Saturday, December 31, 2005


Flames Game Night

What's this? The Oilers are in town? Yo Ho Ho! What a jolly way to spend New Year's Eve: watching the Flames trash the Oilers on Our National Broadcaster.

This time, once the Flames get up by two goals, it'll only get better from there. Prediction? Oh, how about 6-0. (In regulation).

Also, I should mention: every word of Sacamano's epic tale of adventure at the Saddledome, recounted below, is true. Exchanging barbs with Ken King, tugging on Harvey's tongue, and sitting in the freaking owner's box wearing his Oilers sweater. That such a "lucky" series of circumstances should involve Sacamano is actually less surprising when you know him. Clean living, baby.

Anyway, here's the photographic evidence from Tuesday. Good times. Thanks, Matt's wife! And as for tonight, GO! FLAMES! GO!

Friday, December 30, 2005


Speaking of numbers . . .

. . . a Flames win over the Oilers on New Year's Eve appears to be a mathematical absurdity.


New Year's Eve Double Dip - BoA and BoNA

Two fantastic games on New Year's Eve -- a Battle of Alberta tiebreaker for first in the division, and the Battle of North America

Season Record: 22-13-4 Season Record: 22-12-4


Tournament Record: 3-0-0 Season Record: 2-0-1

I'm predicting happiness with both results. 4-3 Canada in OT and 3-2 Edmonton in regulation.


Goaltender Woes

I'm not sure whether it is consoling that other teams are having goaltending troubles or not. On the one hand, misery loves company, but on the other hand, it sure will make it tough to swing a trade without overpaying.

After seing some of the weak goals that Aebischer gave up tonight, and reading Tortorella's merciless rip of John Grahame, I actually don''t feel so bad. Especially after Jussi's game tonight.

As long as the Oilers keep winning at a decent clip and the goaltenders only blow a game or two here or there, I don't see any reason to make an expensive trade that breaks up any of our skating lines. They are just playing too well right now.


Back on Top

What's to say about tonight's game?

Simply an all around good effort. 5 on 5 the Oil were solid, the penalty kill was terrific, the powerplay potted two goals, and Jussi -- despite giving up a tonne of juicy rebounds early -- settled down nicely and made at least two fantastic saves in the third.

At no point was I worried, except for the 3 minutes prior to Nashville's last goal. I hate it when the Oilers have a lead and try to protect it instead of playing the same way that got them the lead. It never seems to work out for them. Maybe it is simply because they have had so little practice at playing ahead over the last few years.

Anyway, the Oilers are back atop the division (albeit with an extra game played), which sets up another terrific Battle of Alberta tomorrow night.

Healey -- in one of his rare lucid moments -- already pointed out that the Flames have been fortunate to catch both Minnie and Edmonton on back to back nights, but I don't think it is going to matter. The Oilers continue to roll into the New Year.

Question? Does Craig Simpson ever say anything on the bench? Every time the camera pans the coaches he has the same goofy smile on his face. Maybe he is still selling carpets back there.


Moneypuckers Rejoice!

Frequent commenter here, at HF, at Oilfans, heck everywhere hockey is discussed - Madcrutch79 has managed to get a few posts up at his site.

Here is his description of what the site is all about:

I'm interested in taking a view of hockey that goes beyond just asserting opinions. As such, I compile a lot of statistics that aren't available elsewhere. I've decided to make them accessible here for others who find this sort of thing interesting as well. Over the next couple days, I'll add some articles to the front page explaining the things that I track. My main goal is to publish things that aren't available on but which are relevant and useful statistics. Think of something like the Baseball Prospectus statistical reports and that's what I'm shooting for. If you've spent any time on trying to answer a question, you'll no doubt realize that this is not very difficult to do-they present a variety of bizarre statistics, in formats that aren't particularly useful.

There is a ton of interesting stuff there already, including a very nice clock detailing exactly how long it has been since the Leafs won a cup. BWA-HA!

Well done, sir.

If you like talking numbers and hockey you should definitely check it out.


Oilers Game Day - Predators

Season Record: 21-13-4 Season Record: 24-8-3

Last Game: 4-2 Loss vs WildLast Game: 4-3 Loss vs Canucks


Because of the two straight losses, tonight's game is rather more important than it should have been. With our division and conference as tight as it is, the big lesson reenforced over the last week is that you simply can't have losing streaks.

Jussi Rebounds is between the pipes tonight against Tomas Vokoun, who is looking to be this year's first 20-game winner.

Word is that Le GG gets promoted to the 3rd line tonight. I don't mind that call at all. Georges has been pretty effective over the last two weeks. In the tiny minutes he has been getting, he has sure drawn a ton of penalties.

After watching them in person in Calgary, I have to admint that I kinda like Nashville. It should be an exciting matchup tonight.

I'm predicting a wild one that further muddies the goaltending situation - 6-5 Oilers in a shootout. Hemsky, Smyth (2), Bergeron (1), Laraque (1).

PS -- I think the entire Fenwick clan is out in the mountains, so I expect we will not have to suffer through his gloating about last night's comeback by the Flames.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Wasted Opportunity

The Oil went into the two games vs Minnesota with a terrific opportunity to firmly grasp 1st in the Northwest and to bury the Wild for the rest of the season. Instead, Minnesota is fully back in the mix -- only 3 points out of 8th with a game in hand, and the Oil are only 6 points out of missing the playoffs again.

It must be acknowledged, however, that Minnesota is a greatly underrated team. In previous seasons (and the early part of this season while Gaborik was hurt) they would just trap like hell and dump the puck in. Now when they turn you over they actually look to score -- and they have some guys who can put the puck in the net. Combine that with their robotic discipline and with the way Fernandez is playing, and it all adds up to a pretty solid team. I would hate to play these guys in the playoffs.

Oh, ya, and it would probably help if we would stop going down two goals in every game we play. Hey, I know, how about stop playing Conklin so much.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Rags to Riches

TELL ME, O MUSE, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by the sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hypterion; so the god pevented them from reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them
-- Homer

Friends, I return to you with an epic tale. A tale so fantastic in character that it might be confused for fiction. But I assure you, every word of the following account is true.

There were 9 of us scattered throughout the Saddledome. Matt's Dad and the trio of ladies were down in the lower bowl with some company tickets, two other friends were in some sort of box with company tickets, and Matt, Dirk, and I were up in the nosebleeds. And when I say nosebleeds, I mean the very last row -- where you could reach up and touch the saddle. We could see the entire ice surface, but various pipes blocked off all but the first 7 rows on the other side of the arena.

Naturally, I was wearing my Oilers sweater while my companions were wearing their Flames gear. I hadn't gone into the game thinking that I would actually cheer for Nashville. I had intended to go in as a rather impartial observer - if anything cheering against overtime. However, when the "Oilers Suck" chants started to rain down on my head it was clear that I was a Preds fan. I have to say, some of those Flames fans are pretty witty: "Hey Oilers fan . . . you stink."

Just before the game starts, I head down to get a beer, and as I'm making my way to the end of the line I overhear a bunch of guys in Flames sweaters asking a very large man in a very large suit to throw me out of the building. When the suit turns around it turns out to be Flames owner Ken King. He walks over to me and says, "What were you thinking wearing that sweater here?" To which I reply, "I was thinking that five cups is better than one." But, in order to actually not get thrown out I quickly followed it up with "But I appreciate all the good work you are doing with the Flames to try to catch up."

At this he smiles, shakes my hand, and says "Well, thanks for coming - despite your proclivities."

I thought that was both funny and gracious of him. Proclivities -- like cheering for the Oilers is deviant or something. What a guy.

Anyway, I get my beer, strap on the crampons, and begin the long hike back up to the seats. About every ten steps someone hurls an insult my way, which acts to significantly improve my disposition towards Kariya et al.

I really think I rattled the fans, though, because there were a great deal more "Oilers Sucks" chants than "Nashville Sucks". I honestly believe that wearing that Oilers sweater up there really threw the fans off their game.

