Jan 26, 2011

Not so much an “all-star” game this weekend

Well it’s that time again, where fans get to see their favourite players compete in the All-Star game this Sunday.  However, NHL’s best player Sidney Crosby won’t be there, as well as Jerome Iginla,  Ales Hempsky, Evgeni Malkin, and Tobias Enstrom all due to injuries (except Iginla who will be with his sick grandmother).  It’s like the players got injured on purpose just so they can miss this event.  And why is big-mouth P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens in the rookie skills competition?  I mean sure, he’s been good defensively for the Habs this year but this guy does not know the first thing about respect in the NHL.  To me, that’s no all-star material.  But this event is all about the ratings and money from the fans anyway so I have no say over the league’s marketing tactics.  

Super Bowl XLV

The biggest sporting event is about to rattle up North America in two weeks.  And I think it will break television viewer records.  Since the new York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers game was the most watched in NFL history, Super Bowl XLV Sunday will be the most watched NFL game of all time. 

Football is not exactly my favourite sport but I’m beginning to get into it.  Watching the Jets beat the overrated Tom Brady and his New England Patriots was the first time I really sat down and tried to learn the players and rules of the game.  Most of the time I had no idea what was happening.  From watching TV and listening to sports radio (mainly the FAN590), the NY Jets seemed to have come in as the underdogs.  Everyone definitely underestimated them before they beat the Patriots.  I would love to have seen the Jets beat the Steelers last week in the AFC because of this.

But all I know is that I’m definitely watching the Super Bowl in HD on Feb. 6!

“...Kuli’s not a fighter” - Clarke MacArthur


Courtesy: YouTube

For those who don’t know about the controversial fight between Nikolai Kulimen and Tim Gleason on Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes, Kulimen received a punch to the face from Gleason in a scramble near the end of the first period.  It’s controversial because some are saying Gleason didn’t abide to the unwritten “code” hockey players have when getting into a fight on the ice: you both have to agree to drop your gloves before fighting.  In this case, Kulimen was giving Gleason a face wash with his gloves and Gleason dropped his gloves and sucker-punched him.  Kulimen dropped to the ice instantly and was gone for the remainder of the game with what the Leafs called a “facial injury”.

Some are saying that Gleason was wrong and he should of waited for Kulimen to drop his gloves before engaging into the fight.  Others say it wasn’t Gleason’s fault because Kulimen started throwing punches first and he should of expected it.  Kulimen is not a fighter and as much as I want to defend him, I would have to agree that Kulimen had it coming.  If you constantly antagonize a player, chances are, you will get yourself in a brawl.  It’s natural to fight back. 

Good thing nothing serious happened to Kulimen except he had to pay the price of a black eye.
  What do you think? Watch the video and you be the judge.

Buds fall...again

Need I say more?  Playing two games in a row this week (Monday and Tuesday), they really needed the two wins and four points before the all-star break.  Once again, they fail to do this.  On the bright side, Tim Brent signed up for Twitter!  Not that that makes anything better for the organization but I will still follow him. Tweet him at http://twitter.com/#!/Brenter37.

Wells is off to the City of Angels

 
Courtesy www.mlb.com 

This trade last week from the Toronto Blue Jays definitely was a shocker.  I felt my heart literally sink when I heard the news.  It took a few days for me to understand why our GM, Alex Anthopoulos, did this though.  First of all, with Wells gone, the organization has freed up $86 million that was left to pay Wells for four more years in his seven-year, $126 million contract in Toronto.  Second, Anthopoulos has a vision set for the future of the team.  You have to give up big names like Halladay, Marcum, and Wells in order to have money to bring in young and new talent.  Unfortunately the Jays are not like the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees who can buy talent with the millions they earn every year.  The MLB doesn’t have a salary cap so the Jays have to start from the bottom up.  This is how a re-build begins.  The Jays will not be a playoff contender in the next few years.  But because of moves like this, giving up good players for young ones to develop, I see them on the road to the World Series in a few years.  

Nevertheless, I will miss this guy.  Aside from Roy Halladay, he’s like the Mats Sundin of the Jays - well respected and carried himself with class.  This guy definitely deserves a standing O when the Jays  play the Angels this upcoming season.  Thank you for twelve awesome years, Vernon.
 


Jan 21, 2011

MacArthur for team captain?

