Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Newsflash: Brian Burke Does NOT Eat Kittens.

So John Buccigross wrote a piece in ESPN today that will be much-discussed for a bit. And it wasn't even about an NHL player.

The piece essentially talks about the difficulty of being Brian Burke's son, especially when you're gay. And working in the hockey business itself.

It's been a long-acknowledged truth in professional sporting leagues that to come out of the closet is to commit career suicide. And the treatment of gay rights in pro sports, particularly those in which what goes on in the locker room nearly as key as what happens on the ice or court or field is pretty superficial. In hockey, there's the comic treatment delivered in stuff like the film Breakfast With Scot.

The only other time it comes up are dark, awkward moments, such as in the interviews the press had with Theo Fleury earlier in the season, where he admitted that one of the demons he had to slay was trying to figure out if he was homosexual. The subtext being, And that wouldn't have been ok. I would never be able to play if that were true. But given the terrible events that did happen to him, this was not really at the forefront. And shouldn't have been.

I hope Brendan Burke's example will be one that provokes thoughtful, reasoned conversation. I hope I don't have to read some random tidbit that talks about bad, bad epithets thrown out in a game with him or some other player who happens to not be straight present.

To echo Brian Burke's words in the piece, I hope one day this isn't even an issue.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Rant Directed to Dan Barnes

Dan Barnes wrote a doozy of a column in the Edmonton Journal yesterday that really irked me. The column is When old-time hockey lacks old-fashioned accountability: Quinn, Iginla were both out of line on Thursday night.

While he rightfully dismisses Quinn's rant as unacceptable, he also calls for supplementary discipline and possible suspension for Iginla. His reasoning is as follows:

Because, despite their stated intentions to do no harm, the impact of Iginla's carelessness and the context in which Quinn delivered his nostalgic appreciation for vigilante justice demanded they both receive a slap. Iginla was penalized for tripping, but should have been fined or suspended because he placed his stick in a dangerous position and Souray suffered a concussion as a direct result. Quinn was fined Friday because anyone listening to his post-game remarks could easily have come away thinking he wanted one of his players to club rather than fight Iginla, though Quinn stressed Saturday that was not his intent.

It's quite clear from the footage that it was nothing but an accident. If you look at the video, Iginla was lucky he didn't get a concussion himself as he went head-first into the boards pretty hard. He also has a sterling track record and is widely known as one of the most respectful and classiest guys in the league.

So supplementary discipline? Even throwing around the word "suspension"?

Give me a break.

It's a fast-paced sport with hard-fought battles and a lot of room for a lot of things to go wrong. Sometimes they do. To call for the suspension of a player for something that was indisputably an accident is the height of stupidity that I've seen from sports journalism this year. So, congratulations Dan Barnes...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Game 3: Habs @ Flames

A quick look at the standings would probably instill a reasonable amount of confidence in any Flames fan. The Flames are 2-0 and our biggest threat for the NW Division title is off to an 0-3 start. However, looking beyond the admittedly tantalizing W/L record we see some stats that are pretty scary and clearly not indicative of a team playing well. In the first two games, the Flames have had 76 shots against and only 44 shots for.

There are three main factors keeping the Flames in the win column for those games:

  • Kiprusoff has been very good so far. There's been a soft goal or two, but those have been made up for (and then some) by some outstanding saves. While I'm pleased to see Kiprusoff back in this form, I don't expect it to last forever.
  • The ridiculously effective powerplay. 4 goals on 6 opportunities. These numbers are not sustainable, obviously. We can't keep relying on the powerplay to be the differentiator, other teams' PKs will improve and our luck will wane. Smid won't always be standing in the perfect spot for Dion's shot. That said, maybe our powerplay will stay very strong. Jim Playfair is gone, and it's my understanding he was in charge of special teams last year. Happy days are here to stay?
  • Luck. Sure, we've had bounces go the other way, too (Gagner's goal, for example). But our shooting percentages are way too high to be sustainable, something has to and something will give.

I'm probably sounding more pessimistic than I actually am. I'm encouraged by the roster this year, and especially greatful that Bouwmeester is a Flame. It's a shame a talent like this has been buried in Florida for so long, because it is terrific to watch him play. Everything about him from his positioning to his speed and hockey sense is outstanding. There's not a better well-rounded defenseman in the game today. With him and Brent Sutter, I'm expecting some defensive magic. Realistically we'll probably need to wait until late November to see "the system" really start to show some results, but I'm expecting a stingy team in a month or two.

