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.
November 26, 2009
Welcome back, Johnny Mac.
At two-years and $3.5 million, the PMoD becomes baseball's most expensive pinch-runner, because Lord knows the Cito won't use him as he should: as a defensive substitution. (We need a Cito countdown.)
Now, I'm going to go on bit of a tangent here, but when I googled "John McDonald" yesterday, the first result returned was from Bleacher Report. What the fuck, Google? Is this the level you have stooped to? How much is Bleacher Report paying you? Bleacher Report? Bleacher fucking Report? Fuck Bleacher Report. Jesus.
(Full disclosure: I actually have a Bleacher Report account. It's the worst of my many humiliations. It was set up to feed all my blog posts to their site. Think TwitterFeed. Fuck off, don't ask me why I did it. I've asked, repeatedly, for the lovely guys who work there to delete my account, but they're being pricks. It might have something to do with the fact that whenever I write "Bleacher Report," it's preceded or followed by the words "fuck" or "fucking.")
Anyway, many Blue Jays supporters don't know what to make of the McDonald signing. Will Johnny Mac start at shortstop? Does Mac even matter, with Mike McCoy and his .405 Pacific Coast League OBP waiting in the wings?
Well, I'm here to tell you that Johnny Mac does matter, damn it, and that his signing is a bloody significant one. Because it might be the biggest one Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays make this winter. And if that doesn't send a shiver down your spine, or have you reaching for the bottle of Redbreast, you're a more stronger-willed man than I.
Here's to building, folks. I mean: Building!!!1
Some Raptors and Leafs shit:
- I'm not even going to begin to wonder how the fuck it's possible for the Toronto Raptors to lose 116-81 to the Charlotte Bobcats. Back-to-back? Fuck a back-to-back. I don't care if a team has played 12 nights in a row, there is no excuse for losing 116-81 to the Goddamn Bobcats.
- On a happier note, does anyone yet own an Amir Johnson jersey? One of us really ought to. He's been an absolute fucking treat off the bench for Jay Triano.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs won last night. Seriously. Ron Wilson's boys are playing .750 hockey in their past four games. You know that that means: it's only a matter of time before that 11 point gap between the Northeast Division leading Boston Bruins is down to eight. (Another Leafs win, and another overtime loss.) Playoffs!!!1
UPDATE: I'm dealing with a severe migraine. It's been made even worse thanks to the news that the Blue Jays have signed Alex Gonzalez. I know, not that Alex Gonzalez, but old wounds, man. They still hurt.
So long, Marco Scutaro. I'll always remember the good times: 2009, when you hit .282 out of the lead-off spot; when you walked 90 times, posting a .379 OBP; when you stole second base after taking a free pass. All while playing sublime defence. You won't soon be forgotten. If you end up in Boston, I'll hate you. Especially if you're playing behind Roy Halladay. (Excuse me while I throw up in my fucking mouth.) But your memory, Marco, will live on. In the form of two draft picks. So, thank you. And Godspeed.
Anyway, my sports columnist man crush Jeff Blair breaks it down in a way that, if you weren't drinking last night, you certainly will be tonight:
"[The McDonald and Gonzalez signings] is about managing a 25-man roster; about ensuring, frankly, that 4-1 losses do not become 8-1 losses and drain a young starting rotation and bullpen."
Something to look forward to. Right?
Blair isn't the only writer at The Globe who was on fire today. From Michael Grange, about last night's Raptors debacle:
"In fact I’m thinking of introducing a new term to the local basketball lexicon: When an opposing player pulls a rebound off the defensive glass and dribbles the length of the floor for an uncontested fast-break layup; having to neither think of passing or even changing direction, it should be called A Raptor. As of now Gerald Wallace leads the NBA in Raptors though I think it’s a safe bet that Rajon Rondo will challenge for the lead by the time the Celtics are finished with Toronto on Friday. Embarrassing."
Toronto: where "Embarrassing" happens.
November 23, 2009
1. When it's all said and done for Jason Blake, I hope he donates his brain to science so we, as a people, can better understand some of his on-ice decisions. I've spent the better part of two seasons defending Blake's play and salary - his salary, not the length of his contract - but even I know where to draw the line. The fact that he's on pace for eight goals, with still two seasons left on his deal, makes it difficult to fall asleep at night.
2. What, exactly, does Luke Schenn do well? He's by no means fleet of foot, has nothing that resembles an NHL-caliber slap and/or wrist shot, doesn't move the puck exceptionally well, and has looked lost in the defensive zone on far too many occasions this season. I know he's no Drew Doughty, who put up excellent offensive numbers with the Guelph Storm, and I shouldn't compare the two of them, but are my expectations for Schenn out of touch for a guy the Maple Leafs traded up to draft, and selected fifth overall?
