Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What if you could build a team outside of the draft? (And by "a team" I mean the Flames.)

I realize it's very easy to complain about the Flames in this space, and I do it regularly. But lately I have very little to complain about. The Flames have been a very good team for more than a month now, and are showing signs of being an excellent team. The win over Minnesota was one of those signs for me — they found a way to win a game in which they didn't play that well. I've always felt elite teams can do that, because the right combination of strategy and personnel can overcome off nights from a couple of players, or hot opponents who aren't as fundamentally sound.

We've all seen the change in strategy that's led to a less aggressive, more zone-focused approach since the oft-mentioned San Jose blowout that immediately preceded this run of success. But the success wouldn't have been possible without the emergence of so many new players on this team — many of whom were developed internally, through a farm system oft-maligned.

I've been in the group that's complained about the lack of good prospects on the farm, and I've seen what teams like San Jose, Detroit and now Boston can do when it develops young players from within.

But, the Flames' recent success — and particularly the emergence of Rene Bourque, and Curtis Glencross before he got injured — has me wondering if it might still be possible to build an elite team without having great success in the draft.

Calgary has four legitimate Tier 1 performers, none of whom are within less than five years of retirement, in Miikka Kiprusoff, Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf. Building from that core, and from last year's supporting cast, it added 11 players this season who've played regular minutes:

• Brandon Prust
• Adam Pardy
• Mark Giordano
• Eric Nystrom
• Dustin Boyd
(I include Nystrom and Boyd on this list because it's the first year they're legitimate top-12ers.)

• Rene Bourque
• Curtis Glencross
• Mike Cammalleri
• Todd Bertuzzi
• Andre Roy

Of these 10 players, four — Cammalleri, Glencross, Bourque and Pardy — have made significant contributions. Most importantly, though, all but Cammalleri have performed above expectations — in the cases of Bourque and Pardy, well above. Bourque is starting to look like a steal of the Huselius/Kiprusoff variety.

Of the others, Nystrom is a reliable, trustworthy fourth-line player who kills penalties effectively, and Boyd is the same with more upside. And Mark Giordano's 12- to 15-minutes a game are usually full value.

I won't bother getting into Bertuzzi, but it's important to also note that the Flames have had their greatest success this season while missing various players to injury who would presumably be everyday contributors — meaning the team has now acquired depth above its top 18 skaters.

So, who did these 10 players replace? I'd argue you could almost make it player-for-player:

• Alex Tanguay/Mike Cammalleri
• Kristian Huselius/Rene Bourque
• Owen Nolan/Todd Bertuzzi
• Stephane Yelle/Curtis Glencross
• Marcus Nilson/Dustin Boyd
• Mark Smith/Brandon Prust and Eric Nystrom
• Eric Godard/Andre Roy
• David Hale/Mark Giordano
• Anders Eriksson/Adam Pardy

Right now, I'd make all those trades one-for-one as a Flames fan with the possible exception of Tanguay/Cammalleri — and that's a lot closer than I thought it would be. In some cases, there's a massive improvement.

Tie that in with an obvious steps forward from David Moss, and you have a much improved team despite sub-par first halves from three of your four Tier 1 guys. Are there still concerns? Of course, but going into 2009, I'm feeling pretty optimistic about the chance that the Flames maybe, just maybe, might win a playoff round or two this year.

And that, my friends, would be a very nice step forward for this team. And with another summer like this year's, maybe the opening bits of evidence that a team can build outside the draft.

Monday, December 29, 2008

flames v. wild: new friends

on a one-off tip from kent, i clicked over to hitting the post, where nick was hosting a flames v. wild liveblog. i used to have some feelings of animosity towards the guys over there (both for having almost the same name as this blog, and for being fans of the once-formidable wild) but tonight was admittedly superfun....

and i would have said the same thing if we'd lost.

while i fully expected a slow first period and wasn't altogether surprised that the second was a total yawner, i give full props to the wild for coming out in the third with far more energy and interest than i'd predicted from a team who gotten smoked by the hawks in another country the previous night. i presumed we'd see a cat-and-mouse act, much like was demonstrated with the ducks and sens: a slow first, an even second, a blowout third... but i guess i wasn't entirely right since i was pretty convinced the game would go to OT as the puck dropped on the third period.

[this was partly because i'd forgotten to don my jersey until the second intermission. with the regulation win, i feel 8-0-2 is kindof unfair.....?]

i credit my newest blogmate, ms.conduct, for precogitating the game winning goal. on a side note, she knows far too much about the baby flames for a wild fan, but from reading her stuff, i see she follows the houston aeros (baby wild), who play in the same division [my favorite postgame quote of hers from last week: "Chucko got a goal and the second star. Gag."] but i digress... so tonight, about halfway thru the second period, she piped up "Nystrom... I love him." of course, the comment kinda threw me for a loop, but it turned out she was referring to this, nystrom's finest on-ice moment before tonight's unbelieveable short-handed game-winning breakaway goal....

i've definitely noticed a softening in mike keenan's demeanor of late. if you get a chance to see him giggle about nystrom's goal, i highly recommend watching it (something to the effect of "oh yeah i've seen him do that move tons of times when we do shootout drills.... NOT !!!!"). and i might point out that keenan actually pauses and says NOT. then proceeds to REALLY LAUGH.... i'm not even sure i knew that keenan had teeth before tonight.... i should also mention that after brent sutter's first goal v. the ducks, he provided some soft ribbing towards darryl sutter (again, not verbatim, "it was only the tying goal --darryl would've maybe cracked a grin if it was a game winner").

i remember iggy discussing mike keenan's iron wrath last year and he referred to it being essentially hellish if the team was losing, but if the team was winning, the coach would more-or-less hand the reins over to the players re: practices etc. i'm guessing the lockerroom of the calgary flames is a pretty enjoyable place to be right now...

i think that part of the winning (aside from the newly implemented system since the bay-area blowout) is that the team has totally bonded. if you look at last year's squad, you know that tanguay was miserable, that huselius was a shell of his former self --and that was reflected in team play. this season, you can't wipe the smile off of iggy's face. cammalleri is laughing non-stop. the first thing roy does after scoring a goal is make a joke to bertuzzi. the boys are all standing up for each other against tougher opponents... it's exciting to watch....

and did anyone else see the wonderful canaryshirt/tie combo that jimmy had on tonight ??? apparently his son didn't steal the yellow ones...


Sunday, December 28, 2008

sunday feedback: blueliners

- last week's sunday feedback poll had the commenter-suggested ruutu-tootoo-cheechoo win the ficitonal line combination competition by a narrow margin over sedin-sundin-sedin (thanks for offering up the victorious trio, "santa"). in the comments, my brother piped up and offered pardy-laich-mccarty, which i think should win hands down, poll or no poll. i will never again suggest i'm the smarter sibling, cause that combination is pure effin' genius...

here's this week's offering:

in other news....
the flames' insider has noted that dan ryder has, once again, been suspended indefinitely, for violating team rules. no further information is given, but it is notable that, since his demotion december 8th from the AHL, ryder played only the first four games with the wranglers. the following three games (december 19, 20, 26), ryder does not appear on the game roster...


Saturday, December 27, 2008

flames v. sens: well played, bourquey

a few things i wanted to say regarding the flames win against the sens tonight on hockey night in canada:

- my jersey is 7-0-2 and starting to smell bad... at this rate, gio will be retired before i get his name on it... but i guess that means we'll have won a few cups....

- i'm sorry but i am starting to really like pj stock.

- i'm also starting to like the HNIC theme... but mostly cause it sounds like the theme to the scarecrow and mrs king.

- i like house of pain 'jump' but before every powerplay ?? when the hell did this start ???

- rene bourque obviously had a helluva game... huge attaboys in his general direction.

- the keenan line blender was out in full force tonight, which worked both in his favour and blew up in his face. the first two ottawa goals seemed to me a result of the calgary players not knowing where the heck to find their teammates... but swapping cammalleri and bourque obviously created three goals for.

