Yesterday, we didn't know Peter Bondra was employed in the NHL. Today, he scored his 500th career goal to break 1-1 tie against the Maple Leafs. The Leafs went on to not win the game by a score of 3-1.
We can only talk about the Leafs so much, especially when they lose, and especially when we didn't actually see the game. So let's talk about Chicago.
Their coach has made himself look like hockey god since taking over this perennially depressing team. Dennis Savard owns a 8-2-3 record behind the Chicago bench. This is the stuff that GM's only dream about when they switch coaches mid-season.
But do us a favour. Don't make too big a deal about Savard. If you remember, this was a team that looked pretty sharp in the preseason, and was pretty sharp to start the real one too.
But then injuries. Injuries to Havlat. Injuries to Handzus. Injuries to Khabilbulin (you just know Holmqvist and Hamilton were probably getting a little worried). With them out, the team tumbled, and so did Trent Yawney's head, figuratively speaking.
Enter Savard. And enter a prolonged hot streak, not hurt in the least by the return of Havlat and Khabibulin. This seems less about Savard getting some heightened level of production out the Hawks, and more about the Chicago playing to its uninjured potential.
So, should Chicago make the playoffs (and let's hope they do, because those fans deserve a bone), please don't rush to give Savard the Jack Adams. Paul Maurice already has dibs.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Yesterday, we didn't know Peter Bondra was employed in the NHL. Today, he scored his 500th career goal to break 1-1 tie against the Maple Leafs. The Leafs went on to not win the game by a score of 3-1.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
All is right in Leaf land. Nine goals in one game has a way of doing that.
Showing that their last two wins (coming on the heels of an ugly seven game losing streak) were no fluke, the Toronto Maple Leafs scored more than a college quarterback in Cancun for spring break, and they didn't even have to get the New York Rangers drunk first.
Up five goals to one, after just the first period, it was pretty obvious how this game was going to end. Henrik Lundqvist was bad in net for the Rangers, not that the team in front of him was any better. With that combination in front of them, the Leafs did their best impression of a very good team, and took advantage of very puck bounce they could, not something you can always say about our boys in blue.
This was also Kyle Wellwood's night. Three of the Leafs' goals came off of his stick, and another two owed their existence to him. It was a career high five points for the sophomore (Alexei Ponikarovsky also put up a career-high five, but he didn't score a hat trick, now did he?) which should remind everyone that this kid is legit.
Even John Pohl got in on the scoring, his coming on a nice breakaway to finish the game - with forty-four minutes still to play.
It was a complete game domination by the Leafs, who reminded the NHL that when they are good, they are good. The win streak is at three, only another four more to go.
PS. We can officially start making jokes about youngster Phil Kessel, now that he's on the safe road to recovery after having surgery to remove his testicular cancer.
Snicker. He said testicular.
Though if precedent is anything to go on, this would be a good time to start being a afraid of Kessel. We all know what Lance did after his bout with testicular cancer. Seven straight scoring titles? I think Kessel has the balls to pull it off. Or doesn't, as the case may be.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
People are going to make a big deal over the b-ball brawl between the Knicks and Nuggets that took place at the Gardens, and more specifically, Carmelo Anthony's cheap shot on Mardy Collins. They should of course, Melo is one of the NBA's Golden Trio (just wait Bosh, they'll regret leaving you out), a rising superstar who did something very, very stupid.
Ok, that's out of the way. Let's take a look at what Carmelo actually did (if you haven't seen it, you can probably find it on the net somewhere. Come on, you computer savvy savant you, get cracking). He didn't "punch" Collins, and he certainly didn't "sock" him.
He slapped him.
Carmelo Anthony slapped Mardy Collins in the face, and then even worse, jumped back and started running. Serious. Is that what they teach on the streets these days? Sorry Melo, but that was pretty pathetic, not helped by the fact that your girly outburst was basically unprovoked, in fact, the refs had the sitch more or less under control until you decided to employ your five fingered diplomacy. (Though to be fair, it was equally pathetic that your face wipe actually managed to knock Collins down. There, you should both be embarrassed)
Leave the fighting to the hockey players, please and thanks. It's pretty obvious you don't know what you're doing.
While we're at it, we might as well mention that the Raptors smoked the Nets the other night, holding Toronto's favourite son to just 12 points all night, a season low for him. Suck it Vince Carter. New Jersey is probably going to win this sad excuse for a division, but any time the Raptors can stick it to the team that traded us a sack of potatoes for our homegrown superstar, we'll take it. The Raps are 9-14, good for second in the Atlantic.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Just like that, the ugly seven game streak is over. With a win against Tampa Bay last night, the Leafs can move on from that sorry septuplet and focus on making up for lost time. True, one win a slump does not break, but it sure helps.
It also helps when you a win a game like the Leafs did last night. The score was 5-4 for Toronto (the first time they've scored that many in way too long) but the way they got there wasn't so easy.
Tampa lead 3-1 after an early second period goal by Brad Richards off an unpretty give-away by Bryan McCabe. That's when Paul Maurice stepped into it, calling an early time out, and using his brief time to swear loudly at his lacklustre players ("None of it is printable," said Maurice after the game). He then yanked J.S Aubin from the net, who had been quite ordinary, in favour of Andrew Raycroft. What ever combination of cussing Maurice used, it must have worked, though it took a bit of time to sink in. Twelve minutes later it was Chad Kilger of all people banging home a Darcy Tucker rebound. And because Kilger never scores in ones, it was only a matter of time before he scored his second, seven minutes to be exact.
The game was tied heading into the third, and as if erasing a two goal deficit hadn't been hard enough, now they would have to find a way to score a third period goal, something they hadn't been doing with any regularity. Long story short, they did. Twice, in fact.
The Leafs picked up a come back victory, which must have felt nice, having been on the receiving end of only about ten come from behind wins in their last seven games.
And just like that, it is cool to be a Leaf fan again. The bandwagon was starting to feel a little light...
The Blue Jays have done their part: they've offered up a seven year deal worth around $126 million (which averages out to more than Alfonso Soriano, which of course was a must) to star outfielder Vernon Wells.
Does he sign it? Don't expect him to sign right away, his current contract ($5.6 mil per) doesn't expire until the end of next season, so there's no rush on his part. The same can't be said for the Jays, who would sure like to have hard answers regarding Wells' future before the season starts. While he can still command some el primo trade material that is.
But it's an encouraging first step for the Jays, who are at least trying to be serious here, in contrast to the unfortunate Carlos Delgado situation in which they low-balled him, essentially forcing him out.
The Jays need Vernon, that's all there is to it.
Sticking with the Jays, they also resigned John "Human Highlight Reel" McDonald to a one year deal. If the Jays do nothing else this off season, we might be willing to forgive them, just for this move. Johnny Mac is one of our favourite Jays, even if he couldn't hit wiffle ball if his life depended on it. His D more then makes up for his lack of power, and we love him for it. He was given the starting job at short stop midway through last season and wowed every night with his glove work. He might not hit the ball very often, but he doesn't let it get by him either. Here's hoping he gets some significant field time.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
We want to be supportive here. The Leafs are going through a tough time right now, and they could probably use a friend. We'd like to be that friend.
Let's go over the facts first. The Maple Leafs have dropped their last six (and about eight of those losses coming to Boston) with no end in sight. Worse is how they have lost their last three. In all three they led going into the third period, and in all three the Leafs ended up walking out with heads bowed. You can't blow third period leads and still hope to succeed.
