of positve results. These are professional hockey players, a bunch who are by nature supremely confident in their own abilities, and who are not by nature, predisposed to dwelling on the past nervously or thoughtfully. The thought experiment goes something like this:
  1. Say the Flames open on the road in Detroit, and split the first two games. When it gets back to Game 5, you think the players will be worried about their shitty road record?
  2. You really think it's impossible that they win one of two back-to-back games in Detroit?
I'm not a robot -- damn right I'll be looking for signs of life in these last 11 games, especially the 6 on the road. But unless the Flames' ability to score and prevent goals goes straight to seed, I'm going to be optimistic heading into the playoffs.
...momentum is critically, terribly important -- until the moment it changes, which can happen in the space of about two shifts.

I'm still singing that same tune.

Thursday, March 15, 2007



...the wife-and-kids are hanging-with-the-in-laws, March Madness, help-Matt-with-his Fantasy-Baseball-Draft, Flames-game Live Blog! Of course, said wife and children will be returning at about the 1st intermission, so there will definitely be longer gaps than last time, but let's give 'er anyway.

9:23PM: I'm extremely stupid, and picked the Indiana Hoosiers to win the NCAA tournament last season. As I recall, Gonzaga beat them in Rd1. I'm quite happy to see the Hoosiers getting my revenge at the moment. If you haven't heard Bobby Knight's rant about going 8-10 in the Big Ten (linked over and over on this site), you're missing out. Also, the Todd Leary game in the 1992 Final Four is one of my favourites ever. Go Hoosiers.

9:10PM - Hi everybody! I don't know what the papers will say tomorrow about that game, or what the significance of the result is, but it sure as hell looked to me like the Flames were the better team. I actually feel slightly bad for Detroit at the moment... I'm quite sure that they're going to win the conference, and I'm quite sure that the Flames will be the best team in the bottom half of the bracket... and boy does it look now like Calgary is going to finish 8th. Sorry Wings.

7:44PM - family's home, I may be awhile. Go... Flames.

7:38PM - so long Doook. Can't say as I like the chances of VCU next round much either -- how do you give up an uncontested layup to tie with 15 seconds left? But nice jumper to recover. Also, Lombardi!!!! Stars 2-1.

7:35PM - I actually like the Flames chances to come back in this game. They seriously need to get the PK working, but they looked like the much better team otherwise in the 1st. I don't think the Stars had a scoring chance except on the PP. To coin a phrase, Go Flames.

7:32PM - if Duke wins this game, they're toast in Rd2. Parrish has put the Wild ahead of the Oil, 1-0.

7:27PM - fill in the blank: "Daisuke Matsuzaka's 2007 stats will be most similar to the 2006 stats of BLANK BLANKETY".

7:26PM - Mark Lamb - worst interview ever. Duke/VCU tied.

7:18PM - Flames head to the dressing room down 2-0, Duke just scored to go up by 1. And, not only are the Oilers playing out their season, but apparently RSN will continue to televise it (Gene Principe just shared that Robert Nilsson is known as "Mini-Magic Man" -- can I get a shheeeah right?) Funny how things work out; again I'm cheering for the opposite team as Pleasure Motors. Goilers.

7:06PM - Utter bullshit call on the Stars to give the Flames their first PP, but definitely fair in the grand scheme. Score, please. Dook up by 4 with 6:54 remaining.

7:01PM - hey, more Dallas PPs! 2-0 Stars. [deep inhale] I agree with Millions. Terrible reffing so far. Terrible. Flames need to kill off this 4th one to have a chance in the final 53 minutes.

6:55PM - What to do against a team that can't score 5-on-5? Take weak minor penalties, apparently. Modano rifles one in as DAL's PP expires, 1-0 Stars. Boo.

6:46PM - DAL is T-28th in the NHL in 5-on-5 GF. Major line blender tonight, from the get-go: looks like we have Iggy-Langkow-Friesen, Tanguay-Lombardi-Moss, and Huselius-Primeau-Amonte. Hey, better now than 7 minutes into the first period, if you ask me... changes sans the whiff of desperation are preferable.

6:43PM - Noodles in net tonight, an obvious good call by Playfair. Yeah they need these 2 points, but not as much they need Kipper to have some energy from April 12th onward. Plus, he's actually played well his last few starts. First Dallas PP killed off successfully, that's excellent since they can't score 5-on-5.

6:36PM - looks like the Duke/VCU game is the only one in this set that will be remotely close. Hey, Adam Dunn (Reds LF) is only 27, but he appears to be getting worse. Is there any reason for me to assume he's getting better, or will ever get back to his 2004 numbers (or cut down on the windmill action)?

6:33PM - Roger Millions & Charlie Simmer, everybody. I'm going to try to avoid mentioning host Mark Stiles. The Flames PPV broadcasts have the same problem as everyone else's: the "bonus coverage" where commercials would normally be is worse than commercials, and I say that as someone who would shiv the Panago hard-hat guy if I walked past him on the sidewalk.

6:17PM - I also need a catcher. Mauer, VJMartinez, and Brian McCann were the only keepers, so I'm looking at Posada, Ramon Hernandez, Piazza, Russ Martin, Mike Barrett, and Kenji (in no particular order of course, my competition reads this site... and writes for it). Is Posada ready to fall off a cliff (i.e. get old)? How about Piazza - he'll mostly be DH-ing this season, and obviously he's easier to replace in that role, with no defensive considerations? Russ Martin looks excellent, but he's also the only one of this bunch that looks like he has a backup that would be ready to step in everyday (Mike Lieberthal). Little help? Also, looks like The Ohio State University will cruise through this 1st round... and PS, I completely agree with Bill Simmons that Gus Johnson is awesome. He's seriously not one of CBS's top 4 for next weekend? Get the hell outta here...

