Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Battle of Alberta Game Day

A brief recent history of the New Year's Eve game:

2005: Flames beat Oilers 6-5, on a crazy double-deflected shot by Huselius with barely one minute left.

2006: Flames beat Oilers 4-2, taking a 2-0 lead in the first 10 and it never got any closer

2007: Flames beat Canucks 2-1 in a horribly tense one.

Tonight it's Flames v. Oilers once again (8PM MT, TSN), and whatever your proclivities, I think you gotta like the Flames. Call it Calgary 4, Edmonton 3. Happy New Year! And Go Flames.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Friday Baseball Standings (I see the future!)

Not a bad Christmas to be a Flames fan. They're 3 games clear of 9th, have a 1-game NW lead, and have home games against Ottawa, Minnesota, and the 'chuk to close out December. I'm so pleased, I may just kick back and have a hot dog.

Enjoy your time with your own families, and have a Very Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Frigid Friday Baseball Standings

Watching how things have played out so far -- up until early yesterday evening anyway -- I think a challenging but reasonable aim Flames going forward to April is to establish themselves as the 3rd-best team in the West. Obviously this involves winning the NW, but I'd also like them to "prove" themselves better than the 2nd-best teams in the Central and Pacific.

There's a pretty good chance that over the final ~50 games of the season, one of San Jose and Detroit just won't be as good. I don't know which, or how it'll happen for that matter, but it'll probably happen. Because it almost always does: things change, and if Game 82 comes and the Sharks, Wings, and Bruins are still in a class by themselves at the top, I'd be shocked.

Yeah, I'm sure I've said this every year since the lockout, but it looks a lot like the Flames have a better chance to go on a spring run this season than next. None of their difference makers save for Phaneuf are in the still getting better phase of their careers, and the prospect cupboard is pretty bare. Finishing third (and being full value for it) means home-ice and a beatable opponent in Rd1, and a Rd2 series against either (A) a faltering Sharks/Wings per the previous paragraph, or (B) the 4-5 winner, with the Flames having home ice again. Which leaves only one series where they really need the hockey gods to be on their side to reach the SCF.

The Canucks' addition of Sundin will make this scenario that much more challenging, though, clearly. A nice run over the next couple of weeks would help a lot standings-wise, especially if combined with continued meh results for the Canucks prior to the Sundin arrival and the Luongo return.

Can the Flames be the 3rd-best team in the WC? Tonight will be a good test, with sitting-in-3rd Chicago at the 'Dome to take on Calgary (7PM MT, RSN West). And barring the further deterioration of the weather, roads, and C-Train route, I'll be there -- with my 4-1/2 year old son, at his first ever game. This means I may well be paying more attention to the snacks than the action on the ice, but that's OK. I love snacks!

It appears that longtime Flames nemesis The Bulin Wall will be in nets for the Hawks, but this actually pleases me: if the lads can manage to light him up, it has the bonus consequence of nudging Huet back closer to the starting job, which is great news for one of my fantasy teams. Make it so, please.

Calgary 5 (Langkow, Aucoin, Bourque, Cammalleri x2)
Chicago 2 (Havlat x2)

Go Flames.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Flames Game Day

Flames @ Blues, 630PM MT, RSN West

The lads head into St. Louis for the first time since last Friday -- should be great!!! Jamie "Schremp + 5 years" Lundmark has been called up to sub in for GlenX (who is out with a leg); he earned the callup on the strength of some nice counting numbers and the AHL Player of the Month award for November.

Calgary looked quite a bit stronger than St. Louise on the 5th, so barring too many trips to the penalty box, they have a terrific chance to win. I'll say they do so by a convincing 4-1 margin (Lundmark, Iginla, Cammaleri, Giordano, and that giant young Swedish guy (phrase not used to lure in Google searchers, I swear)). Go Flames.

P.S. This Gary Bettman-as-Lyle Lanley moment has been duly noted:
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman is convinced the Edmonton Oilers need a new downtown arena.

"It is imperative that the Oilers have a new building," he said. "It can become an economic engine. It can attract tourists. It is critical both for the future of the Oilers and the city.

