Monday, February 27, 2006



Bill Simmons, reprinted two weeks ago on (and originally from Feb. 22, 2002):
THUMBS DOWN... for everyone who jokes about the two-man luge and thinks they're re-inventing comedy as we know it. Hey, it's two guys lying on one another! Hey, I wouldn't want to learn how to do this event! Hey, shouldn't these guys buy each other a drink first?!?!?! Come on. It has been done. It all has been said.

Dan Wetzel, yesterday:
Far be it for me to criticize these fine and dedicated athletes and, well, let's get the "not that there is anything wrong with that" out of the way early, but is the doubles luge really necessary? And if so, who, exactly, was the first man to convince another man that they should both don rubber suits and lay on top of each other in that particular position.

Did he have to buy him dinner and a movie first?



Last Olympics post

I immersed myself in the last few days of Olympic coverage, and with the obvious exception of men's hockey, I totally agree with Mirtle that the Games were terrific as a whole. There was even a moment that made it into the Pantheon, and straight up to my Top 3.

In Salt Lake City, Beckie Scott winning a medal (a bronze at the time) by the length of her boot was tremendous. That made my Top 3 because of her account of the training and dedication over the previous 4 years: she left literally nothing at the margin that might cost her a fraction of a second come the Olympics, a fraction that she ended up needing.

Probably my #1 overall moment is still the Saskatchewan ladies' rink at the '98 Olympics. You may or may not recall: it was a big deal that curling had made the Olympics, but not nearly as big as it is now, where many top Canadian rinks spend two years trying to peak for the Trials.

Anyway, before the semis and the gold medal game, Schmirler et al were basically saying, "This is just another big tournament, we've played in a few and done well, and we're going to do what we can." They truly did not acknowledge, outwardly, or as best I could tell inwardly, that the Olympic gold was on a seriously different plane.

They won the gold medal game, and there was lots of hugs and high-fives, but not really that much emotion. "We're proud that we represented Canada well", etc. etc..

Then came the medal ceremony. The medals were presented, and the tears started coming a bit. Then, the flag went up, the anthem started to play, and it was an utter emotional breakdown on the podium. 4 of the 5 ladies were absolutely bawling uncontrollably. It was simply awesome to watch them acknowledge the magnitude of the Gold as it happened, and needless to say, it got extremely dusty in my living room.

The newest addition to the Pantheon is also a curling moment, the men's gold, and as Mirtle mentioned: "Young skip Brad Gushue breaking down in tears in an interview afterwards..". You know what made it absolutely classic, though? The emergence of the Newfie accent at the height of his emotion.

Gushue's a pretty composed 25-year-old, and I had never heard that from him before. Like a lot of Newfies who "make their living" among mainlanders, he's adopted our language. He sounds like he's from Ontario, generally. But when he was all choked up, on the phone with his Mom and with the CBC right after, it was 100% Newfoundland accent. (By the time he composed himself for the 2nd chat with the CBC, not more than 5 minutes later, it was right back to 'normal'.) That really got me for some reason.

All in all, good times. We're set up nicely for a huge performance in Vancouver. I'm already hoping I have the resources to get out there and take some of it in. Go Canada.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Update from the Homer

For closure's sake (?), I thought Iginla was probably Canada's best forward today (him or Doan). I'm not sure what criteria Bob McKenzie and Kelly Hrudey were using on the tee-vee this evening describing him as disappointing (I heard that callers on Calgary radio were saying the same). Don't care. I watched, and I saw what I saw. He was in some good spots, and had some good chances: he just didn't put it in the net, which matched the performance of 19 other Canadian skaters. I'm not clear on what was lacking.

By the same token, maybe I should call Joe Sakic the best forward. Same deal; he tried like hell, got in good positions, but he didn't score a goal. Maybe he was. But I find it a hair depressing that Sakic has lost the quick trigger. For 15 years, Joe Sakic has been Canada's Russian. Prefers to pass, but has a deadly & quick shot when he lets it go.

Except now. His trigger just isn't there anymore. I've seen it in a half-dozen Avalanche games this year, and now most of 6 Team Canada games. And it's too bad. I love Joe and definitely think that he was the right choice as Captain of this team. But watching the games, it was patently obvious that he's (A) lost some speed, (B) lost some strength, or (C) both A&B, and that's on top of the loss of the quick release.

I hope the Colorado Avalanche maintain a respectable 8th to 10th place standing over the next 2 years, to afford Joe Sakic the dignified retirement tour I think he deserves. Hopefully, the marginal advantage he seems to have lost really is just a Gretzky-style slow decline, and not a Fleury/Lindros-style sharp decline.

Finally, Sacamano is back at the end of the week. I'm pretty sure he's been somewhat secluded, and while he might know the results, that'd be about it.

I'd really like a volunteer to pass on to him the story of the Oiler performances. His email is at the top left of this page. I don't think I have the strength.

Also, Go Russia. When we look back on this in 2 weeks or years, I'd really prefer to have lost to the Gold medallists that the guys in 4th.


Does Steve Simmons have an intern?

Dan Wetzel: JACKASS
Never a bit of hunger... never pressing, barely caring... players who can't deal with not being pampered... didn't select enough young, hungry legs and offensive firepower... No idea. No clue. No pride.

Of course, it is tough to keep up with 10 events at once, and this is a guy who doesn't think hitting home runs has much to do with natural ability, so take it for what it's not worth...


Headline of the Olympics

“Curling” Is The Name of Italy’s Future

From the classic ESL story, all bold in original:
A final result of 4 victories and 5 defeats constitutes a good base for Italy’s future in this discipline. Two more, still more surprising, events can be added to this. First of all, the historic and unforgettable victory of 7:6 against the Canadian champions, whose country has the greatest number of athletes in this discipline in the world (3 million compared to 500 in Italy); in second place and most importantly, the clamorous public success that this discipline, which is practically unknown to Italians, was able to get in only a few Olympic days. This important achievement and the sudden way with which “curling mania” has infected the Italians suggest that this sport will be followed by a large number even after the Olympics.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Wisdom of the Clergy


Canada vs. Russia: Oh, baby...

Wow. So this is what it comes down to: Canada vs. Russia, and only the winner has a chance at a medal.

No point in waiting 700 words to get this out of the way: I really like Canada's chances.

I don't think I have anything different to say about Russia than I would have before the Olympics, except maybe that Nabokov looks more than adequate, so it's doubtful that their goaltending will cost them the game. (Unless it goes to a shootout: I really don't want to contemplate facing Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Afinogenov & Datsyuk on breakaways, but Nabokov's 0.385 SV% in the S/O is some comfort there.)

I think the $64,000 question in this game, and the 3 other QF games as well, is, "Who's ready to play well in their 6th game in 8 days?" I think we'll see some results that will differ from what we would see if it was the 5th game in 12 days: how could it not?

And as much as "legs" will be a determining factor in the games as a whole, in games that are close or tied late (or go to OT), it'll be just about the only relevant factor. Who is going to be forcing mistakes, and who's going to be scrambling to cover for them?

The general answer is that the players with the comparative advantage will be the youngest, the freshest, and the fittest. Russia may have the advantage when it comes to youth, with Ilya, Ocho, and Malkin. The Canadians should be as fresh, or fresher: as far as I can tell, they've basically been rolling 4 lines and 6-7 defensemen for all 5 prelim games.

Who's fittest is a trickier question. When they test for it in training camp on the stationary bike, it always seems to be some 3rd-liner or goon that's the fittest player on the team, and yet late in tough, tight games, it's remarkably(!) almost always the most talented players who seem to still have the pep to make things happen.

