November 29, 2007

Sobering Statistics

Tim Wharnsby, one of the good folks at, posted some sobering statistics documenting the Maple Leafs’ early-season struggles. I said I’d wait 20 games until I passed judgment on the Leafs and, like Wharnsby says, the numbers never lie.
I’m not going to talk much about the stuff we already know. The Leafs can score goals, although the well has begun to dry a little, and they can’t keep the puck out of their own net - they’re dead last in goals against (3.42 a game—yikes!). The power play and penalty kill are both below the league average.

It’s the other statistics that really blow the mind. Check yourself before you wreck yourself:

The Maple Leafs’ winning percentage when scoring the first goal of the game is 40%, good for dead last in the league. The league average is 70.76%. That’s a big drop-off compared with the rest of the league. Scoring first clearly means something to most teams, but not to the boys in blue and white. It doesn’t matter if they score first because they can’t play with a lead. When they do score the first goal, they give it right back, and usually on the next shift.

The opposition has scored the first goal of the game against the Leafs 15 times, good for 26th in the league. Toronto isn’t far away from dead last in this category, either, as another member of the NHL fraternity, whom Wharnsby does not identify, has been scored upon first 16 times. Toronto, one would deduce, is not prepared to start (or finish) their games and preparation – motivating the troops to come out and play hard and fast – comes from, in my opinion, Paul Maurice and company.

Toronto’s winning percentage when leading after the first period is a brutal 16.7%, good for – yep, you guessed it – last in the league. I hate to point out the obvious, but anyone seeing a pattern here? The league average winning percentage when leading after the first period is a whopping 74.88%, as it should be. Most teams know how to play with a lead. Not our boys. This is a frightening statistic that shows systematic flaws in Toronto’s game.

There’s one more. Toronto’s winning percentage when leading after the second period is a pathetic 50%, good for (do I even have to say it?) dead last in the NHL. The league average winning percentage when leading after two periods is 87.29%. For most teams a lead going into the third period is, as the numbers show, money in the bank. For the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s a freaking coin toss.

Wharnsby is wise. The numbers don’t lie, and they’re telling me, and you, that the Leafs are an awful team.

I wonder what Paul Maurice would have to say to these sobering statistics. They’d probably have him reaching for the bottle. And I wouldn’t blame him one bit.

Stop the insanity. Fire Maurice.

November 28, 2007

Maurice Must Be Sacrificed

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a free-fall. They've lost seven of their last eight games, including last night's 4-3 decision to the Montreal Canadiens. It's time for a change. It's time to fire head coach Paul Maurice.

I've had enough. Something needs to give. The Maple Leafs have managed to win only eight of their first 25 games. Someone needs to be held accountable.

I like head coach Paul Maurice. I like his aggressive coaching style, his passion, his youth, and his witty demeanour with the overbearing Toronto media. But, in these eyes, what ever Maurice is preaching in the Maple Leafs dressing room just isn't registering with the players.

For some reason (I'm going to go with blind faith) I still believe this Leafs team is a playoff team. So far, 25 games in to the season, they've been anything but a playoff team. They're a nightmare on ice. Toronto has surrendered a league-high 90 goals against, in only 25 games. That is a frightening statistic. Only one other team - the Calgary Flames - have let in more than 75, and they reached the mark after getting shelled by Detroit last night. The defensive game, or lack thereof, should be reason enough for the Leafs to bring in a new coach.

It's no secret that general manager John Ferguson and Paul Maurice are on the hot seat right now. And they should be. The Leafs are a mess. They can't win on home ice, they're brutal in overtime and the shootout, they can't keep a lead a lead (another two were blown last night against Montreal), the special teams - especially the power play - are horrendous and, to put it mildly, they can't keep the puck out of their own net.

Not even during the free-wheeling, offensive days of the Pat Quinn era did the Leafs play such abysmal defensive hockey. It's shameful. The Leafs break down with shocking regularity. They play man-to-man in the defensive zone like chickens with their heads cut off - it's mayhem.

I don't even know where to begin about the power play. Not only can the Leafs not score on it, but they've also allowed the most shorthanded goals this season. It's just one thing after another. The Leafs need to be allowed to decline penalties, like in football.

"Montreal penalty to Saku Koivu, Two Minutes for tripping...The penalty is declined. Face-off!"

The power play, once again, killed the Leafs last night. The Leafs went zero-for-four while Montreal converted twice on five opportunities. That's the difference in the game right there, kids.

I'm fed up. What does it take to get some changes around here? It's nothing against Paul Maurice. I believe he's a good coach, but this team ain't buying what he's selling. At the end of the day, Maurice hasn't been able to get the job done. He's coached nine seasons in the NHL, and his teams have only made the playoffs three out of those nine seasons. Not a great track record. After last night's shootout loss to Montreal, the Leafs sit in second-last place in the Eastern Conference, and third-last in the NHL. The power play, which used to be the team's strength, is 28th best in the 30-team league.

A part of me feels like I'm totally hanging coach Maurice out to dry. I've been a strong supporter of Maurice since he came aboard, and God knows how hard his job must have been last year when he was given a "goalie" (and I use the term lightly...very lightly) like Andrew Raycroft to trot out there night after night. It's not Maurice's fault Raycroft couldn't, and still can't, stop a beach ball. It's not Maurice's fault Vesa Toskala really hasn't been much better. But some of the blame does have to fall on Maurice's shoulders, because he is, after all, the coach. He's the guy giving out instructions in practice and I don't think the Leafs should be this poor in their own end, and about as potent as an 80-year-old in bed (giggity!! giggity!!) on the power play.

I desperately need an answer to this question - why in God's name is Maurice still sending out Andy Wozniewski for a regular shift? Why hasn't he gotten on his knees and begged Ferguson to send the Woz back down to the farm? The Leafs have got Anton Stralman and Derek Walser running the defence of the Toronto Marlies and it blows my mind as to why the Woz is still up with the big club, because even my mom knows he clearly does not belong.

While a part of me does still support Maurice, the results aren't there - and it's a results-oriented business - so I feel like he needs to be sacrificed in order to salvage this season. Let us think of Maurice as a martyr.

There are 25 players, but only one general manager and only one coach. As much as I don't like some of the moves John Ferguson has made over the years, I feel like this is a good Leafs team, on paper. On paper, it's a playoff team ("on paper" being the key words). On the ice, not so much. Ferguson can't trade all 25 guys. He can't get out on the ice during practice and change things up. But he can relieve Maurice of his duties, and I think that's the change the players are, unfortunately, waiting for. It seems they are resigned to the fact that something, anything, has got to give, and that there will be casualties from their poor play.

Two seasons ago, an eight game losing streak, while Bryan McCabe was injured, cost the Leafs a playoff spot. November, which has seen the Leafs win only three games, will surely come back to bite the team in the ass. But the key point is that it's still only November. The Leafs have 57 games to go. There is time to still turn this ship around.

