Thursday, July 31, 2008

the rumour mill: vol.1

if you're looking for a post on trade rumours or the like, you should seek elsewhere...

this post (a shortie but sweetie) is to point out that the tabloid press are insinuating that kate hudson dumped lance armstrong for eric lindros.

just sayin'....

Friday, July 25, 2008

prospect camp day 5: evaluation

i took my roommate down to the 'dome again today to watch the morning sessions, and to fill up on free sandwiches and salad at the season ticket holder's prospect camp lunch. about 170 (i'm told) people attended this function, in the avison young lounge, and there was a mini Q&A with director of scouting, tod button, which was very informative. i hate taking notes, though, so bear with me as i forget a bunch of stuff that seems important now, but didn't really at the time...

the three things button addressed that were of interest (to me) were:

1. as of the current off-season, the flames employ six full time & three part time scouts in north america, which is (according to button) the most of any NHL team. the full-timers are based in medecine hat, kelowna, eastern ontario, western ontario, quebec, and two northeastern american cities that i can't recall. button explained that with the new task of scouting US high school players, the flames have added an additional part-time guy in the new england/great lakes region (i vaguely remember him mentionning boston & chicago), as well as a part timer in quebec, and another in ontario. they've also currently got two fulltime scouts in europe (finland/sweden), and are looking to add another in the czech/slovak/russian zone. ultimately, this SHOULD improve scouting as the team moves forward.

he noted that the flames have also employed some nerdy number crunching guy "in the maritimes," who's working on a magic formula with the statistics of undrafted players to see if you can devise which will become the superstars... i'm guessing it starts with GP and moves into some crazy quantum mathematics... next up: the flames will employ a tarot card and palm reader [the latter part i made up, but the formula guy actually exists, as i understand it].

2. someone queried button on the flames' penchant for drafting WHL guys, which i concede is an excellent question. button pansied around that one a bit, swearing that the flames always draft the "best available hockey player" but did admit that if it came down to a coin toss, they do prefer the western canadian guys. he began his answer by denying that sutter has ever told the scouting staff to focus on WHLers, and insisted that early in his (button's) tenure, the flames selected "a lot of europeans."

3. as for the current camp, button explained that this year is less of an evaluation style camp (read: no scrimmages), and the focus is instead purely on development. in addition to the public drills and power skating practices, the players are also given seminars on such things as finances and fitness.

as for today's on-ice sessions, there's not a whole lot to add from the last days. backlund, pelech, boyd, and keetley are really throwing down the gauntlet while other guys (like dan ryder, for instance) are playing with a huge amount of heart, but not really pulling away from the peloton.

kris chucko has transitioned from "a guy i don't really like" to "a guy i really don't like," after this morning. on wednesday i questioned if he was sloppy or lazy, but i'm starting to think the guy might just not be that smart. he absolutely LEVELED ryley grantham in a 3-on-2 drill, with what appeared to be a very illegal shot to the head. if that weren't enough, during a 1-on-1 matchup, he gave john armstrong (aka: my new favorite) a completely unnecessary two-handed slash to the arm. while there was definitely more physical play today from all the skaters, in the way of jostling & pushing on the boards, chucko was the ONLY player to take it too far, in my opinion. somebody needs to sit this guy down and explain the definition of the word PRACTICE. besides, the flames have already addressed the need for "loose cannon" (see: steve downie) by signing andre roy.

i'm not going to go into much detail on backlund, today, but let's just say that in a shootout, the dude will probably score, and you'll probably want put that tally into your "goal of the year" file. he had a bit of fun with it today, both seriously trying to put some pucks behind irving with well-placed wristers, but also attempting both the PMB and the marek malik, much to everyone's amusement. i still think he could use some extra conditionning/maturing, but he's gonna be a starter in the next few years to be sure.

the only other notables, for me, are:

1. leland definitely looks to still have some fivehole issues. a LOT of goals between the legs this morning.

