Tuesday, April 28, 2009

csi: sutter part 1: capspace

i get pretty muddled up in my head when i start to think about writing this post; where to begin, and where exactly i'm going with it. anyone who knows me is aware that i often have trouble finding a point in a convoluted tale, and have been called pedantic on more than one occasion... and today, i am hoping to be succinct and to the point. unfortunately, there's more than one path to my conclusion and (being neither a statistician nor a math whiz) i could feasibly be completely off base... perhaps my "findings" are pointing at an outrage that exists only in my mind, because i've pulled and bent them to lead me in a direction that supports my theory.

but i digress...
fasten your seatbelts, kids, it's gonna be a long ride....

i think the only logical place to begin this crime scene investigation is here. in this article, flames' GM darryl sutter exhibits no remorse and offers no apology for a helming the team's titanic-like season, which had all the signs of an epic run yet promptly sank mid-voyage. in all of his hubris and wisdom, herr sutter arrogantly announces that he's "no clairvoyant," and could not have expected either his big 3-D (regehr, phaneuf, sarich) going out with injury in the final weeks, or having $17 million dollars on injury reserve.

all true... technically.

oftentimes, what sutter says to the media is considered the gospel. there are far fewer "in sutter we trust" signs around the saddledome with each passing season, but when it comes to soundbytes from our respected GM, calgarians are still generally buying what he's selling. i would go so far as to say his misleading statements are sometimes appreciated by the masses (i, for one, prefer to have someone making hockey-related decisions who doesn't constantly tip his hand to other managers or vilify his players in the media, and daz gets a pass in this capacity). but when asked to explain or justify a situation where his actions/decisions might be at fault, i find this deceit to be insolent and smug. instead of a humble and honest answer to this line of questionning, in the herald piece, he pulls the bait and switch (twice), and supports it with an unsubstantiated sum. he goes so far as to belittle the public/media's interest in an explanation by calling them "irresponsible or uninformed."

in a few short sentences, sutter explains why his NHL-level team failed to dress a full lineup of players in the season's last ten days and why they dropped from the top of the NW division from a 13-point lead, thereby losing both home-ice advantage and the opportunity to play an inferior team in the playoffs. essentially, the "sutter show" used smoke-and-mirrors, and the flagwavers and pundits alike were appeased....

well, i would like to debunk; to expose the sleight of hand.
here's my best attempt:

1. replacement players
in the aforementioned article, sutter refers to $17 million on injury reserve. i'm not sure where he's calculating that total from but most die-hard fans unfamiliar with the NHL's collective bargaining agreement (written mostly in legalese) would probably just take this at face value and presume that darryl's done the maths... i'm not interested in doing that.

let's start here (nhlnumbers.com) for salary information, and here for injury information (note: the flames had a far more detailed summary of injuries and re-calls but have taken it off their website in the past days ---this is where most of my calculations come from as far as dates and replacement players).

the first thing i want to point out is that a player's cap hit (the total of his contract/#of contract years ---give or take bonuses) is "paid out" per day, from the first day of the season to the last. i calculated this at 185 days, from october 9 to april 12, but nhlhumers has it at 186 (so i just went with that for the sake of simplifying things). when darryl sutter talks about $17 million on IR, i presume he's talking about the injured players' full season cap-hits. in reality, only the number of days injured X the daily cap hit should be in question:

ie: while he talks about $17 million, he SHOULD be discussing $600K in injuries at the end of the season. honestly, this is really neither here nor there; the team was certainly battling injuries and there were definitely some big contract players sitting in the pressbox.

what sutter doesn't discuss is the cost of replacement players... it's a fact that both regehr and aucoin went out in the game against the stars on april 2nd (sarich left in the previous matchup). in order to replace them with blueliners (pelech/negrin) and stay under the cap, the team had to demote boyd and peters for the game vs. minnesota on april 3. here, calgary dressed 18 players (10/6/2), two short of a complete lineup.... with aucoin's return in the following game, the team could afford to re-call peters (but not the more experienced and more expensive boyd). this trend continued through until the end of the season; the team simply could not afford to replace injured veterans and showed up 1-3 players short in each of the last five games.

this is what we were ABLE to afford:

this is what would have put us over the cap:

what i see, here, is not $17 million dollars on IR, but less than $100K of available funds for replacement players in the final weeks of the season. [note: i chose brett sutter and david van der gulik as replacement options because they're cheaper than boyd]. i might be completely wrong here, but my buddy (who has a detailed knowledge of the cap and cba) called my insight "impressive," which makes me think i'm on the right track with this....

well, perhaps i'm not calculating ENOUGH in the way of replacement, players and we did have a string of injuries this year that occurred well before the last weeks, so i went ahead and added those up too:

the part i find the most infuriating here is that if you do the calculations until the trade deadline, it's about $155,000 ---meaning that (by my crude mathematics), darryl sutter traded for olli jokinen with LESS THAN $300,000 AVAILABLE FOR INJURY REPLACEMENT for over a MONTH worth of the season ($210K + $89K)!!!!! clairvoyance aside, this is an absolutely unacceptable amount of reserve cash under the cap, in my opinion, ESPECIALLY with the knowledge that bourque, langkow and bertuzzi would all need to be replaced indefinitely.... as they say in the herald article, there are teams "living within $1 million of the cap ceiling," sure. but dividing that buffer BY THREE when you've all-but committed $200,000 to lundmark and peters through season's end ????? that seems entirely irresponsible to me. when sutter says "it's not the cap that kept some guys out [in the final games]," he's not lying. injuries are keeping them out, but the cap is forcing them to go unreplaced... sutter makes no mention of this in any capacity, whatsoever....

2. olli jokinen
in vicki hall's article, sutter first pats his own back (suggesting that the acquisitions of jokinen and leopold were great) and then quickly turns the focus onto the leopold trade, "I hate to see it now if we hadn't got Leopold with the injuries we've had." everyone knows i dislike the aging blueliner but i freely admit (and did at the time) that we needed a defenseman BADLY. infact, we probably needed a few ---especially knowing now what we do about phaneuf.... so picking up a veteran guy for a sack of pucks and a $323,000 cap hit (march 4 - april 12) was a no-brainer and, yes, a very good trade indeed.

acquiring jokinen, on the other hand, was yet another cavalier sutter trade and a grossly negligent move, in my opinion. adding an additional $1.3 million in player salary to an already bloated payroll (not to mention next year's $5.5 million) seems lacking any kind of foresight. having already checked "defenseman" off of his "needs" list on deadline day, sutter couldn't help but grab the dangling carrot in jokinen:

working backwards (and including the above replacement player mathematics) this signals to me that BEFORE deadline day, darryl sutter had provided himself a cushion of approximately 1.6 million dollars for injury replacement, which seems like a fairly respectable amount. even after bringing in leopold, the flames available funds probably hovered around $1.3 mil.... and after the cool million (as outlined in the table above) was spent on olli, he was a mere $300K left in the pot.... there is really no other way to look at it: sutter rolled the dice and lost on this one. he needs to own up to this, i'd say....

this seems like as good a spot as any to point out that the million dollars that sutter gambled on jokinen might have been better spent bringing up anders eriksson from the AHL, in the season's last days. while i am certainly not a fan of the culpable swedish blueliner, it seems the most obvious "smoking gun" example of cap mis-management; the team's defensive holes were plugged with a
junior-level defensemen (negrin), when an available former-NHLer was waiting in the wings... what makes this situation all the more damning is that eriksson was not only a vyable replacement player in game 1 against the hawks (when the cap no longer applied), but played in the team's top four (22 mins, i believe). if it were "just injuries," and not cap troubles, as sutter suggests, then he wouldn't have handicapped his team in the season's last days with lesser players on the blueline (and *ahem* no players at all on the fourth line). while some might argue that eriksson would have to clear re-entry waivers in order to re-join the club during the season, i would point out that he'd been placed on waivers three previous times without so much as a sniff from another team.... it seems perfectly clear that if anders eriksson's salary was as cheap as pelech or negrin's, he would have been the preferred option down the stretch.

i realize this is a hell of a lot of information to digest, and it took me the better part of five hours to write it (i've been researching it for weeks now), but i look forward to hearing your comments. i hope it makes sense....

there is a whole other section about long-term injury reserve that i wrote, but i can't confirm my suspicions (nhlnumbers shows ONLY warrener's contract in that section, where large parts of vandermeer/primeau/giordano and bourque's dollars should have ended up there, as well).

my point is this: i believe it is the GM's job to do what he thinks is ultimately best for his team. i also believe that it is the GM's duty to
allow for unforseen circumstances over the course of any one season (monetarily or otherwise). while i absolutely think that sutter has done the former, i'm outraged that he has not provided the latter. furthermore, his arrogance when asked to discuss the subject is beyond reproach....

i hate to say it but i think it's time for the magic show to end.
if not, it's certainly time for the magician to admit his tricks aren't real....

[csi: sutter part 2 : trades/signings will be upcoming at some point.]

The column I would have written if only I was paid to do this blog

There are other issues, but the prime reason to try a new tack is atmosphere. Put simply, Sutter does not foster a jovial, creative atmosphere. Coming after the shambles of 1996-2003, that no-nonsense approach was a tonic. But now it's become a shroud that muffles everything with predictable personnel choices and a throwback mentality that makes Don Cherry look progressive.

