Monday, March 31, 2008

How do the Leaf defensemen compare?

People often focus too much on scoring when it comes to defensemen. I think Bobby Orr created this expectation that defensemen should also score. So with Pavel Kubina's recent scoring splurge, fans are having second thoughts about his usefulness. The same can be said for Anton Stralman after his 2 goal performance against Montreal. I like to look at =/- stats. How do they perform in 5 on 5 situations. Here is the ranking of Leaf defenders.

Wozneiski; 48 games +5
Kubina; 69 games +4
McCabe; 51 games +3
Kronwell; 15 games +1
Colaiacovo; 28 games -4
White; 71 games -7
Stralman; 47 games -7
Kaberle; 79 games -8

It seems the defensemen you are most likely to get rid of are a plus while the "keepers" are a minus. Why is that? No clue. Maybe the stay at home defensemen fair better than the rushing defensemen.

In Honor Of Opening Day: Worst First Pitch Of All Time

North York Storm Midget B Tryouts

Tryouts will be at The Rinx which are located at 65 Orfus Road just south of Yorkdale off Dufferin.

Thursday, April 24th, 9:00 pm - 10:00 pm (Rink 3)

Friday, April 25th, 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm (Rink 1)

Saturday, April 26th, 3:20 pm - 4:20 pm (Rink 3)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gordie Howe Turns 80

Monday is Gordie Howe's 80th birthday. He was an incredible athlete, playing professional hockey into his 50s. In fact, at 50, he led his team, the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association, in scoring with 96 points. He played 25 seasons for the Detroit Red Wings and was a top-five scorer in the NHL for 20 consecutive years. He could do it all - score, bodycheck and intimidate his opponents, for 32 seasons.

Happy birthday Mr. Hockey!

Below Gordie Howe scores a "Howe Hat Trick" (of sorts) with a goal, high-stick and ejection with the WHA Houston Aeros vs. Winnipeg Jets Dec. 2 1975.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Raycroft Playing Tonight

Tank Nation will be rejoicing tonight. Andrew Raycroft, the poster boy for every wrong move by ex-GM John Ferguson will be moving from his regular spot at the end of the bench, replacing his baseball cap with his facemask to face the 1st place Canadiens. Now if the coach can only give more ice time to his indifferent veterans Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker and Jason Blake we can have a perfect finish to this miserable season - six striaght loses.

Below is Raycroft's career in 5 seconds.

UPDATE: Toskala played again last night. Raycroft is scheduled to play against Buffalo on Tuesday. Meanwhile the Leafs who fell as low as 28th overall are now 22nd and could still move up a spot or two.

Storm Banquet was a blast

The rest of the pictures are right here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Maple Leafs Make Vacation Plans

While the rest of us have to wait until May for some nice weather, the Leafs are likely busy making travel plans for some well deserved rest. As expected their season ends next weekend. Next Saturday's game against Montreal might be Mats Sundin's last NHL game. It will be the last game as a Maple Leaf for several of his teammates.

This week's games against the Bruins were representative of the season as whole. Bad defense, weak penalty killing, no toughness, no intensity and no veteran leadership outside of Sundin. Last night in the 2nd period I counted 3 tournovers by Bryan McCabe alone. Jason Blake went for a nice skate but as always never much of a threat on the ice. Darcy Tucker who used to hate to lose - seems to be okay with it now.

Thanks to John Ferguson, the Maple Leaf lineup is pretty much set for next season which makes Cliff Fletcher's job that much challenging. The Marlies may have a lot of NHL experience next season. Here is the salary or status of the Leaf team (as well as the cap hit) for next season.

Sundin - UFA
Blake - $4.5 million (cap hit $4.0)
Tucker - $3.0 ($3.0)
Ponikarovsky - $2.24 ($2.105)
Antropov - $2. 15 ($1.973)
Bell - $2.5 ($1.796)
Steen $1.7 ($1.7)
Stajan - RFA
Wellwood - RFA
Tlusty - $0.85 ($0.7)
Devereaux - $0.6 ($0.575)
Moore - UFA
Pohl - UFA
Battaglia - $0.65 ($0.65)
McCabe - $6.15 ($5.75)
Kubina $5.0 ($5.0)
Kaberle - $4.25 ($4.25)
Colaiacovo - $1.4 ($1.283)
White - $0.85 ($0.85)
Stralman $0.615 ($0.615)
Wozniewski - UFA
Kronwall - $0.5 ($0.487)
Toskala - $4.0 ($4.0)
Raycroft - $2.2 ($2.0)
Clemmenson - UFA
Pogge - $0.55 ($0.55)

So the cap hit on the contract commitments for next season is $41.285 million without Sundin, Moore, Wellwood and Stajan. Might be an expensive Marlie lineup.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Some Recommended Stretches for Carlo Colaiacovo

Leaf Victory Flowchart

click on flowchart to enlargen


Who the Maple Leafs Should Bring Back Next Year

My loyal blog readers have expressed their views on what moves the Leafs should make this summer. Now it's my turn. A total rebuild is no guarantee of success. Successful franchises like Detroit and New Jersey never seem to rebuild. While other franchises are constantly rebuilding. In today's cap world you need the most bang for your buck. There is little room for error. Even when you've spent wisely, injuries can destroy an entire season.

