January 29, 2007

O(h)K(a), Blue Jays!

First things first - I've got to shoutout another one of my faithful international readers (if you're counting, this is number two...of two), Karan Raina, repping the great city of New York. He's been waiting for his Sports And The City shoutout. He and a few of my other buddies went down to the NHL All-Star festivities in Dallas earlier this week. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, and missed a chance to schmooze with the Magnificent One Mario Lemieux (pictured), Evgeni Malkin, Carlton the Bear and Gary Bettman. Karan and the boys had a private box for the Skills Competition and seats 10 rows behind the glass for the All-Star game. Ridiculous.

The boys also ran into a Mr. John Ferguson Jr., who guaranteed a Leafs' playoff birth. Ferguson clearly must have been drunk. I'd have a drinking problem if I were him.

Now let's get down to blogging business. I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome the newest member of the Toronto Blue Jays to our great, and insanely cold, city.

Tomo Ohka, welcome to the T Dot.

JP Ricciardi and the Jays announced Wednesday that Ohka has signed a one year deal with the club, at $1.5 million. The deal could be worth as much as $3 million, with incentives based on the number of starts Ohka makes.

But I don't care about the money.

I think this is a really good signing by JP, even though it was met with no fanfare. There was no big press conference, no pictures; nothing. Only a press release.

Talk about a hit to Ohka's pride eh? I guess in baseball terms, he pretty much is a nobody. But at the end of the day, he's less of a nobody than that weasel Josh Towers, and that's why I'm excited. The more arms JP adds to the starting rotation, the more likely it is that Josh Towers will spend the season in Triple A, where he belongs. It's all about addition by subtraction, my friends. No Josh Towers improves this baseball club.

However, if you look a little deeper into the Ohka signing, it could work out extremely well, especially considering Ohka's salary.

In losing Ted Lilly, the Jays lost about 180 innings. JP's main focus is to eat up those innings, hence the signings of John Thomson and Ohka. These guys are penciled in as the fourth and fifth starters - basically the back end of the rotation. It's Doc Halladay, AJ Burnett, Gustavo Chacin, Ohka, and Thomson. Ohka could even be spotted in the three spot, because Chacin is just a five inning wonder. He throws the most pitches, it's ridiculous. Through 5 innings he'll be up around 100 pitches. It's tough on the bullpen.

Anyways, the point that I'm taking so long to make is that Ohka's numbers are astonishingly similar to Ted Lilly's - yes the same Ted Lilly whom JP offered $10 million a season to stay in Toronto.

Both guys are going to be 31 in the 2007 season, and here are their career stats:

Ted Lilly
Career Starts: 160
Innings Pitched: 936
ERA: 4.60
Overall Record: 59-58

Tomo Ohka
Career Starts: 162
Innings Pitched: 943
ERA: 4.04
Overall Record: 48-58

Ohka has pitched more innings, albeit only by a few, but his ERA is significantly lower than Lilly's. They've both lost 58 games, and Lilly's got more wins because he's played on a Jays team that has had a great offense. Ohka spent a couple of seasons with Montreal, and some time with Washington and Milwaukee - not exactly offensive juggernauts. He's just never been blessed enough to play on a team that actually gives him some run support - until now. This guy could easily win 15 games like Lilly did last year.
Ohka's agent even said that when Ohka and Milwaukee went to arbitration last year, he compared Ohka's stats to Lilly's in the actual hearing.

Of course, with any investment, there is some risk. Ohka spent significant time on the DL last season. He needs to stay healthy in order to payoff. A brilliant statement, I know. But Lilly spent his fair share of time on the DL in the last two years as well. With any pitcher there is significant risk. It's the nature of the beast.

But wouldn't you rather invest $3 million, rather than $10 million, on an arm that might give you the same results? I would. Props out to JP Ricciardi.

Remember, I believe in JP.

"O(h)K(a) Blue Jays, Let's Play Ball!"

Sing it. Loud and proud.

