May 26, 2007

Sundin or Alfredsson?

Now that the Ottawa Senators are on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals - wow, that actually hurts just writing it - an interesting question comes to mind.

Mats Sundin or Daniel Alfredsson. Who would you rather have as your captain?

The Senators, led by Alfredsson, are off to the place no Maple Leafs team has travelled in the modern era of the NHL. Sundin and the Leafs have never made it out of the third round of the grind known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Alfredsson has been a man possessed the last few weeks. He's playing, undoubtedly, the best hockey of his career and has been the driving the bus for his team. He's finally playing like a captain, something he'd never really done in the playoffs before. I thought it was fitting that Alffy was the man to score the game winner in overtime of game five to knock out the Sabres. It was Alffy who was burned by Jason Pominville, one year ago, in overtime of game five when Buffalo sent the Senators home. Justin Timberlake was right, the clever entertainer that he is. What goes around, goes around, goes around comes all the way back around.

Alfredsson is the first European captain of a team in the Stanley Cup Finals. Funny, I always believed Mats Sundin would hold that distinction. Alas, it has yet to be for Sundin and Toronto's beloved, but clearly cursed, hockey team. Will Alfredsson become the first European captain to win the Stanley Cup?

Alfredsson has turned it up a notch in the playoffs this time around. He's played solid two-way hockey, while racking up 10 goals and seven assists. Four of those goals have been game winners. The Sens have won 12 games in the second season, so Alffy's won a third of them for his team. That's clutch. He's even added a physical element to his game, something he certainly hasn't been known for before.

Statistically during the regular season over their respective careers, Sundin holds a slight edge over Alfredsson when it comes to points-per-game. Sundin has averaged 1.01 points a game over his career, while Alffy comes in at 0.97. Advantage Sundin.

Sundin is also the better playoff performer, averaging 0.89 points a game in 83 career playoff games. Alfredsson has played 94 career playoff games and averages 0.80 points-per-game. Advantage Sundin, again.

I'm not sure one solid playoff run, on a very talented and deep Ottawa Senators team, vaults Alfredsson past Sundin. Alfredsson is playing on a line with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza right now, two all-world superstars. Mats Sundin goes to bed at night dreaming of playing with guys of that calibre. Other than the Alexander Mogilny days in Toronto, I'd say Alfredsson has always played with more talented players beside him.

All I know is that this city is full of Mats Sundin haters. The haters are saying Sundin shouldn't be resigned. That he's overpaid, and not worthy of the "C". I'll vouch with the overpaid part, but don't believe for a second that he isn't a superb captain and player. The Leafs need him, straight up.

The fact that Alfredsson is now playing for the most beautiful piece of hardware I have ever seen in my life, the Stanley Cup, is not going to help Sundin's cause, especially when he's on the verge of signing a new two-year contract with the Leafs.

Clearly, I'm no Sundin hater. I love the man. I'm going to give Alfredsson his props on his playoff performance right now, but I'll take Mats Sundin as my captain any day of the week over Alffy.
I'd love to know what you think.


Jesse Litsch, welcome back down to earth.

The Jays lost another close one tonight as youngster Litsch made his third start in the big leagues, against a tough Minnesota Twins lineup.

After his phenomenal start about ten days ago, Litsch has struggled in his last two outings. He's allowed to struggle, though. The kid is up from AA ball, after all, and he's only 22. It's not an easy transition, Casey Janssen can attest to that. Litsch gave up three runs and eight hits in only four and a third innings tonight. He's done a good job filling in, but it's time to get back on the bus and head down to Syracuse. Harry Halladay - I think I'm going to refer to him as Harry for the rest of the season - could return as early as May 31st, and Litsch will benefit from some time in Triple-A. It looks like he's got a bright future.

My main man Scott Downs took the loss tonight. He made a costly error in the bottom of the seventh when he couldn't handle Justin Morneau's nibbler. It was only the sixth run he's given up all year.

I've got to admit that I'm just waiting for the Jays' lights-out bullpen trio's bubble to burst. The trio of Accardo, Janssen and Downs. Downs looks like he's ready to pop, as he's given up three runs in his last two outings. Accardo is still going strong on his scoreless innings streak, and I'm still not sure how Casey Janssen is doing what he's doing.

Janssen hasn't been overpowering. He's given up 21 hits in 24 plus innings, while striking out ten. Yet he's only given up two runs. Those stats show that he's not getting fazed when runners get aboard. That's a great quality for a pitcher to have. Duh. Hard to believe Janssen was also pitching for New Hampshire in Double-A just a year ago.

This way of thinking - waiting for the bubble to burst - is the way I function. All negativity, all the time! Instead of enjoying the success of the Jays bullpen, I'm waiting for it all to come crashing down.

Peculiar decision by John Gibbons to let Scott Downs pitch to Torii Hunter tonight, with two outs and runners on the corners in a tie ball game. Hunter has been eating up left-handed pitching all year, and Jason Frasor was ready in the bullpen. This is what I mean when I say that John Gibbons makes some stupid decisions. Play the numbers. Bring in Frasor. Downs has been great, but you've got to respect Hunter's bat. Downs' first pitch was poked into right field, 4-3 Twins, and it turned out to be the winning run. Good call.

Random thought - it's hard to believe JP Ricciardi has been around for seven seasons, and John Gibbons for four, already. Wow. Time flies when you're finishing in third!

Tomo Ohka takes the mound for the Jays tomorrow. It's almost official, he sucks. If he loses tomorrow, it will be official. I'm off Ohka, huge.


I just saw Maggie the Monkey pick the Senators to win it all on Sportscentre. I'm not sure how Maggie's done with her picks this year, but I hope she's wrong. As much as I want a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, I would much rather it have been Calgary or Edmonton in the last few years. Not Ottawa. I can take them making it to the finals, but winning it is going to be a bit much for me to swallow. The fact that Alfredsson is the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe isn't sitting too well either.

It's true, I wanted the Sens to beat the Sabres. Ottawa's never beaten the Leafs in the playoffs, while Buffalo has. There's my justification. And a part of me likes to laugh at the inability of Buffalo's pro sports teams to get the job done. Buffalo is a city of losers, and I wanted that losing to continue. They did and I'm happy, but that's all now. Come on Ducks. Do the Flying V. Do whatever it takes, but don't let the Senators win it all.

Karma should be on the side of the Ducks. Scott Niedermayer didn't even come within a foot of the Western Conference Championship trophy. Half of the Ducks were already gone to the dressing room during the presentation. That's the way it should be done. Nobody cares about that trophy, nobody wants to touch it, and nobody wants to take a picture with it. That is not the trophy one plays for. Niedermayer did the right thing. If you want to win the Stanley Cup, it's known that you don't touch the Conference Championship trophy. As absurd as this tradition has become, I absolutely love it. There's no other trophy like the Stanley Cup and it's aura results in ridiculous superstitions like this.

Alfredsson, Wade Redden and the Senators, however, were all over the Eastern Conference Championship trophy. Redden even skated around with it! That's a no-no. It will cost the Senators, dearly.

Ducks in seven. Book it.