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).


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'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 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


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'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


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


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.


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.

November 13, 2008

Imagine The Iguodala

A part of me understands that the NBA draft is a crapshoot. There's a certain element of luck involved. Sometimes a guy just doesn't work out. I get that. 

Another part of me wants to absolutely pummel former Raptors GM Rob Babcock for drafting Rafael Araujo over Andre Iguodala back in 2004.

Araujo. Over Iguodala. Oh, the humanity. All these years later, after I've bitched about it and bitched about it some more, I'm still bitching. It still smarts.

Iguodala was in town last night, along with his Philadelphia 76ers teammates, to remind us once more of what could have been. The 76ers were 2-5 coming into the game, and winless on the road, but they left the ACC victorious, of course.

The ghosts of Araujo, that useless lug, were in the air. Iguodala put on a clinic. He didn't have his best shooting game, going 5-for-13 from the floor, but finished with 18 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds. Andre Iguodala is one athletic mother sucker.

He is, to a mother fucking tee, what the Raptors lack: a presence on the wing, who can play either the two or three, that can take the ball to the rack. And defend. It kills me, absolutely kills me, to know that we could have had him. 

I don't think any of Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, and Jamario Moon are starters in the NBA. Not that there's anything wrong with that. All three would be more effective in a defined role off the bench. AP was 4-16 from the floor last night, Kapono was invisible in 30 minutes of action, and if Moon settles for another jump shot, I will kill him myself.

I think Bryan Colangelo knows that the honeymoon is over, and that he's got to fix the team's glaring weakness at the wing. We're not getting points, or defence, from the position. I just don't know what the hell BC can do about it. 

To add to mine and the Raptors' woes, it looks like Jose Calderon might be in civilian garbs on Sunday after he tweaked his hamstring yesterday. I was impressed by Will Soloman during last Sunday's snoozefest in Charlotte, but any injury to Jose has to be considered the Raptors' worst nightmare. It's typical, I guess. 

Seriously, though. It's one thing to err on a draft pick. It happens (see: Adams, Russ and Cereda, Luca). It's another to draft Rafael "Hoffa" Araujo over Andre Iguodala.

Fuck you, Rob Babcock.

November 12, 2008

I Used To Like Kevin Garnett

My good friend, and loyal Sports And The City reader, Karan said it best: "Anything is possible...except some class in Beantown."

Peep this from Monday night:

It's one thing to talk trash. Bring the heat, KG. Jose Calderon can handle it. It's another to clap in his face, and point and wave a finger at him like a pompous (m)asshole.  

Good on Jose for getting right back into KG's grill after the fact, because that was some bullshit.

It's obvious that the city of Boston has had an impact on Garnett. In just over a year he's gone from being a loveable loser, to a champion, and now, much like his New England brethren, to a douchebag.

Way to keep it classy, KG. 

Anything less in Boston would have been uncivilized.

Change Has Arrived...

Hello Toronto. 

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that Sports And The City is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of blogs, today is your answer.

It's the answer told by those who voted in numbers this blog has never seen; by people who waited two minutes and three minutes to vote, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that the Sports And The City banner must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Mats Sundin fan and Tomas Kaberle fan, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native Canadian, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - readers who sent a message to the world that this blog has never been about just Mats Sundin: this blog is, and always will be, about all the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what this blog can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it toward the hope of a new Sports And The City banner.

It's been a long time coming, but today, because of what we did in October, in this poll, at this defining moment, change has come to Sports And The City...

As you can see above, it's official: Tomas Kaberle has been added to the Sports And The City banner. And I must say, he looks fucking fantastic up there.

A huge thank you goes out to the Sports And The City one-man marketing department, my boy Deaner. He's a rudey. He's also recently joined the blogosphere. Clearly I'm not paying him adequately, or giving him enough work to do. You can check him out at The 25th Hour.

In celebration of Tomas' ascension to the banner and the change that has come on this special day, I present to you, for probably the 15th time, the Kaberle song. Yes, I am obsessed with it.

Fuck. I love that tune.

Once again, cheers to everyone who voted. You are the change you seek...

November 11, 2008

November 10, 2008

Road Trip

Last weekend me and the boys went down to Buffalo for the quasi-annual trip to see the Toronto Bills in action. It was a weekend full of win. Well, except for the casino part. Uh, and the football game. 

Saturday night was spent at Boston Pizza on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, where we watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play the greatest third period of all time against the New York Rangers.

Five goals in five minutes and 21 seconds. That, Stephen Valiquette, is what I like to call revenge.

After making our donation at the casino, we proceeded to cross the border at around 1:15 AM. Of course our good friends, U.S. Border Patrol, summoned us inside, you know, so we could all catch up. Small talk: how are the kids, the dog, the job, when was the last time you visited the Middle East. The regular stuff. We're all real tight down at the Rainbow Bridge. The good people over there certainly never miss an opportunity to personally say hello and welcome us to their beautiful country.

