Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pre-game: Happy New Year! Edition

So after a fabulous, turkey-full Christmas replete with distractions, I think we're ready to get back to work here.

It's been an excellent Christmas for the Flames. They've had a chance to rest up, got to play the sad-sack Senators and the nosediving-in-slow-mo Wild, and now Edmonton's up.

Edmonton played a bit of a bad-luck game against Ottawa last night. Not only did they permit the Sens to end their really long losing streak, they also lost Pouliot and Hemsky to injury.

And the Flames? They haven't been playing perfect* hockey for weeks and have still managed to scrape by. I'm particularly encouraged that the scoring is coming mostly from guys not named Jarome, and not named Slopp^w Dion. That said, it would be nice if they could string together some goal-scoring, and get Dion out of his -11 hole. Our best players should be well, our players who play the best, and at the moment, I'm not convinced they are.

(*like that ever happens even in a really good year)

So I'm basically expecting a holly jolly good time at the 'Dome. Fireworks at 8.

Friday, December 19, 2008


So tonight, we face the Chicago Blackhawks at home. Just right out, I'm jealous of anybody who gets to go to tonight's game. And what a far cry it is from last year or the year before - if you had hockey tickets to give away, you just couldn't get anybody to even take your tix vs Chicago away (how do I know? Let's say I watched Calgary play Chicago a lot on my visits home...)

Chicago has been one of the geniune good news stories of the league this year. Can't hate on them, no I can't. (At least, not anymore). And really, the league could use more of them.

This is really going to be a good test defensively of the team. Chicago has so many guns, with arguably just the fourth line not possessing much offensive firepower. But it'll be exciting, it will be! (Provided the good folks at Sportsnet don't lull you into a false sense of fatigue).

On a closing note, I'm disappointed Minny recalled Krys Kolanos mere days after we played them. Disappointed!

Go Flames.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pregame @ St. Louis: The kids are alright edition

Wait, didn't we just play these guys?

Anyways. I was impressed by the St Louis "who are these guys?" Blues. Fantastic, young team that can easily keep up with the Calgary Langkows.

The last time I watched us play the Blues was when I attended the Flames blogosphere meetup at Schanks; surprisingly, we won that game, but it was a lopsided effort on both ends. I don't doubt we'll see the same thing again. So yeah, seatbelts, fastening, all that good stuff. You know the drill.

Now! I also want to talk about St. Louis' division rivals the Blackhawks. It's been all over the internets; I just want to point out (again!) that they very quietly made a classy classy gesture for their GM... originally it wasn't publicized but it's a big deal now.
These are the guys who should be getting the bulk of the press about their off-ice lives, not the Sean Averys of the league.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dividing Line

To the casual eye, they look like any two hockey-obsessed teenagers anywhere. There they are, suiting up for practice. And playing road hockey. Tussling a bit. And going to practice. And doing random stuff, hanging out, shooting hoops, going to the corner store.... all that sort of thing.

Except these kids aren't growing up in a random neighbourhood just anywhere, they're in Northern Ireland. That's right, Belfast, the hometown of what was temporarily the favourite team of all fans of Theoren Fleury, past and present. And one of these boys is Protestant, and one is Catholic. Let's just say they're streetproofed in ways we'll never have to be.

They were featured in a 2004 National Film Board documentary called When Hockey Came to Belfast, directed by Linda Conway. And by following the boys through their everyday lives, the documentary illustrates the transformative power of hockey (it's rough, tough, and firmly non-sectarian, not having much of a history in that part of the world).

I found almost every shot of this documentary to have something of interest, whether it's kids doing kid-things, or an image of a savage partisan mural. Conway cannily intercuts light-hearted footage of the kids playing hockey or goofing around with more serious bits, showing the grim reality of growing up in Belfast, never spending too long in either mood. It's a real eye-opener, watching two fifteen year-olds catalogue all the ways you can tell whether somebody is in the right side of town or no, or hearing their parents worry about whether their boys... and their families... will come to harm from this particular friendship.

And the message of the documentary is simple. People can get along. When you've been living in a small small world, maybe all it takes is a crazy sport from somewhere else to show you just how broad your horizons can be.

So if you have an hour free, track down this film and give it a go. Definitely a gooder.

Les Habitants Flames de jouer, en attendant les émeutes

Bonjour!  I'm so hyped for tonight's game that I could tolerate a Frenchman!  I've always been a fan of Tangs so it'll be good to see him again, even if it's on the other side.  I'm also hoping the Flames can keep this momentum we've sustained,  Boyd will be back, which is good and bad.  Good 'cause I like the guy, bad 'cause the team has something going and I'm worried this'll throw a wrench in the works of a functional and successful team.  I'm always the pessimist.

I confess to being a quasi-Habs fan, they're perhaps my second favourite team in the league and have been for quite some time.  It doesn't hurt that they've been pretty good recently, but most importantly they're a fun team to watch.  The atmosphere at the Bell Centre is amazing, it seems to pump up the players who play in the arena (on both teams) and result in a disproportionate number of good hockey games.  Or so it seems, anyway.

I'm not sure why everyone has the hate-on for Bertuzzi as a disappointment.  The man signed for 1 year at $1.95M.  I look at disappointments from the angle of salaries combined with expectations.  My expectations with Bertuzzi were fairly low given his recent years' performances, and the salary is undoubtedly low.  For what he's being paid, I'd assert that Bertuzzi is what I expected and not a "disappointment".  On the other hand, Lombardi's performance has been decidedly lacking and definitely beneath his potential.  Sadly, if I had to peg a disappointment so far this'd be Lombo.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Open Ice Fantasy: Through November

Here's a quickie post, the current standings of the 2nd annual Open Ice Fantasy League. I'm getting absolutely killed by my goalies, thanks to Brodeur's injury and inconsistent backups. Killlllled.

  1. Retired Warreners (MG Kent W)
  2. Flaming C (Paul-Marc)
  3. Wasilla Meth-Heads (my brother)
  4. The Naughty Nilsons (Leanne)
  5. Steel Thunder(ST)
  6. The Pantless Pirates (me)
  7. Bancouber Pucks (Marcel)
  8. FB Craig Conroys (Duncan)
  9. screaming dobermans (WI)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


So the Sean Averys are in town tonight. What do we expect? Well, in terms of guys not playing hockey, the trash talk will be flying fast and furious (I expect "sloppy seconds" to be mentioned more than once) between all the usual suspects.

On the ice? Well, Turco has been all sorts of abysmal this year. So the key will be to just get as much on the net as we possibly can. Ideally, we get a game like we had the other night against Vancouver, where Kipper could have been replaced in net by a sack of potatoes for all the action that he saw.

Should be a gooder tonight... I'm just sad that nobody's mic'd up.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Score on That Ginger (Punjabi Edition)

First off, we now have an alternative to Marc Crawford when he does the HNIC games.

Second off, Corey Schneider was pretty impressive for a red-head. It's heart-warming when people don't let disabiliites get in their way of accomplishing their life goals. Kudos to him. *kick*

Third off, can we petition to have Mason Raymond's jersey to have "Mason-Raymond" on the back? Maybe "M Raymond". For whatever reason, Jim Hughson can only say his name as a grouping, as if there's another Raymond we may be confusing him with. Something that just annoys me. Drinking game potential, though tonight it was some scotch so that's quite expensive...

Fourth off, what should be done with the Wellwood, the tubby little cheating bastard? How can no one catch this at the game? Does he not understand the concept of the hashmarks? The league needs to look at this.

Finally, it's interesting that this team can't beat Vancouver at the start of the season when they lost against every other team...but when Vancouver is one of the hottest teams int he league we beat them twice in a row pretty convincingly. The world works in mysterious ways.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Beast, It Is Slain

Second ago, the Flames finally defeated the evil Vancouver Canucks for the very first time this season. It's about time, I think. It was officially "a gooder". Some brief notes:

  • Glencross: What a machine! The chuckwagon racing has done him good. I don't see what else it could be, what a terrific signing. My hate for him last year is directly proportional to my love for him this year.
  • Lombardi: He has been impressive tonight, in that he's been able to engage stealth mode and stay off the scoresheet while his linemates rack up the points.
  • Kiprusoff: He looked like a starting goaltender.
  • Iginla: Looked impressive, loved the pass on Cammalleri's 2nd goal. Perfect.
  • Langkow: He got 2 assists and I didn't actually notice him too much, but obviously he was doing a lot of things right.
  • Keenan: M-mi-mix-mix-mixmaster Mike is at it again. Keeps me on my toes, I suppose, but I still don't like it.

But it's not over yet. Time to kick the puppy while it's down, and enjoy doing it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hail Hale!

It only took him at least three seasons and more than two hundred games, but in a game against the Blue Jackets, David Hale finally potted one.

So what's the over/under on how many games he takes till #2?

Really a bizarre night. No less than three hattricks... is that a hattrick of hattricks?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh. Is that where we went wrong?

"You know what?" blurted Armour. "I hope they take us for granted. I hope they think this was a fluke. I hope they don't give us any credit. I hope they can't remember our names."

"Cause you know, if they do, we'll be back doing this again next year."
JoJuan Armour, in today's Calgary Herald

A big thank-you-and-well-done-and-congrats to the 2008 Calgary Stampeders. Well fought, and well-deserved. Even if that torpedoes that other pro sports team in town for the year.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bandwagons Galore

It's no secret I'm a big booster of local sports; so in the spirit of that, GO STAMPS GO!