- regehr afterhours is always a good time. it hasn't even started yet but i know it will be good... and if he doesn't say it on national television, i know (from watching the little clips on the flames' website) that one year for xmas his wife got him a pilsner-bottle shaped cribbage board. well, i love pilsner, and i love cribbage so i suppose now i love robyn regehr's wife.... awesome gift, ladyfriend. :P

- brett sutter ended the night with a total 3:03 of icetime, which simply means the kid didn't see game action in the third period and saw about two shifts in each the first and second... have a safe trip back to the QC, kid. we'll have our curtis back on monday, it seems...


flames v. sens: the freefall

the underperforming ottawa senators roll into the saddledome tonight for a long-awaited matchup against the calgary flames --a game which should be won soundly by the currently hard-working NW division leaders, but is worrisome for that exact reason...

i realize that when a cup-contending team falls to pieces, there is probably a waterfall of reasons behind it, but here's my theory: bryan murray.

things started to go down the tubes when bryan murray (then-coach) and GM john muckler called out goaltender ray emery for being a bad boy. what they probably didn't consider was that emery, though troublesome to the coaching staff, seemed to be fairly well-liked in the lockerroom. emery was a former long-term roommate of jason spezza's and total jokester [once having eaten a cockroach in a carolina lockerroom, on a $500 bet with daniel alfredsson]. his loose-cannon behaviour was oft-explained by him being a goalie, and shrugged off by his teammates, "He beats to his own drum. He's a leader, not a follower. Razor definitely does his own thing, he gets away from things all the time." (j. spezza from the ottawa citizen 12/11/05).

when emery's behaviour became too much of a problem for the sens' brass to handle from within, murray and muckler turned to the media to publically chastise their #1 goaltender. this was precisely the moment, in my opinion, that the senators started tanking, and it's been in freefall ever since... the moment wasn't when emery missed his wakeup call before a charter to NJ. it wasn't when emery threatened the life of a man with whom he'd gotten in a car accident. it was when the higher-ups publically threatened his job because of it, and emery's stock lost all value.

the problem then, as is the problem now (it seems to me), was that you can't expect a return on a player you've openly deemed toxic. unable to find a trading partner for the starting goaltender, the only alternative left for the sens was to ship emery off to the KHL. this left (leaves ?) the team to deal with the four remaining years of emery's contract and a gaping hole in the goaltending department.

i don't think the senators ever entirely recovered from that situation, and bryan murray returned to the idiotic media comments just a week or two ago when he announced there would definitely be a trade. heatley has a no trade clause, and murray suggested he wouldn't trade his captain, which essentially says that he's readily attempting to move spezza... well, once again murray has placed himself in a situation where his public comments have turned his players into commodities without value. if 29 other GMs in the NHL realize that murray needs to make a move to save his job, and that spezza is the best guy he's got, well the return offers would presumeably be low, non ? ipso facto, there will be no trade, murray will lose more respect from his players and the freefall will continue...

all i have to say is that it's awful sad the calgary flames don't have any room under the cap, cause i all-but-guarantee that dany heatley would waive his NTC to get out of ottawa and come home to cowtown.... sarich + langkow + lombo for heatley ?? i'd seriously consider doing it.... :P

like i said, tonight's game should be a sound win for the flames, but it's just games like this that make me nervous for the boys.... the canucks have been handed back to back regulation losses by the sharks and the greasers, which leaves calgary in sole possession of first in the NW, with two games in hand... pressure ? hell yeah...


Friday, December 26, 2008

a love letter to the edmonton oilers

dear greasers:

i know i haven't said the nicest things to you in the past (infact, when i visited your house in october i was downright mean to you), but i really appreciate you beating the division bullies, the vancouver canucks, tonight in their own building. in regular time, to boot !!!

seriously, that was really nice of you to take the high road to help your albertan brothers out.

and i'll tell you what ---we'll do our best to knock off the wild on monday to give you guys a boost as well, okay ?? we gotta look out for each other...

oh, and i still like your away jerseys best in the league,


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

sunday feedback: so what if it's wednesday ??

PLEASE NOTE: duncan and i decided to out-do ourselves, so don't forget to scroll down cause there's a total of FOUR ADDITIONAL NEW POSTS from TODAY!!!

merry xmas eve, everyone !!!!

Peter Loubardias (heart) Cory Sarich

Have you all noticed that? Must be their common prairie roots or something, but every time Cory Sarich makes a nice pass or strong bodycheck, the Flames' new TV play-by-play guy goes out of his way to sing his praises of the guy. If you only listened to Loubardias, you'd think he's the No. 1 guy instead of No. 5 or 6.

Now, I will give Loubardias this: Sarich has played much better in the past 10 games or so, whiled paired with Adam Pardy (until last night, when he swapped partners with Dion Phaneuf and got Mark Giordano). Guy's now a +2, and has an even-strength GAON/60 if only 1.93, best of all Flames defencemen, including Robyn Regehr (2.03).

He's also helped Pardy along, I think, as the big rookie has established a place in the lineup that shouldn't be given up when Jim Vandermeer returns.

Cutting a wide swath here since I've been away so long, but a couple of other thoughts about the run that's put the Flames well above .500 and atop the Northwest Division:

• Miikka Kiprusoff. Noticed there haven't been nearly as many bad goals lately? This isn't 2003-04 yet but, let's be honest here, he's rounding into form as usual, and the team's record still puts it in a good position to succeed the rest of the season.

• Bertuzzi does seem to be showing signs of coming out of the tank. Against the Ducks last night he made several great plays. And when Keenan shoved him out for the final 45 seconds, he actually made a crucial play, freezing the puck along the boards for the final six or seven seconds instead of blindly backhanding it to the blueline for an opportunity. Most observations have him playing better since that Steve Moore meeting in Toronto before the St. Louis game last week ... something must have happened there.

• Systems. It's a pleasure to watch the Flames not consistently suck in their own zone for the first time in two years. Forwards are acting responsibly on the backcheck and positioning themselves properly, and creating opportunities the way you're supposed to in this kind of system — off the rush. I loved David Moss's goal last night — there's no defending a strong breakout. The longer the Flames stick with this, the better they'll get. It's finally a system that suits this roster, and Kipper obviously feels better playing in front of it. He's clearly not a guy who'll thrive in the free-wheel

Anyway, good times. Speaking of Loubardias, the Sarich thing is about the only complaint I have. He's a massive upgrade on Roger Millions, whose Flames Santa hat last night was a bit embarrassing — he doesn't try to be the analyst, engages his colourman as best as he can (which is tough when Simmer's in the booth), and lets the game do most of the talking. Big thanks to Sportsnet for making the switch.

The it's been a while entry

Hello again, all. My apologies for having only been present in comments lately. There have been two reasons for this. I won't bore you with the first, which has a lot to do with getting behind on everything lately, and now having caught up on "everything" with a couple of days off.

The second, though, was a strange fixation on an anonymous comment the likes of with I hadn't received in two years of blogging. Regular readers probably wouldn't have noticed it, seeing as it came some time after I made my entry declaring that Darryl Sutter needed to go as Flames general manager. It was a strange comment, with fair rebuttals mixed in with such gems as "Grow a brain where instead it seems you have a steaming pile of dog shit."

I really don't mind criticism, but I do mind taking personal attacks unrelated to the matter at hand, especially from people who won't even go so far as to give themselves a pseudonym by which to be recognized. I'm the guy who absolutely can't stand it when, as usually happens at Vancouver Canucks games, fans decide to yell "Calgary sucks" instead of "go Canucks go."

Anyway, not everyone can have class, and not all people lacking class also lack brains entirely, so I eventually mentally deleted the bad parts and started fixating on something else in that comment:

In a month when the Flames have improved their record you will be singing Sutter's praises...again.

So, here we are a month later, and the Flames have improved their record. And I'm back blogging. Time to sing his praises ... again?

Well, that's a pretty black-and-white way of looking at things, isn't it? The entry that led to the comment, nor my Darryl Sutter analysis oeuvre, has never blanket declared him to be either good or bad at any given time. What I suggested was that, given the evidence in front of me, that the Flames weren't going to win the Stanley Cup with Darryl Sutter in charge, so it's time for a change.

Does a great run through December change that? Nope. I'm as happy as anyone about the Flames' recent success, but one month does not a Stanley Cup contender make.

But that's beside the point. What the comment did, in the end, was cause me to spend a bit of time questioning my place and my ability to ask questions about my favourite hockey club, and presuming it's my place to suggest such things as firing the general manager.

Then I went back to something else in that comment:

Of all the ungrateful things to Sutter?!?! Have you ever heard him speak of the fans in Calgary--he calls you people, who are calling him things like "insane", the best fans in the league.

I've lost count of how much time, money and emotion I've spent on the Calgary Flames since discovering their existence in 1982. It's not my obligation to be grateful to the hockey club or its management. And, anonymous, I don't know if you've paid attention to any of Darryl Sutter's appearance in the media, but the guy clearly doesn't particularly care what the fans think of his moves. Declaring a fanbase the"best in the league" is a requirement of hockey management. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't. But that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to say he should be fired after experiencing the pleasure of dropping $400 on tickets and merchandise at the Saddledome in one night.

So, this is the long way of saying: After a long period of self-reflection, I'm declaring myself qualified to blog about the Calgary Flames, and I will not reconsider this.

I'm not always going to be right, and I'm not always going to be wrong, but I'm a dedicated fan who watches pretty much every game (at great expense, since I'm in Toronto and need Centre Ice to do it), who plays hockey three days a week, has held season tickets for teams and who attends live games whenever I can. And, most importantly, all this is for me is fun. The stuff I say here, it's all stuff that WI and I would say to each other in a face-to-face conversation if only we didn't live on opposite sides of the country. It's fan chat, and it helps keep me interested and entertained.

I do it in this form because it exposes me to more nice, intelligent fans with whom I can interact. I met WI through blogging, and now we're great friends. And we don't always agree — but we disagree respectfully.

