Sunday, November 30, 2008


Die, cast


I'm not quite up on the latest consensus on Peter Laviolette's job security, but the Hurricanes are presently sitting in a playoff spot, so... it would appear that the list headed "Coaches Who Will Be Fired If They Lose Their Next Two (2) Games" has one name on it. Potential replacements:

Good Ol' Oiler Boy Network: Charlie Huddy, Kelly Buchberger, Mark Messier

Recently Available & Experienced: Bob Hartley, John Tortorella, Marc Crawford, Paul Maurice, Ted Nolan

Resurrected: Brian Sutter, Robbie Ftorek, Pat Quinn, Pat Burns

Employed Elsewhere (AC/Minors): Larry Robinson, Mike Sullivan, Brad McCrimmon, Trent Yawney, Kevin Constantine

Of course you can scratch off a whole lot of those names as 'unrealistic', i.e. less than a 1% chance. I'm not sure what the deal is with the guys who are ACs for other teams; I know most of them have an "out clause" in their contracts if they get a HC opportunity, but it may only apply in the offseason. Ted Nolan is too independent. Paul Maurice's failure is too fresh. Marc Crawford's shortcomings were regularly witnessed up close, in opposition, for the past 10+ years. Mark Messier wants to be a GM, not a coach.

Thinking it through a bit further... I think you can scratch off the "legends" (Quinn/Burns), as well. Lowe and T-Bone will want someone a little more... I'm searching for a better word than 'pliable', because that's not quite what I'm getting at, but I can't think of one. We also know that Lowe and the org have a serious boner for Stanley Cups (as distinct from general overall success), so that's points against Sutter and Ftorek and even more against Maurice. I have a hard time imagining Bob Hartley fitting it with the management team, but maybe I just have the wrong impression of the guy.

I think that means the answer is Huddy/Bucky or Tortorella. Your mileage may vary, although I think it's gonna happen, whoever the replacement is. Even if the Oil is a "2nd NW/6th WC" quality team, they're not good enough to avoid the kind of short & ugly slump that will get MacT fired.

And while I'm on the Oilers, I think you can draw a broad conclusion looking at their Shots/Corsi data for the season to-date. Notable is the simply awful numbers for Staios and Strudwick, and I think the meaning of this is the same-but-opposite meaning you can draw from Giordano and Aucoin having the best numbers on the Flames (up until the pairings were mixed up a few games ago).

The 3rd D-pair -- regardless of line-blending -- almost always gets sent out against the opposition's 3rd and 4th lines. So notwithstanding the relative merits of Staios, Strudwick, Giordano, and Aucoin, which will have some impact, the Oilers are getting reamed by the opponent's forward depth. Which of course in turn says something about their own. Best of luck turning that into a team strength, Coach Buchberger.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Flames Game Night

Canucks @ Flames, 8PM MT, HNIC

There was a complimentary piece in today's Herald about Daymond Langkow, which was really nice to see. He's a terrific two-way player, but also, I suppose this is the upside of not having any elite prospects, YouTube stars, etc. up front: you don't have to suffer through regular and ridiculous conversations on the radio, internet, and in meatspace about Well if we had a real #1 centre maybe we wouldn't be so inconsistent, etc.

The greatest testament to Langkow's abilities and value is the total lack of concern that there will be any particular problems with the Langkow/Bertuzzi line from the same people who acknowledged that Bertuzzi with Iginla was a disaster, a group that basically includes me. As my man Sacamano used to say about Marty Reasoner a few years ago, Langkow is Instant Chemistry -- which is really just another way of saying that he's a really good, smart hockey player with no weaknesses.

Cory Schneider makes his NHL debut for the Canucks tonight, and while he might be terrific, there will be no storybook ending.

Calgary 3 (Iginla, Phaneuf, Moss)
Vancouver 2 (Salo and Hank)

Go Flames.



Does it strike you that Gator and Smytty look a little guilty in this (rather startling) bus advertisement? So they should. Until this month I never understood fans who have claimed to become so frustrated with their own team that they began cheering against it. It seemed like an alien utterance, a moral monstrosity for any true fan. But the 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers have enlightened me. This weekend they walked into the Savvis Center with an open door to the playoffs; all they had to do was to defeat the worst team in their conference. Which had played the previous night. And which had set a franchise record for consecutive losses (13) earlier in the month. And which was starting its backup goalie, the immortal Jason Bacashihua.