There are recurring concerns about the play of Jokinen and Iginla (which Kent addressed very well here), and also that of Regehr. While I echo these concerns, I will wait a couple more games for these guys to find their legs before I genuinely start to worry.

As for tonight's opposition -- Montreal's actually in a similar situation to the Flames. They've won their first two games largely on the back of Carey Price (bit over 95% svp) and some good bounces. Unfortunately for them, Markov is out and is being replaced by Marc-Andre Bergeron...who is no Markov. Tonight, Price is getting the rest and Halak is expected in net. While we'd normally be thrilled to be facing a backup goaltender, Halak is NHL-starter material. Still, Price has been incredibly good to start the reason so I'm slightly encouraged. It'll be a great game tonight, but one of these undefeated teams to lose.

New Twitter Account

I've set up a Twitter account for Open Ice Hits: http://twitter.com/openicehits

It'll post when a new blog entry is up, and Leanne and I will occasionally use it to provide running commentary on the games or other random hockey fun.

By the way, how pretty is this picture?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Flames off to an odd start

The opener against Vancouver was a bit of a roller-coaster.  That first period is the way a hockey club should open a season -- relentless, quick, drawing penalties, finding the back of the net...and all in those amazing retro jerseys.  But it was downhill from there -- the Flames kept the foot on the gas, but switched the gear to neutral in the second and reverse in the third.

I can't say that I'm surprised, but I'm definitely disappointed.  If there's one thing that drove me nuts last year (and the year before) it's the alarming inconsistency -- from game to game, and sometimes period to period.  It's, of course, way too early to make any substantive judgments but I'm hoping the structure and discipline that Brent Sutter brings to the team will transform it from the wildly-inconsistent team of the past to a consistent, defensively-sound team.  It's what we're all hoping for, I'd expect.

I'm still thrilled about the J-Bo acquisition.  He's such a calming presence on the ice, and the tandem with Regehr is going to be one of the best -- if not the best -- pairing in the league.  Phaneuf's new-found spot in the 2nd pairing is much more appropriate than the 1st pairing, he still has a lot to learn about defensive coverage and responsibility -- and perhaps just a little bit of humility.  I thought both Phaneuf and J-Bo acquitted themselves well in the opener and I hope it continues.  Phaneuf's thunderous check of Daniel Sedin in the closing seconds of the 1st was a fantastic reminder of the kind of play we should expect from him this year.

I don't think we could've asked for anything more from our 4th line -- they were outstanding.  Grinding it out, putting the puck in the net, doing everything that was expected of them and more.  Please, please...hopefully McGrattan stays far, far away.  I see chemistry in this line and they should not be bumped.

Speaking of chemistry, there was none to be found on the first line.  That has to change, and I suspect it will tonight.  Edmonton's first defensive pairing is a notable dropoff from Vancouver's, which will help, but I'm mostly counting on a rebound of effort from Iginla, Jokinen, and Moss (who honestly, probably shouldn't be on that top line).  The talent is there, but there's a nagging feeling I have that Jokinen and Iginla just aren't going to click.  I think the Flames would be served putting Jokinen on the second line and Langkow back on the first.  It'd spread out the (theoretical) scoring potential on the team a bit more, but I think it couldn't do anything but help the team at this point.  Iginla and Jokinen never really clicked going back to when they first were put together, and some players just won't have that spark.

As for Kiprusoff?  That was a pretty impressive game.  What else can we say?  Hope he keeps that up, we'll need him to.

I'm going to predict a (narrow) Flames win tonight, 4-3 on goals from Iginla, Glencross (x2!), and Phaneuf.

(Also: I've updated the blogroll links on the right.  Added some, removed some dead sites.  If I've omitted a great NHL site or Flames blog, please let me know)

Thursday, October 1, 2009


It feels like it's been a very long summer. A very, very long summer. Which is strange, because summer barely happened this year.

I watched hockey in August. I watched training camp two weeks ago. Fantasy teams have all been drafted for well, at least a week. I should have been pumped for this season a long time ago.

But it's finally hit me - we get started tonight. I'm feeling the October optimism yet again - bolstered by the Theo Fleury show (heartwarming story, check!, all the correct mouthings about the new establishment (new coach with an agenda, check!), our offseason moves (new stud on the D), and how the vets promise yet again to do better this year, (In Iggy we trust, check!).