So, anonymous, it's good to have you around. But I will delete you immediately if you register a personal attack, and I highly suggest you give yourself a name. If you're a Flames fan, you probably, like me, want nothing more than for the Flames to win, so we have something in common.

And you should know that nothing would make me happier than being wrong about Darryl Sutter.

Go Flames.

flames v. ducks: little things...

a few random notes from last evening:

1. brett sutter
while i agree that boyd is getting the keenan shaft (plugging away on the fourth line with lesser players), i've been thinking that putting brett sutter on a line with moss and conroy was kindof a no brainer. on the third line, sutter would be sheltered by a steady defensive veteran in conroy, and an offensively potent --yet defensively minded-- youth in moss. although it inarguably gave boyd the professional shaft (yet again), it admittedly made it near-impossible for sutter to fail...

and i'm not gonna lie --he looked pretty good out there.

with glencross rumoured to return against the senators, i would imagine we'll see young sutter's demotion any minute now...

2. ducks notes:
giguere looked pretty solid after being out for three games, getzlaf and perry are still the real deal, and i was totally unaware that brendan morrison was missing his front teeth.

3. gio (you knew this was coming)
i'm really not sure the reasonning behind the re-pairing of the calgary blueline but it obviously wasn't to split the recently terrible regehr-aucoin matchup; the only pairing left intact. while i think adam pardy had one of his best games of the season, like i said over in the comments at FHF; playing him with dion seems an overestimation of his current skills. what it DID do, however, is free my boy gio from the defensive liability that is phaneuf, and pair him with the defensive liability that is sarich (albeit with less minutes). and the dude thrived. gio played less minutes (12) than any other blueliner, but was an absolute monster offensively with a goal and an assist (and from where i was sitting, he could easily have had a second A on the night). first star well deserved, kid. keep it up...

4. my jersey
waiting patiently for a loss, so it can eventually get lettered, my jersey notched another W last night and moved to a very respectable 6-0-2. i was dragged to flames central to watch the matchup last night, and from a booth on the second level it was quite an enjoyable experience... that place ain't half bad when it's not totally packed... and they have people playing wii [boxing in this case] on the huge screen between periods... :P

in WJC news, i watched a good portion of the canada v. slovakia matchup last night, and paid special attention to #32 in red. keith aulie is HUGE compared to the other boys, and works hard on keeping guys to the outside, regehr-styles (the player he likes to model his game after). while he is in no way a drafting slam-dunk at this point, i am entirely excited about his potential...

happy holidays everyone !!!

a love letter to the san jose sharks

dear bay-area ferocious sea predators:

sometimes people wonder who would win between you and an orca in a deep-water battle, and i would like to thank you for proving, tonight, that you're the real boss of the sea. i'm sure vancouverites will wake up tomorrow and insist that the score would have been a lot different "if mats was playing," but we all know the truth: they still would have been no match for your fierce ambush.

when you attacked my beloved flames six weeks ago, i was cursing your skill and speed. but tonight, from the surface, as you assaulted the helpless canucks, it was truly a sight to behold.

san jose, you are a seriously horrifying killing machine. thanks for letting us gain top spot in the NW.... for real. much appreciated.

(go easy on us in january ?? please ??)


Monday, December 22, 2008

sutter to play v. anaheim ??

in an inexplicable move this morning, the calgary flames have recalled forward brett sutter from their AHL affiliate, the quad city flames. although it's a bit of a crapshoot deciphering the value of the baby flames, the young sutter seems to be mid-pack across the board, statistically:

28 1 6 7 -4 21 0 0 38 0.026

compared to jamie lundmark, who was returned to the QC following two solid outings against minnesota and chicago:

29 8 23 31 -10 16 5 0 73 0.110

and QC captain, warren peters, who had a taste of NHL action when brandon prust went out with a fractured jaw early in december:

30 8 1 9 -10 35 0 0 48 0.167

i just don't get it.

lundmark and peters (along with greentree and i'll even go so far as to say kris chucko) have superior stats to brett sutter. if it is a matter of cap space --the only reason that holds any semblance of sense to me, then the current calgary flames are in a whole boatload of trouble. it would mean we are promoting guys based on pennies in the grand scheme of things.

or maybe it's just sutter blindly promoting his son....

UPDATE: i figured it out. it's a scheme to get wee brett home for xmas without having to pay for his ticket personally. whew ! and for a second i thought daz was a self-righteous boob !!!!


Friday, December 19, 2008

flames v. 'hawks: first true test

alot has been made about the changes the flames have made since the blowout in the sharktank, the cancelled bay-area excursions, and subsequent "mini-training camp." since that *ahem* bitch-slapping, the flames have gone 9-3-2 and have solidified their play; the defensemen are moving the puck up-ice with more consistancy, and the forwards are forechecking and backchecking [well, everyone excpet bertuzzi, who apparently skipped backchecking class].

to say that tonight's game is the first 'true test' of the flames newfound resilience would be unfair, since they've played a couple of cup contenders in the rangers and wings since the bay-area-blowout a month ago. the hawks have been undenyably strong, of late, are well rested, and the flames will have to battle hard to outscore them.

glencross, primeau, prust and vandermeer are all still on the shelf, which leaves the flames with the same lineup from the past two victories. during these two games, jamie lundmark has somehow managed to settle bertuzzi --i'm not sure the reason why-- who has looked better than "not very good," to the point of "quite effective" at certain points. sure, i'm the first to give bootuzzi a bad time, but let's acknowledge that the breakaway moves leading to the overtime winner against the wild didn't beat backstrom when on his breakaway in the second period. still, kudos to bert for potting one when it really mattered, and i will totally admit to grinning like a fool as he pulled himeslf out of the net, stood up, and said "fuck yeah" while his teammates crowded around yelling ecstatic obscenities... :P

let's hope similar celebration ends tonight's tilt...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

so, he made up his mind....

HEY, MATS !!!!


.....further randoms

1. mikael backlund
word is coming out today that the swedish allsvenskan club västerås doesn't want the calgary prospect to return, pending his showing at this year's world juniors. apparently (and shep could probably elaborate further) västerås is playing backlund on a third line, and it's a bit unclear (to me, at least) if this is cause or effect; is backlund struggling and his icetime is being reduced accordingly, or is his role being minimized because of his almost-certain departure next year for north america ? either way, it seems that the 19-year-old might end up on the kelowna rockets after a world junior champion is crowned.

2. mats sundin
apologies for my outburst yesterday, but i'm pretty sick and tired of this "news" story cutting into my hockey highlights. it seems fairly obvious to me that mats has selected the rangers, and is waiting for the club to move a contract or two and clear up some space under the cap. this is what i'm hoping, anyways. vancouver is thriving with no big-name talent, and the insertion of an elite player is not gonna help calgary win the division...

3. chicago blackhawks
after a massively convincing victory in edmonton on tuesday, the chicago blackhawks have been kickin' it in cowtown. apparently the boys went curling at the glencoe club yesterday. hopefully they also boozed it up at cowboys and will still be suffering hangovers when they roll into the 'dome on friday night, but i doubt it... :P


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

i don't want to talk about bertuzzi.

HEY, MATS !!!!

[nice goal, todd]

flames v. wild: scattered randoms

i was gonna write most of this last night as a flames v. blues post-game, but it all seemed so random and disconnected and i thought at some point there might be a thread to tie them all together.

there isn't.

so here's some scattered tidbits that have been occupying my mind:

1. what was darryl sutter doing in the lou ?
the telecast from last night's game in st. louis showed daz in the pressbox cozying up to blues' president of hockey operations, john davidson. i have no idea what larry pleau looks like but i'm presuming that he was one of the other dudes kickin' it in the immediate vicinity... i smell trade talk. some of the biggest flames deals have historically involved the blues (brett hull, doug gilmour), and while i'd be surprised to find any 'difference makers' from either team on the table, guys like lombardi, sarich, and crombeen certainly proved their worth in last night's match.

2. THERE he is....
we've all wondered were the hell the jarome iginla we all know and love has been this season, and last night we finally got what were were looking for. the pundits have been overly kind to the struggling captain, taking his counting numbers at face value and arguing he's on par (when most of his offense has come in the form of PP and EN tallies). last night, he was the flames' personal king midas ---everything he touched turned the scoreboard flaming red. he even scored his first goal doggystyle. a single game like that is hardly fodder for "hart trophy candidate" talk, but apparently the boys at TSN don't agree...

cory sarich, often found on my "goat" list in the past year and a half, also had a great game. he was defensively sound for the entire game (save for a single shift), offensively hot, and a pugilist to boot. even though he lost his first tilt against brad winchester, he came out victorious agaisnt cam janssen ---who appears to model his game-play around former bigleaguer, steve downie.

