December 31, 2008

He's Back...


Yes, I have returned from the Motherland. She was a most gracious host, as always. But I'm talking about Mats Sundin, who donned a new sweater yesterday in Vancouver.

You know, I always thought I'd be an emotional wreck the day I saw Sundin in another jersey. But that wasn't the case last night. Instead, I'm excited for him, and for the Vancouver Canucks. 

Plus, in the picture above, he's wearing his patented Sundin smile; the smile that melted my heart for so many years, and continues to do so today. If he's happy, I'm happy.

Now, I'm going to go out on a limb here and bet you a high-quality meal at Mendy's that Down Goes Brown will be bitching about something Sundin said during his interview yesterday with the Vancouver media. Double or nothing it will be about #13's hunger to play and compete.

That's all well and good. We've heard and read all the bullshit before. Say what you want about him, but there's no denying that Mats has always looked mighty fine in blue and white.

Here's hoping that the final chapter of Sundin's hockey career includes a happy ending.

December 28, 2008

God Damn Yankees

My 82-year-old Dadima (Grandmother), out here an ocean away in Delhi, was not in the least bit surprised that the New York Yankees landed Mark Teixeira.

When I told her the news, she looked at me with a blank expression on her face and, in her limited English, said, "You are very nice boy. Very good boy. I like you."

Obviously, she was talking about me, and not Mark Teixeira, the latest baseball player to strike it rich thanks to the God damn Yankees join the dark side.

Here's an excerpt from a Gordon Edes column over at Yahoo! Sports that should make you lose your lunch:

"The Yankees will have nine players being paid $13 million or more in 2009. Those nine players - Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, A.J. Burnett, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon - combine for $159.1 million, more than the payroll of any other team."

Nine guys. Who account for more payroll than any other team in baseball. Hell, probably in professional sports. That right there, my friends, is why it is my duty to hate the New York Yankees. And make no mistake about it, it is your duty as well.

Would I like an owner that spends, spends, spends, spends, spends, spends, spends, spends, spends and spends some more? Of course. I'm sure you would too. But the reality is that the Toronto Blue Jays, and 28 other teams, don't, and can't, operate that way. And that's why I hate the Yankees.

The hatred, you see, stems from jealousy. And there is no cure. All I can do is continue to bitch about New York's free-spending ways.

You know, I've learned a lot in my short, two-week sojourn on the Indian subcontinent. There's nothing quite like spending time with family. One moment, in particular, stands out: my Dadima told me she hates the Yankees, too.

December 24, 2008

Dear Santa Claus,

What up, player? How've you been? Still going strong, I hear. Good for you. It's important to stay active as you put more clicks on the odometer. Keep doing your thing, man.


So, what's the good word up in the North Pole? How's Rudolph doing? It's unfortunate what happened to him, man. I never thought he'd become such a prima donna. It always seemed like his head was on straight. But it's tough; the fame, the fortune, the women, the drugs. Everyone heard about the crazy parties he was throwing, and the intervention. I know those must have been tough times for you. Hopefully rehab did the trick, and Rudy's off the blow.

I've got to give you some props. Through all the drama, you stuck by and showed faith in your boy. Here's hoping Rudolph comes through for you this Christmas. Give him my best, and tell him to keep his head up. He's like the Josh Hamilton of reindeer.

How's Mrs. C? Boy, do I miss her cooking. I saw you at the mall the other day and it was pretty obvious that you're enjoying her exploits in the kitchen on my behalf. I kid, I kid. You looked great. Been hitting the gym? Doing some interval cardio, or some yoga? I know, I should have said hello, but I thought it might have been a little awkward in front of all the kids.

I know what you're probably thinking, Santa, and you're right; it has been a really long time. Time just flies, man. You know how it is. Before I knew it, I was all grown up. Now I'm caught up in the rat race, and closer to my 30s than my 20s. And that's pretty fucking depressing.

But I'm sorry I haven't kept in touch. For real. Unfortunately, I haven't been good on that front with a lot of people. I hope there's no hard feelings.

If there are, just think back to Christmas Eve, circa 1994, when you devoured those "special" cookies I left out for you. Man, I'll never forget that night. You were laughing so hard milk was flowing out of your nose. I pulled some crazy missions to keep my parents from coming downstairs that night, I hope you know that. And I still don't know how you managed to finish the rest of your run, especially after we passed the cookies to the gang up on the roof. Rudolph was bugging out, his eyes were as red as his nose, and Blitzen certainly lived up to his name that night.

Good times, Santa. There's no denying that.

Anyway, the reason I'm writing to you after all these years is because the sports scene is dire in Toronto these days. You're in the miracle business and, well, we could use a few. Trust me, this list won't be as long as some of the ones I sent you in the past.

Before I get into it, thank you for Dwayne De Rosario. That's exactly the type of shit I'm talking about, my man.

Santa, I know it's probably not in the best interests of the team in the long term, but I'm more of a short term kind of a guy, so, if it's not too much trouble, please sneak the Maple Leafs into the playoffs. Even if it means a date with the resurgent Boston Bruins. I'll take my chances against Tim Thomas over Henrik Lundqvist.

Look, it's obvious we're not finishing last, or even close to it. Tampa Bay and Long Island are the Sultans of Suck this season, and even those bastards in Ottawa have a better chance at John Tavares or Victor Hedman than we do.

The Leafs are playing great hockey of late, so how about a playoff round or two? What do you say? It looks like the team has a decent nucleus of players, and playoff hockey would be great for youngsters like Schenn and Grabs, and guys like Antropov and Ponikarovsky, who have stepped up in the wake of Mats Sundin's departure, and who are on pace to record career year's. Playoff hockey would be beneficial for our new number one centre, and leading scorer, Matt Stajan, too.

I know, Santa. I can't believe I wrote that about Stajan either. Kid's been a revelation.

Playoffs. Please. Make it happen. Even just one round. I yearn for post-season Leafs hockey in ways you cannot imagine.

Santa, moving on, the Toronto Raptors are in free-fall. Sure, they beat the Clippers the other night, but that's not exactly an inspiring victory.

My man Archimedes broke it all down: what else can this team do? They've done it all.

It's official, Santa. I want you to bring Vince Carter back to Toronto. I know, it's blasphemy, but he's exactly what this team needs: an explosive presence on the wing. And don't worry, I know my city. I have faith in my city. Once they see Air Canada take off in a Raptors uniform again, a dormant love affair will blossom once more.

Look, if you can't bring VC back to town, just promise me you'll find a way to keep Chris Bosh in a Raptors uniform past 2010.

One last thing, Santa. Is there any way you can get Manny Ramirez to sign in Toronto? He'd be one bitching designated hitter. I don't know, fix the global economy, or something. It would really help the Blue Jays out of a jam.

Even Jason Giambi will do, Santa. Just bring me something for the Jays, anything, because J.P. Ricciardi is being a real Scrooge this Christmas.

I know. I'm pushing it. Do what you can, my good man. I've got faith in you. You've never let me down before.

I promise to keep in touch this time. Enjoy the cookies. Merry Christmas, and all the best in 2009. And, Santa: thanks. You are appreciated.

Cheers,
eyebleaf

P.S. If it's not too much trouble, can you get the Sundin haters off his back? I know, I don't get why they just can't be happy for him, either. And a Stanley Cup for Mats and the Canucks would be super, too. Thanks. You the man.

December 22, 2008

Seriously?

Greetings from Mother India. Let me get straight to the point. The Raptors lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. Wait, what? Seriously? The 2-24 Oklahoma City Thunder?

