Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Congratulations Cujo for win #450


To say Curtis Joseph has had a disappointing season is a bit of an understatement. Coming into lat night's game against Atlanta, he'd appeared in eight games, posted an 0-4-1 record, a 4.12 goals against average and a .843 save percentage.


And he'd been waiting for win No. 450 on his career all season, a milestone he finally reached in a 4-3 overtime victory in front of an adoring home crowd. In honour of the milestone he was named first star of the game. He stays in fourth all-time in sinds behind, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, and Ed Belfour. This might be an appropriate time to say farewell. I don't see many more high points in Cujo's career from here on until he is inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sundin has landed


Based on the media crowd you would have thought it was David and Victoria Beckham arriving in Vancouver. It was just Mats Sundin with his renewed passion for hockey - oh and $8.6 million for just over 1/2 a season.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another classic Ovechkin goal

Planning on seeing the Winter Classic in Chicago?

You might be watching college football instead. The temperature in Chicago has been in the 50s the past several days just like here. Seems ice-making has been difficult despite state-of-the-art equipment. The NHL is saying that the ice is almost thick enough and expects colder weather this week to allow for finishing off the ice. Supposedly there is a rain date of January 2. They will play in warm weather but not in rain.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Storm Nation

The 5 most wasteful NHL moves for 2008

5. Tampa Bay's free agent spending spree


Rookie Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie decide to run their own team and sign 16 free agents committing the organization to about $100 million in salaries without any thought to team chemistry or needs. Most signings were a bust and 2 players (Chris Gratton and Radim Vrbata) have already been waived through the league. Then they sign Barry Melsrose as coach for 3 years and $2.25 million despite being out of hockey for 13 years. He last 16 games and then dumps on the team and owners. What a circus.


4. Dallas spends $15.5 million for 23 games of Sean Avery


For some reason Brett Hull felt that what the Stars were missing was a side show like Sean Avery. Hull signs him for 4 years and $15.5 million which is about what Niklas Hagman signed for with the Leafs. Avery embarrassed the league and himself one too many times and is now been sidelined. Oh and Hagman is one of the Leafs best players this season.


3. NHL allows 'Boots" Del Baggio to purchase Nashville but he has no money


The NHL spurns a perfectly good and generous offer from Jim Balsillie to purchase the Nashville franchise because he planned on moving the team to Hamilton. So instead the team went to Del Baggio who it turns out had no money. He turns out to be a crook and headed to jail. The NHL claims to have done due diligence but did they really.


2. Rangers spend $52.5 million on 2 defensemen then can't afford Sundin


This summer the Rangers spent $32.5 million over five years for Wade Redden and $20 million over four years for Michal Rozsival. Both have been mediocre and have a combined +/- of -15. When Mats Sundin finally decided he wanted to come back to the NHL he decided on the Rangers. Only the Rangers had no cap space and no one would take either Redden or Rozsival off their hands. So Sundin signed with the Canucks (supposedly his first choice). Finally the salary cap working to take away the financial clout of the rich teams.


1. NHL continues to allow Phoenix to lose $30 million per season


Team owner Jerry Moyes has been ensuring the Coyotes cover their losses, which are expected to be more than $30-million (all currency U.S.) this season, and as much as $200-million since he and former partner Steve Ellman bought the team in 2001. But Moyes's chief business, Swift Transportation, is in severe financial difficulty. It was hit by the economic downturn that crippled many trucking companies, which calls into question his ability to fund any hockey losses. The Coyotes have a 30-year lease at Jobing.com Arena with the city of Glendale. While the lease does give the team most of the revenue from the arena operations, there are items such as parking in which the city takes money from the Coyotes. The only way the team can break its lease and relocate is by declaring bankruptcy.

Tim Thomas is one of the reason the Bruins are at the top of the standings

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Toskala v. Raycroft

I never thought I would be making this comparison but Andrew Raycroft's numbers look better than Vesa Toskala's. Not by a lot but Toskala is being paid five times what Raycroft earns. Something about the Leaf defense that must bring the worst out of a goalie.


Toskala

Raycroft

Games

31

8

Wins

13

6

Losses

10

1

OT Losses

5

0

GAA

3.30

2.95

SA%

.882

.886

Salary (millions)

$4.0

$0.8

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Building a rink at Wrigley Field

The NHL released this preview of the rink at Wrigley Field for the Winter Classic, which is 8 days away:

Latest NHL Power Ranking

The Maple Leafs are hot but still getting no respect. Stajan and Antropov are close to a point a game pace and Jeremy Williams has scored a goal in 5 out of 6 games since being called up. Hey Justin Pogge even got his first win. Is there anyone left on the Marlies besides Mark Bell?

The Hockey News: 19 (+3)
National Post: 21 (+4)
Sportsnet: 22 (0)
Fox Sports: 22 (+2)
ESPN: 24 (+3)
CBS Sports: 24 (+1)
TSN: 24 (+1)
Sports Illustrated: 25 (+3)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

...from the leader of the free world!

Leaf fans upset with Mats Sundin


There is a lot of back and forth on whether Leaf fans are justified in being upset with Mats Sundin. Many fans believe he owned the loyal fans some payback for the his huge paychecks by allowing the team to trade him for prospects. While others feel he has been very loyal to the organization that has failed both him and the fans.