Anyway, between periods we go down to meet up with the other members of our party. Between the first and second Mrs. Sacamano comes running up to me excited as can be. It turns out that their seats are three rows in front of the Flames Owners Box! Even better is that she actually knows someone who is sitting in the owners box!! Even better than that is that this person has an extra ticket!!!

To make a long story short, Mrs. Sac spent part of the second period in the Flames owners' box, and I spent most of the third period in there -- wearing my Oilers sweater. Sadly, I apparently just missed meeting King for the second time. I would have loved to have had that conversation. I will say that even I knew that while sitting there it would be a terrible idea to openly and loudly cheer for Nashville. In fact, everyone in there was so darn nice to me -- despite the sweater -- that I almost felt bad when the Flames blew another two goal lead. Almost.

Other random funny things:

- the guy in full out Flames garb who pulled me aside and said, "I secretly like your jersey".

- the fact that there are TV's running only ads above every urinal in the place.

Overall it was one heck of a night. And Kudos to Mr. King and the other Flames owners who really were fantastic. And of course, kudos to Matt and Mrs. Matt for setting the whole thing up. Good times.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Flames Game Night: We're There! Edition

Matt, Sacamano, our missuses, Matt's dad, brother-in-law Dirk Musclechops, and a few other friends and relatives are heading down to the Saddledome tonight to take in the Flames vs. the Predators.

I can be recognized by my giant red foam cowboy hat, and my frantic waving of a sign featuring a lame slogan with the TV network's call letters in BOLD. (Sacamano will be the guy winning the dumb on-ice contest during the 2nd intermission).

I think it's time for Nashville to begin their long fall down to 7th or 8th in the conference. I'll say Calgary scores four goals to their one. Go Flames.

Saturday, December 24, 2005



I forgot to send you a card:

Have a great Christmas, everybody.

Friday, December 23, 2005


Flames Game Night

The Flames play in Vancouver tonight (preview). The last game they played there (that meant anything) ended very, very well: lots of Flames jumping around and piling on each other, and Ed Jovanovski exiting the penalty box with a pretty sick look on his face.

Haven't heard if Alex Auld or Maxim Ouellet is getting the start. I have Auld on my fantasy team, and never have I been so happy to plummet down the standings.

A Flames win coupled with a Kings win means LOG-JAM at the top of the NW Division Standings. Sounds good to me. Go Flames.


Oilers Game Day - Kings

Season Record: 20-11-4 Season Record: 22-13-1


The story in this one is . . . sadly . . . Sean Avery. His history with Laraque is here. Normally this wouldn't be particularly noteworthy except that he beaked off again in the media yesterday including this line:

"I don't need to fight a guy who plays 4 minutes a game. It's a waste of my time."

Now if Georges is anything, he is consistent in his respect for "The Tough Guy Code". I'm not exactly sure what that Code entails, but in Georges' mind it is very cut and dried. And one thing that you don't do is beak off to the media.

Flames fans will recall that Brantt Myhres spouted off to the media during preseason and he hasn't been seen since.

Relevant Laraque comments about that one:
"It made me mad that he would go to the media and tell them he was going to go after somebody. There are unwritten rules and he didn't show any respect," said Laraque.

Laraque got his revenge in a one-sided beatdown. Four left hands dented Myhres's mug, leaving him with stitches above his eye, and reportedly a fractured orbital bone."

And, of course, I've linked to this sound file before, but again, it is worth noting that Rob Ray's mouth was going during the pre-game.

My guess? Nothing happens. Avery isn't exactly a Go Anytime kinda guy. I bet Smith or Staois or somebody drills him, but Georges doesn't get a sniff.

More importantly, the Oil keep their point streak going. LA has already had a successful road trip after beating Calgary and Vancouver. They are now thinking about seeing their wives and kids and are mentally eating their big turkey dinners. Oilers roll over them: 5-1.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


I hope this post is inconsequential

Jarome Iginla is my favourite Flames player. And yet when I read these little online or Sun polls that pick Jarome as the greatest Flame ever, I snort a bit: he's only played 9 full seasons, hasn't won a Cup yet, hasn't shown the longevity yet, etc. whatever.

At the same time, when I read a similar poll calling Miikka Kiprusoff the greatest Flames goalie ever, I give Mike Vernon a little courtesy nod, and then think, Yeah, I'd agree with that.

Before this season, Kipper had played a grand total of 64 games for the Flames.

I say all of this by way of a respectful, near-apologetic preamble, because now I'm going to talk about how the Flames can get along without him: and I believe they most certainly can.

I have a strong suspicion that there are factors that contribute to Kipper's goaltending success beyond awesome talent. And I'm not just talking about strong team D; I think the Flames' organization is presently a place that maximizes the likelihood of strong goaltending. Here's our goalie coach's bio, for starters:
David Marcoux returns for his third year with the Flames organization as the teams goaltending coach... Marcoux successfully introduced the concept of Mental Training (mental toughness, relaxation, concentration, confidence and goal setting) to the Flames goaltenders along with the Quebec technical style of goaltending.
Prior to joining the Flames, Marcoux spent the previous 12 years teaching goaltenders in a sports academy (Profil Hockey Cap-Jeunesse) in St-Jerome, Quebec. He also held the position of Goaltender Coach with the Hull Olympiques of the QJMHL from 1997 to 2001. During this period, the team made the league finals for two consecutive years.

Marcoux also works closely with Flames scouting staff and management in the areas of goaltender coaching and advising, pro scouting and in goaltender personnel decisions.

...[I]n 1990, Marcoux continued his education and in 1997 received his Masters Degree from the University of Montreal. His final thesis was The Development and Evaluation of Ice Hockey Goaltenders.

I'd be interested in seeing a copy of that. Regardless, you can take three things out of this:
  1. He spent a lot of time figuring out how to make goalies better before he was ever a team's goalie coach
  2. He spent a lot of time figuring out what kind of goaltending skills are most easily coached, and what skills a good goalie is essentially born with
  3. #2 was a factor in why the Flames picked up Philippe Sauve as their 2nd goalie
I've said before, although it might have been in the Comments somewhere else, that I think Darryl Sutter is probably a better GM than coach. And he stressed repeatedly, when they traded for Sauve, that he was the guy they wanted, not the guy who was available. (There were a lot of questions: the only time Flames fans had ever seen Sauve before was when they torched him for 7 goals in March 2004). There is very good reason to believe that the Flames acquired Sauve because they believed that his weaknesses were things that could be corrected, and that his strengths were things that can't be taught.

The evidence so far this season, in his limited performances, supports this. His GAA and SV% are virtually identical to Kipper's. He's played so rarely that I remember most of the goals he's allowed, and they weren't bad ones. On top of that, he's seemed improved every time he plays, and the numbers bear that out as well.

And for a bit more evidence that the Calgary Flames organization is a good place for goalies, you can look to Kipper's own actions. I think it's a safe assumption that his withdrawal from the Finnish Olympic team was not made lightly or happily (if you're skeptical, name one Finn who begged off a big int'l tourney on dubious grounds). He clearly feels like he owes the Flames something: his best possible performance.

He also signed a 3-year, $10M contract this past offseason. The guy has the lowest season GAA in the modern era--he probably could have driven a harder bargain (or negotiated a shorter contract). But he didn't, which shows me that he wants to play for the Flames. I suppose it could be because of all his buddies on the team, but I doubt it: I think it was because he thought this was where he had the best chance to succeed.

So....I think there's a pretty good chance that however much Flip Sauve is called on over the next 6 weeks, or the remainder of the season, he'll turn out to be at least average (by which I mean significantly better than, say, Jussi Markkanen), and that furthermore, the Flames will continue to be a very good team with Flip in the net. I totally reject the notion that Kipper has "carried" the Flames anywhere. He's excellent, but team success and goaltending success are pretty tough to separate. Yes, he's stolen them some games in his time, but show me a good team whose goalies haven't.


Things that make you go hmmmm.....

Odds to win the Stanley Cup, 8:50PM MST, 2005/12/22:
Gee, 25 to 1 sounds pretty good for a team that can score at will, doesn't it, Oiler fans?