The Dallas Stars fired their general manager two weeks ago, and have been on a tear since then. The Atlanta Thrashers fired their coach last month after winning only two of their first 10 games. Since then, they've turned around their season and have won nine of 13 games. Even the pathetic Washington Capitals won two in a row after they fired their coach, Glen Hanlon.

If it does happen, I'm truly sorry to see Maurice go. But based on the fact the Leafs missed the playoffs last year (although I blame Raycroft for 85% of that) and have struggled immensely through the first 25 games this season, Maurice has to go for the sake of making a change. For the greater good. In order to save the season, because I still do believe in this Leafs team. And remember, as a martyr, Maurice goes straight to NHL coaching heaven where the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers dynasty and 80 Stanley Cup's are waiting for him.

As for his replacement, I haven't really given it much thought. There's the recently-fired Bob Hartley, who won a couple of Stanley Cup's in Colorado. The Leafs have always brought back players for second tour's of duty, so why not bring back Pat Quinn? I'd be open to it. What about Dougie Gilmour? Although he's never coached a day in his life, I love Dougie too much to not be intrigued by the idea. My fantasy? Pat Burns. I would kill to see Burnsy back behind the bench in Toronto. He'd bring some real passion. And some God damn accountability. There's no way any team coached by Pat Burns would play defense like the Leafs have this year. He'd send guys to the press box to sit and watch faster than you can spell Wozniewski (W-O-Z-N-I-E-W-S-U-C-K-S).

Alright, maybe I have given Maurice's replacement some thought.

I'm upset it has come to this. I was expecting a lot out of this year's Leafs squad. I still am. I haven't yet given up hope (yes, I am an idiot). There's still a lot of hockey to be played. Crazier things have happened. The Leafs are at the bottom of the standings but parity rules the NHL these days. Toronto, the 14th seed in the East with 22 points, trails 4th seed Montreal by only seven points.

And for all you Pavel Kubina haters out there, I hope you now realize how important he is to the Toronto Maple Leafs. As soon as he went down with a knee injury, this Leafs team hasn't been the same. It's been worse! And it was pretty bad to begin with. Kubina's a stud back there, and I hope you all realize it now. No Kubina means more Wozniewski, and we've all seen what that adds up to (losses, a lot of them; trust me, I've done the math).

Eight wins in 25 games. It simply isn't good enough. Sorry, Paul Maurice, but you've got to go.

John Ferguson, you're next...

November 23, 2007

The Rebirth of Brett Favre

Two months ago, as I expressed my love for Toronto Blue Jays everything man Matt Stairs, I said he had found the fountain of youth. Check that. It's Brett Favre who has found the fountain, and he's led the Green Bay Packers to an astounding 10-1 record.

I'm torn in deciding what is more amazing - the fact the Packers are 10-1, or the fact that Brett Favre, the 38-year-old Favre, is playing like he's back in his prime. Ten years removed from his one and only Super Bowl championship, Favre is doing his best to make it happen again.

But hold on a second. Wasn't Favre supposed to retire? Two years ago? Wasn't he finished after the 2005 season, when the Packers finished with a 4-12 record thanks to the worst season of Favre's career? He threw only 20 touchdowns that season, along with 29 interceptions, and finished with the lowest quarterback rating of his career: 70.9.

Favre rebounded in '06, leading the Packers to an 8-8 record, throwing 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, but completing a career-low 56% of his pass attempts. It seemed father time had caught up to Brett Favre, arguably the best quarterback to ever chuck the pigskin.

Favre, however, wasn't done. The expectations in Green Bay were low, but Favre wanted to prove that he could still play.

Folks, Favre is back. With a vengeance. Yippee kayay mother...(you know the rest). Favre is having one hell of a season, and he can still play, alright. It's like he's been born again; an evangelical quarterback. And he's a pleasure to watch.

Yesterday, on American Thanksgiving, he cut up the Detroit Lions defense like a fat, juicy turducken (if you don't know what a turducken is, click here). Favre set a Green Bay record by throwing 20 straight completions and a season-high 381 yards, completing 31 of 41 passes. It was his seventh 300-yard game of the season.

Father time ain't got nothing on Brett Favre. The Pack are now 10-1, equalling their best start in franchise history, and have got the NFC North division all but locked up. The Green Bay Packers, led by Brett Favre, are off to the playoffs, my friends. Ain't nobody can tell me they saw that coming. If it wasn't for the ridiculous New England Patriots and Tom Brady, I think Favre would be a lock for his fourth career NFL MVP award. After 11 games, Favre has thrown for over 3,300 yards, 22 touchdowns and only eight picks. His QB rating of 101.5 is his best, ever.

Favre's career has been nothing short of amazing. I guess I've been living under a rock up here in the great white north, but I had no idea that (get ready for this one) Favre has started an incredible 248 games in a row for the Green Bay Packers. 248! That's 15 straight years! The man has not missed a start since the 1992 season. It's an incredible statistic, especially for a quarterback, and especially for a man who has had to deal with a number of trying issues in his personal life.

Earlier this season, Favre became the NFL's all-time leader in touchdown passes, eclipsing the record of 421 held by Dan Marino. He's won the most games ever by a starting quarterback and has completed the most passes, ever. Favre is also only 500 yards away from bettering Marino in career passing yards. It should happen in a couple of weeks.

If you haven't yet caught some of the legendary, and reborn, Brett Favre on the tube, I urge you to do so. You'll be watching history. You'll be watching the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

I'm fast becoming a Green Bay Packers fan. It's tough to root against a guy like Favre - a true American hero (dramatic enough for you?). I'm also glad Favre didn't hang 'em up when everyone said he was finished. Here's hoping he sticks around for one more year after this one, so I can drag my behind down to Lambeau Field in (hello!) Wisconsin, and watch the legend known as Brett Favre work his magic live and in person...

November 21, 2007

Redemption for Rask

June 24, 2006 - a day that will live on in infamy for Toronto Maple Leafs fans. It was the day the Leafs traded goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask to the Boston Bruins for Andrew Raycroft. Hey, John Ferguson, good call.

The Bruins were in town last night to face Toronto and guess who was manning the pipes for Boston? Tuukka Rask, the bright-eyed 20-year-old rookie, making his first start in the NHL against the Maple Leafs, the team that drafted him in the first round, 21st overall in the 2005 entry draft.

Last year, Rask was said to be the best goalie outside the NHL, and although one game does not a career make, I think it's safe to say Rask has a bright future in hockey.

Oh boy, did the Leafs ever get ripped off on this trade. Rask for Raycroft! It's going to go down as one of the worst trades in Leafs history. It's already a bust. If the Leafs had any confidence in Raycroft, they wouldn't have given up more draft picks to acquire Vesa Toskala.
John Ferguson, the soon-to-be fired general manager (I hope) of the Maple Laughs, had a great look at Rask last night, who shone against the Leafs, making 30 saves on 32 shots and earning first-star honours. The kid looked great out there. Very composed and full of poise. He made several great saves in close and didn't let a Mats Sundin knuckleball goal from the blue line faze him. At six-foot three Rask is a big boy, but boy is he quick.