I'm looking forward to baseball season - can you tell?

Random Musings:

- Huge shoutout to ALL-STAR STARTER Chris Bosh. He's most deserving of that title and it's good to see that people are starting to recognize him. Maybe playing basketball in Toronto isn't so bad, eh? The Raptors really needed Bosh to repair the tarnished image of basketball in Canada that Vince Carter left behind. Rob Babcock didn't help much either. But alas, the past is the past. Bosh and Colangelo have righted the ship.

- The Leafs dominated Montreal once again, and have points in every game against the Habs this season. If only the Leafs could play Montreal all the time. Pavel Kubina had 2 goals and 1 assist, and it looks like he's finally healthy and confident. It took way too long for this guy to get going. I credit Kaberle. As soon as Kubina started playing wit Kabby, he's been much better.

- Back to the NBA All-Star starting line-up. How the HELL did Steve Nash not get voted in? That's absurd. He's going to win his third straight MVP, and solidify his legacy as one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game. Kid Canada, baby.

- Great point by Toronto Star writer Dave Perkins about pessimism being in the eye of the beholder. Both the Leafs and Raptors are around .500 (winning percentages). The Leafs and their fans are up in arms at their state, while the Raptors are beaming about not being so pathetic anymore. Perkins is dead-on in saying that both teams are in similar situations as to their performance, but that for the Leafs the glass is half empty, while for the Raps it's half full. So true.

- Rumour has it the Colorado Rockies might trade Todd Helton to the Boston Red Sox. That is horrendous news for Jays fans, if it's true. Woe is I - such is life in the American League East.
I think that's it.
Goodnight, Toronto...

January 25, 2007

The All-Snooze Game

I don't know about you, but I was actually looking forward to this year's NHL All-Star game. I guess I bought into the hype - Crosby, Ovechkin, the new jerseys. About 10 minutes into the first period, with the score already 3-1, I realized the All-Star game is the antithesis of what hockey is all about.

I love saying antithesis.

Hockey is a game of passion, emotion and determination. The All-Star game embodies none of that. I just couldn't really get into it, and subsequently, couldn't watch it. I was hoping to see some fireworks after hearing that Ovechkin and Crosby - the boy wonder's and the face of the "New NHL" - would be playing together on the same line. But the NHL All-Star game isn't like the NBA All-Star game, where men's are dropping ridiculous dunks and alley-oops. It's still hockey, and it's still played on ice, so there aren't many opportunities to get the people out of their seats with jaw-dropping moves.

You know what I'm talking about. Everyone loves watching the NBA All-Star festivities. The reactions of players in street clothes watching the dunk contest is worth it alone. I'll never forget Shaq the year Vince Carter - aka The Ungrateful Whore - won the slam dunk contest. His jaw was on the floor and his arms were spread out, and he's got the wingspan of, well, a 7-foot black man. Quite huge.

Wait a second. The Shaq-phone just came to mind. Does anyone remember that phone he had? The one that was built like one of his shoes. It was massive! Got to love Shaq - what a character.

Back to hockey. Now don't get me wrong - there were a number of great plays in tonight's hockey game. Some great passes and goals. But its clear that none of the players are excited and that nobody is taking the game seriously. Goalies are smiling after being scored on, and it's just weird to watch.

The All-Star game also seems to bring out the Tomas Kaberle in everyone - nobody ever wants to shoot. Guys are passing on breakaways and two on zero's. It's ridiculous.

I just can't watch hockey like that. No passion, no emotion, no physical play. Nothing. Now I know my main man Tomas Kaberle isn't exactly the most physical defender out there, but I swear he moved out of the way and just let Joe Thornton pass him on a rush in the first period. He might as well have given him a little push as he went by.

I know - it's only one game, so I shouldn't be bitching about it. It's for the fans. As much as I hate the All-Star game, it definitely has to be done. The NHL is in dire need of publicity and awareness and if the All-Star game helps get the word out about the game down south, it's not just a must, but a priority.

