Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Even Steven

25 seconds left against Detroit, and we give up a goal. Guess that evens out Sunday's comeback against the Ducks. Anyone watch this game tonight? I didn't. It was the third PPV in four games, and I refuse to give even a loonie up for this product. What happened?



First things first: I'm glad I was wrong. Like most people who have been hockey fans for any significant period of time, I have cheered for a team with mediocre-to-lousy goaltending and no easy way to upgrade it. Having your goaltender repeatedly cost you hockey games is no way to go through life as a fan; it's agonizing. Now, and for the foreseeable future, that won't be a problem for Flames fans.

Once the details of the contract structure are public and confirmed, I might have more to say about the deal itself (word so far is that it includes a performance-based no-move clause, which is a brand new concept to me). For now, it suffices to say that the AAV (cap $ figure) is significantly less than Kipper's open market price, so good.

At left: next season's Calgary Flames as it stands right now. Got an IM from Tyler last night: "Please tell me that you're writing a post about how the Kipper signing means that your youngest boy will be playing for them next year because they can't afford anyone else, including the older one." That's not too far off; depends on what the cap is.

I haven't looked at it too deeply or even too shallow-ly, but a reasonable guess seems to be that it'll rise from $50.3M to $53M-$54M; as I understand things, it probably won't jump as much as it did the past two years, because there were factors other than revenue increases that contributed significantly to those jumps.

Anyway, looking at the salary table, here are my quick thoughts:
  1. Yes, they can afford to sign Langkow
  2. No, they can't afford to sign Langkow and Huselius
  3. The Flames need several young forwards (i.e. more than 1 or 2) to make a leap, or they're going to be even more comically top-heavy next season than this one (and last)

Yesterday afternoon should have been better than it was for me. That was a real coup for the organization, and it should have been a proud time to be a Flames fan. Listening to the media scrum with Darryl Sutter, though, evoked a regrettably familiar sentiment: very little "Good for you, Darryl" or "Oh, that's interesting!" and a whole lot of "What the fuck is wrong with you!"

Good manners aren't everything, and there's nothing wrong with being a man of few words, and dry sarcasm has its time and place too. But it just blows me away how unbelievably shabbily Darryl Sutter treats the media. Two-thirds of his answers are made in an entirely disparaging tone, whether they are gratuitously sarcastic and derogatory, or simply mean.

The one that really sticks in my mind was a question by (I think) TSN's Jermaine Franklin, who asked approximately, "Do you think this contract is a lot less than Kiprusoff could have gotten as a UFA?" Now, a perfectly fine answer would have been, "I couldn't possibly speculate on that, and it's a moot point now anyway." Or, "I don't know." His actual answer, and you could see the sneer coming out of the radio, was, "The way I was raised, thirty-five million dollars isn't less money."

Really? Because the way *I* was raised, you treat people who are just trying to do their jobs with some basic courtesy and respect, even if they're lousy at it. And I'm not from a family who is renowned the nation over for its character. [/rant]


Two quick non-hockey items. First, I think it was Cosh who wondered aloud last year if maybe the Sports Gal, aka Mrs. Bill Simmons, was a better columnist than her husband. I'm not a Simmons-basher -- for me, the fact that he actually watches sports and enjoys them keeps him well ahead of a good 3/4 of all other sportswriters -- but I have to admit, the Sports Gal's rant in this past Friday's football picks column is the best thing I've read on his page in months:
As you can tell, I have a short fuse after nine months of carrying a living being; biting my tongue just isn't in the cards anymore. So I wanted to send out some apologies for my behavior over the past few days.

Sorry to the guy who thought it was OK to stand in my potential parking spot so his family could get the prime spot in front of Pinkberry -- I wasn't really going to run you over. Sorry to the lady who thought it would be cool to talk on her cell while swerving into my lane, cutting me off and then driving 10 mph under the speed limit while I tailgated her and slammed my horn. Sorry to the guy who cuts our lawn -- I'm still not sure why you thought it was OK to move our Halloween props and ruin them, but I'm sorry just the same and you're not really fired. Sorry to the guy in front of me at Ralph's who had 20 items in the 10 item express lane. Sorry to the lady who thought it would be a "good idea" to balance her checkbook at the Citibank ATM. And sorry to the guy in the Astroburger drive-thru line who changed his order six times.

Sorry to the woman at the doctor's office who coughed 20 times without covering her mouth, then asked to borrow my magazine -- you don't know why I'm sorry, but I am. Sorry to Bill for erasing the NBA games from 20 years ago that hogged our valuable Tivo space, then pretending it was an accident. Sorry to the female driver who accused me of not planning to pick up my dog poop when I was already holding the poop bag in my hand and figuring out how to bend over when I'm pregnant, and sorry for threatening to throw the poop at her car when that's probably against the law. Sorry to my daughter for everything you've witnessed lately. And sorry for everyone who has to read this lame rant. Just don't complain to Bill about it if you know what's best for you.

Second, I ran across this graf on an unrelated topic, and found it brilliant -- and a good thing to keep in mind next time the NHL is in labour negotiations (or even just issuing a random press release):
There is much made [...] about the fallacy of "argumentum ad hominem". There is, as I have mentioned in the past, no fancy Latin term for the fallacy of "giving known liars the benefit of the doubt", but it is in my view a much greater source of avoidable error in the world.


Flames host the Nashville Predators tonight (730PM MT, RSN West). Word is that Nilson is hurt (day-to-day) and will be replaced by Nystrom, and Hale is headed back to the PB so that Eriksson can take another crack at getting his ship together.

Nashville is 0-4-0 on the road this year, and got smoked 7-4 at home vs. Calgary earlier this month. After an awfully long stretch of Predators dominance, the Flames have actually won the last two matchups. Here's a 1000-point trivia question for the non-BoA-reading Flames fan in your life: who scored the game-winning goals in those two games? Seeing as how the answer is Rhett Warrener (in OT) and Eric Godard, it's about as un-guessable as it gets.

Course looks good, swing feels good, I like our chances. 4-2 Calgary, Eric Nystrom gets his 1st NHL goal. Go Flames.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Game On!

You wanted the hockey? You got the hockey. Ten reasons why the Oilers are so awesome (in the order in which they pop into my head):

1) Five Stanley Cups
2) Perogies at the game
3) Joey Moss
4) No dumb team mascot
5) Wayne Gretzky
6) Tough guys (Dave Semenko, Dave Brown, Dave Manson, Georges Laraque)
7) The Oilogosphere (duh)
8) Beginning the trend of playing Zombie Nation after goals (I have no proof of this, but you'll never convince me otherwise)
9) The last WHA team
10) The Boys on the Bus movie


More Baseball

I know, I know. "More Oilers...we beat Brian Burke and Chris Pronger...Marty Reasoner makes me horny...Kevin Lowe is a genius for trading Ryan Smyth so that the team could tank and get Sam Gagner..." I know. But I have to get some links out of the way here. Trust me, they are worth reading.

Here's three from Joe Posnanski on the Japanese World Series:

"Baseball in Japan is similar to U.S. game, only with dancing girls"

"Japan Series: ‘You have to see it to believe it’"

"They love Hillman in Japan"

Stanley Fish on believing:

"The Kid and Old Blue Eyes"

Bill Simmons on sharing the Red Sox victory with his daughter:

"Sox win Most Valuable Team Award"

And my personal favorites: a handful on the disgrace that is Alex Rodriguez. For any not in the know, Rodriguez didn't show up yesterday to receive the Hank Aaron Award for AL Hitter of the Year (Aaron himself was there to give out the award); then he and his agent Scott Boras announced (we heard it during the 8th inning of Game 4 of the World Series) that he would be opting out of his current contract with the New York Yankees. In other words, the guy proved, once and for all, that he is a selfish asshole (his agent isn't much better). So add that to my thin-slicing exercise.

"A-Rod stole the spotlight"
"In many ways, it's sad, because Alex Rodriguez is a great player and a good guy. On the field after the Red Sox clinched their second world championship in four seasons, I had two Rockies players beg me to rip A-Rod for his attention grab, one Red Sox player said he'd walk away if asked about Rodriguez and more than 10 other players reveled in laughing at the iconic $30 million-a-year player who doesn't know what it's like to be Jon Lester or Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Spilborghs or Bobby Kielty and play in a World Series. Fine, Rodriguez is opting out of his contract. But anyone who respected baseball would not have tried to grab the stage from the World Series -- if winning were a priority."

"A-Rod putting himself above the game"
"Alex Rodriguez couldn't be at the World Series to receive an award from Hank Aaron -- a family commitment was the stated reason -- but he managed to upstage Game 4, with the help of agent Scott Boras, who announced in the early innings that his client is opting out of his contract."

