Friday, May 30, 2008


Canadian teams, including Oilers, doing just fine

"At $1.2 million in ticket revenue per game, the Oilers and Senators garnered the least amount of ticket money among Canadian clubs."
--Rick Westhead, Toronto Star

Don't let any Arena Truther out there tell you otherwise. This, and only this, is why the Edmonton Oilers want a new hockey facility. Which is cool, as long as they pay for it all themselves.

PDF of the NHL's 07'-08' Ticket Revenue list here. Mirtle has more on the Westhead story here, and there is some good stuff in the comments. I find the stance of the new NHLPA head to be especially interesting.



You're The Great One, I'm Marty McSorley

Yes, I did have the pleasure of seeing the beautiful, talented and utterly fanf%@#ingtastic Kathleen Edwards tonight at the Starlite Room. Thank-you for asking. What? You want a video to help start off your weekend? Well, okay. Here's a new one, "I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory," from Edwards' new album, Asking For Flowers. It's a hockey-themed video, with guest appearances by Dave Hodge, Brad Delargno, Jim Cuddy, Paul Coffey and, of course, Marty McSorley. Other than the fact that Coffey is wearing NEW YORK ISLANDER colours (did they think no one would notice!?), I think you'll love it. I certainly did.

Have a great weekend, folks!


Thursday, May 29, 2008


Do you know that Jesus loves you?

Make sure you watch the video that comes with this story. Glove-tap to Avi for the link.

I could actually see Ron Wilson trying this one in a post-game interview.


Sacamano, consult your photo archives

What I believe to be the two most popular and most revisited posts in the ~3 year history of this weblog are actually hardly about hockey at all: they're about facial hair. Sacamano's Beard Talk, from before the Oilers' 2nd round series with San Jose in 2006, is surely the seminal work on the stages of growing a beard; a month or so later, The Many Faces of Sacamano was (among other things) one hell of a larf. (Also notable: A farewell to not shaving from Chris!).

I bring this up not merely because playoff beards in Detroit and Pittsburgh are deep into Stage 6, but because a fellow named Jon Dyer has, for years, been working on growing all the facial hair types -- and fortunately for the rest of us, he's been documenting it.

Enjoy. Glove tap to The Agitator for the pointer.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


It's Tradition!

"It's not too often you come to a historic place like this. I think everyone enjoys being here, and we grew up watching some of the teams that have won here," said Sidney Crosby, who was 9 when the Wings won their first Cup at Joe Louis. "There's not too many older buildings left. And to be here and at the Mellon it's pretty unusual."
--Associated Press

You had to know I'd return with an arena story, right? Of course I would! I couldn't help it, really, as the story touched on some of the points I've made before.

Interestingly, if the Wings or Penguins win the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh, it will be the first time the Cup has been awarded in Mellon Arena. The Penguins won their two previous Stanley Cups in arenas that no longer exist (Chicago Stadium and the Met Center). If the Cup is awarded in Joe Louis, it will be the third time that has happened (same as Nassau Coliseum). The Stanley Cup has only been awarded more in one other existing and in-use stadium. That's Rexall Place.

**Because you never see them bunched together, you never do get a complete sense of how ridiculous the names of sports arenas have become. They are just brutal. Arena has to be the worst arena name in professional sports, right, along with maybe Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland? We aren't exactly talking "The Polo Grounds" or "Boston Gardens" here.

Source: Wikipedia


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Two thoughts thru 2

ONE. I realize that the end-of-game festivities last night will pretty much lock in this bit of conventional wisdom, but too much is being made of the Experience trumps Youth narrative.

Experience is valuable insofar as most NHL players get better at their jobs over their first few seasons, but past that, its value is equal parts marginal and mythical. The marginal part -- by which I mean real, but marginal nonetheless -- is that players who have been through it a few times have internalized the fact that it's a really bad idea to change the things that have made them successful simply because it's May and not December. The hazard of inexperience, such as it is, is being tricked into thinking that "playoff hockey is a different game", when it really isn't: it's still about creating scoring chances and preventing scoring chances against. Sticking with what has given you success at that, even when the stakes are higher, and maybe things aren't quite going your way, is a lesson learned only from experience for some players.

