Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Lanny McDonald for Don Lever & Bob Macmillan

"You would make this trade last month, this month or next year." - Sharks GM Doug Wilson, after trading Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, and Wayne Primeau for Joe Freaking Thornton

Doug Wilson, a humble man, understates things considerably. So do you pity Bruins fans, or figure they should have seen it coming? They're like the woman who won't leave no matter how much the old man smacks her around.

Or maybe tonight, they're more like Jackie Chiles: "This is the most public yet of my many humiliations."

Pierre Maguire is blustery by nature, but he was downright outraged on behalf of Bruins Fan tonight. And no wonder! Joe Thornton still has things to prove for sure. But he's a Top 5 NHL forward, and he got traded for two above-average yet utterly replaceable players. Mike O'Connell is insane, and/or very, very bad at his job.

And note to Sharks fans who are a little melancholy about seeing a couple of team pillars go: when the Flames made the trade in the post header, my initial reaction was, "oh...I liked Don Lever". This is good news for you.

Aw, crap. I just realized that means it's bad news for Flames fans.


Number One Centres

Yesterday, I threw out a Darryl Sutter quote as an aside to the game preview: "There's only about seven or eight actual No. 1 centremen in the National Hockey League." We went on about it in the comments a bit, with Cosh saying, "when you follow the statement to its consequences it falls apart, like a lot of offhanded stuff coaches say."

Two points:
  1. Cosh's generalization about the "offhanded stuff coaches say" is indisputably true
  2. Darryl Sutter does not need another nod-and-repeat-er, or apologist, and I have no desire to be one
However, I think Sutter's statement is defensible from a certain angle. One definition of a #1 centre, and a decent one I think, is a guy who a coach is happy to throw out there in any key situation. Where the coach is thinking, "We need [something] here, I'm sure glad I can send [#1 centre] out, because I'm pretty sure I'm going to get it."

Based on the past 2-3 seasons (as opposed to the 1st 25 games of this season), my list would be: Forsberg, Lecavalier, Sundin, Modano, Sakic, Marleau, Brad Richards, and Joe Thornton.

That's my top tier. Now who isn't on this list of eight, that maybe should be?

The young guys. I doubt that Carolina would trade Staal for anybody on that list, correctly. But his body of work is pretty thin at the moment. Same with Crosby. Spezza? I still get the impression that when they're up a goal late, Murray would rather have Mike Fisher out there than Spezza. Also, I haven't gotten the sense that Spezza has that ability to "take over a game", although again, it's tough to stand out in that way when you consider who he's playing with. Maybe Andrew or McMurtry can disavow me of these notions, if false.

Furthermore, if you want to include these guys in that top tier, you have to take Sakic off (data point: look at Sakic's shifts, and Laperriere's, after the 3rd goal last night - who's the Avs' #1 centre right now?).

The too-far-past-their-prime guys. Mario isn't a chance-creating machine anymore, and is a major defensive liability. So's Pierre Turgeon (somewhat less so). Lindros doesn't dominate. Weight isn't the guy he used to be--he hasn't scored a point-per-game since he left Edmonton in 2001. I'd also put Roenick, Yzerman, Primeau, Nieuwendyk, and Fedorov in this category; they once belonged, but no more.

The flaky guys. Marc Savard has 37 points in 25 games, but he gets hurt all the time. And somehow, no matter how well he's playing at the moment, he's a constant threat to be a healthy scratch 10 games down the road. Nylander and Jokinen belong here too. If there's a chance you might be in the coach's doghouse next week, you're not a legit #1 centreman.

Yashin has probably played his way out of this category this year, and belongs at the top with the big boys, but his past playoff performances drag him back to here, in my eyes.

Also, I have to put Pavel Datsyuk here, or maybe more charitably in the "young guys" category. Is he the New Magic Man? Because it seems like whenever the Wings most need a big performance from him, he disappears (0 goals in 12 playoff games in 2004).

The not-quite-enough-pop guys. These are the guys who the coach probably is confident throwing out there in any situation, but who lack premium offensive skills, at least relative to the big boys. Craig Conroy. Brendan Morrison. Probably Horcoff. Maybe Briere.

The leftover guy. I hardly ever see Montreal games, and he's injured a lot, so I just have no earthly clue how good Saku Koivu is, or isn't.

Again, Sutter's statement is basically non-disprovable. You can pick any number (X) and say that's how many #1 centres there are. You just pick your Top X centres, look at what they bring as a group that lesser players don't, and define that as what constitutes as #1 centre.

I have my own preferred definition. It seems like the NHL has changed in the past 20 years such that a highly gifted player is more likely to be a winger and less likely to be a centre (why this is is a subject for another day). On most teams, the top offensive player is a winger, and the #1 line is whichever line that guy's on. So the mission of most teams' #1 centre is to allow that star winger to be as good as he can be. If he's successful at that, then he is a bona fide number-one NHL centre to my mind.

That's why a guy like Craig Conroy deserves credit as a #1 centre. In the previous three seasons, his right winger won the Rocket Richard Trophy twice. This year, Pavol Demitra is having a career year on his right side, and so is Frolov on his left. Coincidence? Bah.

Peter Forsberg, Vincent Lecavalier, Mats Sundin, Mike Modano, Patrick Marleau, Brad Richards, Joe Thornton, Craig Conroy, Brendan Morrison, Shawn Horcoff, Eric Staal, Jason Spezza, and Sidney Crosby. That's my list of the 13 genuine #1 centres in the NHL on November 30, 2005. Insults are encouraged.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


!thhpppttt! [updated]

A local youth group reacts to the result of tonight's Flames-Predators game [and the Oilers-Avs game - sacamano].

It sounds like both Alberta teams outplayed the opposition but didn't get the results. !thhpppttt! indeed.