"Rodriguez Is a Bauble a Champion Doesn’t Need"
Classless in his timing, the agent Scott Boras picked last night — the Red Sox’ evening — to announce that his precious client, Alex, had opted out of his Yankees’ deal.

"Until the end, it was always about A-Rod"
"A-Rod's decision to opt out on his contract is not only the biggest story in New York this morning -obscuring, among other things, the fact that Joe Girardi is going to be made an official offer to manage the team today - but it also big-foots the very sport from which A-Rod now intends to bleed his $300 million booty. And if you think that's coincidence, then you've missed A-Rod's act these past four years. Too bad, too. As it turns out, it was a limited run.

Vintage A-Rod. Yesterday was a busy day in the A-Rod camp when it came to showing up baseball, reminding the sport who's the bat and who's the ball. He blew off pregame ceremonies announcing him as a winner, along with Prince Fielder, of the Hank Aaron Award, meaning he all but spit on Aaron's shoes from a faraway perch. But that was merely the warm-up."

"Yankees bid farewell to A-Rod after likely MVP opts out"
"Major League Baseball had this message for Alex Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras: shame on you. Boras announced during Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night that A-Rod was opting out of the final three seasons of his contract with the New York Yankees. The timing left baseball officials livid. "We were very disappointed that Scott Boras would try to upstage our premier baseball event of the season with his announcement," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Monday in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "There was no reason to make an announcement last night other than to try to put his selfish interests and that of one individual player above the overall good of the game," DuPuy said. "Last night and today belong to the Boston Red Sox, who should be celebrated for their achievement, and to the Colorado Rockies, who made such an unbelievable run to the World Series."

***Bonus*** The New Yorker's lengthy article on Scott Boras:

"The Extortionist"

Sunday, October 28, 2007



"Bart Giamatti did not grow up to play second base for the Boston Red Sox. He became a professor at Yale, and then president of Yale, and then, in time, exhausted by a bitter strike at Yale and anxious to try greener fields, president of the National League. He never lost his love for the Boston Red Sox. It was as a Red Sox fan, he later realized, that he had first learned that man is fallen, and that life is filled with disappointment. The path to comprehending Calvinism in modern America, he decided, begins at Fenway Park."
--David Halberstam, Summer of '49

Funny how quickly things change. Summer of '49 was published in 1989. A. Bartlett Giamatti actually became Commissioner of Baseball before that, on September 8, 1988. He died on September 1, 1989, never able, in his 51 years of life, to witness his beloved Red Sox winning the World Series. They've now won two in four years. The words of Halberstam and Giamatti, among others, look alien. There can be redemption, even after great suffering. It's funny how things change.

Keep The Faith. Go Sox.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Flames thru 10

Record: 5-3-2 (3-2-1 Home, 2-1-1 Road)
4 Regulation Wins, 1 OT Win, 3 Regulation Losses, 1 OT Loss, 1 SO Loss

Scoring & Preventing Goals:
The one utterly sub-par element of the team's game so far has been the PK. Even excepting 5-on-3s, their SHGA/60 is 9.38, which is not quite (but approaching) twice as porous as an average team.

Speaking of 5-on-3s: under the "For", they have 2 goals in 5 opportunities lasting a total of 275 seconds; 1 goal per 138seconds (recent league average = ~1 per 180 seconds). Under the "Against", 3 goals in 5 opportunities lasting a total of 222 seconds; 1 goal per 74 seconds.

Player Rates:

(Click to enlarge; sorted by ESP/60) It's early, but just about all the offensive rates are good-to-great. Nolan is probably due for some bounces; Iginla is impossibly hot at ES. Note also that the #2 PP unit, whoever they are, has been shut out: only the Big 4 of the Flames forwards have any PP points at all. I think we knew they were top heavy up front, but that's a bit ridiculous.


Flames host the Avs tonight (7PM, RSN West). I haven't been doing Game Day posts recently, and I'm not sure I can start again. It's not superstition, it's that Rudy Kelly has taken over and pretty much mastered the form. As usual, this last one was packed with laughs -- enough that I didn't care that his date was off by a year (the NHL was on hiatus in April '05, right?) and thus all the accompanying historical references. But that's OK -- it was probably funnier this way:
Even if the Kings do make the playoffs, though, I’m not sure how good they’d be. They’d probably have a better chance if Terry Schiavo was in net. (Too soon?) [Ed.: probably] I think, looking at the future, the Kings need to do a couple of things. First, they need to lock up Demitra. I know he’s injury-prone, but the guy can score. Putting him with Frolov will be excellent for his development. I also think they need to look for a defenseman who can play with Lubo and Norstrom. (Not Rob Blake; he sucks and there’s no way he’s worth the $4 million it will probably take to sign him.)

Et cetera. Anyway, I'd love to see Moss pot a goal, and I'd also like to see a perfect PK night: the Oilers (aka 2.86% 5.0% of the time, it works every time) are still the only team Calgary has held without a PP goal. So, something like a 4-1 Win then? Sounds good. Go Flames.


The problem with Planned Economies, Pt. 874,917

They say that when the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail, but forgive me nonetheless for seeing the Reebok uniform problems as something that could have been avoided entirely with more entrepreneurship and less central planning.
According to sources in the B’s dressing room, Reebok has been unable to correct problems with the new jerseys introduced this season across the NHL and will replace them at the company’s expense with new uniforms made of the old materials. (ÞMirtle)

I left this comment on a thread early this month at TB's blog about the Rangers' lawsuit (re: central vs. franchise control of websites etc.):
- The jersey problem is actually a pretty decent illustration of the whole issue. If individual teams were responsible for their own gear (and the attendant marketing deals etc.), this wouldn't have happened. Instead, you'd have had (for example) Reebok cutting a deal with the Penguins on a new Uniform System; Pens players complaining about various elements of the alpha release; Reebok fixing those problems (or abandoning the whole project); and other teams copying the Pens and signing with Reebok once the much-vaunted advantages of the new System became apparent.

I understand the problem here, as it is commonly argued: the Leafs and Flyers could earn a lot more money from "uniform rights" than the small-market Predators and Panthers and Oilers, and it would further exacerbate the revenue difference between the haves and the have-nots. But surely it's worth stopping for a moment to acknowledge what it lost -- surrendered, really -- by centralizing the whole thing.

ONE: It brings uniform innovation to a near-screeching halt. There is a lot less incentive for everybody besides Reebok to develop new & better jerseys, because they won't be able to put them on an NHL team to promote them. There's also less incentive for Reebok to keep pushing to innovate, because all they really have to do is make them good enough that most players stop complaining. (Compare to, say, visors: companies that make helmet visors are constantly trying to improve their product, and building on the strong points of each other's design and technology, to get their plastic onto the faces of as many NHLers as possible.)

And a variety of jersey manufacturers is a marketing opportunity in and of itself. I don't think it's a huge stretch to say that there's plenty of people -- most of whom lie within the NHL's wet-dream demographic -- that might be first turned on to hockey by some team's unique, supercool jersey design.

Come to think of it, didn't Nike just bail out of the hockey business? Do they make uniforms, and use pro teams to promote them? Surely the timing is a coincidence, but...

TWO: The assumption that the small-market teams would get boned if the uniform deal wasn't league-wide and pooled is reasonable, but not necessarily true. It's a fool's game to predict exactly how the market will respond to specific opportunities A/B/C (if I could do it I'd be a better capitalist myself), but try telling me a scenario like the following is unthinkable (all $ figures pulled from my rear end):
Upstart Edmonton company 2010Sweaterz thinks they've designed a great hockey jersey. The Oilers check them out and like them a lot, but they don't want to forsake the $100k/year that Russell pays them to wear Russell gear, and 2010Sweaterz has no cash to match that figure. So 2010Sweaterz, in desperate need of some exposure, makes the Oilers an offer: wear them for a year, and at the end you have the option of buying 25% of our company for a buck. Oilers say, OK deal.

Oiler players love them, word spreads. By February, 2010Sweaterz has deals to fit two more NHL teams the following season, and are talking to others, as well as some junior leagues and clothing distributors. The Oilers exercise their option to buy, and suddenly have $1M/yr (and growing) pouring in from their new jersey business.

Again, that's not a prediction, or even a guess: it's just a scenario that is 100% impossible when the NHL marketing department is telling the Oilers what brand of jersey to wear, and handing out 1/30th of the sponsorship deal in return.
When a man is impressed by the effect that is seen and has not yet learned to discern the effects that are not seen, he indulges in deplorable habits, not only through natural inclination, but deliberately. - Frederic Bastiat

What he said.