The good news for Canada is that there's one player who has basically made his living over the past couple of years scoring 3rd period goals and running roughshod in OT, and I have the distinct pleasure of following him on a game-by-game basis, as he's the captain of the Flames.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but comparatively speaking, Jarome Iginla gets better as fatigue should be setting in. Obviously I have some home-team bias here, so I'll try to itemize some evidence:
He's not clutch per se, he's just live when everyone else seems to be sucking wind. I expect him to be noticeably tough in 3rd period tomorrow, not to mention for the remainder of the compacted NHL schedule.

Hopefully the refs aren't too picky, and we see a great game. Like most Canadians, my biggest worry is that the team is too distracted by Wayne Gretzky and his wife's gambling to play well (What? Oh.). I'm calling a 3-2 victory for the True North Strong And Free. Go Canada.


Olympic Game Morning

I think Canada is probably going to win this morning. Owing to the Swiss tie with Italy just completed, if either Czech or Canada wins outright, they move into 2nd (& the Swiss finish 3rd, loser finishes 4th). If they tie, the Swiss stay in 2nd, Canada's 3rd, and Czech is 4th.

I think Lecavalier is due for a 1st Star performance; hell, why not today.

Today's One Thing I'd Do Differently Than Pat Quinn: give Smyth some time in front of the net on the PP. Overall, Bertuzzi is a superior player, but he should be on the half-boards or behind the net. Smyth is a garbage goal whore. Go Canada.

UPDATE: As Mirtle notes in the comments, head-to-head is the 1st tiebreaker (as it should be), so Canada finishes 3rd, and Canada probably meets Russia in the quarterfinal. We'll see in 3-4 hours.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


That's Hockey

Two things, and I'm not trying to be smart-alecky, so I hope it doesn't sound that way.

There is an object lesson to be learned from Canada's consecutive 2-0 losses. When your NHL team has trouble scoring over a short stretch, there is always a temptation to attribute it to lack of secondary scoring, or If We Just Had One More Decent Playmaking Centre This Wouldn't Happen. If you resist this temptation next time it happens, then you have learned the lesson.

The familiar narrative of the 2002 Olympics is one of the Canadian team coming together slowly, then peaking in the playoffs, culminating with a dominating 5-2 gold medal win. This narrative is essentially false: a combination of revisionism and fallacy of reasoning.

In short, if Canada wins the gold, they will be said to have "gelled" etc. It doesn't happen the other way around. (Lucky Finland: if they fail to win gold, they will be said to have "peaked too early", yet another characterization that is a consequence of results, not a cause of them.)

I'm not worried about Team Canada, but that is not because I'm certain they'll come through in the end. It's because they have some obvious strengths, no glaring fatal weaknesses, and a lot of talent.

I think they probably have a better chance of winning 3 straight games for a gold than anyone else. But, it's hockey. The St. Louis Blues are not better than the Canucks, and yet they've beaten them 3 times. You don't need an excuse to lose two straight hockey games, because it's not behaviour that requires excusing. It's hockey.

Go Canada.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Olympic Notebook

Thoughts from inside the head of Lindsay Jacobellis, about 150m from the Snowboardcross Final finish line:
Holy crap, I don't believe what a big lead I have. Gold baby! What is she, 50 yards behind me? Awesome! I'm gonna take this 2nd-last jump with a bit of a flourish. Little daffy maybe. Should I? Sure, what the hell. Gold baby! OK, here comes that jump, and up! OK, bend the knees a bit, reach back to grab the HOLY SHIT I'M FLYING OFF THE COURSE! ABORT ABORT!

That was awesome. How often has someone won a medal for the same race in which they crashed through a snow fence? I'm guessing not very often, but that's what our girl Dominique Maltais did today, in that race. Good times.

Almost as exciting: skeleton. The gold & silver medals were sweet of course, but the circumstances might be even better. The gold medal winner (A) has the same name as my dog (wonder if he's named after the cartoon beverage too?) and (B) is the oldest Winter champ in an individual event by four freaking years. And the silver medal winner's name is Pain, which is wincingly appropriate since he spent much of the final 10 seconds of his medal run dragging various body parts along the track at 100km/h.
Announcer: He's not feeling any pain right now, Jim!
2nd Announcer: Shut up. I hate you.

This women's hockey is shaking out nicely, too. It's been a pretty great day for Canada at the Olympics. The only thing that looks ugly at all is the lads at the curling rink, and they're still 4-2. Regardless, I don't like it when my country's skip looks like he's on the verge of crying (or saying, "F**k it, I'm going to the bar.").

Tomorrow morning (730AM MT) it's Punk-on-Heidi time. Go Canada.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


It's not 16-0, but I'll take it

I did, in fact, rise at 4:59AM to catch Team Canada's 7-2 victory, in all its commercially uninterrupted glory. Surprisingly for the hour, I was in a good mood, and I didn't see much that would bring me down.

- The most disappointing performance was turned in by Olympic veteran Bob Cole. Jetlag's a bitch, for sure, but his call was weak even by his rapidly devolving standards. Most of us have made or heard the Bob joke that sounds something like, "Ottawa player, turns it over at the blue line, and the Montreal player moves the puck up the ice...". I think we're used to it. But at least once this morning I heard, "Puck covered up by the Canadian goaltender". Good grief. His name is Martin Brodeur, Bob, and he's there all game. No confusing number-checking, or anything.

- Todd Bertuzzi was probably Canada's best forward. He was credited with two assists, and presumably will be awarded a third if there's any kind of admin review of these things. Only Sakic was given an assist on Iginla's 2nd PP goal (where Bertuzzi was screening Muzzatti). Cole remarked that Bert should be given an assist for the screen; I'd suggest he should be given an assist for passing the puck to Sakic.

At any rate, Bertuzzi was doing his best Joe Thornton impersonation with some sweet touch passes. I really don't have an opinion on the merit of today's lawsuit filed by Steve Moore, but I do think he's paid his hockey price for that attack, and I want him to move on (on the ice) and help Canada to gold (and the Canucks to an 8th-place finish in the Western Conference).

- Iginla and Pronger were wearing the alternate captains' "A"s today, although I understand the letters will be moved around a bit.

- Thornton and Nash weren't quite clicking today, but they played well. I'll take even money that Nash pots a hat-trick at some point in this tourney.

- The combination of the big ice, unfamiliar unis, and changed numbers made it tough for me at times to figure out which players were who. [Why don't you shut up about Bob Cole then? -ed. Good point.] I thought to myself, "Who the hell is #6 again?" every time Redden touched the puck in the first period. Easiest to recognize: Pronger, St. Louis. Iginla, Sakic, Bertuzzi, Thornton, Foote, & Nash are also about instantly recognizable. I had a tougher time with some of the other guys, though.

- Regehr was essentially invisible, which generally means that he was doing his job. His +2 rating would seem to confirm that.

- Hey, guess which Canadian coughed up the only turnover that led straight to a GA? I guess if you were one of those people that said Bryan McCabe would be a defensive liability, you now have a supporting data point. I thought he was pretty good (other than that), though.

- Box score says Foote was the only Canadian skater not to register a shot on goal. Even with 50 shots, I'm a little surprised the distribution was so even.

- Up next: the Germans. Let's hope the lads dispatch them more comfortably tomorrow than they did in 2002 (a 3-2 final). Go Canada.


Operation Smack Luigi

Two-thirds of a success so far. I'm damn glad to see Bertuzzi get off to a good start.

(And how about that 1st PP unit they threw out there! Sakic, Iginla, Bertuzzi, Pronger, & Blake: what do these five men have in common?)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006



So as my Olympics "home page", I've been using Your preferences may vary, but I find it terrific; easy to find which events are in progress and which are upcoming, as well as good continuous updating.