"Yes, the team is good shape, but you have to look into the future. This is a city and a team that vitally need a new building."

I wish the Commissioner would confine his remarks about 'need' and what's 'imperative' to the Oilers. What Gary Bettman doesn't know about the City of Edmonton could fill a river valley.

Saturday, December 13, 2008



Here's an interesting little table, I think:

Line C is the total results for Jarome Iginla and Todd Bertuzzi playing together at even strength. It is also, as you can see, the sum of A and B. The interesting part is that A is "With Langkow" and B is "Without Langkow".

Iginla's individual results with and w/o Langkow shake out the same way. So do Bertuzzi's.

I'm really not sure whether to be blown away by Langkow, concerned about Boyd & Lombardi, or petrified about Iginla.

Iginla's numbers with Boyd and Lombardi (and Cammalleri) are fine, actually. It's the time with #24 Conroy where he's really getting nuked.

Some of this is quality of competition -- Keenan doesn't reunite these two for the purpose of exploiting soft minutes -- and I'm sure a bunch of it is on the road, too.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Flames Game Night

We are past the all-important 29-game mark of the season; here's some delightful data for the Flames forwards to date.

Click to enlarge of course; there's some interesting stuff in there. The data for all but the last two columns are at this link. Jersey numbers are here. All numbers are for even-strength play when Player X is on the ice, 5v5 and 4v4 only (6v5, even though technically even-strength, is excluded).

Goals For/Against, Saved Shots For/Against, Shots +/- (the sum of those 4 things). Then Missed Shots For/Against, and Fenwick number (Shots +/- including misses). Then Shot Attempts Blocked For/Against, and Corsi number (Shots +/- including misses and attempts blocked). Then EV Save% and EVShooting%, calculated the regular way (misses and blocks do not factor in).

The second last column refers to where the forwards are starting their even strength shifts (link here). Let's blow that up, shall we:

The Flames are a bit weird to look at here; your typical team that is equally likely to start a shift in either end will have "plus" and "minus" players in that Def-OffFO column. The plus guys are good defensively and/or have nothing to offer in the offensive end; the minus guys are leaned on to produce in the offensive end and/or are dubious defensively.

Because the Flames take about five more O-zone draws per game than D-zone draws, everybody is a minus, but you can still see the differences in how they are used. Mike Keenan -- to my eye and by these numbers -- is slightly indifferent about who goes out for D-zone draws, but tries very hard to get his skill players out for offensive zone draws. Which is why RW Jarome Iginla has been out for 79 more of those than the D-zone kind, whereas RW David Moss has been out for only 6 more of them than the D-zone kind.

The last column: once upon a time, I recall Vic noting that on average across the league, an offensive zone draw translates into ~ a net +0.6 attempted shots. (And the reverse for D-zone draws of course). I can't vouch for this calculation -- I can't even be certain I remember the figure correctly -- but it passes the sniff test. Lose the draw, usually get 0 shots, win it, usually get 1. And occasionally get 2, 3, 4.

All that last column is is, the Corsi +/- modified to account for that: 0.6 deducted for every 'extra' offensive zone draw.

QDC #1: The 4th line (#19 Primeau, #23 Nystrom, and #29 Prust) has been doing a nice job keeping it in the right end of the ice. I think that's all you can ask of a 4th line, really: sometimes they get stuck out against Thornton or the Sedins, so a minus in the +/- column on the stats page is expected.

QDC #2: Especially when you factor in how little success Iginla and Bertuzzi have had as a duo, it makes ten kinds of sense to play Bert with #22 Langkow and #25 Moss. Guys who keep the puck in the far end of the ice really well? Why yes, they do sound like a fantastic damn idea as Bertuzzi linemates!

QDC #3: While I haven't looked into the splits with and w/o Bertuzzi, Kent and anyone else paying close attention were correct about Iginla struggling early on at EV. He's the guy who should be popping out at the top of this table, well clear of the pack, not Langkow and Moss.

QDC #4: Let's get David Moss a new contract, shall we?

