Northwest is best (for now)

Jean Lefebvre
October 24 2009 09:00AM

We’re in that tweener stage of a new season.

It’s late enough that the TV-sports dullards have stopped making those “Joe Left-wing is on pace for a 246-goal season” comments but not yet far enough along in the campaign to stop questioning such phenomena as whether a coaching change is really all that was needed for Dustin Penner to release his inner Mario Lemieux.

You can put into the “Need More Proof” category the decidedly un-pedestrian play of the Northwest Division.

Heading into the season, the Northwest congregation featured a defending champion that had lost Mattias Ohlund to TampaBay, Pavol Demitra and Mathieu Schneider to the medical staff and is presently sans Daniel Sedin, Sami Salo and a recognizable Roberto Luongo.

Next you had a Calgary squad that was looked upon relatively favourably by the guess-perts, but which also was subject to all the usual questions that abound when a team is working on its fourth coach in five years, is relying on a netminder in apparent decline and has a recent track record or lousy-to-lukewarm Octobers.

Then you had Edmonton, Minnesota and Colorado, who appeared below the Mendoza Line on most pre-season predicted standings compiled by those residing in cities other than Fort Saskatchewan, St. Albert, St. Paul, Minneapolis or Denver.

The Northwest as a whole certainly didn’t get much love in this space heading into the season and Matt Fenwick over at The Battle of Alberta recently ruminated:

This crossed my mind a few times in the past couple of weeks: I wonder if the NW Division is the new SE Division. It certainly seems, early on here, that every team has serious flaws -- the NW may spend this season getting bootstomped by the other two divisions, and have one of those races where the div champ gets the 3rd seed and the runner-up finishes 9th.

Well we may all prove to be right yet, but at the approximate one-eighth point of the season, three Northwest outfits occupy the top three positions in the Western Conference points standings.

Seriously, who out there knew that the Joe Sakic Era in Colorado would merge so easily into the Joe Sacco Era? The best you can say about the prognostications about the Avalanche is that folks had it dead-on right when they figured Colorado would keep Phoenix company, it was just the end of the standings they had wrong.

In Edmonton, Pat Quinn is making really old-school references left and right -- in no particular order, he’s worked 1940s figure skating champion Barbara Ann Scott, 1961 film The Hustler and the break-a-stick-over-an-opponent’s-head era of hockey into conversations -- and the Oilers are playing a little throwback hockey when it comes to the win-loss column.

And Minnesota? Well, at least the tired complaints about boring Jacques Lemaire hockey have stopped.

Even with the staggering Wild and the limping Canucks, the Northwest had a sparkling .607 winning percentage in inter-divisional games including a flawless 7-0 mark against the Eastern Conference (a huge thank you, Montreal Canadiens).

Meanwhile, the Pacific winning at a .514 clip outside of its own division while the Central, even with perennial powerhouse Detroit and a trio of clubs that were viewed as being on the rise, has a mere .471 winning percentage in non-divisional play.

Can the Northwest keep it up? Check out Ryan (Career High 70 Points And That Was Nine Years Ago) Smyth in the No. 5 position in the NHL scoring race and ask that question again.

In the meantime, enjoy tonight’s third installment of the 2009-10 Battle of Alberta. Countdown to a Big Ern/Smack-intyre fight in 10, 9, 8, 7 . . .

 

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Lefebvre is in that awkward stage of hockey following -- old enough to fondly remember the Cleveland Barons and too set in his ways to accept charity points and games where there's a winner but apparently no loser. As a long-time ink-stained wretch, he's also a firm believer in the old Bobby Knight quote about journalists: "All of us learn to write in second grade, but most of us go on to better things."
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#1 sitting-at-my-desk
October 24 2009, 09:24AM
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oil will win old school tonight,and JFJ will take care of iggy..

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#2 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
October 24 2009, 09:30AM
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I guess I'll kick things off with my prediction for tonight's game.