The unexpected highlight, though, is the writing of the front page stories. The author is clearly someone for whom English is not their mother tongue (pen?), but frankly, I quite like it. Sample, from the front page as of 3:45PM MT (my italics):
Russian Svetlana Zhurova won gold in the women’s 500 metres, in front of Chinese Manli Wang and Hui Ren. It is an important gold for Zhurova that came after winning the World championships sprint in January. Especially after the criticism she received from her federation because she preferred to be mother to little Yaroslav than skater. For the Chinese team the hope of winning the first Olympic gold will have to wait until Vancouver 2010. They collected two very precious medals, however. [...] Things went badly for Italian Chiara Simionato, finishing 10th. She compromised her chances of a medal in the first 500m, with 39.02sec, 79 hundredths behind Zhurova. In the second heat she got an encouraging 38.66sec that, as she herself admits, gives her hope for her speciality, the 1000m...

And from earlier in the day:
Another surprise. In the men’s combined in Sestriere none of the favourites won but once again, as happened in the downhill, the outsider Ted Ligety won. The twenty-one year old from the United States, less mad than his fellow team mate Bode Miller, has the most elastic legs ever. Before yesterday he had not had a victory in the World Cup, but had spent a season always at the top of the slalom.

Delightful. Just delightful.


Life imitates The Simpsons

If only...
Wayne Gretzky, Team Canada men's hockey boss, addresses a group of reporters.

Gretzky: ... but I'm sure that once girls get to know the real you, you'll get plenty of dates. Next question. [hands go up. He picks a Reuters reporter.]

Reporter: Yes, over here, n'hey, n'hey. The Newark Star-Ledger is now reporting that your wife bet $5000 on the Super Bowl coin flip, and tens of thousands on the game itself. How did this happen without you knowing anything?

Gretzky: Ah, yeah, well, whenever you wonder about something that seems to contradict my direct statement, 5 minutes ago, that I didn't know anything, a wizard did it.

Reporter: I see, all right, yes, but now the Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that...

Gretzky: Wizard!

Reporter: [under breath] Aw, for glaven out loud.

(To be clear, I don't begrudge a reporter asking any damn question he pleases; surely the ritual of asking a question you know for 99.9%-certain will not be answered, but rather draw a snicker and a head-shake, is sufficient humiliation.)

Monday, February 13, 2006


Would you give a gun to this woman?

The honest-to-God bio page of a Canadian biathlon competitor (using the word biathlete seems weird, for some reason).

I love ALL Canadian Olympic athletes, so I hope Ms. Kocher takes it in the right way when I say that this photo is going straight into my Mugshot Hall of Fame.


Reporter. Jackass.

You know, I understand that sweeping generalizations aren't a rare thing to find in the newspaper, and I also understand that the temptation to anthropomorphize a country is at its most irresistible during the Olympics.

But JEEEEEEZZZZ: if you're going to headline an article, "Canada worried Gretzky story will dominate Olympics", shouldn't you at least quote or refer to one Canadian who believes that? If you count other reporters, and ignore the literally dozens of Canadian athletes who are on record saying that it won't be a distraction, it can be done!


Olympic Hockey Predictions?

I confess: I really don't have much of a feel for how the Olympic hockey tournament is going to go. I have thoughts, but none of them are backed up by much confidence.

I like Sweden more than most people seem to: I just have the feeling that this time, they're not going to beat themselves, and they'll have to be legitimately outplayed to lose.

I like Czech less than most people seem to: yeah they have Jagr, and Hasek/Vokoun, but I'm not that impressed with their depth.

I like Canada to win, but I wish I were more confident about it... A few more:

- The results of the round-robin are just about as meaningless as can be. Whoever wins Group B (and that really could be any one of Sweden, Russia, USA, or Slovakia) likely gets the reward of a matchup with Germany or Switzerland in the Quarterfinals. That's something for those teams to play for. But the winner of Group A gets the team that finishes 4th of those 4. Could you say with any confidence, today, that that'll be an easier matchup than if you finish 3rd in Group A?

- As such, Canada should absolutely be rolling 4 lines and using two (or three) goaltenders through the round-robin. The QF game is the 1st game in this tournament that means anything, and it will be the 6th game in 8 days for both teams. Nobody's going to be fresh, but if your top D pairing has been playing 26 minutes a game through the round-robin, that doesn't bode all that well for your QF prospects.

- Canada's depth is clearly one of their major strengths, in this regard: they can probably win round-robin games in this way more easily than everyone else. (And hell: there's always a possibility that Arturs Irbe or Kolesnik stones Russia for 1 GA on 50 shots and beats them out for Pool B 4th. Then, suddenly, 1st in Group A looks highly attractive.)

- Injuries is obviously a huge wild card. The obvious issue is the trouble of a top player going down. But how well do things work out with the taxi squads? You can find lots of people who say Eric Staal deserves to be one of Canada's 13 forwards. But what if Joe Sakic gets hurt in Canada's 5th round-robin game, and a stir-crazy Staal comes in for the QF? Considering the legs he'd have, isn't it possible that suddenly he's the best player in the tournament at that point? (For a historic parallel here, go back to the 1990 Bruins-Oilers finals. Klima was benched in the 2nd or 3rd period, then got his first shift in hours in 3OT. Everyone else looked like they were standing still, and he potted the winner.)

- Slovakia looks like they should be terrific, perhaps notwithstanding Budaj in goal. But they've looked terrific on paper for years. Until they achieve a good result in at least one major competition, I don't see how anyone can pick them.

- Boldest prediction I've read: Ingmar W. Bergman picks Italy to make the playoff round. Hey, maybe Jason Muzzatti has improved a lot since he was a training camp sieve for the Flames in the early 90's. If not, uh, well then, I'm skeptical that he'll be able to outplay Olaf Kolzig and Gerber/Aebischer for that 4th spot in Pool A.

- Worst Case Scenario For Canada: Iginla, Pronger, and McCabe get injured; Bertuzzi is an invisible non-factor throughout the tournament; and we lose to Russia in the QF on an Alex Ovechkin hat-trick while Sidney Crosby watches on TV.

If that happens, hand-wringing will be appropriate. Anything else, I figure, can be chalked up to That's Hockey.


Olympic Break Baseball Standings

In the West, Calgary and Nashville are secure to the point where they would have to play very poorly for the rest of the season to miss the playoffs, losing not only 4+ games to Anaheim but also 2+ games to four other teams below them. At least one of the 5 teams Vancouver thru Anaheim will be unspectacular in the closing schedule, which means Calgary or Nashville will have to be truly brutal to fall out.

Speaking of truly brutal, I caught a bit of the Oilers-Blues game yesterday afternoon... if you don't believe in the Hockey Gods, and that they can be vengeful, take a look back at the comment threads following the Flames SO loss to the Blues two weeks ago.

In the East, I'd say Tampa Bay is solidly in, and that Montreal won't be able to cut it. That means that last spot probably belongs to whichever of the Leafs, Bruins, and Thrashers can get it together (with some solid goaltending) over the last 7 weeks.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Olympic Break

Whew. The Olympic break couldn't come at a better time for the Oilers. They are beat-up and sucking.

Mac-T might have just put the final nail in the coffin of the Oilers ever getting good goaltending out of M&M. First he pisses off Quimby by pulling him after only two goals. Then he pisses off Jussi by pulling him in overtime.

For the record, I think the OT switch was a terrific move, and I'm sure that I was not alone in yelling at the tee-vee for Mac-T to put the Mayor in net for the shootout - but it still doesn't change the fact that there isn't a goaltender in Edmonton who would be happy putting on an Oilers' sweater right now.

