Thursday, November 30, 2006


The Oilers have been a team relatively unscathed as far as injuries go, but right now they are scathed indeed.
Blame Chicago.
The Blackhawks came to Edmonton and that team has been overwhelmed with bad luck. And it looks like they left some of that bad mojo behind after visiting our city last Friday night.
Chicago lost Martin Havlat after one of the best starts of any player in the league. Rene Bourque caught a skate blade on the throat. Michal Handzus is out for the season. Nik Khabibulin missed a bunch of games and Adrian Aucoin has been ailing with a sore groin. Patrick Lalime is out for at least two more months. The coach has been fired. And the Black Hawks have missed the playoffs for six of the last seven seasons.
If any team has a dark cloud hanging over them, it's this one.

And here's the result of having the proverbial black cat cross the Oiler path:
Friday night's game against the Hawks was the first game that Steve Staios sat out in 224 games. He didn't get hurt in that game, but the Chicago Curse started with him.
Then Jussi Markkanen got hurt in the warmup and had to miss the Anaheim game and the Superskills afternoon.
Then Marc-Andre Bergeron caught the flu and played the Chicago game but was, according to Rod on the radio driving home, at "about 20%."
Then Marty Reasoner crashed into the boards in the Chicago game and missed the second and third periods. He was alright and played against Anaheim. Marty is no stranger to getting injured, though, and has been down that road before.
Then Ales Hemsky got smoked into the boards against Anaheim by Sean O'Donnell and is out for at least two to three weeks.
The Oilers' five game winning streak ended with the win against Chicago.

The only other significant injury the Oilers have suffered is the shoulder injury to Ethan Moreau.
Ethan Moreau played four seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks before being acquired by Edmonton.

Monday, November 27, 2006

So, I hear Chris Pronger was traded to Anaheim...

So all the other pundits have weighed in.
Why not add another useless opinion on this amusing centrepiece to a hockey game.
So, here's Dave's opinion on Pronger-gate.

1- Chris Pronger showed poor timing and just a bit of insensitivity by announcing through this man of all people that he wanted out. Al Strachan, who has been the print voice across Canada for the Leafs and seems to always have irritating opinions that piss off John Davidson, Eric Duhatschek and the other hockey minds that share a virtual seat by the Hockey Night In Canada Satellite Hot Stove, was his vessel.
He didn't ask for his trade in a more straightforward and accountable manner but instead chose (or allowed his agent to choose) to use a mostly unpopular, Eastern-Canadian hockey writer to leak details of the trade first and then....

2- Head off to Mexico, home of such well-loved sports legends as Ron Mexico. Leaking the trade also probably resulted in....

3- Any trade deals leaving Kevin Lowe in a weak position as far as a negotiation would go. Other GM's immediately knew that Lowe was pretty much forced to dump his superstar and the multi-year contract that came with Pronger. Lowe was probably targeted immediately by other NHL GM's as the weak sister in the negotiations. Then again, most of these guys know each other and probably were aware of Pronger's desire to be traded before we were.
Either way, instead of offering deals to other GM's, they likely came to him with deals that they engineered rather than Kevin "I will never refer to him as K-Lowe" Lowe coming to them.
This is obviously just a wild guess as I did not have Lowe's phone tapped or any inside information whatsoever.

4- Nice to see Christie Chorley introduce herself at the press conference by saying, "Christie Chorley - The Score - nice to meet you finally."
Chorley got her name dragged through the mud and back again during the early days of the Pronger trade rumours and the resulting trade itself. Then CityTV fired just about everybody. But now she's bringing Oiler news and highlights to the rest of the country on THE SCORE. One can get dragged through the mud and do OK. I worked with Christie once upon a time at a shortlived sports bar. She lived and breathed sports TV and got to do what she really wanted to. I'm glad this incident and the ugly rumours didn't slow that down.