The Leafs ended up losing the game 4-2. This time, they blew a 2-0 lead. It's like a broken record with this club, eh? They played about 50 minutes of good hockey last night, but broke down in their own end late in the third period, as usual. I always say it when Raycroft doesn't come up with a big save for his team, so to be fair, I'll say it about Toskala. The third goal was a stinker. Toskala should have had it, plain and simple.

It seems Toronto's 3-0 shutout over the high-flying Ottawa Senators on Saturday night was a fluke, and had more to do with Ottawa not showing up than Toronto dominating their provincial rivals. In all honesty, it's not the result of last night's tilt that bothers me - I'm used to the inconsistent Leafs and their penchant for blowing leads on home ice.

It's Rask. How could the Leafs have traded this stud prospect for the pathetic Andrew Raycroft? It makes my insides churn.

I know everyone already knows this but, just for the record, John Ferguson is a complete idiot. Tuukka Rask proved it last night. Rask, it seems, is ready to play in the NHL. Only two years after being drafted. The Leafs knew they had a can't miss prospect in Rask, and goaltender Justin Pogge, so why was there a need to trade Rask two summers ago, especially for RaySOFT, who was coming off a horrendous season.

Two summers ago, Martin Gerber and Manny Legace were both free agent goalies, available to the highest bidder. The Leafs, with Rask and Pogge waiting in the wings, should have signed one of them, and let their two young goaltending prospects develop. Both Legace and Gerber got contracts in the $4 million dollar range, well within the Leafs budget.

Instead, Ferguson, who has always talked the talk about drafting and developing talent, traded a first-round draft pick (Rask) for Raycroft, automatically pegging Justin Pogge as the Leafs' goalie of the future. Pogge struggled last year in the AHL. His statistics were not great and the Toronto Marlies missed the playoffs. It looks like he's going to need more time to develop, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Ferguson, not wanting to rush Pogge, and knowing that Raycroft was not the answer, went and traded another first-round draft pick (and a second-round pick) this past summer to acquire Vesa Toskala. The insanity continues. How this team continues to trade away draft picks just blows the mind.

Watching Rask in goal for Boston last night made it all hit home. Hard. Ferguson is a no-good general manager and he won't be around long enough to see if Justin Pogge is the real deal and the goaltender of the future. The whole situation puts more pressure on young Pogge's shoulders. Pogge's not stupid, he knows that the Leafs are the worst defensive team in the NHL. He also knows that by trading Rask, the Leafs made him the chosen one. Instead of letting both goalies develop, Ferguson and the Leafs put all their eggs in one basket - the Pogge basket. If Pogge turns out to be a bust, then what? The Leafs will be right back in the same boat, and if history is any indication, they'll trade more assets for a "quick-fix." If the Leafs had kept both Rask and Pogge, they could have traded one of them in the future, even today, to get them the defensive help they so desperately need.

The constant trading of assets - it's sheer lunacy! John Ferguson, based on the Rask for Raycroft trade alone, should be fired. Straight up. Sure, hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but all I have to say is that Raycroft sucks. That's the bottom line. It doesn't even matter how good Rask turns out to be. Raycroft simply stinks. He's a $2 million dollar a year back-up goalie. And he makes me sick.

Although it pains me to agree with The Star's Damien Cox, he's right - the Leafs are a dysfunctional franchise. It's true, and watching Tuukka Rask tend goal for the Boston Bruins last night showcased Toronto's, and Ferguson's, incompetence. It's tough to be a Maple Leafs fan right now, and I mean that from the bottom of my blue and white heart. This team is not headed in the right direction, and has been going down the wrong path for some time now.


Something has got to give. Someone has got to go. Enough is enough, and it's time for a change. For a boat load of changes, actually. John Ferguson Jr., I'm looking at you...

November 16, 2007

My Favourite General Manager

I love Brian Burke. In a perfect world he would be the general manager of the pathetic Toronto Maple Leafs. He makes shrewd business decisions, and doesn't care who he upsets in the process. He's a winner but most importantly, he's loyal to his players.

There ain't a lot of loyalty left in pro sports, but you can find some in the Orange County office of my man Brian Burke. He is, in my mind, without question the best general manager in all of hockey, and the Anaheim Ducks are lucky to have him.

This morning Brian Burke and the Ducks put netminder Ilya Bryzgalov on the waiver wire. He was available to any and all teams to take at no cost but his $1.36 million dollar salary.
The reason Burke put Bryz on waivers? He was keeping his word. It's so refreshing! Read it again, it's even better the second time.

Over the summer, Bryzgalov, Anaheim's dependable back-up goalie, asked for a trade. He wanted to go to a team where he could get more of an opportunity to play. Every athlete aspires to play every night and be the man; Bryzgalov is no different. He knew it wasn't going to happen in Anaheim, playing behind all-world goalie J.S. Giguere.

Burke was more than happy to comply. He gave Bryzgalov and his agent a time line and said that if he wasn't traded by, it seems, today, Burke would put him on waivers and give 29 teams a shot at him.

From Burke:
"Ilya Bryzgalov has won three playoff rounds for us and has played very well. But we've committed ourselves to two other goaltenders in Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Hiller. I told him if I couldn't find (him) a place to play, I would put him on waivers. I gave his agent Don Meehan a time frame, and we're keeping our word to a player. As an organization, we find that to be important. He's a good kid, we know he'll get picked up and he'll play well wherever he goes. He's done his part for us over the last two seasons, and it's time we kept our word."

Wow. Burke is awesome! He's like the Bryan Colangelo of hockey. He cares about his players and appreciates what they do, but above all else, Brian Burke is a man of principal.

Burke turned around the Vancouver Canucks when he was the general manager out in Van-City. He made them a competitive team by sticking to his guns. When Peter Schaefer held out for more money on his contract a few years ago, Burke let him sit, refusing to give the always-underachieving Schaefer a penny more than what he thought he was worth. Schaefer ended up missing a whole season because he wouldn't sign Burke's final contract offer. Finally, Schaefer was dealt to Ottawa. The lesson? Don't mess with Brian Burke. You will lose.

When Todd Bertuzzi sucker-punched Steve Moore, it was a despicable act. But Bertuzzi was Brian Burke's player, and although the circumstances were extremely difficult, Burke supported and stuck by Bertuzzi throughout the whole incident. It's not a coincidence that once Bertuzzi became a free-agent this past summer, he went back to Anaheim and his good friend Brian Burke.

The sports world needs more men like Brian Burke, a man of principal who shows loyalty to not just the superstars, but even to the back-up goalie's of the world...

