June 30, 2008

If Sundin Leaves...

Still no word from Mats Sundin. If he leaves, I think I'm ready. I'm holding out hope, though, that he'll return for another season in the blue and white. I'm holding out hope that, at the end of the day, he can't put another jersey over his shoulders.

At the same time, I'm not upset that he hasn't yet come to a decision when it comes to his future. He'd be a fool not to test the free agent market, set to open at high noon on Tuesday, July 1st. You'd do the same if you were in his position. He's got to see what's out there.

If Sundin does leave, I wish him nothing but success. He owes the Maple Leafs nothing. I'm sick and tired of hearing and reading that he does. Last week someone came at me with this gem: "Sundin should have done the honourable thing and let Toronto trade him, like Wendel Clark did." Riiiiiiiight. Wendel had no say in the matter when he was dealt back in 1994. Wendel didn't "let" the Leafs do anything. Because Wendel didn't have a no-trade clause, mutually agreed upon by both player and team, negotiated into his contract.

With his negotiating rights transferred to Montreal, Sundin's already got an offer from le bleu, blanc et rouge. If he wanted to sign with Montreal, I think he would have done it by now. On Tuesday, he'll receive an offer from the Leafs (one-year, $7 million, and a no-movement clause), and likely ones from Detroit and the Rangers of New York.

I can't help but be a bit tickled by the thought of Mats playing in Montreal. Sure, the Habs are our historic rivals, but we haven't played them in the playoffs since we moved to the Eastern Conference and until that happens, the "rivalry" will always be a little dry. And just imagine Sundin in that lineup, in that building. It would be electric, playing with Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec, the Kostitsyn brothers, Saku Koivu, and Chris Higgins. Montreal, with Sundin on board, would be quite the offensive juggernaut.

Don't get me wrong, seeing Mats trade in his Leafs uniform for a Habs one would be intensely awkward. Sort of like going to Canada's Wonderland as a young lad on "Gay Day" (not that there's anything wrong with that), but not knowing it was "Gay Day." Yes, awkward like that. Umm, not that that's ever happened to me before.

Detroit would also be a great match for Sundin. He can join the Swedish posse down there, and give himself the best chance to get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

As for New York, I see it as the least likely place Sundin ends up. Sure, it would be great to see Sundin play with talent the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, but I just don't see it happening for some reason. Chalk it up to gut feeling. And for the record, my gut feeling is in mired in a serious slump at the plate right now.

A lot of people I speak to are bitching and moaning that Mats hasn't yet made up his mind about whether he's coming back to Toronto or not. They say he either knows or he doesn't. I say that simply is not true. Sundin, as loyal and dedicated a Maple Leaf as there has ever been, has earned the right to make his decision on his own schedule. In a perfect world, Cliff Fletcher would know whether that $7 million allocated to Sundin can be spelt elsewhere tomorrow. But it ain't a perfect world. Sundin can't be faulted for taking the time he needs to make this critical decision.

Lately I've been feeling like Sundin should bolt for greener pastures, and that this city doesn't deserve him anymore. It saddens me to know that people are getting ready to burn his jersey and deny his tremendous legacy here in Toronto if he decides that, at this stage in his career, with the window quickly closing, he goes down another path. And all because we didn't get Chris Higgins, or a draft pick or two in return. It seems all those years of diligent service - the goals, the points, the scars, the playoff battles, the victories - don't count for anything.

Sundin goes into Tuesday afternoon with a lot of options. He will likely have, at one point or another, offers on the table from four of the NHL's Original Six franchises. That is incredible. Which ever team he chooses, in my mind he'll have made the right decision. I hope it's Toronto. I hope he continues to lead this team as it heads, finally, in a new direction.

If Sundin leaves, I'll be rooting for him and his new team. Loudly. Unapologetically. I will let the haters do the hating. Those who don't like Sundin will always have their reasons to not like him. I think, actually, I've heard them all. Those who choose not to like him if he leaves via free agency on Tuesday (or later), with the Leafs netting nothing in return, are, well, simply bitter and petty.

Just remember that another former Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one Doug Gilmour, when he was a free agent in 2001, chose between two teams: the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators.

If Sundin leaves, I'll be disappointed, of course. But I will harbour no ill will towards him. If he leaves, it will mark the end of one tremendous ride. Even after everything that went down these last few months - the trade deadline and the calls for Sundin to accept a trade and "help the Leafs" - let it never be said that Mats Sundin let down the Toronto Maple Leafs. It simply isn't true. By never surrounding Sundin with the talent he deserved to play with - ironically, the same talent he can now go and find on another team - the Toronto Maple Leafs let Sundin down.

You're free to leave the nest, Mats. Fly away, if that's what your heart desires. I'll never hold it against you.

But I'm still hoping he stays...

June 29, 2008

Read Jeff Blair

I've only in the last 12 months become a regular reader of The Globe and Mail, and Globe Sports baseball columnist Jeff Blair. It has been a most rewarding experience. The man is good at what he does.

If you're looking for quality mainstream Toronto Blue Jays coverage, read Jeff Blair. He knows the game of baseball and, more importantly, he keeps it real. Just look at that picture. The thullards at DJF call him "Snappy the Turtle." Blair pulls no punches.

Now that I've bigged him up, check out Blair's latest excellent column on the Jays and how, early on in his second tenure as Jays manager, Cito Gaston seems to be pushing the right buttons.

In two starts since Cito took the wheel, the enigma known as A.J. Burnett has thrown 15 innings and allowed only one run. He's struck out 18 batters and allowed only eight hits. That's quality.

June 28, 2008

Good Riddance

Another thrilling episode of "Survivor: Toronto Maple Leafs" edition took place on Friday. The tribe (read: Cliff Fletcher) has once again spoken. Thankfully - no, mercifully - Andrew Raycroft has been voted off the island.

It's a joyous occasion, my friends. In making arguably the easiest decision in the history of mankind, the man known as "Raycrap" has been bought out of the final year of his contract by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Scheduled to earn $2.2 million next season, the Leafs will take a salary cap hit for the next two years of...you know what, I don't even know. And it doesn't even matter. It's worth it. I don't care how much we're on the hook for, it's worth it.

Andrew Raycroft will never again play goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Say it with me. Say it out loud. Believe it, man, because it's true.

"Andrew Raycroft will never again play goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs!"

Oh man, it feels great. It's a great day. Oh yes, forget the dollars and cents, it's worth it. A buyout worth every last fucking penny.

You know, I'm sure Raycroft is actually a swell guy. I'm sure he's someone who takes pride in what he does and who wants to succeed. But, man, his tenure in Toronto was so bloody awful that I can't help but feel happy now that he's heading towards the exit. I wish him well, I truly do. It's clear that he simply didn't possess the mental toughness to play goal in Toronto, one of the most difficult places to play. While I doubt he'll get another job in the NHL, I hope he can get a job in the minors and work on his game because, well, his game needs a lot of work. Here's hoping the dude lands back on his feet. For an Ontario boy who fulfilled a dream by lacing 'em up for the Toronto Maple Leafs, how it all played out has got to leave a bad taste in his mouth.