Bruce Dowbiggin hits the nail on the head in today's Herald. I agree with just about everything he writes, save for his criticism of the Langkow contract.

I'll have my own take on this shortly, alongside what is going to be some very interesting stuff from WI on the cap issues but, for a preview, check my comments on last night's Matchsticks and Gasoline gamethread.

I've been done with Sutter since early this year. And now I'm definitely done.

Monday, April 27, 2009

flames v. hawks: post mortem

well, it was no shocker.

we lost in six games to a superior team.... and i, for one, really hope we didn't bump'em up so much that they can't absolutely DISMANTLE the vancouver canucks. i think that the boys (toews, kane, havlat) can rack up the score, and the defense (seabrook, keith, and khabi too) can stun the swedish offense. sure, we got 44 shots on goal ---three times the chicago output--- but that just goes to show you what an elite goaltender does in the second season... on the ride home, the fan960 kept talking about how we outplayed the opposition; i didn't see this at all. our passes were consistently intercepted, and our forward momentum was regularly shut down... let's not kid ourselves: we lost this series fair and square.

a lot will be made about injuries in the coming days... i'm already hearing that dion phaneuf was playing injured a lot of the year (ribs, apparently) and we all know that sarich was skating on a broken foot, langkow had a hand injury, and conroy's shoulder was probably effed in the last two games. add to that the presumption (true or not) that bourque was not 100% and regehr, obviously, didn't play PLUS all the guys were bruised up pretty good. well, i'm guessing that none of the other teams who WON their playoff series' were all playing at full bars either... so it seems kinda bunk as an excuse.... we just couldn't get it done...

in the 06 olympics, i was pretty pissed off that they continually dressed pronger with a broken foot instead of a healthy dan boyle (who spent the tourney in the pressbox). this situation is no different to me; it is the coaches/managment's JOB to figure out if it's preferrable to play an injured player over a replacement... sarich with a broken foot is obviously preferrable to a healthy eriksson, but is an injured/struggling phaneuf better than a healthy pelech ? well if we're talking playoffs then i'd probably say yes, but if it's true that dion has been injured for months, then why not replace him with pelech in FEBRUARY, to give the rookie some bigleague icetime when it (apparently) doesn't matter ? OR, if dion's injuries aren't bad enough to sit him out, but bad enough to affect his output, then WHY IS HE PLAYING 25 MINUTES A NIGHT ??!?!?!? riding a 6 million dollar defenseman into the ground when he should have been resting (or undergoing surgery, i'm hearing) seems decidedly suspect to me. there's no way a coach should be allowed to do this to a franchise player if there's any truth to the extent and duration of dion's ailments.... i will address this question again in the next days when i put sutter's 08/09 cap fiasco under the microscope...

this season was a failure at best. there were a couple of months in there that i conceded keenan might be deserving of a jack adams award, but that has long since vanished.... after the bay-area blowout in early november, when he re-evaluated and totally altered the team's system, i thought that the coach had gained some valuable insight and perhaps humility... but that was short lived and the long-term proved that his "cowbell" (playing aging, non-producing veterans over the hungrier rookies) was his downfall. in tonight's game 6, after a thoroughly devastating team performance in chicago, keenan's big series-changing gameplan seemed to be: bertuzzi on the top line. well, i hate to tell you that it didn't work in the last month of the season, and it sure as hell wasn't gonna work tonight.... when they needed him most, keenan failed miserably to provide anything useful to his team, and they came out flat, once again, and never recovered from bertuzzi's second first-minute penalty in as many games...

i pray to whatever hockey gods exist that tonight was the last night i have to see todd bertuzzi in a flaming C. the same goes for anders eriksson and jordan leopold... i also presume that our favorite squid (who has struggled something fierce since the addition of jokinen) will depart for greener pastures, and hope that adrian aucoin asks far too much for anyone in their right mind to consider a contract offer... i hope that our GM is able to re-sign dustin boyd and adam pardy, and CuMac if he'll get a better on-ice deal than the shaft he saw this season....

i get very little in the way of positives out of this playoff season, but pardy and nystrom would probably top the shortlist.... those guys have far exceeded any expectations i had for them in training camp, along with david moss, glenX and rene bourque... hell, i didn't expect conroy to be as effective as he was (though i had often stated he would be one of the best 3rd line centres in the league, while playing on the first line was a huge overestimation)... warren peters certainly held his own, and i hope to see him back in the biggies next year (along with dvdg who, like boyd to some respects, got the shaft as well)...

in the next days i will post some (what i believe to be) damning evidence of sutter cap mismanagment (nothing major, just mathematics). in the meantime, i will propose that this organization needs a major restructuring, a house-cleaning (if you will). although a good portion of the team's loyal and loving fans stayed on after the final buzzer to applaud their boys, nothing summed up the general feeling of disgust better than the one guy who walked down to the glass and tossed his iginla jersey onto the ice in the game's final minutes... this gesture horrified me, at first, but will remain in my mind as a single person's two hundred dollar statement to a 56 million dollar team...

kudos to that dude.
we (the fans) got royally screwed this season....

the truth about dion

the real reason that dion's not playing tonight is that keenan is pissed he got himself injured in chicago. it's a "slightly unhealthy" scratch, in my opinion... the herald has keenan quoted as follows:

"[Dion], unfortunately, put himself into a position that was even more vulnerable than the one he was in a second before he got hit," explained Keenan. "He moved himself from a non-vulnerable position to a very vulnerable position -- he got popped pretty good."

keenan continued, of dion's regrettable collision with ben eager in saturday night's game, "A) the player should know who's on the ice, and B) you should protect yourself. That's part of your responsibility as a professional athlete."

okay, FINE... i'm TOTALLY lying. obviously these are the quotes from keenan discussing gio's injury at the hands of cal clutterbuck back in february, but he could easily have blamed dion for having his head down in game 5.... MORE easily, i would say, than publically digging into gio for making the right play....

i don't think i'll ever get past those words, and why i'm already looking for keenan's head. and sutter's, too... even if we win tonight (and we might), and even if we miraculously win this series (and, we... uh... could) i want a clean gutting of the coaching staff AT MINIMUM. how jimmy playfair still has a job here is beyond me (and further reason for a sutter sacking)... posts upcoming on all of this (i'm still trying to get the homework done)....

i'm attending the game once again (cause i am the most fortunate girl in the entire world, in this capacity) and will be going double gio: the brand new gio T (see yesterday's post) under the gio jersey...

will the 08/09 flames live to see another game ? or will this be the last time i get to boo-tuzzi in the 'dome ?

fingers crossed... for what ? i'm not even sure anymore....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

distraction !!!

i refuse to discuss what happened last night. i'll leave that for darryl sutter to explain on garbage bag day which (as anyone who watched the game will surely agree) will probably be before the week is out. it was an absolute disgrace by pretty much everyone except adam pardy. i'll give it up to that kid for making something happen when nobody else could...

to lighten things up, my buddy john brought me back a gift from his trip to vancouver. "it's for your stupidstitions,"he said when i went to pick it up this morning... i had a feeling it might be a canucks voodoo doll of some sort (no such luck). it's pretty funny, though:

god, i miss that guy.

also ? big congrats to flames prospect ryley grantham with his huge game winner last night for the kelowna rockets.... who would've thought that the team's agitator/grinder would pot the game's only goal ??

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Hakan Loob was an incredible ping-pong player. Unbelievable"

This is my second straight year playing in something called the Baycrest International Pro-Am hockey tournament. It's a great event that, 1) Raises a crapload of money for Baycrest, a brain-illness research a care centre — more than $2 million this year; and 2) Allows dorks like me to smile like children while we play hockey alongside NHL alumni.

There are more than 50 teams this year, and you get to "draft" your player based on your fund-raising level. We put in a pretty good effort this year, and though I'm not my team's captain, I made it pretty clear: I want a Flame. Now, there are some pretty big names in this. Our team was picking around the middle of the pack, so Lanny McDonald, Gary Roberts and Doug Gilmour were out of the running. Taking a look at the list, I targeted one guy right from the start: Mike Bullard.

After some team took recently retired Islander Steve Webb, I'm pleased to report I've spend the last two days explaining to non-hockey-oriented friends and family that, no, I'm not playing with the onetime late-night talk show comedian, but the NHL 50-goal-scorer and really-nice-guy who now coaches second-division in Germany, and loves every minute of it.

The idea here is that your pro spends the whole weekend with your team, so things got started at the draft party Thursday night with some great conversation. First thing I wanted? Well, if you know this site, you know it would be something Hakan Loob related.

• Apparently the Flames would play doubles ping-pong endlessly after practice. Roberts and Nieuwendyk were a team, etc. But nobody would play Loob because he was too good.

• Terry Crisp wasn't the biggest fan of Bullard, nor Brett Hull and John Tonelli. So they made them linemates in 1988, and that was Bullard's 48-goal year. They called them the "WTF?" line.

