March 30, 2009

More Pops!!!!1

The legend of Mensah-Bonsu continues to grow ...

Sick, eh? I loved the little stroll Pops went for after he slammed it home. Seriously, how could anyone not like him?

My friends at Hoop Heads North are all about Pops as well. Make sure you check them out during your travels on the information highway; they're good people.

So, four wins in a row for the Craptors. Much like their cousins at the ACC, it's too little, too late. Alas, at least we've got Pops to enjoy ...

March 29, 2009

Deep Thoughts: The Leafs are the Bruins' Bitches

If there was any doubt that Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs need to re-sign Martin Gerber, there shouldn't be anymore, not after last night ...

Justin Pogge's .844 save percentage is downright pathetic.  Small sample size be damned. Drafted in 2004, Pogge is still not ready for prime time, and I'm truly beginning to wonder if he ever will be. How he performs for the Toronto Marlies in the playoffs (!!!!1) is going to say a lot about him. The pressure is on ...

The Boston Bruins took five of six from the Leafs this season. I hate the Bs. Especially Milan Lucic. And by "especially Milan Lucic" I mean I'd love to see him in the blue and white ...

The Bruins have allowed 95 fewer goals than the Leafs this season. Ninety-five! Sure, they're the best team in the Eastern Conference, but that's fucked up ...

The Leafs' 271 goals allowed is worst in the NHL. Other than the forever pathetic Atlanta Thrashers, who have allowed 262, no team comes close to that number ...

Some good news: Alex Ponikarovsky scored his career-high 22nd and 23rd goals of the season last night, and Niklas Hagman hit the 20-goal mark with the 100th goal of his career. Both of them are rudeys. My Poni-love post is coming down the pipe. Stay tuned ...

Mikhail Grabovski's Mickey Grabs' personal March Madness (two more assists last night; 14 points in March) has been HUGE for my fantasy hockey team ...

Toronto's won only 14 games at home this season. Only the hapless Tampa Bay Lightning have won fewer games on home ice. For shame ...

Is there a better camera shot than of Brian Burke with his binos, watching Luke Schenn pummel Steve Montador? Burke is boss. Literally ...

You know what really breaks my heart? The fact that the Paul Maurice led Carolina Hurricanes are going to make the playoffs (!!!!1). That's some bullshit ...

After this, another, clusterfuck of a season, I will never again take good goaltending and solid penalty killing for granted. I promise ...

March 28, 2009

Thieves in the Night

This one's for my man Lloyd the Barber ...

Black Star. Making me choose between it and Reflection Eternal is akin to making me choose between Mats Sundin and Dougie Gilmour, or Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky. There is no right or wrong answer.

The following is from Wikipedia:
The title [Black Star] is a reference to a shipping line founded by Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey ...

The centrepiece of the album, "Thieves in the Night," was inspired by author Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye. In the album's liner notes, Kweli explains that the paragraph "struck me as one of the truest critiques of our society, and I read that in high school when I was 15 years old. I think it is especially true in the world of hip hop, because we get blinded by these illusions." The excerpt interpolated in the song is as follows:

And fantasy it was, for we were not strong, only aggressive; we were not free, merely licensed; we were not compassionate, we were polite; not good but well-behaved. We courted death in order to call ourselves brave, and hid like thieves from life.

And the version on the track:

"Not strong, only aggressive/Not free, we only licensed/Not compassionate, only polite (now who the nicest?)/Not good but well behaved/Chasin' after death so we can call ourselves brave, still livin' like mental slaves/Hiding like thieves in the night from life/Illusions of oasis making you look twice.
Amazing, eh?

There's more. Check out the following. Mos Def and live jazz music is an incredible combination ...

Mos and Kweli released Black Star back in 1998. Should the two of them return to the studio to make another album together, it would be like your favourite team winning a championship, 11 years after their first title. Needless to say, it would be a beautiful thing.

March 27, 2009

Deep Thoughts...

Chris Bosh, a deadbeat dad? Let's hope not. No matter what happens, his problems will never be as bad as Travis Henry's ...

Rob Iracane of the fine Walkoff Walk, where Lloyd the Barber of Ghostrunner on First fame (read this; I guarantee you'll subscribe to GoF when you're done) resides on the weekends, thinks the Toronto Blue Jays will finish last in the AL East this season. He's wrong. Simple as that ...

Points wise, Jason Blake is having the second-best season of his career. Fist pumps all around. They're on me ...

Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange have written a book called "Leafs AbomiNation." It will be sold for $19.67. Of the two authors, which do you think thought of the sticker price? ...

Sobering statistic alert: Post NHL lockout, I'm talking almost four full seasons, Toronto Maple Leafs goalies have 10 shutouts. Columbus' Steve Mason recorded his tenth of this season last night against Calgary ...