And with that out of the way, let me add that my hatred of the CBC knows no leaps and bounds... Lee and Crawford deliver the kind of play by play that make me want to rip my ear canals out. Not that the Sportsnet crew is much better... if we don't go far this year I blame the play-by-play crews. They're not responsible for the play of the team, but certainly are a symptom of The Suck.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Um, so I know nothing about last game besides that it was a "doozy" (thanks, Bethany) and a gooder (thanks, Dave).

I like the shot clock (though I would like to see more blocked shots, really).

I like that we didn't give up, apparently.

I like hearing guys not named "Dion" or "Jarome" score goals.

So what I want to hear tonight is that we did it again. Can we do that?

I know it depends a good chunk on how Colorado responds to a game they clearly were embarrassed over. I'm not even going to bandy about the word "consistency" right now, I'll believe that when I look back on our season so far in January.

So, here's hoping for another doozy and another gooder... Go Flames.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's going to be a long November, but there's reason to believe...

I never thought I'd miss the days we won 1-0 and 2-1 games, but I do.  I've tried to think of reasons why Kiprusoff is a sieve 90% of the time and our defense doesn't practice sound defense.  I really have nothing conclusive, except maybe Jimmy Playfair, my favourite scapegoat.  I'm starting to side with those who think Keenan should go -- I'm currently somewhere in the middle.  I wouldn't be sad nor happy to see Keenan go, but if we don't turn the ship around soon I will be on the "time to take a hike again, Mike" side of the camp.  I really, really want a Sutter behind the bench.

I actually think, in an ideal world, Sutter would step down as GM and step back behind the bench.  I think his utility as GM is waning but his utility as coach is pretty much undeniable.  I'm not even going to speculate who would take the GM seat, because it'll never happen.  But a man can dream...

I feel very fortunate that I have not been able to watch the last several Flames games.  That's a very sad thing to say, but this team is making me very sad with their play (look at me, busting rhymes).  It's still early, still time to start some good habits, but I'm not very encouraged.  By all means, stay on this bandwagon...but just keep your hopes realistic.  Mine are perhaps a bit pessimistic right now.

In honour of the newest word of the English language: Meh.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


So after a disastrous weekend, and while still in the midst of fighting off the flu, we face Canada's Favourite Team (TM) tonight in the Saddledome.

Confident? I wouldn't be. The Leafs have been surprisingly good to start the year, with Ron Wilson behind the bench. That said, after dropping consecutive games in Columbus and Chicago, and barely hanging on to win Thursday's game against Nashville despite a sizeable lead, I have to think that our boys will want to come on strong and not let go.

We'll see.

So yes, Toronto, something exists out here on the other side of Thunder Bay. And we're gonna beat you down.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pregame vs Nashville: A Haiku

Goodbye, bandwagon.
Nashville makes us sad and blue.
Conroy is too old.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Phoenix is such a depressing team

I haven't been able to actually watch any of the recent Flames games, for a variety reasons ranging from being just plain busy to business trips to the surprising hockey void of New York City. Three teams and sixty channels in my hotel, and not a single clip of hockey. They are not worthy. I'll have to suffer that again next week. needs to provide their Centre Ice Online/GameCentral service on a daily basis, that would be perfect. Or if I subscribe to NHL Centre Ice, I should get the online service included. I feel ripped off. Anyway...

What I have been able to do is look at the numbers, the statistics, and read the feedback of other bloggers. And I hear good things. And I see good numbers. Even the game against Anaheim, the feedback I've heard were the players were tired but still played well. Kipper looks Kipper-like. Good things, good times. The bandwagon is filling up again and people are happy. Who wouldn't be, after a 6W streak?

The season is very young, but it is much more promising now than it was a week ago. If you had told me a month ago Bertuzzi was playing as he is right now, I'd have kicked you in the nuts and called you a moron. I don't even hate the guy anymore, but I'm a softie like that. If you wear the Flames jersey and you put out, you're my best friend. That's been the highlight of the season thus far for me. I really, really love our powerplay with Cammalleri, Bertuzzi, Iginla, and Phaneuf. They're all good physical players and can create some havoc, my prediction is the Flames' powerplay will ultimately end up in the top ten. No longer will I sigh and cringe when we get a powerplay.

I was all excited to watch hockey again tonight, until I discovered we were playing Phoenix. It's such a depressing team, it really is. Full of awful European players and a couple washed up Canadian ones (I still do like Shane Doan, but I feel bad for him now), all in the most boring colour scheme imaginable with a pedestrian logo that looks more suitable for a childrens' basketball team than a professional hockey team. No one cares about Phoenix, not even most of their players. Someone needs to end that team's suffering, not to mention the pain it causes all of their opponents for having to face Phoenix. It doesn't even make sense to play hockey in Phoenix. Snowbirds aren't the best hockey fans.

I'll multitask tonight -- watching the election results and the game. But both will be pretty predictable -- an Obama-Flames win tonight against opponents from Arizona that no one really cares about. Do you think McCain even knows his state has a hockey team?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Seventh Heaven

If you had told me three weeks ago that yes, we would indeed embark on a six game winning streak, I would have guessed that you were kidding. (And if you told me the Flames would be awesome the same time as the Stampeders are, I'd ask you what you were smoking)

Last night's game was particularly interesting since it marked another occasion where but for the services of the third and fourth lines, we would have been in considerably more trouble. The goals we got for the most part weren't pretty - they were garbage goals for sure. Just look at the number of players who got credit for the first one - Prust, then Primeau, then Nystrom.

And that last shift - wow. I don't think we've played a more exciting minute of hockey this year. And finally we saw some shot blocking. Yay, shot blocking.

Bertuzzi is settling down to become the player I thought we were getting. Iggy is taking a nap after his big week last week.

And a big congratulations to another member of the Flames family. I had heard about this a couple of days ago, but Jim "Bearcat" Murray is all set to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Next to Lanny and Theo, he was certainly one of the big parts of the Flames' early glory days when I was growing up, and figured prominently in one of the funniest stories of the Cup run, potentially garnering a +1 after the LA series.

I can't help but think how far the role of the trainer has advanced since his era; but that is a pile o' musings for another day. Anyways, kudos!

Today we're in Anaheim - we're hot, they're doing better, especially after Getzlaf finally got his root canal. They're rested, we just might see the McE finally start a game. Who knows?

I don't have too many thoughts on this. Check out the Battle of California for awesome intel from the other side for this weekend trip.

What else, what else! Well, October has ended! Which means it's time for a Open Ice Hits Fantasy Update! (No, it is NOT true that I wait till I get into first place before I put this up! Well, not really)

It has been a crazy month, but finally teams are sorting themselves out this year. I'm pleased to say that for once, Dave does NOT suck, and that yet again, I'm burning through games like crazy.

  1. The Naughty Nilsons (me)
  2. Steel Thunder(ST)
  3. The Pantless Pirates (Dave!)
  4. Flaming C (the mysterious Paul-Marc)
  5. Wasilla Meth-Heads (Dave's brother. Hi, Adrian!)
  6. Bancouber Pucks (Marcel)
  7. Retired Warreners (MG Kent W)
  8. FB Craig Conroys (Duncan)
  9. screaming dobermans (WI)

Stay tuned next month for our next update! (Though yes, we'll blog again before then. It's not our fault life is crazy)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Family and Friends

Of historical relevance tonight — Calgary RW David Moss and Boston RW Phil Kessel skate against each other for the first time in the NHL. The two are first cousins — their mothers are sisters.

The two had dinner last night, and are ready to go head to head.

The Bruins are one of the teams in the league I have the warm-fuzzies for. Not really because they're resurgent after a long time in the dumps, or because of that cutsey wacky mismanagement (who mispaints the faceoff dots on their ice? who??). No, it's basically because over the years, some of my favourite ex-Flames have ended up there.

This is a shot we took just before a game in Buffalo once upon a time; barring the fact that it was the night I ran into maybe the worst meatloaf I've ever ingested in my life, it was also the last game Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew spent in Flames silks.

Sadly, Kobasew is injured, but Ference hasn't been back to play in the 'Dome ever since. While arguably Kobasew has been pretty replaceable by the Boyds and Mosses of the world, I think Ference's brains have been sadly missed in the locker room and on the defense.

And let's not forget ol'Sandbox. Yelle signed over the offseason with Boston; while he's slowed down noticeably in the last season or two, can't forget the time he played here, sacrificing his body for the game. It was really telling looking at the blocked shots column for the Colorado game the other night; while we managed to block a whole 4 shots, Colorado blocked 21 shots.

Sigh. Defense-first, right.

Anyways! Should be a gooder. Provided we can get a goal past Tim Thomas, heh.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You Are Cordially Invited To...

... clamber back onto the bandwagon.

Yeah, we can shuffle over. Plenty of room here!

I have to confess (that life being busy) that I wasn't able to follow the Flames through their last two games. That said, they seemed to finally be adding those intangibles we spend a lot of time here moaning about.

Coming back from 3-0 in Nashville was impressive, but even better was in Phoenix, where we got the lead early on, and never let go.

So now we know we're capable of complete games. We're capable of difficult wins. Question is, how long can we maintain this particular tempo? And can we do this night in and out against great teams?

