Tuesday, September 29, 2009



McKenzie: Islanders pick up poor homeless man's John Tavares to play with John Tavares.

My 2-year-old Schremp scouting report here.

Monday, September 28, 2009


It's only hard if you make it hard

The old Local Team's Enforcer is a Real Human Being! story is a September fixture in many NHL cities; Vicki Hall is a fine and capable writer/reporter; and Brian McGrattan is just doing what he can to earn a terrific living for as long as possible.

So I'm not directing this at either Hall or McGrattan when I say that this article from Sunday's Calgary Herald is beyond embarrassing.
“I want to lead the league in majors this year,” McGrattan says, peeling off his blinding yellow practice jersey. “And I think this is the right division to do it.”

The tattooed enforcer looks across the room at Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen.

“I can’t wait,” McGrattan says, “for the first guy who runs one of these guys.

“That will give me the green light to go get ’em.”

I'm not anti-fighting, but that kinda makes my skin crawl. Also, while I sincerely hope that he really does have sobriety figured out for good, your typical 20-years-sober alcoholic comes off as more humble and guarded about the whole issue than McGrattan does at 9+ months.

Mostly, it's just galling that the Flames gave a one-way contract to a guy who can only "help his team" by fighting, even though he's not yet recovered from shoulder surgery, and has the substance abuse baggage noted above. Jaffray and Lundmark were waived today, both of whom would help the Flames score/prevent goals and win games from the 4th line more than McGrattan could hope to. It's a real blot on what was otherwise a pretty solid summer by management.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Thought for the Day

The best way to win a lot of hockey games is to get off the bus with the best players.

-- Jack Parker, Boston University coach, career record 816-412-101 (via a Pipeline Show clip on TEAM1260)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Battle Game Day

Hurray, it's hockey! Though calling it "NHL hockey" might be a stretch, at least looking at the lineup the Flames are icing tonight (7PM MT, web stream). Moss, Boyd, Lundmark, Dawes, and Nystrom are the "veterans" skating against the Oilers at the 'Dome tonight; looks like Quinn is dressing a more traditional preseason mix of vets and hopefuls.

I commented last week at M&G that
I sincerely hope that with the myriad 4th-line-types signed up this offseason, there’s legit competition for those spots, i.e. the org has an open mind about who will be in the Opening Night lineup. I can’t get too jazzed about any given 4th-line trio, but I CAN get jazzed about the idea that the three best performers thru camp/preseason — out of 8 or 9 competitors — get the gig. Depth, in that sense, could be a strength. And the team probably needs it to be one.

In this context, I'm very encouraged by Coach Sutter's roster tonight; looks to me like the beginning of a 15-day Battle Royale for a job at the bottom of the forward corps. Right now there are 7 guys who will certainly dress for every regular season game in which they're healthy: Iginla, Langkow, Jokinen, Conroy, Glencross, Bourque, and Moss. There's another 4 who essentially have jobs, but could conceivably be healthy scratches on occasion (or be punted to the minors if they're really struggling): Boyd, Dawes, Sjostrom and Nystrom.

That leaves 2 spots open for the winning, to my eye, as well as the whole concept of making a good impression and being an early callup when the inevitable injuries come. I typically agree with Tyler's take that your crystal ball need be no more complicated than looking for who has one-way contracts (meaning Prust and McGrattan will be the lucky two), but I think this season might constitute special circumstances.

Last season the team paid Eriksson $1.5M to play in the minors and paid Rhett Warrener ~$2.4M to convalesce from his various injuries/surgeries, just to get down to the cap at the beginning of the season. In other words, they spent a lot of dead money from Day 1. That's not the case this season, and particularly with a new coach, I think that if 1 or 2 borderline guys with 2-way deals make a big impression on Coach Sutter from now until October 1, then GM Sutter will make room for those guys in the big leagues one way or another.

