By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - 10 Comments
Dear Mats Johan Sundin,
You must be pretty torn up right now about your…
Dear Mats Johan Sundin,
You must be pretty torn up right now about your decision to leave our Leaf Nation family and begin a new relationship with the mountains of British Columbia. I’ll be the first to admit that things fell apart between us in the end: three seasons without a whiff of post-season play, constant family issues that saw several members exiled and publicly scolded, and of course that fruitless pursuit of trying to find someone half decent to play on your wing. The writing was on the wall when you left last spring, then confirmed soon after when you put your house up for sale, again, and disappeared to your fishing boat in Sweden.
Yet I can’t help but feel that you were somewhat dishonest with us, that in some dark corner of your soul during last year’s trade deadline–when you refused to date another to help us through a tough, self-imposed jam in order to provide our family with some draft picks and prospects that we’d squander anyway–you were just playing with our emotions. What I really mean, oh God I’m trembling as I write this, is that I think you lied to us and took advantage of Cliff’s generosity, all the while knowing that you had no interest in returning. You always said that your heart was here, that you loved us and were a Maple Leaf through and through. Apparently that was just a crafty little guise that you brewed up to keep us happy. And to rub it in, last weekend I had to watch you smiling and really laughing it up in the New York Rangers press box during HNIC. I was so mad I threw your bobblehead doll across the room harder than that angry journalist threw his shoe at George Bush.
But I don’t want an apology. You can stick those in a sack. I was stupid enough to have thought that we might be able to pick up the broken pieces of our relationship and that you would come home and lead us back to the promise land, even if our chances of making the playoffs in the near future are as slim as Sean Avery shutting his trap. But I must warn you that somewhere down the line, not too far from now, you will regret what you’ve done. It might not happen this year, especially if your sipping out of Lord Stanley’s mug on the deck of your fishing boat, but mark my words it will happen. You see, Leaf fans are an ignorant, vengeful lot who are led by an incompetent organization that has a weird way of sticking it to its heroes. (Just ask Dave Keon, Darryl Sittler, or your fellow countryman Borje Salming, who told you that he deeply regretted not retiring in a Blue and White jersey).
So what can you expect? Well, for starters you might hear a few boos from the cheap seats when you come to town in February as a member of the Canucks. That shouldn’t hurt much. What will hurt is when the organization decides to retire your number…in 2031…and your invitations to the hall of fame games get lost in the mail. You see, we’ll still love you and call you our own. We just won’t be in any rush to honour your achievements and build statues of you around town.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 3:48 PM - 13 Comments
Folks, I’m as pumped about the Habs centennial as the next guy. But when…
Folks, I’m as pumped about the Habs centennial as the next guy. But when six of the seven Montreal Canadiens on the All-Star ballot are leading the vote their categories, even nutters for La Sainte-Flanelle like me have to admit the system has gone pear-shaped. This isn’t ballot-stuffing. This is a cyberfarce that risks turning the mid-season classic into an exhibition game for the host team. Saku Koivu has three times the votes Ovechkin does in the Eastern Conference. He’s got double Alex Semin’s total—and Semin’s the hottest forward in the league, with 27 points to Saku’s 13.
You could blame this on the NHL’s all-too-gameable online voting system, which opened for business yesterday. I blame it on the league’s skewed fan base, which confers an obvious advantage on big-market Canadian teams whose fans are foaming-at-the-mouth crazy about their finally-competitive club (the fact that Tomas Kaberle is the sole Toronto player in the top 10 in his position tells you only that the so-called “Leafs Nation” is in hibernation for the season).
For fan balloting to work, you need a functional league. The NHL is a dysfunctional league. Continue…
By Charlie Gillis - Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 2:37 PM - 2 Comments
The Anaheim Ducks have “fired” Brian Burke as GM. Or they couldn’t agree on…
The Anaheim Ducks have “fired” Brian Burke as GM. Or they couldn’t agree on a contract extension with him. Or something. What a shock!
Weren’t the Ducks one of the putative powerhouses of the West, bolstered by the presence of last-minute signee Teemu Selanne and the timely salary dump of Mathieu Schneider? That’s, like, good managing right? Weren’t they 6-3-0-1 in their last 10? Weren’t they the team that won the Stanley Cup season ‘for last, looking well nigh invincible in the process? Weren’t they the team with whom Burke claimed he was oh-so-eager to negotiate a new contract?