November 15, 2007

Jiri's "Tlusty"

I've always heard that chicks from the Czech Republic are a little "wild." They like to drink, party, and have a good time. It seems the men of the Czech Republic are no different. Just ask 19-year-old Maple Leafs rookie Jiri Tlusty...

The morning after the Leafs lost 4-3 to the Montreal Canadiens in overtime, it was Tlusty who made the front page of the Toronto Sun. And not because he scored a couple of goals.

By now, most everyone knows the story. Nude photos of Tlusty ended up online on a Canadian gossip website, Tlusty took the photos himself, last year, on his cell phone while standing in front of a mirror. The pictures, it seems, didn't leave much to the imagination. Neither did the Sun's headline: "Lusty Tlusty."

After the game on Tuesday night the Leafs released two press releases: one from Tlusty, apologizing for the photos and his poor judgement, and one from general manager John Ferguson Jr., addressing the photos and showing support for the soon-to-be maligned rookie.

Leave it to the Toronto media to blow the story completely out of proportion and make it a much bigger deal than it should have been. While the topic of discussion at Leafs' practice yesterday should have been another squandered third period lead, all everyone wanted to talk about was Jiri's, well, "Tlusty."

As for The Toronto Sun, I'm not sure what their editorial board is smoking, but it's definitely some high-quality stuff. While our great nation is set to launch a public inquiry in to one of our former Prime Minister's, The Sun chose to go with Tlusty on their front page. Brilliant. Once again, the Toronto Sun showed why it's the laughing stock of Toronto's daily newspapers.

Here's my question regarding the nudey shots of Tlusty: who gives a damn? The Leafs have bigger problems to deal with. You know, like being the worst defensive team in the league. Yeah, that little issue.

Sure, it's a tad embarrassing for Tlusty and the organization, but it's not like he set up a dog-fighting ring and put down a few Old Yeller's. It's not like he beat his girlfriend, or set up a drug deal. He didn't get piss drunk and get behind the wheel (sorry, Mark Bell). So what's the big deal?

The pictures were taken last season while Tlusty was a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Let's be honest folks, there isn't a whole lot to do up in the Soo. Tlusty was probably drunk (at least I hope he was), was trying to get in some girl's panties, and took some glamour shots of himself to help his cause. He made a stupid decision and got taken advantage of when someone leaked the photos online. Life goes on. How does it effect his play, or the team's play, on the ice? It doesn't, but all the negative media attention certainly does.

The Globe and Mail's Tim Wharnsby called it "another low" for the Leafs while The Star's Damien Cox wrote a whole freaking column about it. Cox really kills me sometimes. I love the guy's writing, partly because I disagree with him most of the time and he gets me going, but his column yesterday was just too much.

Cox went as far as saying Tlusty soiled "the team's famous emblem" and that upon hearing of the photos, Tlusty should have been sent back down to the minors. Cox said the Leafs are no longer a team of real tradition and only push propoganda like their slogan "The Passion That Unites Us All."

Well, I take exception to that. In part because I've got the Leafs logo with "The Passion That Unites Us All" written underneath it as my desktop background on my computer at work. It ain't propoganda to me, regardless of Tlusty's photo-op.

The truth is, I don't give a damn what hockey players, and professional athletes in general, do when they're not at the rink. If Tlusty enjoys taking nudey glamour shots of himself in the mirror and posting them on his Facebook page, by all means Jiri, knock yourself out. If Tlusty is gay (the photo on the cover of the Sun had him tonguing another male), all the power to him. All I care about is wins and losses and, right now, there aren't enough wins in the win column.

Vesa Toskala could be cross-dresser when he's not at the rink for all I care, but if he stops the puck 91 times out of 100 shots when he's on the ice, he's the man. It's as simple as that.

Tlusty's only 19 years old. He's a kid. Let's keep that in mind, Damien Cox. We all pounded a few beers back in our teenager days and did some stupid stuff we're not proud of. Heck, sometimes I didn't even need the beer to perform random acts of idiocy. Luckily, for those old enough, the internet wasn't around back then to document our stupidity. For Tlusty, now a public figure in the most scrutinized hockey market in the world, it's a valuable lesson learned. I'm sure after yesterday, he's got it written down on a post-it note - no more posting or emailing nudey pics. It's a no-no. Especially in this town.

Get over it, Toronto. The Leafs have much, much bigger fish to fry...

November 14, 2007

The Same Old Story

Another game against a divisional opponent and another blown third period lead. Up 3-2 in the third period, this was a game the Leafs should have won. It's disheartening. I'm starting to think Paul Maurice isn't the right man to coach this team.

It's looking less and less likely that the Leafs will qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Nineteen games are in the books, as are 19 points, and Toronto seems destined to miss the dance for the third straight season. If and when they do, they can look back to games all throughout October and the early parts of November - games like last night - as to why they're on the outside looking in.

The Leafs should have beaten the Montreal Canadiens last night. Straight up. After an even first period, the Leafs were the better team the rest of the way. They controlled the play, had the majority of power plays, and out shot les Habitants 26 to 13 in periods two and three.

Of course, shot totals never matter when Andrew Raycroft is in net. Yes, Raycroft (I refuse to call him "Razor") was coming off a shutout of the Buffalo Sabres, who should be incredibly ashamed of themselves, but you just know that most nights he's going to let in three or four, or more. That's how he rolls.

Sticking to Raycroft for a second, it's amazing what one shutout will do for a guy's credibility in this town. I was out for lunch with some old friends this past Saturday afternoon who were singing the praises of the mighty Raycroft, coming off his great performance the night before in Buffalo. They were calling for Raycroft to start in goal against the New York Rangers and quick to right off Vesa Toskala as the more mediocre of the two goalies.

That's what happens when you go from Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour to Andrew Raycroft. The goaltending bar has been lowered considerably. Leafs teams of the late 90's and early 2000's, with Cujo and Eddie manning the pipes, used to average eight to 10 shutouts a year. Now, it's a Festivus miracle when the Leafs get one.

One quick look at the stats, however, shows the reasoning behind Raycroft's blanking of the pathetic Sabres. Yes, Raycroft was great in the first period as he made 15 saves. But in the third period, the Leafs only allowed six shots against. That's six shots, folks. Not exactly a barrage. Now, we all know the Leafs hold any and all leads like a ticking time bomb and that they break down in the defensive zone like Ellen when the authorities take away her dog. But on Friday night, for the first time this season, the Leafs played great hockey with a lead. They limited Buffalo to only six shots in the third period and, most important of all, they helped out their goalie. That shutout was a team effort. Don't get it twisted - I'm giving Raycroft full marks because he saved 30 shots on the night, but the Leafs played a heck of a lot better that night than they have on any night in front of Toskala.

