Saturday, December 12, 2009

Start calling Stajan "The Big Stage" you jerks

Ok so if my reading of the Maple Leafzeitgeist is correct, this might be Matt Stajan's last season in Toronto. This means I need to ramp up my one man crusade to nickname him Matt "Big Stage" Stajan before it's too late.

Stajan is quietly one of my favourite Leafs. It started with his first game, the last game of the 02/03 in which he scored a breakaway goal against Ottawa. This is how legends are born. He never really "broke out" in the traditional sense and he never really lived up to the Art Ross Trophy he won for me in NHL 2005, but he's turned into a solid, if perhaps not Kessel-linemate worthy player for Toronto. He also has a habit of scoring big goals (like my anecdotal evidence is going to convince you, but he did just score the game winning goal against Washington).

Anyway I don't know how this works. Nicknames should grow organically (in exactly the way that Jonas Gustavsson's did not) but this feels fundamentally too important to leave to chance. Consider this: Every hockey player needs a nickname, and if we don't act, if we do not consciously and literally draw a line in the ice now, then we are dooming future hockey generations to a world where no one goes farther than adding "-er" to players' names and calling it a day. Stajer?

Granted Stajan has a nickname, I guess, but "Ragin' Stajan" is a fundamentally lame nickname. There is nothing "Ragin'" about Stajan, which means at best the nick' is working off a lazy rhyme scheme and a weaksauce sense of irony, and as I hope you'll agree, the business of sports nicknames is no place for irony. Imagine if Brian Sutter had been kidding when he called Doug Gilmour "Killer"?

Blogosphere, my request is simple: make "Big Stage" Stajan a thing. Make it my Christmas miracle.


-This guy suggests Matt Stajan's nickname be Rudyard Kipling. I like his style.

-There's this guy who shows up on HNIC and I don't know his name but he's got this Droopy dog thing going on with his sad eyes and unshaven face and he really bums me out. TV shouldn't make me feel this way, CBC, get rid of him.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things that give me hope:

Given an infinite number of Toronto Maple Leaf teams playing an infinite number of seasons, we should expect an 82 game losing streak eventually. It is exceedingly unlikely however, that that will happen this year. I don't want to commit the gambler's fallacy, but the Leafs must be, in some larger cosmic sense, due. In these happy days of modern athletes the difference between professional sports team A and professional sports team B is one of inches and nuance. That's my attitude now at least: the Leafs are not perhaps, fundamentally, a good team, but they are also, fundamentally, not a terrible team. Even bad teams have nights when the puck bounces their way. Not every team the Leafs face will have Roberto Luongo backstopping them.

I remain, as ever, doe-eyed and hopeful.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How did you spend your third period?

It's important to say something nice first. Civility and respect never go out of style. The Leafs played a pretty good second period: they were watchable and competitive. Jason Blake scored a nice goal that scored points for technical difficulty and they were within one goal by period's end. Ok! Let's not get carried away with ourselves.

Sean Avery scored to open the third period, and I changed the channel. Oh that Dexter! He's serial killer and a father? How does he manage?

I forgot the most obvious reason I want Toronto to be competitive this year: Boston has our first round pick. There's no incentive to a last place finish. Whether that was by design or not (Brian Burke is inscrutable) is besides the point: the Leafs are swinging from the trapeze bars with no safety net below them.

So, uh, let's go Leafs, I guess.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Toronto's "Goaltending" "Dilemma"

Toronto doesn't have a goaltending problem, it has a "not very good team" problem. After Tuesday's snoozer of a loss ("snoozer" in this case is not a boring sports writing cliche for describing a boring or uneventful game - I fell asleep somewhere in the third period) I hope we can retire this false goalie dilemma. Instead of, "who's going to start in net tonight?" a more interesting question might be, "who's going to score goals tonight?" Besides Matt "Big Stage" Stajan, and the line of Mitchell, Wallin, and Stalberg, the Leafs have nothing going on.

At least we're not Canucks fans though right? High expectations are the worst.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here's A Bold September Prediction: Leafs Make Playoffs!

September is the best month of the year to be a fan of the Toronto Leafs. Consider this one telling statistic: the Leafs have never lost a regular season game in September.

September is my favourite hockey month because it is the only month of the year where I can, semi-seriously, say things like this: "Toronto looks like a pretty good team this year, and if things come together, I can see them finishing seventh or eighth in the Eastern Conference."

Eighth place! A gentleman's tenth, a nice way of saying, "Slow down there tubby, we're not on the moon yet." But maybe! The Leafs have good, young (!) players, oodles of defencemen and a GM and coach who both seem generally competent with regards to frozen ponds. Better than all that is this: This is a team with a direction. For the first time in a long time there is a Plan in place, a coherence to everything this team does. I may not agree with every move Brian Burke makes, but I also feel confidant that when he does do something, it's with a higher purpose in mind, a long term plan. If Burke is confidant in his actions, then so am I.

