Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween from Storm Nation

Forbes again rates Maple Leafs as most valuable in NHL

Forbes released its annual valuation of NHL teams and once again the Leafs are at the top with a price tag of $448 million (all values in $US). That is a 9% increase over the previous year. This just the value of the hockey team and does not include the Air Canada Centre, the Marlies, the Raptors, Toronto FC, Leaf TV and Raptor TV. Second to the Leafs are the Rangers valued at $411 million. At the bottom of the list is the Phoenix Coyotes valued at just $142 million.

  • The Leafs were also #1 in revenue with $160 million.
  • Although only 3 Canadian teams are in the top ten in value, they are the most profitable. All 6 Canadian teams are in the top ten in operating profit and collectively the earned a $150 million. Meanwhile the 24 U.S. team lost $10 million last season.
  • All of the assets of MLSE are valued at around $1.5 billion.
  • A Forbes representative remarked on radio that although the Leafs are valued at $448 million, if they were to ever go on the open market, the bidding would probably push the sale price well above that.
  • The NHL average is $220 million.
  • The Canadian dollar rose by 15% last season which pushed up the value of all the Canadian teams. Only the Leafs didn't experience an increase in value of at least 10%.
  • NHL teams are valued at approximately 2.4 times their revenue. Therefore, the Leafs' value is lower because they don't earn any playoff revenue. A successful playoff run could add as much as $100 million to their value.
  • The salary cap has made teams like the Leafs, Rangers, Flyers and Red Wings wealthier. The cap reduces a significant team expense but has no impact on revenue. How many of these teams would be spending close in $100 million on salaries by now. The year before the lockout the Leafs' payroll was $70 million and had gone up by $35 million in the 4 years prior to the lockout.
  • The salary floor has made the weaker teams less profitable. Teams like Phoenix, the Islanders, Columbus, Atlanta and Nashville must spend at least $40 million on salaries although their revenues are between $60 and $70 million. Guaranteeing that they will lose money.
  • The Leafs do not rank high compared to teams in other sports. There are 13 baseball teams worth more with the top ranked team, the Yankees, valued at $1.3 billion. There are 7 basketball teams valued above the Leafs with the top ranked team, the Knicks, valued at $608 million. Every NFL team is worth at least $800 million with the Dallas Cowboys valued at $1.6 billion. But no NFL, MLB, or NBA teams earn as big of a profit as the Maple Leafs.

Niklas Hagman's shootout goal against New Jersey

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Toronto Maple Leafs: After 10 games

The Leafs had a tough schedule over the first 10 games and I had suggested that they might only win 2 games (Atlanta and Tampa Bay). They didn’t even beat Tampa Bay but they did manage wins against Atlanta, Detroit, Boston and New Jersey. Add in 3 shootout losses and they ended up with a decent record over that span (4-3-0-3).

This is a scrappy team now that doesn't give up. In several games now they have fought back after falling behind 2-0 in the first period. Last night was a classic example of how this team plays the game. They fell behind 3-0 only to tie it up. They fell behind twice more only but came back to win in the shootout (for the first time this season). The game was sloppy but highly entertaining.

I had suggested at the start of the season that the Leafs would play with more discipline, be better defensively, have more speed but would have trouble scoring. That certainly has been the case. The Leafs are 23rd in goal scoring (11th last season), averaging only 2.50 goals per game, but 3rd in shots per game with an average of 34.1. So their shooting percentage must be the worst in the league. The team’s goal against average is an acceptable 3.00 which puts them 14th overall (compared to 27th last season). Some expected the Leafs to be tougher but they are only 22nd overall in penalty minutes (last year they were 17th). As for specialty team, there has been a slight improvement so far. Their powerplay last season was 15th and now is rated 6th overall. Their penalty killing was horrible last year at 29th overall and has improved to 17th.

The biggest controversies over the first 10 games have centred on the status of Luke Schenn and the 2 suspensions slapped on Ryan Hollweg. Now that Schenn has played his 10th game, the media circus will fade away like it did around Mats Sundin’s status. As for Hollweg, suspensions have limited him to only 5 games so far. All is quiet for now but no one expects Hollweg to be reformed overnight.