[P.S. Anonymous comment of the month at Mirtle's post: "Any truth to the rumour the new uniforms contain lead?"]

Thursday, October 25, 2007


New Subject!

So, I've been predicting on-and-off since last season -- and consistently since late June -- that Kiprusoff is not going to be re-signed by the Flames. I'm not going to rehash it all in detail (see here, here, and here), but the gist is that (1) Phaneuf is going to be very expensive, and (2) I don't see how they can replace both Langkow and Huselius with rookies/4th-liners, which is roughly where they'd be if they forked out for Kipper.

Given that, I still think by far the most likely eventuality is that he plays out the season and walks. But, last week Bruce Dowbiggin stated (if not quite argued) the case for trading Kipper:
Calgary isn't dreaming of surviving anymore. It wants a Cup.

If keeping Kiprusoff at a big number or letting him go for nothing next summer stands in the way of that ultimate goal, then there is only one logical direction for the Flames to go.

Now, I question a bunch of his premises, including but not limited to:
However, that last one got me to thinking about who could potentially be at the opposite end of a Kipper trade. So behold my musings!

29-22. Don't Want Him, Don't Need Him: Islanders, New Jersey, Anaheim, Vancouver, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Florida, San Jose.

All these teams are set in goal. Happy with their quality, no contract troubles.

21-17. Don't Want, Don't Think We Need Him: Carolina, Dallas, Buffalo, Chicago, Ottawa. There's no real need to distinguish these five from the first eight; I count them separately only because they could at least theoretically be better in goal with Kipper. However, existing contract situations pretty much dictate that they're going with what they have, and it's hard to say how significant the upgrade would be anyway.

16-13. Sleeping in the Bed We Done Made: Nashville, Toronto, Boston, Edmonton. These teams almost certainly would be better in goal with Kipper, but it doesn't matter because they are in no position to acquire him. (Also note: if these were really strict rankings, the Oilers would be #29; I'm pretty sure there has never been an Oilers-Flames trade, ever.)

12-11. We Have Other Plans, They're Just Not Quite Official Yet: Rangers, Atlanta. Both teams have quality goalies who will be RFAs at the end of the season, as well as other plans and committments for their money.

10. Didn't You Hear? Mike Barnett Got Fired: Phoenix. Giving up prospects to acquire a top-end goalie right now -- even if with an eye to re-signing him -- makes zero sense and is exactly opposite of what Don Maloney seems to be trying to do.

9-8. Not Interested, But Leave Us His Number Anyway: Washington, Detroit. Both of these teams are much more likely to be Kiprusoff suitors on July 1 than January 1, with goalies who are also in their final contract years. Kipper is better than Kolzig, but this is supposed to be an on the way up year for the Caps, and it's exceedingly unlikely that they would give up anything of value in a later-for-now trade. I can easily see the Wings offering Kipper a dump truck full of money in the summer, but they can't afford to give up any prospects, and oh yeah, for they moment they have a 6-time Vezina winner who's still pretty outstanding.


This as I see it is the gap between teams with infinitessimal odds of acquiring Kipper, and those for whom it's merely unlikely. As such, it's a good time to run down the required elements of any Kipper trade. There are 3-team scenarios that make things more flexible, but you can figure that out on your own. Anyway:
  1. The Flames can take plenty of salary back, but only on expiring deals. The entire premise of this deal is that the Flames are looking forward and planning to re-sign their other players; they can't do that if the money that they're not going to spend on Kipper still goes to a big contract coming back
  2. The Flames probably need a 1A or quality backup goalie in return. It doesn't matter how down on the season Sutter gets, they won't be playing it out with Curtis McE and Matt Keetley (or Robert Esche).
  3. Obviously, they need some non-trivial future value.

7. Strict Rental: Montreal. It's hard to envision the Habs holding down a playoff spot if Huet is somewhat dodgy and Price is not-quite-ready... but if that happens, then they might look to rent a goalie.

Yes - they could send back either Huet or Halak
But - see "hard to envision" above

6. Rent-to-Own?: Tampa Bay. The Bolts need better goaltending, they know it, and they've known it for a while, but they are pretty limited in how they can address it by their existing salary structure. What is their medium/long term plan, though? Are they keeping all of their Big 3 or not? Either way, is their focus going to be re-signing Dan Boyle or getting a goaltender?

Yes - they can afford to pay Kipper's existing contract, and they may find themselves extremely motivated for even a short-term goalie fix
But - not sure what they have, let along what they can afford, to send back

5. Maybe if they were the Orlando Avalanche: Colorado. In case you're not counting the days along with Francois Giguere, Jose Theodore's contract comes off the books in the summer, and the Avs need short- and long-term goalie help.

Yes - could offer Kipper a big $$ extension on the spot
But - the Flames have always been happy to deal with the Avs, but giving them Kipper while they're fighting with them for the playoffs and possibly the NW title stretches the imagination too far

4. How Virtuous is Patience, Exactly?: Pittsburgh. Two things that are 90+% certain to be true: (1) it's too early to decide M-A Fleury will never be an elite goalie, and (2) the Pens will always be somewhat in contention as long as Crosby is around. That said, Pens GM Ray Shero has some very challenging planning issues, and in at least some sense, they have a short window in which to leverage the core group they have into a Stanley Cup. Malkin, Staal, Armstrong, and Christensen all need new deals after next season; Fleury is an RFA after this one.

If Shero judges that Fleury is the biggest thing holding them back from winning the East now, then he almost has to do something, doesn't he?

Yes - given their present abilities and their contract situations, Kipper-Fleury might just be a straight-up trade
But - if Fleury has three good games this week, Pittsburgh moves back up this list to #21 with Carolina

3. Goalie-on-Goalie Love: St. Louis. Who wouldn't, I suppose, but I'm quite certain that John Davidson would love to have a rock-solid goalie anchoring his team's renaissance.

Yes - might have a prospect to burn to send to Calgary, plus Legace who is signed thru next year
But - looking at available $$ and # of roster slots to be filled, they might not be as able to give Kipper the deal he's looking for

2. Stop the Insanity: Los Angeles. If Dean Lombardi decides that the difference between great and average-to-poor goaltending is the difference between playoffs and not-playoffs, he may decide to pull the trigger on a deal, "building for the future" be damned.

Yes - never believe a New York or L.A. sports exec when he says he's "not willing to sacrifice the future"
But - LaBarbera is probably at least average, and with Bernier on his way, a long-term extension for Kipper is not much of a fit

1. This is Where it All Comes Together: Columbus.

Team not settled on its long term future in goal: check!
Team trying to play a tight defensive style reminiscent of Kipper's greatest days: check!
Team with a 1A goalie and spare prospects to send back: check!
Team with plenty of money to re-sign Kipper to a long-term deal: check! (cough, FooteFedorov)
Coach that's crystal clear on the importance of a top-flight goalie: check!
GM who has seen up close what kind of difference Kipper can make: check!
Team that's good enough to use him now, but not good enough for Calgary to panic about helping: check!


Can I please stress one more time that I don't see a trade happening, whatsoever? There's no scenarios you can construct where it would suddenly be likely. If the Flames are good to great, they'll ride Kipper to the end. If they suck and Kipper also sucks, he's not going to be in the same kind of demand (and/or no one will care if he's traded). If they suck despite Kipper being great -- i.e. the next two months are one long Red Wings series -- then the Flames will suddenly care more about re-signing him than all other considerations.

Plausible is a relative term here. The most plausible scenario in which Kipper is traded is: he gets injured for 6 weeks, and Matt Keetley goes 16-2-1 with a .925SV% in his absence. The most plausible trading partner, noted above, has a 24-year-old goalie who has 3 shutouts in his 1st 5 games. Entertainment purposes only, etc. etc.

(Now watch next month when Ottawa acquires him for Ray Emery and Josh Hennessey)


We Get Letters?

***Edmonton Journal sportswriter John Mackinnon kindly responded by e-mail to my post from yesterday, and gave me the go ahead to put it up on this site. It is below. I thank him for his response. Comments welcome.***


I really enjoyed your comprehensive response. I especially enjoy the musings of you and your colleagues about supposed newspaper 'policy' decisions and the like. It's entirely misinformed conjecture — flat-out wrong, actually — but it sure is entertaining in a wacky, conspiracy-theory sort of way.