Incredibly joyous statistic alert: Andrew Raycroft allowed four goals on eight shots Wednesday night against Anaheim. Raycrap's save percentage, at .889, is now lower than Vesa Toskala's .891. I told you, the universe is wise ...

I can admit it: I'm officially worried about the Jays' rotation. But Toronto's still winning the pennant. It's going to be quite the fairytale-like story. Something to tell the grand kids ...

I believe Pavel Kubina will still be a Maple Leaf come training camp in September. And I wouldn't be opposed to him wearing the captain's "C"next season ...

The NHL's MVP debate is heating up. I love Alexander Ovechkin, but Geno Malkin gets my meaningless vote ...

Right about now is when I get really sick and tired of spring training. I can't wait until opening day. If you're looking for a ticket, holla at ya boy, I've got plenty ...

March 26, 2009

The Blast

This blog needs some music.

Every now and again, I'm going to drop some tunes around here via my good friend, YouTube. Music that I'm feeling. And some Toronto-specific content, of course. Why not, right? 

First are foremost, one of the tracks that made me fall in love with hip hop, real hip hop, "The Blast" by Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek, off the most incredible "Reflection Eternal."

I would argue until my final hours that "Reflection" is one of the greatest hip hop albums. Ever. 


"Even when we suffer losses, I count the victory." Amen, Kweli. I think that's something all of us Toronto sports fans can relate to. 

Trust me, go out and pick up a copy of "Reflection Eternal." Don't download it. Buy it. It's worth every penny.

March 25, 2009

Leaving on a high note...

In five minutes and 57 seconds of stellar relief work off the bench, followed by a perfect performance in the shootout, Curtis Joseph made up for a season's worth of horrendous backup goaltending.

That wasn't the Cujo of 2008/2009 who replaced Martin Gerber between the pipes last night. No sir. That was Cujo, circa 1998/1999. The Cujo who never finished a season in Toronto with a save percentage lower than .906.

Thrust into a tie game with less than a minute to play in regulation, Joseph made a great save on an Alexander Ovechkin one-timer to send the game to overtime. He then made eight saves in the extra session, a number of them of the difficult variety on a Washington power play.

It was something else. The crowd was on its feet in appreciation of Cujo's heroic efforts. It was 1999 all over again.

In the skills competition to decide the game, Joseph shut the door on Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and Ovie. Another standing ovation. Two. On a Tuesday night. Unreal.

Speaking of the shootout, it's been a lot more fun to watch this season, hasn't it? Amazing how much more enjoyable it becomes when the Leafs aren't complete and utter failures at it.

And I'm with the General; loved Gerber's passion last night.

In a perfect world, Curtis Joseph announces his retirement from the NHL today. As Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza taught us, it's all about showmanship. And talk about leaving on a high note.

It's been tough to watch Cujo this season, a shell of the incredible goaltender he once was. But for one more night, he was phenomenal, and I can't think of a better way for him to leave the game behind.

His performance last night; that's how I'll remember Cujo as a Toronto Maple Leaf.

And, most unfortunately...

You will be missed, John Brattain. "Best Regards," indeed...

March 24, 2009

Andrew Raycroft's career...

Encapsulated in one picture.

Beautiful, isn't it? I thought so too. 

A Pulitzer is in order.

(Full disclosure: this picture now hangs in my cubicle.)

March 23, 2009

Just as sweet on Monday...

I don't know about you, but I find the Monday after the Maple Leafs kick the shit out of the Montreal Canadiens, on Hockey Night in Canada, on a Saturday night, for all the country to see, to always be the greatest Monday of all.

The boys took no mercy against a fragile Habs squad. It was the type of game - the type of performance - that gets me excited about next season. It was all business.

And you know, of course, who took care of said business: Mikhail Grabovski Mickey Grabs. A goal, three assists, and another reminder of just what Montreal will be missing out on for years to come. With 40 points, he's now third in NHL rookie scoring, and his 18 goals rank fourth among freshman.

Those 40 points; they're as many as Andrei Kostitsyn has, and more than Saku Koivu, Tomas Plekanec, Sergei "AHL" Kostitsyn, and Chris Higgins have.

Looking like a pretty svelte trade now, eh Damien Cox?

Keep booing our boy Mickey, Montreal. We love it when you do that.

I can't talk about Saturday night and not mention Alexei Ponikarovsky. It was his second four-point game in March, and it couldn't have come at the expense of a team I dislike more.

My man crush for the big Ukrainian somehow continues to grow. No Mats Sundin? No problem. The trade-age of Nik Antropov? No big deal. Poni's simply gone about his business all season, cracking the 20-goal mark once again, and putting up a career-high 53 points. With a salary cap hit of only $2.105 million, there isn't a better bargain in the NHL, period.

You still hating, 40?

How about the Habs' goaltending? Yikes.

A veteran keeper like Martin Gerber sure would look good in the Montreal crease right about now, don't you think? It's a good thing he wasn't on waivers, you know, and available to any team, twice before the trade deadline.

