Sunday, July 27, 2008
This past week I asked people to predict what Mats Sundin will decide to do this week. Here are the results.
40% responded that Sundin will sign with Vancouver. Seems people were influenced either by the rumours floating around last week or the size of the Canucks' offer. But I just don't see it. Sure they offered him $10 million per season but that is the only positive. Canuck fans are going to be mad at me but I don't consider Vancouver much better than the Leafs. After the Sedins there isn't much there. The amount of travel that the Canucks do for road games is not going to be very appealing to a 37-year old player. He'll feel like 47 by February.
28% responded that Sundin will return to the Leafs. I think there remains a strong possibility that he returns. He has repeated that he would like to retire as a Leaf and although he may have been disillusioned by the end of last season, he would like approve of the direction taken by Fletcher including hiring Nieuwendyk as an assistant. Nonetheless, I'm ambivilant about Sundin returning.
20% responded that Sundin will retire. I doubt it at this point. You don't take 3 1/2 months to decide to retire. But then Sundin tends to wait till the last minute to make decisions about his future. I don't see him retiring when the past season was one of his best.
12% responded that Sundin will sign with Montreal. I'm actually surprised that he didn't sign earlier. The Canadiens are a good fit and would provide him with good young talent to play with. They also have an excellent shot at the Stanley Cup. I wonder if he would find it difficult to return to the ACC so many times?
Well we may find out as soon as Friday. Frankly most hockey fans outside of Toronto are likely bored with the whole thing.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
There are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1200 entries. Below is the highest rated. Not sure why but I suspect the composer's friends are stacking the vote. That's the danger of online voting.
Here are the next 3 top voted theme songs.
As a result I've had to redesign the hot tub we were installing in our backyard.
There is now a canal built into the hot tub to accommodate excess water due to the environment.
In addition, a series of lift locks are being installed to assist entering and exiting the tub.
The project should be finished some time this fall before hurricane hits Toronto.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Hey wasn't that exciting! Kerry Joseph scored on a 13-yard run with 23 seconds remaining to rally the Toronto Argonauts to a thrilling 35-31 win over the Edmonton Eskimos today. The last drive covered 109 yards in just 11 plays.
No QB controversy here anymore. Joseph finished with a game-high 118 yards rushing, was 22-of-38 passing for 343 yards and ran for a TD and threw for a TD.
Argos receiver James Robinson also had a brilliant game with 10 catches for 194 yards and a TD. The TD was scored on an electrifying catch and run in which he beat former Argo Jordan Younger with quick inside move, pulled in Joseph's pass and ran untouched for the TD.
I have heard hundreds of opinions on the mindset of Mats Sundin. Everyone professes to know what he is thinking - fans, media, my barber. I have to admit I have no clue. This guessing game has gone on for years and in most cases all the "experts" have been dead wrong.
For years people insisted that they knew that Mats Sundin:
- hated playing under a microscope of the media here
- wanted out of Toronto
- wanted to play with Alfredsson in Ottawa, Naslund in Vancouver or all the Swedes in Detroit
- hated Pat Quinn and various Leaf coaches and executives
- didn't like certain players in the Leaf dressing room
As he got older he insisted that he was going to decide on a year-to-year basis whether to play again. No one believed him. He insisted that he would like to finish his career in Toronto. No one believed him. When the Leafs tanked this winter and fans decided the team would be better off trading him, he insisted he didn't want to be a rental player. No one believed him. Now we are half way through the summer and Sundin hasn't signed anywhere because he isn't sure he wants to play anymore. No one believes him.
So has Sundin been dishonest about his career at any point in the last 15 years? In the sidebar I have a Mats Sundin poll. Tell me what you believe.
* Alexander Radulov (to KHL)
* Nikita Filatov (to NHL)
* Thomas Mojzis (to NHL)
* Jason Krog (to KHL)
* Fedor Fedorov (to NHL)
* Viktor Tikhonov (to NHL)
Until this investigation has come to its final conclusion and the IIHF has rendered its decisions, all concerned players will be suspended from international transfers and competitions. However, it doesn't stop the players from playing in league games. I have no idea how the IIHF will decide in each case and whether the parties will abide by their decision.
