December 31, 2009
Drew Doughty is officially a member of Team Canada. Luke Schenn is most definitely not. He wasn't even on the radar. I know, I know ... that's unfair. But don't blame me. Blame the Crown Royal. And my burgeoning man-crush on Doughty. Actually, can it even be called a "man-crush" when Doughty is only 20 years old? He's a bloody child. And nobody wants a "boy-crush." Fuck. This is going to be a huge problem as I - gracefully - age.
I'm getting sidetracked. On a path I do not want to travel further upon. My point is: any Toronto Maple Leafs fan will tell you that he'd rather have Doughty in the blue and white than Luke Schenn. Obviously. And I don't care how high on Schenn you are. I'm low. Very low. Right now, I don't believe in Luke Schenn, I worry about Luke Schenn.
My second point, after another Leafs loss in a game they should have won: Doughty isn't a Maple Leaf, and it's all Vesa Toskala's fault. Much like last night, it always is. Yeah, yeah; looking back in hindsight is about as easy as Toskala's five-hole. But it really is his fault.
With the 2007/2008 Paul Maurice-led Maple Leafs sputtering along into February, headed toward draft-lottery freedom (Imagine!1), one Toskala decided to turn his game up a notch. Through the first four months of the season, our Finnish friend had won 17 of the 39 games he'd played. In February and March, Toskala won 16 out of 26 games. Eight games a month. His .915 February save percentage was only eclipsed by December's .935. Down the stretch, Vesa was busy, and he was pretty good. It was his best season as a Maple Leaf, after all.
Looking back, some of the blame surely falls on coach Maurice's shoulders. At least you'd think so, since Vesa Toskala was the only Maple Leafs goalie to start a game in February and March 2008. The bastard played them all!1 Andrew Raycroft got into one game during those two months. In relief. And he allowed four goals on 11 shots. But I can't blame Maurice. He was fighting, in vain, for his job. And if your job was on the line, and you had to pick between Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft (poor Maurice), who would you tap on the shoulder?
You see, it is in fact all Toskala's fault. February and March 2008 were the most fruitful of Vesa's Maple Leafs career. Since then, he's yet to win more than five games in any given month. If he had continued his frustratingly mediocre play that fateful winter two years ago, Drew Doughty might be a Maple Leaf today. Who knows where the Leafs might have ended up in the draft. Who knows how high Cliff Fletcher might have been able to trade up.
Last winter, in February 2009, Toskala was up to his old tricks again, sporting a 5-0-3 record. His 3.01 GAA wasn't too pretty, but his .912 save percentage was sublime. Especially considering he'd posted a .895, .878, .875, and .887 in the months prior. Management knew Toskala was out to screw the Leafs again, and ordered him to undergo surgery. I'm going to go ahead and give Brian Burke props on that one.
The bottom line: Vesa Toskala is a disease. One the Leafs cannot be cured of soon enough. Here's to 2010 being, hopefully, as Toskala-free as possible.
December 29, 2009
In no particular order ...
1. Chris Chelios loves playing hockey. So much so that the 47-year-old refused to sign with an NHL team in a limited role, and chose to continue riding the bus in the minors. I used to hate Chelios. I don't really, anymore. Life is short. I like to think that if I was professional hockey player, and had a career that mirrored his, I'd be doing exactly what Chelios is doing. I hope he plays forever.
2. I have no plans to travel by air to the USA over the next little while. But I'm already looking forward to that security check. As someone with brown skin born in Kuwait City, it's going to be a hoot.
3. Fuck. Tomas. Plekanec. I traded him in my fantasy keeper league last season. For nothing. And he was one of my four keepers. After posting 69 points in 2007/2008, I figured he was ready to break out in 2008/2009. But he struggled. Put up only 39 points. And I, shockingly, showed remarkably little patience. Today he's seventh in league scoring with 44 points, and it physically hurts to see him sitting in the top-10. To add more misery to my life, a staggering 18 of his points have come on the power play - more points on the PP than Henrik Sedin, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Dany Heatley. And you know what? I could have used those valuable power play fantasy points, instead of relying on the the Brian Rolstons, Cory Stillmans and Marco Sturms of the fantasy hockey world.
4. Speaking of my fantasy team, keeper Brad Boyes has one fewer goal than everyone's favourite Toronto Maple Leaf, and soon to be unrestricted free agent, Lee Stempniak. In his career, Boyes has registered seasons of 26, 17, 43 and 33 goals. He's on pace to finish his current campaign with 19. He needs to find his God damn equilibrium. Regardless, I'm in a pickle. Moving forward, do I keep him? As of today, my four best fantasy points performers are Sidney Crosby (1365 points), Tomas Vokoun (1031 points), Jamie Langenbrunner (855 points), and Brooks Laich (745 points). Laich's no keeper; he's been awful after getting off to a great start. I'm leaning towards keeping Matt Duchene; 24 points (630 pool points) as an 18-year-old is nothing to sneeze at. In conclusion: fuck both Boyes and Plekanec.
5. As I grow older, I care less and less about the NFL. And I'm totally at peace with this development.
6. Does Sidney Crosby still live at Mario Lemieux's place? I ask in all seriousness. Because if he does, he's not allowed to be captain of Team Canada. You must live in your own place to captain Team Canada. Enough's enough. Otherwise he'll never leave.
7. I'm sure you already noticed, but the Vernon Wells Hatred Advisory System has been lowered to GUARDED. He does yeoman's work in the community, and for those less privileged, and deserves some props for it. Look within your heart; you can learn to love Wells again. Just let him in. I have.
8. Does anyone know how much the Olympic Torch Relay costs? My attempts to find out (read: I googled it) have so far been unsuccessful. I understand the desire to unite this massive country behind the Vancouver games, but the whole production seems like a giant waste of money. And a giant waste of news time, too. I guess when the Olympics cost that much money, what's a few million more?
9. Have you seen highlights of Pat Quinn recently? He looks like he could use a scotch. A double. Coaching the Edmonton Oilers does not seem to be a lot of fun.
10. Inspired by MF37 at Bitter Leaf Fan Page, the best book I read in 2009 was, without a doubt, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. The runner-up: Imperial Life in the Emerald City; Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.
11. The sample size (15 games, 14 starts) is about half that of most starting NHL goalies, but Tuukka Rask's save percentage is a sterling .933. Vesa Toskala can't even dream a save percentage that impressive. It's looking more and more like the team that drafted Rask 21st overall in the 2005 draft - behind guys like Benoit Pouliot (4th overall), Glibert Brule (6th overall), Brian Lee (9th overall), Marek Zagrapan (13th overall), Sasha Pokulok (14th overall), Ryan O'Marra (15th overall), Alex Bourret (16th overall), Ryan Parent (18th overall), Jakuk Kindl (19th overall), and Kenndal McArdle (20th overall) - got a steal. Hey, Pat Quinn, pass the scotch.
12. It's amazing how quickly some of my fellow Leafs fans forget that Jason Blake had the second-best season of his career in 2008/2009. His career.
13. I wonder what the money line is on whether Janet Napolitano will resign ...
14. I enjoy watching Nazem Kadri play, but Canada's first two games at the World Junior Tournament were boring to watch. It's not Team Canada's fault. What are they supposed to do, not score? This one falls on the tournament organizers.