Calgary is the same odds as preseason. Ottawa is +200, equivalent to the oddsmakers saying they have a bit better than a 1-in-3 chance. The defending champs are +1800. And the up-and-comers who could have tied Ottawa for the Northeast Division lead by beating Florida tonight are still +4000: that's a 40-to-1 payout, and if you think they're even remotely for real, that's a heck of a buy.


Olympian Oilers

The Oil only have three Olympians this time around. Smyth and Pronger for Canada, and Hemsky for the Czech Republic.

It is somewhat suprising that Dvorak was left of the Czech team -- especially considering how well he has played for them in the past -- including scoring a pretty huge overtime goal in the World Championship semi-final. I imagine his groin was a concern, but still . . .

The fantastic news (for Oilers fans) is that Jussi didn't get picked for the Finnish team.

The last time we sent a goalie to the Olympics he came back . . . altered.



Bertuzzi v. Crosby

sacamano went over the roster yesterday; as I mentioned in a handful of previous posts and comments, I would have preferred Crosby and Shanahan to Bertuzzi and Doan. I think they're missing some potential tangible and intangible contributions from those guys that they won't get from Bertuzzi and Doan, but nevertheless, the roster is pretty awesome.

Here's what was the biggest surprise to me. I listened to a couple of hours of call-in shows yesterday, plus McKenzie and a few other pros, and while many challenged the wisdom of selecting Bertuzzi, not one person based their challenge on merit. Is it really that obvious that, based on hockey only, Big Head Todd should be on the team? I'm not so sure at all.

This was even less clear 3 weeks ago, but he's played his way back into form recently, it seems. However, Bertuzzi is still a pretty inconsistent contributor, and when he's bad, he's horrid. Find a Canucks message board and scan through the October and November comments; there are scores of comments to the effect of, "why does Todd look so lazy". He's had stretches, or perhaps entire seasons, where he looked like the best power forward in hockey; however, he has virtually no Team Canada experience (which was ostensibly highly valued by the selectors), and the only thing he's ever won is a 1st-round playoff series against St. Louis.

Maybe I just haven't watched him enough over his career, but I just don't see why the question of whether he should be on the team is one of ethics only. I think you could argue that Shanahan deserves his spot on merit.

UPDATE: I guess I missed one--apparently Michael Landsberg made this same point.

The linked story (ÞHockey Pundits) also talks about how the Canadian Olympic Committee may put the kibosh on Bertuzzi. You've got to be kidding me. If the COC really had a problem, they should have just told Hockey Canada flat out, last week, that Bert would not be an acceptable selection. It's too late now. (Note that the COC is supposedly "concerned" about Heatley and Doan, too; what a nakedly bogus attempt to appear morally consistent rather than image conscious).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Welcome to 1985

Wow, I haven't seen a goaltending duel like that since the mid-80's. Fantastic!

It is oddly comforting to know that no matter how bad our goalies play, we can still win. At least when we are playing Vancouver. I also found it amusing that Vancouver has so little faith in their backups that apparently giving up 6 goals isn't enough to get pulled. Boy that 7th was a bummer though, eh?

Speaking of which, it is a shame that Edmonton doesn't play Vancouver again until March, because we could really use the points.

Is Mac-T a mad genius? Three straight games he pulls the goaltender, and every time it results in a win? Crazy.

Mad props once again to the Elephant & Castle Pub on Whyte. If there is a better place to watch a game on Tee-Vee, I haven't found it.

Sometime back in September I was roundly criticized for asserting that the Oilers have balanced scoring. I have had too much to drink tonight to go through the whole season, but I will note that tonight's game featured 7 goals by 7 scorers.

Boy, looks like those Flames are really learning how to finish off games. Up 2 after the first, and give up 4 in the third. I'm all choked up, believe me.

Have I mentioned how much I love this team? There isn't a single player that I dislike. Oh sure Ullie and Cross are potential disasters waiting to happen, but they are among my favourite personalities on the team. And hey, Ullie is actually looking terrific these days. He is asserting himself on offense - shooting the puck, pinching in, etc.

I wonder how many teams this year give up 5 powerplay goals and still win.

Hemsky is so good. Man is he good. And he doesn't take any crap either - he dishes out some smack when required.

Le GG has taken a lot of heat this year, but he needs to get more icetime if only because he draws a penalty almost every time out. I'm back on his bandwagon, bigtime.

Did Naslund even play today? I've never been off the Peca bandwagon and I might just start driving the bus soon. Sure he hasn't scored like I hoped, but the way he can shut down players is worth the 3.9 and more - especially come playoffs.

Is there a better 3rd line in the league than RPM? Reasoner and Pisani are the ultimate utility guys. Someone at Hockey's Future has run the stats demonstrating that Pisani is pretty much the world's most consistently effective 5 on 5 player. And Reasoner is instant chemistry. The first line isn't clicking? Throw in Reasoner for a shift or two. The fourth line has no energy? Throw in Reasoner. The powerplay isn't firing? Hey, let's try Reasoner. I don't think I even need to talk about Moreau.

Can the goaltenders recover in time for playoffs?


Normie is the Smartest Person in the World!

Canada's Olympic team:

  1. Doan
  2. Gagne
  3. Draper
  4. Heatley
  5. Iginla
  6. Lecavalier
  7. Nash
  8. Richards
  9. Smyth
  10. St. Louis
  11. Thornton
  12. Bertuzzi
  13. Sakic (captain)
  1. Blake
  2. Foote
  3. Niedermayer
  4. Pronger
  5. Redden
  6. Regehr
  7. Special Ed
  1. Luongo
  2. Brodeur
  3. Turco
  1. McCabe
  2. Spezza
  3. Staal
And the Winner of the Battle of Alberta Olympic Hockey Pick'em Pool is . . . Normie. Congratulations, you are now the smartest person in the world.

normie - 2 wrong (Marleau, Tanguay)
matt - 3 wrong (Crosby, Shanny, Cujo)
mirtle - 3 wrong (Crosby, Spezza, Cujo)
chanandler - 3 wrong (Crosby, Marleau, Cujo)
julian - 4 wrong (Crosby, Shanny, Spezza, Cujo)
cosh - 4 wrong (Crosby, Marleau, Spezza, Cujo)
sacamano - 5 wrong (Crosby, Marleau, Shanny, Staal, Cujo)
jhuck - 5 wrong (Marleau, Shanny, Tanguay, Boyle, Cujo)
dave - 5 wrong (Marleau, Morrison, Shanahan, Staal, Belfour)
steve - 6 wrong (Crosby, Spezza, Staal, McCabe, Cujo, Fernandez)
bing - incomplete lineup
david maclean - incomplete linup


Ole .500, she ain't what she used to be . . .

In the comments to this post, Matt invited us all to "check back on December 15th" and he predicted that there would be 11 or 12 teams above .500 (when calculated as % of points available - aka %/PA). I'm a week late, but here it is. 10 teams in the east, 11 teams in the west.

It is very nice to see, however, that .500 is still a very meaningful benchmark when calculated in terms of good ole fashioned wins and losses (i.e., an OT loss is simply a loss aka W%)


Oilers Game Day - Vancouver

Season Record: 19-11-4 Season Record: 20-9-4


Yet another huge game tonight. Depending on how things shake down the Oilers could end up tied with Vancouver (and perhaps Calgary) for second in the conference -- although both of those teams have a game in hand.

In any case, this has been quite a stretch of entertaining hockey. While I'm not a big fan of the unbalanced schedule, I'll admit that I could watch a heck of a lot more Calgary or Vancouver games and never be bored.

Interesting factoids culled from various media sources.

  • The Oilers have already won more games vs the Northwest (8-5-0) than they did over the entire last season (7-12-3-2) -- of course the numbers are slightly skewed now because of the shootouts.
  • The Oil have not hit the 20-win mark before Christmas since 1988-89 -- blah blah blah shootouts
  • The Canucks vaunted powerplay is 1-14 in the last 2 games
  • Ethan Moreau is on a career-high seven game point streak (3-7-10)
  • The Canuckleheads have lost two straight games at home, and they blew 2 goal leads in both of them.
  • The Oilers and Flames are a combined 5-0 vs the Canucks.
The team has to have a strong first period tonight. I think now that we've settled on Jussi Rebounds he is going to shine.

