Thursday, November 30, 2006


My Déjà Vu, My Déjà Vu

That was all too effing familiar. I feel just like this. I'm going to watch Scrubs.


It's like I always say:

You can't stop Tyler Arnason and Ken Klee, you can only hope to contain them. Hey, if this gets really out of hand, does Torres punch Liles in the back of the head, or is that more of a Moreau job?


Hoist 'er Up!

Item: Flames set to retire Mike Vernon's No. 30

Good deal. It's been a long time since the club did this; the only other number Calgary has retired is Lanny's #9 (I had the good fortune to be there, too, before a game in the 89/90 season against Hartford). I was never really a "fan" of his, but I evolved over time into a supporter.

Mainly, I felt like the average fan was way too hard on him (Calgary fans pre-Kipper were brutal on goalies in general). I thought the criticism about not making the one big save, especially contrasted against the constant BS praise for Grant Fuhr, was bogus.

[I still remember the first time I heard the ancient goalie joke, Calgary variation:
Friend: Hey, did you hear Mike Vernon almost got hit by the C-Train yesterday?
Matt (genuinely intrigued): No, really?
Friend: Yeah, luckily he squared up and it went through his legs.]

Vernon is also a hometown boy (first hockey game I ever attended, he was in net for the WHL's Wranglers), and he's a genuine character. There's always been rumours about him, and by "rumours" I mean "things that are obviously true, but that media are too polite to discuss directly". Al Macneil was on the radio yesterday talking about him, and said roughly, "You know, he liked to have a good time, but on game day he was always ready to play." Peter Maher and Rob Kerr were discussing him back in the summer, too, I believe in reference to his future in the game (i.e. scouting, coaching, broadcasting, none of the above). I paraphrase:
Kerr: Vernon's never really been known as a thoughtful type, a student of the game, has he, Pete?
Maher: [eight-second belly laugh]

And the legend lives on -- here is the song that one corner of my C-Train car was singing after the G6 victory to win the '04 WCF (I report, you decide):

He's up,
he's down,
he's-at The-Rose-and-Crown,
Mikey Veeeee....

They shot,
he missed,
He's al-ways f***-ing pissed,
Mikey Veeeee....

I swear I'm not kidding.


Oilers Game Day-Avalanche

Record: 11-11-2Record: 13-8-2

• I erroneously added a loss to the Oilers in the standings in the sidebar. It has been corrected. My apologies.

• Your 1st place Edmonton Oilers play their third game against the Colorado Avalanche this evening. The Oilers have played all their Northwest Division rivals at least twice already this season, with the exception of the Minnesota Wild, who they have yet to face. I don't normally desire to see the Wild play anybody, let alone the Oilers, but this year is different. I'd like to see how the Oilers match up. The two teams don't actually meet for two more weeks, on December 14th.

• It remains uncertain how long Ales Hemsky will be out for, but it will likely be at least a couple weeks. The Oilers have called up Marc-Antoine Pouliot, who, unlike other call-ups before him, will actually see some ice time. The Oilers roster is pretty banged up right now, with Hemsky, Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios, Shawn Horcoff, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Jussi Markkanen all either injured or ill. Joanne Ireland is reporting that Horcoff, Staios and Markkanen will all likely be in the lineup this evening, while Bergeron is still questionable. He apparently has pneumonia, so I don't even know why his playing is being considered. The Oilers should play Danny Syvret.

• The injuries mean that lines will be shuffled. Petr Sykora is going to have to find a couple partners to dance with, for example. I don't know what Craig MacTavish is going to do, since some of the others who were in slumps (Pisani, Horcoff, Torres, Stoll) have played much better of late, and probably should be left with their linemates. Then again, other than the first line (Smyth, Horcoff, Pisani) and the Hemsky/Sykora pair, it's been a blender all year. I suppose it will just continue. I'd put Sykora on a line with Stoll and Torres, myself, or maybe Stoll and Winchester.

• The Oilers have scored power play goals in 13 of 23 games this season. The breakdown is below, in red. Beneath that list is another, indicating who the Oilers have scored against, and where that team stands in the NHL's penalty kill rankings. It's interesting, but perhaps unimportant, that of the 21 goals the Oilers have scored on the power play this season, 14 have come against teams in the bottom 7 of the penalty kill rankings. In fact, only 3 goals have come against top ten penalty killing teams.

• The Oilers have allowed powerplay goals in 8 of 23 games. The breakdown is below, in red. Beneath that list is another, indicating who has scored on the Oilers, and where that team stands in the NHL's power play rankings. It's interesting, but perhaps unimportant, that of the 11 powerplay goals the Oilers have given up this season, 4 have come against the top two power play teams in the league. 6 have come against teams in the bottom 7 of the power play rankings.

• I'm pretty sure there is zero value in what I just pointed out about the power play and penalty kill. I know I'm blurring cause and effect, for example, implying that the Oilers can only score against teams with a bad penalty kill, when in fact the teams may have bad penalty kill rankings because the Oilers scored on them. But I think if it was a stat followed over the length of the year, it might provide some insight into both special teams units. It would be like looking at strength of schedule, except for the special teams. Or I'm totally out to lunch. Vic? RiversQ? Tyler?

• Don't forget to vote today and tomorrow for The Battle of Alberta in the Canadian Blog Awards. We made a strong move yesterday, and need your help in securing a victory. Remember, only communists support basketball.

Prediction: I'm going to see 321 to -678, Oilers, then go back and change the score after the game is over. That has to be what Matt is doing, right? If not, I need him to buy me some lottery tickets.

***Screen captures taken from

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Nero Lowe: still ignoring those minor flare-ups

Oilers have both Steve Staios and Marc-Andre Bergeron out of the lineup for this evening's tilt with Anaheim. This means the Oilers 6 Dmen will be Jason Smith, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Ladislav Smid, Jan Hejda, Matt Greene and Syvret. [Ed. - The ill MAB did dress, not Syvret, but played only 6:01.]

I'm a big time supporter of Kevin Lowe but this is shameful.

Ray Ferraro:
On the difference between last year's Oil and this squad: "Their defense is nowhere near as mobile or efficient with the puck, and that makes their forwards not as effective as they should be. They rarely get a clean, direct pass. They always seem to take a pass swung around and along the boards. So, I would say, in general, the team is not as good. But there is no chance this defense is going to be the group that they go forward with and I don't think they will wait until trade deadline time. If a puck-mover becomes available, I think they are interested."

On what he misses most about Chris Pronger: "Aside from his puck moving and power-play poise, the 28 minutes a game he plays allows everyone else to slow down to where they are most comfortable and most effective. Asking Jason Smith and Steve Staios to play heavy minutes is too much. So, you lose Pronger's 27 minutes, and they're kind of being replaced by Daniel Tjarnqvist, and there of course is no comparison."

I could go on, but won't. In fairness, there's hardly a team in the NHL that doesn't need (or at least could really use) a solid, 2-way defenseman who can move the puck and play 24 minutes a night. Same goes with more experienced, capable depth on the blue line. Same goes with a D-man who can play the point (productively) on the blue line.

But surely, today of all days, it's appropriate to note that Kevin Lowe is the only GM in the league who has recently had sufficiently valuable trade bait with which to acquire such assets. He failed to do so, and unlike many of his supporters, I don't see how what can be acquired nearer the trade deadline for Stoll or Schremp or 1st-round picks will be a better deal than the opportunity already missed.

Isn't the Oilers' time now? Do they really want to jack around near the playoff bubble again? (I know MacT doesn't know it any other way, but jeez...) I find the lack of urgency and the lack of high expectations from just about every corner of Oiler-land to be baffling.