As such, the mythical part is rather straightforward. Tomas Holmstrom has been through the wars, but you can count on Sidney Crosby to make better decisions with the puck and create more scoring chances, because he's Sidney Crosby -- he's a better hockey player. Holmstrom's experience probably makes him a bit better player than a 21-year-old with his same size and skill set, but it doesn't make him a better player than Sidney Crosby.

TWO. The Penguins are a good team, and they're better than what they showed (particularly on the scoreboard) in the first two games. I still think Detroit is the better team, and (obviously, with a 2-0 lead) I expect them to win the Cup more strongly than ever, but there's no way I'm counting out the Pens until they lose Game 3 or 4 at home.

At home, they have the raucous crowd, they'll get more of the matchups they want, and the penalty count will swing back towards them. They're very likely to score a couple of PP goals. Chris Osgood won't maintain a 1.000SV% forever. Etcetera.

BONUS THOUGHT/Dept. of Brave Predictions: I was listening to XM204 late yesterday afternoon, and one of the co-hosts -- Boomer, I believe -- predicted that Johan Franzen wouldn't be as good here in the Finals as he was before he went out with the concussion.

Fair enough -- hey, maybe there are people who expected him to resume a goal-a-game pace -- but what made me laugh was his reasoning, which was roughly, "18 days is too long to be out and then get right back into the intensity level of the playoffs".

Yeesh. Look, I understand the widespread reluctance in the hockey media to attribute anything to Luck; among other reasons, it sounds a bit like you're accusing the player of not earning it. But Franzen had 12 goals on 48 shots in 11 games. For all his good qualities, the reason he's not likely to pick up where he left off there is that he's not Jari Kurri in his prime, he's not being set up by Wayne Gretzky, and he's not shooting on the likes of Tim Cheveldae and Murray Bannerman. Nice player though.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


One Last Time

Matt and I will be on Test the Nation tonight, at 8 p.m.

As for new content-- I've been busy with work and moving into a new home (how bout those tax hikes!), which is why I haven't been posting more. But I'm getting back to my normal schedule (free time, all the time), which means new content should soon follow. Stay tuned. Or don't. It is the summer, after all.

MATT UPDATE: It turns out that Lethbridge has a lot of local media (and a lot of competition for human interest items with a local angle). So, under the "Matt Everywhere 2008" heading, we have:
Most of these things are focused pretty narrowly on the Test the Nation participation, with the apparent exception of the Sun-Times profile (TBA); the nice young lady talked to me at some length about this site and some more general items.

Needless to say, it's been a strange and interesting week.

Lastly, if you're going to watch the show, you might as well play along: you can download a scorecard here. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Is this the year?

There's not much room in which to be contrarian on the topic of this season's Stanley Cup Finals (which means, accordingly, that there's not much that interesting to be written about them). I agree with the majority that we're seeing the best team from each conference, and that both have a lot going for them, and that the Red Wings should be favoured and will probably prevail.

There's only one running theme to the coverage so far that I shake my head at, and a perfect example of it is from Ross McKeon at Yahoo! Sports, here:
Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to win a Stanley Cup. You can bet your bottom dollar on it. It’s a lock, a sure thing, guaranteed.

But it just isn’t going to happen this year. Not against this group of Detroit Red Wings.

Guaranteed? Pffft. "A lock" and "a sure thing" are way, way overstating it. And I'm not making a semantic argument here either; I'm simply pointing out the fact that "the Penguins should be a good team for quite a while" is a major step, or steps, short of "they will definitely win a Stanley Cup". Their best chance to win is right now.

This is a tough league. There are 25 or so teams that are desperate to be the best, stocked with players who want to be the best. Several of them are going to get a lot better -- who knows which ones -- and I don't find it that easy to predict that the Penguins will keep getting better.