Looking at the Leafs, I think you hang on to players 1) who provide value relative to their salary; 2) fill a specific need; 3) are cheap; and 4) may not provide much value right now but will likely in the future. If you don't fall in one or more categories than you need to go. I'm also not big on buying out contracts. You are limited to only 3 buy-outs under the current collective agreement and the cost of a buy-out limits you financially for years. For example, the Leafs are still carrying the Belfour buy-out this season. So here is my list:

Vesa Toskala: An elite first string goalie is a necessity in the NHL. Toskala fits that description and will earn his $4.0 million salary that kicks in next season.

Andrew Raycroft: He earns $2.2 million next season, which is too much for a back up. He should be shipped to the Marlies to free up cap space. Perhaps if he bounces back some NHL team may show some interest. His replacement could be Scott Clemmensen or any other cheap back up available over the summer. Justin Pogge has been sharing the net with Clemmensen because he has not shown enough to win the first string job. He should stay with the Marlie until he establishies himself as a #1 goalie.

Mats Sundin: Sundin is looking at the Leafs on a season to season basis. Frankly its hard to rebuild a team when a key player will not commit beyond one season. I would be happy if he retired and those dollars go to a younger free agent who you can sign for a longer period (eg., Hossa).

Nik Antropov: Brittle and slow. But he has size and a scoring touch. His $2.15 million salary for next year makes him a bargain if you can get 70 games out of him.

Alexei Ponikarovsky: Good skater and good size. Average scoring ability. Salary is reasonable and he will be a decent 2nd line player.

Darcy Tucker: We all know that Tucker plays with a lot of heart and emotion - when healthy. When he is banged up all his shortcomings become very noticeable - lack of size, speed and defense. You can't get rid of everyone so he is worth bringing back after a summer of R&R.

Jason Blake: Ferguson's worst free agent signing and you knew it the day it was announced. Giving a 5 year contract to a small 34 year old forward who is not really good enough to play of a 1st line makes no sense. You will never be able to move this contract. Maybe they can find a centre for him that will help get a little more offense out of him.

Alex Steen: Just signed a new deal. He has moments of great hockey interspersed between a lot of mundane hockey. Easily pushed off the puck. He will never live up to a first round pick but is a decent 2-way player who will fill in on a 2nd or 3rd line. He is still young.

Mats Stajan: Developing into a solid 2-way player. Will be an excellent shutdown centre who can contribute offensively. A definite keeper.

Mark Bell: I cannot see him earning his $2.5 million salary next season. Would look much better in a Marlie sweater.

Kyle Wellwood: He has been awful but at 24 he is too young and his hands are too good to write off quite yet. He is a RFA this summer and won't be earning a raise. He needs to improve his fitness level, drop some weight and play with more intensity. If a good trade offer comes in, grab it.

Boyd Devereaux: Strong skater and defensive player who can chip in with some scoring. Not sure why the Red Wings didn't keep him around. Next year's salary is $0.6 million which is good value for a 4th liner.

Dominic Moore: Very fast and a gives you 100% effort on every shift. Very good on face offs. He is only 26 and although an UFA in the summer will be cheap to resign. Good value as a 4th liner.

John Pohl: Not as good as Moore and 2 years older. Will be an UFA this summer. I would let cut him loose.

Jiri Tlusty: He should have been with the Marlie all season getting lots of ice time. Unless he can earn a spot on one of the top 3 lines, I would have him play next season on the Marlies. Another season of 8 minutes of ice time per game will not benefit the team or Tlusty.

Jeremy Williams/Kris Newbury/Darryl Boyce/Alex Foster: Young players at various stages of development. One or more might win a spot. Right now, the Leafs seriously lack toughness and only Newbury provides that.

Tomas Kaberle: Best defenseman on the team and is paid a reasonable salary. The offense and powerplay would seriously falter if he is moved and fortunately he vetoed a trade. At 29 he has years of good hockey left and has few injuries. He seems to make his defense partner play better by doing all the puck handling or them.

Pavel Kubina/Bryan McCabe: The Kubina signing made no sense. You don't pay a 3rd defenseman $5 million because he will never get enough ice time to justify that salary. So one of these two players has to go. I don't really care because neither is worth the money. Kubina has a provision in his contract that gives the Leafs a 6-week window to trade him this summer. Alternatively, McCabe may agree to move to a New York team in a trade if they will have him. Maybe the Leafs might get lucky this summer.

Carlo Colaiacovo: Very talented so you need to stick with him. He is only 24. However, he is one of those players who you would move for the right offer.

Ian White: Only 23 years old. Why would you give up on him?

Anton Stralman: The type of player you rebuild around.

Andy Wozniewski: An UFA this summer. I volunteer to help pack his bags.

Stefan Kromwell: Also only 24 and cheap. Defensemen take longer to develop. He has size and is a good skater. You need players like this to provide some depth to your team.

That's a total of 16-17 returning players. So this is not a total rebuild but you need to change some of your core players. This team is too soft and weak defensively. The collective agreement will slow down the process so it will likely take two summers to bring about the necessary changes.

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Race

Eastern Conference

1. Montreal - qualified, reached 92 points March 20
2. Pittsburgh - qualified, reached 92 points March 22
3. New Jersey - 0-6-1
4. Ottawa - 0-4-1
5. N.Y. Rangers - 2-5-0
6. Carolina - 2-3-0
7. Philadelphia - 2-3-0
8. Boston - 3-3-0
9. Washington - 4-1-0
10. Buffalo - 5-1-1
11. Florida - eliminated, March 25, max 91 points
12. Toronto - eliminated, March 25, max 90 points
13. N.Y. Islanders - eliminated, March 12, max 85 points
14. Atlanta - eliminated, March 11, max 80 points
15. Tampa Bay - eliminated, March 4, max 80 points

Leafs and Panthers lose last night and can no longer reach 92 points. Washington moves past Buffalo but need to play near perfect hockey the rest of the way to pass Boston or Philadelphia.

