Thursday, October 30, 2008


About a year ago today Patrice Bergeron was nailed from behind by Randy Jones. He really didn't play again until this preseason.

Bergeron has been a bit of a favorite player of mine, playing on a line with Sidney Crosby on two occasions for Team Canada; the 2005 World Juniors (the dream team, I believe Cory Perry was the third man on that line) and in the 2006 World Championship Team (Brad Boyes was the extra man there).

Bergeron already has quite a few honours in his career: He was the first player ever to win a World Championship gold medal before winning a World Junior Championship gold, he was the tournament MVP for the juniors in 2005, and I'm almost certain that at one point he was the youngest player in the NHL (although I could be wrong here). One of my favourite Bergeron moments comes from 2005 when Ovechkin went to take Bergeron out with a solid check; Bergeron braced himself and hit back (Torres/Phaneuf style) and ended up injuring Ovechkin, taking him out of the game permanently. Pretty impressive.

The good news is that Bergeron is still impressive, really impressive. I was checking up on his desjardins today, and although the sample size is small, Bergeron looks like he's a difference maker.

Quality of Comp: 0.14 (7th)
Quality of Teammates: 0.35 (2nd)
PTS/60: 2.01(5th)
GFON/60: 3.51 (4th)
GAON/60 : 1.51 (9th)
Difference: 2 (4th)

And in regards to the difference, only one player above Bergeron (Sturm) was playing a higher competition - without looking at shift charts I'd guess the two are playing together and are driving each other's pleasant results. (As a side note, Andrew Ference is one of the three ahead of Bergeron in the difference category).

One also has to imagine that Bergeron results would be better if he didn't have a 3.33% shooting percentage. For all those that believe the extreme will tend back to the average over time, Bergeron is due for some god damn goals like Edmonton is due for snow. His NHL average shooting percentage is just above 10%.

Update: Well, it looks like Patrice is back on the scoreboard.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


No doubt I'm late to the party here regarding the whole Oilers/Blogging gong show (for more details check out these two posts or click on any of the fine Oilers blogs on my sidebar) but I must say I had a few general thoughts that haven't totally been covered.

Obviously the whole morality of the incident has been discussed ad nauseum but what's really sad is this horrible feeling of cognitive dissonance that has slaped us all in the face. The bottom line is that I (and probably anyone that bothers to read this amateur's writing) is a pretty big hockey fan. I love hockey in just about all instances - road hockey, shinny, league games, out door rink, on rollerblades, hell, I've even watched some sled hockey and while I hate the sport I've even watched field hockey, because really, who among us can resist watching girls running around in short skirts waving giant sticks and chasing balls?

Hockey is fantastic.

I'm very passionate about the game, and while I'm not the type of guy who goes to a game and starts chanting, I wanted to cry watching two game sevens in two years and losing both of them. I love the Oilers, I love the Flames, and I really love watching Canada.

But there are just some ugly things about the game that are hard to ignore.

The lockout pissed me off to no end. I know a lot of people felt that the owners pleading for a system that made them more money was an insult, but I can't imagine the players themselves could have looked any worse. Day after day we had to listen to Glen Healy and Nick Kypreos make absolutely inane comments about the labour stoppage which at best were idiotic and at worst offensive. Even Jarome Iginla, Mr. All Canadian, the most honest to goodness 'aw shucks' guy that has possibly ever played the game, said something during the lockout that just made me think 'shut the fuck up Jarome.'

It's hard to cheer for someone that presents themselves in such a bad light.

I'm actually a little surprised Flames fans aren't experiencing a little dissonance themselves. Way back when Bertuzzi pounded Moore's brains out, almost literally, I had some mixed feelings. Obviously what Bertuzzi did is pretty indefensible, but I tended to feel that there was some unfortunate circumstances; I've seen a whole lot of really dangerous plays in which someone probably should have been hurt, but for whatever reason, they escaped unscathed. Bertuzzi wasn't the worst one I've seen, it just had the worst result.

For that, rightly or wrongly (I'm not here to judge) Bertuzzi was crucified - none more so than by Flames fans. The pure hatred by Flames fans that I've talked to over the years, as well as the chorus of boos inflicted on Bertuzzi at the 'dome is proof positive of Calgary's general disgust for Bertuzzi. But what's this?