And in fine marketing fashion, the game was on a Wednesday night, in primetime, and none of the major networks in the USA picked up the game.

In the end, it was a 12-9 final in favour of the Western Conference. Briere, the fist-pumping little prick from the Sabres was named MVP with 5 points. Joe Sakic racked up 4 points, and is the All-Star game's all-time leading scorer. Another accomplishment in what has been a phenomenal career.

Twenty-one goals were scored tonight, yet the game didn't interest me a bit.

I've got one question - how long is the phrase "New NHL" going to be used? Is it still going to be the "New NHL" two years from now?

Shoutout to Tomas Kaberle - the lone representative of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the All-Star game. That's my boy!

And another shoutout to Yanic Perreault, the former Maple Leaf. He didn't have a job in October. Nobody wanted him. He had a solid season for Nashville last year and is always at the top of the league when it comes to faceoff percentage, yet no one would offer him a contract. Phoenix came calling and he signed a one-year deal for less than a million bucks. Now he's an all-star for the first time in his career. He would have been a good fit on the Leafs. But this organization would rather go the Matt Stajan route. Good call.


The All-Snooze game gave me a chance to check out the second half of the Raptors game. The New Orleans/Oklahama City (which one is it, really?) Hornets were in town. The Raptors came out on top in the end, 90-88, but this was a game the Raptors of old would certainly have lost. The Raps trailed all game, and were down by 15, I believe, in the 4th quarter, before they went on a clutch run to steal the game. The Hornets, missing all-world point guard Chris Paul, seemed to be in control the whole night, and were poised to hand the Raps a demoralizing loss on their home court.

But Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon didn't let it happen. No sir, not in our house.

HUGE props out to those two guys. They were outstanding, especially in the final seven minutes of the game.

Like I said, the Raps of old would have lost this game. It would go down as a standard Raps loss, in which they underestimated their opponent and lost a game they most certainly should have won.

But these aren't last year's Raptors - and we should all be thanking the heavens, or Bryan Colangelo, for that. Colangelo's like an Angel. God sent him here to fix the mess left behind by a number of jackasses that have come and gone through the Raptor organization - Isiah Thomas, Vince Carter, Rob Babcock (the biggest jackass of all), Rafael Araujo, Yogi Stewart, Kevin O'Neill, and I could go on and on and on and on.

Games like tonight are the ones that build team character and team greatness. When you can win a ball game on a night when you're not really the best team on the floor, it says a lot about you. The good teams win games they have no business winning. The Raps did that tonight. The Hornets, a young team that isn't very good on the road, simply couldn't close the deal.

No TJ Ford or Andrea Bargnani tonight. Ford's ankle is a problem, and he's been shut down like Bosh was earlier in the season. Bargnani was dealing with flu-like symptoms, so he sat out the contest.

Looks like Ford's going to be out a while. "This Ford is Stalled" - that was the title of an article in The Star the other day. Brought back good old memories of my first car, a 91 Ford Tempo. Good times. May she rest in peace.

Calderon started his second straight game in Ford's absence. And Calderon was solid, once again. He seems like a completely different player this year compared to last. He's very intense and has a lot more confidence in his jump shot. He's a pass first point guard but if the pass isn't there, he's taking the jumper and making it, or driving to the lane. He gave the Raps their first lead tonight, late in the game, on a nice drive to the hoop when nobody expected it. You've just got to like that.

Bosh was his usual self. 35 points, 7 boards and 4 dimes. What can I say? We're lucky to have him. CB4, straight outta locash.

I'm lovin the Raptors. Colangelo, you're a genius! It's time to head out to the ACC and support the boys in red and white. My buddy 40 said the Raps are the most exciting team to be playing out of The Hangar in a few years, and I couldn't agree more.

So lets get out there and support our Raptors, my friends. I know I'm going to. They deserve it.

Goodnight, Toronto...

January 22, 2007

Patriots and Colts - One For The Ages...

Wah-Wah-Wee-Wah, what a football game.