15. The Toronto Raptors have played more games than just about every other team in the NBA, but their 15-17 record has them in playoff position. The 6th seed, to be exact. Seed number three? The Orlando Magic. Vince Carter. Perhaps it's because I'm a glutton for punishment, but I want this to happen.
16. Who's your starter - Jose Calderon or Jarrett Jack? I still have faith in Jose. Although the Jack signing, with Calderon injured again, might be more important, at this point, than the Hedo Turkoglu signing.
17. Cheers, and Happy New Year. Thanks for reading in 2009. You'll never fully understand my gratitude. Here's to 2010 ...
December 28, 2009
Because you haven't already been exposed to enough top 10 lists in the past few weeks, I give you ten moments that defined the sports decade in Toronto ...
#10. Mats Sundin Scores #500 - October 14, 2006
It wasn't that Mats Sundin became the 35th player in NHL history to score 500 goals that night. It was the way he did it: a shorthanded, overtime game-winning goal, to complete his hat-trick, and finish off the Calgary Flames. Vintage Sundin. In 612 regular season games over the course of the decade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sundin tallied 606 points. Forty-nine of his 259 goals were game-winners. On that autumn night in 2006 when Sundin became the first Swedish hockey player to score 500 goals in the NHL, he was cementing himself as arguably the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf to ever play the game.
#9. Dustin McGowan Takes A No-Hitter Into The 9th Inning - June 24, 2007
"It was just one of those days." That's how Dustin McGowan so eloquently put it, when he had Toronto Blue Jays fans on the edge of their seats on a sunny June afternoon back in 2007. Pitching against the Colorado Rockies, McGowan was tossing a no-hitter until the leadoff man in the 9th inning hit a single up the middle. Curse you, Jeff Baker. It was the closest a Toronto pitcher came to a no-hitter all decade, I believe. After the performance, Frank Thomas was singing the praises of McGowan, saying his might have been some of the nastiest "stuff" he'd ever seen. I don't know about you, but it breaks my heart all over again to know that injuries have stalled what looked like McGowan's very promising big-league career.
#8. Ohhhhhh Danny Dichio - August 12, 2007
When Major League Soccer announced it was expanding to Toronto in 2005, I'm not sure anyone expected Toronto FC to enjoy the rousing success they have in three short years on the pitch. I know, they haven't qualified for the playoffs in their youthful existence but, well, they're just trying to fit in. Expansion was announced in 2005, the club named in 2006, but TFC officially arrived on August 12, 2007, when Danny Dichio scored the club's first ever goal in its fifth game, and second at BMO Field, during the now infamous 24th minute. The rest, as they say, is history.
#7. The Toronto Raptors Win Their First Ever Playoff Series - May 4, 2001
After being swept by the New York Knickerbockers in the first round of the playoffs the season prior, the Toronto Raptors weren't going to let history repeat itself. Down two-to-one in the series, the Raptors took care of business at home and all that remained was game five, do-or-die, at Madison Square Garden. Led by Vince Carter and a gutsy performance from Alvin "Boogie" Williams, the Raptors pulled it off, 93-89, to take the series three games to two. It remains the only playoff series victory in franchise history.
#6. Kobe Bryant Drops 81 - January 22, 2006
From good times to bad. This one makes the list for all the wrong reasons, but on a cold January night, with Toronto on the road in Los Angeles, we witnessed history as Kobe Bryant scored 81 points on our defensively challenged Raptors. I remember watching this game with my brother in the basement of our old house in Scarborough. After scoring 26 points in the first half, Bryant went off for 27 in the third quarter. With 53 points heading into the fourth, we knew we were watching something special. Bryant finished 28 for 46 from the field; seven of 13 from beyond the arc. He hit 18 of 22 free throws, and averaged 1.9 points a minute that night. (He actually sat on the bench for six minutes.) Early in the third quarter, the Raptors were actually winning, 71-53. That's when Kobe took over. Bryant ended up outscoring Toronto 55-41 in the second half. Absolutely bloody ridiculous. A once-in-a-lifetime performance.
#5. Carlos Delgado Belts Four Home Runs - September 25, 2003
King Carlos. He was crowned at the SkyDome late in September 2003, after he became only the fifth American League player in baseball history to hit four home runs in one game. I watched the game at home that night, and shrieked with delight each time Delgado strode to the plate and went yard. Three solo shots and a three-run bomb; one of them off the Windows restaurant deep in centre field. Watching Delgado never got old. I never tired of seeing his beautiful swing make home run contact. A swing of beauty. A meaningless game on the schedule, but one I'll never forget. Do me a solid and bring him home, Alex Anthopoulos.
#4. Mats Sundin: The Greatest Maple Leaf Of All Time - October 11, 2007
With a third-period goal against the New York Islanders a couple of years ago, Mats Sundin killed two birds with one stone. It was the 390th goal of his Maple Leafs career, one more than the record held by Darryl Sittler. It was also the 917th point for Sundin in the blue and white. Again, one more than the beloved Sittler. Thirteen years after becoming a Toronto Maple Leaf, Sundin had finished rewriting the record books. As fate would have it, I was at the Air Canada Centre in attendance that night, thanks to a pair of free tickets I scored two hours before puck-drop. I'm not sure I'll ever hear the building as loud as it was that night, and I don't think I should. A fitting tribute for the best.
Honourable Mention: Mats Sundin's Homecoming - February 21, 2009
I paid $280 for two seats up top, in the purples. I was going to that game, come hell or high water. I would be there receive my captain. It didn't matter what sweater he was wearing. The ovation was fit for a king. The tickets worth every penny. Closure. She's a beautiful thing.
#3. The End Of An Era: Roy Halladay Traded To Philadelphia - December 14, 2009
I may have ranked this a little high atop the list for some people's liking. But that's only because the wounds are still so fresh. It's not the trade that makes this list, but the eight dominant years of Roy Halladay in Toronto that does. From 2002 to 2009, Doc was the best pitcher in the American League; the best pitcher in baseball. He was the Toronto Blue Jays. I believe only two pitchers are synonymous with the Blue Jays. Pre-World Series championships: Dave Stieb. Post-World Series championships: Harry Leroy Halladay III. There will never be another. Thanks Doc.
#2. Vinsanity - 2000-2004
What most people don't remember is that prior to the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, the competition had been put on layaway for two years. Vince Carter brought it back. He put Toronto, and the Raptors, on the map in the process. Carter, after hanging on the rim by his God damn elbow, made sure the Dunk Contest would never be the same. To this day, I can still hear Kenny Smith: "Let's go home!1 Let's go home, ladies and gentlemen, let's go home!1" I can still hear him asking for a timeout.
Those were good times. The early part of the decade was great. We were in love. I went out and bought my Carter jersey. I wore it with pride. Sure, there was the playoff defeat at the hands of the Knicks in 2000, but lessons were learned. The Raptors came back in 2001 and returned the favour. After the Knicks came Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers. I know you remember VC's buzzer-beater in Philly rimming out. What if Carter hadn't gone to his graduation ceremony that morning? What if he'd hit that shot? But brighter days were ahead.