Bertuzzi is now playing arguably the best hockey since the Moore 'incident' and Flames fans have not exactly bit their tongue at his success. The level of embracement of Bertuzzi cannot be overstated, and there's really only one reason - he's helping the Flames win.

I am being a bit unfair here lumping all Flames fans together - I know Kent has taken a fairly dispassionate approach at evaluating Bertuzzi's affect on the game.

In the same sense though I too am just as guilty as Flames fans of the same crime. I have to ignore or forget that lockout and the things that transpired if I am to enjoy the game. Hopefully one day Dave at CinO can forget what was done to him as well so he can go back to enjoying the game. And it is a great fucking game.

Oh, and sorry for the title of this post.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Saw Alexandre Despatie Last Night

After watching Bertuzzi for a couple games I've truly come to believe that he has been targeted by the refs. While in the overall scheme of karma that makes a lot of sense it also as a principle doesn't really work. Bertuzzi may have been guilty of a very legitimate penalty several years ago but that doesn't mean that he's guilty of some other act.

This point brings me to last night. You can check the play over at CiO (i couldn't find the clip at youtube and I don't know how to steal mikew's great work at saving and uploading that file) and while I think Bertuzzi walked a fine line there I don't think he did anything other than compete for the puck and actually let up a bit at the end.

Johnson on the other hand defies many laws of physics that would be implied with a forward momentum push and drops as if he has literally been shot in the back.

I'm not one of those people who can't reconcile two penalties (the initial call + the dive call) in one play - just because a player dives doesn't mean the initial infraction never happened, so I could've lived with a boarding penalty to Bertuzzi if the unsportsmanlike call had gone against Ryan Johnson.

I'm not going to blame the referee here; it's a fast game. The ref sees 'BERTUZZI' stalking a guy going to the corner, the guy goes flying pretty close to the boards and he looks hurt - it's going to happen.

What I do see as disappointing, is as far as I can tell, there is not going to be any formal review of the issue by the NHL. I want to be very clear about this; I am not a bitter fan railing against losing the game, this call perhaps didn't even affect the outcome. I am just a disappointed fan who hates to see diving, regardless of the perpetrator. Ryan Johnson serves as an example only.

Here, via the NHL website, is the rule on diving:

Rule 64 - Diving / Embellishment

64.1 Diving / Embellishment – Any player or goalkeeper who blatantly dives, embellishes a fall or a reaction, or who feigns an injury shall be penalized with a minor penalty under this rule.

A goalkeeper who deliberately initiates contact with an attacking player other than to establish position in the crease, or who otherwise acts to create the appearance of other than incidental contact with an attacking player, is subject to the assessment of a minor penalty for diving / embellishment.

64.2 Minor Penalty - A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who attempts to draw a penalty by his actions (“diving / embellishment”).

64.3 Fines and Suspensions - Regardless if a minor penalty for diving / embellishment is called, Hockey Operations will review game videos and assess fines to players or goalkeepers who dive or embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feign injury. See also Rule 29 – Supplementary Discipline. The call on the ice by the Referee is totally independent of supplementary discipline.

The first such incident during the season will result in a warning letter being sent to the player or goalkeeper. The second such incident will result in a one thousand dollar ($1,000) fine. For a third such incident in the season, the player shall be suspended for one game, pending a telephone conversation with the Director of Hockey Operations. For subsequent violations in the same season, the player’s suspension shall double (i.e. first suspension – one game, second suspension – two games, third suspension – four games, etc.) See also Rule 29 – Supplementary Discipline. (Source)

I think we can clearly establish that Johnson violated Rule 64.1 yet escaped on ice punishment. However, we can see that whether the on-ice officials called a dive or not they are eligible for review by Hockey Operations. So while I cannot place a high level of culpability on the on ice officials, I certainly can do so to Hockey Operations; I don't think there's any other way to say this other than stating 'if this play is not reviewed they clearly aren't doing their job.'