The scoresheet in the consequent 2-1 loss was much too kind. The Oilers may back into the playoffs, but for the first time in my life a large part of me wants them to fail. And I don't think there can be much doubt whence the finger of blame points. Kevin Lowe's acquisitions are doing about what was expected of them, and there are few if any players (I'll give you Radek Dvorak) who are letting down the side with especial egregiousness. This is simply a failure of motivation, more usually described in other cities as "the coach losing the team." -- April 1, 2006

If you think this was a lone, or even minority, opinion on that day, you are mistaken. This isn't snark; it's perspective.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Friday Baseball Standings

It's early.

**Another reminder: next Friday is the Battle of Alberta/Five Hole Fanatics meetup at Schanks North (Crowfoot Crossing) in Calgary. As noted, the FAN960 does their "studio work" for Flames road games live from Schanks, so that crew will be there. Which reminds me: Dean Molberg told a hilarious story about that one afternoon last week.

Rob Kerr was in Nashville doing the TV PPV, so Molberg was subbing in as the game host on the radio, and was working from Schanks. In his own words, as best I can recall them:

So it's the postgame show, and I'm on the air with Peter Maher and Mike Rogers who are in Nashville. And this guy, who has obviously been enjoying refreshments for a few hours, kinda stumbles up to the desk and starts talking to me. I ignore him for a few seconds, but he keeps talking, so I point to my headset. I mean, I'm wearing a headset and talking, obviously I'm busy right?

So he shuts up, but stays put. Couple minutes later, we go to commercial, and he's still there, so I take off my headset and say, "What can I do for you?"

He says, "Yeah, uh, I was wondering if you could play some Roy Orbison?"

So I'm somewhat speechless. There hasn't been any music playing for at least four hours. I'm sitting behind a desk marked 'FAN 960'. You'd have to be unbelievably dense to think that I'm the freakin' DJ.

Anyway, I decide, fine, might as well play along. "Sure, what do you want to hear?"

"Uh, uh, Only The Lonely."

"You got it buddy."

So he leaves, and I figure surely to God he'll clue in, or one of his buddies will set him straight. I put the headset on and go back to work.

About 20 minutes later, I'm still on the air, and here comes this same guy veering toward me. I'm watching him out of the corner of my eye, and he gets up to the table and puts a slip of paper in front of me, then turns and goes back towards his drink.

I wait until we hit another break, then I grab this piece of paper and open it up. And here's what it says:
Not trying to be a dink, but I still haven't heard any Roy O

And, that's about when I almost swerved into a parked car, I was laughing so hard. Go Flames.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Flames Game Night

The Flames play the Canucks tonight at "Business as Usual" Place (8PM MT, RSN West), aka The Carhole. Excited is probably the wrong word, but I'm really looking forward to this game. Vancouver is 10-1-2 in their last 13, and I want to see how they're doing it, because some of the numbers imply, "With Mirrors".

This link is for EV shots data during that 13-game awesome streak. There's a few things of interest there, but the wood is the team totals at the bottom: 24GF/7GA despite being outshot, and an EV SV% of 0.974. That's insanely lucky but also fantastic; a crappy or mediocre defensive team does not and cannot have a 13-game stretch like that.

Also, from the Kesler for Selke (Selke for Kesler?) File: check out the faceoff numbers for that same stretch. The Canucks have skated out for 42 more D-zone faceoffs (EV) than O-zone; note the numbers for #10 Johnson, #17 Kesler, and #42 Wellwood in particular.

Kesler is 46 (def minus off faceoffs), Johnson is 32, and Wellwood is -10 (i.e. 10 more off than def FOs). Now go back to the first link, the EV/Corsi data.

Next to #10 Johnson, you see what happens to an averagish player when he's always starting in his own end. This is painful 'Stoll in 07/08' territory.

Next to #42 Wellwood, you see ~ a wash: right about even in Shots, F#, and Corsi#.

And next to #17 Kesler, you see... numbers just like Wellwood's and not at all like Johnson's. And don't forget that Kesler is generally playing against better players than either of those guys, too. It's extremely impressive. By the way, anyone want to bet against Wellwood's work ethic suddenly becoming an issue again once that Shooting% drops back below Mario in '92 territory?

I have a strange feeling that tonight, Kipper and Sanford are going to take turns trying to give the game away -- something like the Oilers/Canucks game in '05/06 where Conky cleared the puck off of Morrison's balls and it rebounded straight back and behind him.