Don't blame me, blame the MLSE board

Hey, last night was not my fault. I said I was reluctantly jumping on the Leaf bandwagon. Afterall, they hadn't won more than 3 games in a row all season and after last night they still haven't.

Only Hollywood has Cinderella teams win 9 games in a row to clinch a playoff spot on the last day of the regular season. The script usually has the team go on to win the Championship. But in the movies the team is never controlled by a pension plan, run by an interim manager and stocked with complacent players with no trade contracts.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hottest NHL Teams Since the Trading Deadline

This year's playoff race is quickly turning into one of the wildest - and weirdest - in the history of ever. So who do you think has the best record since the trading deadline? Four teams not holding a playoff spot.

Florida: 8-1-2 (.818)
Edmonton: 11-3-0 (.786)
Toronto: 8-3-1 (.708)
Washington: 9-4-0 (.692)

So much for deadline deals to strengthen you for the run. Only Washington stocked up. And the other 3 teams were useless leading up to the deadline. How do you explain it?

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Race

Eastern Conference

1. Montreal - qualified, reached 92 points March 20
2. Pittsburgh - qualified, reached 92 points March 22
3. New Jersey - 0-6-1
4. Ottawa - 1-4-1
5. N.Y. Rangers - 2-5-0
6. Carolina - 2-3-1
7. Philadelphia - 3-3-0
8. Boston - 4-3-0
9. Buffalo - 5-1-1
10. Washington - 5-1-0
11. Florida - 5-0-1
12. Toronto - 6-0-0
13. N.Y. Islanders - eliminated, March 12, max 85 points
14. Atlanta - eliminated, March 11, max 80 points
15. Tampa Bay - eliminated, March 4, max 80 points

If you assume 92 points is required to make the playoffs in the East, then 2 teams have already qualified and 3 teams have been eliminated. The list indicates the record each team needs in the remaining games to reach 92 points. There is virtually no room for a loss if you are Buffalo, Washington, Florida or Toronto unless Boston and Philadelphia collapse over the next 2 weeks.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nerd Trying a Slam Dunk

Chocolate Bunny Meltdown

Gold? Go Figure!

I've watched a figure skating for a long time and gold medal performance from Jeff Buttle this weekend has to be one of the most impressive I've seen. Although he does not have a quad jump, his program was technically quite difficult and artistically performed. It has been a long climb for Jeff and I thought he might have peaked 2 years ago when he won silver at the Worlds.

Canada was the big winner this year at Worlds as the only country with 3 medals. There was silver for ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and bronze for the pairs team of Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison. There has been a significant shift in the skating world over the last 4 years. The Russians often would walk away with half of the 12 medals and would dominate the pairs and ice dance categories. They only won a bronze in the ice dance. The Americans used to be a power in single skating but also came home with just a bronze by Jonny Weir. As the rest of the world catches up the medals are now spread around with Japan, Italy, South Korea, France, Germany and China also winning medals.

I'm reluctantly jumping on the Leaf bandwagon

I guess the Toronto Maple Leafs deserve some fan support. They have won 12 or their last 15 games and had some dramatic come from behind wins. Quite a contrast to earlier in the season when they blew leads in the 3rd period on a regular basis.

So since they've taken themselves out of contention for a top draft pick, I might as well cheer them on. Two weeks ago I declared them officially out of the playoffs. Afterall they had only 11 games remaining and needed 20 points to reach 92 points. And they hadn't won more than 3 games in a row all season. Well they still haven't won more than 3 straight but with only 6 games remaining anything can happen.

But I still don't believe the will make it. Even if they won every single game, 92 points might not be enough considering the way Florida and Washington have been playing. In fact in the past two weeks although the Leafs have closed the gap on 8th place marginally, they are still stuck in 12th place. But yes they are not mathematically out yet. So here is why the Leafs have been winning:

1. Vesa Toskala
Not too many goalies playing better than Toskala these days. Great goaltending can carry you a long way. In fact how many teams in the East other than New Jersey are getting better goaltending than the Leafs? Likely none.

2. Mats Sundin
Mats was carrying the team all season but just couldn't drag them into a playoff spot. This team too often sits back and waits for their captain to get things happening. It's no coincidence that the team plays better when he is injured. The centres have all responded positively to an increase in ice time. I'm not joking but if he comes back too soon, they will come up with a bad game and end this run. It always seems to happen.

3. Matt Stajan
This season has seen Stajan begin to live up to his potential. He is a smart two-way player that was expected to be a decent 2nd or 3rd line centre. With Sundin out of the line up he has stepped it up considerably and is contributing offensive;y. I don't expect it to last but he will develop into good NHL player.

4. Pavel Kubina
Since coming to the Leafs, he has either been hurt of playing like I wish he was hurt. He was slow and prone to coughing the puck up. When McCabe was hurt he moved up to play with Kaberle and the combination of the new partner and more ice time has done wonders. He has been playing very well and contributing offensively. He has scored some big goals in the past 2 weeks. I personally think that Tomas Kaberle is just such a good hockey player that he improves everyone on the ice with him.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Brampton Results

The winner of the Midget B division was Norfolk who defeated Brockville this afternoon by a score of 3-1.

A big congratulations to the Storm Midget BB team. They won the Midget BB division and went through the tournament without a loss.

Go Storm Go!