The Oilers have had a pretty good early season, but they have a glaring weakness (they're 14th in Shots Against/gm right now, last year they were 1st). The "Let's Wait And See Just How Bad Things Are, and/or if The Price-to-Correct Goes Down" approach seems... dubious, and it has since July 3rd.


"I need your vote, pardner"

**There are three days left in voting for the Canadian Blog Awards, and the Battle of Alberta needs your help. We came second in Round 1 behind the pretty funny RaptorBlog, and although the running tally for Round 2 (and Final) hides the blog names, I assume we are sitting second again.

It looks like this: RaptorBlog went out to about a 100-vote lead before Andy noted on Monday morning what was going on; since then, the margin has stayed the same. I'm certain that with your 3 votes (today, tomorrow, and Friday), we can take the lead on the homestretch. Please and thank you!

(FYI, the header of this post comes from the classic Limp Handshake episode of King of the Hill.)

**Steve Ovadia points to a Scott Burnside piece excoriating the Blackhawks organization, saying, "'s just a little angrier than I'm used to." Indeed, although the Razor's take (employed by the NHL's broadcast partner!) is both funnier and more devastating:
The game tomorrow should be a treat, what with the Hawks firing another coach and going in yet "another direction".

What a short-sighted, Neanderthalian, and moribund orginaization they are.

How many times a day do you think Robidas, Klemm, and Barnaby thank the hockey gods that they're not there anymore. And Modano must break into cold sweats when he is reminded that he could have signed with them.

We'll be the only TV for the game (the Blackhawks don't televise home games, smart marketing) and there is sure to be a few thousand faithful on hand to sparsely populate the UC for Denis Savard's debut behind the bench.

Good times!


**Don't tease me, Butch! From John Buccigross' column this week (where incidentally, he's switched to pimping Jagr for MVP instead of SNied), as he watches Rangers-Sabres:
16:47: The Sabres are trying to milk this one-goal lead. Rangers fans are booing Ozolinsh. Enter Sandman, exit Sandman. He'll be an Oiler by the new year.

Make the deal, K-Lo! Anyway, further down the page Butch also has a pretty awesome chat with Ray Ferraro: I seriously think most Oiler fans would agree 90+% with his assessment of the team.

Also, it looks like Adam Proteau has someone else to laugh at:
Butch: What's your take on the head injury debate going on and will the league ever have full helmet protection like the NFL?

Ferraro: I think the full face shield in minor hockey and college hockey has resulted in higher NHL hits. I think the full facial protection hurts the game. The more we protect the players, the more dangerous it gets because there is no regard for safety. They haven't done enough with the equipment. They are way too hard. The elbow pads are way too hard. The equipment is too hard and the contact is too hard because guys are coming faster because the clutching and grabbing is gone.

Add another name to the "old people" + "resistant to change" file, eh Adam?


Who? Me?

I don't even want to get into that shit-show from last night, other than to say I love Ryan Smyth even more for taking the blame for the loss. I watched the game with Cosh and Avi, plus a couple of hotties, and Cosh remarked that the overtime gaffe should cost Smyth a million bucks on his new deal. He was joking--sorta--but I think Smyth earned it all back with his post-game "I'll take the heat" stance. I'm always sceptical about the effect intangibles have on the outcome of a game, but I certainly don't doubt the effect it has on a fan-base. Yokels like me lap that up. It's stuff like that that makes Smytty what he is in Edmonton, a Golden Hockey God. Amen, Hallelujah, Yes Sir!!!

Anyway, because I refuse to talk about that "game" anymore (I think my mind, and sanity, was obliterated at the 19:44 mark of the 3rd), I thought I'd broach a fun, but vitally important subject that was raised around the table last night. It's obvious that the Oilers have some squee worthy beefcakes on their roster. Stoll, Moreau, Lupul, Sykora and Reasoner immediately come to mind. But do they in fact have the best looking roster in the entire NHL? Has anyone done an "objective" comparison? Has a winner been declared? This is what I, and the others I was with last night, would like to know. Obviously I am no expert in this regard, so I'd like to open the floor up to those who are. Thoughts? Direction? Bueller?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006




Flames Game Night

Flames v. Avalanche tonight (7PM MT, RSN West). Calgary lit up the Avs at home last year, certainly for them at least. (The exception being the NW clincher I attended, which was a more Flames-y 2-0 win).

How many bad goals will Theodore/Budaj let in today? I don't know, but it should be fun to watch. How about... a 5-2 win (Tanguay, Ference, and the fans get to fling their headgear when Lombardi gets his 3rd into an empty net). Go Flames.


Potpourri for 10,000 x $11.95

**I'll be watching Flames-Avs tonight (stay tuned for Game Day), but I'll be interested to hear the reviews of the Oilers PPV telecast tonight. Duhatschek says (Þmc79) that the Oilers are expecting 10,000+ additional purchases of the broadcast.

Clearly these additional purchasers are interested primarily in witnessing the home crowd's treatment of Pronger, so the question is, will the PPV producers give them what they want? Apparently some Edmonton media-types are embarrassed in anticipation; no doubt at least some in the pre-production meeting are pushing for treating it just like every other telecast. That'd be nutty, though: while they don't have to give screen time to filthy and/or libellous signs and T-shirts, there's no reason why they can't document the reality of the evening.

If I had to bet, though, I'd bet that a misplaced sense of propriety rules the day, and that consequently thousands of first-time PPV customers are also last-time customers. Keep me posted.

**Some minor backup to yesterday's take on Trent Yawney: one rough, somewhat unfair measure of "discipline" is (PPOpps minus Times SH). The Hawks are 29th in the NHL this season and were 30th last season, when their opponents had 130 more PPs than they did. That can't be attributed to injuries and loft as easily as their record as a whole; at least, it's more of an indictment of Yawney than not giving enough shifts to Tony Salmelainen.

**Another follow-up to a post yesterday: Increased Player Movement - Myth or Reality? Tidor in the comments said that it explains why so many franchises' Iron Man streaks are from so long ago. I won't be convinced unless I see data. I've been hearing the same complaint from self-described Former NHL Fans since I was 10 years old: "The players these days move around so much I can't keep track of them; it's not like it was."

Add more in the comments if you think of any, but here's a list of players with long, long stretches with one team:
Perhaps you can look back at any given time during the 40s-70s and there is a much higher number of players (relative to the # of teams) with long service time at their clubs. But like I say, show me.

**Dennis at IOF has a terrific post today about Pronger, Peca, and the fan-athlete relationship in general. I normally either shrug or roll my eyes at a statement like this...
It just triggered something that I'd known for awhile but something I hate admitting because it really tempers my love for the game and sports in general: the players don't care about nor respect the fans. That's a blanket statement and I guess a few players care but they are in the vast minority.

...but as an element of whole piece, it's pretty compelling.

**Last: not to be forgotten about the Prong Show at Rexall tonight is that the man himself is playing as well as he ever has, Rd1vWings-good. I watched the last two periods of Flames v Ducks on Sunday, and there's no way there's a tougher guy to play against in the league.

His pass to Selanne for the 3-2 go-ahead goal was phenomenal. There was a sequence where a puck caromed off someone's leg and created what looked like a 2-on-1 for the Flames, and Pronger just enveloped Lombardi before he had a chance to do Thing One with the puck. I tried to keep count of his mistakes, or even "imperfect plays". The total was 1 (a bouncing puck got over his stick at the point on the PP).

Earl has a nice breakdown of his numbers compared to Niedermayer. Since their TOI breakdown is virtually identical, it's fair to include special teams GF/GA, and by that measure, Pronger is +30, Niedermayer is +13. As Earl says, those numbers "really aren't that close".