I can point out only one or two games where I would say that Toskala has performed poorly. The rest of his night's out there, he simply hasn't gotten any help from his team. I play recreational hockey in a beer league, and I'm a goaltender. I know, to some extent, how it is back there. As a goalie, you're either the hero or the goat, on any given night. But you've got to have your team help you out back there. Hockey's a team game. Toskala has been hung out to dry by the Leafs and, especially, his coaching staff. It hurts when, as a goalie, your team plays defense as well as a Timbits squad, and you're left to fend for yourself. Toskala hasn't had a prayer on half the goals he's allowed. I don't care if Raycroft has the better stats, as my friends tried to point out to me, Toskala is the better goalie, and the number one goalie. Hands down.

Back to last night and, speaking of goat horns, please pass them along to one Bryan McCabe...again. Just a horrendous pass in overtime right on to the stick of that douchebag Mike Komisarek, who made no mistake in deking Raycroft on a breakaway, slipping it five-hole to give Montreal a 4-3 overtime win. McCabe was -2 on the night and played over 28 minutes. His stat line proves that when Pavel Kubina is in the lineup, McCabe gets less ice time, is in turn more effective, and the Leafs are a better team.

God damn injuries. Kubina's out a month with knee issues and because of it Andy Wozniewski played over 20 minutes last night. Lord help us.

As for Komisarek, he shouldn't have even been on the ice in overtime. He should have been in the penalty box. He clearly punched Hal Gill in the face in the last minute of regulation time but because he wasn't wearing a Maple Leafs sweater, he didn't get a penalty. The refs called a tight game all night but once it was 3-3 with a minute to go, they put away the whistles and the Habs got away with two clear-cut penalties. If it were the Leafs taking liberties like that, they would have definitely been penalized. Everyone, including the referees, hate the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's a bloody conspiracy.
I, once again, called for Raycroft to poke check on the breakaway goal by Komisarek. My brother argues that I say that every time and, although he does make a good point, I still believe Raycroft should have poke-checked. I stand by my call. Want to know why? Because it was Mike freaking Komisarek coming down the ice on a breakaway. Komisarek, who has only seven career NHL goals in over 230 games to his credit. He's a rugged, stay-at-home defenceman and Raycroft, in my humble opinion, should have been more aggressive. Part of a goalie's job is to recognize the shooter he's facing. If it's Alex Kovalev bearing down on a breakaway, by all means bust out the Bible and start praying. But it was Mike Komisarek. It should have been advantage Raycroft, and he should have poke-checked.

Here's my beef with coach Paul Maurice. The Leafs have one of the deeper teams in the Eastern Conference when it comes to their forwards. Toronto, last season, re-signed a potential unrestricted free agent in Darcy Tucker to a multi-million deal and then forked over three draft picks to acquire Vesa Toskala and former 25 goal scorer Mark Bell.

Where the hell were Tucker and Bell in the third period last night? They were plastered to the bench for all but two shifts, and I just don't get it. On one of the shifts Bell did get in the third, he orchestrated a goal with some fabulous puck control down low. On the night, Tucker saw only 12 minutes of ice time, while Mark Bell played just over five minutes and thirty seconds. What in the name of Krishna is going on here, Maurice?

When the Leafs have got a fourth line of John Pohl, Wade Belak and Bates Battaglia dressed, by all means shorten the bench in the third period. But why is the bench being shortened when Maurice has got proven NHLers, who can play, at his disposal? Why did we throw all this loot and all these draft picks to bring in these guys if they're not going to play? It's absolutely infuriating. Darcy Tucker has been an integral part of the Leafs since he arrived in Toronto and now guys like Boyd Devereaux, who I have nothing against, are playing more than he is, and it simply shouldn't be the case. Tucker is the Leafs' brawn, guts and emotion. He's got to get more ice time, and the lack of it is effecting his play.

Here's another mistake by Maurice: To start overtime, with Matt Stajan and Saku Koivu in the penalty box serving coincidental minors, Maurice sent out two forwards and one defenceman to play three-on-three hockey, while the Habs countered with the standard two defenceman and one forward. Why would Maurice not put out two defenceman, when he had a forward sitting in the penalty box? Granted, it was the lone defenceman on the ice, McCabe, who made the retarded pass to Komisarek to send him off on a breakaway, but the Leafs should have had two defenceman on the ice. The only logical explanation I can think of is that Maurice was going for the win in the five minute overtime session because he knows the Leafs don't have a prayer in the shootout. But I still don't agree with the decision. Defense first, especially when you've got Raycroft in net. Maurice has got four capable lines he can throw out there and a team that can score goals. He's got to believe in them, whether it's in overtime or the shootout.

As for Montreal's rookie goalie Carey Price, the kid is good. He's a keeper, and has an extremely bright future. He's so calm and collected in his crease, you wouldn't know last night was his first game in the hockey hotbed of Toronto. And he doesn't give up a lot of rebounds, eh? Geez. The Habs got lucky with this kid, and I'm openly jealous.

At the end of the day, the Leafs had a 3-2 lead in the third period, with 10 minutes left to play. Once again, they broke down defensively and Raycroft just couldn't come up with the big save when the team needed it most. It's not that I'm saying Raycroft didn't play well. He did. He made some excellent saves. I hate to blame him, I truly do, but I would just like him to make that one save when it's 3-2, or 3-3, and save the Leafs' bacon. Just like Cujo and Eddie the Eagle before him used to do. I guess I'm spoiled. And stuck to the past. Like all other Leafs fans.

Another point squandered. One that I'm sure will come back to bite the Leafs in the behind...

November 07, 2007

The Beating of Ontario

Another installment of the Beating of Ontario went into the books last night. This time it was a 5-1 spanking of the Maple Leafs by the Ottawa Senators and, with it, the realization that the Sens are a great team while the Leafs are not.

Games like last night’s test my will as a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. I reached for my remote on three separate occasions but couldn’t pull the trigger and actually change the channel. I’m not sure why I stay tuned and watch the Leafs get crushed by the Senators time after time after time, but I do. It’s sick. I have a problem.

I was sincerely looking forward to last night’s game. Not only was it a good test against a most-formidable opponent in the Senators, but the Leafs were finally getting some bodies back – Kyle Wellwood, healthy after two hernia surgeries, and Mark Bell, making his debut as the forgotten man in the Vesa Toskala trade.

Toronto, sitting at .500, was coming off a solid road win in Montreal and although Ottawa is clearly the best team in the league (you can’t argue much with a 13-1 win-loss record), the Leafs played them hard in games one and two of the season. I thought I was in for a competitive match up.

Competitive? Uh, not so much.This one was over five minutes in. Just another go around with the Ottawa Senators, I guess, who are now 15-2-2, including 8-1-1 at home, since the start of the 2005/2006 season against Toronto.

As everyone knows, the Leafs have missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Need a reason? Look no further than their record against their provincial rivals. Toronto’s inability to compete against the Ottawa Senators cost them dearly the last two years, and it’s happening again, as Ottawa has already beaten the Leafs three times in the span of a month.