Calgary 6 (Iginla x2, Moss x2, Prust, Phaneuf)
Vancouver 5 (Kesler, Sami Salo, and whichever Sedin is the scoring one (not the passing one) with the hat trick)

Go Flames.


Quarter Pole

At left is the traditional BoA apples-to-apples look at the first 20 games of the season. Especially early on, it can be hard to divine exactly where teams sit just by looking at the Standings, because even a fairly small difference in GP is a largish percentage difference.

As well, I track the 2nd/3rd/4th quarters, so we can get an apples-to-apples look at who is improving, and most interestingly (to me), who is in decent position later in the season but entirely on the strength of their early record. Thoughts on the first quarter:
Final note: both PIT and CHI played in nine OT/SO games in the 1st quarter (their records were 6-3 and 3-6, respectively). CGY OT/SO record through 22 games: 0-1. Which leads to the weird stat that 27 NHL teams have more OT/SO Wins than the Flames, and 26 teams have more OT/SO losses.

I had no idea that Calgary's season had been quite so short on drama. Go Flames.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Black Swan

Stop the presses: recent/former Flame David Hale just scored his 1st career NHL goal, in this his 248th career game between regular season and playoffs.

Can't wait to see the highlight.

UPDATE: Unrelated, but this is extremely funny.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Flames Game Day: Over the Hedge

Kings @ Flames, 730PM MT, RSN West

I've written before on this site and others that I'm agnostic on the instigator rule. While I think it's clear that many of the people who rail against it are full of crap (these guys argue almost explicitly that nothing bad would ever happen to anybody if the dang instigator rule was just scrapped), I never had any strong feelings about it and I doubted it would make much difference one way or another.

But, the fencepost is finally out of my rear, and it's because -- as is so often the case with situations like this -- someone arguing for the other side sounded sufficiently insane. Take it away, "Uncle Pedro" (as told by David Staples):
"That is why I would support a rule change that would (a) get rid of the instigator rule so the guilty party can beaten up within an inch of his life (he risks other people's lives, after all, doesn't he?), ..."

Before I move on, there's a few problems here. One, if the league were to get rid of the instigator rule, I don't believe it would signify a green light on merciless beatings. Two, if that's the rationale, you may see some moderates withdraw their support (I'm trying to be understated here). Three, "within an inch of his life"? Come onnnnn. I think Raffi Torres is one of the dirtiest players in the league (he's dished out at least four concussions in the past 3 years) and I have zero use for the guy, but yeesh.

Stu Hackel has a terrific mythbusting piece on this same issue today, and made several of the points I intended to make here, so I'll just go with the basics.

First: the Instigator penalty has the intended deterrent effect on instigating fights, to some extent. Bigger than trivial, smaller than nuclear. There are players who will never instigate a fight, regardless of whether it's penalized or not; there are players, in some situations, who instigate fights regardless of the fact that it's penalized. It is in the middle (exact breadth unknown) where the difference is made.

Second: hockey fights (where no Instigator is assessed) in 2008 are between two voluntary combatants. For the most part, one guy is the initiator, but the other guy is willing (if not necessarily eager). Scrapping the Instigator would lead to more fights (or pummellings if you prefer) involving an involuntary combatant.

Putting those two items together: the "fights" that are not happening today, but would happen tomorrow if the Instigator rule was scrapped, are ones between (Player A) someone who is presently deterred only by the Instigator penalty and (Player B) someone who doesn't want to be in it.

These, and these fights only, are the fights that we're talking about when we debate the merits of the Instigator. As the story goes, the lack of these fights (and these fights only) allow Player B to behave cavalierly about opponent safety, among other things. I don't buy it.

Were there no Instigator, there would presumably be more fights where some Jarko Ruutu type gets what's coming to him whether he likes it or not. Hooray. But there would also be more fights period, and most of those additional fights would not be of the "Ruutu gets pounded" variety. I think it behooves those of us who aren't firmly on one side or the other to think about whether (A) more fighting than there is now is desirable, and (B) the majority of the "new" fights we would get is desirable, where, QED, one combatant is not in it voluntarily.

The one other point worth making is that there is a certain paradox in play here. You will no doubt notice that the crew most vocal about scrapping the Instigator is generally the same old-time-hockey bunch who are most vocal about hockey being a crash-bang game: you can't suspend someone like Randy Jones or Tom Kostsopolous for 50 games because these are split-second moves at a fast pace, and if you want to keep hitting in the game, you have to accept that these things happen sometimes.