Another issue I have with Rule 64.1 is the harshness of the penalty. First offence is a letter, second offence is a $1000 fine, third is a one game suspension. If that doesn't sound like a joke to you then you must be humourless. On the off chance Hockey Operations reviews the play, and decides it was a dive, they have to do that 2 more times for there to be any in game consequences.

Here's my proposition: For any infraction, first, third, eighteenth, the player receives a one game suspension.

The one game suspension though will not be much of a deterrent; you give Ryan Johnson a one game suspension and how much are the Canucks going to miss him?

For a while the league had some sort of Scarlett letter diving thing, but as far as I can tell that plan fell to the wayside.

If it were up to me I would not simply fine the player, I would fine every member of the team, including coaches. They would all be fined at the nominal fee of $1000 which means that it wouldn't really be hurting their pocketbooks all that much, but it would create an extra incentive to not be hated by your team - it makes the whole organization accountable for the transgression of each individual player. It would hopefully create a self policing system between players. The team should be embarrassed when one of their players embellishes to such an obvious extent.

You might argue that in cases where Hockey Operations gets it wrong upon review, this is an overly harsh punishment, but I would bet the psychological effect of being wrongfully prosecuted (persecuted) would actually have a positive fortifying effect on the team.

Is there something I'm missing here?

Thursday, October 09, 2008


I touched on the subject during the summer, but once again Sutter has brought himself under fire thanks to his mismanagement of Warrenergate.

There was an anonymous commenter over at Kent's yesterday who in my opinion was either: a) an idiot, b) didn't understand the real issue or c) both.

Now it seems to me his/her position was that Kent et. al had no room to rant because they didn't know the whole story, and there was probably some sort of insider information that was the key variable (they then mocked Kent for not being an insider, which he never claimed to be anyway, SWEET!).

They also then commented that Boyd was going to play tonight anyway, so what was the difference?

I'll handle the second point first because it's the simplest to address. The anger wasn't so much because Boyd was sent to QC, it was because it wasn't a hockey decision. By all rights Boyd deserved to be on the team; he's had a great preseason, he was ok last year and he has a great pedigree.

Now onto the first point. Was there some invisible but still legitimate reason Boyd didn't make the team? Well, it was invisible only in the sense it was such a subtle and long process that most people aren't exactly putting the puzzle pieces together. Was it legitimate? Well, that depends on how you look at things; we KNOW it wasn't a hockey decision in the sense that worse players than Boyd made the team instead of Boyd, but it was a hockey decision in the sense that the Flames wouldn't have been able to play because they were above the cap and therefore wouldn't have been able to play (actually, I don't really know the penalty for being over the cap, anyone want to enlighten me?).

Let's recap the (relevant) events leading up to this incident:

Jun 28, 2007: Primeau signed to three year contract

Ok, first of all, the only thing that can be reasonably said to that is 'what the fuck?' It's not that Primeau is terrible, because he's mostly just bad, and it's not like his contract pay rate is so bad either, but why a three year term? Was it really necessary to get Primeau 'locked up' in the sense that he was such a desired player we didn't want him testing the market for fear of losing him? Could the Flames have not just signed him to a one year deal and then evaluated their coffers the next summer and if they were really desperate for centers resign him at that time?

5 Jul 2007 - Eriksson signs two year contract

The next event is slightly related to an even I've left off the list because it's like a negative event in that something didn't happen when it should have, but this signing was made 'necessary' because the Flames decided not to sign Giordano (Giordano was ahead of the fans as Matt notes here). But again, why did the Flames sign this guy to a two year deal? He was a minor role player in one of Detroit's cup wins, played in the RSL for a while, then apparently he's proved he can play in the NHL so much so that Sutter put two year's worth of faith in him? I mean, Sutter partly solved this little problem by hiding it in the AHL but it's just such a bizarre long shot asset management move that you have to think a lot would have had to go right for it to pay off.

Jul 1, 2008: Prust signed to one way contract

Another head scratcher. What had Prust done that had him deserving of a one way contract? I'm not going to go into it because you can't prove a negative but I'm welcome to someone challenging my point.

