Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NHL Off-Season Winners and Losers

With NHL Preseason games officially getting underway, the regular season is just around the corner. While I probably won't get to watch too many games from China, I am excited none the less. Just as I did back on Draft Day, I will look back at the busy off-season and decide on a few winners and losers.

Detroit Red Wings: Plain and simple, the Red Wings win every off-season. Signing Hossa and Conklin from the Penguins helps the Wings, and hurts the Penguins, making the Wings a favourite to repeat. Not only were they able to make such high profile signings, but they still re-signed Brad Stuart with plenty of cap room to spare, meaning this team could end up even better throughout the season. How terrifying is that?

Toronto Maple Leafs: Just as the Red Wings always seem to win, the Leafs always seem to lose in the summer. First off, they were unable to get Sundin to comeback (and appear unlikely to do so), and secondly they paid way too much money for the unproven Jeff Finger. While Nicholas Hagman was a solid singing, he is best served as a second line utility-winger, and hardly the top line forward that the Leafs need. Yes, getting rid of McCabe was a good step, but Mike Van Ryan is hardly going to set the team on fire. It has been 41 years since the Leafs last hoisted the Cup, and if they keep this up, it may be another 41.

Chicago Blackhawks: The only team to have gone longer without a cup than the Leafs seems to be making great strides towards taking the drink in the very near future! Brian Campbell gives Dustin Byfuglin, Brent Seabrook, et al. some much needed experience in the back end, and also gives the Hawks potential to have one of the best powerplays in the league. Snatching Christobal Huet up from the Capitals was another great move, as it makes the declining Nikolai Khabibulin a valuable trading commodity. Because any of the other active goalies to have started their way to a Stanley Cup (Osgood, Gigure, Ward, and Brodeur) will not be traded anytime soon.

Nashville Predators: Only one season removed from losing the core of their team to free agency, the Preds had yet another rough summer. First off, they traded away former starting goalie Chris Mason to a division rival for far less than market value. Secondly, they watch as two of their other division rivals, Chicago and Detroit, have fantastic off-seasons, while making no major signings of their own. Lastly, they watch their most promising young player, Alexander Radulov, sign with a Russian team, despite being under contract. The Predators were lucky to make the playoffs last year, and I don't think that they will have the same luck this time around.

Washington Capitals: They kept the core of one of the best and most exciting teams together, which is certainly a bonus. Resigning Sergei Federov was a very underrated off-season victory for the Captials, as he played excellently with Ovechkin and Semin with the Russians at the World Championship. The Capitals need that magic to continue. Signing Jose Theodore is a huge gamble, plain and simple. Are they going to get the Theodore of last season, or the one before? If the Capitals hope to make it anywhere in the spring, they need him to conquer a lot of his personal and professional demons.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Losing Hossa and Conklin hurt. Losing them to the team that beat them in the finals last year makes it a slap in the face. They also lost Roberts and Malone to Tampa. Granted they replaced them with Satan and Fedotenko, but that still has to be seen as a step down. The Penguins should still be the class of the Eastern Conference, but with the Capitals and Flyers continuing to grow, they needed to make a bigger splash in order to be as far and above as they were last year.

San Jose Sharks: All last season, they were missing that elusive puck moving defenseman. They seemed to have finally found him in Brian Campbell, but he left for Chicago at the start of the off-season, leaving the Sharks in a bit of a rut. However, they traded the under-performing Matt Carle to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Dan Boyle (who reportedly was the Sharks first choice at the trade deadline last year, before he re-signed with Tampa), and signed veteran free agent Rob Blake. All of a sudden, their defense is looking much better than it was back in the spring time. To make it even more terrifying, like the Red Wings, the Sharks have a lot of room against the cap to improve their team over the course of the season.