5-2 Oil. Goals by Penner, Visnovsky, Moreau, O'Sullivan, and Grebeshkov.

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#3 Pajamah
October 24 2009, 10:10AM
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3-2 Calgary........ugh

Gagner, and Comrie with the tallies

We've played 2 good games against them, and got outfluked at the end of both, tonight is the night we come up with a stinker

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#4 Senator Theo
October 24 2009, 10:10AM
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I'm so pumped for the game tonight. Both teams should be flying. Even my 5-year old is excited - she told me that she hates the Flames. When she said that, my heart melted a little.

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#5 Chris.
October 24 2009, 10:12AM
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Penner will become a God in Edmonton if he crushes Iginla tonight in some sort of open ice hit... clean or otherwise. Both Peckham and Big Mac will fight. They need to.

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#6 PartyPooper
October 24 2009, 10:19AM
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Senator Theo wrote:

I'm so pumped for the game tonight. Both teams should be flying. Even my 5-year old is excited - she told me that she hates the Flames. When she said that, my heart melted a little.

You realize this is neither sweet nor funny but actually a little disturbing?

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#7 Chris.
October 24 2009, 10:29AM
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PartyPooper wrote:

You realize this is neither sweet nor funny but actually a little disturbing?

My son isn't allowed to use the word "suck", or "sucks"... unless he says, "Calgary Sucks!"

He is eight.

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#8 homerer
October 24 2009, 10:31AM
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I do realize that it is a tad early to say this, but if the playoffs started today, Edmonton would have home ice advantage in the first round with Calgary. Obviously loads can happen between now and then, but that would be spectacular!!

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#9 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
October 24 2009, 10:32AM
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homerer wrote:

I do realize that it is a tad early to say this, but if the playoffs started today, Edmonton would have home ice advantage in the first round with Calgary. Obviously loads can happen between now and then, but that would be spectacular!!

Last year down the stretch it was looking like a Calgary/Edmonton first round with Calgary on home ice.

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#10 Robin Brownlee
October 24 2009, 10:33AM
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PartyPooper wrote:

You realize this is neither sweet nor funny but actually a little disturbing?

Really? So, it's never too early to teach the little ones to hate?

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#11 Senator Theo
October 24 2009, 10:42AM
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PartyPooper wrote:

You realize this is neither sweet nor funny but actually a little disturbing?

It is sweet. she just loves the oilers. Boy, you really are a party popper, eh? She didn't suggest any sort of dirty retribution against Iginla, if that's what you're thinking - she's just invested emotionally.

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#12 Chris.
October 24 2009, 10:42AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Really? So, it's never too early to teach the little ones to hate?

C'mon Brownlee... your a Dad! It's fun to fill their heads with a little bit of rubbish along the way. Religion? Pffft! Politics? Irrelevent. Coke or Pepsi? Ford or GM? Commercial nonsence! "Let them be thier own person", I say... But when it comes to the Flames vs Oilers: values must be carefully instilled.

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#13 SPAWNLAUNCHER
October 24 2009, 10:49AM
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That's awesome that the kid already hates Calgary I think. Gotta raise kids properly and that's an awesome first step.

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#14 Antony Ta
October 24 2009, 10:55AM
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I noticed that Ovie gets a lot more attention for his "misdemeanours" than Iginla. Ovie slewfoots some guy - fined. Iginla slewfoots Souray - nothing... must've been an accident they say. Quinn makes comments on Iginla - fined.

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#15 Chris.
October 24 2009, 11:04AM
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@Antony Ta

Olympic year.

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#16 PartyPooper
October 24 2009, 11:08AM
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Senator Theo wrote:

It is sweet. she just loves the oilers. Boy, you really are a party popper, eh? She didn't suggest any sort of dirty retribution against Iginla, if that's what you're thinking - she's just invested emotionally.

Yeah, I know the 'hate' story was kind of a throwaway jokey thing, but kids really don't have the same kind of understanding of these things as adults do.

