Tuesday, January 31, 2006 

Dunks, Chumps and Grumps

A Celtic of and Idea

Well, when you're right, you're right. And the Celtics looked just awful in their game against the Timber Wolves. Not only did the Wolves win 110 to 85 but the new Wolves combined for 54 points, 14 assists, 5 blocks and 16 rebounds in 98 minutes, while the new Celtics had 24 points, 3 assists, 0 blocks and 3 rebounds in 36 minutes. Not only that, but the sharp decline at center for the Celtics from removing Blount from a LaFrentz/Perkins combination was huge. They combined for a whole 4 points through the first 3 quarters. Blount and Griffin combined for 22. And that is where the game was lost right there. The comparison of Wally versus Ricky is moot after that point. The Celtics have done themselves a grave disservice with this trade, and tonight just went to show how grave it was. I can't wait to see how ESPN's sports guy tries to justify what happened in last nights game. I'm sure, though, that he'll give it his best effort.

The trade, however, along with Chris Anderson's banishment, did bring a great idea to the forefront - an All-White Dunk Contest. The Birdman's debacle in last years contest was the highlite of All-Star weekend for me, and probably for many other people. I struggle to remember other highlites from the weekend, but the Birdmans antics are still fresh in my mind like it was just yesterday. We need more of this, and hence we need the All-White Dunk Contest.

Not just any white guy will do, mind you. They need to be the whitest of white players in the league. For example, Nash and Nowitski clearly can play basketball with the best of them, and without looking too awkward. They just won't do, they just aren't white. They have to be reminiscent of the Birdman to qualify. Bryant "Big Country" Reeves would be an excellent example from the past.

With that I ask you who you would like to see in the All-White classic. I'll get the ball rolling with my three favourites: Half-a Man Araujo from the Raptors, Darko from the Pistons, and none other that Dauber himself (does anyone remember the TV series coach? This guy is totally Dauber), Chris Kaman from the Clippers. If you have other suggestions let me know this week, then we will post a poll leading up to the All Star break to find out who the most popular All White Guy Dunk Contest candidates would be.

Vinsane in the Membrane

*WARNING* Raptors fans, you may want to stop reading at this point. The following article is going to grind your last nerve to the bone. You have been warned.

As everyone knows by now, Kobe Bryant had a bit of a game last week. He took a trip to the record books as only the second person in history to clear the 80 point mark. Not only that, he carried the team on his back during the game, and led them to a huge comeback victory over the Raptors. After the game, his teammates had nothing but good things to say about his performance, and how he led them as a team to the victory. But that goes without saying, right? How could anyone have anything negative to say about such an awe-inspiring, record setting performance that we will all remember for year to come. It can't be done.

Always looking to tackle a challenge, leave it to Vince Carter to find a way to do the impossible. Always a class act, following Kobe Bryant's 81 point performance last week, Vince had the following to say:

"The only bad thing about it is that younger kids, whose minds are easily warped, are going to think, ohhh, I am going to go out there and do it instead of the team concept first"

Honestly, that is what Vince Carter had to say. Vince, the man to whom the word "team" stands for "Vince and some guys", and even then only if he decides that they have a chance at the playoffs. This is the man who completely bailed on his team in Toronto until his infantile tactics finally got him a trade out of town to a potential contender. Immediately following the trade, his play improved ten-fold and his lingering injuries all miraculously healed. Have a look at his statistics for last year. Before the trade Vince was averaging career lows with 15.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Following the trade, in the exact same season, Vince average CAREER HIGHS with 27.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists. In the same season where he was capable of putting up his best numbers, he put up his worst numbers for Toronto. I'm sure he was just holding back for his team, so that they could feel better about themselves instead of just relying on him. Everyone got to think "Hey, I'm better than Vince, and Vince is a superstar! I must be pretty good!". That's the kind of hit Vince was willing to take for the team. Now that is a team player!

He went on to say:

"That is what is missing in the game, guys understanding how to play as a team"

Kobe may be described as a bit of a selfish player, but that has a lot to do with no other real options being in Los Angeles to pass to. It's not like he has Richard Jefferson or Jason Kidd on the floor to help him, so it's no wonder her lead the league last year in shots per game. Oh, but by the way, Vince Carter finished a close second, only 0.1 shots per game behind. Don't be mistaken, though, unlike Kobe, Vince was taking all those shots for the team.

As if that wasn't enough, Vinny capped it off with this gem:

"I think it is great for the NBA. They want scoring, they want ratings, and you are going to get that. You are definitely going to get them now with the amount of 50-point games, 60-plus games. I just hope that kids and young guys understand that only special guys can do that. Yeah, they were trying to get Kobe the ball, they wanted to see a special night. But they all know their roles."

He mentions the amount of 60-plus point games like they happen every day. So far this year, Kobe has a 62 point and an 81 point game. That's it. It's disgusting how often that is happening! Vince also mentions 50-point games in there. How confused is he at this point. Vince himself is one of the people with a 50 point game this year. So is he bad-mouthing himself, or is he saying that 50 and 60 point games are good for the NBA, but 80 point games are bad for the future of the game? Can anyone decipher this for me? Does he even know what he means?

All I know is that with this, Vince Carter has now secured his spot as the most disgusting person in the history of professional sports, if that wasn't already his title. And this is a history that includes Bob Probert, Bobby Clarke and OJ Simpson. Congratulations, Vince, you are the only person who has been able to explain how Rob Babcocks dealing you to the Nets was a good move.

Groin Watch.

Ed Jovanovski requires surgery on his abdominal/groin injury, and will not only be unavailable for the Olympics, but may be finished for the year. On another groin front, Bryan McCabe didn't play in the Leafs game last night as many expected him to, but is said to be ready for the next game. Fortunately for the Leafs losing streak they were involved in the next best thing to getting an MVP back - they played the Florida Panthers. With their first win in 9 games, the Leafs managed to hang onto the final playoff spot with Bryan's return immanent. With that, all hope is not lost in Leafland. They didn't fall as far in the standings without McCabe as they should have, had the other teams in the East outside of New Jersey bothered to show up. I would, though, still recommend a minor fire sale and starting from scratch. Although they won't admit it, Leafs fans would much rather have their team miss the playoffs than lose a series to the Senators, which would be an inevitability this year. I'm not sure how die-hard Leaf fans would be able to deal with such an event. If the Leafs do manage to squeak into the playoffs and draw a matchup with the Sens, go out and buy as much Molson and Labbatt stock as you can. Millions of Leaf fans are going to drive those stock prices way up.

