Thursday, January 31, 2008


You're With Me, Jesus

Not hockey related, but I just had to share. Via Deadspin. Haven't we all had days like this? I know I have. Glove tap to Muhly for the link.


"I felt like I was 31 again."

Glossary addition!

Owen Nolan Hat Trick: an actual hat trick, combined with a Nolan Ryan-style pounding of a younger, overmatched opponent.

(Header quote here)


Expansionist Trash Dept.

Question: how come the Wild are never mentioned in these trade fantasies that hockey columnists come up with this time of year?

Sundin, Forsberg, and Hossa have been suggested as a "good fit" on just about every playoff team or contender. The Wings have been identified as a possibility (though it seems to me that one more quality defender is what they need, need being an obviously relative concept). The Ducks are correctly pinpointed as a team in This Year country. Flames, Avs, Canucks, Stars, etc. etc... yet I never read about Minnesota as an obvious or even possible destination for a high-end rental.

Demitra, Rolston, and half their D-corps are UFA at the end of the season. They're clearly a good team; their fans and their GM have to think that with the right addition, they're the 2nd-best team in the conference heading into the playoffs. Don't they?


Also, TSN reported last night that a contract for Phaneuf is just about worked out. Bob McKenzie's guess in the intermission was that the annual value would be $6.5M or more.

I'm going to make a prediction now that will probably make me look foolish very shortly, and guess that the AAV is $1M/yr less than that. When Sutter is questioned about it, he'll explain that Phaneuf is still a young player with some things to learn and improvements to make, and that he has to prove that he can be a consistent difference-maker on a winning team. I'll guess a 5-year, $27.5M deal with the actual salary escalating over the course of the deal (4, 5, 5.5, 6, 7, or the like).


Len Bias?* No, no. I said MEDIA bias.

"Over the past two decades, academic research has generated literally hundreds of articles and books empirically challenging the alleged economic wonders of new stadiums, even when they're part of larger development schemes. I have been studying and writing about publicly financed stadiums for more than 10 years and cannot name a single stadium project that has delivered on its original grandiose economic promises, although they do bring benefits to team owners, sports leagues and sometimes players...

In a just-released article in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, my colleagues and I studied media coverage of 23 publicly financed stadium initiatives in 16 different cities, including Philadelphia. We found that the mainstream media in most of these cities is noticeably biased toward supporting publicly financed stadiums, which has a significant impact on the initiatives' success.

This bias usually takes the form of uncritically parroting stadium proponents' economic and social promises, quoting stadium supporters far more frequently than stadium opponents, overlooking the numerous objective academic studies on the topic, and failing to independently examine the multitude of failed stadium-centered promises throughout the country, especially those in oft-cited "success cities" such as Denver and Cleveland."
--Rick Eckstein, Philadelphia Enquirer

Found via The Sports Economist, along with this post on the public financing of an arena in Oklahoma City. Oh, and remember that article Matt linked to last week, the one about the Seattle Sonics flip-flopping on the economic benefits a sports team provides to a city because they want to get out of their current arena lease? Well, according to Dennis Coates, one of the professors who posts on The Sports Economist, the expert the Sonics used to make this argument was Brad Humphreys (see comments in this post). Humphreys is a contributor to The Sports Economist, as well as a former associate professor of economics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is also known for positing that professional sports facilities provide little economic impact to a city or region.

Interestingly, Humphreys has moved on, and north. He is now an associate professor of economics, and Chair in the Economics of Gaming, at the University of Alberta. Yet despite the proximity, and the apparent expertise (he was called to testify in front of the U.S. Congress in 2007), Professor Humphreys has, to my knowledge, only been referenced once in the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun as it pertains to the proposed downtown hockey arena. That was in a Susan Ruttan story in the Journal on October 11th, 2007. In that story, Ruttan mentions Humphreys' appearance before Congress; she also notes that he is a professor at the University of Illinois, even though he joined the Faculty of Arts for the fall of 2007--before her story appeared--teaching a 400-level "Economics of Sports" class.

Professor Dan Mason, the regular quote for those papers on the arena issue, has stated that Humphreys "is an outspoken opponent of stadium subsidies," and that he "has a world-class reputation." He is even speaking at the upcoming arena conference organized by Mason and hosted by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and the University of Alberta. Why, then, given his proximity, expertise and reputation, has Humphreys been so thoroughly ignored in the many articles written in Edmonton's two dailies on the issue of a downtown arena? Is he always unavailable for comment? Is he super-duper busy? Is no one aware of his existence? Is he invisible? Or is it, as Eckstein discusses, simply a matter of bias?

*that's for you, Sac!


Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Flames Game Day

**It's not quite the stretch, but you can see it from here: the push for playoffs and seeding starts in earnest tonight for the Flames when they host San Jose (730PM MT, TSN). Objective #1: qualify for the playoffs. Objective #1A: win the NW and put off a collision with the Wings until the WC Finals.

It would appear that, with the return of Selanne, the Ducks are now looked upon as co-favourites (if not outright favourites) in the West. Since the Ducks have played 19 games with Scott Niedermayer, here, for fun, are the records of some of the WC hopefuls in their past 19:
**Metrognome's pre-game today talks about
what seems to be holding the Flames back from being a consistently excellent club is their special teams both of which are worse than ordinary.

The PK is actually decent now, it's just that it was so awful early on that the season numbers are still polluted (26 PPGA in the first 20 games, 19 PPGA in the last 30). The PP though, as he notes, is a bit of a puzzle:
...the PP has been steadily falling in efficiency for awhile now (Iginla's slump has really hurt in this regard) and is also down in the bottom 3rd of the league (16.7%, 20th). The latter fact is a headscratcher given that the Flames have scored the 8th most ES goals in the NHL (95). Intuitively, a team that can score 5on5 should be able to score 5on4, but that hasn't happened for Keenan's Flames this year. I don't know if it has to do with personnel (is there a worse 2nd PP unit in the entire league?), coaching (it's said that Keenan almost never practices the PP) or luck (Dion Phaneuf's shooting percentage is down more than 4% relative to his career average - that translates to more than 6 lost goals over the 163 shots he's taken already).

It's quite possible that all of the above are factors, but the key explanation for what is happening (as distinct from why) is indeed the #2 unit. Like tPSH today, I was wondering last week what makes a successful PP, and thought I'd test one Flames-inspired hypothesis: that it's the #2 units that make the difference between the above-average (~20%) PP and the mediocre-to-poor (~15%) PP.

Conclusion: hypothesis not supported by the evidence. Using the Behind the Net figures (5-on-4 only), I looked at the top 3 PPs (PHI, MTL, DET) and CGY/VAN/CHI who were tied for 19th at 17.0%; sorted their top 6 PP forwards by PP ice time, and then compared PP scoring while the 1-2-3 fwds were on the ice (avg of the 3) to the 4-5-6 fwds.

Now, you don't want to make too much of this -- obviously there's overlap between the 1st and 2nd units at times, coaches blend personnel fairly often, etc. etc... But at the same time, it's quite impossible to deny that the Flames' PP% is dragged down in a big way by the #2 unit.

Or put another way: Iginla and Nolan are ~ never on at the same time. Iginla has about 2.3X the PP time this season as Nolan. While Iginla is on the ice, the Flames have scored 29 PP goals. While Nolan is on the ice, they've scored 2.

Why? The biggest reason is (duh) that Owen Nolan is not as good as Jarome Iginla. But some of it is probably luck; some is probably that Phaneuf is better on the PP point than Regehr (or any of the other options); some is that Tanguay is (relatively speaking) not near as good a PP performer as a 5v5 performer; some may be coaching, moon phases, who knows.

**I did catch some of the Sharks/Oil game last night... here's hoping it lulled the Sharks, however briefly, into thinking that hockey is an easy game.

