Bryan McCabe: Believe It or Not, Some of Us May Miss You

September 3, 2008

by Bryan Thiel… Since last season, it seemed inevitable that Bryan McCabe’s days in Toronto were numbered.

From tripping over the back of the net, to scoring on his own net against the Sabres in overtime, to breaking his hand, the former All-Star defense man and Norris Trophy candidate could do no right and everyone in Toronto wanted his head.

But more than his head, they wanted him out. They wanted him to be done with the Blue and White, and they wanted his antics to terrorize another franchise’s fan base, because that, combined with his astronomical salary, had worn the patience of Leafs fans thin.

Sidenote: In all fairness, we’re pretty fickle here in Toronto. There are a lot of markets where, yes they’d be pissed, but they also wouldn’t jump down his throat so readily, and perhaps offer him a bit of time to redeem himself. That’s not to say I wasn’t one of them, but McCabe will just join a long line of stars in Toronto to get a raw deal after one or two missteps.

This morning, Leafs Nation got their wish. As with Chad Kilger and Wade Belak last season, Cliff Fletcher dealt the beleaguered blueliner to the Florida Panthers along with a fourth round pick in exchange for Mike Van Ryn—a graduate of the high school yours truly attended in London, Ontario, Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School.

Although Bryan’s career has gone downhill the past few seasons in Toronto, there were still a lot of good times.

McCabe first came to Toronto in 2000 from the Chicago Blackhawks, after bouncing between the New York Islanders, the Vancouver Canucks, and the ‘Hawks for the first five seasons of his career.

His initial season was fairly unimpressive. To be honest, I wasn’t really aware of who the Leafs acquired in the October 2000 trade, I just new that they’d infused a bit of fresh blood on the blue line.

My naivete aside, McCabe had a fairly good year for the Leafs: He posted 29 points, and was a +16, with the future looking up as he and Tomas Kaberle combined for 74 points and a +26.

Even in the playoffs that season, McCabe and Kaberle continued to have success as in 11 games, McCabe logged five points and a +5, while Kabby had a +4 and four points in the same eleven games.

The next season got even better as McCabe tallied 17 goals and 43 points (and a +16) in a full season of work, while his strong play carried over to Toronto’s deepest, and most successful Stanley Cup run in recent memory, as McCabe gathered 10 points in 20 games before the Leafs were ousted by the upstart Hurricanes.

Following a down year in 2002/03, where McCabe received some heat for not being able to match his career season of ‘01/’02. Many thought that McCabe fell back to Earth, and that other teams had learned to key on his powerful point shot and shut down the Leafs’ burly power play threat.

McCabe quickly put that to rest though. In 77 games, McCabe found the net with his cannon of a shot once again, garnering 16 goals, while also setting up 37 others, as McCabe and Kaberle looked to be the next great pairing in recent NHL memory.

McCabe topped it off with a +22, the best rating of his career, and a nomination for that season’s Norris Trophy, which he lost out on to Scott Niedermayer.

But as the lockout hit, McCabe struggled to find his game overseas, and even suffered through some injury problems, leading some to wonder how effective McCabe would be in the new NHL, where mobility and speed were supposedly the necessary assets.

Coming back from the lockout though, McCabe surprised the critics by getting even better, as his offensive production (19 goals, 49 assists, a career-high 68 points) led to a spot on the Taxi Squad on Canada’s Olympic team that season.

Granted Team Canada went the way of America’s Basketball “Dream Team”, but a spot on the National Squad is a spot on the National Squad.

This is where it started to spiral downwards for McCabe. Because 2005/06 was his contract year, fans began assuming that the offensive outburst was just a personal attempt at earning more cash, and hindering the Leafs with wasting space in the precious cap.

Despite the qualms from Leafs fans that they could acquire other defense men for cheaper, Leafs’ brass (headlined by John Ferguson Jr.) kept after McCabe, offering him a lucrative five-year contract with a no-movement clause.

McCabe initially agreed to a $28.75 million contract over five years, but the only thing missing on it was his signature.

There were rumors of McCabe longing to return to Long Island, where his NHL roots began growing, and where he and his wife Roberta owned a home, and where either the New York Rangers or New York Islanders could provide McCabe with the opportunity to play close to his family.

There were rumors that he had suddenly got cold feet with the Leafs, and questioned what he could receive on the open market.

This was the first time that McCabe had been met with such a backlash, and boy was it undeserved.