Monday, January 30, 2006 

Return To Sender

Hingis' Return

After an impressive showing on the Women's side of the Australian open with a hard-fought loss in the Quarterfinals, Martina Hingis made her return to tennis complete by capturing the Major's mixed doubles title. Showing yet again she's not just a pretty face, her and Mahesh Bhupati made quick work of Canadian Daniel Nestor and his partner Elena Likhovtseva, 6-3 and 6-3. Ignoring the Swiss Misses return for a moment, this game saw a battle between the two best male tennis doubles players in recent history. Normally if two dominating athletes or teams in any type of sport come head to head, it would be all over the media and everyone would try to watch. But be honest - did anyone see this match? Not likely. Just look at how packed that audience is in the picture of the winning pair accepting their award. Nobody cares about doubles tennis. Especially not mixed-doubles. More evidence of this is that every article I read about this Grand Slam Championship match included a description of how "Hingis ran up to Bhupathi and gave him a hug at the T-line when Nestor's attempted backhand return hit the net". Every article described the hug. Even sports writers clearly don't know what to write about mixed-doubles tennis. And neither do I really. I had to mention it because it completed the return of my child-hood crush, and brought her yet another Grand Slam title for her mantle. But really, there's nothing else to say about it. Mixed-doubles tennis ranks around the same level as Lacrosse and MLS soccer, and that's only when it's a Grand Slam. It's such an un-noteworthy event that, much like the post-Conan O'Brien era of the Simpson's, I don't have a way to end to this article. Hey everybody, I'm gonna haul ass to Lollapalooza! Here we go again.

Artest's Return

In his second game back from his time off, Artest looked more and more like the man he can be and is. Unfortunately it wasn't even enough for the hapless Kings to beat the should be even more hapless Raptors. Led by Morris Peterson's 23 points and 10 rebounds, the Raptors needed overtime to finally put the Kings out of their misery. Artest put up 24 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists, in some very subdued and well-behaved play. Like I said, he's good for 23 points a game in the Kings uniform, and people lucky enough to pick him up while he was off will reap the rewards. Given a few more games, the King's should be back on track too.

Another "like I said" could be seen in Artest's first game back agaisnt the Celtics. That being that the trade they made with the Wolves was not beneficial for them. Wally got only 10 points and 3 rebounds, while the other new-comers didn't even see any floor time. In game two Wally brought his average up to 15 points, but the others still didn't see any floor time. On the other side of the floor, Ricky Davis and Mark Blount combined for 38 points 9 rebounds and 3 blocks for Minnesota. Unlike what the other Sports Guy at ESPN had to say about it, this was not a good trade for the Celtic's. Tonight's game between Minnesota and Boston will be a great example of that. With LaFrentz facing off against Blount he'll be lucky to get the 6 points he managed last game. Let the self-destruction in Boston begin tonight.

Elias' Return

16 points in 12 games, and 10 wins for the team. That sounds good, but there is something that is still bothering me with all of this success - where is Alex Mogilny? He hasn't played in the last couple of games for Albany after logging in 4 with the minor league squad. I haven't heard about an injury, or about plans to return him to the Devil's squad, nor have I even heard any rumours about any other teams being interested in his services. What is going on here? He is Alex Mogilny. His disapointing play this year was still enough to be third in team scoring. 25 points in 34 games under limited play. I am totally taken aback by the lack of interest in one of the games most prolific scoring machines over the length of his long career in the NHL. This needs to change, if not just out of respect for one of the games best careers. He can still fit in on almost any team in the NHL's first line, and he would clearly come at an absolute steal right now. Someone please pick up Mogilny soon so we can all enjoy watching his game again.


Zalapski's Return?

I had asked last week if anyone could find out how Zarley Zalapski was doing this year on the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers of the Swiss league. True to form, the JF got down and dirty and found out some information for me. He got in touch with Reto Klaus of the Lakers themselves, and garnered this reply:

"zarley played about 4 games for us early in the season but not anymore now.
so he is no more in our team

So, the first step in the Zarley hunt is behind us. The question I leave to you now is where did he go next? Did he leave for another team, or has he finished his hockey career? If he is still playing, how is he doing there? Have the Penguin's expressed interest in bringing him back to the NHL? These are all crucial questions, and I wish you all the best of luck in finding the answers. Remember to keep me posted. There may be a prize for the person who brings be definite proof of his whereabouts. Let the Zarley hunt begin!

Sunday, January 29, 2006 

The Birdman Commeth

Plot Summary

It's 2006 and the patron's of 'The Last Chance Saloon' have gathered for their evening of methamphetamines and LSD to contemplate their lost faith and dreams, when David Stern (played by Lee Marvin) arrives. Stern is out to convince everyone that he can help them all find peace of mind by ridding them of the foolish dreams and by bringing them back to reality. Stern is working especially hard on Chris Anderson (Robert Ryan) a former anarchist who has lost his will for life and is awaiting the eventuality of death. The Birdman is not affected by the cajolings of Stern, but his young companion Chris Paul (Jeff Bridges) is strangely affected and this leads to revelations about his own mother and feelings of betrayal and loss. As the night wears on the mood changes as everyone has the their faith and dreams slowly destroyed by Stern. As the anger builds everyone turns on Stern about his wife and the Birdman. This leads to more revelations and with Stern having the faint questioning of his own new found convictions.

I know, the movie plot sounds unrealistic. There is no way that Stern would ever question himself. But it's the best I could do. I'm sure most of my readers are of the younger set and won't get the description anyway, so let us all just move on. The reference is, of course, to Chris Anderson's banishment from the NBA. The rules state that a player only can be disqualified for a fourth positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, or a first positive test for drugs of abuse. The list of such substances is as follows:

Amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, PCP and opiates, including heroin, codeine and morphine.

So, basically if you are caught taking performance enhancing drugs, which have a direct effect on playing Basketball, that isn't worthy of a banishment until you are caught 4 times. But if you've been caught taking morphine, something that would not positively affect your game, you are done on the first offense. Does anyone else have a problem with this system? Shouldn't it be steroids that are frowned on the most by a professional sports league? The crackheads that I see on the street can barely walk in a straight line once, even if you give them all day to try. I'm pretty sure that if a professional athlete in the modern environment had a real drug problem, they would weed themselves out of the league. But if they blatantly try to cheat and put themselves at an advantage, they get a few slaps on the wrist until they screw up more times than even a 3 strikes and your out rule would allow.

I'm sure that the Birdman was merely at a party and unwisely decided to take illicit drugs with some friends. Anyone that saw his antics in the last Slam Dunk contest, however, could easily argue that this is a man who has had drug problems for a long time. In either case, I in no way at all condone such actions, and in fact I think that drug crimes should all bring higher sentences than they currently do. But to be caught by a random drug test after what might have been a one time mistake and be forced to lose your career, when someone who blatantly cheats, and has with regularity for a long time isn't nearly punished as harshly just isn't right. Not even slightly. There needs to be, at the very least, equal treatment of the two offenses. In fact, if the player does have a drug problem, he should be helped, not punished. A temporary suspension that comes with mandatory rehab would be a much better punishment than banishment. What better way to make someone in danger turn more to drugs than by taking his life away from him. Someone in the Players Association was not taking the good of their own members into account when they agreed to these conditions. This system is tragically flawed all around, and needs to be properly assessed.

The end result is that there are no more mullets in the NBA, and we won't get to see the Birdman in any more dunk contests from now on. I don't think that we shouldn all be punished for these actions in such an extreme manner. I for one have already lost some interest in the dunk contest this year. Interest in seeing just how many tosses Anderson can miss this year before dying of embarrassment. I already had my money on 17. Maybe Half-a Man Araujo can take his place this year, if we're so lucky. It's about time that he'd be good for something.