Well done, Bob Gainey. Well done.

Saturday night was another coach killing performance by the Leafs. Gainey's just out of coaches to fire.

Happy 100th anniversary, Montreal. See you on the golf course next month.

March 21, 2009

2009: We're 0-for-2...

The Toronto Maple Leafs are inquiring into tee times. Yep, it's springtime. 

Chris Bosh is going to have all the time in the world to make crazy awesome ridiculously lame YouTube videos once the Toronto Raptors are eliminated from post-season play. I can't wait.

The Toronto Blue Jays are going to need a miracle of biblical proportions in order to either win the AL East, or win the Wild Card. (I've got faith in Jesus. Dude walked on water, yo. All I'm asking for is the pennant. That's nothing.)

For calendar 2009, my city's hopes and dreams lie on the shoulders of Toronto FC, who begin their quest to make the playoffs (!!!!1) tonight in Kansas City.

The Dwayne De Rosario and Adrian Serioux era is upon us. Finally. And I've got a good feeling beautiful footy music will be made on the BMO pitch this season.

DeRo and Serioux, the local boys representing. Amado Guevara. A healthy Danny Dichio. A full season with Chad Barrett up front. Carl Robinson. A hopefully more confident Rohan Ricketts. Jimmy Brennan. Marco Velez. Greg Sutton. And, last but certainly not least, my man Marvell Wynne.

I don't need to tell you what all those guys above add up to. You know the answer.

Believe in the Reds. They're going to make sure 2009 isn't a complete bust.

March 20, 2009

Hot Fire

Loved the celebration. Absolutely loved it. Want to marry it.

If you didn't, you're probably a terrorist. You probably hate freedom, too. 

The xenophobic wonder Don Cherry likely popped a blood vessel watching that epic celebration. And, I'll be honest, that makes me like it even more. Coach's Corner on Saturday night should be a doozy.

Ovie time. All day, everyday. 

March 19, 2009

A Song About the Buffalo Bills

Years and years of losing and heartbreak are really beginning to take their toll on fans of the Buffalo Bills. Check out the following, it's pretty amazing:

Some great lines, eh?

My favourites would have to be:

"Give me a break, it can't happen every week."

"Let's not talk about the early 90s, how every play I see, makes my eyes bleed."

"Lee Evans was the best wide receiver, he runs routes like a golden retriever."

"Aaron Schobel doesn't get recognition (editors note: so true; since 2001 he ranks second in total sacks, behind only Jason Taylor), when the ball is snapped he turns on his ignition."

A big tune if there ever was one. 

You know, I wonder how that dude might celebrate when the Bills, one day, do win the Super Bowl. (Yes, it is going to happen.) Would he riot in the streets? Would he break down and sob uncontrollably? Would he write another song? 

For his sake, and for all of Buffalo, I hope it happens. That town has had to deal with more than its fair share of misery. It's no wonder I root for their football team.

March 18, 2009

If I find one of these...

In my change, I'm throwing it in the garbage.

I'd literally be throwing money ... into the garbage.

But it has to be done. Thanks, but no thanks, Royal Canadian Mint.

Go Leafs go.

UPDATE: I've come to my senses. (I'm sure many of you have been waiting for me to write that.) Well, sort of. Any Canadiens loonies that come my way will be donated to charity. Let some good come out of the despicable coins.

March 16, 2009

Dare I say 2010?

Contract talks between Jason Bay and the Boston Red Sox have broken off.

Bay will be a free agent next winter. Already, when I close my eyes, I see him in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform.

If arguably the best Canadian baseball player in the game signs with Canada's team, well, Richard Griffin's column the day after sure would be a must read.

Bay. A Blue Jay. Imagine.

That excited feeling between your legs? Embrace it.

How does a 2010 Jays team with Bay in left field, Alex Rios in centre field, Vernon Wells in right field, Travis Snider DHing, and Adam Lind at first base (so long, Lyle) sound?

With Roy Halladay leading the way on the mound, of course...

March 15, 2009


Just when I think I've lost all confidence in Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, he goes out and signs Pops Mensah-Bonsu. He goes out and gets me all excited to watch a matinee between Toronto and Indiana, so I can see what this kid is all about it.

Well, I watched. And I believe the hype. Forget about Shawn Marion. The rest of this dreadful season is about Pops.

Look at that picture above. Pops brings the fire. He is one intense mother fucker. And intensity is the last thing that comes to mind when I think of the Toronto Raptors.

Pops' line today: 21 points in just under 22 minutes, five-of-10 from the field, 11-of-13 from the free throw line, along with eight rebounds, five of them offensive. Read: filthy.

(Clearly, I like saying "Pops.")

He's only played five games, but Pops looks like the player the Raptors have lacked for so very, bloody long.