In about 4 minutes, it's Panthers @ Flames (RSN West). The Flames should win in a walk, but as we saw in the last two Oilers games, sometimes the hockey gods are not kind to the better team on a given night.

Calgary 3 (Iginla, Lombardi, Phaneuf)
Florida 0 (Kip-perrrrrrrr)

Go Flames.


Friday Baseball Standings

**The WC Standings from 3rd place down are kind of interesting. Nashville is in 8th despite being only 2 games over .500, on pace for ~88 points. It's a good bet that this is just one of those things that will work itself out over the rest of the season -- anyone really wanna bet that you get in with 88 points? -- but to date, it's essentially a structural thing based on the relative quality of the WC teams. Two teams have been extremely dominant (record-wise), so it's natural that the bubble moves down a bit because the group as a whole is losing all their games to those two teams. Conversely, there are no really awful teams (yet) against whom the group as a whole is winning all their games.

If you look at Dallas' playoff prospects based on "they probably need 94 points", they're nearly screwed. They'd need 70 points over their final 55 games; they'll have to be as good or better than 3rd-place Chicago has been to date. But if you look at it based on where Nashville is right now -- only 2-1/2 games ahead -- it's achievable, if Turco perks up and they get some guys healthy. Passing 7 teams would be an issue if there were 25 games left, but there are 55. Play well, and that'll take care of itself.

San Jose, though: do you realize that they've basically clinched the Pacific title already? They've played 28 games and they're 20 games over .500! If they go 2 games under .500 the rest of the season -- a pace presently being met or exceeded by ~3/4 of the league -- they'll finish with 100 points. Say they only slip a bit, and their record the rest of the way is like Anaheim's so far, they'll go another 9 games over .500 and finish with 111 points.

Things not only can change, they will, and like every team, the Sharks need to constantly work on improving, preparing for the postseason, etc., but barring a headline this weekend like "Sundin signs with Ducks; Thornton tears ACL", they realistically are not playing for anything tangible the rest of the way except for home-ice advantage in a 3rd-round series against the Wings. (Supply your own snark here)

**Anyone heard any good stories lately about how the Wild don't need Marian Gaborik to win? Yeah, me neither. In the 20 games since starting 6-0-1, they're 9-11-0 despite having 11 home games, getting decent goaltending, and scoring 21 PP goals to their opponents' 11. The dude's groin is an issue, no question, but he is an elite 5v5 performer and has been for years. Having him in the lineup will make the Wild (or whoever ends up with him) a lot better.

**Half-hearted apologies go out to the Blue Jackets for the jinx I threw out on them last week. The good news for them is, the world remains round and they're in easy striking distance of a nice slot in the standings.

**If I don't make it back for a game day post later, Go Flames. And watch out for that Radek Dvorak.

Thursday, December 11, 2008



This darn hockey blog takes up so much of my spare time that I've gotten away from my true love: writing hilarious, 'morning radio'-quality song parodies. But since Penguins Fan has shown that they can be done in combination, I feel licensed. Behold: a lament for Kevin Lowe. (Original)


Kevin just hit the wall
He used to have it all
Play D, drink some beer
Win Cups ev'ry other year
His dreams went out the door
Soon after '94
Playoff bubble once again
What happened to his plan?

He was gonna be a genius
He was gonna be a star
He was gonna win more Stanleys
Than Henri Richard
The ghost of Messier is now the enemy
Looks at his average squad
And nothing has been alright since

Cocoa, and Andy
Way before Pisani
There were three Daves, and Gretzky
And games were still on ITV
His friends from the old school
Keep telling him he's so cool
So he's still preoccupied
With 19, 19, 1985


He flips through his gamesheets
He knows every guy
McClelland, Kurri and Gregg
Pat Hughes scored 5 that time
He's a Coffey man!
(Not a big Chris Pronger fan)
Even got a hand
For a while from The Magic Man

Who’s the midget they call Commissioner
And who’s the new guy with Don on Coach's Corner
When did .500 become lousy
Whatever happened to tie games, line brawls
(on the radio was)

Cocoa, and Andy
Way before Pisani
There was 3 Daves, and Gretzky
And Meeker still on CBC
His friends from the old school
Keep telling him he's so cool
So he's still preoccupied
With 19, 19, 1985