Calgary 4 (Iginla x2, Moss, Nolan)
San Jose 2 (Cheechoo, Mitchell)

Go Flames.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Sure, but can you resuscitate my desire to watch this hockey club?

***Update*** I moved this post up top for the game tonight. The Balls Silly post is below.

Want to know how cold it has been across the Canadian prairies the past couple of days? Check out this offer from the Oilers for tonight's game against San Jose :

"The Edmonton Oilers take on the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night at Rexall Place. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m., and good seats are still available, including 10 pairs and a limited number of single seats.

Fans braving the cold will have access to complimentary vehicle boosting, as tow trucks will be on site at Rexall Place."

It's actually supposed to be warmer in Iqaluit than in Edmonton, today.

According to Pangloss Cason, a professor of thermal mechanics at the prestigious Thunderbay-ten-Tronckh School, the good news is that the proposed, state-of-the-art downtown arena complex is expected to increase Edmonton's average daily winter temperature by a yet to be disclosed, but assuredly much warmer than now, amount. This means if the city chooses to build a world-class, city-revitalizing, non-rink stadium facility, rather than waste its time on things like public transportation, snow removal, homicide, and poverty, it has a a real chance of rocketing up the Global Warming Food Chain. Heck, with a heat boom, we'll even be in the drivers seat on that urban beach in Hawrelak Park we've all been clamoring over.

The bad news is that any decision made on the downtown-core-community-upgrader-awesomeness project will come too late for those who risk the wrath of Jack Frost and the Edmonton Oilers this evening. Three-time Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe winner Joe Thornton is in town (what!? none!?), along with the Clown Prince of Hockey, Ron Wilson. That guy's such a f***ing riot, he giggles his teams to victory.

Games between these two clubs are usually entertaining (especially when we win), and I expect nothing different Tuesday night. Shockingly, Sheldon Souray is injured, and is unlikely to play. Tarnstrom or the terrible Russian dude will draw in. Make sure to check out all the news from the top of the Global Warming Food Chain, including Sharks coverage, at The Battle of California.

Prediction: Close game, with the Oilers delivering the knock out blow late in the third. 5-4, Oilers. Torres, Spacek, Harvey, Peca and Dvorak with the goals, followed by a bonspiel and baby furniture bonfire in Churchill Square. What? We've been doing that for years up here. It's cold, man.



Rob Schremp up to his old tricks at the 2008 AHL All-Star Game.


Balsillie Contacted?

"This news comes on the heels of Sun Media learning that members of the EIG board - clearly non-Katz members - made an attempt to contact Jim Balsillie, the Ontario billionaire with a checkered NHL past when it comes to purchasing a team.

A source from outside Edmonton revealed that information yesterday, though attempts by Sun Media to contact Balsillie for confirmation were unsuccessful."
--Jonathan Huntington, Edmonton Sun

Crazy. These guys have tried everything, short of calling Katz a communist. Hopefully this is the end of it, and we can all move on. The EIG has done nothing but damage its reputation over the past six months. Well, that and make a bunch of money off of their original investment. All for the community, though. All for the community.


Sunday, January 27, 2008



"NHL Out Three To Five Weeks With Sprained Right Poster Boy"--The Onion

Friday, January 25, 2008


Battle of Alberta-CIS Edition

Big Battle of Alberta this weekend, as the University of Alberta Golden Bears take on the Dinos from Calgary in Canadian University hockey. As this story from Bob Stauffer notes, the Dinos pulled off the highly improbable last weekend in Calgary, sweeping the Bears in a weekend series for the first time in over ten years (11 years and 15 days, to be exact). The Bears will be looking to exact some revenge, as the unlikely sweep dropped them from #2 to #4 in the CIS National rankings, while the Dinos leapt up two spots, from #10 to #8. Saskatchewan is now in first place in the Canada West Division, as well as the #3 ranked team in the nation. They face the Bears in Saskatoon February 1st and 2nd.

The Bears actually play the Regina Cougars tonight and tomorrow, then finish off the weekend Sunday night against Calgary. I won't be able to make the game tonight, but I'll be there tomorrow and Sunday night. As I've noted before, Golden Bears hockey is the best hockey product in this city, hands down. I encourage all to come out to the games, especially all you alum who read this site (you know who you are). The Friday and Saturday night games are at 7:30 p.m., with the Sunday BoA tilt starting at 7:00p.m. All three games are at Clare Drake Arena, on the University of Alberta Campus.



Friday Baseball Standings

I want to take a few days off to rest and be with my wife in Florida, but first, the mandatory All-Star Break awards-lists-thingy!

Four Forwards Who Will Probably Be A Good Deal in July If They're Not Re-Signed First:
  1. Martin Gelinas - age 37, still productive at EV and can play against anyone
  2. Dan Cleary - his counting stats have exploded, and yet still don't really tell the whole story
  3. Michael Ryder - look I don't want to trade Tanguay for him, but he's 27, and his production seems likely to rebound.
  4. Jason Williams - assuming he's recovered, consider the injuries a blessing for depressing his price
Preseason Post I'm Relieved I Never Got Around To Writing: the one predicting how the most fascinating story of the year would be everyone trying to reconcile how the Devils could hire the most sought-after, respected, non-NHL coach this century, and then go straight down the tubes.

Four Superstitions I Retain About Hockey That Have No Proven Basis That I Know Of:
  1. A blowout victory can have a negative effect on a team that can persist through several losses
  2. I'd rather play a team that won the night before than lost
  3. The biggest difference between above-average and below-average NHL goalies is the number of lousy goals they allow, not the number of fantastic saves
  4. The Saddledome crew needs to change the Flames' entrance music back to Jump by Van Halen
Hart Trophy Candidate Now Who Won't Be In April: Vincent Lecavalier
Guy Who Will Take His Place In The Discussion: Jason Spezza
Best Player In The League That Has No Chance Of Being In That Discussion: Pavel Datsyuk (close second: Chris Pronger)

Two Things I'll Continue To Rant About With Varying Enthusiasm To No Effect Whatsoever:
  1. Over 90% of the things that happen in hockey games this season will be at a "key" or "big" time, so the whole cliche is especially useless
  2. All the other things I like to rant about
Read This Fantastic Profile From Scott Cruickshank Anyway, But Here's Three Players Who Have Looked To Me, In Games This Season, Like They Have Harder Shots Than Dion Phaneuf:
  1. Sheldon Souray
  2. Kurtis Foster
  3. Michael Rozsival
All-Star Weekend Free Association:



Great article by Chuck Klosterman on perfection in sports up on ESPN today. The first full paragraph is, well, perfect.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


The New vs The Norm

"For some, the financially strong, individual ownership approach of Katz seems precisely right going forward both for the Oilers in the New NHL and the evolving, increasingly confident city they play in.

Count me among that group. There is boldness in what Katz seeks to do and this city and the Oilers could use a major injection of boldness."
--John MacKinnon, Edmonton Journal

"Cuban is finding that the world of sports ownership is essentially attempting to join a club that will not have you as a member...

Cuban's hardly the only one to run into an old-money, new-money fight in the sports world. Paul Allen had his own issues after buying the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks, and Research In Motion CEO Jim Balsillie has run into nothing but brick walls with his attempted purchase of the Pittsburgh Penguins and continued moves to try to move the Nashville Predators to Hamilton, Canada. These are new thinkers, with new ideas and new ways of doing business. This is not how professional sports operate, so they are shunned as radicals, or rejected all together. Most often, their idealistic notions of "changing the game" are crushed under the unceasing inertia of The Norm. Owning a sports team doesn't turn out to be nearly as fun as they thought. What is new and different must be crushed."
--Will Leitch, Valleywag



Flames thru 50

Previous: Games 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40.

