Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Three Point Game

Talking about the Maple Leafs right now is kind of tough because they are awful and smelly and big fat meanie liars who promised change and commitment to defense and just an overall improvement but are playing the same listless let-someone-else-do-the-scoring- and-backchecking-tonight game they've been playing since the lockout ended, so I'm not going to give them any time tonight.

Let's talk about three point games instead. The Leafs are pretty familiar with three point games because these guys lose in overtime more than any one else in NHL and it's those eight points from those eight OT loses that are the only thing keeping the Leafs point total near respectable levels, but I'm not talking about them tonight.

The way it stands right now, the NHL awards two points to any team capable of finishing a hockey game in sixty minutes with more goals than their opponent. If both teams have scored the same number of goals, that is, if the score is tied and stalemated and not conclusive after three full periods of skating back and forth over a frozen surface comprised mostly of very cold water and sometimes spare change, if this happens the game goes into overtime and then possibly a shootout if five more minutes of skating back and forth still fail to resolve anything. The team that emerges with the win will receive the same two points they would have anyway, but the losing team, the team that failed, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs for demonstration purposes, will receive one point, which, the astute reader and sporting enthusiast will note, is entirely one full point more than they would have received had they not blown the lead in the dying seconds of the game to a team the Toronto Maple Leafs should beat every single time but instead choke like they were dining on tiny chicken bones before every game.

This results in the three point a game, a game in which three points are doled out between the two teams and a game that has a tendency to skew standings and make bad teams look better and make mediocre teams feel like they still have a shot at something meaningful which is why the NHL likes three point games because this way everybody is a winner and nobody gets their feelings hurt unless you are the LA Kings in which case you are just awful no matter what you do. The three point game is frustrating for me and others too because of just that: it makes bad teams look like they are not bad teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs, that team I am not talking about today, can send out their General Manager and have him, without lying, describe the team he built that has won 15 of it's first 38 games as having a winning percentage of .500 because eight of those losses were in OT and therefore don't count at all for anything.

The Leafs are clearly not a .500 team but the standings don't lie. I am not against three point games though. I do not think the league should stop rewarding points for OT losses.

What the NHL should do is make every game a three point game. Three points for doing your job and giving the fans a resolution at the final buzzer, and then two points for an OT win and the same one point for losing in OT. This would separate out the contenders from the pretenders. Thinking about it, it won't do anything for the cluttered standings column in your newspaper but it's already pretty cluttered as is so this is not my biggest concern.

The NHL is not going to do this because they want parity and they want their fans to think that even though their GM might be inept or just brain dead or maybe their highest paid players are stiffs dreaming of summers somewhere other than this godawful city where all it ever does is snow or rain, that their teams still have a chance because in today's NHL anyone can grow up to be President as long as you try your best and lose in overtime enough.

Jason

Edit - I'm going to try start updating more often for better or for worse whether or not I have anything to say or not. Should be fun!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

David Ech-Stein

So J.P Ricciardi is obviously feeling as uneasy as I am about the prospects of starting next season with the same line up as the previous year so he signed David Eckstein to a one year, 4.5 million dollar deal. I think he missed the mark. Looking positive, J.P deserves credit for going out and getting guys who are proven winners, after all it was diminutive Eckstein out there collecting the World Series MVP award back with St. Louis and if there's one word every one uses to describe the 5'7" lead-off man, it's scrappy.

But there's another word a lot of people use to describe the lil guy, and that's "over rated". The Jays already have a regular shortstop, John MacDonald, yeah, the guy they call the Human Highlight Reel, and if you are going to go out and sign somebody to take that position from him, why do you go out and sign an aging small man with all the range and mobility of a rotting tree stump? Eckstein is a defensive liability to such a degree that any advantage gained by having him lead-off the order will be lost in ground balls through his feet. The Jays' rotation have come to rely on having the solid wall between second and third that Johnny Mac represents and then we go 180 degrees around and suddenly next season giving up ground balls will be a liability.

Essentially now the Jays have pitched out 4.5 million dollars for a utility infielder because even if Eckstein starts the season at short you have to imagine that by September that somebody will have become frustrated enough to put MacDonald back where he belongs. MacDonald can't hit, yeah, we know that, but he makes up for it by catching everything hit his way. Eckstein can't reliably catch anything but while he does hit better Macdonald (that's not saying much, most of the Jays' bat boys probably hit better than the Mac Attack) he does not do it well enough to justify putting him on the field every night. If Troy Glaus wasn't comfortably entrenched at third (hey remember that time they had him play short stop? Pretty sure Glaus is better there than Eckstein) they could conceivably shift Eckstein over to where his defensive misadventures would not be such a problem but the point is moot. This was a bad deal, I think and I can only be glad that it only runs one year because I can't see the Jays finding themselves needing to renew this contract.

What's with this team and committing to under appreciated fan favourites like MacDonald and Greg Zaun and then going out and desperately trying to replace them? Poor Zaun. Remember when J.P said hey you're our number one guy congrats you really finally earned it, and then he signed Bengie Molina? And then just a week ago J.P was after Paul Lo Duca and you have to wonder how any player could ever develop any loyalty to this club. And if we're talking loyalty and Blue Jays I can't leave out the way the Jays ran Carlos Delgado out of town.

I am so ready for another General Manager not named J.P Ricciardi to have a crack at this team. I just want to look at my baseball team and feel reassured that there is a plan in place, a plan to improve and get better and compete and, hey now whatever happened to Russ Adams? Remember it was going to be Adam Hill at short and Russ Adams at second and now Hill is at second and there is huge road jam at short and this is exactly what I'm talking about. There is no plan around this team, just a series of ad hoc moves designed to make it look like we are keeping up with the Joneses in New York and Boston. Frank Thomas and Tomo Ohka and Victor Zambrano and Matt Stairs and where does it all lead?

Right back at third in the American League East

Jason

Exhibit F in the David Eckstein is overrated case: http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2006/10/eckstein-round-up.html

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Rios Factor

So Blue Jays GM J.P Ricciardi has made it pretty clear that the Jays' roster for next year is going to look remarkably similar to the Jays' roster from last year. Ricciardi is stubbornly insistent to prove that the team he built for '07 was a winner and he's going to do that by making no significant changes to the team for the upcoming season. This is about as childish as it gets for general managers.

Ok, so the Jays had a some ugly injuries last year, B.J Ryan was out all year and Vernon Wells might as well have been and so J.P wants to prove to all the naysayers who slagged the Jays that what he put together was actually capable of winning if only we hadn't had all those injuries. Whatever. This is how you know the Jays are not an elite team. Look at New York and Boston. They had good teams last year, not theoretically good teams like Toronto, but objective, observably good teams and you don't see them standing around telling their fans hey, we're such good teams that we don't need to improve. Hell, the Red Sox won the World Series and they're the ones at the head of the pack for Johan Santana. Good teams don't tell people they are good teams, they go out and act like good teams. If J.P was serious he would call last year a wash, recognize that shit happens and move on and act accordingly and acknowledge that the teams around him are quickly moving ahead while he pretends that this is still 2007.

There is some small glimmer of a trade in the works for Ricciardi and the Jays after the sunny Winter Meetings. It's hard for GMs to resist the temptation of tinkering once you gather them all together and J.P is nothing if not a GM. The only problem as it stands is that with this trade J.P might just be clipping these Jays' wings.

The proposed trade is Alex Rios, the most consistent thing in black and silver for Toronto last season, and Tim Lincecum, a young hot shot stud pitcher out of San Fransisco. The Giants are sitting on their hands here, and I'm glad they are because I'm not sure the Jays can afford to give up Rios' power or glove heading into next year. Who do they have to replace him? Do you play Matt Stairs? Is Alex Lind capable of really replacing Rios? The conventional wisdom is you don't give up a player like Rios for a pitcher, even a pitcher nicknamed "Franchise", who is only going to play once every five days.

I don't like how this smells. I can't see how Ricciardi could possibly give up Alex Rios without anything to immediately replace him. I mean, remember the last two months of the previous season? The Jays were receiving pitching, they were getting really, really good pitching in fact, but the bats were completely missing, and you aim to fix this by giving up the only guy who was hitting worth a damn? I don't know.

The only way this trade works, Rios for Lincecum, is if Ricciardi wheels around and makes another trade, say, I don't know, McGown for Jason Bay, or whatever. I say Jason Bay because wouldn't that be amazing having the second best Canadian bat in the majors playing for Toronto? Yes it would. And then Ricciardi could whip around again and trade for Eric Bedard and all of a sudden I would never ever say a bad thing about JP again for as long as he was GM no matter what he did. Is JP capable of moves like that? I mean, it just doesn't make any sense to leave such a hole as Rios would create in the outfield without anything to fill it right? And JP has said he would like to up the Canadian content on this team and while Matt Stairs is nice (did he really need two years?), he's no Bay or Bedard. Nobody is safe on Baltimore, we know that, and it's not like Pittsburgh has anything going on and I don't see why this isn't possible, save for the fact that Jays might not have the depth in the farm system to pull this off. I don't know.

