November 3 News and Notes

Where the hell did the time go? Golf season's done, the CFL is headed for the finish, and the Evil Empire needs one win for a World Series. The Flames have finished a month's worth of work as well, and they have a 7-4-1 record and a pissy coach to show for it. After the jump, yesterday's fun and games at the Dome, the neighbours are in a bit of a mess, and does anyone really give a rat's ass about Sean Avery anymore?

Flames:

 

After an indifferent finish to the Flames' homestand, the boss decided he'd seen quite enough, with a practice meant to shake a few people up. I'm skeptical when it comes to the long term effects, so the fact that the players said all the right things won't mean much until the results match the words. 

The lines appear set for another adjustment, with Nystrom getting a chance to work with the reunited Jokinen-Iginla pairing. I'm on the record as "not a fan" of that duo, although the next two lines of Bourque-Langkow-Dawes and Glencross-Boyd-Moss are good by me. My hope for Boyd this year was that he superceded Conroy based on good play, and not because the Flames' elder statesman fell off a cliff. There's enough evidence of that to be reassured on that point at least.

Kipper 5 v 5: 3-14 vs. Colorado, 2-25 vs. Detroit. Season total - 21 GA, 256 SA, .918 5 v 5 SV%. Sort of a meh week for the Flames' netminder. An extra save or two would have been nice, but I can't really blame him for the team's results, because slack-ass work from the skaters drove the results into the ditch against the Avs and Wings.

 

Elsewhere: 

 

We've got a meniscus thing, a back thing, a pubis thing, and some flu

 

That's the tagline over at The Copper and Blue. Sounds like maybe a shoulder thing, too. The Oilers got whipped by the Islanders last night, and the fact that a team like that could make the Oilers seem so inept has Pat Quinn comparing his squad to the Washington Generals. That's not really what you should be trying for, is it? I'll say this for the Oilogisphere, they do a hell of a job of spinning humour from pathos, and BDHS provides another example today. Sounds like the Oil could use Pat's big fella on the blue.

 

Craig Anderson has been named the NHL's first star. You don't say? There's been some squawking from the Front Range about how much better the 'Lanche are compared to last year, and I'll certainly admit that their goaltender is a quantum leap ahead of whoever they used last year, Sunday's night evidence notwithstanding. It's still a lot of wait and see for the rest of the squad.

 

It doesn't look like the Canucks are going to have to rely on Andrew Raycroft for much longer, since Roberto Luongo appears to be on the mend, and might play in the next week. The 'Nucks are beat up, but the general malaise affecting the other teams in the division other than Colorado has bought them some time. 

 

The Flames have a brief road trip this week, with a stop in Dallas to get things going tomorrow night. Two of the Stars' elder statesmen are slated to return, as Modano and Lehtinen have recovered from their early season maladies. These are the lines from today's practice:

 

James Neal-Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson
Brenden Morrow-Mike Ribeiro-Jere Lehtinen
Steve Ott-Mike Modano-Jamie Benn
Brian Sutherby-Tom Wandell-Fabian Brunnstrom

 

That's not a terrible group by any means.

 

In St. Louis, last season's surprise package has fallen on tough scoring times, with the Blues ranking 25th in Goals per game. Their 5 v 5 for/against numbers aren't much different from last year, but that squad rode a nice PP to cover any EV deficiencies. This year's crew has the 27th best PP so far. As so often is the case, a team might not want to admit that luck is at the heart of a good or bad stretch, so the public pronouncements are about effort. Sound familiar?

 

In T.O., the Leafs lost 2-1 in overtime tonight, with Phil Kessel making his long awaited debut. No points and -1, but he did have 10 shots in 23:50 of ice time. Olli Jokinen has 22 shots in 12 games. Hmm. If the Leafs keep out-shooting teams, they get some wins soon enough, but in the interim, Ron Wilson hasn't  been sitting still:

 

Continue with brilliant scheme of winning one game in October, two in November, four in December and so on. By the time foolish opposition realizes our plan, we'll have clinched a playoff spot thanks to 64-win April.

 

 

That's all part of the master plan, people. Seems foolproof.

 

Up the road in Ottawa, Eugene Melnyk has let his anger at a former employee spill over, as he chases Dany Heatley for 4 million fish. I'm not too sure he's got that good a case. Could be that he's just P.O.ed that the Sens got stuck with Cheechoo instead of Penner and Smid, and that's understandable.

 

"Take some nachos, take some Coke, and enjoy the game. Hope the guys are going to win", he said. "I don't want to stay at home and watch the game at home. I want to travel and I want to be a part of the team, too."

 

 

That's Alex Ovechkin's take regarding his rehab plan as he mends from some sort of upper body injury over the next couple of weeks. The Caps should manage, and I can't exactly imagine Sidney Crosby dropping that first line. It's a team game, and lord knows the NHL isn't exactly a perfect marketing machine when it comes to pushing stars, but it seems to me that Number 8 handles the off-ice stuff pretty well for an ESL guy, no?. That said, I'm old enough to remember an era where "take some Coke" would have won Ovechkin a spot on the Don Murdoch All-Stars.

 

In less humourous circumstances, the Hurricanes have dropped off the face of the earth. As we know around these parts, they have a few folks on the trading block, and Cory Lavalette figures Chairman Mo is the culprit, but suspects that players, including alleged Flame target Ray Whitney, will be moved first. They've been poor for any number of reasons, but this wouldn't be the first time Paul Maurice's approach has worn thin. Eric Staal hasn't been worth a darn, either, and when you're main guy isn't going, the team will suffer. Hey, I know that tune.

 

Their SE division mates the Lightning have a struggling star of their own, as Vinny Lecavalier scored only his second goal of the year tonight in Tampa's 2-1 win in Toronto. Rick Tocchet hasn't been shy in voicing his displeasure with the Captain, busting him down to third line duties in an effort to rouse the slumping center. I don't know. A lot of times, guys who haven't been lucky in terms of SH% get raked for their play. With Vinny's goal tonight, he's at 3.8%, with a PDO of 95.1, but he's been averaging 4 shots a game, which is right in line with his past half-dozen years or so. The guy has never shot less than 10% in any year of his NHL career. When he gets back toward that sort of number, will everyone call Tocchet a genius, or acknowledge that guys go into slumps, and that players who are still getting shots will eventually have the numbers turn in their favour? That's not really a skill testing question, but I doubt that SH% will come up in the popular coverage. Just a cynical hunch.

 

Finally, I don't give two shits whether Sean Avery publicly apologizes for his statements last year in Calgary. This desire to force sports figures into some sort of garment rending nonsense whenever they say something out of convention is completely useless moral scolding. It's fairly clear the guy was butthurt over a breakup, and said something stupid. Beyond what he might have owed his teammates in Dallas, I hope he apologized to Phaneuf and Elisha Cuthbert, and if he had a bit of sense, had a few quiet words with Jarret Stoll and Rachel Hunter as well. But whatever he did, doing in private is just fine, and I don't need the dirty details, a pound of flesh, or some silly stage-managed plea for forgiveness. On a hockey related note, during the Toronto-Dallas game last week, Pierre McGuire blamed Avery for Marty Turco's terrible year in 08/09. Turco had a .898 SV% in 05/06 as well. Was that Avery's fault, too? Or was last year just more noticeable because Dallas was 20th in GF, instead of 11th?

 

That's my week. Anything else of note is always appreciated in comments.

 

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