6:08PM - VCU has just tied Duke (Dook is Dook... they're on TV.. more than Leave it to Beaver... reruns...), while UCLA is pulling away from Weber State, both very late in the 1st half. More importantly, which of these first basemen would be wisest for me to draft? (Note: this is a 12-team 6-keeper leadleague; assume that players not mentioned are already on a roster.)
Appreciate your input.


The Boogard

Anyone wanna take a shot at who he injures tonight? I'm gonna take a Wild guess (ha! i slay me!!!), and go with one of those Wilkes-Rapid Stockton Thunder-Admirals kids. Just a guess, though. It could be one of the Oilers, too.


Flames Game Day

The Flames are Dallas tonight (630PM MT, PPV), and as my old friend Sacamano would say, it's nut-cuttin' time. With the Canucks hosting St. Louis, and the Wild in Edmonton, it's quite likely that the Flames will need a win just to maintain the NW standings as they are now.

...which won't be easy. Recent road woes aside, the Flames' last win in Dallas featured Bob Boughner and Igor Kravchuk patrolling the blueline (game-winning goal: Rob Niedermayer. Hmm, that was his 3rd goal of the season, in Game 33 -- no wonder I hated that guy).

It was definitely a mixed effort last night. I thought it was a pretty good performance in the first two periods (let's agree to forget about the first 3 minutes). Yelle and Hamrlik -- and Iginla -- looked strong. Tanguay made a few too many "one-too-many" passes, but redeemed himself somewhat when one of them resulted in the Yelle goal. Lombardi was getting himself in good positions to produce, though granted he had an awful time once he got there.

And, the team defence, to my eyes, looked pretty good. Colorado would pressure and control the puck at times, but Calgary always seemed to break it up right before it turned into an actual scoring chance.

The third period, though, did look like the Evil Twin. Dubious goal by Kipper; pucks bouncing over sticks; inability to string 3 passes together; random Avs wandering around untouched in the Flames' zone; etc. Very aggravating, the cherry on top being the game-ending PP where they didn't threaten in the slightest.

But tomorrow is another day, blah blah... the Stars still have some injury problems, and are certainly beatable with a strong & sustained performance. And it's not as if the Flames don't know north from south on the road: 12 road losses since Christmas, and 10 of them have been by one goal (or one goal + EN goal). I decline to believe that this is an effort issue, or a character issue.

Calgary 4 (Tanguay, Phaneuf, Iginla, Langkow)
Dallas 1 (that guy from Finland)

Go Flames.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


The Madness Is Running Wild, Ooooh Yeahhhh!!!

I've re-emailed a few people who wanted in the BoA March Madness Pool, but haven't seemed to sign up. If there are any others who want in, let me know ASAP. As well, check out this beauty of a story from The Onion. Glove tap to Aaron for the link.


Flames Game Night: Bye-bye, Bigfoot

The Flames take on the Avalanche in Denver tonight (7PM MT, TSN), with a chance to the make a playoff spot all but mathematically official. Paul Stastny is still working that rookie point-scoring streak, and is starting to get some love for the Calder.

As you can see at left, that love is well deserved... Malkin is 7 points ahead entirely due to his greater PP time, where he's actually less productive than Stastny; the fact that Stastny kills penalties (2:23 PK time per game) should only serve to bolster his case, surely.

Hey, look what I just did! I fell victim to the same fallacy I alluded to (scoffed at) below re: MAB & Petersen. I implied that since the coach uses Stastny on the PK, that must mean that he's competent at it -- which is certainly no guarantee. Question -- or maybe this is a challenge to a joint like -- why doesn't anyone keep penalty killing stats? Here we are in 2007, and we're still assuming like suckers that the best penalty killers are the ones that keep getting thrown out there. Can't someone use the awesome power of the information superhighway to inform us who the most effective PKers really are? That seems like something that would be interesting to semi-casual fans, and it would certainly add an element to the debate over the Selke Trophy (or over the $$ value of various defensive-minded free agents). Get working on that, would you TSN?

(They won't, by the way. They'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on TSN Talent to chase rumours around, but won't spend $25k to have someone differentiate their stats page from Yahoo! or

Colorado is an explosive team with a particularly good PP at home. I'd like the Flames to start by taking less than 4 penalties in the 1st period; I'm pretty sure that would help the cause. I'd also like Roman Hamrlik to shake out of this brutal funk he's in.

Stempniak's (second) tying goal on Monday featured another baffling play by the Hammer: he's defending a 2-on-2, and David Backes has the puck on Phaneuf's side. Hamrlik wanders over to challenge Backes (Puzzler #1), and then when Backes moves the puck towards Stempniak -- in the area of ice Hammer has just vacated -- Hamrlik decides that this would be a good time to finish his check (Puzzler #2)... so at the approximate moment that his shoulder is hitting Backes' chest, Stempniak is sliding the puck under Kipper, untouched. I don't know what he could do for an encore tonight. If he steps on a broken stick, I'm turning the TV off.

I'm going to ignore precedent, and guess that it'll be a low-scoring game tonight. Calgary 3 (Primeau, Iginla, Huselius) Colorado 2 (Arnason, Klee). Go Flames.


The Edmontoby Petersoilers

Bad off-night for the Flames last night; Stars win, Sharks win, and of course the Canucks/Wild game went to OT. But enough about that for now.