That group is probably represented by: Brett Sutter, David Van der Gulik, Kris Chucko, Kyle Greentree, Jason Jaffray, Jamie Lundmark, Colin Stuart, and Garth Murray.

Greg Nemisz and Mitch Wahl are in that unfortunate Draft+1yr cohort of "Would be Better Off Playing in the AHL, But Have to Go Back to Junior". Very little chance they make the big club.

This leaves the two most interesting hopefuls in camp. Mikael Backlund is... something. He was a good junior player in his stint with Kelowna, but he's not the next Peter Forsberg. He's not even the next Daymond Langkow. But he might well be a quality NHLer. First step, though, is to take the step up to the AHL, and start (continue?) internalizing the fact that he's not going to score enough to hang around the perimeter or be an indifferent two-way player.

The other, of course, is the Little Big Man. I won't hem and haw here: I think his invitation to camp is tremendously exciting, and I'm thrilled for him. I take Tom Benjamin's point that, in the big picture, the Flames might not be doing him any favours, but I'll disagree nonetheless. He's been sober for ~ 4 years, not six months, and has gone through financial and family tribulations in the interim. "Not an emotionally healthy person" is probably true, now and forever, but I guess my sense is that Fleury's not quite as fragile as TB thinks he is. And further, that even if this comeback attempt falls short, it might be more beneficial than detrimental to Fleury's psyche.

At any rate: a wildly successful training camp and preseason for Fleury means a two-way, league min. deal to play in Abbotsford for the Heat. There is zero chance he makes the Flames out of TC. If he looks like he can still play -- even if he looks like he can still help an NHL team -- he'll be sent to the AHL; to see if his body can keep up with the grind for a couple months, to see if he can be effective all over the ice over a larger sample of games, and, yes, to see if he folds under the pressure.

The "Holy Shit, Woo-HOO!!!" Scenario is Fleury scoring 28 points in the first 20 games with the Heat, then coming up to the Flames and adding something to depth and 2nd-unit PP (and of course, getting his name on the Stanley Cup 21 years after the 1st time, but I digress). I think the best-case scenario though, as in, more realistic and something every Fleury fan could cheer for, is:
Fingers crossed, folks.

Monday, September 07, 2009


Thought for the Day

All of economics is devoted to the proposition that there is no such thing as a free lunch. All of politics is devoted to the opposite conviction. All economics teaches that you can’t get something for nothing. All politics supposes that you can -- or that you can at least persuade other people that you can. Economics is about scarcity, universal and inescapable. Politics is about limitless plenty.

Consider that 98% of all bad policy amounts to nothing more than ignoring opportunity costs: the simple axiom that the cost of something is measured not just by the actual sum of money used to produce it, but what the same funds might have purchased, diverted to another end -- the profits forgone, the jobs not created, because that money was spent in one way and not another.

-- Andrew Coyne, October 9, 2007

Friday, September 04, 2009


Stuff we can agree on

Northlands showed it is Edmonton's "sports and entertainment complex experts" after Rexall Place was ranked 10th in the world for concert and event ticket sales, an official with the non-profit group says.

What conclusions are reasonable to draw from this? I think there's a couple:
  1. Rexall Place is, at the least, a good concert/event venue
  2. Northlands is, at the least, a competent venue manager
Based on such a high standing, it would seem awfully hard to argue that Northlands is enjoying tremendous success despite a lousy facility (making chicken salad out of chicken shit); likewise, it would be hard to argue that people are packing the place despite barely competent management by an out-of-touch quasi-government agency.

Which brings us to Pat Laforge on Monday... when asked about the future of Rexall Place, he said:
"Our lease expires in the spring of 2014. ... We're a tenant here and we don't own the building so I can't offer speculation on what might happen to it. But it's been a great building and it still is."

David Staples translated this to mean (and Jonathan Willis seems to agree), "Not our problem".