Other players have seen even less playing time than Hollweg. Ian White has not played yet this year, Jonas Frogren and Anton Stralman have only played in 7 games while Carlos Colaiacovo has been limited to 4 games. The situation would have been worse had Jeff Finger not missed the first 7 games with a fracture. This has the potential to create some discourse in the dressing room unless Cliff Fletcher finds some teams willing to make a deal.

Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky are the only offensive threats right now. Ponikarovsky leads in assists (6) and points (9). He is tied for 35th in NHL scoring. Antropov leads the team in goals (4) and plus/minus (+5). Suprisingly neither Kaberle nor Kubina lead the defense in scoring. It’s Mike van Ryn with 6 points. That’s good for 17th overall among NHL defensemen. Nikolai Kulemin’s 3 points so far put him 8th among NHL rookies and Luke Schenn is 2nd among rookies in average ice time per game (and 3rd on the Leafs).

Some players have had rough starts adjusting to the new coach. Jason Blake and Matt Stajan each sat out a game for showing a lack of intensity. Stajan has bounced back to centre the #1 line and is doing a decent job. Blake is toiling away on the 3rd line, not completely out of the dog house. Dominic Moore has done an outstanding job on the 4th line. The work he did last night to set up Mayers goal is typical of his play so far this season. Rookies Kulemin and Grabovski have skill but are still learning the game.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Storm snuff out the Stars

Amanda scored two first period goals and that was all the Storm needed as they picked up their first win of the season, a 2-0 victory over Markham-Stouffville. The Storm took control immediately but coasted in the second half of the game as they picked up 5 late game penalties. Mari picked up two assists and Asia earned the shutout.

The Storm had a much easier time tonight. When these two teams met for an exhibition game, the Storm scored 2 goals in the last minute of the game to steal a win.

Next game is Sunday against Scarborough.

Latest NHL Power Ranking

After 2 wins against Boston and Ottawa and a shootout loss to Anaheim, the Maple Leafs are beginning to get some respect. The sports websites have ranked the Leafs 20th overall this week. That doesn't sound so great but they were ranked 28th last week so on most sites the Leafs had the biggest gain for the week.

Sportsnet - 15th (+13)
CBC Sports - 15th (+12)
Bleacher Report - 16th (+9)
Sports Illustrated - 20th (+9)
Yahoo Sports - 21st (+8)
CBS Sportsline - 22nd (+5)
TSN - 22nd (+4)
Sporting News - 23rd (+7)
The Hockey News - 24th (+4)

Monday, October 27, 2008

What to do about Luke Schenn

For months the local media speculated on the future of Mats Sundin. Remember how they were so sure he was going to Montreal? There is an occasional story but the Sundin saga has pretty much petered out. Instead we have a steady stream of speculation regarding Luke Schenn. Should he stay or go back to Junior hockey? Will the Leafs ignore their bleak history with rookie defensemen and keep him up this season?

There is no way of knowing what is best for Schenn or best for the Leafs until it's too late. Some players can step into the NHL at 18 although most cannot. Some 18 year old NHL defensemen become stars (Dion Phaneuf), some become journeymen and nothing more (Luke Richardson) and some flameout after their rookie year (Fred Boimstruck). At this point you have no way of knowing how good of a player Luke Schenn will develop into. Everyone seems to have their theory on the best way to develop young players and has examples to support their approach.

But players aren’t all alike to so you really need to decide on a case-by-case basis. Bobby Orr probably could have played in the NHL at 16. Jeff Finger was essentially a rookie at 27. I think you play when you’re ready and age just isn’t relevant. Cliff Fletcher long ago suggested that if Schenn was one of their top 4 defensemen he would likely stay up. Although the Leafs haven’t officially confirmed Schenn’s status, his recent play confirms that he has met Cliff’s threshold.

There is still another rationale for sending Schenn down – to delay his free agency eligibility which will save the Leafs on cap space. The thinking is that you develop players in Junior hockey and the minors and only bring them up when they are ready to make an impact. That way you benefit from having a cheap impact player for 4 or 5 years. Otherwise you eat up their “cheap years” developing them and by the time they become impact players they are no longer on an entry level contract. They may be the best reason for sending Schenn down but that doesn't appear an issue for the Leafs.

Legal hit but should it be?

Will the NHL ever ban its to the head? Incidentally, Brandon Sutter is still in hospital.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ron Wilson will not survive in Toronto

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Ron Wilson fan. But coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs may be one of the toughest jobs in professional sports and I’m not so sure Wilson will be able to survive.

