Monday, March 31, 2008


Monday Baseball Standings

**Congratulations to the Minnesota Wild on winning the Northwest Division; you can pretty much mark that in ink now. They have clinched over Vancouver, and to finish ahead of the Avs they need to either earn 1 point in their final two games, or have the Avs surrender one point in their final two (Avs can only tie the Wild, but hold the "more Wins" tiebreaker).

If the Flames finish 2-0-1, the Wild lose their last two in regulation, and they tie at 95, Minny has the tiebreaker (more Wins). If the Flames finish 3-0-0 and the Wild finish 0-1-1, the Flames hold the tiebreaker (equal Wins, better H2H record).

For the Oilers to qualify, they need to catch (not pass) two of Calgary, Vancouver, and Nashville. For it to be CGY and VAN, they need both teams to lose all three of their remaining games, excepting the Saturday night game where the Canucks would need to beat the Flames in regulation (then all 3 teams would have 90 points, and the Oil has the most Wins).

The most depressing scenario -- which really rams home what a bloody disaster this weekend this was -- is that it's possible for Saturday's Flames/Canucks game to be meaningless, i.e. with the Flames already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. That's where they'll be if Nashville wins Tue/Thu/Fri, VAN wins their next two, and CGY loses their next two.

The tiebreakers are a bit mucky with these three teams: it all depends on what point total they tie at and how they get there. The good news, such as it is, is that the Flames completely control their own destiny, not just for making the playoffs but for finishing 6th; with some help, they could finish 5th or 3rd.

**Yes, Andy and I were in Toronto on Friday (he's still there) participating in a recurring CBC special called Test the Nation. When there's a firm air date, I'll post about it, or you can check the CBC site periodically. [UPDATE: it will be airing on Saturday, June 14th. Check your local listings.]

There's a few thrills that keep me going on this site, apart from the ongoing/daily feedback of comments and traffic. Sometimes I see a friend from meatspace who mentions that he's been reading and enjoying the site, maybe even bringing up some post in particular. And once in a while, the site comes up in conversation (or my wife's conversation), and the person says, "You're [or Your husband is] the Matt on Battle of Alberta? Wow, I read that site all the time!" I love being reminded that there are people out there paying attention to what we do beyond the few dozen regular commenters (God bless you all).

I love stuff like this, too: finding out that the BoA was what got a very good hockey blogger into it in the first place. Anyway, I bring this up because, without giving anything away (and violating the release I signed in blood), this weekend provided the biggest thrill I've had since firing this sucker up.

In the course of being at the CBC Broadcast Centre to participate in this TV program, Andy and I got to meet Ron Maclean, and he had some very nice things to say about us. Not just, "I've read your site, keep up the good work!" -- which might nevertheless have been the biggest thrill in these past 3 seasons -- but some very nice and complimentary things. I don't want to drool too much here, but it was terribly gratifying, and I appreciated it a lot.

**This is a related thought, but I'm not passing anything on here, just offering my own opinion (based in no small part on personal experience):

If you're doing something that has value here in the hockeysphere, it'll find an audience, and it will seep into the overall conversation. It really will. It's not for everybody: good baseball stats are 20+ years ahead of hockey's, and yet there are many fans whose opinion of a particular hitter is informed entirely by their own perception of how often he has grounded out in the late innings of close games. I don't even begrudge them that, at least until they get on the TSN panel and insist to the world that that's the way it is.

But it's a big world of hockey fans, and there is a plenty significant segment of them who want to understand the game beyond the Healyisms. Beyond that, there is an even more significant segment of them who worship the "boxcar stats" [G-A-Pts-(+/-)-PIM], but are ready -- one of these years -- to know more and understand things better (especially since the salary cap has made pro scouting and value-for-$$ that much more important). And almost everyone with the nice platforms and the big megaphones, who make a living analyzing hockey for the occasional benefit of us fans (with the exception of a few ex-players and old guys), fall into one of those two segments.

Go Flames.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Flames Game Night

The Flames play their last four on the road, and the Canucks play their last four at The Carhole; it starts tonight (8PM MT, RSN West).

It depends a bit on tonight's other results, but realistically, a Flames loss probably means a 6th seed at best; a W (particularly in regulation) obviously keeps the NW title well in play as well as 5th place. (My answer to the question, "Wouldn't you much rather open in MIN as the #6 than in ANA as the #5?" is No.)

Fun flashback: the comments to a February 29th post where I guessed that the Canucks would miss the playoffs.

Calgary 3 (Iginla, Tanguay, Moss*)
Vancouver 0 (duh, nobody)

Gooooooooooooo Flamezzzzzzz!!!!!!!

(*Jedi Mind Trick on Mike Keenan: put Moss back in for Nystrom, please)

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Battle Night

Huge game tonight. BIG. HUGE. REALLY BIG. GARGANTUAN. MONSTER. HUGE. BIGGGGGGGG. The Oilers need to win every game outright, and hope for some breaks (I'm looking at you, Mr. I-Like-To-Get-Pulled guy in Vancouver).

I haven't had time to photoshop Greg Millen on a donkey, so the following pictures will have to do. There was a mighty conglomeration of Oiler bloggers at the Wheat Sheaf in Toronto last evening. Pat McLean, Mike Winters, Chris Boutet, Tyler Dellow, Alana Pentney and myself were all in attendance, along with the Mighty Matt Fenwick and some beautiful non-blogging peeps. Why in Toronto, you say? It has to be in Toronto.

Chris! and Burger! in happier times.

Matt Fenwick kindly being handed a beer. Two hours later he was stabbed with the broken empty.

My crotch. You're welcome, ladies.

Craig MacTavish showing the boys how to blow a lead with 5.9 seconds left in the game. Actually, I blame the bar for this one. With about seven minutes left in the game, The Doors "The End" started playing over the speakers. With about three minutes left, it became apparent that the overwhelming gloom and paranoia of the song was affecting both us and the team. With about a minute left in the game, Pat started butchering a bull, and all hell broke loose. The horror...the horror.

Tyler explaining to the Alana the statistical merits of never, ever, ever again playing Dwayne Roloson in the shootout.

An inconsolable Mike Winters begins his post-loss lycanthropic transformation.

Thankfully, the infamous "Dellowian back hump" and "Stairway to Heaven" air drum solo revert Mike back to his human form. Other than the aforementioned shanking and bull sacrifice, all make it home safe to their beds.

Soft core porn. In a public drinking house, of course.

Prediction: 7-3, Oilers. Fuck it. San Pisani scores all ten. GOILERS!!!!!

Bonus picture: Northstars pimp hat!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008


An Arena Response: Letter #3

"If we do (build a new structure), we need to be creative and not burden the taxpayers."
--Mayor Stephen Mandel, December 22nd, 2006

"We're not going to burden our taxpayers with a $400-million or $300-million debt to have a new facility. That just won't happen."
--Mayor Stephen Mandel, February 22nd, 2007

As for who is paying for this new arena, Best, Bouma and Mandel all indicated that taxpayers will have to chip in for at least part of the cost. "But I don't want it digging into taxpayers' pockets all the time," Mandel said.
--Mayor Stephen Mandel, April 24th, 2007

"As I've said hundreds and hundreds of times before, we just can't afford to take our municipal tax dollars and put it into an arena."
--Mayor Stephen Mandel, December 15th, 2007

"I've said it a hundred times and I'll say it another hundred times, we're not going to raise taxes to pay for this."
--Mayor Stephen Mandel, March 26th, 2008

Dear Mayor Mandel,

In the future, sir, please don't advocate for a downtown arena, and then deny that you've advocated for a downtown arena. Please don't set up a "feasibility" committee, and then send us back a empty document as a report. Please don't load up that committee with a bunch of people who are tied to the team and ownership, and then pretend like the outcome isn't pre-determined. And please don't expect, sir, that I'm going to be pleased with the idea of using public funds to build your legacy project.