Les Habitants vs. Les Dommages

Two struggling teams faced off in Montreal Saturday night, as the Leafs were in town to face the Canadiens. The good news for the hapless Canadian teams was that the game went to overtime, so they each were guaranteed a point. The bad news for Toronto fans is that the Habs won the other point in overtime, allowing them to catch the Leafs and Thrashers for a 3-way tie in the battle for the 8th and final playoff spot. The other bad news is that without McCabe the Leafs have now dropped 8 straight games for the first time since 1996. Anyone who remembers the first 3 seasons following the lockout, known as the Nick Beverly/Mike Murphy years, knows that these are the last years in post 80's Leafs history with which they want to be associated. So, what are the highest bids for Sundin, Tucker and Belfour anyway?

Groin Watch

Groin injuries are out of hand in the NHL. Someone really needs to figure out what is going on. Was it just that groin injuries were listed as leg or lwer body injuries in the past out of childish embarrassment, or has there really been a drastic increase in this injury this season? It seems that injuries sometimes come in bunches. I remember a few years ago when concussions were being discussed as a big problem in the NHL, and it seemed every week someone got one. Since then, they are occuring much less often. Maybe this is just the year of the groin. It's just too bad that it's not as good as it sounds. Here is a listing of the 12 players who were affected by groin injuries in the past week:

Ed Jovanovski: January 27, day-to-day, Groin, may reuturn next week
Bryan McCabe: January 24, IR, Groin, 1-2 more weeks
Evgeni Nabokov: January 22, Groin, returned to action
Dave Scatchard: January 28, day-to-day, Groin, may play next game
Joni Pitkanen: January 27, day-to-day, Groin, may return next game
Peter Forsberg: January 27, day-to-day, out 1-2 weeks
Chris Higgins: January 27, Groin, returned to action
Sheldon Souray: January 28, Groin, returned to action
Eric Belanger: January 28, day-to-day, Groin, may reutrn next game
Brian Leetch: January 38, Groin, returned to action
Peter Bondra: January 24, Groin, returned to action after missing 22 games
Markus Naslund: January 28, day-to-day, Groin, out 2-3 games

Saturday, January 28, 2006 

Rucchin of the Year Award

And the Rucchin is

Straka got off to a quick start in the balloting, but in the end it was a unanimous decision in favour of:

plus equals

Jonathan Cheechoo.

This vote didn't even end up close. Cheechoo got 52% of the popular vote, while Straka ended up with only 27%, and Kozlov at 19%. Scott Walker, as expected, did not register a single vote. He was merely along for the ride as the result of a single goal he scored off of his lid. What was apparent, though, were a few oversights from the selection. Of note Simon Gagne and Marc Savard were mentioned by many people, but the overwhelming write-in vote was Mike Knuble. Before being moved to the top lines in Boston, Mike averaged about 20 points per season. His final two years in Boston he had some help on his line and recorded 59 and 46 points. Through 50 games on Forsbergs line, however, Mike already has 42 points, and is on pace for career highs in goals and assists. Definitely worthy of consideration, but I'm pretty confident in saying that Cheechoo, with the decisive majority he put up against Straka and Kozlov, would still have been the victor. Nonetheless, to avoid dispute in end of year voting, the nominees will be left up to my readers prior to the posting of the Rucchin of the Year balloting. That way, for the first time in history, the true people's Rucchin can be decided without dispute.

Mighty No More

I have one very, very, very good question: If you're going to bother changing the team name, then WHY would you still have it called the Ducks? This is not a good team name. It strikes as much fear in the other team as if they were playing the Seattle Fuzzy Bunnies, or the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe even less. So if you are going to change your team name away from the Mighty Ducks, just because Disney isn't involved anymore, then why not find a new team name all together? In staying with a theme from my January 25th article, why not the Los Angelas Broadcoms? Or, if somehow the D'Angelos Juice company found a little extra money laying around, the Anaheim Juices D'Angelos would be a suiting take on the name. In any case, the Ducks name was never a good idea, and having a team named after a kid's movie was just an embarrassment. If they want to change anything, then change it all. Please. There is just no way to make the "Ducks" seem cool, especially not with the heritage of where the name came from.

Elias Watch

If you bet on the Panthers in this game, your nuts must be made of thick steel, much like your head. But it would have paid off big time. Just hours after signing a 6-year deal worth an average of $5.2 million a year, Brodeur decided that was too much excitement for one day and just phoned it in. He must have phoned in for the rest of the team as well as nobody showed up ready for this one. The devils were blanked for the first time since Elias' return, and in this game he showed that he is very much human, going pointless now in two straight games. Patrick had only one shot, and no points in 15 minutes of play, registering a -3 rating. With that, the Elias watch drops to 12 games, 16 points and 9 wins.

Friday, January 27, 2006 

Welcome Back To 1940's Bean Town

Boston White Sox

In a stunning move today, there was a 7 player, 3 draft-pick deal between the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota T-Wolves. Going from the Celtics to the Wolves were Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, Justin Reed and two future second-round draft picks. In exchange, the Celtics receive Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi, Dwayne Jones and a future first-round draft pick, which begs the question: there's a Dwayne Jones in the league? Wally might be better than Davis, or at least more consistent, and a first-round pick is certainly worth 2 second rounders. But the downgrade from Blount to Kandi is huge, and will likely result in Raef playing more minutes at Center again, where he is slightly more useless than he is playing forward. This is in no way a good trade for the Celtics, and only goes back to following their old Boston mold - bring in all white guys at any cost. This has been a Celtics tradition for as long as I can remember. I wouldn't be surprised to see a Pierce for Kirilenko trade by the end of the year. Maybe they can steal Ostertag or Harpring at the same time. The people in the front office in Boston seriously need to be questioned at this point. Kandi and Dwayne, whoever he is, clearly were not brought in to play serious minutes. 2 key players on the team this year have been shipped out for the prettiest man in the NBA, and it does not help the team. They can, however, now post a starting lineup as follows if they choose:

PG - Dan Dickau SG - Pierce SF - Wally Szerb PF - Brian Scalab. C - Raefer

One of these things is not like the others. Give up? It's Paul Pierce, and the reason is that he is the only one who should be a starter on any NBA team. What is going on in Boston? Has Gerald Green even gotten into a game this year? Maybe they can pick up Darko for him, if they're lucky. That would definitely be true to the Celtics "pride". It's a shame what happened to this team, because only a couple of years ago they looked like they had a good young nucleus poised to give Detroit a run every year. And now they look like the soccer team in the pictures above. This team should slide below the Raptors by the end of the year, and if they do white-up Pierce, who knows just how far they'll fall. But hey, at least they won't have problems with the NBA dress code.

Utter Steals

In two separate moves today, the Edmonton Oilers acquired Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom from Chicago and Pittsburgh. Dicky is a power play specialist who lead the Penguins in scoring last year with 52 points, and much like all the Penguins is having an off year. Spacek is a solid 2 way defenseman, and has even managed to put up a plus 8 and 24 points on a very weak Hawks club. This is an unbelievable strengthening for an Oilers defense that could really use it. Did they have to margin their future to do so? Or give away some immediate talent? How about a bunch of draft picks? No, no and no. All the is leaving Alberta are Jani Rita (who?), Tony Salmelainen (what's that now?) and the always helpless Cory Cross (Someone wanted him? Has Babcock found a new job in the hockey world now?). Basically, in one day the Oilers have added two quality NHL defensemen, something in some short supply, without depleting their current or future rosters to any real degree. In fact, by unloading Cory Cross they have improved the current roster already, even before adding the new talent.