Clarke MacArthur at the Leafs outdoor practice last year.
Dion who?  I think that’s the initial reaction people get when they’re told Dion Phaneuf is our current captain right now.  I myself forget that we even have a captain from the way he’s been performing.   On the other hand, Clarke MacArthur seems to be captain material.

After Thursday’s  5-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks, MacArthur has shown time and time again that he is arguably the best player on the team next to Mikhail Grabovski.  He registered three points tonight including a goal and two assists.  The goal by MacArthur marked his 15th of the season and leads the team with forty points.

I know that stats aren’t everything when choosing a captain for the team.  But the way MacArthur has been playing is setting an example and indirectly giving confidence and motivation to the team.  When you see someone score or register a point as much as he is doing every game, it sends a message to the team, the organization and fans.  MacArthur handles himself very well on and off the ice.  He’s a classy player and is becoming a very popular and respectable player in this city. 

All I’m saying is that the Leafs don’t have anyone to look up to at the moment.  The first thing that comes to mind should be Dion but it’s far from that.  The media has said over and over again that he has good leadership skills but I’m beginning to doubt that.   With only one goal, seven assists and eight points, and given the teams record so far, I question his motivation for himself and the team.  Of course we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in the dressing room, but when your team goes on an eight game losing streak or a 7-0 loss, it’s the captain’s job to step up and rally the guys together to perform better and win more.  So far, I haven’t heard him do this and he rarely speaks to the media.  I remember when Mats Sundin was team captain, he addressed many of the teams’ issues (positive and negative) to the media almost after or before every game.  The captain, on most sports teams, is the ones who usually receives the most media attention during a scrum but Dion is rarely in the spotlight in Toronto. This makes us forget that he’s our captain.  And when he is on camera, he’s very vague when responding to questions and doesn’t seem very enthusiastic even after a win.

I think the Leafs made the right decision in the beginning naming him captain of the team.  He 100% deserved it from the way he played and presented himself as a leader on the Calgary Flames.  But for some reason his typical aggressiveness and physical defensive plays on the ice suddenly vanished when he landed in Toronto.

Although I would love to see the “C” sewn on to MacArthur’s jersey, as good as he is right now, it’s too early to do so.   This is the only year he has really been the star player on a team compared to his previous ones (Buffalo/Atlanta).   We need to see him play more games and if he is this consistent, the organization should consider giving him the “C” (I doubt they would though because that would just be disrespectful towards Phaneuf and cause a whole debate in this city).  I can see MacArthur leading the Leafs in the near future.   I just hope Burke makes a wise decision before MacArthur becomes a free agent this summer and re-sign him.

Jan 20, 2011

Same situation, different day

So much for getting excited to watch the Leafs play after a three day break - one of their longest this season.  One more day and I would of went into withdrawal.  The Leafs losing 7-0 against the New York Rangers last night was pretty sad but it’s not like I’m shocked. 

I’ve come to accept the fact that the Leafs aren’t a good team.  Maybe that’s why I’m not as frustrated or bothered by our loss compared to the beginning of the season. I was practically a mess back then.  But after loss after loss, my expectations for them have plummeted greatly and I actually expect them to lose every game they play from now on.  Yes, even to the New Jersey Devils and the Edmonton Oilers.  I hate to admit it, but that’s the reality.  You can’t expect fans to still have hopes for this team when they’ve already lost more than fifty percent of their games played so far.

They were downright terrible last night.  It’s like they didn’t even show up for the game.  Not one player stood out.  We were lucky to see a fight from Luke Schenn which wasn’t even a real fight if you ask me. The first period was a joke, as the Leafs let in three goals on twelve shots. After the second, I suggested to my dad that for every turnover the Leafs create, we take a shot.  Do you know how drunk we would of been if we actually did that?  Not that I’m surprised though, because they are known for having one of the highest turnover rates in the NHL right now.  Do you sense the bitterness in this entry yet?

One big story that came out of this game was not the horrible loss to NYR, but the goalie situation.  So Wilson decides to start the Monster in net.  I thought that was a good move since he hasn’t played since December 2010 and he needs to get back into the swing of things.  But boy was I wrong.  Getting pulled in the first and then starting again in the second screamed inconsistency with the coaching staff and the goalies they have (Giguere, Gustavsson, Reimer).  I don’t know what happened to Gustavsson but his mind was definitely somewhere else.  However, I’m not completely throwing him out of the goalie line-up just yet.  I’m glad Wilson gave him a chance to start again in the second but should of been pulled after letting in the fifth goal. He was a big factor in the team’s loss (aside from all the turnovers and Gaborik’s four goals).