Never mind

Looks like my support for Steve Yzerman's Olympic candidacy yesterday has been proved wrong and/or made moot by recent events. In short, I didn't know how bad his knee still was. Today Bob McKenzie is wondering if Stevie Y might just retire--like, right now.

I watched the Nov. 16 Wings-Flames game (without sound), and parts of the Nov. 17 Wings-Oilers game, and thought he looked pretty much like the Yzerman of the past 5 years. I didn't realize he was only playing about 12 minutes a game.

His ice time in the past 3 games: 6:17, 6:37, 9:28. Whether that's all his knee allows him to play, or the knee has harmed his play enough that that's all the time he deserves, it hardly matters. At that rate, I would expect him to retire shortly. If not, he will certainly beg off the Olympics for the rest.

Too bad, Steve - Canada can always use a guy like you.


Trouble in paradise?

Exclusive report: must credit Battle of Alberta

While most of the city is bundled up to enjoy the Grey Cup victory parade, it's not all ham and plaques in Edmonton. A source close to the Oilers has forwarded me this transcript of a very tense exchange from the Oil's team meal after their morning skate:
Morrison: Hey! What the hell is this, Laraque?
Laraque: It's a bol of shau-dere, Michel.
Morrison: Wait a minute, come here. What did you call it? Say it loud enough so everyone can hear. Come on, say it...
Laraque: Ahem. Shau-dere.
Morrison: [raucous laughter] Shau-dere? Shau-dere? It's "chow-dah". Say it right!
Laraque: [pause] Shaudear.
Morrison: [laughter] Come back here! I'm not through demeaning you.
Laraque: I send you back to Greenville dans une boite, p'tit merde...

Morrison's condition is not presently known, although he is still tapped as the Oilers' starting goalie tonight.

Related info here: the header gave me a good five-minute laugh. And if none of this makes any sense, clearly you haven't heard a Mike Morrison interview.


Flames Game Day

The Flames head into Nashville tonight for the first of a 5-game roadie. By his own account (he comes on Calgary radio fairly often), former Flames coach and multiple Cup-winner Terry Crisp is loving life as the colour guy on Predators TV broadcasts.

I'm having trouble figuring Nashville out. Are they good? Well, they have 31 points in 21 games; they have a top-10 NHL goalie; and they were full value for their 8th-place finish last year. Are they mediocre? Well, they've only scored 6 more goals than they've allowed (63/57); their team net plus/minus is -4; and their marquee offseason addition has less than 1 PPG (20 in 21 games, 12 of which are on the PP) and is a team-worst -8.

They have 3 wins over St. Louis, and haven't yet faced Detroit, Vancouver, or Calgary. Colour me unimpressed, I guess. They're probably a playoff team, though: the number of intradivisional games on the schedule just about guarantees that two teams from every division will finish Top-8 in the conference, and the Hawks little run of late hasn't convinced me that they'll be the #2 in the Central.

As for the Flames, even with that little bump in the road on Friday night, they're still on an excellent roll. They have one regulation loss in their past 13 games (10-1-2), and a win tonight will give them sole possession of 1st in the Northwest.

Their attack in the shootout loss Friday, both even-strength and on the PP, left a lot to be desired. They won't be successful going forward if they create so few scoring chances. And yet, sometimes a team gets held to one, or zero, goals. It happens to all teams, and except for the rare 50-save masterpiece by the opposing goalie, you never come away from one of those games thinking the offense looked good. It'll be better tonight. But they could sure use Lombardi...

Speaking of which, here's the tough-love quote of the day from Darryl Sutter (my emphasis):
As for who'll be Calgary's top centre in the near future, nothing is set in stone.
Sutter admits he doesn't know the answer yet, especially with Matthew Lombardi still on the shelf with an ankle injury.

"Daymond's a proven 20-goal, 30-assist guy, so that's what we expect of him ... When Rhino's on, he's really good and when he's not, you can't use him."

Ooof. Bonus Sutter quote: "There's only about seven or eight actual No. 1 centremen in the National Hockey League." This statement is a lot more plausible when you look at the list of #1 centres (statistically), c/w numbers, at the bottom of the article.

Puck drops at 6PM MST, PPV and FAN960. Go Flames.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Quarter Pole

A few teams have now played 26 games, but the Senators only played their 20th on Friday afternoon. Below, I have posted the Standings based on the points and goal differential of every team through their 20th game. I don't really have much to say about them now (except for "Damn! The Senators are playing well!"), but I anticipate doing it again for each of the next three quarters of the season, and there may be some interesting comparisons.

Peter Maher, the only radio play-by-play voice the Flames have ever had, says that the second quarter of the season is where you find out who's for real and who's not. That is, if a team is playing over their heads, or way below their abilities, then they'll either revert to form in the 2nd quarter, or not at all. This sounds suspiciously like a hunch that's unsupportable by the numbers; I hope to find out one way or another.

Eastern Conference Standings thru 20 games

  1. OTT 34
  2. CAR 29
  3. PHI 27
  4. MTL 29
  5. NYR 25
  6. TOR 24
  7. BUF 22
  8. NYI 20
  9. NJD 20
  10. TBL 19
  11. BOS 19
  12. PIT 18
  13. ATL 17
  14. WSH 16
  15. FLA 16
Goal Differential:
  1. OTT 53
  2. NYR 18
  3. PHI 14
  4. CAR 14
  5. MTL 5
  6. TOR 3
  7. BUF -1
  8. TBL -2
  9. ATL -4
  10. NYI -7
  11. BOS -8
  12. NJD -11
  13. FLA -15
  14. PIT -23
  15. WSH -28
Western Conference Standings thru 20 games