Can this please be confirmed? Because I don't believe the box score. Someone is obviously fucking with me, or the internet, out here in the GNDA (Greater New Delhi Area, yo). Losing 91-83 to Oklahoma City simply cannot be possible. I didn't even know Oklahoma City had an NBA team.

Jesus Christ. You know what this means, don't you? The Toronto Craptors are no longer extinct.

Full disclosure: I had a dream the Raptors re-acquired Vince Carter.

Really full disclosure: It was a wet dream. I'm at the point where I'd be all over VC's return, like a fat Indian kid on a chicken kathi roll from Khan Chacha.

December 19, 2008

Farewell Mats

The New Delhi streets were abuzz this morning over the news. Mats Sundin is officially a Vancouver Canuck, and every man, woman, child, beggar and corrupt police officer was talking about it.

The Sundin saga is finally, mercifully over. I, for one, couldn't be happier with the outcome. I wanted Mats to go west, and he's done just that.

As fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and sports in general, we're all entitled to our own opinions. None of them are wrong. Well, except for this bullshit. I'm not even sure why I'm linking to it, but it should give you a good idea of the hatred and garbage being thrown Sundin's way.

I was expecting some serious Sundin bashing from Down Goes Brown, but he kept it real, and kept it classy, unlike the garbage linked to above, in his message to Mats. Make sure you give it a read. I think most Leafs fans share his sentiments today.

I will admit, though, that the tombstone over at PPP stung. Big time.

I think the double standard that exists when it comes to Sundin and his (in)decision was a funny one. It was alright for Sundin to be traded to Montreal, or New York, or wherever, but it was wrong for him to leave town on his own volition. The haters only wanted what was best for them.

I think DGB hit the nail on the head with the way it all went down. It was unfortunate, and Mats screwed up. He didn't need to give us a reason why he refused to be traded, and the last thing he should have said was that it was because he loved Toronto, and loved being a Maple Leaf. He had a no-trade clause, and he was using it. That would have been suffice.

I could go on and on about Sundin and how I think the fans that are roasting him today are a fickle and selfish bunch, but I've done that before, and I'm not going to down that road again. In my eyes, Mats, after giving us so much, finally looked out for himself. And I can't be mad at him for that. In time, I believe all will be forgiven.

In my dreams, Sundin has the won the Stanley Cup in a Leafs jersey thousands of times. I've always wanted to see him hoist that most beautiful trophy over his head, and that hasn't changed now that he's wearing a different blue and white sweater. Go Canucks, plain and simple.

In my ultimate fantasy, the Canucks do win the Stanley Cup this season, and Sundin wins the Conn Smythe trophy. Then, in the off-season, Mats signs a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and comes home to retire.

I'm still just as in love with Sundin as I was when we first met back in 1994. In these eyes, he will always be a Maple Leaf, and always represent Toronto. He gave us the best years of his hockey life and even though his Leafs career is over, and came to an end in a most unfortunate way, those years still mean and stand for something, damn it.

Talk badly about him if you must. Curse him. Call him a liar. Hate him. Throw shit at him. But there will never be any denying what he did in the uniform which we all adore. Like I said, in time, all will be forgiven.

I don't know about you, but I know where I'll be on February 21st. At the Air Canada Centre, in my Sundin jersey, on my feet in applause.

Good luck, Mats, and thank you. For everything.

December 16, 2008

The Motherland Beckons

By the time you read this, I will have departed for the land of my ancestors: India. She's a beautiful country, and it's been too long since I last paid her a visit. 


For the next two weeks, I'll be in and around New Delhi, hanging out with my Grandmother, drinking ample Kingfisher, and eating as much butter chicken as I can get my hands on.

I'll try and check in as often as I can to make sure that I'm fully aware of just how much the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays are letting us down.

If there's any news you think I need to know, like, I don't know, some bald, Swedish, former Maple Leafs Captain signing with the Vancouver Canucks or New York Rangers, send me an email (eyebleaf@sportsandthecity.com), and let me know. It would be much appreciated.

I'll be back on the 31st of this month to say goodbye to 2008, and usher in 2009. But hopefully you'll hear from me before then.

Cheers.

The Raycrap Report Vol. 2: Day Of Reckoning

When I heard that Andrew Raycroft would be between the pipes for Colorado last night against the Detroit Red Wings, I immediately went out and bought a party hat, and put some Bambino on ice. 


You see, I figured Raycroft was going to get shelled with the loss (I was thinking seven goals on 35 shots), waived this morning, and be languishing in the minors, where he belongs, by tonight.

I was ready for a celebration. Ready for sweet justice to be served. Ready for Raycroft to be outed once and for all as the fraudulent goaltender that I know he is.

Instead, much to my dismay (and not really to my surprise), the game didn't exactly go the way I thought it would.

Raycroft shone like never before. Or at least like he hasn't shone in a long, long, really long time. He stopped 34 of 36 shots, including 14 of 15 in the third period, and kept Detroit's top-ranked power play - humming along at 29.2% going into yesterday's game - at bay through five opportunities. Raycroft's nine saves on the penalty kill were huge, and he was, unfathomably, named the game's first star.

Andrew Raycroft. Named number one star. Let that sink in for a second.

Has that ever even happened before? I'm way too lazy to check and find out, but I'm going to have to say no. Needless to say, it was an out of body experience for the much-maligned Avalanche goaltender. It had to have been. It's the only rational explanation.

To add insult to injury, Raycrap's win came against, well, the Detroit Red Wings. You know, the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. And in Detroit, to boot, where the Wings had won five in a row.

Un-fucking-believable.

Mind-blowingly, Raycroft has now won four of the five games he's started for Colorado this season. Lest you forget, that's double his win total of last season with the Maple Leafs. Thanks to his epic performance last night, our good friend Andrew Joseph Ernest is now sporting a tidy .870 save percentage along with his four glorious victories.

Curtis Joseph, on the other hand, has yet to win a game, and is walking around with a pathetic .851 save percentage to his name.

I was dreading this day. The day Cujo's save percentage is actually lower than Raycroft's. It has arrived, and I think I'm going to be sick.

December 15, 2008

Christmas Comes Early

For Toronto FC fans, Santa Claus came down the chimney on Friday afternoon, around five o'clock. Mo Johnston has acquired Canadian international, and local boy, Dwayne De Rosario.

I don't know about you, but I was bouncing off the walls of my cubicle when the news broke. You know how I do.

De Rosario's a winner: a four-time MLS Cup champion. He's a goal scorer, an all-star, and easily becomes TFC's best, and most dangerous, player. If there's a guy to lead TFC to the playoffs!, it's the Scarborough native.

Mo Johnston's taken a lot of heat in Toronto for not delivering on his promise to bring a big name to The Big Smoke, but De Rosario's about as big as it gets in MLS. So, let's all give Mo a J.P. Ricciardi-like general manager's reprieve. You know, good for one more year.

For those of you not too familiar with DeRo's MLS exploits, check out the following video. I saw it over at The 24th Minute, where Duane Rollins is your host, and, well, I must share (remember, sharing is caring). The clip is a small window into the incredible talent that is Dwayne De Rosario and, like Rollins says, only the final replay gives it justice. Enjoy:



Filthy goal, wasn't it? Needless to say, it's going to be a lot of fun watching DeRo at BMO Field next summer.

Thank you Mo Johnston Santa Claus, and Merry Christmas TFC fans.

And, welcome home, DeRo.

December 13, 2008

Happiness Is Watching Vince Carter Suck

Vince Carter went zero for 13 from the floor last night.