Over the 2001 summer, Carter signed his 6-year, $94 million extension. He was in it for the long haul. He was hosting charity basketball games at the ACC, and buying nightclubs downtown. And then ... then it all fell apart. The injuries. The declaration that he'd never dunk again. The sulking. The allegations that he was helping the opposition. The trade request. The fight with Sam Mitchell. Finally, on December 17, 2004, divorce. Carter, traded to the New Jersey Nets, for Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, Alonzo Mourning and two first-round draft picks. Mourning would never play a game in a Raptors uniform. He was paid not to. The trade would set Toronto back years, and ruin the general managerial career of Rob Babcock. (It wasn't very promising to begin with.)
Carter is, of course, heartily booed whenever he returns to Toronto. Not because he's hated. No, because he's remembered. Fondly. Because we know we'll never see the likes of his talent on the floor again. Chris Bosh has been a model Raptor. Everything we could ask for. But he's no Vince Carter. Carter was the best. It's not often I agree with Dave Feschuk, but he's right: Carter is "the greatest raw athlete Toronto has ever seen ..."
#1. The Battle of Ontario - 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004
The Toronto Maple Leafs over the Ottawa Senators in the playoffs. Three seasons in a row, and four seasons out of five. For all intents and purposes, if I were to leave this world tomorrow, my Stanley Cup. Four rounds, right?
In 2000, it was the first-place Leafs in six games. The finishing blow came in Ottawa. On the road. In their house. A delicious way to get the rivalry started. In 2001, it got even better. The seventh-seeded Leafs were in tough against second-ranked Ottawa, especially after the Senators swept the regular season series. The result? A 4-0 Leafs sweep, with Toronto, led by Curtis Joseph, shutting out the Senators in the first two games of the series in Ottawa. No doubt adding to Senators fans' Toronto complex.
In 2002, the rivalry reached its climax. The teams met in the second round of the playoffs. The Maple Leafs were without their captain, Mats Sundin. You remember the series. When Gary Roberts took the Leafs on his back. When Alyn McCauley became a man. When Daniel Alfredsson hit Darcy Tucker with a cheap-shot from behind. Trailing 3-2 in the series, the Leafs made the trip to Ottawa. They fell behind early in game six. Down two goals, facing elimination, they rallied. And Ottawa choked. As only Ottawa can. The Leafs would go on to win game six 4-3, and game seven 3-0.
In 2004, the Leafs would win another seven game series. This time, Ed Belfour's turn to shut the door. He recorded a shutout in three of the four victories. Game seven, won by the good guys 4-1, was all about the heroics of Patrick Lalime. Another classic Ottawa choke job.
Four bitter playoff defeats have left their mark on Ottawa. The fanbase's existence is centred on its hatred for the city Toronto, its hockey team, and its fans. Ask a Senators supporter if they'd rather Ottawa have lost in the Stanley Cup final in 2007, or have beaten the Leafs once - just once - in the playoffs. If they choose the Stanley Cup final, they're lying. Thanks for the memories, Ottawa. They're precious.
December 26, 2009
"The future is a convenient place for dreams."- Anatole France
I eagerly await Nazem Kadri's permanent stay in Toronto, with a different Maple Leaf on his sweater.
December 25, 2009
I finally picked up a copy of Jim Bouton's masterpiece, Ball Four; his chronicles as a member of the 1968 Seattle Pilots. In a day and a half, I've whipped through half the book's 465 pages. It's everything I was told it would be.
On this fine Christmas day, allow me to share with you a short passage that struck close to home:
"I am, of course, an optimist. Each year I'm certain I'm going to be great again. Every winter I get a questionnaire from Sport magazine on picking the pennant races and I always pick myself as Comeback of the Year. Each year I believe it. Each winter I pay a college kid $5 three nights a week to catch me in a gym. Each year I'm certain."And here I go again. I'm more positive than ever. My arm feels great. I've made the ballclub. I'm starting to throw like I used to throw, and I'm thinking I'll be a reliever for a while and then I'll do well in long relief and get a spot start now and then. Then I'll complete a ballgame and along around June they're going to stick me into the rotation and I'm going to wind up winning a flock of games, just like I did when I first came up to the Yankees. I see the team doing real well and I see me as one of the keys to our success. I see myself as one of the reasons we might finish third or fourth, I see myself as a goddam hero. That's what an optimist is, isn't it? A goddam hero."
Jim Bouton. My kind of guy.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Halladays, to you and yours. Cheers.
December 23, 2009
Well, why not?
Dany Heatley Joe Thornton Patrick Marleau
Rick Nash Sidney Crosby Jarome Iginla
Ryan Getzlaf Brad Richards Corey Perry
Brenden Morrow Mike Fisher Nathan Horton
Extra: Eric Staal
Scott Niedermayer Chris Pronger
Jay Bouwmeester Shea Weber
Duncan Keith Dan Boyle
Extra: Mike Green
- I don't know about you, but I absolutely adore watching Dany Heatley score goal after goal after goal after goal for the San Jose Sharks. And, yes, it's got everything to do with the fact that Ottawa Senators fans despise him.
- Patrick Marleau has never played less than 74 games in one season. He's had a remarkably durable career.
- I hope Rick Nash regrets signing his extension with Columbus. He should have been a Toronto Maple Leaf.
- Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla are about as automatic as it gets.
- The Anaheim Ducks drafted Ryan Getzlaf 19th overall in 2003, and Corey Perry 28th overall that same year. They don't get enough credit for it.
- Thanks to his immaculate resume, Brad Richards wins over Mike Richards. Plus, the less Philadelphia Flyers the better.
- Brenden Morrow, Mike Fisher and Nathan Horton make up my dream checking line. Morrow is Canadian ice hockey, personified. As ridiculous as that sounds. He can do it all. I've admitted it before: I've always had a slight man-crush on Mike Fisher. I love his speed. He's one Ottawa Senator I've always fantasized becoming a Toronto Maple Leaf. As for Nathan Horton, at 24, I think he's finally coming into his own. It's a bit of a sentimental pick, as I've always liked his game. I think he takes the torch from a guy like Shane Doan and does it justice.
- Apologies go out to: Vincent Lecavalier, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Martin St. Louis, Steve Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, and Jonathan Toews. Even a guy like Stephen Weiss. There simply isn't enough room. There never is. Although any of those guys could have been the 13th forward, I went with Staal because playing for Carolina and Paul Maurice, he's got to be hungry. And, to be honest, I thought he punched his ticket to Vancouver with his performance in last year's playoffs. Lecavalier doesn't look hungry enough; St. Louis I'd have given more time to if the tournament was on international ice; and Stamkos is part of Canada's next crop.
- Dustin Penner? Never crossed my mind. He shouldn't have crossed yours, either.
- I don't spend time worrying about guys playing outside of their natural position. These are the best hockey players in the world. I'm sure they'll manage.
- On defence, Scott Niedermayer is a winner. Period. He makes it on merit. And while no hockey fan actually likes Chris Pronger, most of us realize he's a tough son-of-a-bitch who is difficult to play against. He's Canadian. We'll use him.