I am disheartened seeing this attitude (really, it's blind hate) mimicked by kids who lack the 'sophistication' to actually understand what they're saying. Words matter. If it's a positive support they're feeling, why not express that instead?

[Full disclosure: I have a 3- and 6-year old]

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#17 TDSM31
October 24 2009, 11:15AM
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PartyPooper wrote:

Yeah, I know the 'hate' story was kind of a throwaway jokey thing, but kids really don't have the same kind of understanding of these things as adults do.

I am disheartened seeing this attitude (really, it's blind hate) mimicked by kids who lack the 'sophistication' to actually understand what they're saying. Words matter. If it's a positive support they're feeling, why not express that instead?

[Full disclosure: I have a 3- and 6-year old]

When I told my son we were playing the Flames tonight he was all "Yeah!! Lets crush those muthaf*kas!! Iggy dies tonite Dad!!" and I was all like "Yeah, boooyyyeee!!" Then we highfived and crushed beer cans into our foreheads.

My son is 5.

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#18 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
October 24 2009, 11:18AM
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Sorry, The Menace. I'm with PartyPooper on this one. Where was your daughter during the 2006 cup run? Tell her put away the Penner jersey and stop being such a bandwagoner.

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#19 PartyPooper
October 24 2009, 11:19AM
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TDSM31:

Are we neighbors?

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#20 esa tikkanen
October 24 2009, 11:27AM
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anybody else here think the oil would be better with an actual center on the fourth line like O Marra or pauckovich, just for 5 minutes tonight, instead of two rookies on d and 3 tough guys, two of them playing out of position tonight??

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#21 Smitty
October 24 2009, 11:42AM
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GO FLAMES GO!!!!

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#22 jeanshorts
October 24 2009, 11:45AM
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Is anyone else a little weirded out that this is already the third round for the battle of Alberta and we're only 9 games in? I'm all for inter-division games but they should save a few for the end of the season where it's more than likely going to be way more intense.

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#23 TDSM31
October 24 2009, 11:49AM
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PartyPooper wrote:

TDSM31:

Are we neighbors?

Yeppers...I'm in the trailer on the left side of yours.

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#24 Dan the Man
October 24 2009, 01:14PM
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I taught my 5 year old to say "How does that feel Kiprusoff???!!!" everytime someone scores on the Flames.

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#25 Heazues
October 24 2009, 01:40PM
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PartyPooper wrote:

You realize this is neither sweet nor funny but actually a little disturbing?

and yet somehow right.

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#26 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
October 24 2009, 01:43PM
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Anybody have Joe Left-Wing's faceoff numbers handy? We could use a guy like that.

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#27 Heatly
October 24 2009, 02:19PM
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Oilers 4 Flames 2

Horcoff will get 2 points

Go Oilers! May have to watch update on phone cuz I'm going to UFC tonight.

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#28 Librarian Mike
October 24 2009, 02:24PM
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I find it interesting that while many people are raving about Calgary's amazing start, the Oilers have the exact same record. Not only that, but 3 of the Flames' points were giftwrapped due to shaky last-minute play.

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#29 Senator Theo
October 24 2009, 02:46PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

I find it interesting that while many people are raving about Calgary's amazing start, the Oilers have the exact same record. Not only that, but 3 of the Flames' points were giftwrapped due to shaky last-minute play.

But tonight, something has to give. This is a lot like Hulk Hogan facing Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania 3. The irresistible force meets the immovable object. Edmonton is going to body slam the flames in front of a capacity crowd.

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#30 SirFozz
October 24 2009, 02:55PM
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@ The Menace

I hope the Oilers are shuttled to the ice in little mini rinks.

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#31 Bombstradamus
October 24 2009, 03:07PM
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SPAWNLAUNCHER wrote:

That's awesome that the kid already hates Calgary I think. Gotta raise kids properly and that's an awesome first step.