That's a shooting percentage of: 0%

He finished with three points, all from the charity stripe.

He had as many turnovers as he did points.

It was the worst shooting performance of his career (0%).

The Nets shot 31% from the field. Carter didn't exactly help the cause (0%).

The Raptors won 101-79, the type of beating they've been on the receiving end of far too many times this season. Last night they dished out the bitch slap instead of taking it. I must say, it's definitely more fun that way.

If all of that doesn't bring a smile to your face, you have no soul.

Remember, if you're looking for excellent Toronto Raptors coverage, check out RaptorBlog and Dino Nation Blog, my TheScore.com Sports Federation brethren. And, of course, statistics lover T.Jose Caldeford. 

What A Surprise...

You know the memo about that whole "global financial crisis" thing? The New York Yankees didn't get it. Their fax machine is broken, and they haven't checked their email in forever.


To the surprise of absolutely no one, everyone's favourite former Toronto Blue Jay A.J. Burnett is Bronx bound. Five years, $82.5 million. As David Putty would say: "yeah that's right."

In three days, the Yankees have shelled out $243.5 million dollars for Burnett and Fat. Fat. Sabathia. 

That's a quarter of a billion dollars. That's fucked up. But business as usual in New York, I guess.

I ain't mad at A.J. It was probably best that we go our separate ways, and I said goodbye a long time ago. And let's not kid ourselves, he ain't no fool. You and I both know we have taken that deal as well. A.J. had to follow the money, and I'm happy for him. The Burnett clan will be taken care of for many a generation.

It's the Yankees who are foolish. It's the Yankees who deserve to be punished by the baseball Gods for offering an injury plagued soon-to-be 32-year-old a five-year deal.

It's nothing personal, and I wish A.J. all the luck in the world, but I want him to be an even bigger bust than Carl Pavano was in pinstripes. I want Burnett to struggle. Badly. I want the bright lights of New York to mess with him. I want A.J. to hit that disabled list, and hit it early and often.

As I watch the Yankees spend crazy ducats while the Jays shop at the free agency thrift store (see Clement, Matt) and shed payroll, I'm reminded why I hate New York, the entire Steinbrenner family (yes, even the grandchildren), and everything the Yankees stand for.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to Roy Halladay vs. A.J. Burnett, Blue Jays vs. Yankees, at the Rogers Centre next summer. I'm definitely going to be there. And I'll probably be booing. Here's hoping Doc teaches A.J. a lesson or two, or ten.

I think Stoeten of Drunk Jays Fans stardom said it best about our friends down in the Big Apple, and pardon the language:

"Honestly...Yankees, Yankee fans, friends and relatives of Yankees fans, please, for the love of fucking Christ, go fuck the fucking fuck out of your fucking selves."

Amen, Stoeten, you crazy mother sucker. Can't anybody put it any better than that. 

See you on the other side, Allan James.

We Finally Got A...

It's true. It's official. We've "sold out." Advertisements are now a part of your Sports And The City experience.


Let me tell you, it wasn't about the best offer on the table. It was about the only offer on the table.

In all seriousness, I'm proud to announce that Sports And The City is the newest member of the Sports Federation, TheScore.com's new network of sports bloggers.

It's an honour. 

I mean, the first thing I did when I received the email from TheScore was run upstairs from the basement and tell my mom the good news. She was ecstatic.


You'll notice a new header at the top of the page, along with a drop down menu to the other sites in the Federation. Some of them we know very well - Ghostrunner on First, RaptorBlog, Down Goes Brown, and Drunk Jays Fans - and others you should get to know, much like I am. 

TheScore.com's venture is yet another example of the quality writing that exists out here on Al Gore's internet, and I'm excited to be a part of it. 

So, a big thank you goes out to TheScore for giving me the opportunity to spread my devout homerism. The more eyes over here, the better. And a big thank you also goes out to you, the reader, and to you, the commenter. Without you, I'd have probably packed up and left town a few months ago. You are appreciated, more than you'll ever know.

Remember, the content isn't going to change around here now that I've joined the Federation. So don't mind the ads. Just click on 'em.

December 10, 2008

Change You Can Believe In...

Change is on its way, my friends, to Sports And The City. 

And I'm not just talking about the SATC banner, this time. 

We're moving on up to the East Side, so if you come by and can't access the site for a little bit, do not be alarmed. We'll be back up and running in no time.

Stay tuned.

Cleveland Cavaliers 114 Toronto Raptors 94

Yeah, that's about right.

What the hell is Lebron even doing in that picture? Whatever it is, it can only be done against the Raptors.

I need a hug.

Or a drink.

December 09, 2008

Deep Thoughts Vol. 16: Descent Into Madness...

Winter has arrived in Toronto. The kind of cold that chills you to the bone. And with it, the realization that as sports fans in this great, but frigid, city, our nuclear winter is upon us.


It's the perfect storm.

Think about it. 

The only team the Maple Leafs can beat these days is the New York Islanders. I don't know about you, but last night's match-up was pretty depressing. I had a hard time, uh, getting up for that one.

Jeremy Williams did bring some enjoyment, however. He did what he always does in his first game up from the AHL: score. On top of his goal, he made Jason Blake look pretty good too, and that is no easy task, my friends. 

Blake killed my Williams-induced buzz by fist-pumping away like a jackass, again. Because, you know, the battle for 12th place in the Eastern Conference is just a riot. Idiot.

The Leafs have won 10 of 28 games. Cliff Fletcher wasn't kidding - it's going to be a long, arduous winter. All I have to look forward to, albeit very grudgingly, is the return Brian Burke must inevitably fetch for Tomas Kaberle. I only pray that Burke finds Kabby a good home. 

I've come to the realization that if I can deal with Mats Sundin leaving, I can deal with anything. Even Tomas. But that doesn't mean he won't take a piece of my heart with him when he walks out that door.

Think about it.

The Toronto Blue Jays are in Las Vegas, at baseball's annual winter meetings, with nary a penny to spend. In Vegas, with no loot. Can you imagine a fate more unjust? No money for the tables, no money for the Rhino, and certainly no money for top-tier free agents. My heart aches simply thinking about it.

I'm not the only one losing sleep over the fate of the local nine (I love calling them that). I'm beginning to worry about The Tao of Stieb, for real.

A.J. Burnett? Yeah, we're still talking about him. Sign elsewhere already, man.

Rafael Furcal? It's possible. Although I still don't think Marco Scutaro at shortstop is what's wrong with the 2009 Blue Jays.

Just pray that J.P. Ricciardi does something. Anything. For sanity's sake. I mean, I'm not calling for a John Thomspon signing like The Tao, but at this point, I'm all for signing Carl Pavano. Yes, even Carl Pavano. Such are the times. Frugality rules the day.

Think about it.

The Toronto Raptors have lost four in a row, and seven of their last 10. They sit in the basement of the division which they won only two years ago. Three games back of the New Jersey Nets, and a half game behind the New York Knicks. Yes, even the supremely dysfunctional Knickerbockers are sporting a better record than our dinosaurs.

If the Raptors regressed last year, what the hell are they doing this year? Re-regressing? This is not the way Bryan Colangelo drew it up, that's for sure.

Chris Bosh and company are in Lebronland, to face the 17-3 Cavaliers, tonight. I'm putting the savings on the line pretty sure that Jay Triano is going to have to wait a little bit longer for that first win. Do the right thing, and cover the eyes of the children. They don't need to see this one.

Think about it.

Even the Buffalo Bills' season came to Toronto to die.

Brace yourselves, people. Stay warm. Stay sane. Good luck, and Godspeed. 

