Threero Of The Week: Did Eric Nystrom Takes Us To Peak Conference III?

by J.R.

600px-Hubbert_peak_oil_plot.svg“We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. It’s unique to both human and geologic history. It has never happened before and it can’t possibly happen again. You can only use oil once. You can only use metals once. Soon all the oil is going to be burned and all the metals mined and scattered.” —  M. King Hubbert

In 1956, M. King Hubbert devised what is now called the “peak oil theory” — in short that there is a point, for any geographical area, at which petroleum extraction peaks and then will go into terminal decline.

It is a wildly pessimistic supposition, but an influential one nonetheless. It has helped craft energy policy for decades. And it makes some sense. Petroleum takes thousands of years to form in a complex process of rotting ferns and decaying dinosaurs. We are using more than is being produced. Eventually, we will get all we can and then we will get far less until we can get no more.

Is Conference III seemingly abundant but in danger of running into a wall and then disappearing completely? Will we be able to pinpoint the time at which there was a maximum amount of Conference III was sucked out of the rotting bones of terrifying extinct creatures, after which there was ever less Conference III to be had?

Will we look back at January 24, 2014 and say “That was it. We never had more Conference III than we had on a cold night in Calgary”?

Let’s look at the facts.

First — the game. It was Nashville – as Conference III as Conference III can be — in the midst of a Western Canada trip playing on a Friday, a weird day to be playing a professional hockey game, in Calgary, a typical foil for Conference III teams.

And our protagonist: Eric Nystrom, a former Dallas Star, yes, but a man who got his start in Alberta, drafted in the first round by those same Flames.

Here’s a picture of Nystrom after he scored a penalty shot (yes) against the Wild.


Indeed, he looks to be dancing on the edge of a precipice. Excitement and terror all at once, dangerously dancing close to a series of events which will see the train flying off the tracks. It’s not unlike seeing Editors live:


A fan wearing a rooster hat takes pictures at their men's handball Preliminaries Group A match against Britain at the Copper Box venue during the London 2012 Olympic GamesBut Nystrom would not fall of his cliff in Calgary — someone would, but it would not be him. For on this night in Calgary, Nystrom was set to wear a special hat. A hat with a rooster on it, to paraphrase Joe Thornton.

Nystrom, who entered the game with seven goals in 49 games this season and 53 goals in his entire career, went off:

Let’s review:

  1. The first goal came off a broken play
  2. For the second, he tucked a rebound of a rather innocuous dump-in that played weird off the pad before the goalie could cover
  3. His third goal was initially credited to Paul Gaustad, who threw a blind one at the side of net, which Nystrom never saw before it ricocheted off his leg and into the net
  4. A tap-in, a family tradition:

A Nystrom hat trick — especially one that includes a scoring change because of a total goofball bounce — is very Conference III. A Nystrom four-banger is unheard of levels of Conference III. Eric Nystrom being the first Pred to get four in a game? For a franchise that has boasted such legendary goal-scorers as David Legwand and Kimmo Timonen? Unreal.

Just when you thought the last drop of Conference III-ness had been sucked out of the ground, this happened:

The Predators lost. Not just in a game in which the team scored four goals — an almost-blue-moon-rare occurrence. And not just in a game in which one player scored four goals for the Preds — again, which had never happened. The Predators lost in a shootout to the Flames.

After all that transpired, after Eric Nystrom cranked the Conference III level of the game so high steam was boring out of raccoons across the continent’s midsection, the Predators lost, their already-slim-to-none playoff chances disappearing at the hands of Sean Monahan, his goal feeling rather a bit like the final turning point in another disappointing season, a bit like when Matt Duchene did this last season:

No, Dutchy going offside wasn’t the reason the Preds collapsed last season and squandering a four-goal game from Eric Nystrom isn’t the reason the Preds will miss the playoffs this year, but, if you could point at a point when it turned terminal, those moments serve a purpose.

But that’s just the Predators. Can Conference III ever get more Conference III than it did in Calgary Friday night?

Let’s go back to peak oil theory and see what Peter Huber has to say:

“The tar sands of Alberta alone contain enough hydrocarbon to fuel the entire planet for over 100 years,” according to Peter Huber, co-author of The Bottomless Well.

What is he talking about? The Canadian tar sands are a Florida-size patch of sand and rock, mixed with oil. Lots of it.

Huber said people think we’re running out of oil because we’re running out of cheap oil, the kind that’s found in the Middle East, which is already liquid, clean and ready to refine.

“It’s very cheap to get that oil out of the ground. So, of course, that’s where people go first,” Huber said.

There’s delightful symmetry that a rebuttal of peak oil is grounded (ahem) in Alberta, but Huber makes a point about Conference III, too. It was easy to declare Nystrom’s futile four-spot as peak Conference III. It was the cheap oil. It was declared as the most Conference III moment ever before the whole affair had played out:

Screen shot 2014-01-27 at 11.27.30 AM

But maybe, just maybe, Alberta wasn’t where we saw the end of Conference III’s climb. Maybe Nystrom showed us just how much more Conference III there is to be had.