In the short-term he has nothing to worry about since expectations are low this season and he has a costly 4-year contract. Right now the fans and media love his "shoot from the hip" style. Not surprising considering over the last 10 years the brash and talent-challenged Tie Domi was more popular with fans than the classy and skilled Mats Sundin.

You know where you stand with Ron Wilson. Wilson is determined to change the culture in the Maple Leaf dressing room where less than your best effort has been tolerated going back to the Pat Quinn era. The players are being challenged and they are responding. This is the first step to working your way back to being competitive. At least the Leafs will out work their opponents.

But his confrontational approach combined with his openness will eventually backfire. This is a team where everything you say, don’t say, do and don’t do are examined under a microscope, dissected, turned upside down and then thrown in your face by fans on call-in shows, by the media, by bloggers, and let’s not forget Donald S. Cherry.

Publicly embarrassing players is having a positive impact on their performance by making them more accountable. If he continues to do that he will eventually lose the dressing room. He runs the risk of having the whole team quit on him. Right now the media chuckles at being called bipolar because of their tendency to overstate team highs and lows. However, although the local media has no problems with character assassination when it comes to Toronto athletes and sports officials, many have very thin skins. They can dish it out but they aren’t real good and taking it back. The sense of entitlement extends beyond the Leaf dressing room into the Leaf media room. So eventually enough reporters covering the Leafs will turn on Ron Wilson too. When that happens, the fans will likely join in and management will cut Wilson lose faster then you can say Alexei Ponikarovsky. That’s basically what happened in San Jose.

I don’t know when it will happen I just know that it will happen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Perfect season already lost

So the Storm won't be going 20-0 this season but they still are undefeated. The Storm had to come from behind to gain a tie against a feisty Etobicoke Dolphin team. The first period was pretty one-sided as the Storm seemed to have been able to carry over the momentum from the tournament over the weekend. However, despite having a considerable margin in play, the game was scoreless at the end of the first period.

In the second period the Dolphins were able to take a 1- lead on a Storm turnover with the the North York forwards trapped in the offensive zone. However, Sheri was able to bang in a rebound later in the period to tie the game up. In the third the Dolphins took the lead again with some aggressive forechecking that forced a turnover. The game remained that way until the last 2 minutes of the game. Etobicoke took a hooking penalty and the Storm pulled the goalie on the powerplay. With 23 seconds remaining in the game Mari jammed in a rebound to preserve the tie. The second time this season that the Storm tied up a game with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Best hit by a football referee

The LSU quarterback was stopped on a draw by umpire Wilbur Hackett Jr during LSU’s 24-17 victory on Saturday. While it certainly looks like Hackett leans into quarterback with a shoulder to drop him after a four-yard gain. The umpire claims he trying to defend himself by putting his arms up.

A second NHL team in Toronto is nonsense

I knew it had to be a slow news day in the hockey world when I read Dave Shoalts this morning in the Globe and Mail speculating on how the NHL Governors were considering a second franchise in Toronto.

According to the opinion of an unnamed owner (these silly stories always come from unnamed sources), if Jim Balsillie were to bail out the Nashville Predator franchise, the NHL would be so grateful that they would give Mr. Blackberry his own little franchise in Toronto to play with. That will happen about the same time peace breaks out in the Middle East, all four Beatles reunite Elizabeth May becomes Prime Minister of Canada.

For one thing, the NHL already has an expansion franchise in Toronto – have you seen the Maple Leaf lineup lately? But seriously, the NHL has thwarted every move by Jim Balsillie to acquire a franchise so he would be the absolute last person they would approach to help the league. Despite what fans on the call in shows might believe, the Toronto Maple Leafs are not interested in any local NHL competition. Sure the Leafs would still sell out, but a second team would cut in on their share of TV revenue and licensing fees in southern Ontario. But forget about the Leafs, they would survive. But another team in southern Ontario would kill the Sabres. Why bother lining up at the border for an hour to see the Sabres when you can just head over to Toronto/Hamilton/Waterloo to see NHL hockey.

Hey maybe John, Paul, George and Ringo can launch that reunion tour at the opening game of the Ontario Predators!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We Won!

