Nov 27, 2009

The Friday Foto: Toronto's Maple Leafs

It's Friday, we have all put in a long week and there is no energy left to skim over, let alone delve into, a heavy hard-hitting blog. The Friday Foto is short, simple, sweet and generally light hearted in nature. Nothing that is too hard to handle, and something that will hopefully end your Friday with a smile.

Please enjoy today's Foto (I spell it with the F because I'm cool like that) featuring the Maple Leafs' Lee Stempniak.
(please read responsibly)

Toronto may not have put together the most skilled team for the 2009/2010 season (please guys, prove me wrong), but Cliff Fletcher and Brian Burke have exceeded at bringing in guys that fit well with the team mandate to always be giving to the community.

Blue and white draftees Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri and Jesse Blacker quickly embraced the community by appearing at several Toronto charity events. Luke Schenn stepped above many of his draft year comrades and organized Luke's Troops, a fund that provides members of Canada's armed forces the opportunity to attend Leaf games with Schenn picking up the tab.

Lee Stempniak, Jamal Mayers and Matt Stajan have all taken hold of their commitment to the community by frequently spending time with the younger generation. They have extended themselves to children at Sick Kids Hospital, little tykes that visit the ACC with Easter Seals and all the rugrats found in the GTA. Truly an admirable undertaking.

Even one of the most recent heavy weight additions, Mike Komisarek, has developed quite the repoire with Torontonians after lending his support to the Pancreatic Cancer Canada team running in the "5K Your Way" benefiting the Princess Margaret Hospital. Komi shared the story of his mother's battle with cancer, made a considerable donation and met with the team after the run had concluded at Queen's Park.

The Leafs have yet to show that their locker room is filled with those that have what it takes to be leaders in the standings, but their ability to be leaders in the community is abundantly recognized.

Thanks MLSE, for employing fun guys, recruiting good guys, and for having one of the league's sickest logo's (I had to throw that in).

Talk to you all Sunday.

Your buddy,

Nov 26, 2009

13 Thursday Thoughts: From Around the NHL

You know those random thoughts that pop into your head, we all have them. The ones that are worth putting out there but are to under developed to deserve more than a paragraph. These are the thoughts often left to Twitter and the myriads of readers it indulges. These are the thoughts that will be left for you to read, in their raw fledgling form, every Thursday.

I'm going to propose an order of importance to each of these thoughts, though realistically there is usually only one prominent thought on my mind leaving numbers 2-13 with fairly equal value.

Please, don't let me hold you up. Here are my 13 Thursday thoughts from around the NHL:
(please read responsibly)

#13     It's really a shame that the NHL couldn't put together something for hockey fans on American Thanksgiving. I'm not looking for anything special, we don't need a corn field game or all-day college hockey, but wouldn't it be nice to have an American original six matchup to watch and provide us with some non-football options?

#12     Yeah, we all know JT is amazing (Tavares, that is - but Timberlake is pretty rad too). He shocked me with his production, I really thought he would've been a Stamkos in his first pro season. But as of late it is Trent Hunter who has grabbed my attention on the Isle's squad. TH is averaging over point a game and a +/- on the good side.

#11     No need for Malkin to ease back into post-injury play. Since returning in early November, Evgeni has posted an average of 1.3 pts/g, a surprising increase over 1.1 in his first 12. Now if only my bracket pool didn't award two points per goal and only one for an assist, I'd be flying!

#10     Being an Eastern Conference'r, the headlines aren't really flooded with tales of western heroics. Because of this I hesitate to call this next team Silent but Deadly, but I will anyway. The Nashville Predators have the second best record over the past 10 games (8-2-0), second only to the Chicago super-Hawks (8-1-1). The Preds have won their last seven, but I fail to see them anywhere in the paper. Imagine they had been moved to Hamilton.

#9      Is it just me, or have the New Jersey Devils fallen off the face of the earth? With an unbelievable 9-2-1 record on the road (matched with a winning record at home), I'm surprised all the conference hype is spent on the Pens, Flyers, Rangers and Isles. Do we just expect New Jersey to be this good every year?

#8      Carolina is back in the basement and the Raleigh team is already 11 points back of a playoff spot. It blows my mind that the same team who defeated New Jersey and Boston in last year's playoffs, and then made minimal off-season changes, is this far out so early. Will Rutherford bid farewell to Maurice for a second time?

#7      And you wanted to move Phoenix (the second time I've spoken about relocation today). The Coyotes are tied for 8th in the West and are on the plus side off 500. Heck, with how Toronto has been playing I'll buy a Yotes jerz! I bet you could probably fly to Phoenix, purchase two glass tickets and a hotel room for less than Toronto platinums.

#6      Hey Wings, "Wha' Happen?" I really start to worry about a team when they're shutout by Atlanta! Currently holding the 9th spot in the West, Detroit is looking up on Phoenix, Columbus, Nashville and Colorado - who would'a thought?

#5      Chicago's an offensive atomic bomb, blowing out opponent after opponent. The Hawks have scored five or more goals in three of their last four, all the while being the visiting team! Talk about setting a new standard of excellence. In fact, Chicago has won eight straight potting at least four goals in five of them. And did I mention their 7-2 win last night was against San Jose? Sheesh.

#4      Antero Niittymaki leads the league in save percentage. I'm just as shocked as you are, trust me.

#3      Boston needs Lucic, they struggled without him. And to remind everyone of his worth, Milan scores his first night back in the black-and-gold. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Lucic is out again after only a couple games back, this time with a knee injury. And I thought this was going to be Boston's year.