December 07, 2008

Superstar Dreaming...

I watched a lot of Joe Thornton this past week. On Tuesday when his Sharks spanked our Maple Leafs, and last night on Hockey Night in Canada. Thornton's, umm, pretty damn good.


I don't think the folks in San Jose understand just how lucky they are to have him. I don't think Joe Thornton is fully appreciated down south.

Imagine Thornton in a Leafs uniform.

As days go by, I find myself longing for a superstar. As I turn the page on the Mats Sundin years, I find myself longing for a player who can simply dominate the game.

You know, a Thornton, or a Jarome Iginla, Vinny Lecavalier, Henrik Zetterberg, or an Alex Ovechkin.

Don't get me wrong, the Sundin years were tremendous. There wasn't a more consistent mother sucker than Mats to ever wear the blue and white. Sundin was who he was: a point-per-game performer. And considering the talent that he was surrounded with, that's an accomplishment in itself. I mean, he made Mike Johnson a 20-goal scorer, for crying out loud. While Sundin was a "superstar," he wasn't a "superstar superstar," you know what I'm saying?

I want a guy on the Leafs who can challenge for the Art Ross, and the Hart. I want a guy who simply, well, runs shit.

I want Joe Thornton.

And I'll be honest, I cried myself to sleep last night. Matt Stajan, after all, leads the Leafs in scoring.

Last I checked, he ain't no Thornton.

December 06, 2008

Same Shit, Different Coach

It was great to see the Toronto Raptors respond to the firing of their head coach Sam Mitchell. Instead of getting hammered by 39 points like they did on Tuesday night, the Raptors lost to Utah by only 27. That, my friends, is what I like to call progress.


Jay Triano, welcome to hell.

I wonder if Bryan Colangelo still thinks this is the most talented Raptors squad he's ever put together. He can't possibly believe that anymore. I mean, I've convinced myself of some crazy shit over the years, but let's forget contending. It's looking more and more like this Raptors team is going to have to fight for its life just to qualify for the playoffs.

Much like Tuesday's debacle, last night was no contest. The Jazz shot 52% from the field and dominated the boards, outrebounding the Raptors 52-38.

I caught the game on radio. If I had a nickel for every time I heard "Calderon gets beat," I'm pretty sure I'd have enough coin for a pint or two of Cameron's over at The Bow and Arrow.

It was another pathetic defensive performance by the Raps on a night when I figured they would come out with, at the very least, some intensity, heart and desire. You know, all that intangible bullshit. But, nope, the Raptors couldn't be bothered. Utah scored 66 of their points in the paint, for Christ's sake.

Jazz forward Paul Millsap, in 33 minutes on the floor, had as many offensive rebounds as the entire Raptors team: three. And your guess as to who this Millsap fellow is is probably as good as mine.

After yesterday's performance, I guess we can all rest assured knowing that what ails the 2008/2009 Toronto Raptors was clearly Sam Mitchell manning the sidelines.

December 05, 2008

Disrespect

Tomas Kaberle was utterly disrespected and embarrassed by coach Ron Wilson last night. And I'm not fucking happy about it.


For those of you that missed last night's quasi-late contest between the Leafs and the Phoenix Coyotes, Kaberle was in uniform, but didn't see a shift - not one - in the first period.

Apparently Ron Wilson was trying to send a message to his beleaguered defenceman. And it didn't work. Wilson's experiment was, as my good friend MF37 called it in an email after the game, an "epic failure." Kaberle saw 13:45 of action in periods two and three, and was downright awful. Can you blame him? Kabby was singled out by his coach in front of his teammates, and all of us watching on television. Wilson's brilliant plan backfired.

Before you get your panties all tied up in a knot, let me be the first to admit that Kaberle hasn't been playing up to the standards expected of him this season. He's performed poorly. On numerous occasions over the last couple of months, after another puck has found its way into the back of the Maple Leafs' net, I've texted my brother asking him, "what the fuck was Kaberle doing on that play?!?"

But that doesn't give Wilson the right to humiliate Tomas in front of all of his teammates. Believe me, I get that Wilson is trying to send his message of accountability far and wide, but why wasn't Kaberle banished to the press box, much like Matt Stajan and Jason Blake were earlier in the season? I honestly would have had no problem with that. I do have a problem with Kaberle, one of Toronto's leaders, suiting up and sitting on the bench for 40 minutes, freezing his Czech Republican ass off.

It was a disgusting move on Wilson's part. A part of me honestly believes that embarrassing Kaberle was a way to force his hand. A way to make sure that he agrees to waive his no trade clause when he's inevitably asked to do so.

Kabby's only human, just like you and I. He feels pain. Imagine how he felt setting on the bench. Surely his Maple Leafs career was flashing before his very eyes. Imagine how he felt in the dressing room in the first intermission. Surely he was thinking about the no-trade in his clause in his contract. Imagine how he felt trying to look his teammates in the eye. Kabby deserved more than that.

Unbelievably, it actually got worse for Tomas. It wasn't enough for Wilson to bench him, and then have him play like the second coming of Andy Wozniewksi. Nope, Wilson had to take a shot at him after the game as well. When asked if he was trying to send a message to #15, Wilson said yes, and that Kabby sent a message back with his -3 performance. In my humble and pissed off opinion, Wilson set Kaberle up to fail last night, and then had the nerve to call him out in the media. Stay classy, Ron, you asshole.

I've also got to voice my disappointment in some of my fellow Leafs fans over at PPP, who seem to, as MF37 put it, take a "perverse delight" in seeing my main man Kaberle struggle, and get benched. You guys know who you are. I guess it pleases you to see another member of our beloved team reach his lowest value in terms of a trade. Bring on more of the Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger references, fellas. That shit never gets old.

Clearly it's Tomas Kaberle's fault that Toronto can't keep the puck out of their own net. Clearly it's Kabby's fault that Toskala's sporting a pathetic .882 save percentage. Clearly it's Tomas' fault the Leafs can kill only 75% of their penalties.

I love how Ron Wilson preaches to the choir about accountability, while he coaches the worst defensive team in hockey. Where's his accountability?

I'm off Wilson. Huge.

December 04, 2008

Deep Thoughts Vol. 15: Dark Days

It's been a rough 48 hours in Toronto; my city, and my home. Teams are losing, owners are dying, hard-working people are getting laid off, and coaches are getting fired. Me? I blame the economy.


Farewell SMitch

Bryan Colangelo finally dropped the hammer. You know, no word of a lie, I woke up Wednesday morning knowing that Mitchell was in the final hours of his tenure as lead Raptor. After Tuesday night's epic fail, the writing was on the proverbial wall.

This one falls into the "You can't fire the players so you've got to fire the coach" category, period. Colangelo had to do something, especially after the Denver Nuggets ran roughshod all over his team. That might have been the most embarrassing 48 minutes in Toronto basketball history.

There are a lot of people in Toronto who are happy today, and celebrating Mitchell's departure. I read a lot of shit on Facebook last night - "Good riddance Uncle Sam," "This is where I become a Raptors fan," "Finally! I can start cheering for the Raps again!" - and to these people I say: you're an idiot, your anger and frustration is aimed at the wrong person.

Bryan Colangelo is the one to blame. Yes, the same Bryan Colangelo whom I have perfomed verbal fellatio on many times in this very space. Like I said, the honeymoon is over. 

Just look at the Toronto roster. Even with Chris Bosh playing like a man possessed, Jose Calderon playing like, well, Jose Calderon, and Andrea Bargnani playing decent ball, the team still stinks. The worry about Colangelo's prized off-season possession Jermain O'Neal was that he can't stay healthy and, surprise surprise, he can't. And the problem on the wing has been evident since opening night.