The KHL immediately announced that they did not agree with the suspensions because there is no agreement covering Radulov and Krog when they were signed. The KHL said they would not enforce an agreement that hasn't been signed.
A Nashville newspaper reported yesterday that Radulov has begun to practice with his KHL team which is bound to elicit a strong reaction from the NHL. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had already begun sabre rattling the day before when he told the AP that they didn't care if an agreement was in place. Unless Radulov is returned to his NHL team, the NHL will not be sitting down to negotiate anything with the KHL. There will be no cooperation between the two leagues.
This has got to be the most interesting development during the NHL off season. Where Sundin ends up pales in comparison.
Many people thought it was odd to see the Leafs trade a 5th draft pick to grab Ryan Hollweg from the Rangers. A 5th round draft pick is a long shot to make the NHL but what is disturbing for me is that fact that the Leafs history is filled with traded picks for marginal players. Hollweg is strictly a 4th line enforcer. But Kris Newbury had a 101 penalty minutes in 54 games with the Marlies and seemed capable of filling the enforcer role without the loss of a draft pick.
The impression I am getting is that the Marlies do not have any talent that can help the Leafs. In other words, the Marlies are stocked mostly with career minor leaguers and not NHL prospects. So where are the Leafs of the future to come from as Fletcher continues to deal away draft picks? The Leafs traded away four 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in addition to two 5th round picks. Meanwhile the Leafs have not picked up a single draft pick in an exchange and have about 10 players best suited for 3rd or 4th line duty.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
By now everyone has heard about the Continental Hockey League (KHL), the new Russian league which essential the previous Russian Super League with 4 additional teams.
This is the brainchild of Alexander Ivanovich Medvedev, a Russian oil baron and the vice-president of Gazprom, who has his heart set on creating a hockey league that can rival the NHL. There is a patriotic element to the project in that he and his colleagues resent the fact that there hockey stars are playing in North America.
I see one of the objectives of the league is to repatriate Russian players back to Russia. In fact that has gradually been taking place. In the season prior to the lockout there were 57 Russian players in the NHL. This past season that number has fallen to just 27.
Contributing to this has been the lack of a player transfer agreement with Russia. Most major European hockey nations have an agreement whereby the NHL pays some money to bring players from these nations to the NHL. This money helps to pay for development of future players and the cost of development of the new NHL player (at least in principle). The negotiation of these amount has been done in a "take it or leave it" style by the NHL and the Europeans have no leverage. Russia is the only nation to reject this agreement. This means that Russian contracts do not have to be honored in North America and North American contracts do not have to be honored in Russia. A Russian player who signs in North America can decide that he is unhappy there and leave in mid-contract to sign in Russia. The recent agreement between the NHL and KHL means that the parties will at least honour each others contracts although no transfer fee has been agreed to.
So will the KHL hurt the NHL?
There is little agreement on the impact of the new league. If the goal is predominantly to repatriate Russian players well there are few left in the NHL. The big stars like Ovechkin and Malkin could make more money back home but would not be playing with the best players in the world. Even older players like Federov rejected better offers from Russian teams to remain in the NHL. But other players like Alexei Yashin, Aleksey Morozov. Danny Markov and Oleg Kvasha went back to Russia. The signing of Jagr and Emery weren't big deals because Jagr was at the end of his career and Emery was being treated as an untouchable by NHL teams.
Everything changed with the signing of Alex Radulov who was still under contract with Nashville. Entry level players are underpaid in the NHL but their big money starts when they can become free agents. The Burke-Lowe feud is because Burke feels that Edmonton's offer sheet to Dustin Penner has the potential of increasing salaries for younger players. The KHL can potentially have a similar impact.
As long as the KHL poaches Russian players and marginal NHL talents (like John Grahame and Chris Simon) no one will get that worked up. The real danger is the Europeans that do not pay even close to what is being offered to players by the KHL. But what would happen if the billionaire Russians target North American stars? What if Rick Nash who becomes a free agent in about 2 years is offered$100 million over 5 years? No NHL team can come close to matching that. Things might really get interesting.
Monday, July 14, 2008
New Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie have certainly made their mark on their recent purchase. The changes to the Maple Leafs pale in comparison to the remake going on in Tampa Bay.
