October 31 News and Notes

                

 

All Hallows Eve is here in all its glory, with children headed to the door this evening in search of treats their parents would never let them near any other night, and those same parents openly regretting the sugar rush they’re about to bestow on said urchins. Of course, for those of you in between those ages, Hallowe’en is about other pursuits, and those are perfectly fine as well. As an aside, when did this copious skin baring business start in earnest? When I was in university in the early 80’s, you’d only see someone in their knickers if you were dating them, and even then it was iffy 😉 I’m not complaining, mind, just attempting to fill the gaps in my knowledge base.

Anyhoo, let’s get to it. In this aggregation of notes, the Leafs hit a roadblock in the nation’s capital, the Oil are cruising for now, and Vancouver snaps out of their funk with a bang.

Leafs:

Toronto followed Saturday’s victory over the Pens with a bit of a scroungy performance against the Senators. The Leafs have been riding fortune a touch thus far, with outshooting numbers that would suggest that long term success isn’t quite assured as of yet, and they were outplayed at EV by their provincial rivals Sunday night. 

All that stipulated, one player who looks like he’s finally making the leap to proper first pairing defender is our old pal The Dion. In those same outshooting numbers I posted above, you’ll note that when Phaneuf is on the ice at EV tied, the Leafs have over 60% of the shots go their way. That’s damned good even if he’s getting a bit of lift in term of Zone Starts (55% OZone).

Ron Wilson’s comments to the effect that Dion’s the best at his position are premature, obviously, since we’re talking about a sample size of 10 games, but Phaneuf’s been good. Wonder if Darryl Sutter, when he’s not planning world domination or whatever the hell he’s up to these days, ever thinks he might have erred? Nah.

 

Oilers:

Edmonton finished the month with a fully legitimate win over St. Louis on Sunday, running out to a nice lead on the merits before closing the Blues out for a 4-2 final. As I alluded to in last week’s column, Tom Renney has handed Horcoff and Smyth the heavy lifting so that the kids can prosper, and it’s worked like a charm to this point, with Smyth collecting a pair of goal this evening.

What lies ahead, though, might tell the tale of Edmonton’s season. They play 10 of the next 12 away from the Rex thanks in part to the annual CFR invasion, and if the Oilers are legit, we should get a better indication of it when their young players can’t be sheltered quite as completely

Sort of on this general topic, and as a service to Bruce McCurdy, who asked this question tonight via the Twitters, I compiled the difference between the eight Western Conference playoff teams’ overall Fenwick number (EV shots and missed shots combined, expressed in percentages) with their performance when the game was tied, so that the score effects might be shown. Bruce’s contention is that winning teams will have markedly lower overall Fenwick numbers because they get out in front and proceed to sit on the lead. He’s not wrong about the point in general, but the degree that Edmonton has done so to this point is likely unsustainable:

 

 
Team Overall Tied Difference
VAN 52.3 53.9 1.6
S.J. 53.8 53.7 -0.1
DET 52.9 53.6 0.7
ANA 45.3 46.4 1.1
NSH 48.1 51.1 3.0
PHX 49.5 49.9 0.4
L.A. 51.1 50.8 -0.3
CHI 53.4 54.0 0.6
       
       
Mean     0.88
Standard Dev.     1.05
       
EDM 11/12 44.5 49.2 4.7
 
(data via timeonice.com)

As an FYI, the Oilers are on the same sort of points pace that Vancouver managed over the entire 10/11 season, so if the Oilers were sitting back in merely normal fashion, one might have expected the team with one of the best records in recent times to have the same type of spread. Not so. The only team even within 2 standard deviations of the Oilers’ performance was Nashville, a team notorious for sitting back to an extreme level. One other note: it’s really, really, early, so small sample sizes, the bane of any statistical analysis, are running the show here. I’ll look at these numbers again in a month or so, and we’ll see if Tom Renney has invented a new way to play hockey, or if things have begun to even out. 