I remember back in the summer where the Leafs resigned Cross and Berg at the same time, I ran into Pat Quinn and we had a little heart to heart. I suggested to him that signing Berg and Cross like he did was a huge mistake, as neither one was able to play hockey so much as not play hockey, and that even I could do better. He "kindly" told me that if that was true, then I should go *expletive* try out for the *expletive* team again, and stood up and walked away. Really, though, why would anyone want Cross on their team? This trade is a disaster for a Penguins team that looked like it couldn't get worse. The same can be said for Chicago. I can't see a single reason why either team made these trades, except that their GM's are Oilers fans who are tired of watching the Flames beat them year after year lately.

Leafs Watch

That was horrible. Just horrible. Even McCabe can't fix what has happened to the Leafs. Disband and rebuild. There are no other options at this point. Just horrible. I will be sad to see Quinn leaving town, he is a great guy and has done wonders for this team over the years. If you don't believe that, just look at the Leafs rosters from 1999 and 2002. They weren't that good, plain and simple, and Quinn was able to coach them to the Conference Finals both years. His presence will definitely be missed.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 

Not To Bob!

Just yesterday I wrote that "Babcock’s reputation in the league has become so negative, it’s hard to imagine many free agents lining up to come north of the boarder while he’s still in Toronto. The solution to that problem, however, seems sadly out of the question in the Raptor’s books, to the confusion of pretty much everyone in the basketball world."

I apparently underestimated the Raptor's higher ups. And with that, comes the end of an ugly era in sports. During the press conference, team president Richard Peddie summed it up with the understatement of the year:

"A general manager is evaluated in large part by the results of his decisions. Unfortunately those results have not met our expectations."

Babcocks bigest blunders were the 2004 drafting of Araujo in the first round ahead of Andre Iguodala, and the trading away of Vince Carter, to a division rival no less, for a couple of sacks of nothing, and the right to fund Miami's playoff run. To me, though, the one thing that sealed his fate was the only thing that shouldn't have. It was his often mis-quoted statement from the offseason about the Raptor's chances. The actual quote is as follows:

"There will be growing pains, no doubt about it. Whether we will win or lose more games than last year, I think if you look at us on paper, we probably will not win as many games as last year. We more or less have the same team back with the exception of Donyell Marshall, who was an integral part of our team last year. We're replacing him with rookies."

This was translated in the media as Rob saying that the Raptors were going to do worse this year. If you read the comment, I mean really read it, you will see that this is not at all what he was saying. This statement of his was actually the only thing I can think of that he got 100% right during his time in Toronto. There were going to be growing pains, and from a paper stand point the team did look worse. But his real suggestion was that given time, the rookies will come together and going forward the team will actually be better. He was, as you'll notice, right. After their disasterous start, the Raptors are actually still at .500 (including the past 3 tough losses). For such a young team to pull themselves together to such a degree in a short amount of time is a big complement to the talent that was brought together in Toronto. Babcock only said that on paper it would appear as though they would win less games, but nonetheless it was this comment that got the ball finally rolling to his termination. And he was right.

After all the mistakes he made, to be, in the end, finally fired for the one thing that he got right, and at a time when the team has showed signs of turning itself around, says a lot for what is actually going on behind the scenes and above his head in Toronto. Do I think Babcock should be the GM? No. But this also wasn't the time to fire him. There were many other very obvious times, but fittingly for this train wreck of an organization, when he was finally let go, it wasn't the right time. And I must say, this firing still doesn't bode well for the future of the Raptors organization as a whole.


To Bob, Or Not To Bob

It is almost 2:00pm. The Raptors have scheduled a press conference, and we all wait with anticipation to see if this is the last time we'll have to see this face.


Strong Returns - Artest, Hingis and Elias

Done Deal

Ron Artest is going to start playing again, and as someone who traded for him during his down time in my fantasy pool, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I traded Jalen Rose and Tayshaun Prince straight up for the idle Artest, and let everyone know to do the same if they could. This deal should be great for Artest holders. You know he’s going to be hungry to prove himself after all that forced time off, and Sacramento should be a good fit for Ron. The Kings have fallen from grace this year, finding themselves in the cellar of the Pacific Division with an 18-24 record, and needing to do something to try to turn things around. Peja’s numbers were down this year, and they needed a superstar to both fill his shoes, and give a new spark to a team that seemed to have lost all it’s luster. Featuring a starting lineup now of Mike Bibby, Kevin Martin, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Brad Miller, and Ron Artest, the Kings appear to be a team to be reckoned with again. Artest will be just the spark they need, and even the team’s center will be able to dish the ball to Artest. He will see enough touches to easily average 23 points a game, and brings with him a much-needed drive to the basket.

On the other side of the equation, then, is the question of did the Pacer’s get full value for their Super Star. The quick answer is a resounding yes. The closest comparison to this fire sale in recent history is the exodus of Vince Carter from Toronto. In exchange from the Nets the Raptors, as you know, got a big sack of nothing, a small sack of nothing, and the honour and privledge to pay a player to play for the Miami Heat. So, considering the Pacers were able to pick up the premiere 3-point shooter in the league, you have to like this deal as a Pacers fan. They need someone to come in and clean up the mess that Tinsley has been dealing out on the point this year, and as well as anyone, Peja can make a lot out of a bad pass. This is truly one of those few trades that looks great on both sides of the deal. If you managed to get Artest during his time off you will benefit in the same way people who grabbed up Vince while he was in Toronto did last year.

Speaking of the Raptors, they had their donkeys handed to them by the Chicago Bulls tonight by a final score of 104 to 88. It’s not every day that a 16-point win sounds closer than it actually was. It would appear that, as I predicted, the Kobe game did take the spark out of the Raptors season. With this season done, then, I no longer mind the rumoured deal to send Rose and James to the Knicks for Ariza and Hardaway as much. Obvisouly, Hardaway’s not really going to show up in Toronto. Ariza also looks like a lesser version of 4 guys the Raps already have at small forward. But exchanging Jalen’s lack of play for a lack of play with a contract that expires at the end of the year is a good deal. Another thing I have noticed is that without James in the lineup, Morris Peterson is a much better player. It’s the same reason that he turned from a great driver to a 3-point shooter in the past when Vince was on the team. Mope seems to think that is there is a driving option on the floor already, then his position is to stay on the outside. This isn’t a great move for someone who has some of the most creative drives in the league. This year when Calderon has been on the point and James has been on the bench, Peterson has looked like the player he promised to be in his rookie campaign. To have him play that way for the rest of the season and hopefully get used to it again for next year would be a bonus for the Raptor’s. Then with all the extra money, hopefully they can convince a big man to come up north. If not, then all their moves will be for nothing. Babcock’s reputation in the league has become so negative, though, it’s hard to imagine many free agents lining up to come north of the boarder while he’s still in Toronto. The solution to that problem, however, seems sadly out of the question in the Raptor’s books, to the confusion of pretty much everyone in the basketball world.

