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:

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?