• Bullard sold his house in Glenmore after being traded to the Blues, and during negotiations, the guy who was buying asked if he would throw in his Flames equipment. "No," Mike said. "What if I threw in an extra $5,000?" he asked. "Done."

• Stories about Roberts being a workout "animal" are all true, but he showed up at his first camp so out-of-shape, the Flames sent him home — that's what got him going. "Great guy."

Two more games today, in which Bully will surely, again, make a few opposing players look ridiculous with his pro moves. He even blocked a shot for us yesterday ("a career first! he said"). With a little help, I took a puck off the pro on the opposing team from our first game, Ken Houston (actually a Flame as well during the final Atlanta years and the first two in Calgary). So I'll try to do that today against the guys we're playing: Steve Thomas and Todd Harvey. Good luck to me.

Then the Flames tonight. I'm in hockey overload, but you'd better bet you're sure as Loob's a kickass ping-pong player that you're not going to hear me complain.

Friday, April 24, 2009

roy suspended for being stupid

i'm sorry to put it so bluntly but there's no way around statement above. we're talking about a guy who's been suspended twice for making throat-slitting gestures (once by his team, once by the league).... TWICE !!!! i hear he's a funny dude and a great guy to have around but he is clearly never gonna be a rocketscientist...

because roy has a history with the league, when he got into altercation in wednesday's pregame skate (to prove calgary's got a "big body presence" before puckdrop) then he's got to expect the heavy and confusing hand of the NHL law to step in. colin campbell isn't gonna overlook this one, andré... you're a repeat offender, pal...

which causes me to re-evaluate the lineup i posted yesterday... will keenan replace roy on the fourth line with a capable checking forward (dvdg) ? or will he insert a seventh defenseman (eriksson) and rotate him through the back six ? i would have to think keenan will go for the extra blueliner, at this point, if both conroy and langkow are out (and it sounds as if the latter is gone for the year). this way, guys like iggy, nystrom and glenX will get double-shifted through the bottom line, much like they did in roy's stead anyways in game 4.

nystrom - olli - iggy
bourque - squid - bert
glenX - boyd - moss
(eriksson) - lundmark - peters

vandermeer - sarich
phaneuf - leopold
aucoin - pardy

i think this is how it will go, and to be totally honest, i'm warming up to the idea. obviously i think eriksson stinks but if he plays roy-like minutes (4-6), then he can help keep leopold and phaneuf's minutes down. i think overplaying his blueliners is one of keenan's biggest faults, but another is overestimating the abilities of eriksson... so it's a bit of a catch-22 if #8 dresses....

on CBC's "after 40" last night, mclean, hrudey, milbury, and pj stock (who i am seriously starting to love with his crooked tie and 10pm shadow) were discussing joe thornton. i don't know if anyone's really been watching big joe lately but he's lookin' lazy and slow out there; he floats uselessly just like bertuzzi both offensively and defensively... in the same piece, pj pulled up some bertuzzi footage and made the comment that "he turns like an 18-wheeler," which cemented my adulation... anyhow. i feel pretty bad for sharks fans. if my team's highest paid guy played like bootuzzi every night, i'd be pretty bummed....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

flames v hawks G4: epic

what can i say ?? that was easily one of the most amazing games i've ever been to... i was LITERALLY shaking in the last three minutes, the entire crowd on their feet praying that the hockey gods would let peter maher put it in the win column.... it's clear to me now that the definition of pure elation is the c of red at the exact moment their captain pots an empty netter to put the game away...

my stupidstitions got to new and epic heights yesterday with the jersey connundrum... you see, i am incredibly in love with the gio jersey and it has, historically, fared extremely well at the 'dome. still, i wore it during the first two games of this series and it let me down --prompting the change to the jrXL for game 3. well, we all know how THAT turned out... it seemed quite clear that i had to wear the jrXL to game 4, but it didn't feel quite right to drop my old faithful after so many games of good times... so i decided to bring the gio jersey along, just in case.... but upon arrival i second guessed myself...

as beazley announced the starting lineup, i got a text from my buddy mike, simply inquiring "u wearing the jrXL or gio ?"


as ridiculous as it sounds, when we were up by three goals in the middle of the second period, i was certain i'd done the right thing (the string of calgary tallies also coincided with the consumption of a pocketdawg)... i will also freely admit that when the 'hawks made their seven-minute comeback and i knew something had to change, i was perfectly relieved to take off a layer (MAN, is it ever hot in two jerseys !!!! i was totally sweatin'....). yeah, so anyways. the jrXL it is, and i'm now aware that the three stitched letters "GIO" are the perfect size for my hands to nervously stroke....

[fyi: duncan wore the horsehead regehr for the matchup. both this and the jrXL are 2-0. my friend jon (with whom i attended last night) has a pair of red sneakers that are 22-3, and 5-0 in the playoffs.... i find it hilarious that anyone would know this record (i lost track of the gio jersey stat months ago)....]

anyhow. jokinen's emergence as an actual hockey player and nystrom's clutch performances have me all excited again about this team's chances of advancing... the loss of conroy and langkow bring me back to reality, however, and i know that it's gonna be tough to steal one at the U.C... but every game further we go, we get a little closer to regehr and that can only be good news...

the biggest surprise to me, following the pre-game skate, was roy drawing in for bourque... if it was honestly a case of bourquey not feeling quite right, then i think roy was probably the right call over lundmark --NOT for his stanley cup winning experience, but for a little... extra in the pushing and shoving department... in the first period when keenan was rolling all four lines, i thought roy made some timely and big hits. purpose served...

this is how i see the next game, presuming connie and langks are both on the shelf:

nystrom - olli - iggy
bourque - cammo - bert
glenX - boyd - moss
roy - lundmark - peters

all things considered, that is not a bad lookin' lineup. a healthy conroy (the more likely of the two, in my opinion) would draw back in on the third line and bump boyder down to take either roy or lundmark's positions... personally, i think we could possibly afford to lose one more guy (insert dvdg) but beyond that it's gonna be tough.

bets on backlund joining the squad if/when the rockets get taken out ? or, alternately, the bigger over/under: will the emerging lance bouma show up with the black aces when/if the giants lose out ?? will keith aulie meet the club in chicago today ???

(all in on aulie)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

flames v. 'hawks game 3: absences

i've got the sniffles so i haven't really felt like writing much lately. not to mention i've been really putting some time and effort into researching an upcoming piece and get so worked up about it that i can't really think about writing anything else.

oh, and i've discarded optimism and walked back into the warm open arms of my friend pessimism... so i didn't really have a whole lot to say pre-game yesterday. additionally, i thought i'd try a new thing and not post on a gameday, to see what would happen. this stupidstition, thanks to a big ol' flames win last night, will continue (so don't expect to see a gameday post), and why i will have to wear the jrXL jersey to the game tomorrow night....

a lot of talk today about the burrish crosscheck on bourque. it looks like the stick breaks over bourque's shoulder, not "his face" as keenan seemed to think... perhaps it's posturing/gamesmanship by the coach, perhaps bourque is legitimately injured (either from that play or another), or maybe keenan didn't realize bourquey already had the big ol'red scar when he saw him after game 3 and presumed:

a) it was caused by burrish
b) it defined an "injury"

personally, i re-watched the end of the game today and after the incident, bourque doesn't appear to be in any discomfort whatsoever. he proceeds to instigate some pushing and shoving, and then stands around waiting for the refs to figure it out before hitting the dressing room. at no time during this 3-4 minutes did he show any signs of nusring/babying his left clavicle/upper arm. so if the kid is ACTUALLY injured, i would think a re-aggravation of the high ankle sprain, or something that came out of the earlier jostling with seabrook (that sent him to the dressing room mid-game).

other game notes:
- jokinen, at some point, decided that he DOES want to play for calgary and the ensuing portion of the game was actually quite good.
- kiprusoff didn't play like miikka turek
- bertuzzi played exactly like bertuzzi, except when he tried to gently stop keenan from putting his two cents in at the end of the game. i found this to be an extremely fascinating moment; i could not have imagined ANY player trying (even momentarily) to get their coach to pause and reconsider an upcoming outburst. and with his history, bertuzzi would certainly not have topped that list... this considerate action, however, implies a relationship much closer than coach/player to me (i would suggest perhaps they have dinner with each others' families). very strange, indeed....
- kent over at matchsticks and gasoline refers to the big boys as "money forwards," which i quite like as a term. those guys were average and boring last night (jokinen and bourque excepted). the lower-six (glenX, moss & conroy specifically) were OUT-freaking-STANDING. hopefully we can keep it up....
- khabibulin had an off game. we cannot expect this every night.
- nice hit by dion on toews. except dion needs to learn that after a hit, you gotta turn around and join the play. standing over the opposing captain admiring your kill (and probably talking fairly loudly about it to the dude on the ice) does not IN ANY WAY prevent havlat from scoring on a 2-on-1. it's true vandy played it all wrong, but his partner was easily 5 strides behind....

do i need to point out that, when calgary was down towards the end of game2 in chicago, there was no needless end-of-game shenanigans. classy ? hmmm....

also, i feel i should point out that i think pj stock's playoff beard is starting to come in nicely....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

To elaborate on WI's Game 2 thoughts ...