3. bring on the babies !
i'm absolutely ecstatic about the play of gio, of late, and in the last five-or-so games i've thought adam pardy has really stepped it up. sure, they both still make mistakes (pardy needs to seriously watch his stick) but they are pleasantly sound in their own end and perfectly sharp in the other. pardy's even started pinching, which i think could prove worthwhile --the dude is a monster and parking him right in front of the net seems to make some sense. is calgary the only team that gets their blueliners right in deep (especially on the PP) ???

while i agree with kent that dustin boyd's spot in the lineup should not be ursurped by a fly-by-night callup (lundmark), i can't disagree with keenan's decision to line up #45 with bootuzzi ---mostly based on the fact that #7 was having, arguably, his best game in months. lundmark also had a pretty stellar match.

4. chronic traumatic encephalopathy
interesting segment on TSN about concussions today. i remember watching dateline or 20/20 or W5 awhile ago about chris benoit (the WWE wrestler) and how affected his brain was from recurring concussions --and that this, not steroids, was most likely the cause of his untimely end. really kindof fascinating stuff and apparently guys like keith primeau and pat lafontaine are going to donate their grey matter to the further study... no point, really. just random.

5. gabby's back
will marian gaborik's return to the wild lineup make them better TONIGHT ?? or will it just cause confusion to a team (read: mikko koivu) that's done fairly well without him....

6. the jersey
i've all-but-retired the 03/04 era jr.XL due to bad luck, but the current super-high-tech, technically crafted current reebok women's jersey (the one that will be numbered 5 and lettered GIO as soon as it starts losing) is going into tonight's tilt at 5-0-1. sortof like ST's PVR last year....


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

flames v. blues: the return of lundmark

i'm not gonna lie: i was entirely skeptical about sutter's mental capacities when he re-signed jamie lundmark during the offseason, but the former bigleaguer-come-veteran-AHLer has done a helluva job. leading the qc flames in the points race (7-23-30), lundmark has been a team leader allaround. let's not forget how strong he looked in pre-season action....

tonight he'll get back to the ice for the big club, with the loss of curtis glencross (sniff), who's out with some mysterious 'lower body' injury that presented itself following the well-fought game against the panthers on friday [note: glenX's parents braved the cold and snow and made their way from provost to sit two rows behind me at the dome]....

i have no idea how the lines will work tonight, but i would imagine something like this:


i would say, interchangeably, lombo/boyd/lundmark, and i would not be surprised to see conroy demoted to the fourth line by the end of the game in lieu of any of the three aforementioned centremen.

my bootuzzi +/- prediction is: -1 on the night, which is generous on my part. bertuzzi had a meeting in toronto yesterday on the steve moore incident, and is said to have come face to face with moore for the first time since that fateful matchup in 2004. already emotionless on the ice, for the mostpart, i would imagine him to be even more scattered and sloppy tonight. if he does go -1, it will bring him to a -16 on the season and into a tie with the ranger's dmitri kalinin for second worst in the league. only rod brind'amour (-21) is worse...

too bad, with primeau (foot), prust (jaw), and vandermeer (ankle) already out, keenan doesn't really have the luxury to bench bertuzzi for much --if any-- of the game.

i'm still hoping for a win. we sure could use one....


Monday, December 15, 2008

félicitations, tout le monde !!!

i might write a longer post later on today but i just wanted to say HUGE congratulations to flames' prospect and brandon wheat kings' captain keith aulie for making the final cut to canada's 2009 world junior team (his most notable december accomplishment since saving his father's life in 2005). although the national team is carrying eight defensmen (and who knows where aulie is rated 1-8), i'm hoping we get to see him play at least a game or two during the year-end tournament.

also, happy birthday to kent.

and if you haven't already, feel free to continue voting in the post below.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

sunday feedback: sean avery

with the first set of polls, last week, being (what i consider to be) an enormous success, i'm hoping that i can come up with a single question every week and maintain a sunday feedback series. this way, dave will have something to write about over on the open ice... :P

if you have suggestions on what to query, feel free to let me know...

in flames news, kelly hrudey and ron mclean had a little chat about bertuzzi last night but i wasn't initially paying attention (read: watching something else on youtube), so i'm not sure what it was. i have a feeling it wasn't overly kind to the burly forward... but it doesn't matter. i'm sure keenan doesn't watch HNIC.

my jersey fell to 4-0-1, which is not technically a loss and therefore still can't go get lettered/numbered....!! speaking of jerseys, i'm told that the flames third jersey (to be unveiled next season) is, infact, red. i'm not surprised by this at all ---with the 'C' of red, how could the organization attempt to hawk a sweater in any other colour--- but it's apparently a totally different pantone. i believe this means "crimson" or "scarlet..." i didn't inquire any further (logo, striping etc). but will definitely do more digging in the next months....


Friday, December 12, 2008

flames v. panthers: *sigh* again....

if i'm not mistaken, this will be the THIRD time i've seen the florida panthers live and in person this season alone.... and it's only mid-december.

in two pre-season games, the flames lost 3-2, and won 2-8. the latter matchup boasted goals from pretty much everyone on the roster, including fan favorites cammalleri, glencross & bourque, and "disappointments" sarich and bertuzzi...

i don't expect tonight to be as much of a blowout, but i DO imagine the flames will win. 'why?' you ask...?
well three reasons:

1. the injury-riddled panthers are coming off a big shutout win in edmonton. the flames are surely aware of how tiring back-to-back games can be, and should be able to take advantage of the situation with their current brand of hard play. while criag anderson blanked the greasers, his team was only able to put two behind mathieu garon, and will be facing a rested kiprusoff tonight at the 'dome. his majesty king panther, jay bouwmeester, must have had an off-night up north, notching a sub-par 25 minutes of icetime... the guy played 42% of the hockey game and didn't have the decency to score a point for my hockey pool.

[i hope that comment doesn't come back to haunt me...]

2. i'm gonna wear my jersey tonight and it's 4-0. on second thought, perhaps this is a reason for a flames' loss.... except that i'm actually anxious for my jersey to lose, so i gan go get it numbered/lettered (i refuse to get it done on a winning streak, cause i refuse to blame numbers and letters for bad luck...). i had planned to wear my jersey during the montreal game on tuesday, expecting an L, but absentmindedly forgot it at home. and wasn't in the mood to wear it to the pub for the sure-thing loss against detroit on wednesday....

god, i'm superstitious....

3. -20 is not a favourable outside temperature for a bunch of guys from florida...

i will not predict a score tonight, but instead predict the movement of bootuzzi's +/-. i think it's a far more interesting and amusing thing to guess... even though he'll continue to look awful, i'm gonna give him evens tonight (thinking most of the action will occur on special teams).

in other news: over at the new york times slapshot site, the 'hockey night in blogdom' writers (including yours truly sans alias) are weighing in on the sean avery situation.... have a look if you're at all interested !!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

flames v. wings:

thanks to everyone who took the time to vote on the first of many future planned "whaddya think" forums. thanks again to those exact same people for not voting twice... it's amusing to me how much time i've spent, over the past week or so, testing different free online web polls (to get one that would show results without bounching to another site, and offer customization in colour and font), only to have most of the comments go down over on the open ice.

thanks for stealing my thunder, dave. i expect it from ST, but not from you... :P

dave's main beef with poll#2 below (bertuzzi handily leading in votes for "most disappointing") is that nobody should have expected anything from the aging veteran. with no expectation, there should be no disappointment... i absolutely agree, which is why i voted for the currently-godawful cory sarich.... anyhow. it seems a couple of other people didn't like the question cause more people voted on poll#1...

tonight, a tired flames group will roll into one of the toughest arena's in the NHL. unfortunately, they played hard and fairly well in montreal (final score notwithstanding) and may not have much left in the tank for a matchup against the always tough redwings.

i was heartened last night by a screen shot of keenan, immediately following a typical own-zone bad pass at the blueline (leading to a turnover) by bootuzzi. iron mike was shaking his head in disgust, pacing, and shovelling that crushed ice into his face. the body language screamed out, to me, that big todd might spend a little time tonight on the fourth line... wishful thinking ?? we'll see....

a win tonight would be nice, but currently i'm just hoping for a not-blowout.

Friday, December 5, 2008

flames v. blues: curses

the flames suit up in the gateway city tonight to face a blues team that's been decimated by injury this season. some call it the calendar curse, some call it the palin curse, either way you look at it the 08/09 season has not been kind to the st. louis team. my buddy jason, a long-time blues fan, threw in the proverbial towel on his team in horror and disgust when fan-favorite lee stempniak was shipped off to the leafs a few weeks back. it's GOTTA be hard when the best thing going about your team is the third jersey...

the calendar curse is one that i find fascinating. the last month of the blues' 07/08 calendar (september) was erik johnson, and the first month of the 08/09 version (october) was manny legace. both ended up injured in freak accidents well before the page was turned.... current posterboy injuries/trades include andy mcdonald (jan'09), paul kariya (may'09), erik johnson (june'09), and lee stempniak (july'09). november'08 player, jay mckee, should be thanking the jinx fairies for sparing him, and december '08 guy, keith tkachuk, should be watching his back...

on the other hand, it's blogger meet-up night here in calgary, and the history of these gatherings is not kind to the calgary flames. with any luck we can break that run tonight as we tip a few pints over at schanks crowfoot....

the blues look better on paper than their record suggests, and with the return of rookie tj oshie tonight, i would expect some extra spark. that coupled with the heartless outing the flames iced against dallas the other night, i would not put this in the win column just yet....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

avery's a douche: talking points

so sean avery opened his mouth in the bowels of the saddledome yesterday, and ruined everybody's day, including his own i would imagine, since his future in the with the dallas stars --and in the NHL full-stop-- is now in question.

points to consider:

1. even though i'm somewhat offended at the misogyny of the term "sloppy seconds," there is really nothing more amusing than watching bob mckenzie repeat the words verbatim (with a straight face) on TSN.