Sort of like the foul taste in the mouth of all the Leafs fans who watched him play these last two years.

In my mind, Raycroft will forever be tied to the John Ferguson Jr. era here in Toronto. JFJ made some incredibly stupid moves as general manager of the Leafs - such as, oh, I don't know, handing out no-trade clauses like fucking Halloween candy - but the Raycroft for Tuukka Rask trade might go down as his worst.

It was one thing to take a chance on Raycroft two summers ago. He had a phenomenal season in 2003/2004 and won the rookie of the year award. In the post-lockout season he was hampered by injury. When it was evident here in T.O. that Ed Belfour had reached the end of the line, the Leafs needed a goalie, and Raycroft became the man. When I heard we had landed Raycroft for Rask, I supported the move. With two blue-chip goaltending prospects in our system (Justin Pogge and Rask), one of them was obviously expendable, and I had high hopes for Raycroft to return to form.

What I'll never understand is why JFJ handed Raycroft a new contract - a 3-year, $6 million pact - before he even played a game in the blue and white. Instead of letting Raycroft go out and prove himself and earn the number one job, JFJ handed him the keys to the car. It was the worst decision he could have made. Even though he won 37 games two seasons ago (I still can't grasp my head around this fact), Raycroft stank. He let in soft goal after soft goal and was yanked from the crease in the biggest game of the year with a playoff spot on the line. Only one year after he was acquired for an incredibly high price, it was obvious Raycroft wasn't up to the task of manning the crease in Toronto and JFJ had to go out and get another goalie, and deal another first-round pick in the process.

I'm not even going to bother getting into Raycrap's most recent season. I've blocked most of it out of my memory. All you need to know is that he won two of the 19 games he played. With an NHL-calibre backup goalie, the Leafs might have made the playoffs.

Vesa Toskala has, thank God, worked out for Toronto (and JFJ, that moron, handed him a contract extension before he played a game for the Leafs, too), but JFJ really deserves a bitch slap for giving Raycroft that extension. In the end, it doesn't even matter whether Rask turns into a solid NHL goalie, even though all signs are pointing towards him doing just that. Raycroft was a monumental, colossal, epic, mammoth, mistake. Raycrap's shitty legacy in Toronto will forever be tied to JFJ's even shittier legacy.

Alas, what's done is done. What matters is that Raycroft, say it with me one more time, will never play goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs again. Another one of JFJ's wrongs has been righted.

Thank you, Cliff Fletcher. Thank you so much.

June 25, 2008

Welcome Home, Cito

Holy shit, that did actually happen last night. I thought I might wake up this morning and realize the Blue Jays' three home runs, 22 hits, and 14-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds yesterday was all one awesome wet dream.

The Jays hitters did their part in the return of Cito Gaston to the home dugout here in Toronto by tearing the fucking seams off the baseball in the first two innings against Bronson Arroyo.

The atmosphere in Toronto was electric thanks to Gaston's return, and the Jays made sure not to spoil it. Actually, Arroyo made sure not to spoil it. He channelled his inner Josh Towers and made sure everything was right over the heart of the plate, ready to be knocked around like a cheap hooker. The Jays batted around in each of the first two innings and plated 11 runs in the process, along with three home runs, one each from Scott Rolen, Gregg Zaun and Alex Rios.

That's right. Three home runs. In one game. Hell, in two fucking innings. We're back, bitches.

The offensive explosion was long, long, long overdue. It sure looks like the release of Gary Denbo and the back-to-basics (read: pull the fucking ball) approach from Gaston and Gene Tenace has the hitters, to a man, way more relaxed.

Scutaro had four hits last night, Inglett two, Rios four, Wells two, Rolen two, Overbay three, Zaun two, and Lind two. It was like everyone was making up for lost time.

Just because it's so deliciously horrible, here's the line on Arroyo's work last night:

One inning pitched, 11 hits allowed, 10 earned runs allowed, one walk, one strikeout, and three home runs allowed. Yikes. That might even make Towers himself squirm.

The 11-1 lead after the second inning was enough even for A.J. Burnett to work with. He threw eight solid innings and is back at the .500 mark on the season at 7-7.

Speaking of that .500 mark, baseball is a funny game. Just about two weeks ago, I wrote about how disappointed I was that the Jays were at the .500 mark, unable to go on a run and establish themselves in the playoff race. Fast forward thirteen days and we've got a new (old?) manager and a new hitting coach, and .500 is the target come All-Star break in July. Sitting at 37-41 with 17 games to go before the midsummer classic, it's going to happen.

Cito is already doing the right things, such as making Adam Lind the everyday left-fielder, much to the delight of the team at The Southpaw, and recalling Brandon League. But it's not going to be easy. The Jays will be without Shaun Marcum until likely after the All-Star break (let's be thankful he doesn't need Tommy John surgery), and Aaron Hill has suffered another setback in trying to overcome a concussion.

I still believe in these guys, though. I still believe in this team. The reset button was pressed on the season last Friday night in Pittsburgh, and we're 2-2 so far, with 25 runs scored in the past three games.

Roy Halladay takes the mound tonight.

Remember, in Cito Gaston I trust.

Cheers, Darcy Tucker

I think it's safe to say that Cliff Fletcher wasn't fucking around when he vowed to change the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club going into next season.

Darcy Tucker is Fletcher's latest victim, bought out of the remaining three years of his contract, his career in the blue and white over, just like that.

While I knew it was definitely within the realm of possibilities that Tucker could be bought out, the news that it was actually going down still floored me.

Darcy Tucker. Darcy fuckin' Tucker. My boy. The man I've adored ever since the Leafs acquired him years ago for the lousy Mike Johnson. What a steal. And what a player. It's hard to believe I'll never see #16 lace 'em up again in Toronto colours. It's a sad day. I will truly miss him.

For Darcy, it all came down to his contract. Of all the guys with no-trade clauses in their contracts going forward (Tucker, McCabe, Kubina, and Kaberle), Tucker's was the most buyout-able. With three years and $9 million left on his deal, the Leafs are now on the hook for two-thirds of it, $6 million, and are able to spread it out, $1 million a year over the next six years, against the NHL's salary cap.

In other words, the Leafs are paying Darcy Tucker $6 million to leave.

A lot of the reaction I've already read and heard has to do with Jason Blake. If Tucker is being shown the door, why is Blake still a part of the club's plans? Again, it all comes down to Blake's contract. With $16 million and four years still left on his deal, buying out his contract would cost the Leafs over $10 million against the salary cap, and Fletcher has decided that he can't go down that route.