Jul 2, 2008: Vandermeer signed to three year contract

I think Flames management at least got an appreciation of what Vandermeer brings to the table, but I would say what he brings most of the time is 'toughness' and inconsistency. His first few games in Calgary I would say he was pretty effective, but by playoff time Keenan was utilizing him as a 13th forward. Utility forward/defenceman aren't exactly the most sought after commodity on the hockey market so one has to wonder why that while the coach wasn't really too interested in Vandermeer's skill set the GM was. And interested in it for 3 freaking years. And remember, this is a guy who was traded to Philadelphia last year who took a 1/3 of a season peek at him and decided to pass, and they're not exactly drowning in veteran NHL defenders there...

Jul 20, 2008:Andre Roy signed to contract

This is probably the most perplexing and infuriating move of them all. The Flames finally let Godard go, and then they pick up Roy. I'm not nearly as against the enforcer as is say, Kent, but why? Who is he even protecting on this team? Everyone on the Flames is a fighter. Iginla will fight. Langkow will fight. Regehr, Sarich, Vandermeer, Phaneuf, Primeau, Bertuzzi (watch out for his hook!) etc. etc. It's not even like the Flames are the Oilers with a bunch of undersized kids - this is pretty much a veteran roster, at least all the key components are. This is pretty much a complete waste of money and roster space.

All summer: not unloading Warrener

I mean, this has been discussed ad naseum but I have to say; Warrener is injured. There is no doubt. But he's been playing injured for at least a year, probably closer to two. The man just looks fragile out there, and although he's got the heart of a lion his body is just clearly unwilling. But he is no more injured today than he was on his last preseason game, and he's probably healthier than he's been other times he's played. My guess is that the LTIR move is simply so that he doesn't have to spend the remainder of his hockey days riding a bus in QC. But really, the simple and smart solution would have been to just buy Warrener out. That way he's totally off the books, doesn't have to play in QC; I mean, is being told your body is so messed that you're no longer of use to the team any more humiliating than being bought out? Is this really about Warrener's ego?

So was there a key variable that I, as a fan, missed that was the reason Boyd was sent to the QC (for a day). Not at all - the reason was lack of smart planning by the GM. Hell, I didn't even assault Sutter for not unloading Aucoin or trading for Aucoin, because at least those moves are moderately defendable.

I have to say, Sutter has his strengths, but this whole incident just makes him look dumb or at least overly and stupidly sentimental.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

World of Captains, Ship of Fools

after this mission it will let you go
help you to forget everything and everyone you know
in a world of captains baby, ship of fools
don't you know they're lying when they're telling you it's been all right?

Once again I'm stealing from LT, but it's both an easy an appropriate segway into the subject matter. The lyric by the way is from Near Fantastica from Matthew Good's first solo album Avalanche. This picture of Good is definately before his solo days, I'd put it around 1999 and he's holding one of the most beautiful guitars in the world, a Gibson ES-335 I'd say.

The point of the lyric in this context is thus: Expectations this season for the Edmonton Oilers are about as high as I've seen them in the last 10-15 years, besides from maybe 05-06. Everyone seems to think this is the year, and I think it's at least a somewhat reasonable proposition; the Oilers have some legitimate prospects (Gilbert, Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Grebeshkov, Brodziak) who made real strides near the end of last season, they have a mobile defensive group and a goalie who seems poised to lead.

Expectations probably explain why MacTavish still has a job with the Oilers-this small market franchise with it's limited resources has really only been expected to compete once, and that year MacTavish delivered.

MacTavish has also probably been helped by the fact his good friend Kevin Lowe has been the one evaluating his competency - not saying MacTavish has ever deserved to be fired up until this point but I think lesser GMs would probably have done away with him some time ago - after all, coach is a very time sensitive job.

Here are IMO some of the top reasons fans should be wary about the upcoming Edmonton Oiler season. Bare in mind I am not the only person voicing these concerns but I don't think I've seen them all consolidated in one place as of yet.

1. Garon's Play and Shootout Victories

I think it would be hard to argue Garon didn't have a great season last year, but the question is, can he keep it up? His NHL experience beyond last year was pretty limited - 60 wins and 56 losses over a span of 7 seasons. That included a couple seasons of backup in Montreal with not great .884 SV%, an AHL demotion and then recall for more backup duty the following couple of seasons with Montreal with an outstanding .931 SV%.