Frankly no one is wrong on this one. Fans have a right to be upset. He refused to waive his no trade contract which he had every right to do. He indicated that he did not want to be a rental player. He suggested that he would only be comfortable playing for a team right from the start of the season. He repeated over and over that he could not see himself wearing another team's jersey. He could displayed his "undying" loyalty to the team and city by working with management to facilitate a trade that would benefit both he and the Leafs. Unfortunately he couldn't find it in him to do that. Players like Ron Francis, Brian Leetch, Ray Bourque accommodate their teams and in some cases landed on a Stanley Cup winner.

However, he had no obligation to help a team that no longer really wanted him. He was a model players for 14 years that never knocked an organization that at times was a laughing stock. He was one of the most productive players ever to wear a Leaf jersey although very well compensated. He gave it all he had although management never provided him with any decent linemates. He never jumped ship until he was literally push overboard.

Many fans were expecting more that he was able to give and because of that he legacy as a Leaf may be tarnished. Only time will tell. He was a great player although I never felt he carried the team through even a single round of the playoffs (unlike Gary Roberts or Curtis Joseph). Somehow I doubt he will be able to do with with the Canucks. I wish him well.

No delivery available

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Storm winning streak interrupted by snow


For the second year in a row, the Storm's final game of the calendar year was canceled by a Winter Storm. So circle January 17 as a tentative rematch with Markham-Stouffville at Roding arena.

Last year our make up game was also the day of a major storm so let's just hope history doesn't repeat itself.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Coach Willie

Friday, December 19, 2008

Are the Leafs the only team that dump captains?

Much has been made of the fact that George Armstrong was the Maple Leaf captain to retire with a Leaf jersey on his back. The media will have you believe that somehow the Leafs treat their players worse than other teams. Just not true.

Let's look at the New York Rangers captains during the last 25 years.

Mark Messier was the last captain prior to Chris Drury and he did retire as a Ranger. However, he also left the Rangers in 1997 while a captain to sign as a free agent with Vancouver. He returned in 2000 and was made captain again.

While Messier was in Vancouver, Brian Leetch was appointed captain. I believe he finished his career as a rental player with the Leafs.

Prior to Messier's first run as captain, the Ranger captain was Kelly Kisio. He finished his career with San Jose and Calgary. Prior to Kelly Kisio there was Ron Greschner who retired as a Ranger.

How about the Boston Bruins? There last captain before Zdeno Chara was Joe Thornton. The two captains before him were Jason Allison and Ray Bourque. All were traded.

I could go on and on. Hockey is a business where assets are traded. Even team captains.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just turn right at Montreal....

Alaska is an emerging hockey hotbed

Alaskans have been into hockey for some time now. Sarah Palin brought this passion to the surface when she labelled herself a Hockey Mom in front of a national audience.

The first Alaskan to play in the NHL was Scott Gomez - a pretty good player. Although he played junior hockey in British Columbia and then went off to college. There are currently five Alaskans in the NHL, and nine players born in the state have appeared in an NHL game. This year's group includes Gomez, Ty Conklin, Matt Carle, Brandon Dubinsky and Nate Thompson.

Currently, Alaska is ranked 10th among states in terms of producing NHLers. The big producers are: Minnesota, Michigan, New York, and Massachussetts.

Deadline Day for Sundin? Not likely!

Mats Sundin's agent J.P. Barry has suggested that today is Decision Day for Mats Sundin. So 256 days since he last played an NHL game he has finally decided where he wants to play the remainder of the season. I doubt it!

Let's face it nothing has really changed since last April when Mats suggested he would decide by the end of June whether he would play again. Then there was the August 1 deadline, the late August deadline, the start of training camp deadline, the end of training camp deadline, etc. The former star player has made himself look utterly foolish and irrelevant. No one really cares anymore.

History has shown that players that sit out training camp and a chunk of the start of a season struggle to regain their fitness level and skills. The game today is so much faster and physical that you just can't show up one day and say "I'm ready to play now."

At one time there were as many as 20 teams interested in signing Sundin. Today there is only one - Vancouver. Sure the Sundin camp is suggesting that the choice is between the Rangers and Vancouver but unless Mats is willing to play for peanuts (something he has always refused to do) then only one team has cap space for him. Sundin never eliminated any team from consideration, they all lost interest in him. Only Mike Gillis foolishly kept cap space in the event Sundin decided to continue his hockey career. Every other general manager spent their budget elsewhere to ensure they would ice a competitive team.

I doubt Sundin will make any decision today. It is evident that he is not interested in Vancouver. They have been dangling $20 million in front of him since July 1 without even a bite. For Mats it's either sign with Vancouver or go back to Sweden to count his money.

But take your time to decide. Baseball spring training starts in a few weeks.

UPDATE: Well it looks like Mats is heading off to Vancouver. Watch him try to convince everyone he was always interested in Vancouver. In the end the Canucks were the only team with money. Yes, it came down to money.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Toronto Maple Leafs: After 30 games

The Maple Leafs had a more successful 10 game stretch and earned 11 points (5-4-0-1) which equals their point total during the first 10 games of the season. Their success is largely attributable to the return to the style of play they exhibited at the start of the season – speed, relentless forechecking, physical play and team defense. In some respects that past 10 games were more successful because for the first time the Leafs managed to win 5 out of 10 games. In fact they are currently riding a season high 3 game winning streak.

Statistically the team has not changed much. The offense is good (11th in goals scored per game) but the goaltending is not (26th in goals given up per game). The powerplay is rated 9th in the league but the penalty killers are still near the bottom of the league (28th overall). Interestingly, the team averages 32.3 shots be game which is 4th in the league but their shooting percentage is low – only 11% which is one of the worst in the league. This either suggests that they lack NHL calibre snipers or the team takes a lot of low percentage shots (we already know Jason Blake is prone to that). Considering the high number of shots taken it is a reasonable assumption that the team tends to shoot a lot whether or not there is a legitimate scoring chance.