  1. DET 31
  2. LAK 27
  3. VAN 26
  4. NSH 31
  5. DAL 27
  6. COL 24
  7. CGY 24
  8. EDM 21
  9. PHX 20
  10. MIN 20
  11. SJS 20
  12. CHI 18
  13. ANA 18
  14. STL 11
  15. CBJ 10
Goal differential:
  1. DET 28
  2. LAK 18
  3. COL 14
  4. DAL 11
  5. VAN 8
  6. NSH 8
  7. MIN 7
  8. PHX 2
  9. EDM 1
  10. CGY -1
  11. ANA -5
  12. SJS -14
  13. CHI -15
  14. STL -28
  15. CBJ -33
Note: don't try to use these numbers to calculate much else for the league as a whole, as it's not a "closed system" -- some teams played their 20th game vs. an opponent playing their 21st, etc. For example, the goal differentials don't add up to zero


In defense of Stevie Y

I was listening to Live From Wayne Gretzky's Saturday afternoon, and heard the 10th iteration of a discussion that's been going on for months on talk radio: should Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman be on the Canadian Olympic hockey team? Here's the gist of the "problem", from Bob McKenzie:
Slice it however you like, the first 12 forward positions appear to be spoken for and we haven't even mentioned Mario Lemieux or Steve Yzerman, who because of their stature in this game, especially with Gretzky, get to call their own shot. They're on the team unless they say otherwise.

If Lemieux and Yzerman do speak up and bow out gracefully, perhaps one of Staal, Spezza or Crosby gets the call.

So the idea is this (and again, I've heard this from a dozen hockey pundits): they deserve to be on the team, and they don't deserve to be on the team. Apparently no one has the balls to just say, "I disagree with Wayne Gretzky--these two guys are no longer worthy of being on the team, regardless of what they want themselves." Why not? Why is everyone engaging in this surreal meta-commentary, instead of analysing what they think would be best for the team, then stating an opinion?

The thing that really gets me is this underlying wish that Stevie and Mario will "bow out gracefully". Here's the Yzerman half of the angle:
It is Lemieux and Detroit's Steve Yzerman who are most often mentioned as players who have been surpassed by Canada's young talent. But Gretzky has publicly promised both players spots on Team Canada.

Unlike Lemieux, Yzerman last week did not sound as if he was prepared to let Gretzky and the rest of Team Canada's brain trust off the hook by withdrawing.

"They're picking the team," said Yzerman, who has two goals and four assists in 14 games. "If my play between now and then merits a spot, I'll be there. If it doesn't, I won't."

Now pardon me, but that does sound like Yzerman is "letting them off the hook". How much more grace do you want? He's asking to be chosen, or not, on merit, with no references to any promises, or career contributions, or anything else. The disagreement, or controversy, here is simply this: McKenzie and friends don't think Yzerman can contribute as well as 13 other forwards, whereas Yzerman thinks he can. And as it happens, I agree with Yzerman.

Try thinking of it this way: what did Yzerman bring to the table in 2002 that he can't bring now? Very little, in my mind. He's still an excellent defensive forward who's won 3 Stanley Cups. He'll play whatever role Quinn wants him to. He's not as good offensively as he was 15 years ago, but he can still be dangerous skating in the direction of the opposing team's goal, and unlike some other checking centres, he can sure as hell bang a puck into an open net.

Steve Yzerman would not be a liability to the Canadian Olympic team in any way. (In contrast to (obviously) Mario, Spezza, or even Crosby, who hasn't proved himself (yet) to be very rigourous in the defensive end).

For all of Mario's good points, and past contributions, I don't think he would be a good selection. However, Gretzky has said that it's up to him, and so it shall be. Here's what I hope happens, and I think I'll use it as a prediction, too:

Lemieux bows out with the understanding that Crosby will be selected in "his place". Yzerman is selected to the team, amid some controversy (I'd guess Spezza is a definite No, and Staal is probably left looking in as well). Then Canada wins the gold, Yzerman plays well, and we wonder what all the fuss was about.

Note: Update-slash-reversal here.


Offered without comment calculates the most underpriced and overpriced players in the game.

I promised on Friday that I'd stop talking about (surprise!) the most overpriced player. The biggest surprise to me on the underpriced side is that there's someone who's a better deal than Sidney Crosby at $850k. That assessment will be shortlived, I suspect.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Grey Cup Madness

The oldest trophy in North American sports is up for grabs tomorrow.

I guess this really doesn't belong on the BofA blog since, well, Calgary didn't really get their horse out of the gate. Nevertheless, since the Eskies are there -- again -- it seemed necessary to mention it.

I attended the 2002 Grey Cup in Regina, and I am convinced that it is the most fun you can have with your pants on. I'm not sure I've ever had a better weekend. In an effort to recreate that magic, I'm starting on the Grey Cup Party circuit today, and so I likely will not be around a computer for the next few days.

For some fantastic CFL commentary check out the excellent CanadianRules. A great looking site with some equally terrific content. Rumour has it that they are evey liveblogging the big game.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Five plus

I loved that overtime. They drop the puck with about 3 minutes left, and Millions tells us it's Peca, Dvorak, Staios & Ulanov against Iginla, Reinprecht, Phaneuf & Hamrik. I'm thinking, "Woo-hoo!" Then, the Oilers keep the Flames stuck in their own end for about 25 seconds or so; quite a while, but not long enough that anyone went to the bench when the play went the other direction.

Then the Flames had the puck in Edmonton's end for, what, a minute and a half? Millions was yapping about how long Iginla had been out there, even though he didn't look that tired, while Peca and Ulanov were still out there too, and bloody well did. The whole shift went from something like 3:00 left to 1:00 left. And when there was a whistle with 40 seconds left, guess who was back out there? Look at that shift chart.

Pisani made a nice move for the shootout goal. When Phaneuf got announced as the third shooter, I was concerned.

Rare Sutter criticism alert: I think we're all clear 20-ish games into the season that shooting is preferable to deking in the shootout (ice conditions, etc.). We also understand that putting your best guy 3rd doesn't make sense, because he might not even get a chance.

