Stating the obvious

When you plan to retire a player's jersey, do not do it on the same day as the trading deadline.

Beyond that relevating piece of awe, however, the Ryan Smyth trade had plenty of flaws beyond the players directly involved in the deal. It may be that Ryan O'Marra and Robert Nilsson might pan out to be solid NHLers, and that the team grabs a gem in their acquired 1st-round pick, or all three assets may turn out to be a collective dud. It doesn't matter; Oilers GM Kevin Lowe couldn't risk losing Smyth at the trade deadline and had to move in the end. I disagree with Matt; this deal did take cojones and kudos to Lowe for doing so.

The kudos end there, however; The reason they had to trade Smytty is because (as Matt also suggested) Lowe had been such a chickenshit GM in the past year and now his hand was forced. Take Fernando Pisani, please. Here's a guy who had a hell of a post-season run, exceeding all expectations, and was rewarded for his efforts with a big contract to stay in his hometown. How's that deal paying out now?

People may have already forgotten, but a similar situation happened a few hundred klicks south and a couple years earlier. A fleet-of-foot winger with hands of stone surprised everyone by scoring the second-highest amount of goals in the season and by playing a key role in a hard-fought bid for the Stanley Cup. Yet, the GM let him go, despite the the player's popularity with fans and teammates alike. Why was he let go? Because Shean Donovan was on a rare hot streak which would be unlikely to occur again, even if he did nab a big raise.

That's the difference between the Flames and the Oilers: Darryl Sutter has never been afraid to upset the home crowd; Lowe trusts in his fans' instincts until he has no choice than to make a tough deal.

Obviously, things will be different next year, with the amount of high-calibre Flames up for free agency. There may very well be a fire-sale, and fans will be pissed off no matter what Sutter does. However, the man trusts his own instincts and, though every deal will not be a great one, there should be no doubt that Darryl will do what Darryl thinks is best for Darryl's team.

If I were a managing partner in the Oilers organization, I might give Kevin Lowe exactly one more opportunity, that being getting Ryan Smyth back. If he can do that, he essentially grabbed three decent prospects in exchange for missing the playoffs one season, which isn't such a bad deal.

Then again, considering how much time Kevin Lowe has had to put his mark on the team, and considering the almost complete lack of team identity left on the roster, I'd fire that guy in a heartbeat and bring in an experienced soul tout de suite.

Maybe Bobby Clarke misses the northern lights.


A doorknob, a giant donkey and a skull missing half its brain matter ... "What are three apt descriptions for Eric Francis?"

Remember my prediction last week that if the Flames lost to the Coyotes, fair-weather commentators would be calling for Jim Playfair's head? I present Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun:

But while speculation swirls the Flames first year coach could pay the price for a dismal road record, Sutter refused yesterday to clarify his stance on the debate.

"I don't even want to publicly comment," said Sutter yesterday, between phone calls from GMs around the league.

"It's about winning now and we think on paper we have the personnel.

Some will suggest Sutter just isn't the type to hand out public votes of confidence and simply believes he has no duty to keep the public abreast of his thoughts.

Yeah, that or maybe Sutter thinks the question is a stupid one as the Flames are currently sitting in a playoff spot with a legitimate opportunity to win the division.

Speaking of predictions, Eric Francis, it should be noted, declared after 9 games into the season that the Flames were not going to make the post-season and should think about selling off some of their top talent.

What a useless tit.


Predictions are like arseholes

Sports predictions, when made by anyone other than myself, are about as useful as a butthole on the elbow (though, in retrospect, having that sort of medical condition could be incredibly useful in certain circumstances, especially if one finds herself in a terrible hurry during a crazed attempt to track down a the alleged lover of a space shuttle pilot). Still, nothing this side of David Suzuki drives me up the wall with more intensity and passion than sports prognosticators who treat every single match-up as the definitive moment to divine the eventual success of a particular team in any given season.

For instance, Flames lose 7-5 to the Avs on Thursday night, and the team can't hold on to a lead; The Flames take the Avs 7-3 on Saturday night, and you got yourself a credible contender.