As May turned to June, and free agency approached, the mumbles and grumbles turned to yells for McCabe head. But then, the truth came out. His wife Roberta, had been suffering for months on end, due to complications of the birth of their daughter, and days before free agency opened, she was scheduled for surgery.

As any loving husband should be, McCabe was concerned for her first and foremost.

But wife’s health or not, it seemed that the hesitation McCabe had about signing his contract was spelling the end to his Toronto career. The following year, he posted 57 points, but he just didn’t seem to be the same player he was before that summer.

And everything culminated this season, as McCabe missed more than 10 games for the first time in his Maple Leafs career, suffered through the aforementioned gaffes, and only potted 23 points.

The strange thing though, is that this entire scenario has let the Maple Leafs come full circle. Back in 2000, they dealt Alexander Karpotsev and a fourth round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for McCabe.

This year? The 33 year-old McCabe was packaged with a fourth round pick for Mike Van Ryn. Granted he’s no youngster as he’ll be 30 by the start of next season, but still it’s kind of strange in a way to acquire a semi-unknown for a guy who put himself back on the map in Toronto.

But without that extra $1 million over the next three seasons, the Leafs free up some much-needed cap space, rid themselves of another No-Movement Clause, and eliminate the unnecessary headaches that keeping McCabe—production or not—would have caused.

But Florida is getting something special. Whether he scores 20 goals for them or not, McCabe will bring his all, and he’ll be committed.

Since he signed back in 2006, his stance has never changed, as he’s always brought the attitude of “if I sign here, that means I want to be here”. Unfortunately, we didn’t want a guy who couldn’t have imagined life without Tomas Kaberle, Chris Pronger or not.

So Bryan, best of luck in the future. Just don’t laugh too hard if the Panthers eek their way into the playoffs before the Leafs.

Oh, and bring the Mohawk back. I’m sure more than a few of us miss it.

Kevin Keegan Resigns? A Brief History To Understand Why He Could Leave.

September 3, 2008

by Willie Gannon…

The transfer deadline closed the other night at midnight, with possibly Newcastle’s chances of ever reaching the top four closing too.

The big losers in the amazing sale of Manchester City weren’t Liverpool or even Chelsea. No, the big losers were Spurs, Aston Villa, Everton, and Newcastle.

How the managers, chairmen, and supporters of these clubs feel after the revelation that now City are a power to be reckoned with will only be seen in the next few weeks, as the slow realisation dawns on them that not only are the top four positions out of reach, but now the fifth position is gone too.

Kevin Keegan awoke this morning, looked at himself in the mirror, the hair that was once his famous trademark now gray with age. He saw the pronounced lines of age on his face where laughter lines should be, and realised that the club he loves so much had not only taken a step back in their transfers over the summer, but now the land that he dreamed he’d bring to the Geordie hoards was just that, a dream.

Kevin Keegan, once the most optimistic man in football, had been broken, again. But to fully understand why he resigned, we must first understand the man.

Keegan’s first professional club was Scunthorpe, he signed his first professional deal at 15 but was quickly dismissed as being too small to play professionally. This only served to make Keegan train even harder, putting in double sessions every day and then training by himself at home.

Keegan eventually broke into the first team at 17 and went on to play over 124 games across three seasons in the old Division 4.

What was remarkable about this feat was Keegan’s young age in such a tough league. In English football during the late 60’s prisoners weren’t taken on the pitch, especially in the lower leagues. The fact that Keegan played 124 times at such a young age in such a tough league marked him out as a player to take notice of.

In 1971 Bill Shankley did just that. Shankley had been monitoring Keegan for some time and, impressed by his work rate and superior fitness, he brought Keegan to Liverpool for a fee of £35,000 (this wouldn’t happen today, div 4 to div 1).

Shankley immersed Keegan in all that was Liverpool during his first summer there. Training was done right, eating meals was done right—nothing was left to chance.

So impressed with his new signing from Division 4 was Shankly that he put him straight into the opening game of the new Division 1 season against Nottingham Forest. Keegan duly responded, returning the favour by scoring after 12 minutes of his debut.

Kevin Keegan had reached Division 1 at the age of 20. He had been rejected twice as a teen, and had worked harder, and trained harder than anyone else to achieve his dream.

