March 17, 2010
I've spent the past few days in Delhi thinking about Tomas Kaberle. And Tyler Bozak. (Who's not thinking about Bozak?) And Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, of course. Along with Nikolai Kulemin, Viktor Stalberg, and the streaking Mikhail Grabovski. Luca Caputi and Luke Schenn, too. But mainly about Tomas Kaberle. And that shouldn't surprise you; not in the least.
India is no hockey hotbed. I haven't watched the Maple Leafs in action since February 2. I know, I should be counting my blessings. But I miss the poor bastards. Especially #15. Who, by all accounts, is playing some of the worst hockey of his life. In nine games since play resumed after the Olympics (Gold!!1), Kaberle is a -6, and has one meagre assist to his name. His -16 rating this season is by far the worst of his career. And it's no coincidence that the Leafs' power play has suffered along with Tomas, and now ranks 28th in the league at 15.3%. Kaberle, like many before him, clearly doesn't react well to uncertainty surrounding his future.
But you know me. I have trouble letting go. I'm not ready to concede that the Maple Leafs will be a better team without Tomas Kaberle, regardless of what comes back in return for his services. The Toronto Maple Leafs need Tomas Kaberle. The Toronto Maple Leafs' power play desperately needs Tomas Kaberle. Which is why I refuse to discuss what might happen this summer when Kaberle's no-trade clause temporarily goes out the window. Because Kaberle, 32-years old, must be re-signed.
Five years, $23.75 million; a cap-hit of $4.750 million per season. The new deal, front-loaded, would kick in at the start of the 2011/2012 season, after Kaberle plays out his current contract - one year remaining at $4.250 million.
2011/2012: $6.500 million
2012/2013: $6.000 million
2013/2014: $4.00 million
2014/2015: $3.625 million
2015/2016: $3.625 million
Obviously, no no-trade clause. Thanks to John Ferguson Jr., no-trade clauses can go to hell. Instead, a list of five cities/teams, of Kaberle's choosing, where he can never be traded. Hockey purgatory. For example: the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers, Edmonton Oilers, and, of course, the Ottawa Senators.
Be true to yourself: can you really say no to Kaberle at a cap-hit of $4.750 million a season? I guess it all depends on how much you value the fluid breakout passes, immaculate rushes, and incredible -- like you won't believe -- cross-ice passes.
Think about it: if an NHL general manager was willing to take Jason Blake's contract off Toronto's hands, Kaberle's new deal could hardly be called an albatross. Kaberle would get what he desires: stability, and a Maple Leaf still on his sweater. And we (or is it just me?) would get what we want: #15 in the blue and white for, hopefully, the remainder of his career. (Which will include, Inshallah, a return to the playoffs!!1 I've heard nothing but good things about the post-season.)
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.
September 04, 2009
Looking ahead to 2010, because I really, really can't take much more of 2009, one of the more glaring holes to be filled is behind home plate. Rod Barajas and Raul Chavez, the Belly Brothers, are both free agents. The same goes for Michael Barrett, the forgotten man. And J.P. Arencibia isn't ready.
Rod the Bod will turn 34 on Saturday. He's just about done collecting his $2.5 million salary. Snap Throw Chavez will be 37 come next season, and a couple more paychecks remain on his $500K contract. As for Barrett ... let's be honest, nobody really gives a shit about him.
I'm torn on Barajas. His .272 on-base percentage induces vomiting. Yet he's driven in 60 runs, good for fourth on the team behind Adam Lind, Lighthouse Hill, and the departed Alex Rios. While I struggle to get up over a .695 OPS, Barajas does bring a 1.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to the table. Like I said: torn. So I did some homework.
The following are the average OPS+, from highest to lowest, at the catcher position for each American League team (only those players who played 30 or more games as catcher were included):
125 OPS+ Minnesota Twins; Joe Mauer & Mike Redmond
104 OPS+ Chicago White Sox; A.J. Pierzynski
101 OPS+ Cleveland Indians; Kelly Shoppach & Victor Martinez
99 OPS+ Oakland A's; Kurt Suzuki & Landon Powell
94 OPS+ New York Yankees; Jorge Posada & Jose Molina
92 OPS+ LA Angels; Mike Napoli & Jeff Mathis
90 OPS+ Kansas City; Miguel Olivo & John Buck
82 OPS+ Baltimore Orioles; Matt Wieters & Gregg Zaun
80 OPS+ Boston Red Sox; Jason Varitek & George OMG CANADIAN Kattaras
71 OPS+ Toronto Blue Jays; Barajas & Chavez
70 OPS+ Seattle Mariners; Kenji Johjima & Rob Johnson
69 OPS+ Texas Rangers; Jarrod Saltalamacchia & Taylor Teagarden
65 OPS+ Detroit Tigers; Gerald Laird
58 OPS+ Tampa Bay Rays; Dioner Navarro & Michel Hernandez
Some thoughts: Mauer isn't human. His OPS+ alone is 180 ... Pierzynski's carried the load in Chicago. Ramon Castro, his relief, has played only 23 games, so A.J.'s personal OPS+ of 104 stands alone as Chicago's average ... That number is bound to drop for the Tribe, as Martinez now plies his trade in Boston ... Kurt Suzuki's turned out to be a strong starting catcher ... Jorge Posada is going to Cooperstown ... Toronto has always been the rumoured destination for John Buck ... I wonder how patient Orioles fans will be with Wieters ... Varitek is finished ... Salty and Teagarden come through with the best names ... Laird needs a backup ... It's no wonder the Rays went out and acquired Zaun; Navarro and Hernandez are brutal.
The bottom line: only two of the top eight teams on that list are going to the playoffs - New York and LA. Employing catchers who can rake is merely a bonus.
The following is a list of American League teams who have been the most successful at throwing out potential base stealers:
New York: 30%
Kansas City: 23%
Tampa Bay: 23%
Los Angeles: 22%
Some thoughts: Seattle, Toronto, Detroit, and Texas employ weaker hitting catchers, but with better throwing arms. And, presumably, pitchers who are quicker to the plate ... Oakland and New York have got the most balanced tandems ... Varitek's more than finished, I almost feel sorry for him. Almost.
The bottom line: only two of the top 10 teams on that list will be playing meaningful October baseball. One can only conclude that the catcher position is rather meaningless.
In all seriousness, the upcoming free agent class behind the plate is not impressive. At all. While it would be nice to have a #1 catcher who could get on base a few more times, the dynamic duo of Barajas and Chavez is not what ails the Toronto Blue Jays. Re-sign Barajas. By all accounts, he calls a good game. One year, $3 million, plus an option; much like the contract he signed back in 2008. Backup catchers are a dime a dozen. (Sorry, Raul.) Hell, bring back Zaun. There's something about that OBP of his.
The Blue Jays have much, much bigger problems. I'm going to stop fretting over this one.
UPDATE: Mission Doc is dead. I'm unable to make it down to the Dome for tonight's Joba Chamberlain vs. Roy Halladay tilt, but I'll be live blogging the game for your enjoyment at The Score. Check the ticker - my Twitter account - for the links later today. It's a 7:07 PM start.
May 11, 2009
Believe that tonight isn't the end of the line for the Vancouver Canucks, and Mats Sundin.
Believe that for Vancouver, and especially for Sundin, there can still be a happy ending.
Props to my man dlbrows for sending the video my way. Make sure you check out his tumblr: Go Jays Go.
You know, it's unfair, but it's all up to Roberto Luongo now. And all I know is this: when facing elimination, in the enemy's barn, there's no other goalie I want between the pipes.
Believe that there will be a game seven.