So here's what I want: if Rios must go, and I really don't think he does have to, Ricciardi you darn well better have some kind of master stroke genius trade in your other sleeve to replace him. What can I say JP, I've lost faith in you. I no longer believe you can do what's best for this club. So just don't screw this up please. If you are going to make a trade, think big. Think really huge blockbuster big, blow the roof off the top giant. You know? Make us care. Detroit went big by trading with Florida. You can top that Ricciardi.

Jason

Stop Winning Plz

Hey guys what happened to getting John Ferguson Jr. fired? Remember that? We were so close! Fergie was days away from losing his job and then you guys go 5-1-1 and all of a sudden everything is fine and wonderful and Yonge St has been reserved for a future parade.

That's the way hockey works around here though. All it takes to erase two and a half years of poor, listless hockey is a four game win streak and everything is good again. How long can the winning go on? It would have been nice if the Leafs could have held off their rediscovery of their resolve and commitment to team defence until after Fergie was gone but now it's too late and all the fire Ferguson momentum has dissipated and good luck ever getting anything done in MLSE's front office.

We missed our chance is what I'm saying. You just know somebody somewhere is working on a contract extension to reward Ferguson for pulling the Leafs up to ninth in the East.

Jason

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oh Them Winds of Change

Can you feel it? Can you feel it? There is finally the promise of change swirling about Toronto these days; real, deep, meaningful, drastic, sweeping change emanating from the heart of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment offices. John Ferguson Jr may very soon be out of a job. This is a good thing. Fergie, bless him, leaves behind a trail of terrified, timid moves and deals, all swung with an apprehensive look over his shoulder. Rask for Raycroft. Draft picks for Toskala. Money for Kubina and a no mover for McCabe. Whatever. We all make mistakes. But then there was his gruff, tight lipped media face, those washed-up boxing promoter good looks and his terse, uncomfortable, demeanor that from day one never managed to instill any confidence in me.

Listen to me, I sound like he's already gone. I hope I'm not wrong here. I hope we don't have to suffer through the rest of the season watching JFJ sit on his hands, lips pursed while he mumbles something about injuries and tough luck and how we have all the pieces in place despite winning only eight of twenty-four games and displaying all the passion and drive of an old golf cart. I know, changing GMs isn't going to make the Leafs play better. It is so far beyond that now.

It's almost good that the Leafs lost so badly to Phoenix, because when you get blown out by the Coyotes you can be pretty sure there's not much lower you can go. I may be late to the party, but I'd like to join the Blow-Up the Leafs Club. I was pretty sure before the season that the Leafs could be at least eighth-in-the-East competitive, but now this team has shown itself to be the listless no talent bums they were all along.

Toronto needs to bring in a general manager who isn't afraid to say, "This is not a very good team" and then go out and do something about it. Pile those draft picks. Trade Sundin. I don't care anymore. Send him to Ottawa so he can get his Cup and we'll get even more reason to hate the Senators. I mean, they kick the Leafs' ass every time any way, switching Sundin's colours won't change much.

Kabooom

Jason

Post Script: I'm just hearing this now but it appears Fergie tried, and clearly failed to get coach Paul Maurice fired last week which shows the power and influence he still holds over what is supposed to be his team. Everyone involved denied everything but then that's pretty status quo so Fergie's protestations don't count for much.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lusty Tlusty

We've all done stuff we'd rather forget right? Certain things done under the influence of other certain things, or because hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time, ok? Geez. It's just that we don't all play for the Maple Leafs and most of us can be reasonably sure I think, that if anybody did find out about our transgressions (I didn't notice her five o'clock shadow, ok?) we wouldn't find lurid photos of ourselves splashed across the front page of the Toronto Sun the next day.

What a non-issue. Jiri Tlusty is nineteen and he just got burned by the internet. Tough cookies. Can we talk about the fact that the Leafs have lost back to back games in OT instead?

Jason

Monday, November 12, 2007

No Stanley Cups Allowed

Hey look where'd that come from, who's the dude with the fourth grade photoshop skills, and what's going on here, right?. Well, I've been toying with a name change for a few months actually and this seemed a good a time as any. The old name was stupid. It was based on some silly math and shakier logic, but it was one of those ideas that just made so much sense back when. It's important to know when to ditch a bad idea, and 65 Years and Counting was a bad idea. Let's not get negative though, this is a happy day. I guess my focus can shift more fully to hockey and now I don't have to pretend care about the Raptors, even if they have suddenly become major league model franchise number one.

No Stanley Cups Allowed is, I think, a celebration of futility. Negativity is no fun. It just leads to cynical wrinkles and early heart attacks.

Here's my rejected list of blog names. Think of them of them like an old betamax sitting on the curb, "please love me" post-noted to it.

Toronto the Fair(ly Adequate)
Toronto the (Not) Good (Enough)
Futility in Toronto
The Pain That Unites Us
The No Stanley Cup Zone
Why Try Harder
Maple Leafs Blowing in the Wind
Toronto the Sucks Ass

Jason

Who Brought the Donuts

I don't know if you've noticed but lately it seems like goalies have been putting up shut outs like they were Amish barns. I don't have any numbers to back me up, only a cold, hard hunch, but it feels like goose eggs are on the rise. Maybe it's just that Pascal Leclaire is making a glorious spectacle of himself over in Columbus, but then even Andrew Raycroft got in on the hot clean sheet action which tells you that something must be up. Andrew Raycroft man. Scoring is down from last year, the Internet confirms this, and even last year's numbers are down from the year before that. It only took three years for the big/small market divide to really resurface after the lockout. Ditto the fighting. Are we seeing the return of the low scoring too? Cause man there has to be a better way of fixing the sport than locking everybody out for a year. That got old kinda quick.

Goalies stop being so good thx,

Jason

Saturday, November 10, 2007

That Dirty, Dirty 'Stache

Of course the Leafs won against Buffalo. They didn't just have Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe back in the line-up, they also had McCabe's gnarly new set of biker bars, which probably deserved at least an assist on 'Caber's goal, just for being there. Ryan Miller knows better than to get between a shot from any dude bad enough to be sportin' a hairy horseshoe. It's just not good sense. I wish I had a decent picture.

Jason

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ze Big E, 'E Is Great Non?

So what about this Lindros guy. He's retired now, some might say a few years too late. The question, burning so passionately right now is whether the dude, in his injury shortened career and taking into consideration both the fact that he was probably the player of the nineties but also made a dick of himself by refusing the Nordiques, considering all that does the Big E have a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Yeah, let the guy in. I think his numbers plus the reputation he built while with the Flyers is enough on its own to get him into the hall. He shouldn't be penalized for taking too many hits to the head, that was just his game, and he shouldn't be penalized for having the parents he did either.

When the time comes, 2010 I think, they should vote him in. Whether that happens or not, well, that depends on how well some journalists can hold grudges I guess.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Breaking News

Jay Onrait is hosting Off The Record while Landsberg gets his face lifted, or whatever it is Landsberg does on his time off. TSN needs to get this guy Onrait his own show. Jay is comedy gold.

Jason

Thursday, November 01, 2007

There's This Basketball Team You See

Sometimes I forget I don't like basketball long enough to write a couple hundred words.

Yeah I only pay attention to basketball with one eye open but the lack of respect emanating stateside for the Raptors is shocking. The American sports media has been creaming their pants over and over again all summer at the thought of Boston's newly stacked team, and the predictions from every corner are falling just short of championship. Because we know how historically good teams built to look like a day to day all star team have faired. Team chemistry be damned. You would think in basketball of all sports, those being paid to be in the know would recognize the importance of team play. Boston will improve, yeah sure, it's not hard to improve on 28 wins, but I think Boston fans will be disappointed (Dear Boston fans, you have the Patriots and the Red Sox already. That is enough).

The Raptors aren't getting any respect is my problem. Perhaps the most team orientated team in the East, and easily one of the most cohesive groups in the NBA and for some reason no one can take the next step and predict another Atlantic title for Toronto. The Celtics will come out of the gate like the New York Rangers, slow and uncomfortable. The Raptors are going to be solid all year long. They will win their division and a playoff series or two to boot, and the stupid part is America is going to act all surprised, as if there was no warning for this sudden rise.


Still holding out hope that Brian Colangelo will take over hockey operations too,

Jason

Did Someone Say Road Trip?

Those wacky, wacky, mediocre, wacky Maple Leafs. All the consistency of raw egg yolk plus the nauseous taste that makes you want to throw up afterwards too.