It's tough not to enjoy watching Pops, the undrafted product of George Washington college and London, England, on the court right now. And there hasn't been much to enjoy this season when watching, or listening to, Toronto basketball.

And with a name like Pops Mensah-Bonsu, how could anyone not like him?

Do your thing, Pops. For Colangelo's sake, and for mine, I sincerely hope you're not just another Jamario Moon.

March 14, 2009

T.O.'s a Buffalo Bill...

and Hitler isn't too pleased about it. (Hat tip: Stoeten at The Score.)

Signing Terrell Owens is worse than "wide right"? Fuck off. Wide right has its own God damn Wikipedia entry. Hitler's an idiot. 

Clearly, the Fuhrer and I don't see eye to eye on Owens. As a matter of fact, I'm going to come out on record and say that Hitler and I don't see eye to eye on a whole lot of things.

Anyway, huge move by the Bills. With it, they all but sold a group of 20 tickets to someone in Toronto, likely my brother, for a game at the Ralph next season. We were thinking of changing up the venue for our annual pilgrimage down south to an NFL game, Detroit perhaps, but now that T.O. is a member of the greatest organization in professional football, we're going back to Buffalo. And we can't wait.

Trent Edwards + Terrell Owens + Marshawn Lynch + Lee Evans = Playoffs!!!1


Like these clowns, who are clearly the biggest Buffalo Bills fans ever, and hopefully very, very drunk:

As you can see, there's not a whole lot to do in Buffalo. But, go Bills.

March 13, 2009

(Another) Podcast, Please

My good friend and yours, Stephen Amell, from Searching for '93, had me join him on another podcast to talk some more Toronto Blue Jays baseball. This time, we were betting on the Blue Jays. Well, I was betting on the Jays. Stephen was busy betting against them.

Here's a link to the mp3. Have a listen. I guarantee you will enjoy the song off the top. Anyway, we lay down our bets, talk some hockey, where I admit to the world that I am a New York Islanders dynasty denier, and, brace yourselves, even talk about the weather. In Canadian Celsius of course, my American friends. You know who you are. But, yes, exciting shit.

No, I'm not going to tell you what we bet on. You have to listen to the podcast, silly.

Alright. Fine.

There's eight categories, each being an over/under, and each worth one point, with the exception of the first category; wins. It's worth two points. Whoever accumulates the most points at the end of the season is the victor. Scientific, I know.


1. Blue Jays O/U wins: 80.5
2. Vernon Wells O/U games played: 125.5
3. Home opener O/U number of fans: 49,500
4. Roy Halladay O/U wins: 17.5
5. Lyle Overbay & Scott Rolen O/U combined home runs: 35.5
6. Alex Rios O/U home runs: 22.5
7. B.J. Ryan O/U saves: 31.5
8. Total attendance O/U for the season: 2,000,000

I took the over. On all of them. If that surprises you, you're an idiot. I'm nothing if not a fatally optimistic homer. And I probably wouldn't be too good at The Price Is Right.

Logic? You want logic? Look, no Blue Jays team led by the Gastonian one is winning fewer than 81 games. Especially not this one ... Am I worried about Vernon's health? Sure I am. But the way I see it, with his bum hamstring, he's getting the injury over with now ... Will the home opener be a sellout? It better be, Toronto ... Barring injury, Doc's winning 18 games. Actually, more ... Can Overbay and Rolen combine for 36 home runs? Let's just say that's probably the stupidest over I went with, but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen ... Alex Rios is going to be frighteningly good this season. Frighteningly. Good ... If The Beej can save 32 games 10 months post-Tommy John, he can do it again in '09 ... As for total attendance, when the Jays are well on their way to winning the pennant, people will be rushing to the Rogers Centre SkyDome. Daily.

So, there you have it. A cool, crisp $100 is on the line. And I'm sure Stephen and I will update you as to who's closer to glory over the summer. We've also decided that the loser (Stephen, eventually) has to be videotaped getting an autograph from the one and only Mike Wilner. In a perfect world, the loser (Stephen, eventually) will pay me via one of those massive cheques, which will then be presented to me by the one and only Monsieur Wilner. (Let us know, Mike.)

Oh, and I've decided: when Roy Halladay is pitching at home this season, I'm heading downtown. A little walk-up ticket action, please. He's worth the price of admission, every time. And like I said in the podcast, he won't be around forever.

Remember to regularly check out Searching for '93. Stephen's got a new layout, and is doing his thing. Follow him on Twitter (follow me, as well), get him up in your RSS reader, and subscribe to his podcast. He's good people. While it will pain me to take his hard-earned money, it's something I must do.

And if you're interested in getting in on some of the monetary action, I'm still taking bets on the Jays winning more than 80.5 games. If you're foolishly thinking under, holla at ya boy, along with how much you're willing to lose. Want to shit on the Jays? (PPP, I'm looking at you.) Put your money where your mouth is.

For the last fucking time: Blue Jays baseball ... you gotta believe.