Record: 6-3-1 (3-1-1 Home, 3-2-0 Road)
4 Regulation Wins, 1 OT Win, 1 SO Win, 3 Regulation Losses, 1 SO Loss

Scoring & Preventing Goals:
Check the special teams here: they were a wash in terms of total goals (8 scored, 8 allowed), but the rates show that they were a fair bit more efficient up a man than the opposition was. That's because (danger alert?) they were shorthanded 11 more times than they had a PP (52-41) and spent 16-1/2 more minutes on the PK than the PP. Hopefully this is mainly fluke, but if not, the prescription should be unsurprising to Flames fans: Hale, Sarich, and especially Conroy need to keep their sticks off of the opposition.

I'm going to skip posting player rates going forward; 10 games is too small a sample, and the current rates are accessible (in both senses, increasingly) at Behind The Net. Here instead is a look at the difference between the first 25 games, where the Flames went 10-12-3 (1-3 in OT/SO), and the last 25, where they went 15-5-5 (3-5 in OT/SO). Empty-net and shootout goals are *not* included.

This just in: when you're a decent 5-on-5 team, killing penalties at 85% rather than 75% does wonders for your record.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


You come at the King, you best not miss

In his new post, Bill Simmons mentions an e-mail exchange between him and Jason Whitlock about the greatest scene in the history of "The Wire." The Avon/Stringer balcony scene from Season 3 is mentioned, as is the Marlo/Avon jail scene from this year. Simmons asks for further suggestions, so I of course had to send mine in. Both involve Omar Little, the Robin Hood of Baltimore. Just in case my suggestions don't make it into a Simmons' mailbag (likely), here are my two suggestions, along with video.

1) Season 2, when Omar appears in court to testify against Bird, and he drops that amazing line on Levy: "Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. It's all the game though, right?"

2) Season 3, when Bunk is trying to find Dozerman's gun, and he and Omar have that great exchange on the bench, before Bunk tears into him: "And out where that girl fell, I saw kids, acting like Omar, calling you by name, glorifying your ass. It makes me sick, mutherfucker, how far we done fell."

There's obviously many more, and I'd love to hear what other people have to say. As a sidenote, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has declared that "The Wire" is his favorite show, and that Omar is his favorite character. Cosh and I have been laughing about this, enjoying the idea of Obama as President, walking down a hallway to meet some delegation from a rogue nation, smoke in his hand, whistling "Farmer in the Dell," and having everyone freak out. "Obama's coming!" "Look out, yo! Obama!" If I was an American, I'd vote for him just for this reason. I mean, who wants to mess with a President who smokes and loves "The Wire"? It ain't this guy.

I'm now off to watch Episode 3 of Season 5. I'm terrified to watch it, after what happened last week with Jimmy.


Chamber of Comics

Everyone should check out Mike W's new blog, Chamber of Comics. Why? Well, the simple answer is that Mike is witty, pithy, and good in the sack. The complicated answer is...too complicated. It has to do with all the crying he does in the midst of aggressive coitus, and a love of post-colonial literature, all of which would take forever to explain. We'll just leave that can of worms closed for now. So check it Chamber of Comics. If it isn't the greatest thing you've ever read in your f**ng life, BoA will give you your money back. Guaranteed!


Uh, my work here is done?

Wow. If there was an alternate universe in which Darryl Sutter and Mike Keenan were closely guided by my ramblings on this site, well, last night would have looked a lot like the one in this universe.

Keenan started out playing Moss with Tanguay/Conroy and Nolan with Boyd/Lombardi. Then somewhere past the halfway mark of the first, Nolan goes back to the Conroy line, and I see Moss back with Lombardi and... Yelle? Sure enough!

Go ahead and accuse me of seeing what I wanted to see, but: for the last ~50 minutes of last night's game, did it not look like the Flames had three legitimate lines, that could be effective at both ends? With an upcoming week off, Keenan sensibly parked Smith and Godard on the bench after three shifts, spotted Boyd in a couple of times, and the team was solid up front all night.

And on the back end, from the department of Well, I Guess It Could Be A Coincidence: Anders Eriksson was in the infirmary instead of playing 25 minutes, and the Flames gave up fewer scoring chances than just about any game this season. Phaneuf/Aucoin and Regehr/Sarich were basically flawless; Warrener and Hale each made one brutal play in their 11 minutes (only Warrener's led to a goal), and were otherwise sound.

And the GM did his part, too. He sent Nystrom back to the AHL -- a fine call -- and spent a few minutes yesterday dropping some science on the assembled hordes:
"The two best forwards on our team in everybody's view in the hockey world, by a long shot, are Jarome and Alex -- that is clear," said Sutter.

"The rest is simple. You can't keep everybody."
"He's been a great player for us for two years and we're lucky to have him."

And to top it all off, the Oilers lost to the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Goooood times.

And just a quick word on the Leaves... I find it very strange, the way the task at hand for them is being framed. I've heard a lot of, "Blow it up... draft top 5 for 3 or 4 years... young, cheap talent" as well as a good dose of "enough band-aids & stop-gaps... just making the playoffs isn't enough".

This isn't the 80s Norris Division, folks: if you're consistently making the playoffs, you're doing something right. If the Leafs had been good enough to make the playoffs the past two seasons, they wouldn't be in this mess, certainly not to this extent. The problem is not that they've been trading elite tomorrow for OK today; the problem is that they have been much worse than OK for too much of the post-lockout period.

And in case you haven't noticed: this "young, cheap talent" is very nearly mythical. Most rookies are no better than a veteran AHL-type, and in many cases (certainly 1st-rounders) make twice or more in salary than said veterans. If you're lucky, they earn their money in Year 2 and outperform their salary in Year 3 -- and then Boom, you have to pay them full market value.

Tyler has been the best at reinforcing this, but managing an NHL roster is essentially about making a continuous series of bets, and if you are good and/or lucky, you'll make more smart ones and fewer dumb ones than your competitors. There is general value to be found, and general pitfalls to be avoided, but there are no hard-and-fast rules and there is certainly no magic formula.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Oilers Really Bad Hockey Team

You lose to Tampa Bay, Carolina, Washington and Los Angeles within a seven day span --guess what? You are a bad hockey team. I don't care that the Washington game went to OT, or that they almost tied it up in Tampa tonight. That's the bottom line. Barring a major miracle, and I mean a major miracle, this team will fail to make the playoffs for the fourth time in seven years. Seven years is how long the Kevin Lowe/Craig MacTavish pairing have been running the show. Coincidence? I don't think so. I think it's worth exploring, at the bare minimum. Contrary to what some people think, coaches, managers and players are expected to win. Results do matter.

This team is bad. For a bunch of reasons. And yes, injuries and a trade demand have played their part. But those can't be, those shouldn't be, used as excuses forever. There are many other reasons why this team is bad, reasons that have their origins at the top of the org. chart. Those decisions from up top are a large part of why this team is so low in the standings. So, for all those tired of hearing me talk about an arena and ownership, here's your bout those Oilers?


Flames Game Day: Qu'est-ce qui se passe?

So the latest on Flames trade watch is this:

1) On Saturday night, Darryl Sutter told Elliotte Friedman, roughly, "if we were to trade Tanguay, the return would have to be significant, because I consider him to be one of the top LW in the game."

This strikes me as a strange thing to say if a deal is in the works: (A) because why would you talk up a player you're about to deal and raise the bar re: the return, risking fan/media backlash; and (B) because even when Sutter is essentially honest and straightforward, he hasn't seemed inclined to telegraph his moves.

Further to that, Tanguay told reporters at Sunday's super-skills dealy and at practice yesterday morning that he hasn't waived his No-Trade Clause, nor has he been asked to.

2) Judging by Flames radio last night, the expectation that he'll be dealt is stronger than ever, and the sense of imminence is stronger to boot.