We spent the rest of Saturday night in Niagara Falls, New York and, let me tell you, someone on the American side missed the memo that the area can work out to be a pretty bitching tourist destination. I mean, the Canadian side is absolutely bumping. You cross the border and you're walking deserted streets like Will Smith in I Am Legend. 

Instead of taking another beating at the Seneca Niagara Casino, we ended up at the uber-American institution known as Denny's. It was a no-brainer, really.

As for the game, you can see by the picture above that things are a changing at good old Ralph Wilson Stadium. They're still running the trough system in the washroom, but now that the words "Do Not Urinate In Sink" words emblazon the walls, people have stopped, well, urinating in the sink. I guess all it took was the sign to stop the insanity. Who knew?

Good times were had by one and all. The always pleasant tailgating experience left me joyously inebriated, the weather was beautiful, no one pissed in the sink, and I got into a round of verbal jousting with a Jets fan. He gave me the "You know what Bills stands for? Boy I Love Losing Super Bowls!" line, and it was my moral duty to let him have it. Yeah, the Bills lost, but come on, four out of five ain't bad. On top of it all, I got to see some guy everyone keeps going on about - I believe the gentleman's name is Brett Favre - live and in living colour.

One more thing: if we can't tailgate in Toronto like they do down in Buffalo, they deserve the Bills a lot more than we do. I think I enjoy the tailgating experience more than the actual game itself. Something about drinking heavily and eating red meat at 9:30 in the morning just sits well with me, I guess.

Stay classy, Buffalo...

*Thanks to my new friend Dave Sommer for the picture.

November 09, 2008

Deep Thoughts Vol. 13: Marvelous Mikhail Edition

Real heroes - Canadian war veterans - took to the ice last night and before I mildly entertain you with my thoughts on yesterday's game, I must embark on a short, but important, rant.

Over the last week or so, through my travellings along the streets of midtown Toronto, I've picked up four poppies off the ground. I don't care where you're from or what you think about Remembrance Day, poppies should not be on the pavement. Ever.

Do me a favour and don't walk past the next poppy you see on the ground. Pick it up. Clean it off, and wear it. Or put it on your bag. I think you would agree that it's the least you can do for the greatest of generations.

A Man Crush Is Developing

How about Grabs, eh? Kid is fly. Actually, the kid can fly. I think he is clearly the most talented Maple Leaf on the team this year. How about that move to get by Andrei Markov on the first goal? Dirty. Grabs ripped apart his former club, was all over the ice, and, well, the sensitive little Habitents didn't like it.

I believe the perception in Montreal is that Grabovski quit on the Habs last year, after he asked for a trade because he was buried on the depth chart and barely playing. Ok, not the greatest attitude for a young player to exhibit, but in Grabs' defence, I don't really give a shit about what he did before he arrived in Toronto.

All that matters now is that he's a Maple Leaf, he's scoring, and he's helping us beat Montreal. Pissing off renowned tough guys like Saku Koivu and Sergei Kostitsyn in the process is just icing on the cake. 

It's funny how much Koivu loves to chirp when the guy he's dealing with is actually his size. Pussy. As for "Little Tits" Kostitsyn, we learned that when he wants a piece of Grabs, the linesman has to hold him back. Scary.

Attaboy, Grabs. Way to stick it, Costanza style, to your former club. I'm looking forward to the next Leafs and Habs tilt to see what more tricks our boy Mikhail has up his sleeve for his former mates. And I'm sure Habs fans, because they are just so fucking original, will be booing our boy every time he touches the puck. I can't wait.

I don't know if it's just me, but Grabs' success is all the more sweeter because he's a Montreal cast-off.

Fuck you, Tom Kostopoulos

Mike Van Ryn has a concussion, a broken nose, and a broken finger. All thanks to a Kostopoulos cheap shot from behind.

Van Ryn, arguably the Leafs' best defenceman this season, will miss at least a month. I can't imagine Kostopoulos will miss more than three or four games via suspension, at the most.

It's true: there is no justice like vigilante justice. Get well soon, Van Ryn. And keep your head up, Kostopoulos.

Still on the subject, I've got to show some love to Carlo Colaiacovo for stepping up for his fallen comrade. As soon as Van Ryn's face was introduced so rudely to the glass, Carlo's gloves were off, and he was chucking in the direction of Kostopoulos' dirty mug. And that's how it should be. Thanks Carlo. You are appreciated.

Carlo was also quick to get into Andre Kostitsyn's grill after he tripped Luke Schenn into the boards late in the first period. Colaiacovo was there, no questions asked, for his teammates, and it was just another example of why I fancy him.

What The Fuck?