I also get a huge bang out of the way you and your bright, engaged audience over-intellectualize everything. It's wild. My points are more modest:

1. Ryan Smyth is not a franchise player. Never was. Never will be. I read the Thornton, Iginla, Smyth theorem when it was first posted some time ago. Statistical gymnastics signifying nothing. The fact is, over the last five seasons Iginla has averaged 80 points and 40 goals a season; Smyth, 27 goals and 61 points a season. The two players are not close in ability. In the '03-04 playoffs, Iginla produced 22 points and 13 goals. During the '05-06 playoffs, Smyth scored seven goals and produced 16 points. Throw in Iginla's force-of-nature physical presence and upper-end brilliance (52 goals and 96 points in '01-02; 94 points last season) and the issue seems hardly in doubt. In the best year he ever had, Smyth delivered 70 points. Iginla is a threat to score 50 goals and pile up 100 points any given year, including this one, the way he has come out of the gate like gangbusters. In short, if people believe the Oilers should have paid Smyth what he wanted on the theory that #94 delivers franchise-player value, I think that's grossly misguided. Smyth is a special player for a variety of reasons, but he's just not an elite player.

Last season, it became clear that, absent Pronger (not to mention Peca, Spacek et al), the Oilers needed to rebuild. Organizationally, they remain better off with the asset base they now possess, which would not have been possible had they kept Smyth. I'm not trying to retroactively suggest this was knowable at the time of the Smyth trade. Obviously, it was not. I'm just saying that, as things unfolded, they will be better able to rebuild in the current reality, with the current bundle of assets. And a key part of that rebuilding job will be the 18-year-old Sam Gagner, who almost certainly would not be here had the Oilers kept Smyth and not cannonballed the way they did. Or at least not that drastically.

Finally, while I agree, Andy, the analysis you and your pals regularly do is truly breathtaking, your attachment to Smyth is largely sentimental. It's all about love, which is what fandom really is, isn't it? I think it's downright touching there truly is a heart beating underneath all those craftily assembled decimal points. As I mentioned on my blog, I respect that passion.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Yep, we're through the looking glass

The Calgary Flames appear to be the most explosive, dangerous offensive team in the Western Conference. They just dropped 5 goals (4 EV) on the Minnesota Wild, who had previously allowed 10 goals (4 EV) in 8 games. Jeez, Tanguay-Langkow-Iginla scored on three consecutive shifts in the 2nd period. They're on pace to threaten 300 goals.

I don't know where this ends up -- if it can translate to being a dominant team -- but it's awfully fun. Surely if a team whose 2nd-leading scorer potted 18 goals can win the conference, then this one can too. Can't it?


Is It True That You No Longer Beat Your Wife?

"The boys in the Oilogosphere spent much of the Ryan Smyth homecoming on Tuesday night rehashing the Kevin-Lowe-shoulda-signed-him-at-the-deadline argument.

Those whose attachment to Smyth is primarily an emotional one are beyond rational argument. But I respect their emotions."
-John Mackinnon

A couple of things:

1) The fact that MSM "blogs" like Mackinnon's don't link to non-MSM blogs speaks volumes about that industry. In his defence, I doubt Mackinnon has much say in the matter. He reads our blogs, as his usage of the term "Oilogosphere" indicates. My guess is that it's Edmonton Journal policy not to link to non-Journal sites. But whether it's Journal policy or his own refusal to link, it's another fine example of how elitist, protective, insecure and out of touch most traditional media outlets are with consumers.

In their book Wikinomics, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams talk about the rise of "The Web 2.0", and an emerging, powerful economy they coin "Wikinomics." The consumers in this new economy share certain values, including speed, freedom, openness, innovation, mobility, authenticity, and playfulness. They want their products, and the delivery of those products, to reflect those norms. The response from some industries has been to adapt to the consumer, and the result has been phenomenal success. Other industries, in particular the entertainment and media industries, have decided they'd rather punch at the wind, even going as far as labeling consumers criminals and taking them to court. The result has been...well, we all know the result.

As Tyler noted in his post on blogs and the media, with blogs "there’s an accountability to the consumer that’s lacking in other forms of media." It's partly why blogs are becoming more and more popular. Here's a fine example of it. I just linked to a story by a writer at a newspaper, and I'll take direct heat for whatever I say in my comments section. Yet I doubt there will be a return reference for me, because that would be an acknowledgment that someone other than a professional writer working at a newspaper has a valid opinion. And most "blogs" on MSM sites put up unnecessary hurdles and barriers that make commenting a nuisance (as a non-exact but related example, CTVglobemedia asks readers to agree to Terms and Condition before they can have access to RSS feeds from any of their sites). It's much easier for media corporations and journalists to ignore bloggers and their blogs (or if they are really progressive, belittle or lamely imitate them) than it is for them to adapt, restructure, and embrace change. Which explains why those corporations, and their newspapers, will all be extinct in ten years.

2) Suggesting that those throughout the Oilogosphere who opposed the Ryan Smyth trade are being more emotional than rational is absolutely ludicrous. I'm sure Mackinnon is referencing (without actually linking to them or writing their names), posts that appeared yesterday on this site, Covered in Oil, Lowetide, and BDHS. Looking at only those posts, he's right. Most of us spent yesterday talking about what Ryan Smyth meant to us as fans of the game, and it was therefore full of emotion. It makes sense, considering it was Smyth's first time back to Edmonton (Mackinnon didn't criticize the Oilers for running the pre-game tribute video, or Oilers fans for giving Smyth an emotional standing ovation). But it is wrong to claim that the Oilogosphere has spent the days since February 27th, 2007 oozing emotion and nothing else. There are too many posts to link to, but anybody who reads the Oilogosphere regularly is fully aware of the myriad of rational arguments about the Ryan Smyth trade made by those who opposed it. To give but one example, Tyler Dellow provides an argument on the true value of Smyth that is far more rational and compelling than anything I've ever read in the sports section of any newspaper. There goes Mackinnon's argument that Smyth was "not a franchise player and certainly not an elite player at any time during his NHL career."

In fact, if we want to point out a lack of rational arguments, let's look at Mackinnon's post. He freely admits that Lowe's argument about not knowing that the salary cap was going to go up was "lame," yet spends no more time on it. He states that the Oilers options would have been limited in the future if they had paid Smyth $5.5 million for five years, then ignores the fact that Sheldon Souray (also aged 30) is making $5.4 million a year for the next five years. The argument that Souray is more valuable to the team than Smyth, and therefore deserving of that money? Non-existent. Mackinnon does make one argument, and I'll be blunt: it makes no sense.

"One factoid to ponder: If the Oilers had signed Smyth, it is entirely possible they don't plummet like a stone, losing all but two of their final 18 games. That tailspin left the Oilers picking sixth overall in the draft, a position they turned into Sam Gagner, their 18-year-old rookie sensation."

Even though Mackinnon notes that the outcome is one "no one could have planned, or forecast," it's his main argument for why the Ryan Smyth trade was a good decision. Because the Oilers were able to get Gagner with the sixth overall pick, because he had a fantastic tournament against the Russians, because he has played (exceedingly) well in the first eight games of his NHL career--because we know all of this now, eight full months after the Ryan Smyth trade was made--we are supposed to be in favor of the deal. In fact, Mackinnon wants us to decide, "Smytty or Gagner?"

This argument is either a red herring, a loaded question, or both. Others can correct me. I like comments. What I do know is that this argument doesn't wash. Why? Well, because there is no guarantee that the Ryan Smyth trade leads to, or "triggers" any of these things, just as there is no possible way that the Oilers could have known any of these things before they made the deal with the Islanders. They may have hoped that the entire defensive core would get injured, they may have hoped that the team would go in the tank, they may have hoped that they could get Gagner, and they may have hoped once they got him that he made the leap immediately, but there is no chance in hell they knew for sure. And any or all of those things could have happened with Smyth still on the roster. It's impossible to prove otherwise. It's unfair to say, "Smytty or Gagner?" In fact, it's irrational. You can't frame the merits of the Ryan Smyth trade within that context. Seeing as Mackinnon decided to discuss the Oilogosphere's irrationality today, I thought I'd take a moment to point out his.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I close my eyes and wait to hear the sound of someone screaming here

Have thoughts on the tribute? Feel like calling Pierre McGuire a name? Care to nominate the most abominably self-serving organizational comment of the day? Catch a glimpse of Northlands goons tearing up a "I NAMED MY TWIN SONS RYAN AND SMYTH" poster in the concourse? Or, I suppose, notice something in the game you want to mention?

That's what we're here for.