Speaking of Gaborik, I’m no NYR fan but congrats to him for scoring four goals in one game.  Pretty impressive since he scored five in 2007.  But that’s besides the point.

The bottom line is that the Leafs will not make the playoffs this year.  I don’t know why people thought they might after their 4-1 road trip record they had in the new year.  It’s the Leafs we’re talking about here.  They don’t win more than three or four games straight.  Plus it’s hard to catch up to Montreal in the East right now because the Leafs would have to win almost all their games left to play.  And we all know that’s impossible. 

There’s no way of saving this team anymore.  I love the Leafs, don’t get me wrong.  I bleed blue and white, literally.  But I’m basing everything from past games this season.  I don’t think anyone knows what to do with this team. They’re a mess.  Our only hope right now lies in the hands of our GM, Brian Burke, with three weeks until the trade deadline.  Maybe he will wow us and make a blockbuster trade like he did with Calgary last summer.  Except this time it would actually benefit the team.

Jan 3, 2011

“WE WANT THE USA! “WE WANT THE USA!”

Goosebumps surfaced my whole body as fans chanted that line after Canada beat Switzerland 3-1 yesterday.

Hockey’s best and most anticipated match-up happens tonight: Canada vs. USA in the semi-finals.  So it’s not the gold medal game they will be playing in, but the atmosphere will be as if it is.

Team Canada looks to revenge the Americans as they robbed the Canadians from the gold medal in last year’s World Junior Championship. 

Although Team Canada is usually the favourite to win the gold, the Americans this year, I think, are slightly better.  They have ten of last year’s WJC players back on their roster this year and they are undefeated in the tournament so far.  By watching the game against the Swiss last night, Canada was pretty sloppy in the beginning, giving up a very easy goal.  But after that they played very physical and all that speed from both teams is what makes hockey the greatest sport in the world. The only thing that was bugging me was their power play.  I don’t think they seemed to 100% capitalize the number of chances they had on the PP.  Compared to the US, Canada’s PP is not as strong.  The Canadians had a number of chances to score on those PPs but couldn’t.  Maybe it was also because of the Swiss’ goalie, Conz, who was outstanding and should of been MVP of the game (but that’s a different story).

Aside from all the flaws on the team, it’s great to see Ryan Ellis surpass Eric Lindros’ record in “most assist in a WJC” with 20 points in four games less than Lindros, who earned 19 points.  Also, after this game, Brayden Schenn is still leading the tournament with 16 points.  He needs three more points to beat Dale McCourt who currently holds the record for most points earned in a WJC in 1977.  For sure Schenn will beat the record.  I mean, this is Schenn we are talking about here who is averaging a point every game.  Three points is peanuts for him. 

My confidence level for Team Canada is not as high as it was for Canada in the 2002 and 2010 Olympics.  Our WJC team this year is not as stacked as it was last year but we are a very physical team and have many forwards who can score a lot for us.  USA will be a tough opponent to face but I’m just glad we get to see this matchup. 

Oh, and unfortunately it falls under the same time slot as the Leafs/Bruins game tonight. Boooooo. But I think I will be watching the WJC more than the Leafs since it is the best rivalry in hockey history, ever. I can’t wait!

Funny/memorable quotes from Luke Schenn and Colby Armstrong all-access

video
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With such huge success from the previous Leafs TV all-access, part two with Schenn and Armstrong was held Dec. 29, 2010.

Since wristbands were being handed out at noon, there were already more than 100 people lining up outside of Real Sports Apparel store (where the all-access was held) at 8am.   Just by looking at the line, you’d think Justin Bieber was in town.

Schenn and Armstrong definitely lived up to the hype for the all-access and more.  They say Armstrong is the funniest one on the team.  They were 101% correct.  I’ve compiled a list of memorable quotes that Schenn and Armstrong said during the thirty minute Q&A.  It’s definitely worth reading!

Monika (host): What are your new years eve plans?
Schenn: "We have a game the next day against Ottawa so I'll be sleeping. I room with Komisarik on the road and we're probably just going to say happy new year to each other and crash."
Armstrong: “They're probably going to share a kiss as well ...oh wait...that's awkward..."