The new Lightning team has been remodeled from top to bottom. Jay Feaster was basically pushed aside and draft picks, signings and trades were being orchestrated by former player agent and now vp of hockey operation Brian Lawton. Last week Feaster resigned. He followed coach John Tortorella and Bill Barber out the door.
The new owners have been directly involved in all new hirings and signings. They hired Barry Melrose as coach - which is just one of many surprises since Melrose hasn't coached in 13 years and only had one succuessful season. Soon a number of additional personnel were brought in including Rick Tocchet, Greg Malone and Tom Kurvers (famous as being the player the Leafs picked up for a draft pick that turned out to be Scott Niedermayer).
First off they grabbed Steve Stamkos in the draft. Then there was a flurry of trades and signings including free agents Radam Vrbata, Adam Hall, Mark Recchi, Chris Gratton, Olaf Kolzig, Brandon Bochenski, Evgeny Artyukhin They traded for Vaclav Prospal, Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts. They also dumped all-star defenseman Dan Boyle's long-term $40 million contract just months after it was signed. Filip Kuba is, at the moment, the only Tampa blueliner with more than 220 games played. The wisdom of doing so is questionable since they were already very green on defense. In fact they now have enough NHL forwards to stock 6 lines.
I give them credit for the Vincent Lecavalier signing. The 11-year $85 million contract has a cap hit of about $7.7 per season. The last 2 years of the contract (when Vinnie is 39 and 40) are only $1.5 million and $1 million. So if he needs to be bought out, the amount is chicken feed. More likely there isn't enough money on the table to keep Lecavalier from retiring early. So if you knock off those last 2 years, 9 remaining years are worth $82.5 million which would be a cap hit of over $9 million per season. Those last 2 years make a big difference.
Will all these changes turn around the Lightning. Who knows? But you have to give then new guys A+ for effort.
On the Saturday the Cup went to The Hospital for Sick Children and Detroit Eatery on Danforth and Chester avenues. The 60-year-old restaurant is decked out in Wings paraphernalia and was packed with curious onlookers.
Draper and the Cup rode into Scarborough in a stretch limo where between 1,000 - 2,000 friends, family, neighbours and fans were waiting. The Cup was set up in the backyard of Draper's parents Mike and Mary Lynne. Two off-duty police officers were hired to control the crowd.
Draper posed for pictures for hours, graciously obliging requests for various shots - holding the Cup, placing it on the ground or stepping away from the lens altogether and letting the fans have their moment alone with the 35-pound Stanley Cup. Draper's older kids, Kienan and Kennedi, enjoyed a big scoop of ice cream out of it and the family also dined on Timbits out of the Cup.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Why does NHL Commish Gary Bettman want to shut down the fued between Burke and Lowe. It's the most interesting and enjoyable event going on in the NHL right now. You know Vince McMahon would be promoting this like crazy. He would have the two in a ring going at each other as an opener before the next Duck-Oiler game with Don Cherry calling the fight. But prior to that he would have the two mouths yapping at each other just to make sure the pay per view numbers were there. Just shows the NHL knows nothing about marketing.
It all started last July when the Oilers made a US$21.25-million, five-year offer sheet to restricted free agent Dustin Penner and the Ducks did not match it. Burke was immediately critical of Lowe and has never let up. Burke has repeatedly blamed Lowe and the Penner offer sheet for spiralling salaries on young restricted free agents.
Lowe finally shot back at Burke last week during an interview that included some stinging comments about the Anaheim GM on Edmonton radio station The Team 1260.
"I mean, if he wants to debate what our offer sheet did to them or to the salaries, any time," Lowe told the radio station. "The reality is, Rick Nash's contract a number of years ago, (Patrice) Bergeron's and (Ilya) Kovalchuk's; that sets the standard – that's been going on for decades. I'm sick and tired of it. I know everybody in hockey is."But then Lowe added: “Corey Perry is a hell of a player. What I really want to say about his (Burke’s) bickering about parity and the salary cap is if you’re unhappy about them, then trade him (Perry) our way. We’ll be glad to have him.”
