27 January 2010


Semi-famous Canadian celebrity George Stromboulopoulos has a great quote regarding the mentality of the average Montreal Canadiens fan: "One win, plan the parade; one loss, tie the noose." Depending on the most recent game's outcome, the 2009-10 edition of the Canadiens is either the best team ever or the absolute worst piece of garbage squad to ever wear la Sainte Flanelle. The truth, most maddeningly, lies somewhere in the middle of that bipolar dichotomy.

The truth of the matter is that the 2009-10 Montreal Canadiens are thoroughly mediocre.

It is that mediocrity that leads to the immensely frustrating inconsistency that leads to 4-1 and 6-0 victories over New Jersey and the Rangers, and 2-1 and 3-0 losses to Florida and Tampa Bay...all in the same week. Dominant and excellent one night, pathetic and listless the next. If you were to market mediocrity in a bottle, you would slap a Habs logo on it.

Last season a good team had a meltdown. This year the only consistency has been the inconsistency. They made the playoffs by the skins of their collective teeth last season -- had the season been a week longer I am thoroughly convinced they would have missed them. This year it all depends on whether they're hot or cold on the final weekend of the season. Until then, the key to maintaining a semblance of sanity while watching the Canadiens is to assume nothing and treat each game like a blank slate with no memory of what happened in the previous game. Or, do something else.

25 January 2010

Kelowna Monopoly Update

Currently sitting in 10th position!

Monday Morning Musing

Re: Proroguing means smaller security risk

Mr. Goddard makes a good point and I think it should be extended to its logical conclusion. After the Olympics are over this forthcoming spring and early summer will feature the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the rest of summer and early autumn will have baseball and the World Series, and the winter months will again have a lot of hockey, basketball, and football on TV. With all of these major sporting events and the security required to monitor them Canada's Parliament is under permanent security risk. Plus, nobody is going to choose to watch a parliamentary committee instead of the Super Bowl. Let's just do away with Parliament entirely and let Mr. Harper the Wise govern by decree.

15 January 2010

Crunch Time For Canadiens

It may be mid-January and there may still be 34 games remaining on the 2009-10 Montreal Canadiens regular season schedule, but we are officially entering crunch time for the beloved bleu, blanc, et rouge. After last night's 5-3 victory over Dallas, the Habs are sitting in 8th place in the Eastern Conference--actually, tied for 7th with the Senators, but Ottawa gets the nod for that spot--which would mean a playoff series against the New Jersey Devils if the season ended today. Thankfully it does not. Here's a look at the rest of the season and what will have to happen if the Canadiens want to move up in the standings and separate themselves from the cluster of teams fighting for a playoff spot.

First and foremost, it's probably a safe bet to rule out a division title this season. The once-again-mighty Buffalo Sabres have been riding the hot hand of Ryan Miller all season long and are presently thirteen points up on the Canadiens with two games in hand. Given how well the Sabres are playing--and a big shout out to Rockets alumni and possible Calder winner, Tyler Myers!--and how up-and-down the Canadiens have been to this point, it's difficult to envision Montreal winning 7-9 more games than Buffalo does the rest of the way. That said, Ottawa held a pretty comfortable division lead fairly late into the 2007-08 season, so truly anything is possible, but I would not count on a Sabres collapse barring a major injury to Miller.

Second, I like to think of myself as an optimistic regarding my team's fortunes. Roughly two years ago at this time I noticed a distinguishing feature in my thinking relative to what many of my good friends and colleagues were saying about the Canadiens: I was looking at the teams ahead of us in the standings rather than worrying about the teams that were narrowly behind us. The more common custom is borne out of the way things have gone for Montreal since the lockout - it's always been a struggle to make the playoffs and they've always been bunched up with a handful of other teams all fighting for the 7th and 8th seeds. When the Habs got hot two years ago I stopped worrying about the Bruins, Hurricanes, and Sabres, instead thinking, "Can they catch up with Ottawa and start pushing the likes of New Jersey, Washington and Pittsburgh?" I'm still waiting for that hot streak to materialize but as I look at the standings and the schedule, I still hold out hope that the Canadiens can push their way up to 5th place, maybe even 4th by the end of the regular season.

My optimistic thinking is based on their remaining games and their opponents. Only 5 of them are against teams from the Western Conference, leaving 29 games against division and conference rivals. There are no "gimmies" for this team, not this year, but they have games with Anaheim, Edmonton, two with the Leafs, and two with Carolina that on paper should translate into points. Where things get really interesting, of course, is the fact that 18 of the remaining games are against teams that are in the cluster of 5th-13th place, including 4 against Boston and 3 each against the Rangers, Flyers, and Senators. These are the so-called "4 point games" that are tremendously important to win in order to jump ahead of those teams and let them be the ones looking over their shoulders at the teams in 9th place and lower. A strong record, say 9-10 (or more, please) wins out of those 13 most important games, would certainly assure the Habs a playoff spot.