Happy Easter

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hericanes Blow by Storm

Well the quarterfinal match up was against the Norfolk Hericanes who finished 7th out of 8 teams in the powerful West Division in the LLFHL with just a 5-13-6 record. But we quickly learned that there are no weak teams in the West. Norfolk beat the Storm in every aspect of the game, skating, puckhandling, passing and shooting. They won just about every battle for the puck and stripped Storm players of the puck throughout the game. They also walked away with a convincing 4-0 win.

But it was a valuable lesson on how to be aggressive on the puck. We will likely see similar efforts from teams that actually qualified for the Provincial Championships (yes, Norfolk did not qualify).

In other Storm news, the Midget A team finished 3rd in their Pool and qualified for an Elimination Round but failed to move on. The Midget BB team came f1st in their pool and moved on the the quarterfinals. As of midnight the scores for the Midget BB game had not been posted or had the games of the other Midget B quarterfinal games.

Did I say we had as much chance of making the playoffs as the Leafs?

OK. Maybe I did. But then my math skills are better than Mats Sundin.

Yes, it's true that before this afternoon's against Etobicoke I did say mathematically we could make the playoffs in the Brampton Tournament but our chance were about the same as the Maple Leafs. Afterall, we only had one point in the first two games of the Tournament and 11 teams out of 18 had better records than we did. Only the top 2 teams in each of the 3 Pools made the playoffs plus 2 wild card teams.

But I did also say that if the right combination of teams won and loss, if we beat Etobicoke and if we scored a bunch of goals then we would have a decent chance. Well we beat Etobicoke. We scored 4 goals. The right teams won and lost with goal margins that didn't hurt us. And as it turned out we were the first-seeded wild card team.

Against Etobicoke everything seemed to go right. We hit the ice full speed and never looked back. We scored all 4 goals on the powerplay and successfully killed off 5 penalties of our own including 2 separate 5on 3 situations. Again, Kendra and Bianca shard the shutout with the help of a couple of goalposts.

Mari again lead the offensive with 2 goals, her 19th and 20th of the season. The second goal was her 30th point of the season to tie a team record set my Heather last season. Lauren F crashed into the net for her first goal of the season and Rebecca also scored a goal.

It was quite clear after whether we had been successful in grabbing a playoff spot although the team played very well in all three games. But later in the afternoon as the scores began to be posted, it became clear that we had made it.

Poll Results on who should the Maple Leafs get rid of this summer

So below are the results of the poll on who the Leafs should get rid of this summer. I could have listed the entire roster but left of Toskala, Antropov and Sundin, three veterans that the team has to keep right now as well as the young cheap players who have sufficient upside (though they may never fulfill expectations) like Tlusty, Steen Stajan, Stalman and Coloaiavaco. Though I'm sure people will disagree with these players as well.

Andrew Raycroft 90%
John Pohl 70%
Andy Wozniewski 60%
Darcy Tucker 56%
Mark Bell 46%
Ian White 40%
Bryan McCabe 36%
Pavel Kubina 36%
Kyle Wellwood 36%
Jason Blake 33%
Boyd Devereaux 36%
Dominic Moore 30%
Alexei Ponikarovsky 30%
Tomas Kaberle 16%

It is pretty clear at the top end and the bottom end which players in the list should go and which should stay. Though I would love to hear an argument on why the Leafs should hang onto Raycroft from the few people who thought he should stay. Also I can't understand why some people felt Kaberle should go. He may only be an average defender in his own end but few defenseman in the league have his puckhanding ability. He makes whoever is paired with him (McCabe, Kubina) look good and he salary is very reasonable. In fact he is 3rd on the team's defense pay scale but clearly the best defenseman. The group in the middle is seem to be bunched together. Obviously you have to keep some players for next season even if you totally rebuild and a number of players would be difficult to move out.

Ranger Fans a Little Louder Than Leaf Fans

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday at the Brampton Tournament

Well after a three week layoff, the Storm finally got back on the ice, in fact twice, on the first day of the Brampton Tounament. The first game was against the Lindsay Linx who were 10-8-6 during the regular season. The rust was apparent during the first half of the game but slowly the skating legs began to return. Lindsay jumped into a 1-0 first period lead. The Storm pressed throughout the third period but failed to score despite several excellent chances. So the Storm lose another game by a score of 1-0.

Later in the day, the Storm were up against the Guelph Thunder who were 11-4-9 during the regular season. Well with the Storm and Thunder out on ice all we were missing with the Lightning (ok, excuse the pun). It was another typical hard skating game that at one point looked like it would be a scoreless tie. But in the third period Guelph scored a powerplay goal with Lauren F in the penalty box. However, the Storm fought back with Mari scoring a goal with a few minutes left in the game. It happened to be Mari's 18th goal this season which set a single season record for the Midget B team. The previous mark of 17 goals was set by Alex Matyjiw in the 2004-05 season.

The single point in 2 games will make it difficult to make the quarter finals unless it's as one of the two wild card teams. The Pool C standings are:

Brockville 4 pts
Lindsay 4 pts
Etobicoke 2 pts
North York 1 pt
Guelph 1 pt
West Northumberland o pt

Poll Results for NHL MVP

Well opinions shifted significantly from December for good reason. Since that time injuries have slowed down some players while others surged in the second half. The voting pretty much split between Ovechkin and Brodeur. Neither players were MVP contenders in December. Back then the vote was split between Lecavalier, Crosby and Sundin though a lot of Leaf fans skewed the vote here. Below is the current poll results with December in brackets.