Thus, as tonight is the third of the Flames-Avs miniseries, Bumf will make a bold prediction: If the Flames win, they have accumulated the most talented roster in a decade and are the team to beat; if they lose, a fire-sale is in order and Jim Playfair is lucky if he can get away with being run out of town whilst his head firmly attached to his neck.

We'll see how accurate my prediction turns out tonight.


Goin' for it

The Calgary Flames' chances of getting to the Stanley Cup final got a wee bit smaller:

The Nashville Predators have added a big weapon for the stretch run.

The Predators traded winger Scottie Upshall, defenceman Ryan Parent, a first round pick and a third round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for Peter Forsberg.


The 33-year-old centre adds some much needed playoff experience to the Predators. In fact Forsberg has more career playoff points (162) than the rest of the Predators lineup (155).

Forsberg joins an already potent line-up which includes Paul Kariya and instantly becomes the favorite to win the Cup this spring.

Then again, this isn't the first time Forsberg was hooked up with Kariya on a stacked team, and we all know how well that went.

Ironic and not in going down in a theatre way

SI.com Columist Steve Hofstetter writes that the NHL shouldn't be using sex to the sell tickets on the same day that his employer releases the SI Swimsuit Issue.

The headline for SI.com columnist latest piece is, "Desperate Kings Using Sex To Sell Tickets." Hofstetter writes that the Kings have put up billboards around L.A. "that simply say ‘Kings Hockey’ with a picture of an attractive blonde in a Kings uniform." Hofstetter claims that hot blondes are not bad , they just shouldn’t embody Kings hockey."

Hofstetter's commentary comes the same day that Sports Illustrated rolls out its famous swimsuit issue (and the accompanying tens of thousands of subscription cancellations).

And one week after internet "model" Jenn Sterger started her second official SI.com journalistic stint, which features her as a video reporter for Time, Inc., website.


It's a theory

Matt has his Peplinksi Underwear Theory on the Andrew Ference trade; I have my own. Brad Stuart, the well sought-after defenseman who came over with Wayne Primeau in exchange for Ference and Chuck Kobasew, played a team-leading 23 minutes, 12 seconds in the Flames commanding 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. Stuart was physical, smart and an overwhelming presence. It is a no-brainer that he will be paired with Robyn Regehr, who has been underperforming this season without the sleek-footed Jordan Leopold carrying the puck out of the zone. Stuart also seemed comfortable on the second PP unit with Mike Giordano.

Speaking of physicality, one could not imagine Andrew Ference laying out the likes of Jim Slater the way Stuart was able to do early in the first period. Forget the issue with leadership; Simply put, he adds height, weight, talent and confidence to an already deep blueline.

As for Wayne Primeau, there is no comparison between him and Chuck Kobasew. He's just as fast, just as skilled with the stick, he adds three inches and 40 pounds, and can take faceoffs.

Sitting behind the Thrashers' bench last night for the first -- and last -- time in my spectating career, it became truly obvious. The Flames are a much, much better team after the trade.

Joe Sports, RIP

Collin Smith, a.k.a. "Joe Sports", the ubiquitous sports guy here in Calgary, has succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was well-known in the community for his charity and affable humour, and he knew his stuff on the playing fields.

My favorite Joe Sports story happened during a Rider game at McMahon several years back (when the Green are in town, it's a Rider game, not a Stamps one). My university buddies were all painted up and liquored to the max and generally making complete asses of (themselves (er, ourselves). Sitting a few rows ahead of us, it was eventually discovered, was Joe Sports himself. And his pre-teen son.

My good friend, Paddington, one of the best guys I know and one of the most sour drunks you can come across, was pissed about the score and proceeded to take it out on Joe Sports. He began to chant: "Jo-o-o-oe Sports! Jo-o-o-oe Sports! JO-O-O-OE SPORTS!".

He did this for the entire 4th quarter.

Being the kind of guy he is, Joe Sports took it until the game was almost over. He walked up with his son, smiled, shook our hands, and told us to have a great time. Then they left.

Paddy didn't say anything; he just sat there with a crooked frown, staring off at nothing. He brought his near-empty beer can to his lips, sipped his last, and muttered under his breath: "What an asshole."