2. if you want to be technical about it, and if it was meant as a verbal jab at dion and not jarrett stoll, then avery should have inquired about guys in the NHL falling in love with his "sloppy thirds." by my tally, technically mike komisarek was the recipient of sloppy seconds... unless, somehow, avery's crude statement acknowledges that cuthbert never actually "did it" with the hab.

3. there's alot of public outrage that avery has been suspended for, essentially, being a douche, while there are still guys delivering potentially career-ending headshots who suit up every night.

4. avery's timing was ideal: people are still saying plaxico burress is MORE of a jackass for bringing a gun to a bar and subsequently shooting himself in the leg. it's not every day that one sports superstar's douchiness can out-douche another's....

with the absence of avery in the lineup, the game was a yawner; there was no impending doom for anyone's knuckles, and the "who will punch avery first" fire was extinguished long before gametime ... dion and iggy --really the whole flames' squad-- looked distracted (surprise !) and marty turco unfortunately picked this game to get back to vintage form...

onwards and upwards --flames roll into the show me state on friday and will hopefully be able to take advantage of an utterly cursed blues' squad.

friday is also blogger meetup night at schanks crowfoot. a predictable, yet fascinating, turn of events will allow me to go for the entirety (or until i get thrown out). see you there ?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Say what you want about Avery. You can't make this stuff up.

Uh, "building" on what WI says below, I offer you this from our friend Sean Avery (or rather, the Herald's Scott Cruickshank does via National Post):

"Uh, I'm really happy to be back in Calgary. I love Canada.

"And 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."

Later on, Marty Turco gets a bit mad at him for it. Not me. I'm kinda in the Mike Toth camp on this one: He's a good time, and makes life more interesting. Am I glad he's not a Calgary Flames player? Yes. But I'm also glad he's in the league.

Tell me you don't want to see Dion Phaneuf fight him tonight. Seriously.

UPDATE: Now linked to same story: Avery suspended indefinitely for comments! Hilarious! The NHL apparently didn't want a gong show, which really might have been what would have followed, considering that Avery's taken runs at Phaneuf AND Iginla. Disappointing.

flames v. stars: suckers punch

historically, with the flames, it's always the basement teams that make me nervous.

since the infamous cancelled NoCal team-building trip, the flames have played some of the best two-way hockey i've seen since the lockout. if the boys have, indeed, bought into some recipe to success (which it seems they might have) then we should be able to handily win a mid-season tilt against a depleted and tanking stars squad.

i think the big story tonight, as it is on most nights for the dallas team, is who will fight sean avery ?'. i'd say the over/under favours a tilt with dion, but i have to point out iggy's unusual body language in yesterday's interview on the topic of the stars' shit disturber. even after a loss, jarome generally exhibits good humour, a smile or two, and a whole pile of optimism. when discussing avery, iggy seemed uncomfortable, shifty, and distracted.

if i were keenan, i'd be threatening punishment to the first guy to lose his cool at the hands of brodeur's nemesis.

as for avery, i think i might have posted this before but it's a good watch. you might hate him, but you gotta love him.... :P

Saturday, November 29, 2008

flames v. 'nucks: the anomaly

it's no secret that after a game, i like to analyze me some shift chart. where other bloggers like to look at player stats and numbers, i like to make the green/blue blocks line up so they make sense. sometimes they do, other times they don't.

tonight, i was very pleasantly surprised with the neat and tidy order on the calgary flames' shift chart. from the first minute to the last minute, it's almost entirely status quo at ES (i like to move around the players so they're in the following order):



in comparison to the nights where the keenan line blender has been in full force, tonight's shift chart shows green blocks in chunks of twos or threes with some serious consistancy.

what the....?

there, in the game's 37th minute, is the chart's glaring anomaly: it appears that mike keenan willingly put bertuzzi out with primeau and nystrom. was it an attempt to give the hard-working 3rd line some additional rest, going into the last minutes of the second period ? was it in attempt to boost the offensive power of the primeau line ? this would be the shift during which the canucks' 4th line iced the puck, which led to the appearance of the flames' top guys who drew a penalty (which led to the first goal).

with prust taking a regular shift on the primeau line all evening EXCEPT for that shift, and because the opposition was ohlund/bieksa hordichuk/bolduc/bernier, i have to wonder if the anomaly is actually a sign of things to come.... perhaps a fourth line role is somewhere #7 can flourish...

just throwin' it out there...
nice hard-played win by the boys tonight.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

if david hale scores at the nationwide.....

....and nobody's there to cover it for highlights, does it still count ?

i'm sortof shocked and devastated this morning to find absolutely zero coverage on the former flame stay-at-home blueliner's recordbreaking first NHL goal. after 231 games (over 6 seasons with 3 teams), the guy puts one into the net and doesn't even get to read about it the next day.... i mean, i can just imagine david hale going home after the game and watching every single sports channel he could find to to see his shining moment, and he probably stayed up super late to see a whole lotta nothing.

poor guy.

- TSN only talks about tikhonov's game winner.
- sportsnet seems entirely unaware of a westen conference, much less a low-scoring (no-scoring ???) blueliner
- ESPN: ditto
- thehockeynews: nope
- the NYT slapshot blog: published a jr report this morning, but i have faith there might be a blurb later....

the only headlining article on hale's first-ever tally was in the grand forks herald.... booooo !!!!! :)

and if you go to the coyotes' website, in the game recap, ten paragraphs down (past the info on tikhonov's goal and jokinen's injury) you find these two paragraphs:

Defenseman David Hale, who entered the game with zero goals in 230 NHL games played, tied the score at 1 by firing a slap shot from the top of the left circle past Mason at 9:41 of the second period.

“It felt great,” Hale said. “... It was great to feel like I contributed.” He added, “Most of all, it was a good team win … now we know how hard we have to work and what it takes to win games.”

so i would like to applaud david hale, a player i'm quite fond of, for scoring his first NHL goal. congrats, buddy... at least i'm proud of you. i hope you got the puck, at least....


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

flames v. kings: good job, todd

i didn't write a pre-game on this one because i was quite skeptical that the newly formed lines would last into the starting lineup and therefore didn't have a whole lot to say.

well, the game started with lombardi centering iginla and camalleri, which caught me a bit by surprise, mostly because i was told that was what to expect. the changes produced positive results, but i'm not convinced it was because the changes worked, or if it was because the kings forgot to show up for the game...

for kicks (and for the potential pleasure of blog readers out there), i attended the game with kent, which was truly a delight for all the reasons i thought it would be: he's smart, insightful and the guy comes up with some serious gems. the best one of the night followed a classic bertuzzi backhand/spinarama giveaway, whereby kent hollered dryly, "good job, todd."

i will absolutely 100% be making this into a tshirt. let me know if you want one...

adding to the bootuzzi-bashing humour was the girl behind us who was really cheering for #7 with unfounded optimism... she would blurt out "COME ON TODD !!" as bertuzzi would be aimlessly skating around "his office" (the useless mid-area ice, nowhere near the play).

i whisper to kent, pointing out the obvious, "uh.... where's bertuzzi ?"

he replies, defeated, "floating around, waiting to suck."

genius. :)

bertuzzi ended up with more reasonable minutes on this night, with just over 15. more importantly, however, he ended up seeing softer competition and responded by not looking as terrible. y'know.... the conroy effect.

glencross is proving that he can play anywhere and with anyone and be hugely effective, elevating the game of his linemates. give him a defensive grinding/checking/PK guy role and he'll shine. give him an offensive playmaking/scoring/speedy guy role and he'll reward you for it. playing with bourque and "future tsn employee craig conroy" [as they said on sportscentre] tonight, he was outrageously good. 14 minutes TOI, +3, 1 goal and 2 assists. um, WOW....

on the flipside, langkow has had a rough couple of nights and iginla ---though he's still producing points--- looked a bit lost out there. dion was sloppy [way to take out your own goalie behind the net, man] and sarich looked plain awful, albeit providing the hit of the night on "not dan" boyle. oh, and just cause bertuzzi got a point and ended a +1, don't kid yourself into believing he looked useful....

onwards and upwards. a couple of big vancouver games upcoming. curtis sanford is not roberto luongo, but he ain't half bad, and whatever it is that's keeping the vancouver canucks in the win column does not disappear with bobby lou in the pressbox.