Two uneven season in LA with a .901SV% and, impressively, held a winning record, 44 wins and
36 losses.

Last year Garon had 26 wins and 18 losses, although it has to be noted he had 10 shootout wins and stopped 30 of 32 shootout shots.

Garon has a lot of question marks around him; one or two seasons does not a number 1 goalie make. That said, I think Garon is very much worth a gamble; we didn't see a lot of holes in his game last season, but we have to expect him to come back towards the middle of the bell curve. MC79 had a terrific post up just the other day.

The better places on that list have some starrier names. If I was a betting man - and I’m not - my guess for Garon would be pretty close to league average, as opposed to last year, whereas his scaled save percentage for last year was .914. I have a hard time seeing how the Oilers make the playoffs with that, no matter what that knob/idiot Mirtle says. (Source)

I think it's unreasonable to think that Garon will have a similar shootout record this year. I think it will be hard for anyone to ever beat 30 for 32 in a season ever again - that's a mark that we could see stand for many years to come.

The Oilers need regulation wins this year; they will not be as successful this year once time expires.

2. Development Trends

People have this idea in their head that player development is a steady curve, but it's not, at least not always. Some players figure shoot above the curve and they look great short term but end up mediocre long term (look at Angelo Esposito's Jr. records for instance, although he's a very short term example of what I'm talking about). Some players start slow and play uneven hockey year after year until something clicks.

I think Oilers fans have to prepare themselves for the likelihood that one or all of Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Brodziak, Gilbert and Grebeshkov will take a step back for part or all of the year. The glare of the spotlight will be on them this year, and so will the burden of expectations, and rather than having a reduced or more sheltered workload, they will have an increased and heavier workload.

3. The Stoll/Reasoner Workload

I keep referring back to this post by Jonathan which was based on some great work by VF. It shows how heavily MacT relied on Stoll and Reasoner for defensive zone coverage. While Hemsky is the remaining Oiler from 07-08 who played the top competition, it was Stoll and Reasoner who were ranked 1 and 3 last year respectively. And while Hemsky got to play with top quality linemates, Stoll and reasoner were pretty much given the bottom of the rung.

Now somebody has to take over that workload.

Now I'm not saying Stoll or Reasoner did a particularly great job last year; much of the time they got eaten alive. But while they were taking their lumps they were opening up holes for the rest of the roster, holes of opportunity for the likes of Cogliano, Gagner and Nilsson.

Now someone has to pick up the slack, and I'm not sure on this roster who has the horses to do it.

Brodziak and Pouliot are being nominated as centers for the job from various sources, as well as the possibility of Pisani, Cole or Penner on the wings. This is going to be a wild and possibly disasterous experiment.

It might not be worse than Stoll and Reasoner, but I think it's reasonable to think it could go pretty wrong.

4. Healthy Horses
A lot of this year's plans are built around guys with questionable health. Sheldon Souray has historically not been the type of player to lace them up for all 82 games; nor has Hemsky. Eric Cole seems to miss around 15 games a season, and let's not even get into poor Ethan Moreau's last couple of seasons.

I don't necessarily think these guys are the most worrisome of the group - I tend to have this belief that all players get injured eventually. That is, I think we can expect someone unexpected (that is some clumsy phrasing, sorry folks) to get injured. If that's Horcoff or Garon, god help this team.


It's not really a bold prediction to say a coach might be fired, but I really think the chips are stacking up against MacTavish this year. He has to deliver on this mission or they'll let him go.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Andrew Cogliano

Andrew Cogliano first came to my attention during Coaches' Corner (see, Don Cherry still does in fact have a purpose) while Grapes was bemoaning the fact the Toronto Maple Leafs skipped over the Ontario native for some 'foreign goalie.' He was partly ignorant by slagging Tuukka Rask who went on to have two stellar World Junior Hockey Championships, but he was also pretty much correct because Toronto traded Rask for Andrew Raycroft, and then of course Rask's first win came against Toronto a couple of years later. Oh, and it turned out Andrew Cogliano is a pretty damn good hockey player.