Pronger is 4th in the WC in scoring (4-22-26). He's T-2nd in the league in +/- (+16). He has but 14 PIM (another early-season Lady Byng run?). And, his team has 40 points in 25 games and sits in 1st place in the conference (6 points clear). He's the Hart Trophy front-runner, and I fully expect that this sentiment will be near-unanimous by Christmas. So, Oil fan? Good luck with that tonight...


It Brings Tears To My Eyes

Beautiful. Glove tap to Kukla.


Oilers Game Day-Ducks

I actually don't blame Lauren Pronger for anything (nor do I feel I have reason to), and I stopped being angry at Chris Pronger about two weeks into July (although intellectually I find his handling of the situation cowardly and his catch-all excuse completely unsound), but sometimes, the Muses just take you places.

Record: 17-2-6Record: 13-8-1

• Staios and Markkanen are out for the Oilers. Syvret and Deslauriers have been called up, and may draw in. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Tom "Brad" Gilbert get the call up over Syvret, but we all know MacT is going to go with the safe choice (i.e. previous NHL experience). Grinny and Spazzy are probably out for the Ducks, which means Michael Wall and David McKee will likely be the goaltending tandem. As long as the Oilers get more than 11 shots on them through two periods, they should be fine.

• While the Ducks seventeen wins are impressive, don't let anyone fool you with the "they've only lost twice" argument. They've lost six times in overtime. Plus, they lost to the Flyers, despite Philly only getting 4 shots on net over the last two periods. As Earl has pointed out, they also haven't had a very difficult schedule. The Ducks are a good team, maybe even a great team, but they haven't yet proven that they are an elite team.

• Anaheim has the 4th best PP in the NHL (21.6%), and are 9th on the PK (85.4%). Edmonton is 14th (16.8%) on the PP, and 1st on the PK (90.8%).

• Anyone else getting a little tired about the Oilers players fawning over Pronger? I know you are still friends, and a player's loyalty to his city and jersey is mostly a thing of the past (if it ever existed at all), but could you guys at least pretend for a few minutes that he's on the opposing team and that that really bothers you? I'm just waiting for one of them to pull a Jeremy Roenick and tell us we are stupid.

• The Oilers of course traded Chris Pronger for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, and two, maybe three, high draft picks. But the trade also freed up some cap space, allowing them to sign players like Lupul and Petr Sykora. Let's take a look how each team has fared with its new players, using some traditional statistics.

PlayerGoalsAssistsPointsPlus/MinusTOI/GAvg. $Age
Anaheim Ducks
Chris Pronger
Edmonton Oilers
Petr Sykora
Joffrey Lupul
Ladislav Smid
Ducks Total
Oilers Total
24.3 (Avg.)

• For good measure, let's look again at how the Ducks have fared against the Oilers in the 21st Century:

YearOilers WinsDucks WinsTiesDucks Wins In Edmonton

Games Played Since 2000Oilers WinsDucks WinsTiesGames Played In EdmontonDucks Wins In EdmontonOilers Winning %Oilers Winning % At Home

• I've been good friends with a guy named Shane O'Bryan for eleven years. Little did I know he'd get beat up one day by Derek Boogard.

• The game is on PPV, but Kinger says it will also be available on TVU.

• Via Kukla, I see that the L.A. Times is reporting that "some fans reportedly plan to pelt him [Pronger] with pacifiers." That's news to me. I'd like the L.A. Times to tell me who "some fans" are.

• Thanks to Eric McErlain for giving us the shout out in his NBC article yesterday.

• John Mackinnon has a great take on Pronger's press conference, in his blog for the Edmonton Journal.

• Earl has some sound advice for the Oilers faithful: look for the name, not the number!

Prediction: 4-2, Oilers. Smytty, Horcoff, Lupul, and Hemsky. Plenty of boos and funny/caustic signs at Rexall, but no Edmonton Handshakes.


Chris Pronger's Press Conference

Glove tap to MC.

Monday, November 27, 2006


that OTHER defenseman hated in Alberta

I hope Trent Yawney gets another crack at an HC job in the NHL. While I despised the guy as a Flames player (think 05/06 Cory Cross, except playing 20+ minutes a game), I wrote last year (after his team ended an 8-game Flames winning streak) that it looked like he might make a decent coach. I still think that; he's smart, and I assume he'll learn from Opportunity #1.

Obviously the injuries hurt this year too, though that's been a bit overblown in the post-mortems. Martin Havlat was not going to score 160 points this year: even if he had stayed healthy, he would have gone through a long slump where he looked awful, on account of he's Martin Havlat. Khabibulin has a Cup but has never been a elite (i.e. Top 10) NHL goalie, and often he's been much worse.

Nevertheless: despite all the above plus the fact that surely he was better at his job than Dale Tallon was at his, I still don't know that I could say he deserved to keep his job. Not to put too fine a point on it, but: at every other level of hockey, if your team constantly gets killed because they take more penalties than the other team, that's on the coach. I don't see why that shouldn't be mostly the same in the NHL.

Tyler has noted this a couple of times too; my comment last season after Chicago earned 4 points in Alberta was this:
...if they expect to be a playoff team, they have to stop cheating so damn much.



Pronger Roundup, Monday Night

I found this one too late to put into the roundup from earlier today, and too good to wait til tomorrow.

• Chris Pronger, and Marcia C. Smith, in an article by Marcia C. Smith.
About a dozen Ducks will serve food to more than 15,000 people in the Honda Center parking lot from 11a.m.-4 p.m. as part of the local "We Give Thanks" program.

Ducks newcomer Chris Pronger will be there with wife, Lauren, "because I have a lot to be thankful for this year."

The hard-playing defenseman got the trade he wanted out of Edmonton, where the weather today is expected to be 3 degrees with a windchill of 8-below.

Marcia C. Smith, meet Dan Barnes.


"hockey + lack of critical thinking"

(Updated at bottom)

Adam Proteau of The Hockey News:
I don’t know Ron MacLean. By all accounts, he’s a very nice man who loves the game as much as anyone. But for him to appear on Leafs Lunch radio in Toronto Thursday and imply the NHL’s crackdown on obstruction has created a dangerous working environment for the players – well, that’s just laughable.

Since Proteau's full-time job is analyzing hockey and producing content for a paid publication, he follows this up with a bunch of evidence... bwaaa, hahaha. Of course he doesn't: he just points out that Maclean works with Don Cherry (zing!), and spends the final two-thirds of the piece saying that the only possible reason Ron Maclean could have a problem with things now is that he's resistant to change. Ta-dah!

This ignorant piece is a perfect example of the sorry state of what at times has been considered the "Hockey Bible", but which in 2006 carries absolutely no such cachet. What exactly are they doing at THN to make themselves indispensable to hockey fans? Shouldn't a bunch of hockey watchers, freed from the constraints of day-to-day reporting on specific teams, be producing the most interesting hockey stuff to read? How is it that I read dozens of hockey blogs every day, and yet the only references to what is ostensibly THE hockey periodical are from Lowetide rooting through his back issues?

I'm not defending Maclean's opinion exactly: for one, he doesn't need me, and for two, I don't know that he's right. But it's certainly possible: why shouldn't less holding/more skating lead to more open ice hits, and thus more head shots & injuries? Is that thought ridiculous? You may prefer it that way, many do. If everything reverted, I might.

But, I have ten bucks that says Adam Proteau doesn't know the answer to, "True or False: there have been fewer concussions since the obstruction crackdown." He can laugh away, but he doesn't know.