Ovechkin 35% (0%)
Brodeur 26% (0%)
Malkin 11% (0%)
Crosby 8% (29%)
Sundin 5% (26%)
Kovalchuk 5% (11%)
Alfredsson 2% (5%)
Zetterberg 2% (5%)
Lecavalier 0% (26%)
Leclaire 0% (5%)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another Nasty Injury

Sharks rookie Torrey Mitchell shoves the Wild defenceman Kurtis Foster into the boards on an icing call. Mitchell gets a 2 minute tripping penalty. Foster gets surgery to fix a displaced fracture in his left femur and gets a steel rod inserted in his leg.

So does this look like an intentional act? Mitchell claims he fell into him. Should he have shown more caution going into the boards at that speed? Does it merit some sort of additional punishment like a suspension? Do enough of these injuries occur to justify bringing in no-touch icing?

Bobby Orr Turns 60

Hard for me to believe it but Bobby Orr has turned 60. One of hockey's biggest legends. He is a Canadian cultural icon. Legend has it that the Maple Leafs screwed up signing the local phenom. Stephen Brunt of the Globe has done an excellent story on Orr.

One of my favourite Orr memories was the famous Quinn hit. In 1969, Pat Quinn was a slow hulking defenseman for the Maple Leafs who caught Orr with his head down and knocked him out. Quinn was assessed a questionable elbow penalty - mostly for having the gall to knockout a hockey God in BOSTON! The Boston fans went crazy. Quinn had to be escorted from the penalty box because some of the fans began hitting him. Garbage rained down in Quinn's direction. Finally police were brought in to safely escort Quinn to the dressing room.

Hard to say who the greatest NHL player of all time. The game has evolved so much that comparisons don't work. But I never saw a player dominate in the way that Bobby Orr did in his era. When he played he was the fastest skater, the best stickhandler, and the most accurate shot. He was so good he made stars on other teams look ordinary. He was the only defenseman to win a scoring championship.

For those who never got to see him play, look at this highlight reel of Bobby Orr rushing the puck.

LLHL Playoffs - Round 2

Here are the results of the second round of the Midget B Central Division:

Barrie vs. North Simcoe > Barrie advances with 2 wins
(Barrie had won season series with 1-0-2 record)

Aurora vs. Orangeville > Aurora advances with 2 wins
(Aurora had won season series with 2-0-1 record)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Purim...

...from Nosh the Hamentash!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ooops, Toskala Lets in a 200 Footer

Baseball Players are Wimps

I noticed that Blue Jay pitcher A.J. Burnett has been whining about the finger nail he lost in a car door at spring training. He can't throw his curveball until the nail grows back in so poor A.J. has been working on a changeup during spring. I wonder if this were the regular season, whether Burnett would have spent some time on the disabled list.

It reminds me of some other whimpy injuries that have disabled Blue Jays in the past. Rico Carty was disabled my a plastic toothpick in his finger. His batting average dropped from .320 to .245 as a result of that injury. Bob Bailor was disabled after being cut my oyster shells. Paul Molitor dislocated a knuckle when it got stuck in another player's glove. Glenallen Hill missed a few games after falling out of his bed while having an arachnophobic dream about spiders. He dreamt that spiders were devouring him, jumped off his bed, fell through a glass table, and crawled through the shards of glass.

But there are some stranger injuries on other teams. Charlie Hough broke his pinky finger while shaking hands. Mickey Tettleton went on the DL with a severe case of athlete's foot - caused by tying his shoes too tight. I'm not making this stuff up.

Jose Cardenal missed a game in 1972 because he was kept awake all night by crickets chirping in his hotel room. Jose Cardenal missed a game in 1974, because he couldn't blink. He swore his eyes were stuck open. OK, Jose had issues.

Rickey Henderson missed several games because of frost- bite. In August! Kevin Mitchell strained a muscle while vomiting. Reliever Larry Anderson strained a rib muscle getting out of a Jucuzzi.

Terry Harper injured his shoulder after giving another player a high five. Greg Harris injured his shoulder trying to flick sunflower seeds into the stands from the bullpen.

Baseball players are the softest athletes on this planet.

Most Expensive NHL Suspension

I was thinking that the 8 game suspension that Chris Pronger was serving might be the most expensive since he will be giving up about $609,000 in salary of his annual salary of $6.25 million. Chris Simon's 30 game suspension only cost him $174,000 since his annual salary is just $475,000.

When you look back at the longer suspensions, naturally Todd Bertuzzi's name jumps out at you. With all the ruckus around the length of his suspension, it was only 20 games because of the lockout. However, 7 of those games were playoff games and players are paid in full by the end of the regular season. So I am guessing Bertuzzi only lost salary for the 13 regular season games he sat out. However, his contract that year was $6.8 million which means he lost out on $1,078,000.

Now that hurts. But not as much as what Steve Moore lost.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Leafs Back in the Race for 1st Overall Pick

Tank Nation has been pretty glum lately. Cliff Fletcher was unable to blow up the team. Then the team goes on 3 week stretch where they are playing their best hockey of the season. So with Nik Antropov and Mats Sundin on the shelf for a while, Tank Nation must be feeling pretty good these days.

Right now the Leafs are in 25th place overall which takes them out of contention for the 1st pick in the draft since you can only move up 4 places. But they have an 6.2% chance of winning the lottery which means 2nd pick overall. And if the Islanders who are 3 points behind the Leafs can catch them, the Leafs will have an 8.1% chance at the 1st pick overall. Let's hope that Swedish groin hurts for a little longer.