- It seems Jay Bouwmeester has quietly turned into a better defenceman than Dion Phaneuf, and something about a pairing of Bouwmeester and Shea Weber scratches me right where I itch. Want to know how tough Weber is to play against? Ask Ryan Kesler.
- I know, plus/minus is a flawed statistic, but over the past two and a half seasons, Duncan Keith is a +75. Flawed or not, that's impressive. He spends more time on the ice shorthanded than any of his Chicago Blackhawks teammates, and he puts up points. He's a lock.
- Is it a stretch to say that Dan Boyle has spent his entire career underrated?
- For the extra blueliner, I wanted to take Drew Doughty. I really did. I love Doughty. But I couldn't ignore Mike Green's numbers. As a Leafs fan, when Toronto and Washington hook up, I can't help but notice Green on the ice.
- Goalies. This one was easy. Until Marty Brodeur bloody retires, he's the man in goal for Canada. And until Roberto Luongo wins a Stanley Cup, he's the Mike Modano of the crease; no respect. As for MAF, it's time the guy got some credit. He's a back-to-back Stanley Cup finalist, and a Cup winner. A career .907 save percentage doesn't exactly get me all hot and bothered, but he's young, improving, and, most importantly, a winner. In a toss-up with Steve Mason, it's got to be Fleury.
- As for who should wear the captain's "C," my choice is: nobody. This tournament is all about checking egos at the door, and doing what's asked of you. Whether that's playing 10 minutes a game on the fourth line, or sitting while Mike Babcock runs five defenceman in the third period, it doesn't matter. This team is stocked with talent, and stocked with captains. They're all leaders. Three alternates: Scott Niedermayer, Jarome Iginla, and Sidney Crosby.
*A tip of the hat to Drew/Lloyd the Barber from Ghostrunner on First for the stellar vocabulary. It's been added to my lexicon, and being used unsparingly.
December 22, 2009
UPDATE #7: (2:27 pm) According to the Drunks, Chavez was ranked Toronto's #1 prospect by The Hardball Times.
Chavez, from Tumero, Venezuela, had a very successful year in Lansing this season putting up a .283 AVG, .346 OBP, .474 SLG. As an international free agent, he was signed to a $2 million contract in 2006.
UPDATE #6: Rumour has Johermyn Chavez pegged as "the prospect." I have no idea who he is. Which is bloody awesome!!1
But let's hold on a second here. I'm losing focus. What you need to do right now is pray for our good friend Lloyd the Barber from Ghostrunner on First. First Doc. Now League. They were right: life isn't fair. If you read GoF, and I assume you do, you know how highly we, the community, think of League.
Moving along: Brandon Morrow. Everyone and their mother is high on this kid. He strikes out a ton of batters, and walks plenty of them as well. I'm sure he'll get along great with The Manager. At the end of the day, as long as "the prospect" isn't
Brett Wallace or Travis Snider, we're good. (Except for Drew. Sorry mate.)
In a perfect world, the prospect is Lyle Overbay. He was huge in 2006. Tremendous upside, and he's a Washington boy!1
Here's what the 2010 Blue Jays rotation looks like:
A good left-right mix, with Scott Richmond as the long-man, and Brian Tallet back in the bullpen where he belongs.
Here's what we know for certain: Alex Anthopoulos is doing work. He's putting his stamp on this team.
UPDATE: Here's David Cameron with some insight on Brandon Morrow ...
Plus fastball, inconsistent curve, minus minus command. Has potential, still needs a lot of work. A.J. Burnett upside. But in terms of development, he's basically a Triple-A starter. Very raw.
Burnett is dead to me, so fuck him. But there's nothing wrong with raw talent. It's a good thing this team's got one Roy Halladay, and Brad Arnsberg, to teach Morrow the ropes. Oh ...
UPDATE #2: My man @dlbrows posted the following link on Twitter, from The Mockingbird, about Brandon League and his 97 MPH sinker. You know, the pitch nobody else in baseball throws.
League will be sorely missed around these parts, no matter how good Morrow is. To these eyes, he was always the closer of the future. If this rumoured trade is fact,
UPDATE #3: I hope "the prospect" is not R-Zep. It can't be R-Zep.
UPDATE #4: The Seattle Times's Geoff Baker believes in Brandon League.
UPDATE #5: (1:38 am) It's not Wallace. We knew this already. Because there was no way that was happening in the first place. But it's good to know know.
December 21, 2009
If you’re anything like me, you’ve gone through a gamut of emotions since Roy Halladay became a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Even though we knew the trade was coming. Anger. Self-loathing. Histrionics. Inebriated confusion. (Also known as #DocDrunk.) Even excitement; for Doc, and for the Blue Jays, as each embark on their next chapter. You’ve visited www.thanksroy.com a few times now, to let the world know that Doc is indeed The Greatest Blue Jay of All Time. If you’re anything like me, you're not over losing him just yet.
Looking back on the past eight years, as I watched Halladay dominate in baseball's better league and toughest division, I thought it beyond the realm of possibility to find one moment that defined Doc’s time in Toronto. But I have.
It was May 31st, 2007. The Chicago White Sox were in town. Mark Buehrle vs. Roy Halladay. Quickest baseball game of your life. A 2-0 Toronto final. In the 7th inning, which would end up being Halladay's last, Doc threw his world-renowned cutter to Darin Erstad who, like many before him, swung and missed. Running down-and-in on the left-handed hitting Erstad, it was the ankle-breaker. And down went Erstad. Ligament damage. Out of the game, and onto the 15-day disabled list. Doc doesn't have to hit you with his cutter to hurt you; that's how devastating the pitch is. And I'm not sure I'll ever see something like that again.
As I mentioned, Doc went only seven innings in the shutout victory, the 100th win of his career. For good reason. It was his first start since he had his appendix removed on May 11th, 19 days prior. Scheduled to miss a month, Doc returned in less than three weeks. The feat remains one of the strongest pieces of evidence in proving that Roy Halladay is actually a machine from the future.
Thanks Doc. See you in four years.
Make sure you check out the post over at Mop Up Duty: Greatest Roy Halladay Moments. Bring a Kleenex. It's OK to cry.
And I leave you with a most-pleasant statistic from ESPN's Jayson Stark, confirming what we in Toronto already knew: Doc truly is one of the best.
...the debate about the best pitcher in baseball these past eight years is over. It's Roy Halladay, friends. And hardly anybody else is even close. When Halladay has started a game since 2002, the Blue Jays have gone 149-89. That's a .654 winning percentage. In other words, when he's had the ball, they've played like a 106-win team. And just so you can put that in perspective, we've seen exactly eight teams with a winning percentage that high in the past 50 years. Eight.
December 20, 2009
In honour of Jonas Gustavsson's first career NHL shootout, below is the finest save, in video game form, I have ever seen ...
What a monster.
After Friday night's abomination, Vesa Toskala is dead to me. Welcome to your Gustavsson years.
December 17, 2009
"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."- Robert Frost
Roy Halladay, a born and bred Toronto Blue Jay, has left the nest. He's a Phillie now. Officially. What he wanted to be. And a legion of Toronto baseball fans are now silent Philadelphia supporters.