During the past 10 games, Brian Burke and Dave Nonis have finally joined the management team with a lot of fanfare. However, their impact will not become noticeable for some time. In fact, Burke has promised no roster moves until December 27 which is 10 days longer than the mandatory 8 day period mandated by the league. Jeremy Williams has again been called up and displayed his excellent scoring touch. He has scored 3 goals on just 8 shots as well as a shootout goal last night. However, Williams has been criticized for getting too comfortable after his call ups. Let’s see if Ron Wilson can maintain Williams’ much needed hustle. Mats Stajan continues to lead the team in scoring with 25 points which puts him in a tie for 59th in the league. Their leading goal scorer is now Nik Antropov with 11 which puts him tied 42nd in the league. Rookie Luke Schenn is 10th in the league in hits even though he has missed the last 3 games. Mikhail Grabovski leads all rookies in goals (10) and is 4th in points scored (19) although he has cooled off considerable since Niklas Hagman has been out of the lineup with an injury. The big surprise is the team’s +/- leader – it’s Ian White (+4) who was a health scratch 12 games.

Hey Jackie, do you have a move like this?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NHL players may be seeing a pay cut this season

According to an article on Sportsnet.ca the NHL holds back 13.5 per cent of players' paychecks. That money is available to the league at the end of the year in case NHL revenue projections are not met. The procedure was included as part of the most recent collective agreement so that players take home only their negotiated 56 per cent share of NHL revenues. Players have received back all of their escrow monies the past three seasons.

However, with the economy in free fall, the NHL board of governors were told last week in Palm Beach, Fla., that the current escrow might not be enough and that the percentage might need to increase to cover any shortfalls.

So for a player like Vesa Toskala who is making $4 million this year, he will lose $540,000 if the owners get to keep the escrow money. And next year may not be a great year to become a free agent if the salary cap drops.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Whats unsafe about downhill skiing?

Sundin Sweepstakes - Update

Vancouver
Montreal
New York Rangers
Chicago
Ottawa
Toronto
Philadelphia
Anaheim
Tampa Bay
Detroit
San Jose
Calgary

Looks like Chicago is dropping out. GM Dale Tallon has indicated that the Blackhawks have been unable to move either Nikolai Khabibulin or Martin Havlat in order to create cap space for Sundin. He indicated that any potential trading partner has insisted on Chicago taking back substantial salary. The Rangers who have long been a leading contender in the Sweepstakes have only $1 million in cap space. Trading a big salary will create the same issues where the other team will be looking to move salaries back the other way. Supposedly the Rangers are looking to move several players to create enough space. However, even then it might br less than half of what the Canucks are willing to pay. If something doesn't happen this week then Sundin will be on hold until after Christmas. This Friday the NHL freezes rosters until December 27.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Storm Party

Many thanks to Carlos and Tina for hosting this year's party at their home. Some of the picture are below. All the pictures are in my photo album.

Sundin Sweepstakes

Vancouver
Montreal
New York Rangers
Chicago
Ottawa
Toronto
Philadelphia
Anaheim
Tampa Bay
Detroit
San Jose
Calgary

After his numerous self-imposed deadlines have passed without a decision, will the dithering Mats Sundin actually make up his mind? Hard to believe that since the time the Maple Leafs were knocked out of the playoffs this drama has been playing itself out for 8 months. At this point you also have to question whether Sundin really has the fire to be an impact player. Then again will his Christmas deadline pass without a decision?

Lost in the translation?

North Halton goalies shut down Storm again


After facing 40 shots just over a week ago, the North Halton Twisters goalie stops 28 out 29 shots to once again sneak away with a tie against the Storm. The plucky, young Twisters have been doing it all season long. They scored only 13 goals in 11 games but have also only given up 13 goal to earn 7 ties. They have only given up more than 2 goals once all season.

The only goal by the Storm was scored by Kailee in the third period on a rebound after the Twister goalie had made the initial save on a shot by Mari. But the Storm weren't able to dent the strong defense of the young North Halton team who only managed 7 shots but was able to get one behind Bianca. The good news is that the Storm almost went to entire two games without a penalty. Lauren N wisely knocked down a Twister player with only 34 seconds remaining in the game to prevent a breakaway but the Storm easily killed off the remaining time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Storm ride the Dolphins for another win


Despite a short bench, the Storm continued their winning way by defeating the Etobicoke Dolphins by a score of 3-1. The Dolphins battled hard throughout the game but were no match when it came to skating and shooting. Storm players worked on their shooting over the past week and it really showed last night. All three Storm goals were the result of great execution.

Lauren N. was firing shots at the Dolphin net throughout the game from the point. One her shots did catch a top corner of the net to open the scoring in the first period. In the second period Mari wired a shot from deep in the slot just off the crossbar into the net. Earlier in the period a similar shot went off the crossbar without going in the net. Earlier in the third period Alicia broke in on the net off the opening faceoff and drilled a low shot over the pad of the goalie to preserve the victory. There were several other excellent scoring chances by Genevieve and Amanda which but for some excellent goaltending by Etobicoke would have resulted in a rout.

The win brings the Storm within 2 points of Mississauga for first place with a game in hand. Next game is Saturday against North Halton.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marlies Report

One always has to keep an eye on what is happening with the Toronto Marlies. Rebuilding the Leafs can take for ever if the farm team can't produce enough NHL calibre players.