You may have said it a hundred times, Mr. Mayor, but I haven't believed you once. Can you see why?


Andy Grabia



An Arena Response: Letter #2

"Make it a shrine" -Kevin Lowe

Dear Mr. Lowe,

We already have a hockey shrine in Edmonton. It's called the Northlands Coliseum. You might remember it. You won five Stanley Cups there.

An arena without a history of accomplishment is not a shrine. It's a mall with seats.


Andy Grabia


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


An Arena Response: Letter #1

Dear Mr. Katz,

If you would like to build a new facility for your private enterprise, more power to you. Just don't ask me to subsidize it through public funding, because:

a) you've got the money to pay for it yourself;
b) there's little to no economic benefit to me as a citizen to support your venture;
c) my quality of life as a hockey fan will not be lessened by the team's continued presence in the current Rexall Place. In fact, as I have stated before, it will only be enhanced.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope your hockey team kicks the shit out of the Wild tonight.


Andy Grabia

Required readings

"Arena Feasibility Committee releases its brochure" --Covered In Oil

"If you build it, they will come. Or at least Mayor Mandel will" --Colby Cosh

"And another thing!" --Colby Cosh

"Wednesday Baseball Standings" --Matt Fenwick

"Shell game hides taxpayer contributions to new arena"--Scott Hennig

"Did Alberta Taxpayers fund the Oilers Dressing Room Renovations?"--Punjabi Oil

"In Alberta arena debate, the AY story gets mangled" --Atlantic Yards Report



Wednesday Baseball Standings

**I'm going to be away from the PC on Friday (and really, mere weekly updates are a bit inadequate at this stage of the game), so here's the state of the union this morning. By the way, Vic Ferrari -- whose work I hope to get to in more detail next week, perhaps -- has set up yet another useful link: baseball standings updated in real time, or as close as you're going to get.

**Yes, it's true: I went (with Mrs. Matt) to my first-ever Oilers game at Rexall Place on Monday, and it was the first time I had been in the building since the 1984 Canada Cup. Host David Staples (thank you very much again, David) gives a substantially accurate account of the evening; my only quibble would be that while Yes, the Oilers gave the Wild's goal light a workout early and often, I'm quite certain I was done my first beer well before they were up 3-0.

I approached the game with calculated indifference towards the outcome. If the Wild lost, that would be good for the Flames, but on the other hand, if the Oilers lost, then the Oilers lost, which has its own psychic rewards. (We described what we were cheering for as "good sportsmanship and no injuries".)

As it turns out, I couldn't get excited at all about the Oil taking complete control from the get-go, and when the Wild scored their 3rd goal to get to within 2, I surprised myself with a barely detectable but unmistakeable fist-pump. It would appear that my favourite NHL teams are ranked something like this:
30. Canucks
29. Oilers
T27/28. Avalanche/Wild
26. Ducks
1. Flames

**On the subject of The Building... this is Andy's wheelhouse, and my contribution to the discussion has been limited to the contention that it is morally reprehensible to take money from Joe Taxpayer (hockey fan and non-fan alike) and use it primarily for the benefit of an incredibly popular private business -- one where its customers are already stepping over each other to hand it money voluntarily.

There's another angle that Andy hasn't addressed directly in too much depth, but that Colby Cosh has been hammering for over a year. From his site last night:
I'm not too clear after reading the summary just what is wrong with the existing Rexall Place. I was looking forward to some clear public explanation of this, but all we've been given is a lot of wind about "downtown revitalization."

If there's one thing I took away from my visit, that's it. I have little doubt that a brand-new building would be "better" in all sorts of ways: a whole lot of design ideas have been road-tested in the past 35 years, and surely a new facility really would be a special landmark shrine gathering place. But jeez -- Rexall Place is pretty nice inside! Good place to watch a hockey game!

As part of my present vocation (~electrical engineer for buildings), I've been in a lot of places that are obvious or 'bubble' candidates for either replacement or complete (gut-job) renovation. They share one or more of a common set of problems: undersized utility services; uniformly failing/expiring finishes (i.e. the "crumbling"); failing building structure; obvious & intractable inadequacy for its current (or desired) use. At a glance, Rexall Place exhibits none of these problems. Sure, having to wait a few minutes to get to a urinal at intermission is a pain, but this isn't easily mitigated with a new building. And the cost-benefit analysis is an open question: personally, I don't think reducing pisser time by 2 minutes during peak demand is worth a penny over $150 million in public/private funds. $450M = too much!

At the very least, if one were to explore "inadequacy" as a tenuous replacement basis, you'd want to see at least some evidence that people have stopped going there. 45 sold-out Oilers games a year, and being the 12th-busiest concert venue in the world, is not it: it's evidence to the contrary, like it or not.

**Jean Lefebvre has put together the best-case/worst-case standings, from the Flames' perspective, based on how the NW-on-NW games could go tonight and Friday. My reaction to the worst-case was, "Hey, that's not that bad!" That's good. Go Flames.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008




Sunday, March 23, 2008


Hoppy Easter

I hope Easter the Bunny was good to you all.

Overall, he was pretty good to Edmonton. The last five days were mercifully devoid of the dreaded 3-point games, and the Plausible Prediction turned out to be almost perfect. The Oil are now only 3 back of Colorado (whose ass we kicked last night) with another head-to-head to go.

Vancouver isn't exactly out of the woods yet either. Their next game is in Calgary and then home to Colorado. Lose even one of those and they are back with the pack. Lose both and they may be on the outside looking in.

Here are some -- not plausible exactly -- maybe, Not Entirely Absurd Predictions. I even threw in some OT games and some Oiler loses to make up for the lack of them last week.

If this happens over the next week . . . :

March 24
Calgary beats Colorado in Overtime (in Colorado)
Oilers beat Wild in OT (in Edmonton)

March 25
Nashville beat BlueJackets (in Nashville)
Flames beat Vancouver (in Calgary)

March 26
Oilers lose to Wild in Overtime (in Minnie)
Avs beat Canucks in Overtime (in Denver)

March 28
Blue Jackets lose to Predators in Overtime (in Columbus)
Canucks lose to Wild (in Minnie)
Oilers beat Avs (in Denver)

March 29
Oilers lose to Flames in OT (in Calgary)

March 30
Predators lose to Red Wings (in Detroit)
Avalanche lose to Wild (in Minnie)
Flames beat Canucks (in Vancouver)

. . then the standings will look like this:

. . .
7. Vancouver (79 GP, 87 points, remaining games vs: Colorado, Oilers, Flames)
8. Colorado (80 GP, 87 points, remaining games vs: Canucks, Wild)
9. Edmonton (80 GP, 87 points, remaining games vs: Flames, Canucks)
10. Nashville (79 GP, 84 points, remaining games vs: Blues, Blues, Blackhawks, )
. . .

That's not crazy, right?