Welcome Back

It’s always nice to see a childhood crush came back to the forefront. As her return to the Australian Open comes to an end, Martina Hingis has given notice that, despite 3 years of downtime, she is still the real deal. She easily made her way through the tournament to the quarterfinals, where she lost 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to Kim Clijsters, who will now become the number one seed in the world. This was a match that could have gone either way, and appeared to be in Hingis’ favour going into the fourth quarter, as she took 6 straight games leading into it. Clijsters went on to lose to Amélie Mauresmo in the semi-finals after rolling her ankle, while Maria Sharapova faced off with Justine Henin-Hardenne in the other semi final last night. In a tough played match Sharapova took the first set 6-4, but all out failed to show up for the second set. The hard-court specialist Henin-Hardenne took it right to her, and it wasn’t pretty. Well, it was Sharapova and Henin-Hardenne, so obviously it was still pretty, but Sharipova’s effort was not. After dropping the set 6-1, Maria went for a change of clothes between the second and third sets (and no, this was not a part of the coverage, unfortunately). The announcer did, however, as the game came back from her long delay, say that she “has to get back to banging here”. I will leave that one to your interpretation. Anyway, Henin-Hardenne went on to take the final set 6-4, to move onto the finals. If you’re looking for a reason to be happy about Sharapova’s exit from the tournament, there is always the one reason why Henin-Hardenne is my favourite tennis player – she doesn’t do that female tennis grunt. The grunt is easily the most annoying part of the game, and in recent times has even found it’s way into the men’s side, which is too bad because it’s lack used to be the only reason to bother watching the men play. Needless to say, I love to watch Hardenne play and I am excited for the finals, it should be a good one.

Calder v. Calder

Not to be outdone by Ovechkin’s goal the other week, Sidney Crosby scored a beauty in his match up with the Capitals, and added 3 assists to boot. He came out of the corner, dropped the puck to his skate, kicked it through the defender and scored on the other side. I don’t have a direct link to it yet, but to see it go to Crosby’s highlight page Crosby's Highlight Page and click on his January 25th highlight. Not quite in the same league as “The Goal”, but team it up with the Penguins decisive 8-1 win, and Crosby takes this round in the battle of Calder contenders. Ovechkin did add a power play for the Caps, who looked completely out-matched by the worst team in the NHL all night. Even Boguniecki got on the score sheet for the Penguins in the very convincing romp. One game is one game, though, and Ovechkin is still the obvious Calder winner as far as I can see. Sorry Penguins fans, who I know are undoubtedly looking for anything to grasp onto this season, but I think you already know it’s true.

Elias Watch

10 games, 9 wins, 16 points. Elias is now up to 11th in team scoring, having played in 1/5th of the teams games. He has been in on nearly 50% of the goals the Devils have scored since his return. The Devil’s easy January schedule finishes up with match ups in Tampa Bay and Florida, and of the 8 games left before the Olympic break, only 2 are against playoff teams. Expect the Devils and Elias’ solid play to continue over that stretch, there’s really no reason why it won’t.

Groin Watch

In a scene that has become the norm this year, Peter Forsberg left the Flyers game tonight with a groin injury. Jovanovski also reagrevated his groin injury. What exactly is going on this year? There have been about 50 groin injuries at this point. And to update another groin of note, Bryan McCabe skated with the team yesterday. He’s not said to be back in time for this weekends games, but could make an appearance by the end of the month. Before then they have a tough match with the surprising Sabres, followed by Saturday at home to the Habs, and a match-up Monday with the Panthers. If the Leafs can’t win 2 of those 3 games, then McCabe’s return might be officially too late, and the rumours of Sundin’s exit from town might start taking on some semblance of truth. I’m sure some hard-core Leafs fans just shuddered at the sound of that one. Sorry mom, but you may actualy see it happen this year. The ability to bring in big money players to fill holes is closing in the league, so it may be time for the Leafs to bring in some prospects and start rebuilding. Telqvist, Steen, Wellwood, Stajan, Ling, Carlo, Wozniewski, McCabe, Kaberle, Kronwall and Bell is a pretty good nucleus to build on, and it's time to make room for them to all play on the team and develop together full time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 

Retiring a Legend

Au Revoir

It would appear that the thing to do if you have any talent in Pittsburgh in 2006, is get the hell out. Another prominent Penguin has retired, and I hate to say that with his exit from Pittsburgh, likely comes the Penguins exit as well. Mario did everything in his power, and then some, to try to keep a franchise in Pittsburgh, but at some point even Super Mario himself has to give up. He is cutting all his ties to the Penguins, and to the city of Pittsburgh, and I'm sure it must be killing him. But what else can he do? The franchise is not financially viable in Pittsburgh, and should move on.

Timbits and Trust

I'm sure a lot of people in Hamilton think a steel town to steel town move should be what comes. They are, however, kidding themselves if they expect to see a Hamilton Steelers franchise anytime soon, or even ever. If a second team is coming to Toronto, it won't be somewhere that the Sabres and Leafs would both have to give permission for. It would make a lot more sense in the north or east end of Toronto, where not only is there a bigger population base, but also more money to support the team. Markham and Vaughn would be the best bets, and the team should take the Toronto name in either case. On top of that, they would need a new name outside of Penguins. Penguins just isn't a good name. For that matter, team names themselves are a little over rated, I don't always see their necessity. That said, it won't be long before teams take advantage of this extra label and auction it out to the highest bidder. And why not? If the new team in Toronto took on the name of a Toronto corporation, wouldn't that be easier to relate to than, say, Penguins or Dinosaurs? Personally, I relate a whole lot better to Swiss Chalet than I do to dinosaurs. I've never had the misfortune of being in a dinosaur, but I do find myself in Harvey's with regularity. So why not name the team the Toronto Timbits, or the Toronto Manulifes? Toronto Dominions would have been a great name, before the merger. There is already a team in Toronto, however, so why not make this Canada's team and just call them the Canada Trusts. I wouldn't mind cheering for Sidney Crosby in the old Green and White.

It is the inclusion of Crosby on this team that would make a second team in Toronto viable. The Maple Leafs are an institution, and no matter what else is going on around them, they will always sell out their games. 100% of the time. It would be hard to get people to spend 80% of the ticket price of a Leafs game to go see the Manulifers in the same time. This is not the case, however, if Crosby is on the team. I can speak to this first hand as someone who has already left the country this year just to go see Crosby play. He would sell a new team in Toronto, and at the same time the Leafs would be equally successful. Since I'm sure they would put in a requirement for the move to include Leafs TV as a provider of 40% of the Timbit's games, it would even bring in more revenue for the Leafs. And the development of an in-town rivalry in Toronto would have an unprecedented effect on the NHL as a whole. Another team in Toronto is inevitable, and if it can come with a guaranteed sell out factor in Crosby, then there is no better time.

The only other place I would like to see the Penguins move to is Cleveland, Ohio. Up until the Blue Jackets entered the league, there wasn't a single team in Ohio. Ohio is one of the few states that has had a large interest in playing hockey for a decent amount of time now, and Cleveland is by far the biggest city in the state. It is also close enough to Detroit, Buffalo and Toronto to set up decent rivalries, as well as with the in-state rival. A huge hockey playing city without an NHL team makes no sense when there are teams in Tampa, Miami, Atlanta and Nashville. Seattle would be another interesting choice. But talk about Las Vegas and other cities that would no doubt be busts like the new teams in the south already would not be helpful to the NHL or team owners. They might as well move to Winnipeg if they're going to do that. At least all the people in Canada would be happy, even if it wouldn't do much for the league itself.