I was a fan ever since.

Rest in peace, Joe. May you drink from Stanley's heavenly mug, and may all your Sunday picks come true.


It's now or never

When Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter traded away the popular Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference to the Boston Bruins for soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau, the sweatiest palms in the NHL might possibly belong to Edmonton Oilers' GM Kevin Lowe. The Oil has been almost pathetic on the blueline this year, one season removed from when d-men Chris Pronger and Jaroslav Spacek backed their team to a credible run at the Stanley Cup. Marc-Andre Bergeron, he of "let's run the opponent into the crease and take out our number one goalie in the Stanley Cup finals" fame, is the team's leading scorer on the point with 7 goals and 24 points. Not much to be proud of.

Meanwhile, the Flames, having an abundance of depth in front of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, merely added a proven presence while clearing room for up-and-comers Mike Giordano and Ritchie Regehr. The same goes for Wayne Primeau, who adds a confident and disciplined 6'4" demeanor on either the wing or as pivot. Primeau is also a noted face-off specialist, an aesthetic clearly coveted by Sutter.

Yesterday's humiliating loss to the Detroit Red Wing, while understandably a let-down after Saturday's difficult loss to the Sabres, was not indicative of the near future of the team. There is no doubt that the team has added to, rather than lost from, the current roster. Whether or not they can gel before season end is another story.

What is certain, however, is that the Flames are gearing up for what could possibly be their last major chance at Lord Stanley for the next three years or so.

We'll see in June whether this was a good deal or no.


Havlat has at Cowtown

Aside from cringing at the complete lack of elocution from the team's governor, the Calgary Flames organization did a wonderful job in raising Mike Vernon's number 30 to the Saddledome rafters. It was a classy display and I especially enjoyed Vernon's acceptance speech, finding that it was delivered remarkably well. It's too bad the rest of the team didn't put on quite as exciting a show afterward, losing 3-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout which shouldn't have happened.

After sitting on the bench for an hour before, I can give the boys a bit of slack for missing that bit of jump in the first period. Even Dion Phaneuf'smauling of Chicago's Brent Seabrook, they of epic WHL battles past, was not effective in waking the team from their ceremony-induced slumber. However, throughout the entire game, there was very little to get the Saddle rockin'. It's not like the fans didn't want to cheer; hell, even little dump-outs into the neutral zone were eliciting hoots and hollers from the crowd. Nothing could get the team get its collective head out of its collective ass.

To the Blackhawks' benefit, they played an excellent road game. They were tight, didn't lose control in their own zone, and relied on their goaltender. Martin Havlat, in particular, was the best skater on the ice. He didn't piss around with the puck and cost his team defensively, and showed tremendous leadership on the ice. He impressed me so well that, in fact, it wouldn't surprise me that if in a year the man will be the odds-on favorite for the Hart Trophy. He took advantage of a pair of boneheaded penalties late in the third to tie the Flames and gave his team a chance to win. Martin Havlat is an excellent, excellent hockey player.

As for the Flames, I didn't notice anything remarkable about anything they did, although Matthew Lombardi impressed me a few times. The young centre is beginning to use his speed more strategically. By that, I mean he is becoming more comfortable in recognizing the proper time and place to explode with the puck, catching the opposition on a line change and while the defense pairing is a touch askew. When he turns on the afterburners, the entire play shifts down-ice and the Flames gather momentum. It is almost as if he's developed an entire year in these past two months, and Playfair might want to consider putting some more speed on his line. It's too bad Chuck Kobasew is on the IR, but there is no excuse for keeping Alex Tanguay off the Lombardi wing for very long.

But that was just a recurring thought during an otherwise unengaging affair. That's not to say the Flames were awful and that now is time to jump off the bandwagon, a la Calgary sports commentators after a late-game collapse. Remember, the boys still were able to snag a point to stay ahead of the Canucks in the race for first. For the moment, I'll give them a pass; hopefully they learned a little something about themselves, mainly that there is no such thing as a sure win, and that it takes more than a run of a few games to get your jersey number raised to the roof.