In an unrelated matter, Andy Sutton will get his time with John Law later today for his shot at the coconut of Gabriel Landeskog. I know the league uses in-person hearing for more serious cases, which might make one think he’s headed away for a stretch. 6-8 games seems to be where the consensus is, given Sutton’s repeat offender status, but after seeing Wojtek Wolski get nothing for his drive-by on Daniel Alfredsson Saturday afternoon, I’m wondering if we’re headed back to Wheel of Justice territory.

 

Canucks:

The Canucks launched Washington on Saturday, as the Caps chose to spend most of the first period in the box, just as they had during their visit to Edmonton earlier in the week. The Canucks scored two PP goals and were on their way from then onward. 

One of Vancouver’s early season leaders is Chris Higgins, as the well-traveled forward appears to have a home on the west coast. Regulars to this feature at Flames Nation will know two things about this particular subject, the first being that I have a lot of time for Higgins as a player, and the second being that I take a shot at Eric Francis every time I get a chance;-)

EF, in an ill-considered tweet at last year’s deadline, described Ales Kotalik as being equal to Higgins as a potential contributor, and questioned why on earth the Flames would consider re-acquiring the New Yorker. I’ve asked Pat Steinberg a couple of times if he’d query Eric about that, with no joy, but I’m genuinely curious to know his answer. 

 

                  

 

Flames:

A few wins have quieted things a touch in Cowtown, although the rumours around Rene Bourque seem to continue on, as Lyle Richardson noted Sunday. I think Lyle has the basics of Calgary’s circumstances down, since the one player that would really get another team’s attention, Giordano, isn’t going anywhere. As a result, unless a GM bumps his head and decides that Matt Stajan is the guy to push his team over the top, stasis might be the order of the day until February. 

One area that still must have the club a bit vexed is the utter inability to generate shots on the PP. The Flames are DFL in that category thus far, averaging fewer than 35 shots/60. Anything north of 50 shots/60 would be acceptable, so you can see the gulf the club needs to breach in order to just be roughly competent. They aren’t a bad team at EV, and Kipper looks OK so far, so special teams are the place to make a bit of headway.

 

Jets:

That goes for Winnipeg as well, and then some, although most of their PK problems are related to sub-standard work in the nets, since the shots allowed figures aren’t terrible. At any rate, poor special teams are the primary reason the club is in 14th at the moment, since the Jets appear to be more or less OK at EV. 

One of the players that has been a pleasant surprise to this point is Alex Burmistrov, even if the boss did give him a time out early in the third period Saturday evening, as the Jets searched fruitlessly for an equalizer in Tampa. That small hiccup aside, the 20 year looks like the real article when he has the puck, and if he, Antropov, and Kane continue their time as a trio, they might finish the year as the club’s best line. 

 

                   

 

Elsewhere:

Are the Bruins really whining about being mistreated by the officials? Really? Really? I’ll put this as directly as I can, and pardon the phraseology if you will. As enjoyable as non-Canuck fans might have found the result, fairness compels me to note that Boston played like utter dickheads in last year’s final, and the fact that the league chose to officiate those games like they were being played in 1977 was ultimately to their benefit. This year, they’ve often played like utter dickheads with the standard post-lockout rules being enforced, and they’ve paid the price. I’m sure I can find a tissue for them somewhere.

 

Marty Brodeur’s shoulder is still acting up, with the Devils’ netminder advising Tom Gulitti that it might never fully heal. New Jersey is a fringe team even when healthy, and given that the team has some financial issues, watching them scuttle along in the middle of the pack leads me to wonder if they might not be ripe for a salary dump or two come the deadline. 

It’s actually an odd thing to watch the Devils in their current state. Loophole Lou has been regarded as one of the league’s savviest GMs for the last two decades, but his recent signature move, signing Kovalchuk, was openly bad, and his relationship with his best forward has been somewhat contentious. They just have the appearance of a team with a few nice pieces that’s going absolutely nowhere, and that’s even after Travis Zajac returns. As a Flames’ fan, I hope you can trust me to recognize a team that’s on the treadmill.