I'm pleased with the line blender to a point, but as good as Langkow-Bertuzzi-Cammo was in Game 1 — and yes, that was their best line, and yes, Bertuzzi was, bizarrely, among the best Flames — I'd still rather see Langkow centering Iginla. That's what works best, and it keeps Conroy in a more effective, most important defensive-centre role.

But hell, I'm not going to complain. The blender (if it sticks), plus the apparent returns of Boyd and Sarich, are obvious steps forward for tonight. Keenan, somewhere in his weird head, has to know that Game 1 loss was entirely on him. His overuse of Eriksson, his insistence on sending out the useless Iginla-Jokinen combo not only every third shift, but on the power-play and in key defensive faceoff situations, the prevent defence in the third period ... that was a coach-lost game. Even he must want to win enough to admit mistakes and rectify them.

The good news from Game 1 was, when they were playing properly, the Flames were clearly the better ES team, outshooting, out-passing, outforechecking and outchancing the Hawks. Other good things:

• Minus the first goal, Kipper made at least a half-dozen excellent, excellent saves. His best game in quite some time.

• Dion Phaneuf played an almost flawless defensive game. I think sitting in the press-box and actually WATCHING a game might have helped. That's what he's capable of, and needs to bring every night. (Along with maybe some better point shots on the PP.)

• Rene Bourque was obviously able to come back at full-speed and full effectiveness.

• Pierre McGuire was right: Brian Campbell was not only targeted, but vulnerable. Need to keep working on that one.

Flames need to take at least one in Chicago, obviously, and it's better tonight than trying to make it Game 5 when you're down 3-1, presuming they play at their absolute best in Calgary.

To help them along, I'm switching out of the Game-1-loser 2008-issue Jarome Iginla 12 jersey, and switching to the name/numberless 2004-era red. Because, as we all know, the jersey I wear is crucial to any chances the Flames have of victory tonight.

Go Flames!

flames v. 'hawks game 2: um... interesting...

tsn is reporting the following lines:


while we all know that mike keenan practices new lines and then goes back to the norm all the time, these combinations seem to show some actual insight into the problems from game 1:

- iggy and olli are not working
- iggy and olli need to be protected defensively
- boyd/peters are better players than roy

the new first line is the oldschool second line which looked pretty decent in game 1, so that makes a lot of sense to me. it makes me a little nervous to think they'll see tougher competition and more icetime, but langkow is the steadiest guy we've got, and cammo obviously has the fire. if bertuzzi continues to play like he did on thursday (skating hard, EFFECTIVE no-look passes) then this has potential...

the new second line seems quite sensible as well; while i've been adament historically that conroy is not a first liner (and here, with iginla, he may get first line minutes), but i think the connie-iggy chemistry might still work. it's one of those "heck, ya might as well" situations... add to that the "babysitting" that glenX and connie can do for our struggling captain in the defensive zone and i'm all for it.

the new third line is sortof fascinating and the most likely to not stick (in my opinion). moss and bourque can even olli's bad defensive plays, while providing a very real possibility of offense. this could work out to be a genius move....

the new fourth line is so effing OBVIOUS that i can't believe it's not the one that played in game 1.

while i FULLY expect the keenan line blender to be on high tonight,
spreading out the "firepower" (hahaha) makes quenneville's line-matching that much more difficult. the re-insertion of boyd/peters adds a huge amount of solace to my poor heart....

no word on defense but my optimism has been raised by the news about the offense....

fingers crossed !!!!
go flames.

(ps: lundqvist is totally gonna steal this series for NYR)

Friday, April 17, 2009

game 1 postgame: answers

so i don't really have a whole lot to add that didn't go down over in the comments on matchsticks and gasoline, but obviously that game made me ask a whole lotta questions that hopefully we see answers to in game 2.

1. how the hell does andre roy get the start over dustin boyd ??
i guess mike keenan bought into the pundits' main reason to pick the flames as winners over the 'hawks: big body presence. guess what ? 4 minutes of icetime does not bring a presence at all, big body or not. i also considered perhaps keenan bought into the "flames have more experience" thing, and since andre roy is one of three flames who'd won a cup (the other two being anders effing eriksson and cory sarich), his presence on the bench would be valuable. if andre roy was even dressed for any clutch games in the stanley cup finals when tbay won it in 04, the bench would have been where he was watching from....

well, it seems to me that both of those reasons are totally bunk, that dustin boyd would have really helped his team (especially in the last 5 minutes of a game where they were truly sucking), and once again the youngster gets the shaft. i'm honestly sick about how poorly the current flames coaches & management have dealt with boyder's career, and last night was no exception. if i were him, i would certainly not be jumping at re-signing this summer. helllooooo offersheets !

2. why the hell is anders eriksson being considered a top 4 defender ?
i'm not suggesting that the flames don't have issues on the blueline and i'm not even arguing that keenan's selection of eriksson over the options, to fill the hole left by regehr/sarich/gio, was the wrong choice.... but somehow last night, he became a superior option to both vandermeer and pardy for the coach; i'm not sure if this is more of an argument against keenan's abilities or proof of sutter's cap mismanagement (if eriksson is preferrable to pardy or vandermeer then why wasn't he in the NHL this season ???). either way, eriksson started fairly strong (i even said to my buddy mike in the first intermission, "eriksson's, surprisingly, not terrible) but steadily went downhill. on-ice for two goals against. the third was in OT. nuff said.

3. does eric furlatt understand how goalie interference works ???
cause he'll call a phantom no-goal when glenX had a quarter inch of skateblade in the blue paint moments before the puck went in there (a few weeks ago), but watched a whole lotta blackhawk intertwined with miikka on a PLAYOFF OVERTIME GOAL and it's a good goal. i dunno. there are arguments to make, sure. but either way you look at it, if one's no goal, then the other is no goal , in my opinion... if you can stand back after the glenX play and justify that it was interference then i would truly like to hear his excuse for last night's play. furlatt, without a doubt, made a mis-call on one or the other...

4. will calgary's powerplay EVER score ???
brutal, brutal, brutal.

5. will olli and iggy EVER get split up ???
also most intensely brutal...

6. has bertuzzi been teaching cammalleri how to be an asshole ?
bad move, cammo... kinda funny and totally out of character, but certainly not smart...

and, like my team often does, i was actually surprised at how well they played off the top. the first period was dominated by the flames, though it trailed off a little in the second. by the third period go-ahead goal, i was actually convinced my boys might actually win it ----which, of course, was immediately followed by them completely falling apart...

i have more to say but i gotta jet.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

flames v. 'hawks game 1: "LET'S GET 'ER DONE"

apparently sarich took the trip to chicago.

while i've never been one to support the insertion of injured players, when it's anders eriksson being replaced, i'd sure be awful happy to see #6.

the flames suggest the key to winning is getting traffic infront of khabibulin. i'm just nervous about the number of times i've heard this from the players/coaches v. the number of times i've seen it....

let's do like glenX and get'er done.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why the Hawks will beat the Flames

Two years ago, my playoff preview entry at my old blog was entitled "Why The Flames Will Beat the Wings." I was obviously wrong about that but, unfortunately, I must go back to what I saw as Reason 1 as I anticipate this year's post-season:

The Wings decided they needed a boost at the deadline, so GM Ken Holland made deals for the Flyers’ underachieving Kyle Calder, and professional asshole Todd Bertuzzi. Yeah, yeah, I can hear you now: “Gee Duncan, haven’t heard that one before. Can’t you just leave the past behind with Todd? It’s a new day!” Thing is, with Bertuzzi I don’t think there will ever be a new day. Forget about Steve Moore and that he’s proven to be an irresponsible human being. Todd Bertuzzi is a selfish player, and it only gets worse in the playoffs. He takes bad penalties. Horrible, horrible penalties. He says things to the media to draw attention to himself, even if he says he doesn’t want the attention. He promises victory to crowds of Minnesota Wild fans, and we all know how that turned out. He sulks when things don’t go well, then takes more penalties. Forget “motivation” and “something to prove,” because a dog like that has to have his bone. Detroit will have an easier time winning this series if Bertuzzi can’t return from his concussion.
I've been thinking about that paragraph ever since WI interrupted my lovely Cape Breton vacation last summer with the "Bertuzzi" text that announced his arrival in Calgary. And now, we've had a whole goddamn amazing season with the Toddster to reinforce everything I wrote two years ago.

Dude's a cancer. He's actually regressed since his Detroit year. (Remember, the Wings lost in Round 2, and won the cup the next year sans-Todd.) And Calgary will have a chance at winning the series if he gets hurt in Game 1.

So he's Reason 1, this time, why the Flames will lose, instead of win.

But, going back to my format of two years ago, I have further reasons why the Hawks will beat the Flames.

(And, to get this out of the way now: I AM a good Flames fan. I hope I'm wrong about all this, and that Calgary wins 16 straight games all the way to the Cup. I'll watch every game this playoffs and live and die by every play. It's just, I've just watched more than a few games this year, and over the years, an it just doesn't help to SAY things are going to happen if you don't think they're really going to happen.)

So ...