Golden Bears Make Final

The University of Alberta Golden Bears have backed into a berth in the 2008 University Cup Finals, after getting some help from the McGill Redmen. More here and here. The Bears opponents will be the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, the defending CIS champions and #1 ranked team in the nation. The game will be broadcast live on Sportsnet and The Team 1260, starting at 5:00 p.m. MST.

Prediction: 4-2, Bears, in a fantastic hockey game. Stanley, Gimblett and Woolger (x2) with the goals.


Saturday, March 22, 2008


Tra la la la la I can't hear you.

After 3.5 legs, an incredible 9 of the 10 games in the Plausible Prediction have fallen the right way. Sadly, the single exception was a killer. The Canucks apparently have the Oilers by the short hairs this season.

But, never fear. The Oil aren't out of it yet. We are just back to chasing only one team: Colorado*.

With two games left against the Avs and 5 points back, things are not entirely bleak.

With two games remaining against each of the Avs, Flames, Wild, plus one against the Canucks, things are not entirely rosy.

If you haven't already pulled out your sweater, now is the time.

* I'm excluding Nasville here because they suck.

Friday, March 21, 2008


On Consistency

This is Eldrick Woods. You've probably heard of him, he's merely the most dominant professional athlete of my lifetime (and even if you're quite a bit older than me, probably of yours, too).

I realize that baseball analogies are more popular, but I've been thinking about golf a lot lately when it comes to explaining hockey. You play? I still do a bit; when I was younger, in the pre-family days, I played a lot. The summer after I graduated from university, I played 103 18-hole games between the May long weekend and Labour Day.

It's a funny game. You can jump straight from the car to the teebox, mind still racing with work crap, and shoot wonderfully; you can get to the course early, warm up, get comfortable, and stink it up. You can play in a scenario (say with family on vacation) where you honestly do not care how you score, and go low; you can play in a scenario where you desperately want to play well, and be completely hapless. I have been shocked by my own golf score (good and bad) on so many occasions that I was jarred into realizing something one day:
(A) I'm a 9-handicap, and sometimes my score is going to be better than that, and sometimes about the same, and sometimes worse.

(B) If I want to be a 3-handicap, I can practice and play a bunch more, and get some lessons, and maybe it'll happen... but I'm not one today. I can hit all sorts of good shots and make smart decisions indistinguishably from a 3-handicap, but over time, I'll average a few more mistakes and a few less terrific shots each round, because I'm not a 3-handicap.

This is what comes to mind when I'm driving the boy to school in the morning, and I hear the guy doing the morning sports update declare that the Flames put forth "no effort last night" in "another inconsistent performance" losing to whoever. You know, for a tubbo in a windowless room to claim that a pro hockey team didn't try -- that's 18-20 guys who are in the top one-thousandth of hockey players who have ever tried to succeed at it -- is self-evidently shameful, but that's beside today's points. One of which is simply that sometimes people have a bad game despite preparing well and wanting it really, really bad. (God help the poor Olympic athlete who has the wrong bad day.)

The other point is something like this: there are at least a thousand golfers in North America who can hit it as far as Tiger, and make 25-foot putts on occasion. There are also duffers who have played with him in a pro-am and beaten him on a particular hole.

"The difference between Tiger Woods and Other Golfer is their consistency" would be an extremely stupid, nonsensical thing to say, and yet when the contrast is less extreme, people say this all the time. The Leafs' inconsistency has cost them a playoff berth... if the Flames were more consistent they would have clinched the division already... if the Sharks hadn't been so inconsistent at midseason, they'd be ahead of the Red Wings... etc. etc. etc.

I have posted before that whenever a coach or media type says that Local Team X needs "more big _____", that can easily be shortened (and made more accurate!) by deleting the word 'big'. Today's lesson in hockey/sports lingo is that more consistent = better. If the coach says the powerplay needs to be more consistent, then what he means to say (even if it's subconsciously) is that the powerplay needs to be better. If your team needs a more consistent goalie, what they actually need is a better goalie. And if the Flames can only win their 1st round series if they play very consistently, what that actually means is that the can only win if they play very well.

And if I play a round of golf with Tiger Woods, I might tie him on the first hole, but when he beats me by 12 or 15 on the round, it won't be because I lacked consistency.


Friday Baseball Standings

**East: Winning the Atlantic (for PIT/NJD) or the Northeast (MTL/OTT) would seem to offer considerable rewards. Firstly, you avoid meeting the other 2nd-place team (or possibly the Rangers) in the 4v5 series. Secondly -- at least at the moment -- you get Boston or Philly in the 1st round, who are a clear tier below the other 6 playoff teams based on some of the underlying numbers. (If Buffalo and/or Washington makes it in, they'll be no bargain, but they're still a preferable opponent to the Penguins.)

**West: So Detroit is hosting the 1v8 series, the Sharks are hosting the 2v7, and today's top 7 teams are all making the playoffs -- these are statements in the pretty solid bet category. "Ducks host the 4v5" and "Avs are the guest in the 1v8" are less solid, but still more likely than not.

**Mike Keenan and the Flames: verrrryyyy interesting night last night from a bench management perspective.

For starters, the scratches were all the younger guys: Nystrom, Moss, and Boyd. Tanguay was back from his broken toe, and Mark Smith drew back in.

Most interesting, though, was the use of Huselius. He had 7 shifts last night. Four were as the LW on the #1 PP unit (as usual), where he picked up an assist. One was at EV early in the 1st, and the other two were in the middle of the 2nd (all with Iginla/Langkow).

The mantra from both Keenan and Sutter since before the deadline has been (roughly), "We have 15 forwards, 8 defencemen, and 2 goalies, and we're going to need them all to accomplish what we want to accomplish." From another coach or at another time, this could be balderdash, but Keenan obviously believes it as he's been behaving as though he does: inserting everyone into the lineup at different times, using guys in varying roles, etc.

Sometimes that means that, in my eyes and the eyes of many other Flames fans, they're not icing their strongest possible lineup on any given night (or giving themselves the best possible chance to win). But with the benefit of hindsight (knowing they're 3.5 games in a playoff spot, not out of one), it seems like a smart enough thing.

On the other hand, the Huselius/LW thing could be nothing more than a snap reaction to Tuesday's game where Rick Nash & Co. annihilated the Iginla line in the power vs. power matchup (see left).

I don't think so, though. I think Keenan has closed in on his favoured lineup (not that I know what it is), and is just tinkering a bit more with lines and roles. Developing!

Go Flames.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Magic Days

[UPDATED] One of the big things I miss about Edmonton is That Day. You know, That Magical Day when it seems that the whole city collectively recognizes that Winter has ended. Oh sure, there will still be a few more big snowfalls in May and June, but they don't matter -- it isn't so much a shift in the weather as it is a shift in mindset. You are just trudging along your usual commute, when you look around and suddenly everyone is out. People are jogging, riding bikes, walking dogs. They are wearing shorts, sitting on patios, smiling. It is always a tough day to explain to people who don't live in highly seasonal environments, but it is one of those yearly events that can almost make a guy believe in the notion of a psychic unity of humankind.

In any case, I was reminded of That Day this morning when I read the comment thread from yesterday's post. It cracked me up. Oh sure, it wasn't one of the all time greats, but it seemed to mark a collective shift in mindset -- there was banter, ribaldry, jocularity, verve. It seems like Spring has sprung in Oilerville.

Of course, the Canucks could bring a blizzard into town tonight, but I'm thinking not. I'm predicting that the Plausible Prognostication prevails. In the best case scenario, the Oil end up within 3 points of both the 7th and 8th place teams. In the worst case scenario, they end up 6 points back of 8th and 7 points back of 7th. In other words, it is nut-cuttin' time.