Here's a spreadsheet that you'll probably find interesting. Colby Cosh, as background for a column in the Western Standard & Mining Stock Brochure, collated the "Iron Man" streaks for the 21 franchises that have been playing since the WHA merger. Check it out, and squint as long as you want, but not one of them has occurred even in part in a year beginning with '2'. I'd like everyone who scoffs at Don Cherry's dangerous old-school attitude to at least pretend to wonder why the Leafs' consecutive games record is held by Tim Horton (dead for 32 years), or why the Oilers' record is held by the guy famous for being the last helmet-less player in the league.

I readily admit that I'm not the guy who sits around worrying about the health and safety of NHL players. But nonetheless, these are serious issues, and they deserve serious, informed analysis -- not just sneering dismissal of people who've been around the game for dozens of years, and yelling MANDATORY VISORS! at the top of your lungs. Laughable, indeed.

UPDATE: This is so completely on topic, I'm not sure why I didn't bring it up earlier. Cosh's most recent WS column online (free reg.) is Revenge of the Prissy Paranoids, which dissects a "senseless and unjust" piece by SI's Michael Farber:
Can Farber's argument really be that the new stick blades are safe, but are inherently deplorable on safety grounds, simply because the NHLPA and its members approve of them? So it seems. "There are so many other safety issues, including the reluctance to make visors mandatory for players entering the league, the absence of no-touch icing... and a permissiveness about how loosely chin straps of the helmets can be worn, that the extra quarter-inch on a blade might not scream out as No. 1 on the to-do list," he writes, without explaining how the issue got onto the "to-do list" at all in a total vacuum of data.

Go read the whole thing, for as he says, "'s rare to witness the birth of a particular, irrational safety panic."


Pronger Roundup, Monday

I imagine more will trickle in as the day goes by, and I'll update.

• Kevin Lowe, in an article by Terry Jones.
"I'm not afraid to bad-mouth Chris Pronger."

• Chris Pronger, in the Edmonton Sun.
"It seems to be a bigger game up there. I don't know why."

• Joffrey Lupul, in an article by Derek Van Diest.
"People are going to come and boo and that's their right. If you buy a ticket, you can come and boo, that's fine, but hopefully it doesn't get too bad. Hopefully the fans will be a little more classy."

• Kelly Hrudey, in an article by Scott McKeen.
"I just think booing, overall, is a shameful thing to do. It makes no sense to me."

• Dan Barnes, in an article by Dan Barnes.
If you cut somebody off on the Santa Ana freeway in Anaheim, you might get shot. Do the same thing on the Whitemud in Edmonton and you might get a salute and a generous offer of free driving lessons.

***Bonus, non-Pronger related article***

• Cal Nichols, in an article by Dan Barnes.
"We've got to make sure we've got a government that deals in the public good, not private agendas. Too often it's too easy for certain people to get favours and deals."

"Cal Nichols? Hi, it's Irony. Just dropped by to say hello." If anyone had any doubt about the identity of the "anonymous backers" behind the idea to build a hockey arena in downtown Edmonton, this story should eliminate it.

Oh, and one more thing. Did anyone else notice that the Oilers "ugly jacket" is eerily similar to the coat worn by Reggie Dunlop in Slap Shot? I watched the movie last night, and only then put two and two together. It would make sense, especially sense Ryan Smyth has modelled his entire look after Steve Hanson.


Blog Awards

Thanks to your support, Battle of Alberta has made it into Round 2 of the Canadian Blog Awards, in the "Best Sports Blog" category. Mirtle also made it into the 2nd Round. Voting will be open until Friday, with voters being allowed to vote once a day. I'll leave a button up on the sidebar for any who wish to support us, or others, in the competition.



So when do I start appealing to Mirtle supporters to switch their vote to us? And when do I run negative on Raptor Blog? Now?

Raptor Blog actually announced he wants to increase basketball's presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Children with basketballs. In our cities. In Canada. We did not make this up.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


It All Starts Now

Anyone who doesn't want to hear about Chris Pronger's return to Edmonton on Tuesday should probably ignore their televisions, radios, newspapers and computers over the next few days, because the items are already starting to roll in. In a new Globe & Mail article, Allan Maki goes to the source on Pronger, and that source is Mike Comrie. It's an excellent piece, with lots of tasty treats. While he's not overly critical of Pronger's handling of the situation, for example, he doesn't let him off the hook either:

Some of that toxin bubbled over soon after the Oilers lost the seventh game to the Carolina Hurricanes and Pronger's agent began making cryptic comments about his client wanting out "for personal reasons." Instead of standing up and explaining himself, Pronger skipped town and went on vacation. It was the wrong call.

Maki also reports on some of those bogeymen that are out there, fiendishly haunting the streets of Edmonton.

Gossip flowed; innocent bystanders were caught in the line of vile. There was talk of an extramarital affair, that Pronger had to leave Edmonton to save his marriage and family. Some suspected Pronger's wife, a native of St. Louis, Mo., couldn't take living so far north and issued an ultimatum. It was plausible, but not as juicy as a millionaire hockey player caught in a bad position.

Comrie endured much the same thing. There was speculation he had to be traded because he wasn't liked by his teammates and that he had indulged in an affair with a married woman. In the end, Comrie knew he had to leave even if it meant being hissed at by the same people who once cheered his every move.

Huh. Maki better watch himself. According to Kelly Hrudey, he should be "severely punished" for continuing to "perpetuate these stories."

My favorite bit, however, comes from the mouth of Mike Comrie himself.

"Half the reason they boo you is that they take it personally. They're passionate and they pay their money and buy tickets. But to be honest, it's a lot of propaganda in Edmonton."

By propaganda, Comrie meant the Oilers will always be revered while any player who asks for more money, holds out or demands a trade will be tarred and feathered...

I like this bit because Maki actually has to explain Comrie's statement about "propaganda." And the end result is that what Comrie means is that Oilers fans are, shockingly, fanatical about their team. Wow. That must be a complete anomaly in the sports world (I bet they've never thrown batteries at their own players or cheered a guy getting his neck broken in Philadelphia, or made up shirts in Boston saying an opposing player has AIDS, for example). Who knew? Well, I guess Comrie didn't, and based on past complaints, I guess Chris Pronger didn't either. They're probably going to be unhappy when they come to Edmonton, as I doubt the "propaganda" (read well placed, and sometimes ill-placed, passion) will ever go away. But they should be happy playing the rest of their careers in Anaheim and Phoenix. Very few people there will care to know who they are, let alone criticize and judge them for anything they do on or off the ice.


The Skills To Pay The Bills

I had a good time at the Superskills Sunday event at Rexall today. It was packed, despite the freezing, freezing cold. There had to be over 15,000 people there. The boxes were empty, but that was about it. Some other notes:

• Marty Reasoner must be fine, as he participated in several of the competitions. Steve Staois, Ethan Moreau and Jussi Markkanen did not take part. I have no idea why Jussi wasn't there.

• Marc-Andre Bergeron won both the "Fastest Skater" and "Hardest Shot" competition. Matt Greene was the only other Oiler to get his shot over 100MPH.

• Joffrey Lupul won the "King of the Shootout" competition.

• As he went to take his first shot in the "Hardest Shot" competition, Jarret Stoll broke his stick. It was a hilarious moment, and the crowd ate it up. Stoll handled it really well. He was laughing as he fell to the ground, and he just kept on laughing.

• Petr Sykora won the "Shot Accuracy" competition, hitting four targets on five shots. He also gave the best interview of the day, noting that he would have been four for four if someone other than Laddy Smid had been passing to him, and that Hemmer couldn't get his shot up near the top targets.

• Even today, Dwayne Roloson was all business. The only time he cracked a smile was when Jason Smith scored on him during the shootout. I love that guy. Even during a competition for charity, Roli is out to win. And win he did. He looked awesome.

• Smytty of course go the biggest applause, but he looked angry all afternoon. I hope I am reading too much into that.

