Dec 10, 2009

13 Thursday Thoughts: On Hockey Stuff

Thursday? So soon?

Things have been a little nuts around here; I had the worst haircut ever yesterday (actually, second worst. In highschool I had a haircut that was so bad my computer science teacher teased me). Everyone knows, bad hair just throws the day's mojo out the window.

This week has seemed kinda big as far as hockey news. For once, I actually had MORE than 13 thoughts, but shortened my list for all of you. Please enjoy this week's 13 Thursday Thoughts on hockey stuff:
(please read responsibly)

#13     John Pohl makes his return as the Chicago Wolves take on the Toronto Marlies at the Ricoh Coliseum on Friday. For some reason I am far more anxious to see how Pohl is progressing rather than how badly Chelios is degressing. Pohl's journey to the NHL deserves a writer, a publisher and an excellent novel. Former Marlie, Tim Stapleton, also to make his return to the Ricoh.

#12     Zack Stortini earns himself a Gordie Howe Hat Trick Wednesday night as his Oilers defeated the Bolts 3-2. I find it interesting that on only two instances Gordie Howe recorded a goal, assist and fight in a single game.

#11     The Maple Leafs have been on quite the hot streak in December, winning four of five games and out scoring their opponents 19-14. Coach Ron Wilson remarked during a recent interview that all the while the Buds have had very little practice time. The Leafs have played five games in nine days, competed in the Maple Leafs skills competition and held an outdoor community practice. I say, if the Leafs can pull out four wins without practice - to hell with it!

#10     The NHL has announced that it will be planning a two day fan festival outside of Fenway park during the Winter Classic. The festival will include Bruins alumni, live musical performances, interactive hockey-themed attractions and chances to win tickets to the outdoor game to be held on New Years Day at 1pm EST (21 days & 20 hours away).

#9      The Carolina Hurricanes look to be the next recipient of a first overall pick as they sit at the bottom of the league with only 19 points, 8 behind the 29th place Leafs. The Canes have performed at a mediocre 6-7-2 at home, but have been completely obliterated while on the road (1-11-3). Could we see Rutherford wave goodbye to Maurice for a 2nd time? I doubt it, I believe there are at least 12 players who will see the door before the two-time Canes bench boss.

#8      It has been confirmed that Cody Hodgson will not be joining team Canada at the World Junior Championships this year, where the red and white team looks to defend it's 5 year winning streak. Hodgson suffered a back injury over the summer months, and released Tuesday that he will not be attending camp. Though team Canada has newcomer's Kadri, Schenn and Seguin to more than adequately fill the centre positions, Cody's experience having won last year on the world stage is an invaluable loss to the team. Team Canada does not plan to invite an additional candidate in Hodgson's place.

#7      With Kessel being dealt to Toronto for two first rounder's and a second, media and fans alike scoffed, announcing that Phil will not be nearly as effective without his former centre Marc Savard. Don't look now haters, but Kessel leads all Bruins (yes, I said Bruins) in goals scored with 10. Let's keep in mind that Phil missed October while he continued to recover from shoulder surgery. And how has Savard faired? Marc's 2 goals and 12 assists can not compare to Kessel's 10 tallies and 6 helpers. I don't think Savard's nearly as productive without Kessel. Bruins lose.

#6      While on the thought of goal scoring, the San Jose Sharks were the NHL's first team this season to register 100 goals for. On the opposite, and far more embarrassing side of the track, it's no big surprise that the Toronto Maple Leafs was the first to cross the 100 goals against mark.

#5      With the season being shortened by the Olympic break, nearly half the NHL's teams will be playing four games this week, and we can expect this pace to continue for most of the season. To be honest, you don't see me complaining. I get to take in a lot more puck instead of the Pratt's or Scott's of the Mrs. favourited Hills or One Tree Hill episodes.

#4      The North East division is currently the NHL's weakest. The NE leading Buffalo Sabres have only 36 points, eight behind the South East leading Capitals, and only one more than the Pacific's fourth place Stars. Ouch.

#3      The Flyers parted ways with coach John Stevens last week, and invited Peter Laviolette to take his place. Unfortunately Laviolette's troops responded to the change in command by falling 8-2 to Washington's Capitals, handing the Flyers their most embarrassing loss of the season. Is Philly destined to be the next Ottawa?

#2      Toronto Maple Leafs have been attempting to turn around their dismal start to the season by posting a 7-2-1 record over their last ten games, tying them for the best "Last Ten" record in the league.... with six other teams. Still, the patience Ron Wilson has demonstrated with the Leafs makes him worthy of sainthood, or at least a Nobel prize. Here's to an equally impressive record over the next ten.

#1      And what's my number one thought for the week? This rarely cherished and highly disputed position belongs to none other than MB103 - Martin Brodeur for tying the seemingly unbreakable NHL record of 103 shutouts set by Terry Sawchuk 46 years ago. As much admiration as I have for Brodeur, I just have one thing to say - Sawchuk did it without a mask.

That's it for this week. I'm considering recording my 13 Thursday Thoughts as a video blog and posting it on YouTube - it could be a fun Rick Mercer type account of the week's NHL stories (to be honest, I just came up with that idea while writing this week's thoughts). Good idea? Bad idea? Let me know!

Until next time, stay online!

Your buddy,

Dec 9, 2009

Tuesday Top 5: Christmas Presents the Leafs can Place Under My Tree

I've always appreciated when friends and family have provided me with a list of gifts that they hope to receive. The completion of a gift registry has become common place for those about to tie the knot or preparing for a wonderful bundle of crying, crapping, puking and peeing joy about to enter their life. But in many circles a wish list at Christmas time is still seen as a faux pas for all those over the age of 15.