After last night's joyous 6-3 win, your Toronto Maple Leafs are the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference, with 47 goals in 15 games.

Full disclosure: The Leafs are the worst defensive team in the Eastern Conference as well, having allowed 54 goals in 15 games. But let's just focus on the first, more happy, stat. Thanks.

Best Celebration Ever

How about our Eastern Bloc boys on that sixth goal? It was strange enough to see Ponikarovsky finish like that in tight near the crease, but then he went flying into Antropov, knocking the big Kazakh awkwardly into the boards.

The two of them ended up lying on the ice staring at each other, and I thought Poni was going to tell Antro how much he loved him, and poke him in the face.

My initial concern was that Antro was injured, because a collision with his own teammate after a goal would have been a typical Antropov injury. I was most releaved to see him get up and watch Matt Stajan proceed to put his stank-ass glove in his face (pictured above).

Ian White Haters to Aisle 3

Are you guys still out there? I mean, I'm of the always right opinion that Ian White has played pretty well since he's been inserted into the lineup as a forward. God, and Ron Wilson, knows that he's better than Ryan Hollweg.

Anyway, White turned out to be a pretty valuable commodity last night. He returned to the blue line after Van Ryn was lost and finished with an assist and a +1 rating in 14 minutes of ice time. White is a skilled Wade Belak, and I'm glad he's on our side.

I've come to terms with the fact that this town needs a scapegoat (see: Murphy, Larry and McCabe, Bryan), but if it has got to be someone, can it not be Ian White or Jason Blake? Can we all agree to let Hollweg wear the crown? Let's be honest, becoming the scapegoat would in all likelihood be the most significant accomplishment of Hollweg's Leafs career. 

Balanced Scoring

Antro's leading the team with 13 points. Niklas Hagman, who is an absolute delight to watch every night and a bargain at $3 million a year, has 12. Ponikarovsky and Stajan have 11. (Seriously, Stajan has 11 points.) Grabs has 10 points, including a team-high seven goals.

So, can Mats Sundin play defence?

November 07, 2008

Schenn-d him down, and FREE CARLO...

Fourteen games into the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have allowed a league-worst 51 goals against. Half the league's 30 teams have allowed 35 goals or less. And we still can't kill a penalty. Is this really the environment we want Luke Schenn developing in?

Don't get me wrong, for a 19-year-old kid I think Schenn has played great. He's got all the makings of a great shutdown defenceman in the NHL. I love the fact that he loves to play the body and that he's quicker than he looks on his skates.

At the same time, he hasn't blown my mind. He hasn't left me dumbfounded. I know, a part of that is the position and style of game he plays. But, well, still. I'm left thinking that another year of junior hockey - four full years like, say, Dion Phaneuf - cannot hurt him.

Once again, before you get out the pitchforks, I dig the Schenn. But we've got to send him back to junior hockey. For the good of humanity. He doesn't need to be here right now. He can play 25 minutes a game down in Kelowna, run shit, and dominate at the World Juniors. Let Ron Wilson deal with the rest of our chumps on defence because God knows they could use some work, especially on special teams. Schenn can join us next season. Wilson and the rest of the coaching staff ain't going anywhere. They can impart their wisdom on Luke next season.

Free Carlo!

I heart Schenn, but another reason he doesn't need to be here right now is because we've got two young defenceman who can play, and who need the playing time, sitting in the press box every night. One of them happens to be Carlo Colaiacovo, and he needs to be emancipated.

I refuse to give up on Carlo Colaiacovo. Not yet. He's a 2001 draft pick with a ton of potential, and I'm just not ready to let go. We showed Antropov all the patience in the world, and he's finally come through. We need to do the same with Carlo. A  solid, top-three defenceman exists somewhere inside him. 

Carlo's finally healthy and, much to the pain of my soul, he's a healthy scratch. Injuries have just fucked with him and, now that he's finally healthy, it pains me to see him sitting on the sidelines along with another of my man crushes, Anton Stralman.

I mean, I love Jonas Frogren and his aggressive, hitting-oriented style, and Mike Van Ryn has done nothing but impress since he donned the blue and white, but who's got more of a future with the Leafs going forward? The youngsters, Colaiacovo and Stralman, n'est pas? Don't they? I would say so. And in a rebuilding and experience-building season, why aren't they playing every night? Why can't Schenn - sent down to work on his game and continue to develop - Colaiacovo, and Stralman be the anchors of our defence core two or three years down the road, with Kaberle and Van Ryn, or Kubina, providing veteran presence?

Free Carlo, Cliff Fletcher. His destiny awaits.

November 05, 2008

President Barack Obama

I think Kevin Garnett said it best: Anything is possible.

How about that fucking acceptance speech? Was that not the greatest speech you've ever heard in your life? I thought the way Obama reached out to Republicans was most impressive:

"And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. And I will be your President, too."