I have no idea what's going on, but smoke, fire, etc.

So on Friday, I did something I've never done before. I sent similar but personal emails to Jean LeFebvre, Eric Duhatschek, Eric Francis, and Bruce Dowbiggin, each with a link to my EV scoring since the lockout post, a brief explanation of what it was about, and a plea (for lack of a better word) that they'd find it interesting -- and by extension, possibly note themselves (for a bigger audience than I have) that Tanguay is a valuable player.

As Andy posted yesterday, LeFebvre did in fact reference my figures in a Calgary Herald piece (ran in the National Post too), and then followed up on his blog as well. So did Eric Francis:
...with Huselius shining on the top line and three key players all in need of new contracts, many argue it's prudent to open up cap space and deal Tanguay. The trick is receiving someone of equal value to the team so the club doesn't sacrifice a potential Cup run this spring for the sake of next year. That is almost impossible given Tanguay is the seventh-most productive even-strength NHLer (based on points and even-strength minutes played) since the lockout.
Sutter must tread carefully because few players in the league could fill Tanguay's shoes. Saying goodbye to a playmaker isn't as easy or simple as it may appear.

No, it certainly isn't. Also, Duhatschek reminded me that he had written about Tanguay's EV proficiency at the beginning of the season.

It feels somewhat strange to be an active advocate for a particular move (or non-move) rather than a passive one, commenting from 10,000 feet in the air, but on the other hand, what the hell. The data is legit, I care if the Flames do well (hope that's not a surprise to any readers), and I think they'd be worse the rest of this season AND next season if they traded Tanguay away, as mentioned ad nauseam.

[Today's fun fact: I took a spin through some randomly selected Colorado games from '05/06, using Vic's H2H icetime site. You know who Tanguay was piling up the EV points with? You guessed it: Brett Maclean and Ian Laperriere.]

The Flames host Minnesota tonight (7PM MT, RSN West), and (barring a Colorado win) can jump into a (baseball) tie for the division lead. Dunno why their mojo has been so good v. the Wild in the past couple of years, but it has... Calgary 3 (Moss, Iginla, Phaneuf) Minnesota 1 (Mr. Burns). Go Flames.



Crosby is out for 6-8 weeks. Ferguson has been fired. TSN IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!!



The Midnight Special

They had not gone far before they saw the Mock Turtle in the distance, sitting sad and lonely on a little ledge of rock, and, as they came nearer, Alice could hear him sighing as if his heart would break. She pitied him deeply. ‘What is his sorrow?’ she asked the Gryphon, and the Gryphon answered, very nearly in the same words as before, ‘It’s all his fancy, that: he hasn’t got no sorrow, you know. Come on!’

So they went up to the Mock Turtle, who looked at them with large eyes full of tears, but said nothing.

‘This here young lady,’ said the Gryphon, ‘she wants for to know your history, she do.’

‘I’ll tell it her,’ said the Mock Turtle in a deep, hollow tone: ‘sit down, both of you, and don’t speak a word till I’ve finished.’

So they sat down, and nobody spoke for some minutes. Alice thought to herself, ‘I don’t see how he can even finish, if he doesn’t begin.’ But she waited patiently.

‘Once,’ said the Mock Turtle at last, with a deep sigh, ‘I was a real Turtle.’
--Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

All I learned from the EIG Stitch & Bitch on Monday is that Bill Butler appears to be a real downer. Could he come up with a more curmudgeonly reason for not allowing Daryl Katz into the meeting? Or give a more evasive answer about a second ownership bid and a potential conflict of interest? Yikes. Smile, guy. Plus, dude wears mock turtlenecks under his suit jacket. For this reason alone I find him unsuitable for ownership. People who wear mock turtlenecks under suit jackets--no, with anything--scare me. It's especially troubling if they are millionaires. What's the excuse, people? Rotary Club pins work on crisp dress shirts too, you know. You know who wears mock turtlenecks? Scott Boras. Enough said. No. I just can't get behind that. No. I'm sorry. I can't do it. I won't do it. No. Stop it already. No.

In other news, top prospect and Edmonton native Tyler Ennis was just on Global Sports, talking about how excited he was to play "in this building" on Wednesday. He couldn't have meant Literally Crush, could he? What the hell is so special about that building? Doesn't he know about Candy Mountain, and the move this city is about to make up the Global Urban Food Chain? We're going to be like Columbus, man!!!

And finally, Peter Gammons has an interesting post up on ESPN about sports blogs. You might not be able to see it, as it's behind the ESPN wall (said wall is composed of thousands of men in mock turtlenecks and khakis. Seriously. Look it up). He talks about the changing media landscape, and the value-added sports coverage is getting from non-MSM bloggers. If you can't see it, trust me, it's good. Not great, but good. I especially liked this line at the end: "but as we begin the 2008 season, our information, understanding and thought processes have been dramatically altered from the days when a Sunday newspaper notes column seemed significant. And, as fans, we are so much better off for all the work that is being done." Amen, Peter, amen. Now give me a job.

John MacKinnon has his take up on the Mock Turtle.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Last call

If you haven't yet voted for Battle of Alberta as Best Sports Blog for the Canadian Blog Awards, and you are inclined to do so, here is the place -- and the Round 1 deadline is midnight PT.


Tee Hee

"On the other hand, Matt Kenwick from the Battle of Alberta blog did some number crunching and determined that in two-and-a-half seasons of the post-lockout era, only five active NHLers have scored a better rate at even strength than Tanguay -- Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby and Marian Gaborik."
--Jean LeFebvre, Calgary Herald

That post of Matt Fenwick's is here.



This Bud's for you, Andy:
If the Sonics leave Seattle, the city's economy won't suffer and most people won't care.

That's not the tirade of some anti-arena activist; it's the Sonics' latest legal argument to try to get out of its KeyArena lease.

And it's exactly the opposite of what the Sonics have claimed when asking for taxpayer help to build a new arena.

The team made the argument in papers filed in U.S. District Court this week, seeking mediation or a speedy trial to allow the team to abandon city-owned KeyArena before 2010. [...]

"The financial issue is simple, and the city's analysts agree, there will be no net economic loss if the Sonics leave Seattle. Entertainment dollars not spent on the Sonics will be spent on Seattle's many other sports and entertainment options. Seattleites will not reduce their entertainment budget simply because the Sonics leave," the Sonics said in the court brief.

The Sonics also said they would produce a survey showing that 66 percent of Seattleites say the team's exit would make "no difference" in their lives, while only 12 percent said they'd be "much worse off."

Those sentiments belie what Sonics' boosters — and sports teams in general — have argued when asking for taxpayer help to build a new arena. Teams and their supporters generally portray professional sports as a boon, bringing a city millions in revenue, hundreds of jobs and immeasurable civic pride.

A spokesman for the Sonics' owners declined to comment Thursday on the court filing.

Rodney Fort, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, who has criticized the economic-impact claims made by pro-sports teams, called the Sonics' latest argument "the best chuckle" he's had in a long time.

"It would seem that the value of the Sonics is a 'contingent' value — contingent on the purposes of the Sonics ownership," Fort said in an e-mail. "On the one hand, when the Sonics are trying to get the public to pitch in on a new arena, they are worth tens of millions to the Seattle area. On the other hand, when they are trying to beat their KeyArena lease, they are worth nothing to the Seattle area."

Hearty glove-tap to The Agitator.


Lessons in Alberta Politics, 101

"I think Edmontonians won't hear a peep about a downtown arena until after the provincial election. The feasibility study must still be completed. But the thing will be kept under wraps until after the next government is elected.