Cogliano was known as a somewhat offensive guy in the minor ranks and I'll never forget his lack of offence for Canada in those World Juniors. He kept getting top line minutes, tons of minutes and chances ad infinitum, and last but not least, a top gear that was unmatched. The comp that kept coming to my mind was Todd Marchant. Great sense, great wheels, no finish. Turns out that prediction, at least for Cogliano's rookie season, was only 2/3s right.

There's no denying Cogliano had a stellar rookie season, and I think in most seasons it would have been at least Calder nomination worthy. Toews, Kane, Backstrom, Gagner, Price and Cogliano were all probably nomination worthy, but Cogliano isn't flashy like Backstrom and Kane and he wasn't a national hero like Toews, doesn't have the raw talent of Gagner or Backstrom.

There's no denying Cogliano was sheltered by MacTavish last year. He didn't play against high level competition (although he didn't have high level linemates) but somehow he found a way to put the puck in the net - a lot.

All his offensive stats are incredible for a rookie G/60, PTS/60, GFON/60.
His defensive stats, not so awe inspiring. Not surprising for a rookie though.

A couple words of caution though for Cogliano's upcoming season: like Jordan Staal who had an awesome first year offensively, Cogliano has a sky high and possibly unattainable shooting percentage. His shooting percentage was 18.37% last year, while say Iginla averages about 15% on a good year. Staal had a 22% on his first year, while about 7% during his second. Now Cogliano actually has a history of a high shooting percentage with a 26.97% shooting percentage in his final college year. Some in the Oilogosphere have argued Cogliano is predisposed to a high shooting percentage because of the sorts of high quality chances he creates with his speed - whether that's true or not will probably be determined this year.

Another word of caution - with Reasoner and Stoll gone, Cogliano will most likely have to play tougher minutes. If that happens, I think it's fair to say that treading water is probably progress.

Projection: 2nd line
Key Stat: 3rd overall GFON/60

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Craig Conroy

07-08 Projection:

Left the team after FA negotiations with Darryl Sutter fell apart in the summer of ’04, but seems ecstatic to be back. Was inconsistent in his return with the Flames in the spring, occasionally taking bad penalties. Either he has good chemistry with Iginla, or Iginla is so good he makes it look like he has chemistry with Conroy. Can be physical, but isn’t, or at least isn't often enough. Most talkative Flame.

07-08 Evaluation:
As much as I enjoy Craig Conroy, there is little to suggest he isn't on a relatively steep career decline in terms of ability. While the mind seems willing the flesh seems weak. Kent has made it a mission to articulate Conroy's offensive deficiencies and while I don't completely agree with Kent (I believe there are worse options on the Flames as well as better) he does have a very valid point. Conroy should not be on the first line.

While Conroy's column here actually looks pretty respectable I think there are a couple of things we need to remember:

Firstly, he was playing with topnotch teammates. Funny enough, Langkow is rated as having better teammates than Conroy which would imply that Langkow was bringing down the line, not Conroy - hey, I guess desjardin's system isn't perfect. The most important teammate anyone on the Flames can have though is Iginla, and Conroy often played with Iginla, and there is no doubt Iginla was hoisting Conroy's numbers up. Other things to note; Iginla always played against the top competition, therefore, Conroy played the top competition.

It is curious of course that Conroy had the top 2nd assists on the team. 2nd assists are a bit of an anomaly because there are so many different ways we can conceive of them happening - while first assists would tend mostly to be a direct intention of a scoring play, a 2nd assist could be as simple as a breakout pass or a dump in. Why does Conroy have the best on the team?

One theory is that it's just pure fluke - someone has to have the most second assists and Conroy just happens to be that person. I think the mostly likely explanation though is that his linemates (Iginla and either Tanguay or Huselius) happen to finish a lot of plays, and judging from the number of 1st assists Conroy has, they finish a lot of plays that he's not directly involved in, at least not puck wise. Anyone disagree?

I've been ragging on Conroy a bit and I really should add that he does still have some value. He reads the play well defensively and is used to playing pretty decent competition. There shouldn't be any reason why he can't be a very competent shutdown guy for the Flames, something the Flames haven't really had for a while.

Projection: 4th line
Key Stat: 1st overall quality of competition