Northwest is best (for now)

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 Tampa Bay, 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.

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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).

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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 . . .


  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    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.

  • Pajamah

    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

        • Chris.

          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.

      • 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.

        • Chris.

          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]

          • Dan the Man

            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.

  • Chris.

    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.

  • homerer

    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!!

    • Bombstradamus

      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.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    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.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    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.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    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??

  • 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.

    • Dan the Man

      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.

  • Librarian Mike

    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.

  • Oilers who are good fighters playing in this game in order:

    all of the above are over 220 pounds

    Flames who are good fighters playing in this game in order:

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • RCN

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








      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.