The Colts are going to the Super Bowl. They defeated the Patriots 38-34 Sunday night, in one of the best football games I have ever seen.

Tom Brady is human, after all.

Last week, I declared that the legacies of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were such: Brady's a winner, and Manning's a loser.

Manning is a loser, no more. Like Ace Ventura Pet Detective, he has "exorcised the demons".

What a game. I've seen a lot of football games in my day. I watched the Bills lose four straight Super Bowls. I watched John Elway and the Broncos win their titles, and Brett Favre and the Packers win their titles. But tonight was a classic. I know it's been said a thousand times before, but it really was One For The Ages. Brady and Manning, round three, and Manning finally came out on top.

The Colts came from behind and won after being down 18 points. No team has ever come back from such a deficit in a championship game. From the start it seemed that Brady and the Patriots would better Manning and the Colts again - this time in Indianapolis, in a dome, where the weather didn't matter. But Manning wouldn't let it happen. He was amazing in the second half and no one can say that Manning and the Colts don't deserve to be going to the big dance.

Manning deserves all the credit in the world. He refused to quit; he refused to let his team and his fans down once more. I don't know if it's possible to change your legacy in one game, but if it is, Manning did it tonight.

Brady and the Patriots were on tonight - they were solid. They played classic New England football, but the Colts were better. The second half was phenomenal and once the Colts tied the game at 21 a piece, it was a see-saw battle. The two teams went at each other drive for drive, score for score. In the end, Manning drove his team down the field 80 yards to seal the victory with a minute left on the clock.

At that point, I still thought Brady had one more comeback in him. I figured if anyone could do it, it was Brady. He's freakin' SuperMan. And he almost did it. But tonight was Peyton and the Colts' turn. It was their destiny to go to the Super Bowl. A very Brady interception with 24 seconds left sealed the game for Indy, and they deserved it, straight up.

It was just a great battle. An epic battle. Yeah, I'm trying to be dramatic as possible here. But if you missed the game, the highlights won't do it justice.

The camera shots of Manning on the sidelines when New England got the ball back, down 38-34, with a minute left, were amazing. He just couldn't even look at the field. He didn't have the heart to do it. Those shots were really provocative. Manning admitted after the game that he said a prayer. That's what you've got to do against Tom Brady and the Pats - pray. For all of us Leafs fans out there, we know exactly what that's all about.

Coming into this game, Bill Belichick was 8-0 in playoff games decided by seven points or less. What a statistic. You can say a team gets lucky only so many times - that it's luck that a team wins the close games. But you can only say it a couple of times. Belichick and the Pats always won the close games, and that's what made them so amazing. Their run finally came to an end tonight though, and the Colts were deserving of their fate.

The Super Bowl will be the Colts vs DA BEARS in Miami, and it should be a great game. I think the Colts will walk out of Florida as Super Bowl Champions, but only time will tell. For Manning and the Colts to lose to the Bears would just be a shame. Tonight was practically their Super Bowl. They beat the team they so badly wanted to beat. Now, they've just got to win one more game, to complete their magical season.

As a newly bred Patriots fan, and a lifelong fan of the underdog, it sucked to watch the Pats lose this game. But Manning and the Colts have paid their dues. They deserved to win. In order to become a champion, a team and its players have to learn how to lose. The Colts know all about losing the big game. But no longer can they be labelled chokers, because today they won the big game. The choking label belongs to teams and players that deserve it - like Daniel Alfredsson and the Ottawa Senators - and Manning and the Colts shook that label off tonight, in emphatic fashion.

It should be a great Super Bowl. The Bears stingy defense, led by warrior Brian Urlacher, up against Manning and the Colts, and their high-flying offense. Get the nachos and brews ready, because it's going to a be a barn-burner.
You know what I find strange? Adam Vinatieri. Which ever team he's on, win's. He was on New England when they beat the Colts twice in the playoffs. This year, he joined the Colts, and guess who won? He is the ultimate X-Factor.