my jersey is 3-0.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

CSI: BOOtuzzi

i was in my friend's kitchen in new york's chinatown when i found out the flames had signed todd bertuzzi. within an hour, i'd ruined duncan's vacation with the news and spent an unbelieveable amount of money on text messages, responding to queries regarding my thoughts on the subject.

i had decided to reserve my opinion until i'd seen the guy in action.

there's been some talk lately about big bert's advanced statistics, but one need only watch the guy on-ice to know that he deserves his new nickname, sore thumb. his neverending aimless floating in the defensive end is directly the cause of his inarguably terrible +/- [currently sitting at -12 !!!!!!!]. it's decidedly possible that bootuzzi can spell the word "backcheck" but he's made it abundantly clear that he does not understand its meaning...

on the third detroit goal, all flames players were engaging in board-battle except #7, who looked lost in front of the net. nobody took hudler coming off the bench because everyone was tying up guys already on the ice. everyone, that is, except bertuzzi who was essentially (at that point) doing a pretty decent job of screening kiprusoff....

on the fourth detroit goal, gio pinched on the wing with iginla and langkow both rooted firmly in front of the net. bertuzzi was in his usual no-man's-land, good-for-nothing area of the offensive zone, but instead of falling back into gio's spot on the blueline, he went for a hit on the opposite boards (where dion was covering). seconds later, when datsyuk broke out with only dion defending, bootuzzi was nowhere to be seen. infact, giordano ---who had been behind the redwings' net only seconds before--- was the next man back. where the hell was #7 ?!?!

the verdict is in: bootuzzi is useless.

other notes:
- gio gio gio. almost 22 minutes of icetime and some nice, hard, accurate shots directed at the net. congrats on the first goal of the year, pal. by the looks of things, it should be the first of many.

- with lombo back, prust spent the evening with andre roy in the pressbox. i didn't get a chance to watch the first two periods, so i'm not entirely sure how he performed.... he got 13 minutes of icetime, though, so it couldn't have been all bad...

-down in the QC, my boy johnnyA had a big 3 point night. it seems he's made his way up to the team's top line, getting a goal and an assist while playing with greentree & chucko. [of course, ryan mcgill seems to have his own line blender going on, because armstrong's other assist came while he was skating with pete vandermeer and adam cracknell]... anders eriksson also picked up a couple of helpers. hopefully his partner, brett palin, is only taking offensive notes from the aging swede....

Friday, November 21, 2008

a love letter to mark giordano

dear gio:

i don't want to get ahead of myself but i really wanted to let you know how much i appreciate you.... um.... well... i appreciate you just being around.

you got a bit of a raw deal a year ago when sutter refused your one-way contract, and you essentially told him where to stuff it by taking off to russia. that must have been tough, but it's sure proving to have been the right move, hey ?

gio, when i watch you out there, i see you really working your tail off. you're not infallible but you seem to learn from your mistakes; errors that might've been the right play overseas on bigger ice. tonight you got an assist on the game's only goal, a shot off the post, and a 3rd star for your efforts, and i think in the coming weeks you'll build on this night. i'm excited for it (for me, AND for you)...

i like your patience with the puck in the defensive zone (for the most part), and i like your creativity with the puck in the offensive zone. your passes are like little rubber bullets from stick to stick. your shots are on-goal, generally, and your insight is amazing.... the bottom line ? sir, i like your style....

you will never be a big hitter with a bullet like dion, or a complete shutdown guy like reggie. but what i see is an up-and-coming baby kaberle in you, and i'm rather pleased that you're wearing a flaming C.

in the next days, i will take my 2-and-0 jersey in to get some lettering and numbering on it, and it will reflect your well-earned spot on this flames roster.

the truth is, i kinda love you gio.

keep playing hard.
for me, for us....


Thursday, November 20, 2008

It was obviously my presence in the building that led to that great performance

I picked a good game to go back to the Saddledome, and to take a $200 flyer on a new lucky jersey. Me and my red No. 12 Iginla took in the Flames and Avs last night, and it was a hell of a time. And not just because I finally got to try a Pocketdawg, which was EVEN BETTER than WI made it out to be.

Now, it's not that I wasn't aware that things look different in person, but I was amazed just HOW different the Flames looked from Section 209, Row 25, than they do from the couch in my den. Granted, this was a special case, the 4-1 win over the Avalanche being the Flames' best all-around performance of the season and all, but here's what I saw:

1. The Flames can play the trap well. The old 1-2-2 was in fine form last night, and turning everything Avalanche into turnovers and offensive opportunities. I might not have seen an NHL game before where a team was so thoroughly dominated. The entire second period looked like a Flames five-on-four.

There may actually be room for improvement here. I liked the shoot-it-from-anywhere mentality, but Budaj got a lot of saves from shots straight into his breadbasket or pads. Fire more pucks, and more will go in, probably on additional rebounds as much as anything. The Flames missed a lot of close-in chances.

2. Todd Bertuzzi is mad worse than I thought. This man is the f'ing definition of a floater, and is allowed to skate around and just try whatever pops into his brain, which I'm pretty sure is also growing whiskers.

It drives me absolutely nuts when an observer points at his counting numbers, or one of his great passes, and declares that makes him a great player. (Sorry, Dave.) He loses most battles along the boards, bails out on checks, and tries several low-percentage passes on every shift that often lead to turnovers and scoring-chances against. It's no wonder he's such a minus player.

Worst part is, guy CAN stickhandle and pass, and hit. He just chooses to play like a chump, and it looks like it's because he's lazy.

It is absolutely baffling to me that Sutter-Keenan think this is a good player, and it killed me that he was on the ice when it was still 2-1 Flames late. During the second-to-last power-play, after he flubbed an easy play, I yelled at the top of my lungs "Get Bertuzzi off the ice!" then, when he did the same thing 15 seconds later, "You're horrible!" Both exclamations brought confused looks from surrounding fans, who obviously just get mesmerized at the sight of No. 7 on the ice from memories of Joey Mullen.

(While were on guys who suck: The Avs' Tyler Arnason shows a similar disinterest for the game.)

3. The fans have turned on Sarich. Booed during player introductions. Probably warranted. He looked pretty good hidden with Pardy, though. Perhaps he has a future as a No. 6 defenceman with this team. The Flames do seem to specialize in overpaid third-pairing guys.

4. As WI pointed out to me in a text, Mark GIordano does look better in person. Smart, composed, and a pinpoint passer.

5. Adrian Aucoin really did have a good game. Robyn Regehr tends to make players look better than they are, but I'm game for having a player with a tad more offensive talent hang with Regehr and generate a few more chances.

6. Curtis Glencross, named third star, was also great. He's just a catalyst — he uses his speed well, plays a smart positional game, and generates chances with his energy.

7. And, one final observation of an individual player: Brandon Prust has a place in this lineup, I think. He doesn't look overmatched, he's fast, and he brings it hard on every shift. I'm convinced that the more time he spends playing against NHL players, the more he'll be qualified to play against anybody. Eric Nystrom looks better as well ... it really is beginning to look like there's legitimate forward depth on this team.

As this is one game, and in my last entry I advocated for the firing of Darryl Sutter (and by extension Mike Keenan), I'd like to temper my enthusiasm in six of these seven points by saying that this kind of game is going to need to be repeated on a very regular basis now, and that as much as I'd be thrilled to eat my blog entry, it's not like I haven't been watching the past couple of years.

Anyway, since you're all very concerned as to my feelings, I'll say that was some good times, and a good preview for the VERY EXCITING Flames visit to Leafsville in March.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

qc update: november

i will be the first to admit that there's not a ton of info available to those of us interested in the baby flames, but i thought i'd summarize what i've read about in the past weeks.

overall, the team has struggled: going 6-11 in their opening six weeks. the roster is ever-changing, having already demoted rookie AHLers, hugo carpentier and jd watt to the ECHL, after a combined 15 games. former first rounder and dreamcrusher award winner kris chucko and former WI-favorite matt pelech boast a team-worst -8, though the current highest +/- on the team is brett palin's +4 (a far cry from dvdg's onetime +27). new "try-out" guy, brad brown joined the squad in advance of friday's 5-3 win over peoria, a game where jamie lundmark has added four points to his team-leading total of 17. john armstrong is either getting very minimal icetime or totally underperforming....

darryl sutter was surveying his minions on the farm last week, and had some interesting comments about the babies, including driving home his "development first" philosophy.

matt keetley has been shouldering most of the work on the farm, and his personal stats look to be about right where he left off: 2.31 GAA and .913 SV% + 1 SO in 13 games. unfortunately, the team hasn't done a lot of winning in that time. leland irving's 2-2 stats look better, but his 3.53 GAA and .841 SV% hardly make him out to be the franchise goalie of the future....

it took anders eriksson the better part of a month to play his first game for the QC, be it immigration stuff or family issues i know not, but he didn't show up in the lineup until almost halloween. apparently he's on another break, having had a growth removed from his neck last week. i have no idea who he's been paired with but he's putting up some decent points (5 in 8) and is a comfortable -1. brett palin's numbers look steady but not stellar, and matt pelech's look plain bad. all very disconcerting when you think about the big club's options if one more blueliner goes down....

captain warren peters is still grinding it out hard and regularly coming up with huge games. kyle greentree has also put up some decent numbers, but other than that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to talk about. john armstrong, while apparently struggling, has only been active for half of the games, having been on the big club's IR for weeks following training camp. all-in-all, the cupboard looks to be frighteningly bare in this department as well....

maybe it's because i've been writing this post for two days, or maybe it's because i've got a late-day hangover, but right now i think it's pretty grim on the farm. of course, if you factor in negrin, nemisz and backlund it's a little sunnier....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Melrose fired ... is there a lesson here?