The last thing arena proponents want is for their plans to become part of the campaign discussion. Candidates and party leaders could get boxed in by the debate to the point of making promises to oppose public funding of a new arena."
--Scott McKeen, Edmonton Journal

Boxed in? You mean publicly accountable, right? Yeah, God forbid that ever happening. How could our democracy function if politicians were actually forced to formulate and defend opinions on issues before election day? Or make public policy commitments based on the will and desire of the citizens they are suposed to represent? I mean, why would anyone want to garner the public's approval in spending the public's dollars to support a private enterprise? That's just inconceivable.

Oh, and that's two days in a row now where stories in the Journal have mentioned the use of public dollars for the arena. Just saying.



Decision Day

"Enough Oilers owners are currently on side with drugstore billionaire Daryl Katz's $188-million bid to buy the team for the deal to proceed, according to a source close to the negotiations.

The source told The Journal Katz will close the deal if he receives commitments from Edmonton Investors Group members holding just 60 per cent of the company's 7,492 shares. It had previously been widely reported Katz required 66.66 per cent of shares to complete the purchase.

The list of owners willing to sell to Katz is believed to be 19 deep, holding about 68 per cent of EIG shares."
--Dan Barnes, Edmonton Journal

It's going to be an interesting day in Edmonton.

Tyler has some thoughts on this issue.


Sunday, January 20, 2008


Hammer, Meet Head

Now that we know that the New England Patriots will be playing the New York Football Giants in the Superbowl, I'm really eager to see what angles the MSM drive into the ground over the next two weeks. So far, I've come up with the following:

1) The Patriots are trying to go 19-0 on the season. Are they on a date with DESTINY???
2) The Giants trying to prevent the Pats from going 19-0.
3) The Giants "second chance" at ending the Pats undefeated season.
4) Will Brett Favre retire?
5) If the Giants win, will Michael Strahan retire?
6) If the Pats win, will Junior Seau retire?
7) If the Pats win, will Teddy Bruschi retire?
8) Wait a minute! This isn't the Manning we expected to be in the Superbowl!
9) Whoa! This isn't the Manning we expected to see play Tom Brady in the playoffs!
10) Has Eli Manning "elevated" his game?
11) Eli Manning has "turned the corner" in his career.
12) Eli Manning is clutch.
13) By playing their starters in Week 17, the Giants gained confidence and saved their season.
14) The New York/Boston rivalry.
15) Boston one win away from having two teams win championships this season (the Celtics current dominance will be included in this, of course).
16) Boston fans are insufferable.
17) Any player from the Pats or Giants who are playing in their home state, or home town.
18) Tiki Barber eating crow/Ewing Theory.
19) Interviews with members of the '72 Dolphins.

Anyone got any others? I'm sick of these ones already.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


In Praise of Tradition, Redux

To any who may have found their way to this site through this piece in the Edmonton Journal, welcome. The unabridged version of it can by found by clicking here. You'll have to skim through some other business at the top, including one curse word, but it is there. I hope you enjoy. Many thanks to the readers who suggested I submit the post, and many thanks to the Edmonton Journal for printing it.


Bruce has shared some great memories in the comments section, and they inspired me to go look for some stuff on YouTube. Here are some neat clips of historic nights/events at the Coliseum. If people find any other cool clips, or have any stories they'd like to share, I'd love to see/hear them.

• Gretzky plays on a line with Gordie Howe against Moscow Dynamo.
• Gretzky scores his 50th goal in 39 games.
• Gretzky fights Neal Broten.
• Messier scores the tying goal in Game 3 of the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals.
• Fans sing the Canadian national anthem.
• A history of the Banners (which have been replaced).


Friday, January 18, 2008



Anyone want to defend the stunt Phaneuf pulled at the end of that game? Anyone?


Friday Baseball Standings

The Flames host the L.A. Kings tonight (7PM MT, TSN), and will attempt to get back on the happy side of that black line.

I'm just about done my week-long (month-long? year-long?) tubthumping about Alex Tanguay. A couple last points:

1) The latest speculation regarding a Flames trade (and creating 08/09 cap space) is that perhaps they would like Michael Ryder as a "reclamation project". Ryder, who was +34/-54 at even strength last season, is basically a poor man's Darcy Tucker; effective on the PP, a black hole at EV.

At any rate, besides the relative merits of Tanguay and Ryder, I'm skeptical of this for another reason. The Flames had his brother Daniel in the organization, and he appears to have quit hockey. No one's saying what the specific problem was (or if there is one), but suffice it to say Daniel's head wasn't into hockey.

Now, I don't read a ton about the Habs, but the way I understand it, Carbonneau's criticism of Ryder this season has been regarding the focus/attitude/effort family of issues. I can't believe that Sutter would want to go down this road again, especially if there is a family-related problem that is the/a source of the difficulties.

2) The one area where it's theoretically possible to get better in a Tanguay trade (improve on his performance) is the PP. Question: what position does this new player play? Because RW on the #1 unit is already spoken for, as is LW (Huselius). As is one point (Phaneuf), and pretty much the other point. A natural centre who is a great PP performer (better than Langkow) is really the only way to upgrade that #1 unit.

Past that, you're looking for a winger who can do a better job than Tanguay at creating PP scoring with Nolan, Conroy, Moss, and Lombardi, in the ~ one-third of Calgary's PP time that the #2 unit gets. It's possible, I suppose, but I don't think there would be any guarantees no matter who you acquire. And of course, the player who could do this while duplicating Tanguay's 5v5 performance is not acquirable via trade, is not affordable by contract, and exists only in Ottawa, presently nursing a separated shoulder.

I like the Flames' chances tonight. I went to the last 'Dome tilt v. the Kings with periodic commenter Peter -- thanks again Peter! -- and victory rarely seemed in doubt, even when the lads were down 2-0. Rudy has the L.A. angle, and despite his advice, I certainly will feel bad if the Kings beat my team.

Calgary 5 (Moss, Iginla, Langkow, Phaneuf, Boyd)
Home of the Bodybag 2 (Brown x2)

Go Flames.

[Confidential to R.B. -- please play poorly and reduce Darryl Sutter's temptation to acquire you.]


There and Back Again

Date: June 19th, 2006
Location: RBC Center; Raleigh, North Carolina
Score: 3-1, Canes
Series: 4-3, Canes

And then the really bad stuff started to happen.

Moving on...

Thursday, January 17, 2008


At the risk of sounding like an Oilers fan, I like the Oilers


Think we'll hear much about Ovechkin tonight?


Game starts now. GOILERS!

***Bonus*** Profound words from the Hall of Famer:

"The only reason to get rid of a coach is if he loses his players and they tune him out."

"At the risk of sounding like a MacTavish fan, I think he's a good coach..."


Latest in a Series

This is the Top 20 most productive even-strength scorers since the lockout. 224 qualifying forwards; each played at least 25 games each of the previous 2 seasons (so no Bertuzzi, Havlat), and is active this season (no Selanne) and averaging 10 EV minutes of ice-time per game. Some more players of interest:
If you watched Bob McKenzie in the intermission last night, you'll know why I included Michael Ryder.

Last point: there's one thing you need to squint to find in that Top 20, and it's bargains. Only 7 of the 20 are scheduled to make less than $5.25M next year (only 3 less than $4M), and one of them is UFA Joe Sakic.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Flames Game Day: Time to quit jacking around

OK, stop losing, now, please.

A jumble of thoughts on the Flames, including last night's loss to Nashville:

**Sometimes when the top line doesn't play well, the thought is, "Yeesh, we need better depth so that we can have success when our All-Star doesn't score." (And sometimes it's true.) But sometimes, and last night was one of those times for me, the thought is, "Well, DUH. When your top line doesn't score and doesn't really create anything, your team is generally going to look bad. That's not a roster management issue; that's reality for 25-30 teams in the league."