In case you missed it, this Covered in Oil game thread from Monday night is absolutely the funniest thing I've read on a hockey blog all year.
Every time the game's been on, and I've managed to lift my head from all of the crying fits, I've only ever noticed Toby Petersen carrying the puck.

Toby Petersen at even strength, Toby Petersen on the power play, Toby Petersen on defence, Toby Petersen folding towels with Joey Moss in the locker room, Toby this, Toby that... Arrgh!

Why yes, a Reservoir Dogs reference does seem appropriate to the Oil's recent fortunes.
"Toby...Toby...Toby...Toby Wong?...Toby Wong...Toby Chung... fuckin Charlie Chan."

This comment by SweatyO killed me:
New Sportsnet Commercial: #20 driving the zamboni, carrying equipment bags, and cooking burgers at a grill in a Rexall concession stand.

Tagline: "Toby Matters"

As did this one by host Mike W:
LaForge: "People are always asking me 'when are you getting a new building?'"

Oh, are they? I imagine it was more like "what the fuck are you guys doing to this team?" but nevermind.

Also, this is for Pleasure Motors. Remarkable player, that Toby. (Addendum: M-A Bergeron -- the guy who was apparently made expendable by Toby's "performance" on the PP -- has 5 PP pts in 10 games with the NYI. He's also 4-8-12, +7 overall, with but a single minor penalty.)


And Then There's....

...Matheson. Of interest to me:

1) The questions are actually pretty damn good. I can sense the frustration and anger in them. I'm sitting in my black robe, shooting blue bolts of energy into the air, cackling with glee.
2) The Oilers won't tell him their budget for next year. But how hard is he asking, and why isn't their refusal to go on record an actual story in and of itself?
3) He thinks the budget will be between $43 and $44 million.
4) The Oilers should look at signing Scott Hartnell because he's from Lloydminster. Great. That worked so well with Joffrey Zoolander. Super idea.
5) He doesn't think anyone will give Ryan Smyth $30 million for five. I think he's terribly wrong. Plus, why does he suggest that the Oilers will have to overpay to get a big free agent to sign here, and then deny that other teams will give what he calls an overpayment to Smytty? Disconnect, thine name is Jim.
6) Eight place is awesome, according to Matheson. This answer is an absolute cop-out. It totally avoids answering what was really asked, which is "why hasn't cost certainty helped us win more games and keep more guys, like the EIG, LaForge, and Kevin Lowe promised us it would?"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007



And he's back with a vengeance, baby!

"If season ticket holders re-up before Wednesday's deadline, they guarantee themselves a five per cent price hike and a chance to reduce that by three per cent, should they pay in full by early September. If they hold off until the next renewal deadline in May, the tab for fandom in this city only climbs further through the Rexall Place roof."

We seriously need to email this guy and thank him. He's our Journal Jesus.

"Lowe simply wanted to communicate the team's "continued commitment to success" to fans who may have been confused by his continued commitment to sending players to Long Island. He detailed the treasure trove of youngsters still in the fold, people like Zack Stortini and Jean-Francois Jacques, and promised a dogged pursuit of a championship."

Here comes the money shot!!!

"Or they could try to buy one in free agency, though competition for those players is fierce and extremely expensive. But that was the gamble with Smyth, right? Pay too much now or even more later. Hey, Kevin, the fans know exactly how you feel."

And scene.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Flames Game Night

The Flames host the St. Louis Blues tonight at the Saddledome (7PM730PM MT, RSN West); they're hoping to sweep the season series with the Blues, and pick up some ground on the Canucks.

Did You Know: the Flames have scored 219 goals this year, and have 14 games remaining. Last year they scored 216... total. How delightful, or, strangely inappropriate, that it was Jeff Friesen who scored the goal that put them over last season's figure. My reaction to this sentence in the Yahoo! preview...
Jeff Friesen scored Calgary's other goal Saturday, his second in as many games after going 10 straight without one.

...was "Really? It had only been 10 games this time?" But I digress... I've come around a bit on Jeff Friesen. The guy is an extremely effective penalty killer, and while he rarely if ever makes a "nice play", he certainly doesn't make many bad ones. If he's ready to make less than half of what he made this year, my present thinking is that I'd be happy to have him back. (I've softened a lot from No Thanks at Any Price).

Illustrated To Make a Point: yes, yes -- we're all clear that ".500" is not exactly the mark of an average team any more. The St. Louis Blues are a good example of why .500 doesn't cut it. Their record thru 68 games is 29-29-10, which doesn't sound awful. Their opponent's record, in those same 68 games, is 39-21-8. Midseason improvement aside, it is quite easy to see, this way, why they're not in a good position. Their opponents are 16 games over .500 in games against them.

Today's Happy Thoughts/Prediction: oh, a win, I think. Maybe something like Calgary 4 (Langkow, Lombardi, Phaneuf, Stuart) St. Louise 2 (Boyes, D-Vo). Go Flames.

Sunday, March 11, 2007



Edmonton Oilers Press Release:
The Edmonton Oilers have signed defenceman Dale Durgeon from the Cancun Chilly Peppers of the Latin American Hockey League.

Durgeon's signing was made necessary by numerous injuries. The Oilers now have 6 defencemen sidelined due to injury: out of the lineup are Tom Gilbert (concussion), Jan Hejda (shoulder), Mathieu Roy (concussion), Steve Staios (knee), Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone), and Jason Smith (self-inflicted gunshot wound).