I mentioned the weaker opponents earlier for a good reason: if you want to consider your team to be a good or very good one, you have to beat the weak teams. I did a little post-mortem on the ill-fated 2008-09 centennial season, and it turns out that Montreal left in the vicinity of 30 points on the table against teams that failed to make the playoffs last year. Losses to teams like Toronto, Florida, Carolina, and the Islanders had a severely negative impact on Montreal's place in the standings, relegating them to 8th position and leaving them easy prey for a hotly-determined Bruins team eager to humiliate the Canadiens. Over the course of an 82-game season it's easy to mentally detach from a late January game against a pathetic team, but you do so at your peril because those two points could come in really handy when April rolls around and you're jockeying for position. Games against the cellar-dwellers are almost as "must win" as games against Boston. You need only look at the Vancouver Canucks right now and how frustrated they are with the Alex Burrows-Stephane Auger situation, because they're fully acknowledging how important losing those two points could be come playoff time.

Now, I realize that I said earlier that the Habs shouldn't get their hopes too high and shouldn't focus on winning the division so much as they should on establishing themselves as a playoff team. However, I would be a terrible fan if I did not at least entertain the possibility. The Habs still have two games left against their division rivals, and while they have gone 1-3 against Buffalo, with the exception of a 6-2 drubbing in early December every game has been decided by a single goal. One lucky bounce here or there is all it takes to turn the tide of a game, and Buffalo has benefited from a number of those this season. If Montreal were to take the final two games against Buffalo, that’d mean only a 9-point space to make up over the other 32 games. If Buffalo goes on a three-game losing streak at the same time Montreal goes on a three-game winning streak, that’s six more points made up along the way. These are two big if’s and I fully acknowledge that, but these things can and do happen during the course of a long season, and if they do things get very, very interesting for our Montreal Canadiens.

There is still an awful lot of hockey to play in the 2009-10 regular season but it is never too early to look at the future and try to scheme things out for your favourite team. I still have a lot of confidence in the Habs and while I think another slog of a battle is in the offing, I am hoping for a season finale more reminiscent of 2007-08 than 2006-07 and 2008-09. I am tired of getting dragged into the latest Price v. Halak debate and I want to think about the entire team and its prospects for the remainder of the season. When I do, good things come to mind. Go Habs Go!

14 January 2010

Go Kelowna Go!

Kelowna is one of 65 cities nominated to be represented on the brand-new edition of Canadian Monopoly. As I type this up Kelowna is ranked #13 on the list with 2.3% of all votes cast.

Just like getting 4 Montreal Canadiens into the starting line-up of the All-Star Game last year, vote early and vote often! You're allowed to vote for your city once per day, every day, until voting closes on February 22nd.

While you're at it, throw in Penticton as a wild-card nominee!


13 January 2010

Fortunately, politcians are temporary and do go away

Some sooner than others, and given what Kevin Page has to say regarding the Conservatives and what they've done to Canada's finances, I'd put forward the idea that Messrs. Harper and Flaherty fit the former category:

“Even Mr. Flaherty is saying five years out you are still running deficits,” [Page] told The Globe this morning in an interview. “Implicitly even Mr. Flaherty is saying if he’s got deficits for five years out, he’s got a structural issue. You can’t grow your way out. It’s economist geek math. Structural means … it is permanent and it won’t go away.”

11 January 2010

The Politics of Prorogation

In the past year, prorogation has entered into the Canadian political lexicon in a big way. It is a tool that hasn't been infrequently used throughout Canadian history but it has never been used as often or with as much of a self-serving political purpose as it has been by the current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.
He invoked it at the end of 2008 to stave off the ill-begotten "coalition" that was formed by the Dion-led Liberals, the NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois - the move certainly saved his political skin, as even though many Canadians were outraged at the perceived "coup" or "attempted subversion of our democracy" the numbers were there to remove the Conservatives and establish Stephane Dion as the Prime Minister of Canada. Never mind that there is nothing at all in the Constitution to prevent a coalition government from taking office after it has established non-confidence in the existing government. In order to preserve his leadership, Harper shut down Parliament and staved off the vote that would have ended his time as Prime Minister.
While the heady days of December 2008 will be fodder for debate for years to come--personally, the idea of Prime Minister Dion and Lieutenant Jack is enough to still send a shiver down my spine--what happened in December 2009 was purely unacceptable and a legitimate affront to our parliamentary democracy. The Prime Minister didn't like where the public discussion was going with regards to Afghan detainee torture, the environment, and the economy so he simply shut down the venue. While the New Jersey Devils were able to turn the lights back on after only 48 hours and continue to lose their confrontation, Parliament will not re-open until March, giving Harper two months to avoid facing the problems that his government has created and ought to be held accountable for. Committees are shut down, there will be no Question Period to grill the government on its actions, and the work of government will now be the sole purview of the PMO.