Vanouver Canucks: Two franchise stalwarts, Marcus Naslund and Brendan Morrison took off for greener pastures, and they were replaced with Pavol Demitra and Steve Bernier. Despite Morrison's injuries and Naslund's inconsistencies last season, this has to be seen as a net loss for the 'Nucks. Not only that, they offered FAR too much money to Mats Sundin, and even though he did not sign it, they certainly drove up the market price on aging forwards without Stanley Cup rings, a move that could have long lasting consequences for the franchise. With the Blackhawks, Coyotes, and Oilers on the rise, and the Kings aging another year, the Canucks have to be in contention for the basement of the Western Conference.

Tampa Bay Lighting: What a difference a few months makes? First they re-sign franchise player, Vincent LeCavalier for essentially the rest of his career, and then they draft the next franchise player, Steve Stamkos, and sign him to an entry level deal. As if this is not enough, they free up cap room by trading Dan Boyle, adding Matt Carle (while he underperformed last year, he should benefit from a change of scenery). Then as an encore, they go on a free agent frenzy, signing Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, Vaclav Prospal, and Olaf Kolzig. But wait there is more...the Lightning then pull a great trade and get one of the most promising defensemen in the league, Andrei Meszaros, from their expansion cousins, the Ottawa Senators. To make a good summer even better, they parted ways with the two men responsible for the Lightning's recent misfortunes, Jay Feaster and John Tortorella. While they have only been on the downturn for a few years, we may see the Lighting as an elite team in the NHL again in the very near future.

Until next time,


Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Outsider's Perspective - Part V - The Conservatives

This look at each of the five major parties in Canada concludes today with a look at the current governing party.

The Conservative Party of Canada

Leader: Stephen Harper
Since: 2004
Leader's Riding: Calgary Southwest
Seats at Dissolution: 127
Major Issues: Social Conservatism, Tax Cuts, Shutting up their Cabinet

(DISCLAIMER: Before I get started once again, let me point out my obvious political views. I am not a fan of this party what so ever. Just as in my last post, I shall do my best to remain objective, and I apologize if I am not able to do so.)

Two weeks ago, everything was going to so well. What happened?

Immediately after Parliament was dissolved, things were looking great for Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. They were gaining big in the battleground ridings, and it looked like they may be able to get the first right-wing majority government in fifteen years. All that they had to do was run a campaign even half as efficiently as they did in 2006 and they would be able to pick up another 30 seats, and a majority government would be theirs.

But then puffins pooed, Ryan Sparrow spoke ill of a man who lost his son, jokes were made about cold cuts and drunk natives, the US Economy is on the verge of collapsing, and that damn Elizabeth May just will not stop talking. Suddenly things are very different as Harper has had to do all sorts of apologizing. This certainly is not the position he wanted to be in his fight for a majority.

After all, any time apologizing is less time for him to be talking about his great sweater vest.

(EDITORIAL TANGENT: If family really is everything, then why is he fighting for a job that will keep him away from his wife and children for so much of the year?)

Now before any doom and gloom talk starts about the sweater unraveling, the Conservatives are still running a solid campaign. The attack ads on Dion seem to be working, and Harper has done a great job of dividing his opposition. The party continues to gain ground in Quebec, which is a real threat to the Bloc, but their numbers in Ontario and BC seem to have stagnated.

The latest Globe and Mail Poll (accessed September 21, 2008 at approx. 8pm EDT) has them sitting at 38% of the vote, slightly up from the 36% they won with in 2006. While this increase is good, it is a drop from where they were two short weeks ago, when everything seemed to be going wrong.

All in all, they should gain a solid 5-12 seats. While successful, this is a far cry from the 28 they need to get a majority.

So what do they have to do to fix things? Plain and simply, shut up. Since coming into power in 2006, Harper has done a masterful job keeping control on his own party. He needs to go back to those ways. High profile members of the party need to realize that nothing is off the record during an election time.

Many Canadians have been mistrustful of Harper, and the Conservatives in general. These series of gaffes, are making people wonder just what kind of people the powers that be really are. Do they really think that everyone who speaks out against them is doing so because of an allegiance to another party? Do they really think that all Algonquins are drunks? Are they all bullies, resorting to sophomoric jokes about their opposition? Do they really hope that their critics will die of Listerios?