But instead of being satisfied with Liverpool and playing in Division 1, now Keegan wanted to win the league and to play for England. To achieve this he knew he would have to be fitter, faster, and stronger than his rivals, so Keegan again took extra training to try to fulfill his new dream.

The extra work and playing regularly for Liverpool soon payed off, as Keegan made his debut for England U-23s in the old Home Nation Tournament.

Over the next six trophy-laden seasons at Liverpool, Keegan established himself as not only Liverpool’s most important player, but quite possibly England’s as well. During this golden period for Keegan he won the league three times, the FA Cup once, the UEFA Cup twice and the European Cup once.

In the 1976-77 season Liverpool won the league, Charity Shield, European Cup and it was only Manchester United’s victory against them in the FA Cup final that stopped the team from winning the first treble in English Football.

Keegan was pivotal for club and country throughout. And at this stage of his career, ten years after starting his apprenticeship with Scunthorpe in Division 4, Keegan was perhaps the best if not most important player in Britain.

Then, after scoring 100 goals in 323 games, Kevin Keegan shook English football to its foundations by signing for German side Hamburg. He had achieved everything English club football had to offer. He dined at the table of greats and decided that what he had achieved wasn’t enough.

In choosing Hamburg, Keegan turned down Spanish and Italian sides. He wanted to win trophies in Europe but he wanted to do it the hard way.

Initially Keegan failed to settle in Hamburg, his grasp of the language was poor and many felt he was a big name player taking it easy and earning huge wages. Hamburg were beaten by Liverpool in the European Super Cup—with Keegan’s replacement Kenny Dalglish showing that Keegan wasn’t missed.

Keegan’s frustration’s in Germany began to get the better of him, and he was sent off against Lubeck for punching a player. This, ironically, was perhaps the message he needed because after this lowest period in his career he began to knuckle down and although Hamburg finished 10th, Keegan went on to score 12 goals and win the European Footballer of the Year.

The following season, Hamburg won the Bundesliga with a settled Keegan instrumental throughout the season, he also won the European Footballer of the year award for the second time. The following season, Keegan’s last at Hamburg, they were beaten by Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in the final of the European Cup.

At the age of 29, Keegan announced he was leaving Hamburg, and sides around Europe courted the English star. But instead of choosing to see out his playing days in the sun, Keegan sent shockwaves through the football world by signing for Southampton.

This period at Southampton was perhaps what shaped Keegan’s managerial style and football philosophy. The hardest working player in England was now part of the most flamboyant side in Britain.

The names just roll off the tongue, even now: Mick Channon, Alan Ball, Phil Boyer, and the majestic Charlie George entertained their way to title contenders.

The following season, a happy Keegan had gelled with his team mates and they were challenging for the title right up until March. But a poor run of form, resulting in only two wins in their last ten games, saw Southampton fall away.

This pattern was to be repeated at Newcastle, some 20 years later.

The 1982 season finished badly for Keegan. Carrying injuries and playing through the pain barrier began to take its toll physically, as England and Keegan wilted at Espana 82.

Mentally, Keegan was pre-occupied with next season and whether Southampton would make some defensive signings to strengthen the side. This would eventually lead to a massive split between Keegan and the manager, which ultimately resulted in Keegan leaving to join Newcastle Utd.

The Newcastle fans took to Keegan immediately, and considered it an honour that one of the greats of English football would choose them to finish his career with. Keegan helped Newcastle gain promotion to Division 1 in a side that played their way to victory.

Veterans Keegan and Terry McDermott were joined by a young Peter Beardsley and a new recruit who went by the name of Chris Waddle.

By this stage Keegan, although he loved Newcastle, was beginning to fall out of love with the game. At the end of the 1983-84 season and after a 18-year career, Keegan retired from football, vowing he would never return to the game to coach or manage.

Neverthelees, on February fifth, 1992, Kevin Keegan entered football management at Newcastle. He took over from Ossie Ardilles, who had steered Newcastle towards relegation from Division 3.

He was given the task to save Newcastle.

Survival was achieved, on the last day of the season. And with the Premier League being created, Newcastle and Keegan found themselves in Division 1, uninvited to the biggest football party English football had ever seen.

Newcastle started the season as one of the favorite’s for relegation, but after winning their first 11 games that was quickly revised. Newcastle led the league from start to finish and were promoted to the Premier League as champions.

Keegan proved he had a ruthless streak, selling top scorer David Kelly and Division 1’s best midfielder Liam O’Brien. He recruited Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole for Newcastle’s first season in the big time.