I don't exactly endorse the bizarro-world, slapdash management style that has marked the Oren Koules-era in Tampa Bay, but there is something to admire about the urgency to DO SOMETHING when things aren't going well.

Now, considering how bad the Lightning was last season, and that he was coming off a decade-long coaching layoff, and that his team actually has no defencemen, Barry Melrose is probably getting kind of a raw deal here. But it has coincided with me legitimately considering during the past few days whether the Flames ought to be doing some firing of their own. Aside from the obvious sucking of the past six or seven games, it was the meetup with the Sharks that really brought it to mind, as that's where Darryl Sutter came from.

Sutter had a great run as coach in San Jose. His team improved in points each season until the one he was fired midseason, always made the playoffs, and you could say it was Sutter who led the Sharks from expansion-era to consistent playoff team and threat. But at the point he was fired in 2003, the Sharks decided they had topped out, and it was time for a change.

Were they right? Well, the lack of Stanley Cups is a good argument against. And the Darryl Sutter Sharks didn't have the benefit of that insane Joe Thornton acquisition. But this is a team that, I would argue, has grown since his departure. And it certainly hasn't suffered any terrible fate. Sure, the lack of a Stanley Cup final is frustrating, but there are a lot of fans who would kill for what the Sharks bring every year.

Not to mention, the Sharks HAVE done something about that latest, get-over-the-hump problem. They fired a very good coach with the idea they could get an excellent one, and get even better. It's a certain kind of confidence that requires, and Doug Wilson seems to have it. And, as Flames fans saw up close last night, Todd McLellan seems to be > Ron Wilson right now.

Here's what I mean: The bottom line is, I don't know that the expectation is high enough in Calgary right now. I think there's still a cult of Darryl, and a team that's topped out with this management style. You could argue it topped out in 2005-2006, with the 100-point season, Kiprusoff Vezina and division title. Yes, there's been change behind the bench — but little change in philosophy. Coaches usually bring along their own assistant coaches. Not here. Keenan and Playfair have rolled along with Sutter acolytes who, essentially, ensure that his influence is always behind the bench AND in the management box.

This is a bad time to write this kind of entry — when the team is in a slump, I mean — because it seems reactionary and can be easily dismissed as frustration. Do I know one one-thousandth of what Darryl Sutter or Mike Keenan about hockey? Know. But I do know that in any creative field, anyone but the absolute best suffers from a lack of change. And make no mistake, hockey is a creative field. Teams that innovate, succeed. And could anyone argue that the Flames are an innovative team?

You bet your Andre Roy signing they aren't.

Now, will change happen while Ken "Darryl Sutter is a genius" King is in charge? Probably not. So maybe it's ownership that needs to open its eyes.

Of course, it's ownership who dreamed up and approved that insanely bad Mike Vernon retirement ceremony.

So maybe we're doomed. Not to a horrific, Columbus-style future, maybe. But I don't know about the rest of you — I want to be Detroit. And while the right pieces of the core are in place to get there, I'm convinced: Darryl Sutter isn't the one to take us there.

Time to let him go.

bloodbath at the shark tank

as my brother likes to say:
so, uhhh.... THAT happened.

i did not go out to a bar to watch this game, and i elected not to order it; the flames have trouble with PPV games, it seems, and one against SJ seemed like a really bad omen. oh, how right i was...

listening to the first period sounded like peter maher was calling a game between the san josé sharks and a bucketful of chum. it was a veritable feeding frenzy in front of miikka kiprusoff that ended in twenty (TWENTY !!!!!) SJ shots on goal, with four of those making it across the red line and onto the scoresheet. yes, i AM still only referring to the first frame.

U. G. L. Y...

[note: if you google-image "shark attack," there are some rather interesting --yet disturbing-- 'after' photos.... i was gonna post one but i didn't know if any of you was the queezy type]

from analyzing the shift chart, and what i know about the game, i can extrapolate that the keenan line blender started early last night. after the first period, however, it became clear that he began employing some kind of chaos theory or straw-drawing method in sending guys onto the ice. and fair enough --the damage was done.

TWO shifts into the game, gio and dion were split up, putting dion with pardy and gio with aucoin. the VERY NEXT SHIFT, pardy (presumeably) gets a step behind, and takes a hooking penalty. regehr and sarich take the PK time, all seven seconds of it, before SJ scores. following the goal, keenan sends out (wait for it) phaneuf and aucoin for a single shift, who also promptly get scored on. phaneuf is back with pardy one shift later..... gio, meanwhile, takes a nice four-minute rest....

the gio/dion pairing was reunited in the second, following the first (!!!) flames' powerplay, which signalled the start of some SERIOUSLY long shifts for #3. he played the entire PP, in that instance, and then played a near-four minute shift at the end of the second period. hey, i'm not suggesting the shift chart is 100% accurate, i'm suggesting that if it is, dion is getting OVERWORKED.

the re-insertion of cammalleri into the lineup certainly posed a problem for keenan, and i will absolutely acknowledge that. coming off a solid outing by the glenX-boyd-iggy line against toronto, and the +/- staying at evens that game by the bertuzzi-langkow-bourque line, keenan decided that cammo's best fit would be with moss and conroy.... well, at first. keenan tried ol' cammo pretty much everywhere last night, except special teams (which, obviously, kept him off the ice for enormous stretches of time).

still, keeping andre roy in, in lieu of prust, seems like a step backwards to me. prust has proven himself a valuable fourth line guy, who takes a regular shift with primeau and nystrom and is effective as such. he's shown he's not afraid to get physical with some of the league's tougher opponents and has come out even in dust-ups most nights. roy, on the other hand, played a smattering of shifts, was benched for long stretches all night, and ended up a jaw-droppingly low five minutes TOI --pulling nystrom (and moss ??)'s icetime down with him.

i'm not even gonna start with goaltending. sure, kipps let in four goals in the first, and he-who-must-not-be-nicknamed did a fairly solid job in the latter two periods, the shot totals in the early-going were OUTRAGEOUS.

all-in-all, i'm happy for a weekend break and look forward to a healthier and more settled squad on tuesday back at the dome. but keenan ? dude ? get it together (please !)....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

smoke and mirrors

in order to distract from the shockingly terrible piece of literature below, i thought i'd offer up a link to the new york times slapshot blog, who are (once again) dishing out questions to various independent bloggers around the league in their hockey night in blogdom series.

northwest division [ie: ME !!] ;)
pacific division
atlantic division
southeast division
central division
northeast division


flames v. buds: GiOOOOOOOO

my old-school 03/04 era jersey is just plain bad luck. my current era RBK super-high-tech-technically-crafted-space-age-material jersey, on the other hand, is a solid 2-0 this season in live play.

so the big question is, do i get #5 "GIO" on the back, or do i wait one more season to see if my boy john armstrong can make the jump ??? i'm closer to taking the plunge, in this capacity, than i have ever been in my life.... gio seems to be producing and improving every game and i'm getting a bit caught up in it all...

i'm seriously loving the current blaze coverboy (see below). my dad bought me the magazine cause i was ever so excited to see gio on there..... it was embarassingly girlish. :)

gio started the night with aucoin (his usual post) but ended up playing with dion after only a few shifts. much to my surprise and pleasure, this pairing was quite steady through the game, and i would imagine it sticking until vandermeer's return.