UPDATE: PPP is taking the under on wins. $50 on the line. I'm going to be fucking rich come September.

March 11, 2009

A different team. Literally.

Is there anything you would rather do with your Tuesday night than watch the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs duke it out? If you said no, much like me, you have a problem. Actually, it's more like a sickness.

I don't know why I watched the game, but I did. To no one's surprise, it was like pulling teeth. It was the Leafs and Isles, after all. Borderline AHL hockey. But, hey, the Leafs won. In overtime, of course. Mickey Grabs with the winner, eh! It's a celebration.

Anyway, while I was walking home from work yesterday, I was thinking about just how much the Leafs' roster has changed in a calendar year. Yes, this is in fact my thought process as I stroll along Yonge St. after a long day at work. Don't judge me, yo.

Thanks to Google, which has completely changed all of our lives, I pulled up the box score to a game between the Leafs and New Jersey Devils, played on March 8, 2008. The Leafs were 2-1 losers (fucking Devils). Here's the roster the Leafs put out that night:

Nik Antropov (traded)
Jason Blake
Carlo Colaiacovo (traded)
Pavel Kubina
Bryan McCabe (traded)
Dominic Moore (traded)
Kris Newbury (in the minors)
Alex Ponikarovsky
Matt Stajan
Alex Steen (traded)
Anton Stralman (is half Leaf, half Marlie)
Jiri Tlusty (owning the AHL)
Darcy Tucker (bought out)
Kyle Wellwood (waived)
Ian White
Jeremy Williams (in the minors)
Vesa Toskala
Andrew Raycroft (bought out; thank God)

Now, compare that with last night's Leafs roster:

Jason Blake
Boyd Devereaux (picked up on waivers)
Jeff Finger (free agency)
Mikhail Grabovski (acquired via trade)
Jeff Hamilton (free agency)
Pavel Kubina
Nikolai Kulemin (drafted)
Brad May (acquired via trade)
Jamal Mayers (acquired via trade)
John Mitchell (drafted)
Ben Ondrus (will never be anything but an injury call-up)
Phil Oreskovic (drafted)
Alex Ponikarovsky
Luke Schenn (drafted; thank God)
Matt Stajan
Lee Stempniak (acquired via trade)
Anton Stralman (still half Leaf, half Marlie)
Ian White
Martin Gerber (picked up on waivers)
Curtis Joseph (free agency; oops)

As you can see, the roster turnover has been nothing short of phenomenal. Granted, there have been a lot of injuries this season, as there always are. Ben Ondrus is up with the big club right now because Nik Hagman is hurt. I don't imagine Ondrus is part of the grand plans going forward. 

Guys like Stralman and Oreskovic are only up because Mike Van Ryn is made of glass, Kaberle's got a busted hand, and Jonas Frogren is done for the season. Don't forget about Jamie Sifers, who's also seen some action with the big club this year.

And Martin Gerber is a Leaf only because Vesa Toskala is injured, and because both Curtis Joseph and Justin Pogge stink.

Gone too are guys like Mark Bell (waivers), Robbie Earl (traded) and Staffan Kronwall (waivers). Rookies like Alex Foster and Darryl Boyce, who saw action with the Leafs last year, haven't been able to make the jump this year. While Tim Stapleton is down on the farm, enjoying a fine season, I think we'd all be pleased if Andre Deveaux and Ryan Hollweg (worst trade ever) never play for the Leafs again.

Ian White is one of the more interesting cats to think about, March 2008 to March 2009. A year ago against the Devils, he played 13:13. Of all the six defensemen in the lineup that night, White received the fewest minutes, even less than Stralman. Last night, White played 27:25, by far the most on the team. He has skyrocketed up the depth chart, and it's a testament to his hard work and flexibility. Also, his stache. He's rocked it like a champ all year and, make no mistake, it definitely has something to do with his success.

Clearly, change has come to Toronto. And the Brian Burke purges shall continue. I imagine it will be another busy summer in Leafs land.

Bring it on, I say.



Down Goes Brashear

I'll be honest, I never thought I'd write those words.

It's official: I miss Wade Belak. I can't believe we traded him, and then traded for Ryan Hollweg. Fail.

March 10, 2009

What the blood...?

Italy. Italy! Team Canada, ousted from the World Baseball Classic, by Italy. No offence to Italy but, well, they're Italy. No matter how much I've been drinking the past few days, that's rough.

The World Baseball Classic tournament just began for Canada. And, just like that, it's over. Ended in our own backyard, no less. Cue immense sadness.

I'll be honest, I drank a lot during Canada's two games. But I'm pretty sure I didn't see Toronto Blue Jay, and The Blue Jay Hunter man-crush, Scott Richmond throw a pitch. Why not? What was he being saved for? I'm off Ernie Whitt. Huge.