I'm going to be the happiest man around when the NHL changes the schedule. I'm so tired of the Leafs having to play Ottawa eight times a year. It simply isn't fair - they're too good!

I feel like I’m starring in Groundhog Day, because every time the Leafs and Senators face off, it’s the same story over and over again - severe poundage. Last night was no different. The Leafs repeatedly made bonehead decisions and hung their goalies out to try yet again.

After falling behind four to nothing in the second period Paul Maurice yanked Vesa Toskala (who couldn’t be blamed, not one bit), called a timeout, and gave his team a thorough tongue-lashing. They deserved it, straight up. Once again, the Leafs looked like they weren’t prepared to play and against a team like Ottawa, the best freaking team in the league, that’s simply unacceptable.

I, nor Paul Maurice, don’t have enough fingers to point out all the guys who flat out sucked last night. Jason Blake wasn’t covering his man on the first goal. Ian White was standing at centre ice and his foolish decision led to the two-on-one that resulted in the second goal. On that second goal, Andy Wozniewski could have sprawled to block the cross ice pass, and I’m still not sure what the hell he was doing when he half laid out to try and do it. Matt Stajan and Alex Steen bumped into each other in neutral ice and their idiocy led to another two-on-one for the Sens, which led to the third Ottawa goal, a short-handed tally by Daniel Alfredsson to make it three-nothing. That goal was the back-breaker. Down two-nothing, the Leafs desperately needed the next goal, but it was Ottawa who came out flying once again in the second period and scored on a Toronto power play. It was rather pathetic.

Kaberle was also brutal last night. I’m not sure why he and Kubina were on the same side of the rink on the first Ottawa goal, and Kabby was evidently going for a stroll up ice on the fourth Senators goal, when Kyle Wellwood decided to try and stick handle through four Senator players. The puck was, obviously, turned over and the Senators were off on another two-on-one and wham, bam, thank you m’aam, it was 5-1.

Like I said, I’m not sure why I watched the entire debacle last night. One reason was because the Toronto Raptors were also busy taking it on the chin, at the hands of the pathetic Milwaukee Bucks, no less! Last night was just awful.

As for Wellwood and Bell, their presence in the lineup clearly didn’t do much, eh? Wellwood was out there dangling like a school boy and his presence did nothing for the moribund Toronto power play, which finished 1-9 on the night. Bell saw a shade over 10 minutes of ice time and threw a couple of nice hits. He also landed a couple of good shots to the ugly face of Senators super-pest Chris Neil. Bell’s going to be a useful energy guy for the Leafs, and I’m looking forward to him getting some more ice time.

Toronto actually out-shot the Senators last night. Gerber was good. He doesn't give up any rebounds, it's amazing. The guy’s been tremendous all year, and I hate him because I’ve got Ray Emery in my fantasy hockey pool. It just goes to show that shot total’s don’t mean a damn thing. Not if you’re giving up two-on-one rushes all night.

I’m not done complaining about Andy Wozniewski, Ian White, and the shortcomings of the Leafs defensive game. We’re 16 games into this thing now, and the message is clearly not getting through, as the Leafs have allowed a league worst 62 goals against. Something needs to give. Something needs to change. Enough is enough. Some bloody accountability, please, Coach Maurice.

Bench White, bench Wozniewski, and even bench Kaberle if you have to. The only guy who should be getting a pat on the back right now is Nik Antropov. He’s showed up for every game, and was once again the Leafs’ best player last night, scoring the teams lone goal.

I just find it infuriating that the same weak-ass lineup is paraded out on to the ice day in and day out, when they are simply not delivering the results. Andy bloody Wozniewski will be right back out there on Friday night, while Danny Markov, a serviceable and solid NHL-calibre defenseman, is not playing in the NHL. I don’t get it. Pick up the phone and get Markov's agent on the line already! And don’t anybody dare mention to me anything about the salary cap. The Leafs have some wiggle room against the cap and are the richest sports team in Canada. They can afford to buy out Wozniewski’s contract, which is only a shade above the league minimum anyway, and bring in Danny Markov. What the heck is the wiggle room for anyway? To stop the bleeding, for the love of God.

The blood pressure is boiling, folks. Last night, once the Senators went up 3-0, I couldn’t change the channel. All I could do was press the mute button, grab my ipod, press repeat and put on “Stronger” by Kanye West.

“N-n-now Th-th-that-that don't kill me
Can only make me stronger
I need you to hurry up now
Cause I can't wait much longer
I know I got to be right now
Cause I can't get much wronger
Man I been waitin' all night now
That's how long I've been on ya.”

I said I wasn’t going to pass judgment on this team until 20 games were in the books. Well, we’re only four games away from that mark, and I’ve got my finger right in front of the panic button…

November 04, 2007

The Weigh In #3

It's time to step on the scales for another edition of The Weigh In. Here's what's on the brain: Vesa Toskala, Martin Brodeur and Wade Belak, Matt Stairs and baseball happenings, the Toronto Argos, and Super Bowl 41 and a Half...

Weighing In on the Leafs

Seriously, how great was Vesa Toskala last night? He put on an unbelievable display of goaltending on the road against a tough Montreal Canadiens team. I think I saw Andrew Raycroft on the bench with a pen and a pad, taking notes.

Toskala stole one for the Leafs last night while Cristobal Huet did his best Raycroft impression letting in a couple of softies, especially the game winner by Matt Stajan. I've got to show some love to Stajan. I dissed him after Friday night's loss and he completely redeemed himself with a goal and an assist last night. It goes to show that it's never a bad idea to put the puck on the net. Or towards the net. Just ask Mats Sundin - both goals he scored over the weekend were from behind the goal line.

I wasn't expecting Toskala to get the start in back-to-back games. But he did, and thank goodness. He is without a doubt now the number one goalie on this team, and proved it again with his play last night. He made at least 10 tremendous saves of the difficult variety, and was especially strong late in the third period. His reflexes are incredible, as is his post-to-post movement. Attaboy, Vesa...

Sticking with the Leafs, 15 games are in the books which means Mark Bell's suspension is now officially over. He'll be in the lineup on Tuesday night when the Leafs are in Ottawa to face the Senators, who are sporting a tidy 11-1 record and looking every bit like the team that marched all the way to the Stanley Cup final last year.

Damn Senators.

They also locked up Jason Spezza for a cool $49 million over seven years. The future is bright in Ottawa.

Damn Senators.

Kyle Wellwood may also be dressed for Tuesday night, but his status is still up in the air. I doubt we'll see Wellwood on Tuesday, but Mark Bell will definitely be playing, and I'm looking forward to his Maple Leaf debut. I'm sure he is too...