Thursday's loss to Boston was fairly typical. The Leafs went into the third period up one-zip, on a lucky goal by Jeff O'Neil, you know, the kind of lucky goal you only get when the stars are lined up for you. They were playing well enough to win, and they would have too, if your standard hockey game lasted forty minutes.
We know by now that the Leafs are capable of more than this, the first twenty games showed that. Sometimes, all you can do is beleaf.
There are two ways to look at the Jays' performance at the MLB winter meetings. On the one hand, they came out of it with little more than an aging Canadian outfielder and a whole lot of talk. But what's really important here is what they didn't come out of Disneyland with, that is, two wildly overpaid mediocre pitchers.
They had their sites on two fairly average pitchers, Ted Lilly and Gil Meche. Lilly of course had a very decent '06 with the Jays and Gil Meche had a decent season of his own with the Mariners. This being MLB free agency, both were in line for major pay increases, both aiming for about four years and $40 million.
The Jays said they had about $20 million to spend, and were gunning to sign both, even though it amounted to overpaying for mediocrity. Thankfully, that didn't happen. The Cubbies snatched Lilly, after Lilly more or less made it clear that despite previous sound bites to the contrary, he had never really thought of re-upping with Toronto.
Meche would then sign with Kansas City, of all places. We're kinda pissed about this one. Not that he didn't choose Toronto, because we're actually pretty cool with that, but that of all the teams he could have rejected Toronto for, he choose the Royals. The freaking Royals! It was probably helped by the $55 million they threw at him, which does a remarkable job of glossing over the fact that Kansas won't likely be competitive for the five year span of the deal.
So two middle level free agents snubbed Toronto, but that's cool, because it kept J.P Ricciardi from doing anything stupid, like handcuffing the fortunes of this team to two merely average players. We'd like to express our gratitude to the GM's of Chicago and Kansas for forcing the Jays to dodge those twin bullets (and while were at it, to Theo Epstein for making sure the Jays never signed Matt Clement. That was a close one).
What does that mean for Toronto's starting five? Roy Halladay, A.J Burnett and Gustavo Chacin are solid, but it's the other two spots that will cause problems. Right now, barring trades, or maybe a late signing (Jeff Suppan anyone?) those two spots will be filled by any combination of Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, Casey Janssen and (gulp) Josh Towers.
The Jays still have $20 million to spend mind you, and here's where that money should go: Vernon Wells. The mini-storm in Toronto right now is V-Dub being left off the official team Christmas card and early winter advertising. It's obvious that the Jays management are worried about their ability to keep Wells as a Jay, after all, Alfonso Soriano signed for $136 million, and no one would tell you that Vernon isn't worth more in a game than Soriano. Wells is sitting on a huge payday should he become a free agent after next season, and it should be the Jays' priority to make sure he never gets that far.
The Jays should either sign him for a gazillion dollars, or they should trade him immediately, while they could still get an impressive package in return. Waiting at this point would just be stupid.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
We have a special report from one of our correspondents, which can be found right here. It's a first hand account of the severe beating delivered by Atlanta to Toronto, care of two goals from Slava Kovlov and a strong effort from Glen Metropolit.
The Leafs are in a big funk right now, having lost their last five games. Three of those were against Boston, and wouldn't you know it, their next game just happens to be against the Bean Counters.
Talking about the Leafs is depressing, so we won't do much more of it, just to say that maybe it's time to consider giving Ian White and Alex Steen a first hand view from the press box for a few games.
In happier news, Ted Lilly has done Toronto a big favour by signing with the Chicago Cubs for 40 million. The Jays don't have that kind of money, and every dollar that can be sent towards keeping Vernon Wells in Toronto should be directed his way. Lilly was a good pitcher, 15 wins is nothing to sneeze at, but was he a 40 million dollar man? Chicago seems to think so, and props to them. We can't really criticize the, after all, it was Toronto who broke the bank last year to sign A.J Burnett and B.J Ryan.
We'll come back to the topic of Toronto's pitching in another post, perhaps when it's not three in the morning.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Oh, whoops, there seems to be a typo in today's title. Can you spot it?
When we wrote "Greatest", what we actually meant was "Worst".
A little harsh? Consider this: The Raptors, our Raptors, are half a game back of the division leading New Jersey Nets for first in the Atlantic division. Normally, this would be reason enough to party down, after all, these Raptors weren't even supposed to be in sniffing of the playoffs this year.
There's something wrong with this situation though. The Raptors' record. It's 6-10. That's a .375 winning percentage. Which means New Jersey is leading the division with a .400 record.
That is so wrong. We were pissed when St. Louis won the World Series with a regular season record of 82-80. Frankly, we didn't think it could get any worse. It can, and it just might this season. The Atlantic Division is set to be won by a team that can't win more games then it loses.
Good news for the Raptors, but only sort of. We hoped the Raptors would make the playoffs this year, but not like this, never like this. The NBA is rewarding mediocrity. If this was our league, we'd take back at least 12 of the Eastern Conference teams from their owners on the grounds of sheer incompetence.
Our NBA coverage will continue to be sporadic at best in protest. That's right David Stern. You've been snubbed.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Here's a headline we only ever thought we'd see in our dreams: "LEAFS SWAP TELLQVIST FOR NASH"
No, Columbus hasn't given up on Rick Nash quite yet (1-1 since hitching up with their new coach. They can still dream!), but Toronto has finally completed a trade that has been waiting to happen since one March night way back last season when back-up goalie Mikael Tellqvist allowed a few too many goals against Montreal. Tellqvist has been playing on borrowed time ever since that night, and it finally caught up to him today when the Leafs shipped him to the hockey outpost of Phoenix for Tyson Nash and a fourth round pick in the not too distant future.
There was a time (sometime between Belfour's merciful "upper body injury" and Aubin's heroic, if meaningless, season ending run) we thought Tellqvist had a legitimate shot at being the Leafs' goaltending future. Well, he flubbed that, and wasn't able to claim the back-up job in training camp this year. J.S Aubin's job is safe for now, just don't mention Justin Pogge around him.
The trade is pretty meaningless once you get down to it. Tellqvist hasn't done much this season, starting only one game for the Leafs (he lost) and spending the rest of the time with a broken pinky finger. In return they get Tyson Nash, who has spent the entire season in the AHL, and is likely to stay there for a good long while.
So, goodbye Tellqvist. You had your chance to shine man, and, well, it didn't work out. Good luck in Phoenix, get Gretzky's autograph, and say hi to Cujo for us, would you?
Until next time,
PS. Chicago becomes the latest team to lose it's coach. That's a tough one, because they were dynamite in the pre-season (whatever that means, just ask the Raptors) and even had a decent start to the regular season. That was, until they lost Handzus, Havlat, and Khabibulin to injuries. Is Trent Yawney responsible for that? Apparently so. Injuries are a bitch, but don't you think Yawney deserved just a bit more slack?
Rod Barajas is not, and never will be a Blue Jay.
In an unexpected move that may or may not have been prompted by the MLB players union, Barajas failed to show up for his physical yesterday, causing the tentative deal between him and the Blue Jays to fall through. The problem of course is that the $5.25 million two year deal Barajas originally agreed to play for is not only a step down from the money the Rangers were paying him last season, but it's also below the market average for mediocre .250 catchers of his calibre, and there's no way any players union is going to approve of a deal that lowers the benchmark, especially when it comes to mediocre players. But you didn't hear that from us.