So are we ready to go? Are we?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The dream lives on...

Is the NHL running through all the vowels in the list?

Here's a hint, guys, it's an "E."

In other news, I'm guessing Keetley won himself a backup job last night, and I see Fleury is on the board again tonight with a goal and an assist.

At this rate, I'll be ready for a nap when the regular season starts up...

Thursday, September 17, 2009



You might need to remember how to spell his name correctly.

Kudos to the Flames for letting the lil' guy who could take a swipe at the shootout. And kudos to Fleury for making a sweet move to win the game.

Who knew the pre-season could be so much fun...

Friday, August 28, 2009

One part game, one part pep rally, all fun.

So I thought it was a bit early for hockey yet... and I guess I was wrong about that.

We managed to, yes, SELL OUT, the Saddledome for what was billed as a scrimmage. In August. There was a bizarre red-headed guy running up and down the aisles throwing free towels at the fans. And a mascot. I had no idea Hockey Canada had a mascot.

Nonetheless, from our third-row seats in the corner, we had a great view of both teams last night, most particularly of Luongo making some incredible stops early on in the game. The goaltending all night long one was pretty spectacular - of the five goalies at the camp, Cam Ward was the only one I didn't manage to get a good look at. Luongo and Steve Mason in particular impressed. Mason might be the young guy, but he's got ice water for veins. Not much fazed him.

The scrimmage itself was low-scoring and low-hitting (of course). While on paper, I'd figured Team White ought to take it handily, Team Red did a great job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone - their forwards (particularly Jordan Staal and Doan) were more effective at both ends, and their defensemen were just working together that much better. For Team Red, Brent Burns, Jay Bouwmeester, Shea Weber, and Duncan Keith were simply solid. Mike Green wasn't as much - I'm really curious now has to how well he'll play without Ovechkin around.

In terms of our guys, Regehr was a bit meh - though he got better as the night went, and Phaneuf frankly looked out of place. He's not nimble, and remains ridiculously easy to draw out of position. Barring injuries, I'm not convinced there's a spot on the team for him on the basis of what I saw last night - besides four vets (Regehr, Pronger, Niedermayer, and Bouwmeester) I'd consider locks, there's easily four other players his age (Seabrook, Keith, Weber, Burns) who are ahead of him depth-wise, and the remaining players are at least comparable. Phaneuf will have to have a terrific fall in order to be seriously considered for the team. And Jay Bouwmeester was simply solid. I'm excited to have him play for us this year.

Forwards - I can't believe how deep this camp was for centremen. What an embarrassment of riches! That said, the flashiest moves I saw all night were the sledge-hockey players in the 2nd intermission. Heatley (no love from the locals) and St. Louis had some nice breaks, but I'm not convinced offensive flash alone will get them on the roster.

The guys who were the most noticeable in the scrimmage were the grinders. Cleary showed some offensive flash in addition to his usual play, as did Perry. Milan Lucic is obviously struggling to make an impression - but he'll have to play a lot smarter to stand a chance. Smyth and Doan both played the way you expect them to for Team Canada.

All in all, you can't possibly envy the decisions they'll have to make in announcing a roster. But for one night - having all of these guys on the ice? Pure magic.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Millions says "Cocksucker"

I concur, Roger.

Before we go on vacation....

Despite finishing 2nd in the Pacific Division, the Flames were only the 6th seed in the playoffs. They met the 2nd place finisher in the Central Division, the Chicago Blackhawks. It was the third time Calgary and Chicago had met in the playoffs, as the Flames had previously defeated the Blackhawks in 1989, 1986 and 1981. This time around, Chicago had the better of the Flames, sweeping Calgary out in four straight, and continuing the Flames playoff futility."

Wikipedia, on the Flames' playoff run in 1996

So... my sense is, everything old is new again. There are a lot of eerie little similarities here. But let's hope this time it doesn't take us another four years to make it to the playoffs.

I am not hopeful these playoffs. I don't feel we can compete with the young, star-studded Blackhawks. Chicago has been a difficult team to not cheer for this year. It's been fascinating to see the resurgence of the Central Division - when was the last time four teams from that division made it in?

