Tuesday, November 28, 2006

As Seen On The Telly

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?

Buh-Bye Barajas

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

Zaun's Gone

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

Dream Big, Or Go Home

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

The Big Hurt: It's Not Just A Nickname Anymore

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

Plucking The Grapevine

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.

For shame,


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

Don't Look Now, But That's Four Straight

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

Mats Who? Oh, And Raycroft Too

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

Into the Lion's Den

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.