Not even Red Auerbach himself could get the Raptors to meet the lofty, yet extremely unrealistic, expectations that have been placed on them. 

Coaching, in my humble opinion, can only go so far. The Raptors plain and simple can't defend. The team is allowing more than 100 points a game, and I don't think that's because of Mitchell's defensive schemes. Sam isn't the one out on the court falling for every single God damn pump fake.

Is Jay Triano the answer? I love him, but only to the Jeapordy question "Who was the first Canadian head coach of an NBA team?"

On an aside, anyone else kind of miss T.J. Ford, and 48 minutes of glorious point guard play? I do. Largely because Will Soloman is the devil.

I'm going to miss Sam. I'll miss his personality, his candor. He was good people. It's unfortunate the SMitch era had to come to an end this way, and that Raptors fans are taking petty parting shots at him as he leaves town. They don't speak for all of us, Sam.

And I would also like to point out that, for the record, the fellas over at The Passion That Frustrates Us All saw SMitch's firing coming from a mile away. Bastards.

Man, that 2007 division title feels like it was 10 years ago, doesn't it?

R.I.P. Mr. Rogers

Toronto Blue Jays owner, Ted Rogers, had his contract expire early Tuesday morning. He was 75 years old. May the media mogul rest in peace. 

Uncle Teddy was a shrewd businessman, and God knows his family is well taken care of. I mean, have you ever stopped to think how much money Rogers Wireless makes just off the mysterious System Access Fee?

In all seriousness, there were times years ago when the fate of the Blue Jays was in question. Were it not for Rogers and his deep pockets, this city could very well have lost its baseball team. So, thank you, Uncle Ted. May the family name continue to prosper.

Holiday Cheer

Hours after the team's owner checked out for the afterlife, the Blue Jays showed 24 front-office employees the door. Yes, the Christmas spirit is alive and well down at the Rogers Centre. Make sure to swing by the Cable Box when you're out singing Oh Holy Night.

Fucking economy. I'm scared.

"They Are Who We Thought They Were!"

Really, is there a more apt quote than that from Dennis Green about the San Jose Sharks? That's one sexy hockey team. I won't lie, I fantasized about them last night.

December 02, 2008

Getting The Girl...

We won. And I'm not talking about last night's Leafs game, although strong goaltending and solid penalty killing sure are a beautiful thing, aren't they? Swoon.


Nope, I'm talking about my good friend Wrap Around Curl.

You see, back in July, Wrap put her fandom up on the block. She lost her beloved Vancouver Canucks in a break up and was looking for something new, something exciting. She was ready to turn the page.

That's where the Toronto Maple Leafs came into the equation. I mean, who in their right mind wouldn't want to be a Leafs fan? We've got it all, including an eventual Stanley Cup (read: Brian Burke).

But let me tell you, the wooing process was a lengthy one. I'm talking roses, candy, alcohol, ponies, muffins, unicorns, teddy bears, puppies; you name it. Many a sweet nothings were whispered into Wrap's ear.

In the end, she was worth it. All of it.

Wrap was supposed to deliver a "grand declaration." In fact, I'm still waiting for it. So I'm going to go ahead and do my girl a solid, and declare this one for her.

You see, there's a certain studly defenceman that Wrap is watching with her beloved NHL Center Ice Package. One who makes her panties drop with only the snap of his fingers. One who sealed the deal.

Thank you, Luke Schenn. You were our secret weapon.

The search is over my friends. The Toronto Maple Leafs are Wrap's new team. We, the Toronto Maple Leafs blogosphere Barilkosphere, are victorious. Winner, by unanimous decision.

Wrap, make it official in the comments section. You know it's all you have left to do.

And welcome to Leafs Nation, honey. It'll be a bumpy ride, but those are the best kind, if you know what I'm saying.

December 01, 2008

Go West, Mats


Like the Pet Shop Boys said, life is peaceful there. Peaceful, as in, across the country from the Toronto media, and a few bitter Maple Leafs fans. And that jersey looks familiar. Blue and white, with just a touch of green.

I know what you're thinking: "here we go again." But as Sundin's Secretary of Defence, I've got to weigh in once more on everyone's favourite former captain.

Now that the man, the myth, and the legend known as Brian Burke has officially landed in town - "it's one small step for man, but one giant leap for the Maple Leafs"- Sundin is back in the news. Apparently the Leafs don't exactly fit the profile of team he's looking to join.

Well, no shit.

Mats is 37. He'll be 38 in February. It's December. I don't see him suiting up for game action until January. He's looking for a place to play for four months. Of course he's not coming to Toronto. Why would he? The Leafs are terrible.

Once again, however, Leafs fans are chastising him. Now that it's looking like his Leafs career is truly over, the vultures are back, and circling. Chemmy, one of the great Pension Plan Puppeteers, had this to say after Burke said Sundin likely won't be coming back to the nest:
"Fuck Sundin. Way to not take a deadline trade, like an asshole."
That comment gets to me. I mean, really gets to me. That sense of entitlement. That Sundin, because he was asked, owed it to us, all of us Toronto Maple Leafs fans out there, to accept a trade out of town when he didn't want to go.

You know why he didn't want to go? Because he believed that the team - his team - could still make the playoffs. Yeah, what an asshole.
 
Of course, fans like Chemmy will argue that at issue is not the fact that Sundin is not returning, but that he is looking for short-term employment elsewhere. Mats did say, after all, that he did not want to be a rental player, and that he wanted to be a part of the "journey" from day one.

I'll be the first to admit that I can't much defend those statements. No matter where Sundin signs, he will be a rental player. And he will not have been a part of the journey since day one. But, hey, that's life. Things change. Sometimes things don't work out the way we plan for them to work out. Deal with it. Let it go. Perhaps Sundin really did think he would return to Toronto. Perhaps he believed he really was ready for retirement. The truth is, we'll never know.

None of this, however, tarnishes Sundin's legacy in these eyes. And it shouldn't in yours. Mats went down with the sinking ship. Don't forget that. 

And Brian Burke is right. Sundin's a better man for staying on the sidelines this season instead of collecting a paycheck when his heart isn't in the game. 

My good friend MF37 over at Bitter Leaf Fan Page has, amidst all the Sundin fallout, been asking a great question: where's the hatred for Darcy Tucker? I was as big a Tucker fan as they came, but I'm beginning to ask myself that question as well. Why are people still all over Sundin, when Tucker also didn't waive his no-trade clause, and saddled the Leafs with a cap hit? 

Tucker, a warrior yes, was a perpetual minus hockey player. He had become a one-trick pony on the power play and a liability five-on-five. The Leafs are now paying $1 million a year against the salary cap for him not to play in Toronto, and will be until 2013. Yet everyone's still pissed at Sundin, who only went about his point-per-game business for, oh, the last 15 God damn years, because he wouldn't leave.

It's unbelievable, really, how fans in this town think sometimes.

I've got no issues with Sundin joining Montreal, New York, or Chicago. But I want him to become a Canuck. Although the fellas at CoxBloc would probably disagree, Vancouver's a wonderful city. A laid-back Toronto, some say. The Canucks are sitting atop the Northwest Division, and Sundin would look great between the Sedin sisters. When Roberto Luongo comes back from his injury, the Canucks could really use Mats' offence down the stretch.

It pains me that I never got to properly say goodbye to Mats, but it's cool. I want him to go west. I want him to try and win that Cup. I'm truly beginning to think that, thanks to a few petty, bitter fans in this city, we don't deserve him anyway.