Weighing In on Matt Stairs and Baseball

Extremely glad to hear that Matt Stairs is back in the fold for another two years with the Blue Jays. J.P. Ricciardi saw how valuable Stairs was last season and locked him up quickly once the season ended. The "Everything Man," as I called him a few months ago, Stairs will once again be a solid left-handed bat off the bench and can play some left field or first base. He'll come in handy, because you know just as well as I do that the Jays will be ravaged by injury, as usual...

Joe Girardi is the new manager in New York. I was a little surprised the Yankees didn't go with Don Mattingly, but it's hard to argue with Girardi after the success he had coaching (or is it managing?) the Florida Marlins a few years ago. Girardi's an intense, blue-collar kind of guy and it's going to be very interesting to see whether he'll be able to manage the big ego's in the Yankee clubhouse.

I definitely like his decision to wear the number 27 on his jersey, though. The Yankees have been stuck on 26 championships for the last seven years (oh, the horror, so tough is the life of Yankee fans) and Girardi has chosen to wear number 27 to ensure no one forgets what the goal is. I guess John Gibbons should wear number 3...

In another interesting development, Joe Torre has landed back on his feet in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. My dream of him becoming the Blue Jays manager lasted a good two weeks. Deep down, I knew it wasn't going to happen. This is a good signing for the Dodgers. They've always had clubhouse issues - hard not to when you have morons like Jeff Kent on your squad - but if there's anyone who can bring harmony to a clubhouse, it's Joe Torre. If he could do it in New York, he can definitely make it happen in La-La land...

It's been a week since the World Series ended and after some reflection and contemplation, I think it's safe to say we were witness to the worst baseball playoffs, and World Series, of all time. What a snooze fest. Five out of the seven series were sweeps, including a no-contest World Series. The most exciting moment of the entire playoffs, for me at least, was not even an actual play - the swarming of Joba Chamberlain by all those bugs while he was on the mound in Cleveland is what I remember most vividly. And that's kind of sad.

The baseball just wasn't that good. Major League Baseball really needs to expand the playoffs so that more mediocre teams make the playoffs and play each other. And by mediocre, yes, I mean the Toronto Blue Jays. There's only one October, and thank God for that...

With Alex Rodriguez opting out of his contract, it's interesting to see what the oft-injured A.J. Burnett is going to do after next season. The Jays' "ace," and I use the term very lightly, has an opt-out clause in his contract after the third season. The smart money has Burnett saying goodbye to the Blue Jays and going after more loot (wouldn't that be shocking?). If Ted Lilly and Gil Meche get paid more than Burnett, you know A.J. is going to want a new deal. So Blue Jays fans, enjoy the final year of A.J. Burnett's extremely disappointing tenure in Toronto...

Weighing In on Wade Belak and Martin Brodeur

You're probably wondering how the hell Belak and Brodeur could possibly be connected. Well, in Friday night's tilt between the Leafs and Devils, Brodeur picked up an assist on one of the Devils' goals. It was the 28th assist of his career and, along with his one goal, he now has 29 points in his career. That's one more than Mr. Wade Belak.

I'm not sure what is more amazing, the fact that Brodeur has more points than Belak, or the fact that Belak has managed to make a living playing hockey in the NHL. I know, Belak isn't exactly kept around to score points, but outscored by a goalie? That's just wrong...

Weighing In on the Toronto Argos

In mid-September the Argos were sporting an ugly 4-7 record and the possibility of them playing in the Grey Cup in Toronto was looking about as good as Raycroft winning the Vezina.

Things have changed. Since then, the Argos have caught fire and won seven games in a row and are today Eastern Division champs. They will now host the Eastern Division final on November 11 and if they win, they'll be playing in the Grey Cup, at home in the Rogers SkyDome Centre (I've decided I'm putting "SkyDome" back in title).

Led by fantastic special teams and the league's best defense, the Argos have been on fire the last month and a half. They finished the season with a 41-13 dismantling of the Saskatchewan Roughriders yesterday. Their defense allowed only 336 points all year, a league best.

As much as I hear Michael Bishop and the Argos offense get railed on talk radio, Bishop wins football games. With Bishop driving the Boatmen, the Argos have a record of 11-1. I know the defense has carried this team, but Toronto, please stop complaining about Michael Bishop.

There's only one thing to say about Toronto's hot streak to win the Eastern Division and secure a playoff game at home: AaaaaaarrrrrrrGoooooooooooooooosss!!!!!!!...

Weighing In on Super Bowl 41 and a Half

The undefeated New England Patriots and the undefeated Indianapolis Colts face off in a clash of the titans this afternoon. The Colts are the defending champions, haven't lost a game at home in, I think, 14 games, and are the underdogs going in to today's game. That's not showing a lot of respect to Indy. But can you really blame Vegas? The Patriots have just been dominating this year. They've embarrassed their opponents, week in and week out.

I'm not sure which name I like better for this game - the Perfect Bowl, or Super Bowl 41 and a Half. Both are beauties.

As for who's the better quarterback, I think I've got to go with Tom Brady, simply because he dates and impregnates incredibly hot women...

November 03, 2007

A New Jersey Night

It was all about the Garden State last night. The Leafs were in Newark visiting the New Jersey Devils while the Raptors were in the swamp looking to avenge last year's playoff-series loss against the New Jersey Nets.

The Good News

Let's go with the good news first: the Raptors look mighty fine after their first two games of the season. Visiting the Nets for the first time since their season ended in New Jersey last year, the Raptors were looking for a big game. They wanted to show the Nets that this wasn't the same team that lost a hard fought first-round series last year. And the Raptors delivered. Big time.

T.J. Ford called it a "statement game." The Raptors wanted this one and, after getting off to a slow start in the first quarter - they were one-for-seven from the field - they beat up on the Nets. It was rather enjoyable to watch. The final score was a joke. 106-69 for our boys in red and black. The Raps shot 51% from the floor and 59% from beyond the arc. It was, as my main man Chuck Swirsky would say, raining three's out there.

Speaking of the Chuck, I love the guy. It's good to have him back on the air calling Raptors games, along with the lovable Jack Armstrong (Hello!!). I'm still not sold on Leo Rautins, but I certainly love the Chuck and Jack combo.

Swirsky is fast becoming my favourite Toronto sports play-by-play man. Jamie Campbell calls a mean Toronto Blue Jays game on the tube (he's done a good job since taking over a couple of years ago), and Joe Bowen and his "Holy Mackinaw!" will always have a special place in my heart, but Chuck Swirsky really brings passion to his broadcasts. He's enjoying himself out there, and it rubs off on the viewer. And he's always bringing out the onions and, of course, the salami and cheese, mamma. Love the Swirsk.

Some perspective on last night's game:
- Toronto went on a 20-4 run in the second quarter to pull away for the rest of the night.
- The Nets had as many assists as they did turnovers (19 a piece).
- The Raptors had six players in double figures in scoring, compared to only one for New Jersey (Jefferson had 27 points while the next most (err, least?) productive Net was Krstic, with nine).
- The Nets scored a combined 28 points (eww) in the second half of the ball game (the Raptors scored 50).
- At one point in the fourth quarter the Raps were up 98-56, a whopping 42 points.