Ditto for Bryan McCabe. He's too expensive to be given the boot.

It hasn't sunk in that Tucker is done in Toronto. It won't until training camp opens in September and he's not around. At the same time, I can understand why he was targeted. His production dipped badly last season and his defensive shortcomings were glaring. In the past three years, in which the Leafs failed to qualify for the playoffs (just in case you forgot), Tucker was a -31. He'd become a power play specialist and, last year, a predictable one at that. He's also been slowed by injuries.

Still, in my heart, Tucker was the embodiment of a Toronto Maple Leaf. He played with so much pride and passion that it was impossible not to love and appreciate him. Who can possibly forget the time he jumped right into the Ottawa Senators bench, ready to take them all on.

Darcy wore the Maple Leafs sweater with so much pride. At times, even when it was probably beneficial for him to rest his battered little frame and get healthy, he'd still go out there, because all he wanted to do was contribute and help his fellow Maple Leafs. Nothing gave the small town Alberta boy more joy than being a Toronto Maple Leaf. I truly believe he wanted nothing more than to succeed in Toronto and help deliver a long overdue Stanley Cup to this championship-starved city. That's what makes his premature departure so difficult. He didn't take off the Maple Leafs jersey he wore with such immense pride. He had it removed from his shoulders.

While I know that Tucker's injuries have taken his game down a level or two - he's "worn out," to use Coach Wilson's words - I still believed he had a role on the Leafs. His sideshow act from years gone by aside, I thought he had a lot to teach the young players who will lead the Maple Leafs into the future.

Shoaltsy at The Globe is reporting that, of course, Tucker took the news like "a real professional...who's looking forward to getting his career back on track somewhere else." I hope he lands on his feet, and I'm sure he will. Tucker has something left to give, and I hope the next city he plays hockey in appreciates him as much as those of us in Toronto did. That guy lives for the playoffs. I hope he gets back there as soon as possible, and gets his name on the Cup for all eternity.

Stay classy, Darcy. Your grit, heart, passion and determination will be sorely missed. Even though you were drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, played for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and will put on the sweater of another NHL team in the coming days, you'll always be a Toronto Maple Leaf to me...

To read Greener's tribute to Darcy Tucker over at He Score, He Shoot! click here. Sean over at Down Goes Brown thinks Tucker might be back. One day. Check out his post on #16 here.

Showing Tucker towards the exit wasn't the only order of business for Grandfather Cliff yesterday. Much to my dismay, Kyle Wellwood was placed on waivers, along with the human sieve Andrew Raycroft. Welly will likely become a free agent, while Raycroft will be bought out of his contract, because no GM, not even one drunk out of his mind, will touch that contract with a thousand-gajillion foot pole.

I'd like to take this opportunity to once again thank John Ferguson Jr. for completely butchering the Leafs for years to come thanks to the completely boneheaded contracts he handed out and ridiculous personnel decisions he made. So, umm, thanks, fucker. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

I'm honestly a little shocked the Leafs are throwing in the towel on Wellwood. Clearly we're embarking on this whole rebuild thing, yet Wellwood isn't welcome back. Why? Is it because of his injuries? His work ethic? He's only 25! Who's he going to keep a roster spot from? Boyd Devereaux? Dominic Moore? Nothing against those two, they were great waiver wire additions, but this one just doesn't make sense to me. It wouldn't have cost much to bring Wellwood back, I'm thinking $1.2 or $1.5 million, but I guess that's too rich for the Leafs. They gave Carlo Colaiacovo a raise after a season in which he was injured again and played only 48 games, but Wellwood's got to go. Right.

In a sick and twisted supportive stance of Wellwood, I hope this one comes back and bites the Leafs in the ass. History has proven that some of the smallish players, who clearly do have some skill, take a little longer to develop. Remember Steve Sullivan (props to Sean at Down Goes Brown for the reminder)? The Leafs released him for nothing, and he went on to have a pretty decent career.

Daniel Briere was put on waivers back in 2001. Every NHL team had a chance to pick him up. For nothing. None of them did. Ditto for Martin St. Louis. He was put on waivers by the Calgary Flames, went unclaimed, released, and then signed as a free agent by Tampa Bay. The rest is history.

I'm not saying Wellwood is going to become the next Briere, who was a first round draft pick and came with much higher expectations. I'm not saying he's going to be the next St. Louis, a seriously late-bloomer who slipped through everyones cracks. What I am saying, however, is that Wellwood is way better than Matt fucking Stajan!

In all honesty, I do think that Wellwood does have the potential to have a decent career in this league, much like Steve Sullivan has. I find the notion that his NHL career might be over to be a ridiculous one. Someone is going to take a chance on little Welly.

Here's hoping Kyle and Darcy both gives the Leafs a little something to regret in the coming years.

As for Raycrap, he's dead to me. Buy him out. It doesn't matter what it costs, it's worth it. Raycroft is a disease. We must be cleansed of him. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

And I must say, Cliff Fletcher is serious about success.

June 24, 2008

Say It Ain't So

Shoaltsy at The Globe is reporting that the Maple Leafs are set to bid adieu to diminutive playmaker Kyle Wellwood. I am rather saddened by the news. Say it ain't so, Cliff, say it ain't so.

I guess I just assumed that Wellwood, a restricted free agent come July 1st, would get another shot with the Leafs. I know, he was awful last season - 21 points in 59 games, and a nasty -12 rating - but he was coming off two abdominal injuries and surgeries, and those are traditionally the toughest ones to recover from. Can we just forget last year ever happened?

I know, it doesn't help that Kyle doesn't give a damn about off-ice conditioning and that his exercise regiment is centred around carrying two-fours from the Beer Store to his car. However, on a team so devoid of offensive talent, there's no room for Kyle Wellwood? Really? Seriously?

We're talking about a guy who is only 20 months removed from a season in which he put up 42 points in 48 games, and who was a big part of a mostly successful power play back in 06/07. And now we're just going to give up on him, and let him walk away for nothing?

I don't get it. Wellwood should be a part of the youth movement going forward. He's only 25 years old and clearly possesses gifted offensive talent. His 108 points in 189 career games proves that. Let's give Ron Wilson a chance to work with him, and mould him into the stud playmaker we all know he can become. Or at least give Wilson a chance to write his name on the white board and call him out.

Come on Fletch. Please. Don't do this to me. Welly made $975,000 last year. Give him a one-year deal at, say, $1.2 million. Let him earn it. If he doesn't perform 40 games into the season, send his ass to the minors. If someone claims him off waivers, so be it. But let's give him another chance. I know he doesn't really deserve it but, well, just do me a solid, Uncle Cliff.