November 30, 2008

That's All She Wrote...

For the Toronto Buffalo Bills. After an embarrassing 10-3 loss to the God damn San Francisco 49ers, the Bills can kiss their once promising playoff hopes goodbye.


Seriously, the 49ers? The 3-8 49ers? At the frigid Ralph? You've got to be kidding me.

And what the hell is a 49er anyway?

All of a sudden the Bills are dead last in the AFC East. Yes, looking up in the standings at even the Miami Dolphins. It's pretty clear that another team that I lovingly and wholeheartedly support will not be going to the playoffs. Shocking. Absolutely shocking. I blame the universe. 

For the Bills, it's nine years and counting since they last played in the post-season. They're no Toronto Blue Jays (15 years, and counting), but they're well on their way.

I need a drink.

*UPDATE*   I've done my own homework. According to WikiAnswers (I always trust the internet): "The team (SF 49ers) was named after the age of the actual 49'ers, citizens of the USA who flocked out West in the years surrounding 1849 to prospect for gold. The transient homesteaders were often referred to as 49'ers and helped build the West. As they came and stayed, railroads were built, cities went up and the West became the new frontier."

Isn't that lovely?

As my buddy Mike just said, cue NBC's The More You Know star.

Oh yeah, the Bills. OK, they can still make the playoffs. Games against Miami, the Jets, and New England are still to be played. Buffalo controls its own destiny, in a sense. They must beat their divisional opponents.

The chances are remote. Especially if Trent Edwards isn't ready to go next week. But there's still a chance, and I thrive on hope. And the eventual disappointment.

I guess that makes me Eyebilleaf (as coined by my good friend Dani).

Undefeated...

Under Brian Burke. Just saying.


Oh, and Vesa's back. The real Vesa. It's a celebration!

November 29, 2008

Sharing Is Caring

That's what I was taught since I was but a little tyke and, dammit, my mother raised me right.


With that life lesson in mind, I urge you, all my fellow baseball, Toronto Blue Jays, and Roy Halladay fans, to go and check out A Day in the Life Existence of Roy Halladay, penned by Ghostrunner on First's Lloyd the Barber.

It is, as The Tao of Stieb wrote in the comments, the "post of the year." The Ack left a gem in the comments section too, so make sure you check it out as well.

My favourite part of Doc's day would have to be his 5:45 AM workout:
"Begin first set of daily calisthenics. Strap on aerobic truck tire and attach 14 pounds of raw, bloodied steak to said truck tire. Release hounds. Run. Collect and kennel starving, exhausted dogs."
Lloyd the Barber and The Reverend hold it down over at Ghostrunner on First. The blog, definitely one of the better Blue Jays ones out there, has also joined TheScore.com's Sports Federation, and the words above their new site advertisements ring true throughout all the lands: "Eatin ain't Cheatin'." Good on you, fellas.

Go and read the post, and add the Ghostrunner to your RSS. That post, it's why we blog. It's why we read blogs. You're not going to find that type of golden material anywhere but on Al Gore's internet.

*Picture courtesy of Sportsnet.ca. Don't sue me, yo. 

November 26, 2008

Fun Is Overrated

Ask my fellow Maple Leafs followers about this year's squad and you're sure to get back one response: "the team sure is fun to watch!" You know what? Fuck "fun."


I don't know what's fun about watching my team let in three, four, five, and six goals every night. I don't know what's fun about leading the league in goals against, and having the league's worst shorthanded unit.

You know what's a lot of fun? Defence. Even more fun than that? Killing a penalty.

I know, the Leafs' goaltending has been bad. OK, worse than that. Downright Raycroftian. Vesa Toskala and Curtis "Old Yeller" Joseph have collaborated on a 3.51 goals against average, and a .869 save percentage. Joseph's stats, frightening to begin with, actually got worse after last night's shelling. He's now sporting a tidy 3.95 GAA and an .851 save percentage. Even Raycroft is laughing at him. As was discussed over at Pension Plan Puppets, "Old Yeller" Cujo needs to be put down.

Our "magicians of the meshed mansions," as Joe Bowen would say, are not getting the job done. They are brutal. But the goalie in me isn't going to sit back and let my peeps in the blue paint shoulder all the blame. Where's the help? The Leafs, as has been the norm post-lockout, are atrocious defensively, and once again look lost beyond their own blue line.

Where's the coaching? I thought Ron Wilson was a defence-oriented cat. Did I read the wrong memo? Right now I can't tell the difference between Wilson and Paul Maurice.

Look, I know we're rebuilding. I know this team isn't very good. I have no problem with losing, as long as the effort is there. I'd just rather lose 2-1, than 6-3. I mean, it's infuriating to see this Leafs team spot their opposition two-nothing leads on the regular, and blow three-nothing leads and lose in overtime. It's maddeningly frustrating to see the Leafs dead last in penalty killing efficiency, with a 73.5% "success" rate. If 23 other teams can be at the 80% or better mark, why can't we?

Where is the defensive accountability?

What makes the Leafs' struggles in their own end all the more difficult to swallow is the fact that, one quarter into the season, this team has proven it can score. Toronto is one of only eight teams averaging over three goals a game.

I think Ron Wilson has done great things in the dressing room. He's brought change, Obama style. I loved how he benched Matt Stajan, and now has him playing the best hockey of his life. Wilson keeps it real and, if you're not performing (see Blake, Jason), you're not playing. But Mr. Wilson has failed to deliver on his promise to make the Leafs a tougher team to play against, especially on home ice. The personnel has changed, but the results are just more of the same: fishing the puck out of the back of the net on a regular basis. And, let me tell you, I'm not finding it much fun to watch.

On Brian Burke

Speaking of fun, to no one's surprise, it's all but official now. I don't know what the hell took so long either.

One thing: only in Toronto can the interim general manager make a trade the day before the savior is hired. Definitely only in Toronto. You know how we do!

I'm torn on Mr. Burke. I'll be honest, what scares me the most is that high atop his priority list will be shipping Tomas Kaberle out of town. Burke's an intimidating cat. I don't doubt for a second that he'll "convince" Kabby to waive his no-trade clause. I know Kabby hasn't had a fantastic season so far, but the thought of him leaving, regardless of what we get in return, pains me greatly.

No matter, I do welcome Burke to town with open arms. Let's see what he can do. After the tenure of John Ferguson Jr., things can only get better. JFJ took us to hell. We've seen it. We've endured. We've survived. When you're at the bottom, the only place left to go is up. Do your thing, Brian.

November 25, 2008

Bittersweet

You know, I've never been good at saying goodbye. I'm an emotional cat, I get attached easily. Carlo Colaiacovo, Alex Steen, and me, we had big plans together. Big plans. It's a shame they'll never come to light.


The trade caught me by surprise. I guess they always do, eh?

Lee Stempniak, welcome to Toronto. By all accounts, the Maple Leafs got the most accomplished player in this deal. Stemps is only two seasons removed from a 25-goal campaign, and he's producing at just under a point-per-game clip so far this season.

I'm high on Stemps and am looking forward to seeing him in the lineup tonight, but this here is about my boys Carlo and Alex.

I know Carlo's hurting right now. Yep, he was injured yesterday. Again. The diagnosis? A broken heart. Carlo's a local boy, and he was living the dream playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He's going to be hurting for a while.

It just never happened for Cola here in Toronto, and I wish I knew why. The injuries, the frustration, the expectations. It was a crazy time. It's hard to believe that Colaiacovo, drafted way back in 2001, played only 111 games in the blue and white.