Like the Oilers, I'm taking an Olympic sized break. In fact, I'm off to Jolly Olde England for a couple of weeks. I'm hoping to catch some hockey on the telly, but I'm not optimistic. The good news is that I arrive just in time to catch some rather different sporting entertainment. If I come out of it with all of my teeth I'll be a happy man.

Enjoy the break. Ensure that Fenwick doesn't get too big for his britches while I'm away. And Go Canada!


Oilers and Olympic Game Day

I'm already in full Olympic mode, so I have nothing to say about today's Oilers' game except:

Back to the important stuff:

*Make that 6-0, 3/4 of the way through the first.


What do Celine Dion, Mike Reno, and Les Bucherons have in common?

For the answer, check out Andy Grabia's excellent Olympics piece over at Sports Matters:
Forgive me for saying this--I know it is insensitive and wrong and politically incorrect-- but my sum conclusion from watching yesterday's opening ceremonies was that the entire state of Italy has gone all kinds of gay.

He's also got lots of good suggestions for the Vancouver 2010 organizers (visual aids are so helpful!):
The official food of the Vancouver Olympics should be a concoction of fine Canadian cuisine: poutine, maple syrup, Timbits, bannock, beavertails, smarties, pro-stars, and of course baby seal.

Read it all.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Olympic Game Day

Be sure to check out Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, AB go for the gold in the moguls at 11AM MT; she had the top score in the qualifier earlier in the day.

Also, the women's hockey team kicks off their sked against Italy at half past noon. Go Canada.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Is it Smile Time again already?

Flames win. Oilers lose. Canucks lose. Lemme check the calendar: is it my birthday?

Good times. Not exactly sure where this weblog will be meandering over the next couple of weeks, but Sacamano and I are both Olympics fans, so you can probably count on the odd mention of what's going on in It-aly, certainly not limited to the hockey. Go Canada.



It is pretty sad when watching women with huge balloons on their head pretending to be snowflakes as described by Brian Williams is more entertaining than the Oilers game.

Even worse, perhaps, is the quality of the article linked above. Wow that's bad writing.


Flames Game Night

The Flames take on Saint-Louise tonight at 7PM MT (PPV, Fan960). Oh, how the Blues have fallen; they're no longer the unstoppable force of nature they were in the salad days of Harry Ornest, Bernie Federko, and scores of Cliff Fletcher cast-offs.

At the end of January, I said that 7 or 8 points over the Flames' next 5 games "will cushion the NW lead, and make the post-Olympic schedule seem a lot less daunting". A win tonight will give them 7 points, and do the trick nicely.

I assume Sutter will have the checking line out against McClement and Stempniak; a shut-down will make for a sweet little 4-1 win. Go Flames.



The State of New Jersey is acting like the aggressive bunch of thugs and highwaymen it truly is here.

That's Tom L at Sabre Rattling, coming out of the closet as the 2nd anarcho-capitalist hockey blogger I know (the NHL fantasy team of one of my boys over at the BofO is named the Ancapistan A's).

Anyway, although I'm not as far down the road as Tom or Jay (yet), I agree wholly with the quote above. That said, it looks to me like Tom's disgust with The State is clouding his judgement about what is important and what is not with this whole Tocchet Gambling Fooferaw.

Tom points out correctly that it is wrong to conflate "what is legal" with "what is moral". That is a rather simple distinction that too many stories on this issue have failed to make. However, he then goes on to conflate the interest of The State with the interests of The NHL.

As we were all reminded during the lockout, the NHL is not an arm of the government, nor is it a public service organization. It is a private business, and as such, they are (or should be) permitted to make and enforce whatever rules they damn well please.

The NHL can and does have all sorts of rules that their employees, or the employees of their franchises, must follow. These rules have nothing at all to do with the laws of the land or human rights. They can do this because no employee is forced to submit: they either agree to abide by the rules as a condition of employment (i.e. by contract), or they can find another line of work. Pure freedom.

The NHL could (or maybe does) prohibit their employees from owning a pornographic film company. Or to play off of Tom's shoestore example, they could prohibit their employees from investing in businesses that make hockey skates. (The logic being that sometimes, the NHL and the skate-maker might at times have competing interests, and the NHL wants all their employees on "their side". Not that it matters, because again, it's a private business, and if you think their rules seem arbitrary and stupid, you're free to go coach lacrosse or sell life insurance instead.)

So to focus in on Tocchet here, the important issue is that if he is involved in the things he is alleged to be involved in, he has violated his employment contract, into which he entered freely. An an-capper like Tom, if anyone, should recognize that this is one of the most immoral acts an individual can commit.

Check that - breaking a contract is acceptable if one is willing and able to make and pay reparations. If I cancel my cellphone service, I'm OK as long as I pay Telus $20/mo for every month I'm cancelling. I can divorce my wife (example, dear, example!) as long as I compensate her in accordance with either a pre-nuptial agreement or the common law.

However, Rick Tocchet (if, allegedly, etc..) is quite obviously unable to make reparations to the NHL for the harm he has caused them by violating his contract. Just look at the newspapers. Tocchet doesn't have big enough bank or a loud enough bullhorn to make things right. The fact that the scandal is bigger that it would be if The State kept its tax-funded leeches away from private gambling is immaterial, because the popular reaction (and harm to the NHL's reputation) is not one bit surprising, and should have been known to Tocchet before he chose to violate his contract (or enter into it in the first place). Yeah, it was NJ State troopers that blew the whistle, but it could just have easily been an enterprising magazine reporter.

So to recap:

Gambling is not immoral (if you think it is, then must also believe that lottery- and casino-operating governments are immoral, and I think we're basically on the same side here). If it wasn't illegal, there would be no need for Scarfos or other Moustache Petes to break thumbs, because you could enforce gambling contracts in courts or private arbitration, just like other contracts.

Rick Tocchet has behaved disgracefully not because he's (allegedly, etc. etc.) involved with gambling. It's because he caused harm to the NHL, in a way that went against his contracted word, that he is unable to undo, repair, or even mitigate. If you believe in the freedom (or supremacy) of the individual, a.k.a. the Contractual Society, you simply cannot stick up for Rick Tocchet here. Janet Gretzky, on the other hand, go right ahead and stick up for her.

Not that I'm telling you what to care about. Seriously. Back to hockey.

[Addendum: let me take one step back here, because above, I think I'm overstating the amount of actual harm that the NHL will suffer from Tocchet's alleged actions. If the most likely scenario is true (that Tocchet had an illegal side business and he's mobbed-up a bit, but no insider hockey gambling was going on), I really doubt the NHL will suffer much long-term financial harm. Tocchet will be expunged, and life will go on.

There's only two (worst-case) scenarios that really would impact the league seriously. One is the (say) 1-in-1000 chance that there was a fix on an NHL game. The other is the very unlikely, but slightly-more-likely, chance that Gretzky or his wife was indebted to Rick Tocchet when Tocchet was hired as a Coyotes AC (3-in-1000?). The chance that Wayne Gretzky was betting on NHL games is infinitessimal, I think.]


Oilers Game Day - Minnesota

Season Record: 30-19-7 Season Record: 28-25-4


This one is a must win. Minnie played last night and this is their 3rd game in 4 nights.

Word is that Roloson gets the start in net, which is fantastic news for Edmonton. Fernandez always seems to play well against the Oil, but Dwayne is only 2-11 with a 3.54 career record against Edmonton.

It will be the Mayor in net for Edmonton. Peca may dress.