Durgeon, a 6’0”, 181-pound 28-year-old from Field, BC, has scored one assist with fourteen penalty minutes and is -2 in eighteen games with Cancun. The Chilly Peppers are the third team he has played for in 2006-07, as he has also suited up for the LAHL’s Mazatlan Kidnappers, as well as the "Calum" Team on OLN's Road Hockey Rumble.

Francois Boot, an undrafted defenceman with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League's La Ronge Ice Wolves, has been advised to "stand by".



Big day. Kansas, The Ohio State, UCLA, and Florida as the #1 seeds? Some other configuration? Wisconsin? North Carolina? Thoughts?

Still room in the March Madness pool, as well. Email me if you want in.


Northwest Division Game Day

The Canucks take on Anaheim at the Pond tonight, and if Cowan & Co. can pull off a win, it'll be time to face reality and accept that Vancouver is going to be the NW champ. Catching them wouldn't be impossible, but a softer sked and a 3-game lead (with only 1 H2H left) leans strongly in their favour.

Which means... the 14 games left on the Flames' schedule amount mostly to high-intensity playoff preparation. The goal -- from where I sit -- would be to avoid 8th; a first round date with the Ducks or Canucks looks more favourable to me than a matchup against the Central champs. (Also, if there's upsets, might as well have the potential for home-ice ad in later rounds).

7th probably means starting the playoffs in Anaheim, 6th in Vancouver. 5th looks ugly at first blush, but has its upside:
Minnesota has a chance to nail the Nordiques' coffin shut this afternoon, in St. Paul. That'd suit me fine, though any result (in regulation) has positives for the Flames.

Also, apparently the Oilers are bound by league rule to actually play their remaining games, so Shawn Horcoff, Jason Smith, and 12-16 guys who ought to be in the minors will be suiting up in San Jose tonight against the Sharks. Centre Ice viewers (assuming they get the home feed) will be treated to the verbal stylings of rookie colour commentator Marty McSorley; RSN viewers are stuck with Oilers' season-ticket salesmen Morely Scott and Gene Principe (I assume Ferraro is busy at NBC today).

[cringe] Go Ducks. [off to take a shower]

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Flames Game Night

(Photo from

It has been a long time since the Flames played the Lightning (8PM MT, HNiC). Long time. Any comment on that, Coach Tortorella?
"It's stupid," Lightning coach John Tortorella said of the scheduling.

For once, the Fonz and I agree. The Lightning are an interesting team, and I'm looking forward to this game. Their Big 3 forwards, plus Rod Brind'Amour, are the four NHL-leading forwards in ice-time per game. Marty St. Louis has kept my hockey pool team afloat nearly by himself (not bad for the 91st overall pick). A disappointing Marc Denis and a surprisingly competent Johan Holmqvist have been just good enough in goal. (How surprisingly? Brushback votes for Holmqvist as the worst player in Wolf Pack history, i.e. the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League.)

In light of the fact that Minnesota and Vancouver beat the Sabres and Sharks last night -- on the road -- the Flames could really use a win tonight. I like their chances.

Calgary 5 (Lombardi & Langkow before the goalie change, Huselius & Iginla x2 after)
The TBL 2 (wild guess, let's say St. Louis and Lecavalier)

Go Flames.



Wow. More Robbie Schremp goodness from Loxy. How can you not be impressed by a guy who gets his own initials tatooed across his back? Plus, the "RBS" gives fans all kinds of ammunition for nicknames. Let it begin!

Friday, March 09, 2007


Quack, Quack, Quack

Remember when we used to care about playing the Ducks? Good times. Thanx, Kevin Lowe!

It's not a hockey story, but this column by Dan Wetzel on Major League Baseball's recent deal with Direct TV resonates with me, for some odd, strange reason. Something to do with treating fans like dirt. Hmm. Then again, I'm apparently not a "true believer fan," so I should just keep quiet. And I know we joked about it before, but I'm actually getting concerned about Dan Barnes. He hasn't had a thing in the Journal since March 1st. Here's hoping he's on a vacation, a vacation of his own choosing.

Now sssssssssshhhhhhhhhh, everyone go back to sleep.


"Hey Coach, why the long face?"

I was saving this post header for the day Playfair got fired, but eh, what the hell...

Is there two Jim Playfairs? Because one of them I like. That would be the one that the players often talk about as a good teacher and a clear communicator; the one I hear in longer one-on-one radio interviews who's genial, frank, confident, and even kind of funny.

The other Jim Playfair -- here we go -- I have come to simply loathe. That would be the one who stands behind the bench with that ridiculous curl; the one who taps his teeth with his fingers, and has an expression that suggests he's waiting on biopsy results; the one who gives convoluted, barely-English answers at press scrums, in the manner of someone who's taking their MBA from a particularly lousy online college; and now, the one who scratches healthy Matthew Lombardi from the lineup for a road game against a potential playoff opponent who they haven't beat since Roman Turek was between the pipes.

I understand that sometimes you have to send a message to a player, even if it's to the short-term detriment of the team, but that was a terrible move. I didn't really catch the audio for the beginning of the game, so all I heard was a bit of mumbling about Lombardi being benched on Tuesday. Then the game progresses a bit, don't see him out there... camera pans across the forwards on the bench... hmmm, there's Friesen, Godard, Nilson, Amonte, Primeau, Yelle... uhhh... are you fucking serious?!?!

Lombardi had his rear stapled to the bench for most of the St. Louis game. If he has a this'll-show-you-Coach-you-asshole performance in him, wouldn't it be more useful last night than at home on Saturday night? (Flames are 10-1-1 in their last 12 on HNIC). Is there any circumstances under which the Flames are a better team without Lombardi? (Hint: no.)