Happy Spring, and don't forget to punch a Flames fan today.

Andy's Prediction: 5-0, Oilers. Garon outduels Bobby-Lou McGreasyhair in a lopsided affair. Gagner, Hemsky (2), Reasoner and Pisani with the goals. "Francis" Kesler goes after Oilers assistant coach Billy Moores, then claims that Moores started the fight with him. Craig MacTavish comes on the ice to take the last draw for the Oilers--ensuring a win for the Rangers Oilers--and Vancouver residents get to walk home amidst the beauty and splendor of West Coast Hamsterdam.

Matt's Prediction:

Flames > Avalanche
Canucks > Oilers
Deb Matejicka > Gene Principe
Ray Ferraro >>> Charlie Simmer
Go Flames.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Madness, BoA Style

Just a quick note that I still have some room in the BoA March Madness pool. If you want in, email me today (addy on the left). Now, back to hockey.


I forgot to send out the invitation . . . many apologies!

Well, whadda ya know.

Leg One of the Plausible Prognostication is complete -- and with two bonuses: a Nashville loss and a Calgary loss.

When I put those projections up, I assumed that it was the Avs who were most likely to suck down the stretch. But you know what they say about making assumptions . . . Let me be the first to admit that I'm an ass and to apologize wholeheartedly to all of you Flames fans for underestimating your team. Welcome to the Party!

6. Vancouver 84 points
7. Calgary 84 points
8. Colorado 84 points
9. Nashville 80 points
10. Edmonton 79 points
11-15. A bunch of losers

The end result of this is that the Falmes-Avalanche game tomorrow night becomes somewhat more cheerful to watch. While it is preferable, I suppose, if Calgary wins because of their game in hand over Colorado, the balance has tipped somewhat and, to be honest, I don't really care who wins so long as it doesn't go to OT.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Flames Game Day

The Flames play the Blue Jackets in Columbus tonight (5PM MT, RSN West) to wrap up the non-division portion of their sked. If the BJs win, they'll be tied with the Oil and Coyotes at 73GP/77Pts, which is to say, they're out of it.

Per the little table to the left, Calgary could certainly use a W to position themselves for these final 9 in-division games; after dominating the division head-to-head for the first 1-1/2 seasons after the lockout, they've been rather mediocre against their rivals in the season or so since.

Table #2 is just a little FYI, I don't think there's much that's stunning here (shootout and empty-net goals are excluded; penalty shot goals are the reason why the Even Strength goal differential and the Special Teams goal differential don't quite add up to the total in many cases).

Anaheim, Calgary, and Colorado all have given back a lot of their good EV play on special teams. If there's one team's numbers here that challenge the conventional wisdom, I think it's San Jose...

I'm always hearing that the reason they're so good is that they are deep at forward and can roll 4 lines. As it turns out (PK excluded), they're not that good when Joe Thornton isn't on the ice.

Calgary 3 (Lombardi, Iginla, Phaneuf)
Columbus 1 (BoA fave Michael Peca)

Go Flames.


Plausible Prognostication or Just Plain Nuts? [updated]


If this entirely plausible set of events were to occur over the next 5 days:

Leg 1
March 18: Oilers beat Coyotes (in Edmonton) -- check
March 18: Predators beat lose to Capitals (in Nashville) -- bonus!
March 18: BJ's beat Flames (in Columbus) -- bonus!
Leg 2
March 20: Red Wings beat Preds (in Nashville) -- check
March 20: Flames beat Avs (in Calgary) -- check
March 20: Oilers beat Canucks (in Edmonton) -- disaster
March 20: Coyotes beat lose to LA in OT (in Phoenix) -- bonus!
Leg 3
March 21: Wild beat Canucks (in Vancouver) -- check
Leg 4:
March 22: Oilers beat Avs (in Edmonton) -- check
March 22: Predators beat Blackhawks (in Nashville) -- check, but bummer
March 22: Ducks beat Coyotes (in Phoenix)
March 22: Wild beat Calgary (in Calgary)

Then the standings would look like this:

. . .
6. Calgary (75 GP) 86 points
7. Vancouver (75 GP) 84 points
8. Colorado (76 GP) 84 points
9. Edmonton (76 GP) 83 points
10. Nashville (76 GP) 82 points
11. Phoenix (76 GP) 79 points
. . .

That could happen, right?


Bleeding Green

"The Whalers, even though they don't exist, have a lot going for them."

I don't know whether I should be really happy about this movie being made, or really sad about this movie being made. As many know, the Whalers used to be my second favorite hockey team. That was destroyed in the summer of 2006, but watching the trailer for this movie made me all nostalgic and stuff. I went and listened to some "Brass Bonanza", stared at Carmen Electra, and cried my Kevin Dineen out. Okay. The whole thing just makes me sad. A post-Paddy's Day toast, then, to the remaining Whaler faithful.

Bonus fact I never get tired of telling people: Brian Burke, when he was General Manager of the Whalers, tried to ban "Brass Bonanza" from Whalers games. Yup. A**hole.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Northwest Passage, St. Patrick's Day Edition

Oilers against the NW
March 13th: @ Avalanche
March 20th: vs.Canucks
March 22nd: vs. Avalanche
March 24th: vs. Wild
March 26th: @ Wild
March 28th: @ Avalanche
March 29th: @ Flames
April 1st: vs. Flames
April 3rd: @ Canucks

Flames against the NW
March 20th: vs. Avalanche
March 22nd: vs. Wild
March 24th: @ Avalanche
March 25th: vs. Canucks
March 29th: vs. Oilers
March 30th: @ Canucks
April 1st: @ Oilers
April 3rd: @ Wild
April 5th: @ Canucks

• Starting Thursday, the Flames and Oilers play all their remaining games against the Northwest Division.

• As of right now, Minnesota, Calgary and Colorado all have 84 points. Vancouver has 82. If the season ended tonight, all four teams would be in the playoffs.

• While not mathematically eliminated, I don't think the Oilers have any chance of making the playoffs this year. They've been playing fun, reckless hockey, but I just don't think they can sustain it over the next two weeks. I'd be happy to be wrong, of course, but it's going to take a major tank job by one of the other four Northwest teams (cough, Canucks) and nothing but regulation wins for the Oilers to get in. My prediction: tons of overtime points shared between the Northwest teams, and no chance of moving up the standings.

• For those keeping the faith--and I applaud your optimism--here's Sacamano's playoff predictor. Have fun!

• It won't be the same without Matt Cooke around to commit flagrant fouls, but that game against the Canucks on Thursday should be a good one. Oh well, Ryan Kesler is still there. Maybe he can latch his thighs around someone's foot again, and then whine about getting picked on in the post-game. He's like that damn Francis kid in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, calling for help after he's stolen Pee Wee's bike. Good to see the NHL's encouraging behavior we wouldn't tolerate from our six-year olds.

Anyway, happy Saint Patrick's Day, everyone. GO SPOILERS!!!


The Madness

(click image to enlarge)

By special request, here is my bracket for the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament. It's a little early to reveal my picks to my greatest rivals (Sacamano, Abboud) but so be it. I reserve the right to change some of these picks before Thursday, but this is how I laid it out this morning.