Sacamano's key to the game -- Until they fix this, I'm sticking with the same problem -- first shift after scoring a goal. As predicted, it finally burned them last game. Please, please, stop putting out LeGG right after scoring.

Great Quotes: -- On asked about the gambling stuff, Mac-T said that it would kill The Oilers' usual Sunday night bingo game. He said something along the lines of "Every Sunday we get together, sing Kumbaya, and Prongs pulls out the bingo balls."

Prediction: 4-1 Oilers (Hemsky, Pronger, Horcoff, Harvey)


Candid photography

Jose Theodore, left, reacts to news that he won't face an NHL suspension (or loss of salary) for his positive drug test.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Are you kidding! It oughta be great!

Chris Selley notes today's big launch:
The Daily Hate debuts

Classic Cox:

"That police are today hunting for evidence that NHL players or employees may have been betting on league games is a scar that won't be easy to erase."

Wow. Imagine if they actually find some evidence. That scar would never heal. Sorry, would never be erased.

And now he has a blog. That oughta be fun.

Related: a nameless anagram aficionado informed me today that STEVE SIMMONS rearranges to spell VOMITS MENSES. How about that!


A note... Hall of Famer Jim Matheson: see, it is possible to write a nice column about a good guy/bad player without denying reality, and without giving the fans a Shame On You. This might be embarrassing, but just check out the other paper in town:
If you want to say Conklin hasn't been good enough, there's no argument here. At 5-5-1 with a 3.12 goals-against average and saves-percentage of .872, the numbers speak for themselves.
Conklin is a pro. He's a good teammate. He's an example that bad things can happen to good people. Conklin cares. Before you applaud his exit, you should know that much.

Well done, Robin Brownlee, for showing Matty how it's done.


But I prefer a win in 60

I'm sure we'll get around to making (and taking) Olympic predictions eventually, but here's the NHL shootout records of the Olympic goalies (Name, Country, Shots Against/Goals Against, Save%):
Looks like Canada has a noticeable advantage in goal over everyone except Sweden (I'm assuming Kazhakstan won't make the medal round).

Rounding up the shooters is a lot more work, and probably pointless. Every team has guys who can score in the shootout; only Finland (Jokinen) and Slovakia (Balastik) appear to have a guy who is money in the bank.

(If Finland wasn't missing Kari Lehtonen in goal, they'd be the scariest shootout team. Lehtonen is perfect, and besides Jussi Jokinen's insane 8-for-8, Laaksonen, Nieminen, and Jarko Ruuttu are all 1-for-1.)


No kidding

ESPN's John Buccigross talks to the Caps' Chris Clark, formerly of the Flames:
Bucci: Did you ever hear Darryl Sutter laugh while playing in Calgary?

Clark: No.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Smile Time

- The Flames win their 2nd straight, 3-1
- L.A. gets their butt kicked, again (Manny Malhotra: +4)
- Bubba assumes a familiar position (check the 2nd period Shots)

If the Blues can hold on to their lead over the Canucks, this'll be just about a perfect night. (Come on, Saint-Lou: no need to leave anything in the tank...)


Olczyk come back! All is forgiven...

I was just getting a bit of a head start on putting together the 3rd quarter team stats, and noticed a couple of slightly surprising things. The worst teams in the NHL since Game 40:

- Philly (5-7-3)
- L.A. (6-8-3)
- Leafs (4-9-2)
And by far the most putrid:
- Pittsburgh (1-13-2): 4 points in 13 games

Brutal. Has any coach not named Robbie Ftorek ever misplayed his hand with his own team as badly as Michel Therrien?

The best teams since Game 40, to presumably no one's surprise, are Carolina, New Jersey, and Dallas. For all of Ottawa's seeming inconsistency, they're 10-3-1. And regrettably, Colorado and Vancouver have rebounded very well from terrible 2nd quarters.


Numbers game

This came out a month ago, but I hadn't seen mention of it. Team Canada's players have selected their sweater numbers. Here's the guys wearing different numbers than they do in league play:
The number 3 is still available, hint hint hint...


Entire NW Division in Playoffs?

Is it possible for all 5 NW division teams to make the playoffs this year. Frankly, it would be a crime if it didn't happen.

Early on it didn't look good for Minnie, but LA's recent implosion along with the Wild's recent resurgence (and Gaborik coming back from injury) has muddied the waters. Minnie's 5-1 whuppin' of the Kings last night made it even more interesting.

Cleary the Wild have the tougher schedule coming home, but the good news is that the 3 teams they are fighting with are all in the same division (LA, Anaheim, Phoenix) and so should pick away at each other.

I'm actually hoping the Wild do make it in. They get a bad rap. Now that they actually look to score off of transitions, I don't find them nearly as painful to watch as I used to.


Writing on the wall

Burning question for Team Canada fans:

Should we be concerned about this brutal string of luck Wayne Gretzky is on, and anticipate a quarterfinal loss to Slovakia or some damn thing?

Or, should we consider this whole gambling hoo-hah "one thing", call it the "third thing" after his mother and grandmother dying, and since Bad Luck Comes in Threes, basically be happy that the third thing happened now and reassume the confidence of a favourite?

Just asking.

(Related: how much "financing" could a gambling ring possibly need? It's not like there's a ton of overhead; I'm certainly under the impression that generally gamblers fund gambling rings. Yeah, you need a little pot of money just in case bettors go on a hot streak, but...)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Topic changing thread

I'm sick of the Tocchet thing already. The Game That Shall Be Decided in Regulation goes off at 7MT on RSN West; go ahead and discuss. Or,

If Necessary
The 5 shooters in the Canadian Olympic shootout lineup should be:



Item: Tocchet faces gambling ring charges
Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet is accused of financing a U.S. sports gambling ring in which about a half-dozen current NHL players placed bets - but not on hockey - authorities said Tuesday.

"Everyone in the world is innocent until proven guilty . . ." [Wayne Gretzky] added. "He's a great guy and he's a good friend. He's just going through a tough time right now. Obviously we've got to let it run its course."

Worth pointing out - maybe - that the NHL and the Coyotes are private organizations, and the U.S. Constitution applies to the U.S. government, not them... if it did, they probably couldn't fine people ten grand for saying "the reffing sucked".

Anyway, particularly since hockey gambling was not uncovered, I think most of our contempt here ought to be reserved for the State of New Jersey. The troopers' press release
The State Police investigation paints a picture of a highly organized sport betting system, which in a forty day period processed more than 1000 wagers exceeding 1.7 million dollars on professional and collegiate sporting events.

Point One: how fortunate for them that Operation Slap Shot uncovered an NHL link; otherwise, people would have been awfully confused by the name. Point Two: $1.7M in wagers? Oooooh, wow! Annual revenues in Alberta only, from ticket lotteries which include Sports Select, are presently sitting at around $200M.

And Point Three: if you're New Jersey, you gotta have some brass balls to charge people with promoting gambling:
N.J. Casino Revenues Top $5B for First Time

"Thirty years ago when we were debating casino gambling in the Legislature, no one could have imagined a $5 billion industry," Governor Richard J. Codey said.

The press release contained this little nugget...
Beyond the bookmaking and corruption charges the investigation has revealed alleged ties to the Bruno-Scarfo Crime Family of La Cosa Nostra, operating in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.

...but I think it's plently clear who the racketeers are here, protecting their turf.


Janet Gretzky - Mob Queen

Reports are out that Phoenix assistant captain was served with a criminal complaint on charges of promoting gambling, money laundering, and conspiracy.

More interesting was this bit:

"Action News has learned that the ring could also be linked to former Philadelphia Flyer Mark Recchi - who now plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Janet Jones - who is the wife of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, and the ring could be tied to the crime family of Bruno Scarfo."