I have to confess that I'm still not hopeful on this front. Certainly a number of things have turned the corner for us so far. Kipper is still Kipper (I maintain that his terrible performances at the beginning of the season were more a result of defensive lapses than anything else), Bertuzzi is looking to be more like his old self that we hated in his Vancouver days, than the useless putz we sniggered at in Florida or Anaheim.

The big question is still the defense. While Phaneuf is now receiving the lion's share of minutes, he's still not quite as steady defensively as I would like. And it's hardly limited to Phaneuf. Overall, I'd just like to see more consistency from the entire corps, and we haven't yet got that.

Tonight we'll be up against the Avs. They've had a very similar trajectory to ours this season - sucking up the beginning, but now rounding into form. It'll be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Go Flames.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spotted off the port bow: Defensive Play

Did you see it? Approximately sixty minute's worth.  What was once as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or a fiscally conservative Republican was out there for all to see against Washington the other day.  It was awesome.  Kiprusoff played well (still not quite there yet, but was it ever nice to see some of those big saves again), the defense played well, and the forwards played responsibly, for the most part.  It was a thing of beauty!

The real challenge for this team is now that they've actually won a game, they need to remember what they did right and keep doing that.  And what better team to start stringing the wins together than against Nashville?  (Rhetorical answer: Toronto would be even better)  A good hockey team plays with confidence and conviction, from the highest levels (buying into a "system", if one exists) to the lowest (not gripping the stick too hard).  Watershed moments like killing a nine minute powerplay does wonders for this team, and I genuinely believe that PK is what won the game for the Flames.  Now that they've won the game, it's time to carry that confidence (while avoiding any possible over-confidence) by stringing some wins together.

I happen to have Danny-boy Ellis in one of my hockey pools, so I'm not going to hope for a high-scoring game.  I'm going to predict a 3-2 Flames win, with goals by Lombardi (hot hand!), Iginla, and Boyd. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All about the feelgood!

So today marks the first time Chris Clark has been back to play since he left the Flames after the 2004 Cup run. Dunno about the rest of you, but I have missed him around here, and it's great to see that he's put together so many solid years out in Washington.

And tonight also marks the first time Ovechkin has ever come to the Saddledome to play (I won't repeat the rant, but really, it's about damn time, and really ridiculous that this is a guy in his fourth season and he's finally getting around to all the rinks).

What else? Well, we'll see Hitmen alum Jeff Schultz (Karl Alzner, sadly has been booted down to the minors by the Caps), and hometown boys like Mike Green and Tyler Sloan.

There's a hell of a tear-jerker of a story about Sloan, and why it's a big deal that he's lining up for the Caps tonight. Much respect for the Caps for making the move, it's a classy move all around. So a big congrats to Sloan, and here's hoping he makes the most of tonight.

Well, not too much. I'm not feeling nearly as warm and fuzzy towards the Flames as I am the Caps, today... so... here's hoping we come out strong, play strong, finish strong and do all that stuff playing hockey entails.

Or I would settle for not embarrassing ourselves. Yeah, I could live with that.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Who will be our Mikko Freakin' Koivu? | Pre-Game: Battle of Alberta

Mikko Freakin' Koivu killed me last night in various fantasy pools.  He also killed me because in one league (where I'm behind by assists), I drafted him but dropped him before the season started to get Peter Mueller (Ben Stein's voice is running through my head with that name still...).  Gaborik sat out with a shocker of an injury, and Koivu stepped up to deliver his team a win.

Do we have a player capable of that on the Flames?  It's got to be either Lombardi or Boyd right now, they need to play possessed and start delivering on their promise -- Lombardi in particular.  The Flames need some hope from the young guys offensively, we need a kid who can provide something new and exciting to the team and start lighting the lamp.  For years we've had to trade for new scorers, but in the process trade away an existing scorer -- we're just keeping the status quo.  Time to step it up, for my sanity.  As I've said before, this year is really Lombardi's last year to prove himself as someone with 1st or 2nd line potential, otherwise he'll be a career 3rd or 4th line grinder, which is such a shame with his speed.

Tonight we face yet another divional rival.  Is it just me, or do other teams get to play more teams from outside the division to start the season?  The Flames and most of their key players always "start slow"  so it's a bit of a pain in the ass to give our rivals so many points so early, especially to Vancouver.  I'm pumped for tonight's game, regardless, as I always am for games against the Oilers.  It's time to get a nice, solid, defensively-sound victory...please.

Who will be in net tonight?  We've got a back-to-back with the guess is Kipper gets both, he need the practice.  But there is the distinct possibility that McElhinney will get one of the starts...and what happens if he outplays Kiprusoff?  And gets more starts?  I'm getting a headache already.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Please Make It Stop

Dear TSN,

Knock it the fuck off. Yeah, we all love The Hockey Theme, but not every single commercial break and not every single time you send it over to another talking head.

This song is a national treasure, but hearing it all the time is going to ruin it for me -- just like I can't hear Taking Care of Business now without popping a few veins in my head and cursing OfficeMax.

Best Regards,
Someone who understands the concept of moderation

(cue The Hockey Theme for the fade-out transition)

Slow starts?

So the Flames are back in action tonight against the also-winless Avs. Good news is, one of these teams will pick up two points. Bad news is, I'm not convinced that's us.

There are so many things we can blame our present performance on. Traditionally poor starts, new systems, new equipment, integrating new players into the team. And on, and on, and on. But the pure fact of the matter is that the perennial slow start creates wear and tear on the team later on in the when we go into playoffs.

Last year (2007-8, for those of you counting on your fingers), we had an identical start in October, losing the opener and getting the loser point in the second game. The rest of October was great, but November was all sorts of abysmal. This is the first season in years where October didn't suck.

The year before (2006-7), we were horrid in October with only three wins, before settling into the Flames and the evil twins they sent on the road to play games.

The year before that (2005-6) we were terrible again in October, going 4-7-2, sucking equally as much at home as on the road.

In fact, you go back far enough, and you'll find that the last year in which we won a season opener was 2001-02.

That's unacceptable.

I'm reminded of when Sutter first took over the team, and faced what he called a culture of "that's ok," where winning didn't have to happen, so long as we put in a good effort, blah blah, blah. I think the same sort of change he put in waaaaay back has to come in now, to attack this problem of starting the season dead asleep. If it's not ok to lose games #5-82, neither should it be ok to lose games #1-5.

MG's got all sorts of reasons to be optimistic or pessimistic about this year's edition... but they gotta start winning (and consequently, showing me what they actually brought to the dance this year) before I come off the fence either way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bourque, Bourque, Bourque

So we're all anxiously awaiting the season opener on Saturday at home vs the Canucks...

What? Oh, the season opener was last night? Well, that was pretty forgettable.

Were there any bright points? I guess if you're Robyn Regehr's agent, last night's game where he didn't appear was awesome, if only because it highlighted what a key component of the team he is, despite all the season previews which blithely stated that Iginla, Phaneuf and Kiprusoff were the core of the team.

Pardy (who skated in Regehr's place) in due time will probably develop into a Regehr-like defenseman, but it'll take time. As it was, I cringed a little at how well the Canucks were able to take advantage of the gaps in our D.

The point at which we lost the game was probably during a 5 on 3 in the first period. Had we capitalized on that chance, I'd be writing a very different post right now, but we fanned on the shot, and...yeah.

I like that we have more than one strategy on the powerplay besides "Get the puck to the point, and let Phaneuf shoot it," but besides positioning guys at the net correctly (yes, I'm looking at you, Rene Bourque), we have to make contact with the puck.

Goaltending? I ain't touching that one with a 10 ft cattle prod. There were games Kipper has stolen for us in the past...this wasn't one of them.

And the best news of all?

It can hardly get wosre.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

'Tis the Season

Another year, another season.  The summers always seem to drag with a giant void in my life where hockey used to be.  Reading around the various season predictions of my blogging comrades, I've noticed the prediction for the Flames' placement in the division varies wildly.  I think that alone says it all -- we've no idea, at all, how this team is going to work.  I'm not even going to attempt a shot in the dark prediction, aside from this statement: the Flames will finish in the top 15 in the Western Conference.

Individually, some quick predictions:

  • I think we can reasonably expect Phaneuf to get a bit better, but we should not be expecting a big leap.  
  • I think we can expect Kiprusoff to be the same or worse as last year -- my hope for his resurgence remains strong, but I'm being a realist here.  
  • Iginla will be Captain Consistency yet again, no questions here.  
  • Langkow will see age take its toll with diminished productivity, but will remain one of the most underrated two-way centres of the game.
  • Lombardi will dazzle with his speed, and fizzle with his hands.  He's not a prospect anymore, he's a career third line player at best.  Which is a shame.
  • Craig Conroy will bring experience and poise to the 3rd or 4th lines.  Of course, his production will continue to drop but he'll contribute to the team in the spiritual sense.
  • Glencross-Boyd-Moss: I love these guys together, I think they'll continue to impress in the season as they have in the pre-season, provided they're kept together and provided Sutter realizes Boyd makes this team better.
  • Bourque: Can't say yet, don't know enough about him.  I'm expecting him to be pretty nondescript.
  • Aucoin: It's a long way down, baby.  Potentially a 3rd pairing man, he did not impress me last year nor in the pre-season.
  • Giordano: Nice powerplay work, decent even strength work.  Room for growth.  I'm thinking he'll do pretty well for us this year.
  • Regehr: Hoping for a better performance this year than last, but still a solid team guy.
  • Sarich: Love/hate relationship with this guy.  Some games (admittedly not enough), he looks awesome.  Most games, I'd love to beat him with my imaginary cane.  I'm hoping for more consistency out of him.
  • Pardy: Will be good to get some NHL experience.  He was hit-or-miss in the preseason, sometimes displaying some great potential while others reminding me he's from Newfoundland.  (Sorry, newfies).
  • Bertuzzi, he'd surprise me if he gets 40 points.  I'm thinking 30 points and a lot of frustration will be what he provides the team.  
  • Cammalleri is coming off a poor season (relatively), I expect him to bounce back slightly but not remarkably so. 
As for tonight?  Honestly, the Canucks are now my most hated team.  The Oilers are in second place.  Somehow, it's hard to hate on the Oilers when they've got a bunch of old journeymen on the team complemented by a bunch of kids pretending to play a man's game.  When they do well, you can't help but pat them on the back and give a polite smile.  But the Canucks?  Pure evil.  They must be defeated.