But putting Phaneuf in the top 3, or most especially 3rd, just tells Mike Morrison that you plan on beating him by shooting. It could have worked out, I guess; it didn't.

Going forward, the key to winning shootouts will be forcing the opposing goalie to play it honestly. Yeah, Iginla shoots on most if not all breakaways, but if the goalie comes out too far, Jarome will turn his ass upside down. As fast as the "bad ice, gotta shoot" wisdom has appeared, it will disappear, because NHL goalies simply are too good when they know what's coming.

Maybe more tomorrow; I guess there was 60 minutes of regulation that I haven't mentioned. As always, check Covered In Oil for funny and fair recaps.


BofA Gameday Open Thread



Last one

And I see the election campaign is already underway in Edmonton:

I am now officially bored/done with hacking on Mike Peca.

UPDATE: I spoke too soon about "last one"; the contributions of site readers must be passed on. From peter:

And jhuck has some choice Bible smack:
I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree; the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. - Ezekiel 20:47

A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth; the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. - Joel 2: 3-5



Battle Game Day (Lopsided Edition)

2005/10/20: EDM 1 @ CGY 3
2005/10/15: EDM 0 @ CGY 3
2004/03/09: EDM 1 @ CGY 1
2003/12/28: CGY 2 @ EDM 1
2003/12/23: EDM 1 @ CGY 2
2003/11/15: CGY 1 @ EDM 2 (OT)
2003/10/25: CGY 4 @ EDM 2
2003/10/14: EDM 0 @ CGY 1
2003/04/05: CGY 4 @ EDM 1
2003/03/11: EDM 5 @ CGY 2 (Ta-da!)
2003/02/07: CGY 4 @ EDM 3
2003/01/20: EDM 3 @ CGY 4

Wow. In the last twelve games between Calgary and Edmonton, we have nine Flames regulation wins, one Oilers regulation win, one Oilers overtime win, and one tie.

Remember this movie? I barely do either, but it was #1 at the box office the last time Edmonton beat Calgary in regulation. Heady days.

The bad news for the Flames tonight is that Dvorak is going to be super-motivated, having been released from Peca's line (now he has two linemates to help him create scoring chances, instead of just one). Just look at what happened with Hemsky when they untied that anchor from him.

In all seriousness, the demotion of Peca to the 4th line speaks well of Craig Mactavish. It shows that he's not worried about what money Peca makes, just what he can do on the ice, even though it might be embarrassing to Kevin Lowe, which by the way, it should be.

But back to the Flames: they're the hottest team in the NHL right now. Tonight is the last game of a stretch where they play 10 of 12 at home. They've won both of their road games, and 8 of their 9 home games (all in regulation time). They're 8-2 in the Northwest Division.

And possibly best of all, they've done it without the guy who probably figures to be their #1 centreman: Matthew Lombardi remains out with a high ankle sprain. In 20-odd games, it has become received wisdom in Calgary that Daymond Langkow is not a "#1 centre" (as you may recall from the preseason, I agree). Right now Reinprecht is centering Iginla (and Kobasew), but when Lombardi gets back to full speed, he's more intense and better offensively than Rhino.

If you need a reminder of what M.L. can do, check the highlights from the Dallas home opener. Iginla is the only other guy on the team who could make those two passes for primary assists.

The previous Coach Sutter used to say that the most important game on a roadtrip was the last home game before you took off. I doubt this bears out statistically, but I expect a strong performance tonight before the Flames head out for five on the road.

Eventually, the Oil is going to win one of these games, but I don't see much reason why it should be tonight. I think Calgary wins 4-3, and we finally see some fireworks and pissed-off players. Go Flames.


Canadian Blog Awards

The Battle of Alberta has been nominated for Best Sports Blog - you can go here to vote. If it's not going to be for us, Golbez, Mirtle, and Canucks OpEd are all in the running, and are all good hockey blogs that I read regularly.

And if you are going to head over there, please take the time to add your votes for in the Best Blog and Best Media Blog category, and also for Tart Cider (LCBO Privatization) in the Best Blog Post Series. These guys are both good friends of this blog, and probably have the two best sites on the web.


Rev your Engines.

It looks like the RPM line is going to be reunited for the big BoA tonight. I love that line.

Oh, ya, it also means our 4th line centre will be making lots and lots of money.


You're welcome - now enough!

This afternoon on Long Island, the Ottawa Senators will be the last NHL team to play their 20th game of the season. Now that we're fully one-quarter into the season, I think it's time for the NHL to paint over those bloody "Thank You Fans" inside both blue lines at every rink.

The lockout is history. Still seeing that message 20 games in reminds me of Bill Dauterive dressing up as Santa well into February. (I also have a fond memory of some radio talker on January 1, 1990: "Well folks, it's the 90s now, a new decade, so you know what that means: time to take those 'I Drove The Coquihalla' bumper stickers off your cars.")


Holy Oil

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Is. It. Ever.

Make sure to email us if you have a good one.




Let's Pray Hockey!

I was going to wait and just spring some stuff on Matt tomorrow, but the potential in this is so great that it requires the collective wisdom of hockey fans everywhere. Thanks to Grabia at Sports Matters for pointing me to this site, where you too can make your own church signs*.

Here are some more early attempts, but I'm sure you all can do much better.

*None of these obviously fake signs are endorsed by the real First Baptist Church


Battle of Alberta - Flames are a Joke Edition

Season Record: 13-10-1 Season Record: 14-8-2

Enough fooling around. It's time to take the gloves off. Tomorrow's Battle of Alberta is clearly more than just another regular season game.

Since (1) there have been far too few insults on this board, (2) I'm not witty enough to come up with anything original today, and (3) I'm a sucker for terrible jokes, here are a couple. Please add more.

Q: How do you find Calgary?
A: Walk south until you smell it and then west until you step in it.