 

Cash on the Barrel Head:

Matthew Hulsizer’s pusuit of the Blues might finally be nearing some sort of end point. The former Coyotes suitor signed a purchase agreement for the club a couple of days ago, for a rumoured figure in the 190M range. The purchase price includes the lease for the arena as well as the Peabody Opera House, which was not part of the original offering. NHL owners are always searching for extra dollars to fund their clubs, so it’s possible that Hulsizer needed the concert revenue from an extra building as a sweetener to complete the sale.

Weren’t the Coyotes supposed to be sold to Greg Jamison by now? It’s been pretty quiet down in the desert, which might be a nice change from the way that business has been conducted in the past by Glendale’s city council, but I just wonder where the actual non-taxpayer money will ever come from to float that team. Wonder if Jay-Z is interested?

 

That’s all for this time. We’ll be back next week with a special edition from the city that never sleeps.

  • justDOit

    Good to see Phanny and Regehr making impressions in a division other than ours! Those two trades must be the equivalent of a Charra slapshot to the nards of Flames fans.

    I’ll bet White is just happy to be far away from Eberle and friends, even though he is struggling with the Wings.

    • Greg

      Lol.

      I was under the impression the kovalchuk signing was forced on Loophole Lou by ownership. Don’t think he would have done that deal if left to his own devices. Never a good thing when ownership meddles, other than to just sign whatever cheques are needed. With a degrading Broduer and financial issues, I’m hoping the flames can land parise sometime in the next 9 months. Although admittedly, there are several other places he’d probably prefer as a FA.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    “I’ll look at these numbers again in a month or so, and we’ll see if Tom Renney has invented a new way to play hockey, or if things have begun to even out. ”

    With Tom being the ultra-genius that he is, my money is on him inventing a new way to play hockey.

  • RexLibris

    Were the Flames to trade for Parise this season I don’t think that would be in the team’s best interests (of course, neither do I). They’d have to pay a premium to get him and they aren’t really in a position that would make it very likely that he would choose to stay.

    As for the Oilers, I haven’t really noticed many people here getting too high on the way the team is rolling right now. I think we’re all just enjoying the team and the entertainment and the wins are like dessert. The expectations were low to start, and to some extent I believe they still are fairly reasonable (to quote LT). If they keep this up until December then I think fans will start to think about the playoffs and whether this team is ahead of the development curve layed out last season.

    One thing that I think the defensive strength that the has shown so far has done is buy the organization time. Time to find the right situation for Omark, time for Hemsky to heal, time for players like Plante and Petry to develop and time to let our junior D prospects come along.

  • RexLibris

    They have nearly a dozen contracts coming off the books at the end of this year. They’ll have the cap room, they’ll just be hard-pressed to make it all balance.

  • The Oilers are 1st in the West. Only Columbus is worse than the Flames on the left side of the Map. Dion Phaneuf is “The best Defenseman in the League.” And Khabibulin is the best goaltender in the NHL.

    This Bizarro NHL is the bees knees.

  • BobB

    @ Robert Cleave

    “Wonder if Darryl Sutter, when he’s not planning world domination or whatever the hell he’s up to these days, ever thinks he might have erred? Nah”

    It was essentially a complete majority, both in the media and in these forums, that Dion was:

    1. Very overrated,
    2. Grossly overpaid,
    3. Bad-in-the-locker-room (screwed Iggy’s wife? or other such ridiculousness),
    4. defensively inept,
    5. a chain-smoker,
    and
    6. always shot the puck over the net.

    Wasn’t it? It was certain he was the next Ed Jovanovski!

    and because of said 6 reasons, many thought he wasn’t worth much more than a replacement player, a very late pick and a bag of pucks. “Just get rid of him for anything, and gain CAP space!”

    I honestly don’t remember, and it doesn’t matter, where you personally stood, but to the masses… hindsight is 20/20, no?