5- I do have a personal issue with Pronger signing a five-year deal, enjoying the adulation of a GODDAMN BARBEQUE to celebrate his signing and then deciding he wants a do-over. To me, that's the only real reason I do not include Pronger among my favourite hockey players. He signed a five year deal - that's a commitment - and changed his mind.
It's a bit simplistic, but even business commitments should be walked into with some thought and intention to honour them.

6- Booing Pronger...... I'm up and down about this. The hockey posts are either somewhat moderate or juvenile.
I don't buy into the "I paid for the ticket, I have a right to boo - and swear - and throw shit onto the ice - and make up signs with tacky and offensive cheap shots" thinking. Granted, I don't pay for tickets right now, but I've never been that kind of hockey fan.
If it would be possible to motivate and organize 16,839 wildly disparate people, I'd love to see the fans cheer, have a great time and - whenever Pronger touches the puck - go absolutely silent. Church silent. Michael Richards freaking out and crowd dropping their jaws silent. Crickets chirping silent. Eerie silent. Then cheer again when he no longer has the puck.
This won't happen. It would be impossible to get an entire room to buy in to something that difficult and subtle. Too bad.
I have a feeling that the city of Edmonton will once again look really bad in front of all the curious onlookers across the hockey nation. The catcalls will be caught by the microphones and the tacky signs will be flashed over the highlight reels. We'll look like idiots and the lineup for new free agents will start in Calgary. Players will be only too excited to show up here.

7- Oiler Player Reaction. I'm not entirely sure how the Oiler players feel about the whole thing but Roli has stated that booing Pronger will have little or no effect on him or his game. Other Oilers have said very little about "44/25" either. Hockey players are usually a pretty aloof, distant bunch and keep to themselves (and our hockey media let them continue to do so in fear of losing what little access they have). But I've never heard the players admit that they agree that Pronger did a bad, bad thing. I've never heard off the record that any of the Oilers disagreed with his decision.
Pronger seemed more aloof and distant than most players. He seemed like one of those players (Lemieux?) who treated hockey like a business that suits them more than a player (Gretzky? Ryan Smyth?) who seems to love hockey more than we fans do.
Very few of the players admitted to missing Prongs much either......
I just hope that the fans don't embarass or disappoint their own players Tuesday night or more may politely ask Kevin Lowe for trades.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Not the Capparis Sidosa, but a stunt, prank or goof.
An enterprising group of website sports nerds like us have a plan to thumb their noses at the NHL.
Vote for Rory Fitzpatrick as a "write-in" for the online voting for the starting All-Star Game line-up.
For those who don't immediately recognize Fitzpatrick, he's the one on the right in the Sabres jersey. On the left is an actual caper.

Hey, with 252 career NHL games and 17 career NHL points (none this year yet, but keep trying) since his introduction to the league in 95-96 - why not?

It seems like a funny way to show that making the All Star team should not be a popularity contest. And, considering that our Oilers aren't that popular around the league's NHL cities (at least not like we like to think they are), popularity contests suck. The All-Star team should be used to promote players who earned it - or players that the NHL thinks are worth it.

It's too bad this was dreamt up by a Canucks fan and we are helping send a message by promoting the name of a hard-working journeyman (who isn't even Canadian!!) who plays for Vancouver. But he was a one-time teammate of Horcs and Fernie.

So. What the Hell? Sign up, vote for Hemsky, Smyth, Roli and Sykora while you're at it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Not On Our Kill

Oiler Penalty Kill

If there's one thing working like a charm for the Oilers, it's the penalty kill.
As of today, the Oilers PK is #3 in the NHL behind Minny and Dallas.
Last year the Oilers had the eighth best PK. Two seasons ago, it was the 27th best (for comparison's sake). If there is one thing Craig MacTavish was known for in his time in the league, it was being the last player to wear a helmet - and being a reliable role player and penalty killer.