What's up with the goaltending? Paul Maurice seems desperate to make Toskala his number one guy but every time he leaves Toskles in net for too many consecutive games he seems to get burned. We're all expecting some kind of return to form for this guy and that two game win streak, yeah remember how sweet that was?, yeah that two game win streak looked like some kind of turning point and then Toskala allows four goals in the first period against the Crapitals of all teams and the Leafs sleep walk through another loss and it's real sweet that Steen was angry afterwards for the camera, but where was that during the game?

Raycroft is no better these days and it seems like the Leafs do have a goaltending duel on their hands. Two goalies dueling it out to see who can earn the right to ride the bench night in and night out. Maybe they should call up Clemmensen. You know the Marlies have yet to lose in regulation through seven games? This is the Marlies we're talking about. Maybe we should do a wholesale roster swap with them. I don't see how it could get much worse than it already is.

Next game is in New Jersey. I don't think we can call it the swamp any more - the arena is in Newark proper right? Not that I know anything about Newark, but it has to be a locale improvement, right? Point is, this is a Winnable game. I've been saying that about a lot of games lately, and look where that's got us. The Leafs can bounce back though, especially on the road. Get away from the ACC. Do a little soul searching guys. Win some games please.

Jason

Monday, October 29, 2007

Whither, World Series?

What's up Major League Baseball? With Boston's win over Colorado now, that's four years straight where the World Series loser has barely offered up any token resistance on their way down. In fact the second place team has scrounged up one win over that stretch. Over the last four years the winning teams have compiled a record of 16-1. There's nothing compelling about a World Series sweep. You need to get on this MLB.

Boston versus Colorado. The New Evil Empire versus The Faceless White Guys From Colorado (I wasn't paying that much attention during the game but seriously the Rockies' batting order looked like it was picked off a family farm in Iowa). I wrote back in April that the Rockies would spend the season being the one MLB team I knew nothing about, and it's seven months later now and I still don't know anything about them except that they have a hot shot Canadian pitcher, Jeff Francis, who looks like he's seventeen.

Can't cheer for the Rockies, just like I can't cheer for No Name Brand food. Sure I'll eat it, but I'm not going to get excited about it. Can't cheer for the Red Sox, not when they're in command of pro-baseball's second highest payroll. Dudes aren't underdogs anymore. Haven't been for awhile.

Money doesn't matter, they were saying as the Rockies and the Diamondbacks played their series. These guys pay diddly for their players and look how far they got! Got them far enough to play Boston, and look what the Sox did to them. Wiped them clean. Rockies barely put up a fight.

Red Sox fans, probably still suffering from ugly duckling syndrome, don't see anything wrong here. Why would, or should they? The Red Sox went so long without a title that they might as well stockpile as many as they can now while they have the momentum. I just hope though that next year when the Red Sox backlash finally, finally arrives, Sawks fans don't act confused at how normal baseball fans could possibly hate on MLB most stacked team. The Red Sox used to be all hip and indie. Then they won a World Series, lost touch with their roots, let the fame go to their head and turned into the very thing they were supposed to be against. Yeah, I know, the Red Sox are the new iPod.

Endnotes: Jacoby Ellsbury would make an awesome hockey name.

Jason

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Lead Even The Leafs Couldn't Blow

I was starting to wonder if it actually existed, if there was a lead out there that even the Leafs could hold on to. Two goals has proven too shaky for them, but four? Not even these guys could screw up that bad. Pittsburgh, the patsies who absorbed Toronto's goals this time cut the lead to three goals before the game was out, in an eventual 5-2 loss.

The Leafs looked good. Toskala looked good. Antropov looked good. Steen looked good. Tlusty looked good. No third period self destructions this time. Three straight periods of solid hockey.

The Leafs were playing with a different looking roster, though involuntarily. Tucker and McCabe sat out with injuries, and was this a case of addition by subtraction? Tucker has been a non-factor so far and for McCabe, we don't really need go over that again. Their injuries opened up room for two rookies, two promising rookies, which is something we as Toronto fans have been conditioned to not expect. Anton Stralman and Jiri Tlusty. Tlusty had the big game no one really dared expect from him. Coach Maurice was saying they didn't want to put the world on his shoulders, though too late for that, he's wearing blue and white already right? Tlusty (doesn't rhyme with lusty) scored twice in his first career game, the first a deflection off his derrière - the worst way ever to score your first goal? He made up for it a minute later rushing in on Fleury and snapping the puck top corner far side.

These Leafs are a funny team to gauge eleven games in. Their record is 4-4-3, pure mediocrity right there. They also lead the league in both goals scored and goals allowed which means if these guys could just clamp down defensively and get one of their goaltenders to play consistently, they might have a shot at something. Next game is against the Rangers, one of the few teams who have started this season more disappointingly than Toronto. No reason the Leafs can't win that one.

Jason

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Singing the Varsity Football Blues

I run this little blog here and I like to say it is devoted to Toronto's futility and all the crumminess found on the sports page and yet I have never acknowledged the one team that truly embodies every aspect of Futility in Toronto. This changes, now.

The University of Toronto Men's Football team, the Varsity Blues, has not won a football game in six years, a stretch dating back to 2001 and encompassing an eye-brow raising 48 loses in a row. These guys are good at being bad. Really good. Undisputed champs, but only when it comes to losing.

You would think that at Canada's most prestigious university (it must be if I go there) they would have enough left over cash to invest in an equally prestigious football team. They certainly charge enough. Hah! But that's a complaint for another day. Right now it's all football.

The problems started back in '93 when some policy wonk with memories of being shoved in lockers by over testosteronated high school jocks still keeping him awake at night decided to slash the budget of what had once been a pretty darn decent football organization. We're a place of dignified higher learning after all, and football is so... so uncivilized.

All 48 loses can be attributed to one coach which shows just what kind of organization we are dealing with here, a place where as long as you go out, have fun and try your best guys, there are no losers. And grape popsicles after every game! If this had been any one of Ontario's, ahem, lesser universities, a line probably would have been drawn a long time ago.

I'm not sure if this team is even heading in the right direction. They have a swanky new stadium, but that just might be to keep up appearances. The Phoenix Coyotes got a new stadium a couple years ago and damned if they ever did anything to deserve it. At this point you just have to sit back and appreciate the Varsity Blues for what they are: a group of lovable losers destined to forever finish behind on the scoreboard. And as long as these guys keep it up, we'll be able to objectively say that the Maple Leafs are not the worst show in town.

Jason

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

McCabe, McCabe, McCabe

Bryan McCabe! Don't listen to the boos. It's not your fault you're the highest paid player on the team. If John Ferguson drove up to my house with a few garbage bags full of money I'd take it too.

This just isn't your week that's all, what with scoring against your own team in overtime. Let's not even mention that tricky net that hip checked you. I mean, who expects that kind of dirty play from the net? But that own-goal was brutal. It's like you're trying to give Toronto a reason to hate you. We certainly can't hate Antropov anymore, he leads the team in goals! Remember that time you scored 19 goals in a season? Yeah, that was pretty sweet.

And it's not like you were the worst defenseman for the Leafs in Buffalo. Did you see Pavel Kubina? He was awful! You should partner up with him McCabe, you'll probably look better just by comparison. And how come no one is pointing fingers at Mats Sundin, huh McCabe? He was on the ice for four goals. Surely that's at least equal to one own goal?

The third periods are killing you guys McCabe. You guys were beautiful for the first two. Didn't allow a single goal for two whole periods! I guess I just know you guys too well because I couldn't even enjoy those two periods because I kept thinking "They still have to play the third period" which is like in triathlons when they say, "They still have to run the marathon." It's not even close to being over. So I can't say I was surprised McCabe when you guys let Buffalo score two really quick goals to the game. Heck, Pittsburgh did the exact same thing to you guys. It's almost like your personal trademark. "How fast can we blow the lead?"

I was impressed that you guys managed to respond quickly. That Chad Kilger, I mean he knows when to show up, but then it went into overtime and someone took a penalty (was it Kubina, McCabe? I don't remember who but I'd put hard money on him being the goat) with less than two remaining, and whooo boy, little warning bells were going off.

Don't worry McCabe, I estimate it will only take two more own-goals before Fergie will have no choice but to get rid of you. I bet Long island would take you a second! Wouldn't that be cool? Back to New York? I know they already made Guerin their captain and everything but you have prior experience with the job. I think it would work out is all I'm saying. And just think of it, then you'd be able to score on the Leafs all you want, and nobody would get mad at you. I think it's a lot more satisfying that way.

Sincerely,

Jason

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rout the Islanders and Call Me in the Morning

Sometimes I wonder why I even follow hockey. Why do I invest so much energy into a passion that has provided so little return? You have your team that you cheer for and if you are lucky it's not run by soulless corporate jerkoffs and if you are really lucky, they even win championship or two. But sometimes you are not lucky and you find yourself stuck cheering for a group of stiffs on skates and it becomes really easy to remember how trivial sports can be, when compared to quiet revolutions in Burma or even just one man's fight against cancer. Sometimes for me it's just a bunch of bulky ballerinas chasing a rubber puck around on skates.