Q: What do the Flames and the Titanic have in common?
A: They both look terrific until they hit the ice.

Q: What do the Calgary Stampeders and the Calgary Flames have in common?
A: Neither team can play hockey . . . or football.

Q: Why can't Pamela Anderson support the Flames?
A: The Flames' one cup can't support her.


Quick, pull a groin

Mike Morrison has now been with the club for 30 days, meaning that if he gets sent back to the minors he has to clear waivers. My guess is that, sadly, he's as good as gone when this happens.

I just can't see K-Lowe or Mac-T shipping off their preseason #1 goaltender to keep Morrison.

Can we keep Conks on IR or "conditioning stints" for the rest of the season? Can Mo pull a groin when Conks gets healthy?


DJ Horc and the Crafty Czech

Horc was wired up for last night's game giving us this terrific exchange (at the 2:50 minute mark of highlights clip).

Hemsky tells Horc how to win a faceoff, and it gets him a goal. Fantastic.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005



Looks like my wish came true: both the Flames and the Oil are on a little roll (one of us has even won 10 of the past 11 games!). I don't think there's going to be any excuses for Friday's head-to-head matchup, not that it would matter much anyway.

- Hey, excellent pass by Peca on the Oilers', ERRRRR, Wild's 3rd goal tonight. (I'm kidding, of course: when a guy does that much for you on the offensive end, you have to forgive the odd turnover in your own end that leads directly to a goal...).

I have my 3rd consecutive day of work away from the computer tomorrow (or as Matt's wife calls it, "actual work"), but on Friday I should be smacking up a storm all day. Have I mentioned that the Oilers suck lately? They do, you know... (plus, I have a friend who went to primary school with Raffi Torres, and apparently he always cheated at dodgeball**. Not cool, Raffi!!)

**Story not true


Flames Game Night

The Flames are gonna have their way, to-night... they play the Sharks in about half an hour at the "Pengrowth Saddledome", a name that Cosh has previously suggested sounds like an internet manhood enhancement scheme.

What can I say? The standings aren't ordered by coolness of rink name. (Or, fortunately for both the Flames and Oilers, consistency of rink name--although at least the Flames haven't changed their mind about what their building is every time they get a new sponsor. It's a coliseum! No, it's a centre! No, it's a place! My guess for next name for the Oilers' home is the "Schlumberger lksjdf..."

Puck drop at 7, radio only for the first time in a while. Go Flames.



Inspired by this post by Cosh, I've been following the league in terms of Goal Differential as well as the other usual measures of success.

It shows, similiar to Benjamin's observation yesterday, that the East and West are playing different games.

Only five teams in the East have a postitive defensive goal differential - and one of them is in last place!

In the West, on the other hand, only five teams don't have a positive defensive goal differential - including, alas, Edmonton.

The offensive goal differential numbers are similar only the other way around.

One thing that really sticks out, though, is that Calgary is one of only two teams in a playoff spot with a negative total goal differential. In fact, there are 6 Western teams below Calgary with a positive goal differential.

There are, of course, lots of other interesting things you can identify. Like, for example, the fact that Pittsburgh actually has a positive offensive GD. If they ever got a goaltender/defence they might actually be a good team. Nashville and Minnie, in contrast, have the best DGD in the West but are simply atrocious at scoring goals. Ottawa, for all the talk of their goal scoring, is actually doing better on the defensive end of the ice than the offensive end. Doug MacLean is the luckiest GM alive, because he still has his job despite the fact that his team can't do anything well. Etc.

I don't know how well this table will render on other computers - my html skills are limited at best, and it is just a cut 'n' paste from a larger hotlinked excel table on my desktop.

Eastern Conference
%/PA W% Goal Diff. GD Off. GD Def. GF/ Game GA/ Game RK
0.842 0.842 49 22.87 26.13 4.74 2.16 1 OTTAWA*
0.646 0.583 17 9.87 7.13 3.21 2.50 2 NY RANGERS*
0.690 0.667 12 7.87 4.13 3.57 3.00 3 CAROLINA*
0.705 0.636 2 0.87 1.13 3.09 3.00 4 MONTREAL
0.675 0.600 14 17.87 -3.87 4.25 3.55 5 PHILADELPHIA
0.619 0.571 7 10.87 -3.87 3.71 3.38 6 TORONTO
0.543 0.478 4 4.87 -0.87 3.13 2.96 7 TAMPA BAY
0.548 0.524 -2 2.87 -4.87 3.33 3.43 8 BUFFALO







0.524 0.524 -5 -0.13 -4.87 3.19 3.43 9 NY ISLANDERS
0.500 0.450 -11 -6.13 -4.87 3.05 3.60 10 NEW JERSEY
0.455 0.318 -25 0.87 -25.87 3.09 4.23 11 PITTSBURGH
0.432 0.318 -10 1.87 -11.87 3.14 3.59 12 BOSTON
0.429 0.381 -5 5.87 -10.87 3.48 3.71 13 ATLANTA
0.381 0.381 -29 -6.13 -22.87 2.90 4.29 14 WASHINGTON
0.381 0.286 -17 -20.13 3.13 2.24 3.05 15 FLORIDA

Western Conference
%/PA W% Goal Diff. GD Off. GD Def. GF/ Game GA/ Game RK
0.727 0.682 26 12.87 13.13 3.64 2.45 1 DETROIT*
0.705 0.682 22 17.87 4.13 3.86 2.86 2 LOS ANGELES*
0.682 0.636 11 5.87 5.13 3.32 2.82 3 VANCOUVER*
0.609 0.565 -1 -8.13 7.13 2.57 2.61 4 CALGARY
0.750 0.667 5 -13.13 18.13 3.00 2.72 5 NASHVILLE
0.675 0.650 11 4.87 6.13 3.60 3.05 6 DALLAS
0.595 0.524 13 13.87 -0.87 3.86 3.24 7 COLORADO
0.543 0.522 2 3.87 -1.87 3.09 3.00 8 EDMONTON