A big shout out to Peyton Manning - loser no more.

Goodnight Toronto...

January 17, 2007

Welcome Back

I don't know who the hell that was playing goal for the Leafs tonight, but it sure as hell couldn't have been Andrew Raycroft. He was amazing tonight! Stoning Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis left and right all game, and they're not exactly the easiest guys to stop.

Certainly a standard Maple Leafs win. Coming off a pathetic performance at home against the Canucks, in which Raycroft probably had his worst game of the season - that one goal he let in, which bounced off his glove after his pathetic attempt to catch it, was really sad - and playing a Tampa Bay Lightning team that had won five in a row.

Yep, of course the Leafs would win this game. And win it they did. 4-2 final, with Steen potting the winner. And Raycroft was the number one star. Hard facts to believe eh? I know, tell me about it. Steen scoring game winning goals - assisted by Stajan to boot - and Raycroft turning away two of the hottest shooters in the league. Classic Leafs hockey, baby. When you least expect it, they turn in a solid performance.

Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky returned to the lineup tonight. And I guess the good version of Andrew Raycroft also returned to the lineup tonight. Welcome back, boys. See what happens when you get good goaltending? The penalty kill actually kills off penalties, and the team wins the game! The penalty kill has been atrocious recently and like Joe Bowen always says, the goaltender is the most important penalty killer of all. So as Raycroft goes, so goes the PK. And since Raycroft sucks 85% of the time, so does the penalty kill. Yes, it's true, you really do learn something new every day.

On a side note, Antropov and Poni were outstanding in their return to game action. Both finished with a goal and an assist and played solid all around games, especially Antropov. Poni potted the empty netter, and that's fine by me. He just needs 9 more!

Sorry, I'm having a hard time focusing. Just can't believe how well Raycroft played tonight. It's kind of infuriating, because you see that he does have some talent, it just seems to come out only once every 15 games. The Leafs are so terribly inconsistent, and for some reason they play much better on the road. They keep their game simple on the road, and it's paying dividends. I'm not sure why they stink at home, it may be that they're just trying too hard. They definitely need to get better at the ACC if they want to make the playoffs.

But the immediate future has a lot of road games in store, so hopefully they can continue their success away from home. Another big game is on deck Thursday night in Miami. The Panthers embarrassed the Leafs last time these two teams met, so hopefully the Leafs remember it and return the favour. And Raycroft better play just as well as he did tonight, otherwise Aubin needs to see some ice. One good game by Raycroft should not, by any means, solidify him as the Leafs' number one goaltender.

Enough about Raycroft. Shout outs to John Pohl and Bates Battaglia tonight. Pohl's goal to tie the game up wit six seconds left in the 2nd period was huge. It gave the Leafs life and they played a determined third period, and held the Bolts to only two shots in the final stanza.

Oh yeah, funny thing about the winning goal. If you see the replay, Stajan totally fanned on his wrist shot attempt, and the puck just rolled onto Denis, who was in position to stop an actual shot, not Stajan's putt for the hole. The puck hit Denis' pad, went right back to Stajan and he fed Steen for the game winner. For once, Stajan's ineptness paid off. Well done Matty.

On another note, I spoke to a friend of mine, Karn, who lives in Boston. He read the post about the Patriots - yes, people actually read this blog sometimes - and was telling me what an intense football fan he has become.

He said the anticipation is building for the big game this weekend.

Now my friend is a Torontonian at heart, but has been studying in Boston for the past four years. He mentioned how it's cool to live in a city where the sports teams actually win sometimes.

I found that rather poetic.

Clearly he forgot about the Toronto Argonauts and the Toronto Rock.

I guess he meant the sports teams that actually matter.

Yeah, it must be nice.

Goodnight, Toronto...

January 14, 2007

Brady's Bunch...

Tom Brady has done it again.

The New England Patriots are on their way to another AFC Championship Game after they knocked off the #1 ranked San Diego Chargers.