I don't watch NCAA basketball with the same level of obsession that I used to (thanks, Chris Webber), so over the past couple of years, I've had to come up with some alternate strategies in picking my brackets. This year I abandoned some of those strategies, while clinging even more to others. Here they are:

1) Pick the favorites. I like cheering for the underdog as much as the next guy, but there's a reason so many of these programs get the high rankings year after year after year. I went even more conservative than normal this year, predicting one #2 seed and three #1 seeds in the Final Four. Other than a couple #9 upsets, my upset picks were Siena, St. Joseph's, Davidson, St. Mary's, Kentucky, San Diego, and West Virginia. Other than Kentucky, I didn't pick any of those teams to make it past the Sweet Sixteen.

2) Pick the Catholic schools. In particular, the Jesuit universities. That's how I roll. Ad majorem Dei gloriam, baby. No Boston College, Creighton or Holy Cross for me this year, but Gonzaga, St. Joseph's, Xavier and Georgetown all advance in my bracket. Notre Dame, too. Xavier and Georgetown make the Elite Eight, with Georgetown losing in the Finals to UCLA. Sadly, I just couldn't pick Marquette to advance. Kentucky is really hot right now, and they never lose in the first round (seventeen straight first round wins).

3) Always bet against Duke. I hate Duke. Always bet against Duke. Go, Belmont Bruins!

4) Pick the Ivy League School. I usually pick the Ivy League champion in the first round, which for as long as I can remember has meant picking either Penn or Princeton. This year it's Cornell, and I can't pick those guys. That Cayuga Lake smells just awful.

5) Have at least one pick you can giggle at. The last couple years, this has meant taking Oral Roberts University. Heh. Oral. Heh. TV Minister. This year, my pick is Kent State. My reasoning: singing "four dead in Ohio" non-stop for the last minute of the game. Gotta get down to it!

So there you go. It's nuts, but it's worked. I've been pretty pleased with my record over the past three years:

2007: 2nd place
2006: 4th place
2005: 1st place

First round game to watch: USC vs. Kansas State; anything called by Gus Johnson.

Players to watch: Michael Beasley, Roy Hibbert, OJ Mayo, Derrick Rose, Derrick Low, Tyler Hansbrough, Stephen Curry, Luke Harangody, Kevin Love.

Best name in the tournament: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Player I'm sad about not getting to see in the tournament: 7-7, 360 pound Kenny George. His voice terrifies me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I See Overtime Winners

"It's gonna be Pisani. I can feel it."

--Andy Grabia, March 16, 2008

I have been given the gift of prophecy.


Flames Game Day

Flames @ Blackhawks, 1PM MT, RSN West.

The afternoon has been less delightful for the Flames in the past couple of games, having been extremely, uh, satisfying for most of the season. It must be because I haven't posted the song in a while.

Calgary 3 (Lombardi, Iginla, Conroy) Chicago 0 (Kipperrrr!!!!). Go Flames.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Wheel in the Sky

Chris Pronger gets suspended after all. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Video at Covered in Oil. Good analysis from Earl Sleek and Tom Benjamin. The Colin Campbell Wheel of Justice™ is more Matt's wheelhouse than mine, so I'll leave any deeper thoughts on this to him. Me, I just wanted an excuse to link to some Journey!!!

Friday, March 14, 2008


Friday Baseball Standings

First things first: happy March 14th to all the fellas. Next, was I a bit hasty in throwing dirt on the Coyotes last Friday? Maybe! Tomorrow Phoenix is home to the Oil, while the Canucks play in Dallas, and then they play each other again on Monday in Vancouver. Opportunity knocks.

The East teams presently below the line are left to hope for a free fall by the Bruins or Flyers (or in Washington's case, the Hurricanes as well). It's enough for some faint hope, but that's all it is. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Flames Game Night

Flames @ Thrashers, 5PM MT, RSN West

I've decided against pussyfooting around and worrying about hubris and karma...

The Thrashers are probably the worst team in the NHL at the moment (if not this whole season), and I expect the Flames to outplay them handily. Barring a heroic performance by Lehtonen or a horrendous performance by CuJo (or Kipper? No word yet...), the Flames should win, and if they don't, I'll be very disappointed and more than a little concerned.

I'd love to see Moss back in the lineup -- Primeau is not getting it done at either end. Also, while I don't have anything bad to say about Vandermeer, lately he's looking less like the steal of the Trade Deadline (Week) and more like what was reasonable to expect in the first place: a slightly better option than Warrener or Eriksson.

Calgary 5 (Iginla, Tanguay, Moss, Phaneuf, Conroy)
Atlanta 1 (Eric Vail)

Go Flames.


Sacamano's Playoff Predictor

Here is this year's edition of Sacamano's Western Conference Playoff Predictor. I'm sure there are better ones out there, but I had it ready, so I might as well post it.

As in the past, just enter in your predictions for the remaining games, and it will spit out the final standings. Alas, I'm not still not web-savvy enough to make it an online interactive deal, so you will have to download and/or open it on your own computer. If anyone out there wants to put it up in web format (if such a thing is even possible), you are more than welcome to do so.

As in previous years, I've still been too lazy to figure out an array formula that will take into account the divisional leaders, tie-breakers, etc., in the rankings. So, use your noggin to switch that up.

I've put in my best guesses for the remainder of the season. As MF likes to say, your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Flames Road Trip

Mrs. Matt took this picture, out the window of the U.S. Departures / Calgary International Airport a bit less than two weeks ago. She was headed to Vegas, and the Flames were off to the O.C. ("They treat those bags like they're packed with fine china, especially compared to how they handle regular baggage.")

The Flames kick off a 4-game roadie tonight somewhere in Maryland against the Caps (5PM MT, Flames PPV). It's an open question, what kind of mental state the Caps will be in, having likely surrendered their playoff hopes on the weekend with two agonizing late-regulation losses.

Hate to say it, and I admire what the Caps have accomplished this year since punting Hanlon down the road, but the smart money says they won't be as good when they don't have anything to play for.

Calgary 3 (Nolan x2, Moss) Washington 2 (Ocho, Green). Go Flames.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


"We don't see a lot of holes", was it?

This here is the "60-minute" standings for the Western Conference, not including Tuesday night's games. It's what the standings would look like if, a la 1983, the team with more goals after 60 minutes got 2 points, and if neither did, they each got 1.

I think what's fascinating here is not that the Oilers are in 14th, but the unbelievable gap between 13th and 14th.

My interest here is not so much to point and laugh about how much the bonus point has helped Edmonton. The rules are what they are, and I don't mind the 3-point games so much when I hear alternative proposals. Garon has obviously been stellar in extra play, and Cogliano has just accomplished something (as a rookie no less), in scoring OT winners in 3 consecutive games, which will likely never again be duplicated.

But... the Oilers need to improve a lot next season to threaten the playoffs (surging indeed!).

If you think that there's something inherent to the Oilers' style that they play more Tied After 60 games than anyone in the conference, or think it plenty possible that Mathieu Garon will go 10-0 in his next ten shootouts as well, then I suppose there's nothing to worry about.

Reality, though, is that next season they'll play fewer OT/SO games, and won't do as well in them. They're going to have to improve on their 60-minute performance quite a bit just to make up for that and remain where they are. If we're talking about getting to the mid-high 90s in points and squeezing into the playoffs... how is this going to happen??? 16-31-22!!!

Maybe getting three-quarters of a season out of Souray, rather than one-quarter, will do the trick. (Maybe Lowe needs to try making another free agent splash, ohpleaseohpleaseohplease.)