For all our data evaluation, things happen that we don't understand... that come out of nowhere. Hands up if you saw Pittsburgh being 3rd in Goals Against in the East this season, with both M-A Fleury and Ty Conklin being in the Top 5 in the NHL in SV%. Hellooo? Anyone? To my mind, it's a lot easier to accept that they are a very good defensive team now, than that they will be again next year.

Crosby and Malkin are both on the upswing of their careers, not at their peaks. And yet, they are 2 of the 3 best offensive players in the game (by Points/Game). There's not really a way to go up from there, and this is relevant, because the other players who will be trying to knock them out of those spots play for teams that Pittsburgh is going to have to beat to win all these future Stanleys.

And on top of that, they acquired one of the premier two-way forwards in the game at the trade deadline for depth players and futures; this is an opportunity that simply will not present itself annually.

If there's one thing that's guaranteed, it's that these Penguins are not the early Oilers. Check out the roster for the 1982-83 Edmonton Oilers. Wanna know something funny? The same 19 Oilers dressed regularly throughout that season's playoffs, which ended with a Finals sweep at the hands of the Islanders (18 skaters + Moog). 17 of them were younger for that series loss than Ryan Malone is right now. 10 of them were younger than Ryan Whitney is right now. And of course, that was before the salary cap, arbitration, early free agency, and nine additional expansion teams.

These days, a team can still be elite for years: the Red Wings have shown that (although they've also shown that this doesn't translate into annual ring fittings). But expecting it, or predicting it, is just loony.

I'm rooting for the Wings in the Finals, but I'll be OK with the Pens winning it too: the all-too-likely alternative is years of "Is this the year Crosby and (/or?) Malkin finally win the Cup?"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Matt & Andy Everywhere 2008

I'm going to be on The Lounge 94.1FM at about 8:05AM MT on Tuesday morning, talking to local media dean Mark Campbell about our upcoming appearance on Test The Nation. Notes to self include not being boring and not violating the release I signed.

[Also, a bit of a bleg: I haven't been able to figure out how to record streaming audio, and Mrs. Matt will be unavailable to hear it live, so if someone out there is willing and able to capture it and send me the file, or a link (even better, then I can post it here), I'd be extremely grateful.]

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Frank Sutter

Flames GM Darryl Sutter had a one hour sit-in with Rob Kerr & Co. this afternoon on The FAN 960. They're replaying it right now, so here are a few notes and impressions:

- His first comment in response to, "What are you going to be discussing at the GM meetings?" [between Games 1 & 2 of the Finals] was, "the IIHF thing", i.e. the player transfer agreement. Other guys have been on this much better than me, but no doubt that's a serious issue going forward.

- About 10 minutes in, I'm very glad I haven't been counting the times Sutter says "to be quite honest". It's bordering on a speech impediment.

- "Improvements are needed from within." True dat, due to lack of alternatives among other things.

- Yes they were after Brunnstrom. Sounds like he really was looking for a Top 2 Lines assurance; Dallas either gave it to him, or he thought it was more realistic there. Sutter evaluation: "He's a very talented player."

- Kerr asked about unsigned/undrafted players at the Worlds, and brought up a couple of goalies. Sutter: "You know what? I'm kinda not looking at goalies."

- Doesn't care if Backlund comes to play junior. Says most Scandinavian players who come to junior don't end up in the NHL, ~the best of them play in the elite leagues there until they're ready to play in the NHL. Anyone know if he's right? I can only think of Tollefsen and Sjostrom off the top of my head.

- Really likes Backlund (duh). Per the above, Puustinen "is a 19-year-old who we're not going to sign."

- Dan Ryder: "Still don't know if he wants to be a player.... it's something we've left open for him." Sounds like he's a bit of a messed up kid, Sutter made reference to his Mom & Dad "wanting the same thing as I do", or thereabouts.