You want to know why I'm so desperate to retain Wellwood? I'll tell you. Because I'm scared. Yeah, I'm scared. I'm man enough to admit it. If Mats Sundin bolts for greener pastures (not that there's anything wrong with that), and Wellwood isn't brought back, who the hell is going to play centre? I'm assuming Nik Antropov would take over line one duty, and I shudder to think that Matt Stajan would be expected to be the teams second-line centre. Stajan is a third-line centre, at best.

Speaking of Stajan, Shoalts' excellent reportage also fills us in on the fact that talks between the Leafs and the restricted free agent are not going well. Stajan apparently wants $2 million a season. Based on that request, he's clearly smoking a lot of dope. I would have to respectfully agree with Fletcher that Stajan is not worth that kind of money. Alex Steen is scheduled to make $1.7 million next year, and there's no way in hell Stajan should be making more than Steen.

As for Wellwood, look no further than Antropov as an example for dealing with young players and injuries, and the question of whether to keep fishing or cut bait. Antropov dealt with his fair share of injuries, serious knee operations at that, after teasing us with his initial progress. Much like that jackass George W. Bush, we stayed the course on Antropov, and he certainly paid off last season.

I can only hope we'll do the same with Wellwood. Stay the course, Cliff, stay the course...

Kobe, Tell Me How My Ass Tastes

You've got to love Shaquille O'Neal. The Big Aristotle has always been quite the character and it turns out he was rather pleased with the result of the NBA Finals. Shaq was on the mic at a club in New York and, much to my delight, took some shots at his old Lakers pal Kobe Bryant in one god-awful freestyle. Check it out:

Worst. Freestyle. Ever.

Shaq's famous for a lot of reasons. He's a great basketball player. OK, he was a great basketball player. Clearly, father time has caught up to him. He's also famous for being one of the worst actors, ever (Kazaam, anyone?). Shaq is also famous for being one of the worst rappers, ever. And now, to add to his stellar collection, the title of worst freestyler, ever.

As horrendous as that freestyle was, I still found it utterly enjoyable. It's always easy to enjoy something that is so freakishly terrible, and it's always fun to see Shaq take shots at Kobe. Hell, their feud from a couple of years ago even has it's own Wikipedia entry. I guess all is not forgiven and forgotten. I'm sure Kobe Bryant is still stinging from losing the NBA championship to the Boston Celtics, and Shaq's exploits on the mic aren't going to make him feel any better. It just goes to show: everyone hates Kobe.

Other than the golden "Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes" line, my favourite bit from that garbage would have to be:

"He said Shaq gave a bitch a mil,
I don't do that, cuz my name Shaquille.
I love em, I don't leave em,
I got a vasectomy, now I can't breed 'em!"

Shaq will never, ever, ever, be confused with a lyrical genius, but well done, Diesel, well done.

June 21, 2008

The Messiah

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Luke Schenn. The Toronto Maple Leafs traded up - by dealing draft picks, what else? - in order to select the big defenceman with the 5th overall selection in yesterday's NHL entry draft.

Originally slated to pick 7th, Cliff Fletcher swapped first round picks with the New York Islanders, sending a second and third round pick their way to move two spots up. I was hoping Bryan McCabe might be involved in the deal somehow but, alas, no such luck.

I've got to give Clifford some props. It was a bold move. While it was a deep draft, most of the hype was around the first six picks, and the four solid defencemen available. A sturdy, physical defenceman is exactly what the Leafs needed moving forward, and Fletch came through. He's made it his mission to turn this franchise around, and he's doing just that. Fletch went hard after the guy he wanted and by all accounts, Schenn is the real deal.

And by "all accounts" I mean Pierre McGuire, because in Pierre McGuire I trust.

Here is every one's favourite colour commentator's analysis on Schenn:

"Toronto wins huge here. This is the start of the re-build and there's no better place to start than on the shoulders of Luke Schenn. He is the Human Eraser on defence. A one man search and destroy defender. This is a franchise player."

A human eraser, a one man search and destroy defender, and a franchise player. All in one. Wow. A tear just rolled down my cheek. Anyone else thinking Dion Phaneuf?

Welcome to the jungle, Luke. No pressure.

The More Things Change...

I guess it doesn't matter who's managing the Toronto Blue Jays. They simply cannot score runs. The second Cito Gaston era began last night, and the result was one that Gaston's predecessor John Gibbons was all too familiar with: a 1-0 extra innings loss.

God damn this set of Blue Jays hitters. They are ridiculously inept. Not only could they not win one for their new manager, they couldn't even plate a run in 12 innings. Against Zach Duke and the fucking Pittsburgh Pirates! Not one.

I'm sure John Gibbons felt Cito's pain last night, for it was the same old story: great pitching, zero execution, runners left on base, and another loss. The losses are adding up. That's why Gibby, and half his staff, weren't in the dugout yesterday, replaced by the old guard. Last night's loss was the Jays' sixth in a row, and pushed their June record to 4-and-13. Shit's ugly right now. We're last in the AL East, 10.5 games behind the Red Sox, and 9.5 games out of the wild card (I need a hug).

To make matters worse, Roy Halladay, who was dominant again last night, took a line drive off the side of his head in the 7th inning. Facing a two-out, based loaded jam, Doc took a screamer off his temple, and the ball then ricocheted right into the glove of Scott Rolen to end the inning. It was a frightening play, although Halladay was able to walk off the field under his own power. The Jays are saying he's day-to-day, so look for Doc to be out of the lineup until September. Remember, Aaron Hill was only supposed to miss a couple of days after he hurt his noggin, and he's not coming back any time soon.

As for the unemployed John Gibbons, he's a great human being. Even after he was given the pink slip by his good friend J.P. Ricciardi, he had nothing but good things to say about the franchise and team, thanking the organization for the opportunity to manage and wishing the players well because he's "still a big fan of these guys and I want to see them succeed." Stay classy, Gibby.

I'm going to miss the laid-back Texan. He was a good manager and, ironically, he leaves with an even 305-305 record as Blue Jays manager. It seemed as though the Jays were always treading water with him behind the wheel. Never a push-over squad, but never one that truly competed either. And I didn't realize it until I read it somewhere, but turns out Gibbons had the third-longest tenure as Jays manager in franchise history.

Hopefully there now will be some serious soul-searchage going on in the club house. It's time for the hitters, one through nine, to look in the mirror and realize that four quality baseball people are out of work because of their inability to get the job done.

Does the return of Cito Gaston and a new batting coach mean that the Jays are suddenly going to start hitting and scoring some runners when they're 90 or 180 feet away from home plate? If last night was any indication, the answer is a resounding no. Yesterday's bullshit game simply proved that Gibbons' firing was not because Gibbons wasn't getting the job done, but rather a move to shake up the team.