We really don't mean to complain, because Barajas' balk forced GM J.P Ricciardi to turn around and sign our old friend Greg Zaun for $7.25 million, a good million more than the Jays were willing to go pre-Barajas. So does that mean we owe Barajas some sort of "thank you" for making Zaun a Blue Jay again?
No, because reneging on an agreed contract makes you a douche, and that's the truth.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Let it be known that over the past few seasons, one of favourite players to wear the Blue Jays' uniform has been catcher Greg Zaun. Maybe it's because we love the underdog (and Zaun was an underdog. A career backup who finally got his chance to shine and ran with it), or maybe it's because he always had a clutch hit in him, but either way, we loved Zaun.
He had his belated coming out season in 2005 when he assumed the full time catcher spot for the Jays, after a career of bench warming. It was a good season for Zaun, and he proved he could handle the role day-to-day.
Then came last season, in which Jays management delivered a slap to Zaun's face in the form of hefty Bengie Molina. We held our tongue at the time, because Molina was a quality catcher, and it really did look like a move in the best interests of the club. It definitely wasn't in Zaun's best interests though, and he found himself back in the backup role he had once been so accustomed to. Well, it was more like "back-up with benefits", but you get the idea.
Which brings us to the current off season, in which both Zaun and Molina found themselves free agents. There was never any speculation that Molina would be returning, it was only ever going to be a one and done deal, but it looked like Zaun and the Jays would pick up where they left off in '06.
Except today they signed catcher Rod Barajas, a fairly generic sounding guy to a two year deal worth 6 million peanuts. That's how many peanuts the Jays had on the table for Zaun, and he passed. No more Zaun. It's a sad day (We hear he might end up playing second fiddle for the Red Sox or Yanks, in which case we take back all the nice things we've ever said about him).
Looking on the plus side, this means more play time for Toronto's former third string catcher, Jason Phillips, another one of our Favourite Blue Jays. He's an under-appreciated player, and he should get some good at bats as the potential number two guy.
Looking ahead for the Jays' off season (because looking back involves thinking about Frank Thomas) they will probably start focusing on pitching now, Ted Lilly being the big bulls-eye they have their eye on. Free agent spending being what it is, Toronto will have to reach deep to afford Lilly, who, with 15 wins last season, suddenly becomes one of the premiero pitchers on the market. We'd love for Lilly to come back, but we'd love it even more if J.P Ricciardi had enough to re-sign Vernon Wells when the time comes, and if those two ideals should happen to clash...
Until the next time the Jays overspend on a free agent,
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Our secret confession: ever since Philadelphia tanked their season, we've had visions of Sundin passing to Forsberg for the crisp one-timer dancing through our feverish little heads. Impossible? Probably. But if John "Fergalicious" Ferguson could deliver that trade by Christmas, well that would just be the most thoughtful gift this city has ever been given. Also, Ferguson might just get that legitimate new contract he's been looking for.
Much more likely though, is Forsberg not ending up in Toronto. You know where he could end up? San Jose. A Forsberg for Nabokov plus a little extra would go down fairly easy, and it would also give San Jose the deepest top three centres since Wayne Gretzky was triple shifted by the Kings. Imagine that, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau AND Peter Forsberg on the same team? If you just creamed your pants, please, don't be embarrassed. We can't blame you.
All that seems certain is that Forsberg is on the move, somewhere. Back to Colorado? Maybe, but for whatever reason, we don't see it. It just doesn't feel right, you know?
We're going to hold out for that Toronto landing though. Dream big, or go home.
Friday, November 17, 2006
It's official now, Frank Thomas is Blue Jay. For the princely sum of $18 million, the Big Hurt will patrol the Jays' DH position for the next two years (and if we're really, really lucky, he might even make it three!).
Come again? Why is Frank Thomas becoming a Blue Jay? Is Toronto's lack of a true DH really the reason they didn't make the playoffs last year? This money could be used so much more effectively than pampering an aging once-was. For example, signing a pitcher or two, or maybe, just maybe, resigning this teams whole freaking raison d'etre, Vernon flipping Wells.
Perhaps, just perhaps, sometime next August, we will read over this entry and blush, embarrassed that we ever thought of doubting Mr. Thomas as he goes on to record forty home runs and 120 ribbies to boot. You can't imagine how badly we would like to see that turn out.
But this deal just seems so far off the mark from where the Jays should be aiming, that the odds of it working out are slim to none.
Oh wait, we just thought of a bright side to this minny train wreck: Barry Bonds does not, under any circumstance whatsoever, sign with Toronto. Sorry Bonds, we have our quota of aging has been sluggers all filled up, thanks.
In other news, the Raptor have very quickly, and very quietly, built up a 2-5 record to start the season. That's really all we have to say on the matter.
Until next time,
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
According to our back alley sources (and by back alley sources, we do mean TSN's Sportscentre), the Blue Jays are close to making their first big move of the off-season by signing Frank Thomas to a two or three year contract.
An interesting move by the Jays, but is an aging designated hitter really what we need? True, Frankie, 38 now, brought the homers back in big way with his renaissance season with Oakland last year, but it was only two seasons ago in which Thomas found himself scratched for the White Sox' run to the championship. Can we be sure which one we're getting? (Side-note: With Thomas gone, that leaves a big gaping hole in Oakland's starting nine which practically screams BARRY!!! Well, it wouldn't surprise any of us at least)
Sticking with baseball, the Red Sox were announced as the winners of the Matsuzaka silent auction, posting a bid of fifty one million dollars. Fifty one million. There are teams that won't spend that much on their entire payroll next year (coughfloridacough), and here Boston has shelled it out just for the right to speak to the Japanese wunderkind.
Good job Boston, you just eroded away all of your remaining moral high ground over the Yankees. Your "Oh, woe is us, we can't compete with the Yankees with our measly 130 million dollar payroll" argument (which lost traction with us years ago) is now sunk for good.
PS. It's come to our attention that this is our 64th post, a sadly meaningless little coincidence. Here's to another 64. Posts, that is, not years.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
The Maple Leafs and Canadiens squared off today, the umpteenth hundred rehashing of an age old rivalry. Or, that's what the guide book said. Instead we were treated to humdrum affair that had all the energy and passion of the annual Chartered Accountants of America convention. No, you're right, that's not fair at all. With enough tequila, even accountants can have a good time.
Nonetheless, this was a case of the ends justifying the means, as the Leafs skated away with 5-1 victory, which came despite missing captain Mats Sundin and goalie Andrew Raycroft, not to mention losing Mike Peca to a severe case of puck-to-the-faceitis halfway through the game.
Bryan McCabe earned his pay cheque with two goals and an assist, Tomas Kaberle continued his hot tear with a goal and two helpers of his own, and Nik Antropov continued to make us feel bad about every mean and hurtful thing we've ever said about him with his fourth goal in the last three games.
Saku Koivu had the only goal for Les Habitants (helped out by Guillame "Le Super Encroyable Magnifique" Latendresse) and Davey Aebischer was in net for what was an ugly loss for the visitors. Sacre bleu, didn't this used to be the rivalry to end all rivalries?
This hockey game also did triple duty as it hosted the Hall of Fame inductions (Patrick Roy, the late Herb Brooks, and a couple of other grey haired guys) as well as Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Excuse us, but that was some tactless shite the NHL pulled off right there. Why would you force veterans, both military and hockey, to share the stage together? What the hell. The war vets shouldn't play second fiddle to anybody. It was down right disrespectful to both parties. The NHL's hockey heroes do deserve some love, but when stacked up against wheelchair bound war veterans, the real heroes, does it really matter how many goals they scored or how many Stanley Cup rings they have to stick in their ears?