Again they started the season as one of the favorites to go back down, but Newcastle finished third in their first season up. Between ‘93 and ‘96 Newcastle challenged for the title every year.

Their players included David Ginola, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Phillipe Albert, Faustino Asprilla, and David Batty. Keegan’s philosophy was entertaining their way to the title and Newcastle literally hit the cross bar.

It was during this ‘96 season that Keegan famously lost it after a match, after he had been psyched out by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. “I’d love it if we beat them”, will follow Keegan to the grave.

Newcastle’s run towards the end of the season mirrored Southampton’s in 1982, leaving Newcastle a distant second after leading for so long. Keegan took this disappointment personally and struggled to overcome it before the new season.

Then, on January seventh, 1997, at the height of their powers, as another title challenge won the way, Keegan resigned as manager. Feeling he had nothing left to offer Newcastle and that he had taken them as far as he could, he walked away.

Again, he vowed to stay away from football.

But again the lure of football was too much, and in September 1997 Keegan returned to manage Fulham in Division 2. Keegan stayed in charge at Craven Cottage until 1999, when he became the national choice as England Manager.

After an initial period in charge where everything went right, the wheels started to come off in the Euro 2000 campaign. England beat rivals Germany 1-0 but were beaten by both Romania and Portugal and failed to qualify for the knockout stages.

The English media, as famously harsh as they are fickle, turned on Keegan for England’s poor displays.

The final straw for Keegan occured at the final match at the old Wembley, as Germany won 1-0. With the media calling for his head and Keegan under severe pressure, he resigned.

Keegan again said he was walking away from the game and needed time to re-charge after his England ordeal. But the rest period only lasted seven months, with Keegan once again surprising everyone by taking over at Manchester City.

The four years in charge of Man City were largely fruitless, but Keegan showed he could be a shrewed manager guiding City to mid table safety on a shoe string budget.

In 2005 Kevin Keegan retired from football completely.

He was burnt out, and the game had changed massively from his time as a player. Keegan didn’t like the direction football seemed to be taking, and stepped away from the competitive game. He set up the Soccer Circus roadshow in the hope of training young players and passing on some of his vast knowledge.

Then, on the 16th of January 2008, after three years away from the game, Keegan returned to the his spiritual home as manager of Newcastle.

Yet after just one month in charge Keegan had to be talked out of resigning by owner Mike Ashley. Keegan felt undermined after Ashley had appointed Dennis Wise as Director of Football.

Wise would take charge of the transfer dealings both in and out of the club, and Keegan wasn’t happy with this. Ashley eventually talked Keegan around, suggesting that it would give Keegan more time on the pitch and that it was the best way forward.

Keegan chose to stay, perhaps because the size of the challenge ahead of him enthralled him. And after an initially poor start, losing his first eight games in charge, Keegan guided Newcastle to safety.

Strangely for the ever optimistic Keegan, after a defeat to Chelsea he told a press conference that Newcastle would never challenge for major honours again. Ashley was furious, but Keegan had drawn attention to the lack of ambition at the club.

Throughout the summer rumours of Keegan’s unhappiness under the Ashley regime persisted. Ashley made little or no money available, and players were offered around the Premiership.

James Milner was sold without Keegan’s knowledge, and rumour has it that Michael Owen being offered around was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

If you’ve lasted this long and read this much I hope I’ve shown that as a player Keegan never gave up. If he wanted to achieve something it was up to himself and he worked hard to attain it.

His career as a player is spectacular, but it was all down to him. He shaped his own destiny.

This is perhaps Keegan’s downfall as a manager, because no matter how hard you try. and no matter how well you organise, you cannot foresee every outcome.

During his first term as Newcastle manager, Keegan signed who he wanted and played the way he wanted—but he just couldn’t win the title no matter how hard he tried.

Something always conspired against him. It was this that eventually led him to walk away the first time.

At England, blind optimism carried him on. He really believed his approach could carry England forward, and when it couldn’t again he resigned.

During his charge at City, Keegan actually seemed at peace with himself. But during this period they never challenged and this going with the flow was never going to be good enough for Keegan.

And now, back in charge of Newcastle, Keegan finds his authority eroded, his responsibility diminished, and once again he sees all the outside influences he can’t control sniping at his heels, driving him mad.