I'm going to predict an optimistic 2-1 Flames win.  Luongo craps the bed with a 95% svp performance, the Sedins do some slap passes and end up with a point each with Demitra getting in on that action too, and Flames goals by Phaneuf (PPG) and Cammalleri (EV).  If I'm this specific, you know it's because I've got a time machine.  If this doesn't happen, I'm going to assume one of you fucked up the space-time continuum and I promise you, I will find out who.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Open Ice Fantasy Hockey: Draft Results

Last Thursday, the 2nd Annual Open Ice Fantasy Hockey League held its livedraft. Of the nine teams participating, only two had to autodraft: ST and a friend of ours, Marcel. For whatever reason, autodraft gave ST a much better team than Marcel.

A brief summary:

screaming dobermans (walkinvisible): She has an...interesting team. Unfortunately, she got bitten by an awful design of Yahoo's livedraft client that has happened once for every livedraft I've seen. She dragged her players into the queue, but had another player "selected" still. When she hit the "draft" button, above the queue, it drafted her selected player (Jordan Staal) rather than the one on top of her queue (someone much better than Jordan Staal). However, she also has The Stempniak which ultimately means the rest of her team doesn't matter. That guy is a one-man wrecking ball of awesome. WI is also taking flyers on Dubinksky, Jochen "ch" Hecht, and our own Giordano (which according to Yahoo has an average draft order of "-", which seems to indicate she is the first person ever to draft him in Yahoo Fantasy Hockey -- great work!)

FB Craig Conroys (duncan): He got The Crosby, and some dynamic duos in Lecavalier & St. Louis and Bertuzzi & Cammalleri. He seems to have more faith in Ryan Miller (he looks funny) and Martin Biron than I do, as he's going to be flying with just those two in net. There's not really any gambles on this team aside from who is in net, other than arguably Bertuzzi and Shawn Horcoff (he looks funny). A lot of funny looking people on this team -- was Ricci not available?

Bancouber Pucks (Marcel): The autodraft punished Marcel for having perhaps the dumbest team name I've ever seen in fantasy hockey. This team is stacked with talents such as Sheldon Souray, Sergei Gonchar, Markus Naslund, Bryan McCabe, and Nikolai Zherdev. And in net he's got the trio of Jose Theodore, Dan Ellis, and Vesa Toskala -- I guess he's not gonna go for "wins".

Steel Thunder (Steal Thunder): Steal Thunder's team is named Steel Thunder. As someone in the draft asked (Duncan?), is his team name misspelled or is his blogging name misspelled? Will we ever know? ST also suffered the fate of having an autodraft, but the hockey gods have shined on him. Perhaps the only "questionable" pick was Osgood, but he may surprise yet again this year. This team has the likes of Spezza, Stastny (a personal favourite of mine), Iginla, Lidstrom, Briere, and H. Sedin. In net, he's got Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Osgood, and Tomas Vokoun (8 goals against, haha!).

Flaming C (The enigma that is Paul-Marc): Paul-Marc drafted a very solid team, perhaps strongest in net with Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Lundqvist, and Ilya Bryzgalov. Other notable players include Mike Richards, Rick Nash, Brian Rolston, Jason Pominville, Brent Burns, Niklas Kronwall, and a very astute pick with Patrice Bergeron (a terrific sleeper). He also took a flyer on Matt Carle (the non-injured one) and Mikko Koivu. I think Paul-Marc wins the award of stealing most of Leanne's favourite usual fantasy studs.

RetiredWarreners (Kent -- or if you want to be shot, metrognome): Kent picked up Selanne, told us he'd be playing...and then rubbed it in when Selanne signed his 2-year contract and scored 2 goals. Nicely played, Kent. Notable players include Datsyuk, Toews, Tanguay (I love him too, Kent), Frolov, Hossa, Satan (the devil, not the player), and Niklas Backstrom. Oh, and Havlat, Huselius, Corvo, and Price. His backup goaltender is Leclaire. As you might have guessed from the long list of players, this will be a pretty competitive team. He took a flyer on apparent man-crush Antoine Vermette.

The Naughty Nilsons (Leanne): Leanne has an unhealthy obsession with Marcus Nilson. There must've been some kind of mistake, but she did not draft Nilson. She was even the first overall pick, so she has no excuse. Her team includes Captain Consistency and Integrity (Mike Ribeiro), Ovechkin, Parise, Kane, Phaneuf, Pronger, and J-S Giguere. Her other goaltenders are Cam Ward and Timothy Thomas, Jr. A decent team, anchored by Ovechkin and Phaneuf. But they're no Nilsons.

Wasilla Meth-heads (Adrian, my brother): This team is stacked with foreign policy experience -- they can see Russia from their rinks. A pretty stable team, not any notable risky picks and it should treat him well. Notable players include Getzlaf, Savard, Heatley, Perry, Campbell, Jovocop, Brad Richards, and an excellent 'tending trio of Roberto Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Martin Gerber. The riskiest players here are the geriatric Rob Blake and Edmonton's favourite player, Joffrey Lupul.

The Pantless Pirates (me): I had the luxury of drafting last, which I've never done before. The double-pick is nice but it's also a long, lonely wait between picks. Notable players for my team include Joe Thornton, Eric Staal, Thomas Vanek, Marian Gaborik, Andrei Markov, Wade Redden, and Anze Kopitar. In net I have Martin Brodeur, Christobal Huet, and Manny Legace. The goal was a well-balanced team, and I hope it is.

Thanks to all who were able to attend the draft, and thank you Marcel for letting autodraft screw you with several picks. It's almost showtime! Good luck to most of you, but not all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Open Ice Fantasy Hockey: Draft Reminder, Last Chance

There's still a few more days to join the Open Ice Fantasy Hockey league. We're bigger and better than ever, but we've open spaces still. Preferably at least one other adventurous soul would like to join, so we'd have an even number of teams.

To join, go to
Click the "Sign Up Now" or "Get Another Team" button and follow the links to "Join a Custom League". When prompted, enter the League ID# and password below:
League ID#: 9849
Password: nilson

For the people already in the league, the draft is scheduled for Thursday Sep 25 8:30pm MDT (for the math challenged, that's 10:30pm EDT). It shouldn't take more than an hour, and will be done using the Yahoo live draft tool.

If you cannot make it, Yahoo will use your pre-ranked player list to auto-draft your team. If you don't modify the ranking, it'll default to Yahoo's master list. I'd recommend you look at the list if you're going to rely on that, because not a lot of people agree with it (Dan Carcillo is highly ranked, for instance...).

Good luck and see you there.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Being tricked into getting up early (AKA: Training Camp)

So I showed up early at the Saddledome this morning to take a look at Group B, primarily the defensive studs, the third and fourth liners, and a load of prospects they're trying to evaluate.

My basic impressions:

They are taking a long hard look at Backlund right now. He was teamed up with Cammalleri (as well as Bourque, and Kyle Greentree at times) for much of the morning. He looks a lot less awkward than he did last year - some combination of not coming off injury this year, being better adapted to his arms and legs, and overall more maturity in his game. While still not great defensively, he's definitely made some strides in this area since last training camp. And offensively, he needs no help.

Speaking of Cammalleri, I like him. He'll be a good addition to the roster.

Nystrom looks like he's spent the summer working on his speed. He was much faster than all the other guys attired in white, though to be fair, Lombardi was sporting a red shirt today.

I liked Matt Pelech. He was paired with Vandermeer (Jim, not Pete) most of the morning, and looked decent. Pardy, on the other hand, was paired with Aucoin and didn't stand out from the crowd quite the way he did last year.

Prust was pretty meh.

Both Keeetley and Irving made some terrific stops all morning long. I'm particularly encouraged by Irving, though I doubt he'll stick with the big club this year.

After a summer off, I'm suddenly excited by hockey again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oh. Hockey's back?

Yes, we really have been paying attention. Really. Really hard.

The folks over at Melt Your Face Off asked us about a week ago to chip in a season preview for the Flames in our usual inimitable style.

It's a bit on the short side, especially compared to some of the other previews, but I've been in a wait-and-see mode here. Haven't really passed judgement on anything that's happened in the last three months or so ago, and won't get around to it for a bit. So I looked at the exercise as an opportunity to sharpen my (quickly dwindling) wits for another season. And here goes...