It sucked to see the homeland go out like complete bitches, especially to bloody Italy, but the tournament wasn't a complete loss. After all, on Saturday afternoon, I got to experience firsthand what PLAYOFFS!!!!1 baseball would be like at the Rogers Centre.

My man Lloyd at Ghostrunner on First wrote about it, and the Drunks wrote about it, too. The atmosphere was electric. Everyone was on their feet, hanging on to each and every pitch. It was loud. It was, frankly, the opposite experience than you'd expect at the Dome for a baseball game. Sure, Canada lost 6-5, but it didn't matter. Meaningful baseball - for all intents and purposes, playoff baseball - was played at the Rogers Centre, and I was there. It was magical.

Canada may have been eliminated from the World Baseball Classic last night, but let it never be said that Toronto is not a baseball town. My city proved that it was, and is, on Saturday afternoon.

You know, there's still 162 games to be played, but it sure is a good thing the Toronto Blue Jays will be taking part in playoff baseball this October. The Cable Box will be rocking, much like it was over the weekend. The Jays are winning the pennant, after all.

UPDATE: Make sure you read Stephen Brunt's column, Arrivederci, Canada, in today's Globe and Mail.

Excerpt: "On Saturday it felt as if baseball had returned to Canada for real, for the first time in a long, long time.

"A big crowd filled two-thirds of the Rogers Centre. There was a crackle of emotion in a place not known for it in the past decade and a half. And the plucky underdog Canadian national team ... repaid the fans in full by battling to the last out against the all-star Americans. 

"If you love the game, it made your heart sing. All of those wheel-spinning Blue Jays seasons when it seemed as if the sport would never again be first in the city's heart, and still when you give people a reason to really care, it seems they will."

Clearly, that shit made me cry. Read it. Toronto is a baseball town. Believe it. Brunt is a rudey.

March 07, 2009

The Perfect Day

As far as Saturdays in March go, this is about as good as it gets.

At about 11:30 AM, I'll be opening my first beer of the day.

At 2:00 PM, mildly drunk, I'll be at the Rogers Centre to watch Canada beat the USA in World Baseball Classic action.

At 5:30 PM, wonderfully inebriated, I'll be at Spadina Garden, enjoying the finest Chinese food Toronto has to offer.

At 7:00 PM, in a stupor, I'll be at the Air Canada Centre, where the Leafs will proceed to crush the Edmonton Oilers, and continue their most unlikely quest to qualify for the second season. Playoffs!!!!1

WEEKEND UPDATE: Canada lost, the Buffalo Bills signed Terrell Owens, the Leafs lost, and, on Sunday night, I watched Venezuela vs. USA from a private box at the Cable Box. Ri-dic-u-lous.

A New Sweater

Antropov looks good, doesn't he?

It might take some getting used to, but I've always kind of had a thing for the Rangers' jersey.

Do your thing, Nik. 

Playoffs!!!!1 (for the Rangers, preferably a berth in the semifinals).

March 06, 2009

Gerber Time

That was quite the debut my new favourite Toronto Maple Leaf Martin Gerber, wasn't it? What a ... goalie. Thirty-seven saves on thirty-eight shots. Forty seconds away from a shutout. What a hero.

The fact that Gerber comes via the Ottawa Senators makes his splendid effort, albeit just one game, that much sweeter. I think Leafs fans would agree that there exists in life a certain joy that comes with screwing the Senators. And it never gets old. I thought it might. But it hasn't. And it won't.

Oh yeah, the trade deadline. Look, all you really need to do is read this. But I like what Brian Burke did and what he was able to accomplish.

I wasn't happy with the return for Nik Antropov at first, but understand it now. Even though there's no way we're getting that conditional pick. (Rangers have to make the semifinals. Ha.) Regardless, I have put my faith in Burke. I trust that the deal was the best offer on the table. 

Dominic Moore for a 2nd rounder? Sure. Fill that draft pick cupboard.

By trading those two, Burke proved that players who sign in Toronto will do so on his terms. And it's been a while since I got that feeling from a Leafs general manager (if ever?).

As for the trade with Tampa, in which the Leafs essentially bought a 4th round draft pick for about half a million bucks, it showed the type of creativity that has for too long been AWOL from Toronto's front office.

Alex Ponikarovsky is still a Maple Leaf; there was some doubt as to whether he was in the minutes before the deadline. As are Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina. And that's a good thing. I believe all three of them can be part of the solution.

And I like the addition of Gerber. A lot. Burke is proving to young Justin Pogge that he is going to have to earn every God damn inch of that crease. Pogge will not be the man between the pipes for the Maple Leafs until he deserves to be. Period. And say what you want about Gerber, but he's come to Toronto with better statistics than any other goalie in this town. 