It's been 6 years since the last time the Midget B team won a tournament - and I wasn't there see it. The Storm defeated the Peterborough Ice Kats by a score on 4-3 to win the Clarington Tournament. The Peterborough team was a powerhouse last season wining the LLFHL East Division and a bronze at the Championships. So it was an incredible weekend and a great way to start the season.

It was a classic see saw battle that went down to the wire, In the first minute of the game, Amanda to put the Storm ahead. Late in the same period Mari scored again on a good three passing play from the corner. However early in the second period the Storm fell asleep and the Ice Kats scored 2 goals in just 34 seconds to tie it 2-2. Later in the period Sheri shot the puck from the halfboards and it went off of Gabby's glove into the net. In the third, the Ice Kats' top players went around the Storm defense and cut towards the net to score and tie up the game again. However, the Storm pulled out the win with a terrific scoring play. From behind her own net, Lauren N threw the puck up to Amanda at the blue line who found Mari alone in neutral ice. Mari went in for a breakaway and beat the goalie high to restore the one goal margin with less than 3 minutes remaining. The Ice Kats pulled their goalie but couldn't penetrate the Storm defense which was employing the famous West German trap (also known as the Seigfried line).

There many stars in this game. Mari was her usual offensive threat with 2 goals including the winner. Linemates Amanda (1 goal, 2 assists) and Genevieve (2 assists) also stood out. Lauren N had a great game including starting the play that led to the winning goal. Asia was also outstanding and made some critical saves including one with her head and another on her back with her pads.

Congratulations to all the girls who worked so hard to get here. This has been a long and difficult journey for many of the players that began last season as a rebuild year. The girls stuck together and the rewards are just beginning to come. In particular, a special appreciation to our third year players Mari, Sarah-Kate, Sheri and Jackie who who were committed to help rebuild this team.

Hey look I was there after all!

3-in-a-row earns Storm a bye to Finals

The Storm have been perfect so far this weekend with 3 straight shutout victories to qualify for Sunday afternoon's championship game. The Storm were better than the Clarington Flames in every area of the game - except maybe bodychecks - as they out hustled, out skated, out checked, out shot and out scored the host team.

Bianca made some difficult saves to earn her second shutout of the weekend. It was a tight game early on but the Storm took a 1-0 lead in the first period. Mari jumped onto the ice on a line change with the puck in the Flames end. She charged towards the Clarington net, picked up a pass from Sheri and fired the puck past the Flame goalie. The Storm broke the game open in the second period with some considerable pressure on the Clarington defense. During one scramble Gabby picked up a rebound following a shot by Mari to fire the puck into an open net with the goalie down. Just over a minute later Kailee scored again on a goalmouth scramble to make it 3-0. In the final period, Mari made it 4-0 as she drove at the net from the right side, cut in front of the net and beat the Clarington goalie as she went down.

The win put the Storm in an enviable position going into the final game on Sunday afternoon. They get to go to the game fresh while their opponent will have to get up early in the morning to play and elimination game. The two teams fight for the spot in the final game are Peterborough and North Durham.

Final Standings in the Midget B Division:

1. North York 3-0
2. North Durham 2-1
3. Peterborough 2-1
4.Clarington 1-2
5. Guelph 1-2
6. Durham West 0-3

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ex-Leaf Kyle Wellwood on waivers again

After being put on waivers over the summer by the Maple Leafs, Kyle Wellwood finds himself on waivers again early in the new season. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Canucks waived Wellwood having played in just one regular-season contest thus far (no points, one shot on goal, minus-1). He quickly made his way into Coach Alain Vigneault's doghouse by showing up at camp in poor shape and looks like he never got out. He will likely clear waivers and be sent down to the minors.

The Canucks decided to go with younger and tougher players so at the age of 25 he got squeezed out of the lineup and may have difficulty making his way back to the NHL. I'm not trying to be cruel but the NHL no longer is interested in slow, pudgy players who play on only one half of the rink.

Storm roll by North Durham

The Storm produced another 2-0 victory in the second game at the Clarington Tournament to remain undefeated and without even giving up a goal. The opponent this time was the North Durham Blades who were considerably strong; so the shutout by Asia was well deserved.

