Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wait, Bondra Is A Blackhawk?

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.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nine Goals Equals Super Happy Fun Time

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

Melo Out, Young Anthony

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

The Leafs Win A Game(!!!!!)

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...


V-Dub Meets The Big Money

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

Did You Know That There Are 3 Periods In A Hockey Game? The Maple Leafs Sure Didn't

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.


When Losing Out On Free Agents Isn't Such A Bad Thing

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

Welcome To Funksville, Population: The Maple Leafs

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

Why The NBA Is The Greatest Sports League In The World

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.