Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sundin may not retire as a Maple Leaf?

For years Mats Sundin has always insisted that he wanted to remain a Toronto Maple Leaf. Winning a championship in Toronto mattered most.

On Wednesday, after accepting the Mark Messier Leadership Award at the Stanley Cup Final, while still maintaining his first option was to remain with the Leafs, for the first time he opened the door just a crack at possibly wearing another uniform.

The question came from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail.

"Mats, given what you said earlier about what happened at the trade deadline, wanting to remain with the Leafs, the journey and all that. Doesn't your decision really come down to playing with the Leafs next season or retiring?" asked Shoalts.

Sundin delayed for a second, before replying:

"I don't know. I do think that I have a lot of different options I can explore. And I think I still (maintain) that I want to end my career as a Toronto Maple Leaf. Saying that, though, the way the situation is right now, I don't have everything in my control, either. There's got to be a mutual agreement there.

"At this point, I don't have anything I can say about what's going to happen next year personally. I don't know."

This is change in a matter of a few months. You wonder if it is related to the uncertainty in the Maple Leaf front office or that he has no interest in a rebuilding team.

Just what you always wanted...a weather forecasting stone

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A message to Spokane

I'm sure you are a lovely community. I bet that 1974 Worlds Fair was a blast. And the Pacific Northwest must be beautiful. But just because we let you play hockey in Canada, you shouldn't be abusing the hospitality. Sure we let you and a few others like Erie into our junior leagues. But this isn't the NHL which is over run with American franchises. It's called the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League. So beating Kitchener in front of their home fans was just plain rude. Then you go bust the Memorial Cup. That piece of hardware is 89 years old. You can't just superglue it together. We'll be sending you the bill.

Are you surprised how much Detroit is dominating?

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Red Wings are dominating the the Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals. If it hadn't been the Red Wings but the Sharks, Ducks or Stars, it wouldn't have been very different.

I have to admit I did not pick the Red Wings to represent the West in the finals. Not that Detroit wasn't good enough, but I just thought they might not be able to keep pace with the talent in the West. Let's face it, the West is right now far better than the East. So even the East's best, the Pittsburgh Penguins cannot compete with the best of the West.

Detroit is every bit as tough physically as the Ducks, Stars, Flames and Canucks although they were the least penalized team during the regular season. A good skating team does not take many penalties. But the Red Wings are more than just a group of slick skating Europeans. Thomas Holstrom lives at the edge of the goal crease and takes a real pounding for it. He takes his licks without whining. Niklas Kronwell has become a devestating body checker. In fact, Detroit has no weaknesses. Some may not consider Chris Osgood and top goalie. But he already has backstopped the Wings to a Stanley Cup.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I would take these back

So what does Gary Bettman consider tampering?

Without naming any names, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman fired a shot at the Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim GM Brian Burke during his annual state of the league address before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, warning of grave consequences if there is any tampering.

"People who sign contracts can be held to them by the other party to the contract, and there's nothing wrong with that," Bettman said. "If there's tampering going on, ultimately there are no secrets in this world. We will get to the bottom of it. And I'm no fan of tampering. And when it happens, it gets punished severely.

"A team that meddles with an individual under contract could face heavy fines and the loss of draft picks. And an individual who talks to a team while he's still under contract would face fines and a possible suspension."

The Leafs now appear immobilized by their failure to land Burke (How many times have you seen "Leafs" and "immobilized" in the same sentence in the past decade?), and seem set to head into a crucial offseason with interim GM Cliff Fletcher remaining at the helm.

Spokane Chiefs Win Memorial Cup...

and then break it in two. Fortunately, it was just a replica.

These Twin Pandas are Cute

Yesterday was supposed to be Frank Tomas Bobblehead Day

Yesterday was supposed to be Frank Thomas Bobblehead day at the Rogers Centre. Instead, the Toronto Blue Jays handed out blue tote bags, courtesy of the Ontario Power Authority.