It's incredible how little depth the Leafs have. Colorado, Detroit, Boston and Pittsburgh have had injuries to key players and continued to win. You would expect high-priced help like Darcy Tucker and Jason Blake to step it up but that hasn't happened. Makes you wonder why so many people voted to keep Blake in my poll in the sidebar.

On to one juicy Sundin rumour. The source is Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. The same Steve Simmons who said last summer that Sundin needed potentially career-ending hip surgery. It's funny that after that story was proven to be false. Anyway Simmons has reported (cough cough) that the Montreal Canadiens had offered for Sundin - Christopher Higgins and their first, second and third-round draft picks. Toronto agreed, but Sundin refused to go.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

No Suspension?

I've always said the NHL looks the other way when it comes to fouls by Chris Pronger. How is that different than the following the earned Chris Simon a 30-game suspension?

UPDATE: The NHL just handed Pronger an 8 game suspension. It's about time!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Maple Leaf Rebuilding Program

Naturally, the Maple Leaf Rebuilding Program has nothing to do with condo construction. As Cliff Fletcher has alluded to on several occasions, he will embark on rebuilding the team so that it can compete for the Stanley Cup. Of course he will only start the process that will hopefully completed by his successor.

So who would you keep or get rid of this summer? Keep in mind you need to ice a roster of 23 players in the fall so you can't get rid of everyone. Some players maybe worth keeping as spare parts rather as key players to rebuild around. Has the performance of some of the players in the past few weeks made you reconsider their value to the team? Throw in your two cents by taking the poll on the sidebar.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Awareness Test

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Introducing Your Dysfunctional Maple Leafs..."

...cue the music.

Let me see, at the beginning of the season, Leaf management characterized the team as one that could contend. Not for a playoff spot, but for the Stanley Cup. As for the players, well they just sucked for 4 entire months. In January management decides the team sucks. They fire the GM and bring in Cliff Fletcher who has nothing nice to say about the team. He wants to blow it up and start again. Except the players disagree and start playing inspired hockey. In fact some of the most maligned players are carrying the team.

Leaf Nation, what are you supposed to do? Cheer the team on or sign up for Tank Nation? Welcome to the most dysfunctional team in the NHL. Where management, the coaches and the players are never on the same page.

Either we are watching the biggest comeback in NHL history. Equal to the 1989 Blue Jays who were struggling in sixth-place in a seven-team A.L. East division with a 38-45 won-lost record before going 51-28 in the final 12 weeks of the season to win the division crown by two games over the Orioles. Or our inspired Maple Leafs are chasing their favourite spot - 9th place.

Maybe this year is different. No I don't mean the Leafs will pull it off. It would take Divine Intervention for the Leafs to make the playoffs but the Big Guy appears to be too busy getting Barack Obama elected President. I think this year most members of Leaf Nation aren't fooled by the late season charge. We've seen it before. Cliff Fletcher isn't being fooled either.

What's really happening is that players and coaches are auditioning for jobs next year. Whether you have a no trade contract or not, people are being evaluated and no one wants their head on the chopping block. Maybe some late season heroics might change some minds about your value to the team.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Location for Provincial Championship Games

Tomken Twin Arenas
4495 Tomken Rd.
Mississauga, ON L4W 1J9
Driving Instructions:
From Hwy-401:
Hwy-401 to Dixie Rd. exit 346. South on Dixie to Eglinton Ave. West (right) on Eglinton to Tomken Rd. South (left) on Tomken to Tomken Twin Arena. Arena is on the left side of the road.
From the QEW:
QEW to Cawthra Rd. exit 134. North on Cawthra to Burnhamthorpe Rd. East (right) on Burnhamthorpe to Tompken. North (left) on Tomken to Tomken Twin Arena. Arena is on the right side of the road.

It's Now 42 Years and Counting for the Leafs

They really should replace the motto in the Leaf dressing with "The False Hope That Unites Us All". Although I could have made the announcement following the twin losses to the Islanders, let's make it official. THE LEAFS CANNOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. It's now 42 years with no Stanley Cup.

The standings are deceiving because over the past month it has appeared as if there are multiple teams fighting for playoff spots in the East and West. It's all a mirage in the era of single points for losses. Only Buffalo and Nashville are actually still chasing playoff spots but with Buffalo's depleted defense, they are dead as well.
So when the Leafs gave up a single point to the Flyers last night it was officially over. That is why Paul Marurice pulled his goalie in a tied game. The Flyers who have earned 15 points in the last 12 games have 12 games remaining. They are on track to finish with points. The Leafs have 72 points with 11 games remaining. Did I mention the Leafs' longest winning streak this season is only 3 games. So the Leafs are on pace to lock up 9th spot in the East.
However, you have to give the team credit for not packing it in and playing some entertaining hockey this past month. It's been entertaining hockey but not good hockey. In the past 4 games they have averaged 45 shots per game but lost 2 games and needed 3 goals last night and overtime to squeak out a win. Their defense is still horrible and they still shoot themselves in the foot by giving away the puck in their own end. Their defense needs a serious makeover but with 3 no-trade mega-contracts on the blueline, Cliff Fletcher and his successor will have their hands full.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dear Jerk

Our never-ending winter of snow leads to desperate measures at times.

Reason #31 for Hating Rogers

So I called Rogers today to cancel Leaf TV for obvious reasons. The woman at the call centre began laughing when I told her the nature of my call. Turns out the call centre is in Ottawa and she happens to be a Senator fan.

Just another reason to hate Rogers.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Here is the poll results for NHL MVP I ran back in December for the first half of the season. My choice at the time was Daniel Alfredsson. For sure, I wouldn't pick him now. So I'm running the poll again.