Here's what it comes down to: I want the Leafs to win games this year. Last year, I didn't. Brian Burke has given Toronto its team back. Ok! Let's watch some friggin hockey.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Congrats NHL!

Congratulations National Hockey League! You remain the proud owner of one (1) insolvent professional ice hockey organization located in beautiful, sunny suburban Glendale, Arizona. I hope you make good use of it! If I were a real estate agent, I might call it a "fixer-upper". The place just needs some "TLC" and a little "elbow grease". Hah hah!

There are going to be a lot of angry Canadians when you finally play your hand and have the Coyotes move to Kansas City, or Des Moines, or Boise or wherever it is the official NHL expansion plan calls for a team to be settled. Just a heads up. We're all adults here! We can read balance sheets. When you finally go back to making decisions based on cold financial logic, I think we can agree that the Phoenix Coyotes are not part of any hockey future. But keep pretending they are. I'm sure it comforts the 500 hockey fans in the great state of Arizona and I'm definitely sure it comforts the people running Glendale, who are going to be left holding one massize boner in the form of the Arena when you do up root and leave.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Have Lid, Will Play

Niclas Havelid will play his hockey in Sweden next season. This is not important. I'm sorry you had to read it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gary Bettman is a knob

When the NHL puts out a statement describing Jim Balsillie's latest stab at the windmill as a "sham," we should probably listen. This is a league that sold a franchise to a guy named "Boots." The NHL knows all about sham owners. They know what they are talking about.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A quick chat with Larry T-Bomb

The following conversation took place a few months ago over the phone. I don't know how legal this is. I mean, I don't think Larry knew I was recording him, but in this day and age it's basically an unspoken assumption right?

LT: Jay! Guess who.
JV: Sorry?
LT: "Sorry?" I don't like that word Jay, makes you sound weak.
JV: Oh hey Larry, I was just- it's kinda early Larry.
LT: Early? Do you know how much sudoku I've done this morning? Jay you aren't going to make VP of anything by sleeping in till 6.
JV: I don't work for you Larry.
LT: But you're an honest guy Jay, a really honest guy and I appreciate that. You won't make VP of anything with that kind of honesty but you're good to have around. Anyway, look I want your opinion.
JV: I have lots of opinions. For example, I saw this movie the other day about this chimpanzee who learns to skate and-
LT: Jay, I know you're young. You obviously don't remember Tampa's first season. The league has bylaws against that kind of thing now. Come on, give me something I can use.
JV: Ok well, I was also thinking about how every one loves penguins right?
LT: I don't. They waddle around in their coat tails thinking they're better than me. But my grandkids love them, so I concede your point.
JV: Right. So in between periods you could release a flock of penguins and some frozen fish into the rink. Kids would love it. Oh, you could dress them up in little penguin sized jerseys too and then auction them off for charity.
LT: Auction the penguins? I'd have to check that with Legal.
JV: No, I meant the jerseys. Auction the jerseys.
LT: Don't know if that would work here Jay, but I'll pass the idea onto Mario, see what he can do with it. Speaking of, I have a quick nine with him in ten. I'll let you know what he thinks.
JV: Ok-


Monday, February 09, 2009

Dispatches from afar

Machu Pichu, Peru - 10:36 PM February 6, 2009 

I met a Toronto guy today. Another one. This place is lousy with them. You wont be surprised when I tell you Kevin's another expat Leafs fan. He said he was from Collingwood, I think. A high school history teacher. He's taking his sabbatical, “Nothing keeping me in the city these days, you know?” He’s been knocking off landmarks all over the world. He just spent a week in Rio. Europe before that. Saw some churches. He sold his season tickets to finance everything. Heard that one before too. Those tickets were in the family for years and years, he said. Him and his brother, they split the proceeds, split town, and then split up in Berlin. Kevin lowers his voice, “he was into this weird sex thing.”

I try to change the subject, put the conversation somewhere safer. “You hear Blake is doing good these days?” Kevin’s eyes cloud over, he shows a little discomfort, but then he shakes his head and he’s smiling amicably again. “Sorry?” “Jason Blake? He leads the team in points actually, and yeah I know that’s not saying-” “Oh you’re talking about h-h-” “Hockey, yeah.” He looks like he is sweating, though it is early morning on the summit and the air is cool. He runs a hand through his thinning hair. He stammers, “I haven’t been following the uh, the uh…” “Not too many bars in Lima showing Hockey Night, right?” I laugh.

Kevin apologises, makes an excuse. He needs to find his tour guide. “But it was good seeing a friendly face.” His eye is twitching. He turns and leaves. “I’m sorry,” I want to shout. There is a reason men search out ruins built on the world’s rooftop. There is a reason men drown themselves in bizarre carnal acts. Who was I to pack his troubles into a novelty tin of peanuts? Nobody who runs that far needs those snakes in his face.