Going into this year, the Marlies were expected to try and compete with a combination of younger players that didn’t quite make the Leafs, and veteran castoffs that were persona non grata with the big boys at the NHL level. Mark Bell, Boyd Devereaux, and Bates Battaglia would provide veteran leadership (if they could come to grips with playing in the AHL), while youngsters would provide the offensive punch, defense, and goaltending to get them into the playoffs yet again.

So far PART of that equation is working. In a strange twist, Kris Newbury is leading the team in scoring with 6 goals and 17 assists for 23 points. Newcomer Tim Stapleton, who finished second in scoring for Jokerit Helsinki in the top league in Finland last season, is second on the Marlies with 4 goals and 18 assists for 22 points. Recent call up Jeremy Williams was scoring with regularity so far this year with 11 goals in 19 games.

After that though, the scoring drops off considerably. As far as the veterans go, Battaglia has only been in 2 games so far due to injuries, Mark Bell has only managed 11 points and a -5 rating in 22 games, and Boyd Devereaux has 7 points and a -4 rating. Suffice it to say, I hope they aren’t leading by “example” with numbers like that.

Jiri Tlusty is finally starting to put up points with regularity. Though he only has 11 points in 16 games so far, he’s registered a goal in 4 consecutive games, a point in 5 consecutive games, and has points in 7 of his last 8 games overall. He has only been held off the score sheet in 6 games so far, so he has been consistent if nothing else.

Robbie Earl’s season has been a huge dissappointment. He has missed a fair bit of time due to injury, but in 17 games, he has 3 assists, 0 goals, and a -7 rating.

Darryl Boyce has played well of late, as has Alex Foster. Both got a sniff with the Leafs last season, but their chances of making the Leafs long term aren’t that great to begin with. If they produce they might get a further look down the line.

The other point of note at this point in the season would be the slightly improving play of Justin Pogge. Finally given the reins this season as the starting netminder, Pogge is at least looking like he might be ready to take his chance and running with it. After a rocky first 11 games of the season, in which he registered a 3-6-2 record, Pogge’s play has been better over the past few weeks. Since November 19th, he has a 6-1-0 record, though his save percentage is a not so stellar .895 over that stretch. That not so impressive number likely has something to do with the two games in which he has given up 5 goals. His GAA is 2.78, so frankly he isn’t really setting the world on fire so far this season. Those numbers will need to improve or this season will be seen as a step backwards for the Leafs possible “goaltender of the future”. In comparison, Tuuka Rask has a 10-6-0 record, a 2.52 GAA and a .916 SV% with Providence.


Jon Stewart on Canadian politics

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Jeremy Williams: media star


It's a long hockey season in Toronto with not much to talk about. McCabe was run out of town, Sundin is about to sign somewhere else and Burke has already arrived. So the media needs to focus its attention on someone else. Fortunately along comes Jeremy Williams to fill headlines for the week.

You see Williams was brought up for a game 3 years ago and scored a goal. Two years ago the Leafs brought him again and he scored a goal in his only game that season. Then last season he scored in his first game as a Leaf. Finally this week he is up again and...he scored a goal and an assist! So those sharp reporters figure this guy could score 82 goals if he played a whole season. Everyone is getting all excited.

Most of the media let one detail slip by and many fans don't remember. But last season the Leafs kept Williams up for more than one game. He played another 17 games last season. Hmm, the reason you might not remember is that he only scored one goal in that period.

Although many people are thinking Jeremy Williams has 4 goals and 1 assist in 4 NHL games. Well, its actually 5 goals and 1 assist in 21 games.

Hey that's still on pace for a 20 goal season. But he ain't no Alex Ovechkin.

NHL experts mostly wrong

I decided to look back at the hockey experts preseason predictions to see how they were doing at the 1/3 point of the season. You know just about anyone could do as well. Take a look at the ESPN website for example.

Six out of seven experts picked the Dallas Stars to win the Pacific division and two predicted the Stars would win the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile the Stars are last in the Western conference. Every expert picked the Montreal Canadiens to win the Northeast division and no one gave the Bruins consideration even though the currently possess the second best record in the NHL. And I couldn't help but notice that one expert picked the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Southeast division despite the fact that they were the worst team in the NHL last season. Oh yes, the Lightning are still at the bottom of the standings.

Moving on the trophy winners. You can't go wrong by picking one of the several superstars as this year's MVP or best defenseman. Gets a little with some of the other trophies. Six experts picked Stephen Stamkos as top rookie. But with only 3 goals so far and just 13th among rookie scorers I don't see that happening. And what about the two people who picked Barry Melrose as coach of the years? I see Barry has some good friends at ESPN. Good thing because he is back there after being fired just 16 games into the season.

Latest NHL Power Ranking

The Toronto Maple Leafs remained in the bottom 1/4 of the ranking in week 9. The 10 rankings below average out to 26th out 30 teams compared to 23rd last week. Recent injuries to Schenn and Hagman have pulled down their numbers. With a win last night the Leafs are 25th overall in the standings.

Globe & Mail - 21st (+2)
Bleacher Report - 25th (-5)
CBS Sportsline - 26th (-3)
Sports Illustrated - 26th (-3)
TSN - 27th (0)
Fox Sports - 27th (-3)
Yahoo - 27th (0)
Hockey Buzz - 27th (-7)
Sportsnet - 28th (-3)
ESPN - 29th (-5)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Some shaky franchises in the NHL

The Buffalo Sabres were today denying a report from the Buffalo-area Western New York Hockey magazine that Tom Golisano is seeking a buyer for the Buffalo Sabres. The article reports that Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie has been approached by Sabres minority owner Larry Quinn or an associate. The article says that a deal could be struck where the Sabres play part of a home schedule in Hamilton's Copps Coliseum.

