Thursday, December 23, 2010


Thursday Baseball Standings

Well if Devils fans got an early Christmas present today, I suppose Flames fans are hoping for a Boxing Day Blowout. While I'm still afraid that the org would just install Jay Feaster as the new GM (let's have a proper search, please), I'm on the Darryl's Gotta Go bandwagon. Or rather, jogging behind it, seating's pretty cramped up there. Failure to achieve the objectives required by the position. I'm indifferent about Brent; even if he deserves to be replaced, he can't really do any harm if he sticks around until the end of the year (unlike Darryl, obviously).

For the record: the winner of the MSM employee most willing to criticize Darryl Sutter when things were going generally well is -- the eligible field was small -- Eric Francis! True story. If nonsense came out of the GM's mouth, E.F. was pretty much the only guy to call "Nonsense". Runner-up is Bruce Dowbiggin, although he really picked his spots, and also seemed more interested in shit-stirring than anything. (More interested in shit-stirring than Eric Francis? Yes.)

The Flames are better than their 15th-place standing, but they are not good. It looks like it's going to be a long season, with the possibility of The Greatest Flame being traded but a lot of turmoil regardless. (Obviously the guy they should be shopping hardest is Kipper.)

Today's other thought, that occurred to me watching the beginning of 24/7 last night: What would it take for Alexander Ovechkin's contract to become an anchor? I quite agree with everyone who says it's too early to panic, and the bounces aren't going his way, and whatnot. That said, we as sports fans and we as humans are incredibly biased to believe that the way things were yesterday and today are they way they'll be tomorrow, all historical evidence to the contrary.

We just naturally assume that Sidney Crosby will be a Hart Trophy nominee until he's 35, but how sure are you that on December 23, 2013, he'll be one of the top 3 players in the league? Things change! At age 24, Jeremy Roenick's offense dropped by 20% and never recovered. He was a nice player for quite a while, but when he was about 21, Don Cherry said he thought JR was the best player in the league. He never got glossed like that when he was 27.

Look, Ovechkin has been worth far more than he's been paid so far in his career; he's incredibly valuable to the Caps and to the league. But if your take is a blind, "Well of course he'll be an MVP-type 60-goal threat for the foreseeable future!", I would consider your extreme confidence to be misplaced.

Oh, and tonight in Dallas, Go Flames. I'm not a tanker.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Monday Baseball Standings

**For the Flames, talk about hanging on by a thread. Their schedule for the next 10 games is about as favourable as you could hope for. If they can't make up more than half the gap between them and 8th by the time they head into Vancouver on January 5th, then maybe they are as bad as their record.

**I was in the building for Lightning-Flames this past Tuesday. For TeeBay, M. St. Louis was, as usual, the most noticeable player on a shift-by-shift basis. Stamkos didn't show too much, I didn't think. For the Flames, I left the ‘Dome more of a Jay Bouwmeester fan than I was when I entered. There seems to be a bit of consensus that he’s stepped up his game recently (approximately since getting hot(!) after the OTL in Detroit), but regardless: he’s very fast, he’s almost always in position, and he plays seemingly the whole game.

**I was sitting in the Avison Young Club, i.e. the premium lower bowl seats. Face value printed on my ticket: $252 + GST. A lot of fans are frustrated at the seemingly infinite patience of upper management for the fuckarounds of the Hockey Ops team, but I’m burstingly confident that this patience extends no further than the first day they seriously struggle to sell those puppies.

**George Johnson is getting lots of love for his blistering This Is Darryl’s Mess column yesterday. Yeah, I think he’s basically correct on most counts, but at the same time, it represents the two big problems with paid sports reporting (and columnizing). First: are all these problems actually new? If not, why didn’t you report on them before the team was in 15th place? And second is neatly captured by this paragraph:
As you'd expect, the tension around the Flames these days is thick and toxic. We've all heard the unsettling rumblings: Brent and Darryl aren't talking. Darryl and assistant GM Jay Feaster, a genial sort with an honest-to-goodness Stanley Cup ring who must wonder what on earth he's gotten himself into, aren't so much as making eye contact.