Ay carumba! I'm not entirely sure who "Action News" is, or how reliable they are. But that ain't good no matter how you slice it.


Oilers Game Day - Colorado

Season Record: 30-18-7 Season Record: 29-20-6


A win tonight puts the Oilers in a three-way tie for first place in the NW (Calgary will have a game in hand). A loss brings Colorado within one point of Edmonton.

The Mayor will get the start in net with either a sick Jussi or a freshly waived Conky backing him up.

Tarnstrom is out with the flu, and Moreau and Peca are both out with injuries. Kyle Brodziak has been called up to play center.

Sacamano's key to the game -- first shift after scoring a goal. The Oil have been terrible this year about giving up goals right after scoring. They did it again last night, and it is going to come back to bite them.

Worrisome Quotes: -- "That is why tonight's division matchup against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center had Avalanche players talking Monday as if they were gearing up for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Oilers are only three points ahead of the Avs."

Prediction: 4-3 Oilers (Smyth, Hemsky, Pronger, Laraque)


Rule 61b

Big wins for both the Flames and Oilers last night, but it sounds like the most interesting action was in Vancouver. Briefly: the Canucks took a 4-0 lead; Columbus got it back to 4-3; then Vancouver scored the last 3 goals to make it a 7-4 final.

Vancouver's 3rd thru 7th goals were all scored on the powerplay (apparently Canucks fan cstewart99 is pretty tough to please: "This team needs HUGE help on the PP. First off, the Sedins should be top line on the PP...the "big" line gets way to fancy and forget to just shoot the puck! The PP is easily one of the worst in the league...").

Again, C-Bus made it 4-3 about 2 minutes into the 3rd. Then Foote takes an interference penalty, and D. Sedin scores to make it 5-3. About 30 seconds later, Klesla high-sticks Bertuzzi and cuts him a bit: double minor.

About a minute into this PP, Bertuzzi comes back out onto the ice: no stitches, still bleeding, and assists on another goal to make it 6-3. And C-Bus coach Gerard Gallant loses it. He goes nuts. He's banging the bench door open and shut, screaming, etc. -- HONK! Two minute bench minor for "abuse of officials".

Anyway, the Jackets kill it off, fail to score on two subsequent PPs, and the rest of the period is a parade of fighting and roughing penalties.

TSN's bingo caller said that Gallant was upset that Bertuzzi was allowed to play while he was bleeding. I've been scrolling through the Rulebook, and can't find any mention of this. Anyone?

The double minor rule is actually this:
61. b. When a player carries or holds any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent so that injury results, the Referee shall:

(i) Assess a double minor penalty for all contact that causes an injury, whether accidental or careless, in the opinion of the Referee.

I was surprised to see that, while there are plenty of notes and interpretations strewn about the rulebook, there is no specific mention of cuts/blood here. Surprised, because for ten years, regardless of the other circumstances, it's been blood = 4 mins, no blood = 2 mins. Hasn't it?

Last note: yeah, no one likes to be too dependent on their PP to score goals, but if I was Marc Crawford, I'd be a lot more concerned about this, a quote from Markus Naslund in the CP story:
"It comes from taking penalties and giving them chances," he said. "Plus, we gave (Rick) Nash four breakaways and we've got to be careful letting guys behind our (defence)."

Ya think?


Beached Whales

A little bit late, but here are a few photos from the Oilers-Canucks game on Saturday -- including a few photos of the Orca road trippers.

Here are JJ and the rest of the Canuckleheads before the game . . . when they still thought they had a chance.

Here they are getting . . .

spray painted . . .

on the jumbotron . . .

by the Oil guy

And there they are behind the Oilers, crying after the big loss.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Zero to ???

You just have to laugh.

As reported earlier today (or just scroll down), Conky was put on waivers. You thought that was the end of the saga? Nay, friend, it was just a another wacky stop along the way.

The word tonight is that Jussi was throwing up between periods and isn't making the trip to Colorado. This means--oh mercy--that Conks is once again our #1 backup.

Question: which is a worse prospect?
  1. Somebody claims Conks off waivers before tomorrow morning's 10:00 am MST deadline forcing us to dress Pete Peters as our backup, or
  2. No one claims Conky, Quimby stinks up the game, and Ty has to play in relief?


Hero to Zero

The penny has finally dropped. After months of rotating three goalies through various permutations of "conditioning stints", "groin injuries", and ECHL postings, the Oilers have finally cut loose one of their goaltenders. Sort of.

Ty Conklin, the Oilers' stated preseason #1 goaltender, has been placed on waivers. The odds of him actually getting picked up? Pretty slim.

Frankly, I'm not sure this was even the best thing to do. Was he that untradeable?

The talking heads noted that the Oilers only have 12 forwards currently and will likely need a roster spot in the near future.

The good news is that the Oilers' actual preseason #1 goaltender--Mayor Quimby--has finally secured himself a spot.


Flames Game Night

Tonight it's the Flames in San Jose to take on Joe Thornton and the Sharks (Flames PPV). Calgary generally plays very well in the Shark Tank, the most obvious evidence being the three playoff wins there in March '04.

As I noted last week, descriptions of San Jose's momentum since acquiring Thornton are a bit overstated. They have 36 points in 28 games since the trade; if they play at that pace going forward, they'll finish with 95 points, which may be just enough for the playoffs.

However, that does include an incredible 6-game tear right off the bat, where they went 6-0 and outscored their opponents 29-13. Those 6 games were also all part of their Eastern Conference schedule; they went 9-1 against the East, and don't have those teams to punk on anymore.

In their last 12 games (i.e. the 3rd quarter of the season), they've earned 13 points. That pace will leave them well short of the playoffs.

I think the Flames will win 3-2. Now with that out of the way: Story Time!

The Skoda sticker on Joe T's helmet reminds me of a good friend of Sacamano and me from high school, KT (who is today, I believe, a Flames season-ticket holder). Of course every high schooler wants a car, but for some reason our friend KT's parents bought him a Skoda.

KT was harangued regularly and mercilessly about his piece-of-crap. He defended himself as best he could: "at least I have a car", and also, "it's not a bad car!".

Long story short: after probably a full year of this, KT was driving down Shaganappi Trail one day and his beloved Skoda burst into flames. Literally: it was a complete write-off. It burned right down to the steel.

Much, much laughter was had. He's still known to this day by some of our contemporaries as Torch. And a month later, you never saw a 17-year-old so happy to be driving a Pontiac Sunburst.

The moral of the story: kids can be so... very... perceptive.


Is Edmonton's Defense Too Good? [updated]

One of the blowhards on one of the radio stations (I really can't tell the difference between them all) mentioned that the Oilers D might be too good.

His theory? By preventing so many shots (currently 2nd best in the league), the Oilers don't allow their goaltenders to "get into the game".

Quimby was interviewed and actually gave some credit to this theory, saying something along the lines of "Ya, it is often difficult for goaltenders to play in games where you get very little action."

He went on to say that he was used to it because his team at Maine also prevented a lot of shots.

Personally, I'm perfectly happy to only give up 1 shot/period.

Incidently, the Oil are back in positive goal differential territory in both the offense and defensive components. The Flames are still a -24.7 on offense.


Quimby had this to say after the Van game:

"There is a lot less asked of you here than in Greenville. Definitely down there you get a lot more opportunities (to see shots), a lot more grade-A (scoring) chances (than in the NHL)."

"Most guys down there are not getting paid enough to block shots like the guys up here are, and that's understandable. Plus, our team up here in general is such a great defensive team in terms of the sacrifices that they make to keep the puck out of our net."