And then sometimes something special happens, and I am reminded why anyone would care about hockey, would care about baseball, would care about football, would care about professional snookers even. Sometimes Mats Sundin takes the all time scoring lead in Maple Leafs history and the ACC erupts into delirious ovation and Mats can just sit there beaming, wiping the hint of tears from the edges of his eyes as he acknowledges the crowd's appreciation as many times as they need it and on times like that, all I can do is sit back and remember why I bother with any of this at all. We're all waiting for those special moments, whether they are as obvious as winning the championship, or the small personal accomplishments that set a benchmark in perseverance and dedication. A shiny headed Saku Koivu stepping on to the ice. Cal Ripken breaking the Iron Man streak. Mats Sundin passing Darryl Sittler. That's why I'm here.

The best part of the night was that Mats received two ovations for the occasion. The first was a false alarm, a ghost assist tacked onto deft goal by Kaberle. Leafs TV, and Mats himself (this guy is Class), were quick to point out that he had not so much touched the puck on the scoring play. Didn't stop the PA from dropping his name, and it certainly didn't stop the crowd from giving Mats his due. The assist was retracted eventually, though Sundin wasn't finished. In the third he sent a cross ice pass that deflected off an Islander defenceman and past Dubielewicz and there was no argument on this one. The officials paused the game, and the cheers rained down as Mats couldn't keep his smile down. We may never see him raise a Stanley Cup, but if he has a bigger smile than the one he had tonight, a Cup win is the only time we'll ever see it.

And how about the game? The Leafs were coming off a 7-1 undressing from the resurgent Hurricanes (who ended Ottawa's win streak tonight, oh yes, oh yes), so of course they responded with eight goals of their own tonight against Long Island, good for an 8-1 win, number two on the season.

Raycroft was solid, though this just creates more questions in net. Raycroft or Toskala? I have a soft spot for Raycroft, and if he's going to pay off like he did tonight, I say ride that pony for all he's worth... It's pretty clear after just one game but Simon "Smache" Gamache should have started the season with the big team. Though the guy looks like he's been called up from the Ozarks, not Ricoh Colosseum... How about Matty Stajan. He had a goal and three assists to give him six points in his first five. I'm going to start calling him the Big Stage... Alex Steen played on the first line and got his first goal for it. I like Steener and Sundin together. It just occurred to me that because this game was broadcast on Leafs TV, a very large number of people who might normally be watching did not, and therefore missed Mats' milestone. This is so wrong. Seeing it on the highlight reel is not the same.

Jason

PS I'm just finding this out now, but Mike Comrie has hooked up with Hilary Duff which is both non sequitur and a decent explanation for his strong start. It also raises the number of famous hockey girlfriends in the NHL to, by my count, two. I expect the LA Kings' youth brigade to get working on this shortage. I mean, if the sight of Anze Kopitar doesn't get you hot...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Oh, Ok, It's Just The Cancer

Back off on Jason Blake guys, he's got the cancer. It's called chronic myelogenous leukemia which must also be known as the form of cancer for the busy, modern man-about-town who simply does not have the time to commit for lengthy rounds of chemotherapy. It's eminently treatable with just a few pills a day say doctors, which is good - this is not Phil Kessel redux. Not to lose sight of the only reason we care about Mr. Blake's health, he won't be missing any hockey. This must be the most civilized, agreeable form of cancer there is. I think most Leaf fans, on hearing the word "leukemia" linked to their newest saviour three games into his blue and white career were not thinking, "I hope the Blake family all the best, and a speedy recovery."

More like, "Who the hell is going to play with Mats now?"

But it's all moot. The little lug'll be fine, so it's ok to joke. It would be different if it was a more malignant strain; if Jason Blake's life was at stake. Then the question would be, "Does a dead player's salary count against the cap?"

Jason

Sunday, October 07, 2007

This is a Real Fear of Mine

Sometimes when I watch my Leafs stumbled around the rink I start to worry that the last goal they scored will be the last goal they ever score. I get this unshakable feeling that the Leafs' tentative, unsure forecheck will never click and that their sloppy passes and weak shots will never connect in any meaningful way. Sometimes they can muster all the creativity, all the originality of a Hallmark greeting card, relying on a lackluster dump'n'chase and far too many weak passes. Watching them, I sometimes think that whichever team holds the record for most shut-outs against in one season doesn't have to worry much longer.

The bright-side, if there is one, is that when the Leafs do score - yeah it happens every now and then - it feels like they have defied some incredible odds to put the puck in the back of the net. To me, with every goal it feels as if they have accomplished so much more than I had any right to ever expect. Each Leaf goal counts extra for me, each Leaf goal is something to cherish and hold on to because who knows how long it will be before the next one will show up. The longest goalless streak in league history always feels just around the corner.

Every time a Leaf pass is intercepted in the neutral zone or another blue and white rush crashes into the opposing d-line only to be stopped in their tracks, every time an opposing goalie makes a save he has no business saving it just serves as further proof as to the futility of the Leafs' offence. The tools to put it together seem to be there, they just need to find where they lost the instruction manual.

Jason

Friday, October 05, 2007

How About Those Third Periods

Vesa Toskala over Andrew Raycroft? Yeah? For real? Wrong again Maurice...Two games in and Toronto has a recurring theme going in the third period. Those late goals are brutal... Mats Sundin did what he couldn't last year, tie Daddy Sittler for goals as a Leaf... Me and Matt Stajan have this thing going where I make fun of him, and then he goes and scores a goal. Two games straight now. Hey Matty, I gave your mom syphilis... I think Darren Dutchyshen does coke. I can't explain him any other way... Wake me up next October...

Jason

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Meditations on a Loss

This is great. It's only a game into the regular season and we already get to second guess Paul Maurice. Raycroft over Toskala? Yeah? For real? Oh this is just the start. Toskala will start game two, and Ottawa will win, because they're Ottawa, and everyone will be all, Toskala over Raycroft? Yeah? For real? This is going to be a fun season, I can tell.

The Leafs were competitive, especially during the second, but Ottawa ramped it up in the third and Heatley, who I really thought was heading to free agency next season, rewarded the team that had rewarded him so handsomely with a pair of goals. He's averaging almost a goal per game when he faces Toronto. Raycroft was ok, and I don't want to blame the loss on him. How about a powerplay that couldn't score? And how about Wade Redden, who looked like he had a personal vendetta against Toronto's fourth line. I like this side of Redden. Kudos to the Leafs for getting Ottawa to sink to that level. Or it might just be Mighty Duck syndrome. Everybody wants the fighting majors these days.

Andy the Woz was solid, having to go one on one with Heatley a couple times. Antropov is gonna have one of those good seasons. I'll keep saying it. I made fun of Matt Stajan yesterday, and then he scored. Hey Matt, your face is stupid.

Oh and in "hey he's just noticing this now?" news, Pierre Maguire is not very good at his job. There is no law of commentating that states that the quality of commentating increases proportional to the number of decibels you can hit. In fact it's probably the reverse. Gord Miller is also pretty blah. And poor Dave Randorf, I associate his voice with B-grade world championships and Spengler Cups. I can't take the guy seriously. While I'm criticizing TSN, Kanye is not the right musical artist to be sponsoring four middle aged white guys talking about hockey. It only leads to Bob MacKenzie namedropping Fiddy, and this is not something anyone needs to hear, ever.

Jason

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Toronto Maple Leafs: A Pre-Mortem

Leafs start the season tomorrow and as much as I want to be optimistic about these guys, it's hard to do. Safety Razor and Toskles failed completely to instill any reason for confidence in Toronto's goaltending situation. Yeah, the pre-season doesn't matter. But does Toskala really think having the Leafs full roster in front of him is going to really make that much of a difference? Has he seen Toronto's starting roster? Matty Stajan is our number two centre.

Injuries to Wellwood and Colaiacovo hurt hard. This was supposed to Wellwood's Year. Same for Carlo. Why doesn't Belak ever get injured.

I like the the prospective fourth line of Devereaux-Newbury-Battaglia. That's a scrappy line. Blake-Sundin-Anybody is shaping up like it might be worth the hype it gets. After that I don't know. Antropov will have a big year. He has to. The Woz will final get the chance he deserves but I don't think there's room back there for Anton Stralman. Maybe once they trade McCabe...

Opening two straight against Ottawa doesn't help anyone, but otherwise October looks pretty winnable for the Leafs. Nine games at home to just four on the road and games against potential punching bags like Long Island, Washington and Florida. That would be cautious optimism I'm trying to express.

Game one starts 7:30 tomorrow, but I'm in class till eight. I forgot to schedule my classes around the Leafs schedule, again. Does this make me somehow less of a fan?

Yeah, probably.