4-2 win Oilers (Hemksy, Reasoner, Smyth, Bergeron)

Monday, December 19, 2005



Yesterday, the Colts lost, and today, the Flames lost to the Oil. I knew the Flames wouldn't go undefeated against The F**kers this year, and sure enough.

Lest there be any confusion--I'm unhappy. Quite. But I'm not discouraged at all, either. I think that right now, Calgary and Edmonton are the best teams in the conference. They're both incredibly tough to play against. And next time, the Oil isn't scoring 5 goals.

Furthermore, I'm at a place where a 5 GAA game doesn't bother me, because it's simply inconceivable that it could become a habit. Really, that's how good the Flames D have been over the past year or so.

Tonight's win by the Oilers proves a lot more about them than it does about the Flames. And oooh--that New Year's Eve game should be fun.


Woo Hoo!

As usual, I'll let those drunkards over at Covered in Oil give a full recap, but wow(!) what a game.

Unlike most games in this "new NHL", this one had it all: scoring, hitting, skating, end to end rushes, a few scrums.

Without a doubt the best game of the year. My favorite part: Ullie gets a deuce. As I've said in the past, I love Ulanov -- every part of his demeanor just totally cracks me up. I wish they had snagged him for the post-game interview.

I'll also agree with madcrutch in the comments of the previous post, we need to just accept that Jussi is our guy and use Conks/Quimby in limited reserve. Enough screwing around.

5 goals on Kipper is so sweet, but what is even better is that the way the Oilers scored those goals -- all 5 were almost entirely a function of outworking the Flames.

I'll leave the final word to Mrs. Sacamano: "Freakin' Awesome"


Battle of Alberta - Game Day Thread

Season Record: 18-11-4 Season Record: 19-9-4

Prediction: 3-2 Oilers (Smyth, Pisani, Peca)


Two things...

...that the Oiler coaching staff has in common with Oilers fans:
1. A desire for the Oilers to be successful
2. Not the faintest frickin' clue what to do with their goaltenders.

I can't find any word on who gets the start tonight; judging by the past, MacT and the gang will stick with Juicy Rebounds. As for the Flames:
The Oilers have had a tough time solving Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. In seven career games against the Oilers, Kiprusoff has a 4-1-2 record with a 0.99 goals-against average and .966 save percentage. This season, his GAA is even better at 0.60.

Life is pretty good with Kipper running the show. It's rather remarkable: not only has he avoided any lousy performances in the past month and a half, but I can't even think of any bad goals he's allowed. There was a couple (one against Columbus, I recall) where the puck took a funny bounce off the boards and made him look a little silly, but no long shots that eluded him, no losing sight of a puck in the crease, no mishandling, nothing.

Looking over the chatter on, most contributors seem to have pinned their hopes for success tonight on Kipper, you know, maybe being due for a bad game. It'll happen one of these days, for sure, but I think he'll keep living rent-free in Edmontonians' heads for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Flames fans can relax knowing that whichever of Edmonton's three goalies start, he'll be petrified of making a mistake, knowing that he'll instantly go to #3 on the depth chart, at least until the process repeats itself in a game or two.


Non-Battle-related items

- Sometime this afternoon, the odometer on this site is going to roll past 20,000 visitors. Thanks to all of you.

- Why must sports writers indulge in insane hyperbole so often? Here's the lede from David Amber's "Facing Off" with Steve Sullivan.
No NHL player has defied the odds quite like Steve Sullivan.

Just among active NHLers, there's guys who have come back from cancer, broken necks, and fatal car crashes (uh, fatal to others). But Steve Sullivan got cut from a Bantam AAA team when he was 14, so apparently he wins the prize.

- Christy at Behind The Jersey has the most interesting thing I've read on a blog this month: the story of the Red Wings' fathers spending a week with the team, including their road trip through the Southeast Division.
The players, coaches and support staff were allowed to invite a father, male family member or mentor to attend Monday's home game against Pittsburgh, then come along on the Wings' trip to play Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay.

The trip gave the team members a chance to share what they do for a living with some of the people who were responsible for their development. The guests went everywhere the players went, except on the ice.

Read the whole thing, including the accounts she links to. It actually gives me a new respect for Mike Babcock. The majority of NHL coaches, I suspect, would be too blinded by the short-term inconveniences and "changes to the routine" inherent in such a thing to allow it. But, these are the kind of things that make an organization admired by players. In the salary cap era, there's 30 teams talking about things they can do "besides salary" to appeal to players. How many of them can actually point to anything concrete? At least one...

- And speaking of the Wings, I see Brendan Shanahan was named NHL Offensive Player of the Week. While the focus on the Olympic roster bubble remains on Todd Bertuzzi and the young guys, Shanny is playing fantastic hockey. Team Canada lost its two most veteran forwards in the past two weeks: shouldn't there be room for a two-time Olympian as a replacement? He's on my team; I sure hope he's on Gretzky and Quinn's.



As you probably know, after every Flames win, one player is awarded The Hard Hat by the coaches: "...the player who went the extra mile in a Flames win -- the unsung hero some games, star of the game on other occasions."

As a team tradition, I think it's alright, if a little overblown and cheesy. But I gotta say: giving a guy a hard hat to wear is a better idea, and a hell of a lot more sustainable, than knocking his teeth out.

And people think hockey players aren't that bright...


Man Bites Dog (Battle of Alberta Edition) [updated]

First Mike Peca scores an OT winner on an undeniably sweet move, and now Terry Jones has written a column that hits the nail on the head (tomorrow: sun rises in West?).

Recall the Paul Reinhart quote I dredged up before the 1st installment of this season's BofA:
"...We could fool ourselves and say we're trying to catch the Washington Capitals, but that's not what we're trying to do. We're trying to catch Edmonton. They're the mark we compare ourselves to. When all is said and done, that's what it comes down to; all the trades, all the talk, everything we do."

Now here's Jones today, and my, the worm has turned...
Since Sutter took over and made beating Edmonton Job No. 1, MacTavish has only one win in 13 games in regulation time - a grand total of three wins if you count overtime and shootouts in which the Flames have emerged with a point of their own.

With an 11-7-0-2 on the road and 6-1-1-2 record in their last 10, the Oilers have managed to get at least a point every game so far this month.

But that doesn't fool anybody around here.

To reach for the top, first you have to top the Flames. That hasn't happened yet.

Not in regulation.

No, it hasn't, has it. The last time the Oil beat the Flames in regulation (March 11, 2003), Chretien was Prime Minister. The Ring was the #1 DVD rental (the first one, before the sequel). CSI was the hot new show (the first one, before the spin-offs).

The Oilers are a solid 7-1-3 in their past 11; the Flames are a fantastic 15-2-2 in their past 19. This is their 1st meeting at Reachall this season; their three previous encounters were at the Saddledome. I'm really hoping for a nasty game and some lazy refs; the pregame chatter from both teams this season has been far too calm and respectful. It's time for these guys to get mad at each other.

This day in history: Jarome Iginla (and Corey Millen) were traded for Joe Nieuwendyk, ten years ago. I think he marks the occasion with a suitably excellent performance. Amonte should be good too: he'll either be celebrating his selection to the U.S. Olympic team, or cramming the snub into Team America's ear.

Oiler futility extends until at least New Year's Eve, thanks to a 3-2 Calgary win tonight. Go Flames.

[update - Oilers perspective]

Rather than throwing up another Game Day thread, I'll just drop some science here.

First, I agree with Jones, Matt, and everyone else who says that we really need to start beating the Flames. This is a huge game and, suprise, suprise, I think the Oil are going to pull it off. The Flames have had their time in the sandbox, but it's time for the big kids to move back in.

The team, when they aren't knocking out each others teeth, really does seem to have some confidence now. Moreau's a freight train, Peca's cracked the seal, Hemsky is on another level, even when Pronger is bad he is good, RPM is looking great . . . it just goes on and on. The only down side is that D-Vo is on IR and Kolanos got picked up again by Phoenix - huh? Why exactly did they waive him in the first place? Why did we ever take him? Does this smell fishy to anyone else?