Speaking of power, Thomas is beginning to show some for Oakland.When he left Toronto, he was batting .167 with three homers and 11 RBIs. He had played 16 games, and had RBIs in five of them.

Since rejoining the A's, Thomas is batting .306 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 26 games. His on-base percentage is .412. He is hitting .339 in May.

Thomas's various replacements at designated hitter have combined to hit .252 with three homers and 12 RBIs over 31 games in which the Jays have used a DH.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Marlies Eliminated from Calder Cup Playoffs

The Marlies were eliminated in the 3rd round of the Calder Cup Playoffs in 5 games. They lost to the Chicago Wolves as a result of some very undisciplined hockey where they just couldn't stay our of the penalty box. For example last night, Chicago erased the Marlies' 2-0 first-period lead with a pair of power-play goals in the middle period while playing 5 on 3 and then 5 on 4.

So will the long playoff run benefit the Maple Leafs next season? It doesn't look like it. The future #1 goalie, Justin Pogge only played the last two games of the playoffs. Jiri Tlusty who played most of the season with the Leafs totally disappeared in the playoffs. He scored on 2 goals in 19 games and I believe they may have been in the first game of the playoffs. What hurts the most is that Andy Wozniewski scored 4 playoff goals and we know what kind of a player he is. Their top scorer in the playoffs was David Ling (14 points) but at age 33 he's not a prospect. John Mitchell was their top goal scorer (8 goals) but since he was never brought up, he likely isn't a prospect either. I noticed that their powerplay featured Kris Newbury, David Ling, Bates Battaglia and Andy Wozniewski. Yup. Pretty depressing.

Minor Leaguer Traded for 10 Bats

The Calgary Vipers of the Golden Baseball League couldn't get newly signed pitcher John Odom into Canada for immigration reasons. And the Loredo Broncos of the United League were willing to take a cheap gamble on a pitcher.

Oh, and the Vipers really, really wanted some new bats.

And so Odom, about a month after being acquired by a Canadian team, found himself Tuesday on the roster of a team on the Mexican border. All for the price of 10 Prairie Sticks Maple Bats, double-dipped black 34-inch C243 style.

"They just wanted some bats, good bats -- maple bats," Broncos General Manager Jose Melendez said Friday.

According to the Prairie Sticks Web site, their maple bats retail for $69 a piece, discounted to $65.50 for purchases of six to 11 bats.

John, I think this might be a good time to consider retirement and a career change.


I doubt polar bears can read

Kitchener Ranger Justin Azevedo

I was at the Memorial Cup Semi-Final game last night expecting to see some tight and exciting hockey. Afterall, the Kitchener Rangers and Belleville Bulls had just completed a very close 7-game OHL championship series and a Memorial Cup round robin game that went into overtime.

The game turned out to be a blow out. Rangers scored 46 seconds into the game and never looked back. The final score was 9-0 which was the biggest differential in Memorial Cup history. The best player on the ice was Justin Azevedo who finished with 3 goals and 2 assists. He also happened to have been the OHL scoring champ and the league MVP beating out John Taveres. He also happens to be 19 years old and undrafted. Azevedo happens to be only 5'8". If I recall Martin St. Louis was also undrafted coming out of Junior hockey and I think he didn't turn out too bad.

So could the Leafs use a player like that? Certainly worth a shot. Speaking of the Leafs, I spotted Brian Burke at the game.

UPDATE: Justin Azevedo has now been named CHL player of the year.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I thought fast food burgers were bad...

Baskin Robbin's Large Heath Bar Shake has an icredible 2,310 calories and 108 grams of fat.

Going green can go too far

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What an Incredible Game!

From the opening faceoff, today's gold medal game looked and felt like a classic. Today, the Russian stars played better than the Canadian stars and that was difference between silver and gold. You can only imagine how good this game would have been if the two teams had all their best players in their lineups - Sidney Crosby, Roberto Luongo, Mike Richards, Brendan Morrow, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeny Malkin, Sergei Zubov.