Seriously, how beautiful is that? What a guy, that Obama.

When he brought up the story of 106-year-old Georgian Ann Nixon Cooper, I'll admit it, I got emotional. I pulled a Jerry Seinfeld: "What is this salty discharge?"

When it was all said and done, and Obama stood waving to the crowd, I couldn't help but sit there and shake my head in utter disbelief at the incredible oratory performance I'd just heard. A speech my kids will one day listen to and read about in school. It was a verbal orgasm, and I needed a cigarette when it was over.

As a Canadian who watched this election with tremendous fascination, I just want to say thank you to America, and to my American friends. Thank you for restoring my faith in you, and in your country. We're proud of you.

"Change is coming to America...A new dawn of American leadership is at hand...This is our moment...Yes We Can..."

Amen, President Obama. Amen.

By the way, this entry is cross-posted over at Getting Nifty In The Clutch, an uber-blogging team I've joined. Check it out. You won't regret it.

I'm serious. Go. I look forward to a future of many nifty moments in the clutch. 

November 04, 2008

The Raycrap Report Vol. 1: Schadenfreude

Andrew Raycroft must moonlight as a magician. Somehow, someway, he has managed to convince the good folks down in Colorado that he is still an NHL calibre goalie. David Blaine would be impressed.

This is the beginning of a new feature at Sports And The City - The Raycrap Report - where we follow the struggles of every Toronto Maple Leafs fan's favourite former goalie: Andrew Joseph Ernest Raycroft. It's schadenfreude at its finest, my friends.

I know, I could have (and probably should have) called it The Raycroft Report, but, well, no. That's a little too mature for my taste, thank you very much. 

I've got to tip my cap to MF37, or The Sage as I like to call him, over at Bitter Leaf Fan Page for providing the inspiration for The Raycrap Report. MF37 is a calm, cool and collected individual. He writes a great blog, and is one of the few Leafs fans I know who is able to maintain a relatively even keel when it comes to our frustrating Leafs. He doesn't get all emotional like me. He is the alter-eyebleaf.

But even MF37 has hatred for Andrew Raycroft:

"I would eat up a Raycroft Report with a freakin' spoon. Even if he was playing road hockey with his kids and let in a softy I'd be happy to wallow in it. That rat bastard Raycroft necessitated the deal for Toskala and in total cost the franchise Rask, 1, 2, 4 round picks and a shot at the playoffs."

When MF37 is calling someone a "rat bastard," you know it's serious business.

Here in Toronto, we paid a heavy, heavy price for Raycroft. Countless, mindless casualties. The above is all that we have left: bitterness. And it spares no one; all of us have got it. I happen to be the poster child. And all of it stems from only two years and 90 odd games of #1 in the net. It's rather remarkable, really, when you think about it.

Also equally remarkable is the fact that Raycroft has already equalled his win total of last season: two. I know, he deserves a fresh batch of cookies from the ladies. His stats, however, are downright pathetic.

Raycroft was ravaged in his latest start on October 30th against Columbus, allowing four goals on only 14 shots. He was back on the bench, where he belongs, to begin the third period. One of the goals was scored from behind the goal line. Another two were scored high, glove side. Imagine that.

Raycroft's save percentage, you ask? .839. Ten goals allowed on 62 shots. And a 3.76 GAA. In the two games he was victorious, the Avs scored 10 goals. Yep, that's about right.

I'm not sure how much longer Raycroft can keep the wool pulled over the eyes of Avalanche management. He doesn't belong in the NHL, and I think it's only a matter of time before the Avalanche bus leaves without him. 

Anyone up for a $20 wager? I'm calling Tuesday, November 18th. By that day, Raycroft will have been sent to the minors, waived, or injured in a "freak accident." Holla!

Curtis Joseph may be looking every bit like the 41-year-old he is between the pipes for Toronto right now, but even he is no Raycroft. There is only one.

Chin up, poor Avalanche fans. I know what you're going through. Don't worry, soon your nightmare will be over.

Stay tuned for another installment of The Raycrap Report. I doubt there will be too many more.

November 03, 2008

And the winner is...

The one and only, Tomas Kaberle, defenceman for the Maple Leafs.

You - the people - have spoken, and it's change you have voted for. Kaberle will replace Mats Sundin in the Sports And The City banner, and I can't say I'm surprised. Kabby does, after all, "make cross-ice pass like you won't believe."

For those that voted for Mats, thank you, and fret not. Sundin will live on forever in our hearts. 

The results of the poll were actually rather close. Kaberle won it with 44 votes, while Mats came in at 40. Vesa Toskala finished third with 19 votes. Like my man Barack Obama says, every vote counts.

Thanks to everyone that participated. Appreciation is there. I'll get the Sports And The City one-man marketing department on it.