Jason

Endnotes: Wikipedia has a list of properly sourced hockey nicknames and www.kevinweekes.com is totally not something I just made up. I'm done.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Commence the Invasion

I'm am skeptical of anybody who feels the need to specify the game as ice hockey, which limits my skepticism to only, oh let's say, everybody in Britain.

Regardless of what I think (a common trend among Gary Bettman's decisions), the NHL put two regular season games in sunny London, England (I'm sure London, Ontario would have appreciated them just as much).

The NHL deserves props for making them regular season games; games for points and glory and everything. Any two bit major sports league could schedule a pre-season game across the ocean, but those invariably turn out to be bland affairs that lack any real star power. This way, Europe gets to see what real hockey is like, not that Brits really have anything to compare it to.

I watched the Saturday opener between Anaheim and LA. The crowd at the O2 Stadium (owned by the same suit who owns the Kings, of course) was the real highlight. It was a regular United Nations of sweaters circling the ice. Name a hockey team, and 5 quid says they were represented by a fan. My favourite was the pair of green St. Pats one couple was rocking.

The game itself was ok. Anaheim doesn't look ready. Not having Niedermayer and Selanne will really hurt them. Their absence plus the jet lag sucker punch is going to translate into slow going early on. Bertuzzi looked eager though. This might be his comeback year.

The Kings could surprise some people this season. They ripped the Ducks apart on the powerplay, and they might finally, just maybe, cross your fingers, have found a goalie they can ride in nineteen year old Jonathan Bernier. That would be a major victory for LA, which hasn't had anything legit in between the pipes for as far back as I care to remember.

The final score was 4-1 LA, though Anaheim evened up the series with their own 4-1 victory the next day.

The league is for sure interested in more European jaunts after seeing the arena at capacity and they sure as hell can't let the NBA - the league that went from All-American to Cosmopolitan seemingly overnight and has half their teams doing European training camps as I type - conquer the old world. Word is Prague, a city that actually plays the game, might get the season opener next year. Who knows, fifteen year from now, the only place with any guarantee of not hosting a debut will be cities in North America.

Jason

Saturday, September 29, 2007

NHL Predictions, Cause Who Else Can You Trust?

It's my favourite time of year, the days right before the start of the hockey season, the days when you can really mean it when you say every team has a shot, every team could surprise us, and that this might just be the year the Leafs win. But then some jerk has to go and drop a puck somewhere and all of a sudden you realize everything your team did in the off season was for nothing and that once again the parade will be somewhere else. Well, I'm here to spare you the heart breaking suspense and give you the inside info on whether your team sucks or not. Hint: they probably do.

East
1.Rangers
New York went through a time warp in the off season, transporting themselves back to a time when they could get any player they wanted simply because they had all the money in the world. Those players, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, make the Rangers the best in the East. They weren't bad before; now they are dangerous. Welcome to the new old NHL.

2.Ottawa
In my biased opinion, I think the Sens reached their apex last year and everything now is just part of their slow, drawn out decline. It'll start with not resigning Dany Heatley, just wait. For now the Sens are the best in their division, so they'll win but mark my words, this is a broken team.

3.Atlanta
The Thrashers didn't do much over the summer, but I think the division is weak enough to let that slide. This team is still good enough to win the Southeast but winning a series might still be asking much.

4.Pittsburgh
Yeah, yeah, Pittsburgh is hot stuff right now, but they still have an average age of 16, so I'll cool the urge to give them the Presidents Trophy, though the engravers could probably save time by etching Crosby's name into the next ten empty spots on the Art Ross right now. Pittsburgh will be good, but the young guns are probably still feeling a little cocky over last year, which is not the ideal frame of mind.

5.Buffalo
If you didn't feel bad for Buffalo over the offseason you either live in western New York or you're the type of sick freak who skins cats for fun. First their top players bolt and then Kevin Lowe makes Tomas Vanek a very wealthy man. But Buffalo didn't get through last year simply on the strength of two players, they succeeded because they were deep like a good haiku and now they get to demonstrate it. They won't be as good, but I don't think that's saying much.

6.Philadelphia
I didn't like the way Phillie raided Nashville's sinking ship, but you can`t argue with the results. Philadelphia has undergone a radical face lift, and is once again pretty enough to get invited to the ball. Goaltending seems shaky but why bet against Marty Biron? Philadelphia fans will quickly forget that they ever finished dead last in the East.

7.Carolina
I like Carolina. This is still essentially the same team that won the Stanley Cup, and I'm willing to write last year off as an extended hangover. It's a mulligan folks. And the Southeast still isn't anything to get worked up about. The Canes are back.

8.Toronto
Home town discount again, but this time I think the potential is there. Last year I was pretty hesitant to put my boys even in eighth, but this year it can happen. Vesa Toskala has been bad, and Kyle Wellwood will be out for a while which is not helping, but no worries. And really, even if the Leafs do tank, at least no more Fergie.

9.Tampa Bay
The big three are poised for a big year, but I'm trying to think of any one else on the team you'd need to watch out for. Defense is just ok, and that was before losing Dan "Watched Pots Don't" Boyle" and goaltending is still whatever.

10.New Jersey
I don't like putting New jersey out of the playoffs as long as Martin Brodeur reigns, but where else to put a team that lost two of its key players like they did. Jersey is no Buffalo. Sweet Lou Lamoriello held this team together admirably in the first years post-lock out, but not even his wizardry could keep it whole forever. Plus, can he keep Brent Sutter for more than a season?

11.Montreal
The only good thing I can say about Montreal's offseaon is that they somehow found a team willing to take Sergei Samsonov. Roman Hamrlik is probably an improvement on Sheldon Souray, but Montreal still feels thoroughly average.

12.Washington
Props to the Caps for giving Alexander Ovechkin some half way decent players to pass to him, but this is still a one player show.

13.Islanders
The Islanders surprised everybody by generally not sucking ass last season, but they were forced during the summer to replace most of their overachieving mediocre vets with a brand new cast of mediocre vets like it was some sort of reality tv show (Twenty strangers. One hockey team. Can they overcome their differences and learn to work as a team?). Ted Nolan can't do everything.

14.Florida
I don't have anything against Florida but ever since Roberto Luongo left town, what's the point? Florida feels like they might be a good team in another couple years, but for now I'm not sold.

15.Boston
Yeah I just don't know. The Blackhawks of the East just seem to get worse, the more they try to get better. It's probably a zen thing. Boston won't be any better this year.


West
1.Detroit
Man I'm tired of betting against Detroit only for them show me up every year, so here we go: Detroit in first. Just watch now, Dominik Hasek is going to put up a .876 average, and I'm gonna look like an idiot again.

2.San Jose
San Jose continues to be that team that does everything right, but still can't get close to the cup. They have the offense, the defense and the goaltending plus lots of young talent, and now they have Jeremy Roenick to shake things up. Who knows, maybe Roenick will be the wrinkly California version of Sean Avery that sparks the Sharks to new levels of greatness. Or maybe he'll retire by November. Whatever.

3.Calgary
Yeah their offseason said "hey guys we're getting pretty desperate," (Mike Keenan AND Owen Nolan?) but I think they are still capable of winning a division.

4.Anaheim
I hate it when players prolong their retirement decision, and Anaheim has two players protracting the process. If neither Scott Niedermayer nor Teemu Selanne return (my money's on Nieds coming back) it's hard to imagine the Ducks repeating.

5.Colorado
I think Colorado will be back with a vengeance this year. Peter Budaj will establish himself as a number one, and Jose Theodore will play well enough to make a few dollars as a free agent. the Avs have loads of talented youngsters (Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos, Paul Statsny, John Michael Liles) plus Ryan Smyth. Ryan Smyth man.

6.Vancouver
I put them in essentially because of Roberto Luongo. No, not essentially: entirely. They don't have much in the way of offense and there's no reason to think that Marcus Naslund or Brendan Morrison will re-emerge as legit scoring threats. But as long as Luongo is between the pipes, they're capable of doing anything.

7.Minnesota
Four teams from the same division might be pushing it, but Minnie is certainly good enough to make the playoffs, that is, assuming they can squeeze a whole season out of Marian Gaborik. Wishful thinking?

8.Nashville
It breaks my heart, it really does, to see Nashville like this. They lost a lot, and are now relying on a guy named Chris Mason to mind their net (strictly on the level of Hockey Names, Mason has nothing on Vokoun). They great group of youngsters that gave them so much depth have become their go to guys. No room for mistakes.

9.Dallas
The Stars are one of those teams who at first glance don't look like they should be all that good, and yet still manage to put up 100+ point seasons. I think that will end this year. Is it time to start looking for a replacement for Mike Modano yet guys?