• The Oilers announced Chris Pronger's return to Edmonton two times. Both times, HUGE boos. And most of the people in the arena were under 12 (they must all be bloggers). It's going to be a gong show on Tuesday. The best part was that the announcer stated that the Oilers' televison partners weren't going to pick up the game against the Ducks, so the Oilers were offering to show it on pay-per-view. Riiiiiight. I'm sure the networks passed on that game, just like I'm sure the Oilers are showing it for $11.95 as some sort of public service.

• The White Team won the competition, 17-7. The lineup for that team was Roli, Smid, Greene, Smytty, Sykora, Pisani, Lupul, Winchester, Horcoff and Reasoner.


Flames Game Night

Flames @ Ducks, 5PM6PM MT, RSN West. The Ducks have 2 regulation losses this season, one of which was to the Flames. I thought the Flames earned that win, but that's not to say they looked like the better team, as they probably did not: they got a couple of early goals, then battened things down and got some nice goaltending from Kipper.

So, they have something to prove. They need to beat a good team on the road. They also need to quit jacking around and create some separation in the standings between them and the Five Bad Teams in the conference (or is it Seven?), so they can get on with the business of stepping on Edmonton's neck and winning the division.

Prediction: Flames win 3-2 in OT (Phaneuf, Lombardi, Tanguay with the GWG). Scott Niedermayer makes a couple of great looking defensive plays, picks up a PP assist, and finishes -1 on the night. Pronger plays a poor game overall (caught looking ahead, no doubt). Iginla (2 assists & all over) is the 1st star. Go Flames.


Basics of Self-Editing

I really like Kelly Hrudey on TV; I usually like his Sunday column; and I do not take personal offense in the slightest to the following excerpt, but come on...
But it seems -- and I'm stereotyping here -- these Internet blog people (I admit, I don't know much about blogs) are allowed to create rumours and allegations that are mean, baseless and irresponsible, in my opinion.

Again: I don't care that people have stereotypes about TEH INTARWEB and what goes on here. But what is going on in your own brain when you state an opinion and admit you don't know what you're talking about in the same sentence?

Hrudey's column always has a bit of an unedited feel to it, which I think is part of its charm, but he really could have used a bunch of help on this one: too much of it just doesn't make sense, both in terms of clarity of writing and clarity of thought.
All players, stars or role players, deserve a voice concerning in which city they earn a living.
They own that right, like we own the right to tell our employers, "I don't want to work here any longer."

That is simply mumbo-jumbo. A voice is not the same as a right, and wishing something were true doesn't make it so. Does the CBA give certain "rights" to Chris Pronger but not Gary Roberts? And whose voice is that when the player signs the contract in the first place?
They [The Internet Blog People - ed.] should be held accountable for spreading false information.

Like, criminally? People who make shit up on the Web lose credibility and then readership, so they are accountable in at least one sense.
These allegations not only harm the intended target but unfairly drag unwitting individuals with no connection to these stories into the fray.

The people dragged through the mud are defenceless.

How so? Chris Pronger has a highly paid agent to speak for him and defend him, and there's about 400 (or 4000) media outlets who would, and do, gladly reprint his comments verbatim. As for the unwitting individuals, I certainly do have sympathy, but "defenceless" is not accurate. At worst, they have access to the very same methods (e.g. the application I'm using right now) as the IBP* (*Internet Blog People - why yes I do find that catchy, and I plan on continuing to use it).
And, for that reason, those people who start or continue to perpetuate these stories without proof should be severely punished.

"Mr. Fenwick, you are charged with the heinous crime of suggesting Chris Pronger banged a TV reporter. How do you plead?" Not guilty -- but even if I was, there's already perfectly good legal channels through which libelled parties can sue for damages. This is how Hrudey wraps up:
If you don't agree with Pronger and his decision, I can accept that. What's not proper is to base your decision on Pronger asking for a move because of the rumours. [...]

Let's all be more determined to see both sides and not be as influenced by what we read or hear.

This is where, if I'm his editor, I say, "OK, so, correct me if I'm wrong, but does your whole point rest on the notion that (A) Edmonton fans are pissed at Pronger leaving because (B) there are rumours that he cheated on his wife? You know it's the other way around, right?"

There is absolutely, positively a lot of room (hell, need) in the hockey world for a column that is unapologetically pro-player. I really hope Hrudey's future efforts are better than this one.

Footnote: today's reading for extra credit is the problem with the word "voices".


But, he's not, so...

"If I were him, I'd shut up for a while and try not to say anything quite so asinine..."

-- Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun, 2006.11.26


It Takes Millions of Nations to Hold Us Back

As most of you know, Matt and I are apathetic citizens terribly averse to making political points on this site (eyeroll). But I was looking at the Oilers main page tonight--thinking about Superskills Sunday (which I will be attending), as well as some of the stuff I have been reading on the blogs of Paul Wells, Andrew Coyne, and Warren Kinsella about nation-building week in Ottawa (this Michael Bliss article is especially blisstering)--when I stumbled upon the following image:

I know it's not really hockey related, but I thought it was too damn funny (in a painfully ironic sense) to ignore.

Feel free to nicely yell and scream at each other in the comments. It's probably more debate than we'll hear in Parliament next week.

I'll have something up on the Superskills event by Sunday night.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Flames Game Night

It is presently forty-two degrees Celsius (75F) warmer right now in Los Angeles than it is in Calgary, so I suppose this is as good a time as any for a SoCal road trip. The Flames play the Kings at 830MT, and it's radio only.

The word around the campfire earlier in the week was that Jamie McLennan will probably get his 2nd start of the season tonight, as (A) the Flames play a late-afternoon game against the Ducks tomorrow, and (B) Kings Suck.

This reminded me that back in the Smythe Division days, Rick Wamsley used to joke that the only starts he could count on were against the Kings and the Russians (those mid-season exhibition tours). So I looked it up to see just how much he did play: his three full seasons in Calgary, his GP were 35/36/29. By contrast, the last Flames PPV vs. Boston had a web-poll question: How many games do you predict McLennan will start this season? I forget which middle choice won, but I recall clearly that "5 or fewer" got more votes than "15 or more".

Anyway, as noted, the Kings are not good at all. If the Flames can manage to avoid excessive time in the penalty box, they should win going away. They're due for a scoring explosion; I'm feeling a March-in-St.-Louis vibe, or put another way, Calgary wins 7-2 (3PP, 3EV, 1SH goal; Phaneuf x2, Hamrlik, Huselius, Tanguay, Iginla, and Friesen). Go Flames.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Oilers Game Day-Blackhawks

Record: 7-11-2Record: 12-8-1

• The Blackhawks leading goal-scorer is Martin Havlat, with 7. He went on the Injured Reserve list on October 21st. Imagine Ethan Moreau as our leading scorer right now, and you get an idea of how rough a year it's been for the Hawks. Everything bad that could happen, has happened. Havlat is still out, Michael Handzus is gone at least until March, if not all year. Nikolai Khabibulin just got back after breaking his finger. Rene Bourque took a skate across the neck, Clint Malarchuk style. Just a brutal year for the Hawks, which is too bad. They got off to a pretty solid start, going 7-1 in the pre-season, and 4-2 to start off the year. Havlat was on fire (13 points). Then, within about a week, the wheels fell off.

• Considering the year, and how Bill Wirtz has run this once glorious Original Six franchise into the ground, attendance in Chicago hasn't been too bad. The attendance mark has dropped below 12,000 for only two of their home games. It's not great, mind you, as the United Center holds 20,500 for hockey, but I would have thought it would be much worse.

Concerning the Oilers, there are two questions floating around the city and the Oilogosphere right now, with a bunch of subsequents.