The Blade forwards were aggressive forecheckers and dumped and chased the pucks throughout the game. Our defense held up well and first year player Madeliene showed a lot of poise as she dumped the puck past the charging Blade forwards. The first goal was created by S.K. who directed a shot at the North Durham net and the shot was redirected by Jackie who scored her second goal of the tournament. The goal held until the third period when Mari directed a long shot at the North Durham net. The goalie stopped the shot but temporarily lost sight of the puck in the crease. Meanwhile Mari had charged at the net and poked the loose puck into the net before the goalie could smother the puck.

Other games had Peterbourgh defeating Clarington 1-0 and Guelph defeating Durham West 4-1. So the current standings are:

1. North York
2. Clarington
3. Guelph
4. North Durham
5. Peterborough
6. Durham West

Storm and Thunder clash at Clarington

The first game of the Clarington tournament was against the Guelph Thunder who will also be an opponent in the LLFHL Midget B Central Division. The Storm were missing some key players including their captain. Well, then there were various players who did come to play but were missing the odd piece of equipment. With a makeshift lineup including Madeleine playing forward, the Storm starting off the season and the tournament with a 2-0 win. Bianca went all the way to earn the shutout.

The score could have been higher and the Storm had numerous scoring chances and kept Guelph penned into their own end for long stretches. Both goals were scored in the second period.Early in the period Genevieve stole the puck from a Guelph defender behind the opposition's net. She slipped the puck to Jackie who was alone in front of the net and able to tap it in the empty side. The Guelph forwards left the Storm defensemen uncovered most of the game and both Paitra and Lauren N took advantage of the loose coverage to fire numerous shots at the Guelph net. Late in the second period a wrist shot by Lauren N picked a top corner on the goalie's blocker side.

In other tournament play, Clarington defeated Durham West 6-0 and North Durham (our next opponent) defeated Peterborough 2-0.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What babies really need

Bring back Raycroft!

Andrew Raycroft's first career start for Colorado was a success Thursday night as the former Toronto goaltender helped the Avalanche beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 for their first win.

Raycroft is the backup to Peter Budaj, who accepted much of the blame for the Avs' 0-3 start. Colorado coach Tony Granato said this wasn't a matter of Budaj being benched, just Raycroft getting his normal one start per week to get into a good rhythm.

With one win under his belt Raycroft now has matched Toskala's total and only one win short of his total for 2007-08.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fans will turn on Ryan Hollweg

Each year Maple Leaf fans look for a scapegoat to pin that season's disappointments on. The practice is often unfair because how can you blame one player with all that goes wrong with the Leafs. Often it was the result of a generous contract that puts unrealistic expectations on that player. So the list includes Larry Murphy, Dimistri Khristich, Jonas Hogland, Mike Craig, Aki Berg, Cory Cross, Andrew Raycroft and Bryan McCabe and so on.

It looked like Jeff Finger was going to be this year's scapegoat. He was designated as such because of his contract. Even before he had played a single game for the Leafs, fans were grumbling about Finger. Then along came Ryan Hollweg. The Leafs gave up only a 5th round draft pick for him and he gets paid peanuts to expectations couldn't have been that high. But over the exhibition season he lost 6 fights, took dumb penalties and earned himself a 2 game suspension. What likely put a nail in his coffin was the stupid and reckless hit on Alex Pietrangelo in his first few minutes back from his suspension - that earned him another suspension. In addition, St. Louis was able to get back into the game while the Leafs had to kill off his penalty.

Hollweg is probably like many other hockey players, a decent guy off the ice but makes bad choices on the ice. It's not uncommon for players with little skill who earn NHL jobs by being an agitator, to end up being unable to draw the line on violence. Once you get type cast in the role its hard to break away. Some fans are urging the Leafs to waive Hollweg. Sure they can do that. But someone else will pick up the problem child. Chris Simon found steady work for years until he ran out his string.

In the meantime the hungry and frustrated Leaf fans have their new villain.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Owned by a Toronto Maple Leaf Superfan

Bus to Nowhere

Maple Leafs have some competition for John Tavares

Rick DiPietro, who has been plagued by knee injuries throughout his career, underwent meniscus surgery in June and played in only one of the Islanders pre-season games. Islanders head coach Scott Gordon stated that he rested his number one for pre-cautionary reasons.

TSN reports that he has swelling and fluid around his surgically repaired left knee.