If you didn’t know better, you’d almost think there was some other team in the picture … some dastardly, deep-pocketed franchise that for some reason views Burke as the solution to its persistent mediocrity.
We emphasize the “for some reason” part.
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 11:37 AM - 16 Comments
It’s a widely held joke across this country that Leafs fans view the world…
It’s a widely held joke across this country that Leafs fans view the world with rather distorted blinders. But this whole Luke Schenn love affair has gotten a little out of hand. There’s no doubt that the kid is going to be a stud in the NHL for a long time. Everyone can agree that he has the skills and desire to succeed. (His fight with tough guy Chris Neil on Saturday is ample evidence of that). Yet I think it’s a bad move to keep him in the NHL this year for several reasons. Firstly, despite the fact that he looks comfortable on the ice, his stats are brutal: zero points and a -3 rating through eight games. Secondly, the Leafs are going to go through some tough times this year–let me rephrase that, horrible stretches–and Luke would probably be better served to avoid the Leafs serious growing pains in year one of the rebuilding process. Thirdly, the Leafs have way too many D on the back end and are desperate to trade either Ian White, who hasn’t played a game because of the log jam and is thus difficult to move, or Carlo Colaiacovo. Carlo could be a star in the NHL if he just avoided the injury bug and was given some ice time. But Ron Wilson is convinced that this is the best move for Schenn and the club. Time will tell, but let’s pray this doesn’t turn into another Drake Berehowsky experiment. Last I heard he was playing for the Berlin Polar Bears.
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 12:22 PM - 71 Comments
If the rest of Canada doesn’t already hate Toronto for thinking it’s the centre…
If the rest of Canada doesn’t already hate Toronto for thinking it’s the centre of the universe, this story ought to do it. According to the Globe and Mail, NHL governors are talking informally about the possibility of placing a second hockey team in Toronto alongside the Maple Leafs. One source in the article reported that prospective owner Jim “I’ll eat my own pants to get a team” Balsillie might be rewarded with the new franchise after helping the Nashville Predators deal with their financial woes. But the big question is: Should Toronto have two NHL teams? As for a name, my choice is the Toronto 67′s. It will be a nice reminder that it’s been 41 years since the Leafs won Lord Stanley’s Cup.
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at 10:56 AM - 7 Comments
I thought long and hard about really letting it out in this blog entry…
I thought long and hard about really letting it out in this blog entry and telling the world how woeful the Leafs will be during this upcoming season. But every time I sat down to write, staring lovingly at my Rick Vaive circa 1983 jersey that my great-grandmother bought me, my eyes filled with tears and I just couldn’t keep writing. So, I figured it was best to let an expert (the FAN 590′s Howard Berger) explain the situation and what fans of the mighty Blue and White can expect over the next seven months. Please note that viewer discretion is advised.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, September 8, 2008 at 10:47 AM - 1 Comment
… for two hours, according to a diligent blogger’s account of a public appearance…
… for two hours, according to a diligent blogger’s account of a public appearance Gainey made in St. John’s. If you want to see a rare, useful example of “citizen journalism,” check it out. According to the blogger, known to her readers as J.T., Gainey laid it on the line for Mats during a meeting Saturday in Toronto: ”I told him to make a decision. I said, if you feel like you want to retire, then retire. But if you’re not sure, you should play and the emotion will come.”
By Steve Maich - Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 6:08 PM - 0 Comments
Al Strachan has written what will henceforth be known as “The Definitive Hatchet Job…
Al Strachan has written what will henceforth be known as “The Definitive Hatchet Job on Brian Burke.”
Ol’ Al doesn’t think Ol’ Brian is such a hot general manager and he dredges up a few of Burkie’s less-stellar moment as GM of the Canucks. He also makes the totally legitimate point that Burke gets a lot of credit for an anaheim cup winner that was largely built by his predecessor.
I went back and took a closer look at Burke’s major trades with the Canucks and it’s true, on the big splashy ones, he was only fair-to-middling at best. Continue…
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 11:46 AM - 0 Comments
La première étoile:… Toronto Maple Leafs. This might be the only time all year
La première étoile: Toronto Maple Leafs. This might be the only time all year that the Leafs receive the first star in our daily updates, so enjoy it. But by adding an extra pre-season game (Sept. 22 against Buffalo) and giving away tickets for free (Coca-Cola is picking up the bill), the Leafs are giving a nice little gift back to fans who can’t afford a ticket to a regular game, or steal one away from a season-ticket-holder. The other perk of such a move is that the entire arena will be filled with rabid fans instead of listless fat cats who would rather drink espressos and play with their Blackberries than watch the action on the ice.