You will also be well aware (as alluded above) that those who are most vocal about scrapping the Instigator believe/insist that many (if not most) players only ever deliver a dirty hit (or slash, etc.) because they do not fear reprisal in the form of a knuckle sandwich. These players, the thinking goes, would always mind their manners if there were no Instigator penalty.

Now: think of some random player who (A) plays physical but not dirty, and (B) doesn't like getting punched in the face. I'd say this describes 25-50% of the players in the league. If the Instigator is scrapped, what happens the next time this player delivers a big, clean hit? We already have what I would describe as a problem with teammates "avenging" perfectly legal hits -- do we really want to remove one of the major disincentives for doing so? And if we do, are we pretty confident that it won't have a negative impact on plain-old, good hard physical play? I'm not, at all.

Calgary 5, Los Angeles 2
. Go Flames.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Flames Game Day

Red Wings @ Flames, 8PM MT, HNiC

**A reminder to all our peeps around Western Canada: the Battle of Alberta / Five Hole Fanatics hockey meetup dealy is less than 2 weeks away, on Friday December 5th. The Flames game goes at 6PM on the big* screens, followed by the Oilers game at 830. Here's your chance to complain to me in person about the site! And also to congratulate new Kouleas/Ludzik/BlackDog colleague Kent on going corporate!

**I was kind of alarmed to see this headline at -- I haven't lived in Kingston for a dozen years, or played hockey for twenty.

**One thing I'm not too worried about yet: the disparity in the Flames record against playoff/non-playoff teams. I put a fair bit of weight on this in general, but it's early.

And I don't really mean, "It's early, things can turn around fast", although that's true too -- it's that it's so early that the Standings position of several of Calgary's opponents is heavily influenced by their record against Calgary. Colorado is 8-10-0 and are in 14th place, but not including the games against the Flames, they're 8-6-0, which is a Win% that would have them in a playoff spot for sure. Nashville would be in a better spot if Calgary hadn't beat them twice; Edmonton would be in a worse spot if they hadn't beat Calgary twice. Etcetera.

That said, they got reamed by the one obviously excellent team they played this year (San Jose), so I'll feel a lot better if they can compete against the Wings tonight. Another blowout defeat would be a pretty bad sign.

**Before everything turns upside down again (and no doubt it will), let me invite you to check out my NW Prediction post again; it's holding up fairly well so far. A few commenters will likely be embarrassed to go there, but, that's what makes this all so much fun, right?

Calgary 4 (Moss, Conroy, Phaneuf, Iginla)
Detroit 3 (Hossa, Rafalski, Zed)

Go Flames.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Friday Baseball Standings

**As much as they are not owed one and don't deserve one, the Stars have probably caught a bit of a break. The only thing their hilariously poor start has cost them is a shot at the Pacific, and the way the Sharks look so far, that was probably never in the cards anyway. 2 games out of a playoff spot is nothing at this point; lots of teams to pass, but really, one solid 10- or 12-game run and they're right back in the mix.

**Count me as a Bruins believer. Say whatever mean things you want about Claude Julien, but they have a lot of good hockey players on that team -- their success seems pretty real, to me.

**I expect the top 5 teams in the East there -- plus possibly Buffalo -- to continue to separate from the pack for most of the season. I don't look at any team below the line right now and think anything like what a shock they're not in a playoff spot... they're due for a great run... etc. Though TB is a bit intriguing on account of the new coach and the fact that they have (A) gone to the OT/SO so many times, and (B) pretty much lost every time.

**I still think Minnesota is a bit of a cipher. They've played a ton vs. the East so far, and very little vs. the NW. I expected them to have really good goaltending and defensive numbers, but maybe not quite as good as they have at the moment. Their EV numbers are kinda meh.

**Kings in the playoffs? Playoffs? I think it's distinctly possible. I haven't been impressed with Nashville or Phoenix (or, uh, Colorado). Not sure why Columbus can't translate their obvious improvement into Ws and Points. Not sure what the hell is up with the Oilers, though they may surge when they start getting all their home games back. But the Kings look good; by numbers, and by eye.

Have a great weekend. Go Flames.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Flames Game Night

My daughter is two years old today. I'll probably be starting on cake right about the time the puck drop. The other day, Pat had a thought that rang true to me: that at least in the family sense, time doesn't "fly by" at all. It seems like she has been around forever. Hell, it seems like she has been just like she is now forever.