The thullards over at Drunk Jays Fans can't believe that Cito's back, and think J.P. Ricciardi made the move in order to take the heat off himself after he publicly dissed Adam Dunn. I couldn't disagree more. Clearly, this move was in the works for at least a couple of days. It was only a matter of time until it had to be done, as the Jays are at least going to make an attempt at salvaging this season.

While I am a sucker for nostalgia, I don't think bringing back Cito is about trying "to bribe its fan base into having restored interest in the team by trying to capture a piece of its long-passed glory years." What other manager is out there with two World Series rings on his resume and who has some knowledge of the Jays current roster? Nobody but Cito. It's about damned time he got another gig as an MLB manager. And he said it himself, his heart has always been in Toronto.

I do agree, though, that this does reek of some desperation on J.P.'s part. And I'm fine with that. He should be desperate. The team he put together is sucking complete ass and if this ship doesn't get turned around, it's likely that these are also Ricciardi's final months as general manager of the Jays. As they should be. This was supposed to be a playoff team. At the very least, a competitive team.

When it comes to the Jays' offense, there's really not much I can say about it that hasn't already been said. Getting shutout by the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 12 innings, is simply inexcusable.

You know what I do miss, though? The home run. The Jays have hit 49 home runs this season, good for 28th in the league. Alex Rios, who's only hit three bombs this season, last touched them all on May 1st. May fucking 1st. (For more on how much Alex Rios sucks this year, check out The Mockingbird.) Scotty Rolen has only hit three jacks in 51 games. Don't get me wrong, he's been great, but the Jays need more power production from everybody in the lineup, especially Rolen, Rios, Wells and Overbay.

I was extremely excited about last night's ball game. It was great to see Gaston in the dugout. But when the game ended I was left with a foul taste in my mouth, thinking that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

A manager, whether its Gibby or Cito, and his staff can only do so much. Wake up Blue Jays hitters. Please.

*UPDATE*: Interesting column by Dave Perkins at The Star about Cito. Perkins calls him "a player's manager" who made "good players play." Perkins also gives an interesting history lesson. Cito, in his first go round in Toronto, took over a struggling Jays squad back in May 1989. The team was 12 games under .500 when Cito arrived. The 1989 Toronto Blue Jays ended up making the playoffs...

June 20, 2008

Bouncing Off The Walls

What a day it has been, and it’s only 4:00 pm! For my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, tonight is the dawning of a new era. Perhaps the post-Mats Sundin era. For my beloved Toronto Blue Jays, what was once old is brand new again.

This morning I learned that the Maple Leafs have acquired local boy Jamal Mayers for a third-round draft choice. Trading a draft pick for a 33-year-old checking line winger probably doesn’t make a lot of sense for the rebuilding Leafs, but I’ve always liked Mayers. He brings some sandpaper to the table and is an above average penalty killer. He can help tutor the Steen’s, Stajan’s, Tlusty’s, and Wellwood’s on how to be accountable defensive hockey players and decent penalty killers.

At around 1:30 pm I began to bounce off the walls of my cubicle. Why? Cito Gaston is back. The Blue Jays have fired manager John Gibbons, hitting coach Gary Denbo, first base coach (and Toronto legend) Ernie Whitt, and third base coach Marty Pevey.

Definitely file this one in the “Holy Shit” department.

It’s not that I, and all Jays fans, didn’t see it coming. The writing for Gibbons was on the wall. His firing is a tough one. He’s the scapegoat for one severely underachieving ball club. Now that he’s gone, I’m $20 richer.

I made a bet with my brother that if the Jays were swept by the pathetic Milwaukee Brewers, the axe would fall on Gibbons and he’d be looking for a new job. Well, voila, that’s exactly what happened (do I have my pulse on this shit, or what?). I just didn't expect half his coaching staff to be handed their papers along with him. Nor did I expect Cito Gaston – Cito freaking Gaston! - to be handed the reigns. Clearly, this had been in the works for some time. You don’t fire half your coaching staff and find replacements in a few hours.

Cito’s back in the dugout with some old friends, too. Continuing the “blast from the past” theme, welcome back Nick Leyva and Gene Tenace. Both are from the Blue Jays heyday, the 1992 and 1993 championship years.

I must admit I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the release on TSN. It was shocking yet, at the same time, unbelievably exciting. I’m eagerly anticipating tonight’s contest between the Jays and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Emotions will definitely be high when I see Cito back in uniform and back with the Blue Jays. It’s been a long time coming. He’s always been deserving of another shot and I’m glad he’s getting it again in Toronto. I haven’t been this excited to watch the Jays in a long time.

Cito freaking Gaston! I still can’t believe it.

The Jays totally stole some of the NHL entry draft’s thunder. For me, at least. Draft day always tickles me the right way, and I’m still stoked about it, especially in light of the fact that the Leafs are selecting 7th overall, their highest selection in the draft in, well, a bloody long time. It’s not about who they’re going to select, it’s about which poor sap is going to have the weight of the franchise flung on his shoulders the minute he dons the blue and white.

The draft is always full of rumours and trades and it will be interesting to see if Patrick Marleau or Mike Cammelleri end up with new addresses tonight.

In utterly depressing news, the Maple Leafs have granted the Montreal Canadiens permission to speak with Mats Sundin’s agent. While I continue to be in severe denial, it seems that Sundin’s career in Toronto is truly winding down. I simply don’t want to believe it, and won’t until it actually happens.

What a day, and there’s still plenty more to come. Stay tuned, mon amies.

June 18, 2008

"Anything Is Possible"

In the end, it wasn't even close. Led by the new "Big Three," the Boston Celtics, after obliterating the L.A. Lakers 131-92, are NBA champions for the 17th time.

After 26 gruelling playoff games, the Celtics were rightly and deservedly crowned. Not even the sting of the city of Boston winning yet another professional sports title could ruin the moment.

I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the beating Boston laid down on Kobe Bryant and his teammates to seal the deal. Sure, it was rather anti-climactic seeing as the game was over at half-time, but I hate Kobe, and I took a certain amount of pleasure in watching Bryant and his teammates get their asses handed to them in the biggest game of their lives.

Kobe and company did their best impersonation of Toronto Raptors defensive basketball last night, and it was impressive, you know, in that really pathetic Raptors sort of way. The Celtics scored, and scored at will, racking up 58 points in the first half, and a staggering 73 in the second half.

Boston also dominated on the glass. The Lakers' effort on the boards would have made the Raptors squirm, and that tells you something. Boston out-rebounded L.A. 48-29. In a telling statistic of who simply wanted it more, the Celtics picked up 14 offensive boards, while L.A. responded with two.

On the flip side, it was a most impressive defensive performance by the Celtics. Textbook Doc Rivers basketball. Once again, Kobe Bryant was rendered ineffective (so were his teammates), scoring 22 points on 7-of-22 shooting from the floor, and only getting to the line five times. Turnovers killed the Lakers, and Bryant was stripped on numerous occasions.