**Anyone remember those terrifying days in June, where one of the big fears about Keenan was that he was indefensibly biased towards over-the-hill veterans, and thus younger players who might make a more positive difference (and improve all the while) would rot? Ah, were we ever so young? Actually, this seems like a good time to do a Mike Keenan Halfway Review.

What I Like:
The Unknown, Indifferent, and/or Irrelevant:
What I Don't Like:

We'll start with an extended quote from MetroGnome's lovely rant this morning:
Matt from Battle of Alberta said yesterday [~] "don't run a kid line against Nashville...Trotz will take advantage", and guess what? With 25 year old rookie Nystrom out, Keenan replaced him 26 year old sophomore David Moss. The predictable result was poor Lombardi and company skating against Arnott, Radulov and Dumont at ES all night. In comments after the game, Radio personality Rob Kerr said something to the effect of "Dustin Boyd really needs to improve his board work, especially when trying to get the puck out in his own zone." My response is...NO FUCKING SHIT. Show me a 21 year old rookie who's been converted from his natural position and playing against the other team's top line that DOESN'T struggle at that.

No doubt Mike Keenan has his own reasons and perceptions, but what he's doing with the 3rd and 4th lines Is. Not. Working. It's good to have Moss back, and he's actually proven himself quite effective over the past year at the little plays (i.e. on the boards, getting it out of his own end, etc.); he just doesn't have a scorer's touch.

If Nilson's spot in the doghouse is essentially permanent -- and it certainly appears to be -- then fine: but Yelle needs to move up with Lombardi/Moss. Last night, on one of the few forays the 4th line made into Nashville's zone, Yelle showed a few times that he can keep the puck alive on the end boards, and win possession from a defenseman. Those three would have at least a puncher's chance against good lines.

Now, this creates a "problem" -- if Yelle is not around to babysit Godard, the 4th line gets killed, right? Almost definitely... which is why Godard should be up in the pressbox, with a sticker on the door that says "For Use in Grudge Matches Only". Then you could have Boyd, Primeau, and Smith (or Nystrom, or Nilson, or Godard on special occasions) as a 4th line that is used carefully, i.e. not for defensive zone faceoffs on the road when you know bloody well that Arnott, Dumont, & Radulov will be coming on for the home team. When/if the bench shortens, particularly when the Flames are trailing, Boyd can still be spotted in on the other lines.

Maybe my prescription is stupid, but the Is-Not-Working is indisputable. Since the beginning of December, Lombardi is +5/-18 and Boyd is +7/-14. Boyd has the highest GA/60 on the team, and but for Anders Eriksson, it's by a mile. My preference would be to see if the veterans Yelle and Nilson can earn their money the old-fashioned way, but I'd settle for "something else".

The Flames are in Minnesota tonight (630PM MT, TSN), and that might actually be cause for some optimism: the Xcel Centre has actually been good for righting the ship the past couple of seasons.

They may well have saved their season this March there with back-to-back wins. And in '05/06, they hit St. Paul at the end of a disastrous road trip (sound familiar?) and pwned the Wild, followed by 3 more wins.

Prediction: Curtis McElhinney gets the start; Calgary wins 1-0 despite being outplayed and outshot by a wide margin; on Thursday morning the Flames announce that -- what an amazing coincidence! -- there's a problem with CuJo's medical, and the contract offer is rescinded.

Enough with the dreaming and bitching, on with the rooting. Go Flames.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


You like us! You really like us!!!

Battle of Alberta has again been nominated for a Canadian Blog Award. Round 1 voting will go until January 21st, 2008 11:59 PM PST. You can see all the categories and nominees here, and vote in the Best Sports Blog category here. This year, you get one vote in each category. You don't get to vote once a day.

Our thanks to those who nominated us, and to those who stop by our site on a regular basis. The Oilogosphere is well represented this year, with Lowetide and Covered in Oil also receiving nominations. Our friends James Mirtle and Sherry at Scarlett Ice also got nods. Great blogs, all. Congrats to them, as well.



Memo to Charlie Simmer:

You should really stop prefacing 70-80% of your comments with the word "again". About half the time, it doesn't even make sense, as it's the first time you've mentioned what you're mentioning. It also makes you sound obnoxious ("How many times do I have to say!..."), and most of all, it's really, really annoying. Really.


And hey, thank God we're bringing in a veteran to eliminate the need to use McElhinney. What a bum.


Flames Game Day

(Picture from David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic; glove tap to PunjabiOil for the idea)

Contrary to the illustration, I'm not that down on the CuJo signing. The plus is that now the Flames have a backup goalie that the coach is willing to play, giving more (some) rest to Kipper, which will hopefully help him down the road. The minus is that I doubt he's any better than the backup the coach wasn't willing to play.

The underlying truth, though, is that Darryl Sutter behaves totally cluelessly regarding the backup goalie position.
"If we have any problem with our goaltending," said Sutter, "it's that [Kipper has] played a lot. In my experience, I've been very fortunate to have great goaltenders, as we do. But it's also been my experience that we play two more."

Sure it is. For the second time in three seasons, the Flames have:
  1. Started the season with an inexperienced backup
  2. Expressed confidence that he could succeed in a limited, but not trivial, role
  3. Exhibited zero confidence in him from Day 1
  4. Announced in January how important it is to have an experienced backup
  5. Overpaid to acquire one
Will anyone have the stones to ask Darryl Sutter pointedly what has changed between the start of training camp and now? I doubt it, again.

**Follow-up to a couple of recent posts: I said on Friday that
The only way trading [Tanguay] would be remotely defensible is to clear '08/09 cap room for Phaneuf's new deal, and I stress remotely.

I hereby retract that statement, and suggest that moving Tanguay would be the worst of many alternatives for clearing space, if that's what it comes to.

It's probably time for me to clue in to the fact that Tanguay trade speculation has been so persistent (Dreger et al mentioned him in the same breath as Rob Blake last night), there must be at least something to it. My question is -- shades of the backup goalie issue -- what has changed? What did the Flames expect to get when they traded for Tanguay, but haven't gotten?

Surely smart roster management goes something like this, as previously discussed at length around the hockeysphere: when a player's counting numbers (Goals, Points, +/-, GW Goals) overstate his actual contributions to the team, he is a good candidate for a trade, and when they understate them, he is a good candidate for a contract extension.

Tanguay's stat line is 46GP, 11-25-36, +10. I'd like some more points as well, but it's extremely relevant that Huselius plays LW on the #1 PP unit (rightly so), and that Tanguay has either played the point or on the #2 unit.

In 5-on-5 play, Tanguay is +40/-21. +19 by this measure is tied with Jason Spezza for 5th in the NHL among forwards (behind only Datsyuk, Heatley, Iginla, and Zetterberg). That is some seriously rarified air, is it not? Scoring while Tanguay is on the ice (GF/60) is 3.76, higher than anyone but Jarome. GA/60 while Tanguay is on the ice is 1.98; that's lower than everyone but Nolan and Yelle/Nilson/Godard. He is observably not soft; while he may not go flying like Hemsky, he takes hits to make a pass or keep possession all the time. In the playoffs last season vs. the Wings, this was especially evident. And oh yeah: all this while playing against the other team's #1 line a large chunk of the time, and the #2 line the rest of it.

The fact that his points total might be a bit low for his salary should be viewed by Flames management as a blessing; an opportunity. Come July, they can let Huselius go, and extend Tanguay for a dollar figure that will be lower than it probably ought to be, given his points total. Then he can go back to being the LW with Iginla at EV and on the PP, and most likely rack up points and look like an unbelievable bargain -- even though he'll be playing the same game as he always did.

**The Flames play the first of 3 games in 4 nights tonight in Nashville (6PM MT, RSN West), and they really need to get back in Winning Mode. Sunday was an absolute disaster; besides losing to the Oil, the Canucks, Avs, Wild, and Ducks all won, and the Flames are back down on the playoff bubble.