Look at that smile. You love that smile. You can't root against that smile. Doc's happy. He will pitch in October. After years of dominating the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, he will now, finally, get the opportunity to do it on the grandest of stages. And I can't wait.
As for the prospect pornography on it's way north, I am content. Kyle Drabek will follow in the footsteps of his father, and the footsteps of Roger Clemons, Pat Hentgen, and Doc before him, and win a Cy Young. He's also already had Tommy John surgery, so at least that's out of the way. Brett Wallace, while playing first base, will conjure memories of Carlos Delgado with his bat. And Travis d'Arnaud will be the greatest Blue Jays catcher since ... who the hell was the last great catcher the Jays employed?
You did good, Alex Anthopoulos. Actually, we'll know in five years, but that's neither here nor there right now. (No pressure, prospect porn.)
It's a new era. A new chapter. A new beginning. And I'm excited. Now that Doc is out of the American League, he's paved the way for Shaun Marcum to win his first Cy Young award. Marcum first, then Drabek. With Ricky Romero, or Brett Cecil, winning it in between.
Thanks Doc. #GBOAT.
"There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction."- Winston Churchill
December 16, 2009
"I take [criticism] and use it as fuel. I'll be back."
Who am I to doubt him? I believe in Vernon Wells. And I'll say this: if Vernon is booed on opening night, April 12, 2010, shame on you, Toronto.
Harry Leroy Halladay III is no longer a Toronto Blue Jay. Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace, and Travis d'Arnaud are forever tied to his good name. Imagine: not only trading Halladay, but sending $6 million in cash to get it done. And that being a good sign. Heady times.
If you look to your right, you'll find a new poll. The banner up top, which Doc has been the focal point of since this blog began, now represents the past. Whether we honour Doc in our own little way, or move on and live in the present, bleak as it may be, is up to you. Just don't vote for Cito.
After the dust finally settled, I thought Jayson Stark put it best:
"[Toronto] had the best pitcher in baseball on their payroll for the past eight years -- and never played one postseason game. They were the wrong team in the wrong division in the wrong era. And none of that was Halladay's fault. But his time had come, and his time had gone. He wanted out. He wasn't going to stay. So the Blue Jays had no choice."
Life After Doc (AD). It has begun.
(Playoffs!!!1 In 2012.)
December 15, 2009
"... I have no regrets about being here. I'll never look back and wonder."- Roy Halladay
I believe I speak for us all when I say: we have no regrets either, Doc. Regardless of the high quality of prospect porn we receive in return. None. It's been a pleasure.
When I embarked on Mission: Doc, to watch every home Halladay start, this past summer, I had no idea this season would be Halladay's last in Toronto. The mission was simply something to do. The best pitcher in baseball, tossing in my hometown, and I can be in attendance for $10? Even I, a not-so-handsomely paid journalist, was all over that shit.
Life - a friend's wedding, the passing of my dear Grandmother, an extra shift or two at work - intervened along the way. As it always does. In the end, I took in 13 of 18 Halladay starts. I spent a lot of time at the SkyDome. I spent a lot of my hard-earned money on overpriced beer. And it was worth every penny. You will never hear me say, or read that I've written: "I wish I would have seen Roy Halladay pitch more often." No regrets. Truly The Greatest Blue Jay Of All-Time.
The tributes - The Tao of Stieb, Hum and Chuck, The Blue Jay Hunter, Go Jays Go - are beginning to roll in and, in what will I think be a trend amongst Toronto writers, it isn't about the statistics. It never was. It's about what Doc stood for. For the franchise. For the city of Toronto. As Dirk Hayhurst so eloquently put it, baseball is about more than "just a bunch of numbers," and there's nobody who personifies that statement more than Roy Halladay.
Thanks for the memories, Doc. A quietly-crazy baseball town mourns your departure, and wishes you nothing but good fortunes; wishes you nothing but the ring you so covet. It's nothing personal, just business. It had to be done. I get it. Life is all about timing, and ours simply didn't match up. Get yours.
December 14, 2009
Excuse me while I to continue to explicitly rip off Elliotte Friedman. Although he certainly can't have been the first to list his thoughts. That was Peter King ...
1. The Toronto Raptors delighted the home crowd Sunday afternoon. Big games from Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu. Minutes, energy, points and blocked shots from Sonny Weems and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. But it was Jarrett Jack who had me on my feet after he got in the face of Trevor Ariza, who swung and missed with a bitch-elbow targeted for the back of Demar DeRozan's head.
A Raptor. Standing up for his teammate. It was a sight to behold. I felt like a proud parent, even though I have no children, and have no influence in stopping the Raptors from playing like Goddamn choir boys.
Bless you, Jarrett Jack.
2. I hate Mondays.
3. Ladies and gentlemen, the Joey Gathright and John Buck eras in Toronto have begun. The Jose Bautista era isn't over just yet, and let's not forget about Raul Chavez; we're in for another year of snap-throws down to first.
What? You're not excited? Yeah, it's unfortunate as fuck that neither Buck or Gathright can get on base; career OBPs of .298 and .327, respectively. But, well, beggars can't be choosers. And the Toronto Blue Jays are definitely beggars. And sellers. Beggars and sellers.
4. My number one source for information on Dustin McGowan is the Blue Jays blogosphere. It's why I don't believe McGowan will ever pitch again. I want to believe. But it just isn't worth the emotional investment.
5. In honour of John Gibbons, Ted Lilly, and Shea Hillenbrand, I hope Cito Gaston and Jeremy Accardo come to blows. And here's hoping it's Accardo, by TKO, in the first round.
6. Great post by The Ack, the esteemed weekend editor over at The Tao of Stieb, about his desire for Doc to be traded "anywhere but the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, United States of America." He's right, but at the end of the day, if that's the best deal on the table, I'll learn to love Joe Saunders. And so will you.
7. The Ack brought up service time in his post, and how long guys are under team control. It got me thinking: the Jays have done a pretty good job of locking up their players - Alex Rios, Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells (don't start), even Roy Halladay. And I'm rather confident Adam Lind and Travis Snider will be added to that list.
When Paul Beeston says that money is available when the team needs it, I'm going to believe him. No, there's no briefcases full of stacks of crisp $100 bills for big-ticket free agents -- see Figgins, Chone and Bay, Jason -- but the checkbook is readily available when it comes to the cornerstones of the future; for the core: the Hills, Linds, Romeros and Sniders. And if one of those signings doesn't work out - HOLA ALEX!!!1 - so be it, that's life. Shit happens. "The player" gets his hands on crazy bank, and stops giving a fuck. Thankfully, there are other lunatic general managers out there to take your problems off your hands.
Think about it: if that money wasn't available, to lock up the team's budding stars, the Blue Jays would be the Florida Marlins. They'd be relatively competitive, and win a World Series every now and then. And this is my stop along this train of thought, because the end of the line is another bottle.
8. Continuing with the disappointment theme, I'll be honest with you: Tyler Myers is putting up the type of numbers in Buffalo I wish Luke Schenn was in Toronto. And guess what Myers was up to last season? You guessed it: playing in the WHL.