I was talking to a buddy before this game, and we both agreed that if anybody could beat the Chargers in this game, it was Tom Brady and his Patriots.

The Chargers are led by super-human running back Ladanian Tomlinson, this season's MVP, and up-start quarterback Philip Rivers. San Diego didn't lose a game at home all year - they were 8-0.

Only one man could take his team on the road to one of the tougher stadiums to play in, and beat the "team to beat" in their own building, against the MVP. That man is Tom Brady.

Tomlinson still had a great game. He's a touchdown machine, and he still got two of them, and ran for over 120 yards, but it wasn't enough to break the unflappable Tom Brady.

I wish I was Tom Brady. He's like the Don of football in the 21st century. He just wins. He's got the game, the confidence, and the looks. He's got it all. If I could be any athlete on the planet, it would be a tough call between Brady and Derek Jeter.

New England continues to lose key players every off season - this year it was Dieon Branch - but they just keep winning, against all odds.

Brady didn't even have his best game today. He threw for two touchdowns but in very un-Brady-like fashion he also threw three interceptions. But when the clock ran out, it was his Patriots who were up 24-21, and once again marching towards another Super Bowl.

It's going to be another classic Brady-Manning encounter next week when the Pats and Colts meet in the AFC Championship, and I can't wait. No one can say anything about Peyton Manning's abilities and what he has done with the Indianapolis Colts, but Tom Brady just gets the job done, with surgeon-type precision.

Right now, Brady's a winner, and Manning is a loser. Those are the legacies, as I see it, of two of the finest QB's of the 21st century.

I've never really been a "fan" of Brady and the Patriots. Unfortunately, my allegiance lyes with the pathetic Buffalo Bills. But I respect Tom Brady and how he finds a way to win. And that's kind of making me a Patriots fan, as disturbing as that is to me. It's easy to hate on a winner, but the way Tom Brady goes about his business, it's hard to hate him.


Anyways, speaking of losers, how about Andrew Raycroft and the performance he put in on Hockey Day in Canada?

What a stinker.

The Leafs outshot the visiting Vancouver Canucks 36-21 and came out losers 6 to 1. Absolutely ridiculous.

Raycroft is a sorry excuse for a number one goaltender, and he knows it too. He makes me sick.

The boo-birds were out in full force last night, and deservedly so. Granted, five of the six goals were scored on the power play, but three of them went right through Razor's legs, and those are saves he just has to make.

Andrew, listen up. Close your god damn legs and put your glove higher. Jesus freakin Christ!

Supposedly Sundin was really upset about the fans booing Raycroft and even swore during his post-game interview, saying how Raycroft has played really well for the team so far this season.

Mats, I know it's your job as the Captain to support your teammates, and you do a great job of it, but saying he's played really well this season? Give me a freakin' break man. Even Raycroft knows you're lying.

The Leafs, with their penchant to take the most ridiculous penalties, and their sub-par goaltending, are going absolutely nowhere. I keep thinking they'll turn it around the next game, but there isn't a magical switch they can just turn on and off in order to win some hockey games. They're just not good enough.

Tucker, Poni and Antropov are slated to return this week, which means the inevitable trip back to the minors for some of the Marlies who were called up from the farm.

Ondrus, Devereaux and Newbury should be suiting up for the Marlies, if it were up to me. Their service has been appreciated, and they stepped in admirably, but the Leafs need some healthy NHL-calibre forwards.

It's tough to send Devereaux back to the farm after he's played so well since getting called up, but I just don't see any other options. There's always the dream that Stajan will be sent down, or altogether released, but I know that's not going to happen.


The Raptors lost a heartbreaker today to the Dallas Mavericks, 97-96, on a last second shot by Josh Howard. It was a game the Raptors led most of the way, and led handily. The Mavericks proved what a good team they are and showed the Raptors that they have a lot to learn before they can become an elite team in the NBA.

For a young team like Toronto, losses like these are good ones. To quote the great MC, Talib Kweli:

"Even when we suffer losses I count the victories."