The article also talks about concern from the league. It says the NHL is aware of the discussion, and is concerned that the owners are eager to sell, and could accept a price lower than recent deals. A source in the league said that anything less than $200-million would “send the wrong signal” about how much a franchise is worth.

Then there was the article over the weekend that suggested that the Phoenix Coyotes are expected to lose between $25- and $35-million this year and with his primary business under financial duress, owner Jerry Moyes may not be able to cover the hockey team's losses any longer. The Coyotes signed a 30-year lease with the city of Glendale, Ariz., when they moved into Jobing.com arena in December, 2003. Terms impose a large financial penalty for breaking the lease. However, if the team is placed into bankruptcy protection, or Chapter 11, the lease could be broken under U.S. law. Without the lease, the team could more easily be sold and relocated.

Meanwhile, Nashville owner Boots Del Biaggio was charged last week financed his stake in the NHL's Nashville Predators through an elaborate $65-million scam he set up to also offset large gambling debts and sustain his opulent lifestyle, U.S. federal prosecutors allege. He could be looking at 8 to 10 years.

Gary Bettman sure knows how to pick those owners. What a week for the NHL.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Invisible tape

I just can't get into NFL football

Unless you are into football pools, fantasy football or other forms of gambling I just don't know how you can watch NFL football. I usually turn it on if I looking for a quick nap on a Sunday afternoon. The linesmen are a joke. Casey Hampton of the Steelers is 6'1" and about 330 lbs. Does this look like an athlete?



Saturday, December 06, 2008

Recession victims

Oh, Canada!

This is how American news has described the political crisis in Canada.

OUCH...why football players shouldn't grow dreadlocks

Sundin rumours heating up again


The Denver Post reports that Philadelphia and Chicago are the "clubhouse leaders" for Sundin's services this season, pending cap room. The Canucks are considered to be running third in this sweepstake.

Chicago would almost certainly have to trade one of their two big-money goalies to afford Sundin under their salary cap (Chicago currently is only about $2.6 million under), but they should be able to find a taker for either Cristobal Huet or Nik Khabibulin.

Philadelphia doesn’t have a lot of cap room either (about $4.5 million). GM Paul Holmgren is well respected around the league, and the Flyers have a good reputation with regard to taking care of players and treating them well.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I don't understand the Avery suspension


I truly detest Sean Avery. He is a vulgar, annoying narcissist with no respect for the game that provides him with a very good lifestyle. I know that everyone applauds the 6-game suspension handed down by the NHL for Avery's ridiculous outburst in Calgary. However, my gut feeling is that it was wrong.

Bettman's justification for the suspension's length included Avery's prior history of questionable behavior, including his previous sit-downs with Bettman and Colin Campbell; the League's desire to send a message that Avery's conduct wasn't representative of the NHL or its players; and consideration for fans in light of the vulgarity of Avery's comments.

But the NHL have inadvertently set a very low bar with respect to off ice behaviour. If Avery's comments are inappropriate, well what about the frequent comments by Don Cherry that are outright xenophobic. I don't see the NHL demanding that he be removed from hockey telecasts.

If next week the media reports that a Calgary player was charged by police for assaulting his wife, what will the NHL do? Isn't wife abuse worse than insulting an ex-girlfriend? How about drunk driving? Tax evasion? Not making support payments? Once you join the morality police where do you draw the line?

On ice trash talking is a regular occurrence in the NHL. But when have you ever seen a player get assessed a misconduct penalty for trash talking? That is what created that ridiculous altercation between Avery and Darcy Tucker last season during a pre-game warm up. The reason Avery made the comment off ice is because he gets away with it on ice. You see the league has never even addressed Avery's on ice behaviour.

And what about the requirement to attend anger management therapy? How is that related to the ridiculous comments by Avery? He doesn't have an anger management problem, he is just makes bad decisions in his life. Meanwhile, why aren't players who lose it in a game aren't sent for anger management therapy?

It's the lack of any consistency that gets me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Some Photos from Kanata

More photos found here.







Leafs new motto: Pugnacity, Testosterone, Truculence and Belligerence


Brian Burke threw out some beautiful one-liners in his first weekend as Maple Leaf GM, but the most significant for fans was what he expected of his teams. "We require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. That's how our teams play," said Burke.

So you can throw out "The Passion that Unites us All" which was replaced this season with "Spirit is Everything". This isn't the first tough Irishman to gain control of the Leafs. Pat Quinn did introduce a belligerent style of play with the likes of Gary Roberts, Darcy Tucker, Shane Corson, Wade Belak and Tie Domi. The difference is that Brian Burke has a better appreciation to the type of balance you need between skill players and pluggers.

There has already been a lot of speculation regarding Burke's bias against European players. He is no Don Cherry. You cannot be successful in the NHL by taking a xenophobic approach to building a team. And Brian Burke has been successful.

So when he looks at the Leaf's roster he will have to decide whether the player falls under the skill category or plugger category. For example, is Matt Stajan skilled enough to be a top 6 forward or is he tough enough to be a plugger? If he doesn't fit in either category, well you can figure out the rest. So obviously, at risk are players like Blake, Moore, Ponikarovski, White, Hollweg. It is also why Coloaiacovo and Steen were likely moved with Burke's blessings.