He hates time, it feels bad
How many jobs has Mike Keenan had?!?
And when did Mario become an owner?
Please make this stop, stop,
And bring back

Cocoa, and Andy
Way before Pisani
There was Lindstrom, and Gretzky
And Dave Hodge still on CBC
His friends from the old school
Keep telling him he's so cool
So he's still preoccupied
With 1985


Cocoa, and Andy
Way before Pisani
There was 3 Daves, and Gretzky
And games were still on ITV
His friends from the old school
Keep telling him he's so cool
So he's still preoccupied

With 19, 19, 1985

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Flames Game Day

Flames @ Red Wings, 530PM MT, TSN

So let's see:
Not looking good. The good news, such as it is, is that Conky will be between the pipes for the Wings. I realize he's working on a full calendar year of non-suckiness, and he does seem pretty sound positionally and such. Based on the game in Calgary a couple of weeks ago though, he still has a substantial weakness: he handles the puck with all the grace and panache of an old guy trying to flick a dog turd off the sidewalk with his cane, the main difference being that the old guy exhibits some reluctance.

Detroit 2 (Cleary, Kronwall) Calgary 2 (Phaneuf, and Bourque off a Conko puckhandling mishap). Then Bootuzzi gets the winner in the Flames' first shootout of the season. Go Flames.

CODA: I had a great time at the meetup on Friday; it was nice to meet Kent, Leanne, Erin, and Doogie in person. I usually try to get to at least one game at the 'Dome per season, but Kent and Erin might have talked me out of it; apparently Bert looks that much worse live, as on the tube you only catch his somewhat passive play, and are spared the appalling spectacle of his (cough) efforts away from the puck

And of course it's always good to catch up with Sacamano. And thanks to Mrs. Matt for designated-driving us.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Meetup Day Baseball Standings

Hitchcock is a terrific coach, and Nash's time has come, and guess what: the BJs are a good team. Not "they may have a chance at a playoff spot" good; more like, "they're in without some awful luck -- the real question is how high they finish". They've been excellent 5v5 and it's not because of hot shooting or goaltending; it's because they're dominating possession and outshooting. Their special teams have been astoundingly awful -- PP plus PK is presently 88.4% -- which in the rearview mirror is good (for them); there is literally nowhere to go but up, and most likely quite a ways up.

I know that seems a bit off topic, but I veered over there because (per the graphic) the Sharks are off to a quasi-historic start and are a terrific team. The Blue Jackets played them in San Jose last night, and while they lost 3-2 (Sharks scored two on the PP and the other 6-on-5), the BJs worked them over pretty hard at even strength. Yeah, it's one game, and maybe the Sharks were "sluggish", but neither poor nor mediocre teams can go into the Shark Tank and outshoot the home team 29-12 at EV. It simply does not happen.

The world is round, and Columbus is going to win a lot of games going forward.


"The NHL expects a high standard of behaviour from its players, but we are extremely reluctant to use the discipline powers of the Commissioner's Office as a means by which to uphold that standard. We feel that the large majority of our players are superb people and model professional athletes, and the process of parsing their public comments frankly demeans us all.

In this instance, however, we felt that due to a combination of factors with respect to Mr. Avery's comments -- they were pre-planned and deliberate, they were vulgar, they insulted someone outside the NHL family, they were designed in large part (by his own admission) to incite the opposition in that night's game, and they were contrary to numerous warnings we have previously given him -- it was imperative that we took swift and clear action.

Mr. Avery has been assessed a 2-game suspension, which has now been served, and is permitted to return to the Dallas Stars. He has been advised that going forward he will be held to a particularly high standard of public behaviour, and that any further incidents will be dealt with even more harshly."

How frickin' hard would that have been. Instead, they can look forward to this: every time an NHL player causes an injury with an illegal hit, and he is assessed a 2, 3, 5-game suspension, there will be a sarcastic chorus of, "It's not like he made a lame and tasteless joke for the benefit of TSN cameras!" Kudos, you jackasses.