Go enjoy.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fantasy Update

I've created our league again in Yahoo with the same settings as last year. Invites have automatically gone out to the illustrious individuals who participated last year's, but there's still lots of space for others to join still.

To join, go to
Click the "Sign Up Now" or "Get Another Team" button and follow the links to "Join a Custom League". When prompted, enter the League ID# and password below:
League ID#: 9849
Password: nilson

We're doing a livedraft this year, and I'm thinking coordinating people might be an I'm picking a time and we'll play whack o' mole til we get something that truly works for everyone. If we can't find a time everyone's able to attend, then sadly some people will need to leverage the awesome "autodraft" feature where they would rank players at anytime before the draft, and Yahoo will draft for them with the best available as per their list (or without a custom list, Yahoo's ranked list of players).

The current scheduled live draft is Sat Sep 27 2:00pm EDT. Please let me know ASAP if that cannot work for you and we'll see what else we can set it to. Note that the sooner we set this, the better, there's only so many live draft slots open at any given time so we'll have fewer times to choose from later. If you're worried about the length, it'd probably last an hour or so (judging from my previous live drafts).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Open Ice Fantasy: 08-09

I'll be hosting another Yahoo Fantasy Hockey season this year, and I'd like to invite everyone to join. Fun times, low maintenance (unless you want to do a lot of research...), and free. Newbies welcome.

I'll just keep the same settings as last year, unless people would like to discuss some changes:

Type will be Rotisserie.

Positions: C, C, LW, LW, RW, RW, D, D, D, D, Util, G, G, BN, BN, BN, BN, IR
Stat categories: G, A, +/-, PPG, PPA, SHG, GWG, W, GA, SHO

Those are all up for negotiation until the draft starts. Speaking of the draft...last year I was blessed with lots of free time by the nature of my work schedule. This year, I've got anything but free time. So I won't be able to do the email-chain draft...I'm thinking a live draft is the best approach. For the uninitiated, a live draft on Yahoo involves a Java applet where everyone meets at a given time and drafts players. The applet keeps track of available players and even ranks them quasi-intelligently (you can also pre-rank your own wanted players before the draft). This usually takes an hour or so...

If you're interested, please reply to this post. Once Yahoo actually decides to permit registrations, I'll set us up. Please also indicate if there's any time periods where you'll absolutely be unavailable for a draft (vacation times, surgeries, Iditarod, NHL training camps, etc) so we can block that out when generating a list of proposed times.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Closing Ceremonies

Well...looks like I missed a day due to a flaky internet connection (that'smystoryandi'mstickingtoit).

Overall, not bad. We had a decent combination of low humour mixed with some attempts at raw analysis.

I'm all worn out. It'll take a couple of weeks before I start watching sports seriously again.

Can't wait until it's time to do this for every game.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Javelin

I've obtained the above video of Anders Eriksson's off-season training coach. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: BMX

All year we focus on figuring out which teams will be contenders, will lead in their division, will clamber out on top.

Readers of this blog will know we're not necessarily all about that.

Tonight I'm interested in the train wrecks, the crashes, the potential gong shows.

Calgary: I'm not going to dwell on this. We're going to have a great year, what with key additions to the roster like Todd Bertuzzi, Brandon Prust, and Andre Roy!

Toronto: I'm just going to laugh. Is that ok?

Vancouver: The one team in the NW that makes me feel better. Their frenzied pursuit of Mats Sundin kept a quiet summer from becoming completely dull.

Florida: Does anybody understand what the hell is happening down there? Of course, they'll be a powerhouse and the most fearsome team in the SE after Bryan McCabe gets shipped down there, as is rumoured to happen. I'm... sure.

Nashville: I suspect the Radulov drama is the tip of the iceberg. They'll need to have somebody who can replace the scoring potential of Radulov (dammit! I was going to pick him up this year for various fantasy leagues...), and to do that, well, they'll have to figure out what part of their team to swap out. I suggest a young, hot D-man, they seem to be awash in those.

Buffalo: I'm sure matching that offer sheet for Vanek seemed like a good idea at the time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Weightlifting

The 2004 run (yes, I'm a bit fixated by it) was spectacular for all the things that came together, not in the least, the timing for one Jarome Iginla.

Four years later, it's less certain whether all the stars will align once again. Iginla is no longer a fire-breathing youngster; he is a veteran, a leader. The Guy.

Yes, he's locked in long-term. But he's on the other side of 30 now.

How long is he going to wait?

Our condolences also to Ron MacLean... terrible loss, terrible timing....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Triathalon

So the triathalon last night was one hell of a race. Fantastic finish, though I was more bemused by the comedic value of having Simon Whitfield chased to the finish line by a huge German guy. It was just... funny. Even if said German guy passed him and won.

Gutsy performance, however, and it really was the kind of inspiring action that I think we all watch the Olympics (and sports in general) hoping to glimpse.

After Matt Fenwick linked to Simon Whitfield's blog, I couldn't help but spend a while procrastinating by perusing it for a while.

And! Found gold. Turns out that Andrew Ference is a pretty good friend of Simon Whitfield (see his brief cameo in the vid here).

Trawling through the site even more, it seems that Ference has started to use triathalon as some of his summer training, with the encouragement of Whitfield.

All our readers will know that we're big fans of the A-fence here. Has his head screwed on right, does cool things with his free time, isn't terrible on the ice anymore, and oh, has a contract that comes with a steal of a cap hit.

Really tellingly, his buddy Whitfield quotes this about him:

On TSN's Off The Record Michael Landsberg asked the GM of the Bruins what was one of the most important moves he'd made in the last couple years and he answered "bringing in Andrew Ference because he brought so much character to our team".

Sigh, I miss the guy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Shooting

Just a quick post today...

... to commemorate ad spokesthings which have fortunately been ended. Well after their time. Yet another set of veterans never to see the light of another hockey season.

So farewell, Frank and Gordon, you fat, annoying, indolent stalker-rodents.
Goodbye, Mr. Lame Kokanee Ranger.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Synchronized Diving

I've kind of had a vague idea about what I wanted to do in terms of a post for this sport for a while.

Let's take a look at the total points accumulated by teams in the NW Division since the lockout:

2005-6: 469
2006-7: 471
2007-8: 463

Now, why am I looking at this? The consensus amongst many media sources and hockey experts is that the NW (qualitatively, at least) is no longer as hard to play against than it used to be.

From this, there is a distinct dropoff last year, though it's hardly so big that it's really statistically significant.

What is interesting is that the gap between the lowest number of points earned in the division and the highest has narrowed noticeably. Significantly, even.

2005-6: Calgary, 103 pts; Minnesota, 84 pts
2006-7: Vancouver, 104 pts; Edmonton, 71 pts
2007-8: Minnesota, 98 pts; Edmonton/Vancouver; 88 pts

Why do I find this interesting? What the pundits have termed the "fall of the NW" seems to be caused not by the weaker teams in the divison getting weaker; if anything, Edmonton drastically improved over the offseason last year (they could hardly have been worse than how they finished the season in 2007).

What we saw was that play in the division became more even. While arguably, the best teams in the division weren't quite as stellar as they had been in the past; the worst teams were not nearly so bad as they had been in years previous.

I am willing to accept Edmonton's performance in 2006-7 as a bit of an outlier, given their performance after the trade deadline. Without that, the next-lowest placing team would have been Colorado with 95 points, which puts the four teams in the NW (besides Edmonton) within 10 points of each other.

Perhaps last season, it is possible to say that the NW wasn't as tough as the year before, but it certainly (from numbers only, at least) isn't possibly to confidently state that it wasn't as tough as it usually was.

And looking ahead? I don't expect the NW division to produce as many points as it once did; quite simply the other two division in the conference have changed, and particularly in the case of the Central Division, have become better balanced. I don't believe that it's a case that we've gotten worse; merely that other divisions will be more signifcantly improved.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Field Hockey

Playing hockey on a field has always been strangely intuitive. However, Field Hockey itself is, without a doubt, a dull sport and completely not for me. But playing ice hockey on a field? That's just fun. Be it a backyard rink or an NHL Winter Classic, it's a pleasantly nostalgic event beloved by Canadians and some intelligent Americans everywhere (with cold weather).

Last year's Winter Classic was essentially picture-perfect. Pittsburgh was one of the teams to watch last year, while Buffalo mimicked its host city by starting a steep decline. Despite this, that game is probably my best memory of last year's hockey season. Admittedly, it's mostly situational. The timing meant I was on vacation and back home in Calgary spending time with friends and family, and having a cup of coffee while watching the snow gently fall over what was a terrific hockey game was pretty fantastic for me.

This year we've got Chicago and Detroit. I'm sure Detroit will be a fantastic team as usual, and even if Chicago is not a fantastic team in terms of results they will undoubtedly be a good team to watch with a roster that includes Kane, Toews, Havlat, Campbell, and the ever-electric Duncan Sheik Keith (I am barely breathing...). Here's hoping for a white New Years Day.

Which teams should have a go the year after? It'll have to be a Canadian team, of course. It shouldn't be Vancouver, because those bastards already have the Olympics to get off with. Edmonton's already had one at one point. Toronto sucks. Montreal participated in one recently. That leaves Ottawa and Calgary. Ottawa has lots of politicians, which means that the game would be crappier since the fans would be disproportionately scumbags. Thus, we can scientifically and unequivocally say that Calgary is the only team worth considering hosting the next Winter Classic. They could do it in McMahon Stadium, which is optimal proximity to my house as well (an important consideration).