We're Gonna Be Big Stars

I just realized I haven't watched an Oilers hockey game since the Battle of Alberta/Hockey Day in Canada game on February 9th. I think Sam Gagner was four at the time. The Oilers have gone 8-4 since then I stopped paying attention. Does this mean I should carry on not watching? Probably. Will I watch tonight anyway? Probably.

Prediction: If the team from Edmonton is still called the "Oilers," and the team from St. Louis is still called the "Blues," then put me down for an "Oilers" victory. 3-2. Goals by David Oliver, Micah Aivazoff and Freddy "Makes me wetty" Olausson.

And hey, has anyone else heard that "Mr. Jones" song yet? The lead singer is some white dude with dreadlocks, but damn is the song ever catchy. I recommend picking up the cassette single from your nearest Music World.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Flames Game Night

STL @ CGY, 730PM MT, RSN West. (Also tonight: VAN @ LAK.)

If you want to pinpoint a particular game where the Flames' season started going right, it's probably the last home game against the Blues. I remember being in the car for quite a while the afternoon of the game, and the various hosts and commenters were just unbelievably down on the team.

That night, they allowed a goal in the first minute, were being outshot 8-0 a few minutes in, and then just beat the bejeezus out of the Blues by every conceivable measuring stick from there on out.

Perhaps tonight's game will be something similar, and in 3 weeks we'll look back and see that this was the beginning of a really solid run that put away the division. For what it's worth, I think it's quite possible. Calgary 4 (Iginla x3, MossTanguay) St. Louis 0. Go Flames.

P.S.: Do you know what [Jason LaBarbera injury in a 20-team fantasy league] + [no more Kings-Flames games] + [plenty of L.A. spoiler possibilities] + [a desperation fantasy goalie pickup] equals? Me being the biggest Dan Cloutier fan in the world west of Salmon Arm for the next 4 weeks. Go Kings!


Vision in a Dream

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree"

Good to see the City of Edmonton is now considering spending $200,000 on a collapsable, geodesic dome for Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton. The rationale for spending this money: the City already spent $12 million dollars to pave over the grass in the Square in 2004. Apparently, way back in 2004, no one knew that it gets cold in Edmonton, so the solution (obviously!) is to spend even more public money on upgrades.

Sadly, Dr. Pangloss Cason, a professor of thermal mechanics at Thunderbay-ten-Tronckh School, and noted expert on downtown-core-community-upgrader-awesomeness projects, was unavailable for comment. Doesn't matter, though. Giuseppe Albi, general manager of Events Edmonton, convinced me with this line: “At the very least, people could go there and look at it – have their picture taken next to it.” Sign me up!


Heart & Soul

Whatever one wants to say about Ryan Smyth's skills on the ice, no one can doubt the impact he has had on this community. That impact continues to be felt, even though Smyth now plays in Colorado. Case in point: this letter to the Edmonton Journal.

Warning: overly sensitive dudes (cough) may choke up a bit while reading this letter. Do not read in front of other dudes.


Sunday, March 09, 2008


Northwest Passage

Oilers against the NW
March 13th: @ Avalanche
March 20th: vs.Canucks
March 22nd: vs. Avalanche
March 24th: vs. Wild
March 26th: @ Wild
March 28th: @ Avalanche
March 29th: @ Flames
April 1st: vs. Flames
April 3rd: @ Canucks

Flames against the NW
March 20th: vs. Avalanche
March 22nd: vs. Wild
March 24th: @ Avalanche
March 25th: vs. Canucks
March 29th: vs. Oilers
March 30th: @ Canucks
April 1st: @ Oilers
April 3rd: @ Wild
April 5th: @ Canucks

Current standings here.

The only team in the Northwest Division with a losing record in their past ten is the Wild. They are 3-5-2. Every other team has a winning record. Calgary is 6-2-2, Colorado is 7-2-1, Vancouver is 6-2-2, and Edmonton is 6-4.

The Oilers are, shockingly, the highest scoring team in the Northwest Division, with 191 Goals For. Problem is, they can't prevent the puck from going in their own net. They've allowed 211 Goals Against on the season, by far the most in the Northwest (and second most in the Conference). Makes you wonder why Kevin Lowe thought he had too many defencemen.

The Wild, Avalanche and Flames are all tied for first in the Northwest, with 80 points. Calgary holds the #3 seed in the Western Conference as of right now, and has a game in hand on both Colorado and Minnesota. The Flames play their last four games of the season on the road, including two at GM Place against the Canucks. Vancouver is still holding on to 8th place in the Western Conference. Will this be a year when four teams from the Northwest make the playoffs?

***Instant Update***
The Wild just earned a point against the Sharks, moving them into first in the Northwest and the #3 seed in the Conference. Colorado could take those spots with a win tonight against the Stars, and Calgary will have two in hand on both the Avs and the Wild. It's going to be like this the rest of the year. With the Oilers playing well, and having the chance to spoil someone's playoff hopes (no, they will not make the playoffs), it should be a fun few weeks.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Welcome to the Jungle

Former Sun and Journal columnist Robin Brownlee has entered the wild and crazy world of blogging, joining yet another Oilers site at Brownlee has been busy since he joined the site late last week, already posting stories on Theo Peckham and Zack Stortini. Enjoy the BoA bump, Robin. You're sure to get ten new anonymous posters now, each bragging about the beauty of the city of Vancouver and the prowess of the Canucks. Good luck with that.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Flames Game Day

Flames host Predators, RSN West, 730PM MT (or whenever the Oil-BJs game ends).

Since the end of November, when they sat at a horrendous 10-13-3, the Flames' record is 25-10-6 (or, thru 60 minutes, 20-10-11). That's quite good, only having regulation losses in one-quarter of your games. And as a whole (let's pretend I'm writing this prior to Tuesday night's frankly lucky win), there is a lot to like about the Flames right now:

**Conroy and Nolan: for this calendar year at least, these guys have been playing like they're 10 years younger than they are. It's just stunning -- and thrilling -- how often Craig Conroy looks like the fastest player on the ice. I'm a hair concerned about the knee injury he suffered vs. PHX (is it one of those things that "feels pretty good" but will negate that extra gear, as well as fail to heal until the offseason?), but he really has looked awesome.

And Owen Nolan has just been a revelation as a penalty killer and solid two-way player. Who should we send out to kill this 5-on-3... hmmm... how about our 36-year-old right winger? O-Kayyy Budddyyyyyy! But it's working.

**Aucoin and Hale: Aucoin has been as good as I could have hoped. He's plenty effective as the other PP point man, and while he doesn't play against the top guys on the other team, he has shut the opposition down nicely. Hale has progressed so much this season that I'd actually say he's overconfident handling the puck now. The crap decisions, bad penalties, and missed coverages are still there, but much more rarely.

**Regehr: after a shaky start to the season, he has been a rock in his own end. He still wouldn't be one of my first 60 choices in the league to defend a one-on-one, but if the other guys have possession in the attacking zone and you don't want the puck to end up in the net, I'd put him in the top 5.

**Lombardi: Metrognome posted a nice overview of Lombo's season yesterday. I don't think his topside on the scoresheet is anything higher than 25G/70Pts (not that that's anything to sneeze at either), but what I do think is that he will be a better NHL player for his trials this season.