Two minutes for … for not getting with the program. Samuel Dalembert was tickled pink last August when he was finally sworn in as a Canadian citizen, but apparently the 76ers’ centre had little interest in helping Canada qualify for the Olympics and was kicked off the team earlier this week prior to the team’s game against Korea.
Who’s got tickets? British Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England. No Tiger, who cares! Sergio Garcia is being targeted as the favourite but Continue…
By Steve Maich - Monday, June 30, 2008 at 10:58 AM - 0 Comments
La première étoile:… The entire nation of Spain! Viva Espana! Spain Spain Spain! Land
Two minutes for… Indecision. Really Mats, It’s not that hard. I know that the trendy thing to do, these days, is to go all Niedermayer, and spend the summer on a deck someplace, doing a Hamlet impression. But really…you’re a multi-millionaire athlete, and there’s really only one question to answer: do you want to play or not? Kindly come up with an answer while there is still one lonely strand of DNA in my being that gives a crap.
Who’s got tickets? Wimbledon. Big day on the grass courts. So big, in fact, even I have heard of several of the players in action: Federer, Nadal, Murry. And, courtesy of the great sports time machine: The Williams Sisters! I thought they were full time fashion designers by now
Fun police: A swimmer has swum faster than any swimmer before. Splendid. Good for you Michael Phelps. You are the envy of aquatic animals everywhere. But I still share the late, great, George Carlin‘s view. Swimming is not a sport. Swimming is a way to keep from drowning.
Kevin Lowe is quietly building an interesting team in Edmonton. Newest addition Lubo Visnovsky from the L.A. Kings gives them some real fire power on the blueline, especially is Souray can find a way to stay healthy…. Chipper Jones is hitting .394 at the end of June, and is heading for a (hopefully-brief) stay on the DL. Get healthy chipper, and make a run for .400…. Let me say that I love Manny Ramirez. But manny is starting to act even crazier than usual. And it’s not that endearing “isn’t Manny so wonderfully strange?!?” kind of crazy. It’s, like, unstable crazy. If I’m Terry Francona, I want to fix that…. No…No…No…No…Noooo!
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 1:29 PM - 0 Comments
In what is surely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to…
In what is surely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Leafs off-season game plan to purge itself of salary and less-than-stellar players, Kyle Wellwood and Andrew Raycroft have been placed on waivers. I can understand getting rid of “red-light” Raycroft (not to mention that it cost the team a future blue-chip prospect in Tuukka Rask), but I was really hoping Wellwood would put down the doughnuts and start showing some of that magic we all know he is capable of producing on a nightly basis. Wellwood would be a nice addition to a team looking for a power-play specialist and a third-line centre who doesn’t need to play more than 12 minutes a game. As for Raycroft, he needs to stop going down to his knees every time a player crosses the blueline–as illustrated in the picture to the left.
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 12:18 PM - 0 Comments
The saga continues. According to this update from TSN’s Bob McKenzie, whose information is…
The saga continues. According to this update from TSN’s Bob McKenzie, whose information is generally solid, Sundin is likely going to wait it out ’til July 1. Contrary to earlier reports (to which we foolishly linked), Bob Gainey has not yet flown to Sweden. He’d just like to.
So we thought we’d catalogue the reasons Mats might not be so eager to join the Habs. Add any you please, within the bounds of good taste (i.e. no franco-baiting):
• Taxes. Players in Quebec pay more than any in the league.
• Habit. He’s spent his life battling the bleu, blanc et rouge, first with the Nords, now with the Leafs. This would be like changing religions.
• Loyalty to the Leafs. Apparently this stuff matters to him, and it sounds like Toronto has made Sundin an offer which he has not yet refused. Continue…
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, June 23, 2008 at 12:58 PM - 0 Comments
So much has happened, hockey fans. Let’s recap.
• As per last Friday’s post,…
So much has happened, hockey fans. Let’s recap.
• As per last Friday’s post, it turns out the Leafs are so determined not to let Mats skate into the sunset without compensation they dealt “negotiating” rights to him to Bob Gainey and the Habs before the July 1 free-agent signing deadline. Huh? Without a copy of the National Hockey League’s 17,000-page CBA at our fingertips—not to mention legal counsel and six hours to blow—we can only assume this is permitted.