The Legend

In honour of Mario's second exit from the NHL, presented now is a year by year recap of Mario's career. A great career that came a few games short of what we would have wanted to see, and a few games more than what we thought we were going to get.

* 84/85 - 43 goals and 100 points in his rookie campaign, including scoring on the first shot of his career. -35 rating is a tough way to start your career, but Crosby feels his pain. There were no other Penguins then, much as there are no other Penguins now. Calder Memorial Trophy, NHL All-Rookie Team.

* 85/86 - Setting his career record of 79 games played, scoring 141 points. Lester B. Pearson Award, NHL Second Team All-Star. Winning the Pearson Award, and yet not making first team all-star. There must have been another center in the league at the time giving him a run for his money, although his name escapes me.

* 86/87 - The times are turning around for the Penguins, and Mario gets a plus rating for the first time. NHL Second Team All-Star.

* 87/88 - 58 power play assists and 80 power play points. And he still nearly picked up 50 even strength goals. Are you kidding me? Also a career high with 382 shots on net. Art Ross Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, Hart Memorial Trophy, NHL First Team All-Star

* 88/89 - Career highs in goals with 85, assists with 114, points with 199, penalty minutes with 100, power play goals with 31, short handed goals with 13 an a shooting percentage of 27.2%. ALl of this finally earned Mario his first trip to the post season, where he posted 12 goals and 19 points in 11 games. Art Ross Trophy, NHL First Team All-Star.

*89/90 - 123 points in 59 games, and no hardware or postseason play to show for it. What a disappointing season, only 45 goals. Shame on you Mario!

* 90/91 - No hardware in this season, either... Until it mattered. Conn Smythe Trophy and his first of 2 straight Stanley Cups. A memorable playoff run to say the least.

* 91/92 - Two straight Stanley Cups with Tom Barasso and Kenny Wreggat in net. No surprise, then, that Mario is yet again the playoff MVP. Only the second player ever to win two straight playoff MVP honours. Art Ross Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy, NHL Second Team All-Star

* 92/93 - Most people think of 1988-89 as Mario's career year, but on a per game basis this year is the best, hands down. Mario missed 20 games due to Hodgkin's disease, and still came back to win the scoring title. Not to mention an NHL record 17 games in a row. We'll all remember the game seven overtime goal by David Volek that put a disappointing end on such a scripted Walt Disney season. Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, NHL Plus/Minus Award, Bill Masterton Trophy (shocking!), NHL First Team All-Star.

* 93/94/95 - Mario missed most of the 93/94 season, and skipped the 94/95 lock-out season due to a mess of injuries, treatments and so on. Many wondered if Mario would return again.

* 95/96 - And return he did, picking up yet another scoring title and MVP honours despite playing only 70 games. Led team to another conference finals appearance. Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, NHL First Team All-Star, Lester B. Pearson Award

* 96/97 - Mario retired with 122 points in 77 games. But a first round playoff exit is no way to end such a storied career. The hockey hall of fame waiting period is waived, and Mario is immediately inducted. Art Ross Trophy, NHL First Team All-Star

* 00/01 - On December Mario made his return to the Penguins lineup, and like the first game of his career back in 1984, Mario scored a point on his first shift. Despite playing in only 43 games, Mario finished 26th in league scoring. This would be Mario's last post-season appearance, with 17 points in 18 games, leading the Penguins to one last Conference Finals birth. Lester Patrick Trophy, NHL Second Team All-Star

* 01/02 - 31 points in only 24 games. Captain of Canadian Olympic Gold Medal Team, and second on team in scoring.

* 02/03 - Lead the league in scoring for most of the season, but missed some games at the end to finish in 8th with 91 points in 67 games. This season will go down as the last hoorah for the real Mario. Unfortunately, the team was a bust yet again. A trend that would continue in Pittsburgh for as long as the team remained there.

* 03/04 - Captain of Canadian World Cup Championship Team. A final time to see Mario in International competition.

* 05/06 - Struggling with the new NHL rules, and another threatening physical illness, Mario called his career to an end. 22 points in 26 games on one of the worst teams in memory, and which already had a super star retire from his roster.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 

Pigskins, and Phantoms, and Goats, Oh My!

The Wizard of Odds

“Well, folks, when you're right 52% of the time, you're wrong 48% of the time.”

“Awwww, why didn’t you say that before!”

Well anyway, that’s how I feel about my pick in the Denver Pittsburgh game. I was right in saying that Denver wouldn’t cover the spread, so technically my pick was correct. But I couldn’t have been more wrong about Denver winning the game anyway. And I really couldn’t have been more wrong in saying that “Plummer has shaken his reputation thus far as being the man of the costly turnover” He proved me very wrong on that point early on. And with that, a 6 seed is in the Super Bowl. I must admit, this is not the year where I saw that coming. Nonetheless, I was 2-0 against the spread for the week, extending my record to 6-4 in the playoffs, and 159-107 overall on the season. A 160-win season is still doable, but next years goal will be to get the losses back under 100. I have to turn this sinking ship around before I go under 60%.

If I Only Had a Brain

We now start this game already in progress? As you probably heard already, Monday's contest between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators was a full 60-minute game, but the Predators were spotted a 1-0 lead. The reason given for this phantom goal was that is was the score of the game on November 21 before it was postponed. But that is not an explanation. If they're going to do something like this, then the game should start at the time where it left off, with all stats in tact. Will this go down as the longest regular season game and keep all the stats? Not likely. Or is it 60 minutes and whoever is in net gets a GA on no shots? Or does the goal happen without any goalie credited with a goal against? At one point in the game Nashville had 2 goals on 1 shot. It doesnt make sense to have done it this way. They should have picked one or the other - start new, or start where left off. No mix. It made no sense. Not to mention the fact that the rematch was in Detroit instead of nashville. I'm not following any of this. And to make matters worse, Nashville won the game by 1 goal. At least they didn't sore in the last 8 minutes, imagine the controversy this game would have started then.

Cowardly Goat?

There is a movement starting in Buffalo to rid the town of the worst jersey's in professional sports. And I couldn't be more supportive. There is a petition to sign if you click on the photo to the left, and I encourage you all to join in. I would love to see the old Blue and Gold back in Buffalo. There was never a reason to switch away from it in the first place, and these updated jersey's look fantastic.

Tin Man, Rusty

So the big news for today will be coming out sometime this afternoon when Mario Lemieux, yet again, announces his retirement from the NHL. This move was the obvious next step after announcing he was selling his share in the team. Mario is done with hockey, and just wants to completely cut away from it for a few years, before returning to coach the Montreal Canadiens. I really can't blame him for not waiting out the season. He's hurt, and his team is going no where fast. It's best for everyone if he's not involved. And it's sad to think what his career could have been if not for all the injuries and illness. I went to a Sabres Penguins game in December in hopes of seeing him play one last time, but it turned out that I was a day too late. We'll miss you Mario, thanks for all the great plays over the years.