I'm by no means giving up on Luke Schenn. A trip upstairs in civvies is what he needed; what he deserved. He's looked lost in the defensive zone, doesn't fit the mold of a great-first-pass, puck-moving defenseman, and looks like he shoots the puck only a little harder than I do. My biggest worry is that this kid gets pigeon-holed into something he's not, and never lives up to sky-high expectations in Toronto. I'm worried that in the end we'll only be left disappointed. Other than a young kid who throws a great bodycheck every now and again -- yes, an important skill to have -- I'm not sure what Luke Schenn is.
9. In four games since being reinserted into the Maple Leafs lineup, Rickard Wallin has played 06:39, 10:24, 08:16, and 11:11 respectively. No points, of course. It's Wallin. My point is: why couldn't Jiri Tlusty have been given those minutes?
Granted, my definition of an adequate Tlusty tryout was 15 minutes a night in the NHL, but I'd have been happy with Wallin-type minutes. And we'd all be happier with Wallin out of the lineup. It was a win-win. The trade still doesn't make sense to me.
10. Why did no teammate of Tomas Kaberle come to his defense in the third period Saturday night, after Mike Green so rudely shoved him into the boards? Kaberle could have been killed!1 All Tomas could muster was a couple of shoves to Green's chest, because I'm sure he figured Mike Komisarek was going to help a brother out. A minute later, Kaberle was shown laughing on the bench, probably because he knew he could have ruined Green's life, but just didn't feel like it.
I don't know, maybe it's me. Did you see Green nail Kaberle? Wasn't it just a little, well, bullshit? Am I making too much of it? Am I pulling out the "Where were his teammates on that one?" card too often? You can let me know if I am.
11. I know I'm the leader of the Fire Ron Wilson brigade, but it hasn't gone unnoticed that he's shown a real knack for benching players at the right time. Last season, it was Tomas Kaberle and Jason Blake. This season Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan. And it's worked. Those two have led Toronto's -- dare I call it? -- resurgence. Hopefully Schenn will respond in the same fashion.
It seems patience upstairs has prevailed. Wilson's in it for the long haul. He continues to set the tone; if you're not on board, enjoy the view.
My excuse? Stability. It frightens me. I'm simply not used to it anymore.
12. I was daydreaming about Phil Kessel at work a couple of days ago. It happens more often than I'd like. Anyway, my mind wandered, and I thought of Nik Antropov; it would have been neat to see the two of them play together. Antropov's playing with Ilya Kovalchuk, and producing: 25 points in 30 games.
Suddenly I stopped myself. Why isn't anything Matt Stajan does ever good enough for me?
After Saturday night's impressive performance, Stajan's got 25 points in 31 games. He's already tied his career-high of five power play goals. Of centres who have taken more than 500 faceoffs this season, Stajan ranks ninth in the league at 52.4%.
An unrestricted free agent next season, I want Stajan to stick around. And that's the best compliment I can give him.
December 10, 2009
Your unlikeliest of heroes: Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake. I can only imagine exactly what was spoken.
Another win streak. (Yes, two games is most definitely a win streak.) A 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games, in which they've out-scored the opposition 34-29. For the first time over a 10-game stretch, the Maple Leafs are allowing less than three goals a game. Even after Saturday's Boston massacre. Progress. She's beautiful.
Toronto is as good as any other team in the league right now. The fact they still rank 29th in the league in points lets you know just how much they did not give a fuck in October.
Last night, by killing three out of four penalties, for a smooth 75% success rate, Ron Wilson's Leafs even improved their much-maligned penalty killing.
Everything's coming up aces.
December 09, 2009
"With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable."- Thomas Fowell Buxton
Even eighth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference. Today, seven points out, with two games in hand. Assuming, rightfully of course, that the Leafs will surely win those two games, they're in actuality only three points out of a playoff spot.
This April will mark five years since the Leafs last participated in the post-season. It's a streak that desperately needs to end, even if it means sneaking into the dance.
"Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over."- F. Scott Fitzgerald
When Alex Anthopoulos and company inevitably trade Roy Halladay, possibly to either of the Evil Empires in their own division, as hard as that remains to believe, the Toronto Blue Jays will have essentially pressed the reset button.
The Blue Jays are pushing 16 years now, yet I look forward as ever to the next go round. Take my hand, and lead me there, AA. (Handsome Tony Viner can hold my other hand. Think the little boy in Jerry Maguire.)
"I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday."- Author Unknown
The Toronto Raptors, to a playoff spot. Antoine Wright, to less criticism, justified as it may be. This group, led by Chris Bosh, to at least the second-round. Bosh, to a max contract. Bosh's detractors, to believing. The franchise, to respectability.
"There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream."- Author Unknown
Beginning next season, Toronto FC will at least chase their dream of playing for the MLS CUP on real, honest-to-goodness grass.
"Who gives a fuck?!1?!1?!1"- Alex Rios
What Rios said.
December 07, 2009
The Toronto Blue Jays are not likely to qualify for the post-season for a good, I don't know, year or two. In order to pass the time, let's vote Tom Cheek onto the final ballot for the 2010 Ford C. Frick Award, and send him on his way to Cooperstown. Lord knows he deserves it.
At the time of writing, Cheek trails Jacques Doucet by 20 votes (337-317).
Four-thousand, three-hundred and six games. (I wrote it out for dramatic effect.) In a row. In a row!1 More importantly, Cheek was voice to the calls of your life; to the "the sound of summer." It takes less than a minute. I don't ask you for much; please vote.
Make Us Proud, Alex
I'll be at my cubicle Monday, but my heart and mind will be in Indianapolis, with Alex Anthopoulos at his first Winter Meetings as general manager of our Blue Jays.
Some interesting nuggets from The Star's Richard Griffin: if you want to see Anthopoulos, you'll have to go to his room, not the other way around. And meetings are lined up with "several clubs." To be a fly. Hopefully Dick figured out which floor AA is staying on.
There is some bad news: The Cito arrives on Tuesday. I've completed my 180. I used to love Cito Gaston. Now, the thought of him being involved in decisions that will greatly alter this franchise makes me ill. Where did we go wrong, Cito?
UPDATE: As of 11:00 am, Tom Cheek is in the lead 387-359. Let's keep it going ...
December 04, 2009
Let’s get right down to business, shall we?
1. I took in Thursday night’s Toronto Bills/New York Jets tilt at the trusty SkyDome. I wasn’t planning on attending, but at the last minute found two tickets matching my asking price of $free. The building was packed, and loud. Let nobody tell you otherwise. Not as loud as Ralph Wilson Stadium down in Buffalo, but, well, we’re Canadians. Civilized.
2. Without tailgating, the experience in Toronto will never be like the experience in Buffalo. It will never be drunk enough. Period. I have, unfortunately, seen with my own eyes grown men relieve themselves in the sink in the men’s washroom at the Ralph. Think about that for a second. Peeing. In the sink. Where most regular human beings wash their hands. So let’s stop comparing the Toronto experience with the Buffalo experience, please and thanks.
3. Just last week, I was spewing on and on to a friend of mine about the “authentic” NFL experience down in Buffalo, where the faithful brave the elements to watch their heroes on the gridiron. Well, I’ve had a change of heart. Fuck authenticity. Who wants to sit outside and watch two terrible football teams go at it on a cold and windy December evening? Not fucking me. I’m rather partial to the lid on the SkyDome, thank you very much. I’d rather be toasty, not layered, and not freezing my tail off while I enjoy my grossly overpriced beer.