This could have been done so much better. That was real classy NHL, real classy.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Out of the blue, Leafs captain Mats Sundin is out for a month. A seemingly innocuous hit by an over Eager Philadelphia player caught up to our favourite Svenski on Wednesday when it was announced that he would miss 3-4 weeks with tendinitis (or whatever it's called. We're no doctors).
Flashbacks of last season are excusable. It was just one season removed that Mats was felled on opening night by a puck to the eye. He missed one month, but the Leafs played some decent hockey, thanks to a renaissance version of Eric Lindros (except after that one inspiring month, he kinda took the rest of the season off).
No Big E this time around, could the captainless Leafs rally in Boston? If you said no, you obviously missed the key part of the question. They were in Boston. 6-4 was the final, thanks largely to the ad hoc top line of, get ready for it, Nik "Borat" Antropov, Alexei "Ponikabobsky" Ponikarovsky, and Kyle "Sophomore Sensation" Wellwood. Inspiring? Perhaps not, but it worked. Antropov and Ponikarovsky both picked up 3 points a piece, and Boston provided their regular doormat position.
Now the bad news: Andrew "Razr" Raycroft, making his first return to Beantown since being given the boot, was in full domination mode when he went down with what looked like a groin injury. J.S Aubin stepped in and, well, the best you can say is that he did just enough to get the win.
To recap: The Leafs are now missing, besides a handful of defensemen (Pavel Kubina is still a week away) their best player in Mats Sundin, and their top goalie, in Andrew Raycroft. The Leafs probably could have done just fine without Matty, but without Andy too? Things do not look particularly sunny in Leaf land.
We'll also use this opportunity to ask, What the hell Boston? We did predict that they would struggle, because, well, that's what Boston does, but we figured they wouldn't be this bad. They have so many quality players, Chara, Bergeron, Murray, Savard, Boyes, Stuart, and yet they play so poorly. Actually, the mystery isn't that hard to solve: they have no goaltending. After a moderately decent 2005-2006, Boston decided to hang their skates on youngster Hannu Toivannen, decrying him the next Cam Ward. Er, not quite. So now Boston is in dilly of a pickle. The prospect they got for Raycroft, Tuuka Rask (possibly the coolest hockey name ever? Shut up Hakan Loob) is still a few years away.
So that's that. What, did you expect answers or something? Look, if we had those, we wouldn't be writing this blog right now.
Also, a shout out to our b-boys, the Raptors, who are off to a 2-2 start, which, frankly speaking, is all we ever asked. That second win came of a last minute three pointer from Chris Bosh, which is good to see, because many people are predicting a down season after contracting Tim Duncan disease. Andrea Bargani hasn't been particularly good, but the season is young. Patience, would be the operative word.
Until next time,
Saturday, November 04, 2006
The Leafs had their (insert adjective of choice: modest, promising, short-lived) three game win streak snapped in Florida the other day. The Panthers were backstopped by, guess who, Eddie Belfour, who returned to haunt the team that cut him loose.
Belfour got his revenge, and the Leafs got their lesson in humility, managing all of five shots in the first period, compared to 23 from Florida (speaking of Florida, Todd Bertuzzi, apparently worried that there were still people out there who didn't think that Vancouver made one of the biggest hockey swindles of all time by trading him, had back surgery on Thursday that will keep him out for at least two months).
Toronto will be in tough to rebound when they face Buffalo tonight, and just so we're clear, when we say "in tough", we really mean, "no gotdang chance in hell". Buffalo is a scary good team. Twelve games into the season they have yet to lose in regulation, and have for all intents and purposes clinched the Northeast division already.
As if the Sabres' invincibility wasn't enough for them, tonight's contest takes place in Buffalo's HSBC Arena, a venue where the Leafs have historically scrounged together four wins to Buffalo's, ahem, seventeen. Toronto has a bad habit of leaving their game somewhere on the QEW.
Glimmer of hope for the Leafs? Let's employ some shaky logic: the only blemish on the Slugs' record is a shootout loss to Atlanta (which incidentally stopped Buffalo's undefeated streak at ten, which keeps them tied with our Buds. Thanks Atlanta), the same Atlanta team that lost to Toronto earlier this week. Ipso facto, the Leafs should beat Buffalo. QED.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Paul Lukas' always excellent "Uni Watch" column over at ESPN.com had a great article today on the real effects of the NBA's little basketball switcheroo. Forget Shaq and his whining, the real problem lies not in a of bunch of disgruntled glorified ballerinas, but in the terrible ramifications this will have on the logo's of of most basketball teams. Now this is the hard hitting investigative journalism 64 Years and Counting can only aspire to.
Twenty-one of the NBA's thirty teams use a basketball in their logo, making them overnight anachronisms of a bygone era. The Toronto Raptors aren't spared by this either. Though they ditched their (oh-so-unfortunate) dinosaur logo, it's replacement, despite being an improvement in every sense of the word, still suffers from old basketball syndrome.
Did nobody even bother to put any thought into the b-ball change? Any at all? Did they consider the millions of dollars that would go into updating 21 logos? Obviously not. David Stern was too busy trying to run his poorly covered despotism that he likes to call the National Basketball Association.
PS. Speaking of new jerseys, the Raps open up the season tomorrow against the Nets (now that was a segue). Take comfort in the knowledge that it would be physically impossible for them to start the season worse than last year.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Ew. The St. Louis Cardinals are the World Champions. This is so wrong on so many levels, we don't know where to start.
Yes we do actually. Let's start with the fact that the Tigers rolled over for them, playing a painful to watch game of possum. But that analogy only works so far because the possum is supposed to get up at the end and these Tigers clearly weren't pretending. The Tigers gave away a World Series title. It was theirs to lose. Because face it, the Cards weren't exceptional themselves (though Jeff Weaver's game five performance was about as good as it gets), but compared to the boys from Detroit, they were the freaking '98 Yankees. As far wiser talking heads have pointed out, St. Louis didn't beat Detroit, Detroit beat Detroit.
The Tigers just needed some token effort for the series, and they could have had it. St. Louis now has the ugly distinction of being the worst World Series winning team ever (in most news stories, the word "worst" is surrounded by quotation marks. This is not most news stories). They won a grand total of of 83 games.
Do you know how many games the Toronto Blue Jays won in that same season? Hint: It was higher than 83, that's for damn sure. If there was a less deserving championship team in baseball history, we don't want to know about it.
Ahah, you might say, the regular season doesn't count for peanuts in the playoffs. Just look at the Edmonton Oilers. Nuh-uh buddy, that argument doesn't fly. There was nothing special about these Cardinals, there was no heart warming underdog label, just a bunch of semi-decent (and Chris Carpenter) baseball players plodding through October. There was nothing sexy about their run.
Compare that to the Tigers, who going into the Series, had all the momentum in the world. We frankly found it impossible to even conceive that Detroit could possibly lose, especially to such a bland team as St. Louis. Not that the Tiger's weren't bland too, but they had that magical playoff aura surrounding them that transformed every player into a potential playoff hero.
Except something went wrong. In the six days between sweeping the floor with Oakland, and beginning their first World Series since before anyone at 64 Years and Counting was ever born, something happened. The Tigers' momentum evaporated. Poof, and they were human again.
What's worse is that two years ago, the last time the Cards had a shot at the title, we were actually cheering for them. With all our heart and soul even. We were desperate to see them defeat Boston. The Cards were the only thing keeping the Sox from ending the curse, a prospect we weren't thrilled with (sharing a division with them does that to you). Except they didn't win. They didn't just not win the series, they didn't win a single game.