- They want McElhinney back. CuJo won't be, nor will any other veteran ("it'll [the backup] be an organization guy"). No mention of Krahn, so he's gone. He wants Irving playing in QC, probably with Keetley.

- He'd like to have Grant Stevenson back. Won't be re-signing Kolanos.

- Interested in signing Vandermeer, but didn't sound super-hot. Sounds like it would depend a lot on his price. On Hale, he was more explicit about "see what he wants ($)". To me, that sounds like bye-bye: if you like him, it shouldn't be hard to afford a guy with 0 career goals.

- "Contracts don't mean those players are on your team." There's the QOTD. Translation: they are willing, if not planning, to send players to the minors to lose their cap hit.

- Probably going to draft a forward. No goalie. Only really interested in D-men who have an offensive upside, feels like they're good at "tough" (young) defensemen.

- Phone call, and I missed the rest, which I think was more about the draft.

To be quite honest, I generally liked his tone, heard some things that I wanted to hear, and didn't have to suffer through too much snarkiness. Onward.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Thursday, May 08, 2008



Is there anything like playoff overtime to reinforce the fact that hockey is much better described as a puck position game than a puck possession game? Watching parts of the Sharks/Stars 4OT with no stake at all in the outcome, this just seemed crystal clear: the drama arises almost entirely from where the puck is, and hardly at all from who has it.

When the other guy's D is collecting the puck in his own zone all by himself, there's no tension at all. When your D has the puck in your end, but hasn't gotten rid of it yet and is under pressure, you hold your breath. Yes?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Test the Nation

For those who may be interested, it looks like the Test the Nation: Sports episode that Matt refrerred to in an earlier post has been moved up and will now air on Sunday, May 25th, at 8 p.m. (EST). Interestingly, despite our trip to Toronto, a prominent place in our team's section, and having cameras in our face for two hours straight, it appears that Matt and I will no longer be guests on the show. At least that is how it appears if one looks at the list of "Armchair Athlete" members on the Test the Nation page. Not to worry, though, folks. Paul Coffey will appear on the show as a celebrity captain, along with BoA favorites Mark Lee and...wait for it is...The Team 1260's Bob Stauffer. Bob and I actually got into a gas-fight over a signed 10 x 8 headshot of Joffrey Zoolander during the shoot, but I guess that's also been dropped. Too bad, as I screamed out "moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty!" right before the show cut to commercial. Embarrassing for me, sure, but great television for the rest of you. It would have beat out the episode on Degrassi High where Dwayne and Joey fight in the bathroom and then Dwayne reveals that he is HIV positive as the greatest moment in Canadian television history. Sadly, it's not to be.

Edit: it looks like we are back on the show. As for the gas-fight, I've been told it will be an Easter Egg on a future DVD release of either "Little Mosque on the Prairie" or "Danger Bay." Look for it in a store near you.


San Pisani joins the Oilogosphere

"I went from lifting a lot of weights – bench-pressing 230 pounds – to just using the bar (45 pounds)."

I doubt this is a permanent gig (if so, call us, we have space!), but Pisani has an interesting post up on The Hockey News concerning his battle with ulcerative colitis. It's a bit odd to say Pisani deserves to win the Masterton Trophy this season--I'm sure he and many others nominees, like Jason Blake, would have preferred not going through the illness and/or adversity--but it really should go to him. To come back and score 13 goals four months after losing 40 pounds and being unable to walk up a flight a stairs is...well, it's damn impressive. And inspirational. In 2008, Fernando Pisani "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey." And for that he deserves to be recognized.


Celtic Pride, Baby

It's on, Lebron.


Brad Goodman was right

Like most bloggers, I like to cherry-pick facts and situations that provide evidence that I know what I'm talking about and am really, really smart. In that spirit, I think it's rather fascinating to look at the NHL's final four and realize what distinctly different paths they took to get here.