0.500 0.458 4 -2.13 6.13 2.71 2.54 9 PHOENIX
0.500 0.450 7 -13.13 20.13 2.70 2.35 10 MINNESOTA
0.500 0.400 -14 -15.13 1.13 2.60 3.30 11 SAN JOSE
0.455 0.364 -5 -10.13 5.13 2.59 2.82 12 ANAHEIM
0.429 0.429 -17 -7.13 -9.87 2.86 3.67 13 CHICAGO
0.275 0.200 -28 -15.13 -12.87 2.60 4.00 14 ST LOUIS
0.238 0.238 -37 -29.13 -7.87 1.81 3.57 15 COLUMBUS

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


That's what I've been fookin saying

Pleasure Motors is on a roll:
Mike Peca quite literally can't put the puck into an empty net. I'm not sure if you saw highlights, but fook, he could have been shooting on a midget guarding the end boards and he would have found a way to miss last night.

Is it ironic, inappropriate, or neither that my favourite hockey weblog is one devoted to the Edmonton Oilers? There's several I like a lot, but I just don't think you can beat Chris!, mike w, and Pleasure Motors.

In case it is inappropriate, I won't use any more superlatives. But it's hard not to like them when they keep agreeing with me...


Smyth da Sniper

Pretty slow game last night.

Morrison looked solid, which is nice. Sure he looks a bit awkward, but he certainly seems to have better rebound control than Jussi. After the game MacT indicated that he would be very willing to start him back to back, so we might see him in Minnie.

I wish they kept shootout statistics (anyone?). Unless I'm mistaken, Smyth is 100% going all the way back to preseason including both overtime shootouts and regular old penalty shots. Plus he is still in the league's top 3 in shooting percentage.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Oh yeah: Flames Game Day!

The Flames take on the Avalanche in Denver tonight; if they win, they'll have a winning record against all four other Northwest Division teams (2-1 v. MIN, 2-1 v. COL, 2-0 v. VAN, 2-0 v. Nostalgiaville).

Radio says Shean Donovan is a healthy scratch tonight, along with Wiemer (and Montador). This means Macdonald, Ritchie, and Simon are all in.

And since the Hardy Astrom whammy worked so well last time, I'm going with it again. Puck drop at 7 (Flames PPV, FSRM). Go Flames.


Razor really does have an Edge

The bl*g appears to be a medium made for Darryl Reaugh. On inexperienced officials learning as they go:
It's the Seven Dwarfs School of refereeing. They whistle while they work.

Not hockey related, but I still laughed:
I bought a Dyson vacuum. At $440 this thing had better suck.

On his visit to Disneyland:
Snow White could stand to lose a couple pounds...I think Cinderella hit on me. (very uncomfortable)...I think Disney is missing a real opportunity by having very little in the way of merchandising available for sale...I found the Fairy Godmother to be a little bitchy...

And on a marginally more serious and hockey-related note, check out What Worries Me (really).


What have you got to lose, Gretzky?

Just me, or is it pretty incredible that the three main young players now considered to be on the bubble for selection to the Canadian Olympic hockey team are Crosby, Staal, & Nash?

Do you think headline writers are pressuring their papers' columnists to make this happen? Would Eric Staal add an S to his last name to make the puns slightly less tortured?

And if Quinn put them all on one line, what would we call it? The Woodstock line? Canadian Dream?

Reader submissions are urgently requested. All aboard the train!


Oiler Vision

During my hiatus, I went to a bookstore and was flipping through the hockey section. There is a nice little book called, "Shooting from the Lip: hockey's best quotes and quips."

Naturally, I perused it for the better part of an hour while sipping on my overpriced coffee. All the usual suspects are in there: Roenick, Hull, Chelios, etc.

But the best part was a two-page spread that looked something like this:

"When I look at the net I don't see a goalie"
Pavel Bure

"When I look at the net I see 3 or 4 goalies"-
Radek Dvorak

It explains so much.


Oilers Game Day and random thoughts

Season Record: 11-10-1 Season Record: 8-8-3


Ok, I really am back now.

Some random thoughts.


My calendar says it's 2005

Far be it from me to speak on behalf of today's Oilers fans, but why has the organization elected to make a big pre-game ceremony out of replacing all their championship banners? Maybe I have an overly short memory, but it seems like every time the Oil celebrates their past, the present suffers in a big way.

- On October 18th, Paul Coffey's number was retired with the Oilers on a three-game losing streak. They lost that game in OT, then lost three more before turning it around.

- November 22, 2003: the Oilers were chugging along at 10-7-2 before the Heritage Classic in Commonwealth Stadium. They lost that game (attendance: 57,167), and won 3 games in the rest of 2003 (17 games played). Despite incredible success after the All-Star break, they weren't able to climb out of that hole.

The irony that the banners are being replaced due to old age is apparently lost on Kevin Lowe, but I have to think that even Coach Mac is starting to dread these trips down memory lane. And Cosh can't be the only fan who is "finally fed up with Heritage Classics and living in the past..."

Someone named Gary Poignant writes in the Edmonton Sun today that raising 22 banners is a bit much: "Do us all a favour, Oilers brass, and give Stanley some space up there."

I think that until they get over this compulsion to look wistfully backwards, they're unlikely to need it.

MORE: I don't mean for it to sound like I think those previous two remembrances were a bad idea; they weren't. The Heritage Classic was by all accounts a wild success, and provided fans with actual entertainment and memories. The team's slump afterwards probably couldn't have been foreseen. Likewise, Paul Coffey earned his tribute, and I'm sure the fans at the game enjoyed it.