Even a bleeding heart like me will agree that the answer to most of the above questions is "probably not". But the fact that they are being asked at a crucial time does not bode well for the party at all.

The Conservative spin doctors need to go into overdrive to make the party appear more gentle, and quite frankly, likable. If Canadians are going to trust them with the next four years, they need to know that they are not insensitive, immoral monsters.

Because right now, they are really coming across as wolves in sheep's sweater-vests.

Until next time,


Part I - The Green Party of Canada - September 9, 2008
Part II - The NDP - September 15, 2008
Part III - The Bloc Quebecois - September 16, 2008
Part IV - The Liberal Party of Canada - September 19, 2008
Part V - The Conservative Party of Canada - September 21, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

An Outsider's Perspective - Part IV - The Liberals

Here we are in Part 4 of this 5 part series. Today we look at the party that governed our country for 13 years, but has since fallen down to the ranks of Official Opposition, hoping to rise once more.

The Liberal Party of Canada

Current Leader:
Stephane Dion
Since: 2006
Leader's Riding: Saint-Laurent -- Cartierville
Seats at Dissolution: 95
Major Issues: Carbon Taxes, Polarizing the Electon, Rebranding Stephane Dion

(DISCLAMER: Before I get started here, I would like to direct people's attention to one of the first posts I made back in 2006, after Stephane Dion won the Liberal Leadership. The reason I ask you to give that post a whirl, is because in it I express my high record for Stephane Dion and the Liberal party. I have tried in the first three posts to be as objective as possible, however that may be difficult given my emotional attachment here.)

It's been a rough year for Stephane. Since January, he has been the subject of countless attack ads by the Conservative Government. It seems that every few months they choose some new way to go after him, in actions that remind me of the worst kind of bullying you see in High School. I mean, seriously, if a teenager made something like notaleader.ca, they would be suspended from school, no questions asked. Funny how we hold our kids to higher standards than our politicians.

Sorry, there goes that bias thing I was warning you about, allow me to start over.

Dion, after being the subject to many attack ads, has seen the Liberal numbers drop in some very key ridings, inching the Conservatives closer and closer to a Majority Government. This has caused many to wonder about Dion's leadership credentials, and has lead to a great many talk about replacing him with a different candidate in the very near future.

The Liberal machine has gone into overdrive to rebrand Dion from all of the Conservative attack ads. First by launching a counter side ThisIsDion.ca, where they show pictures and videos of Stephane Dion playing floor hockey, and going fishing. A far cry from the babbling oaf talking about the difficulty of making priorities. Also, Dion has been appearing more often with some of his "Dream Team" such as Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff, and Gerrard Kennedy, hoping that if people are fans of any of them, that they will throw their support behind Dion. Also, he has been highlighting the power of the Liberal Party as a whole, which contrasts a great deal to Harper's cabinet, made up of people who either get no or bad publicity.

In order to win this election, or lose it less, the Liberals need to do two more important things: Talk about the economy, and tap into Canadians mistrust of the Conservatives.

With clouds getting cast over the US economy, obviously fears are moving North of the Border. Dion has already started talking about the Liberals fiscal records during the Chretien and Martin years, but he needs to highlight this more and more. It was Brian Mulroney in power during the recession of the early 90s, and it was Chretien in power during the economic boom of the mid and late 90s.

People are concerned about rising taxes, fuel costs, and grocery bills. The thing is that Dion has an answer for these things, The Green Shift. This has to be one of the worst publicized great ideas ever. It will help save Canadians money, plain and simple. Yes, it raises energy costs, but it cuts taxes across the board, and encourages companies to look into greener technologies. Yes, it is confusing, but it will help people save money, plain and simple. What the Liberals need to do, is lay down exactly how much money a family of 4, with an income of say $70, 000 will save as a result of this plan, then people will start to understand.

Secondly, the Liberals need to realize that this is not the same political climate that it was for them in the 1990s. Then, there was the Reform (or Alliance) and the Progressive Conservatives, who dividing the Right Wing vote, and the Liberals were able to gather the centre vote with relative ease. Now, things are different, as the NDP and Greens have emerged as larger players, and the Bloc has moved farther Left. This squeezes the Liberals on both sides.