Fan Question: Do you have pre-game rituals?
Armstrong: “I drink a Red Bull before every game. And by drink I mean chug.”
Fan: “That's not good for you.”
Armstrong: “I know.”

Fan Question: What's your favourite food at the Real Sports Bar?
Schenn: “I tried everything on the menu. I like everything.”
Armstrong: “He likes salad. That's healthy stuff.”
Schenn: “Yeah, salad with Red Bull dressing.”

Fan Querstion: What is your proudest moment in your career so far?
Armstrong: “Hmmm I don't know I can't think of anything at the moment.”
Schenn: “How about being line-mates with Sid?”
Armstrong: “Oh yeah that! Oh, and I also watched TV with him on the same couch!”
Schenn: “Ohhhhh, and shared a Red Bull with him right?! Oh em gee!”

 Fan Question: Did you guys fist pump while stuck in Jersey?
*both shakes head*
Armstrong: “But Schenn was Pauly D for Halloween this year so he can do it the best.”
*both do the fist pump*

Fan Question: What advice did you give your brother Brayden before playing for the Juniors this year?
Schenn: “He knows this is his last shot at this before turning twenty this year...”
Armstrong interrupts: "Oh, I played a huge part in his (Braydens) success in the games too. We are from the same town in Sakatchewan and I used to skate with him in the backyard rink. So everything you see him do now is from me.”

Fan Question: What do you guys do for fun with the team besides hockey?
Armstrong: “Oh! A few of the guys talk about Call of Duty ALL the time it's SO EMBARRASSING!”

Fan Question: Where would you like to go for vacation?
Armstrong: “I would love to go to the Bahamas.”
Schenn: “And work on your tan?”
Armstrong: “Yeah.”
Schenn: “Yeah you need to.”

Fan Question: Do you guys get made fun of by the guys because of you taste in country music?
Schenn: “Yeah, it's like,. sometimes we walk into the dressing room and we hear techno beats blasting. And Kaberle (I think he said Kaberle) is obsessed with Rihanna right now or something.”

Armstrong: “Schenn and I sit int he back of the plane usually. Bozie (Bozak) and Cabby) (Kaberle) are huge gamblers.”

Schenn seemed to be answering the questions very well so Armstrong interrupts him in the middle of him answering a question and said:
Armstrong: "Schenner, did you know these questions beforehand?"
Schenn: “...what? No...”
Armstrong: “Cause you're on a roll. Man, I'm terrible at this!”

Twitter Question: Colby should tweet more and Luke should get on Twitter.
Schenn: "I hear there's a fake account on Twitter with my name."
Armstrong: "I dunno how to twit...tweet?"

On what they did while stuck on the bus in Jersey:
Schenn: “Colby and I watched the karate kid with Bozie while waiting to get to the hotel that night.”
Armstrong: “Yeah. Bozie thought it was REALLY good. It wasn't even that good....”

Fan Question: Any superstitions before a game?
Armstrong: “One time my fingernails were getting really long. I was going to cut them  but didn't get a chance to. So then that same night I scored and I didn't get my nails.”

Fan Question: What was the craziest thing a fan has done to get your attention?
Schenn: *Looks at Colby* "There was a sign that night in Jersey...."
Armstrong: “...what?”
Schenn: “That sign...about strong...what was it?”
Armstrong: “What was it? ..what? Oh! There was a sign a fan had up in the crowd and it said: There's strong and then there's Armstrong."

Question: If you were playing hockey what would you be doing?
Schenn: “I'd probably be in university right now back in Saskatchewan.”
Armstrong: “I'd be living in my parents' basement. No, I'd be in the basement borrowing money from my parents. No, I'd be living with a friend *points at Schenn* borrowing money from my parents.”

Armstrong asks fans about the chicken wings at Real Sports Bar:
Armstrong: “How are the wings there anyway? I hear they’re huge! They’re not even chicken wings..they’re like...turkey wings!”
 

Winter, outdoor rink, hockey: can’t get any more Canadian than this...

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The Leafs held their annual outdoor practice at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on Dec. 22. 2010.

My friend Denise and I were fortunate enough to attend the practice and watch the team practice for the first time.  Our toes were frozen the whole time but it was completely worth it. Even Toronto’s mayor Tom Ford made an appearance in the freezing cold!

The team looked like they were having a blast as they did their regular drills, skated around the rink and even threw their sticks and pucks to the kids for a souvenir.

Fortunately, no waffles were thrown on the ice. ;)