Clearly he has the attitude to have a long career. Mere months after centering Canada's top line to a gold medal at the Worlds (and exhibiting his considerable skill), he came into Flames' training camp, and has been given zero special opportunities to be an offensive difference-maker. Squat for PP time, no time at the pivot beside Iginla/Tanguay/Huselius, etc. But have you heard a single word from the guy about how he thinks he could be having a bigger impact? No. Have you seen Keenan utter an ill word about him? Or sit him down for any length of time? Or exhibit any reluctance at all to keep throwing him out there in difficult circumstances? No, no, and no.

This guy's arrows are all pointed in the right direction, and I have no doubt that over the remainder of his contract, he will be a more-commonly acknowledged contributor to this team's success.

**Phaneuf: This isn't a fresh observation, but since he signed his contract extension, he has been absolutely spectacular. Some talking head on one of the TV panels last week used the "future Norris Trophy" line when discussing him, and it was the first time I heard it without thinking, "Man, that is laughably premature."

Against the Ducks last Friday, he made one of those plays that just isn't made by someone who is merely good: I couldn't even tell you the circumstances leading up to it, but another Flame had a 1-on-2, and the Dion materialized out of nowhere, took the puck off his teammate, split Anaheim's defensemen, and got a decent scoring chance despite drawing a penalty. (Matt on his couch: "Where the f**k did he come from?")

**Kipper: he's played a lot of good games lately, made a lot of nice saves, and allowed few if any weak goals. I can't and won't ask for anything more.

What this all adds up to, to me, is this: you can sketch out a scenario for a nice playoff run without needing a multiple and dubious "if" statements. (As in: if Iginla's line pots 2 a night... if David Moss can score at a 40-goal pace... if Kipper stands on his head... if David Hale plays mistake-free hockey... if our playoff opponent has a lot of injuries... if Players X, Y, & Z continue on their career-year pace... etc.). Yes, no matter who you are you need some good luck to advance a long ways, and you need some players to perform above their heads: the Flames are no different. But look at that record since November again: they have won a lot of games without having everything go right and everyone playing their best at the same time.

It can be frustrating now, when we'd all like them to end the drama and just run away with the NW Division, but the way I see it, there's scant reason to believe that they'll be worse than their record would indicate come playoff time, and plenty of legitimate reasons to hope that they'll be better.

Tonight! A chance for the lads to widen the gap between themselves and 9th.

Calgary 3 (Lombardi x2, Nolan)
Nashville 1 (Legwand)

Go Flames.


Friday Baseball Standings

Last Friday, the Sharks were 3 games back of the Stars. In the week since, they've won 4 games; the Stars only played 2, and lost them both (B. Richards: 0-0-0, -3).

Also, check out 4th thru 9th in the West: a nifty little half-game separating each team. What do we know for sure at this point? Not too much:
I think I'm OK writing off the Coyotes at this point; the remainder of the schedule is heavy with division games, and while I grant that they have done much better in Pacific games this season, it's simply too strong for them to get on a significant roll. Add to that, from the "Saw Them Bad" file, they have been massively outchanced every time I've watched them this year.

Chicago, on the other hand, still has a chance: if they can outpoint the Preds in their 2 H2H games; do as well in their 3 v DET as Nashville does in their 4 v DET; and rack up some wins in their 5 vs CBJ & STL (as well as home games v. EDM, CAR, & WSH); then I think they probably make it. One of the four NW teams presently in the playoffs is probably going to drop out due to the numerous H2H games, and there should be a spot for the Preds or Hawks.

Plus: it's been noted here that the Hawks goal differential is better than their record, and it's been noted by Vic that their goalpost luck has been lousy too. In other words, the underlying numbers say that Chicago is a decent team, and have the quality needed to win a bunch of games here if they start getting some good luck, or even simply stop getting the bad kind.

[Sidebar: check out the concluding comments of that IOF post. Vic says, "...the Rangers, Blackhawks and Hurricanes have a genuine beef with the goalpost gods." Combined record of NYR, CAR, and CHI (excluding a Rags-Canes game) since he posted that: 14-2-1.]

In the EC, you can probably X out everyone from the Islanders down. Making up 3 or more games on the eight-seed with only 15 left (and teams to pass) is not even a good longshot bet. Buffalo and Washington -- both 1.5 games back of the teams they are chasing -- are holding on, but are in a position where a 2-game losing streak could be fatal to their hopes.

Last thing: the difference between the two conferences, if you want to compare them, is 5.5 games. Add 5.5 to the GBL of an EC team to see where they'd be in the WC, subtract 5.5 going the other way. Note that Ottawa and Calgary are tied -- at the end of November, the Sens were 6.5 games ahead of the Flames. Yep, it's a long season.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


An expanded view of the Role Player

One of these months, if I hit a slow time at work, I'm going to write a hellaciously long post about the things I feel like I've learned (or perhaps understand better) about hockey having spent 3 seasons writing and reading about it on the web. I'm just incredibly grateful for the dozens of smart people who provide really solid insight: on their own blog, or as commenters on this one and others.

Some of these things are bits of conventional wisdom that have been exploded; in some cases, into such tiny pieces that they have slipped my consciousness entirely. But some others (perhaps just as many) are rather the opposite: insights into why coaches/GMs are quite right to make the decisions that they do, and it's simply that the CW is a lousy explanation for why (or the reasons are logical in contexts that, for whatever reason, just aren't discussed openly).

Anyway, today is not the day for that post. However, I did want to link to what I thought was an excellent comment by Devin at IOF:
...every team has and needs guys in the sheltered role. Those guys need to produce in easy 5v5 minutes, and Nilsson has done that. Top 30 in the league in ESP/60? That says that he's making a lot more hay out of soft minutes than a lot of other wingers out there. That he's doing it and isn't giving more back should solidify the fact that he's a legit NHL player.

I think we can all get a little too excited about "tough minutes". The fact is there are different players in different roles, and maybe Nilsson will never be able to match up against Iginla, but really, who cares if he can beat up on the weaker opp?

To coin a phrase, that is so true. There are, I'll say, 12 to 30 Class A1 skaters in the NHL. There are a group of forwards who consistently outchance and outscore the other guys no matter who they are playing with or against, and are effective on the PP as well (e.g. Ovechkin, Crosby, Thornton, Iginla). And there are a handful of defensemen who a coach can happily send out for a D-zone faceoff against anybody, and yet not feel like he's playing half-a-man short when the puck goes north of the redline (e.g. Pronger, Chara). Players who (small stretches excepted) will have their impact, and there's very little that opposing coaches, or even their own coaches, can do to interfere with that.

There are simply not that many of these guys. Plenty of teams don't have one. The Wings have three, and that still leaves 15 spots on the roster every game night. So what do you do? The answer (if you can call it that) is a grab bag of things. Certainly, acquiring/developing as many A2's and A3's as possible is helpful. But past that, surely a reasonable idea is to have a few players who are very good at at least one element of the game, and use them in a role that takes advantage of that one very good element to help your team win games. Call them... role players! (Hey, did I just coin another phrase?)
Certainly the guy Devin describes is also a very valuable role player: forward who looks overmatched against #1 lines but lights up #3 and #4 lines. These guys are extremely useful (and not terribly common either) provided you avoid a couple of pitfalls:
  1. Have enough balance between your lines, or a really rigorous Carlylesque line-matching program, so that the guy doesn't end up being the focus of the opposition
  2. Don't get sucked into believing that he's an A1 and decide to pay him like one
Given that, count your blessings if you have a "role player" like this on your team.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Strong, Muscular Legs


Also, the Oilers are playing against the Preds tonight. I'd actually meant to do a post on the game, but the day slipped away on me. Let's see. Uh, we win? In a shootout? Sure. Let's go with that.