1) Will Kevin Lowe pick up a defenceman?
• How much cap room does Lowe have?
• Who would Lowe and the coaching staff want?
• Is that player available?
• What else would it cost the Oilers?

I really have no idea if Lowe will pick up a defenceman. There has been alot of clamour about it in the Edmonton Journal, and both Dennis and LT think it is an absolute necessity. I lean more towards what Tyler has recently noted, which is that "you can't have everything and a good goalie will cover a lot of faults." I agree, and still hold that we are better off today with Roli and our defensive pairings than we were a year ago with Conkannen and the defensive pairings (which did not yet include Spacek and Tarnstrom).

Obviously, everybody would love to have a premier defenceman, someone who can play well in their own zone, play a solid transition game, and contribute on the powerplay. I am sure Lowe is no exception. But the fact that it is a universal desire amongst GMs raises the cost, as well as the competition for available talent. Looking at up-to-date cap estimates from Irish Blues, you can see that the Oilers do have room for a player addition. I've isolated their current cap estimate in the table below:

Estimated Payroll Room, November 23, 2006
Salary To DateAllowable InsuranceInjurt AllowanceBonusesNet SavingsRemaining SalaryMax Inj AllowanceProjected FinalPayroll Room

*Jacques and Thoresen considered for bonuses. Moreau not considered for injury exemption.

$4.8 million is ample room, especially since there might be more if a player on the current roster is moved elsewhere in a deal. So I don't think there is a problem in that regard. Obviously, the team the Oilers dealt with would also have to have room to take on any returning salary.

As for who is available, the Edmonton Journal keeps throwing the following names out for fodder: Brad Stuart, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mike Van Ryn, Eric Brewer and Dan Boyle. I would imagine the Oilers had someone watching Brent Seabrook Wednesday night in Calgary, and will be watching him again tonight. The Journal names likely indicate who is available, but as of yet they haven't said anything about what teams would want in return, or if any team is even interested in what we may be offering. Fans in Edmonton keep throwing out the names Bergeron, Torres, Schremp, Winchester, Pouliot and others as trade bait. The problem, however, is that the names fans and throw out probably won't align with what opposing GMs are asking for. The fact that we don't care if we lose them probably means opposing teams don't really care to acquire them. I mean, I'd trade Marc-Andre Bergeron and a draft pick for Jay Bouwmeester, or most of the guys listed above (Brewer excluded. I want nothing to do with him), but I'm sceptical about whether that is really going to happen. Of course, sometimes opposing teams don't care what they get back, as they just want to free up some salary room or get rid of a locker room cancer. The point is, right now, no one knows a thing about what is really out on the market, or what the Oilers have put on the table, except for Lowe and his staff. We can keep speculating in the hopes that dreams can come true, and I encourage it (there is a spreadsheet at the bottom of IB's page that will show you how much a player has counted towards the cap already this year. I'd suggest starting there), but right now that is all it is: wishful thinking.

2) When will Kevin Lowe sign Ryan Smyth?
• Will the Oilers be able to afford him?

As Tyler noted here, based on an interview here, Ryan Smyth sounds pretty choked about not having a new deal done. I don't know if the frustration is fair, as it isn't like Lowe and the rest of management have been sitting around doing nothing. But after seeing Steve Staios sign for $10.8 million, the first thing that popped into my mind is, "can we afford Smytty now?" So I thought I'd take a look.

Below is a shot of the Oilers cap payroll for the next several years, all taken from Irish Blues. You'll have to click on it to get a real good view.

(click image to enlarge)

The Oilers total cap payroll (not including bonuses) for the next few years look like this:

06/07 Cap Numbers:52,275,800.0

07/08 Cap Numbers: 39,769,133

08/09 Cap Numbers: 27,205,567

09/10 Cap Numbers: 11,300,000.0

All these numbers are based on all the players who are signed, not on who are playing, or will play.

Assuming the cap doesn't drop below $44 million next year, I think the Oilers have to strike a deal with Smyth around an average of $4-$5.5 million a year. Of course, if the cap goes up, and the EIG decides to increase payroll, then that number can go up. It also depends on which of the signed players actually makes the roster next year. The $4-$5.5 million number puts Smyth close or higher to what Ales Hemsky averages. Frankly, I think Smyth should be happy with that, and I think Lowe and the EIG will create a deal around that average, but I'm not Smyth. On the one hand Hemsky is much younger than Smyth and will surely contribute more in the long-term. On the other, Smyth has given tons back to his team and his community, bleeds Copper and Blue, and is an early candidate for the Hart Trophy this season (at least in my mind), never mind the fact that people in this city would freak if he was to go elsewhere. But that amount may also prevent the Oilers from re-signing any of their other UFA's next season (Sykora, Tjarnqvist, Hejda, Markannen, Petersen & possibly Winchester), and might hoop them on some RFA's as well (not even including the fact they couldn't bring anybody in). Of course, like I said before, if the cap goes up, if some kids don't make the roster, or trades are made this season, more room is available.

I may be looking at this all wrong, but on second-thought I don't understand why Lowe would leave his biggest salary negotiation until the end. Maybe Smyth is right to be angry, because it does seem to indicate that he may not be a big priority with the organization. If he was, wouldn't they make sure to lock him up first, so that they wouldn't lose him because of cap restrictions? I think this deal will get done, but either a) the Oilers are planning future budgets on cap increases that have yet to be secured or b) there is going to have to be some juggling if Lowe doesn't want to be stuck with very little cap room next year.

Prediction: 5-2, Oilers. Thoresen, Horcoff, Sykora, Smytty and Lupul. No deal on a defenceman any time soon, and Smytty signs to a three-year deal by the All-Star break.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Flames Game Night

Quick turnaround - Calgary hosts Chicago tonight at the Dome (730PM MT). The game is on TSN; that's good news for youwe superstitious types as the Flames played very well in front of Gord & Pierre last season.

They were good but not great last night, I thought. Looked to me like the Flames carried more of the play and had more scoring chances, but the two best players in yesterday's game were wearing the oil drop. Iginla had one of his better games of the season, Hamrlik probably his worst. Ironic that Staios got reupped big yesterday, as Friesen made a classic Staios Face from last season after Sykora "eluded" him on the GWG. (Disclaimer: while I like the Unintentional Comedy as much as anybody, the previous sentence should not be interpreted as praise.)

As for tonight's game, well, a good team at home will beat a bad team on the road a lot more often that not. Whoops, I just slipped. OK, I'll come clean -- yes, I do write those Paul Romanuk "Sports Select Tips" radio ads. Sorry, but I got kids to feed.

Calgary 4 (Tanguay, Huselius, Kobasew, and Jeff Friesen with his first of the season).
Chicago 1 (I dunno, who cares, Jim Vandermeer?)

Go Flames.


If There's A Hell Below...

I'm off to Calgary this afternoon, to watch my friends play their last show as Blood Dungeon, the best intentionally non-bluegrass bluegrass band name of all-time. The show is at the Ship & Anchor. I'll be the guy with the big smile on my face, thinking about the Oilers being tied for 1st place in the Northwest Division. Alone in 1st place, really, if you count the 1-2 points that were stolen from us. I'll be back tomorrow. Until then, I'm leaving BDHS in charge of my side of things. Attack anyone who challenges me, Black Dog! KILL!

p.s. I'll try and do a report for your other blog, Pat.


Battle of Alberta III: Return of the Czech Guys

• I'm glad we won that game, because it certainly wasn't fun to watch. I went with three others, and we all agreed it was a pretty boring game. Some flurries, followed by large chunks of total inactivity from both teams.