But tonight's proposed "ceremony" baffles me. Who is the ad wizard in the Oiler organization who thought, "You know what we need? A big to-do to remind our fans, and players, that we haven't won anything in 15 years! It's been a whole month since we acknowledged the greatness of the '80s Oilers!"

If the team has to stand on the bench for so much as a minute to witness this exercise in laundry maintenance, I think it's a terrible idea. Naturally, I hope things turn out as well as they did the last couple of times.

Sunday, November 20, 2005



An all-too-irregular feature here at the Battle of Alberta is our check-in at the TSN Message boards, to take the pulse of the hockey nation. And as you may recall, half the joke is in relaying only the first few words, and assuming it captures the spirit of the thing.

So! Here's some of the first ten takes on today's Vancouver-Anaheim game, where I gather the refs were having a very, very bad day:
I didn't see the game, and it should be remembered that, no matter what the rules are, some game has got to be the most poorly officiated of the year. But that ain't good.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Hawks win! Hawks win!

Hey, full credit to the Blackhawks for their two fairly convincing wins in Alberta. But I don't think I'm being snippy to say that, if they expect to be a playoff team, they have to stop cheating so damn much.

I thought the reffing as a whole tonight was probably the worst I've seen all year, but the facts remain:
The three most penalized teams in the league for the past 3 seasons are:
The thing that 7 of these 9 teams have in common is their non-playoffness. Full marks to Chicago for their PK--seriously, it's terrific--but this can't continue.

Also, an FYI for those of you like Sacamano who attended in person: the TV highlight of the game was shortly after the video review gave Stoll the goal to make it 4-2. Trent Yawney was being captured in full closeup (no sound) on HNIC, and (of course) chose that exact moment to yell, "What the F**k is going on!"

In Greg Millen's finest moment of the year, he didn't skip a beat, and chimed in with, "Well I'll tell you what's going on, Coach, the puck went over the red line, ..."

Time for both teams to win a couple of games. I think Friday's BofA Pt.3 will be more fun if the Flames and Oil are both on a roll.



So I guess this NHLPA thing isn't going away anytime soon. Steve Larmer quitting without leaving a note would probably get the fenceposts out of a few players' butts; the letter he wrote figures to influence entire dressing rooms.

"I agree with everything Steve Larmer says." That was Adrian Aucoin, Chicago player rep, between games on Hockey Night In Canada. No hemming or hawing--he practically stared at the camera lens. Anyone still think this is going away quietly?

The segment following that one was a semi-surreal satellite conversation between Ron Maclean (sitting next to Don Cherry) and Greg Millen (sitting next to Jim Hughson).

I'll do Millen a favour and assume that he himself doesn't have any particular agenda. (This might be excessively kind, because it means I have to assume that Millen mentioned Larmer had been "hunting for the past week" as meaningless small talk; it sure wasn't to bolster Larmer's credibility).

Anyway, Millen was insisting that this was entirely a process thing: Larmer's a good guy with "no agenda", he just wants things done right, and as such, he doesn't have any particular problem with Ted Saskin being the head of the NHLPA.

Again, I'll assume that Greg Millen thought he was sticking up for an old teammate against accusations of a personal vendetta, because otherwise, this makes no damn sense whatsover.

Read the letter! Sorry, but Steve Larmer didn't bring up Alan Eagleson--three times, including in the 1st paragraph--because he thinks Ted Saskin is the right guy once all this "procedural stuff" is cleared up. Jeez:
Ted is relying on the players playing the game and not paying attention to a most important matter that could affect many players for many years going forward.

We are a tattered union to say the least and it will take along time for the players to trust those that are left to run the PA.

Sorry Millen, but those aren't the words of a guy who's neutral on the matter. In fact, I can sum up Larmer's ten-paragraph corker in one sentence:

"I'm quitting because I don't think my boss is doing his job, or intends to."

I have no doubt that the remaining supporters of Saskin, whether it's 10%, 50%, or 90% of the NHLPA, would be happy to have the non-supporters painted as bitter with private vendettas, but it just doesn't stand up. There has to be room for a segment who doesn't support Saskin for the job on merit, whether that be his work during the lockout, or his actions since.

Anyway, what does this mean for us lowly fans? Probably nothing, at least for now. However, the possibility of the nuclear option, union decertification, is somewhat less remote today than it was yesterday.

A few months ago, TB had this to say, and it's stayed with me:
It's easy to see why the owners want a house union, but the players?

Again, decertification is still a remote possibility, but you can't tell me there's no agents and players thinking this same way. Stay tuned.



"It's great for the fans," Stoll said. "This is back like it was in the 80s."

If you were on any other team, Stoll, that might not raise any eyebrows.


Oilers Game Day

I've been given strict orders to stay away from computers for the next few days.

So, regular Oiler rantings will resume on Monday.

The good news is that I actually get to see the Oil in person tonight. let's hope it is better than the last time.

Thanks again to Matt for holding down the fort

Friday, November 18, 2005


You're welcome, Flames fans!

Postgame, win #8 v. Detroit:
Flames go for #9 on Friday v. Chicago. I have a karma-destroying post in mind already; plus, I hear that Mark Bell can be dangerous.

Ehhhh, what can I say. I knew the risks.

The one actual conclusion I drew from tonight's game: Trent Yawney, I detested you as a player, but you look like you might make a decent coach. Best of luck. -MF


Flames Game Day

You really can't draw up a more favourable scenario for gaining a 9th straight win than the one in place tonight. They're at home. Their opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, has 4 regulation wins all season, only one of which was on the road, and that was in St. Louis (they also have two OT road wins: extra time v. Patrick Lalime, and shootout v. Petr Budaj). Eric Daze has been out all season, and Tuomo Ruutu is out now.