David Halberstam once referred to baseball as “the national binding myth.” That line can be applied with confidence to Hockey and Our Home and Native Land. Like baseball, hockey has a debatable origin story, dozens of historical events full of meaning and significance, as well as legendary players and characters that a nation has worshipped, vilified, and then told their descendants about. These moments and individuals are integral components of the Canadian fabric, as much a definer of our identity as two official languages, freezing winters, and a vast geography. Maybe even more. The Richard Riot. Kingston. Orr. Bobby Clarke’s teeth. Espo’s chastisement in ’72. Gretzky. Saturday night. Henderson has scored for Canada. Car…game on. The Three Stars. He shoots, he scores. Le but. The Gordie Howe hat-trick. Grapes. Zamboni. As Canadians, we know what each of these things mean. How they mean. We endow them with power by loading them with significance. Then they unite us. They are the ties that bind.

Which brings me to Ryan Smyth. Or as the entire country knows him, “Smytty.” I’ve thought long and hard about Smyth since he was traded to the New York Islanders on February 27th, 2007. Anyone who reads this site knows how little I cared for the trade, or the words uttered about him by Kevin Lowe, Pat LaForge, and far too may fans once he left town. Greedy. Not an elite player. Greedy. My feelings about such things have not changed. But that is neither here nor there, especially since I've moved past thinking about Smytty in that context. Lingering would drive me mad. Rather, I like to think about him as part of a bigger picture, within a grander context. I like to think about what Smytty means to me—what he signifies—and what I think he should mean and signify to all of us.

It is my own belief that Smytty is one of those key players, those legendary characters who tell our story and bind our nation. He matters to me, as he should to us all, a great deal. He matters because there are so few other professional players like him, and he matters because he is the most common man in our land. Thousands of Smytty’s exist throughout this country, and yet only one skates every night on NHL ice. He matters because he is the textbook definition, the Platonic Form, of “The Canadian Hockey Player.” What we know of him tells the tale.

The Local Boy: raised in Banff, Alberta; lifetime Oilers fan; run over by Glenn Anderson at a Team Canada training camp; drafted by his favorite team, for whom he would play for eleven and a half years.

The Number: 94.

Player Traits: hustle, skill and a child-like enthusiasm for the game; first guy on the ice at practice, last guy off.

Signature Moves: skating down the ice along the boards, going wide, then either staying along that track or swinging the stick over the head of the defenceman as he cuts back inside; in front of the net, poking, tipping, screening, driving the opposing goalie and defencemen insane.

The Look: mullet; missing teeth; more mullet.

The Moment: taking a puck to the face from teammate Chris Pronger in Game Three of the second round of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Oilers down two games to none to the San Jose Sharks. Three teeth are knocked out, including one with the root. They are picked up and carried off by a linesman. He returns to the ice almost immediately, after getting stitched up. Plays twenty minutes of a forty-four minute overtime, eventually setting up the winning goal. The Oilers win the series in six.

The Interviews: gotta give 110% out there, hustle in the corners and hopefully the bounces will go our way.

The Patriot: Captain Canada. Seven World Championship appearances. Two gold medals, one silver medal. 2002 Olympics. Gold medal. 1995 World Junior Championships. Gold medal. 2004 World Cup of Hockey. Gold medal.

Smyth is still playing, of course. He hasn’t retired or passed on. But he’s a bit off the radar now, playing in Denver. He’s not on a Canadian team, or an American Original Six team, and as such now means less. Colorado, U.S.A is outside the myth-zone. Yet I can’t think of another current NHL player like him, a man who so perfectly epitomizes “The Canadian Hockey Player.” I don’t even think of him as a great player anymore, or a great character. I think of him as an ideal player, as an ideal character in the Great Canadian Hockey Story. And so, I think, should you. He wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. But he is the right now.


I really, really miss my Smytty.

[Sacamano Appendix]

I hope Andy doesn't mind me adding some thoughts here, but I figured it would be better than having two posts on the same topic.

Andy already hit all the right buttons for me, so I'll just add by posting my Smytty Sonnet #94, written just after the trade and posted originally in the CinO thread "I've got 94 problems, but Smyth ain't one of them".

Smytty Sonnet #94

So crude we drilled his heart, and crude distilled
Flowed from his eyes, tempered and dilute.
His labour deemed unskilled, instead rebuild
With cheaper lubricant that won't pollute.

The Oilers' Brass elected to go green
With virgin teen unsoiled by stinking oil
To cap the well that burst them on the scene
Return the heartland to its prairie soil

So riches of the north go down in flame
While southern flames rise up like northern lights
Smyth's combustion heart enkindles shame,
Though primed and set, no broken hearts ignite.

But! Baptismal fonts flow with oil refined,
And so, with oil, is Smyth's rebirth entwined.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Snaps to Conroy

**Flames' best player tonight, the only forward able to break into San Jose's D in the slightest. In the first period of the first game this season, he looked like he was playing one league over his head (with Iginla & Tanguay), but he's been very solid since then.

**In a strange way, I think the Sharks' dominance tonight might have reinforced my thought that it might be best for the team if Ron Wilson gets canned. They obviously have the defensive habits ingrained (5th in GAA in the NHL last season), and they certainly have the skill. Neither of those things will go anywhere in a hurry if the coach is replaced; what they (might) need is some other marginal advantage that a quality new coach might provide.

Will this actually happen? I doubt it, the Sharks are probably too good to have an extended slump any time in the next 3 months. If it does, and they meet the predictions of a whole lot of hockey writers by making it to the top of the mountain, the new coach will get the majority of the credit for getting them up the final peak. It'll be Wilson who deserves the majority of it for getting them in that position. Sorry Ron, life's a bitch.

**Curtis McElhinney now has a career NHL GAA of 2.54 (1 GA in 23:28) and a career NHL SV% of .500 (1 GA on 2 Shots against). Neither of those averages should probably be pondered too deeply.

**As a point man on the PP, [Dion Phaneuf >>>>> Robyn Regehr]. Check out those PP TOI numbers. Keenan was obviously (a) experimenting a bit and (b) ticked at both Phaneuf and Tanguay re: the shortie against. I haven't watched the highlights, but I'm sure there's plenty of blame to go around for that one. The giveaway by Tanguay was bad, though I'm not sure why he was covering the entire 85 feet of the blueline at the time. Good effort by Phaneuf getting back, although I bet he wishes now that he took one more hard stride after Michalek released the initial shot.

**Moss didn't play tonight. I didn't hear any update as to his condition. From the forums, here's my favorite comment on that post. It's from a Mr. or Miss "oil4life06". No, I don't know if the 06 refers to their birth year or when they became an Oiler fan, and yes, I think the [sic] goes without saying:
First off Moss should learn how to stay on his feet, rather then sell a blind side tap! Raff didnt extend into him with power. Lets be honest here. Keenen is a joke.

**Next up is the Wild on Wednesday, with no local TV as I understand it. Though breaking their scheme down for some better 5v5 scoring chances is a lot easier said than done, killing penalties at better than a 72.5% clip shouldn't be. Go Flames.


Flames-Sharks Game Day

(Updated at bottom)

**You ever read Don Cherry's 1983 biography "Grapes: A Vintage View of Hockey"? Besides being notable as the most recent thing of Stan Fischler's worth reading, there are plenty of great anecdotes about the old days. I was reminded of one of them this morning: his description of every conversation he had with NHL President Clarence Campbell. I don't have the book handy, so I'll paraphrase, but this is pretty close:
Cherry: [answers phone] Hello?
Campbell: Campbell here. Mr. Cherry, explain your actions of Saturday night.
Cherry: Well, I'm in the same lane, backchecking, looking at Huselius. I wasn't looking at Moss. I'm sure it looked like a head shot, but if I was really trying to hurt him, I would have put my elbow up or my shoulder. His jaw hit me. He ran into me.
Campbell: Unacceptable. [click]

Look: reducing hits to the head in the NHL is not my crusade. I'm quite agnostic on issues of player safety; I think most of the data on injuries sucks (where it exists at all), and I just have zero interest in being yet another guy who reacts to every injury with, "When is the NHL going to come out of the dark ages and [mandate visors / get serious about punishing acts of X / insist that players do up their helmets properly / etc.] before someone gets killed?"

My two things are: 1) My basic sense of fairness tells me that when one player injures another in an act that's not otherwise within the rules, he should have to pay a price, and 2) I'd like to be able to understand how supplementary discipline is determined, even if I don't agree with the specific judgement on which that determination is made.

The story early this season is that while the NHL has not eliminated subjectivity from discipline (and has no intention of doing so), they did identify some criteria on which to judge hits to the head. This is from the Downie presser, cleaned up a tad (I can't find the original NHL release):
Specifically the following factors were identified as being relevant to whether a player should be subject to supplemental discipline when a hit to an opponent's head is involved:

1. When a player targets an opponent's head.
2. When a player launches himself by leaving his feet to hit a player in the head area.
3. When the hit to the head is delivered to an unsuspecting opponent.
4. The timing/lateness of the hit.