As I write this, depending on which media source you listen to, Keegan is either still in charge or has resigned. Personally, I hope he resigns. Mike Ashley doesn’t know what he’s doing and Keegan is too good for him.

But if Keegan does go, a little bit of every supporter goes with him.

We’ll all miss his optimism.

College Football’s All-Paris Hilton Team: Week One Edition

September 3, 2008

by Gage Arnold…

Week One of the long awaited College Football season is in the books, and boy was it worth the wait. We had 300-yard rushers, upsets, and Michigan losing in The Big House for the second straight year, and not to mention the fact that we all had to face the reality that it was time to turn off the Appy State game and to stop our procliaming that “this is the drive” and “they only need one score and they’ll get going.”

Well we had our duds and studs and I’m here to bring you the stars of College Football’s first week. Though they whole week wasn’t pretty, every one of these performances that made this article were. So without further adieu here are the “Paris Hiltons” of College Football Week One.

College Football’s All-Paris Hilton Team: Week One Edition

Quarterback

Juice Williams, Illinois

26-42 for 451 Yards and five TD’s

Cue the whole “Juice is Loose” saying as Juice had a great game. Granted it was a stagered Mizzou defense, he still threw for a wopping 451 yards with 5 TD’s.

Honorable Mention

Graham Harrell, Texah Tech

43-58 for 536 Yards and two TD’s

Mr. Harrell could find himself on here a lot this year for one main reason being the system he’s in. Harrell gleamed throwing for 536 yards and 2 TD’s.

Running Back

P.J. Hill, Wisconsin

26 Carries for 210 Yards with two TD’s

The Wisconsin Winnebago truly dominated Akron by rushing for 210 Yards . P.J. Could be in for a huge year and is a Darkhorse Heisman Candidate.

Honorable Mention

Shun White, Navy

19 Carries 338 Yards and three TD’s

Wow! I mean I know it’s Towson, but these are astronomical numbers! The newest product of the Navy Running Game.

Wide Receiver

Sammie Stroughter, Oregon State

12 Catches for 157 Yards and two TD’s

It’s a Sammie Stroughter Sighting! As Stroughter sat out last year he looks in for another big year with the Beavers

Honorable Mentions

Naaman Rosevelt, Buffalo

Four Catches for 154 and two TD’s

I had to give some love to Naaman Roosevelt. I mean seriously this man deserves his own TV show.

Mark Dell, Michigan State

Nine Catches for 202 Yards and one TD

Dell looks to be the go to guy in a Michigan State offense where Devin Thomas emerged last year.

Offensive/Defensive Lines

Navy Offensive Line

558 Rushing Yards

As I said earlier, I know it’s Towson, but still, you have to give credit where credit is due, they completely deserve all the credit they can get for rushing for 600 yards!

Honorable Mention

Illinois Pass Protection

Allowed 451 Yards and five TD’s

This was great as the whole line stepped up and proved strong for Juice and the Ilini faithful.

Defense

South Carolina

South Carolina shuts out NC State 38-0

While the offense was putrid (nice word) in the first 3 quarters, the defense dominated and proves to be the only thing holding them up this year.

Honorable Mention

Florida Gators

Florida gives up only 10 points to a potent Hawaii Offense

While they aren’t what they were last year, they still are a good offense and Florida completely stomped them. Not to mention LB Brandon Spikes missed the game as well.

Kicker

Louie Sakoda, Utah

4-4 FG’s with a Career Long of 53

Sakoda was amazing and proved to be the difference between Utah upsetting Michigan in The Big House. He also punts, the man does it all!

Honorable Mention

Alex Henery, Nebraska

4-4 FG with all of them being between 40-49 yards.

This man stepped up, yielding 17 points and coming through in the clutch. The man has ice in his veins.

Being Cocky Can Ruin Your Career

September 3, 2008

by Joshua Khan… Injuries suck more than a hormone-infested college girl who has an addiction to Tootsie Pops. An athlete can have a great career ahead of him and before you can say “whoops”, they’re hurt and stuck on their couch eating two-day old pizza and fantasizing about the anchorwomen on TSN.  They’re no fun, knee injuries especially.

But don’t tell NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman that, he’s charged-up!

Despite tearing two ligaments in his knee, the San Deigo Chargers Pro Bowler has decided that he’s going to play this season. A total of five doctors told Merriman that he should have surgery, but he refused like the common professional sports athlete with the mindset of a kindergartner. Starting next week, Merriman stated that he will be playing on a game-to-game basis and until he really needs the surgery.