Bottom line, it all comes down to goaltending. If they can beat Kipper then the Flames have nothing. Nothing. Likewise, if we don't get some stability between the pipes tonight we are in trouble.

Eric Furlatt & Mick McGeough are on the whistle.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Flames Game Night (finally!)

After a week of practice and R&R, the Flames are back on the ice tonight, facing the retooled and/or free-falling Boston Bruins (8PM MST, radio only).

The second-best news of the day is that Matthew Lombardi is back in the lineup, having missed the last 24 games with a nasty ankle sprain. The best-case scenario is that now the Flames have a dynamic, playmaking centreman, without having to make a trade or spend extra money. And Lord knows, a team that's 14-2-2 in the past 18, like the Flames, can always stand to get better.

The best news of the day is that my colleague in the North passed his oral exam yesterday, and is now Dr. Sacamano! (Following in the footsteps of his idol, pictured). When you spend fourteen and one-half years pursuing, it's nice when things turn out well, and so they have. Congratulations, Jass. And Go Flames.


Oilers Game Day - Canucks

Season Record: 17-11-4 Season Record: 20-9-2


Huge game tonight - and on HNIC Canada to boot. Alas, I'll be at a Christmas party.

An Oil win and a Flames loss, and all of a sudden we're tied for second place.

Prediction: Oilers 4-2 (Torres, SMyth, Stoll, Bergeron)

Friday, December 16, 2005


As IF...

So I've been hoping to mostly ignore the Canadian federal election on January 23, and tonight I finally looked at the NHL schedule. Ex-cellent.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Oilers Game Day - Da Habs

Season Record: 16-11-4 Season Record: 16-8-5


The Habs are back in town and, apparently, are not keen on giving the Oil a chance to even the score outside. It is probably just as well since it was that loss that sent the Oilers on their downward spiral last season.

Word on the street is that Kovalev might be back for the Habs tonight, but Koivu and Bonk are both out for sure.

No word yet on who gets the call in net for the Oilers.

This is actually a pretty big game. A win vaults us over LA into sixth place and only two points back of Both Calgary and Vancouver (although they will both have a game in hand). Perhaps more importantly it will give us a little breathing room over Phoenix and Colorado.

Prediction: 4-1 Oil (Pronger, Peca, Pisani, and Pardubice's favourite son).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Olympic Hockey Pick 'em

Well, we (I) have been talking around this enough: we might as well give everyone a clear shot. Can you pick the Canadian Olympic Men's Hockey Roster?

For starters, the following players are consensus picks. Everyone who has weighed in says they're going, they deserve to go, etc.:

Forward: Iginla, Gagne, Sakic, Lecavalier, Heatley, Thornton, & Brad Richards (7 of 13)
Defense: Pronger, Blake, Redden, Regehr, Niedermayer (5 of 7)
Goal: Marty Brodeur (1 of 3)

Your job, if you feel like it in the slightest, is to pick the remaining 10 players on the team: 6 forwards, 2 defensemen, and 2 goalies. Drop your selections in the comments. We're looking for predictions, not preferences, but feel absolutely free to indulge in wishful thinking; I am a bit. Explanations are associated ramblings are also welcome.

If you pick the most correct players, you will receive an extremely valuable prize: a post acknowledging your superiority titled, "[John Doe] Is The Smartest Person In The World". This is particularly nice when friends Google your name.

Matt's picks:
Forward: Crosby, Doan, Draper, Nash, Shanahan, Smyth
Defense: Foote, Special Ed
Goalie: CuJo, Turco

Have at 'er.


Finally, the Oilers make a move!

The Oilers have finally made a move to shore up their . . . suffering career minor leaguer centre depth. . . what the . . .

We gave up "future considerations" to St. Louis for Blake Evans, so that he could presumably fill someone else's AHL roster.

I'm not sure whether or not I want to discover that this has something to do with Lalime or Weight or anyone else on that hapless team.


Name one person expressing that concern

What a pantload:
There is widespread concern around the hockey world that the Olympic tournament in Turin will mean a return to the old days, when hooking and holding was a way of life, thus diminishing an important opportunity to promote the game.

- Scott Burnside,


"You just keep thinkin', Butch. That's what you're good at."

ESPN's John Buccigross gotten into the act, and tries picking the Canadian Olympic roster (these are his selections, not his predictions). ("If I was Team Canada executive director, I would immediately resign to spend more time with Janet Gretzky." - heh.) At forward, his team is the same as mine except he picks St. Louis, Marleau, and Kariya, leaving off Doan, Draper, and Shanahan.

I mentioned previously that I should change my Shanahan guess to St. Louis (although I'd rather have Doan stay home). I suppose Marleau may have gotten himself back into the mix in the past couple of weeks, although he's still pretty inconsistent, with no major accomplishments or stats on his record to bolster his chances. I'm pretty sure he's getting a vacation in February.

Here's what Butchy has to say about Kariya:
I would love to see Crosby and Kariya play on together and I would have Kariya around for shootout purposes. My top five Canadian shootout shooters: Lecavalier, Kariya, Crosby, Heatley and Gagne.

I'm not a Kariya booster, and haven't been for the past few years. But regardless: Kariya already had a chance in an gold-medal shootout, and got stopped by Tommy Salo. 2002 was his redemption; his services are no longer required.

Also, he puts Dan Boyle and Dion Phaneuf on the Canadian blueline, leaving off Adam Foote and... wait for it... Chris Pronger. Wow--a guy only scores two goals in 30 games and suddenly he's a bum. He also picks both CuJo and Turco to go with Brodeur, leaving Luongo at home: pretty defensible given the way things are going with all of them.

Butchy's picks for Team USA, prefaced thus:
Team USA is in the middle of a transition period. It has a lot of very good, young players, but too young for these Olympics. The U.S. will be fortunate to medal in 2006. In 2010, they will be among the favorites for gold.

No kidding. I'm not exactly trembling in fear at this lineup:

Forwards: Mike Modano-Brian Gionta-Chris Drury; Craig Conroy-Brian Rolston-Dustin Brown; Doug Weight-Keith Tkachuk-Mike Knuble; Scott Gomez-Erik Cole-Jason Blake; Ryan Kesler.
Defense: Brian Rafalski-Mathieu Schneider; Bret Hedican-John-Michael Liles; Jordan Leopold-Aaron Miller; Paul Mara
Goal: DiPietro, Grahame, Esche

A rematch of the 2002 gold medal game seems unlikely.

Lastly, from the same column, he's invited reader submissions as to which players should change their numbers so it would be, you know, funnier. Some results:
You'd think Commodore's teammates could scrape together a few grand to make this happen. That is all.


Darren Eliot: arguing with himself

Darren Eliot attempts to make a point in his column:
Let's here it [sic] for the little guys.

If ever there was a measure of the positive effect of the more stringent standard applied to the rule book regarding the use of the hockey stick as a leverage tool in defending, it is the production by numerous players of smallish stature.

And what's his first piece of supporting evidence for this claim?
Not that this is entirely new to the NHL. Size and scoring have never had a direct correlation. Martin St. Louis is the reigning NHL MVP and he stands no more than 5-foot-9.

OK, so the runt St. Louis was the highest scorer and MVP in the old, unwatchable, all-obstruction NHL, but the fact that Brian Gionta (age 26, 3rd full NHL season) has 18 goals is proof of the positive effect of the new standards.

He goes through a list of under-six-footers:
And he concludes like so:
The key for Keith? He can skate. So can all the others mentioned. Aside from their lack of size, that is the one defining attribute these players share.

And that is what today's NHL is all about ... as it should be.

What about "talent" (or "youth")? Don't they share those attributes as well?

I'm still basically agnostic on the obstruction crackdown. I don't object to Eliot celebrating it. Nor do I object to a featurette on small guys playing big. But why would he insist on connecting the two, especially when all the players he cites, except Blake & Bates, are young guys? How can he possibly assert that previously, they were held back by obstruction? When you think about it, it's insulting: Eliot is claiming that these guys couldn't have succeeded under the old rules. I doubt you'd get a single one of them to agree with that.