2. aulie and nemisz are now gone to team canada camp in ottawa.

3. apparently john negrin was sick early in camp and didn't do the conditionning tests on monday with the rest of his group, so he missed today's session to make them up. this mysterious illness could easily account for why ol' johnny didn't perform as well as i'd expected in yesterday's session, and why he might have been cheating on drills wednesday....

camp resumes tomorrow (SATURDAY !!!) at 9am. who's comin' ??


Thursday, July 24, 2008

prospect camp day 4: i take it all back(lund)

today was the first day i took in the entire morning's worth of sessions, and yesterday i caught the group A afternoon skating drills as well. i'm not sure if it was due to it being downtown pre-lunch hour, or if it was the buzz on backlund & ryder, but the fanbase probably tripled for the group B practise at 11am...

in no particular order, here are some notes:

1. if you had asked me about mikael backlund yesterday, i would have said that his chances of cracking the big club's top six, come october, were slim-to-none. i'm thinking he may still have been suffering from jetlag, since today's practice showed me otherwise. this kid is outrageously talented.... he reminds me a lot of huselius in both his skating and stickhandling, in that he can stop and turn on a dime, or dish off a sweet pass under pressure. he can shoot effectively forehand or backhand, and i've decided that the 'showboating' merely a function of style, as he seems to have an innate sense for the deke or a fancy play... still, i'm sure he could put on a bit more size and tweak his game with another year in vasteräs. besides, who knows where the hell he'd fit into our totally disjointed roster...

2. matt pelech. multiply what i said yesterday about 100 times for today. i think he is the group B standout, meaning that i see him outshining the likes of backlund, greentree, and everybody's favorite news story: dan ryder. there were a lot of drills today with 2 or 3 skaters on 1 defender, and pelech was holding his own with excellent positionning and a very effective stick. i think he's so noticeable due to his undenyable confidence... plus the guy is a GIANT (ohhh, how i'd love to see him hit).

3. like pelech is head and shoulders above his group B teammates, dustin boyd is (and SHOULD be) the group A standout. he was the fastest skater in drills yesterday, and is developmentally far superior to everyone else on the ice in his group...

4. more info on kris chucko: i think i may be too hard on him, as he looked halfway decent this morning. he does have a pretty good eye for the net, an accurate shot, and he uses his size effectively (he absolutely toppled negrin at one point). his downside is obvious, though: he's not fast enough to keep up with the rush, he is rarely in position, and i can't quite decide if he's sloppy or just lazy...

5. yesterday was the first time i'd seen john negrin since last fall and i'm not sure exactly what it was that i loved about him. he seems smaller than i remembered, and nervous or jittery somehow. he had a lot of trouble with some of wednesday's power skating drills (he's a big fat cheater when nobody's looking), and alongside tj brodie and gord baldwin, he didn't look like anything overly special today, either... i think the odds of him skipping over the A, and straight to the bigs, are unlikely at this point...

6. jimmy canaryshirt is sportin' a pretty serious buzzcut. i'm pretty sure he's still got a goatee but it's trimmed real short so it's hard to tell.

7. jd watt is also impressing me. i thought he was just another lunkhead, but it turns out the guy's not bad at hockey. he scored a few really pretty goals today...

8. all goalies are looking solid ---even james spratt, who's clearly not in the same league (haha) as keetley (who is a very competent goalie, as noted last year, albeit with an additional season's worth of experience), but is definitely keeping up with lalande and (to some extent) leland irving. irv got the loudest reaction from coaches, teammates & fans with an absolute beauty of a save: lying in the crease blocking half the net with his body after the initial shot, his stick on the ice to take away the easy goal, the skater (i forget who, now) raised the rebound towards the gaping net and leland grabbed it with his glove. it was one of those "he was down and out but he still made it look easy" stops... no wonder sutter won't draft a goaltender for another few years.... i still worry about his fivehole, though, as he had a couple of slow trickling pucks slide through today....