2. No Robyn Regehr.
I've made no secret of the fact this is who I consider the actual lynchpin of the Flames, and the guy the team most needs to win. Never mind the regression of Dion Phaneuf this season and Cory Sarich being hurt — Regehr sets the tone, sets the example, and shuts down any player as well as anyone in the league. With the multi-line attack Chicago has to send at Calgary, this is a serious situation.

3. No reason for optimism with Kipper.
Too many games, too long a stretch now with these troubles. It's bad when I'm thinking "maybe" to the idea of starting Curtis McElhinney after he has one good game against the Oilers in Game 82.

4. Anders Eriksson.
It's like a sick joke.

5. Darryl Sutter.
This story, which WI linked to earlier, again shows the Flames' GM to be little more than an arrogant prick. It's completely unnecessary, and I'm sure it's his downfall. He thinks he's so much better at being a hockey GM, and smarter about hockey than anyone in his presence, that he refuses to believe he could ever be wrong. Guess what, asshole: That shitty attitude radiates through an organization. It leads to Bertuzzi and (maybe) Jokinen screwing up chemistry on and off the ice because of his decisions, yeah, but day to day it also gives coaches and players the wrong attitude. I wrote an entry way back this year calling for him to be fired mid-season, that I wondered if I would regret after the Flames went on their annual mid-year run to put them in the playoffs. Now I don't think it looks so crazy, right? I realize this is a hell of a thing to be talking about in a playoff preview, but I figure: better now than after they lose in the first round, and it's "easy for me to say now."

Now, hey — I'm going to be watching, because it's not IMPOSSIBLE that the Flames pull it off. Hell, five out of six geniuses on Rogers Sportsnet think it's, in fact, probable. So here's what I'll be hoping for before puck drop tomorrow night.


1. If Keenan's tactics are perfect
Aside from the Kipper-pull in Game 7, Keenan was pretty much pitch-perfect in his moves against San Jose last year. The optimistic Flames' mantra of "forget about the regular season, the playoffs are totally different" is, to be honest, basically true. You can establish and learn things during a seven-game series that you can't playing a team four times over the course of 82.

2. If Kipper plays like he did in that Detroit series, or like he did 03/04 or 05/06
Uh, I don't think I need to explain this further.

3. If the Flames break up Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla
Give it up, boys: This isn't working. Iginla-Langkow DOES work. Protect Jokinen on the second line, give him Cammalleri to work with, then maybe we have something.

4. If Dion Phaneuf gets dumped by Elisha Cuthbert after they lose Game 1
Could happen. Kim might be feeling uppity after her best-ever acting performance on the last episode of 24. Perhaps the ego-hit will remind him he's not god's gift to defence and Dion will remember, you know, why he ended up on the cover of the video game in the first place.

5. David Moss
This guy really has become a fantastic player this season. He's earned every second of ice time and made the most of it, and pretty much all of that has been under the radar. I'm starting to think he could be one of those playoff breakout guys. His game is perfect for the post-season — high-percentage plays, north-south, go-to-the-net. If he elevates his scoring to elite levels, and the Flames get best-possible contributions from Iginla, Cammo, Jokinen and Langkow, they might have something.

6. Adam Pardy
And this is the other one. By no means is Pardy a "difference-maker", but he has come an awfully long way this year. And if he can take up half of Regehr's minutes, and be full value for them, perhaps they can get through. Perhaps.

So, I'm going Hawks in five, with the Flames winning Game 3 at home. And god, I hope I'm wrong. Five years later, I still go to bed at night dreaming of '04. I want that back.


WI helpfully put these on the record for me earlier, before the games tonight started. But just to elaborate on my texting brevity, here are my picks round-to-round. And, no, I'm not happy about who I'm choosing to win the Cup.

First round
WEST: San Jose def. Anaheim, Columbus def. Detroit, Vancouver def. St. Louis, Chicago def. Calgary.
EAST: Boston def. Montreal, Washington def. Rangers, New Jersey def. Carolina, Pittsburgh def. Philadelphia.

Second round
WEST: San Jose def. Columbus, Chicago def. Vancouver
EAST: Boston def. Pittsburgh, Washington def. New Jersey

Conference finals
San Jose def. Chicago, Boston def. Washington

San Jose def. Boston

But I'll be cheering for Boston, because the player outside of Calgary I'd most like to see lift the cup: Andrew Ference.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

one more day to wait: housekeeping

i've never been one to make playoff predictions (cause i go with my heart, and i'm rarely ever right) so while most people are out writing about what team's gonna win/lose and why, here's the random stuff i've been thinking about:

1. CHL semis
if i'd written this last night, like i was going to (but two posts in one day seemed like plenty for this website), then the flames would still have had five guys in contention for the ed chynoweth (aka: WHL) cup. with flames' 2008 second round pick (48th overall), mitch wahl's spokane cheifs getting knocked out in game seven last night, the vancouver giants and flames' third round guy, lance bouma, (78th overall) will continue on to meet mikael backlund (2007 first round/ 24th overall) and the kelowna rockets. [here, i'm actually pulling for the giants, only because bouma wears tomi mäki's #57 when suiting up for the flames...]

on the other side of the bracket, the flames-owned calgary hitmen will take on 2007 fourth round selection (116th overall), defenseman keith aulie.

over in the OHL, the only flames prospect left in the running is 2008 first rounder (25th overall) greg nemisz, who plays with the windsor spitfires... a team which reminds me of back-of-the-bus hazing and the untimely passing of a young captain; and it will always makes me wonder where mickey renaud (RIP) would have ended up this year...

either way, while i don't necessarily agree with sutter giving up a first round selection (plus, plus) for a currently underwhelming and overpaid centreman, his justification wasn't wrong; the future is currently looking fairly rosy in babyflamesville...

2.big body presence v. inexperience
what's starting to get to me is that everyone talks about chicago's youngsters as a 'con', and our size as a 'pro'.... let me lay it down from my perspective: bertuzzi is big and can (theoretically) throw a huge hit. realistically, he's gonna get schooled in a footrace with toews, or lay a beautiful no-look backhand pass onto the stick of patty kane. with no regehr in the lineup, there is little that a very skilled offense will have to deal with (eriksson and vandermeer come swiftly to mind in this capacity) enroute to the net, and unless kipper magically regains 03/04 form, they're scoring 3-4 goals a night minimum. for an offensively challenged team like calgary, that's pretty much a death sentence (but hey, i'll be ECSTATIC if the return of bourque and the shuffling of lines can produce more goals-for).

to presume that this team's skills will dry up because they've never felt pressure like this seems a gross underestimation of what elite players must achieve enroute to the NHL. toews, for example, has won 4 golds in 5 world tournaments (1 of 2 world championships, 2 world juniors, and 1 U-17s) and let's concede there *might* have been some pressure when he scored THREE shootout goals to put away the semis in one of 'em. maybe he's never played an NHL playoff game, but there are plenty of guys in the room who have --and a couple who have won cups. to me, youth means speed, hunger, and exuberance, three things i find often lacking from the flames.

3. sutter speaks
FINALLY somebody writes an article about the sutter cap fiasco. i suppose what it comes down to is a difference in ideologies like the ant and the grasshopper , whereby the moral is "save for a rainy day." i dunno... everything sutter says here seems like a tired excuse... i started writing a bit more on this here but i think i will save it for a future post entitled CSI: capspace. i'm not so great at maths but what i think we have here is a guy using one of my favorite old adages, "IF YOU CAN'T CONVINCE, CONFUSE," and the presumption that the flames faithful will take his words as truth, as they always do...

4. separated at birth

don't get me wrong, i LOVE the guy....

i've been thinking about this for quite awhile and i don't know if it's ever been done before but i'm willing to blaze new ground, here. it's an audio "separated at birth," and after hearing about curtis glencross's interview yesterday, where he says "let's get'er done" (my vote for the team's slogan to be written on ALL playoff signs this year, btw), i couldn't help but think that he sounds pretty much exactly like this guy:

the best comparable glenX interview can be found here... (it's unembedable, for whatever reason.... apologies).

5. maggie the monkey

her picks were calgary, vancouver, columbus, SJ in the west and NJ, boston, NYR & philly. the retiring simian is just slightly better than 50% accurate, historically (40-35) and i would personally agree with EXACLY 50% of her selections (but i won't say which ---though it's 50% in each conference)....

6. duncan's picks
so i just got a text from duncan, who's huge plan to post today has gone down the tubes right along with whatever free time he thought he'd have... ;) it says: "Series winners: SJ, Chi, CBJ, Van; Bos, Was, NJ, Pit" [i can get behind 5 of those 8, fyi] "Second round: SJ, Chi; Bos, Was" [you're losin' me here, duncan...] "Then SJ over Boston in the final. Book it." [consider it booked...]

zat's eet for today.

Flames: Pulling out all the stops to lose to Chicago

*** [note to readers: i went out and attended practice today, in order to report back to all my nerdy blogfriends, and duncan goes and steals my sunshine by posting for the first time in eons... :P i'm just sayin' that after you finish reading duncan's piece, don't forget to read mine below, too, okay ??? it's kindof informative and i included photos that i took all by myself... but enjoy duncan's thingo first.... thanks !!! sincerely, walkinvisible....]

Item: Keenan declares: ERIKSSON WILL PLAY!!!!!