Vincent Lecavalier 26%
Daniel Alfredsson 2%
Sidney Crosby 29%
Mats Sundin 26%
Henrik Zetterberg 5%
Pascal Leclaire 5%
Ilya Kovalchuk 11%
Henrik Lundqvist 0%

50th Anniversary of the Whitby Dunlops World Championship

Prior to the Sunday's Eastern Ontario Senior Hockey League playoff game between the Whitby Dunlops and the Simcoe County Tundras, the 1958 Whitby Dunlops were honoured in a ceremony. Ten remaining players from the 1958 team were present.

The 1958 world champion Whitby Dunlops were, from left: (front row) Ted O'Connor, Ed Redmond, manager Wren Blair, Sid Smith, liaison officer Bill Hannah, Tom O'Connor, Bob Attersley; (middle row) Fred Etcher, Roy Edwards, Gord Myles, Frank Bonello, Harry Sinden, Sandy Air, John Henderson, assistant manager Wally Brabin; (back row) assistant trainer Jack Donlevy, George Samolenko, Alf Treen, Bus Gagnon, Don McBeth, George Gosselin, Connie Broden, trainer Stan Waylett. Absent from photo: Jack McKenzie, Jean-Paul Lamirande, Charlie Burns.

Eight periods of overtime produce co-champions

They were hugging and smiling. They were congratulating one another. They were players from both teams.

After eight overtimes in the Division 1 state championship hockey game Saturday, players from both Marquette and Orchard Lake St. Mary's huddled together, posed for pictures and lifted the state championship trophy.

The score was 1-1 after 109 minutes of play, and the Michigan High School Athletic Association declared co-champions.

Sometimes adults actually get it right when it comes to kids' hockey.

Brampton Tournament Midget B Pools

There 3 other Provincial qualifiers at Brampton are - North Bay, Lindsay and Flamborough. I've included the regular season point totals for LLFHL and ODWHA (in blue, they play only 20 games) teams.

Pool A
Oshawa (33)
Flamborough (22)
Woodstock (4)
South Dundas (17)
North Bay
Norfolk (16)

Pool B
Cold Creek (30)
Belmont (21)
Leaside (4)
Perth (11)
Clearview (28)
Mississauga (18)

Pool C
North York (18)
Guelph (31)
Lindsay (26)
Etobicoke (9)
Brockville (23)
West Northumberland (13)

Midget B Provincial Qualifiers

Here is the list of qualifiers for the Provincial Championships. There are 49 teams classfied as Midget B this year.

Carleton Place
Durham West
Aurora Vaughan
North Halton
Twin Centre
Lambton Shores
North York
North Bay

Some very good LLFHL teams didn't make it including 2 teams that were undefeated during the regular season.

South Huron 20-0-4, 44 pts.
Peterborough 18-0-6, 42 pts.
Aurora 13-3-8, 34 pts.
Oshawa 13-4-7, 33 pts.
Guelph 11-4-9, 31 pts.
Mt. Brydges 12-6-6, 30 pts.
Cold Creek 14-8-2, 30 pts.

Also congratulations to the Midget A, Midget BB and Intermediate A teams for also qualifying for the Provincial Championships this season.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Extended Daylight Savings Time

Extended daylight savings begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning March 9. Don't forget to set your clocks forward and enjoy that extra hour of light.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Monitor Cleaner

See the attached regarding an innovative cleaning system for your monitor.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Break Up the Maple Leafs......PLEASE!

Well the annual March run for 9th place is in full gear now. When the pressure is off, boy the Leafs can play good hockey. They are now 7-2-1 in the past 10 games and if they keep this pace up for 13 more games they will go 10-3 and finish with 90 points. That should be good for 9th or 10th place since history shows that to land 8th place a team will need at least 92 points.

If only the NHL started the season in February and was limited to just 25 games. The Leafs would be a powerhouse.

Doing damage were the same players that have killed the Leafs playoff chances all season long. Bryan McCabe had a goal and 3 assists, Jason Blake had a goal and 2 assists and Darcy Tucker had a goal and and assist. These three players now have a combined 33 goals for the season in addition to a combined salary of $14.15 million.

Looking forward to another mid round draft selection in June.

LLFHL Playoffs

Here are the results of the first round of the Midget B Central Division:

Barrie vs. Vaughan > Barrie advances with a 2 wins
(Barrie had won season series with 1-0-2 record)

Aurora vs. North York > Aurora advances with 2 wins, 1 loss
(Aurora had won season series with 3-0-0 record)

Clearview vs. Orangeville > Orangeville advances in an upset with 2 wins, 1 tie
(Clearview had won season series with 2-1-0 record)

Orillia vs. North Simcoe > North Simcoe advances in an upset with 1 win, 2 ties
(Orillia had won season series with 1-0-2 record)

Next round has Barrie playing North Simcoe and Aurora playing Orangeville.

Man, 101, to run London Marathon

Too old to run?

Well a 101-year-old man has his sights on the London Marathon in a bid to become the world's oldest competitive runner. The current record is a 93-year-old.

Still working as plumber, Buster Martin recently ran the Roding Valley half marathon in Essex in five hours 13 minutes, and is now focusing on London's 26-mile event.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Does Cold-fX Work?

It's cold virus season and everyone is looking for a way to fight off their latest virus. There are people who swear by Cold-fX including members of my own family. But there were also people who at one time swore by vitamin C and echinacea. In fact, a big proponent of vitamin C was Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling. I'm a sceptic so I decided to do some research. I didn't spend a lot of time on this and quite likely I missed things.