DiPietro has an incredible 13 years left on his current contract at $4.5-million a season. He will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2021, when he's a few months from turning 40. There are $54-million to be paid out beyond this season. A brilliant move by owner Charles Wang.

If DiPietro misses a lot of games this season, the Islanders may just jump ahead of the Leafs in the Tavares lottery.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sharp Halloween decoration

Leaf Nation poised to jump on band wagon

After a summer of negative reports, pessimistic messages from Leaf management and a mediocre preseason, Leaf fans were quite down. So what do the Leafs do in the season opener - only beat the Stanley Cup champions.

So does this mean the experts were wrong? Not necessarily. But that won't stop Leaf Nation from crowing on sports call in shows for the next few days. But lets face it. An 82 game schedule is a great equalizer. The Leafs started the preseason schedule with a big win against the Sabres and then followed that with several stinkers.

This team has got a lot of enthusiasm, energy and speed. Any team that tries to sneak away with 2 points will get burned. That's the way it works in the NHL, even bottom feeders will steal a win if you're not on top of your game. I've already heard from a couple of loyal fans already giving me the "I told you so." So Leaf Nation enjoy yourself these next few days. Montreal is coming to town on Saturday.

Maple Leaf Power Rankings

Going into the start of the new seasons, the sports websites also have low expectations of the Leafs. What with the coach stating he's not concerned about wins and the GM jettisoning veterans where ever he can - who can blame them. Here is the current Power Rankings for the Maple Leafs.

Bleacher Report - 26th
TSN - 27th
Yahoo Sports - 27th
CBC Sports - 27th
Fox Sports - 28th
Sports Illustrated - 30th
CBS Sports - 30th

Now won't John Tavares look great in the blue and white?

John Tavares Report

Oshawa lost 5-2 last night to the Belleville Bulls and Tavares who held off the scoresheet. He still leads the OHL with 9 goals and 16 points in 8 games.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Don't try this at home

Communications 101

Storm blast Lightning

The final preseason game turned out to be a romp as Storm coasted to a 9-0 drubbing of the Durham West Lightning. There were a number of offensive stars with both Amanda and Gabby picking up 3 goals along with an assist. Lauren N also had a 4 point game with a goal and 3 assists. Other goals were scored by Maddy and Mari.

The weak opposition allowed the Storm players to work on moving the puck around the offensive zone which created numerous scoring opportunities. In addition, the defense produced some excellent chances. Both Allie and Lauren N took some excellent shots from the blue line.

It was an easy night for Bianca and Asia who shared the shutout. It would be great to see this type of offensive throughout the season.

The Storm moves onto to their first tournament in Clarington next week followed by the start of the regular season.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Leaf season looks bleak

Only 2 wins in 9 exhibition games. Not since the days of Harold Ballard have the Maple Leaf prospects looks so poor going into a new season. Most fans indicated that they would accept a couple of bad years if the team could turn this thing around and be competitive. Still it's difficult to watch nonetheless.

Most of the veterans and "star players" are gone. But so are the overpaid and soft players. What is left is a collection of marginal talent and role players. The future isn't here yet which makes it exceptionally bleak. You wonder how many of the younger players will still be here in 3 years. Even the 1984-85 team which finished last in the league on paper had more talent than this team. That team had Rick Vaive, John Anderson and Bill Derlago - all of whom scored at least 30 goals that year. I don't see any Leaf getting 30 this season. But the 1984-85 team had no defense other than Borje Salming and no goaltending. The reverse of the 2008-09 team.

The 1984-85 team had a 21 year old Jim Benning, 20 year old Gary Nylund, and a 18 year old Al Iafrate. All were ruined by playing on terrible teams. Let's hope Luke Schenn doesn't get caught in the same meat grinder.

Hockey Night in Canada Theme Song Semi Finalists

Ice Warriors

Sticks to the Ice - my favourite and written by a 13 year old

Eleventh Hour

Let the Game Begin

Canadian Gold

Colorado fans meet the real Andrew Raycroft

Andrew Raycroft made his home debut in Colorado on Friday and showed the Avalanche fans what we in Toronto and Boston already know: he's awful.

I know it's only pre-season action, but Raycroft looked in mid-season form last night, allowing six goals on only 23 shots to the Chicago Blackhawks. That's a 0.739 save percentage. That is brutal. Raycroft's expectations in Colorado might just be lower than the Liberal Party in Alberta. Yes, he's that bad.