The upside, such as it is, is that my disgust at last night's craptacular result was somewhat mitigated by how pissed I was at the coach (although it's agonizing to have wasted what was probably Jarome Iginla's best game of the year, and that's saying something).

Roman Hamrlik played what might have been the worst game by an NHL defenseman not wearing the copper-and-blue this season. He was on the ice for the first and third Nashville goals. On the 4th, he made the boneheaded play of the year: down 3-2, 3-on-5 PK, own zone faceoff with 10 seconds left in the period, and Yelle wins it; Hamrlik gets the puck behind the net, and... feathers it up the boards to Shea Weber? Did that really happen? And for the 5th (coffin nail) Nashville goal, Hamrlik was in the box for his 3rd minor of the night. Huzzah! Man, when the Hammer is bad, he is baaaad.

Yelle's giveaway on the 2nd Nashville goal was brutal, more for the fact that it was less of a stupid play than a lazy one... chipping the puck ahead with one hand on your stick is a play for Ilya Kovalchuk trying to give himself a breakaway, not for a solid, veteran defensive centre in traffic.

To match last season's almost-mediocre road record, the Flames merely need to go 6-1-1 in their final 8. Whatever -- although I think if they're serious about winning the NW Division, it might be time for the coach to ice his best possible lineup every night.

Postscript: Have you seen Lombardi off the ice? As pro athletes go, he definitely strikes me as the sensitive type. He was on After Hours after the Canucks game last month, and sufficiently uncomfortable that he was doing the ol' "right arm straight, rub right elbow with left hand" -- if they had been standing, he would have been staring at his feet and kicking imaginary dirt.

The sensitive types can get complacent just as easily as the owly types, but I can't avoid the conclusion that this follow-up scratch was less about Playfair persisting with his message...
"Matthew has to be a lot better player for us, he has to be a lot more of an impact player for us. He has to utilize his strength and we expect him to do that."

...and more about Lombardi's quoted reaction to his in-game benching:
"It happens. What are you gonna do?" said Lombardi. "We won the game, that's what counts."

As the team enters the final stretch, Lombardi said no one is about to rock the boat because of things like ice time.

Was Playfair expecting a reaction like Tony Amonte's last month?
Even a couple of days later, he was seething. "What do you think my reaction would be?" Amonte had snapped Tuesday morning. "That's a bad question. Do you think I'm happy about it? I'm definitely not happy about it. I've got a lot of pride. I take a lot of pride in the game and in the way I play. No, I'm not happy."

And would that prove anything anyway? (Amonte is 11GP, 1-3-4, -2 since that scratch; same or a bit worse than his season to that point.)

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Flames Game Day

The Flames are in Nashville tonight (6PM, RSN West) to see if they can (A) sweep their 3-game roadtrip, and (B) beat the Predators for the first time since January 2004 (context: last time the Flames beat the Preds, Roman Turek had the shutout).

I still think the Red Wings will win the Central Division and the WC, but I like Nashville's chances now better than I did two weeks ago. Looking at their remaining schedules, they play 3 H2H (the extra one is in NSH) and have 6 common games (where the opp't and the location, i.e. Home/Road, is identical). Here's the remainder, where they differ:
The first instinct is to give the edge to Detroit (their final week is @CBJ, vCBJ, @CHI, vCHI), but the situation up north has changed that calculus a bit.

Moving on, you know what annoys me? This:
If the Penguins move after their Mellon Arena lease expires at the end of June, it will reinforce the widely held notion in much of the United States that the NHL is a rinky-dink operation.

That's Scott Burnside. I guess he's right, but only because it's self-fulfilling. You know what the Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and Tennessee Titans have in common? They all relocated to new cities in the 1990s (sidebar: the NFL got its salary cap in 1987). Yet no one thinks the NFL is a rinky-dink operation. The NFL also meets and changes some game rules every season!

If the NHL had better leadership, maybe someone would point out that -- all sympathies to Penguins fans -- relocation represents an opportunity just as much as a crisis. For example, I think I'm pretty safe in saying that the NHL is better off with the Colorado Avalanche. Creative destruction is a part of growth. Anyway...

I'd love to see a win tonight, but I'd be satisfied with a good performance. Road voodoo aside, they can match up. Flames PP (9th) vs. Preds PK (5th) is a near wash, as is Preds PP (19th) vs. Flames PK (23rd). They're both very good ES teams, the Flames have a slight edge. Here's one stat that's a bit hard to account for -- Goal Differential by Period:
I guess Nashville probably has a lot of big 3rd period leads, and rolls 4 lines, but surely that's a bit much (also: that's incredibly dominant in the first two periods).

Close matchup, close game. Bubba 2 (Bubba, Bubba) Calgary 3 (Langkow, Phaneuf, Lombardi with the OT winner). Go Flames.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Ask Matty - just don't expect an answer that makes sense...

Radjeep Kandola:
Q. You've said the Oilers were stretched to have their payroll at $40 million but how is that possible when most of the other teams in the league have a higher payroll but fewer gate receipts? The Oilers were eighth in NHL gate receipts (from October to Dec. 31) and Calgary, which is spending about $3M more in payroll, is ninth in gate receipts?