3. When Phil Kessel sets up shop on his off-wing on the power play, he reminds me of Mats Sundin. This warms my heart.
4. Has there been a more snake-bitten Maple Leaf forward this season than Nikolai Kulemin? He seems quicker on his feet, and is a solid forechecker, but three goals through 18 games is nothing but disappointing.
5. According to Jeff Blair, "John Mitchell looks like he's flat-lined into a fourth-line player." I want to argue, but I can't.
6. In the soul-crushing years post-lockout, I've allowed my expectations for certain young Maple Leafs defensemen to reach absolutely ridiculous levels. I led myself to believe that guys like Jay Harrison, Staffan Kronwall, Brendan Bell, Anton Stralman, Jaime Sifers, and even Andy Wozniewski, were credible NHL defensemen, destined for stardom, whom the Leafs found Detroit-style in the draft. Add Carl Gunnarsson's name to that list.
7. I'm not sure why, or when, it happened, but Lee Stempniak has become a favourite.
8. Speaking of Stempniak, Carlo Colaiacovo has already missed nine games this young season. Shocking.
9. Fire Ron Wilson. Hire Wayne Gretzky. He may not be the best coach out there, but he was destined to be a Maple Leaf one day.
10. The Maple Leafs consistently outwork their opponents. They outshoot their opponents 61-21. (And still lose.) So, does anybody else wish Gary Roberts would shut the fuck up?
11. Tomas Kaberle is one of the finest defenseman, and point-producers, to ever play for the Maple Leafs. My man crush on #15 borders on the twisted. But in another life, I'd love to see him play centre.
12. It was a lot easier to hate on the Leafs when one of the inmates, John Ferguson Jr., was running the asylum. While the Brian Burke era is still in its infancy, there's something deeply, deeply disturbing about the fact this team has won four of 22 games.
13. Christian Hanson is producing at a point-per-game pace down on the farm. Alex Foster was just named the American Hockey League's player of the week. Yet if anyone gets the call, I hope it's Jiri Tlusty. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I need him to succeed at the NHL level. And for the sake of my quickly deteriorating mental health, it must happen this season.
14. If the Chicago Blackhawks aren't willing to include a second-round draft pick in any Brent Sopel related deal with Toronto, and assign him to the minors, and he refuses to report, what happens to his salary vis-a-vis the cap?
15. As a fan, there's no worse feeling than when the Leafs lose to the New York Islanders. I believe Brian Burke had "truculence" confused with "suckulence." (ZING!!!1)
16. I wonder if Niklas Hagman regrets signing with Toronto. I hope he doesn't, but I would. Hagman's a treat to watch, and an absolute steal at $3 million a season.
17. Not Leafs related, but it's disrespectful to power forwards worldwide when Guillame Latendresse is called one.
18. How does Elliotte Friedman come up with 30 of these?
19. I once met Elliotte Friedman. At Cowboys in Calgary. He was super inebriated. Like any good journalist should be.
20. I hate @DHSpeedwagon. He is pure evil.
21. The Leafs have picked up four points in their last three games. That's .666 hockey. Playoffs!!1
November 22, 2009
November 19, 2009
This one comes to you courtesy of my man 40, and the fine folks at Puck Daddy. It's too comical not to share, and the musical number is most definitely on point ...
I don't often read comments posted on YouTube. Because they're absolutely fucking ridiculous. But this one caught my eye:
"He sucked the cock of Karma. Nice goal, but that's what you get for being a dork."
Tough to argue with that.
November 18, 2009
Three wins in 19 games.
One win in 9 home games.
Seventy-one goals against in 19 games.
Eleven points, compared to the New York Islanders' 23.
It's all bloody unacceptable.
Fuck it. Fuck all of it.
I hate this team.
November 15, 2009
Most of it. But not all.
- If you look close enough, you can actually see the fear in Olli Jokinen's eyes. Francois Beauchemin is crazy, and I find it utterly enrapturing.
- After a disappointing goalless performance on Saturday night, Phil Kessel is now on pace for only 46 goals and 81 points.
- Where have you been all my life, Carl Gunnarsson?
- So, according to Don Cherry, Rickard Wallin doesn't belong in the NHL because he wears a gold chain. It's got nothing to do with the fact he's Swedish, and wears a visor. Nothing at all. It's because of the chain. Just when I thought Cherry couldn't possibly reach a new low, he's gone and proved me wrong. Because only terrible hockey players wear gold chains.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs remain the NHL's most abominable defensive team (67 GA), with the 29th-best save percentage (.878), and league's worst penalty killing success rate (71.5%). It all goes back to the question that has haunted mankind since the beginning: what came first, the goaltender or the coach?