Wow.

Dumb? A bit, don’t you think?

NFL players are known to have career-threatening injuries and despite the Houdini-like magic team doctors and physicians can do, most find themselves unwillingly cleaning their locker. Merriman will find himself in that position if he goes with his heart and not his mind. NFL teams are going to be on the hunt when they play San Diego from now on because they’ve found a weakness. Even if Merriman can still send someone into a Sami Kapanen Trance, teams are going to attack him every which way they can. Having a knee injury slows down your pace in a game and if Merriman doesn’t play it safe, then the league will no longer classify San Diego as a Super Bowl contender.

Sure a knee injury doesn’t seem so bad, compared to a broken leg or arm, but its grotesque in its own way.

Just before my 15th birthday I had a sports-related injury called Osgood Schlatter Disease. In other words, it was basically a knee injury that hurt like a fucker 24 hours a day because I was a kid who dreamt of being a professional athlete. Back then, sports was my life and as a suave and confident tenth grader, I was cockier than Merriman. I ignored my doctor and continued to take part in gym class to the greatest extent I could. In basketball, I played until I almost fainted and I used a pain-relief cream to help me participate in soccer. The result? Endless days of warming the bench in sweat-free, laundry detergent-scented clothes and horrible nights filled with agonizing pain, tears (pansy, yes) and little or no sleep. Did I happen to mention I couldn’t take gym class for the rest of my high school career?

We all have our own choices and in return, our own consequences. Merriman does show some heart and sportsmanship by trying to lead his team to the ultimate pigskin glory they so rightly deserve, but why not rest first and then make Tom Brady and Peyton Manning dine on artificial grass later? The NFL season is longer than the windups of Asian baseball pitchers and can easily work to Merriman’s advantage.

Cockiness won’t you get anywhere. All it does is take you down a wrong route that’s not in anyone’s playbook and makes sure your fingers don’t feel the warmth of a Super Bowl ring.

Just ask Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens.

In the Pocket - Games to Watch

September 3, 2008

by Daniel Reiter… With the beginning of the NFL season upon us let’s take a look at which games you will need to see this season and which ones you should just wait to see in highlights.

Week one has a few games that should be good matches.  For starters the cross conference match between Dallas and Cleveland should illustrate which of these two teams is the real deal.  Dallas will likely beat the crap out of Cleveland, but if Cleveland makes it a close game against the league’s best they should consider it a step closer to obtaining a wild card come playoff time.  This match up will give Cleveland a chance to see if running back Jamal Lewis is still prepared to carry the offensive load, and will give Dallas a chance to see how their upgraded defense handles one of the best running backs in the league.

Other notable games will be between Washington and defending champions New York Giants, Chicago and Indianapolis, and Green Bay and Minnesota on Monday night.  If you feel like taking a nap on Sunday afternoon tune in for the snoozer between St. Louis and Philadelphia.

The obvious marquee game in week two is between the New York Jets and New England Patriots.  By now Brett Favre has had one week to acclimatize to his new team, but in all likelihood the Patriots will be playing like they did all last season and annihilate the Jets.  It will be hard to know what the Jets pass rush will be like this season with starting defensive end Shaun Ellis having the potential to hit double digit sacks, but the rest of the defensive line more geared towards stopping the rush..  It can also be assumed that the Patriots’ coaches have watched that Super Bowl game tape more than any other the entire season to find out what went wrong in protecting Tom Brady.  They must know by now and too bad for the Jets because they will be on the receiving end.  Clearly the big story will be Brady vs. Favre and regardless of performances it will be on every highlight reel the following day.

The Washington/New Orleans game should be entertaining as these teams match up pretty good against each other.  If you want to see a slaughter watch the Atlanta Falcons try to avoid embarrassment against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the afternoon game.

By the time week three rolls around the good teams should start to be very obvious and the bad teams, well we already know who they are going to be anyway ahem..Philly, Atlanta, St. Louis, Oakland, Baltimore…ahem.  The games I’ll be watching this week will likely be the Arizona/Washington and Indianapolis/Jacksonville games.  Both Washington and Arizona are primed to have breakout seasons and will be looking to prove themselves with every win.  I would say the Redskins will probably win this one, but it certainly should be an offensive shootout.  The Colts vs Jaguars is a very important AFC matchup that will surely determine who will win the AFC south.