#2     Five minutes and a game misconduct for Ovechkin's hit last night as the refs rule it as being delivered from behind. Is the league getting tighter, or are the refs just getting dumber? This was maybe worth two minutes, emphasis on maybe. Boudreau would have a pretty good case fighting against a minor penalty in this situation. But they always say the sweetest revenge is that which is dealt on the scoreboard. Ovie had already scored and his talley is later accredited as the game winner.

#1      Dear Brian Burke, your team is fighting to stay out of last place. Though adding Phil Kessel to the line-up, the Leafs have been unable to match the offensive production of last year's failed season. And remember those big blue line aquisitions you made over the summer? We're still waiting! Until now, you have a rookie battling with the guy you slated as seventh in the depth chart for the title of best Leafs d-man. But amidst all this failure and controversy, I'm glad you're using the 16 minutes of air time on TSN to speak about your son coming out of the closet. Next week Burke will address the media regarding the use of black and white stick tape, proposing the league unite under a single, non-discriminatory colour of cloth tape with which players can tape their equipment with. Oh please.

I'll see you all tomorrow for the Friday Foto.
Until next time, stay online!

Your buddy,

Nov 24, 2009

Tuesday's Top 5: Unwelcome Leafs

When it comes to hockey, Toronto fans are in a league of their own. Never before have I seen a city that can collectively (1) praise every mundane stride or every pass a mediocre player makes, (2) hold a member of the blue-and-white hockey club to an unattainably high standard, or (3) completely ignore the very existance of a member of their beloved NHL franchise.

It is to the players that fans have relegated to the latter categories that I dedicate this blog. Readers, welcome to the unwelcome list. Any of the below mentioned five could post career years this season, yet their jersey's will generate sales far less than Wade Belak and relatively equal to Aki Berg or Alan Bester.

So without any further hesitation, please enjoy this week's top five:
(please read responsibly)


#5. Mike Van Ryn
Does anyone even remember that Van Ryn is part of this year's club? If you want to talk about unfortunate, Mike Van Ryn's your guy. After spending the better part of the previous two seasons out of action with various injuries, fans had long given up on this blue liner. Imagine the surprise when news was released that #26 wouldn't play at all this year due to season ending knee surgery - hmph.  It seems like this was the perfect merechino cherry topping on this wrecked beef cake's career. Oh yeah, I'd trade Bryan McCabe and a 4th rounder for him too.

#4. Jamal Mayers
It's not like John Pohl cast a large shadow over the #21 that Mayers had to live up to. But right out of the gate fans believed the 2008 third round pick we gave up for this 1993 third round'er was far to steep a price to pay. And can you really blame them? This Toronto native has not put up impressive numbers in any one category since his 129 PIM's with St. Louis in 05/06. Mayer's 82 PIM's last year did not add any more grit than his 16 points added secondary scoring. Actually, his 16 points was the worst among all Leafs that played an equal amount of games. Both Mathieu Brodeur and Ian Schultz went in the 2008 third round... Just Sayin'.

#3. Rickard Wallin
Wallin is openly known as the player packaged with Gustavsson to get the Monster to sign in Toronto. I would hazard to guess that less than a third of all Leaf fans could even tell me what number this fourth liner wears on his jersey. The truth is this 6th round Phoenix selection disappeared off the NHL radar in 2004, and is yet to return. Rumour has it that Rickard used to be an offensive powerhouse, which is hard to believe after he has registered just two assists in 20 games. But Burke said Wallin has reinvented himself as a defensive centre. If that's the case, his -5 rating must be wrong. I'd like to insert a comical Swedish joke here, but I honestly can't think of one.

#2. Lee Stempniak
Am I the only one that finds the trade for Stempniak a tad suspicious? Cliff Fletcher was under a week away from being replaced by Brian Burke when he sent Colaiacovo and Steen to St. Louis for Stempniak. I would like to hope that I'm not the lone Toronto hockey fan that noticed both Colaiacovo and Steen were first round selections, while Lee was a 5th round guy. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure many great hockey players have come out of the 5th round, but Stempniak? Really? Well maybe he was brought in for his chemistry with former teammate Jamal Mayers. Nope, that's not it. Funny how both Stempniak and Mayers made it on this list.

But no matter how unwanted or unwelcome the previous four are, no one can compare to our number one.

#1. Jason Blake
Last season I was able to scrape together enough to attend more Leaf games than ever before. During each and every one of these visits, several of my balcony sitting, beer drinking, green section commrades boo'ed and heckled Jason Blake's lack of skill and effort. While watching the game the other night, my companion referred to Blake's style of play as being similar to a cannon ball. He wrecklessly bombs around the rink at retardedly high speeds, and often ends each shift by crashing into a seemingly unmoveable object. Blake's career too is like a cannonball, making a big splash in a contract year to score 40 goals only to later sink to the bottom. Toronto's ever wise JFJ swoops in and "steals" Blake away for $20 million over five years. Does Toronto ever look farther than the end of their nose when scouting a player? Maybe they would have noticed Blake had never before posted more than 28 goals. In fact from 1998-2006, Blake's total NHL production had not even brought him to the 100 goal plateau. Maybe his cannonball splash would explain his inability to attain the fans incredibly high expectaions (well that and the $4 million/year price tag). But if you ask me, forget the cannonball because this sounds a lot more like a JFJ belly flop.

So there you have it, the first top five list of the 2009/2010 season. Do you have a Top 5 Unwelcome Leaf list of your own? You should send it to me, I'm always up for a good musing.

Your Buddy,
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