With Ethan Moreau going down, I figured the Oilers PK would take a dive after his plugging and grinding in the PK unit. He's one of the mainstays of the Oiler penalty kill and has been one of the reasons the unit worked so well last year to shut down other powerplays. Hell, Chopper even had two shorthanded goals in a game last year.
Here's some comparisons before and after Ethan.
Before the injury: The Oiler powerplay was tied for second in the league with a 91.3% efficiency (4 goals allowed out of 46 shorthanded situations).
Before and After the injury: The Oiler powerplay is now tied for third with a 90.1% rating (10 goals allowed out of 101 powerplays against).
During the injury: 89.1% efficiency - 6 goals allowed out of 55 powerplays.

More facts about the Penalty Kill.
So far 10 goals have been scored against the Oilers during a powerplay - here are the goal scorers, the games and (just for shits and giggles) the Oiler who got to watch the goal scored from the penalty box.
Game #3 (In San Jose - Oilers won)
Cheechoo scores - Jason Smith in the box
Cheechoo scores again - Torres in the box
M. Michalek - Hemsky and Sykora (5 on 3)
Game #6 (In Edmonton - Against Vancouver - Oilers won)
Naslund - Tjarnqvist
Game #8 (In Edmonton - Against Phoenix - Oilers won)
Comrie - Thoresen
Game #10 (In Phoenix - Oilers lost)
Z. Michalek - Reasoner
Nagy - Horcoff
Game #12 (In Edmonton - Against Nashville - Oilers lost)
Weber - Horcoff
Game #15 (In Detroit - Oilers lost)
Hudler - Thoresen
Game #16 (In Columbus - Oilers won)
A. Carter - Winchester

Who's On The Penalty Kill?????
So far this season, here are the Oiler leaders with Time On Ice during the Penalty Kill.
J. Smith 85:06
S. Horcoff 68:51
S. Staios 68:38
D. Tjarnqvist 67:01
F. Pisani 55:17
Interestingly, despite playing 7 games to most of the team's 19 or 20, Moreau is still ranked 11th on the team with 27:16 minutes of Shorthanded Time On Ice. At the bottom (not counting the zeroes - Mikhnov and Jacques):
J. Lupul 1:27
P. Sykora 1:15
B. Winchester 0:08
R. Torres 0:02

So that's the Oiler Penalty Kill. A few wee tidbits - no real substance.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Detroit just scored with 3 seconds left in the game tonight to tie the game up.
Where's Mick McGeough when you need him??????????
He could have found a phantom call or non-existant non-call to nullify this late tying goal.

He hates late tying goals.

Friday, November 17, 2006

My ears. My aching ears.

Just turned on NHL on TSN to watch Pittsburgh at Buffalo.
First of all, I really like those blue and yellow Buffalo jerseys. They are the nicest new kit this season. The worst? The regular Buffalo jerseys. It's been discussed to death, but yuckos muchachos.

Listening to Chris Cuthbert doing play-by-play during the game reminded me of how much I miss Cuthbert on CBC. Mark Lee has a smoother voice, Jim Hughson has a much better vocabulary and dynamics and, despite missing calls and not knowing player names, Bob Cole is like one of those gentlemen from archived games from the past (oh yeah, he IS from the past).
Cuthbert's voice itself is not the greatest tool, but he calls a game with clarity, some dynamics and keeps you interested in the game. He also lets the flow of the game take care of itself without too much fake drama or overexaggerating.

But Glenn Healy doing colour....I had to serve Mr. Healy drinks and listen to him expound for about an hour to someone at my bar during the Heritage Classic weekend. Normally I would listen in to what MAY HAVE been a fascinating hockey conversation and even chipped in my share, but just hearing his monologue caused me to lose interest.
Luckily Kelly Hrudey showed up the next day. He was much more interesting to speak to (I made him read a copy of In The Box - he pretended to enjoy it) and more accomodating to "the help."
( Was that just BRUSH WITH GREATNESS pt. 2? - Maybe)

Back to Chris Cuthbert. Mark Lee treated Oiler fans to most of the playoff games but I would have preferred Cuthbert - whose nickname is Cuss, by the way - to call the game.
Mark Lee is competent in a difficult job, but to me he is the poor man's Chris Cuthbert. Or maybe the deaf man's Chris Cuthbert?