And of course there's Dionne, Gretzky, Theo Fleury, and a host of guys who kicked ass for years through both close-in and wide-open play.

Hacking on the media is probably my least favourite thing to do on this weblog, but my personal standards demand that professional pundits, at minimum, make sense.

UPDATE: GrampaPinhead names off a few more notable midgets in the comments. Also, there is exactly one (1) guy in the NHL Top 15 scorers who is less than 6 feet and 200 pounds: Marc Savard is 5' 10", 195. (Next is Datsyuk, in 18th, at 5' 11", 185). Size isn't everything, but it matters.


Oilers Game Day - New Jersey

Season Record: 16-11-3 Season Record: 13-12-4


After whinging that our single road point vs NYI caused us to drop in the standings, it was nice to see that we actually went up a spot while on hiatus because of Colorado's loss.

Anyway, I'm going to be out of commission for the next week or so, which shouldn't be a problem because apparently Matt is the only guy who posts around here anyway. I know I'm not quite as prolific as Fenwick, but sheesh. Maybe Cosh is right and Matt really is the biggest Oilers fan on this web-log.

Jersey has lost its last four games (all to the West), so we need to keep it going.

Keys to the game:
  • Getting better than 1/9 on the powerplay. I'm not normally one of those "shoot guys" at the games, but they really do need to shoot the puck more.
  • D-vo getting Torres and Stoll back on track
  • Something getting Horc back on track
  • Conklin - it's nut-cuttin' time for him.
  • Will Mac-T wear the dark glasses or the clear ones? Or are they those geeky ones that change colour depending on the ambient light?
Prediction: 4-0 Oilers. Conklin suprises everyone, we eventually sacrifice Morrison, and then Conks falls apart again. Speaking of sacrificial lambs: Rita vs Schremp. What else is there to say?

Monday, December 12, 2005


More Assorted...

- In our preseason preview, I had this in the "unknowns of the coming season":
I want to know if the Penguins are going to be any good. If you picked Mario Lemieux, Ziggy Palffy, and John Leclair in the 1st three rounds of your hockey pool, your new nickname would be “Backbrace” (or maybe “Day-to-Day”).

From Ice Chips today:
*Penguins winger John LeClair will miss tonight's game against the Red Wings with a hip/groin injury. - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

*Penguins winger Zigmund Palffy will miss tonight's game against the Red Wings with a groin injury. - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

And of course Mario is out with heart problems, financial difficulties, etc. These are the predictions you'd rather get wrong.

- The Sharks bandwagon is loading up now that they've gone 5-0-0 since acquiring Joe Thorton (which also seemed to light a large bonfire under Patrick Marleau's ass). I'm still skeptical. In the five wins, all against the Eastern Conference, they've scored 5, 5, 5, 6, and 4 goals. This will not continue when intraconference play resumes.

Confidence is important, and their schedule until Christmas is pretty favourable (home vs. WAS, ANA, & STL; road vs. ANA & PHX). They're presently 5 points out of a playoff spot; they might be able to narrow that to 2 by the 25th. But January's schedule is tough, and their D and goaltending still hasn't shown that they're up to Western playoff snuff. Talk to me in a month.

- Nothing in the NHL this season is as much of a mystery for an outsider (i.e. someone who doesn't watch their games) as this question: Has Ed Belfour been good in goal for the Leafs?

I've read or heard half a dozen pundits say, roughly, "The Leafs have stayed in the playoff picture thanks mostly to Ed Belfour," like it was the most obvious conventional wisdom in hockey. I've read or heard another half a dozen say, roughly, "The Leafs need better and more consistent goaltending if they hope to make the playoffs," like it was the most obvious conventional wisdom in hockey. It's baffling.

- Here's a cool photo gallery at, assessing Chris Pronger as the best NHL player without a championship (Best Cup-less Coach: Pat Quinn). Magic 8-Ball Says: Outlook Not So Good (for either). In 6 or 8 years, Pronger can call Charles Barkley for sympathy.

- And a bit more Penguins news from the TSN Insider:
Sources say management has been canvassing some of the players for feedback on what's wrong with the team that spent considerable money in the off-season on free agents. The most common answer seems to be a "lack of structure."

That's interesting, considering the Penguins were lambasted in a Pittsburgh newspaper column last weekend that focused on the Pens' lack of structure, laissez faire attitude and questionable work habits in practice, dubbing the Penguins as "Club Mario."

What. A. Surprise.


Potpourri for the extra point, Alex

- We finished just out of the money in the Canadian Blog Awards. Considering the original competition, 4th ain't bad. Thanks to all our readers and everyone who voted for us.

- TB has the stats for interleague play so far: the West is kicking ass and taking names with a 32-16-8 record (East is 24-22-10). In games decided in regulation, the West has 22 wins against 16 for the East.

You may note that these stats show that 18 of 56 games have been tied through regulation, an incredible 32.1%. Last season, a total of 25.6% went to extra time; this season, with more goals being scored, we're down to 21.0%.

Why is the West on top? I think it's a better conference, but that's kind of a lame "explanation". However: Dallas, Vancouver, Phoenix, and San Jose are all perfect v. the East; the Sharks have a particularly impressive 5 regulation wins thus far. By contrast, only the Lightning is perfect (3-0-0) v. the West, and one of those was in a shootout.

- Good piece on Ray Emery in the Ottawa Citizen (ÞOddMan). We were checking out his mask on Saturday night, and while we couldn't see the details, we did basically decide that it looked like the goalie mask equivalent of a gold tooth. Turns out that wasn't a very original observation.

- Jardine is a little grouchy about the Sens' first losing streak of the season:
I think the Sens mojo is still circulating the baggage carousel at YVR.

A 65+ win season isn't in the cards, but they'll probably still win the East (I'd say Tampa Bay is the only team with the chops to give them a run, and they still have a lot of catchup to play). This is not intended as an insult or a compliment, just an observation, but the Senators look to me like the Canucks, with better goaltending. Is that good enough to win the Stanley Cup? Who knows.

- Olympic Roster Update! Bob McKenzie had his latest Insider Report on Saturday night, and has the same 7 D and 3 goalies as me ("if Curtis Joseph is not on the roster, consider it a major surprise"). As usual, the fun comes at the forward positions.

Bobby is claiming that there are 11 spots that are essentially "settled" and 2 that aren't. Guess which unshaven, West Coast lawsuit respondent is occupying one of his 11 settled spots? I'll believe it when I see it.

Bob is saying that Iginla, Sakic, Gagne, Richards, Lecavalier, St. Louis, Thornton, Doan, and Heatley are locks. Gretzky has said he wants Bertuzzi on the team, so he's in. They want a prototypical two-way centre, so Draper's in.

Notably missing here: a mulleted fellow from Alberta's capital frequently dubbed Captain Canada. Bob says Spot #12 is between Rick Nash and Ryan Smyth, and is mostly dependent on Nash's health. Spot #13 is Crosby, Spezza, or Staal (or maybe Smyth if Nash goes): Bob gives the edge to The Show.

Permit me to sound like the closeted Oilers fan that I'm occasionally accused of being, but leaving Smyth off the team while he's playing as well as he ever has would be a travesty. I don't buy it. Same with worrying about whether Nash will have his touch back, or whatever the concern is. Bah - it's been virtually unanimous that Nash was Canada's best player at (A) the Worlds in April and (B) at the warmup camp in Kelowna in August.

Summing up, here's the competing guesses at Canada's forwards for Torino:
Matt: Crosby, Nash, Shanahan, Smyth
Matheson: Mario (oops!), St. Louis, Spezza, Smyth
McKenzie: Crosby, Nash, Bertuzzi, St. Louis
Unanimous: Iginla, Sakic, Gagne, Richards, Lecavalier, Thorton, Doan, Draper, Heatley


"I don't like them personally"

Wonder of wonders: the Calgary Flames actually posted something interesting on their website. It's a reprint of a piece from their game program on October 12, 1982, featuring Charles "Charlie" Bourgeois talking up the Battle of Alberta. His thoughts on the Oilers, who at the time were still 18 months from their first Cup:
"They got maybe one tough guy in Semenko but the rest of them are just cocky. I really get up for them. I hate them."