Today was one of those games. The Mavs showed that no matter how many points you're down by, you keep battling and you keep playing defense and you keep hustling. The game is 48 minutes long, and it's never over till the last second has run out.

The Mavs are also blessed in that they've got MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki on their team. He's an amazing player. He took the Mavericks on his back all day, and hit some really difficult shots. He can put the ball on the floor and dominate inside and can light it up from three-point land as well. He really is the total package, and he plays hard, with passion and fire. He loves to get dirty on the boards and he's got an amazing fade-away jumper that is one of the best in the league.

Dirk's the real deal, and that's why it's so encouraging to know that people are already comparing my main man Andrea Bargnani's game to his. Bargnani's got the tools to become just like Disco Dirk, and that's music to my ears.

Hopefully the young Raptors, like Chris Bosh and Bargnani, were taking notes out there today. They have to learn be play like Nowitzki and always be aggressive, and to never give up.

Yes, it was a tough loss for the Raps, in a game they probably feel like they deserved to win, but it's losses like these that build a champion, and as long as the Raptors are headed in the right direction, I'm not concerned.

Bryan Colangelo, you're a rudey, keep up the good work.

Goodnight, Toronto...

January 11, 2007

Another Year

Long time.

How've you been?

Good? Me too.

Happy New Year.

I can't believe we've reached 2007 already. Time flies.

I haven't checked in for a while. Definitely a busy time of year.

Sports And The City is now coming to you live and direct from the downtown core, for the next four months.

It's the last four months of journalism school at Ryerson. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not the train this time.

First of all I have to shout out the Canadian World Junior team that captured another gold medal in Sweden. That's three in a row for the Canadians. We run this game.

It's amazing how much this tournament resonates so heavily amongst the Canadian population. It's a teenage hockey tournament, yet the whole country is watching each and every game. Canadians are obsessed with hockey, and I don't know about you, but I'm proud of it.

It was the third straight outstanding performance by Canada's kids. The juniors are 18-0 in the last three tournaments.

Domination is definitely there.


The Leafs opened 2007 with a bang by spanking the Bruins twice in a row. 5-1 and 10-2. The second game was a complete joke, and if you didn't see it, you probably wouldn't believe who scored. Steen had a hat-trick and five points, Stajan had two goals and two assists and Battaglia scored two goals. Steen had only 10 points coming into the game. Tim Thomas played a really sad game in goal, and the Bruins defense didn't help much either.

But in typical inconsistent Maple Leafs fashion, the Leafs have dropped their last two contests. I felt they deserved a better fate against Buffalo on the weekend, but Raycroft cost them the game, straight up. The fourth Buffalo goal was unacceptable. Raycroft was down way too early and once again his catching glove was by his hip, instead of in the air. It was a momentum-killing goal, as usual, and in the end the Leafs fell one goal short.

Raycroft is really starting to piss me off.

The media is beginning to question the Leafs' goaltending daily now, and the heat is on. One of Raycroft or Aubin need to step up or it's goodbye, playoffs. The Leafs are now on the road in 9 of their next 11 games, so the time is now. This is the most crucial stage of the Leafs season, and will determine whether they play in the spring.

I personally don't think this is a playoff team, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Leafs drop 7 of their next 11. They haven't shown themselves to be a good road team and the goaltending just isn't good enough.

The Carolina/Leafs game on Tuesday night was straight boring. I don't know what it is about Canes/Leafs games at the ACC but they're always a snooze. It seemed like no one gave a damn, and the fans were so quiet.

Speaking of Carolina, I really hate Erik Cole. This guy just gets to me. I was hoping someone on the Leafs would drill him, but it didn't happen.

My mind is getting off track. What I want to see out of Andrew Raycroft is some passion and some poise. I want to see him step up. I want to see him play better. I want to see him get pissed off when the opposition scores. I want him to be more of a leader. The goalie is unique, in that he can take the team on his back and lead them. I want to see Raycroft play with a sense of purpose that he hasn't shown me so far. I want him to prove to me that he's a number one goalie, because I and a lot of other people, sure as hell don't believe that he is. I don't even think his teammates believe that he is.