9. lance bouma is doing tömi mäki's #57 proud (dude is fast), but my new favorite baby flame is john armstrong, hands down. what i noted on day 1 was not a fluke: #75 has some skills. he's obviously got no shot of making the big club this year, but he looks to have a bigger upside than most of the other guys in group A (chucko, carpentier, severyn). he's sizey, he can skate, and he can score.... congrats, "army", you're my new horse... ;)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

prospect camp day 3: first rounders

i got up painfully early (*ahem 8am) to go watch the group B session this morning, and there is no doubt in my mind that the standouts were all former first round selections.

1. matt pelech
i have yet to lay eyes on john negrin this summer, but pelech is definitely looking NHL ready to me, and the most likely for promotion. the other 3 group B blueliners (aulie, wilson, deilert) were easily a step or two (or eight) behind pelech, both developmentally and physically. at 6'5" & 227 lbs, this guy stands out like a lumberjack playing shinny with some teenagers, and could probably do some serious damage on the boards, given a game-day opportunity... his passing was generally tape-to-tape, with very few bouncing or rolling pucks (showing excellent powerplay potential) ---even after the 'dome ice got decidedly choppy. he appears to have a rifle of a slapshot, and a pretty accurate wrister... oh, and the dude can skate.

verdict: buy me a tshirt for the matt pelech fanclub.

2. mikael backlund
i'm still not sure i see what all the hype is about, but it's the little things that are promising about backlund. he's definitely on par with the other group B skaters in all aspects, but he has a way of finessing the puck (see: huselius/forsberg) that gives him an upper hand. in a shootout drill, most of the skaters opted for wristshots, while backlund did a nifty toe drag move, and he seems to hit the net topshelf with some serious accuracy. in another drill he opted for a fancy drop pass between the legs rather than just tapping the puck to his partner: i'm not certain if this is showboating or a sign of stickwork mastery. he's definitely sizey for a 19-year-old, but looked to be 'illegally' clutching and grabbing in the boardwork, rather than using his body to check. this could easily be a factor of practise vs. game play. i think taratukhin showed more potential.

verdict: undecided.

3: leland irving
i can definitely see the potential here, for this guy to be the successor to heir kiprusoff, but he's got a long way to go. he looked a bit tired today, though he's definitely eager to play, working hard at both ends of the ice (defensive/offensive drills). in the shootout drill, he made a wickedly sweet fivehole save, which was followed immediately but an absolutely terrible fivehole goal. we'll see if this gets addressed in the next days.

verdict: still not as good as keetley (but younger !).

other notables:

-kyle greentree has a mean shot
-keith aulie is big, but has a long way to go (and was the only guy to fall... twice)
-lance bouma (????) is effin' fast
-chris bouton (????)can shoot from anywhere and score
-dan ryder still looks interested, but also looks like a longshot to make the big club (at best).
-i'm kinda loving JD watt

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

prospect camp day 2: sorry !!

i'm not gonna make it down to the 'dome today, i'm afraid.

my friends' band from vancouver (pride tiger) came in really late last night and we were all catching up and drinking beers into the wee hours. as i write this, i realize that it's totally fitting that they were passing through town on day 1 of prospect camp, as i mentionned them in my post on day 1 last year.... some things have a way of coming full circle, i guess...

so while the baby flames had their morning sessions, i was having a good old-fashionned lie-in, followed by a nice, big cup of tea while i got the boys out on the road to play their show in edmonton tonight. aaaaand then i'll spend this afternoon's drills having lunch with one of my oldest girlfriends, who's heading back to toronto tonight....


anyone wanna join me for a wednesday session ???