White House Press Secretary Oilers PR Director Edmonton Journal Hall-of-Fame Hockey Writer Jim Matheson:
A. Eight teams had lower payrolls than the Oilers in the latest accounting after the trade deadline. You're right that they fill the building every night and their ticket prices are in the top third and going up, but, don't forget, this is still a team that was spending about $33 million a year pre-lockout before coming up to $40 million US now. The Flames are going to be really squeezed after next season to keep their payroll in line with Dion Phaneuf, Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Daymond Langkow and Kristian Huselius's contracts all up, and we'll see how their payroll looks. Some teams are spending above their means, if you're talking gate receipts solely, like the Blackhawks ($43.3M payroll) for a team that draws flies, but owner Bill Wirtz makes a truckload off the concessions, etc. The Oilers ownership group feels $40M is plenty for now, although when the salary cap goes up to, say, $48M next year, we're going to get another Haves and Have-Nots situation because rich teams will push the ceiling, leaving more disparity between clubs.

[forehead slap] I'm not even sure what's weirdest here:
  1. Bill Wirtz (!) is spending above his means... because the flies who attend Hawks game drink a hell of a lot of beer, or something...
  2. The Flames have a lot of contracts expiring next season... great players... so their payroll might go... down? Or something...
  3. The final sentence, which might as well have been replaced with "If you think you're frustrated now, just wait!"
The fatalism in Matty's non-answer is jarring. Guess what, Edmonton? Despite being 8th in the league in gate receipts, you're a Have-Not, and P.S. it'll keep getting worse.

When the push for public funding of a new arena begins in earnest, you're going to hear plenty (again) about the intangible value of being a "major league city". At that point, someone might want to Ask Matty why the Oilers are so willing to negate this value to anyone who's paying attention by behaving like The Littlest Market That Barely Could.

UPDATE: It might be worth pulling Colby Cosh's mid-lockout cri de coeur out of the memory hole here: Oilers boss Pat Laforge wants us to believe, after witnessing a month-long orgasm three hours south of us, that our club can't compete in this town under current conditions. Pat--you're a marketing genius who has outfaced his predecessors and colleagues with brilliant Veeckian ideas, and I wouldn't replace you with your weight in gold, and I can even respect what Bettman is trying to achieve, but fuck you for letting this affluent, growing, hockey-mad city be used as some kind of po-faced poster boy for management struggles.

UPDATE: Avi has a brilliant new post up at SportsMatters on this very issue. Some highlights:

"How to reconcile the two? Simple: player salaries would be rolled-back by 14.1%. For Ryan Smyth junkies, that means a contract with a paper salary of $5.5 million would result in a pay cheque for $4.725 million."

"The reconciliation also helps put the Oilers player spending in perspective. Right now they're projected to finish the year at $41.9 million in cap salaries. That figure creates the illusion that they're spending close to the cap. In fact, their player compensation is below league average.

Factor in the adjustment, and what they'd actually pay would be $35 million, or roughly $1 million below the league-average team budget of $36 million."


Piling On The Pile

Tom Benjamin has another excellent post up on the Ryan Smyth deal. The second point on comparables is particularly interesting.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Flames Game Night

The Flames are in St. Louis tonight to take on the Blues (6PM MT, RSN West). They're aiming for their first road winning streak of the season! They won "consecutive" road games once in November, but there was 2 home games wedged in the middle.

Fun Blues fact: they've scored 42 PP goals on the season, which is 2nd worst in the league. That's bad enough, but 19 of those were traded away at the deadline (Tkachuk 8, Guerin 7, Wideman 4).

Fun Blues fact #2: in the ~month before the deadline, they won three games by a 1-0 score where Bill Guerin had the game's only goal.

Scary Blues fact: they still have Lee Stempniak, that bugger. Actually, the Flames have had quite a bit of success against the Blues since the lockout, unlike certain NW Division teams, but the one they did lose last year was in the shootout to the Mighty Stempniak, and that was shortly after they had traded Weight and Sillinger away.

The good news is, I have Curtis Sanford in my hockey pool, so I'm sure he'll get torched tonight. Calgary 6 (Iginla x3, Stuart, Lombardi, Phaneuf) St. Louis 1 (Dvorak). Go Flames.


Alex Freaking Tanguay

This is a list of the top Even Strength scorers in the NHL (should be most of the Top 20, plus a few more shown for illustration). The right-most column is ES Points per 60 minutes of ES ice-time.

Alex Tanguay doesn't take faceoffs, or kill penalties. Although I wouldn't call him a liability (or a floater), he's not a great defensive forward. He doesn't hit for the sake of hitting, and he doesn't block shots. His PP scoring has been mediocre to poor this season.

But Good God is he ever productive. And if anything looks to be a fluke this year, it's his poor PP production, not his high ES production. Last season he scored 3.15ESP/60, good for 8th in the league among players with at least 50GP. In 2003/04 (remember, the Dead Puck Era), he scored 3.29ESP/60.

For years, the Flames have needed a player who -- everything else be damned -- puts up goals and assists, to make them difficult to play at both ends of the rink. Announcement: they got one.

Bruce Dowbiggin, breaking down the Flames by value-for-salary, categorized Alex Tanguay as "Pricey". Certainly not. I'm not sure what the exact appropriate price is for the best Even Strength scorer in the league, but $5.25M/yr -- for two more years to boot -- seems like a heckuva deal to me. There's plenty of GMs in the league who will pay (and have paid) more than that for guys who are essentially PP specialists.

I think I might start glossing Tanguay as Cris Carter. From Wikipedia:
[Eagles] Head coach Buddy Ryan, making one of the toughest coaching decisions of his career, graciously let him slip away, and in the process, helped to coin one of ESPN's Chris Berman's famous quotes about Carter: "All he does is catch touchdowns".

And all Alex Tanguay does is get the puck behind opposing goalies. Other than that, he's an overpaid disappointment.