So that's why we don't like St. Louis. A forgettable team caps off a forgettable World Series in what has been an overall forgettable affair. But just imagine if Detroit had won it. Now that would have been a story. Just a few seasons removed from a 100 loss season, turning around and winning it all. That makes for good TV. St. Louis, does not.
In other news, the Ottawa Senator continued their regular season tradition of summarily kicking the crap out of Toronto, with back to back beatings this week. The Leafs can try to salvage some respect against Montreal in glorious Hockey Night in Canada action tonight. Or they could continue to embarrass themselves. Oh, and we heard Nik Antropov might be back tonight.
Guess which side we're leaning towards?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
To recap: Kenny Rogers had something on his hand in the first inning of his impressive win against the Cards. And apparently St. Louis manager Tony La Russa has suddenly become professional sport's defender of fair play, integrity and all that is good and holy. Whatever. Rogers cleaned up, and went on to shut them down for another seven innings. Case closed.
And all of a sudden that's old news now (64 Years and Counting: Always Late to the Party), since the Cardinals went out and gave the Tigers their own take on good pitching, a 5-0 shut down by former Jay, Chris Carpenter (we are actually legally required to point out any player that has ever worn a Toronto uniform. Except Vince Carter). The Cardinals are up 2-1 now, in what just might be shaping up as the first actual World Series since a bunch of scruffy Marlins took down the Evil Empire.
However, all of this is in flagrant disregard for our World Series predictions, but we haven't lost faith in the Tigers yet. Tigermentum is still a go.
Detroit wins in six. Simple as that
(P.S - The Ottawa Senators are officially "Back on Track", handing out back-to-back pummellings to New Jersey and (our beloved) Maple Leafs. Also, we might have to revise our predictions for Pittsburgh - if that trio plus Marc-Andre Fleury (M.A Fleury? Ma Fleury?) is as good as they were last night, this team could be scary)
Sunday, October 22, 2006
The Leafs dropped their third game via shootout yesterday against the Rangers. The Leafs are one and three in that respect. The Leafs' shootout is pathetic this season, but that's hardly surprising, the Leafs' shootout was pathetic last year too.
It was the same usual suspects out there for the Leafs, Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker and Alexei Ponikarovsky (which is a suspiciously similar trio to the one Coach Q always sent out). You can't question Mats Sundin's place, he's Toronto's best player and the man with the big C, he has to lead by example (his miss was tempered by the fact that his Blueshirt counterpart, Jaromir Jagr also missed). Darcy Tucker is questionable for shootouts. Sure he leads the team in goals, and he had two in the relevant game (which in a coach's mind means that player is "hot"), but Tucker doesn't score on breakaways. He scores by cleaning up the garbage. And Ponikabobsky? We love him, we do, but he should be ripping slapshots from the top of the circle, not dangling pucks in front of the goalie.
Granted, the Leafs don't have too much to work with when it comes to shootouts, no super finesse players (though Kyle Wellwood deserves a crack) who can turn a goalie inside out, twice, before the puck even leaves his stick.
The Leafs have lost three points on the season to the shootout. Last year, it was pointed out by the more observant media types that had the Leafs won just a couple more OT duels, they would have had hockey in May. Let's make sure that doesn't happen again.
In other news, the Detroit Tigers opened the World Series by playing possum, taking a 7-2 beating from St. Louis. Hah, those crazy Tigers, trying to infuse some drama into what was going to be another routine AL sweep, wasn't that thoughtful of them?
Tigermentum has made a brief pit stop, but it should be back on the road for game two. The Tigers win in five. Simple as that.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
We were all for Buffalo's blistering undefeated start to the season (now at 7-0 thanks to win against Carolina) until it was pointed out to us that the record for win streaks is ten games, and belongs to a certain Toronto team.
The 1993-1994 Leafs started the season with ten straight wins, and would eventually make to the Conference finals, and probably would have won too if weren't for a non-call to that bastard Wayne Gretzky. Anyways, that season is one of the few bright points in the last forty years of Leaf history (actually... it is the bright point), and well shucks, we'd be ever so obliged if the Sabres could you know... lose.
In other news, the Raptors are undefeated in the pre-season. Is it time to start planning post season games at the ACC? In a word, no.
In other, other news, the Mets didn't win game seven.
Sigh. That means we have to throw our considerable weight behind Detroit and their Tigermentum. Seriously, this isn't even going to be close. The AL dominates when it comes to this kind of stuff, and that's even without the massive rolling snowball that is Detroit.
Detroit wins in four. Simple as that.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Thanks Don Cherry, but we still don't think Dion Phaneuf deserved rookie of the year. Great quote though.
It was a big night down at the Air Canada Centre. Mats Sundin notched a hatrick, including an OT game winning slap shot that froze Mikka Kiprusoff in his tracks. What, a hatrick's not good enough? Well how bout if those three goals were numbers 498, 499, and 500 for the grizzled Swede?
But forget about players joining the 500 club, we witnessed an even rarer event tonight as well: the Calgary Flames scored four goals in a game, something that is just slightly more common than total solar eclipses.
The Leafs are continuing to play well, taking 42 shots in this game, in keeping with Paul Maurice's offence first strategy. They can't seem to break their bad habit of going into over time though. Through five games, the Leafs have ended up in the extra frame four times, winning twice, and losing twice, both times in the shoot out.
But we don't mind saying it, these Leafs have moxy.
In other news, there's some sort of MLB playoffs going on, or something. 64 Years has thrown its support behind the New York Mets, entirely because of Carlos "Blu J 4 Lief" Delgado. We would love to see one of the best players to never win a championship finally shed that moniker.
However, it doesn't look like there is anything on Earth that can possibly withstand the ridiculous power of Tigermentum. Detroit is rolling over the opposition like there ain't no tomorra, and it's really hard not to see them winning it all. They took down the Yanks (good on 'em too) and just tonight finished smadackering the A's in four games. Can anybody stop them? The smart money says no.
Tigermentum is a trademark of 64 Years and Counting and all of its divisions,
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
It took the Maple Leafs 42 shots to beat the Florida Panthers' Alex Auld last night.
Positive: The Leafs dominated the game all night and finished with 47 shots all told.
Negative: Only one of those shots went in.
Positive: The Leafs won a shoot out and hell still hasn't froze over (they're saving that for when the Cup comes down Yonge St.)
Negative: Pavel Kubina's mid-game exit (at the hands, or knees rather, of Todd Bertuzzi no less) makes five injured defenseman.
That sums up these Leafs pretty well. Up and down. There have been promising signs, a better work ethic, more shots, above average goaltending, but then there's the only decent record(2-1-1), the overcrowded injured list, and the inability to actually put the puck in the net.
But Coach Paul Maurice seems to have them on the right track. We'll see if he can keep it up against two ostensibly good teams, New Jersey (their record, 1-1, is inconclusive) and Calgary (we still don't understand how this team gets by with Daymond Langkow as their number one centre).
Friday, October 06, 2006
Let's put this in as plain English as we possibly can: The Toronto Maple Leafs kicked the crap out of the Ottawa Senators last night. Oh man, that was sweet.
The Leafs opened the season with a home and home against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night. There was a lot of doubt surrounding the Buds. Could they score five-on-five? Could they keep up with the ultra-slick Senators speed? Could the Leafs defy their critics and prove everyone wrong?