What does all of this mean?
First, it means that all the talk about "accountability" that was so valuable to the Conservatives in the 2006 election has been demonstrated to be just that: talk. For two years in a row now, when tough questions have been asked and answers demanded, this government has attempted to sweep everything under the rug and hope the problem simply goes away. It worked last year, after all. If Irwin Cotler and Michael Ignatieff can't stand up on the floor of the House of Commons to ask why Canada is jettisoning its long-standing support for human rights and long-standing condemnation of torture and instead turn a blind eye to what Afghan authorities are doing to transferred Taliban prisoners, how can the government be held accountable? If the opposition cannot ask why Canada chose a path of obstruction and obfuscation at Copenhagen, how are Canadians to know why their government insists on holding us back from being active participants in finding a solution to a global problem? If John McCallum and other respected economists cannot press Jim Flaherty on job losses, an ever-increasing deficit, and the poor decision-making processes that resulted in our economy being weaker than it should be, how do we get that information to make educated choices about our portfolios and voting preferences?
Second, the practice of proroguing Parliament has now become a tool to be used at a whim. The precedent has been established that if government faces unpleasant and uncomfortable questions in Parliament, it can simply shut down the Parliament and thus avoid those questions. Yes, the opposition parties can continue to rail against these policies in the media through television, Facebook, media releases, and elsewhere but these means are nowhere near as effective as they are when they take place in the hallowed halls of the House of Commons or in a committee. This is where the work of Canada is done, and the excuse that Canada shouldn't work while Vancouver is full of play doesn't hold water. Canadians need only look at how tirelessly the American Congress has been working in recent weeks to finally approve a comprehensive health care reform bill to see how weak and pathetic our own elected chamber has become. What excuse will be used next and meekly accepted by the Canadian public? The Stanley Cup Playoffs? Canadians love their hockey and don't have time for politics! Stephen Harper has often been referred to as a "bully" by his critics - it appears as though he is now content to behave like the proverbial bully does when people stand up to him.

There is an old adage: Democracy is the political system by which the people get the government they deserve, rather than the one they may need. The people of Canada voted for this--twice. The anger Canadians felt towards the Paul Martin-led Liberals in 2006 and their extreme hesitancy vis-a-vis Stephane Dion in 2008 left them to hold their nose and vote for Stephen Harper. Some did so enthusiastically, sure, but on a large scale we are now reaping what we've sown and are seeing the negative traits that we've always known he's had manifesting themselves in ways that are increasingly dangerous to our democracy. Hopefully the swelling of anti-prorogation sentiment will be a clarion call to Canadians that they not only need a better government, they deserve it too.

04 January 2010

Did They Re-Define the Term Boycott?

I love Kelowna, I miss it every single day. But I tell you, some of the letters on Castanet just make me shake my head. I won't get into the one from a week or so ago with the guy rambling about how the "Islamic People of Afghanistan" orchestrated 9/11 because that's just too far out there. I am more than a smidge concerned that he's all-too-willing to look the other way when it comes to torturing Taliban prisoners.

But I'm in a light-hearted mood today so instead I'm going to point this gem out to everybody. The writer, as many of us are, is greatly displeased at the vile decision made by the International Olympic Committee to remove women's ski jumping from the list of events at the 2010 Winter Games. It's unconscionable that in this great country, where we value equality, an entire group of athletes are being barred from competition in their chosen sport based on their gender. On that much, the writer and I agree, but here comes the humourous diversion:

"As a suggestion, perhaps a boycott of just one Olympic sponsor's products would quickly bring this troubling and truly trivial situation to a successful ending.

Instead of buying two cases of Coca-Cola a week just buy one - or whatever. No doubt Coke will react within days and will become the heroes and the girls will jump at Whistler with much hype and applause. Coca-Cola will be drooling over the headline-gathering news.

I'm getting close to 30 years old so my memory is starting to wither, but boycott doesn't mean "cut our consumption of a product by 50%" does it? My understanding is that if one boycotts a product they do not purchase it in any quantity, and instead seek out a viable alternative or adjust their lifestyle to simply live without said product. If I were a Pepsi executive, my heart would have sank after reading that initial quoted line only to not have my company's named dropped at all in the discussion that followed.

That being said, Coca-Cola doesn't hold anywhere near the sway over the IOC that would be needed to compel them to reverse their decision. If the athletes themselves lobbying all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada doesn't work, how is drinking only one case of Coke per week going to make an impact? I will say this much: the heart is in the right place, and that's commendable.

Oh yeah, Happy New Year everybody!