(this might be the worst post i've ever written, all-time. i'm aware. there is no need to point out that the words written above are just a sorry excuse to post the photo and to re-itterate how much i'm appreciating #5 in the lineup...)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

flames v. buds: remembering...

i'm going to say this once, and then we'll try to pretend it never happened, okay ? there was a short but passionnate period of my life where i really kinda liked the toronto maple leafs....

i'm gonna guess it was 2002-2003, about a year into my back-and-forthing between toronto and calgary, where my toronto roommate was about the biggest leafs fan ever and the team was kindof exciting. exciting in the way that you never really knew if aki berg would be out of position, if the "bay street bullies" would run over the competition or if domi would just look like a brute (see: arvedsson). exciting in the way that "lumme," "pilar," and "svehla" were really fun to yell out loud when one of them bobbled a play. exciting in the way the team could as easily notch a W as they could an L, depending on whether or not guys like mogilny or antropov or roberts had an afternoon nap and showed up to play on gamenights.... and, of course, they always had sundin....

i'm pretty sure it was early 2003 and i was working on a job, and we'd set up an office in a suite at a high-end hotel downtown in calgary. one afternoon, i saw bryan mccabe at the front desk in a really sharp suit, punctuated with his bright blue mohawk. the next morning i heard a story about a 2am brawl between eddie belfour and tie domi that (apparently) happened in the front lobby [i believe it had been a leafs' down-day]... the following night, the buds fell to the flames 4-3 in overtime....

well the 08/09 leafs have no sundin, no bay street bullies, and "colaiacovo" is the most fun name to yell out really loud.... but, like the 02/03 misfits, they've cobbled together a competent group of no-name hockey players under hard-nosed coaching. and, although the expectations of this group are decidedly low, they've certainly been grinding out some victories against cup-contending teams.

as for the flames, well --it's not looking good. in addition to the flu (yet again) rolling its way through the lockerroom, there are injuries to lombardi (still), vandermeer (presumeably), and phaneuf (debateably). if phaneuf and vandy are both out, well i'm not exactly sure who will be the sixth Dman tonight, but it sure doesn't bode well.... my bet is that one or the other (or both) will dress, but will struggle... meanwhile, it makes me cringe to imagine anders eriksson currently on a plane.... *sigh* and i'm not even gonna touch on the flames' current offensive and special teams woes....

i was really looking forward to attending this game, up until i realized that my team is actually the underdog.....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Why it just isn't happening

So, 3-1 Hawks after two periods tonight, after some typically horrendous defensive-zone coverage by onetime top "defensive forward" and Duncan favourite Craig Conroy, Jarmoe-style Jarome Iginla and, most damningly, asinine "decision-making" by the old-timey "hockey men" behind the Calgary Flames' bench.

I was "inspired" to write this after the Comcast SportsNet Hawks announcers, Pat Foley and Ed Olczyk, wondered why it was that Dustin Boyd and David Moss, clearly the best Flames players on the ice all night, hadn't been sent out on the ice since generating Calgary's best scoring chance of the night. Several shifts in between had taken place, and they sat on the bench while Jarmoe, Bertuzzi and Old Man Conroy were sent out to screw things up.

Of course, the Hawks soon scored their third goal (with Conroy rambling around by the circle while Martin Havlat skated and passed at will), then the Flames only get "back in the game" when Moss and Boyd are allowed back on the ice, and Boyd generates something with an inspired drive to the net.

Meanwhile, the Flames defence has looked confused all night. No wonder, since they've gone out in just about every conceivable combination. It's not as though defence pairings get to know each other and play most comfortably together or anything. But, hey, they haven't looked great, so time for Mike Keenan to "shake things up." I mean, why not send out Jim Vandermeer to miss passes at the point on the power play? At least it's a little blueline earthquake to whip 'em into shape.

But anyway, back to specifics about Mike Keenan and his merry band of Darryl Sutter acolytes. They're not useless. If they weren't, the Flames wouldn't win games. But what they are, is completely without creativity. Line-juggling isn't creative. It's mostly meddling. Ice-time distribution is an art, and art requires creativity. But in a game like today's, It takes a 3-0 score and almost two full periods for them to get their due. Dion Phaneuf plays 30 minutes every night, then looks visibly tired in back-to-backs. Miikka Kiprusoff gets send out over and over until he's too tired. The "energy line" gets sent out in the wrong situation to generate "energy" — when you're down 2-0 is not the time for that.

This isn't to say all is lost, because the Flames clearly don't just-plain-suck. Teams that win six in a row generally have something to them, and the Flames have great players who will win them games. Some nights, things will come together.

But some nights — many nights — things won't. And Darryl Sutter hasn't created an environment or hired a coaching staff that can work on the fly. Interviews aren't anything, but listen to Rich Preston the next time he chats with Roger Millions — he can barely speak. Mike Keenan stares at the camera and issues statements that are clearly meant not to be challenged.

Watching Patrick Kane celebrate his first goal tonight was a pleasure, because he was clearly just plain excited to be on the ice and playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. When was the last time you saw a Flame react that way?

I think it was 2004.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

flames v. preds: the keenan line blender

it's a bit premature to say it, but i'd like to thank the powers that be for allowing mike keenan to finally realize craig conroy ain't doin' jarome any favours on the top line. while fans, pundits, and bloggers alike have been up-in-arms about it all season, #24 was apparently demoted yesterday to where he can feasibly be effective: the third line.

i'm sure we're all aware that the combinations mike keenan "tries out" in practice may not be the lines we see at any point during a game, but it's still good news that the line blender ended with him swapping his first and third line pivots yesterday. with lombardi out, it absolutely makes sense to have dustin boyd taking some turns with the top unit. additionally, with the way that david "fleury hates me" moss and glenX have been playing of late, i could see them being a steadying influence on the team's oldest player.

the preds are coming off an embarassing shutout loss in vancouver, and i'd imagine them looking to score goals tonight --and lots of them. hopefully miikka got some rest, or (alternately) i look forward to seeing the kid start tonight... either way, i'd imagine 30+ shots directed at the calgary netminder.

i'm also hoping that the upwards trend that gio has taken continues. he looked an awful lot like tomas kaberle on the ice against the coyotes, in his puck movement and mobility... his decision-making looks to have improved in just a few short weeks, which by no means he's done making mistakes. it simply means that, coupled with regehr's "shutdown" skills and dion's "big hits and hard shots" skills, we may have found exactly what the we need in a blueliner. vandermeer and aucoin have also been earning their paycheques ---and hopefully sarich can just settle in for the long-haul. i'm already preferring this defensive corps to last year's, thousandfold.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

for your amusement: read on

if you've ever wondered what a texting "conversation" sounds like between your hit the post hosts, i thought this might amuse....

i attended last night's match between the flames and coyotes, and just after settling in to watch the pre-game skate (beer and pocketdawg in hand, of course), i just HAD to tell duncan that regehr was warming up. he informed me that he was watching the US elections so i asked for him to give me updates...

puuuure tag-team real-world/hockey-world symbiosis. it's like a live blog only the next day and transferred from a different electronic medium altogether.

me in bold. duncan in italics.
please note that duncan also TEXTS with caps, whereas i am a big fan of the emoticon and end most texts with little kisses.... ;) [all times in MST]:

7:41 - regehr's taking the warmup... :-)

7:42 - Aces! I'm PVRing till 11 to watch election results. then FF thru commercials. Obama's won Ohio.

7:44 - keep me posted on elections ? roy is also taking the pregame skate. 23, 20, 25, 19 too... :-)
[nystrom, glenX, moss, primeau]

7:45 - No 29, though? Boooo!

7:46 - him too... and 55 so who knows

7:46 - It's like playoff chess ... against the Yotes in November. Flames are so weird sometimes.

7:59 - ya but who's winning the election

8:00 - Obama's up 199-78 so far, but polls about to close in Republican heartland. Still, Obama's won Ohio and Penn, so writing is on the wall. Go Prust !

8:02 - wicked. let's hope the flames didn't sign the pact i made re: arizona ... :-) x
[note: my facebook status yesterday said "(WI) hopes that if someone from arizona HAS to win tonight, it's the coyotes !!"]

8:03 - reggie's in. x

8:26 - more please!

8:27 - Looks like Obama's going to win Arizona! CNN calls McCain situation "grim."

8:30 - awesome.... :-) gio gets a knee on knee .... seems to be ok. .... i love that kid ... x

8:31 - Who did it ? That bitch Jovo ?

8:35 - not sure. #13

8:41 - carcillo. 'course.

8:43 - ur pal connie has got to go....

8:44 - I know. But in fairness, he's distracted tonight, being american and all.

8:45 - i. love. me. some. gio....

8:46 - I love these cryptic game updates. At this point, i figure Gio has a torn ACL and a goal. and Conroy's playing for Phoenix.

8:54 - that's hilarious.... i don't want to give it away.... is obama president yet?

8:56 - Not quite. But he just won Virginia. Calif results coming soon, that's the kicker.

8:59 - as if he won't win cali

9:00 - But that'll tip it. 3 minutes to calling it for B.O

9:03 - done deal ? obama ?

9:04 - It's called. Everyone.

9:04 - so says CNN.

9:05 - Also Fox News, NBC, BBC, and my dog, Pluggers.

9:06 - wicked. i love your dog's new name.

9:08 - Sandra hasn't accepted her new name yet, but it'll come.

9:09 - she'll learn... :-) this is a decent game

9:11 - 13, 24, 23 seems like a good line, non ?
[cammo, conroy, nystrom]

9:12 - Wasting 13 a bit, isn't it ? With two stonehands ?

9:22 - i might have traded a flames win for an obama win

9:24 - 13. 24. 7
[cammo, conroy, bertuzzi]

9:26 - Better.

9:32 - this game has ceased to be good... 24 is pure liability

9:33 - He heard Obama won and can't keep it together.

9:34 - i guess...

10:13 - i want more of that gio. seriously. awesome game by #5

damn, i love me some gio....