But whether Staples and Willis are misinterpreting, or Laforge is being disingenous (No!), it clearly is an issue. Whatever scenarios exist for a new downtown arena being successful and profitable (or, self-supporting) involve the migration of all the concerts and a bunch of the other stuff from the old place to the new place.

There's a non-zero chance that, in the event of a taxpayer revolt (and a credible election threat to the mayor), the Oilers press on with the project through private financing. But this non-zero chance drops to zero-point-zero-zero if it's premised on competing with Northlands and the existing building for concerts and other non-hockey events. The abandonment (/demolition) of Rexall Place isn't a side effect of a downtown arena plan; it's a necessary element.

Which brings us back to the Are We Sure This Is Necessary question... I think the proponents and fans of a new downtown arena have done a pretty poor job of explaining why it's necessary, or alternatively, worth it, to abandon Rexall Place.

**I don't think there's any question that a new place would have dozens of features to recommend it over Rexall Place, but if you agree that money talks, customers aren't dissatisfied with Rexall (see top).

**I got the impression before I moved here that it might as well be out in Kanata, but jeez, it's 2 LRT stops (5 minutes) from the east end of downtown, and maybe 10 minutes from the west end/legislature. It's about as handy to downtown as you could want without being within walking distance.

**The CFR -- Rexall's 2nd most important tenant and a genuine boon to the city's economy -- is very likely to bolt for the Stampede grounds if "shuttling cattle back and forth downtown proves to be too complicated and costly". I'm not a logistics guy, but I sense that this would be a major challenge.

**And, I mentioned that I'm not a logistics guy, but even maintaining the existing level of concerts and events at a new downtown location won't be easy. There are no arterial roads to speak of near downtown Edmonton. Just given the price and availabilty of land, blacktop for parking and access around the new place will presumably be limited. But of course it's not "just given" that; the whole idea is to have lots of development around the arena, not lots of development around a 200m strip of asphalt around the arena.

Here's a couple of pics I snapped from the window of the Coliseum Inn, at about 9AM on the morning of a Rascall Flatts concert (after an Oilers game the night before).

Approximately 20 tractor-trailers and 10 Maddencruisers, all told. The difficulties in organizing something like this downtown are not at all insurmountable. That said, every square foot of space surrounding the building that's used for accommodating major concert acts and the like is a square foot that's not being used for the vitality (re-vitality?) of the surrounding development of retail, housing, etc. And as such, it must be acknowledged that the new plan has what everyone besides politicians call "tradeoffs".

Or, we could just pretend that the new place will be fairytale perfect, featuring everything you like about the old place, plus a reasonably-priced restaurant you like a few steps out the front door, and plenty of open urinals at intermission.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Sound and Fury

"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

"Tremendously reassuring was LaForge's return, time and time again, to the rhetoric of making Edmonton great, emphasizing downtown revitalization, going on about improving the city. Which means that the development will strive to fit in and complement downtown, that the esthetics (or the "look") of the arena and surroundings won't be sacrificed on the altar of cost-cutting.

I'm convinced that lifelong Edmontonian Katz wants to leave a lasting legacy."

--Graham Hicks, Edmonton Sun


Some links from the past few days.

New Oilers Arena Underway--Gordon Kent, Edmonton Journal
Much Ado About Nothing--John MacKinnon, Edmonton Journal
Progress on Arena--Unsigned Editorial, Edmonton Journal
City in Dark on Arena--Frank Landry, Edmonton Sun
Patience is Key to Worthwhile Arena--Graham Hicks, Edmonton Sun
Despite Funding Questions, Edmonton Oilers Proceed With New Downtown Arena--Canadian Press
Arena Could Leave Poor Our in Cold, Advocates Say--Richard Warnica, Edmonton Journal
Edmonton Arena Developments--Brad Humphreys, International Journal of Sports Finance
Columbus a Model for Edmonton?--Scott Hennig, Canadian Taxpayers Federation
Katz Plan Should Go Ahead, But With Strict Conditions--Scott McKeen, Edmonton Journal


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