Back to Field Hockey -- I think I have an idea to make the game more exciting and would improve its ratings. Have they considered playing it on ice? Maybe upgrade the sticks to something befitting a grown adult rather than a child in the process. I'd also be willing to lend the International Field Hockey Federation Gary Bettman to help fix 'er right up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Cycling

Anybody know how on earth I can get statistics on cycling the puck?

Just trying to patch together some hockey-related thoughts. One of the big flaws with Calgary's game last year was with puck possession. Most of our readers will realize I'm much better at intuiting things than sitting down with numbers and figuring out what the deal is.

A big part of it was being a team not well suited to dump-and-chase well, dumping and chasing all the time. We were just too big and old and slow really for this to be a successful strategy.

The other problem which plagued us with puck possession was of course, MG's much hated STONEHANDS, who really did abound on the Flames roster.

This might be one of the vaunted improvements which the "new NHL" has brought us. In 2004, the game was slower, and our guys were faster, which meant that we could well dump the puck in the other team's zone and expect to retreive it, by outhitting and outmuscling the other team. Now, of course, everyone else is just too damn fast.

Dump and chase against Chicago?
Dump and chase against Edmonton?
Dump and chase again...

You get the idea. Bad idea!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Beach Volleyball

AKA: The Olympic sport I've ended up watching the most

Awwww, so many ways I could take this one. Where I wanted to go with this, however, was to not talk about skimpy swimsuits (Dear the Netherlands: You've FAILED!!), or predictable plays, or blasting Nickelback in the background.

I wanted to talk about the lovely, lovely sand.

It slows you down like no one's business: Ever wonder what it felt like to be Rhett Warrener, or Eriksson? (And very likely, Roy, and Chucko?) Go run around in an oversized sandbox all summer long.

It hurts less when you dive: Kind of makes me wonder why they haven't tried playing soccer on sand.

You can stick your head in it and hide: I've been doing this a bit with respect to Canada's current medal count. Go follow the excellent coverage Matt Fenwick has been providing over at Battle of Alberta. It's a finely honed skill, I admit, which I've worked on over the last couple of years of blogging. It's damn hard saying again and again that if they play a full 60 minutes, and if they show up, and if Kipper doesn't decide to leave partway for popcorn and nachos, that we'll be ok.

It gets you dirty: Heh. Next!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Open Ice hits Olympcs: Wrestling

So since the beginning of July, we have been embroiled in a big blogosphere showdown over at the NHL Arena. I believe the first round is continuing; there are some real heavyweights amongst the competitors.

(I have no idea how they picked competitors or how they matched us up; I presume there is method to their madness...)

We are currently battling the folks at Get High on Hockey. Go check it out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympcs: Fencing

Today's post is going to address the Sundins and Sakics of the world; those players who are fence-sitting with regards to the future of their careers.

These are gentlemen who've paid their dues. In the case of aging elite players such as Mats Sundin or Joe Sakic, they've more than earned the time to consider their future. Of course, they've also earned (to a certain extent) the intense interest in the outcome of their meditations.

I can't help but contrast the difference between the coverage Sundin has gotten with the somewhat scanty attention Sakic has received. To be sure, Sundin is the captain of a team in the centre of hockey's universe (so they'd like to believe), and had made it clear that he would consider another team. He's articulate, and much like our own captain, has often carried his team on his shoulders when no one else was wiilling to do it. Too, this is a man who is weighing how to best have a shot at the Cup he hasn't yet won against his desires to (I suppose) stay right where he is, and dunno, eat sushi.

Sakic, on the other hand, has very little left to prove. He has won the Cup multiple times, has enjoyed success in international play in whatever tournament he's chosen to participate in, has seen his franchise go from struggling in Quebec into the Western powerhouse of the late 90s. Most importantly, in a role and city befitting his quiet, nonflashy nature, he's risen to the pinnacle of hockey success quietly, without the dazzle of playing in a Canadian or in the big lights of the Eastern Seaboard.

Perhaps that's what's the most telling about the Sundin drama. Unlike other fence-sitters, like Sakic, Selanne or Niedermayer, there is definitely the sense of unfinished business.

That said... I think I'd rather be watching fencing now than worrying about where he's going.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Swimming

Ahhh....! You thought these were going to be in alphabetical order, or something, right? Nope, it's just whatever sport I think I can use to frame some broad generalizations about whatever's floating through my head...

Dave and I have had several discussions over the summer, about the Flames, and swimming, and the big sea of mediocrity which we are now cannonballing into (they don't do cannonballs during the Olympics? I knew something about them was bogus).

I don't think the Flames will be contenders this year. Not serious ones. We won't sink to the bottom of the conference or the division, but we won't be great either. Basically, we'll be in the same position that we've all been in denial about for oh, the last two seasons now. Good enough to make the playoffs; not quite good enough to go deep.

I look at the moves we've made over the summer, and for the most part, they've been intelligent, rational moves. They are not, however, moves that inspire any particular excitement. They're moves designed to keep us where we are; but not moves designed to move us forward.

But you might wonder, didn't we have the same kind of lineup when we did go deep? I have the sense that Sutter believes he has a template from that year, and that if only he can find all the right spare parts, we'll get that magic team again. But the guys he's spent the last four years building around aren't getting any younger - there's no guarantee that even if he can assemble the correct elements, that the core will still work the way he expects it to.

So I hope we have our new hi-tech uniforms on... I'm all ready to go swimming in the sea of mediocrity... who's with me?



Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Boxing

Today I'm taking a look at other places in the league, and generating musings of no importantance whatsoever.

Was anybody else bemused as I was to see all the ex-Flames land assistant coaching positions this summer? Especially Gilmour and Berube, on the same day... remember they changed teams in the same trade.

Doug Gilmour as assistant coach for the Marlies.
Tim Hunter as assistant coach for the Leafs.
Craig Berube as assistant coach for the Flyers.

How weird is it that Gilmour and Hunter both ended up in the Leafs organization in the same summer?

Now, million dollar question to me is, if the Leafs and the Flyers should get into an extreme on-ice dispute in the forthcoming season? Which assistant coach wins this?

Ah, well, at least if Cliff Fletcher wants to gull Riseborough again, he'll have to phone the Wild instead of us now.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Baseball

If you happen to be stuck on a gorgeous August weekend with nothing to do, don't forget to check out the Vipers game... perhaps you'll get to see their newest signing...

Am I taking this seriously? Well, neither should you. Still, if it manages to fill seats, well, more power to them.

I have a soft spot for Theo Fleury - he was my absolute favourite player in my formative years as a hockey fan. I'm glad he seems to have got his shit together, and has time to do publicity stunts like these.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Open Ice Hits Olympics: Opening Ceremonies

While the Olympics are on, I'm going to attempt to get our posting chops back into game shape by posting something marginally related to what this blog is about and which is also thematically related to the games. Most days this won't be deep, and probably won't even make much sense, but that's....not really what we do anyways, right?

Unfortunately, I can't blow up nearly quite that amount of fireworks as the real Olympics can. But! I would be amiss without pointing out all the good work that is going on in the blogosphere.

MG and Cynical Joe have been putting us to absolute shame this summer. They're pumping out a ridiculous amount of analysis, and it's good stuff. Go check it out.
WI had a fantastic series on the prospect camp.
Duncan is alive again! And he's kicking off his resurrection with a look at the depth of other teams, I presume in the NW. Go enjoy!

Now, back to waiting for like, sports to start playing over in Beijing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Looking backwards

Fresh from the Herald's website: because he was teh awesome last time.

Honestly, as conflicted as I am about the Bertuzzi pickup (numbers make sense, hockey-wise, it's questionable, emotionally, NO, NO, NO!), this seems so much worse. Like we're gunning for death by mediocrity.

My summary of the last couple of weeks?


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Looking Forward

I'm not even going to go into the whole Bertuzzi mess. Summary: Hate the guy; indifferent to the player; like the contract. Moving on...

While the team is not finalized, we've got a good idea what it will look like. We're currently over the cap a bit, so someone's gotta get traded or end up being the wealthiest bastard playing for the Quad City Flames. I'm quietly hoping Warrener and Primeau both disappear from the lineup somehow. Nilson? That guy gets no respect. His contract's light and he's not a bad 4th line player. Plus the ladies love him.

Looking at next year's roster, as of today, I can't help but think this team hasn't gotten worse, or better. Just different. We're a grittier team now, but perhaps a slower one. I'm not even going to pretend to know if that's good or bad, it seems like when the Ducks won the cup every team needed to be gritty...and now every team needs to be skilled thanks to Detroit. I think a good team will win the cup, regardless of the specific strategy behind how it's built. Sometimes it is just that simple.