Hockeyville Alberta

Project! I mentioned last month that Warner, Alberta (~60km SE of Lethbridge, pop. 380) was in the running to become Kraft/CBC Hockeyville. They have now made the Top 10, and voting is underway until Friday at 9AM to cut it down to the Top 5.

I would appreciate it very much if you could take a few seconds to head over to the CBC's site and vote for Warner. There's two main reasons why I think it's worthy of your support:

1) The prize, apart from $50k for rink upgrades, is that they get to host an NHL event. Last year, that event was a preseason game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators. The winner was Salmon River, NS, who actually held the game next door in Truro.

The assumption here, certainly on the part of the contestants, is that a Flames-Oilers preseason game is the most likely event; if not in Warner, then here in Lethbridge. This would be an awesome opportunity for a BoA event; I would do whatever I could to accumulate tickets.

2) The Warner back story -- why they're in the running -- is pretty cool, and probably appeals specifically to a lot of this site's readers.

Earlier this decade, Warner School was faced with closure due to declining enrolment and no real prospect for improvement. Edmontonians and Calgarians alike have seen this show before, usually in city core neighbourhoods: what happens is that the locals hold public meetings, make appeals/threats to the school board and their MLAs, etc.: the result then is either that the school closes anyway, or it's kept open at taxpayer's expense even though it's half-full and requires twice as much maintenance as newer schools. Repeat process again in a year or two. Either the neighbourhood residents or the taxpayers end up as definite losers.

Warner went in a different direction. Having recently put some money and sweat into renovating their hockey rink, they came up with the bright idea of the Warner Hockey School. Whoever had it must have sounded insane:
I know how to increase our enrolment! Let's start a girls' hockey school, and charge people from all over North America thousands and thousands of dollars to come live in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere! We'll attract a quality coach even though we have no program yet, or, we'll fill up the program even though we don't have a quality coach yet! Lots of bus travel! This is can't miss!!!

Fast forward...:
Warner Graduates have gone on to play in some of the top programs in the NCAA and CIS as well as the Alberta College League. In only 3 seasons Warner graduates have earned over 2 million dollars in scholarships and financial aid. Our program has placed 100% of our graduates in a post secondary program.

They're turning girls away now. The Warner Warriors are 19-3-2 in the Alberta girls Midget-AAA league (16-1-0 in non-league).

The community of Warner got to keep their school open. Girls/families pay voluntarily to participate in a strong program and get a leg up on a good (and potentially free) post-secondary program education. Taxpayers in Edmonton & Calgary (and Red Deer, Ft. Mac, etc.) aren't being fleeced to cover political promises. And needless to say, not only the Warner Hockey School's existence, but the manner in which it was developed, is an enormous source of pride for the town. Win-win-win-win-win.

I've heard/read the Warner people say a couple of times that hockey saved their school, and maybe their town. This is a bit of a disservice to them, overly modest really: what really saved them was self-reliance, entrepreneurial spirit, and character. But if becoming Hockeyville is what it takes to get them some recognition, then I'm all for it.
We’re asking everybody to vote as many times as they can as often as they can,” said Mark Lowe [no relation - ed.], principal of Warner School, at a school assembly Monday to announce the small community had made the first cut.

You bet, sir.


Clutch Defined

Another whopper from the writers at Here's a snippet:

Dick Duff never won a scoring title. He didn’t win any individual awards. But Duff earned his place among hockey’s immortals because of his ability to come through in the clutch.

Tears are rolling down my face, I'm laughing so hard. But it gets better:

Great clutch players come in all shapes and sizes, but they have one critical, common ingredient – they define grace under pressure. As the clock ticks down and the fate of the game comes down to a single play, these guys are ready to make the difference.

And on and on and on and on...


Okay, Be Honest

Is anyone else waiting to see where Smytty signs this summer so that they can buy his jersey? Or is that just me?


I. Am. Sparta!

I've been look for this video clip for a couple weeks now, ever since my buddy Nate saw it during the Oilers/Red Wings game. It's a promo ad with the Stanley Cup superimposed into a scene from the upcoming movie 300.

Why, exactly, is the Stanley Cup floating over the Battle of Thermopylae? From the press release:

The National Hockey League (NHL) and Warner Bros. Pictures have teamed on an integrated marketing campaign to promote the studio's highly anticipated film "300." The NHL and its Member Clubs will support the release of "300," which is set to open in theaters nationwide March 9, with a TV spot, co-branded merchandise, on-line promotions and player appearances, all as part of the NHL's "Quest for the Cup" initiative.

The 30-second TV promo features NHL game action and mixes dramatic shots of NHL players and the Stanley Cup with battle scenes and dialogue from the film. The spot, which was produced by NHL Productions, will air during NHL game broadcasts on NBC, VERSUS, TSN and local affiliates. The promo also will appear on and in-arena during NHL games in select NHL markets. In addition, NHL clubs will offer its fans various giveaways, including t-shirts featuring the "Quest for the Cup" and "300" logos and passes to screenings of the film. Former and current NHL players, including members of the Anaheim Ducks, are slated to attend the March 5 Los Angeles premiere of the film, accompanied by the Stanley Cup.

Co-branded merchandise? Does that mean I'll be able to pick up a trident with Sidney Crosby's signature on it from my local Canadian Tire?

Jokes aside, I've been waiting to see 300 for some time, and have written about it several times on my other blog. It opens this Friday.

Bonus Video

The best commercial the NHL has made, by far.