Let the makeover begin!

Storm holds best record in Midget B Tier


If you check the standings this monring, you will find that not only is the North York Storm tied with Mississauga for first place in Central Division but the two teams share the best record in the Tier with Georgina. So just imagine if this team continues to get better.

Yesterday a weary Storm team pulled into Georgetown for its 9th game in 10 days against a young and disciplined North Halton team. Although the Storm dominated in parts of the game, they were unable to finish off some excellent scoring chances. The shots on net were an incredible 40-8 in favour of the Storm. The first goal was scored by Amanda in the 4th shift of the game after some sustained pressure in the North Halton end. The Storm scored again in the second period on a high wrist shot from the point by Lauren N to take a 2-0 lead. But the persistent Twisters continued to battle back as the Storm fatigued and made some errors in their own end. The score was 2-1 at the end of the second period and midway through the third period the score was tied up. The Storm continued to have some good scoring chances but could not regain the lead.

The Storm can now enjoy a well deserved break in the schedule. The next game will not be until December 11th against Etobicoke.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rematch with Scarborough ends in a tie


A weary Storm team returned to Scarborough on Saturday for the second in back to back games with the Sharks. This was the Storms 8th game in just 9 days and fatigue was starting to show, As a result, everyone should happy with a tie and 3 out of 4 points for the weekend series.

The Sharks scored first after some sustained pressure in the Storm end late in the first period. Asia had made several consecutive stops but a shot was finally lifted over her while she was on the ice. The Storm finally struck back early in the third period on a powerplay. Genevieve banged in a feed from Kailee and Mari for her first goal of the season. The game remained tied although the Storm did manage some good pressure throughout the final period.

The game marked the halfway mark of the season with the Storm record at 6-2-2 and just a point out of first, In contrast, last season the team was just 1-5-4 in last place. An incredible turn around. The offense has been much better with 24 goals compared to just 9 at this point last season. The goaltending has also been better with only 13 goals allowed compared to 19 last season.

During the first half the Storm earned a gold and silver at tournaments to match the great regular season record. Lets hoping it gets even better in the second half!

Brian Burke has landed

Here is the entire news conference.

I think we'll be seeing more or Andre Deveaux

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Defenseman gets pocket picked

Have you noticed how many NHL goalies are hurt?


Through the first seven weeks of this season, injuries have hit no fewer than 17 NHL goalies, including 12 starters. The most serious injury was to Brodeur, followed by Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, who is sidelined week to week after straining his left groin on a routine save at Pittsburgh recently.

It's not hard to figure out why. So many goalies are playing 70 games a season. Add in playoffs and that could be 90 games. Their bodies are just not getting a chance to recover.

And then there is the salary cap. Ten of the NHL's 30 teams are paying their No. 1 goalie $5 million or more this season, which likely increases the pressure on the respective coaches to play them as much as possible, no matter the injury risk. As well, the post-lockout period has brought more parity which means that there are no real bad teams anymore. So it's harder to match a backup goalie against a weaker opponent.

So when Brodeur comes back will he get a lighter workload? Don't count on it. With so many teams battling into the final few games for a playoff spot, it will be the same familiar sweater between the pipes.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Storm move into first place



The Storm took control early in the first of back to back games against Scarborough. Two goals in the first 4 minutes provided enough of a cushion as the Storm won by only a 3-2 margin. The game shouldn't have been as close but two pucks that went into the net were not picked up by the referees. The first was a blistering wrist shot by Allie that went under the crossbar and out again. The second was in a goalmouth scramble where the referees had lost sight of the puck.

The first goal was created by Amanda who powered past the Shark defense and rifled the puck at the net. The goalie made the save but Mari was there to bang in the rebound. Two minutes later Alicia fired a puck past the goalie in a scramble in front of the net. The Sharks fought back for a goal in the 2nd period. But just a minute later Lauren F jumped in from the point to fire a loose puck into the net. The Sharks pulled their goalie and narrowed the score to 3-2 before the clock ran out.

The win was the 6th of the season in just 9 games which equals the number of wins for all of last season. It pulls the Storm into a 3 way tie for first place with Mississauga and Scarborough.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nothing less will be acceptable Brian

Looking back at Toronto Maple Leaf GMs

Well Brian Burke is set to become the 10th General Manager since the Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup. So who do you think was the best GM and the worst GM during that period?

Jim Gregory 1969 - 1979
Record: 334 - 324 -130 (.508)
Highlights: One of the first GMs to bring over Europeans (Borje Salming, Inge Hammerstrom). Built a core of Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Errol Thompson, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull, Mike Palmateer. Leafs upset the New York Islanders in the quarter-finals of the 1978 playoffs.
Lowlights: Had to deal with Harold Ballard and shoestring budgets. Firing and rehiring of Roger Neilson. Let Dave Keon go to WHA.

Punch Imlach 1979 - 1981
Record: 63-77-20 (.450)
Highlights: Acquired Rick Vaive and Bill Derlago for Tiger Williams and Jerry Butler.
Lowlights: Started the dismantling of Leafs by trading Lanny McDonald. Drafted Craig Muni, Bob McGill, Jim Benning. Brought a fat Carl Brewer out of retirement. Lost job while recuperating from a heart attack.