Is nothing good enough?

Edmonton 6
St. Louis 2
November 16, 2006

Watching Thursday night's game reminded me of what I most like and most hate about cheering for the Oilers.
Win or lose, Oiler games are usually exciting. The team does not make short work of its opponent very often. They either gut it out against really good teams or they show up and are just good enough to beat the bad ones.
Or they let the bad teams beat them. St. Louis has beaten Edmonton 4 out of the last six games (three losses last year out of four; one win and one loss this year) for example.
By the time the game was 3-0 at the end of the first period, the game looked like it would be a rare blowout win for the Oil. While it is nice to sit back and watch the team win, it is certainly not as much fun.
Now, how greedy is that? The Oilers win convincingly and I left feeling a little bit unsatisfied. There was no Ales Hemsky last-minute game-winner or
late game Ales Hemsky game-winner or Ryan Smyth third period hat trick. There was no overtime. There was no shootout (although I'm still on the fence about the shootout). It was so convincing a win it was almost boring.
Considering how badly the Oilers will need to get wins this year and their seemingly awful record against bad teams that should have been good enough. And it was good.

It reminded me of a question I asked myself at some point when I was pulling my hair in the mid-90s cheering for an Oiler team that WASN'T VERY GOOD.
"Dave," I asked myself, "Would you cheer for the Oilers if they always won and you knew before the season started that they would continue to win all the time?"
Truth is, no. I grew up in the high-flying 80s. The reason most of the Canadian hockey world still hate us in Edmonton is we won alot and got pretty used to it. The playoffs weren't even completely interesting until the second or third round. It was just assumed that the Oilers would roll into the playoffs and contend for the Cup. We got pretty complacent about it.

The fun is in not knowing. That's supposed to be the attraction of sports. At least for me it is. The game starts and you don't know who will win. You know who you WANT to win but you're not really sure if they will. So it means something when your team does win a game.

There's little pleasure in a rout except for the fact that it gives a little reassurance that the team isn't that bad after all. They can score. They can kick some ass. But into the third period of Tuesday's game, I started losing interest. The Oilers were going to win.
Oh well. Detroit and Calgary arrive soon. Things will get back to normal and I'll wish I had enjoyed the win a little more.

Now, if Edmonton beats Calgary 6-2........

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hockey In The Afternoon

Oilers in St. Louis - November 12, 2006 at NOON???? MST
It's dumb. It's inconvenient. It's not hockey. A game at noon? I know it's really at 1PM in St. Louis, but hockey games should be played at night. Unless you're a kid playing minor hockey at ungodly hours in the morning, NHL hockey is a sport enjoyed at night.
It always seemed to me that the Oilers have not traditionally been very good during afternoon games.
They're not.
The Oilers are 32-45-10-1 all time (.426) in afternoon hockey games.
They're equally bad at home (8-11-3-0) as they are on the road (24-34-7-1) during those afternoon matches.
It's a silly American idea to put hockey games on in the afternoon. Baseball does it, American football does it. Hockey should not.

Anyway, let's look forward to the game.
The Oilers managed to beat one crappy team in a slump and St. Louis is another crappy team in a slump (they've lost their last three games - to Columbus and Chicago, no less). This team is waiting to be beaten. The Oilers have to beat them.
Bold Prediction:
Oilers 4 (Sykora, Petersen, Staios, Winchester?)- St. Louis 2 (Stempniak, Dvorak?)

Shameless Plug:
After the game (way after) attend a Hockey-Themed Techno Party at RATT.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Brush With Greatness Pt. 1

Jackie Parker.

One of Edmonton's legends of sport passed away on November 7, 2006.

I had the honour of meeting Mr. Parker which wasn't really a difficult thing to do in Edmonton as he was known for being accessible and available to fans long after his football career was done.