Monday, July 21, 2008

prospect camp day 1: goalie camp

on what might be the hottest day of my summer (kindly recall that i was in new york when the mercury topped thirty degrees back here in calgary a few weeks ago), the chill in the saddledome came as a welcome reprieve.

david marcoux was joined by the recently appointed head of goaltender development, jamie mclennan, on-ice to run this afternoon's session. noodles might have been a little nervous or something cause the drills that he was running on the west end of the rink went slower and less smoothly than the head goaltending coach's side. it was still nice to see him there, and i honestly think he'll be a fantastic addition to the flames' coaching staff.

with no roster lists available to the public this year, i made due with what i knew of the goalies, easily identifying each of keetley, irving, lalande & spratt. my roommate, who joined me in today's expedition, dubbed lalande "fancy pads," as the ECHL goalie is still sporting his old yellow-and-black equipment. irv's now year-old red-and-whites and keetley's flame-painted helmet made them easy to pick out as well, leaving the odd man out as the lowest guy on the ladder: james spratt.

the five skaters were much tougher to recognize, and i was kicking myself for not printing a roster before leaving the house. in some ways, however, my notes on them can be deemed more honest, like in a double-blind science experiment.... here are my thoughts:

#62: this was so clearly kris chucko that i'm not sure i need to elaborate much more. just go read up on all the stuff that has ever been written about him, and that's what i saw today. his "style" was easily identifyable: he's still big and he's still slow. i'll concede that he has a decent wrister, and placed a couple nice ones top shelf.

#43: this guy is pretty small, but he's fast and looked extremely eager to play. i was pretty excited when i discovered him to be dan ryder. scrappy. i look forward to more on him in the next days.

#75: the best player i saw today, i'd say, and i was surprised to find it was the petes' john armstrong. he's big, tall, a solid skater with a great shot and good stick skills. he probably scored the most goals of anyone this afternoon --whether due to talent, conditionning, or desire remains to be seen.

#80: the only defenseman on the ice today was 19-year-old swede, alexander deilert. i don't have a whole lot to say about him thusfar, but he seemed pretty big and a bit slow, but with a lot of determination and a decent wrist shot.

#60: in the first drills, i believed this to be kris chucko (which scares me a great deal cause it's actually mikael backlund). after only a brief time, i decided it couldn't possibly be chucko, based on this guy's superior skating ability (so that's comforting).... i will reserve further comment until i see more, but he certainly did not impress me all that much on initial viewing.

as for the goalies, there's not much to add at this point either. i still think that keetley is far superior to irving, and those are really the only two to watch. last year i was impressed by keetley's glove, and disappointed by irving's fivehole. today showed some improvement on the latter, while both players seem to have improved positionally in the past year....

that's it for today, kids.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

flames sign lundmark.... AGAIN

colour me stunned by today's announcement that the flames have signed jamie lundmark to a two-way deal. it seems darryl sutter is ripping a page from the old maple leafs book of GMing: "if he played for us once, let's give him another go" [see also: wendel clarke, doug gilmour].

jamie lundmark has always been one of those 'coveted' sutter guys. daz tried to get him packaged in with chris simon in 2004, which (the parallel does not evade me on this one) saw jamie mclennan shipped out of flaming red and into rangers blue. when that didn't fly, he jumped at the opportunity thieve lundmark of phoenix, only to dump him off to the kings in return for craig conroy in 2007 (another repeat performer).

i simply don't get it.

even if lundmark has been earmarked as a kolanos/stevenson replacement for the QC, i just don't see how his recent play earns him this opportunity....


my high summer hopes for this team are waning rapidly.

Monday, July 14, 2008

breakin' the news on 2008 prospect camp

i just got off the phone with peter hanlon (director of communications for the flames) who was returning my call querying the timing of the 2008 development camp. apparently there will be info posted on the flames site later this evening** outlining schedules and attending players.

the information that i gathered, for those (like me) who would like to set their schedules, is that goalie camp will start on monday, july 21, preceding the 'main' camp by a day. i'm uncertain if monday's drills will be open to the public, but starting tuesday, july 22, all interested parties are welcome to attend. all sessions are up for a venue change, moving from the far northeast (last year's camp was held at the don hartman sportsplex) to the more accessible pengrowth saddledome....

so..... ?
who's in ??