When he was on the ice, Carlo was a warrior. He never changed his style, injuries be damned. He played with a reckless abandon, and that's a big reason why he was in and out of the lineup. I loved that he was always looking for the clean, open-ice bodycheck, and that he was the first guy to step in for a fallen teammate.

I'll miss you, Carlo. I'll miss those hits the most. I hope you tear the roof off in St. Louis, and become the defensive stalwart I know you can be. Good luck, fella.

Oh, Alex Steen. Where did we go wrong, bro? Give me a second. There's, uh, something in my eye.

I remember Steen's rookie season like it was yesterday. He outscored rookies like Philly's Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, while playing wingman to one Mats Sundin. It looked like we'd found a left winger who would patrol the flank in Toronto for years and years to come.

Steen scored 30 goals combined in his next two seasons but, for some reason, we were always left wanting more. Looking back, I guess we wanted him to explode much like Carter and Richards did.

Perhaps expectations weighed Alex down, and perhaps they were too high from the very beginning. A late first-round pick, Steen came to Toronto with claims that he would be just like Dad, Thomas Steen, and that he might one day captain the Leafs, once Sundin passed on the torch.

John Ferguson Jr. thought so highly of Steen that he refused to send Alex, along with Tomas Kaberle, to Edmonton for Chris Pronger. I can't imagine that made Steen's life any easier.

I hope Alex Steen's tenure in Toronto is a lesson to all of us. We've got to keep our expectations in check.

Steen's got a bright future down in St. Louis. He's a great skater, with a fantastic release, a great forechecker, and a guy who can play a solid two-way game, while putting up 50 points. Did we give up on him? Maybe. But, sometimes, you've just got to go your separate ways.

Cheers, Carlo and Alex. May you one day sip from the sweet chalice known as success.

November 24, 2008

Wendel Clark: The Anti Roy

Wendel Clark was honoured by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, not because he won multiple Stanley Cups, or had a Hall of Fame type career. Nope, Wendel was honoured because of the way he played the game.


If there was ever a guy who played hockey "the right way," it was Clark. It's probably the ultimate sports cliche, but Wendel left everything out on the ice, every single time he stepped on it.

No matter how bad some of those Toronto Maple Leafs teams were back in the day - and some of them were really, really bad - Clark played every game as if it were game seven of the Stanley Cup finals; as if it were his last. 

Patrick Roy was also honoured on Saturday night. By Montreal, and rightfully so. He had one hell of a career. Arguably the greatest goalie to ever play the game. Quite the resume: four Stanley Cups, three Conn Smythe trophies, and three Vezina trophies. 

But you know how I'll remember him? As a douchebag, for pulling that shit in Montreal back on December 2nd, 1995. You remember, don't you? That fateful night, when he was absolutely pounded by the Detroit Red Wings; when his career with the Habs came to a crashing halt.

Patrick Roy. What a drama queen. What a diva. What a quitter. Roy actually had the nerve, right after he was yanked from the game and still on the bench, to walk up to the team president of les Canadiens and say that he'd never again play for le bleu, blanc et rouge. It still amazes me. And all because his personal pride took a little bit of a spanking.

Poor guy, that Roy. Somebody pass me the Kleenex.

You know what else I'll remember about St. Patrick? His decision to not play for Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics. You know, because he wasn't handed the starting goaltending job, on a silver fucking platter, from the get go.

Classy guy, that Roy.

Patrick and Wendel. Two men, with two very different narratives, honoured by two storied hockey clubs. 

Roy had to be reaccepted by the Canadiens family for it to go down. Fucking drama queen. Clark loved being a Toronto Maple Leaf so much he came back home. Twice. He is a Maple Leaf. To the core of his being. It's what defines him.

That's the difference between the two men. Roy played for himself. Wendel Clark never, not once, thought of himself as bigger than the Toronto Maple Leafs, or his teammates, or the game. He was a warrior on the ice, but he played with humility, and it was on full display once again during Saturday night's ceremony. No matter what Rosie DiManno says, Clark deserved his moment at centre ice.

You know how I'll remember Wendel Clark? As the ultimate team player. I'll remember Wendel's wrist shots, and his thundering body checks. I'll remember him as the farm boy from Saskatchewan who captured the big city's collective heart. Most of all, though, I'll remember Clark as the guy who played for the logo on his jersey, the Maple Leaf, instead of the name on his back.

Thanks for the memories, Wendel. Number 17 looks great up in the rafters, where it belongs, for all eternity...

I'm assuming by now that you've checked out the full list, the Top 17 Wendel Clark Moments, over at Down Goes Brown. If you haven't, what the fuck are you waiting for? It's a wonderful trip down memory lane. And take some Kleenex, because something is going to, uh, get caught in your eye.

Oh, and props out to Down Goes Brown for joining TheScore.com's new Sports Federation. I may not agree with the man on many fronts, but that doesn't mean I don't know his blog is one of the best out there. And we all gotta pay the bills. Good on you, DGB.

November 22, 2008

Hate...


isn't strong enough a word to describe my feelings toward Vincent Lamar Carter. A painful loss, in more ways than one.

Fuck.

November 21, 2008

It's Official: I'm Depressed


The onset of winter has me, once again, questioning why I live in this God forsaken city. I hate when Mother Nature whores it up tundra style in fucking November. To add to my malaise, it's official: Manny Ramirez will not become a Toronto Blue Jay this winter.

The dream is dead. J.P. Ricciardi killed it. I know, it was the longest of long shots to begin with and, deep down, I knew it wasn't going to happen. But, well, still. I could have done without J.P. flat out saying "We won't be involved with Manny," and completely ruining my Thursday afternoon. Asshole.

Alright, so Manny won't be donning powder blue. But J.P. will sign one of Jason Giambi or Milton Bradley instead, right?


This is where I get confused. I hate Jason Giambi. With a passion. I hate his steroid-abusing ways, and the fact that he only came clean after he got caught. I hate the stache. I hate that he was a Yankee. But I'd welcome him to Toronto with open arms. That's how much I want his bat (that's what she said).

The same goes for Milton Bradley. The man is a lunatic, but I can't say no to that 2008 163 OPS+.

J.P. Ricciardi certainly has more will power than I.

OK, the kids, Adam Lind and Travis Snider, will play left field and DH. That's cool. All part of the plan. J.P. will use the money he's got at his disposal and plug some holes in the rotation via free agency. Brad Penny, perhaps. Or Derek Lowe. A flier on Jon Garland. Maybe even Pedro Martinez, or Randy Johnson.

Right?

Wrong. None of those guys are on J.P.'s radar. Nobody is. Clearly J.P.'s radar is broken because he's got to be shitting me when he says that he, the Jays, and, by cause and effect, me, are going to be sitting out the free agent frenzy. 

There is one, uh, minor exception. A contract, on lovely Blue Jays stationary and worth $54 million over four years, is currently lost amongst more lucrative offers atop A.J. Burnett's agent's desk. But I simply can't imagine Burnett signing on Toronto's dotted line. He'll take more money, and a chance to play with Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera, in the new Yankee Stadium. No hard feelings. I'd take the fattest cheque, too.

I do truly wish for Burnett to stay in the AL East. I want the Jays to face him. A lot. I want the Jays to beat him. I want Roy Halladay to beat him. Ideally, I want him to watch Toronto make the playoffs. And I want to watch him inevitably hit the disabled list (seriously, no hard feelings).

If it were up to me, I'd take all that A.J. money, plus some more, pack it in suitcases, and show up at ManRam's door. Make like Jerry Maguire, you know, and show him the money. Make him an offer he can't refuse.