Although Canada had a two goal lead with a little over a half period remaining, you could feel that they might not be able to hold it. And they didn't. Ilya Kovalchuk tied the game less than six minute left in the game to send the team into overtime. He scored again early in overtime with Rick Nash in the penalty box. The depth of these two teams really showed because these were Kovalchuk's first two goals of the tournament but they got to the gold medal game without his offense.

You had to be really impressed with two young defensemen for Canada - Mike Green and Brent Burns. I didn't even know what NHL team Burns played for. I can't wait for the rematch at the 2010 Olympics.

You want bad taste, I found it...

...Jesus sports figurines (just $24.95 each).


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Canada and Russia go for Fold, Stralman stars for Sweden

Tomorrow's game will be a classic match up between Canada and Russia. Both countries are undefeated although the Russians needed overtime twice to win games. Canada's top line has been dominant in particular Dany Heatley. Heatley is a gifted player but he makes be nervous because he occasionally disappears in big games (which makes him a good fit for the Senators). In 2006 he and Rick Nash did a disappearing act against the Russians. Let's hope they show up tomorrow.

Two Maple Leafs players played in the tournament. Tomas Kaberle was captain of the Czech team and was second in tournament scoring for defensemen. He was also player of the game for Sweden against Switzerland. Anton Stralman who should have been playing for the Marlies finished 5 in scoring among defensemen. He scored 2 goals against Canada and was selected as player of the game.

Sidney Crosby's Playoff Beard is Pretty Sad Looking

Thursday, May 15, 2008

He Scores! ...umm on his own net

Poor defenseman was just trying to rim it around the boards. Hey Gerber should have it anyway.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Few Leaks Coming From Maple Leaf Sports

If you were to exclusively use media reports (TSN, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun) and bloggers to determine the progress of the Maple Leaf Executive Search, this is what appears to have happened to date.

Richard Peddie and Gord Kirke began a search for a President/GM in early February. They put Brian Burke on the top of their list but could not contact him until his team was eliminated from the playoffs. The Leafs were ultimately rejected by Burke and approached San Jose regarding Doug Wilson and were again rejected. They may have approached Detroit about Ken Holland depending on which paper you read even though the Wings are still playing hockey but were not given permission to speak to him either.

At that point the Leafs ran out of possibilities and decided to take another run at Brian Burke through his buddy Dave Nonis who had just been fired by the Canucks. The Leafs weren’t really interested in Nonis but felt they could lure Burke next year by having Nonis cover the job for him until Burke completed his contract with Anaheim. Other reporters came up with an alternate theory where the presence of Nonis in the Leaf executive suite would be so compelling that Burke would get out of his contact this summer and immediately join the Leafs. Meanwhile the NHL would look the other way and ignore any possible tampering.

So much speculation, but very little reality. What is impressive is that there have been very few leaks coming out of MLSE. Normally the Leafs spring more leaks than the S.S. Minnow. So without any information from MLSE leakers, friends of candidates, the guy who washes Larry Tennenbaum’s car, etc, reporters are coming up with some wild scenarios. The only interview that has come out in the open has been Dave Nonis so some are giving us the impression that in over 3 months only one person has been seen.

The reality is that a long list have candidates was put together and Peddie/Kirke have met with quite a number of people. Once the search team has met with all those who might be interested in the Leaf job, I would expect they will put together a short list of serious candidates. A serious candidate would be someone who has the background and experience sought by the Leafs and has shown a genuine interest in the job. A second round of interviews would be conducted where discussions would focus on each candidate would rebuild the organization from the bottom up. This seems to fit into the time frame mentioned by Cliff Fletcher last week when Paul Maurice was let go. That would have the new GM in place around the time of the NHL Entry Draft and the start of the free agent signing period.