• Calgary's lone goal was a fluke play. I can't blame either Roli or Tjarnqvist on it. Roli did not, I repeat, did not, have control of the puck. It was just bad timing. I will say that Roli could have responded much better to the play, however. He got angry, didn't turn around, and didn't put his stick down. He just didn't attempt to get back into the play. It's been said before, but it needs to be said again: the guy is a headcase. I love him, and he absolutely robbed Iginla with a glove save tonight, but he is not a happy man unless everything is going exactly his way. He reminds me of Curtis Joseph in that regard.

• Imagine my horror when I saw these two lines matchup to begin the game: Reasoner/Winchester/Thoresen vs. Langkow/Tanguay/Iginla.

• The Blender officially began at around the 8 minute mark of the 1st, when Marty Reasoner and Jarret Stoll switched lines.

• There were waaay too many Flames jerseys at that game. Way too many. And I didn't even see anybody razzing the people wearing them. Of course, I didn't either, for fear that I might get shivved in the neck. It's not like the old days, when you could just meet in a back alley, tie your arm to another guy's arm, and have a dance off. Man, I miss those days. I'm welling up just thinking about it.

• Iggy was the most dominant Flames forward, but couldn't finish. Other than that, the Flames looked pretty bland. They were successful on the forecheck, and kept the Oilers hemmed in at times, but it rarely led to an excellent scoring chance.

• The Oilers have zero physical presence. Absolutely none. This really angered me, mostly because I wanted to see Phaneuf get his. The Flames defence could have worn teddies rather than shoulder pads tonight. Who knows, maybe they did.

• The Oilers are 1-0 when Matt becomes a new Dad on BoA nights, and 0-1 with Sac. I won't say anymore, because I fear for my life (notice the trend of cowardice?), but it's all there, if you just think about it.

• I did an interview with CBC Radio Edmonton about the site during the 1st intermission. I forgot to ask when it will be aired. I think I sounded like Smytty after a period, so it's really for the best that I don't know when it will be on. I gave it 110%, ground it out in the corners, but I couldn't get all four lines rolling.

• Let me suggest here that it is not the Oilers defence that is most guilty when it comes to getting the puck out of the defensive zone. It's the forwards. No one is skating, and a lot of bad passes are being made. I don't know if they showed it on SportsNet tonight, but there was a moment, at about the nine minute mark of the 2nd, where it looked like Craig MacTavish was going to choke Raffi Torres to death. Torres, Lupul and Reasoner had been on for about two minutes (shift chart here), and simply could not get the puck out. Torres had a clear chance about ninety seconds into his shift, but instead of flipping it out, waited and waited to make a pass. It didn't happen, he turned the puck over, and the Flames had the Oilers hemmed in for another thirty seconds. Roli finally caught the puck, held it, and a t.v. timeout began. Torres skated back to the bench, where MacT was waiting, hands on his hips, jacket wide open. He was just glaring at Raffi. The funny part was, because it was a t.v. timeout, Raffi didn't have to leave the ice. So he didn't. He just skated around, with MacT giving him the evil eye the entire time. MacT would not break his stare. Finally, Torres got on the bench, but refused to look at his coach. MacT bent down, picked up the papers he had obviously lost when he threw open his jacket, and walked over to Raffi. Nothing. Raffi still wouldn't look at him. Finally, MacT just turned away and went to talk to Charlie Huddy. I would have paid good money to have been right behind the bench at that point.

But...back to my point. The Oilers forwards are really having trouble getting the puck out of their zone. Well, everyone is, but I've really noticed it with the forwards. It's like they've been convinced by all those damn Edmonton Journal articles talking about the need for an outlet passer on the defence, and responded in kind. They don't push the puck out along the boards. They don't skate to open ice to look for a pass. They don't fight for loose pucks. Two guys just stand there along the boards, tip the puck when it comes to them, and pray to God that it gets out. Calgary took advantage of this often, and were very aggressive on the forecheck. Lots of times, the defence didn't even try to make a pass. They just flipped it up in the air towards centre ice, and left it for the forwards to chase down.

• The Oilers powerplay got a goal tonight. Thank God. But it wasn't on the 5-on-3. That was wasted by MAB faking the shot about 17,000 times, and the continual passing back and forth along the point. Nor was the goal deserved, although the shot was a beauty. Has this team heard of anything other than a one-timer? Sweet Caroline, our powerplay stinks. And it is not personnel. It's coaching. I really don't blame the players. I'm reading Right Side Up by Paul Wells right now, and there is a great section in it on Paul Martin, "The Board," and groupthink. When I read that section, I immediately thought of the Oilers coaching staff and Kevin Lowe. I won't get into the entire concept of groupthink, but needless to say it doesn't emphasize or encourage new ways of thinking. Existing beliefs are constantly reinforced, and there is a blindspot when it comes to noticing trouble or failure. Sounds like the coaching staff and the Oilers powerplay to me. Fire. Him. Now.

• The only redeeming quality is that the Oilers powerplay isn't as bad a Calgary's. It appears that Craig Simpson must also be coaching the Flames. Slap shot from the point, Phaneuf. Wrist shot from the point, Phaneuf. Snap shot from the point, Phaneuf. Slap shot from the point, Phaneuf.

• Kipper was awful on that second goal. Just awful. No way that should have gone in. Enjoy that one, Flames fans. Your meal ticket just cost you two.

• The BoA Three Stars go to:

3) Fan #3, who was attempting to strip off her jersey and show us some skin on the jumbotron, when the #&@& editor cut off the footage.

2) Fan #2, head to toe in a blue sequined Oilers body suit and painted face. That type of commitment makes me randy.

1) Fan #1, with the sign that had the words, The "C" Stands For Choke beside the Flames logo. As if that wasn't enough, he one-upped himself with his jersey. It was a white, #94 Oilers jersey, with the name "Heart & Soul" across the shoulders. I wish I could shake that man's hand.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Flames Fans = n+1

Depending on your perspective, I will either have much worse or much better seats for tonight's Battle of Alberta. While Andy is easily blending with the Edgy Rexall Crowd, I'll be perched in a private room at the Lethbridge Regional Hospital, with my wife and the newest member of my family:

Abby (3rd in the series!) was born last night, and she and Mom are doing well. Hope everyone enjoys the game tonight. And (duh) -- Go Flames.

Sacamano Edit:
If it wasn't already obvious, it should now be abundantly clear that Matt and I were born to start the BofA blog. Both of our daughters were born on the eve of a Battle of Alberta. Grabia -- you had better get cracking. Congratulations Fenwicks -- we can't wait to meet her!


Battle of Alberta III: Pinto's Revenge

Two hockey teams, both alike in dignity,
In fair Alberta, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal games of these two foes
A pair of numbers-crossed fans make their blog;
Whose misadventured piteous posts
Do with their sudden brilliance spark their fans strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd rivalry,
And the continuance of their commenters’ rage,
Which, but their teams end, neither could remove,
Is now the steady traffic of their blog;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What you shall miss, their site shall strive to mend.

• Huge game tonight, and I will be there. It's my birthday this week, and a good friend is taking me. YES! Between the game, the release of new Beatles and Jay-Z albums, the receiving of gifts, as well as my eventual birthday gathering--where I shall engage in meaningful conversation on Norse mythology and partake in a nunchuck battle with a deranged, drunken orangutan--it's going to be a fantastic week. My cup runneth over.

• The Oilers are 8-2 at home. The Flames are 3-4-2 on the road. Does that matter? I don't really think so, but it places the Oilers in a positive light, so I'll use it.

• The Oilers called up Zach Stortini Monday. The press release notes his points total for the year before his penalty minutes, but I'm fairly certain that the latter will be of greater import this evening. My guess is that Stortini will be in the lineup to protect Hemsky and others from Calgary's leap-happy defence.