As far as I'm concerned, this is Sutter's last year to see if he can get the Flames past the first round. Sutter earned a few years of good will with the '04 performance, but it's been all downhill since then. Iginla's years are dwindling and I'd hate to see them wasted on missing the playoffs or first round exists except for that one year... Unless we make it past the first round, I'd hope for a GM change at the end of the season. But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's think positive. We've got some fresh lines to concoct, so how should they be used? I've got all sorts of forward combinations in my head, but they basically boil down to the following possibilities, in order of my desirability:

Bertuzzi - Cammalleri - Iginla
Bourque - Langkow - Boyd
Glencross- Lombardi - Moss
Nystrom - Conroy - Prust

Cammalleri - Langkow - Iginla
Bertuzzi - Lombardi - Boyd
Bourque - Conroy - Moss
Nystrom - Prust - Glencross

Bertuzzi - Cammalleri - Iginla
Bourque - Langkow - Lombo
Boyd - Conroy - Glencross
Nystrom - Prust - Moss

The biggest problem is to figure out if Cammalleri and Bertuzzi are going to be top line guys -- or rather, if one or both are. The next problem, as I see it, is how to give Lombardi, Boyd, and Moss the proper opportunity with quality linemates to see if they can get the scoring going. I fear they languish too much in the grinding/energy line role and that's why they don't get the points to warrant a promotion.

Not even sure if it's worth going through the defensive pairings. Not yet, anyway.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"That's appetizer"

Well, one afternoon into the annual free-agent signing rush, and I am increasingly pleased the Flames have stayed out of it.

Brian Campbell?

Jeff Finger?
Mike Commodore?

Pure ridiculousness.

On the Calgary front, I'm not displeased to see Cujo and Godard go; that said, we do need a player not named "Iginla" or "Phaneuf" to fight fights next year. And while they haven't been out and out shooed out of town yet, can't disagree with what's happening with Warrener and Eriksson.

Nilson, on the other hand, that's a WHOLE 'nother matter.

On the whole Tanguay/Cammalleri draft day tangle, we've stayed fairly silent here; I'm still waiting to see what happens with the cap savings before I deliver a final verdict of any sort. It's unlikely the team this year will be as good as it was in previous recent years, but... I need to see how bad the damage is.

So what's next? Well... I guess we get to see what happens to Huselius etc etc. And, we could use something to shore up those first two lines.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Millions Loses the Handle

So, Millions is out as the play-by-play man on Sportsnet, and Peter Loubardias is in. I've no idea who this is, but it will be a tremendous improvement. Perhaps I'll actually watch the "local" feed on Centre Ice next season rather than the away feed. You know something's wrong with the play-by-play guy when I watch the Nashville feed instead, complete with their explanations about icing and why people are fighting.

What else is going on? Here are some drive-bys, De-troy-it style:

  • Marc Crawford is out as well. Cry me a river, Marcy-marc, but I still hate your guts from Vancouver.
  • The Leafs: Gongshow Edition. I'll never understand why MLSE has such a hard-on for Burke. He's a great GM, but he's not the only one. Hey, it says here he's also under contract for another year. Huh. Oh, I know, let's give Fletcher a whole year just so Burke can come join us then. Because he really wants to. Who wouldn't want to work as GM in one of the most critical cities with one of the most truly-fucked franchises in all of professional sports? Because we know how hard he has it in Anaheim, what with their meddling owners that let him do what he wants. His life would be so much better under the thumb of the Ontario teachers pension fund.

    Did you know that Ron Wilson once played a few games with Burke in prehistoric times? They're BFF now, apparently. So now that the Leafs have hired Ron Wilson, there's no way he can turn down coming to Toronto once his contract expires next year. I CAN'T WAIT (for Burke to shut them down). I'm so sick of the BURKE BURKE BURKE coverage in Toronto here.
  • The Sharks' new coach is Todd McLellan. I don't know much about him, but his resume as assistant coach in Detroit plus his junior experience is quite impressive. I'll be keeping my eyes on him. I'm surprised the Sharks didn't try to lure Burke for the coaching job.
  • Linden retires. M-e-h.
  • I want some bigass trades. Not necessarily on the Flames (but maybe), but I need me some juicy hockey news. I so don't care about Toronto or San Jose.
  • What's the over-under on Nickelback doing next year's HNIC theme? I need to make sure my MUTE button is in working order before the new season.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I knew if I turned on the TV tonight, the Pens would be doomed. And what a hell of a way to lose the game, as it turned out.

Well, good for Detroit for just dominating these playoffs. That said, in the grand pantheon of Flames gone by, Gary Roberts >>>>>> (Stuart + McCarty).

Think about that.

Brad Stuart has a Cup ring.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vacation Reading

I was not-so-recently (sorry about that) given a review copy of Cold-Cocked: On Hockey, a recent book written by Lorna Jackson, a writer living on Vancouver Island, and yes, a Canucks fan.

I'm not interested in writing as an alien, a stunned onlooker, a girlie fan in a baggy jersey, or a robot guided by the television camera's morbid fixation on the puck.

The 2003-04 season was a watershed year for the Calgary Flames and their fans. In Vancouver, it was a watershed year for the Canucks, with names like Bertuzzi and Moore forever entangled in that season. And it was a watershed year for the author of this book as well. It would be a difficult year, with stresses in both her personal and professional lives that change her indelibly. She would commute from Vancouver Island to Vancouver regularly, to catch games and try to interview as many players and members of the Canucks organization as she could. Despite the many frustrations she would encounter, she would tough it out somehow, using what she observed on the ice and in the dressing room as inspiration.

Most hockey books I've encountered in the past have been bathed in fond nostalgia, or drowned in journalistic impersonality. Not so, this book. Ms. Jackson writes passionately, about her life, her past, her surroundings, as they all intersect with hockey. She's fearless and relentless in exposing every facet of her life as she spends the year asking questions about the game, and subjecting her answers to deep feminist analysis.

However, the same energy which so distinguishes this book from others also points out its greatest flaws. While there's no doubt that Ms. Jackson can write vividly, and likewise, there's no questioning the amount of sweat and tears that went into the writing, it's not at all clear to me why she wrote it.

It's obvious that this was a big year for her, full of changes and pain and joy, but it's unclear what drove her to begin chronicling it, what drove her to attend as many Canucks games as she did, what drove her to acquire dressing room credentials for the year. It's fortuitious that she got as much exposure to the Vancouver Canucks during this year that she could use as material to base her musings about her life.

Whatever Ms. Jackson's original intentions were, the book changes tone early on, to become a book about writing the book. However, the lack of explanation of what inspired this project in the first place makes the result come off as a vanity piece. It becomes more narcissistic than reflective. Which is unfortunate, for a writer who is so skilled and passionate about what she loves.

Maybe I'm being harsh. My impressions certainly weren't helped by encountering frequent and reoccuring typos of names I dearly love, names of players from my own team, like Nieuwendyk (OK, maybe we can let that one go), and McLennan. These only helped to reinforce my vague sense that Ms. Jackson's world was constrained that season, by the Canucks and nothing but, not even other teams nearby.

So my final verdict? Read this book if you want to dissect the life of a Canucks fan, if you want to see what makes this specific woman tick. Don't read it expecting to derive any new revelations of the game, to generalize her experience to what we all feel when the puck hits the ice.

Other HLOGgers chime in:
Sherry at Scarlett Ice
Cat at Untypical Girls

Monday, May 5, 2008

And maybe now everybody will spell it "Brenden"

Well played last night, Dallas Stars, well played. Well worth staying up for.

Thank you for avenging our golfers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Damn you, Anders Eriksson.

And yes, JR. You are still a doofus.

The Open Ice Hits Guide to this Series

This series has been fantastically dead even. It's been great. The ups have sent us soaring, the downs have been lower than low. Being nervous and twitchy from school and the stresses of playoff time, I've decided I can't wait to see how this puppy gets decided, I'm taking things into my own hands.

We have here some of the players from each team. Phaneuf? Lombardi? Roenick?

It's obvious. Phaneuf and Lombardi win this for sheer angelic looks, and of course, for posing with gold medals in their hands.

Roenick loses for looking like a doofus.

Next, let's look at the leaders of both teams.

Jarome Iginla is all business. He has his eye on the goal.

Joe Thornton is still stuck prying breakfast out of the toaster.

Flames all the way.

One of the most important (yet still unrecognized) parts of making it through the playoffs is the ability to stay loose.

Now, on one hand, we have a stolid, family-friendly, and yes, cliche-ridden, stuffy holiday party. On the other hand, we have a rookie really gettin' down. I know which party I'd rather slit my wrists rather than sit through.

This round to the Flames also. See a pattern?

That's all I have to say about today's game. We're the full deal, obviously! Now, we just have to play some hockey.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On the Edge

I was thinking back to last year's Detroit series and how much more one-sided that series seemed. By the time Noodles had done his lumberjack thing at the Game 5, it was a foregone conclusion that the Flames would not be advancing (as much as we all tried to deny it).

By comparison, the games this year have been a lot more even-handed. That, and the Sharks bloggers haven't really done too much bargin' in and making bold declamations (actually, we've been the ones doing that). That said, there just hasn't been the same air of desperation we saw at the end of last year's playoffs, and really, there ought to be. It is much more go-big-or-go-home time than it was at Game 6 last year.

I think this is the night all the chips go on the table. Right now, all the pieces, such as they are, are here. A top-heavy team, questionable secondary scoring, aging role players, spotty defence, young prospects more likely than not to be third or fourth-line grinders all the rest of their careers.

If we don't win tonight, Sutter can move on to an interesting summer trying to re-sign players with little cap space left, and trying to bring in reasonable replacements for those guys who don't remain. Iggy gets another year older before he has a stab at the Cup, and well, summer can start in Calgary anytime it wants to.