There's no other way to put it - the Raptors bitch-slapped the New Jersey Nets last night. Back-handed!

Bosh even hit a half-court hail mary to end the second half. It, of course, brought out the "Onions, baby onions!" from Chuck Swirsky. Anything less would have been uncivilized.

The Raptors are now off to a solid 2-0 start to their season, and what makes it even more impressive is that Chris Bosh has seen limited minutes in the teams first two games. His conditioning is not where it needs to be, but it doesn't matter, because the Raptors deep bench is coming through. Last night the second unit (Calderon, Dixon, Delfino, and Nesterovic) was the catalyst in laying the smacketh downeth upon New Jersey.

Andrea Bargnani has looked tremendous in the first two games of the new campaign. He was 7-11 from the field last night, including 4-6 from three point land. The guy is just money. And I'm talking Canadian dollars here folks - none of that weak U.S. chump-change. I mean, Il Mago barely even jumps when he takes his three-point shots. His stroke is just bellissimo. I can't say enough about this kid. He impresses me more and more every time I watch him play. Bargnani's quick enough to put the ball on the floor, but he can also burn you from way outside. He's the total package. And only 22 years young. And yes, Toronto, he's all ours. I'll admit it, he makes me salivate.

"TJ Calderon" has also been off the charts in the first two games of the year. The line from game one from the point guard position, you ask? 27 points, 16 assists, and ONLY 2 turnovers. The line last night, you ask? 18 points, 15 assists and ONLY 3 turnovers. I'm telling you folks, "TJ Calderon" is a beautiful thing. Embrace it. Appreciate it. Enjoy it.

And how about Carlos Delfino? I'm loving this guy already. He's finally getting a chance to play some regular minutes, and he's showing that he can do just that - play. He's picking up rebounds, picking up some points and, most importantly of all, playing solid defense. His Majesty Bryan Colangelo can simply do no wrong.

I'm looking forward to Sunday when Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics are in town. Should be a doozy, and another good test for the Toronto Raptors to show that they are, no matter what anyone says, the class of the Atlantic Division.

The Bad News

Oh yeah, the bad news, ugh, those bloody Maple Leafs. It was the Buds' first visit to the Devils' new home, The Prudential Center. Seemed like nice digs. Anything was going to be better than their old arena out in East Rutherford. Oddly enough, the Nets still play out of the old building, now the IZOD Centre. Speaking of which, whatever happened to Jay-Z moving the Nets to Brooklyn? Hmm.

It was another weak effort by the Leafs, especially the usually-reliable Tomas Kaberle and Mats Sundin. Both had third period's to forget. The Devils ended up taking the game 3-2, thanks to a short-handed goal by the speedy John Madden, who rifled a bullet past Vesa Toskala and off the post to give the Devils a 2-1 lead late in the third. The goal was, as they say, a back-breaker.

I'm not sure what the hell Kaberle was thinking about on the Madden goal. He had a chance to at least get a pinky on him, but he didn't, and I'm not sure why. Once again, Kaberle and company left their goalie out to dry. A couple of minutes later, Zach Parise scored on his fourth freaking attempt on Toskala, with Kaberle standing around watching the whole play. How was the view, Tommy? Geez.

I thought Kaberle and Sundin played a pathetic game last night - the emotion and hustle simply wasn't there. I couldn't see it, and it hurt. How can the two guys who wear the "C" and the "A" on their shoulder look like they don't give a rats ass? It's distressing.

What makes it all sting even more is that the Madden goal came while the Leafs were on the power play. Jason Blake decided to shoot the puck while four guys stood in front of him. It, obviously, hit a skate and off to the races went Madden. Kaberle should have been able to catch him, but he was leisurely skating back, assuming Blake would grab him. That's the essence of the problem with the Leafs right now. There's no accountability. It's always up to the other guy. In the end, Toskala is the one who has to deal with his obese goals against average and his lame save percentage because the guys in front of him are not bringing the effort.

Before I forget, I've got to take another opportunity to bash Andy Wozniewski. He played seven minutes and 18 seconds last night, and was on the ice for two New Jersey goals. Does anyone else see a trend developing here? The one that whenever this useless dude is on the ice, the other team scores? Is it just me? Unbelievable. But I'm sure he'll be right back in the lineup tonight. That's just how the Leafs roll.

Madden's goal was the fourth short-handed goal the Leafs have already allowed this season. That's ridiculous, absurd, preposterous, outrageous! (Think Jackie Chiles from Seinfeld.)

The power play, which was so good and often the savior last year, is just killing this team. It's not getting the job done and it's simply time for a change. Put some new guys out there, Maurice. The Gamache's and Kilger's. There's no power on the Leafs power play and if that doesn't change this team is just going to continue to dig it's own grave. It's clear how much the team misses Kyle Wellwood's creativity on the power play when the little guy is out of the lineup.

Speaking of creativity, here's a thought for Alexei Ponikarovsky: raise the puck! Poni had a wide open net in the second period but was robbed by Martin Brodeur's paddle. All he had to do was raise the puck 2 inches, and the Leafs would have had the lead. Ponikarovsky's hands of stone just break my heart sometimes. He's got four goal, and it's looking like 27 is going to be a mission.

I'm not sure if Toronto's salary cap situation would allow it but John Ferguson Jr. should definitely inquire about Peter Forsberg. The Leafs, although Antropov has done an amazing job, could really use another centre. Antropov's proven he can play on the wing and I really don't think Kilger and Devereaux are the best linemates for him.

Matt Stajan has cooled off considerably since his hot start (shocking, absolutely shocking) and he still can't win a god-damn faceoff. The Leafs are one of the worst face-off teams in the league. The only guy who can win one on the regular is Sundin. Forsberg would be a much-needed addition to this team. He's as creative as they come, and he can win a draw or two. Plus, the more time the Leafs spend in the other team's zone, the less chance the puck has of going in to the Toronto net.

(Just for the record, I know Forsberg won't end up in Toronto. Why would he join the Leafs? He's not an idiot. Just let me dream.)

It doesn't get much easier for the Leafs tonight. They're in Montreal to face a hot Canadiens team and in light of the back-to-back games, it looks like my favourite goalie in the whole wide world Andrew Raycroft will get the start in net. Oh, the joy! Raycroft has had multiple chances to step in, play well, and force Maurice to start him. Monday night against Washington when Toskala was pulled was another chance, but one thing keeps getting in the way: the fact that he sucks.

I must admit that even though Toskala is getting most of the work in goal, I still loathe Raycroft.

I must also admit, however, that the Toronto Raptors make the Maple Leafs continuous struggles much easier to swallow...