I'm glad CuJo's not lined up for the start tonight; we don't need the Brian Boucher parallels to be drawn too clearly too soon. Also, this seems like the ideal time for Keenan to test drive an actual checking line with three capable two-way forwards on it, e.g. Lombo/Nilson/Yelle. The Preds, at least in the past while, have sharply targeted the other team's 3rd line with Arnott, Dumont, & Radulov (and had plenty of success doing so), while sending Legwand & Gelinas against the #2/#1A line, and letting Bonk get annihilated by the Gaboriks and Getzlafs of the world. Dustin Boyd should not be put in that position.

Prediction: Calgary 4 (Iginla, Phaneuf, Langkow, Lombardi) Nashville 0 (time for Kipper to start catching up to Conklin in the shutout race). Go Flames.


It's Baltimore. No one lives forever.

Anyone else catch the first couple episodes of Season 5 of The Wire? Shiiiiit. My mind has been blown. Repeatedly. Jimmy? Cmon, Jimmy. Avon? WHAT? No way. I don't believe it. The newspaper angle has been fantastic, though it's not getting the same amount of focus as the port did in Season 2. I guess that's what happens when HBO only gives you ten episodes to work with. Bastards. Has any network abandoned good television as quickly as HBO has in the past couple seasons? Sex and the City and the Sopranos died of natural causes, but the network intentionally harpooned Deadwood, Rome and The Wire. Shameful. Here's a couple of interesting articles on the The Wire, for any who are interested. One's an interview with show creator David Simon by writer Nick Hornby. The other is from the New York Times, and examines what real criminals think of the show.

The Oilers next six games are against Los Angeles, Washington, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida. That's six winnable hockey games. The team is relatively healthy, the goalie is hot, and the defence hasn't been too shabby. Throw in the fact that Colorado is without Sakic and Smyth for an extended period of time, and that the Leafs will soon hire Cliff Fletcher to pull off a trade sending Sundin to the Flames for Tanguay and parts, and the Oilers time to move up the WC ladder is now. Will that escalation occur? Never know with this team. But they won't be able to make excuses if they choke on these twelve points, that's for sure.

Cosh has very interesting post up examining the possible impact the shootout is having on regulation-time tactics. His argument is that giving a team a penalty shot rather than a clean breakaway can be the smarter, more mathematically sound, play. I think he gives too much credence to Sheldon Souray's calculating abilities, myself, and he leaves out the fact that teams can also be given a powerplay in addition to the penalty shot (or that the offending player can be tossed from the game, both of which happened in the Phoenix game he references), but it is an interesting argument. If it isn't something the Oilers and other teams are considering, it probably should be.

Of course tonight's game is on PPV. Had to be. No way I'd get to watch my team go for five straight without coughing up an additional chunk of change. Grrr.

Prediction: 3-1, Oil. Pitkanen, Penner, and Hemsky with the most exciting play in hockey, Principe does a story that involves roommates and Warren Beatty lighting during one of the intermissions.


***Update*** Just saw this Ross McKeon piece on Yahoo!. It's a good idea, going through all the teams and identifying who needs to be signed in the off-season. But then I look at what McKeon says about the Oilers, and I just shake my head.

"Ah, where all the trouble started. Funny thing is: Mr. Lowe doesn't have a lot of pressing contractual problems since those who are up are pretty replaceable. The best argument is for RFA Jarret Stoll, the 25-year-old who isn't having a great season but figures to be part of the future. Otherwise, there's the thought of extending Shawn Horcoff, 29, but he's not tearing it up either."

Here's hoping that every GM in the league other than Kevin Lowe is a big McKeon fan. As for Lowe, his 1A and 1B signing priorities should Tom Gilbert and Joni Pitkanen. That Horcoff guy has been playing just fine, btw. Don't feel bad about extending his deal a couple years.

Monday, January 14, 2008


With problems like these...

The biggest planning issue facing Darryl Sutter is what to do about impending Restricted Free Agent Dion Phaneuf. It hasn't exactly been portrayed that way previously; the conventional wisdom (mine included) has been more along the lines of, "You get a deal done one way or another with Phaneuf, and then attack the real problems, i.e. Huselius/Langkow or their replacements."

Given the emerging reality -- that there is no way to "amicably" sign Phaneuf unless it's for a lengthy term and a hell of a lot of money -- it's no longer defensible to just shrug off gettin' it done as imperative and unavoidable. Here, as I see them, are the alternatives to signing Phaneuf ~tomorrow to a Chara/Spezza deal.

ONE. Wait (& gamble), with the full intention of signing him. Is it possible that Phaneuf will continue to gain leverage over the next 5 months? Yes, but it's far from certain. An All-Star from his rookie class just signed the richest contract in NHL history; that's hardly a wave Sutter wants to be riding. The risk of waiting until July is two-fold: first, Phaneuf's play & numbers may improve (adding merit to his contract demands), and second, he might get an offer sheet that is for significantly more than the Flames were hoping to pay (and that Phaneuf would have signed for).

But there is an other hand. Phaneuf is not arbitration-eligible; his leverage in July, aside from a competing offer (offer sheet), is a holdout. Here is the key question: what is the difference -- in dollars & term -- between the contract they can sign him to now, and the offer sheet they might have to match? In Thomas Vanek's case, it was a huge difference; the Sabres could have locked him up earlier for a lot less dough. Surely it's less so in Phaneuf's case. If you were to argue that Sutter needs to sign him tomorrow for $7M x 7 years to avoid the risk of having to match an offer sheet, how much bigger do you expect the offer sheet to be? $8M x 8? $9M x 9? More? Which brings us to...

TWO. Wait, with the intention of declining to match a significant offer sheet. The purpose of this post is to look at alternatives, so let's assume (pretend?) that this isn't an unthinkable course of action. I am possibly the hockeysphere's smallest fan and follower of prospects, so besides finding this option somewhat unpalatable, I have very little feel for just what a 1st-round pick is worth. So, what I have done here, in a Google Spreadsheet, is collect all the first-round draft picks from 2001-2004 (i.e. Phaneuf's draft year, the two previous years, and the subsequent years), in an effort to semi-objectively assess what the value is of the draft pick compensation for RFA signings. Notes:
  1. Is there one player there who would be a good trade for Phaneuf? The idea being roughly, if the Flames drafted in Washington's slot for those 4 years, they'd have Ovechkin, he would make the deal worth it by himself.
  2. Would the 4 drafted players as a group be a good trade for Phaneuf? So here, there are more Yesses; while I don't think Phaneuf for Vanek would be a good trade, Phaneuf for Vanek, Stafford, Jiri Novotny, and Keith Ballard would be.
  3. Would the deal definitely be something the Flames would regret? The bar goes down some more: while I don't think the Flames would trade Phaneuf for Patrick Eaves, Meszaros, Jeff Woywitka and Jakub Klepis, neither would they be looking back at that deal as a disastrous moment for the franchise.
Rate them on your own if you like, but here's how it broke down for me. The question is, using the first round from 2001-2004 as a guide, how good could the Flames expect their compensatory draft picks (from 2009-2012) to turn out if they let Phaneuf sign with someone else?
And not to be forgotten: four 1st-Rd picks is not all that the Flames would "get" if they let Phaneuf be signed away. They also get the cap space he would have taken up. Two scenarios:

I'm not sure I'm prepared to recommend one roster over the other here, although again, in the one on the right, not only do they have Daymond Langkow instead of a min. salary replacement, and a more skilled replacement for Huselius, but they also have someone else's 1st-round pick for the next 4 years, as well as their own -- which can obviously be used in some measure to trade back in for present value.