An additional factor in considering whether discipline is appropriate is whether the player is a repeat offender. When any or all of these factors combine to cause an injury to an opponent, it was agreed that a player would be subject to supplemental discipline in the form of a game suspension. When all or substantially all of the factors are involved, it is clear that the suspension should be more severe.

This all seems rather straightforward. I'm inclined to believe Torres when he says he had no intention of hurting Moss (though that he didn't see him, or the contact was entirely accidental, is dubious). Assuming Campbell does too, and he does not consider the Williams & Michalek hits, you still have #3 + an injury = a suspension, presumably a short one (1-2 games?). Developing, possibly before I'm done this post. [UPDATE: sure enough, Moss skated this morning and will dress tonight pending a doctor's re-evaluation.]

**As you can tell, I've been enjoying Bruce Dowbiggin lately. We almost always part ways in our assessments of the Flames, but otherwise I find him to be right a lot. In today's I Don't Like Mondays, he has what should be the final word on Gord Miller emailing Bill Daly for source management purposes (see item #2 under Mute The Press).

**Hope you've followed Orland Kurtenblog to its new home at the Vancouver Province. Almost every post is worth a howl; I liked Kings-Canucks Preview If This Were 20 Years Ago.
Scoring was a big problem for the Canucks throughout most of last year. Vancouver notched just 282 goals in 80 games, just over three-and-a-half per game.

**Flames host Sharks, 7PM MT on RSN West. Can the Flames stop Jeremy Roenick?

Looks like Mark Smith will be back in the lineup for Wayne Primeau, who is out for many weeks with a high ankle sprain. I'd say Smith has ~ "not very long" to prove his worth. He was picked up as a veteran grinder, but the results so far have been the proverbial suck. Chiefly, he has spent 7:02 on the PK so far this year, during which the Flames have given up 4 goals. That is epic in its awfulness.

I've read the same rumours as you about Pat Quinn maybe going to Atlanta, but if I was advising him, I'd tell him to decline, and then in a few weeks when Ron Wilson gets fired, accept the Sharks HC job. If the Sharks are still being accused of being outhustled, and lacking that certain something -- and they are -- then it seems like a prime example of a team that, regardless of whether the message is right or wrong, needs to start hearing it from someone else. I'd trust Quinn more than any other candidate to adapt to what he has, as opposed to a Systems Coach who would start from scratch.

What am I saying? Forget all this, I want the Sharks to lose in the 2nd round again. I'd also like them to lose tonight. Perhaps Nolan could score in his 1000th NHL game; I'd also like to see Tanguay (3rd among Flames forwards in Shots) get on the board and shut up the He Needs To Start Shooting More crowd. 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, something like that, but yes, a win. Go Flames.

UPDATE: Oilers' Torres fined; avoids suspension.

Whatever -- again, the headshots thing is not my crusade. I do wish that I could take Colin Campbell's carefully selected, spelled-out-in-a-news-release words at face value, though. I don't see the provision for a fine in his explanation (linked & excerpted above), and whether the hit was intentional or not seems to be covered by criteria #1 & #2. Is this hit going to be included in next summer's video to the teams, as an example of a head shot that does not warrant a suspension? The TSN story still says "sources say"; maybe Campbell will reveal his thought process in the official release.

AND WHILE I'M HERE: the site is getting hits today from forums at edmontonoilers.com, HF Oilers, calgarypuck, and hockeybuzz -- all related to the MacT-Staios kerfuffle I passed on word of yesterday.

It still amazes me that, for the number of people who read the newspapers online, absolutely no one reads the blogs there. I had nothing to add, I just linked to and excerpted from the Herald's Flames Insider blog. And yet on all these message boards, there's a link to this site, and a couple of them even had the note ~ "not sure how reliable this source is". Er, followed by lots of calls for MacT's head.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Four More

Four more.


Raffi Torres is not smart

Two interesting bits post-game from Jean Lefebvre:
Both skippers had a little steam coming out of their ears following Saturday's Battle of Alberta installment.

On the losing Edmonton side, Craig MacTavish got into a post-game shouting match with his defenceman Steve Staios in full view of media members. MacTavish declined to comment on the exchange in his media scrum a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, Calgary's Mike Keenan is displeased by the Raffi Torres hit that knocked Flames winger David Moss out of the game.

"That was a hit that the league is trying to address," said Keenan. "It was a blindside hit and David Moss suffered a concussion as a result of it. I thought it was a type of hit that the league is trying to discourage and I am sure the league will review the hit. [...]"

I can't find anything else about this shouting match, though I suppose I'm not surprised that the Edmonton media didn't address it. On the other thing, I'll be interested to see what happens. I think it's fair to say that Torres picked a bad time to smoke someone from the blind side. Not only was he (by most accounts) playing his best hockey of the season in the past two games, but the league is also on pretty high alert for hits to the head. There are certainly mitigating factors (no elbow, didn't launch himself), but it was still an illegal hit that caused a concussion (Moss is out for at least the San Jose game, then is day-to-day).

Word was in training camp that Raffi found himself a lady friend who was helping him pull his head out of his ass. Looks like that job is still in progress.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Battle of Alberta Game Night

That's right, kids -- it's the first of eight games in this season's Battle of Alberta (8PM MT, HNIC). Just a few warmup notes:

**Just me, or is today's Robert Tychowski piece on the Schremp demotion more openly critical of MacTavish than anything in the Edmonton media since March 2006 or earlier? The ironic thing is that on this particular issue, he's right, or at least I think so ("I don't know that his game is at the point right now that he's going to be all that productive on an NHL power play." -- agreed). However, I'm with everyone else in being mystified at exactly what he's trying to accomplish with what Dennis called Mass. Transit.

**Yes, this whole Most Games to Start a Season With a Two-Goal Scorer is kind of silly, but I don't really care. Breaking any "record" that was set by the original Ottawa Senators is neat. Plus, it means the Flames are scoring, every game.

**Most predictable and boring story every year at this time = this one.

**Either the Oilers PP (3.7%, 30th) or the Flames' PK (70.7%, 28th) is going to come away from tonight's game looking like it has turned the corner. Don't be fooled.

**Other previews: Lowetide's is excessively grim for a single game, to a comical extent. Clearly trying some kind of reverse karma dealy. Nice try. Metrognome's is the opposite, though I can't say any individual point he makes is over the top.

Myself... I'm trying hard to keep my expectations reasonable, but I still have this feeling that the Flames owe the Oil a 5-goal thumping (like the one they were supposed to deliver on the final Saturday of last season).

Prediction #1: unlike the first three home games of the season, the Flames will not find themselves down by two goals at any point in the game (btw they tied up all of them).

Prediction #2: some new Flame will have a big game. I'll guess Owen Nolan. (Hilarious Nolan crack from Rudy at the BoC, I thought: "He looks like the kind of guy who would drive on the shoulder of the freeway during a traffic jam.")

Prediction #3: the Flames win this game, in a suddenly-uncharacteristically low-scoring game. Call it a 3-0 Calgary win (Nolan x3, the 3rd on the Most Exciting Play In Hockey). Go Flames.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Recommended Reading

Today's column by Bruce Dowbiggin in the Herald is excellent (precisely the right amount of colourful rhetoric), and a terrific rebuttal to Mark Spector's meanderings the other day (as designed, no question).

Tyler makes some excellent points On Blogs and the Media.

That noted, my favourite piece at mc79hockey recently is Dennis' Coming Back Boulerice.

Lastly, Al Maki brings up the Alex-for-Alex trade rumour at Globe on Hockey, and Mirtle and the Hat do a nice job of swatting it away. Two things I didn't know when I wrote about this yesterday: 1) Tanguay has a no-trade clause, and 2) this rumour first surfaced before training camp started.

Surely Tanguay can't help but be a bit insulted by all this. For one, the idea that he'd be traded for a significantly inferior player. And secondly, it would appear that -- seriously -- some person or people just looked at things in June/July and said, "Hey! Tanguay's a wuss, and Keenan's a hardass -- I bet he'll be looking for a trade where he can continue to be a wuss without fear of reprisal!" It's ridiculous.

Flames and Oilers both play tonight. I believe Andy is in the basement, so feel free to use this thread for game predictions and comments as the urge arises.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Flames-Avs post-mortem

**My favourite development of the early season is how well Phaneuf has been playing. It's still early, but signs of The Leap are there. Last night he skated as well as I've ever seen from him. The opening goal is the best example of that, but there were several times where he ended up fairly deep in the attacking zone and the Avs gained possession, and every time he got right back into position in a flash -- the odd-man rush was over before it started.