And Wednesday night they responded to those questions with a resounding "No." They lost 4-1, basically fulfilling every criticism anyone has ever laid at this team. Their only goal came on a (very generous) penalty shot. Bryan McCabe looked out of place. Hal Gill was a glorified pylon. The youngsters were ineffective. Andrew Raycroft was completely average. Their offense lacked spark.
So no one was very surprised come Thursday morning. Disappointed, sure, but not surprised. We were also left a general sense of dread regarding the follow up game in Ottawa. Thoughts of Toronto's 1-7 record last season versus Ottawa floated through our heads. Turns out, we had nothing to worry about.
The fans in Ottawa bought tickets for a hockey game Thursday night, but what they ended up with was a production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde On Ice. Where Martin Gerber had been a rock for Ottawa 24 hours earlier, he was ineffective and didn't even manage to finish the game. Where the Leafs' forwards couldn't seem to care less in game one, they were all over the ice, forcing turnovers and taking shots for sixty solid minutes in game two.
So the question for both sides is, which performance was the real one? Can we really expect Toronto to play with that kind of passion for another 80 games? Can we really expect the Senators to be so listless for the rest of the season? On both accounts, we would advise not betting on it.
The Leafs are, for as much as we love them, not that good a team, and the Senators, for all we hate them, are not that bad.
But damn if it doesn't give us Leaf faithful some hope.
Speaking of hope, the Philadelphia 76ers have given the Raptors some in a rather backwards sort of way.
The NBA, in an attempt to cosmopolitanize itself, has sent half a dozen teams to Europe to sell some merchandise. Oh, and play some games. That too.
This plan worked for the Leafs a few years ago when they did a preseason tour of Sweden and Finland, routing all of their European competition in the process.
However, we can't help but feel that NBA has set itself up for a rather large fall. The quality of European basketball teams is way higher than most are willing to give credit; Greece proved that by beating a certain American team in a certain world championship.
Which brings us back to the 76ers, who lost to a Spanish team yesterday (we can't make fun of them; the Raptors lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv last year). Now to the good news: The Raptors have a roster that looks like it's ready to compete for the Eurocup, not to mention containing two members of the World Cup winning Spanish team. Extrapolate people, extrapolate!
Silver lining under every cloud,
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Sneaking in right at the deadline, here are our NHL season predictions, with our usual 100% money back guarantee. First, the East.
Buffalo is as solid a team as your going to find. Great goal-tending, great young scorers. They will be tough to beat.
2)New Jersey Devils
When you have a magician like Lou Lamoriello for a GM, good things follow. Somehow managing to sweep away two unsightly contracts that were strangling his team, he now has Brian Gionta and Paul Martin under contract, which means the good times are still on in East Rutherford. As long as Martin Brodeur is in net, this is a team to watch out for.
Do the defending champs have another cup on them? That's up for debate, but we think they easily have another division title. They lost a few players from last spring, and a couple more are injured, but that shouldn't matter. Eric Staal has MVP numbers in him, and Cam Ward was no fluke.
Tick tock, the clock is ticking on the Senators. A decade of title expectations have resulted in not so much as a Stanley Cup final appearance. Now, we'd be lying if we said we did enjoy that just a little bit, but the truth is that the Senators are still one of the best in the league. We don't see them winning any cups this year, but hopefully sweeping the season series against Toronto will make up for that.
We're being a little generous here, but we're also working under the assumption of a healthy Peter Forsberg and improved play from Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Will this be the season people point to as the beginning of Philadelphia's decline?
There will champagne in the Thrashers dressing room this season as they qualify for their first post season. Losing Marc Savard hurts, but it shouldn't matter if Kari Lehtonen plays the whole season and Ilya Kovalchuk challenges for the Art Ross.
7)New York Rangers
The Rangers are going to keep riding the Jagr express for as long as it takes them, and it says in our book he's not quite done yet. Another superseason from him, plus decent contributions from his supporting staff and the sustained play of Henrik Lundqvist sees them into seventh.
8)Toronto Maples Leafs
Call this the home town discount, but we think the Leafs will make it. They will surprise some people this year. We see good things coming from their experiment in youth, from their gamble on Andrew Raycroft, and especially from new coach Paul Maurice. This is a precarious prediction, even the slightest breeze could knock the Leafs off in favour of the
So the Bruins dipped into the free agent market to fix their otherwise shoddy team. Stop us if you've heard this one before. Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard are great additions, but there's still something stopping us from putting them in the playoffs. The Bruins always find a way to fail, and we don't think that's going to stop now.
10)Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay could go either way this season. They could return to Cup winning form with career years for Brad Richards et al, or they could continue the regressing that began last season. Guess which side we're on.
Does Todd Bertuzzi return to form? Does it matter? We don't think this team has it in them either way. We hope for best for Eddie Belfour, we really do, but we can't help but think that he is setting himself up for disaster.
Montreal didn't really do anything major in the offseason (Signing Sergei Samsonov doesn't count as major. Just ask Edmonton) and they will suffer for it. Don't expect too much from them.
Speaking of expectations, how 'bout these guys? Can Sidney Crosby improve on his massive rookie season? Can Marc-Andre Fleury remind us why he was chosen first over all? Can Evgeni Malkin live up to his Best Player Outside of The NHL label? Even if the answer to all three questions is yes, this team is still not ready for the playoffs. But damn if this isn't a good time to start buying 2008/2009 season tickets.
The critically acclaimed one-man show, "Alexander Ovechkin," will continue to play in the D.C area from October to mid-April. Plenty of tickets still available.
15) New York Islanders
What to say that hasn't already been said? This team is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. Make that 'If' it gets better.
1) San Jose Sharks
Time for Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo to give us a season long encore. Good things will happen.
2) Calgary Flames
One Alex Tanguay a Stanley Cup does not win. A Northwest Division? Sure, why not. Look for Iginla to bring the scoring back, JT style.
3) Nashville Predators
Time for the Preds to shine. Their division is ripe for the taking, and their roster is stocked with talent. Nashville in the Stanley Cup finals? You heard it here first.
4) Anahiem Ducks
Ok, so the new logo is... unfortunate, but these Ducks are not. Brian Burke has shown again why he's the best at what he does. That defensive line up is the stuff of GM wet dreams.
5) Minnesota Wild
Hey, the lockout's over! Minnesota took awhile to realise it, but here they are ready to make a splash. Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik say that this team makes the playoffs.
6) Detroit Red Wings
Beginning of the end for the Red Wings? That's what we said last year, and then they went and won the Presidents Trophy. Either way Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk can only do so much.
7) Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo equals playoff spot for Vancouver. After that? Well, Marcus Naslund's season will go a long way to determining that
8) Dallas Stars
The Stars are grasping at straws here. Eric Lindros? Seriously? Marty Turco will ensure respectability, but for how long?
9) Edmonton Oilers
We are on record as saying Dwayne Roloson will blow up in Edmonton's face, but you can't help but love their players up front. Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, Joffrey Lupul, and the rest give Edmonton a fighting chance.
10) Columbus Blue Jackets
Not this time Columbus, not this time. Is Nikolai Zherdev as good as he thinks he is? Freddy Modin is great, but who's left in net now? Things are looking up though.
11) Phoenix Coyotes
The Wayne Gretzky Experiment is still going strong, but the Coyotes aren't. Their defense is great, Ed Jovanovski, Keith Ballard and the like, but after that? Cujo has seen better days, and as much as we love Jeremy Roenick, why hasn't he moved into the broadcast booth yet?
