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