    I’m not responding to create a spiteful “I Told you so”, scenario because that’s childish and silly and Dion could fall off a cliff tomorrow. That’s not the point. But I DO think we should be careful about how quickly and certainly we start re-writing the narrative as:

    “We always knew Dion was a star… it was just that Sutter-idiot that went and ruined our good thing. We would have never spoken ill of Dear Dion: our golden boy…. ah, if only….”

    • I cant speak for anybody else, but as an Oiler fan I was happy the day they traded Phaneuf for peanuts. I felt the same the day Regher was traded.

      So, not everybody thought he was a useless lump, though he was obviously playing less to his potential at the time.

      • D-Man

        I agree wholeheartedly… Out of the big three in Cowtown two years ago – Dion had the most promise and offensive upside and Regher was there best shutdown defensemen. The only problem I had with both players was the fact that they weren’t in Oiler jerseys…

        We’ll never know why the Phaneuf trade went down the way it did (I heard he had a huge falling out with Sutter about a week before the deal), but I thought then as I do know – Calgary screwed themselves – big time… The Regher trade this year wasn’t as bad – as much as Feaster denies – that was the first step towards their rebuild. Calgary also has 11 UFA this year too… I won’t be shocked if there are more deals for draft picks in the making…

        With that in mind, I look at the standings with a lot of pleasure this year.

        • Calgary’s biggest problem this year is that they arent going to be this bad all 82 games.

          They will inevitably start playing well enough to finish with a middling pick and the cycle continues. For an Oilers fan it’s been such a crappy road, but now that we’re seeing what a team that has talent looks like, it was worth it.

    • John Chambers

      I remember the day Calgary signed Bouwmeester. It was the same day Heatley rejected the deal to the Oil. I was sure JBouw would sign with E-Town as well and the 2006 cup run would be a precursor to much better things.

      As it happens both deals would’ve been crappy for Edmonton. Bouwmeester’s contract is about as movable as Kovalchuk’s, and Dany Heatley is the kind of person that might just make you cheer against Team Canada.*

      But the Bouwmeester contract was the deal that broke a pretty good franchise the Flames had going. It eventually forced them to purge salary on defense and ignore the main problem of obtaining complementary players to line up beside Iginla.

      The Phaneuf trade was awful. The Flames traded down for a pile of spare parts instead of using Dion as a chip to trade up for someone like Jeff Carter or Jason Spezza.

      *I’ve never cheered against team Canada. I’ve just been irriated seeing Heatley hit the scoresheet, and would’ve been satisfied to see us win games by lesser margins if it meant Heatley struggling. Same can be said for ProngerBot.

    • justDOit

      I live in Calgary, and heard all the ‘chemistry’ problems about Dion. But what I saw was a guy who was still young and possessed size/skill that is top-shelf. What they did was analogous to having 4 different tires on your car, and replacing the one with the most tread so that it matches the other 3!

      But that car did perform well after that tire change, so…?

      And that they had to throw in Aulie to make the deal happen is pure lunacy! PURE! To then jettison Regehr leaves me speechless.

    • 24% body fat

      Nope, that trade I hated. I didn’t hate moving Phaneuf, but the potential with him was obvious even if he wasn’t living up to it and the return can only be categorized as ‘stupid.’

      And for the record, I hate all trades that involve moving legit top talent for ‘cap space.’ ie. Regehr

    • Robert Cleave

      I was on the road in Edmonton the week of the trade, Lawrence, so I wasn’t posting any articles at M and G, but here’s my comment on one of Kent’s threads:

      I think the Dion trade has gotten some mixed reactions, but Calgary got three NHLers for one. I think the fear is that Dion becomes a real number one Dman, and then you’ve basically traded a dollar for three quarters, which is never good..

      That still holds. Hagman and Stajan are lousy, but probably NHLers of a sort, and White’s an actual top 4-5 D that they should have likely tried to hang on to rather than using him to acquire Babchuk. If Dion has made the leap for real, it’s precisely the worst case scenario I mentioned, but as I noted, we’re all of ten games in. I think Sutter’s regret might be that he didn’t ask around more than he did, because from most of the credible reports, he didn’t shop Dion very hard before he moved him.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        the whole change of scenery argument needs to be taken into account. the counterfactual in which Dion stays in Calgary and still turns his game around misses all the variables that playing on a new team, against new opponents, etc. bring to the table.