I really can't describe how bizarre it is that we've come to this, that the guy who Phaneufed his way to the Flames losing Game 7 last year against the Sharks has been declared the solution to our back-end injury woes. (I also can't describe how bizarre it is that I now refer to three-fuckups-in-a-game-that-lead-to-goals-against as "Phaneufing", but that's beside the point.)

I must, before my blogmate does so, refer back to the legendary CSI: Eriksson entry of last year. A sample:
to sum up anders eriksson's game 7:
2 penalty minutes (= SJ goal)
13 shifts
1 hit
2 blocked shots (i chalk this up to luck more than anything)
and all this in a STUNNING 9:26 TOI. think about it. that's INCREDIBLY brutal....

Yes, yes it is. And something tells me that a year in the AHL against lesser competition isn't somehow going to make things better. This leaves us with a likely Game 1 blueline compliment of:


You also know, you just do, that Eriksson will immediately jump over Pardy on the depth chart here. You might ask: Would you rather have Pelech? Answer: Yes. Shelter him, play him five minutes, whatever. Just don't put Eriksson in the lineup because, if you do, he gets 20 minutes.


I'll have more to say tomorrow about what I foresee for this series, and it isn't pretty. Which apparently puts me in some bizarre minority in the Eastern time-zone, as the "experts" at Sports Illustrated (thanks for the e-mail, SI PR guy!) and FIVE OF THE SIX Sportsnet dudes have selected the Flames as their choice in this series.

Big SI reason is BIG BODY PRESENCE down the middle against those puny little bodies like Kane and Toews. (Guess whose prediction? Series colourman Pierre McGuire!)

On Sportsnet's preview show last night, the only guy to go for Chicago was R.J. Broadhead, who picked them in seven. Everyone else had Calgary, most of them in six games — Mike Brophy, Bill Watters, Nick Kypreos, Darren Millard and Doug MacLean.

Look, here's the thing: I hope like hell that they're right and I'm wrong. But seriously, they can't have even looked at one statistic from this season, or watched the Flames play even once for real in the past month to have made this decision. These are old hockey guys "trusting their gut" after looking at a lineup card. Their stated reasoning, other than "big bodies":

• Jokinen will be on a mission
• Iginla is the best leader in the game
• Surely Phaneuf is going to come through
• Chicago is an inexperienced playoff team
• Cammalleri and Iginla are a higher-points-scoring 1-2 than Toews and Kane

Of course, Havlat had more points than either Toews or Kane. And Chicago's goaltender has a Stanley Cup ring. And Phaneuf, even when healthy, has had his worst NHL season and regressed throughout the year. And not even Iginla can get through to Todd Bertuzzi. Or Olli Jokinen, apparently.

But hey, just venting! More reasoned analysis tomorrow.


Finally, a note: Got a text from WI earlier today before the Herald stuck it up on their blog that Curtis Glencross is skating and looking good. Wasn't around a computer at the time to get it up, but important to point out that a) WI was at practice, and is a trooper, and b) She scooped the Herald with me, at the very least.

Although she didn't tell me that GlenX was planning to "get 'er done."

tueday practice: good news and bad news

i woke up early this morning cause i thought it would be good to attend practice today and see what the heck is going on down in flamesville. i tried to get there early to catch the presumed gio/sarich skate but i'm never prompt for that kind of thing so i missed whatever on-ice shenanigans took place before the healthy players started...

it was easily the most interesting practice i've ever attended. quite enlightening and educational when it comes to what we might see in game 1. [i did actually consider that this post would be giving info to the enemy but a) who the hell from chicago reads this blog, and b) i bet there were 'hawks scouts there anyways....]

there were a whole heckuva lot of dudes out there; it looked more like training camp:

some key points to consider from the hour-long skate:

1. walking wounded
regehr, sarich, & (not surprisingly) gio were all absent, but the rest of the flames' roster + all the troops recalled from the QC were present. i was pretty much ecstatic to see glenX going hard; having not skated in previous drills or game#82, i was a little concerned about his status. he and bourque both looked up to speed and game ready this morning, though bourque might have seemed a little on the slower side.... i wouldn't suggest injured, so that could be a conditionning issue (or he's just taking it a bit easy). warrener does not appear to have progressed any further than the practice i attended six-or-so weeks ago, and i would place him as a huge longshot to start game 1. not that i would imagine he'll progress to NHL-ready ever again....

2.lines and pairings
obviously we're talking about a keenan-helmed squad, and we're examining a practice two full days before puckdrop. also, i'm clearly i'm not one to pull out a pad of paper and take notes, so take this all with a grain of salt:

vandy-eriksson (this one is especially gag inducing when you consider that,
          for the next two games, chicago will have last change. in a text
           to kent i suggested they were gonna get murdered. he responded
          "Total slaughter. Emphasis on the laughter' part.")

i should have paid much closer attention to the plethora of pluggers but i did notice rhettro playing on a line with roy (and brett jr, i believe), which makes perfect sense if those guys aren't ever gonna see actual gametime for the rest of the year. i wish i could recall where boyd ended up, but the mathematics of this team would place him on a line with lundmark and nystrom (though i certainly don't recollect actually seeing it). that would leave peters, dvdg, and greentree for the majority of the drills, which seems about right.

i've only ever been to two flames' practices outside of training camp/prospect camp, so to see a powerplay drill in one of them makes me wonder if the "flames don't practice the powerplay" myth is just that. taking the yellow "PK jerseys" were pelech, negrin, sutter jr, and dvdg. below is a shot of the first unit: from the top clockwise around the perimeter is iggy, jokinen, cammalleri, dion, aucoin (on the blueline).

here, bertuzzi falls to the second unit with lundmark, langkow, leopold and (it hurts me) eriksson. rene bourque and glenX were down at the other end taking shots on Qmac, so who knows if this was an experiment or an actual consideration.... it's still nice to not see bert on the first unit, but i won't sugarcoat the truth: the yellow-shirted babies got the puck out across the blueline more often than the red-and-whites got the puck in the net... not a good sign.

4.individual effort(s)
dion pretty much levelled squid on one drill --not phaneuf's fault, entirely (cammo should keep his head up; he just skated directly into #3 who had both feet firmly planted). he also accidentally toppled lundmark who was waiting for his turn and also not paying attention. dion came off of his turn and ran right into him... glenX and pardy stuck around after practice for a little point-shot + tip-in action:

(that's playfair holding a mini-meeting with the newbies in the background).

other notables were:
- the most beautiful goal by pardy (perfectly picking the top corner)
- nystrom popping the waterbottle
- pelech's size
- rhettro's hair
- dvdg making iggy howl about who-knows-what

uhhhh.... that's pretty much all i have to say about today's event, other than there was a very seriously strange crowd watching. one dude in a truly pimpin' gold-ish plaid suit (like cherry styles but far more subdued) with a jimmy-canaryshirt blue button-up. there was another chick with hella piercings and tatts, a very curious family, an english guy with a broken arm (in a flames-red cast !), and a well dressed man taking notes in a ledger. i was sad not to see my gio, and also noticeably absent was jamie mclennan; even with the organizations top three goaltenders present.....

[links to the photos in enormous form, for your perusing/stalking pleasure here, here, and here. also, as a bonus you can check out a big ol' photo of the team doing their cool-down stretches here.]

new school meets old school

the calgary flames have re-called the following players:

- dustin boyd (obviously)
- warren peters (no surprise there)
- kyle greentree (the kid was damn good in the AHL)
- dvdg (yaaaaaaaay !!)
- brett sutter (he showed some promise, so why not ?)
- leland irving (kindof a slap in the face to Qmac, but let the kid practice with marcoux and the big squad, sure)

aaaand much to everybody's delight, anders eriksson is currently waiting to clear re-entry waivers. that's right, chicago ---prepare yourselves to bat the flames around like a cat with a mouse.

i still think this series is winnable for the flambés, but the following favourable climate(s) must first be achieved:

- kipper version 03/04
- dion version 05/06 (v.06/07 would be acceptable)
- iginla version "any year but this one"
- jokinen version 06/07 (v.05/06 would be acceptable)
- cammalleri version: autumn
- bertuzzi version 02/03
- moss post-dreamcrusher award
- keenan version 93/94
- bourque: pre-feb19
- roy: injured.
- robyn regehr. any version that wants to dress will be fine.

everyone else can probably stay status quo.

i realize this is a lot to ask, but it would be so awesome !!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

csi: gio

here's a rant that's been a long while in the making.

exhibit A:

i'm sorry, i've watched this clip a lot of times just to be sure ---CERTAIN, infact-- that i'm not wrong when i say that what i see is giordano "taking a hit to make a play." i'm guessing he saw clutterbuck coming and knew that a hit was imminent; he certainly looked up in time to see #22 in xmas colours bearing down on him... he stumbled a half-foot (a mis-step which might have ended his season)... but i also see that the last thing he does before receiving this hit is tap the puck up-ice along the boards. make no mistake: gio got injured by trying to clear the zone. [he also stays with his man, probably in significant pain, in attempt to keep the puck out of the flames' net... but i digress...]