On the other hand, the conventional wisdom is right too. This blogging thing still feels pretty new and exciting most of the time, and yet The Battle of Alberta had been up and running for over a year when I posted the picture on the left, two years less a day ago.

The amount I have learned about hockey, and the extent to which I have enjoyed the experience, is beyond what I can express and certainly far, far, beyond what I ever would have expected.

I realize this sounds like I'm stepping away, but that's not the case. Just been busy lately! Still watching all the games, and reading great stuff from other bloggers every day. I don't really care about traffic anymore, or who's linking to me, or that sort of thing that seems so important when you're trying to get a foothold, but I feel like I enjoy writing about hockey and the Flames just as much as I did when I took the pic below, before the very first preseason game after the lockout.

Tonight, the Flames try to follow up on their bootf*** of the Avs on Tuesday; trick is, this time it's in Denver (7PM MT, RSN West).

Aucoin -- did he really have his best game of the year? Might well be; I'll defer to Kent and others on that, and I confess I was only vaguely aware for the first two periods that he was playing with Regehr. That said, I was annoyed with Aucoin (and Keenan) for the first 40... the PP was kinda crap, and the reason was (on Tuesday at least) that the play kept dying on Aucoin's side of the blue line. Constantly. He's slow, and can't keep the puck in the zone. He has the one dimension that Giordano doesn't (the Howitzer), but Gio has got to be a better option for the #1 unit in just about every other respect.

Calgary 3 (Iginla, Moss, Bertuzzi)
Colorado 2 (188 (that's 94 x 2))

Go Flames.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Chinese Democracy

This review of "Chinese Democracy" by Chuck Klosterman is hands-down the best review I've ever read.

"You know, I've weighed all my options and all their potential consequences, and I'm going with the Mexican vampire accent. This is the vision I will embrace. But only on that one line! The rest of it will just be sung like a non-dead human."



Want to give your children a better chance of making it to the NHL? Plan to have them in January. So says Malcolm Gladwell, via Roger Barnsley, in his new book Outliers.

"The more he looked, the more Barnsley came to believe that what he was seeing was not a chance occurrence but an iron law of Canadian hockey: in any elite group of hockey players--the very best of the best--40 percent of the players will have been born between January and March, 30 percent between April and June, 20 percent between July and September, and 10 percent between October and December."

It's not that hard to figure out why this is the case, but I suggest picking up the book, anyway. Gladwell is always a great read (and Cosh's choice for "Canada's most important public intellectual").

Friday, November 14, 2008


Friday Baseball Standings

Know what? I was happier when Calgary was 7-3-1. They're off for a few days now, and I've finished some urgent work, so maybe I'll get around to posting something interesting in the next few days. Because there's a lot of interesting stuff to look at. Go Flames.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Flames Game Night

Flames @ Sharks, 830PM MT, Flames PPV

In games 61 thru 80 last season -- call it the last quarter -- the San Jose Sharks went 18-0-2. Thus far this season they are well behind the pace with a 13-3-1 record; combined with the fact that the Leaves have been surprisingly frisky under Ron Wilson, you know there must be some Sharks fans wishing they had a time machine and Doug Wilson's ear. Or, maybe it's just that Dan Boyle is that much worse than Brian Campbell. Who knows.


There's some fantastically interesting stuff going on at IOF and mc79hockey. [btw, even if you never read blog comments, you should be making a consistent exception at those two sites.]

For one, what we have is some really interesting stuff about the meaning of shots, and outshooting, and how the game is played, in the context of leading/trailing.

And for two, Vic has another nifty variation of the app; the results of a (any) particular trio of players when all on the ice at the same time. Ever thought to yourself in January or February, "Man -- whenever the coach reunites that line, they always seem to dominate!" Well, now there's a way to check.


For several years, it's been real tough to win in San Jose. When the ice tilts for the Sharks, it tilts hard. As such, I'm not expecting a W for the Flames tonight, but I am expecting a feisty effort, a pleasant HD broadcast, some tasty beverages, and three sleeping kids so that Mrs. Matt and I can relax and enjoy. Some people complain about West Coast games, but with little people in the house, they're a godsend.