4. The Bills are fucking awful. Downright painful to watch. Ten first downs, all game. Two forays into the Red Zone, all game. The opposite of efficient on third downs: 1-11. A despicable 36 total yards in the second half. You know, it’s only right that they are ours, even if for only one week a season. Welcome home, Buffalo Bills.
5. “Shout!!1”, the Bills anthem, never gets old. It’s rather amazing.
6. As per my luck, I found myself seated among a row of New York Jets fans. They were mostly good people, except for one Manhattaner, who happened to be a New York Giants fan. He of course brought up the 1991 Super Bowl, but couldn’t remember who missed the infamous field goal. And because I’m a complete fucking idiot, and a gentleman, I helped him out: “Scott Norwood.” For the rest of the night, I was taunted with “Scott Nohhhwood!!! Wide-right!!! Nohhhwood!!!” Even in the washroom, while minding my own business at the urinal, I was subjected to “Nohhhwood, mother fucker!!!” It’s come to this. Bills fans can’t even take a leak without being reminded of the worst of their many humiliations.
7. If you Google “wide right,” the wikipedia entry to Norwood’s missed 47-yard field goal is the first result. That hurts. I was only nine-years-old when it happened, but I’ll never, ever forget Scott Norwood’s name.
8. I wonder what Scott Norwood is up to these days. I wonder if he’s still in therapy. I wonder, when the Buffalo Bills win the Super Bowl next year, if he’ll have his own Bill Buckner-Boston Red Sox moment. I’d love to see that. I’d love for Norwood to know that all is forgiven.
9. Is there a scarier Yahoo! Sports profile picture than Marshawn Lynch’s? There can’t be.
10. Moving on, Joey MacDonald now has as many wins as Vesa Toskala: one. And a .903 save percentage. Considering the Leafs will have paid Toskala upwards of $8 million by the time this season is over, as well as the fact that he is untradeable, was the deal to acquire Toskala and Mark Bell worse than Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft? Was it John Ferguson Jr.’s worst?
11. Jiri Tlusty, whom I had the highest of high hopes for, is no longer a Toronto Maple Leaf. According to Brian Burke: “[Tlusty] did not seem able to do it, despite many opportunities, in a Leafs uniform.” Really? Apart from his rookie season, Tlusty played 14 games in the NHL last season, and two games this season. In those 16 games, Tlusty played more than 15 minutes once: the 2008 season opener in Detroit. Some opportunity. Tlusty, after more than 100 games in the AHL, is a point-per-game player. He’s a helluva lot closer to regular NHL action than “the player” (long-live J.P. Ricciardi) Carolina sent Toronto’s way in return. Therefore, I cannot justify this trade. And don’t give me that “stage fright” bullshit. I don't buy it. This is a kid who sent pictures of his Tlusty to a woman on the internet, and who had the story blow over in Toronto. Having gone through that, I think he might have been fine. I would have liked more of an audition. But it’s all neither here nor there, now. Philippe Paradis, welcome to paradise.
12. Mikhail Grabovski: 18 points. Montreal’s $7,357,143 man Scott Gomez: 14 points. Discuss.
13. Phil Kessel is on pace for 46 goals. He’s also on pace to send the Leafs to the playoffs (!!!1).
14. I’m going to miss yelling “Marco!!1” …(pause)… “Scutaro!!1” at Blue Jays games next season. Here’s hoping Scoots’ 2009 was truly an “outlier” season, and that he’s an utter failure in Boston. Nothing personal, just business.
15. The Red Sox guaranteeing Scutaro $13.5 million is either a bold move, with Theo Epstein recognizing that Scutaro finally got his chance and is a premier shortstop in the American League, or a sign of a team with very, very, very deep pockets. I'll let you come to your own conclusions on which side of that coin I fall. (Hint: fuck the Red Sox and their deep pockets.)
16. If you’re not familiar with the stylings of commenter “Handsome Tony Viner” at The Tao of Stieb, you ought to be. He uses words like "pulchritudinous," and is making the off-season almost enjoyable, the inevitable Roy Halladay trade, Alex Gonzalez and all. In Tony Viner's handsome ways I do trust.
17. A "Roy Halladay Wants Out of Toronto" story drops every few days. We get it. It's not news anymore, regardless of who the new source is; in this case, J.P. Ricciardi. But my man J.P. did offer this gem: "I personally think, move the player and move on because the player is going to leave." And he's right. Miss you, J.P.
18. Imagine Hedo Turkoglu doesn't hit that shot in overtime, and the Raptors go on to lose in Washington. Would it have been enough to fire Jay Triano? I wonder, and will never know.
December 03, 2009
"The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate."- Douglas Engelbert
If that's the case, after allowing one-hundred and forty-fucking-six (146!!1) points, the Toronto Raptors must be done maturing. Right? It can't possibly get much worse, or much more embarrassing, than last night in Atlanta, can it?
Whatever ails this Raptors squad, surely Reggie Evans cannot cure it on his own.
Once again, playing the part of the reasonable, even-keeled fan, I think it's an appropriate time to call for the coach's head. Fire Jay Triano. "At least we're not the Nets" is not a good enough excuse. (After Boston, the Atlantic Division standings are a crime against humanity.)
Toronto currently finds itself in the throes of an absolute coaching nightmare. Triano is in completely over his head, and is being called out by his players. Ron Wilson, much like his team shorthanded, is useless. And Cito Gaston ... Cito simply needs to sail into the senior advisor sunset.
December 02, 2009
A logical, clear, and concise explanation of why Canada will be golden in 2010 ...
Do you believe?
Also: pray, to whomever it is you pray to, for the Monster. And the horrid Toronto Raptors, too. And, hell, while we're at it, for Roy Halladay's misguided soul.
December 01, 2009
The Toronto Maple Leafs don't have first-round draft picks in 2010 and 2011. You know what else they don't have? Internet access on press row. Apologies about the #LiveBlogFail. It happens, yo.
Three years after writing my first blog post here at Sports And The City, I'd made "the show." For one night, I was out of the basement, and on the biggest stage. Without you, three readers, it wouldn't have been possible. Thank you.
While I hate to inundate you with another list of thoughts, Elliotte Friedman style, I'm left with no choice. Without access to the magical world wide web, I was forced to actually use a pen, and write. I know; the humanity. In all seriousness, thanks to Jonathan Sinden, interactive media guru at MLSE, and operator of the Leafs' twitter account, who invited me to The Foster Hewitt Media Gondola last night. It was a fantastic experience, and an honour to be up there.
Without further ado:
- All you really need to know is that before puck drop I met LeafspaceMonika. She put her arm around me, and it was a dream come true. I may have told her that I'm in love with her, I don't really remember. The rest of the night really doesn't matter, because I'd already won.
- I hate Ryan Miller.
- The Leafs actually came out strong to start the game. They were the better team in the first half of the first period. It might have been the drugs, but I'm pretty sure Toronto came out flying. If it wasn't for Ryan Miller, it's 2-0 Toronto 10 minutes into the game.