What else about the Leafs?

- The injury bug strikes again. Ian White is out 3 to 4 weeks with a shoulder separation. And I heard Tucker's foot is actually broken, so he'll be out a little longer, and that Wellwood's injury is more serious than the team is letting on.

- Boyd Devereaux has played well since being recalled from the Marlies. I think he had a four game point streak to start his Leafs career. He seems like he can play in the NHL. The line of Pohl-Devereaux-Battaglia has been solid. They can all control the puck down low really well, especially Battaglia. One of my buddies, Faran, reminds me of Battaglia. Just a pure grinder down low.

- I love John Pohl. He's been fantastic since Peca went down. JFJ, don't resign Peca. Let Pohl play. Play with the Pohl, as my buddy Winson says.

- Kubina finally scored. $5 million = 1 goal.

- Oh yeah, I forgot about Travis Green. He's back. Fresh off the waiver wire. Anaheim's garbage that the Leafs picked up off the curb. He's just like all the other jobbers the Leafs have. His signing meant the return of Erik Westrum to the Marlies. He played about 7 minutes total in three games. With Belak and Ondrus. Unbelievable. Screw Travis Green, and give Westrum a shot with other real hockey players. Ondrus should be sent down, not Westrum.

- Kaberle has been playing kind of poorly the last few games. Paul Maurice has broken up the Kaberle-McCabe combo. Kabby is now playing with his countryman Kubina. I don't mind the combo, maybe it was time to split up the dynamic duo. Hopefully Kabby will adjust, and I'm sure he will, and his play will elevate.

- Will Tucker re-sign with the Leafs? As much as I love Darcy, maybe the Leafs should let him test the free agent market. Scott Gomez and Shane Doan are two guys who will be unrestricted free agents this summer. I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE to see Gomez in Leafs uniform. That would give the Leafs two decent centres, imagine that!

- Matt Stajan is the lamest excuse for a hockey player I have seen in a long time. This guy doesn't deserve to be a Toronto Maple Leaf. I'm utterly sick of him.

- Stay tuned for the Leafs mid-season report card. Well, a week after mid-season report card.

I caught some of the Raptors/Bucks game tonight. The Raps played a banged-up Bucks squad and took it to them. Chuck Swirsky brought out the salami and cheese with about two and a half minutes left in the 4th quarter. It was a 90-77 final.

It was a good win for the Raps, after a poor effort against Vince Carter's New Jersey Nets. The Raps, defying all logic, started last night's game against New Jersey and were down 15-0 five minutes in. They missed their first 12 shots and the starting unit had only something like 20 points. TJ Ford went 0 for 8 from the field. It was a big game too, for the lead in the division, and the starting unit just didn't have it.

It made tonight's game important and the Raps answered the call. Bosh was strong, pouring in 30 points. Ford bounced back from his worst game as a Raptor and registered a double-double against his former team.

The Raps are at 16-20 and are crawling towards a .500 record and respectability. With Bryan Colangelo comes respect. He's like the Godfather, he just illicits respect. The guys he brought over - Garbajosa, Parker, Ford and Bargnani - are all paying huge dividends.

The Andrea Bargnani Rookie Of The Year campaign has officially begun. And deservedly so. This guy has a sweeeeeeeet touch. Got to just love Il Mago.


Another year is upon us. All I hope is that 2007 is a prosperous year for the Leafs, Jays and Raptors. I just want to watch the playoffs in 2007. I don't care which sport it is, or which professional team it is.

As much as I love Leafs playoff hockey, I'll be happy with a Raptors playoff birth. More than happy. Just let me watch meaningful games involving Toronto. It's such a pleasure, and I miss it, I really do.

Good luck Maple Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays. Make me proud. Make this city proud, once again.

Goodnight, Toronto...