10.Chicago
Chicago could so easily make the playoffs, let's be clear on that. They are an improving team, which is probably the first time in fifteen years you can say that and mean it about Chicago. They're still relying on a whack of young guys though, so maybe some caution is necessary. Bill Wirtz is dead though, kind of poetic, as if his old heart couldn't understand or fathom how his hockey team was improving under his watch.

11.St. Louis
Another rapidly improving hockey team, St. Louis should challenge for the playoffs this year. They probably won't make it, but if their strong finish to last season was any sign, things are going to get better in Missouri.

12.Los Angeles
LA has a lot going for it. They have a great core of young players like Mike Cammallieri and Anze Kopitar and even a young goaltending stud in Jonathan Bernier, plus Marc Crawford's hair. Unfortunately, instead of being content to let their promising pot simmer, they tossed in a bunch of free agent effluence that will just dilute the recipe. Either way I don't think they'll being making the playoffs, but at least get your plan straight, you know?

13. Columbus
So Columbus is rebuilding again, but that's not really accurate because there was nothing really built to begin with. Ken Hitchcock as coach will help, and you can't imagine Rick Nash being much worse than he was last season.

14.Edmonton
A couple of years ago Edmonton looked poised to make next step to being a great team. They were flush with talented youngsters, any one of which was liable to break out any moment. Shawn Horcoff. Fernando Pisani. Raffi Torres. But then the team hit a hiccough as all of the young guns stalled and all of their free agents sought as much distance between them and the city as possible. Business as usual in Edmonton.

15.Phoenix
Phoenix is not a good team. No offense, no goaltending, and a very young defense mean it's only going to get worse before it gets better for Wayne Gretzky. A lot worse. Which is stupid because that's what everybody's been saying about the Coyotes for years and it's still just as true today as it was five years ago. Nothing is rising from these ashes any time soon.

And for a finale, some even more poorly informed predictions: Art Ross to Sidney Crosby, Rocket Richard to Crosby, Hart to Crosby, Selke to Crosby, and in a surprising and unprecedented coup, both the Norris and Vezina to Crosby.

I'll give the Stanley Cup to Ottawa, because we all know the only way to guarantee a team missing the Cup is to predict their winning in September. Suck on that Ottawa.

Jason

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pre-season Whatevers

The Leafs are doing their pre-season thing and the question of who will play with Mats Sundin has taken on a level of ridiculous speculation. Is Jason Blake the player that Mats has been waiting for for the past decade, the player who will convert every one of Sundin's sweet Swedish passes into pretty goals and career numbers and save us from another year of no playoffs? Yes, apparently, if you want to listen to the hype.

Me personally, I have my eye on Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Hah, no I'm serious. This is their year. When Antropov is healthy, and come on, there's no way he can spend any more time on the DL, the guy is due, anyway, when he's healthy, he's actually got some game. Just watch. And Poni, well, did you see his breakaway goal in Edmonton? Poni is a workhorse.

The Leafs won their game in Winnipeg against Phoenix today, a game that was probably scheduled to shut up people in the Peg who still want their Jets back. C'mon, nobody wants the Coyotes. Alex Steen picked up a goal which was a nice tribute to Daddy Steen and Andrew Raycroft got the win which is just nice anytime.

The Leafs also brought Simon Gamache to training camp, and this guy is supposed to be hot shit over in Europe and the AHL, though if there's any room in the bigs for him probably depends on how well he translates his game. The Leafs are also guaranteeing a pre-season start for Scott Clemmensen who had the NHL's easiest back up role last year working behind Martin Brodeur. If I can be petty here, it was Clemancy who lost the final game of the season last year for New Jersey to the Islanders, which gave New York one more point than Toronto and the final playoff spot. If I can summarize, the Leafs failure last year can be blamed entirely on Scott Clemmesen.
I hope his ass gets shelled.

Jason

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hockey Lit 101

A book that should be on every discerning hockey fan's bookshelf is Peter Gzowski's The Game of Our Lives, and if it's already there, it could probably do with a re-reading.

It goes like this: back in 1980, Gzowski shacked up with the Edmonton Oilers for an entire season, and when he was done, he wrote a book, a book that is not only a tribute to the players and team that would in a few years go on to be one of the greatest hockey teams ever assembled, but also a loving and glowing monument to all that is great and wonderful about our game.

It hearkens back to expansion era hockey, when the scores were high and the salaries still low. I wasn't alive for any of this, so it's all fresh and exciting for me, and interesting to see how the hockey players of yesterday are the management of today. Bob Gainey, Doug Risebrough, half a dozen Sutters to choose from and many more current boardroom members crowd the Gzowski's pages. Foreigners were still soft; the Islanders were the best thing on skates; Gretzky was just twenty; Kurri couldn't speak English; Messier was just a bundle of unfocused, raucous energy; Coffey was a shy wallflower and Glenn Sather was still just as dominating as he is today. It's like a kids show that never got made. The Baby Oilers.

The book is even more so poignant and apropos these days because of the real life parallel occurring in Pittsburgh as we speak. It's impossible not to draw the parallels as you read between the Oilers of yesterday and the Penguins of today. Gretzky and Crosby, both calm and more down to earth than they have any right to be. Both are surrounded by an explosion of youth ready to burst out. They called Gretzky the Kid, back in the day. I didn't know that. The Waynderful One. They didn't call him that one, but they should have.

Read this book if you ever need a reminder of why hockey is great, why we put up with hockey teams in Florida and owners who don't care and all the other bollocks that gets in the way, why it's our game, the game of our lives.

Jason

Dem Blueboids Ain't Gots It

Ok, the Blue Jays are done, after entering September at least pretending to be in the wild card hunt and then going an ugly 5-9. So what about next year?

JP Ricciardi says he likes his team, for all their problems on the field, and that he likes his manager, for all his problems in the dugout. In essence, the '08 Blue Jays are going to resemble the '07 version mighty closely.

Ugh. JP blames injuries for the bird crap the Jays have been spitting out this season, says this season doesn't really represent what the Jays are capable of, and as such, everybody gets a second chance! Whoooooo! Hey guys, forget that we've had our full roster since the beginning of August and forget that we've put up the lowest staff ERA in the AL for the last two months, and still only managed .500 ball, forget all that. Just try again guys, because the most important thing is that everybody gets a chance and nobody feels bad! Winning isn't everything, eh guys?

John Gibbons isn't a bad manager. But he's not a good one either. Logic dictates that after two completely uninspiring season in the dugout in which his team has shown all the determination and drive of a broken down golf cart, the Jays should be looking around for somebody new. No hard feelings to Gibby, but come on, where's the passion?

But Gibby's going to get another year because JP Ricciardi has one more year. I think it's fair to say that JP has lost Toronto's goodwill. It doesn't help that he treats us, the fans, like we are a minor nuisance that are somehow inconsequential to the job he is doing. Remember when he lied about BJ Ryan's injury?

One more year of flush payroll and mediocre results should lead to JP, and Gibbons with him, being fired. One more year...

Jason

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Leafs Duds... Are a Dud

Yeah, well they could be worse right? I mean, they could have numbers on the front, or TORONTO spelled out for us across the chest or a bright red Ontario flag on the sleeve or god forbid another stripe or two.

They really do need stripes along the bottom to anchor the whole thing, the home darks especially. Otherwise it's just...a wall of blue. I never thought I could feel so passionately about the need for horizontal lines anywhere, but here we are.

At least Tucker seems to like them.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Who Signed J.R?

San Jose did. Prediction: Roenick scores his five goals, hits five hundred and retires citing the changing nature of the game and that he has realized that he can no longer keep up with the youngsters anymore, at which point he is signed by NBC so that he can utilize his one remaining asset: his mouth. I love JR and all, but it's painful to watch a guy like him hobble around the ice. Retire, please?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Reebok, What Have You Done Now

Have you seen the new Vancouver Canucks jerseys? Oh man. What planet do they have to sequester their fashion consultants on to get them to agree on these bad boys? So many mixed messages. They brought back the green and blue, which was inevitable I guess, but kept the exploding orca and topped it off with a big ol' reminder that hey guys, we play in Vancouver. I could have gotten behind mish mashing the two jerseys, but the nameplate kills it for me. Makes it feel hugely retro and confusing.

The new NHL jerseys have been trickling out all summer long, and while some teams have opted to keep it simple (Detroit, Nashville, LA and the Rangers) others have used it as an excuse to add some serious ugly. Poor Dipietro. The Islanders don't seem to know what they are doing on or off the ice. They riff on their upstate rival's habit of putting numbers on the front, and then they enlarge their logo because I guess they must have realized their aging baby boomer fans can't see as well as they used too. I think Long Island is the one place you don't want to be captain now. There is a lot going on there.

Tampa Bay and San Jose went for the same design philosophy: new and sleek and stylishly boring. Both have newly stylized emblems updated for the new millennium and I think San Jose might be trying to sneak some orange into their colours. I've been thinking for a while now that both of these teams could use a break from the kitschy early 90's inspired logos they were born with, and I guess I shouldn't ask for more.