Kobe started the game 4-of-5 from the floor. Then, much to my delight, it all fell apart. He was 3-of-17 the rest of the way. When the Lakers needed him the most, Kobe did not - could not - deliver. It proves, once and for all, that Bryant is nothing without Shaquille O'Neal. No Shaq, no title.

But last night wasn't about Kobe and his douchebaggery. It was about Kevin Garnett, and his dream of winning an NBA title. It was about Paul Pierce, his sacrifice, and all the tough times he went through in Boston. It was about Ray Allen, and his extreme humility. It was about a once-proud Celtics franchise that won only 24 games last season and finished second last in the Association. It was about the ghost of Red Auerbach, who passed away in 2006. It was about the culmination of the remarkable journey from worst to first. It was about never giving up.

As a die-hard supporter of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Blue Jays, Kevin Garnett's words during his emotional post-game interview, as he looked up to the heavens with tears in his eyes, resonated strongly with me: "Anything is possible."

Amen, brother.

June 17, 2008

Burnett's As Good As Gone

A.J. Burnett is the talk of the town and, once again, for all the wrong reasons. Here's the one reason why Burnett's comments about accepting a trade to the Chicago Cubs don't matter: Carlos Silva.

First of all, in regards to A.J.'s comments, if they took you by surprise, you're an idiot. It's A.J. Burnett. You should expect nothing less to come out of his mouth. He came to Toronto with the reputation of a clubhouse - I don't want to use the word "cancer" - nuisance and his relationship with the media, the fans, and management has been rocky throughout his two and a half years with the Blue Jays. He is just a "talented bonehead" after all.

Think about it. We're talking about a grown man who has sported arguably the worst mohawk in the history of mohawks, and whose hand-picked introduction music is "Hanging Tough" by New Kids On The Block. Clearly we're not dealing with a highly intellectual individual here. He's a 12-year old trapped in a man's body, with one hell of an arm.

Anyway, you're probably wondering what the hell the rotund Carlos Silva has to do with A.J. Burnett. Allow me to take this opportunity to tell you. We're all aware that Burnett has an opt-out clause in his 5-year, $55 million contract. Burnett can walk away from the Jays at the end of the season, leaving $24 million on the table, and make his services available to the highest bidder (even the Jays if they were so inclined).

Here's where Silva comes in. Carlos hit the free agent market this past winter after putting up these numbers in 2007 with the Minnesota Twins: 13 wins, 14 losses, a 4.19 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, 89 strikeouts, and a .287 opponents batting average.

As you can see, not exactly Cy Young type shit. Not even close. With career numbers that scream out mediocrity, he'd be a fourth or fifth starter on most teams. But along came Santa Claus the Seattle Mariners on December 20th, 2007, offering Silva a monster 4-year, $48 million contract. Now I'm sure Silva thought it was all a big joke. I'm positive he thought he was getting Punk'd, and that Ashton Kutcher was going to come running out and rip up the contract, and point out the cameras. I mean, come on. Twelve million dollars a year...for Carlos fucking Silva? What his this world come to?

Of course, Silva signed on the dotted line. He's still laughing, actually. And how's good old Carlos doing this season, you ask? He's won three games, lost seven, is sporting a Josh Towers-esque 5.79 ERA, and opponents are batting .315 against him. In an utterly shocking move, Seattle Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi was fired yesterday. I've got an inkling the Silva contract might, just might, have had something to do with that.

You see my point, I'm sure. If Carlos Silva got $48 million over four years on the open market, A.J. Burnett would be a fool not to opt out of his contract. Pitchers make the big bucks and just like the Toronto Blue Jays showed A.J. the money Jerry Maguire style, thinking they could finally harness his amazing potential, someone else will do the same. Burnett-type electric stuff doesn't come around often and if A.J. could only ever put it all together he'd be one of baseball's best.

Yes, the Jays could explore trading Burnett before the trade deadline next month, but the Drunks are right, it ain't going to happen. Not with that opt-out clause looming so large over his contract. If When Burnett walks, the Jays will receive two draft picks as compensation, and J.P. Ricciardi will be hard-pressed to get something better than that in return via a trade.

So enjoy A.J.'s final three and a half months in a Blue Jays uniform. Here's praying the switch somehow goes off, he finally "gets it," and he and Doc lead the Jays on a magical run to the post-season, or at least some meaningful baseball in September. If Burnett can help get this season out of the shit hole it has found itself in, it will ease the sting of his imminent departure. And so will Casey Janssen.

And A.J., before I go, did you ever think that, while this town may not be "a place where baseball is breakfast, lunch and dinner," you might help in bringing fans back to the Rogers Centre? Sure, Toronto's a hockey town, but in case you haven't noticed, the hockey team around these parts fucking sucks, and nothing would get this city more pumped up than some October baseball. Burnett really is a bonehead.

I need a drink.

June 13, 2008

Free Adam Lind

I suspect the talk about Adam Lind and his toilage in the minor leagues will reach a fever pitch this weekend as former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Reed Johnson makes his return to the confines of the Rogers Centre.

Many, especially the gents at The Southpaw and The Mockingbird, have for quite some time been making the case for Lind as the Jays' left fielder not of the future, but of today. I may not have been on board before, but I certainly am now.

Lind is ripping - ripping! - it in AAA ball. In 46 games down on the farm he's batting .337 with 17 doubles, five home runs, and 46 RsBI. He's sporting a tidy .392 on base percentage and a dirty .935 OPS. Concerns about his defense are overstated, in my opinion. Dude's only made one error all season. Clearly, Lind's got nothing left to prove down in Syracuse.

So, umm, JP, pardon my language, but why the fuck isn't Lind up with the big club? I'm going to have to plead ignorance because, well, I just don't get it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we're a .500 ball club as we go into action tonight, and I'd much rather be a .500 ball club with Adam Lind patrolling left field than any one of Brad Wilkerson, Shannon Stewart, or Kevin Mench.

I. Don't. Get. It.

I think all of us Toronto Blue Jays fans need to go on a hunger strike, you know, in order to force JP to summon Lind from the minors. I must confess, I'm currently reading Gandhi's autobiography, hence the idea. Gandhi was one eccentric cat, but his non-violent and civil disobedience ways certainly worked out well for the motherland.

It's pretty absurd to let Lind tear up minor league pitching while the big club struggles for its life to plate runs. And remember, Stewart, Wilkerson and Mench all joined the Jays in April or later, and are not part of the future of this ball club.

I don't fucking get it. Free Adam Lind.

Oh, and if you were at the game tonight, I hope you showed Reed Johnson some love. He was, and continues to be, a rudey.

June 12, 2008


The Toronto Blue Jays continue to dance with mediocrity, and in the process are testing my patience. After dropping two of three to the lowly Seattle Mariners, I'm almost at my breaking point.