THREE. Trade him. Presumably all the teams that might be inclined to give Phaneuf an offer sheet on July 1, plus a few more, would be willing to trade for him and pay him his money. Theoretically, the fact that the acquiring team has to pay him a mint to get him under contract should reduce his trade value, but things don't quite seem to work that way yet.

I don't really know what Dion would fetch in a trade, but I would guess something like a quality forward and a quality D-man -- at least one of whom is signed for a while at a good price -- plus a decent prospect or 1st-round pick. Horton, Van Ryn, and a 2009 1st-rounder? Something like that.

Allow me to pause and point out the obvious here, too: while Phaneuf is extremely popular in Calgary, and trading him would cheese off a LOT of Flames fans, they don't need him in order to sell tickets and fill up the building, and that's doubly true if the team is good.


The more I think about it, the more I believe that wait-and-see is the right course of action. Look, if Sutter's premise is that Phaneuf is his generation's Chris Pronger (with Scott Stevens' intensity/bloodlust thrown in for good measure), and that he's going to be a Flame for years come hell or high water, then sure: signing him up next week makes sense. It's possible that waiting and hard-balling a bit could result in a better deal for the Flames (what if Dion doesn't get an offer sheet?), but why chance it.

But if Sutter's premise is broader -- that is, he has XX million dollars with which to construct a successful 20-23 player team, and that everyone's importance in the grand scheme of things is greatly dependent on what % of XX he has to be paid, then there are a lot of options going forward. And you know what? They're all pretty good. The worst-case scenario includes:
Not exactly Nicholls, Rice & DeBrusk. Relax, Flames fans.



Just a heads up that people can now access this site through the url, as well as the address. The only thing different is a missing favicon, and I'm sure I'm the only one concerned with that. The shorter, easier url should help those of you out there who don't have the site bookmarked or in an rss feed (boo), or those of you who drunk surf on Friday nights (yay). Many thanks to George Chang for his assistance in getting this set up.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Battle Game Night: All Lowepologies

I had a couple of good laughs this weekend, courtesy of the tough-but-fair typists at the Edmonton Journal. The Hall-of-Famer wedged this into his Western Conference This'n'That without any further comment:
...The Columbus Blue Jackets want to re-sign ex-Oiler Jan Hejda, who's been their best defenceman, to a long-term deal. Hejda, who's playing with Adam Foote, has been a bargain at $1 million...

And David Staples -- geez, I know he's a Lowe fan in general, but making these statements on consecutive days is a bit much. Thursday night:
...all of the Lowe-lynchers out there should take a moment to give Oilers GM Kevin Lowe a moment of credit for signing Mathieu Garon, the team's M.V.P. this season, especially as Garon is signed up for one more year at a bargain rate.

Friday night:
It's a wise move for an NHL team to stock up on older defenders, even if they've done most of their defending in the AHL, like Rourke has done.

Too bad the team let Jan Hejda go.

What's that old saying again? "Success has a balding father, but failure is an orphan"? I forget.

Tonight's game (6PM MT, RSN West): Souray, Pisani, and Moreau are all playing in their first BoA of the season. For the Flames, Nilson and Hale are in; Nystrom is still recovering from a bad case of puckintheface, Aucoin's groin still ails, and there has been a death in Wayne Primeau's family.

It should, at least in theory, be the most well-played Battle of Alberta of the season. I'm looking forward to the game, and to the result, which I'm pegging as a 4-3 Calgary win (Iginla x2, Tanguay, Nilson, Pisani x2, Souray). Go Flames.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Um, excuse me, are there any dogs in this house?

Anyone else think it's weird that the BoA game isn't on HNIC tonight? Feels off, no? Anyone want to make some football predictions, instead? Big weekend, this weekend. Big. While watching the games, I'm going to be working on the self-help book I'm ghostwriting for Matt Hasselbeck. It's called, We Have The Ball, and We're Going to Score: Moving Your Life from Frown to Touchdown, One Quarter at a Time. Should be fun. Here are my predictions.

Gunslinger over Seahawks
Cheaters over Jags

Indy over Whale's Vagina
Dallas over G-Men

Best case scenario for me is watching the Pats and the Cowboys disappear (I hate them both), but it seems unlikely this weekend. It's going to take the magic of Favre and the good Manning to do that next weekend. Have a great Saturday, everyone.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Flames Game Night

Why can't Alex Tanguay get any respect? Seriously, why? Bruce Dowbiggin doesn't like him for his own subjective reasons, but yesterday's column, "Sundin a Flame?", is nevertheless horse-pucky.
It's clear that unless first-liners Jarome Iginla and sidekick Kristian Huselius provide prodigious offence, the Flames simply will not score enough to win the Stanley Cup.

First of all, the Flames are 2nd in the WC in scoring and 3rd in 5v5 scoring. Secondly, in the 2004 playoffs, Iginla, Conroy, & Gelinas were +13, +12, and +10 respectively. Lombardi and Saprykin were next best among forwards at +1. That big line had 27 goals; the rest of the forwards had 30. The search for consistent secondary scoring is one that is almost always destined to fail, and it's somewhat of a nebulous, self-rebutting concept to boot (any secondary scorer who starts producing more gets labelled a primary scorer soon enough). And does anyone remember the 2006 Olympics?
There is an object lesson to be learned from Canada's consecutive 2-0 losses. When your NHL team has trouble scoring over a short stretch [in this case, one freakin' game against the Coyotes], there is always a temptation to attribute it to lack of secondary scoring, or If We Just Had One More Decent Playmaking Centre This Wouldn't Happen. If you resist this temptation next time it happens, then you have learned the lesson.

Thirdly, if the idea is nevertheless to improve your scoring, shouldn't any deal actually hold the promise of doing so? Back to Dowbiggin:
But [for Sundin] Calgary could offer a selection of Alex Tanguay (he's still just 27), Lombardi, Adam Pardy, Matt Keatley and first- or second-round picks to Toronto. It's still a steep price, but with a shot at the Cup in this CBA climate, you have to roll the dice.

Forget Pardy, Keetley, and the picks: is there any reason to think Sundin could replace the contributions of both Tanguay and Lombardi, let alone exceed them? How many points can you expect Sundin to score? I'm not trying to be obtuse here at all. How do you fill in the blank: This trade would be a Win, in the short-term, offensive context only, if Sundin averaged ___ points per game as a Flame. Or, if the Flames averaged ___ goals per game after his arrival.

But of course the context can't just be offensive: Tanguay and Lombardi are the Flames' top 2 penalty-killers at the moment, and good two-way forwards. And Bruce is throwing in a couple of decent prospects and picks as well.
Plus you have to get Tanguay's whopper contract off the books (the Leafs can afford it) to afford Dion Phaneuf and Huselius and others due for contracts.

Fourthly, why is it that the 27-year-old Tanguay's long, productive record is always shrugged off with, "yeah, but he played with Sakic, Hedjuk, Iginla...", but the 28-year-old Huselius, who has never in his career been particularly effective at EV until the past ~20 games with Iginla, is suddenly an indispensable part of the Flames' future? There's been little or no difference between Iginla's production with Huselius and with Tanguay. If Tanguay's $5.25M/yrcontract is a whopper, what does Dowbiggin expect Huselius to sign for?

It says here that any makeable deal involving Tanguay would make the Flames worse in the short, rolling-the-dice term, not better. The only way trading him would be remotely defensible is to clear '08/09 cap room for Phaneuf's new deal, and I stress remotely. Huselius is a very good player, especially on the power play, but the Flames can't afford his next contract.

The Islanders are in town tonight (7PM MT, RSN West), and it's even money that the Flames win with a significant contribution from someone besides #12 & #20. I'll take Calgary 3 (Iginla, Eriksson, Nolan) Islanders 2 (Satan x2) in a game that's not as close as the score indicates. Go Flames.

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