12) Colorado Avalanche
Final requiem for the Colorado Avalanche, as we see the end of an era. Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk are all that remain of the glory days. Even if Jose Theodore keeps out of the Montreal tabloids, this team isn't going anywhere.
13) Chicago Blackhawks
Martin Havlat has never scored more than 68 points, or played in more than 75 games. We're not knocking the Hawks' move, we're just saying be patient. Which is something Chicago fans are all to familiar with. Don't worry, there's light at the end of this tunnel.
14) Los Angeles Kings
Does Dan Cloutier have pictures of coach Marc Crawford and an underaged Vietnamese prostitute? That's the only reason we can think of why they've been reunited in LA. This team, not exactly in the fast lane before, is slipping.
15) St. Louis Blues
The '96 US World Cup reunion tour begins in October and will tour the country featuring such former greats as Doung Weight, Bill Guerin, and Keith Tkachuk.
Ok, let's make the one prediction that really matters: Who will win the Stanley Cup? We have New Jersey and Nashville duking it out, with New Jersey coming out on top. But hey, we've been wrong before.
Friday, September 29, 2006
We are Maple Leaf fans first and foremost, which makes reading things like this hurtful garbage, or this ugly, vindictive hackery so painful.
The folks over at ESPN.com (Amerkins... what do they know about hockey?) don't seem to have much faith in our beloved Blue and White. John Buccigross predicts an unglamourous (or is that unglamorous? Unglamoros? Durned 'Merkins) 11th place finish in the East. He's kind enough to project big things for Mats Sundin, but it's too late Bucci, you've made your opinion of the Leafs perfectly clear.
Scott Burnside is a little more diplomatic, granting the Leafs a 9th place finish, good enough to match their effort last season. He's critical of the Leafs' goal tending in Andrew Raycroft, of the Leafs strength on the wings (namely because the Leafs have what, three natural wingers on the roster?), of their ability to score 5-on-5, and of their ability to tie their own skates. Well, he didn't write that part, but you know he thought about it.
These guys obviously don't understand. They are not Leafs fans. True Leafs fans would never spew such blasphemy. That's because Leaf fans know. Leafs fans know.
Leafs fans know that Darcy Tucker has forty goals hidden under his hat; that Mats Sundin is like good red wine, he only gets better with age; that Andrew Raycroft's poor last season was just a cunning maneuver to get out of Boston; that Jeff O'Neill was just playing an extended practical joke on everybody last year; that Bryan McCabe's middle name is 'Norris'; that Nik Antropov is just starting to warm up; that Alexei Ponikarovsky is the second coming of Jonathan Cheechoo; that Andy Wozniewski is going to make people forget about that Phaneuf kid; that Paul Maurice has 'Jack Adams' tattooed to his left bicep.
True Leafs fans know all of those to be undeniable scientific facts. Obviously those two hockey "experts" are unaware of those facts, or maybe their judgement has been impaired by a few guys named Calvin Coolidge, or whoever the hell is on their funky green money.
Ok, let's be serious for a moment. The Leafs aren't going to win the Stanley Cup this year. We do understand that. But to suggest that they won't even make the playoffs is an affront to us as both Leafs fans and hockey lovers. Perhaps our heads are too wrapped up in vintage Gilmour jerseys, but the Leafs belong in the playoffs like tomatoes belong in a BLT. That is verifiable truth. This team is damn well good enough to make it to the big dance.
Our prediction? The Leafs will sneak in at seventh place (3rd in the Northeast ahead of Montreal and Boston), facing Ottawa in the first round. We don't need to remind you what happens to little Senators that wander into Toronto come playoff time.
We might, if you're good, roll out a league wide prediction in a few days, just so we can lord it over you when we turn out 100% right.
Hope springs eternal,
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Remember the Toronto Raptors? Yeah, we try not to either. But yesterday they made thinking about them just a little bit less painful when they officially made that their new jersey.
Finally ditching the painful purple that they had insisted on since inception, the Raptors have made the much more patriotic Red and White their one and only colours.
Admit it, those are slick threads Mr. Bargnani is modeling over there. Simple, clean, and no cartoon dinosaurs, the three pillars of successful fashion design (when was the last time you saw a cartoon dinosaur on a runway in Milan, hmm?).
Of course, a good jersey does not a champion make (See, Lightning, Tampa Bay), so the Raps are going to have to back it up come game time.
At the very least though, they won't be laughed off the court anymore. Well, not because of their jersey...
Oh Raptors, we stand on guard for thee,
Sunday, September 24, 2006
It would be easy for the Jays to give up right now. Not only easy, but expected. Half a dozen games left on the clock, the playoffs once again a distant dream, top pitcher Roy Halladay done for the season, equals why bother.
Wrong. The Jays have one thing left to play for (besides of course, their pride and honour. We figure that's a given): Second place. Don't laugh, we're being serious here. Maybe we're laying our bias on a little thick here, but a second place finish in the AL East, the AL freakin' East, would be big. Elvis big. The Jays have a chance at breaking up the 1-2 Yankee-Red Sox cabal that has held the the Jays' division in its evil, money soaked fist for the past decade.
Coincidently (or perhaps, was it destiny?) the Red Sox are taking in the Toronto sights right now. Specifically, the inside of the Rogers Centre. Even more specifically, they were visiting their good friend, Gustavo Chacin. The Jays, backed by a suddenly dyn-o-mite offense, smacked the Sox 13-4 to pull a half a game back in the standings.
Excuse us while we break out our pom-poms.
Ok, so finishing behind the Yanks is sloppy seconds at best, but with the Jays, we take what we can get.
In hockey news, the Leafs' preseason is buzzing a long, and we here at 64 Years and Counting are trying our damnedest not to get our expectations too high.
Coach Paul Maurice is letting the kids play, and getting great results from guys like John Pohl, Alexander Suglobov, Kyle Wellwood, and Jeremy Williams, even if some of those guys listed are odds on not to start the season up top.
Their record is 3-2 following a loss to Ottawa today (bastards!). It's important to remember that these are preseason games and shouldn't blah blah blah. Whatever. The Leafs have been pretty decent, which is all we ever ask.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Today marks the end of an era. Toronto marks it's combined 64th year without a major sports title, and we here at 64 Years and Counting mark the first ever Changing Of The Title. The counter ticks forward for our first time, but assuredly not the last.
We here at the 64 Years World News Centre are a little sad to see 63 go. After all, this blog was founded on that number. It's the only one we've ever known.
Let's take a walk down memory lane. This humble blog opened its doors April 8th, with the start of the MLB season, in which we went out on a limb, and brazenly predicted an undefeated, 162-0 season for the Blue Jays. We got burned on that one, and fittingly, it was the Jays' mathematical elimination yesterday that prompted our switch.
It was a good time to be in the business of making fun of Toronto's teams though, as both the Raptors and Leafs were stumbling their way to another lost season (In a stunning show of impressive foresight, 63 Years began on the twin assumptions that neither team would anything that year. We were right). The Jays were playing well enough, and the NHL playoffs kept us going after the Leafs hit the links, where we went seven for fifteen in series predictions, though we did pick Carolina over Edmonton, so it wasn't all bad.
The playoffs segued nicely into the World Cup, which was so entirely engrossing that the 63 Years staff managed all of three posts over a span of three weeks.
That led to a long couple of months, filled entirely with baseball, with the odd foray back to hockey, whenever possible (such as making fun of Buffalo's new jerseys. What were they thinking?)