It's been an incredibly frustrating two and a half months of the season so far, and I must confess that I've got a good reason as to why I haven't been blogging about the trials and tribulations of our beloved feathered flock as often as I should. My excuse? I've been reading so many of the fine Blue Jays blogs that exist on the interweb. I'm too lazy to link to them in the post but you know which ones I'm talking about. The usual suspects: The Southpaw, The Tao of Stieb, The Mockingbird, Miked Up, Jeff Blair's Globe on Baseball, and the thullards at DJF. Check the blogroll, player.

Anyway, that doesn't mean I haven't been watching the birds closely. Trust me, I have, and they're really pushing my buttons.

After a tough west coast road trip followed by a stop in the Bronx the Jays returned home last Friday for what was to be a soft spot in their schedule, three dates each with the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners. The worst team in the league Seattle Mariners.

I went to the ball game last Friday night with a colleague from work who happens to be an Orioles fan. Yes, they do exist. Shaun Marcum pitched a gem and handed the bullpen a 4-0 lead which they proceeded to fuck up royally. Let's just say I left the Rogers Centre an unhappy man. Inebriated, but unhappy nonetheless. It was a solemn ride home on the TTC.

On top of Friday's debacle, I was still perturbed by what happened last Thursday in the series finale with the Yankees. The Jays squandered leads of 7-2 (7-fucking-2!) and 8-6, culminating in a monster walk-off home run by the titan of douchebags Jason "Dirty Stache" Giambi. Hopefully the Giambi nightmares will stop soon.

The Jays finished their road trip 4-5, dropped two of three to the Orioles and only managed to beat the pathetic Mariners once in three tries after suffering a 2-1 defeat in yesterday afternoon's finale.

The Mariners? Seriously? What the fuck?

Seattle came into the series with a 22-41 record, the third-worst ERA in the American League (4.67), and only eight wins on the road. Yet the Jays made them look like pennant winners. The Jays "offense" - and I use the term lightly - managed a putrid six runs in the three game set. On Tuesday night, down a single run in the 10th inning, the Jays loaded the bases twice but couldn't plate a run. Yesterday the Jays wasted another gem of an outing from Shaun Marcum and again, of course, failed to capitalize with runners in scoring position. The frustrating matinee affair was a microcosm of the 2008 season: great pitching, opportunities to cash runners in, and an incredible lack of execution.

And what the hell is wrong with BJ Ryan? He walked another two batters yesterday, his fourth free pass in his last inning and two thirds, and took the loss for the third time in five appearances. Ryan was lights out in May and deserves mad respect for how he's come off the Tommy John, but it looks like he's hit a wall. He is seriously scuffling out there. I wasn't concerned last week when he blew back-to-back saves - shit happens - but I'm officially worried now.

If BJ's not healthy, or is feeling the slightest effects from the Tommy John surgery, he shouldn't be out there. Who does he think he is, Darcy Tucker?

Much has been made of the Jays struggles. They're hitting for average, they're getting on base, but they just can't score runs. And boy are they ever hitting into a ton of double plays. It's laughable.

Vernon Wells fractured his wrist May 9 in Cleveland and was inserted back into the lineup on June 7th. He's driven in three runs since his return and still leads Toronto with 27 RsBI. Alex Rios and Lyle Overbay are tied for second on the team with 25, and they've played 25 more games than Vernon. I'm not sure whether that makes me want to cry or laugh. Such ineptitude is only matched by perennial doormats the Washington Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman leads the Nats with 27 RsBI and he last played on May 25.

On the flipside, the pitching staff has been phenomenal. Both the rotation and the bullpen. Both have been at or near the top of the league all season. Halladay's already thrown over 100 innings, Jesse Litsch has seven wins (!), Dustin McGowan is unhittable at home, and Shaun Marcum should be going to the all-star game next month. For the record, I am in love with Shaun Marcum. Scott Downs, Jesse Carlson, Brian Tallet, and BJ Ryan, up until last week, have been pretty much lights out in the pen. One cannot ask for more from the mound.

On an aside, Scott Rolen is the greatest defensive third basemen the Toronto Blue Jays have ever employed. Greatest. Ever. Wow.

And the gentlemen over at The Southpaw have long been calling for Adam Lind to take over left field. At first I was all for a combination of Shannon Stewart, Kevin Mench, and Brad Wilkerson to play left field, but enough is enough. What's the point? The Jays are a .500 team and I'd rather be a .500 team with Adam Lind than any of those three in the lineup. It's that simple. Get Lind up here, JP. Please.

I think everyone would agree that the Jays are better than their .500 record. And, no, it's not fucking John Gibbons' fault. It's not his fault his players can't execute the fundamentals. No, it's not. Stop it.

The Jays are off today and welcome the first-place Chicago Cubs to town tomorrow. We're seven games behind the Red Sox, and five behind the wild-card leading Tampa Bay Rays. Yep, the Rays. I know, I don't believe it either. It's time to pull up the socks before we get left behind.

Baseball's a funny game. You can't coach or teach execution. Toronto's 10-16 record in one-run ball games, worst in the league, is most to blame for their current predicament. Jeff Blair is right, with all the excuses these guys are beginning to sound a lot like the Maple Leafs. Something has got to give...

June 09, 2008

He's All Grown Up

In 2004, Access Magazine called Chris Bosh a "reluctant superstar." In April 2007, just last year, Bosh was called "a reluctant self-promoter" by the one and only New York Times. Oh my, how times have changed.

Bosh is all grown up. He's a superstar, and he's not afraid to let people know it. If appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as a guest correspondent means you have arrived, well, Bosh has arrived.

CB4 parlayed his recent internet video fame into the NBA Finals gig with Leno and company, and here's how it went:

I wasn't a big fan of his last video, but I'm giving this one two thumbs up. It was pretty hilarious when Kobe Bryant laid a quasi bitch slap to the back of Bosh's neck, and Glen "Big Baby" Davis knows way too much about Sex And The City.

In all seriousness, Bosh looked comfortable behind the mic on a pretty big stage. He's a great basketball player and someone basketball fans, and NBA officials, outside of Toronto need to pay more attention to. The man is marketable. He's got a personality and he's not a thullard like a lot of other cats in the NBA. No drugs, no guns, no wife-beatage, no rape accusations, nothing. He's clean.

Hopefully Bosh's star continues to rise. And let the curse of the Celtics begin! After they finish off Kobe and the Lakers, of course.

June 05, 2008

Jealousy Is There

The Detroit Red Wings have done it again. They are Stanley Cup champions for the fourth time in 11 years. That, my friends, is a hockey franchise with its head on straight. Oh, to be a fan of the Red Wings.