However, many Canadians have a certain mistrust of Harper and the Conservative Party. Dion needs to tell people time and time again, that the Liberals are the only party that is in any kind of position to dethrone the Conservatives. He needs to polarize this election, and he needs to do it fast. If the Liberals are going to have any kind of success, then this election needs to be about Liberals vs. Conservatives.

Harper can very clearly see this. This is why at one point he said that he was just as worried about Layton as he was Dion. He was trying to empower the NDP base, to take away votes from the Liberals.

When I first started this series, a short ten days ago, I was convinced that the Liberals would lose somewhere around 20 seats to the Conservative Juggernaut. However, since the campaign started, the Conservatives have been making mistake after mistake, from puffins, to jokes in poor taste, to misusing the RCMP. Couple this with Canadian fears about the economy, and I am not so certain. While I still think that there will be another Conservative Minority (like I said back in January), I think that the Liberals will have very little change, just like the NDPs.

In the earlier blog post that I referenced, I said proudly "I honestly and sincerely hope that this Conservative Minority comes to a close and we can vote Dion in as soon as possible. He may just end up being the best Prime Minister we have had in a long time."

And yes, several attack ads later, I still feel the same. Sadly, though I only have one vote, and I fear that will note be enough.

Until next time,


Part I - The Green Party of Canada - September 9, 2008
Part II - The NDP - September 15, 2008
Part III - The Bloc Quebecois - September 16, 2008
Part IV - The Liberal Party of Canada - September 19, 2008
Part V - The Conservative Party of Canada - September 21, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Outsider's Perspective - Part III - Bloc Quebecois

We continue our look at the five major political parties in Canada. Today our focus shifts to the Eastern portion of Central Canada and a party that has the potential to lose a lot of ground, as the major battles in this election are taking place right on its door step.

Bloc Quebecois

Current Leader:
Gilles Duceppe
Leader's Riding: Laurier - Sainte Marie
Seats at Dissolution: 48
Major Issues: Quebec Sovereignty, Left-Wing Nationalist, Remaining Relevant

In my travels, I have frequently entered into political conversations with people from all over the world. Whenever I try to explain Canadian politics, and our myriad of parties, I always struggle explaining the Bloc Quebecois. People from other countries have difficulty understanding a party that runs in only one province, but is still consistently one of the top parties in the country (including one stint as official opposition).

This failure to comprehend the relevance of the Bloc appears to be Gilles Duceppe's biggest problem, as this mindset seems to be creeping its way into Quebec. With the sponsorship scandal raging, the Bloc were expected to make huge gains in the 2006 election, however they ended up losing three seats, after the Conservatives made huge strides in Quebec.

With the Gomery Inquiry being little more than a memory in Quebec, it seems like the Liberals may be able to rebound in the province. Also the NDP are making noise about competing with the Bloc for the Left Wing vote.

However, the biggest threat to the Bloc are definetly the Conservatives. They made a huge break through in Quebec for the first time in decades in 2006, and remain poised to do even more. Harper has been making a huge push towards Right Wing Seperatists, which are growing in numbers in the wake of the ADQ's success in the last provincial election.

Like Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe has to be worried about this election. Back in May 2007, Duceppe resigned as the leader of the Bloc in order to run for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois, only to change his mind the next day, when it became obvious that he would have legitimate competition for it. It appears that even Duceppe himself sees the BQ ship sinking, and he at least tried to get off.

This is also his fifth election as the leader of the party. During his first two elections he saw his support dwindle, losing Official Opposition status, his next two saw the support rebound, but mostly as a result of the Sponsorship Scandal. He knows that not only is his job in question, but so is his legacy, and there do not seem to be too many people in line to take it from him.

The Bloc's all-time low for seats was 38 in the 2000 election, and I would not be at all surprised if they will be around, or below that number in a few weeks. Duceppe is getting pushed from the Left, pushed from the Right, and pushed from inside of himself, he's bound to have a rough October.