Gerry McNamara 1981 - 1988
Record: 166 - 302 - 67 (.355)
Highlights: As a scout discovered Borje Salming. Drafted Wendel Clark.
Lowlights: Traded Darryl Sittler for Rich Costello, Ken Strong and 2nd round pick. Claimed to have brain damage in a law suit from a car accident while managing Leafs. GM during Gardens pedophile era.

Gord Stellick 1988 - 1989
Record: 28 - 46 - 6 (.378)
Highlights: Quit because of too much interference from Harold Ballard.
Lowlights: Russ Courtnall for John Kordic trade.

Floyd Smith 1989 - 1991
Record: 61 - 84 - 5 (.421)
Highlights: Harold Ballard passed away. Drafted Felix Potvin. Traded for Peter Zezel and Bob Rouse for Al Iafrate.
Lowlights: Frank Bonello offered GM job but Ballard made lowball offer which was turned down and then offered to Floyd Smith. Tom Kurvers acquired for a first round pick (Scott Niedermayer).

Cliff Fletcher 1991 - 1997
Record: 226 - 219 - 58 - 8O (.508)
Highlights: Doug Gilmour trade. Also picked up Grant Fuhr and Dave Andreychuck. Leafs make to semi finalsin 1993. Trades Wendel Clark for Mats Sundin.
Lowlights: Forced to dismantle team because Steve Stavros was having money troubles.

Ken Dryden 1997 - 1999
Record: 75 -73-16 (.507)
Highlights: Signs Cutis Joseph as free agent. Leafs make semi finals in 1999.
Lowlights: Lost power struggle to Pat Quinn. Put fans to sleep during interviews,

Pat Quinn 1999 - 2003
Record: 169 -109 - 35 -15 (.608)
Highlights: His most notable acquisitions include Gary Roberts, Darcy Tucker, Alexander Mogilny and Eddie Belfour. Leafs make semi finals in 2002.
Lowlights: Trades Alyn McAuley, Brad Boyce and 1st round pick for Own Nolan. Returns to just coaching but blocks hiring of strong GM and instead job goes to John Ferguson.

John Ferguson 2003 - 2008
Record: 145 -110 -10 -30O (.569)
Highlights: Umm, Leafs made the playoffs in 2003-04.
Lowlights: Raycroft trade. Gives Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe, Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker and Pavel Kubina no-trade contracts. Signs free agent Jason Blake for 5 years. Unprepared for post-lockout era.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bryan McCabe Shoot Yourself in the Foot Award

...goes to Ryan O'Byrne.

Storm returns home to winning ways



Tonight the Storm resumed the regular season against the winless Markham-Stouffville Stars with a 5-0 win. Although the Storm was sloppy at times, they dominated the opponents and 3 shots off posts and crossbars kept the score down.

The Storm actually put the game away in the dying seconds of the first period with two quick goals with 8.5 and 2.6 seconds remaining. The first period goals were scored by Sherri and then Gabby right of the faceoff at centre ice. There was no additional scoring until the third period when Amanda rifled a shot by the Stars goalie. Later in the period Gabby scored her second goal of the game while shorthanded. The scoring was capped by a powerplay goal by Kailee with just over a minute remaining in the game. Gabby finished the game with 2 goals and 1 assist, Sheri had 1 goal and 1 assist while Mari earned 2 assists. The shutout went to Asia. This marks the 11th shutout this season in just 20 games.

The big challenge comes this weekend with a double header against the first place Sharks.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Toronto Maple Leafs: After 20 games


After an encouraging first 10 games, the Maple Leafs have perhaps come back down to Earth. In the first 10 games the Leafs earned 11 points but the past 1o games there were just 3-5-0-2. At that time it didn't look like the Leafs would be a lottery pick team and might even compete for a playoff spot. However, they are now just 4 points ahead of the last place team in the league.

They continue to be a scrappy and entertaining team but they have begun to fall short in coming back in games. In addition, they have begun to give up leads late in games just as they did last season. The weak offense and strong defense has disappeared. Ten games ago they were 23rd in scoring averaging 2.5o points per game. Now they are 7th in scoring averaging 3.1o goals per game. Where their goals against ranked a respectable 14th at 3.00 goals per game, now they have dropped to 28th at 3.45. So new personnel but the same results as last season. As for specialty team, the Leafs are similar to where they were last season, Their powerplay last season was 15th and now is rated 4th overall. Their penalty killing was horrible last year at 29th overall and dropped to 30th. Obviously, Coach Wilson is having difficulty in teaching his new team how to play defense.

The controversy over the last 10 games was coming from the grumbling from players sitting out. However, injuries and the recent trade with St. Louis will reduce much of the discontent in the ranks. Looking forward, the start of the Burke era will certain keep the media wags busy.

In the early going only Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky were offensive threats. That has changed and surprisingly the Leafs have two offensive lines. Matt Stajan leads in assists (13) and points (19). I don't think anyone expected this from him. He is tied for 28th in NHL scoring. Grabovski leads the team in goals (9) while Ponikarovsky leads in plus/minus (+5). Tomas Kaberle had a slow start but is now 8th in scoring for defensemen with 13 points. Grabovski is 3rd in rooking scoring with 14 points. However, Toskala has been terrible and rated 39th among NHL goalies in goals against average and 42nd in save percentage.