Calgary 2 (Moss, Bertuzzi)
San Jose 3 (Goc, Grier, and some variation of Thornoyle in OT)

Go Flames.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Flames Game Night

Leaves @ Flames, 730PM MT, RSN West

In the words of Slim Pickens, "Qu'est-ce qui l'arrrr?" Ten days ago, the Flames were on a nice win streak, and while they didn't look awesome, they certainly looked well positioned to take advantage of a (relatively) soft portion of the schedule. That stretch ends tonight (well, tomorrow), and Mission Not Accomplished. One only needs to look to the knobs up the highway -- 8-6-1 having played 12/15 on the road -- to see that their position in the Standings probably flatters them.

I missed the Chicago game, thankfully -- I might not have gotten over that $15.99 PPV fee any time soon. I did catch about 60% of the Columbus game though (strange but true: Bob Cole was more of a homer in that broadcast than any TV guy in the past 10 years), and it looks like Hitch might have himself a hockey team there.

The one thing that stood out to me was how physical the BJs were. And I don't exactly mean that they were willing to finish their checks, or that they were intent on punishing guys in the corners. What I mean is that every time there was any contact between a Flame and a Jacket, the C-Bus player leaned in that little bit extra. It was certainly the first time this season that Boyd/GlenX/Moss got any pushback at all. Maybe the BJs all had new girlfriends in the crowd? Who knows... maybe they're just that tough.

Hopefully Iginla is feeling back in form tonight. The scoresheet from Sunday tells an interesting tale: at EV, when the flu-hampered Iginla was on the ice, the Flames had
Not just the man himself: all 5 guys on the ice. I'm gonna go ahead and guess that that's probably a first.

Tonight's predictions: ugly game. Kipper is so-so, and McE gets the Thursday start v SJS to give 34 a full week off. Jarome still looks rough. A nice discussion of Who do you Hate More: Blake or Hollweg? at the PPP game thread. And Langkow, Moss, Boyd, and Phaneuf will Calgary** to a 4-3 Win. Go Flames.

**principally by scoring goals

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Hello, Goodbye

Welcome to the Battle of Alberta, Mike Winters. That now gives this site five authorized Oilers writers (Sacamano, Grabia, Cosh, Dellow and Winters), and one Flames writer (Fenwick). Something about that ratio seems familiar, and comfortable...

From Covered in Oil's very first post, July 20, 2005:

"I intend for this blog to be something close to hockey chatter, but it also might echo a faint sense of what being a hockey fan in Edmonton might mean, in that wistful Ken-Dryden-The-Game malaise sense of the word. Like, almost literary or something.

That said, if you were to look for an "angle" an ideological "bent" coming from this blog, it would certainly be this: the sports media in Edmonton offer nothing more than piffle designed to reflect what Oilers ownership wants them to say. At best, they're cheerleaders, paid fans even, and never offer any investigative journalism to speak of. And I'm fine with that. As for Oilers ownership, they've gotten a free ride on this "small market" business for too long. The truth is we don't know how much the Oilers actually make, and being a private company we'll probably never find out. But signs would point to a team that isn't doing half bad."

From Covered in Oil's second post, July 21, 2005:

"Since we now live in different cities, the days of us going to Scholar's and eating shitty wings while Mike pounds on the table and hollers at the TV are, sadly, over. But thanks this modern world of ours, we can do all that here instead. Except, I guess, eat chicken wings.

Anyhow, enjoy, fuckers.

And go Oilers. Please."

Mike, Chris and Dave never strayed from that vision, or that sense of humour, and that's why their blog is/was the envy of all the other blogs in the Oilogosphere (and beyond). If this is the end, they'll be sadly missed. Thanks for brightening my world, fellas.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Friday Baseball Standings

A source close to the Flames has passed on an interesting document to me. Apparently Coach Keenan pulls it out of his breast pocket and checks it a half-hour before the pre-game skate. Now it can be told: this is what "decision-making is made on a day-to-day basis" means.

Glad we got that cleared up. Go Flames.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Flames Game Day

Preds @ Flames, 730PM MT. Kent will be live-blogging tonight, so that's the place to be.

Particularly on the heels of yesterday's media criticism, I thought I'd point to Bruce Dowbiggin's excellent feature today in the Herald about head injuries. As I've written many times before, player safety is not my hill to charge, but I have to say, the quotes from Keith Primeau are pretty disquieting.

My own take is basically the same as Larry Brooks', italics mine:
The NHL should debate outlawing all hits to the head. But first, the NHL must enforce the regulations that already exist.