In the interim, foolish reporters will have you think that Gord Kirke, one of the most powerful figures in hockey, has no clue what he is doing. So Leaf Nation, sit back and be patient. Good news is on the way.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

File This Under: The Rich Just Got Richer

So all that commotion regarding Fabian Brunnstrom last week until he finally signed with Dallas. Well he was just an ordinary player in the Swedish Elite League with only 9 goals in 54 games. Word out is that a much better prospect plays in the Finnish Elite League. In fact Ville Leino played this season for Jokerit, scoring 28 goals and producing 77 points in 55 games, finishing second in the league in scoring and winning the Lasse Oksanen trophy as the league’s MVP.

Would look good in a Leaf uniform. Well forget about it because he signed with the Detroit Red Wings yesterday as a unrestricted free agents.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Maybe one of the worst calls ever on a goal

This alleged goal was in the USA vs. Finland game. I picked the Finnish play by play guys so you could get the other side's perspective on the questionable goal.

To Build a Winner the Leafs Need to Build A Scouting Staff

Everyone puts so much emphasis on acquiring high position in the draft. In fact, a proportion of Leaf fans wanted to see the team tank the last part of the season in order to get a shot at the first pick overall. But the best team in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, haven't had a high first round pick in two decades and the majority of their roster was Red Wing draft picks. Out of their top players, only Niklas Kronwall was a first rounder and he was picked 29th. Here is how their other top players were drafted:

Nicklas Lidstrom (3rd round/53rd pick)
Johan Franzen (3/97)
Pavel Datsyuk (6/171)
Henrik Zetterberg (7/210)
Tomas Holmstrom (10/257)

There is no question that the European scouts employed by the Wings are doing an outstanding job. So the lesson for others is obvious. Invest in a strong scouting system and you may never will need to rebuild.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers Day is 100 Years* Old Today

My mom is just 83. Happy Mothers Day Mom!

*On Sunday, May 10, 1908, a simple church services in Grafton, W.Va., inspired by Anna Jarvis who wanted to honour her recently departed mother began a tradition to honour the nation's mothers. A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate that year failed to establish an official Mother's Day, but it set the stage for a successful measure in 1914.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Nice Parking Job

Conspiracy Theories Dominate Leaf Nation

So this is how it will work. The Leafs have only one candidate they are pursuing to run their team and that is Brian Burke. The Leafs sought permission to talk to Dave Nonis as part of a plan that includes getting Burke to Toronto in the summer of 2009, when his contract with Anaheim expires.

Nonis worked for Burke in Vancouver. The theory was that Nonis could be hired as GM now, replacing interim man Cliff Fletcher. A year from now, with Burke having fulfilled his contractual obligation in Anaheim, he could be hired by the Leafs as team president and be re-united with Nonis.

To disguise their true intentions, the Leafs also asked permission to talk to San Jose GM Doug Wilson knowing very well that they would be turned down.

You see the people in MLSE are so clever that they would have no problem covering up any evidence of tampering. Oops, but the smart Toronto media let it out of the bag.

People get a grip! The Toronto sports media has no interest in following the punchless Blue Jays so they are going back to the old reliable Maple Leafs for some headlines. Except nothing much is going on at MLSE except for axing Paul Maurice (which everyone knew was coming). No buyouts yet, no trades, no signings, no GM. So lets make up some stuff.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Is Fabian Brunnstrom Just a Lot of Hype?

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that the Leafs had to try and sign Fabian Brunnstrom. The reason I said that was mostly because the Leafs don't have many quality young players so if they pick one up without giving something up then why not. I did not think he would be the next Peter Forsberg or Mat Sundin.

Since that time the Youtube video I posted has made Brunnstrom an Internet superstar. The media has made this guy out to be a phenom although there is nothing to suggest he is even ready for the NHL. He is a 23 year old rookie in the Swedish Elite League with very ordinary numbers (in 54 games he had 9 goals and 28 assists). The video shows that he is a good skater but so was Alexandre Daigle - remember him. Although about 20 Swedish NHL players passed on playing for the Swedish team at the World Championships, Brunnstrom was never asked to join the team.