Carry On, My Wayward Son

For some reason, this post at Covered In Oil made me think of the old Kansas classic. Anyway, go there, and add your own haiku or limerick.

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high
Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I'm dreamin',
I can hear them say

Carry on my wayward son,
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Now don't you cry no more

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely
means that I don't know
On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed around I'm like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune, but
I hear the voices say

Carry on my wayward son,
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Now don't you cry no more

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life's no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you

Carry on my wayward son,
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Now don't you cry no more

Monday, March 05, 2007


Final Pile-on

Electing not to pay Ryan Smyth's price is one of the more defensible moves Kevin Lowe has made lately. I happen to agree with most around these parts that it was the wrong decision -- while possible, I think it's unlikely that he'll find better value for that money -- but it's defensible, for reasons that have been outlined by Sacamano among others.

Once Lowe made that decision, trading Smyth was the obvious and correct move. But if anything, this move highlighted a previous, grievous error on Lowe's part.

**Oilers receive Ducks' pick if Ducks make the SCF
i.e. if the pick transfers, it will be ~30th overall.

Those returns are awfully comparable, aren't they? Lupul's presumed upside back on July 3rd was certainly higher that Robert Nilsson's is today, but they're in the same ballpark. The urgency factor? Yes yes, Pronger put a gun to Lowe's head, but unlike Smyth, Pronger's trade value wasn't about to vaporize if a deal wasn't finalized immediately.

Trade deadline time saw a lot of discussion of "assets". Chris Pronger @ $25M/4years is a tremendous asset. A Top 5 NHL D-man, signed for at least $1M/year less than what you would have to pay him on a fresh contract. Because Pronger demanded a trade, and the emotional implications that went with that off the playoff run, this deal seems to have been excluded from discussions of "worst trades in the past XXX", but it's a candidate.

For whatever reason, Hardball Lowe was at his most acquiescent when it came to the demands of the guy who deserved prompt action the least and who had no leverage. By accepting what was (let's stipulate) the best offer available right away, Lowe eliminated the likely possibility that another GM would have bolted upright in bed one October morning knowing it was imperative that his club acquire Pronger, for a price that yesterday seemed too high.

This leads into Lowe's next major failing, which is that he seems to have a poor understanding that his actions have an impact on his team beyond the tangible. Let's say he waited on Pronger; then the day after final cuts, he walks into the dressing room:
"Gentlemen, I know you're all wondering what's going on with Pronger, and you're eager to move forward. I'm having a problem, though. As most of you know, he's a superb player, and he's signed for 4 more years at below-market value. For whatever reason, all the offers I'm getting so far are for draft picks and young guys. Fuck that. We came within a game of winning the Cup last season, and we're gonna finish the job this time. We're built to win now, and we're going to get something for Pronger that will put us closer.

We're a very good team, and once a deal is finalized, we'll be that much better. Give 'er shit."

Instead we saw Wait & See, Monitor & Assess, We're Not Going To Overpay, etc.

The attitude and actions of leaders affect the people below them. Look: the forwards have underperformed. The team is a lot softer with Lupul and Sykora than they were with Pronger, Peca, Laraque, and Moreau. But there was one glaring area where the team was lacking in quality: the blueline. It was obvious before the season, it was obvious as the season progressed, and Lowe declined to do anything except Monitor & Assess. Of course that attitude was going to rub off on the team. You have to be a unique and hellaciously self-motivated individual to excel under these conditions (and, for your efforts, you got traded to the New York Islanders).

This kinda segues to the final, overarching indictment of Lowe and the Oilers organization, which is that they allowed whatever it was they had that was a near-championship squad dissolve into nothing, or rather, something completely un-special. It's impossible to avoid comparisons with the Flames here. You can't discount "circumstances" (luck) entirely, but cripes.

Let's sidestep the issue of on-ice performance. The Flames leveraged their run to the SCF Game 7 impressively. The organization talks and acts like they're one of the big dogs in the NHL. They bought an AHL team (Sutter is its GM too), and have their own guy running the bench there, with the primary mission of producing quality Calgary Flames players. They spend money because they think it'll improve the team. Hell, they just installed a massive new scoreboard thingy for $3.5M, for the same reasons as you or I might buy a plasma TV for our rec room: it looks cool, and they can afford it.
“The ENMAX Energy Board is part of our continued commitment to an enhanced game experience and a winning attitude,” said Flames President & CEO Ken King.

Kevin Lowe's words say we have the resources, we can spend 8 or 9 million dollars on a player, but his actions say We're plucky little Edmonton, with some prudent management and scouting and a few breaks, I think we can go far... oh, and doing things like invoking Billy Beane doesn't help.

That's the giveaway, really. I'm all for a disciplined approach to roster-building, but why would Kevin Lowe think it's appropriate to make an Oakland analogy? Seriously, Edmonton is a much, much better hockey market than Oakland is a baseball market. The A's have been good for most of this millenium, but have been in the bottom half for attendance every year.

Why shouldn't the Oilers be the St. Louis Cardinals? St. Louis isn't especially rich, or a massive NY/LA/CHI market, but baseball is #1 there and the franchise has a great history. The Cards don't pretend that they're the Yankees exactly, but they behave themselves like they're the best organization in baseball. Sometimes they lose a gamble, and pay a guy too much money who doesn't perform -- hey, it happens, and it certainly doesn't prevent them from finding and developing quality young players.

The Edmonton Oilers have leveraged a run to G7 of the SCF into a 21.6% increase in ticket prices, a trial balloon for a publicly-funded arena, and... nothing. It's either appalling or embarassing, maybe both.

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