Really. Contemplating penalties or suspensions for hits like Doug Weight's is putting the cart before the horse, when the league can't bring itself to hand out more than a 2-game suspension for a hit from behind -- which is already illegal -- that knocks someone out for the season. Or to hand out any suspension at all for an appalling head shot away from the puck -- also already illegal -- simply because the victim wasn't knocked cold.

If you start throwing the book at guys who commit illegal head shots, will we lose some of the legal crash & bang element of the game today? Probably. And I suspect that in 10 or 20 years, the hockey establishment will be looking back with disbelief at how long it took to decide they could live with that.

Calgary 4 (Boyd x2, GlenX, Giordano)
Nashville 2 (Arnott & Weber)

Go Flames.


Let's get together and feel alright

Long overdue, but better late than never: We're having a GT.

Battle of Alberta and Five Hole Fanatics would like to invite everybody out to watch and talk some hockey on Friday, December 5th. We picked that date because, like tonight, there are CGY and EDM games back-to-back: Flames @ Blues (600PM), and Oilers @ Kings (830PM).

The Calgary locale is pretty firmly set as Schanks North (Crowfoot). Not the best atmosphere necessarily, but it's so damn big that Kent and I don't have to stress over the whole "Book a table for 20 people, then have 3 show up" scenario. There's room for everybody. Also, the FAN960 broadcasts their pre/postgame (as well as intermissions) from there, so there might be an opportunity for you to accost Eric Duhatschek after some Courage in a CanTM.

I hope very much that Calgary-residing Flames and Oilers fans will come out and join us. And if you live in Edmonton and are mulling a visit to happier, more successful friends & relatives down the highway, why not make it that weekend?

As noted, I don't wish to worry about RSVPs, but if you are planning on coming, I'd love it if you said so in the comments, and perhaps we can get some enthusiasm to snowball. Cost is buying a beer for Matt zero -- you were going to be watching the game(s) anyway, right?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


"I'm never short on opinions" -- wanh waahhh

Old friend of the blog Chris Selley has a really smart piece up at his blog Megapundit. Veteran readers of his will find the take familiar, but it's worth reinforcing every so often. From Sports journalism, heal thyself:
Curtis’s take on modern sports journalism—the idea that it’s become too much like regular journalism—is an interesting one. He’s right as far as tone goes, we’d say. But it’s ironic how much of it, in Canada anyway, falls so disastrously short of all the other basic tenets of good journalism—most notably, you know, not making stuff up. And even when hockey journalism is more analytical, too often it’s boring, or it’s full of factual errors, or it’s just badly written, or it’s hopelessly predictable posturing—only I will speak truth to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment! And almost always, and most critically, it’s utterly joyless.

People debate the contribution blogs have made to the political life of the nation, but there can be no debate over their contribution to its sporting life. The leading hockey blogs have left the newspapers’ sports sections in their dust. They reliably offer better analysis, fresher perspectives, and vastly sharper and funnier writing. And most importantly, they recognize that while sports are important, they are games. Shedding tears over a hockey team makes no sense. Writing about a Toronto vs. Carolina hockey game as if it was a six-car pileup on Highway 401 makes even less.

Read the whole thing. I think he may (inadvertently or not) be a little hard on the beat writers, but with respect to columnists, I think he hits the mark. Particularly the "joyless" blast -- say what you want about Steve Simmons (his writing is ugly, he's frequently unfair, he might be the worst of the posturers, etc. -- all reasonable and probably true), but at the very least, when you read his Toronto Sun columns, you get the sense that he likes sports. I get no such sense from the scribblings of far too many guys, legends and Hall-of-Famers included.

Incidentally, the impetus for Selley's post was Theoren Fleury's opening go at a weekly column in the Calgary Herald, where Theo has quite the mix: red meat ("..I think there's something honourable in fighting through the interference, in being challenged."); barking at the moon ("Look, I understand the need to coach to a team's talent level, but how many people actually want to watch that?"); pffft -- whatever ("Hey, YOU could get the puck from the hash marks to the red line and dump it in deep. It's not that difficult."); and The HELL You Say:
Which brings me to the talent level. It's watered down. I enjoy watching Ovechkin play. Malkin. Iggy.

Bertuzzi, too, a big guy with skill. And Phaneuf. There are good players today. Just not enough. I'm sure David Moss is a great guy, I don't mean to pick on him, but when I see him out there on the second power-play unit... I mean, c'mon.