Cold-fX is a Canadian product developed and sold by CV Technologies Inc. Beginning in 2000, they conducted a series of clinical and laboratory trials to prove that the product reduces the incidence, severity and duration of a cold by stimulating the immune system. The ingredient that is supposed to help you is ginseng extract. Cold-fX uses North American ginseng which is different than Asian ginseng.

I understand that both clinical and laboratory studies were carried out. The lab studies supported that hypothesis that Cold-fX protected users while the clinical studies did not. The two groups were then combined and the company concluded that the product works. I should add that the results were accepted and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Health Canada also accepts the results of the studies. The manner in which the studies were conducted has split the scientific community so I remain sceptical. This looks a little like data mining to me. I understand the company is continuing to carry out studies to win over the sceptics.

Here are some of the study results:
The percentage of people who got colds during the four-month trial were: Placebo group 63.8%and Cold-fX group 54.6%.
The length of time the cold lasted was: Placebo group 11.1 days and Cold-fX group 8.7 days.

When I look at the numbers it tells me that even if you take Cold-fX you still have over a 50% chance of getting a cold and it will on average still last almost 9 days. It's not a significant difference for me. So the best you can say about the product is that it has a marginal effect which is quite a different story than all the testimonials I hear from users.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Man Arrested Trying to Steal the Stanley Cup

Police have arrested an agitated man who grabbed the Stanley Cup from the Hockey Hall of Fame this morning and began running down Front Street in Toronto yelling "we won! we won"! Officers in a passing police cruiser quickly caught up with him and ushered him into their vehicle. He is still in custody but the Cup has been returned to the Hall. Police have not revealed his identity but did comment that he was heard muttering "waive the no trade" and "give back the picks".

How the NHL Lottery Draft Works

The first 14 picks of the Entry Draft are determined by the NHL’s annual Draft Draw, a weighted lottery system that is used to determine the order of selection. The 14 teams that do not qualify for the playoffs, or clubs that acquired those clubs’ first-round draft picks, participate in the draw. The Club selected in the drawing may not move up more than four positions in the draft order, so only the five Clubs with the fewest regular-season points have the opportunity to select first overall. No Club can move down more than one position as a result of the Draft Drawing. So if the Leafs finish 24th, they pick as high as 3rd and as low as 8th.

The reason its called a lottery draft is that they actually use a lottery machine. Fourteen balls, numbered 1 to 14, were placed in a lottery machine. The machine expells four balls, forming a series of numbers. The four-digit series resulting from the expulsion of the balls are matched against a probability chart that divides the possible combinations among the 14 participating clubs.

The last place team receives 25 per cent of the 1,001 combinations possible in this system, while the second-last team receives 18.8 per cent of them. The third-last team has a 14.2% chance and fourth-worst has a 10.7% chance to "win" the lottery. The remaining teams have the following chances: 8.1%, 6.2%, 4.7%, 3.6%, 2.7%, 2.1%, 1.5%, 1.1%, 0.8% and 0.5%.

So, for instance, if the Leafs again finish in 14th spot they will have just a 0.5-per-cent chance to win the silly thing, and even if they do, they can only move up a max of four spots, to 10th. So you want to finish in the bottom 4 spots to have at least a 10% chance of getting the first pick.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Storm Loses Series But Never Gave Up

Today's game was typical of the entire season. A young Storm team valiantly fighting on despite overwhelming odds. Aurora beat the Storm 3-0 in an excellent fast-paced game that saw great scoring chances at both ends of the ice. The Panthers were able to capitalize on their chances which was the deciding factor in the game and series. Despite some deficiencies, the team was always competitive. Opposing coaches always commented positively regarding the Storm players skating ability, sportsmanship and work effort. Their own teams were always found it a challenge to play against us.

Looking back on the season it can only be described as a success for a number of reasons. The team performed well on the ice and within the dressing room. Despite early struggles, players maintained their focus, never criticized teammates, stayed positive and never quit on the team. This is not an easy thing to do when the team is losing.

Some players really came into their own as the season progressed. Mari, Jackie, Sheri, Amanda and Lauren N provided enough offensive for the team to win during the late stages of the season. Rebecca, Lauren F, Sarah-Kate, and Jessica R were asked to play positions that they were not necessarily comfortable with but never objected. We saw tremendous improvement as the season progressed from first time Midget players like Marley, Maryssa, Genevieve, Kailee, Jessica B, and Paitra which was key to turning the season around. Our defense and goaltending was very inexperienced but turned out to be one of our strengths.

There is considerable optimism regarding next season. Fourteen players are eligible to return and although some may choose to play elsewhere or be a casualty of the tryout process, this team is expected to remain largely intact with some significant improvements. Tryouts will likely be very competitive.

However, although league play is over, our season is not done yet. We still have the Brampton Tournament later this month and the Provincial Championships in April. We always consider the Provincial Championships to be the major goal of the season. In the Toronto area it is a challenge to get through because only one team can represent the region. I can tell you that Etobicoke, Leaside and Scarborough haven't been there for quite a while because our team is going for the 7th straight season. It is the NHL playoffs squeezed into 3 days. Since only 16 teams out of 51 MidgetB team qualify, you know the competition will be fierce. We will be put into one of four Pools for a round robin preliminary round. The top 2 in each pool play a quarter final game. The winners go to the semi finals with the winners of the semi finals playing for gold and silver and the losers playing for bronze. It takes not only great talent to win but stamina as well.