**UPDATE: i guess if i had waited just a few more hours i would have found these links:
one for the development camp roster, and one for the schedule.

noticeably absent:
adam pardy
david van der gulik
aki seitsonen
per jonsson
brett sutter
brandon prust

ones to watch:
mikael backlund
john negrin
keith aulie
matt pelech
matt keetley
leland irving

interesting additions:
dan ryder
dustin boyd

in other news, i see on the NHL network (aka: tsn for hockey nerds) that jamie mclennan has been hired by the flames as "pro scout and director of goaltender equipment." this is a different title from the official announcement ("pro scout and director of goaltender development"), and i'm honestly wondering if this is a typo, misinformation, or if someone at tsn thinks that it's a pretty funny joke to play on the noted prankster....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

weighing in on bertuzzi....

k, so i'm a little late on the subject (a lot late, to be honest) but i was in new york when i found out about the flames' latest acquisition and couldn't be bothered to spend 5 bucks per half hour of internet use in some random bagel shop that was hotter than an oven.

here's what i wrote on a napkin at the dumont in williamsburg, as i ate the best macaroni and cheese i've ever had in my entire life:

i've had a bit of time to really think about this bertuzzi business, but i'm still undecided on my feelings. my initial reaction was pure horror, shock, and disgust, but since we're stuck with him (and i don't have enough time left in new york to become an official rangers fan), i'm trying to open my mind on the situation. i'm seeking the silver lining. there's GOT to be one....

with very limited access to the internet, i can't do the proper research, but my first question would revolve around iggy & bertuzzi's historical involvement in team canada situations (ie: olympics). did they ever play on the same line ??? obviously, they would know each other... do they LIKE each other ?? did iginla SUGGEST bertuzzi, or did he, like me, see the news yesterday and yell "WHAT ??!!" with a very hard, staccato "T" ?

[note: it now appears that iggy had a hand in bringing big bert into the flaming fold]

i would also need to look into bertuzzi's actual position. GOD i hope he's a left, or can shoot left (though that would imply he's fit for the first line). he played alright with the kids last year in the OC, and put up some rather decent numbers for his limited time on ice.

PRO: he may leave cammaleri to play with lombo (which i would LOVE).
CON: he may be arsenic in a room full of rats (as though keenan wasn't already enough).

can the flames fans stand it ? i referred to him all last year as "BOOtuzzi". i'm not sure they'll be able to love him after so many years of vitriol...

those were my thoughts and i'm stickin' to 'em... so ol' todd is a RW who shoots left. i presume they'll stick him on the first line with iggy and langks, and that could be a good thing. they'll be hard to move and have some skill and size... i'm gonna try to take the high road on this one.

what i'd RATHER talk about is that the flames have hired on jamie mclennan as a goalie scout. i'm SUPER excited about that, though not at all surprised. his appearance at prospect camp last summer when not signed to the team led me to believe he would end up in the flames office at some point, and his short stint in the russian league led me to believe it would happen sooner rather than later.

i guess that's it for the moment.

thanks to MG for keeping me in the loop once again while i was out of the country....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

free agent !*&%-ups

i wish i had more time to write about what transpired in the NHL yesterday but, for the most part, i was kindof blown away by the ridiculousness of the contracts given out. i don't think there were any major real steals, and for the most part there were a lot of expensive dud players signed by silly GMs.

check FHF for more info. link at right (i'm on my way to the airport so i don't feel like taking the time to link it properly)....

thankfully, sutter made some minor but interesting moves. gio is (apparently) official and rene bourque for a second rounder looks like a good pickup.

i wish i had more to say about the likes of redden, tucker, and the absurdity that's going on in tampa.... maybe later.