We have to raise kids like that so they don't play for the flames once they've grown up. Parents here must have had a laissez faire attitude in the 80's, and look what happened.

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#32 Senator Theo
October 24 2009, 03:15PM
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@SirFozz

Me too. I wonder who we have to contact to make sure the Saddledome is equipped for that. Is Bearcat Murray still in charge over there?

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#33 esa tikkanen
October 24 2009, 03:28PM
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Oilers who are good fighters playing in this game in order: Macintyre Stortini Strudwick Jacques Moreau Peckham Smid Penner

all of the above are over 220 pounds

Flames who are good fighters playing in this game in order: Mcgratton Prust Sarich Regehr Iginla Phaneuf Bourque Glencross

they have some other big players that do not fight (boumeester, Jokinen, Kronwall)

If all the fighters fight tonight it should get interesting but I think if our top 4 fighters fight their top 4 fighters in the above order, we win every fight.

Certainly they have some tough players but in no way should we expect them to intimidate us. In fact, I expect the intimidation to go the other way.

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#34 biased observer
October 24 2009, 03:48PM
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This is by far the most entertaining comment string I have ever read!

My boy started saying "calgary sucks" since he was 2 1/2 years old. Today he adds "the canucks suck to!". He is now 4.

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#35 dustin timberlake
October 24 2009, 03:49PM
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I'm with Jeanshorts from a few comments above. WTF is this, 9 games deep and already the 3rd game between the Flames and Oilers? Let's hope that it is entertaining with some blood and violence in retaliation from the Iginla hit. I guess that should be a fresh memory. Although, as much as I'd like to see Calgary win, I'd probably be just as happy to see Vancouver lose to Toronto. God I hate the Canucks. So so much.

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#36 Dan the Man
October 24 2009, 03:59PM
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esa tikkanen wrote:

Oilers who are good fighters playing in this game in order: Macintyre Stortini Strudwick Jacques Moreau Peckham Smid Penner

all of the above are over 220 pounds

Flames who are good fighters playing in this game in order: Mcgratton Prust Sarich Regehr Iginla Phaneuf Bourque Glencross

they have some other big players that do not fight (boumeester, Jokinen, Kronwall)

If all the fighters fight tonight it should get interesting but I think if our top 4 fighters fight their top 4 fighters in the above order, we win every fight.

Certainly they have some tough players but in no way should we expect them to intimidate us. In fact, I expect the intimidation to go the other way.

If this is in order, I'd put Strudwick ahead of Stortini and Moreau belongs at the end.

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#37 RossCreekNation
October 24 2009, 04:06PM
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Sportsnet's ticker just said Buchberger's on the 4th line. That's a joke... right?

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#38 RossCreekNation
October 24 2009, 04:29PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

Sportsnet's ticker just said Buchberger's on the 4th line. That's a joke... right?

Seriously, according to Sportsnet's ticker on HockeyCentral, the Oilers lines are...

Penner-Gagner-Hemsky

Jacques-Horcoff-O'Sullivan

Moreau-Cogliano-Nilsson

Buchberger-Stortini-MacIntyre

Gilbert-Grebeshkov

Visnovsky-Smid

Strudwick-Chorney

I know they called up Peckham, so I assumed he takes Strudwick's spot and Strudwick plays 4LW. So whats up with Sportsnet? Buchberger? Seriously? Someone's having some fun.

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#39 Hax
October 24 2009, 05:02PM
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Heatly wrote:

Oilers 4 Flames 2

Horcoff will get 2 points

Go Oilers! May have to watch update on phone cuz I'm going to UFC tonight.

Horcoff with two points!!! Let's not get out of control here with these wild predictions. I think Souray has a better chance at getting two points tonight then Horcoff.

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#40 SirFozz
October 24 2009, 05:26PM
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@ RossCreek

I sure hope he's playing. Nobody bleeds on the opposition like Bucky.

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