It's not all bad; some of the teams that couldn't keep their secret have actually done well. The winners so far are Columbus and Boston I think. Columbus will be adopting that oh so snazzy dark blue patriotic number that had been slowly creeping more and more into Columbus' dressing room and all I can say is finally. Boston went small on their changes, adding serifs to the big B and some black outlines but all it does is make it look better. So far the Original Six teams haven't dropped the ball, but all that means is that there is a bigger chance it will be the Leafs who screw it up. They've already said that there will be changes to the leaf and while I don't think anyone at MLSE would be crazy enough to follow the lead of Tampa and San Jose and create some kind of ungodly stylized maple leaf cum ninja star, this is still the Leafs we are talking about so frankly, it could end up worse. The new Leaf duds drop in two weeks.

Florida seriously dropped the ball on their jerseys, I mean guys this is textbook how not to design a jersey. It's their whites that particularly offend my eyeballs. The Senators updated theirs too, and I will begrudgingly admit that they have made an improvement but let's all be honest with ourselves, they still suck eggs. Am I right or what.

Finally there's Washington, who I will give a tentative thumbs up for their change in direction. By change in direction I do of course mean backwards. Like Vancouver, the Caps have pulled the retro threads out for another try, except unlike Vancouver, the folks in Washington can commit to one idea at a time. Washington's new logo is just modern enough and I think their whites are particularly spiffy. The darks are maybe a little red, and I've never thought Alexander Ovechkin has looked particularly good while suiting up in the motherland's colours. Hey, do you think it's a coincidence that Washington has stepped in line with Russia's colour scheme?

We still have more than half the NHL waiting to walk down the runway. Calgary and Montreal are next and I wouldn't bet on big changes from either team. I'm still worried about my Leafs though. And while we are at it, nhllogos.blogspot.com these guys are the place for logo updates.

Jason

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Power Rangers, Go

I just wanted to say before I disappear for a week up north and maybe get eaten by a bear, that tonight's record setting 30-3 win for Texas over Baltimore is absolutely ridiculous. It's incredible that a score like that is even possible in what is supposed to be the elitest baseball league in the world.

I mean, 30-3's are supposed to be reserved for when the island of Fiji's baseball team squares off against the US's, not when two fairly equal major league teams meet.

Just look at that score, 30-3. How does that happen. How does Baltimore's pitching staff turn into a Single-A rotation for one night. How do they all suck so hard, all at the same time.

Is it... is it time to start demoting teams to AAA a la European soccer leagues? Cause Baltimore, I'm looking at you.

Jason

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Simple Truth

Shawn Marcum is mmmmmoney in the bank

Mark, Do Not Ask For Who the Bell Tolls

Oh man, if there's one thing we haven't had enough of lately in the Leafs dressing room it's convicted criminals. I mean, Eddie Belfour waited until he got to Florida before he started showing off his Irish side and Dougie Gilmour's nickname "Killer" was I'm pretty sure just a joke.

Don't worry guys, we got Mark Bell now, just freshly convicted of drunk driving and fleeing the scene. Thankfully Bell's a pro-athlete which qualifies him for the much radder special privileged people's court so he won't have to serve any jail time during the season. Thanks American justice system!

Though from what I've heard about the newest underachiever in Leafland, maybe the best way for him to contribute to this team would be from in a San Jose jail cell.

Jason

Monday, August 13, 2007

Some Guys Use DeLoreans, Others Use Phonebooths. All I Need Is A Newspaper

I found something amazing in my basement the other day. I have in my hands the Toronto Star's Sports section from April 29.

1990.

The front page, yellowed and smelly but still serviceable, had three stories, as well as pictures of a moody looking Al MacInnis sporting ugly World Championships issue Team Canada duds and Billy Ranford taking some serious goaltender interference. The lead story was boxing - Thomas Hearns beating Micheal Olajide if you care, which leads me to surmise that the primitive people of the early nineties still cared about boxing.

Also ran was a story about the Blue Jays, losers of three straight taking their latest from the White Sox 5-4 at Comiskey Park, which is probably the funniest way of spelling US Cellular Field I've ever seen. The Jays went on to record an 86-76 finish which was considered disappointing by the spoiled fans of the early nineties Jays. The Jays starter that night in April was a dude named Mike Flanagan who the Internet tells me only started five games all season and was out the door by the next one. The White Sox debuted rookie Jerry Kutzler who got the win, which must have been the highlight of his career because he only played six more games in the bigs and I can't say I don't feel glad to know that.

The bottom story was about the St. Louis Blues forcing game seven against the Chicago Blackhawks thanks to two goals by Brett Hull. The winner of game seven, Chicago, incidentally, would go on to face the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Edmonton Oilers in something called the Norris Division finals. Call me a smart-assed ankle biter if you will, but how did the NHL get by with such useless division names? And why was Toronto grouped with the Western teams, while we're at it. Staying topical, the Hawks coach at the time was Calgary's current new flame (oh man, I totally did not intend that pun) Mike Keenan. Daaang has that guy been around. The Hawks were also relying on the unproven goaltending of some kid named Belfour, who lasted all of two and a half minutes before the Keener yanked him.

Delving inside, we find the reason for Al Mac's resigned scowl was because Team Canada had lost to those damned Czechoslovaks 3-2 at the World Hockey Championships in Bern. Canada was coached by Dave King (who is speculated elsewhere to soon make the jump to the NHL, though that would be delayed for two years) and the goaltending tandem of Kirk Mclean and Bob Essensa while the Czechoslovaks went with Dominik Hasek. The article hearkened back to simpler times in the NHL, when there actually was some difference between North America and European hockey, when the Soviets were still scary, when Alan Eagleson was still cool.

Below that is an piece on the outraged Habitants who were of course still in shock that they would not be drinking from the Cup that year. "They've become so accustomed to winning, many consider it some sort of divine right that they keep Lord Stanley's old goblet year after year." I think it's safe to say that after fourteen years without it now, Montreal is probably over it's withdrawal symptoms. But the columnist was no fool. "...Montreal is, as usual, not far removed from the Cup." I don't think I need to remind you who won the cup three years later.

Misc hockey notes: The owners of the Minnesota North Stars are planning on selling their franchise in order to obtain an expansion team in Silicon Valley and the Nordiques are looking to sign their number one overall draft pick, a spunky Swede with generous blond hair, Mats something who is showing "a large amount of talent" while with Djurgarden, recent winners of the Swedish Elite Division, beating out Hakan Loob's Farjestad.

This one has nothing to do with sports, but there is a giant ad for what is described as "The Ultimate Business Weapon". Yes, we're talking cellular phones. The Motorola cellular phone is of course the lightest and smallest model on the market at a slim and svelte 12.3 ounces and 15.8 inches and features a novel way to hang up. Simply flip the mouthpiece shut to end the call! Oh my! Ok, I'll stop.

Page Six features a small blurb about the world snooker championship, which is probably exactly one more small blurb about snooker than the Toronto Star has ran in the last decade.

And finally, file this one under "Some Things Never Change" but the back page featured several goalies complaining about the rampant goaltending interference and abuse they've had to suffer. I'm sure they'd be happy to know that 17 years later, their descendants are keeping the fight alive.

Jason

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarry

Baaaaaaaaaaarry. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarry. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarry.

Yeah, yeah he hit the freaking home run finally. Honestly back when he was passing Babe Ruth I was pretty he sure he would be dead before he ever got this far, or at least I don't know, hobbling around on artificial hips or something. I didn't think he would do it. So I can find something to appreciate about the feat, even if Barry Bonds is a rather large taint when it comes to being a human being.

I'm also glad he had the decency to hit 756 in San Fransisco because wouldn't you hate to have people booing what should be a happy moment, so that whenever sport shows drag out archive footage of that moment for whatever top ten the interns in the back room pulled out of their asses we won't have boos drowning the whole thing out? Asterix or not, he should be able to enjoy his moment. I just hope he retires after this year, that's really all I ask.

I'm approaching the whole Bonds steroids thing from a kind of zen position, I've made peace with it and moved on. It helps to know that Barry won't be number one in ten years thanks to MLB's other designated asswipe, Alex Rodriguez. Now there's a hate on I can get behind.

Can't you imagine it? If A-Rod is a douche now, when he's in the prime of his career playing for the most prestigious baseball team in the world and putting up numbers like he was Baseballbot 3000, imagine what he'll be like when he's a forty year old DH in Kansas and the only thing he has to play for is a record nobody wants him to break. He'll make Barry look like he was on Zoloft, not testosterone.

I think the era of sport heroes being decent human beings is officially over.