The Wicked GM of the East

You'd think that Mario's retirement would be on my mind most today, but it isn't. I am most bothered by the trade rumours I'm hearing coming out of New York. Jale Rose and Mike James for Hardaway and Ariza. I will keep my comments on this disaster until it becomes a reality. What a mess that deal would be for the Raptors. Knowing Babcocks history, however, I'm sure it's already a done deal.

Sunday, January 22, 2006 

Kobe Drops 81 on Raps

There is only one story in the world of sports today, and nothing I could say about it would add any value. If there is a day where a game ties the combined 3 point record, has the first team to score 150 points and combination over 300 points in years upon years, and this game is completely over-shadowed by another performance, then you know it must be something special. If the over-shadowing is done by an occurance in the same sport, then that almost unprecedented performance must just speak for itself. I was fortunate enough to be able to watch this monster game. The Raptors were up by 14 at the half, but Kobe himself outscored the entire Raptors team 55 to 41 in the second half. All he needed was one bucket from anyone else on the Lakers to complete the big comback. This was one for the ages, and nothing more can be said about it.

This game will also stand as the final nail in the coffin that is the Raptors season. Up to this point, I held out hope for a Chicago Bulls second half run to the playoffs. Games like this, however, are legendary for cutting teams off at the knees. Sometimes you just can't recover from both blowing a huge lead, and at the same time blowing it to one mans record-setting performance. Mister Mitchel, in case you're ever faced again with a man determined to make NBA history on his own, I have a little coaching tip for you; you might want to try, oh i dont know, double teaming him consistantly, see if that helps a bit. Or maybe you just enjoyed sitting back and watching that performance like the rest of us. It was special. It speaks for itself.

Saturday, January 21, 2006 

NFL Conference Final Playoff Picks

Denver -3.5 Pittsburgh

This is an interesting game, featuring 2 young guns in Jonny Damon 2 and the Burger. Roth is the more reliable, and the more seasoned of the two, but Plummer has shaken his reputation thus far as being the man of the costly turnover. The question is, can he keep it up as the games become higher and higher profile? The close of the season, and the playoffs thus far would suggest the new Plummer is here to stay.

9-0 at home, versus the leagues best road warriors. Bill Cower is 10-9 in the playoffs. There will be no repeat of the immaculate reception, and the Broncos hang onto this one. Add to that Roth's sore thumb, and everything seems to be pointing towards a Super Bowl birth for the Broncos, but not over the spread. 23-20 Denver.

Seattle -4.5 Carolina

Featuring a league MVP looking to get a little more than 9 yards this week, the Hawks are going to be hard to beat. No one wants an MVP season to be remembered that way. Take a huge performance to the bank and book it. Seattle does not come up empty-handed here. I'm a little surprised that the spread is so close on this one. Seattle was my much-maligned pick to win the Super Bowl before the playoffs started, and they should certainly be a huge favourite versus Carolina. It has been a nice, yet inexplicable, Cinderella run up until this point. But it is going to a screeching end in Seattle. Don't expect this one to be close. All Seattle has to do is double team Steve Smith 100% of the time and the game is done. Seattle bandwagoners - get ready for a huge party. The Lombardi trophy's coming home to the EMP this year, and there is going to be a huge celebration. I really wish that I was still there to see it. 23-17 for Seattle.

What's in a name?

The Bills signed Tai Tupai today. I guess if you can't win football games, you might as well win the best names contest. Which reminds me, it was pointed out to me in a reply to my last article that Zarley Zalapski's career is still lingering. Apparently he is playing for Rapperswill-Jona in the Swiss league. I don't know his statistics this year, but if anyone can get those to me that would be great. I'd love to know how he's faring. I've never been able to figure out what happened to this guy after he left Hartford. He had a span of 2 seasons there in which he tallied over 120 points. Then the self-destruct button hit in Calgary and Montreal, and I was wondering if he was ever able to find himself again. So if you know his Jona stats, please fill me in.

First "The Goal", now "The Save"

This has become the season of highlite reels. Ovechkin scored what was possibly the best goal of all time, which is still the one to see, and may be for some time now. But did anyone see what Aebischer did to the Red Wings tonight? It might be the save of all time. If you haven't seen it, then you have to find a way to see this save, or these three saves in one, I should say. The only video I can find so far is at http://www.nhl.com/highlights/index.html , if you look at the Avs Wing's highlites. If anyone else finds a better clip of this one, let me know. It is worth a few more looks at least.

Elias Watch: 8 games, 13 points, 8 wins. The Elias watch is approaching nearly biblical proportions at this point. On top of that, did anyone see his shootout goal tonight? That's another one for the highlight real that you might as well look up while you're finding The Save. If you could win the MVP award by only playing 45 games, this would be your guy.

Bryanless Leafs Watch: Yikes. The leafs extended their record since their MVP went down to 0 and 5, and they did it with an exclamation point. The Sens beat up on the Leafs by a score of 7 to 0. I'm not sure how much of a difference, however, the MVP could have made in this one. As the JF said "tonight was at least a big moral victory, holding them under eight." There is some truth to that, as in the last 3 contests now the Sens have outscored the Leafs 23-2, so it was the first time in 3 attempts that the goals against were held to under 8. After a big loss like that, the Leafs will be hungry at home on monday. Look for only a 2 point loss as they extend their Bryanless record to 0-6. I keep hearing comments on the Canadian sports channel The Score, where they say the Leafs can't figure out what went wrong as the fall has been so sudden. It's obvious to me what happened, and it should be obvious to everyone. Smarten up "The Score", you're supposed to be the best option of the big three in Canada. It was, however, Patricia Boal who I last heard say it, and anyone who looks like her can be forgiven for anything.

Friday, January 20, 2006 

Soulcrusher and the Rucchin...

Crush My Soul

Just thought I'd start out today by replying to one of the comments left for me yesterday by Soul Crusher from Thunder Bay. He left the following comment:

"You are very high on McCabe. God knows why, he is one of the worst defencemen in the NHL. He is a powerplay specialist and that is all. Only reason that has come about is he has learned how to hit the net with his shot. Took him a few years though. Chara is getting the Norris. Vezina is going to Kipper and Lester B. Pearson Award, Hart probably too. He keeps that team respectable. Just to note, I'm not a Flames fan and hate the guy, but I think he is going to take those awards. As for the Sens winning the cup...not going to happen. I'm still going out on a limb and picking Vancouver. "

No arguments on Kipper, like I said he is the runner up to Hasek, and depending on the second half he could easily steal the Vezina. I don't like a goalie as MVP, as it is a position that is the most important and by default if the award can go to a goalie, then it should go to a goalie every year. It doesn't matter how good your team is, put a bad goalie in net and you're not going to win. End of story. As for Chara, I am not a huge fan of his style of play, BUT he has improved 10 fold from season to season. I would say that all around Redden is still a better player, and the best defenseman in Ottawa, and will also likely pick up the award at the end of the year. Chara is going to need one more year of solid improvement, but if that happens he could pick up 5 Norris trophies in a row. There is an unprecedented crop of rookie defenders right now, though, who are going to be looking to stop that from happening.