Until next time,


Part I - The Green Party of Canada - September 9, 2008
Part II - The NDP - September 15, 2008
Part III - The Bloc Quebecois - September 16, 2008
Part IV - The Liberal Party of Canada - September 19, 2008
Part V - The Conservative Party of Canada - September 21, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

An Outsider's Perspective - Part II - The New Democratic Party

Today we go into part 2 of the Outsider's Perspective, with a look at Canada's Fourth Party, who face a series of uphill battles if they hope to improve upon their success of the last election.

New Democratic Party

Current Leader: Jack Layton
Since: 2003
Leader's Riding: Toronto-Danforth
Seats at Dissolution: 30
Major Issues: Afghanistan, Elizabeth May at debates, being taken seriously

Jack's in trouble and he knows it.

After the 2006, the NDP received their second highest seat total ever, and the highest total for any fourth party in the country's history. Surely this should be a great cause for success, but there is trouble lurking around the corner.

The rise of the Green Party has put the NDP in very unfamiliar territory. They have always been the party that took votes away from disenchanted Liberals, who felt marginalized in their own party. Now, here they sit with the Greens having the potential to do the same to them.

Now Jack Layton has repeatedly said that he is running to be Prime Minister of the country, but surely, he must join the other thirty odd million Canadians who see that as being highly unlikely. He is obviously making these claims to counter Elizabeth May's support for the Liberals, and Stephane Dion's claims that he is the only one that can prevent a Conservative government.

In my last post, I mentioned Elizabeth May's exclusion from the debates. Jack Layton was one of the people who blatantly opposed her involvement. He received so much backlash from his supporters that he has since changed his position on the issue. Given the NDP's socialist roots, it is no surprise that so many supporters wanted everyone to get a fair shake. One has to wonder just how many people on the left-of-center will change their vote given Layton's position(s) on this controversial issue.

Another major issue for the NDP is Canada's mission in Afghanistan. They have opposed it for a great deal of time, and want an immediate withdraw. The Liberals and Conservatives feel that Canadian troops should stay for a few years longer to finish what they have started. As more and more somber repatriation ceremonies occur in Trenton, one has to wonder if more and more Canadians will vote for the NDP in order to stop Canadian involvement in the conflict.

The NDP are involved in several key battleground ridings in British Columbia, that the Conservatives must win in order to form a majority. After seeing his poll numbers drop at dissolution, his support has since rise, and it shows that we are in for a fight out West between the two parties. Layton also seems to think that his party is poised for breakthroughs in Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. One has to wonder if Layton is overly optimistic, lying, or just plain delusional.

The left-wing voters in Quebec are very clearly going to vote for the Bloc. Saskatchewan has some potential, given the province's on-again-off-again love affair of the left, however, they seem to be on a break for the time being. And Alberta is Conservative country, no question. This is similar to John McCain saying that he would break through in California, it just won't happen, sorry.

So really for the NDP, the best bet for them will be to stay at or about the same level that they are, 30 seats is quite respectable, especially for a fourth party. However, this is Layton's third election as party leader, and if he can't gain more support than before, one has to wonder just how much longer the left-wing-powers-that-be will keep him around for. I think that the this is why Layton opposed May's inclusion at the debates, and this is why he is saying that he is running for Prime Minister, and this is why he started the campaign trail with the most frantic pace of any leader, criss-crossing the country.

He knows that his time as leader rests in the results of this election, and he needs to improve on his party's 30 seat performance from 2006. Sadly, for Layton, it's just not in the cards for him. Like I said, Jack's in trouble and he knows it.

Until next time,


Part I - The Green Party of Canada - September 9, 2008
Part II - The NDP - September 15, 2008
Part III - The Bloc Quebecois - September 16, 2008
Part IV - The Liberal Party of Canada - September 19, 2008
Part V - The Conservative Party of Canada - September 21, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

An Outsider's Perspective - Part I - The Greens

My apologies to anyone out in the blogosphere who feels that they may have been lacking in Glenergy of late, but things have been hectic for me of late what with moving to a new country and starting a new job. Sadly my blogging has been lacking, which I think will turn around since I feel that I have SOOOO much to talk about, what with a new NHL Season just around the corner, a few major political elections, and oh yeah that whole China thing as well.