        As an Oiler fan I can think of countless (unfortunately) inverted examples: who could have predicted Peca would suck all year in 05-06 (played better in the Playoffs but not great in the season), or that E. Cole would stink on the Oil and be back to form back with Carolina?

        • Robert Cleave

          There might be something to that, but I think the biggest change in Dion, if any, is just time spent being a NHLer. He’s hardly the first young D that needed several years to find his way from middle pairing guy to top-two.

          Oh, and to your other point above, I wasn’t meaning to imply that the Canucks were guiltless angels. They weren’t, and aren’t. I just dislike the way the Finals were handled and the way that the Bruins are blaming the officials for their poor start.

          Boston actually aren’t playing that terribly, but they got every bounce last year. This year, not so much. It happens, and I’ll bet all this talk about outside forces halts right about the time that they quit shooting under 6% at EV and about 2% with the score tied. Crazy, I know.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            [Dion] Oh, totally agreed. D and Goal take the longest to develop, i think we forget that sometimes. (How old is T. Thomas again?). I guess there are two questions:

            1) is Dion’s good play of late part of a continuum or does it represent a stark progression?

            and

            2) were the Flames right to trade him/did they get a good deal?

            one’s answer to the second question probably depends on how one answers the first question.

            [Boston/Refs] In that case we are in total agreement. The finals last year were entertaining, but so apparently is this gigantic clusterf@#k of a family the Kardaises (or something).

            When Thomas’ amazing play is being overshadowed by stories about Luongo chirping to the press, or the Sedin’s lack of scoring is overshadowed by stories about Marchand being a hangnail you can’t seem to cut off… you know there is a problem. few looked good from a professionalism standpoint in that series (the media who thought they were covering a reality show with “personalities” and not a sporting event with “talents” included)

            [perceptions of refs] That’s a great point! when you are losing everyone else is responsible, when you are winning suddenly you own your performance and results… funny that!

      • Jerk Store

        Only guy worse in the room than Phaneuf was Ian White. I realize that is a harsh thing to say but let’s watch how many more times this knob is traded. Just a bad guy.

        • justDOit

          Whoa… that means a lot, coming from the Jerk Store!

          I remember the first interview with Wilson after Dion landed in TO. He said (with kind of a smirk on his face), that Phanny marched into the room, walked straight to the stereo and put on his music. The first thing I thought to myself was ‘JERK’!!!

          • justDOit

            No doubt, but I’m not going to argue with you that DP isn’t a jerk! (funny – just realized Dion’s initials…)

            BTW: If my wife contacts you about a return, please insist that she provide the original receipt!

          • Jerk Store

            Neither of these guys have been model citizens. At the risk of sounding like a Delta Bravo, I am good friends with a guy in the Calgary room. Phaneuf treated staff with Pronger-like disdain – to the point that Iggy had to physically threaten him to smarten up. White is just not a good guy – 5 teams before the age of 27 ???, To be fair he probably just thinks “everybody wants me” vs reality.

          • Jerk Store

            My “guy” – F me I sound like Bryan Hall, I knew I should NOT go down this road – was only with the Flamers during the last couple of years of Phaneufs stay so I can’t say, but a leopard does not change his spots.

            @ JustDoIt. Yes I am a huge Seinfeldian, discussing these jerks was just a coincidence and as I am passing on 2nd hand gossip, I am acting in a NEWMAN-like manner. Apologies.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            DP has had an air about him and his “superiority” dating back to his Jr days with the Rebels. Its a fine line between confidence and outward arrogance.

          • 1. Nobody in Red Deer liked him either (as an aside he is still terrified of certain other guys from the dub who he ran from regularly back then too)

            2. Iginla was not alone in his feelings and and some other players were “asked” by management to let it go until they could deal with it.