From the main piece by John Down:
Every time the Oilers and Flames have faced-off of late, an air of electricity has become more and more noticeable. A pre-season confrontation of a few weeks ago ended with Edmonton coach Glen Sather challenging a number of behind-the-bench hecklers to 'dance'.

And this anachronism from the piece is unbelievable in 2005:
Bourgeois, one of the largest men in the NHL at 6'4-1/2" and 205 pounds...

205 pounds? What a monster!

Sunday, December 11, 2005



...having watched my first Senators game of the year:
Tonight's snaps go out to:
You know how crazy it is in golf every couple of years with the American guys trying to qualify for the Ryder Cup? Imagine then that those 12 guys went on to play a round-robin match play tournament; that the top 3 in the round robin made the "playoffs"; and that the winner of this whole thing got to play for an Olympic Gold Medal in Golf.

Yes, the competition in the Olympic Golf Tournament would be difficult, but clearly, qualifying as the U.S. "player" would be even tougher. That's basically Canada and curling in a nutshell. Kleibrink was down by 2 going into the 10th end this afternoon, and scored 3 for the outright win. As part of the final ceremonies, Team Kleibrink was actually asked to take off their Team Kleibrink jackets and put on some new ones: Canada. It got a little dusty in here for a minute.

Sunday it's Gushue/Russ v. Stoughton for the men's Olympic berth. I'll be cheering for Stoughton, but I'll be happy with either.

Flames get to take their 40 points in 31 games and enjoy a week off. Next game is next Saturday, hosting Boston. Look forward to a lot of filler on this weblog. Go Flames, and goodnight.


Can't win for losing

Man, even when they get a point on the road in the east, the Oilers lose ground.

After the SO loss tonight, the Oil drop to 8th.

Also, it is absolutely absurd that Edmonton has played 18 games on the road, while Philadelphia has only played 10 road games. I'm not saying it is unfair, just absurd.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Flames Game Night

Coast-to-coast on Hockey Night in Canada, it's the juggernaut that is the Ottawa Senators taking on the Flames in the 'Dome. I haven't watched any of the Sens' myriad blowouts this season, but I understand that Heatley and the lads are pretty good: firing on all cylinders, high-performance, purring like a kitten [That's enough sportscar metaphors!- ed. Sorry.], etc. etc. you get the picture.

It's a good night to be a Flames fan. If they win, it's 2 points and it pretty much cinches the fact that last year was no fluke. If they lose, well, the Sens are the best team in the league after all, it's not a conference game, and it just proves to the Flames that they need to keep getting better.

Undefeated NHLer Ray Emery will be in the nets for Ottawa. He clearly needs a dose of reality: are the Flames the team to administer it? Meh - why the hell not! 3-1 Calgary, giving the Sens their first loss of the season on HNIC (and keeping the homeboys perfect). Go Flames.


Oilers Game Day - NYI and other random stuff

Season Record: 16-11-2 Season Record: 14-12-2


I was totally unable to find a larger NY Islanders logo. But, while surfing around their site, I did find this hilarous graphic of their roster.

Anyway, the storyline in this one is, of course, York and Peca facing their former teams for the first time.

The Islanders haven't looked great at home lately (3 straight losses), and were lucky to get a point vs the atrocious Columbus in their last road game. A win tonight would guarantee a successful road trip for the Oilers, and could jump them up a few spots in the standings.

Sadly, the game is not televised, and so we will have to be content watching the Flames get whipped in their game. Actually, I'm looking forward to the Calgary-Ottawa game.

Rather quietly the Oil have become a pretty good team. Since that early brutal 7 game skid, they have gone a solid 13-5-1, despite having one of the toughest schedules in the conference. They are now sitting at a decent 16-11-2, and they have the second best record in the conference over the last 10 (7-2-1).

About the only thing that has been missing is our goaltenders stealing a game. Say what you want about Salo, but during his prime years in Edmonton he won a fair share of games on his own. Nevertheless, the goaltending has been . . . adequate. Which makes the Conklin situation even more vexing. I honestly have no clue what we should do about this one.

It sounds like Ty had a solid game in Hartford, facing 37 shots plus a shootout, to get a 4-3 win. If he comes up for the NJ game and plays well, then what? Perhaps Mayor Quimby would clear waivers - goalies haven't seemed to be the hot item on the waiver wire for whatever reason. I dunno. [update: brushback wasn't all that impressed with Conklin].

Friday, December 09, 2005


Friday Fun Link

The FAN960's website has some good audio clips up from the Mike Richards morning show. Best is most certainly The Twelve Days of Christmas, featuring a dozen of his regular impersonations.

I think it's pretty self-explanatory. Two helpful hints:
  1. Yes, Esks coach Danny Maciocia is portrayed as Rick Moranis' character from Ghostbusters ("Ted! Annette! I'm glad you could come, how you doin', give me your coats. Everybody, this is Ted and Annette Fleming! Ted has a small carpet cleaning business in receivership; Annette's drawing a salary from a deferred bonus from two years ago! They got fifteen thousand left on the house at eight percent...")
  2. Yes, the fake Kiprusoff has a hair-trigger temper
My favourite is Darren Dutchyshen (apologies to you furriners who have no idea who he is).

Bonus link: the fake Steve Armitage's take on Edmonton prior to the Grey Cup.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


After 40

Sorry for not getting the Oilers gameday thread up.

The boys are looking great. I love seeing Ethan rewarded.

Man I hope this doesn't jinx them for the third . . .


Beat the Pro

Journal hack/Hockey Hall of Famer! Jim Matheson has his guesses for the Canadian Olympic hockey roster printed today. I might as well lay them out there against mine: we'll find out who's smarter, luckier, whatever in a couple of weeks.

Forwards (differences):
Matheson has: Mario, St. Louis, Spezza
Matt has: Crosby, Nash, Shanahan

Defensemen (differences):
Matheson has: Dan Boyle
Matt has: Adam Foote

Goaltenders (differences):
Matheson has: Marty Turco
Matt has: Curtis Joseph

Notables not on Matt's or Matheson's list: Bertuzzi, Staal, McCabe

I'll admit immediately that he sounds right about Turco. On D, I still think if Foote is healthy, he's in. And I definitely stick by my guesses on the forwards. We'll see on December 21st.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Heh, heh heh

Ah, good times. I remember the days, not so long ago, when the Flames were always the Other Team in tonight's kind of game. Just kill the opponent for most of a period, yet still emerge tied. Then, when the opponent gained a bit of an edge in play, go down by two or three goals. The worm has turned! (Advantage: Burns! etc..)

Way to wow the Team Canada GM, Marty! Nothing like making one save on the first four shots to make a positive impression (although the home crowd did give him a nice cheer for his second save--which by the way, was about 5 minutes into the 2nd period).

Lastly, credit where it's due: I actually enjoyed Gord and Pierre's call of the game tonight. McGuire even made me laugh a couple of times.

Next up: the league-leading Ottawa Senators, across the nation on Hockey Night In Canada. The Flames are 13-2-2 in their last 17; it should be a pretty good matchup.


Neighbourhood Watch

Now this is some smack (all in good fun, of course):
Mike, due to your accident I am now listing climbing on the roof of a house with tiny light bulbs on a windless 80 degree December day as one of the most dangerous occupations on earth. I'm sandwiching it between North Atlantic crab fishing and chainsaw juggling.

Our first link from a Polish hockey blog!
Całkiem niezła nazwa adresu blogowego została już dawno zajęta: Battle of Alberta.

A Czerkawski fan, presumably.

I like Mirtle's blog, but I have to agree with Jes' comment to this post: if anything, the numbers show that team faceoff success is the most over-rated stat in hockey. Also found at Mirtle: this pic. It's like Sean Avery asked himself: How could I get even more people to detest me? I know! I'll date an incredibly hot actress, and wear the hat reminiscent of the Soviet secret police!