Now, that assessment of McCabe sounds almost word for word like how I used to talk about Pronger back in his Norris trophy days. He was horrible. Anybody, and I mean anybody could walk around him from the corner and have a shot on net. Yet nobody seemed to care about that aspect of his game. I'm sure, though, that some fans in Edmonton are starting to care this year. The reason I'm touting McCabe is based mostly on one thing I've noticed this year - other teams have designed their entire penalty kill around him. This is something rather unheard of in modern day hockey. And the thing is, he's still racking up the points with that in his face. He is much tougher on defense now than he gets credit for as well. Certainly leagues better than Pronger, but also not the same caliber as Chara and Redden. I know plus/minus is a bit of a questionable measure, since someone like Andrej Meszaros can just step into the league and have a +31 mostly because of the team around him, but McCabe spends most of his ice time on special teams where +/- isn't affected, and is still a +5 on a team very much in the negative. That ice time is all against the other teams top lines too.

I would love to see a second award started in the league, for the best offensive defenseman (obvious name being the Bobby Orr award). Guys like Dmitri Yushkevich and Harold Snepsts never got the credit they deserved in the league, and something needs to be introduced to recognize them. I am also in no way a McCabe fan. One of my favourite pre-game moments was at a Leafs Sabres game in Buffalo a few years ago, in his pre-can opener days. The girls in the front row in front of us had a huge sign that said "we love McCabe - king of the butt bombs". As you probably remember, at that time his game consisted of throwing his ass towards any guy skating in on him. In the pre game skate everyone rode McCabe and pointed out the sign to him, and I loved it. Loved it because I hated McCabe. But he certainly has come into his own this year, and he should be recognized. The Leafs are already 0-4 since he got injured, with losses to Minnesota and even Phoenix. The number will certainly be 0-6 after this home and home with Ottawa coming up. The team cannot win without him, and as far as I know that is the definition of an MVP.

Rucchin of the Year

Speaking of introducing new trophies, there is one that me and the JF give out every year. It is called the "Rucchin of the Year". To help you get an understanding of what the award is about, here is a definition for Rucchin of the Year that the JF came up with a few years back:


noun: a leach, or parasite. one who feeds off of others, and would be unable to get by in their absence.

verb: to rely on or benefit from others, especially in cases where the subject is unable to fend for his/her self.

examples of uses: can i rucchin a ride off of you?: i don't have a car cause, like rucchin, i suck and need someone else to do stuff for me.

rucchin an assignment: i can't do anything, so i wanna "work with you" and get damn near the same mark as you even though you're doing all the work and i'm just there.

rucchin of the year: the player who rucchins the most over the course of the season i.e gets points even though he sux because he has a good player on his line. last year's <2001> winner: jonas hoglund. previous winners: steve rucchin, kevin stevens.

yo i just rucchined a 64 in that class: i'm a dumbass and would have failed if not for my friend, but some people think i'm good cause my mark looks like i did ok.

rucchin a few bucks for lunch: getting to eat cause someone else has money; much as steve rucchin get points cause selanne and kariya have talent.

he's such a rucchin: he never does anything for himself; he hangs out with other people's friends cause he doesn't have his own, he eats other peoples food, watches their tv cause they don't have cable, borrows cds all the time and maybe give them back, gets a ride everywhere cause he can't drive, etc. most appropriate when he has no redeemable qualities to offer and nobody can figure out why they let him get away with it cause any bum off the street could fill that role just as well.

So, you get the gist of it. Now comes the time to decide the Rucchin of the first half. In honour of the Canadian Federal elections coming up next week, I've decided to make this award based on a vote. I will list out the four finalists, and ask you guys to send in your votes for the award, using the poll on the right. Feel free to leave a comment explaining your choice as well. I will tally up the votes and present the first half Rucchin sometime next week. Here are the nominees (all of whom, oddly enough, would make far better representatives as Prime Minister than Steven Harper):

Martin Straka

A perennial favourite, Straka finds himself on a line with one of the leagues best again this year, and is really taking advantage of it. Playing in LA and Pittsburgh last season without a real linemate, Marty put up only 26 points in 54 games. This season, basking in Jagr's glory again, he has 48 points in 47 games. This is a common trend in Straka's career, where from year to year due to trades and injuries, his lines have changed. The difference between the 6.5 years where he was able to Rucchin, and the 6.5 years where he wasn't is enourmous. And since they are spread throughout his career, they are not influenced by age or injury. Weighted over an average 82 game season, his statistics are as follows:

Rucchin Years 28 Goals 48 Assists 76 Points
Non Ruc Years 13 Goals 28 Assists 41 Points

The numbers are staggering, and it's about time that such a dominantly Rucchin-like career is recognized. Hopefully his numbers will keep up, and he'll pick up his first Rucchin of the Year award at the end of the season. What better time than when he is in the lineup with Steve Rucchin himself. A fitting culmination to an illustrious career.

Slava Kozlov

Another career Rucchin, Slava's numbers soared to new heights on his arrival in Atlanta. In his three seasons before arriving in Atlanta, he had 36, 38 and 32 point campaigns. His first season in Atlanta, playing with Kovalchuk and Heatley saw him put up 70 points. His second season saw his numbers tail off a bit to 52 points, as Heatley missed 50 games and he was only able to Rucchin off of Kovalchuks talents. Throwing Hossa into the mix this year has taken his abilities to new heights, and he has already put up 47 points in 48 games. Definitely a Rucchin-worthy performance being put on in Georgia.

Jonathan Cheechoo

This one is easy to see. 16 points in 25 games before Thornton's arrival, 27 points in 20 games afterwards. The JF also had this to point out about Cheechoo's season:

"i think cheechoo may have been rucchining off of marleau even before thornton. but with thornton he's taken it to lofty heights. he's the new glen murray."

63 points in 145 games prior to this season, doubled performance in Rucchining off of Marleau, and doubled again with Thornton providing his services. Since he's only had 20 games with Thornton so far, he is a bit of an underdog in the Rucchin of the Year competition. One would have to assume, however, that if he keeps up this pace, Cheechoo should be the easy favourite to have the award come playoff time. And Thornton should be enough to get them into said playoffs.

Scott Walker
Walker's numbers and style of play wouldn't normally lead to his inclusion in the Rucchin of the Year award. Extenuating circumstances that lead to his inclusion: Scored a goal with his helmet. It was on January 15th against Pittsburgh and Greg Johnson took a shot from the point, deflected up off a defenseman, off of Walkers lid and into the back of the net. Walker didn't go down for the year with a concussion from it, but it was still worthy of Rucchin mention. He has missed enough of the season, though, to not be able to tell if the players on his line are really carrying him thus far. But this goal certainly is worthy of the Rucchin name.

Oh, and as a side note, another thing that came up during the game was http://www.darcyhordichuk.com. Enjoy! And remember to get your Rucchin of the Year votes in ASAP. It's election time, and you want to have your say!

eXTReMe Tracker Listed on BlogShares Sports Blog Top Sites graham kent jessica alba nude "graham kent" sex porn hannigan kitchener graham kent toronto ontario canada waterloo alyson tape strip gay kaylee defer weird search cooper big anderson mcdonalds video news playground ass naked milf kates family guy slip pervertsfleur cameltoe nipple free delacour pussy sxxxyorg boobs lesbian keira sxxxy topless nip nude keira knightley the sluts and realdoll smith kate fucking girls ugly jessica alba britney spears nude pamela anderson oral blow job gay porn tranny sex
Random The Simpsons Quotes
  • Sell Out Blog