So let's say BOO to all that. Flames in 7.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sarich is a Catalyst for Good? // SJ@CGY G4 Pre-Game

I'm still in shock that something Sarich did was the catalyst this team needed to take it up to the next level (well, stratosphere in the microcosm of the game...). Let's just say I loved the hit. Clean, I thought. Anyone who thought it was a dirty hit doesn't know hockey. Let's leave it at that.

Needless to say, tonight is big. The Flames can take control of this series with a victory tonight, or the Sharks can even it out yet again. My money is going to be on the Sharks trying to exact revenge on their wounded pride, but I don't think they've got the heart, the balls, the strength, or the know-how to do it. I recognize San Jose's regular season excellence, but these aren't regular season games. What wins games for you in the regular season won't always win games for you in the playoffs. This series is a great example of that.

Despite this strong start to the season, I keep flashing back to last year. By far, the biggest difference between this year and last in the playoffs is the competence of the coach. Under Playfair, I never had any confidence in the team on a game-level (hold the lead), let alone on the series-level. Keenan is showing -- through what appear to be trivial moves -- that he's got experience in this area. The mind games he plays with the officials is a great example. The line juggling seems to be throwing San Jose's defense in a loop. Frankly, thus far Keenan has been out-coaching Wilson as opposed to last year, where Babcock handily out-coached Playfair. I've got to believe the lack of "Nervous Jimmy" biting his nails behind the bench as coach is one reason the Flames were able to have the confidence to come back as they did last game.

That said, I'm still going to cry if they get off to the same start as last game. We got away with that once, but let's not press our luck.

Your typical keys to victory:
1) Stay out of the damn box
2) Get the momentum and lead early
3) Keep up the physicality, make the d-men scared to touch the puck
4) Win


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Game 3 Postgame: Oh, ye of little faith.

Let's just pretend the first five minutes didn't happen?

We're all good?


Seriously though, fantastic hit by Sarich to really get the guys going. Great effort by Cujo to blank the Sharks the rest of the way, and did anybody else smile at seeing a reaction out of Sutter up top? Now, who knows whether we'll be able to maintain this momentum onwards to Game 4, but here's hoping we do.

More appropriately, I flipped to an episode of Family Guy after the game, and they were in the middle of a Kool-Aid gag.

Try it out, it's plenty tasty!

Belated Post-Game 2: This Game Will Self-Destruct in 3,2! Yep, period 2. Pre-Game also.

So, uh, yeah. How about that game? I thought we held our own in the 1st and 3rd, if not holding a bit of an edge in the 1st. But that was a remarkable perfect storm of ref inconsistency + lazy/undisciplined play that comprised our self-destruct in remarkable fashion. Does anyone know the record for consecutive penalties in a playoff period of hockey?

That said, there's positives to be found here. It was "only 2-0" due to Kiprusoff playing out of his mind again and outstanding penalty killing. San Jose has only potted two goals in both games, so if our offense can solve Nabokov as in Game 1, defensively we're pretty good.

Tonight's game will be interesting. We now know Bettman is to be there along with some relatively young officials, so my gut tells me tonight will be another penalty parade and special teams clinic. Not even going to bother with a prediction here, but GO FLAMES GO!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Now that's hockey

How fantastic was last night's game? The refs kept their whistles down, the players played fast and hard, and Kiprusoff stood on his head. It's the best game I've seen in quite some time, it could've gone either way. There were stretches of domination by both teams, but the bigger top-end talent won out in this game with Iginla and Kiprusoff grabbing the game by its throat, and Yelle playing hard-nosed opportunistic hockey. Just incredible.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. As amazing as last night's game was, it was a close one. The Sharks are going to come out flying tonight and the Flames will need to buckle down and nail them with some Open Ice Hits to knock the senses out of the Sharks. I also have a feeling the officials will be a bit more whistle-happy tonight after an uncharacteristic game where they let the boys play. I disagree with Mike Chen of the Battle of California where he says "let the boys play" means "letting them get away with cheating". There was a lot of stuff on both sides that could've been penalties, including a completely missed double-minor on Nolan that drew blood. But the reffing was fair, even-handed, and consistent throughout the night from what I'd seen. It seems to me the Sharks (and indeed, the Sharks fans) simply want more penalties called because they know the Sharks are better on the special teams.

I'm pumped for tonight, but I go in without high expectations despite last night's game. San Jose is going to want revenge, and I expect for them to bring their "A" game as opposed to last night's "B" game now that they know this won't be a walk in the park.

Is it just me or does Joe Thornton shit himself playing the Flames? He had one good point last night, and was otherwise MIA. Clowe and Marleau were the only consistently dangerous Sharks. Campbell got a bit of a rude awakening in that game -- hey buddy, welcome to the West. Have you met Jarome Iginla? You'll find he's a bit tougher to play against than most of the Eastern players you've toyed with in the past.

This is going to be one hell of a series if the pace is anything like last night. I just about died in the last 5 minutes of that game.

Prediction for tonight? I'm going to predict the Flames keep the intensity up and San Jose doesn't know what to do with it, but still an incredibly close affair...4-3 Calgary (Iginla, Phaneuf, Nolan, Conroy; Marleau, Marleau, Pavelski), and Edmonton wins it in a shootout.


PS: Happy Birthday, Dion. Remember the party comes after the game, not the night before.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Go Time

I love this time of year, though I've forgotten how miserable playoffs combined with school can be.

I haven't done a preview for this series, and I'm almost debating whether I should. San Jose I just know as the team of fantasy playoff heartbreakers. I've drafted a couple of guys from there this year, and with the exception of a late-season addition of Brian Campbell to a team in a league where I had no chance of winning, it's been ugly.

In a lot of ways, I see San Jose post-lockout as having made changes in ways we probably should have made changes. They've gotten rid of a lot of deadweight and guys who've gotten older and less useful (hi, Wayne Primeau), and replaced them with lots of youth. Oh. And some guy named Joe Thornoton?

The conventional wisdom has been that there's no point in looking at our head to head record versus the Sharks prior to the trade deadline, since they got Brian Campbell after that and apparently that's made all the difference. I rather disagree with this - they're still playing the same system, after all, and they're 95% the same team. While they're arguably a much more effective team now, I think we need to look at mistakes we made in these games and clean those up. Nothing too earth shattering:

Keep the Sharks' shots down: In a good majority of games this season, the Sharks badly outshot the Flames. More shots => more goals. More goals bad. We need Sarich to be back to the form he was in earlier this season, Eriksson to spend as little time on the ice as possible, and the other guys to be a bit smarter. Overall, I think I'd like to see the forwards committing a bit more to defense than has been their wont this year. They've done that a couple of times this year, and it's resulted in fantastic results on the scoresheet.
Inconsistency: This one's been done to death. I think we need to remember that as drunken-sailor-wandering-all-over-the-map as we've been, we're not the only team to suffer so. Looking back at the year that was, I see I've called San Jose inconsistent any number of times.
Special teams: We need to minimize activiation of these. Dead simple. Theirs have been better than ours.
Role players: I'm beginning to believe the main battle in this series won't be Iginla vs Thornton, or Kiprusoff vs Nabokov. It'll be Lombardi, Nilson, Boyd, Aucoin against Mitchell, Carle, etc, etc.

Anyways! I'm totally in the mood for playoffs! As I seem to often do near times when we're set to play the Sharks, I had the chance to catch the Hitmen in action last night, and they squeezed out a win for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against my relatives' Swift Current Broncos. And guys, it was a hell of a game! It was also the longest game in Hitmen franchise history, not even bothering to count the twenty minutes spent replacing broken glass). We should be so lucky if any of the Flames' playoff games are this effin' good.


Monday, April 7, 2008

28 games later

I have nothing. MG has the most fantastic analysis about how this is going to be another short playoff run. I'm going to take another tack and hearken back unto the glory days.

In 2004, the year of the Flames' (insert-adjective-here: surprise, unlikely, miracle, improbable) run to the Finals, Darryl Sutter famously divided up the last twenty-eight games of the season, and explained to the guys that, well, they had four series of seven games each. Win each set of seven, and, you'd be pretty close to a Stanley Cup. He was right, as it turned out.

So how do we compare to that year? Let's find out.

Wins: 4/7Wins: 3/7

Verdict: Ooohhhhh, not good. This season, we're losing 2 of those seven game "series", and overall have one fewer win.

Even more worrying to me is the greater number of games which we've lost, and have been blown wide open. In 2004, the only two games in which there was a goal differential of 4 goals in favour of the other team were against perennial Flames-killing Dallas. I'm willing to let those go. But even this month, there's been too many games where the team just forgot to show up.

On the bright side, even with the terrible-most final seven games of this season, we managed to take four games. That suggests to me that maybe it is possible to squeeze out a series win. Mayyyybe.

If we can play like we did in that second series (approximate timeframe: mid to late February), then we're as good as any team in the playoffs. However, right now my gut feel is that we're not that team.

What are we going to have to do to beat San Jose? We're going to have to be the Flames, circa pre-trade deadline. We're going to have to clamp down on the penalties. Kipper will need to be on (this is not impossible - much of the playoff analysis to date has ignored the fact that his goalie stats have largely trended upwards since the beginning of the season).

A lot of things are going to have to come right for the Flames. But hey, it's happened before.


Guys? Right?