While goals would be nice, I think the key for us this series will be our third and fourth lines. Our defense has been rendered as holey as Swiss cheese, so our third and fourth lines (bolstered by real actual skaters now!) will have to play a grinding, physical, shutdown role in order for any kind of success.

At any rate, we're about to be treated to a fantastic series. Good hockey will come - if at least from those crazy 'Hawks. It's nice to have them back.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fuck it, I'm really going on vacation

And this... really makes me think it'll be a short one.

Anders? Really?

Screw this, I'm going on vacation.

Really, hockey gods?

Three Canadians out of six make it into the playoffs this year, and you can't even put Calgary vs Chicago on Hockey Night in Canada?

Well, this bodes entirely well.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

On Sober Second Thought...

I'm still not a fan of the Jokinen/Lombardi trade. I'm not sure we get decent value out of the deal, besides the part where we obviously get to shut up concerned commentators who are worried we don't have a playmaking centre.

What really worries me about this deal is it tells me the status on Daymond Langkow's hand is, "we had to amputate and replace it with a cybernetic implant; we're trying to program him to not take over the world now." And that conclusion in itself is kind of depressing... there are few centremen in the league so underrated as Langkow.

Lombardi, in my eyes, was starting to hit his stride this year (of course, I've said this every year since the lockout). He's invaluable on special teams, was starting to not suck so much on playoffs, and well. We all know he's easy on the eyes. Prust is a "meh" type thing for me; it tells me the Phoenix brass are thinking long and hard about how to make sure all their hot little prospects stay safe on the ice.

I thought the Leopold move was a stroke of genius. You have to feel bad for Nycholat though; the Herald just this morning published a glowing puff-piece about how the local boy works hard and moves around a lot and finally comes home. Butnotsomuch.

My biggest concern with the moves today is that we traded younger steady players for older, more erratic and injury-prone ones. I'm not going to even thinking about the mutterings about Jokinen as a "locker-room cancer"... I do believe the leadership in the room (primarily Iggy and Regehr) is strong enough to keep the team together, but... sigh.


I have to go and face my class and not beat them up too much now, so more later.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oi, Oi, Iggy!

If there is any team in the NHL that Jarome Iginla must hate with a passion, it must be the Tampa Bay Lightning? Stole the Cup from you, yup. Beat your team the night you break a bunch of milestones, earn a franchise record, and bag five points, oh yeah.

So. Ugly game Sunday night, despite the Iggy-riffic moments. And I'm starting to just feel sorry for Curtis McElhinney. Seems like he never leaves the bench but for when his teammates need to toss a goalie under a bus.

So tonight! We're going to start off the road trip of brutal proportions. In Ottawa, no less. Now, a month ago, I would have shrugged and figured it was an instant win, but they've picked up considerably lately. In fact you can track it to when they traded for Hillary Duff...um Comrie? I'm kidding about that.

One of the things that cheers me considerably about this team is the mounting number of injuries. It lets us rest up a bunch of guys who we'll ride hard through the end of the season and the playoffs, gives the first bunch of guys we'd call up from the farm some experience working in the bigs, and you know, we're still mostly winning games.

Now, I don't like our chances if we were to stay like this for months and months. But for a couple of weeks, I think it's manageable. And useful even, for the long run.

So... goFlamesgo...and here's hoping Iggy breaks his own record again tonight.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Back to Business

So the roller-coaster season of roller-coasterness continues... some days we're awesome, some days we're doomed, some days we're the most butt-ugly team in the league.

And for the first time in a bit, I would suggest we have a game that actually matters. If we legitimately are the best team in the NW, Vancouver is the team we have to beat to prove it. They're on an upswing after a dismal couple of months, they've shored up their roster with Mats Sundin (Good ol' Matsy - let's forget his rep as a Flames-killer) and an improving Roberto Luongo.

Dunno. I got nothing except that I badly need our boys to win this win. Lately, Vancouver fans have annoyed myself and Dave more than just anybody - Toronto and Edmonton are traditionally our whipping boys, but they just haven't been any fun lately.

So... here's hoping Iggy breaks out of the slump, Dion stops pouting or whatever he's been doing to be so invisible the last couple of games (not a bad thing?), and... 5-1 Calgary. Bert, Lombo, GlenX, Iggy, hell, Kipper, and Mats gets his 500th goal.

What was that about #500? I can't hear you.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Burning Quesitons about the All-Star Game

Will Tilley become the next recession-proof headgear company?