Burke shot back (despite the league gag order): “It is our understanding that NHL member clubs are not entitled to express interest in the services of a player belonging to another NHL organization. Our understanding is that such an expression of interest constitutes tampering. We have asked the league to investigate whether a tampering episode has taken place. We’ve asked them to make a full investigation into that. We will have no further comment on this, and whatever the league’s decision is, we will abide by that.”
This is not going to end real soon.
The Maple Leafs have brought back 73 year old Cliff Fletcher to rebuild the hockey team. The Blue Jays have placed the the baseball team in the trusty hands of 64 year old Cito Gaston.
So it's only a matter of time before the Argos drag 78 year old Leo Cahill out of retirement. Sure he hasn't coached since 1978 but I think he is still on their payroll. Supposedly he is a goodwill ambassador. The Argos might as well join the bandwagon and put their future in some old guy.
Friday, July 11, 2008
I worked out the average age of the Leafs on the day Fletcher took over in January and compared it to what I anticipate to be their roster when the season opens. I excluded McCabe from the roster, anticipating that Fletcher would be successful in trading him. I also didn't include Schenn who I expect to be returned to his Junior team in the fall. So in Janaury the team average age was 27.8. And today it is 27.6. That doesn't seem younger to me.
Toskala 30 ---avg. age 27.8
Toskala 31 ---avg. age 27.6
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
Ponikarovski - Antropov - Steen
Hagman - Stajan - Mayers
Kulemin - Grabovski - Blake
Bell - Moore - Devereaux
Kaberle - Kubina
Finger - Stralman
Colaiacovo - White
Saturday, July 05, 2008
It was one of the greatest in the modern era but Jaromir Jagr couldn't find an NHL willing to provide him with a suitable contract. He likely wasn't looking for someone to match the 2-year, $35 million offer he received from the new Russian league but something reflective of his skills. But the collective agreement works against players like Jagr. Any player over 35 who is signed by a team will count against that team's salary cap EVEN IF HE RETIRES.
So if you sign Jagr for 3 years at $6 million per year and he calls it quits after 2, that final $6 million will go against your salary cap. So teams are cautious when signing older free agents and will prefer to only offer 1 year at a time.
Even when Jagr was an up-and-coming junior, the puck seemed magnetically drawn to his stick. His size 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds made him tough to knock around, while his incredible touch, speed and creativity combine brilliantly to made him an almost unstoppable offensive force. His skills have propelled his teams, whether in the NHL or international play to titles and championships.
NHL scouts were intrigued, but many teams were hesitant to use a high draft pick to select Jagr. Unlike other highly rated standouts from his homeland such as Petr Nedved, Jagr was still in Czechoslovakia. He still had a year remaining on his contract with Kladno, after which he would have to perform two to three years of military service before he would be available to sign with a North American team, assuming that Kladno did not then hold him for a king's ransom. The Penguins took a chance because they already had Mario Lemiuex as their franchise player so they took him 5th overall in 1990.
Considering he is only 36 and still very productive, if he had stayed in the NHL, he might have moved up considerably in several statistical areas.
NHL All-Rookie Team (1991)
NHL First All-Star Team (1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006)
Art Ross Trophy (1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1997)
Lester B. Pearson Award (1999, 2000, 2006)
Hart Memorial Trophy (1999)
WC-A All-Star Team (2004)
Played in NHL All-Star Game (1992, 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004)
Career points: 1599 (9th)
Career goals: 646 (12th)
Career assists: 953 (13th)
Career playoff points: 181 (11th)
Career playoff goals: 77 (11th)
Career playoff assists: 104 (20th)
Powerplay goals: 181 (22nd)
Game winning goals: 112 (2nd)
Thursday, July 03, 2008
So if you are an NHL GM, do you wait him out or just fill up your cap space with other player? Can you afford to let others bid for Jagr, Demitra, etc. and come up with nothing? There are 15 teams with enough cap space to still sign Sundin. Three teams (Los Angeles, Columbus and Atlanta) are well below the minimum cap of $40 million and could use Sundin to get to the cap, but Sundin would likely never play for these teams. There are at least 6 other teams that he would not give serious consideration (Florida, Pheonix, Minnesota, Buffalo, Islanders, and Colorado). That still leaves 6 contenders - Toronto (yes, there is a chance and cap space), Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh.