And lastly, this isn't hockey, but I'm really enjoying the baseball and soccer posts of Avi Schaumberg over at Sports Matters, along with the usual delights.


Flames Game Day

Flames v. Devils, 530PM MST, TSN. Both teams are coming off of a road loss last night (Devils lost to Detroit, 5-2). Even if the Flames lose tonight, this will still be their most successful multigame roadtrip of the year: they're 2-1-1 so far (previous roadies were 1-3-0 and 1-3-1).

Subplot watch: we may get a preview of the goaltending matchup for a very big game in February. The Devils played Clemmensen last night, saving Brodeur for tonight: yesterday, I would have guessed Flip would be in for the Flames, but Kipper was so damn good last night, I don't know it Sutter can sit him down tonight. (Sidebar: I wrote about this at the time on my other blog, but the previous Olympics and the Flames '04 playoff run totally ruined me for the '04 World Cup. When Canada scored a weak goal on Finland in the final, my first reaction was to feel bad for Kiprusoff.)

I expect the Flames' play tonight to be a little more, uh, controlled than last night. Jarome is welcome, nay, encouraged! to cut out the Jason Wiemer impersonation. I'd also suggest to Mr. Phaneuf (and Mr. Hamrlik) that he settle down a little, and to Mr. Reinprecht that he move his legs while he's deciding what he wants to do with the puck. We don't need to be giving the NHL's 8th-leading scorer, one Mr. Brian Gionta (huh?), any gratuitous chances.

I'll pick Calgary to keep the puck out of their own net for a 2nd straight night, for a two-nil win. I have no idea if or how Miller and McGuire will use it as evidence for the superiority of the New NHL. Go Flames.



Having thought about it some more since Monday, taken in a bit more media, and read Gretzky's mind a bit, I'm ready to name Canada's Olympic men's hockey roster.

If there's one overriding principle here, it's that past (successful) experience in international competitions is relatively important, and performance to date in the 2005-06 NHL season is relatively unimportant. This is entirely consistent with the way Gretzky et al have done things in the past, so I'm pretty confident. (Example: why did Fleury make the 2002 team instead of Thornton? Because in '98, he was probably Canada's most consistently dangerous forward.)

Here you go.

Crosby, Doan, Draper, Gagne, Heatley, Iginla, Lecavalier, Nash, Richards, Sakic, Shanahan, Smyth, Thornton

Blake, Foote, Jovanovski, Niedermayer, Pronger, Redden, Regehr

Brodeur, Joseph, Luongo

Sorry, Pal:
Bertuzzi, Spezza, St. Louis, Staal, Hannan, McCabe, Phaneuf, Theodore, Turco

Here's the text of #99 commenting on Spezza, Staal, and Crosby:
"All three of those guys have been outstanding all year," Gretzky told reporters at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night. "I saw Staal play the other night, he was tremendous.

"Spezza is leading the league in scoring and what else can you say about the 18-year-old (Crosby) who's kind of carried the league on his shoulders, he's had a lot of pressure. He's lived up to all the expectations, maybe even better than what people anticipated."

Now if you saw this clip on TV, I think you'd have to agree that right about at "what else can you say", Gretzky's tone changed from standard monotone (the hockey player special) to a quicker, more excited speech pattern with a not-quite-concealed smile. I watched it and thought, "Crosby's in--bank it." And who, on the executive team, is going to go to bat for Spezza? Jacques Martin? No disrespect to Spezza, but this notion that he and Heatley have some kind of inimitable chemistry is screwy. Heatley doesn't need Spezza to be a good goal-scorer.

I think there's a slight chance McCabe makes it in; if he does, I think it'll be at the expense of Special Ed. Draper, Doan, and Thornton won Canada the World Cup in '04; I think they're all in. Draper's having a bad year (statistically), but I doubt that outweighs the rest of his resume (besides the World Cup, I'll attest personally that apart from maybe Brad Richards, he was the best player the Flames faced in the 2004 playoffs).

CuJo is the only guy where I'm contradicting my "overriding principle" at the top; I just think that Gretzky won't be comfortable naming a team without a goaltender who's hot right now (although I suppose you could argue for Turco on that basis). Brodeur has basically already been named, and Luongo should be in based on past performance (and the quite reasonable assumption that he'll be playing better in February than he is now).

I am assuming that Mario withdraws. As I've mentioned before, I think once he gets a firm indication that Crosby's in (or will be, if Mario opens up a spot), that'll be all he needs to hear.

Also, I'll happily predict right now that not only will Crosby make the team, but he'll be on one of the top two lines in the medal round. I've seen all I need to see, and so has Gretzky--The Show kicks ass.



Hey Hey!! It's been awhile; Blogspot was out of commission late Monday, and I was out of commission yesterday, so there was no pointless Flames Game Day piece. Apologies to those of you who rely on those previews.

I have a few comments about last night's shootout loss to the Flyers, but let's kick it off by excerpting the last line of the AP recap of the game:
Flames coach Darryl Sutter left the arena without speaking to reporters.

There's all sorts of reasons why he may have done this: maybe there was something going on at home he had to get on the phone to deal with. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the reason was approximately, "he was unbelievably frustrated". Why might that be?

- His best player was awful. Honestly, Jarome might have been one of the worst players on the ice. I went out with a good friend (and Flames season ticket-holder) on Saturday, and he's pretty sure that Iginla's not snakebitten, he's hurt. I'm much less skeptical of this after watching last night's game.

- Besides being a non-factor in the offensive zone, Iginla's two breakaways were also terrible. He blocked a Hatcher shot and went in alone late in the 3rd. Nittymaki must have been 15 feet out of the goal, yet Iginla shot high blocker side. And in the shootout: blah! If you were instructing someone on How To Get Stopped On A Penalty Shot, you'd say something like, "For starters, pick up the puck going about half-speed. Then, when you hit the blueline, slow down some more. 'Cause then the goalie doesn't have to cheat to play the shot, since he could stay with you if you choose to deke!" There, I just recapped Iginla's shootout attempt for you.

- The Flames were unable to take advantage of the fact that 3 of Philly's top 4 D-men were Derian Hatcher, Mike Rathje, and Chris Therien, all of whom are exactly one-half of the archetypal "big and mobile" defenseman. When Calgary's playing well, they might be the best puck-cycling team in the league: they can really sustain pressure in the offensive zone. None of that last night! No doubt doubly frustrating for the coach was that Hatcher and Rathje are two of the guys that Calgary took constant advantage of in the '04 playoffs, and now they're a year and a half older.

- The whole game, much like a lot of the Penguins game, was played "The Eastern Conference Way"; certainly not the Flames' style or pace at all. It's hard for me to describe (it was rather discombobulating, actually), but the pace wasn't so much fast as it was frantic. Maybe the puck-freezer was on the fritz, but there was more pucks bouncing around than I've seen in a game all year. To my eyes, this was bad for the Flames, because they starting cheating on their system in hopes of having a puck bounce their way.

- Huselius gets full credit for his nice assists on Saturday, but he seems about as tough as medium-rare filet mignon. He needs to ramp up his intensity, a lot, if he wants to play a regular shift on the Flames once the honeymoon's over.

Still, there's a couple of things for Sutter to be happy about. Amonte is still playing very well, with good intensity. His best defenseman (Regehr) was excellent. And his goalie, well, yeesh. Awesome. (Note to opposing players: if you get a crossing pass and have a wide open net, you need to get your shot at least eleven inches in the air, because by the time it gets to the goal, Kipper's pad will be covering the bottom ten).

Controversial Statistic Epilogue: We don't seem to quite have a consensus on whether Kiprusoff earned a shutout last night. Stats show that now he has 4, which would include last night. But Yahoo! Sports, which runs my hockey pool (where of course Kipper is my #1 goalie), shows him having 3, costing me 5 points. I'm biased for at least two reasons, but I don't see how you wouldn't credit him with a Shutout when he had 0 GA, and no player was credited with scoring a goal on him.

See you later with a preview of tonight's back-to-back v. New Jersey. (While you're waiting, don't forget to vote.)

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