• Essentially, the two teams have a deal in place that would be triggered should Sundin sign with les glorieux before Canada Day. What kind of deal? Good question. But pointier heads suggest it could involve a second-round pick, and/or speedy Habs centre Mikhail Grabovski. Either (or both) represents decent return for a player who has clearly had enough of the Leafs Alternate Dimension—sorry, Nation. It would however mean one of the best -nicknamed lines in history, will never play together again. That would be Alex Kovalev, Grabovski and Andrei Kostitsyn—or, as Habs fans knew them for their brief time together, Kovy-Grabs-Tits.
By Steve Maich - Monday, June 23, 2008 at 12:45 PM - 0 Comments
First Star: I nearly failed grade nine french, and I already have to deal…
First Star: I nearly failed grade nine french, and I already have to deal with the indignity of knowing that the Habs are a solid young team, getting better, while my Leafs are a terrible team committed to get worse before they begin to improve, so excuse me, but on Mondays this section is going to be called “first star.” (Plus, I don’t know how to make accents on this keyboard.) Anyway, the first star today is Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas who led his team to victory over Italy yesterday making several key stops, including the one you’ll see below, and stopping not one but two penalty kicks to decide the game.
[YouTube = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ9bWkwID00]
Two minutes for: fixing what ain’t broken. Matt stairs tees off on recently-fired hitting coach Gary Denbo. Not nice to dance on a guy’s grave, but Stairs makes an excellent point. One of the keys to coaching is recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of your players and getting them to focus on what they do well. Denbo wanted to turn everybody into Lyle Overbay – working the count and shooting the ball to the opposite field – which might explain why Overbay is one of the guys who appears in the story to defend Denbo.
Anybody got tickets to: Wimbledon. That is, if you like tennis, and white tennis outfits. I like neither, because I think generally tennis is a game played by snobs and private school boys. But I understand the sport is pretty popular, and it’s a slow day in the world of sports, so here you go tennis fans. Have some strawberries with cream, and prepare to watch Roger Federer beat the snot out of everybody…again.
Fun Police: Why, why , why does everybody in Leaf land have their knickers in a knot about Mats Sundin joining the Habs? The Leafs are a non-playoff team, begining a long, slow re-build. Sundin is a veteran superstar at the end of his career. It’d be nice if he hung around to help keep the team halfway respectable, and help teach the young guys something about being a pro. But if he’s not going to sign in Toronto, it doesn’t matter where he signs. Michael Farber on the weekend was comparing this to Johnny Damon jumping from the Red Sox to the Yankees. One key difference, the Sox and Yanks were highly competitive at the time. There is no Leafs/Habs rivalry until the Leafs get better.
Extra bases: Good bye TJ, Hello J.O.?; Cool story about Nashville Predators first round picks Colin Wilson and Chet Pickard both getting cut from the same kids’ team when they were 14. Hey coach IN YOUR FACE!; Amazing and depressing story on the impact that suit technology is having on the sport of swimming. “By compressing his torso, the LZR not only lets him go faster, because it maintains a tubular shape, but also allows him to swim longer with less effort.” Read the whole thing and you’ll soon agree with me that if it’s not lycra/spandex, it should be illegal. Honestly, baseball says bats must be wooden. Why can’t swimming say suits must be Lycra/spandex?
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, June 20, 2008 at 4:28 PM - 0 Comments
Foghorn Dreghorn, TSN’s “Insider,” reports that the Habs are still interested in landing Sundin,…
Foghorn Dreghorn, TSN’s “Insider,” reports that the Habs are still interested in landing Sundin, and suggests the Leafs are shopping the rights to the big galoot in advance of tonight’s draft. So what price the privilege of negotiating with Shrek II over the week before the July 1 signing deadline?
Couple of thoughts: if Montreal is indeed talking to Sundin’s agent, it’s with a view to confirming A.) whether Sundin plans to play next year B.) that they can reach wink-wink nudge-nudge agreement with him before they give the Leafs anything good.
If the answers to the foregoing are yes—and that’s a big if—Bob Gainey would still be ill-advised to relinquish his 25th overall pick tonight. Or that handful of magic beans Cliff Fletcher wants. Sundin just doesn’t have that many miles left on him. The Leafs, meanwhile, would be crazy to let Sundin go to a team in their own division without getting something very valuable in return. Bad enough the Habs’ host broadcaster, RDS, nabbed the Hockey Night theme from the CBC, the Leafs de facto host broadcaster. Imagine their fans’ reaction to watching their former captain beat the crap out of them eight times next year…
So don’t bet your mule on this one.