I don't really see why this is, I don't ask for anything outrageous. It's quite okay that you don't wrap a pair of platinum tickets up and place it under the tree with my name on it, but at least you know that I like hockey. I don't expect you to spend your whole paycheck on sending me to the Stanley Cup finals, just half. I'm all for the holiday wish lists, it keeps life simple, and prevents my drawers from being filled with more ugly sweaters, knitted socks, and colouful votives.

Keeping with this thought of simplicity; Maple Leafs, during this Tuesday Top 5 (though written on Wednesday) I present you with this list:
(please read responsibly)


#5. A Job for Both Myself and Dangle.
In keeping in the spirit of giving, I'd feel wrong asking for a job simply for myself. Besides, Steve Dangle has been working on his Leafs Fan Reaction videos ( for three years now. I on the other hand, have been pervently slaving away at promoting your farm team, the AHL's Toronto Marlies. Don't you agree that it's about time you put us up in our own fancy shmancy cubicle, replace some of the tiring talent on LeafsTV, and give some young blood a chance? I promise that we won't answer or own questions, cut the players answers off, pitch horrible segment ideas or stroke our own ego when in public. No? How about an internship?

#4. Provide Jeff Finger the Opportunity to Earn a Plus Rating.
I would hate to think that you have under estimated the work ethic and efforts of yet another member of your defense core. Next to Ian White, Finger has the highest save percentage on the team. Jeff's not afraid to drop in front of a monster slapshot, evict an aggrivating forward from the crease or lay a rushing winger out at the blue line. So how about it? Will you try bumping him up out of the 7th position on your depth chart? A little more ice time could make a load of difference.

#3. Mike Komisarek, with a Point.
33 penalty minutes, 22 shots, 21 games and still no points? I get it, you don't want to place him on your powerplay unit (not that it would make much of a difference), but how about giving him the chance to dish the puck around the offensive zone? You're keeping him fluttering around the neutral zone while on attack, and reprimand him for pinching up. It just doesn't seem fair that Gunnarsson was given all the opportunity in the world while Komisark was out, yet you still won't put Mike in a position to garner a point or two.

#2. A Healthy Carl Gunnarsson.
Talk about confidence in their younger players, Carl started playing "Luke Schenn" kind of minutes and eight games, four points, four penalty minutes and a plus four later is playing with "Ian White" ice time. With Carl in the lineup, the Leafs have five top-four blueliners (Kaberle, Komisarek, White and Beauchemin being the other four). It can't hurt on a team that is plagued with defensive inconsistancies.

#1. A 500 Record.
This might be the biggest stretch out of all my requests (job included), but I have to ask. I promise you, it's not as hard as you might think. Of the next 9 games I'm looking for six or seven wins - okay, so it might be harder than I originally planned, but we have to stay optimistic! You can drop one to Boston, one to Washington and a third to Buffalo, but that's it, no more. If a team that went seven games without registering a win can nail a 500 record at Christman, I smell post season. And honestly, isn't that the only thing most Leafs fans ask for at Christmas time?

I put it to you Leafs, here's your list. So I might be asking for a pair of Platinums, but the least you could do is give me a seat in the Reds.

I hope everyone enjoys whichever holiday they celebrate during this wintery season.

Your buddy,

Dec 5, 2009

Friday Foto: Movember

Though Movember is believed to be a month dedicated mainly to raising funds to be used in the search for a cure for colon cancer, I have a feeling the guys view this as a win-win situation. Admit it, we're always looking for a good excuse to feed the Mrs as to why we're growing facial hair; guys weekend, playoffs, movember - whatever we can get away with.

The Leafs were no exception to this fast growing charitably trend. Gustavsson opted for full facial hair while Stajan struggled to grow what little he could. Hagman's (above) clipped and trimmed furry lip possibly encouraged Ian White to trade in the hairy monster under his nose for a more reserved version. Even Colton Orr, the team bruiser, otped to toughen his image with some whiskers.

Amidst the new found feeling of team-togetherness founded under a handlebar shaped banner,emerged a new face to our Toronto hockey club (most likely sporting a bro-stache of it's own). Movember gave birth to a team a lot less willing to roll over and die. A team who believed they could win the game despite being down two goals. The newly found group of super soup-strainers could remember neither their place in the standings nor their personal +/- record.

The stats don't lie, see for yourself. To say October was a struggle would be giving the Leafs the benefit of a large doubt. The truth is the opening month of the season saw Toronto's Leafs fall behind the pack quickly with a horrific 1-7-4 record. Fans were upset, Burke was frustrated and the media was already calling the Kessel trade an abomination - even though Phil had yet to take to the ice.

Movember though, was a different story. The power of the 'stache lifted the Leafs to 6-12-7 after they made it through the month at .500 with a 5-5-3 record.

Movember also saw many of the other good numbers go up and the bad ones go down. The Leafs averaged 2.5 goals in their first 12 outings, only to trump it with a 3.08 over the following 12.

The Mo doesn't just score goals, it can stop pucks as well. October left our Buds with a miserable goals against average of precisely 4. The November stache bash shaped up that GAA to a much improved, but still not perfect, 3.23.

Be honest, it's compelling evidence. It leaves very little room for doubt in the extra abilities the player's crum cather's provide.

So what will happen now that Movember has departed and December has arrived? The players have shown no sign of ending their fuzzy lipped ways. And why should they after starting the month 2-0, out scoring their opponents 9-3 and earning the team's first shutout of the season? Looks like the trash stache is here to stay.
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