Immediate Edit

I see we are down 2-0 already. Super.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays

Hey, everybody, whaat's happening?

Let's recap last night's game against the Blue Jackets:

• Oilers win.
• Oilers win in overtime. Again.
• Oilers win seventh straight at home.
• Oilers move above .500 on the season (31-30-5).
• Oilers stay out of draft lottery territory (6th worst record in the NHL).

That's a gold star performance, boys and girls! Huzzah!

Reading Dave's post on Covered in Oil yesterday put a bunch of questions in my head, which made me ask Mirtle where I could find some official info on the NHL Entry Draft (I couldn't find anything myself on the NHL webpage). Not only did Mirtle find the information for me, he wrote a post on it. He also pointed me towards a section on NHLSCAP devoted to the Entry Draft. Then NHLSCAP led me to a fantastic site on Draft Transactions, which then led me to exact information on the Oilers future draft picks (Flames info here). After all that forwarding, I understand the lottery system much better. I'm also terribly worried about the game in hand the Blues hold over us. This is what my life as an Oilers fan has come down to: cheering for the Blues to tank the season.

Note to Oilers brass: don't ever hold a skills competition on the same day as the Edmonton Motorshow again. Ever. If I was ruler of the universe, someone at Northlands or the Oilers would be getting an atomic wedgie for that one. What a bloody gong-show. I also had a good chuckle at the "Evolution 09" project signs around Northlands. Translated from PR Gobbledygook to English, "Evolution 09" means a $146 million upgrade to the Northlands site. Frankly, I don't know how it will survive without the anchor support of a world-class, iconic, and dangerous Greenwich Village Generator, but crazier things have happened. Evolve away, Northlands!

The skills competition itself was a pleasurable experience. No Ales Hemsky, unfortunately, but plenty of neat goals, plays and saves were to be seen. There's a ton of video up on the Oilers site, so I'll just redirect people there rather than summarizing it all myself. I will say these three things, though: the 3-on-3 competition didn't really work as an event, I saw Marty Reasoner good, and Dwayne Roloson was a delight. I also want to hump Fernando Pisani, but we all knew that already.

The University of Alberta Golden Bears swept the Manitoba Bisons this past weekend, securing themselves a place in the Canada West Finals as well as the CIS National Championships. I was at Saturday's game, which went into double overtime, and to say it was a different experience is a gross understatement. I've never been to a hockey game where the Bears were down by three goals at any point, let alone 14:36 of the first period. Kudos, then, to the Bears for restoring the order of things by coming back to tie the game, and winning it in overtime. I would have been thrown into an existential and nihilistic tailspin otherwise.

Two National Championship slots are available to Canada West this year, which means that both the Bears and their Canada West Finals opponents the Saskatchewan Huskies will advance to Moncton. The Canada West Finals games will be played at Clare Drake Arena this upcoming weekend (Friday & Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 7:00 p.m. if necessary). I'll be there. You should be to.

Oh, and congrats to the Golden Bears volleyball team, which won its fifth National Championship this past weekend in Quebec City. That's the seventh straight year the team has made it to the CIS Finals.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Well, it's only been 30+ months

Simmons sez:
There are those who suggest that Campbell was under great pressure, quite possibly from the Players' Association, not to sign a deal in Buffalo that would have undercut the market place of a high-end free agent defenceman.

That is, too often, the dilemma for a pending free agent: Does the player do what is right for himself, or does he stand up for the supposed greater good of his union brethren?

Spector sez:
Perhaps I'm being naive, but I doubt the PA put any pressure on Campbell. Even if he's signed a lesser deal with Buffalo, comparable blueliners will earn more this summer thanks to the threat of offer sheets and the UFA market, since the salary cap hasn't prevented general managers from overspending on individual players.

Matt sez: For the gajillionth time folks, the total amount earned by NHLPA members is a fixed sum determined solely by NHL hockey-related revenues. If Brian Campbell makes an extra million dollars, that comes (proportionally) out of the pockets of every other player in the league.

The NHLPA has no reason to want to torque the salary of any individual player (or group of players in comparable situations, e.g. #1 defensemen). And indeed, since 2006, the NHLPA has stepped aside at player arbitration hearings because of the inherent conflict: more money for Player #1 means less for Players #2 thru #750.

As such, Simmons has it exactly wrong: if a player wanted to do what was best for his union brethren, he'd play for the minimum salary somewhere, as holding out for top dollar is to the direct detriment of his colleagues.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Worst ad that runs during hockey games

2nd runner-up: that dink in the hardhat (and shorts) barbecuing his pizza

1st runner-up: "Highlights". Let's see... one of the two friends is stuck going out to get food and "misses" catching highlights on Gets back, the other friend (in front of the laptop) informs him that he missed Avs/Wings in OT, and a huge hit by Pronger, who I believe is a Duck. Anyway, then they show what I assume is supposed to be the clip of this huge hit, and Pronger is hitting a Red Wing! Sorry for overthinking this, but at least one of these highlights is not time-sensitive -- certainly not enough to whine, "Next time, *you* get the food."

The Worst: the incredibly insulting Fallsview Casino ad set in the Leafs' dressing room after a Game 7 Stanley Cup win. ("How do you feel?" "It's like that time at Fallsview Casino.")

I really don't have a particular beef with the casinos (or lotteries) pretending that their deal is the most exciting thing on earth, or that everyone wins (actual odds of winning: 1-in-380 million). I'm not even sure my problem with this ad is its existence, so much as the fact that they run it during hockey games, and on CBC Toronto (HD) no less.

Winning the Stanley Cup as a Toronto Maple Leaf would involve five or ten million people living and dying with your every game for two or three months, not to mention the standard stuff about it being the culmination of your professional life, or life-period. I won $700 bucks at a casino once, and it was pretty exciting, but we're not really talking about the same realms here. If there was another ad where a guy was cradling his newborn child, and a tear trickled down his cheek as he beamed a smile, and he said, "This is like that time at Fallsview Casino", I don't think I could react any more negatively than I do to the dressing room one.

Anyway, I'm sure I've missed a few -- call it a Sunday discussion topic.

***Andy Sunday Update***

You know what I miss? The "Log Driver's Waltz." You get les bûcherons, animated moose and beaver, an NFB short, the McGarrigle Sisters (one of whom is mother to Rufus and Martha Wainwright) and the CBC. That's a lethal dose of Canadiana. That short should be legislated into perpetual broadcasting on the Mother Corp. I mean, if I'm going to get hit over the head every day with identity propaganda, I want it to be with that video. I could never turn away from it as a child. Captivating.


There's a buzz on the street / Hottest ticket in town

Photo by "Brandon"

The Flames take on the Coyotes tonight (8PM MT, HNIC) at the raucous, centrally located, elegantly named Arena. I thought they deserved a better result last night (*three* pings off the iron in the 3rd), but it sounds like the coach and I aren't quite on the same page; not only was he cheesed as hell at the way the Flames started the game (I thought they were pretty decent, scoreboard obviously notwithstanding), but he's pissed at Kipper, and CuJo is apparently getting the start tonight after playing the last two periods last night.

No matter. In terms of scoring chances and zone time, the Flames have really pwned the Coyotes this season, and I don't see why tonight should be different.

Calgary 4 (Iginla x2, Tanguay, Lombardi)
Phoenix 3 (Mueller... Mueller.... Mueller...)

Go Flames.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?