It's incredible that Avalanche management rushed to sign Raycroft on the first day of free agency although for paltry $800,000. In the NHL today, if you aren't a millionaire then you're a nobody.

Ladies Night Out

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Incredible stick save by Carey Price

John Tavares Report

The Windsor Spitfires beat the Oshawa Generals last night 4-1 at the General Motors Centre to start the season with 6 straight win and five of those wins have come on the road. Oshawa's lone goal was scored by John Tavares who now has 6 goals to go with 5 assists in his first 5 games of the season. He has been involved in 11 of the Generals 15 goals.

Friday Night is Fight Night

Back in 1957 Chris Tonks Arena was called Keelesdale Arena and it was an outdoor rink. Since they put up that roof the place has seen its share of hockey fights. So last night wasn't anything out of the ordinary except that it was our first fight in 8 years. Actually quite surprising since it was mostly a boring 2-0 exhibition loss to the Etobicoke Dolphins that got a little rough when the Storm team woke up from their lethargy in the 3rd period.

With 47 second remaining in the period Gabby and Dolphin player were shoving each other in front of the Etobicoke net when they both wrestled each other to the ice. Not much happened there other than the Storm player getting a 2-minute roughing penalty and the Dolphin getting 4 minutes. But as the buzzer went to end the game Lauren N and Brittany, a Dolphin forward were pushing each other along the boards. Lauren fell down the the Dolphin player jumped on top of her punching her repeatedly in the head. That got her a major and a game misconduct. While skating to her bench she yelled a stream of obscenities that earned her an additional major penalty. The season hasn't begun yet but the rivalry has.

As for the non-fighters, Amanda moved up to right wing for the game and had an exceptionally strong game. She was able to power her way past the Dolphin defense on a number of occasions and had the best scoring chances including a crossbar. Sheri also has a number of good chances but nothing to show for it. Overall the Storm looked sluggish and although they outshot the opponents 18-14, there were few quality shots that tested the Etobicoke goalie.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Possible conversation between Cliff Fletcher and Ron Wilson

I was just imagining a possible conversation between Maple Leaf Interim General Manager Cliff Fletcher and his coach Ron Wilson regarding the start of the new hockey season. Judging by the talent pool pulled together Fletcher this is how it might go down:

Cliff Fletcher: Why don’t you have a seat Coach.

Ron Wilson: Thanks Cliff. What can I do for you?

CF: Well you’re getting near the end of training camp and you're probably thinking about what your opening roster will look like.

RW: As a matter of fact I am. There was a few personnel moves I wanted to talk to you about.

CF: Go ahead.

RW: Well I’ve been really pleased with the progress Luke Schenn has made the last few weeks and I’d like to keep him around. I’m thinking with the surplus of defensemen we could make a few deals to punch up the offense. I really think we can grab a playoff spot with a bit more scoring. You have lots of cap space too.

CF: Look Ron this can’t go beyond you and me. We’re tanking the season. The fans are expecting crap this year and that’s what they’re going to get. I want you to have this kid John Tavares next season. He’ll give you the offensive umph you’re missing.

RW: OK so what do you want me to do?

CF: Well you’re going with the players you got. Let’s just say, we aren’t upgrading talent at the moment.

RW: Well I was thinking about keeping this kid Schenn. He has been improving steadily and I think he can help. That means we can send down that mule Jonas Frogren to the minors. He’s a physical guy but can’t play at this level.

CF: Sorry I’m sending the kid back Kelowna. You’ll have to play the Swede.

RW: Well I can I keep him while Fingers is out with his bruised foot?

CF: No you'll have to play White or Kronwall. What else?

RW: So I was thinking the Russian, Kulemin, just isn’t ready for prime time. I think he should go play some games for the Marlies. We got veterans that can fill that spot.

CF: Sorry coach but the Russian stays.

RW: OK. I’m not sure how this is going to fly then but if you are big on rookies how about keeping Pogge up as the backup? Cujo has just sucked.

CF: Coach I want you to give Cujo lots of game time. The old coot deserves it. And the fans love him.

RW: So I’m guessing you want me to give Hollweg lots of ice too so our penalty killers see lots of game time.