**On Monsieur Tanguay, he had kind of a poor game for him... he just seemed a bit off-balance all night. A bit of trouble controlling the puck, some passes that went well wide of his target (which is awfully rare), and a shot that couldn't find the mark. On the other hand, I didn't notice any lack of effort, and he still created a bunch of scoring chances (and I thought his shoot/pass decision making, which frustrates a lot of Flames fans, was right every time).

**Ryan Smyth was by far the Avs best player. He was making stuff happen out there just about every shift. I thought Paul Stastny, in the context of a 3-assist night, was actually pretty invisible, and Sakic's biggest play was onto the stick of Iginla.

**I confess I sneered a bit when the Forechecker wrote before the season that Scott Hannan isn't much of an upgrade over Ken Klee. I hereby offer him a formal apology for that reaction, because for Scott Hannan to be a top-pair shutdown defenseman, he needs to make a lot fewer bad/dumb plays than he did last night. And we haven't already forgotten who passed the puck to Matheiu Schneider for the Rd2 series-tying goal this spring, have we? (scroll to bottom!)

**This is more of a general assessment, but Cory Sarich has surprised me a bit (in a good way). I assumed that one goal since the lockout meant that he was a stay-at-home defenseman without exception, but he has jumped into the play (and effectively) a few times already this season; he's even ended up past the other guy's goal line on occasion. Also, to Sportsnet: I quite enjoyed your intermission piece about how Sarich has quickly developed some chemistry with his new D partner Dion Phaneuf. I know the interview with him was from before the road trip, and the voice-over probably was too... but Rob Faulds still looks like a knucklehead when he introduces the piece and wraps it up, live in-studio, without mentioning that the pairs got changed up three games ago.

**The Flames gave up a 4-0 lead (my fault, I think I angered the hockey gods with my "effectively nil" remark last week). I'm halfway between "that's hockey, bad bounces, etc." and "embarassment, clusterfuck, etc.".

The first and third goals were unfortunate bounces for the Flames for sure, but they weren't crazy by any means. I'm sure a PP goal deflects off a defender just about every night in the NHL. And yeah, the Svatos 4-1 goal was kinda lucky, but that happens fairly often too, and when you're defending well and controlling the puck in the far end, there are a lot fewer opportunities for those kind of bounces.

The second goal was a horribly unlucky bounce for the Flames, but at the same time, I've just watched the replay of it 10+ times at NHL.com trying to answer the question, "What was Eriksson doing?!?" Smyth shoots off the LW, and Eriksson doesn't look for the puck OR move towards the man. He just stands there stiffly facing the corner, until it's too late...

And speaking of shit or get off the pot moments, Huselius made a poor play on the tying goal too. I don't mean the turnover at the blueline; that happens on occasion, and it shouldn't have been dangerous anyway. The problem was his recovery. Wolski and Warrener are skating to the corner to fight over the puck -- at that point Juice has to either turn and pick up a trailer, or go into the corner with Warrener and make damn sure they gain possession. Instead, he went most of the way to the corner and hovered, waiting for it to pop loose in his direction. It did pop loose, but not in his direction.

**Overall though, I was pretty happy with the game the Flames played. They had a distinct edge in play in the 3rd and OT, I thought (and in Shots, for a change), and the scoresheet says all you need to know about the 1st.

The Flames look like a pretty good team. I'm concerned that the PK is going to be lousy all year, but hopefully a good PP can cancel that out. And at evens, they look good. They can actually score goals 5-on-5, which you can't really say about a sizeable chunk of the Western Conference.

The lads start a 7-game homestand tomorrow night. I'm curious to see if they can get their mojo back there. With the exception of Games 3 & 4 vs. the Wings, they've actually been pretty lousy in the Saddledome recently (even including pre-season, the Flames haven't beaten anyone besides Detroit in regulation time since February 26th). And I'll be there, with comments stalwart Peter. Now, more than ever...(?) Go Flames.


Une reve en Montreal

Une rumeur enverrait Alex Kovalev à Calgary en retour d'Alex Tanguay. Serait-ce une bonne transaction pour le Canadien?

That's the poll on the front page of RDS.ca this morning. 69% say "Oui", and I'm not sure what kind of drogues the other 31% are fume-ing. As noted by Spector, during the RDS telecast of the Habs game last night, Yves Pednault reported that
the Canadiens and Calgary Flames might be talking about a swap of Alex Kovalev for Alex Tanguay. Scouts from the Calgary Flames were apparently in attendance, possibly to scout Kovalev, who used to play for Flames head coach Mike Keenan in New York and Keenan could be interested in bringing him to Calgary. Tanguay is supposedly unhappy playing for Keenan and is said to have recently missed an important team meeting.

Hmmm... the Quebec media is somewhat notorious for grasping at anything, real or imagined, when it comes to the possibility of a good French-Canadian player coming to Montreal, so I'm going to assume there's nothing to this, but a few things here:

1) I'm not sure how many of those qualifiers are Spector's and how many were in the original report, but I count "might be", "apparently", "possibly", "could be", "supposedly", and "said to have" -- six is a lot for one paragraph.

2) Mike Keenan is not the Flames' General Manager

3) Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Keenan and Tanguay already hate each other, and their relationship is destroyed. Try to imagine what Keenan's problems with Tanguay are: the reasonable guess is something in the effort/character/grit family. Now make a list of NHL players who would be a clear improvement in this regard. Is Alexei Kovalev in your Top 400? Me neither.

4,5,6,7, etc.) Kovalev sucks! He's averaged a point-per-game twice in his 14 NHL seasons (the last being 2001-02). He makes almost as much money as Tanguay, and his contract runs for just as long (expires after next season). He's almost 7 years older than Tanguay. These are the numbers they averaged over the past 3 years:
I think this trade is only plausible from the Flames' standpoint if Montreal throws in a prospect, and the prospect's name is Carey Price. That would solve problems for both teams: Montreal gets someone who can produce 5v5 (and gets rid of an overpaid problem), which they desperately need, and Calgary gets a good goalie for the two seasons after this one for less than $7M/yr, which they don't have available.

UPDATE: A commenter in a cyberpresse.ca thread says that a Montreal radio station had the rumour differently; it was Tanguay for Guillaume Latendresse, Steve Begin, and Garth Murray. Oh, well in that case! Any time you can pick up three healthy scratches for a guy like Tanguay, you gotta make that deal, right?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Blogging Nuke Laloosh style

**Sticking with a theme, a quote regarding Lombardi, Moss & Nilson in today's Calgary Sun caught my eye:
"Those three players do have a skill-set to come back and compete after special teams against the top line on other team," said head coach Mike Keenan yesterday...

I'm pretty sure heard coaches talk before about the importance of the shift after the PP expires, but generally in the vein of "we can't allow the other guys to seize momentum off of a successful PK", battling, etc. I don't know that I've ever heard a coach point out in plain English that, after a PP, the other team's best offensive players are coming on the ice, and since your best players were just on for a good chunk of two minutes and are recovering on the bench, you have to find a suitable alternative.

This probably isn't news to most of the readers here -- Vic, for one, mentions it with regularity, most recently here:
The shift after opposing PPs is the sweetest icetime available. If anyone on the fanboards is bitching that Gagner isn't getting enough opportunity, well they've been smoking the drapes. It doesn't get better than that.

I wonder, though, what fraction of regular ol' hockey fans knows this off the top of their heads? I really have no idea if it's half or one in ten, but I bring this up because either way, a coach is giving an answer to a reporter that (while uncontroversial) contains actual information (Warning!) that might be informative to the casual or even avid fan -- lest they believe that literally an NHL head coach earns his significant salary by constantly harping on getting pucks to the net. It can happen

A commenter in last week's thread postulated that "requiring a coach to go into specifics would likely hinder the success of the team." I think that's dubious at best, and in an ongoing discussion at this mc79hockey post, Vic has pointed out that quite possibly the coach who is most frank and open about his tactics is the one who just led his team to the Stanley Cup.

I think the much more likely reason that coaches don't talk about their tactics much is that it's easier. If you don't put specific statements about tactics out there, then no one can misunderstand them or argue with you about them. Basically, the coach is Apu in this analogy:
Proctor: All right, here's your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?
Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter--
Proctor: Wait, wait... just say slavery.
Apu: Slavery it is, sir.