Scribes are busy claiming we are already in the midst of a lost season. Yet here we are, in November. It's far too early to write off the playoffs. (You know me, I think it's never too late.) With 64 games left on the docket, my plan involves conveniently ignoring the standings, and believing that this club will somehow flick the switch and get it.
I believe in the proverbial on/off switch that is found in the realm of professional sports.
If all else fails, Brian Burke can fire Ron Wilson. That'd be nice.
November 11, 2009
The men in the background, those are the real elite forwards. The true all-stars and MVPs.
One day isn't enough, but thank you.
Now, other than to rabidly support the home team, I don't ask you for much. Except for this: when you see a poppy on the ground, for the love of God, pick it up.
UPDATE: A message from my boy 40, sent earlier this afternoon:
"Walking back from lunch and thought about your inspirational words. Picked up three poppies."
Thanks, Forty. Don't you ever change.
November 10, 2009
A .918 save percentage.
As a starter, it's even better: .924.
At home: an impressive .948. No doubt Jonas Gustavsson will play a significant role in making the Air Canada Centre a difficult place to play once again.
Shorthanded: a sublime .900. Up there with the big boys. Essentially: the anti-Vesa Toskala, who owns a .771 save percentage when there's four or fewer Toronto Maple Leafs in front of him. In Gustavsson's last four starts, the Leafs are 89% (16-18) on the penalty kill.
The formula is simple: Gustavsson makes saves; the Maple Leafs kill penalties; the Maple Leafs win.
Goaltending cures all. It triples Toronto's win total.
The sample size is small. But I can't help
think that Gustavsson will single-handedly lead the Leafs to the playoffs, and to the most improbable of Stanley Cup championships, winning the Conn Smythe, Calder and Vezina Trophies along the way, in a magical season the likes of which we'll never see again get my hopes up.
November 09, 2009
From an article on TSN.ca, about why the Toronto Blue Jays should pass on Marco Scutaro:
"In other words, the Blue Jays need to tread carefully before they offer a contract to a 34-year old player who is coming off what author Malcolm Gladwell would classify as an 'outlier' season - formally known as a career-year. ... To make an example that is recently relevant to the Blue Jays would easily be the signing of Frank Thomas. Let's be clear, I'm not comparing Thomas to Scutaro as players, but rather their circumstances. When the Jays inked Thomas to his two-year, $18 million contract in 2006, he was coming off a rather unexpectedly good season that saw him hit 39 home runs after the Oakland A's picked him up off the scrap heap following a nasty parting of ways with the White Sox. We all know how that story ended in April of 2008, with the Jays releasing the 'Big Hurt' and paying him for the rest of that season."
Now, I'm not saying the Thomas signing was all sunshine and lollipops, but TSN can't publish that article without the fact that Thomas hit .277/.377./.480 in 2007. Twenty-six home runs, and 95 RsBI. Both led the team. An .857 OPS.
I guess Daan De Kerpel just forgot.
November 05, 2009
Here's what I wrote back on October 8th ...
"It's going to get worse, before it gets better."
Well, according to the picture above, we've reached bottom.
Think about it: A.J. Burnett, hi$ 5.27 po$t-$ea$on ERA, and hi$ New York Yankee$ teammate$ are World $erie$ champion$.
Paul Beeston, unable to complete the one task he was brought in to accomplish, conveniently tossed aside the "interim" in "interim president." Staying along with him: Cito Gaston, a manager who's worn out his welcome among both players and fans, and who now has an expiry date.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have won one game. Out of 13.
The Buffalo Bills are - you guessed it - last in the AFC East. Terrell Owens? One touchdown.
It's too early for the Toronto Raptors to have disappointed us. But in all likelihood, they probably will. (On an aside, Charles Oakley remains one of the greatest quotes of all time: "These days with these guys I don't know if you can say too much to them without them breaking down and crying, like a girl. It is what it is." Don't ever change, Oak.)
It can't get much worse. Which is why it's going to get better.
Hideki Matsui, World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, is going to look pretty good in the Blue Jays' lineup as their designated hitter.
Vernon Wells had wrist surgery. As my man 40 put it so eloquently years ago: "That changes everything!!1"
The Maple Leafs' search for a goaltender has finally been called off. In Jonas Gustavsson, they've found their man. The Monster and his .901 save percentage will keep the puck out. If Tuesday night was any indication, Phil Kessel will take care of putting the puck in the net. Toronto is a four-game winning streak and another overtime loss away from 6th spot in the Eastern Conference. (Provided the eight teams between them lose five in a row, of course. It could happen.)
Fuck the Bills. They're hopeless.
As for the Raptors, it's never too early for the Chris Bosh "MVP!!1" chant.
When you're at the bottom, the only place to go is up.
(Unless Alex Anthopoulos trades Roy Halladay. Then all bets are off. Fuck.)