Does anybody remember the days when both teams played the trap for 60 mins, then went for interviews?

Can I call Mike Komisarek "Rory Fitzpatrick" now?

Does Ovechkin twitter from the bench?

Why am I watching this?

When do the Habs run out of old hockey players?

PS by Dave: When does the game start?

How do I enable PiP so I can play Xbox and have this on in the corner?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back to the scene of the crime

And what a difference our next visit to San Jose makes.

Our previous visit is already the stuff of local legend - the stinking up of the Sharks' barn, the cancellation of the wine tour in Napa (Guys? Just sayin'. You coulda had a fabulous time there. And unlike me, you can probably afford it...), the bag-skating over the weekend following, then, miraculously, the Flames playing like contenders.

Simply miraculous.

And we saw results. Last week the Sharks came to play, and unlike the rest of their Western Canada road swing (a swing, which, this year, seems markedly less intimidating than in years before), could not leave the Saddledome with a win.

I don't expect the same type of game we saw last week, since particularly, we'll be the visitors. The Sharks are coming off a 7-1 pasting of Tampa Bay, but they'll know the Flames are not the sadsack Lightning (for one, we already traded our Francophone star to the Habs). Expect a fantastic game. It should be fun!

In other news! I was in the Saddledome Sunday to watch the Hitmen (with a ridiculous 38-6-1-1 record) take on the Swift Current Broncos. And was startled to see no other than Flames prospect John Negrin play for the Broncs, having just been traded there the night before. I will chalk up his unremarkable play (well, he DID get an assist) to having been traded the day before, plus travel. But it was a good game. For the home team at least.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It is what it is, but it is not a cliché

What a crazy season this has been. We're at the half-way mark already? That can't be right. I'd like to apologize for the infrequent postings to this blog, but the real world cannot be PVRed and life goes on. But in the meantime, Kent, WI, and Matt have all been prolific and analytical and highly entertaining.

I'm not sure many people predicted that by the midpoint of the season, the Flames would be a "top six" team in the league. And if they did predict that, they probably changed their mind after the infamous events San Jose beat-down on November 13th. They've pulled it off, somehow. The team has simply looked consistently good since November 13th, and even our 3rd and 4th lines are looking good.

What is notable about this season is how little our "top three" guys are contributing to this. In most years, Iginla, Kiprusoff, and Phaneuf are all-stars and there's a dropoff from there. This year, all three are arguably underperforming: Kiprusoff is getting wins, but he's still not performing like an elite goaltender in my eyes. Iginla has been good, but he hasn't been exceptional. Phaneuf needs to work on his aim and still work on his defensive coverage -- I don't think "lazy" is the correct word but on many goals, I see "#3" skating well behind the player that scored. The Flames' success has come from the hands of the team as a whole, and it's a great thing. The work ethic, speed, and skills of Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross have, in my view, inspired this whole team -- I believe they supply additional motivation to the rest of the team. It doesn't have to be the Jarome Iginla or Dion Phaneuf show each night, and these guys keep proving it. The effort and consistency from everyone on the team, and the continued underrated efforts of Daymond Langkow, are ensuring that this team is ferocious and firing on all cylinders each night. Even Todd Bertuzzi, oft lamented by my fellow bloggers, has been playing fairly well all season. I still stand by my assertion that he's not even close to being the "biggest disappointment" on our team this year, in fact he's overperforming if you take into account his salary in my estimation...things are looking good.

But now we've had a break. The Flames have been sitting idle since Thursday, and now we're facing off against St. Louis tonight. It'll be all too easy to underestimate St. Louis (especially since they've lost their one-man-army in Lee Stempniak), combined with potential overconfidence from their recent record and 5-2 wins and the challenge of getting back in the saddle after a long weekend, this may be a bigger challenge than is expected. In a lot of ways, I'm looking at tonight's game against lowly St Louis as a barometer for future near-term success. If the Flames can shake off the little bit of rust, play competitively, and put in a solid game tonight I think we'll be okay. It's about forming those good habits again.

We can't forget that Vancouver isn't too far back. With Loungo back and Sundin on the team, they will get better. I'm glad we've extended the lead as much as we have with Loungo out and Sundin playing like a Maple Leaf, but that can be short-lived. Vancouver's a one-man show, and that one man has returned.