For me the Pittsburgh scenario is intriguing. With Hossa signed with Detroit, they have cap space for Sundin. And they would have had difficulty into the future with a long term contract with Hossa. A two year contract works better for the Penguins since he frees up money in two years for their younger stars. If you are looking at teams that Sundin could put over the top, maybe Pittsburgh has even more potential than Montreal, Ottawa or the Rangers.
So searched the Internet looking for some info on this great "find" by the Leafs. He has only 94 NHL games under his belt and 252 AHL games. His salary last season was $475,000 so his new contract will by 7 times that. An Avs blog In The Cheap Seats has this to say about the signing:
First of all, the following has nothing to do with Jeff Finger. I am a fan and will try to watch him the two or three times next year that Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts a Leafs game. I do think the Leafs overpaid for him, but a lot of teams overpaid for far bigger stiffs yesterday.
Jeff Finger is a lot of things. “Shutdown defensemen” is not one of them. I find it amusing that Cliff Fletcher takes fans to task for not having seen Finger, but then seems to imply that he hasn’t seen him either. Instead, he’s relying on the word of a currently-unemployed coach. It’s okay, Cliff. As long as Joel Quenneville says he’s one of the top 5 defensemen, you’ll be fine. If there’s anything Quenneville showed us in Colorado, it’s that he’s a suberb judge of talent. I’m sure the fact that he benched Finger for a while in the playoffs after he misplayed a puck was just because that top 5 D-man needed a little break. And in the Detroit series, when the cameras seemed to catch a red-faced Quenneville screaming “what the fuck are you doing”, what he really was saying was “you’re doing a hell of a job, Brownie”. Maybe I’m just not all that good at reading lips.
Here’s the sentence that really threw me: “[Leafs' coach] Ron Wilson told me he was always on the ice in San Jose games against Joe Thornton”. Which begs the following question: was Ron Wilson watching any of those games?
It’s true that Finger spent some time against Iginla (and had some success, including Iggy into taking some really stupid penalties), but I don’t think he saw a ton of the Sedins. Simply put, the Avalanche generally had other guys - Brett Clark, Scott Hannan and, eventually, Adam Foote - out there against the opponents’ top forwards. That’s not to say he couldn’t have done well in that role, but, again, that’s not really the point.
Toronto fans, my heart goes out to you. You’ve got a GM who apparently is using an ex-coach who can’t judge talent as a scout and you’ve got a coach who seemed to be watching a different game than the one he was coaching. Uh, good luck with that.
From the Denver Post:
I’m just absolutely amazed, though, that the Maple Leafs gave Jeff Finger four year and $14 million. No wonder that team hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1968. Unbelievable.
I liked Fingy but….aren’t you kidding me? This is a guy who was gassed after 20 seconds of a shift and was a healthy scratch for most of the postseason, after he screwed up on what should have been an icing call in Game 3 of the first round.
And lastly from Jibblescribbit:Jeff Finger The Avs tried hard to re-sign Finger, but after the first day of free agency it's easy to see why they weren't able to. He was due an unexpected pay-day, to the tune of 4-year $3.5M/year. That may be the day's most shocking contract.
Finger's agent played the market perfectly. If you look at Toronto's defense Finger will fit in perfectly because he is exactly what they need: A physical presence who can play pretty solid positional defense and block shots. Finger's agent also deserves commendation for seeking out a team willing to spend money and milking it for all it's worth.
Despite being a great fit for the Leafs, Finger was overpaid (again nice job by Finger's agent). Finger is 28 and only a vet of a season and a half. He's a good defenseman, possibly top 4, but not a top-2 guy. The Leafs gave him top 2-3 money. One regret Finger may ultimately have is that the expectations that come with that hefty contract in Toronto may make life miserable. The media scrutiny surrounding Toronto might not be worth it, and the Leafs management has recently been throwing their players (like Sundin) under the bus in order to cover their incompetence.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
OK, my mistake. It turns out the Leafs signed a guy name Jeff Finger for $14 million. And it turns out the Hagman out of Dallas was Niklas not Larry. So why don't I feel any better?