I met Mr. Parker while working at this man's shortlived bar.I was determined to make Mr. Parker his eponymous drink. You will never get the chance to mix a Shirley Temple for Shirley Temple Black, you'll never meet a real Rocky Mountain BearFucker and you'll probably never meet a guy named Phil Sner.

A "Jackie Parker", by the way, is also known as a Cape Cod. Vodka and Cranberry Juice.

Enjoy a Jackie Parker this week in honour of a well-known and well-loved Edmonton sportsman.


Thank God It's Wednesday.
One of the biggest problems with writing about hockey in a weekly paper - entertainment paper, no less - is that by the time Vue hits the streets, games may have already happened.
Wednesday games effectively do not exist for "In The Box".
We send the column Tuesdays and the issue is put together on Wednesdays, printed and delivered.
That's why I'm glad the Detroit game happened on a Wednesday. The column for this week was put to bed and done by the time the Oilers embarassed themselves in Motown.
I'm sure this week's "In The Box" would have been pretty dire, negative and pissy if TB and I would have written it after tonight's game. As if it wasn't bad enough with McGeough's crap call, Pisani flubbing a potential shootout winner in Montreal and ZERO SHOTS ON GOAL in the first period against Detroit. What a week.
By the time TB and I have to submit next week's edition, hopefully the Oilers haven't added more losses to crappy Columbus, stinky St. Louis and (OK, they're alright) Colorado to this four-game losing streak.
If so, next week's column may include swearing. We can do that, being a cutting-edge alternative weekly.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Refs...Can't Play Without 'Em...Can't Kill 'Em

Enough people have weighed in on this already. I'll take the more moderate and cautious route on this one.
First, Eric Lindros executes a quite effective pick play on Dwayne Rolo, knocking his concentration off and his stick right out of his hands to clear a path for Brenden Morrow to pop a quick goal in the Oiler net. Iffy, but they got away with it.

Then, after needing two goals to tie the game up, MacT pulls Roloson for an extra attacker quite early and gets goal #1. Goal #2 is popped into the net by a tidy rebound recovery and Ales Hemsky scores another late and important goal for the Oilers. Here comes OT.
But wait! ? Panting and waving and gesticulating and rumbling down the ice from about 900 feet away is Magoo, insisting that the goal is null and void because of ............ a hand pass on the faceoff?????? Who calls that?????? He wasn't even the ref on that end of the ice.

People who know more about refereeing, please answer this question....
With a last-second important goal like that, why doesn't the linesman who was looking right down on the play and, oh, about four feet away from the play tell McGeough he was NOT RIGHT? Why doesn't the other referee, who was patrolling that end of the ice tell McGeough he was NOT CORRECT?

Mick told the press he bungled the call (gee thanks) and the replay showed it and I know refereeing is a difficult and thankless job. Split-second decisions have to be made and can't be reversed very easily or the refs lose their integrity. Standing behind a bad call (which will happen) is necessary to ensure refs can't be second-guessed or swayed by angry fans and players.

Please tell me that the call was not made in a desperate attempt to prevent more skating in OT.
In Edmonton's EDSA soccer, we often ran into refs who would not be physically fit enough to keep up with the play and would try to make calls from the middle of the field rather than follow the play, usually missing important calls. Or they would make phantom calls to slow play down and catch breathers.
I know other posters and critics have revelled in calling McGeough fat and lazy and overweight and obese and things like that, but refereeing hockey is damn hard work (I think - it looks like hard work, so naturally I haven't done it) and MM should be in good enough shape to handle it, right? He wouldn't be dreading more skating in overtime enough to create and manufacture a "hand pass on the faceoff" call in that crucial a situation would he?????

There's this guy who works for the Oilers in Group Sales.
Blair McGeough (yes, he is related - yes, he is a nice guy) may as well throw his business cards out for at least a month and make up a pseudonym.
"Hi, Potential Ticket Buyer, I'm Blair McGeough......Ouch. Stop hitting me. Put that down. Ouch. Stop it. Where are you going?"