Jason

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Let the Kids Play

Good golly but why is it so hard for managers to figure this out? During the winter J.P Ricciardi signed a slew of over the hill veteran journeymen, and the only one who panned out, ok he didn't just pan out, was Matt Stairs and that probably has more to do with being home and not so much due to J.P's uncanny eye for talent. Royce Clayton was finally cut a few days ago, so we can stop pretending any one other than Johnny MacDonald is the number 1 short stop and the three pitchers hired to hold together the rotation didn't last till July.

Instead, the Jays rotation is relying these days on a youthful trifecta of Dustin "Mutton Chops" McGowan, Shaun "Maple Syrup" Marcum, and Jesse "You Can Stop Bringing Up The Batboy Thing Now" Litsch. Why did this take so long to happen?

Why are people in sports always so willing to fall back on guaranteed mediocrity when they have potential gold sitting right in front of them?

Whatever, even with a decent rotation, it's too late for the Jays. How bout next year eh?

Also, happy trails to Jason Phillips, the Jays' on again off again third string catcher for the past few seasons. They let him go so that they could bring up their own prospect Curtis "Playpen" Thigpen and I mean it's not that big a loss for the Jays' batting order but I'm still gonna miss the guy. What can I say? I have a thing for athletes who wear glasses.

Jason

Thursday, July 05, 2007

At Least We Got Somebody?

The Maple Leafs were late to the free agent dance again, and while they didn't end up waltzing away with a complete minger, they didn't quite end up with the homecoming queens. Fergie picked up Jason Blake for a lot of money and a long time, and while it's not entirely a bad move - adding a 40 goal scorer is never bad per se - but still, the dude is 33 dudes, and he's only now starting to be a premier goal scorer? I mean, you have to be suspicious of a guy who puts up career numbers in a contract year, especially this late in the game.

On the other hand, I'm also pretty glad that the Leafs didn't break the bank to sign Danny Briere or Chris Drury or Scott Gomez. Anything past 5 years on a contract and you have to wonder how far ahead the people responsible are really thinking.

Philadelphia and the Rangers are now my two least favourite teams in the East, incidentally. Phillie's looting of Nashville to pick up Hartnell and Timonen left a really sour taste in my mouth, and now they have Briere for forever, Smith from Edmonton plus Biron in net and it's almost like last season never even happened. I seriously hope they pull a Boston. And over in New York, they've actually built a team in which Jaromir Jagr is only the third highest paid player, which is such an impossible sentence that it can only come out of Broadway.

And now with the cap hitting fifty million, it looks like it's back to business as usual for the NHL, with the divide between small and large market teams becoming visible once again. Poor Buffalo which lost its two best players, plus Zubrus if that counts for anything; the Islanders who will have no chance of repeating their unlikely run to the playoffs now that half their players have been bought out from under them; and saddest of all Nashville, who saw a championship calibre team cannabalized right before their very eyes in a matter of weeks. I don't think there is anything sadder in pro sports than a great team being dismantled for financial reasons.

Paul Kariya, keeping with the free agent theme, must know something we don't, because he has signed away the last years of his prime to St. Louis, which is not a team that looks like it will be a contender any time soon. You'd think for a guy who still needs a Stanley Cup that he would have chosen any number of contenders that were willing to pay him money, and yet he lumps on with a team that's still rebuilding. Sticking with St. Louis, they did it again. They resigned a player they traded at the deadline last year, this time Keith Tkachuk, previously Doug Weight. This is a way uncool practice that should be stopped.

Back to the Leafs, Fergie is going with essentially the same team as last year, but with Raycroft splitting time with Vesa Toskala, and Jason Blake on Sundin's wing. Steen, Wellwood and Coliacovo are all a year older, and hopefully that much better, Antropov will stay healthy and chip in at least 20 (I'm not even kidding dudes), Ponikarovsky has 30 in him, I know it and Mats Sundin will score a reliable thirty goals, seventy points. With the stars aligned, this team can make the playoffs, can win a round or two as well.

It's not a Stanley Cup team though.

Jason

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Fergie Does It Again

Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell are Maple Leafs. Cherepanov or Esposito could have been.

This would seem to be the trade that determines whether Fergie is gainfully employed in Toronto come next draft.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hockey Scribbles

- Mats Sundin is back for another year. All is right with the world.

- Next year one of Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Ryan Smyth or Scott Hartnell will be a Leaf, fer sure.

- Micheal Landsberg asked Fergie if he would consider signing newly freed agent Alexei Yashin. Worryingly, the Leafs' GM did not immediately say "No way in hell".

- Sidney Crosby is only a year older than me. This will never ever cease to amaze me.

- Nashville won't have the Preds much longer. Hamilton might very soon. This worries me, not only because the Leafs would have to play this very talented team at least eight times a year, and really having to play against the Sens that much is bad enough already, but seriously, Hamilton? Canada's half-hearted answer to Pittsburgh? Moving them to wilds of Kitchener is even worse, mainly because the Kitcheloo Blackberries is a name too ridiculous to talk about. Move them to the 905, I could live with that. Call them the Toronto Toros or whatever and give the rich refugees in Toronto's sprawl something to cheer for. Toronto needs another team, is what I'm saying. Sympathies to Nashville fans, who have a legitimately good team on their hands but none of the ties that kept the Penguins grounded in Pittsburgh.

- Mike Keenan is a coach again. What? Insert joke about NHL coaching jobs being like a game of musical chairs but when the music stops, nobody takes away a chair. Or even better, insert joke comparing Keenan to promiscuous girl at college frat party. Everybody gets a turn. More confusing is that it's Calagry that has dipped into the communal coach pool, a team that is good enough that they shouldn't have to make such desperate looking moves.

- Keenan's mustache is also kinda creepy, in a pedophile kinda way.

- Back to the Leafs. Here's the problem. I want the Leafs to make the playoffs because that is something they haven't done in too long now, but on the other hand, the only way Fergie will ever get fired is if the Leafs tank the season. So... make the playoffs and curse ourselves to another five years of ineffective weak-kneed GMing, or take a deep breath and hope for the worst on the ice in order to ensure the best in the boardroom.

Lates peeps,

Jason


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Oh Yeah, That Stanley Cup

Call it the Stanley Cup Final that Toronto forgot. Ottawa versus Anaheim will do that.

I'm a little late here, so you know how the story ended, and nobody should be surprised, except for Ottawa fans who were probably already planning ahead to next year when they would finally have a definitive piece of evidence to prove their superiority over the Maple Leafs - it's hard to argue with a Stanley Cup.

I think we should all agree that the better team won here. Anaheim deserved it, and now we really do know that Brian Burke is a hockey God.

Also, don't rag on Ray Emery too much, if anything he proved that he is capable of taking a team to the Stanley Cup finals. Ottawa needs to resign him.

And finally, I have a feeling that Ottawa won't be in the finals again any time soon. They had their shot, the last decade was practically building up to it in fact, and then they blew it and is this team good enough to repeat? And will the upper management be able to resist blowing up this team?

Free agency is less than a month away,

Jason

Endnote - I can't seem to reliably spell Anaheim. Thank goodness for the Google spellchecker

I Love You Dreger

Best free agent signing of last year? Darren Dreger going from Sportsnet to TSN, easily. The 'Net wasted him as a babysitter for Kypreos and Big Bill Watters, but TSN realized his true potential and gave him a megaphone to voice his previously hidden thoughts. Wouldn't you know it, the man knows what he's talking about.

Anyways, that all leads to
this. According to the Insider, there is actually a team out there crazy enough to take Bryan McCabe's contract. Crazy hockey team? We're talking about the Islanders, natch, who all of a sudden find themselves with a hella lot more cap space now that Alexei Yashin can call himself a free agent. McCabe was el capitan on Long Island once upon a time, and word is, he might be willing to waive his ironclad no-movement clause to return there (in twenty years, John Ferguson Junior won't just be remembered as the warm body who filled the Leafs' GM spot after Pat Quinn and before the man who finally ended the cup draught, no Fergie will also be remembered as the man who gave hockey the no-movement clause. Let's all say thanks for that guys).

If there is a team silly enough to want McCabe at the almost 6 mil per the Leafs are paying him, it's going to be the Islanders. Buying out Yasher with four years left on his contract might be the sign of a team finally getting its act together, or it might be be a sign of business as usual.

No offense McCabe, but you might not have noticed that there are a ton of young ankle biting blueliners in Leaf jerseys just waiting for a chance to prove themselves, and as long as long as you continue to clog up a roster spot with your sustained mediocrity, it is just that much harder for them.

Go home Bryan.

Jason

Oh wait, while we're on the topic of Fergie and the Islanders, let's mention Sean Hill. It's Fergie's contention that because the NHL let Hill play even though they knew he was juicier than a Florida orange that my Buds missed the playoffs. Don't scapegoat Hill here. If he had maybe scored the game winning goal in their last regular season meeting, well maybe there would be an argument. But as it stands, Hill is a journeyman defenseman who does not tip the balance in anyone's favour. I just wanted to make that clear.