exhibit B:
"Gio, unfortunately, put himself into a position that was even more vulnerable than the one he was in a second before he got hit," explained Keenan. "He moved himself from a non-vulnerable position to a very vulnerable position -- he got popped pretty good." .... Said Keenan of Giordano's situation: "A) the player should know who's on the ice, and B) you should protect yourself. That's part of your responsibility as a professional athlete."
----from the calgary herald: feb 25/09

my theory: gio went from a non-playmaking (aka: "non-vulnerable) position to a playmaking (aka: "vulnerable") position. yes, this so-called "competitive hockey playing" made him vulnerable to a solid hitter like clutterbuck. and, yes, he got popped pretty good. but in order to have protected himself, he would have had to give up on clearing the zone. is this something that keenan wants to teach ? should every guy, doing his "duty" as a professional athlete, give up on the puck in order to stay healthy ???? if yes, then sarich should sure have caught an earful when breaking his foot blocking a puck....

exhibit C:
okay, i can't find a video of regehr's most recent knee injury but i think we've all seen the replay. what it looks like to me is a guy who's clearly angry (and maybe a little wobbly) due to the missed boarding call on his previous shift that made him bleed from the head. with no apparent regard for the puck or the play, our reggie goes hard into the boards on a missed hit. it's unclear if tweaks his knee on the collision with the boards or on his way to the ice but what's certain is that he did not return after that shift.

exhibit D:
keenan says regehr is "day-to-day" in his post-game presser... and nothing further.

so i'm not suggesting that gio is the same calibre defenseman as regehr or that he's paid his dues in the nhl. i'm also not suggesting that mike keenan, with his obvious penchant for veterans (worthy or not) doesn't have some kind of theory as to how to make the young guys learn what not to do on the ice. but berading a guy for doing his job and getting hurt in the process seems sortof.... well... insulting.

ulitmately what i'm saying is that what I'M seeing is an angry regehr headhunting in the 'tunnel of doom' vs. a conscientious gio trying to clear the puck. if keenan were to point the finger at any of his blueliners for being responsible for their own injury then, out of the above two examples, i'd be far more inclined to blame the veteran.

the good news is: gio's skating, apparently.
this makes me a very, very happy WI.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

flames v. oil: total meltdown

so, i'm pretty happy i didn't watch the game last night... by the sounds of it (ie: reading the comments thread over at matchsticks & gasoline) it was *ahem* disheartening at best....

i think, at this point, there is no denying that darryl sutter is singlehandedly responsible for the current situation: his blatant mismanagement of the salary cap is inarguably the direct cause for a good portion of the team's losses in the past few weeks. some might acknowledge that sutter could not have anticipated the extent of the flames' injury situation (true), but i would refute this by suggesting it's his job to plan for it. there are other teams in the league (Tbay, colorado, StL) who have as many --if not more-- injuries, and have not failed to dress an entire lineup for even a single game this season...

i would also rebut that the players we've recalled from the QC have been largely exceptional (lundmark, dvdg, peters stand out, here), and we would certainly be losing fewer games if these guys were monetarily available to fill holes on the big club. the team's injuries are predominantly on the blueline (regehr, sarich, giordano, phaneuf), yet the cap is forcing the players out on the offense (most notably boyd, here)... pelech and negrin (though not amazing) are actually playing quite proficiently. the PROBLEM is that the three forward lines are overworked and therefore underproductive, from the missing players. the re-insertion of peters/boyd/dvdg or the like would add an "energy line;" create some havoc on the forecheck, and provide the much-needed resting periods for the top nine. if we were forced to dress an untested or immature fourth line of, say, chucko/pardy/greentree, then i would concede it might be an injury issue, not a cap issue.... ie: competant replacement players are available, they are just not allowed to dress under the team's cap restraints.

oh, and don't even get me started on how badly they've handled poor boyder's career, thusfar, or how embarassing it is that he's been (once again) demoted due to nothing more than money mis-management.

this is an absolute OUTRAGE, if you ask me... and has been for WEEKS. the difference now is that dressing 15 skaters seems laughable (while 16 --the number the team dressed against minnesota in their last outing in the land of 10,000 lakes-- went largely under the media radar)....

commenter burningfish suggested dressing curtis mcelhinney as a dman, since he wasn't being used as a goaltender, and would obviously fit under the cap. a funny thought, at first, until i realized that this was a sadly reasonable option, under the circumstances... this team is not suffering due to the flu or the death of a teammate... this team is suffering because the management's hubris and lack of foresight unwittingly handicapped it...


anyhow. i'm going to the game tonight, sitting in the bleeders... well, i will be if the tickets i bought from some nice gentleman (clean cut dude in a golf shirt with a cellphone on his belt) are legit... apparently there's some random selling bogus tickets around town. by the time 8:00 rolls around, though, the game might not matter at all and we'll see just enough players dressed so as to not forfeit...

brutal, brutal, brutal.

i do forsee a Qmac start, though.... i hope the kid throws a big'ol shut-out, like a middle finger, at mike keenan. i also hope the colorado avalanche throw a big'ol L into the vancouver win column like a middle finger to the 'nucks.... i won't hold my breath on this one, though... ;)

BUT to keep things light i give you this:

go flames.

Friday, April 10, 2009

flames v. greasers: it ain't over...(aka: longest meandering post of alltime)

yes, the hated 'nucks beat the kings last night (i was hoping for a loveletter but alas, no...), and kent pretty much jinxed any chance we had of playing columbus, but the fat lady ain't singin YET... like nystrom's been saying for weeks now, the flames' playoff positionning will depend on their own wins and losses.

although, if you weren't good at maths and you were watching NHLlive! this morning, you would believe otherwise.

here's the WC table:

so these two doofuses above the NHL store in midtown manhattan look at this and begin by explaining to the listeners that the canucks will probably end with 102 points to top the NW.... hm... so the canucks get to play 83 games this year, then ? is that an olympic bonus ????

by pure miscalculation, these chumps outlined the WC top three, who (according to them) have all clinched division titles: SJ, DET, VAN. i won't claim to know the NHLlive! idiots' names, but the guy on the right (the grey-haired, bearded one fortunate enough to have a CHAIR) begins explaining to the guy on the left (the one who seems stunned and confused pretty much 100% of the time) about how the west still has a lot of potential movement left. the standing guy asks if calgary can still "finish in fourth" and the sitting guy looks at the chart and does the math.

"if calgary wins out [its next two games] and chicago loses out [its next two games] then by having more wins, the flames would move ahead of chicago for fourth place, yes."

uh, YEAH... AND THEY'D ALSO MOVE AHEAD OF VANCOUVER TO FINISH FIRST IN THE NORTHWEST !!!!!! i want them to do it now, just two spite these two morons...

honestly, if i overheard this conversation in the next booth at earl's, it would bug me a bit. but these two dunces are being PAID to know the answers to these things. these two blockheads are PAID to inform/entertain people and it's totally infuriating to watch them get it ass-backwards.

i should really stop watching this program...

the flames will enter the contest tonight down almost 50% of the players who played the pre-season in a flaming C: bourque, conroy (i can't actually find info on this injury/resting anywhere, but i'm sure i didn't fabricate that he's not playing tonight), giordano, phaneuf, primeau, regehr, roy, sarich, warrener, lombardi & prust. with all the cap problems, i'm not sure how bourque comes off IR in the next two games even though the rumour is that he's ready. especially because the team had to (once again) demote peters in order to recall johnny negrin...

the new-look flames are gonna suit up against a team who has (more or less) thrown in the towel. “I don’t think it matters if it is Calgary or some other team. It’s tough,” Souray said. “You want to maintain your level of professionalism but today is a tough day. It’s an accumulation of two months of disaster," said sheldon souray yesterday. macT has announced that roloson will not start either game this weekend, and that the team is rife with disappointment.

injured/cap maimed team v. disappointed/resting squad ? could go either way.

here is my projected (skeleton) lineup for tonight:
squid - olli - iggy
bert - langks - lundy
moss - nystrom - glenX

negrin - leopold
vandermeer - pelech
aucoin - PARDY !! (thanks for the reminder, RO)

and my projected lineup for game 1 of the playoffs (when cap doesn't count):
squid - olli - iggy
bert - langks - bourque
moss - conroy - glenX
nystrom - boyd - lundy

regehr** - aucoin
sarich ** - vandermeer
dion - leo

**fingers crossed (and if not insert PARDY !! and/or rhett warrener, uncross fingers and bang head against the wall).....