Oiler Game Day - Anaheim

Season Record: 29-18-7 Season Record: 25-18-10


The good news is that the Mighty Ducks are no longer Mighty.

The bad news is that I don't think we can count on Giguere imploding again.

This should be a good game. Both teams are playing well, and Giggy will be out to prove that he isn't a wack-job. The big story, though, is that it is Chris Pronger almost-life-sized poster night at Rexall. For the next 10 years or so, a whole lot of bedrooms will not require painting.

No official word on who is starting in net - the Yahoo preview implies that it will be Jussi.


No real hijinx ensued at the Vancouver game. Overall it was terrific. The Oil dominated a tired Canucks team, Spacek has stepped in and become our #2 defenseman, Stoll was an automaton in the faceoff circle, LeGG got a little ornery, Quimby was great, Torres finally got a goal, and there were a whole wack of dynamite signs in the crowd:

e.g. A young couple - each with a sign.
His sign: "We're on our honeymoon!"
Her sign: "I'd still dump him for Smyth!"

I managed to meet up with JJ and the rest of the Orca crew at the game between periods -- great bunch of guys & gals. I even have photo evidence, but of course I forgot my camera at home where I am currently analog.

26 of them flew into Calgary, watched the game, then rented a school bus to come up to Edmonton for the game on Saturday. JJ said that they were all pretty sore after that ride. Apparently the back of the bus is only fun when you are in Junior High.

Thanks for coming guys -- too bad your team's heart stayed behind in Calgary.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Let's not get distracted here, people

Story of Super Bowl XL you probably won't read, although Bill Simmons might mention it: we just missed seeing what would probably have been the greatest moment in Super Bowl Gambling History, i.e. the Greatest Moment in Gambling History.

The point spread on the game was Pittsburgh -4. It started at -4, and stayed right on that number for two weeks, without even jittering so much as half a point.

Twice late in the 4th quarter, Seattle was down by 11 and moving the ball. If they had managed to get the ball into the end zone, the score would have been 21-16. It was sufficiently late in the game that they absolutely would have attempted a 2-point convert to get to within a field goal at 21-18.

What I'm saying is that the 2-point convert would have been a classic moment (especially if it was with something like 8 seconds left, where the game outcome wasn't really in doubt). Down by 5. If the Steelers prevented the 2-pointer, they cover the 4-point spread and win by 5. If the Seahawks converted, they moved to within 3, covering the +4 spread. An unsatisfying Push of a 4-point win, impossible. But, apparently the Seahawks don't have any sideline passes in their playbook, so it wasn't to be.

Sports Story of the Month Completely Overshadowed by the Super Bowl: a guy named John Holmes won the PGA Tour event in Phoenix (sometime since he was the medallist in Q-School, he started going by J.B. Holmes, which is disappointing, but we still know who you are, buddy). This surely would have made for one of the most entertaining golf highlight, er, packages in the history of SportsCentre. Oh, did I mention that he's One Of The Longest Guys On Tour, and that I am seriously not making this up?

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Oilers Game Day - I Have Tickets Division

Hey hey hey.

Mrs. Sacamano does it again! She managed to procure a couple of tickets for tonight's big tilt between the Canucks and Oilers.

Let's hope the result is the same as the last Canucks' game I went to -- but with better foresight.

Longtime readers will know that my luck with tickets this year has been unparalleled--in both disastrous and wonderful ways. Anything can happen on a Saturday night . . .

Word also arrived in my inbox that 26 Canuckleheads are on an Alberta roadtrip and will be at the game. I just might go down and try to find them.

The bad news is that I am currently without a computer at home, so any accounts of the hijinx will likely have to wait a few days. In addition, I will be unable to post ridiculous predictions, mock the Flames, complain about the goaltending, wonder why Mac-T keeps putting Peca in the shootouts, etc. I expect the rest of you to pick up my slack

Go Oil!

Friday, February 03, 2006


Flames Game Night

It's the Canucks, it's the 25th anniversary celebration (7PM, RSN West). For some reason, I feel like anything I write will serve as some kind of hex. So no. See you after the game.


Yes sir, Mr. Sutter sir!

As "feared", today's bevy of print stories on the Flames-Coyotes trade contain absolutely no challenges to Darryl Sutter's stated reasoning for trading Phillipe Sauve ("we wanted a more experienced guy"), not to mention any questioning of why the Flames need a seasoned backup in February, but they didn't in August. It's not like the March schedule has changed since then.

Duhatschek comes the closest, by at least pointing out that " becomes clear that the Flames simply didn't trust back-up goaltender Phillipe Sauve to play anymore, which is why starter Miikka Kiprusoff was getting all the work lately and was looking a little tired to boot."

Plainly true. But would it be so hard for a single reporter to ask something like, "Darryl, would you say now that acquiring Sauve this summer was a mistake?" I have no idea how he'd respond (actually I do), but the true answer is obviously yes. Sauve didn't get his first start until the 12th game of the season, Calgary's 3rd back-to-back. Based on the evidence, they never trusted him. (The only alternative, again, is that Sutter is uncomfortable with any backup, and that all the stuff about Sauve not preparing well enough etc. is Sutter covering his ass after an ill-advised rant).

Whatever. On the whole, I'm glad my team's media isn't the kind that finds incompetence underlying every management decision; it's tiresome to read (right Leafs fans?). But a little deeper analysis wouldn't hurt. Jeez, Eric Francis is the only guy I can name who has ever truly criticized Darryl Sutter in print (devil's advocacy doesn't count, guys). Sutter's not perfect; I know he's intimidating, but people shouldn't be afraid to say as much.


Go brush with greatness!

The Flames are doing their big 25th anniversary dealy tonight. As part of the fun, you can go have your picture taken with the Stanley Cup at the 'Dome (for $20 to charity).

Oiler fans: Mike Peca will be signing autographs at the Save-On-Foods in North St. Albert on Sunday. Thanks to Peter Loubardias on RSN West last night for the tip.

[Speaking of Loubardias, I like him, but he had a weird call on the Oilers' goal last night in Kevin Quinn's stead. It was something like, "Scores! Steve Staios! His first career goal against the Blue Jackets, and the Oilers lead 1-0!" I'm all for recognizing individual milestones, but HUH?]


Friday Baseball Standings

Thursday, February 02, 2006



...looking at tonight's Oilers/C-Bus result, you would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh 'til there was tears in your eyes.

Also, congratulations to Steve Reinprecht for making a good first impression: he scored the shootout winner for the Coyotes against LA tonight.


Little bits

More hilarious Theodore bashing (ÞSisu, naturally):
It's Ground Hog Day, the furry rodent came out of his hole, pulled his groin, scored three goals on Jose Theodore and went back to sleep.

Can you feel the excitement? Battle of the Titans at Savvis tonight:
Rookie Corey Crawford makes his first NHL start against the Blues tonight. Patrick Lalime is expected to start in goal for St. Louis.

This is getting repetitive, but you must check out the Razor today:
Right about here it's worth mentioning that the Stars made Ott their first round pick the previous summer, 25th overall, 24 picks after goaltender Rick DiPietro who he made his personal bitch at the WJ Tourney when Canada met the USA.

Any piece of biographical fiction that ends with Top that Paul Harvey is an instant classic as far as I'm concerned.

Finally, check out's excellent list of the 10 Greatest NHL Rookie Seasons. Did you remember that Peter and Anton Stastny both had hat-tricks in back-to-back games, or that Ray Bourque was plus-52 in his rookie year? I sure didn't.


Goalie Swap

A comment in the Sun's account of last night's trade caught my eye:
Sutter says Sauve's performance in the 7-4 loss to the Avs wasn't a factor.

