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,
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.
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?!
Monday, September 11, 2006
Ok, so the Blue Jays are done. There's not much debate on that. But September isn't completely meaningless for Toronto. Par example (as a Canadian based blog, our lawyers have told us that a certain percentage of our posts must be en francais. There, we're good for another year now), there's Roy Halladay, who's looking for his second Cy Young award. He has sixteen wins, but he's been stuck at that number for awhile now, winless in his last four starts. Ouch. And that might not change any time soon, as he was removed from his last game in the first inning after coming down with a bad case of deja vu.
The Doc was hit by a comebacker off the elbow, and while the real docs say it's nowhere near as serious as the season ending whack he took last year, it's nothing that's going to send smiles through the Jays' clubhouse. (Sidenote: Our old friend, Josh "1-9" Towers made the emergency replacement, lasting an inning or two, and blowing a two run lead in the process. It's good to have you back Josh)
But the other thing September brings the Jays (other than reflections on another failed season...) is expanded rosters, which let's crappy teams bring up the farm boys to help out in the bigs (which is why Towers found himself replacing Halladay). One particular youngster that has turned our noggins is Adam Lind (Get it? Lindy Hop? Yeah, it's bad, but it was either that or, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lind Me Your Ears")
Through five games, he has seven hits, four of them doubles, three ribbies, one homer and a .412 batting average. Sure, the sample size is small, but we'd like to project good things for him.
With Lind hanging around, the Jays might have a bright future, assuming they can keep Vernon Wells around, plus guys like Alex Rios, Aaron Hill, Shawn Marcum and Gustavo Chacin.
Sunny days ahead? Here's hoping,
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Sunday, September 03, 2006
There's something we here at 63 Years and Counting love about Greeks when it comes to sports. As a whole they are able to get behind anyone that dons the blue and white, whether it's European Cup winning soccer team, a previously unknown tennis player, or an under appreciated basketball team.
The staff over at the the 63 Years world offices are half Greek you see, so we have an inside track on that kind of thing.
What we love most is the ability of any Greek to wax philosophic on any sport, as long as Greece is in it. These guys would cheer for a professional hot dog eater, as long as his name was Papadopoulous.
Take for example the FIBA basketball championships. Hosted in Japan this year, and not even available on regular cable in this neck of the woods, Greece was an unexpected challenger. Well, unexpected by anyone who considers the Euro Leagues to be somewhat on par with say, NFL Europe in terms of skill.
That couldn't be further from the truth. The world (except of course, Canada) is improving their b-ball skillz (word up) with every passing year. The days of American Dream teams are long gone, with any number of foreign countries able to boast rosters chock full of NBA goodness.
Which brings us back to Greece, winners of the European basketball championship (and as any Greek worth their ouzo will tell you, the first country to be European champions of both soccer and basketball simultaneously) despite not having a single NBA player on its roster (well, technically Vassilis Spanoulis starts with the Rockets this season, and Antonis Fotsis put in a season with Memphis a few years back, but you get the point). They were the dark horse picks by basketball types who knew what was going on.
So their impressive run to the finals was not entirely unexpected, but it definitely converted a few Greeks to the basketball cause. It was a little funny actually, watching the games with gentlemen who couldn't tell you for the life of them what a shot clock was, or what constitutes a personal foul (not that we have any clue either).
But that didn't matter, these guys wore "HELLAS" on their shirts, and that was good enough for them. They beat the US convincingly in the semi-finals, and seemed a sure lock to beat Spain, who, like Greece, owned a spotless record but would be without top player Pau(l?) Gasol.
It didn't actually matter. Greece forgot to show up. They were manhandled by the Spaniards, not even scoring fifty points, and looking out of it from the get go.
But there was silver lining for Toronto fans. Gold lining, come to think of it. Two of Spain's starters are on the payroll of Toronto's very own Raptors. Jose Calderon and Jorge Garbajosa picked up Gasol's slack, and carried the team to victory.
We'd like to wipe some egg off our face right now. Not too long ago, we were a little critical of GM Bryan Colangelo's off-season moves, criticising him for building a team that looked more ready to compete for the Euro League title than any NBA championship, what with his signing of five international players. But our bad, those European fellows got game, if you catch our drift.
With Calderon, Garbajosa, first overall pick Andrea Bargnani, Rasho Nesterovic, Uros Slokar, and long time Tel Aviv player Anthony Parker (and who can blame him for getting out of Isreal?) the Raps will be bringing a distinctly different style of play to the table.
We only hope it's the good kind of distinct.
P.S The Blue Jays are dead to us now. The only way to salvage this season would be to finish ahead of Boston, which, while a distinct possibility, would require these guys achieving a level of consistency that they haven't shown in far too long.
The NHL pre-season isn't that far away...