I like Gerber's acquisition a whole lot more after the Leafs went into Washington and handed the Capitals only their ninth home loss of the season last night. Dude was phenomenal. Made a number of great saves. It helped that the Caps were missing some guy named, what is it, Alexander Ovechkin? Yeah, I think that's his name. But, hey, a win's a win, and full marks to the Leafs, especially Gerber, as they continue their late-season surge to 9th place in the Eastern Conference miracle city (you really should read Puck Huffers) and the playoffs.

Speaking of the playoff quest, I'll be at the Leafs game on Saturday night, in my new Gerber jersey. If you see me on TV, I'm the guy holding the PLAYOFFS!!!!1 sign.

Vesa Toskala? Get. Well. Soon. 

Let's be honest, Toskala was really close to being taken out back behind the ACC, and having the shit kicked out of him. February saved him. February also put him back in my good books. I can't stay mad at a goalie for too long. Well, except Andrew Raycroft. He's clearly the exception to that rule.

Speaking of the useless Raycroft, I've added Marty Gerber's save percentage to the "Interns of the Iced Igloos" sidebar I've got running on your right hand side (above). And you know what? Gerber's winning. As long as a Leafs goalie - any, one, whatever - finishes with a higher save percentage than Raycroft, the universe is in good shape.

And how about John Mitchell last night? Twenty-one minutes of ice time, five shots on goal, and an assist on Pavel Kubina's game-winner. He also went 6/11, 55%, in the faceoff circle. Needless to say, Mitchell is skyrocketing up the depth chart right now. He definitely needs to take Antropov and Moore out for drinks over the summer.

The story last night, though, was Gerber. He thought his NHL career might be over when the Senators banished him to the AHL (you know, because Brian Elliot is so good). Now that he's back, he ain't going out like that. Anybody else looking forward to Monday night, when the Leafs are in Ottawa?

Welcome to Toronto, Martin.

Welcome to the good side.

March 04, 2009

And I'll take with me the memories...

They haven't been traded yet. They might have been by the time you read this. But Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore were healthy scratches last night, and have played their final game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I hate goodbyes.

Nik, what a roller coaster ride it has been. It took a while, but you did good.

Dominic, you had me at hello. A Toronto boy, you lived the dream.

You know, there's nothing I can say that Boyz II Men can't on my behalf.

The biggest of big tunes. Good luck, boys. You will be missed.

Trade Deadline Day. A pseudo-holiday here in Canada, especially Toronto. Everyone's got Andy Williams playing in the background, ready for Brian Burke to make it rain draft picks.

It should be one helluva ride until 3:00 PM. All I'm going to say is that if Tomas Kaberle gets moved, you'll be able to find me sobbing uncontrollably at the bottom of a bottle, listening to the song above on repeat.


My good friend MF37 has pointed out that those are the odds of the Leafs making the playoffs(!!!!1) this season, after they picked up another point last night, thanks to the divine exploits of one Vesa Toskala.

Toskala stopped 49 of 52 shots and his save percentage, I'm proud to report, is now above the .890 threshold, coming in at .891.

He went save for save, and beyond, with Marty Brodeur. It was glorious. The Leafs, without Antropov, Moore, and Niklas Hagman, and thanks to Vesa, battled to pick up a point. And John Mitchell's stock is quickly rising in my books. What a rudey.

Anyway, as I mentioned in the comments over at MF's blog, while it takes a certain type of lunatic to stroll through Al Gore's internet hollering "Playoffs!!!!1," it takes another type of lunatic to believe that the Leafs are buyers at the deadline. Not even I am that delusional.

Once again, my thoughts, this time about the Leafs' post-season chances, can be summed up much better by someone else. Ladies and gentlemen, a regular around here at this time of year, Lloyd Christmas:

Seven points. Don't stop believing.

Happy Trade Deadline Day. Behave.

March 03, 2009

The Raycrap Report Vol. 9: It's happening...

You know, I went a whole month without writing one of these. It was good. A much needed respite from the goaltending disease known as Andrew Joseph Ernest Raycroft.

But my man in Colorado has been playing some games. Poorly, of course. And I think we all knew it was only a matter of time before that happened.

Anyway, I've decided that I'm not going to be so hard on Raycroft anymore. He's a terrible goalie. I think we all get it. Life goes on.

The only thing that matters from here on out is that, so as to keep the laws of the universe in proper working order, Vesa Toskala finishes the season with a higher save percentage than Raycroft. That's it.

And as you might have noticed, there now exists a sidebar on your right called "The Interns of the Iced Igloos," in honour of the one and only Joe Bowen. That's where I'm keeping score.

Thanks to a meagre .877 save percentage in his last four games (three losses and a no-decision), Raycroft's down to .894 on the season. Toskala, after his stellar February, is only half a percentage point behind him.

Well done, Vesa. You're almost there, my Finnish friend.

It's happening. The universe is righting itself. And it's a beautiful thing.

Deadline Day

It's tomorrow. And it's kind of a big deal.