Flames Game Day: Flames @ Blues, 6PM MT, RSN West
Oilers Game Day: Oilers @ Kings, 830PM MT, RSN West
Schanks Game Day: A Friday! Kokanees! Double-header! Putting faces to fake names!

I look like this (except one year handsomer) and will be dressed rather identically. I'll be with Mrs. Matt, most likely in a Kiprusoff 34. Best guess is that we'll be in the far right corner by the (2nd) giant projection screen.

Looking forward to the evening, a 3-1 Calgary win (Langkow, Phaneuf, Prust, Tubby McChair-Off-the-Balcony), and some manner of Oilers loss, the details of which are unimportant.

Go Flames.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Wheel of Justice

In general, short single-digit suspensions are seen as slaps on the wrist. This will require a message and usually a message is in the 10-to 20-game range.

Oh, good grief. My present position is that, while it often leaves much to be desired, Colin Campbell's Best Judgement is less worse than alternative (more formulaic) schemes for supplementary discipline. But if Sean Avery is suspended for 10 games, I'll have to reconsider.

As I argued in the comments to the previous post, I think the NHL's initial action was unimpeachable. Avery pretty much hit all 6 numbers plus the Powerball, what with his comments being (lamely) staged, and vulgar, and insulting to someone outside the hockey biz, and designed in part to stir something up in that night's game. The "bad part" wasn't any one element; it was all of it together. I don't think it sets a bad or unfortunate precedent.

Some smart hockey bloggers, most notably Matt fave Puck Daddy, have made some arguments that I don't think hold up -- or at least, they didn't yesterday. But if Avery is given a suspension longer than "Time Served", then this is no longer the equivalent of smacking him in the nose with a rolled-up newspaper, and Wyshynski is right on the money with a lot of it. Principally, where the hell are the NHL's priorities when crippling someone with an illegal hit draws 3 games, but making a tasteless joke in front of TSN cameras, well, that's serious. As well as the issues of whether he's being picked on because he's an annoying jackass, and whether the league is doing the Stars' dirty work, setting him up for a fight over his contract.

I sincerely hope that the league dresses him down and leaves it at that; that Avery and the Stars can either kiss and make up or work out a trade; and that Avery learns to check himself a lot better. Developing...


Only one more sleep until the BoA/FHF meetup at Schanks North! Come one come all. I trust that Leanne is surviving exams and that walkinvisible can make it out. Not sure if Subversive's schedule will mesh with the 'wife delivering their baby' thing, but we hope to see him there. For Oiler fans, Doogie is in and we may have a special surprise guest.

Go Flames. (And of course, tomorrow, Go Kings.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Flames Game Night

Stars @ Flames, 730PM MT, RSN West

The only thing anyone is talking about, italics mine:
The NHL has suspended Dallas Stars' forward Sean Avery indefinitely, pending a hearing with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and Avery will not be playing in tonight's game against the Calgary Flames.

Avery is being suspended for disparaging remarks he made this morning in reference to Calgary player Dion Phaneuf and Phaneuf's girl friend Elisha Cuthbert, who previously had a relationship with Avery.

"I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada," Avery said on camera this morning in Calgary. "I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight."

The hearing will take place in accordance with the NHL Constitution, for conduct "detrimental to the League or game of hockey," the NHL announced today.

Stars' owner Tom Hicks also released a statement on the team's website in which he said he supported the NHL's decision.

"Had the league not have suspended him, the Dallas Stars would have," Hicks stated. "This organization will not tolerate such behaviour, especially from a member of our hockey team. We hold our team to a higher standard and will continue to do so."

Sources tell TSN that the Stars are expected to send Avery home Wednesday morning.

Ideally, with a bit more time and skill, I would have started this post with a Black Dog-style rambling anecdote about an old buddy who was very smart and generally kind, but who would periodically do something monumentally stupid or cruel that just left you shaking your head, and eventually we lost touch altogether.

But I don't have either, so let's leave it at, Sean Avery is a really, really good hockey player who really, really needs to pull his head out of his ass.

Calgary 4, Dallas 1. Go Flames.

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