In other pre-draft news … the Sens are dispensing with problem child Ray Emery, chucking him on waivers and preparing to buy him out. Moral of the story, kids, is get to practice on time, keep your stick on the ice, and always lease—never buy—your big white Hummer.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, June 20, 2008 at 10:39 AM - 0 Comments
This weekend marks a showdown between two goofy Hollywood comedies about mild-mannered bozos endowed with extravagantly fake professional lives: Get Smart and The Love Guru. Aside from offering a choice between a spy who uses a shoe phone and a self-help pundit who glides around on a motorized hassock, these two movies present two distinct options: smart or dumb.
For a film derived from a vintage TV series, Get Smart is more original than you might expect, with a deft script and an elegant performance by Steve Carell. Mike Myers is no dummy. But in The Love Guru, as if sending up hockey and self-help is not enough, he smothers his wit with the kind of crude puns, penis jokes and toilet humour that became a staple of the Austin Powers franchise. Maybe he’s got his audience figured out. Who knows? If it worked before, maybe it will work again. But I’m beginning to wonder if a special restricted rating should be created for movies like this—preventing anyone over the age of 14 from attending.
Meanwhile, if you’re willing to venture beyond Hollywood, there’s a third comedy option this weekend that offers a far superior brand of hyperbole. My Winnipeg, an extraordinary feat of documentary delirium by Guy Maddin, is smarter and funnier than both other films combined. It’s a brilliant work of stunning originality.
Long before Austin Powers spoofed James Bond, there was Get Smart. I’m old enough to have fond memories of the TV series, from its original broadcast, not syndication. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry in 1965, it belonged to a wave of spy shows in the ’60s—along with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers—that either aped or mocked the James Bond fantasy, and gave TV viewers their first mainstream taste of quirky, post-modern style. Get Smart was a pure send-up. And despite a flimsy concept, what the series won our affection via the deadpan charm of the actors: Don Adams as the bumbling Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as his foxy sidekick. Continue…
By Steve Maich - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 11:49 AM - 0 Comments
The Toronto media is, thus far, giving the thumbs-up to the Leafs new coach…
The Toronto media is, thus far, giving the thumbs-up to the Leafs new coach Ron Wilson. That, in itself, is no surprise. The Leafs always hire good coaches, or at least, coaches that seem competent and well-qualified until they get behind the bench. Paul Maurice, Pat Quinn, Pat Burns – all came with pretty strong professional credentials, and so does Wilson. I will spare you the obligatory skepticism – I’ll refrain from mentioning that he’s never won a cup, and that the San Jose Sharks massively underperformed under his leadership the past two seasons. Fair to say that Wilson is a good hockey guy, is respected around the league, and should have no problem establishing authority in the dressing room.
The bigger concern remains that lack of a GM. Continue…
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
The appropriate line for the video grab here might have been “Sundin Ponders Role…
The appropriate line for the video grab here might have been “Sundin Ponders Role as Shrek.”
The story, though, points to an eventuality I still can’t grasp—the big man seeking greener pastures come July 1. With MLSE unable to attract flies to the Leafs front office, I guess it’s conceivable that Mats would test the water. Talking about it after winning a leadership award for his efforts in T.O. suggests his exasperation has gotten the better of him.
But Montreal? Really?
By Martin Patriquin - Friday, May 2, 2008 at 9:31 AM - 0 Comments
According to a recent poll, Les Glorieux have replaced The Toronto Always…
According to a recent poll, Les Glorieux have replaced The Toronto Always Leaves (Before The Playoffs) as ‘Canada’s Team’. I’m not all that surprised. Canada, ahem, teems with ex-pat Montrealers whose allegiances stayed with the team even after they left. Also, everyone loves an underdog, and when a team ends up first in the Eastern Conference after dire predictions of a basement finish (thanks, Hockey News) it makes those bloody flappy car flags seem a little less absurd.
We also loves us some bandwagons, and that sound you hear is the thunder of about a million of them ponying up to Hockey Night In Canada to watch Guy Carbonneau valiantly dig himself out of a 3-1 hole against the Flyers (I believe, unlike these idiots.) As eternal Leaves Nation flogger ‘Godd Till’ (a pseudonym, to save himself the embarrassment), who toils away at the beautifully bitchy Coxbloc, mentioned the other day: “I wonder what the results will be… what with everyone breaking their legs jumping off the bandwagon.”