Are you giddy with excitement? Or are you, like me, praying that come 3:00 PM eastern time on Wednesday, Tomas Kaberle is still a Toronto Maple Leaf? 

Look, you don't trade a guy with that much talent, at that price tag ($4.25 million), when you know the salary cap will be coming down. Period.

Plus, we need him for our PLAYOFFS! run.

Anyway, if you're hanging out on the internetz tomorrow, my man Down Goes Brown will be live-blogging the festivities, beginning first thing in the morning. Join him. And if he makes any rental player jokes about Mats Sundin, give him hell.

March 02, 2009

I respect a good verbal bitch slap...

And there's not much else you can label Shaq calling Chris Bosh "the RuPaul of big men," other than a serious verbal bitch slap.

It's been a "trying" season for Bosh. It's not about to get any easier. Big Shaq just sent CB4 to the mat.

Like, how does one respond to that? Bosh has no choice but to take it. Shaq's on Twitter. You don't mess with The_Real_Shaq.

Speaking of getting messed with, to the surprise of absolutely no one, the Raptors lost to the Dallas Mavericks last night. Bosh had 28-and-10, but, like on so many nights, it wasn't enough.

The Raptors, at 23-38, are brutal. Period.

Sure, they're only five and a half games out of a playoff spot, but it's not happening. I may be a glass half full type of guy when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs (playoffs!!1), but the glass is bone dry when it comes to the Craptors. They are difficult to listen to on the radio (I've got a "basic" Rogers cable package - it's brutal).

I can't wait until the season is over, and the Raptors are put out of their misery. It will then be time for Bryan Colangelo to earn his keep.

Will Bosh leave in 2010? The way I feel right now, I don't think I'd lose much sleep over it.

"The RuPaul of big men." That's rough.

March 01, 2009

Dare to Dream (Read: PLAYOFFS!)

Forget about tanking. Forget about John Tavares. Start thinking about the playoffs.

After last night's magical come-from-behind overtime victory against the Ottawa Senators, with Curtis Joseph between the pipes no less (the Sens and their "fans" should be deeply ashamed), our Maple Leafs find themselves only seven points out of 8th, and eight points out of 7th, in the Eastern Conference.

It's the longest of long shots, but this Leafs team could actually make the playoffs. Believe it.

Want to know why? Vesa Toskala. The fashion-forward Finn put together one incredible month of hockey in February. He started nine games, and finished the abbreviated month with an unblemished regulation time record of 5-0-3. When he was the goalie of record, the Leafs picked up points in the standings. His save percentage, you ask? A tidy .912. 

It was his most productive month, by far. Here's hoping his save percentages of .887 in January, .875 in December, and .878 in November remain a distant memory.

Confidence starts and ends in the blue paint. When Toskala is on his game, and cutting his angles aggressively, the Leafs are a stingy team to beat. Period. The fact that Toronto has earned points in 12 of their last 15 games proves it.

Think about it: had Toskala been playing this way all season, the Leafs would likely be in the thick of the playoff race. This team has no trouble scoring goals - nine guys have registered 10 or more. It's keeping the puck out of their own net - keeping Vesa's legs closed - that has been the problem.

Let's face it, if you think the Leafs have a shot at John Tavares, and have had one all season, you're on the opposite end of the delusional spectrum as me. While you're dreaming of a high draft pick, I'm dreaming of an incredible late season run led by a rejuvenated and motivated Toskala and co.

Look, this doesn't have to be a lengthy rebuild. The Leafs have some pieces in place. I don't know about you, but a defence core next season with a top-four of Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina, Luke Schenn and Mike Van Ryn sounds pretty good to me. Throw in the incredible Ian White, who leads the team with a +11, and the most expensive sixth d-man in Jeff Finger, and the back end looks even better; strong, I must say.

Let's re-sign Nik Antropov, and Dommy Moore. And keep Kaberle, and Kubina, who is playing with incredible passion right now. Let's throw some of the cash we've got this summer Mike Cammalleri's way. Or Alex Tanguay's way. Or the Sedin twins' way. We've got options.

The way I see it, the Leafs are a top goalie away from competing in the Eastern Conference. And the way Toskala has played of late has me once again believing he can be that top goalie. Maybe even this season.

Fuck tanking. When the Leafs play, they play to win. They're playing with pride these days, and I'm rooting for them to win every single time I watch them. In the end, no matter where the Leafs end up drafting, they will have the opportunity to draft a good hockey player. Look at the New Jersey Devils, and the Detroit Red Wings. They find talent, and it's never with a top-five or a top-ten pick. The New York Islanders should be lesson enough that if you finish at the bottom of the standings year after year, you're not guaranteed to climb out of the basement, no matter who you draft.

The Leafs are seven points out of a playoff spot. And there are 19 hockey games left to play. Call me crazy, but I believe there could be playoff hockey come this spring, yet. 

Dare to dream, I say. Without hope, there is nothing.