  • RyanCoke

    Anybody else think that Ryan Smyth looks like a man possesed? Its Halloween but the guy looks likes he is 10 years younger and playing like it. Penner. 1 assist. Who saw this coming. Tambo did. Got rid of the Incredible Bulk for Captain Canada. Who says you can’t go home?

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    I’m with Arch. I was ecstatic when Phaneuf got traded for peanuts AND to the Eastern conference.

    A chain smoker? What the hell does he smoke? I can tell you from personal experience smoking cigarettes inhibits you’re athletic ability greatly. I can’t see anyone in the NHL smoking regularly but I’m sure it happens.

    • RexLibris

      I would agree but were a package put together at the trade deadline that included a first round pick (Lou still has three more years to relinquish one for the Kovy signing) likely a second rounder and a young player like Backlund or Baertschi I think he would take that. Feaster would have to be off his meds to do that deal and any reasonable Flames fan should be upset if something like that happens, but I think that would be something near the starting price.

  • cringleman

    Dearest Mr. Cleave: thanks for including standard deviation. Significance is always dicey to imply, but if we’re going to do more than stare at scoresheets and flail our scrawny stats-loving arms, measures like this are going to have to be carted out more often.

    Also: go Oil!

  • 24% body fat

    i have seen numerous pictures of dion smoking at parties and such. Now i know people who only smoke at parties and while drinking, so i wont call him a chain smoker. But at 6. something million do you not owe it to your team to give this up while you are not playing well and being voted by your peers numerous times as the most overrated player in the league.

  • 24% body fat

    and those dozen contracts arent worth that much coming off the books. and who is going to replace those dozen contracts? prospects? LOL. sorry It takes money to replace those twelve players and you wont have anywhere near the money for parise. Hope they get him though, than the flames cans sit in 9th place for the next couple years aquiring brutal prospects and continuing to trade them for old washed up players in a bid to make the playoffs while failing. Than buy the time they realize they are brutal and will be for ten years iginla, and kiprusoff wont fetch you more than some rangers 2nd rounders and a return contract to eat there overpaid salaries that are collecting a big payday in the ahl.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    @Cleave

    I think you are right about Boston in part. It speaks to consistency on the part of the refs. Not calling Marchand was beyond breaking boundaries of fairness into the land of strange.

    BUT… do you think (the Sedin’s aside who seem to be Gentlemen Scholars in their approach to the game) that the nucks were anything but dicks?? To an non-partisan viewer that whole series was awash in silliness after the whistle, petty behavior and a general sense of unsportsman-like play… Drama everywhere… biting for crying out loud!! is that stand-up, man-up play to you?

  • Graham

    The major problem with Phaneuf was the absurd contract that the team signed him to.

    Few if any players are good enough to jump from an entry level contract (Phaneuf was roughly a million) straight to a star / elite cntract (in Phaneufs case $6.5 million),

    Phaneuf was great value when he was making a million, but poor value at $6.5 million. Had the Flames signed him to a more realistic contract, say $3 – $ 4 million for two to three seasons, and made him earn the next elite contract (the $6.5 million one), he would likely still be a Flame.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      The idiot who predicted that also said October 21st would be the end. Camping should have been predicting Oiler wins in October. Atleast he would have been right i/2 the time.

      No snow? I think a nice blizzard on December 24th would do me nicely for my snow fix. untill then I’ll take the weather we have been getting. +12 on October 30!!!!!!!!!

  • Little Buttcheeks

    Good times for most of the Canadian teams even if it’s not the ones that most would have expected. I figure the Sens will fall back to earth soon, the Canucks will snap out of their funk and the Oilers and Leafs will be in contention for the last few playoff spots in their conferences.

  • And yet someone I know who works at the children’s Hospital in Calgary says that Dion would show up regularly and often, unannounced, on his own, no fan fare or publicity and go visit the sick kids there.

    So I’ll take these “insider” stories with a grain of salt.