I guess the point about the talent being watered down is debatable but fair (though I'd certainly argue that the talent across the board is better today with 30 teams is better than when Fleury broke in and there was 21). But lest I let a day go by without giving David Moss some love: he would absolutely have a job tomorrow if the league contracted. And if Fleury played in his day like Todd Bertuzzi plays today, he'd have had Jason Krog's career.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Flames Game Day

Flames host the Coyotes tonight, 8PM MT, RSN West.

This isn't really my wheelhouse, but here are some early season numbers for Flames prospects (Amateur division):
**Windsor has a 17-year-old D-man named Ryan Ellis who is 10-23-33, +19 in 18GP. He's tied for 1st in the OHL in scoring, 6 points ahead of the 3rd place guy, some dude named Tavares. He's listed at 5'10" (i.e. probably smaller), and is 21st on the Oct. 15th ISS 2009 Top 30. I know very little about amateur scouting, but I suspect he's working his way up that list.

I'll pass on noting any stats for the Pro prospects, as looking at the numbers for the 3-7-1 Quad City Flames is pretty damn depressing (exception: Matt Keetley).

Tonight: I suspect that Phoenix is probably the worst team in the conference, even though they are no longer the worst-managed, and they are probably headed (eventually) in the right direction. The Flames generally beat them, and in every game I can remember, they have massively outchanced the Coyotes. I fail to see why tonight should be any different, though the bottom D pair(s) need to be a lot more on the ball with Regehr out.

Calgary 5 (Iginla, Phaneuf, Moss x3 -- this kid is going places, I'm tellin ya!)
Phoenix 3 (let's say Doan, Special Ed, and Mueller -- I think he's shooting about 75% career against CGY)

Go Flames.

Monday, November 03, 2008



Never have I been so interested to see where a guy with 116 career NHL points ends up.

UPDATE, Nov.4 10:45AM MT: Forward Ouellet goes unclaimed and is headed to the Canucks.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Flames Game Day x2: California, yeah

Last night the Flames beat the Kings 3-2, this evening they roll into the OC to face the Ducks (6PM MT, RSN West). I didn't think the Flames got dominated quite as badly as Mark & Marc were making out on HNIC (heh... Mark & Marc were making out...), but the Kings did have some nice scoring chances. I thought Kipper had his best game of the season, dude was on the ball and moving around well.

**As is becoming the custom, Bertuzzi had just an atrocious game. Might have been his worst yet, at least right up until the point where the stopped clock showed the right time and one of his little drop passes found a streaking Flame.

**Full marks to Primeau this season (Prust, Nystrom, and Roy too). He's been a lot better than I expected (!!), remembered, etc. I have no trouble maintaining that his current role matches the full extent of his demonstrated abilities, but he is doing a really nice job in that role. Nystrom still has comically awful touch around the net, but has otherwise progressed a bit. I still haven't seen Prust play enough to be opinionated about him, but at the very least, I like him a lot more as a Nieminen-style initiator than as a Godard-style exactor of revenge.

**So the Flames are officially off to their best start in years (since Iginla won the Richard & Art Ross). Dowbiggin collated this bit of trivia last week, it is record thru 15 games in recent seasons:
Yep, that 7th win -- in but their 11th game -- was a big thrill.

**Keenan Watch: no serious beefs from me yet, although that's pending the announcement of tonight's starting G (it had better be McE). I think sending Bertuzzi out to "defend" a 1-goal lead is unconscionable, but it may be one of those situations where you have to burn your hand before you'll believe the stove is hot.

And along the same lines as the goalie management, I think playing Phaneuf this much is too much. Surely past 26-ish per game, there are diminishing returns; they still want him to hit and jump into the play on occasion, yes? He played 31:12 on Thursday vs. the Bruins, which is just insane for a game in October than ended in 60 minutes.

**Tonight. Last night's W would appear to be a classic win at the end of a winning streak that you didn't necessarily deserve, which would thus put tonight's game into the "likely blowout" category, what with it being Part2 of a B2B, on the road, Ducks seem to have their ship together, etc.

I'm not sure if the Flames will win, but I'll be watching carefully to see if they can keep the chances fairly even. If they can put in a "good enough to win" performance tonight -- even if they don't -- I'll be fairly impressed with the squad, and awfully optimistic going forward.

Calgary 3 (Iginla, GlenX, Giordano)
Anaheim 3 (Selanne, Getzlaf, Beauchemin)

And Bertuzzi with the SO winner. Go Flames.

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