"It's not something that happened last week, this is something we've worked on for a long time," said Sutter.

Two choices here:

He's lying. He spoke out of frustration after the Avs game. He was disappointed with Sauve that game, but was otherwise not that unhappy with the guy. Whether he regretted or not, he knew it was a bell he couldn't un-ring, and had to pursue a trade.

He's telling the truth. He was unhappy with Sauve's progress, focus, and work habits over the season to date, and had decided that he had to find a new backup. The Avs game confirmed his instincts, and solidified his decision that Sauve was outta here. Having decided that, he elected to use Sauve as an example to send a message to the rest of the players. This message was probably a hair harsher that he would have liked in retrospect, but it also reflected his own frustration at his error in judgement in acquiring the guy in the first place.

Lastly, as a larf, here's what the Flames had to say about Phillipe on August 10th:
Questioned whether Philippe Sauve was ready to be an NHL backup goalie, David Marcoux didn't hesitate.

"Absolutely," answered Marcoux, the Calgary Flames goalie coach.

"He spent three years in the American Hockey League -- in his last year, he was dominating -- and has developed into a very good goalie.

"He's been through good times and he's been through bad times and he's used all that experience to build a wall around him."

Whoops. Really lastly, I just found what the Herald's Jean Lefebvre had to say about Sauve 4 weeks ago, in the Flames Mid-Term Report. Under the category of Biggest First-Half Development:
The emergence of Philippe Sauve as a legitimate option on those nights Kiprusoff needs a breather. The only image most Flames fans had of Sauve when he was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche was the 2003-04 contest the Flames pumped seven pucks past him. So much for first impressions -- Sauve have been quite good, sometimes even great, in limited work. Sauve's trustworthiness could be key in the second half as the Flames remain mindful of Kiprusoff's workload and ailing hip.

Either Jean is a bit inattentive, or Sutter's definition of "a long time" is a counterintuitive one.


Wing Swap

Item: Flames trade Reinprecht and Sauve to Coyotes for Leclerc and Boucher

Good? Bad? Hard to say--we'll find out over the next few months.

I like(d) Rhino. He and Lombardi seemed to be our only guys who score goals with quick hands. And Leclerc seems to be widely described as a defensive forward.

That said, their career statistics are very similar, right down to the frequent injuries:
Leclerc's playoff experience with the Ducks in 2003 is also a nice addition.

I might have more to say about the Sauve/Boucher/Sutter aspect later. Hey, if you only saw the highlights of the SO loss to the Jackets last night, they probably simply mentioned that C-Bus was on a 5-on-3 when they scored their 1 goal. Here's why:

Nice. I discussed this rule a month or two ago; Tart Cider has some harsher words for it here.


Oilers Game Day -- Flames-Beating Blue Jackets

Season Record: 28-18-6 Season Record: 21-30-2


Columbus rolls into town tonight fresh off their shootout win over the slumping Flames. I'd call it an upset win, but frankly I'm not sure anymore.

The Oil have lost 4 in a row at home, but I see that streak ending tonight. Columbus, meanwhile, beat the Flames last night for their fourth in a row--a new club record.

Word is that Jussi is in the pipes for Edmonton, while Denis, who beat the Flames last night, will not be in net for Columbus.

In other news, JF Jacques has been called up to take the place of three-point legend Ethan Moreau. I can't say that I know much about him, except that he is a big, strong, fast, banging type of player. Did I mention that Columbus will probably be tired after their win over the Flames last night?

Prediction: 6-2 Oilers (Bergeron, Dvorak, Smyth, Torres, Stoll, Pisani)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Flames Game Night

Across the country on TSN, it's the Flames hosting the Blue Jackets!

Columbus is getting a bit of attention for their improved play of late, but it's somewhat of a mirage.

As has been the case for years, they are a decent home team and a terrible road team. I mean terrible: they're 6-18-2, and the best team they've beat on the road so far this year is Phoenix (plus MIN, STL, FLA, & CHI x2). Their shootout losses to the Avs and Wings have to be considered giant upsets.

The Flames have won both matchups so far this year; one was a dominant effort in Ohio, and one was a dodgy performance in Calgary, where Marcus Nilson chest-bumped the winning goal past Marc Denis in a 2-1 win.

Brass tacks: Calgary ought to win rather solidly. And I hope they do: I'm not interested in sensing any weird, powderkeg vibe detected by some. It's a 3-1 victory. Go Flames.

[Postscript: speaking of vibes, the pic of Nash gives me the sense of a guy who would take it out at the end of a date. Just me?]



If misery loves company, I wonder if this makes Cosh and Mudcrutch happy:
It's Official

The increase in scoring in the NHL this season is entirely due to the play of Jose Theodore.


Not-yet-breaking news

The radio this morning told be that Hockey Canada and the men's team exec are conference calling today to name replacement(s) for injured player(s).

The big question for me is if Phaneuf is selected. All accounts are that McCabe will be moved onto the active roster, but who will be put on to the taxi squad in his place?

But the second question, which makes the last part of the first one somewhat moot, is if Niedermayer has informed Gretzky et al of his plans in advance of this meeting; it's certainly possible that we will find out both that Niedermayer is out and who his replacement will be.

I went over this at enough length before, but Phaneuf really ought to be picked, whether it's to replace Niedermayer's offensive skillz, or Jovo's general wild-card-ness.


Won't someone please think of the children?

Wow - big day yesterday for righteous indignation in the sports media.

Hall of Famer Jim Matheson in the Edmonton Journal goes to bat for the departed Cory Cross:
... Booing him was unconscionable... he was treated shabbily... Shame on you.

Fans can be unfair, and pro hockey players are human beings regardless of how much money they make. No argument from me there. But give me a got-dang break! It is a fact of life, then, now, and forever, that 5th/6th/7th defensemen take a lot of abuse. That is their lot in life. Mr. Matty, sir, I'd like to introduce you to Igor Ulanov, Andrew Ference, Alexander Khavanov, Aki Berg, Brian Pothier, Steve McCarthy, Chris Therien, Dan McGillis, Jason Woolley, Nolan Pratt, etc. etc... Why don't you poll some of them to see how much sympathy they have for Cory Cross.

Three more little points on this:
The hyperventilating about Ray Emery's Tyson mask was worth a few eye-rolls as well. David Janes had a funny take, I thought:
Emery explained to the press that he greatly admires Tyson for his skill as a boxer and sees no reason for a fuss. One reporter shouted from the back, "It's because he's a convicted rapist." Emery repeated that he likes Tyson for his boxing skill. What he should've said to the reporter was, "Yes, and he went to jail and served his time," and then continued about Tyson's boxing skills.

What the reporter should have asked is whether it's appropriate for the player that is least likely on the team to get in a fight, that will be protected by the other players as if he was a little girl if he does get in a fight, and is padded with tens of pounds of body armor — to wear the image of a boxer.

He adds, "Of course, that reporter should know Tae Kwon Do or something if he's going to ask that question :-)". Yeah, I suppose.

And on a slightly related note (as in, why sports pundits should generally stick to sports, where the sky can be red, and stay away from moral and political issues): Dave Hodge did a (cough) "funny" bit on NHL team name changes on TSN, and tossed in this little bit:
...and the political theme should give birth in the U.S. to the Dallas Republicans.

I get it! Dubya is from Texas, right? Heh. Oh, here's the 2004 election results from Texas' 30th Congressional District, "which spans the heart of Dallas and surrounding communities such as Irving and Grand Prairie":
The Republicans are so popular in Dallas, they didn't even run anyone for the House there. Don't worry though Dave, we all got what you meant.

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