**Hey, Bob McKenzie is really on a roll with this new "blog" of his. I was going to write something brief about the NHLPA hiring (and still might), but this would have been the gist of it:
And since the current NHL CBA has a re-opener clause that can be triggered by the NHLPA in September of 2009, there's no question the new NHLPA executive director will become a quick study on the labor agreement to see if it makes sense to re-open. Maybe it will; maybe it won't.

But it's presumptuous to think that because Kelly's resume suggests he's a no-nonsense litigator that he's prepared to go to war and the first salvo fired will be to torpedo the CBA.

**Fun early-season stats:
  1. One of the team stats I like to keep an eye on is Team 5v5 GF/GA Ratio. Over a whole season, a great 5v5 team might hit 1.50 (3:2) while an awful one might be down at 0.67 (2:3). Right now Minnesota's number is 9.00.
  2. Also re: the Wild: they have a grand total of two "minus events" this season. The Leafs havetwenty, not to mention an absurd spread in +/- from top to bottom for only having played 7 games.
  3. I know this has been mentioned elsewhere, but on Saturday night the Bruins flew home to the Eastern time zone, where they will remain for the final 77 games of the year. I'm looking forward to seeing what the boys down at headquarters come up with for a revised schedule next year.
**The Flames play the Avs tonight in Denver (7PM MT, RSN West). Most of what I said about this game in my season preview still holds. The wins in Dallas and Nashville were nice, but to paraphrase Bill Simmons, it's not time to break out the popsicles quite yet. Taking 2 points in buildings for the first time since the Captain Bob Boughner days is very gratifying, but it may shake out over the next 4 or 6 weeks that those teams just aren't that good.

However, winning on the road against a divisional opponent and likely playoff team would be an unqualified good sign. I'm going to the home game vs. LA on Thursday, and I suspect that if the Flames take tonight's tilt -- and the corresponding 6 of 8 points on this roadie -- the reception for the lads will be rather raucous. Let it be so, please: a big win on the strength of a great game by Tanguay vs. his old colleagues. Go Flames.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Frank MacTavish

"I laugh at coach's interviews between periods because how many different and creative ways can you put pucks and bodies to the net? 'We want to get traffic to the net,' 'We want to get in front of the goaltender,'" recited MacTavish.

"You know it's tough to justify a pretty significant salary by just saying that over and over again, but in fact, it's the mantra. It should be more sophisticated than that, but it's really not."

- Edmonton Journal Oil Spills, this morning. This guy really is the best quote in the league.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Finally, a "... With The Stars" that didn't make me want to hurl

Man, I feel good for the Flames players. To say they deserved that win could (I suppose) be an item for debate, but there's no damn doubt that they earned it. It's been a long time since they won in Dallas (names from that scoresheet: Marc Savard, Rob Niedermayer, Bob Boughner, Chris Clark, Toni Lydman...)

**Keenan: I feel secure enough in my mathematical/logical bona fides to say this anyway: having him instead of JP standing in the centre of the bench back there has got to be worth 3 wins this year. I'm curious to know whether it's M&Ms or Tums or what he's always throwing back, but he just generally looks like he's got his shit together and is running the show.

On that note, the highlight of the PPV broadcast tonight was the Miked Up feature listening to Keenan during one of the two Canucks games in Calgary this fall. Clip #1: him telling an unseen player that leaning against the boards while standing on the ice during a TV timeout makes him look lazy (old school, details, etc.). Clip #2: him giving someone shit for throwing his broken stick; guy protests that he didn't; brief argument; then Keenan concedes and says something like "Well, that's what it looked like". (Not imperious for its own sake; obviously willing to pick his battles; still a focus on details. And they showed the clip, and the player was telling the truth.)

**PPV: ahhh... positives first, besides the brief feature I just described: there was no transmission difficulties. There was a powerplay clock, and it was correct at all times. Roger Millions seems to be intent on ignoring the inconsistencies and just-plain-misses of the officials. And as the host, Deb Matejcka is a millionfold improvement over Mark Stiles.

Unfortunately, Charlie Simmer is... I don't even know what would be fair to say here. But he didn't say enough that I found interesting or insightful, and too many of his observations were simply ludicrous (dude, when they show the slo-mo replay, consider it a license to amend your comments). Cosh's words about ex-jocks were pretty much echoing through my head for 2.5 hours.

The other funny thing/lowlight: late in the 2nd, there was a ref's timeout so they could review a Daymond Langkow shot that might have been a goal. Every angle the PPV broadcast showed hinted at the same thing: it went through Turco and then bounced back out, off of Who Knows What -- no overhead. Anyway, the ref hangs up the phone and says no goal... fine... and the play starts again. And Roger tells us all something like, "Our apologies, but they showed the overhead cam on the Jumbotron here in the arena, and it definitely went off the post." Good times.

**Aucoin: awesome! That's what I'm talking about. His only offensive opportunity was in OT on a good move/poor redirection, and that's absolutely fine with me. The rest of the game, he was a stronger and slightly pissier Steve Staios for 24+ minutes. By the way, when I say a guy was Staios as a compliment, I'm referring to the 3 out of 4 games where Staios is a regular solid defender, not the 1 out of 4 where he loses his shit and spends a lot of time looking at the rafters while the other team hugs and high-fives.

**The 4th Line: I'm still down on the "veteran depth", but it really does make a huge difference when Godard isn't in the lineup. Wayne Primeau is a legitimate NHLer, but not one who is capable of dragging someone else along with him. Also, if there's one surprising thing from the TOI numbers tonight, it's Yelle's down at 10:37 (though I see he had as many shifts in the 3rd as in the first two periods combined... also, nice feed up to Lombardi for the GTG, I told you that was a good combo!).

Tomorrow night is Nashville, no TV. I said mixed results this weekend in my season preview; hope I'm wrong. Either way, I'm still entranced by that Colorado game.

Go Flames.


Flames Game Day

CGY @ DAL, 630PM MT, Flames PPV

I'm going to do a post-game tonight instead of a pre-game. Among other reasons, I prefer to write with optimism, and I'm hoping this game makes that... less of a stretch.

Iginla, Tanguay, and Phaneuf all crack their goose eggs in the G column for a 3-1 Win. Go Flames.


AyOIL Technology

Most people think that the new 50 Cent track is about a stripper. I know better. The song is about Roberto Luongo.

She work it girl, she work the pole
She break it down, she take it low
She fine as hell, she about the dough
She doing her thing out on the floor
Her money money, she makin' makin'
Look at the way she shakin' shakin'
Make you want to touch it, make you want to taste it
Have you lustin' for her, go crazy face it
Now don't stop, get it, get it
The way she shakin' make you want to hit it
Think she double jointed from the way she splitted
Got you're head f**ked up from the way she did it
She's so much more than you're used to
She know's just how to move to seduce you
She gone do the right thing and touch the right spot
Dance in you're lap till you're ready to pop

Am I right, or am I right? Other notes:

• In this Oilers story on the powerplay, it says, "the new quarterback of Edmonton’s power play this season is Sheldon Souray." I sure hope not. The quarterback of the powerplay always better be Ales Hemsky. Let the turtle shoot, sure. But he better not be in charge. That's a worse idea than starting Rex Grossman.

• Check out this line from that same story: GAGNER LIKELY TO BE RE-INSERTED. Moving along...

• I now get much of my news through an RSS feed. It's fantastic. Everything I want, constantly updated, in one central location. I don't know how I ever lived without it, to be honest. But imagine my surprise when I opened up the Oilers feed to see the following headline:


Turns out "speaks" means "speaks out" or "speaks to..." Thank God. I was trippin'.

From side to side, let the ride, break it down (down down)
You know I like, when you hike and you throw it all around
Different style, different move, damn I like the way you move

• Back to back games against the 'Nucks. Home tonight, road tomorrow. True story: my uncle from Vancouver Island emailed me this morning just to tell me that the Canucks stink. I haven't seen any of their games this year (I did see highlights of Kesler getting his face rearranged, and Luongo leaping like Lanny Poffo after getting love-tapped by Langkow in the pre-season ), but I'll take his word for it. Especially since it makes me feel better. Either way, we've lost to them six straight times. I'd be really pleased to see that change this weekend.

Got a thing for that thing she got
The way she make it shake, the way she make it pop
Make it rain for us so she don't stop
I ain't got to move, I can sit and watch

• As usual, JJ has a good rundown on tonight's game.

Cogsy you're so new age, you like my new craze
Let's get together maybe we can start a new phase
The smokes got the rink all hazy, spotlights don't do you justice, playa
Why don't you score over there, and get me saying

Friday: 5-4, Oil. 3-1, Sox.
Saturday: 2-1, Oil. 6-4, Sox.

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