Andrew Ference has a new playlist up on ITunes. He's obviously a punk rocker, throwing out some Bad Religion, Face to Face, Offspring, Pennywise, Minor Threat and Vandals. But it was his Elliott Smith pick that impressed me the most.

• Brad Winchester is #9 on Mirtle's "Best Players You've Never Heard Of" list. I'm thinking "Winnie" is more Warren Young than Lowell Macdonald, but I'd be happy to be wrong. But the real question is how high Mägni Thöroson the Ëlectric Nörseman will be on Mirtle's list. I'd suggest that James put him in the top three. The Gods will not be mocked, my friend.

• RiversQ has some Even Strength numbers up on IoF. The general thrust is that Oilers haven't been very good at Even Strength. It's definitely worth a look. So too are Tyler's numbers. They take a look at Even Strength Strength of Schedule for the Oilers and Flames. Tyler suggests that both teams have been so-so at Even Strength because they have been playing really tough opponents. Some more traditional numbers worth looking at for tonight's game:

Goals Per Game: Edm 2.90 (15th), Cal 2.78 (18th)

Goals Against Per Game: Edm 2.65 (9th), Cal 2.33 (4th)

Powerplay %: Edm 15.2 (20th), Cal 14.3 (24th)

Penalty Kill %: Edm 90.3 (3rd), Cal 80.4 (24th)

• Needless to say, the Oilers need to take advantge of the Flames weak PK.

• Interesting stat of the day: the Flames have a .538 winning percentage when outshot in a game (12th). They have a .400 winning percentage when they outshoot an opponent (23rd). Obviously this supports the idea that the Flames can only win when they play boring, soulless hockey.

• There's a big Battle of California game tonight night as well. Here's hoping Earl gets hammered, writes some poetry, and beds Sammy Pahlsson.

Prediction: 4-2, Oilers. Smytty, Sykora, Pinto, and Horcoff with the empty-netter to seal the deal. Pinto gets three points on the night. Stortini fights Phaneuf, and I fight Phaneuf's mom. She wins, I dislocate my shoulder, and LT is forced to avenge my defeat by going all Gary Unger on her the next time the two teams meet.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Oil Poll

On a scale of 1-10--with 1 being Dave Inkpen and 10 being Wayne Gretzky--how would you rate the Oilers performance so far this season?
Free polls from


Welcome to Alberta

Connect Logistics [the gov't's booze distributor - ed.] spokesman George Rodziewicz said the backlog is attributed to the province's labour shortage and unprecedented volumes of liquor orders.

Today's Calgary Sun. I have about 6 separate takes on the various implications of this one sentence, but I think I'll just let it hang out there.


It's a League Game, Smokey

Anyone in Calgary attend Rhett Warrener's "Retro Bowlerama" last night? If so, did it involve Dion Phanuef leaving his feet and blindsiding pins? Did Jeff Friesen roll a 1? Was Roman Hamrlik in charge of the jukebox? Did Darren McCarty cover his bets? Was Jamie McLennan able to get any lateral movement on the ball? Did Tony Amonte have one good frame, surrounded by twenty to thirty others where he consistently gutterballed? These are the things I'd like to know.

Joking aside, the event was for a good cause. I hope it raised some quality dough.

Friesen did roll a 1 though, right? For a prize of $1.6 million dollars?

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Oilers Game Day-Open Thread

Record: 12-5-1Record: 10-8-1


Warren Young, or Lowell Macdonald?

...when a player [Brad Winchester] turns the corner like this (even at 25) you need to know if he's Warren Young or Lowell MacDonald. He may be Lowell MacDonald.

That's Lowetide fleshing out a thought about players who don't follow the standard development curve. Having watched parts of the Montreal and Detroit games, where Winchester looked frankly dominant at times, I've been thinking along those same lines, but with a different pair of examples.

MacDonald was a guy with 188 career NHL games and only one full season (21G as a 26-year-old) when improbably, at age 31, he ran off seasons of 34, 43, 27, & 30 goals. Young scored 40 goals as a 28/29 year old rookie on Mario Lemieux's right side; then got traded and only lasted another season and a half in the NHL. While it's tempting to attribute his entire breakout to Mario, it's also unfair -- you do not score 40 goals in an NHL season without playing good hockey, regardless of era or linemates. But, for whatever reason, he clearly couldn't sustain whatever he was doing right.

Anyway! The point of this post is not to expand on LT's history lesson, but to talk about Gary Roberts and Paul Kruse. Agewise, at least, they're more comparable to where Winchester is now.

Roberts was drafted 12th in the Lemieux year ('84). While his early career numbers actually resemble what you might expect, it never felt that way as a fan. He was a grinder and a fighter. Crisp threw him on the left side of Nieuwendyk and Loob for his size and grit. His 22-16-38 as a 22-year-old didn't seem like the start of better things to come, at all: mostly tap-ins to open nets off of nifty feeds from Loob, as I recall it (obviously, he was the 3rd (or 4th if Macinnis was on the ice) concern of opposing goalies and D).

But, damned if he didn't break out for 39 goals the next season, and he was full value for them. Dad's seats were in Row 7 on the blueline where the LW entered the attacking zone. I vividly recall Roberts zipping up the left side one BoA that season, and just nuking one over Fuhr's shoulder -- and me sitting there with a perfect view of it thinking, "Holy Shit -- this guy knows how to play now!" And he did -- his career has been plagued with injuries, but he has 414 career goals and was a legit All-Star for a decent stretch in the 90's.

Paul Kruse's development was a bit behind Roberts -- he didn't have the same stats or pedigree -- but he was the same type of player. Mostly out there for his grit and his fists, but could slam home a rebound or cross-ice feed when the opportunity presented itself. Then the 1995 playoffs started against the Sharks, and he looked like he had been possessed by the spirit of Gordie Howe, and I'm barely exaggerating. He went 4-2-6 in that series. I was sitting in the lower bowl behind the net in the G7 OT -- which I'm sure Kruse played half of -- and he was the best player on the ice. I said out loud to my buddy, "Cripes, if Gary Roberts recovers from his neck problems, we're going to have two of him." The only thing that wasn't completely devastating about the loss was that I could hardly wait to take Kruse in the last round of the fall hockey draft.

As it turns out of course, the mojo he had going for that seven games was there-and-gone. His NHL season high thereafter was 7 goals, and he played his last big-league game before he turned 30.

So who is Brad Winchester? When he's going great guns like this, do you Sell High because the reality is he's Paul Kruse? Or do you hold onto him, because the reality is he's becoming Gary Roberts? Everything, including how good he looks right now, suggests he could go either way.



I see someone has nominated us for a Canadian Blog Award (Sports category). Our appreciation goes out to whoever took the time to do that, and of course to everyone who stops by on a regular basis.

1st round voting goes until Tuesday, and personal favourites VCOE and Mirtle are also candidates, so go have your say if it suits you.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Go Chucky

Tonight the Detroit Red Wings franchise, for the 6th time in 6 opportunities, failed to extend a 9-game winning streak to 10 games. Are they chokers, or just snakebitten? Ah, I kid -- because I love (I'm looking at you, Bill).

Kipper had a nice game; Kobasew had a stupendous game; Tanguay made another sick pass for an assist; the Flames did not allow an even-strength goal again (add another 45 minutes to these numbers). The special teams are regressing to the mean - why yes that IS a good thing! It's not going perfectly, but: ...they look good...

For tomorrow, though, ich bin ein Michigander. The Wolverines are playing the Buckeyes of The Ohio State University for the Big Ten Championship and a berth in the national title game, and my desire is for Ohio State to "suck it". Go Blue (and sorry about Bo).

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