Right now, it is as clear as it has ever been that there is no magic formula for How to Construct a Successful Hockey Team. Yes, there are absolutely things in common between these teams, but there is not a similar Step One-Two-Three-etc. plan that they have followed.

Pittsburgh: built what you might call the "old school" way, i.e. the patient rebuild. Be lousy for a few years, get some very high draft picks, and when they start to dominate, surround them with some decent role players. (Also: convert some depth into a high-impact rental once the vine is ripe.)

Philadelphia: the on-the-fly (RFN) rebuild. Last summer, Tyler had what I thought was a great line:
...building an elite club requires a long series of making smart bets and having some of them hit bigger than you’ve got any right to expect them too.

With the possible exception of the word long (I say "possible" because although the calendar says it hasn't been long, they have made a ton of roster decisions in the past 15 months), this describes the Holmgren Era to a tee, doesn't it? At least right now, Briere, Timonen, Hartnell, Lupul, Smith, Upshall, and more, are providing what the GM was hoping they would provide, and rather precisely. Umberger and Coburn (and Biron, last series at least) are providing much more. And when all these acquisitions were made, they were smart bets. (No hindsight is needed, they were lauded quite roundly when they happened.)

Detroit: geez, maybe you can stay at the top forever. Obviously, these guys are the epitome of "a long series of smart bets". Terrific scouting, especially in Europe, and good decisions at the draft table. Good free agent signings to address need. It goes on.

And to top it off, they obviously run a terrific organization where players like to be. This pays off most evidently in their ability to re-sign their own free agents to good-value contracts. The Cleary extension ($2.8M x 5 years) is an absolute coup, IMO. Getting a 20+ goal scorer who is less than 30 years old signed up for 5 years at <$3M/yr is a steal (just watch what Ryan Malone gets this summer).

Dallas: Flames fans probably ought to find these guys the most intriguing of all. What do you do with a team that seems to have a pretty good core of varying ages, and is able to qualify for the playoffs year after year, but doesn't look like they have much chance to take the next step? The answer, according to the Stars of the past several seasons: "Eh, not much."

The 2006/07 season, the Stars were T-21st in Goals For and T-26th in 5v5 Goals For. This past season, they were 9th and 10th in those categories. Because -- because why? A healthier Morrow hardly begins to explain that boost. The addition of Brad Winchester and Toby Petersen? Not so much. They're just... better. A lot better offensively, and not too much worse defensively. For whatever reason.

The Stars' philosophy would seem to be (a) having a good core and a coherent philosophy is a good place to start, (b) try to make smart bets, (c) don't react harshly to disappointing results, (d) hope that luck and opportunity coincide for a run at the big prize. [Important caveat: all this may be changing with the Jackson/Hull regime; the Richards trade, and perhaps the Ribeiro extension, say that it's quite possible.]

Can this work? Maybe! Pat had a nice post on the weekend reminding us that the Wings had 5 straight seasons of "yeah they're good, but they don't quite have what it takes" before winning 3 Cups in the next 6 seasons, and being excellent ever since.

I don't know if there is an underlying truth here, but at worst, it's some evidence that when you're good-but-not-good-enough, changing philosophies (or blowing it all up) is not necessarily the way to go.

Monday, May 05, 2008


C'est vrai

Leafs fan and Leafs' Media-hater [redundant? -ed.] Chris Selley bangs out a rather spot-on post on, "Things the hockey commentariat would be saying right now about the Montreal Canadiens if they weren't the Montreal Canadiens, and especially if they were the Toronto Maple Leafs". I liked the conclusion especially:
...I hasten to add that I prefer the media's deference to the Habs as an abiding national treasure to their treatment of the Leafs as an abiding national cold sore, since the former at least recognizes that NHL hockey, for all the passion it quite rightly arouses, is a game.

Hear hear. Even if the NHL GMs were the 30 smartest, best-informed, most sober-minded hockey people in creation, the seasons of 29 teams would end in disappointment. Way too much hockey commentary pretends otherwise.

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