No, "we" have not all heard the unsettling rumblings. "We" are dependent on you to report unsettling rumblings, because we have no other way of knowing. Yet with very few exceptions, this stuff (i.e. stuff that would be of interest to readers/viewers, i.e. the only stuff that beat reporters can do better than bloggers) is only reported in the past tense, usually after (or right before) people are fired.

We're now doomed to constant speculation on Sutter job security until either Darryl is fired or the club rips off a long winning stretch. If someone out there in media-land is listening though, I think it'd be interesting to know whether the upper org sees Jay Feaster as an heir apparent, or as a straight assistant (and possibly interim) GM. The wisdom of firing Darryl mid-season hangs largely on the answer to this question, if you ask me, which you didn't, although you're still reading aren't you.

Go Flames.

Instant Update: from the Archives, here's another instance of George Johnson engaging in grave-dancing in lieu of something a bit more timely.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Monday Baseball Standings

Been thinking about windows lately. Not the things my dog stares out of all day, or the juggernaut out of Redmond, but windows of Cup opportunity in the NHL.

Darryl Sutter's stewardship of the Flames franchise is becoming less and less forgivable by the month, but one of the things I quite liked about his reign was his aggressiveness about getting better now. The Lombardi+1st for Olli trade -- and far too many moves since -- was a poor way of executing that vision, but the fact is that when the NHL locked out the players in September 2004, Jarome Iginla was 27 years old and probably the finest all-around forward in the game. If Sutter looked at Jarome, and the also-27 Miikka Kiprusoff (who had just set a record for lowest GAA in a season), and said to himself
When this lockout is over, I think it makes sense to mortgage the future a bit to maximize our chances for the next 3-4 seasons

I would consider it eminently sensible. Now maybe that's what he did. Or, maybe he's just a chucklehead who likes having future cap space tied up in the replaceable likes of Wayne Primeau or Tom Kostopolous. But whatever -- I'm glad that the club wasn't half-hearted about "building for the present" while Jarome Iginla was a premier difference maker.

Flush with adrenaline from the Oilers' 4-game winning streak, I'm going to say this out loud: I think it's possible that the Oil's best opportunity to win the Stanley Cup in the foreseeable future is the 2011-2012 season. It's a basic two-step deduction:

1. What gives you the best chance of being at or near the top? Having a bunch of guys outplay their contracts.
2. In what future Oilers season is that most possible? Next one, IMO.

Hall, MPS, and Eberle may turn out as fantastically as the most rabid fan can imagine, but from 13/14 on, they're going to be paid ~ accordingly (with the possible exception of Hall, if he reaches the 1st All-Star level). Those same three will presumably be better in 12/13 than 11/12, but at least they'll still be on their entry-level contracts. Penner and Hemsky, on the other hand, are UFAs after 11/12, and I think most people fail to appreciate that it will be difficult for the Oilers to replace them for equivalent dollars. Also, Gagner's current deal is up after 11/12; if he continues to develop on a positive arc (and in accordance with his draft pedigree), he's going to be a lot more expensive thereafter.

Is this a prediction? Well, no. But if I was GM of this team (or one just like it in a parallel universe), I would be watching my rolling averages closely (e.g. goal and shot differential). If by the end of this season (or late in it) I feel like I'm approaching the top half of the conference, I take aim at the 2012 Stanley Cup, because I'm pretty sure a lot of my squad is going to continue to improve organically. That means:
I don't need to win the 2012 President's Trophy, but I need to be comfortably top 8 in the conference, standings-wise. And for the last 25-30 games of the 11/12 season, I want to feel like I'm as good as anyone.

Again, this isn't a prediction in the sense of, "I think the Oilers can challenge for the Stanley Cup next season", just a basic observation that they have certain things going for them in 11/12 that they don't have in 12/13 or 13/14. And if Taylor Hall = Eric Staal, then it really would be unwise to sacrifice his 2nd pro season to the gods of "building for the long term", wouldn't it.

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