Cliff Fletcher has finally unloaded some extra bodies. Some fans may be shocked at seeing two first round picks (Steen and Colaiacovo) traded away but both have been disappointments. Colaiacovo has had so many injuries that you have to wonder whether he will ever but together a decent season. It took Antropov 10 seasons and frankly it's just not worth waiting that long. Steen has shown some promise but very little. I have never been impressed and the team has given him so many opportunities to shine. Lee Stempniak has most upside between the 3 players traded. In my books the team that gets the best player wins a trade no matter how many bodies are moved.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Storm fall short in final


The Storm came up short in the final game of the tournament but never gave up, losing 1-0. The goal was scored in a scramble with on 36 seconds remaining in the 2nd period. The play was quite even and the Storm had the advantage in shots 16-13. Quite a feat considering the Storm were assessed 7 minor penalties - some real and others imagined. With the goalie pulled in the dying minutes the Storm just couldn't tie it up. The loss actually ended Bianca's streak of 4 2/3 periods of scoreless hockey in tournament games.

The finalist trophy was well deserved as the Storm once again showed that they are one of the fastest and hard working Midget B teams in the province. The next tournament is in Scarborough where they may have the opportunity to exact revenge on Kanata.

Congratulations Storm!

Storm get revenge and another trip to the finals

The Kemptville Storm were the semi final which provided the North York version of the Storm with a second chance for a win. The players were determined to play a full 3 periods and not let up until the final buzzer. North York did come out hard and controlled the play in the first period, taking an early lead on a goal by Sheri. The momentum shifted in the second period as Kemptville began to press forcing Asia to make some difficult saves. They finally tied the score late in the period . The third period was quite the battle and the play went up and down the ice. It certainly looked like the game might go into overtime when Maddy fired a shot passed the goalie with just 3:16 remaining in the game. North York shut Kemptville down the rest of the way and didn't yield a shot on net even when the opponents pulled their goalie.

The finals were later in the afternoon against the host team Kanata.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wendel Clark was a good player but not a great one


It was quite a contrast tonight. In Montreal the Canadiens were raising Patrick Roy's number 33 to the rafter while in Toronto, they were raising Wendel Clark's number 17. Roy was one of the game's great goalies. The winner of 3 Conn Smythe trophies, 3 Vezina trophies, 5 Jennings trophies, 3 Stanley Cups and inducted in the Hall of Fame. Clark never an all star, no trophies, no Stanley Cups, no Hall of Fame, no Team Canada, no NHL records. He was just a tough guy who could score. But he played with a lot of heart, had an awesome shot and threwing bone crunching hits until his body couldn't take it anymore.
There are few heros that have worn Leaf uniforms over the past 40 years and Wendel Clark's night at the ACC reflects how poorly the franchise has done. It was more a night to be sad than to celebrate.


Ottawa gets iced

The Storm came out flying this afternoon in their quarterfinal game against the Ottawa Ice to stay alive at the Kanata tournament. Although the game was a real nail-biter, statistically the Storm dominated including a shot advantage of 22-5 and a faceoff advantage of 16-11.

The penalty killing was outstanding as Mari, Maddy, Alicia and Kailee kept the Ottawa team trapped in their own end and produced some good scoring chances. However the game was scoreless until 2:20 remaining in the 3rd period when Mari fired a slapshot past the Ice goalie on a feed from Kailee. Yet the play of the game was made by Bianca who despite having very little action, made the play of the season. In the last minute with the Ottawa goalie on the bench for an extra skater, the Bianca was down on her stomach after having made a save in a goalcrease scramble. The puck rebound came out to an Ottawa player who fired it at the open net. Bianca dove accross the crease to block the shot and preserve the win.

With Kemptville defeating Peterborough 2-1, the North York Storm again face the Kemptville Storm in the semi finals

Friday, November 21, 2008

Storm win...but wrong Storm team

Well the North York Storm and the Kemptville Storm played in the second game of the Kanata tournament. The game seemed even more odd because Kemptville was wearing the old North York colours (did they pick up the jerseys second hand)?

North York started off much like they did in the earlier game. But things went bad about half way through the game. By the third period Kemptville had a 1-0 lead. They dominated that period and held a 16-1 advantage on shots. The collapse occurred in the last 3 minutes as Kemptville scored 3 more goals. Poor Asia had to have been shell shocked.

The good news is North York still finished 4th 3rd in the round robin portion and play Peterborough Ottawa on Saturday in the quarter finals.

The standings are:

1. Kemptville
2. Kanata
3. Georgina North York
4. North York Georgina
5. Peterborough
6. Ottawa
7. Burlington
8. Central York
9. North Halton

Storm Blows into Kanata


It was a sunny and chilly afternoon when the Storm blew into Kanata and opened up the tournament with a close 2-0 win over Georgina. Once again the Storm opened up the scoring when Mari took a low hard shot at the Georgina goalie in the middle of the first period. Alicia was there for the rebound. Later in the period Georgina took two penalties just 15 seconds apart and the Storm had an opportunity to blow the game open. On the powerplay they moved the puck around well but had few shots on net and were unable to score. From then on it was a very close game until late in the game Kailee came down the right wing and wired a hard wrist shot in top corner from the face off circle. From then on the Storm played a defensive game to preserve the shutout for Bianca. It was the 5th shutout in 6 tournament games this season.
Next game is against Kemptville Storm.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

LIFE magazine has their photo library online

Here is a sample of some hockey oldies.

Allan Stanley

Bobby Hull when he was still wearing #16

Terry Sawchuck - pretty frightening

Jacques Plante - the first goalie to wear a mask

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gutsy runner finishes race on his belly


You have to watch the video of this race.

No one bothers to help this kid for 3 whole minutes while he crawls on his belly over the finish line. Then the paramedics are all over him like he was JFK in Dallas. Since when is finishing a race more important than a kid's health.