He sounds like a guy who would need to play a season or two in the AHL. Unless he lands on a team that is rebuilding and willing to let him develop in the NHL. Sounds like a good fit for the Leafs. Definitely not the Red Wings.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Playoff Nostalgia

20th Anniversary of Jim Schonfield telling Don Koharski to have another donut

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

You Can't Win With Sundin in Your Lineup?

There was an interesting quote from Mat Sundin in the Toronto Star this week. Rosie Dimanno reports when the subject got around to the deals that Leafs could have made for their captain, his response was:

"I could have gone to Vancouver and where would I be now? Out of the playoffs. Or Ottawa, and where would I be now? Or Anaheim, and where would I be now?"

That might have been the case. But those teams were willing to gamble that he would have had an impact on their playoff run and were also willing to pay big to find out. It's an odd comment by Sundin because so often he has had to carry the Leafs so why not the Ducks or Senators? It's almost as if he doesn't see himself as an impact player though I find that hard to believe. He has been one of the highest paid players in the league for about 10 years. I guess he was just playing devil's advocate.

When Will Jim Balsillie Get an NHL Franchise?

It appears from news reports that Billionaire Jim Balsillie contacted Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano earlier this season about the possibility of purchasing the franchise, a sign he's still seeking an NHL franchise after at least two unsuccessful attempts. Supposedly Golisano indicated he would be open to selling the club, but not if Balsillie was planning to relocate it.

Balsillie had a tentative agreement to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006. But he withdrew his offer after learning the NHL would restrict his ability to move the club.

His next attempt was to buy the Nashville Predators. That was scuttled last summer after Balsillie indicated he would move the club to Hamilton and began taking deposits from prospective season ticket holders. There are also rumours that he tried to purchase the Ottawa Senators at some point in time.

Clearly, the NHL Commissioner and some of the team owners are not enamoured by Balsillie. But can they keep him from scoring a team forever? Not likely. As the US continues to sink into a recession, NHL teams losing money will go further into the red. Some of these owners will also be suffering financial losses elsewhere in their holdings and find that owning a hockey team may be a luxury than can no longer afford. At some point if it becomes a buyers market because more teams are for sale than there are buyers, the NHL may no longer be able to afford to snub Jim Balsillie. Just look at what's going on in Phoenix and Atlanta - two teams that have never made any money.

I don't think I've seen Don Cherry with a worse outfit

Maybe it's the yellow tie but Saturday's selection seemed more over the top than usual.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Sharks Lost But Not Because of Nabokov

Monday, May 05, 2008

Last Night's Stars

1. Marian Hossa, Penguins:

Slowly Hossa has emerged as a key player for the Penguins and after yesterday has ditched his reputation of disappearing in the playoffs. He had two key goals including the overtime winner that sent the Penguins into the third round of the playoffs.

2. Sidney Crosby, Penguins:

The Kid only had 3 shots on net as compared to 10 for Malkin. But he made some key plays and did all the work on Hossa's two goals. Even slowed by injuries Crosby is a dangerous player.

3. Evgeny Nabokov and Marty Turko:

The two goalies were incredibly last night and it's a shame one of them had to lose. Combined they gave up 3 goals in over 6 periods of hockey. The save by Nabokov in the first overtime was just spectacular and had to go to video replay to actually confirm he had gloved the shot before it went into the net.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dany Heatley Resurfaces

Dany Heatley scored 3 goals and picked up an assist in Canada's 5-1 win over Slovenia (ranked 16th in the World in 2007) in the preliminary round of the World Championships. Heatley had 8 of the 65 shots fired at Slovenian goalie Robert Kristan who very well may have been the star of the game. Seems Heatley feels more comfortable playing against the Slovenians than the Penguins. Only problem is - no one will pay you $10 million to play against semi-pros.