I'll admit that I was cheering for Detroit. I'm not a big Pittsburgh Penguins fan. I don't particularly like that Sidney Crosby fellow, especially his whining and diving ways. I feel like he carries an attitude of entitlement while he's on the ice, that he deserves all the calls from the stripes, and the respect of all those around him. Sorry Sidney, but you've got to earn it.

Don't get me wrong, Crosby's a great ambassador for the game, and I'm sure he'll win a number of Cup's in what will be a glorious career, but not yet. It wasn't his time.

And before I forget, Crosby's "playoff beard," if I can even call it that, is certainly to go down as the most pathetic in NHL history.

I'm also not a big fan of Pittsburgh's Maxime Talbot. He's kind of a douche. And while I know it's blasphemous for me to say so, I've realized that I can only appreciate Gary Roberts' douchebaggery when he's playing for my team. When Gary isn't in the blue and white his constant gloves to the face and cross checks to the lower back of his opponents just seem a bit, well, dirty. Yeah, I said it.

Anyway, congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings and all their spoiled fans. Four Stanley Cup's in 11 years? Ridiculous. The Wings are always classy in victory and are a model franchise for every team in the NHL, especially the Maple Leafs. I honestly can't remember the last time the Red Wings were not a competitive team. Year after year, they're at or near the top of the standings, yet they never waver from their mantra, which is to build through the draft. I hope the Leafs have been taking notes. Pages upon pages upon pages of notes.

Niklas Lidstrom deserves some serious props as well. He became the first European-born captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup. While Lidstrom is rightly recognized for his talent year in and year out, I don't think people take the time to understand just how incredible his career has been. It's not a stretch to say that Lidstrom is arguably one of the greatest defenceman of all-time.

The champion Red Wings were a pretty Euro-heavy squad. The majority of their top talent - Conn Smythe winner Hank Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Nik Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Holmstrom - were all, save for the Russian Datsyuk, Swedish. I hope their victory dispels the absurd notion that every team needs a core of solid Canadian hockey players, and a Canadian captain, to bring home the Stanley Cup. It's a global game and the Red Wings proved it.

As for the Stanley Cup herself, isn't she just the most beautiful trophy you've ever seen? I could stare at her forever. After the Red Wings were crowned champions and started to pass around the silver chalice, I got a couple of text messages from a couple of buddies, who happen to be brothers, who live down in the good ol' U.S. of A.

From Karan in NYC:
"Is it gay if a man cries when the Cup is hoisted?"

My reply:
"I'm going to have to say no."

Karan's reply:
"Just something about the Cup...it's like the first time I saw boobs."

That's gold right there. I don't think I could have said it any better myself.

And here's one from Kunal in Minnesota:
"I just want to win one. Why do they get 4 in 10 years and we can't win one? I'm going to cry."

Ah, the Stanley Cup. She elicits tears of joy, and tears of immense anguish. Keep your head up though, Kunal. Sean over Down Goes Brown (subscribe to it, trust me, it's that good) has some information that might make you feel a bit better:

"But before (Detroit's) win in 1997, they went 42 years without a Cup. That was 42 years of misery, including a very long stretch where the team was a complete non-factor. Then they got their act together, and the rest is history."

You know what that means, right? 2009 will mark the 42nd anniversary since the Leafs last hoisted the Stanley Cup. We're next.

June 04, 2008

Change We Can Believe In

My main man Barack Obama is officially the Democratic presidential nominee. Finally. His meteoric rise from the Illinois Senate to hopefully the White House has been historic and nothing short of remarkable. He ran his campaign with a message of hope and change, and it's time to apply that message to our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.

On an aside, screw you Hillary Clinton. Her speech last night was one of many examples why many can no longer stand the Clintons. She had the perfect opportunity to begin healing the deeply divided Democratic party, and she didn't take it. Instead, she continued to act as if the nomination was still in sight, completely ignoring reality. What an ego. It's difficult to imagine just how large the Clinton ego truly is. She lost but was unable to admit defeat. It was shameful. I don't think I've ever called a woman a douchebag before but, well, there's a first time for everything. What a douchebag.

So, you're probably wondering what the hell Barack Obama has to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Let me tell you. I believe in hope. And I believe in change. Hell, I even donated a cool $5 to the Obama campaign. While I won't be donating any money to the obese coffers of the Maple Leafs, I do believe that although things are George-W.-Bush-bleak around here, we must have the audacity of hope, just like Barack Obama. It is these times of struggle and failure that we will look back upon most fondly when we are, eventually, on top of the hockey world.

As has been widely reported, Ron Wilson is likely to become the next coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ladies and gentlemen, Wilson represents change. I can't say I know much about the man but I do know that he comes to Toronto with a winning record in almost 1100 games coached in the NHL. His playoff record, while not sparkling, is one game under .500. Wilson got a lot out of some average Washington Capitals teams in the late 90s and his San Jose Sharks teams during his tenure in the Bay Area were always a force to be reckoned with.

In stark contrast to the recently canned Paul Maurice, Wilson comes to Toronto with the reputation of a hard-ass. He's not the friendliest coach to play for. He pushes his players' buttons and demands accountability. I must say, he is exactly the type of coach the Maple Leafs need - the anti-Maurice. While I was hoping for Pat Burns, I can't say I'm disappointed with Wilson. You probably knew I'd support whomever the Leafs hired. That is, after all, what this blog is all about (unequivocal support of the home team). But I'm optimistic because Wilson's style and hiring represents change, and the hope that things are finally going to get better around here.

The hireage of a reputable head coach like Wilson, arguably one of the more accomplished coaches on the market, is also a sign to soon-to-be free agent Mats Sundin that shit is actually getting done upstairs. It can only help in convincing him to stay in the blue and white.

The potential Wilson signing - we're not going to know for sure until the weekend, apparently - has me convinced that Brian Burke is not far behind. This is all just a little too convenient, you see. Burke and Wilson go way back. They were room partners during their college days and Burke is the godfather of one of Wilson's children. They're tight. Cliff Fletcher, the mastermind, is setting the table for Burke's arrival.

Think about it, who's the only other high-profile candidate the Leafs have interviewed for their vacant general manager position? Dave Nonis. Another one of Brian Burke's homeboys.

In another interesting twist, Burke's wife won't be returning to her job as host of a television program in Vancouver. Perhaps she's getting ready to pack her bags for Toronto?

I have a feeling it's all going to go down once the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup. Wilson signs, Burke gets released out of his contract with the Ducks, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have a brand-spanking new GM and head coach. I don't for a second believe that Wilson has gone home to mull over the contract presented to him. It's done, he is the next coach of the Maple Leafs. I'm thinking the Leafs are hoping the Wings win it all tonight, and they can then arrange one super-duper press conference next week to announce the hiring of both Burke and Wilson. And maybe Nonis too.

Ron Wilson and Brian Burke: Change We Can Believe In.