If you're looking to be contrary, what is there? I guess, like any other goalie in the NHL, the Bulin Wall could play out of his head and win the game on his own. There's also this, from the game preview:
LAST MEETING: Jan. 30, 2004; Blackhawks, 5-3. At Calgary, Alberta, Tuomo Ruutu scored twice as the Blackhawks rallied from a two-goal deficit and halted a franchise-record 19-game road losing streak.

The Flames could lose tonight, but I think the far more likely scenario is that they win (too) easily, lose a bit of their edge, and then lose in Denver on Monday.

You know what the Hawks real problem is? Lots of candidates: terrible owner, terrible president, terrible GM, Trent Yawney, lousy sterile new building. But the real problem is their name. The name "Hawks" is pretty much a permanent whammy for a sports team. Witness:

The Atlanta Hawks (NBA): presently 0-8 on the season. Haven't even appeared in the NBA Finals since moving to Atlanta in 1968. Star forward Bob Pettit led the franchise to its only championship--in St. Louis in 1958.

The Seattle Seahawks (NFL): haven't won a playoff game since January 1984. They're getting all sorts of people excited with their 7-2 record at the moment. These people have short memories.

Our friends the Blackhawks, who last hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1961, thanks to Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Glenn Hall. They're an Original 6 team and only have 3 Cups in total! They've also missed the playoffs 6 of the past 7 years (cough).

There's no baseball teams named the Hawks, but the most famous recent player nicknamed Hawk never even played in the World Series in his 21 seasons.

Time for Calgary's 4th shutout of the season, I figure. Puck drops at 7PM MST, Rogers Sportsnet West. Go Flames.


Goalies, cont.

So have goalies been paying the price, physically, for the NHL rule changes? There's a lot of contradictory and inconclusive information out there, but also a fuzzy notion that it's Open Season on Goalies. The recent addition of Martin Brodeur to the Competition Committee, intentional or not, reinforces this notion, indicating that maybe the NHL is worried too.

This Bucky Gleason column (├×OddMan) offers the following numbers:
In the first month, 23 had been injured, 69 had appeared in at least one game, and 85 wound up on an NHL roster... Atlanta started five goalies in its first 10 games, a first in the NHL... At least 10 goalies had suffered groin injuries.

I count four broad reasons why goalies might be getting injured. The first is described by Ryan Miller:
Miller wondered if goalies are simply getting worn down from so much activity. Scoring and scoring chances have skyrocketed, which means goalies are being forced to stretch, sprawl and scramble more than ever.

It stands to reason that if sometimes (i.e. previously) goalies get injured making saves, or in the normal course of playing their position, then more saves, more scoring chances, and more work by the goalies will result in more injuries. I can't see that there's anything to be done about this: of all the faults you might find with a more wide-open game, "goalies having to work more" isn't likely one of them.

The second is the frequently-mentioned "ice quality", especially in the case of the groin injuries. Assuming this is a problem (something I don't doubt), again, there's not a lot that can be done--certainly not in the context of "modifying the rules of the game". There are enormous expenses and engineering challenges associated with maintaining good ice. If you wanted to decree that (say) Tampa needs to put in place a scheme that provides excellent ice quality in all seasons, it would necessarily require tens of millions of dollars, reducing spectator comfort, and possibly an engineering solution that doesn't yet exist. I assume that this cost-benefit analysis has basically been completed by the NHL and its teams, and this is where we are. There is no quick or cheap fix for ice problems.

Third is the reduced size of the goalie equipment: the Gleason piece notes that some goalies were injured "while wearing smaller equipment", but this is pretty far from saying it was "because of...". This is an open question, as far as I can tell.

Fourth and finally, we have the problem of players "crashing the net", or more specifically, goalies being injured via direct physical contact with opposing players. Whatever the seriousness or extent of this problem, this is something that can be addressed by Colin Campbell, the Competition Committee, et al.--but how best to do that?

When the NHL wants to discourage some act, they can either (A) penalize that act directly or (B) make it more difficult, via other rules, for players to commit that act. Take shooting the puck over the glass to stop the play, for example: the NHL wanted to discourage this, so they made it a minor penalty. They could have made the glass 15 feet higher and achieved the same result: much fewer occasions where a player stops play by putting the puck over the glass.

Similarly, the alternatives to minimize players roughing up the goalies are as follows: (A) penalize it, or (B) let defensive players physically prevent attackers from getting near the net.

I'd propose (A), because I think it will work better, and has much fewer unwanted consequences. In fact, I think the scheme that the NHL is currently using to discourage diving is a good model. In essence, the league should initiate discipline against players (especially repeat offenders) who are physically abusing goalies, regardless of whether there was a penalty called on the play or not.

A good example of what I'm thinking of is Kirk Maltby shoving Jussi Markkanen late in regulation time of yesterday's Oilers win. Although it can be really difficult for referees to determine goalie interference, and whether an attacker was pushed or "acted alone", the ref made the right call. Now although an Attempt to Injure match penalty would have been excessive on the spot, I don't see why Colin Campbell couldn't send Maltby a warning letter, telling him that he's on a watch list of players who initiate contact with goalies, and that future instances will result in supplementary discipline (increasing fines and suspensions). The league office has the advantage of being able to review tapes from various angles to determine who's respecting goalies and who isn't, and can enforce discipline as strictly as they choose.

The other advantage of this strategy is that frankly, defensemen do a lousy job of protecting goalies. They're always shoving attackers into their own goalie, tripping attackers as they head for the net, etc. It's even worse right now, since they're afraid to step right in front of them, but they're still swiping their sticks around the attackers' feet.

The best scenario for the protection of goalies is for defenders to be confident that attackers aren't going to run the goalies; that is, to be confident that goalies are protected by the rules, and that those rules will be enforced. If Kirk Maltby knows that next time he runs into a goalie he's suspended for three games, even if he sells it to the ref (at the time) that he was pushed, he's not going to.

I hope whatever solutions the NHL comes up with, if needed, are no more nutty or convoluted than mine.

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