J.P.'s got to do something. A winter watching on the sidelines is not acceptable, and will not be tolerated. It just might make Richard Griffin's head explode. 

For once, I find myself hoping that Ricciardi is actually lying this time.

November 18, 2008

Ron Wilson Hates Alex Steen

Ian White played 17:04 in last night's loss to the first-place (!) Boston Bruins. In stark contrast, Alex Steen saw only 09:58 of ice time.


As much as Matt Stajan has made strides this season, Alex Steen has regressed. It's cause for concern.

I understand that Steen isn't being put in offensive situations, but in a rebuilding year where development is priority number one, shouldn't he be? Steen's got the potential to be a top six forward and in order for him to become one, he's got to play.

So what's the deal, why isn't Steen playing more? Did he call Ron Wilson a pimp, or something? I'd love to hear coach explain. As great as Wilson has been, the facts don't lie, and this Leafs team isn't all that good. Sure, we can score, but the defence sucks and the penalty killing is atrocious. It pains me to say it, but Damien Cox is on to something, and Wilson doesn't deserve a free ride. No way, not when the team is killing penalties only 72% of the time (I just threw up in my mouth). And, yes, I know, the goaltending has been pretty awful. But still. I think it's time we put down our Wilson Kool-Aid cups. 

I'm not sure what the options are when it comes to Alex. I don't think he can be sent to the minors. Frankly, I don't want him to be. The guy can play in the NHL, and is paid accordingly to do so. I think it's simply a case of him not being used appriopriately. I mean, I can't imagine Steen was signed to a two-year, $3.4 million contract to play on the fourth line.

It's amazing that only three years ago Steen and Kyle Wellwood were seen as the cornerstones of the Leafs franchise moving forward. Now Welly, lost for bloody nothing in return, is scoring goals out west and Steen's playing less than ten minutes a game. It's fucked up. Who's to blame - players or coaches and management? I'll let you decide, but I'm pretty confident you know which way I'm leaning.

I don't want the Leafs to give up on Steen. They'll regret it if they do. But he's got to play, and it's as simple as that. I doubt his confidence has ever been lower. As much as I love Jason Blake, he played 18 minutes last night. Wouldn't it make sense for Steen to see that amount of ice time, and get his confidence back where it needs to be? Steen surely needs the minutes more than Blake does, and definitely has a brighter future with the Leafs, three or four years down the road, than #55.

Play Steen, Ron Wilson. Play the shit out of him. Losses be damned.

And Vesa, how about some fucking saves? Jesus.

November 17, 2008

Stickin It!

If it was wrong to feel good seeing Kyle Wellwood score against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, well, I don't want to be right.


I was genuinely happy for the guy. Way to stick it back to the Leafs, the franchise who so ceremoniously dumped him last summer.

I know, I know. He's fat, and the Vancouver Canucks waived him too. Be that as it may. Say what you want about him and show me pictures of his gut, but he's got seven goals in 12 games to lead the Canucks, and two of them have been game winners.

Knowing Wellwood, he could be back in the minors by January. He may yet turn out to be a bust. But I still don't quite understand the logic of cutting loose a 25-year-old who has produced offensively at every level he's ever played at.

It's asset management. If the guy needs work, you work on him. You fix his eating habits. You get him on the God damn exercise bike. You cook every meal for him if you have to. You send him to the minors. You do anything you can. But you don't release him and let him walk away for nothing.

Wellwood surely has his faults, but I would have loved for Ron Wilson to have had a go at him. Monsieur Wilson has done quite the job with Mr. Stajan, wouldn't you agree?

Keep proving 'em wrong, Kyle.

November 14, 2008

Deep Thoughts Vol. 14: It's Time To Show Stajan Some Love

I'm always the first one to shit on Matt Stajan. I've been hard on the guy for years. Well, the Mississauga native is playing out of his mind, and it's time I showed him some love.


Is there a guy on the Maple Leafs who has benefited from the departure of Mats Sundin more than Stajan? The kid is on fire. Another three points last night, to make it nine points in the last five games. Suddenly, Stajan is leading the team in scoring with 16 points (four goals and 12 assists) in 16 games.

To put that shit in perspective, Stajan had 33 points in 82 games last season. In 16 games, he's already registered 48% of the points he had last year. That's ridiculous.

I've got to give credit where it's due. Stajan's producing. He's the first line centre for a reason. After being benched in October, he's responded about as well as anyone could have imagined, especially considering the way he started the season. Our boy Matty was pointless in the first five games he played, and took in Toronto's third game of the season from the press box.

Perhaps Damien Cox was right. Maybe this kid might be captain material after all. 

Jesus, I can't believe I just wrote that. Both Cox being right, and Stajan being captain material.

I Love Goals, Goals, Goals, Goals

Goals I do adore. After another five last night, it's 55 goals in 17 games, good enough to still lead the Eastern Conference. Is it safe to call the Toronto Maple Leafs an offensive juggernaut? I think so. If the boys could ever figure out all that defence and penalty killing stuff, we'd be unstoppable. But it sure has been fun to see them bulge the twine as often as they have.

The Great Grabovski

With another goal last night, Mikhail Grabovski extended his point streak to six games. Grabs is another guy who has been counted on to fill Sundin's minutes and production, and he's delivered. He brings much joy to my heart, and I love him more with each passing day.

Also, I think I've figured out the real reason why the Montreal Canadiens and their fans hate Grabs so much. It might have something to do with the fact that he has as many goals as Tomas Plekanec, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Andre Kostitsyn combined.

You think the Frenchies are regretting the trade yet? If they say no, they're lying.

Congrats Kaberle

With a goal and two assists last night, Tomas Kaberle passed legend Ian Turnbull to become the third-highest scoring defenceman to ever play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 698 games, Kabby has racked up 415 points. Next on the list, with 458 points as a defenceman, is some guy you might have heard of: Tim Horton.

It amazes me to know that Kabby was drafted 204th overall. What a career. I love you, Tomas.

The Versatile White Guy

Ian White has a role on this team, and it's as a forward. He scored again last night and now has two goals and three assists on the year, in only 6 games. He's also a +4. He's one versatile mother fucker, and is really coming in handy. He's made the most of his opportunity since he was inserted into the lineup, and I've got to give him props for that.

To put White's play into perspective, he now has more points than Alex Steen.

Speaking of Steen, I always thought he was the better offensive player compared to Stajan. It looks like I'm wrong, yet again. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I'm not.

Two Assists In One Game

By Jason Blake. Seriously. No, seriously. 

He played great last night. Responded well to his second benching. This entire city hates #55, but not me. Jason, you've got a fan in me. I believe in you, man.

Can We Keep Him?

Niklas Hagman? He's quickly won the hearts of Leafs fans across the land. Great signing. Bryan McCabe for Mike Van Ryn? I was skeptical, but it turned out to be a great trade. Before that arrest-resisting bitch Tom Kostopoulos came along, of course. Grabovski for a couple of draft picks? What do you say, Damien Cox? Looks like a pretty shrewd move, doesn't it? I'd certainly say so. Trading up to draft Luke Schenn? Yeah, I think that was pretty smart. I can't even say I've been disappointed with the play of Jeff Finger. I like what he brings to the table: physicality, and a defence-first attitude. I even like Jamal Mayers. Sure, the -7 sucks, but he's street. He sticks up for his teammates, and I dig that.

Forget Brian Burke. Cliff Fletcher's only 73 years old, and is the coolest senior citizen around. He's got at least seven more fantastic years in him.