The Latvians are up next. They lost 4-0 to the Americans and have no NHLers in the lineup. Latvia was ranked 13th in the World last year. I just don't get the point of including 16 teams when the bottom half are just not competitve. I guess it provides players like Spezza and Heatley an opportunity to shine.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Zetterberg scores the nicest goal of the playoffs

Nothing to suggest that Darcy Tucker will be bought out

The Toronto Star has a story that appears to be pretty definitive regarding the status of Darcy Tucker. The Star states:

A question mark continues to float over winger Darcy Tucker's future in Toronto, with indications persisting that he will be the first Leaf to be bought out of his contract once the period for buyouts opens June 15.

And where did this information come from? Well Leafs interim general manager Cliff Fletcher wouldn't confirm or deny a Tucker buyout. So since Fletcher won't deny the story, the Star concludes it must be true.

Just one flaw in this line of thinking. When Cliff Fletcher came onboard he informed the media that he would not be confirming or denying rumours regarding trades and other player personnel changes. So his refusal to comment on Darcy Tucker's situation is consistent with what he has been doing since January. To read anything into his refusal to deny a buyout is pure folly.

But it makes for a good story in a week where nothing much is happening in the GM recruitment process.

Last Night's Stars

1. Johan Franzen, Red Wings:

Poolers must be going nuts about this guy. The Mule has been carring a big load in this series for Detroit, scoring three times as the Red Wings completed the sweep of the Avs with an 8-2 pounding. In doing so, he became the first player with two hat tricks in the same series since Jari Kurri in 1985. Franzen's nine goals over the four games equaled the number mustered by the entire Avs roster.

2. Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings:

He is a star because of an incredible goal he scored last night. His four-point effort was enough to earn him a star, but but Zetterberg potted one that'll be remembered long after the rest of his playoff goals are forgotten. After his first attempt from the slot was rebuffed by Peter Budaj, Zetterberg spun through the defense, retrieved his rebound with his back to the net, and buried a no-look backhander for what might have been the prettiest goal of the postseason.

3. Jaromir Jagr, Rangers:

On most nights his performance would have earned a first star but those two Red Wings were incredible last night. In the wake of a disappointing Game 3 loss to the Penguins at Madison Square Garden, Jagr faced the media and announced that the series was far from over. Then, like another legendary Rangers captain who promised victory, Jagr backed up his words with a masterful three-point performance. His first goal epitomized the playoff mantra of taking a hit to make a play. Using his size and speed to drive down the middle, Jagr unleashed a rocket of a wristshot a split second before he was crunched by Pittsburgh defender Brooks Orpik. His effort set the tone for the rest of the game, and gave the Rangers a chance to take the series back to Pittsburgh.

How To Operate a Rotary Dial Phone

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tough Young Woman

Stanford track and field star Alicia Follmar became the embodiment of "no pain, no gain" after a hard fall in the Penn Relays women’s collegiate distance medley race at Franklin Field. While on the ground, she was spiked in the head by a fellow runner, but did not allow that to deter her from her goal of finishing the race.

Follmar, covered in blood and bruises as though she was an extra in a horror flick, grabbed her baton and finished the race in third place.

Last Night's Stars

R.J. Umberger, Flyers:

R.J. Umberger is having a great series and opened the scoring for the third time in this series. Umberger later added an insurance empty net marker, giving him a pair on the night and six in four games against the Habs.

Patrick Marleau, Sharks:

It was a performance worthy of the captain's C from Marleau, who scored a shorthanded goal for the second game in a row. Marleau intercepted another Zubov cross-ice attempts, took off alone and beat goaltender Marty Turco to tie the game at one, and give the desperate Sharks the spark they needed to bring the series home for Game 5.

Martin Biron, Flyers:

The Habs launched 28 shots at Biron through the first two periods in an all-out effort to stop the bleeding and get their series back on even ground. No such luck. Biron, making just his 11th playoff start, ended up stopping 36 of 38 in Philly's 4-2 win over the Canadiens. He has clearly been the difference in this series and is beginning to look like a Conn Smythe candidate.