- Fuck Ryan Miller.
- I had to make an actual conscious effort not to cheer while in the press box. It was more difficult than I thought.
- Buffalo came alive to close out the first, but Jonas Gustavsson was there to match Miller. The Monster is great in tight, and moves graciously across the crease. (That's what she said.)
- The highlight of the first period was Wayne Primeau slamming Derek Roy into the boards in the Leafs' zone. I love watching Derek Roy get slammed into the boards.
- As I tweeted in the first period, watching Phil Kessel turned me on. I'm quite certain I was making Jonathan uncomfortable, but the situation was beyond my control.
- The pretzels flow freely up in press row. The pretzels were making me thirsty.
- No sign of Howard Berger. Remember, he's paid to write about the games, not watch them.
- According to my man Jonathan, it was Brian Burke who said the Leafs have to reach out to bloggers. Forget about the team's record, and forget about how they do the rest of the way while he's managing the team; the Brian Burke era has been an unmitigated success.
- The best part about being on press row might be the stats sheet you're handed at the end of each period. Your homework, it's done for you. You know exactly how many minutes too long Jason Blake has been on the ice, and just how poorly the Leafs are doing in the faceoff circle. I certainly appreciated it.
- The Leafs came out strong, again, to start the second period. And I'm quite certain the drugs had worn off by this point.
- Matt Stajan and Phil Kessel botched a 2-on-0 early in the period. Kessel would probably have been better off on his own.
- More Leafs fans need to own Niklas Hagman jerseys. Do you own one? Let me know, so I can give you the props you deserve.
- I hope last night is the last time Ian White and Luke Schenn play together. Awful.
- Seriously, fuck Ryan Miller. He is the truth. He made tremendous saves on the penalty kill against both Hagman and Mikhail Grabovski. Buffalo is lucky to have him.
- I thought Mike Komisarek played a strong game. He kept his shit simple, which is what he wasn't doing prior to his stint on the disabled list.
- Phil Kessel is an underrated passer. Marc Savard didn't make Phil Kessel. Phil Kessel made Marc Savard.
- I could hear Dennis Bayak calling the game on AM 640 from my seat. I found this rather exciting.
- Jason Blake: enter the zone, circle the net, put a useless shot on goal. Rinse. Repeat.
- I'm sorry to say, but the crowds at the Air Canada Centre are nothing short of brutal. I thought about starting a "Go Leafs Go!!!!1" chant, but that type of thing is frowned upon in the press box.
- Did I mention I hate Ryan Miller?
- The Leafs surrendered a goal 20 seconds into the third period. I blame Ron Wilson. Face it: it's convenient, and easy. Fire him. And hire Wayne Gretzky. Don't deny it, it'd be fun.
- Is there any possible way Jason Blake makes the U.S. Olympic team? I'm thinking not, as Wilson probably wants to get away from him for a couple of weeks.
- Carl Gunnarsson didn't return for third period action after suffering a shoulder injury. The irony of Komisarek returning and Gunnarsson getting injured is delicious. We gain one, and lose another. Almost as delicious as the sushi platinum seat holders like Daoust love to eat.
- Ryan Miller is always at the top of his crease. He cuts his angles like nobody's business. I fucking hate Ryan Miller.
- I'm quite certain I saw Luke Schenn on the point on the power play in the third period. I'd like to see more of this. It can only help his development. Also: mad respect for "Luke's Troops." Canadian serviceman and servicewoman deserve all the standing ovations they can get.
- It was a listless third period from the Maple Leafs. Outshooting your opponents with absolutely nothing to show for it, night in and night out, has to take its toll.
- There's no way Lee Stempniak is a Maple Leaf next season after his contract expires.
- The cat-calls on Jonas Gustavsson late in the third period were completely uncalled for. When did Toronto fans become the epitome of douchebaggery? What are we, Boston?
- Lindy Ruff calling a timeout in a 3-0 game with 2:54 left on the clock was straight rude. He purposely did it to prolong our misery for an extra 30 seconds, that bastard.
- Ryan Miller finished with a shutout. The silver lining: I didn't pay a penny to take in the game.
- I'll be honest, when Jonathan took off for a few minutes during the game, I hollered "67!!!!1" a couple of times, at the top of my lungs. Yet no sign of Damien Cox. Clearly, he wasn't on press row, or even in the building.
If last night was any indication, the Toronto Maple Leafs get it. No, not the hockey part, asshole, the social and new media part. They reached out to me, in the depths of my mother's basement, and treated me to a game, and all the pretzels my heart could desire. And I appreciated it. During the intermissions, I made tremendous progress on the Stanley Cup parade route the Leafs will be taking in 2010. Yes, 2010. It's those moments in The Foster Hewitt Media Gondola, when you're most inspired, and when you use your crayons to draw the heart of the parade through the streets of downtown Ottawa, and downtown Vancouver, that matter more than anything. Cross-country, baby. Like the Olympic torch relay.
November 30, 2009
For reasons unbeknownst to me, the Toronto Maple Leafs have invited me to the Air Canada Centre press box Monday night, to take in the tilt between our heroes and the Buffalo Sabres. It might have something to do with the fact I travel the internet leaving "Playoffs!!!1" in my wake. Like the Wet Bandits, it's my calling card.
Anyway, Phil Kessel. Live. (Giggity.) And it's the final Leafs game in November. Which means it's the last game that matters, all season long. I'm rather giddy with excitement.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, I'll be live-blogging the game here at Sports And The City, where objectivity is nothing but a myth. I hope you'll join me. We'll be getting underway around 6:50 pm.
Go easy on us, Buffalo.
November 28, 2009
"You acting like a little bitch right now."- O-Dog (in Menace II Society)
It was the knee to the nether regions felt around the suddenly frigid city of Toronto Friday night. Paul Pierce, on Chris Bosh. Where it hurts. Leaving Pierce standing atop Bosh, flexing and glaring over, for all intents and purposes, the franchise. Yet another proud moment in the history of Bryan Colangelo's Toronto Raptors.
In typical Raptors fashion, it was Jay Triano, our lovable Canadian head coach, who had - and pardon the pun - the balls to say anything about it.
The silence from Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack spoke volumes. Here are three guys who are signed to multi-year deals with the Raptors, and who know Bosh is headed for free agency. And not one of them could find it in his pretty little heart to step up for their best player; for the guy who night in and night out gives Toronto a chance to win. It was just the message Bosh was looking for from his teammates as he contemplates his future: "Stick around, drop 20/10 a game, and we most definitely don't have your back."
And if Andrea Bargnani was on the floor, he probably wouldn't have done a damn thing, either.
Does Brian Burke have any extra truculence laying around? Fuck.
After the clobbering of Bosh's crotch, the post-CB4 era in Toronto may arrive sooner than expected. Followed shortly by the post-Colangelo era.
Only Reggie Evans and the ghost of Charles Oakley can save us now.
"Hope costs nothing."- Sidonie Gabrielle
That's not entirely true.
Hope - Phil Kessel - costs first and second round draft picks in 2010, a first round draft pick in 2011, and $5.4 million a season.
And you know what? He's worth it.