CF: I think we're on the same wavelength Coach. So what were you thinking about as far as a captain?

RW: Kaberle or Kubina.

CF: I don’t think so. You may need to pick a new captain again in a few months.

RW: Antropov?

CF: Only if he uses velcro to stick the “C” on his jersey.

RW: Well how about Mayers?

CF: Hey the fans like that kid Stajan. Give them someone to cheer for. And he’s from Mississauga.

RW: Well I think that covers everything Cliff.

CF: It’s going to be a great year Ronnie. And get that number 91 jersey ready for that Tavares kid. Talk to you later.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ryan Hollweg is a fighter...but also a dancer

Toronto Maple Leafs - half way through preseason

his is clearly a transition season for the Maple Leafs as they move ahead without many familiar names - Sundin, McCabe, Tucker, Belak, Wellwood. Likely more players will follow as the season progresses. So perhaps for the first time in several decades their is some true competition for spots on the roster. Though to be honest I still believe most spots have been pre-ordained (especially the goalies). So here is a report card on the roster that is shaping up.

Moore: A
Moore has continued where he left off last season after joining the team off the waiver wire. He has been using his speed well to create opportunities and harass defensemen. He leads the team with 3 goals with 2 being scored shorthanded. But he is destined to be playing on the 4th line.

Kaberle: A-
A potential captain, he has been solid with a +4 and averaging over 3 shots per game. No McCabe to pass to so Kaberle is shooting more.

Colaiacovo: B+
Carlos has been healthy and has been one of the best defensemen so far. He has been doing a little of everything - hitting, blocking shots, carrying the puck, etc.

Finger: B+
Only played in 1 game so far but I thought he was solid. Blocks shots and moves puck out of the Leafs end. Nothing fancy about Finger.

Blake: B+
Blake has been working his way out of the doghouse after a horrendous season last year. He is a different player with only 2 shots on net in 3 games and a +4. He has been passing more and has 3 assists so far to show for it. Wilson has even been using him to kill penalties.

Mayers: B+
Fans will love this guy. Has heart, skates hard, hits hard and will chip in with some goals. I would make him captain.

Devereaux: B+
Solid two way player with great speed who will find a place on a checking line.

Schenn: B
A pleasant surprise that gets better by the period. Wilson has been giving him a healthy workload and he has responded well. Being paired with Kaberle doesn't hurt. First game he was a C- but continues to improve. Could stick with the team.

Hagman: B
As a major free agent signing he has a roster spot. Finding his way around the team but leads team in shots with 13 and has 2 goals so far.

Ponikarovsky: B
Poni leads the team in preseason scoring with 2 goals and 2 assists and will be on the #1 line. He is not competing for a job and his play reflects it.

Steen: B
I'm not a Steen fan at all but by default he may be the #1 centre to start the season.

Antropov: B
First liner by default just getting into shape for the season.

Kubina: B-
The big Czech has not been paired with Kaberle but that will likely change during the regular season.

White: B-
Looks better than last season but seems likely to be a victim of the numbers game. Barring injuries he will start the season on the Marlies or maybe the Florida Maple Leafs.

Stajan: B-
I think he might also be on the bubble this season if he fails to develop more. So far I haven't noticed anything different about Matt.

Hollweg: B-
Loves to hit. No surprise leads team in penalty minutes with 17 in 3 games. Fans will finally forget about Tie Domi.

Stralman: C+
Still making mistakes out there but only 22 with great puck skills. Will get better.

Grabovski: C+
Little Russian hasn't impressed me. Has some skill but is he an NHLer? Still will be given a chance because he is young, the Leafs are rebuilding and Fletcher gave up a draft pick for him.

Bell: C+
Effective as a banger. He will stick around for a checking line. I doubt his scoring touch will return but maybe he can have a fresh start this year.

Van Ryn: C
Anyone looking for a defensemen?

Frogren: C
Has only played 2 games and the most physical defensemen on team. Puck skills are Aki Berg-like. Not sure about him yet.

Kulemin: C-
He looks lost out on the ice and could use some seasoning on the Marlies. However, he may still make the team (see Grabovski).

Tlustly: D
Too undisciplined for my liking. Also could use some extended Marlie time but could make the team because of 1st round draft pick status (see Grabovski and Kulemin).

Kronwall: D
Got size but skills are just not NHL calibre.