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....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Forget tonight's game, I want to talk about Owen Nolan and Krys Kolanos

So, Flames host the Coyotes tonight, trying to get back on track, Bertuzzi sucks, Kiprusoff will play his thousandth consecutive game, maybe Robyn Regehr and/or Matthew Lombardi will get back in the lineup, Daniel Carcillo will probably fight Brandon Prust, good times.

Actual analysis/previews can be found here and here and here.

What I REALLY want to talk about is this minor piece of news.

The Minnesota Wild on Monday placed right wing Owen Nolan on injured reserve with a lower body injury ... In a corresponding move, the Wild recalled center Krys Kolanos from Houston of the American Hockey League. Kolanos, 27, has seven goals and one assist in seven games with Houston this season.

Nolan's "lower-body" ailment will keep him out for more than a week, and I think probably comes as a surprise to nobody. What it really makes me think is the Flames were lucky to get a full year out of the guy in 07-08.

On the flipside of that story, the Wild have called up another guy the Flames owned rights to last year in Kolanos, who stands out in my mind for all the wrong reasons. When I saw the Quad City Flames play in Toronto last year against the Marlies, he looked like a guy with big leagues skills and an elementary school head. No effort, no determination, no urgency. He has seven goals in seven games for Houston of the AHL this year — which, I suppose, isn't that surprising considering his skill level and cup of coffee in the NHL.

So, I'm guessing his tenure under Jacques Lemaire will be short, and will leave Doug Risebrough wishing he had signed Jamie Lundmark instead. Leaving the Wild with not one, but two sloppy seconds from the Flames, sort of a reverse Sutter manoeuvre I'm quite pleased about.

Also, up until researching this stunning piece of bloggery, I was unaware that the Wild have a player named Cal Clutterbuck. How could I miss that? Clutterbuck!

Monday, November 3, 2008

separated at birth: 08/09 v.1

at left:
jim "bearcat" murray. trainer, sounding board, psychiatrist, and a cheerleader to the 1989 cup-winning calgary flames, onetime busdriver to the calgary centennials, recognizable local legend, upcoming hall-of-fame inductee, and all-round good guy.

at right:
a bearcat.

(thanks, dave).


Sunday, November 2, 2008

flames v. ducks: it ends tonight

flames v. ducks: will it end ?

okay, so i took the wrong tack on the whole 44 thing last night. the notable four that stood out was the flames' fourth LINE, not a score, or a jersey number (though jim vandermeer's high-end effort, ending in a zillion penalty minutes and an assist on a pinball-style goal, made him the busiest #4 of the night). my eye was caught by an article on the flames insider called "a four-midable presence" discussing nystrom, primeau, and prust, who were definitely solid last night. so solid, infact, the cbc marc/ks were calling it "the energy line," a title historically reserved for the third line... but i digress....

what i was HOPING to find over on cruikshank & lefebvre's blog is information on whether or not curtis mcelhinney will be making his first start of the year later this afternoon. but appparently keenan's gonna keep that on the down-lo till gametime. i can't decide whether i think he-who-must-not-be-nicknamed should get the nod or not. i would imagine that keenan would leave it up to his franchise netminder; if kipper wants to play, kipper will play. he's got a six-game streak on the line going into a rink where he's got an unfavorable record.... i'd say let the kid play and kippy can take HIS streak back to the 'dome to meet the dingos on tuesday...

we'll see i guess.

there are a couple of other things i'm taking away from last night's matchup. iggy's starting to look snakebitten and i'm not sure how much longer we can blame bertuzzi and conroy. bertuzzi is horribly lazy, without a doubt, and mostly unaware on the ice, but the foresight and no-look pass on last night's winning goal were outstanding.
conroy's last saving grace (faceoff%) plummetted and his on-ice minutes were reflected by keenan's awareness of it. i would imagine he might get some nights off when lombardi returns... moss/boyd/glenX didn't see nearly as much ice as i would've expected.... and dion's minutes really need to come back down to earth sooner rather than later....

most things trending towards positive, though.

finally, and on a completely unrelated subject, i woke from sleep this morning in the midst of a dream where i was roadtripping with robyn regehr somewhere in south america. he was talking on a cb radio. very strange, indeed....


Saturday, November 1, 2008

flames v. kings: 44 !!

so i have this really weird thing with the number 44. if you look closely, it appears underneath my skull-and-cross-hockey-sticks logo on my avatar, and i have it tattooed in braille on my wrist. it kindof all started with my time in england and the whole david blaine story (which you can read about on my eponymous blog, if you're so inclined), but has become this really bizarre numeral that appears with absurd frequency ---ridiculously so, of late.

the flames are down in so-cal and set to meet the kings tonight; a team that (like me) can't seem to get away from those digits.

on their webesite, the kings offer a family deal, where "each package includes four (4) tickets, four (4) hot dogs, four (4) sodas" [note: this package starts at a measly $83 bucks... you should see their smokin' bargains !!!]. they also have an election deal: "on november 4th we elect the 44th president of the U.S...[kings v. ducks]... limited number of tickets, select merchandise & snack items 44% off!"

yeah, right ?

even stranger is the kings' record this year. their last six games have ended in the following scores: 4-0, 4-3, 4-5, 4-0, 4-3, 3-4, with the kings coming out victorious in just two of those. strange, yes. but not altogether surprising that they're not posting wins, since they're just shy of the league-low cap hit at 45 million (technically listed at 45.445 in case you're keeping score). the kings are young and mostly inexperienced with extremely suspect goaltending (jason labarbera is handsdown my nominee for the "weirdest dude in the NHL" award).

on the other hand, the flames are riding into L.A on a 5-game winning streak. here's what i know about streaks: they end eventually. once a team gets to 4 or 5, it seems to me that mathematics are against them and the flames are definitely due for an L. also working against the flames is that dion is probably crashing at elisha's house, and cammo & connie are probably catching up with friends (read: drunk).

in the end, i think it's pretty safe to say this one will end in a 4-4 tie after regulation, with #11 (kopitar) scoring 4 times, of course. i'm just hoping that it's the C's that net one sometime around the fourth minute of OT. and since there's no 44 on either team, i'll say the winner goes to former #44, todd bertuzzi, or maybe jimmyV (#4) will get his first of the year....