With the announcment of a Canadian General Election on October 14th (which I HATE by the way) I have decided to start a five part series here as I look at the different parties and their main issues and challenges going into this particular campaign.

I am going to start with the party that has the smallest number of seats currently in parliament, but has a massive amount of potential going into this October.

The Green Party of Canada
Established: 1983
Current Leader: Elizabeth May
Leader's Riding: Central Nova
Members of Parliament at Dissolution: 1
Major Issues:
The environment, social justice, speaking at debates

This election stands to have potential break-throughs for Canada's fifth party. Environmental awareness is at an all time high, and dissatisfaction with the Liberal party is pretty darn high as well. However, just yesterday any momentum that the Green Party had was severely stifled as it was announced that they would not be allowed to participate in any televised debates due to a threatened boycott by the Conservatives, and NDP.

This is a major blow to the Green Party as Elizabeth May has proven herself to be very articulate and quick-witted and she surely would have performed well in any live debates. The reason that the three parties are (officially) giving, is that due to a deal worked out between the Liberals and the Greens to not contest party members in the opposing leaders riding, that they are obviously the same party.

This is a pretty ridiculous comment, since the Greens and Liberals are going head-to-head in 306 of the 308 ridings. Also of note, one of the bi-elections which were canceled due to the call for this election, was looking to be a toss-up between the Liberals and the Greens. Also, May has criticized Dion's Carbon Tax repeatedly, saying that it doesn't go far enough.

Now there is legal precedent in May's argument as Preston Manning was able to participate in the 1993 debates under a similar set of circumstances. As such, the Green Party is taking this decision to court, which should have some interesting consequences before the two debates.

The Greens find themselves in an interesting position, since they are currently receiving a great deal of media attention from the debate debate. This of course helps them out and gives them a "Little Party that Could" mentalitly, which has potential for them to gain support. Now obviously for that support to really grow she needs to be included in the debate, but this uphill struggle really has potential for long-term benefits for the party.

The Greens are hoping to grabs several votes from Liberals and New Democrats who are sick of their current leaders, which has potential for them to make party history and actually elect a member of parliament. Looking at the map, I think that Blair Wilson (their current MP who was voted in as a Liberal but is currently a member of the Green Party through some complicated steps) will retain his seat in BC, and Elizabeth May will pull off a huge shock and dethrown the Defense Minister in his home turf, giving the Greens 2 seats.

More influentially, a Green surge will take several votes away from the other Left Wing parties and should hinder the New Democrats and the Liberals, ultimately benefitting the Conservatives in the end. This is obviously a tough question that any Green supporter must ask themselves, do I help my party or hurt the Conservatives? Given the incumbents party's poor environmental track record, this is a question that should not be taken lightly.

Wait a minute, silly me, I haven't even talked about any of the ACTUAL issues that the Greens are campaigning for. The obvious first one is the environment. The believe very strongly in a carbon tax, and feel that Dion's Green Shift is not sufficient or aggressive enough. Also, they feel that Canada should follow through on Lester Pearson's promise to devote 0.7% of our GDP to help eliminate poverty, and are staunch supporters of diversity and social justice. Their party website explains this far better than I ever could, and is actually a very well put together site, so check it out.

But no matter what their party platform, that will prove second to the attention that they are receiving due to their inclusion in the debates, which should only help the party in the long term, however I hope that Elizabeth May realizes that a boost to her party really does help Stephen Harper in the short term. However, like all reasonable environmentalists, perhaps May realizes that things will have to get worse for them to get better.

Until next time,


Part I - The Green Party of Canada - September 9, 2008
Part II - The NDP - September 15, 2008
Part III - The Bloc Quebecois - September 16, 2008
Part IV - The Liberal Party of Canada - September 19, 2008
Part V - The Conservative Party of Canada - September 21, 2008