That took us to the end of August, when we came to the sudden, and stunning realization (we were in the shower at the time) that the Blue Jays were not going to make the playoffs (Our favourite line, "We'd change the site's name to "64 Years and Counting" right now, but we figure we owe it to the Jays to at least wait until they've been mathematically eliminated. And because we still have a whole whackload of business cards. More the latter than the former.)
But that was ok, because hockey was starting to wake up from its (deep) summer slumber.
Which brings us to today. A rather sombre day actually. 64 years. Here's to another one.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Well, so much for the Leafs doing anything this year. They lost their opening preseason game to Buffalo today 4-0.
You know, they Leafs talked a good talk all summer long, bringing in some quality guys, Mike Peca, Andrew Raycroft, Pavel Kubina, Paul Maurice, but then they go and get spanked by Buffalo.
You can call off the parade.
Oh, and speaking of parades that won't be going down Yonge St. this year, the Blue Jays are one game away from being officially eliminated. They're taking on the Yankees for a three gamer, and having lost the opener (a tight 7-6 loss) all it will take is one more loss before the Jays are mathematically, irrevocably gone.
Plans are already under way to change this blog's title. A long arduous task that no doubt will take no small amount of groveling at Blogger's feet to accomplish. Or we assume. We haven't actually looked into it. We'll get one of the interns on it. They must be good for something.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
In hockey news (oh sweet cupping cakes, how good it is to type those words) there is actually hockey news. Training camps are almost ready to go, and the Leafs are looking like a team that might do something this year. Er, maybe. Don't get your hopes up. Well, you can get them up a little. No, no, that's too high.
Anyways, the Leafs' roster is almost set, the only hold-out being young Matty Stajan, who's holding out for more money, or more years, or more something. It doesn't seem like it'll be an issue or anything, everybody is still friendly, and it's not like Stajan (as much we love him) is a high enough calibre player to demand anything exorbitant (we're told that he wants to be payed more than Kyle Wellwood, one of last season's better rookies. That's fair enough, Stajan has been around longer, and scored more goals, with less power play time than Wellwood did).
Training camp should be interesting. The Paul Maurice era begins, breathing a breathe of fresh air over this team. The cobwebs have been cleaned out, and a nice, Febreeze-fresh scent lingers over them.
There's still some stuff to be figured out, such as the million dollar question, who will play with Mats Sundin? Pat Quinn's strategy was to stick a pair goobers on both sides, and hope for the best. Hopefully, Maurice has different plans. We like Alex Steen and Jeff O'Neill for the job.
Also, there are three spots open on defense for a few bright eyed youngsters, and boy howdy, the Leafs do have enough of them. There's Carlo Colaiacovo, who has been trying to crack the team for the past, what, decade? Staffan Kronwall, brother of a much better Red Wings d-man (that came off harsher than intended. We love you Staffan!). Jay Harrison, who had a brief stint with the big boys last year, and impressed us. One of our sentimental favourites, for sure. Andy Wozniewski, who has a great name (Woz-new-ski), a pretty good game too boot. And the rest, Brendan Bell and Ian White, who we don't even know enough about to make fun of them (What can we say, cut backs at the 63 Years' head office have left us with a rather meagre staff).
The picture isn't so rosy up front, where the only Leaf prospects we can name off the top of our heads are John Pohl (who led the Baby Leafs, er, Marlies, in team scoring last year) and Ben Ondrus (who isn't going to be leading anything in scoring anytime soon).
Between the pipes there's the trifecta of Mikael "Blame Me" Tellqvist, J.S "One Hit Wonder?" Aubin, and Andrew "All You Need Is Some Selective Amnesia" Raycroft. That will take some sorting out, and that's also without mentioning uber-prospect Justin "Watch Out Patrick Roy" Pogge, who might complicate things farther down the road. The good kind of complicated, we hope.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
LATE BREAKING NEWS!!! - We have just received word that the New York Islanders (never a good way to start a story off) have gone and done it again. We hope you are sitting down for this one, or at least leaning against a wall or something, because even as stupid Islander moves go, this one is bad.
Ok, so here it is. Rick DiPietro, you remember him? The Isles' first over all pick a few years ago? Decent goalie? Well, maybe a little shaky? Yeah, him. Well, he signed a new contract with them today. It was... um, quite the contract.
They signed him for fifteen, FIFTEEN (!!!fifteen!!!), freaking years. That's a one and a five folks. Three times five gives you fifteen as well as the stupidest contract ever put down on paper. To reiterate, they signed DiPietro for fifteen years. What the fuck. Really, what do you say to that? Just, what the fuck. Our first reaction was to break out in tears. That is singularly the worst idea ever put forward in the history of not only the NHL, but all of pro sports.
Not coincidentally it was done by the New York Islanders, and more specifically, their owner cum whackjob Charles Wang, who seems to have as much hockey sense as a dead beagle. This deal is just such an exceptionally, mindboggingly horrible idea that it defies description. How many different ways can we write "what the fuck"?
Let's try to break this down. Let's start at the top. The New York Islanders, we're told at least, reeled off four straight Stanley Cups way back in the day. This is not that team. This team hasn't won a playoff series in more than a decade. It has been saddled with an incompetent GM for the past forever in Mike Millbury.
A laundry list of his offences: Signed Alexei Yashin to the (formerly) worst contract ever, chaining him up for ten years. We're not even halfway through that yet. He let players like Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Dany Heatly, Marian Gaborik slip away. He drafted DiPietro first over all in 2000, a vote of confidence, absurd 15 year contracts to the contrary, that he has yet to live up to.
So they scrapped Millbury this summer. About time they said. This guy made Isaiah Thomas look like a freaking genius. Ah, but the ride didn't stop there. The team then went about finding a replacement at both coaching and GM positions. Except they hired both independently of each other. Forget letting the new GM build the team the way he wants it, Wang went and found a coach by himself.
They ended up with Ted Nolan and Neil Smith, neither of whom had seen any NHL action in more than a few winters. Ok, whatever, the important thing is that Mad Mike is gone. Let's get this show on the road.
Except that wasn't it. Forty days later and Smith was gone from the GM's office. He did the draft, signed the free agents and then was out the door, nice ta meet cha Neil, don't let the door hit you on the way out. His replacement was even better though. Wang didn't look far. In fact, he didn't look past the dressing room, plucking DiPietro's backup, Garth Snow off the ice and placing him in the GM's chair. Ok, ok, not the worst thing in the world. Sure, Snow has no experience with that side of the game, but hey, you have to start somewhere, right?
Wrong. So, so wrong.
Then this doozy slips out. What the fuck is wrong with these people? Please, pardon our French, but there's no other way of saying this. This is nothing against DiPietro personally. He's a decent goalie, nothing special, or at least not yet. Wang obviously thinks he's going to turn into some sort of puck stopping dynamo, and here's hoping he's right. But seriously, there are virtually no scenarios where this deal works out over the long run. Fifteen year (fifteen years!) is too long to be making predictions.
Let's make this clear, no player is worth a fifteen year contract. That's a recipe for disaster. Long term deals are bad for both parties. Let's look at Yashin's deal. Yashin is saddled with the most (or, second most now) untradable contract ever. His slumping production has turned him into magnet for criticism, and his reputation has suffered greatly since heading to Long Island.
It only took a year or two for people to realise just how monumentally bad an idea Yashin's contract was. What if DiPietro, who, unlike Yashin, has yet to do anything to remotely justify this payout, bombs early and often? Yashin's contract is dragging on already, and it's only on it's fifth year.
This will end badly for everybody. And one more time, what the fuck?!