Thursday, April 9, 2009

flames day off: substitutions

it's the end-of-season separated at birth series and i've only got a couple in the hopper for you this year ("canucks are animals" series not withstanding --i've got a few more of those)....

this is one i've been working on for a painfully long time and i'm not quite sure i've nailed it, here. i have to say, though, there are times (mostly during televised games) where the camera will pan past glenX and i'll do a doubletake. he doesn't have lombo's mysterious doe-eyes (to break it down, i think curtis often looks more surprised than sexy) but from a certain angle (ie: this one) there is definitely a resemblence... what i've learned from my hard work on this pairing is that glenX and lombo have DECIDEDLY different eyebrows....

still, i defy you to look at thumbnails of glencross and not see a little lombardi in there... also ? they both skate really fast... oh, and for the record, this does not make me miss lombo any less, or like jokinen any more....

in response to yesterday's separated at birth, my buddy/commenter mike piped up and suggested that the willie mitchellfish might have been a little off, and perhaps the following was more exact:

i can see his point, but i'm not convinced that the monkey does mitchellfish's lips any justice.... it might be more exact, but is it more FUNNY ?? also, it's harder to come up with a good nickname (i am seriously starting to enjoy "wellwoodchuk and mitchellfish")... either way, we still prove canucks ARE animals...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

canucks are ANIMALS !!! : vol.2

i totally admit this willie mitchell-fish is nowhere near as good as the wellwoodchuk ones (which still make me laugh)... i've got a new couple of flames-based separated at births to show upcoming, as well....

as for last night's game: it had all the major calgary flames classic manoevers:

1st period
- a strong showing for the second game of a b2b, but they couldn't score
- a last minute (or so) goal by the opposition when the flames should have had a lead
- amazing goaltending by the opposing team, with kipper mostly untested
- too many chances by the big line, who eventually get scored on

2nd period
- boring
- finally notch the tying goal, to have the lead taken away almost immediately

3rd period
- collapse due to frustration and exhaustion. especially by our highest paid players.

so we see edmonton on friday and saturday and i have a feeling that we'll get it done. like i said yesterday, the flames have NEVER been a team to do it the easy way. so they will take it to the very last game of the year in hopes of clinching the NW, i think....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

flames v. canucks: this is it

well, we're finally here at the final NW division marquee matchup, and like huey lewis once said: THIS IS IT. it'd sure be nice to see the flames get a win tonight and clinch the NW, but if there's one thing i know about my team it's that they don't like to do things the easy way.... add to that the fact that we're heading into the second night of a back-to-back (it's technically the second night of a back-to-back, back-to-back), and i certainly wouldn't be putting money on a victory...

i attended the game last night and did NOT eat a pocketdawg. i'm starting to think that it really doesn't matter what i eat or wear, the flames are gonna either win or lose as the hockey gods see fit.... i presented this theory to my buddy mike, who responded, "You don't think small changes in your routine affect the team's play ? Weird. I was sure that brushing my teeth in clockwise circles got us this far." haha... *sigh*

i wonder if lombo still writes HENHENHEN on his sticks in the desert....

anyhow. with no mike brophy to annoy me along the way to misinformation, i saw some stuff last night with my own eyes:

- jokinen is as bad as bertuzzi (worse, if you factor in salary) except where todd does NOT move his feet, olli likes to skate these hugely wide circles down one wing, around in front of the (defensive) net, and back up the other wing --where he receives an outlet pass from the blueliner to start the up-ice play.... not bad, actually, except he rarely makes it to the offensive blueline with the puck on a forward trajectory.... somewhere between bluelines (last night, at least) it would be taken away by the opposition with ease...

-phaneuf is as bad as bertuzzi (worse, if you factor in salary) except where todd is forgiven for his terrible defensive play because he provides some minimal offense, dion is.... well... also forgiven for his terrible defensive play because he provides some minimal offense and, according to keenan, is still learning. hahahaha.... too bad about the big boy salary....

-bertuzzi is BAD.

-big ups to matty pelech for the 2/3 of a gordie howe hatter in his second NHL outing.

-aside from the obvious stinker, kippy had a decent game. which presumeably means he'll be awful tonight and we'll see Qmac by mid-second.

-in the concourse at the saddledome, i noticed (as always) a plethora of iginla jerseys, phaneuf jerseys, regehr jerseys, kiprusoff jerseys, and an emergence of a handful of moss jerseys. i'm still 100% sure i'm the only person sporting #5.

okay. enough for now... GO FLAMES !!!
(fingers crossed !!!)

Monday, April 6, 2009

flames v. kings: taking advantage

well the other teams in the NW division went and did the flames a bunch of favours this weekend; first the greasers beat the nucks in front of the entire nation on saturday, then colorado stunned bobbylu and the boys last night in colorado.

on nhl.com, the game's first star (rookie tj galiardi, born and raised in cowtown) pretty much comes straight out and says that he wanted to beat the canucks on sunday cause his dad's a flames fan. that's so amazing i can't even describe it. i bet he wanted to say that HE's a flames fan, but there's probably some unwritten rule that if you get drafted by a team in the same division as your hometown team, you can only talk about your parents being fans... ;)

the heinous agony that was the flames/minny game on friday has subsided and i'm relatively hopeful about tonight's matchup with the kings. word on the street (ie: the flames insider) is that aucoin will play tonight, and if you check the QC flames site (ALWAYS more up-to-date than the big club's site on player movement), it announces that negrin's been sent back to moline and warren peters (a poor man's dustin boyd, and the flames are certainly sans $$) has been recalled. so, unless roy makes a magical return, it would seem the flambés will skate only one man down this eve.

i've got very little else to say other than i'm hoping for a Qmac start, and doubting very much that it will happen.

fingers crossed... ;)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

a love letter to the edmonton oilers

dear capital greasers:

we've been bitter rivals for the longest time, but thanks for putting that aside tonight while facing the one team we agree on hating SO much more.... all of your players really stepped it up and i'm not entirely sure why; whether you're battling for a playoff spot, trying to keep your coach, or just hoping to get more congratulatory questions directed at kevin lowe by marc crawford on HNIC after hours.

i don't think i've ever cheered for an edmonton goal but when sam gagner notched the winning tally, i sure celebrated out loud. tonight was also the first time i've watched hemsky chase down a puck and hoped that he'd get there first (and tuck it in the empty net).

oh, and i gotta say: you looked pretty sharp in your vintage orange-and-blues.

i promise to cheer for every goal you score, and every game you win in the next five days, and then the hiatus is back off again (beastie boys style) when it comes to hockey... as of next friday, i will be really rooting for your golf swing, though.



Minnesota post-mortem, Duncan-style

Now that I've watched the game, let me say:

• Despite the blanking, Kipper lost the game for Calgary, not the short bench.

• Pelech looked good, Negrin looked green

• Jokinen and Iginla are now officially terribly linemates, and need to be broken up immediately and permanently. If it was up to me, these would be the combos:

Van Der Gulik-Boyd-Nystrom

It's a wee bit sad that you have to protect Jokinen, Bertuzzi and Cammalleri with responsible players, but that's the story. Langkow's the only centre who can work with Iginla at this point, and he needs a guy like Moss on his line to create the space he needs. Need to hold a lead at the end of the game? Reunite Conroy/Moss/Glencross.

(Of course, that fourth line is assuming some defencemen get healthy at some point, which I suppose is being optimistic.)

The joke that has been the last five games calls for drastic measures on your lines, no? Since when did the Keenan blender lose power in the worst of times?

• Bertuzzi has to get hurt for the Flames to win a playoff series

When the Flames played the Wings a couple of years ago, I called the series for Calgary with my top reason being "Detroit has Bertuzzi." Dude is unbelievably bad, and fans are unbelievably blind to be so fooled by a one-in-10 success rate for ill-advised passes.

But hey, what the hell do I know.

flames v. wild postgame: oh BOY....

after kipper let in the second goal last night, five minutes into the game and about thirty seconds after the first wild goal, i sent a text to duncan regarding the totally grim outlook on the game. i figured perhaps two blogmates could wallow in the awfulness of it all, but duncan was quite impressively not watching...

"which rookie d-man did they start ?" he inquired.

"both," i replied.

"WHAT ?? WHY ??"

i got on the phone and called the poor, unaware soul and told him the bad news: that the reason for the negrin/pelech callup was because regehr AND aucoin (and sarich... and gio for that matter) were all out with injury. that the reason for the boyd/peters demotion was to provide some cap space to the incoming blueliners. that darryl sutter's mismanagement of the salary cap was forcing the calgary flames to enter minnesota's Xcel center with ten forwards...

the prospect was ugly, at best. the result was quite possibly the first game in the nhl salary cap era that was lost not by the players or the coaches, but by the team's general manager. i actually laughed (in one of those "it's so effin' depressing, all i can do is laugh" ways) when sportsnet showed the lineup:

bertuzzi - jokinen - iginla
cammalleri - langkow - lundmark
glencross - conroy - moss

[helluva fourth line, dontchya think ??????]

what REALLY irks me in this situation is that with the massively depleted blueline, sutter still chose to demote one of his best defensive forwards. anybody could have surmised before puck drop last night that the flames would play a lot of hockey in their own end, would presumeably take a handful of defensive penalties (hooking/holding) and would enormously benefit from having their best PK types available (glencross, conroy, nystrom, BOYD, PETERS).

a more sensible option, in my humble opinion, would have been to demote TODD BERTUZZI; a guy with some offensive skills but who is of absolutely no benefit to a defensively maimed hockey club. i also presume that a todd bertuzzi demotion would have (monetarily) allowed for both boyd AND peters to play last night, and might have even provided enough cap space to bring up dvdg. i'm not certain on this but his cap hit, in comparison to boyd's and peters', seems to indicate that possibility.

unfortunately, the sutter/keenan mentality is that todd does a good job.

it's inexplicably frustrating.

and all i can do is shake my head and repeat, like duncan did last night on the phone, "...oh BOY..."