If you want to see a game riddled with turnovers and terrible plays where the big excuse for each team is already lined up as bad weather, watch the Oakland Raiders visit the Buffalo Bills.  Neither team will be any good this year and there is no point in making a prediction at this point or at any point because really who cares who wins a matchup as pointless as this.

Week four seems to be a scheduling oasis for anyone primed to make money on these games.  There will be more blowouts this week than probably any other week all season, so let me spare you the anticipation.  New Orleans will send San Francisco packing.  Minnesota is going to fake the right hook and give Tennessee a nosebleed with a strong left.  Jacksonville will make Houston feel like they should have spent a few more weeks in training camp.  The hype these Cleveland/Cincinnati matchups have is just getting old and this time Cleveland is finally going to change the colour of those stupid helmets the Bengals wear.  In the Panthers/Falcons matchup, it’s fairly obvious who’s getting eaten here, unless you’ve ever seen a bird eat a fairly large cat.  Arizona vs. NYJ might be the only early game worth watching if the two oldest QB’s in the league don’t break a hip before half time, but go with Kurt Warner and the Cardinals.   The Broncos/Chiefs game will be a battle of bad quarterbacks, but at some point experience has to count so go with Jay Cutler and the Broncos.  Green Bay vs. Tampa Bay could not be easier to call as the Bucs defense will introduce Aaron Rodgers to a world of emotional and physical pain.  In the San Diego vs. Oakland game LaDainian Tomlinson could probably beat the Raiders single handedly as well as perform in the halftime show.  The Buffalo/St. Louis game will be a sleeper as the Bills will easily tuck in Rams for a long winters nap.  Washington vs. Dallas will be the game of the week, but as good as the Redskins will be and as much as they have improved they are no match for the Cowboys.  If Rex Grossman is playing then the Bears will eat the Eagles for dinner.  Finally, even if Pittsburg decides to sit Big Ben Roethlisberger because he doesn’t like to get up for work on Mondays they will still lay a beating the Ravens.

Going into week five predictions might be a bit ambitious before week one of the season is even over.  There will certainly be teams that surprise, and teams that nose dive which are fairly obvious at this point.

Quick note to fans of the San Francisco 49ers:  When the 49ers play the Cowboys in week 12, hoping for injuries to Zack Thomas, Adam Jones, Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, and Marion Barber all in one game is just a little unrealistic and will still probably not prevent the rest of the Cowboys’ team from setting some sort of NFL record for most embarrassing defeat of the decade against their opponent.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE INDIFFERENT.

September 3, 2008

by Mark Ritter… With a fat Salary Cap, a plump free agent list and the desire by many teams to try to inch closer to the Stanley Cup the 2008/09, NHL General Managers were quick to make many Unrestricted Free Agents very rich men. Free agency signings were fast, furious and, at times, curious. Let’s take a look at your favorite players and teams and see how they made out. Were the results good, bad, ugly or just indifferent?

EASTERN CONFERENCE-

ATLANTIC DIVISION

NEW JERSEY DEVILS:

The locker room is going to be pretty cramped with all the strollers and battery powered wheel chairs lying around, this team is getting old fast; so what does management do? Bring in retreads Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston. Rolston should add some much needed scoring, but is he worth it at 4 years and $20 million? “Yeah right buddy!” Holik is clearly on the downside of his career, one year and $2.5 million is not the end of the world, but why bring in these two older players when the entire division is headed in a youth direction? New Jersey gets a “C-”. Ugly.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS:

Mixed bag here. Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan bring offensive skill, but they also bring huge question marks. If one or both of these players flops the Pens will be in trouble; that said I feel Satan will flourish in Pittsburgh, especially if he is slotted on one of the first two lines. The signing of Matt Cooke should help replace Jarkko Ruutu, Cooke is a tough guy to play against, an agitator who brings it every night. Keeping Pascal Dupuis, Brooks Orpik, RFA’s Marc- Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin were key signings for the Penguins. The loss of Gary Roberts and Ryan Malone will be felt, but overall the Penguins did well. The Pens lost Hossa but Pittsburgh gets a B+. Good.

NEW YORK RANGERS:

The Jaromir Jagr days are over in New York. With the departure of Jagr the Rangers were able to sign some pretty significant players in the off-season. UFA signing Markus Naslund will be given every opportunity to find his offensive prowess, Wade Redden get’s an opportunity to party like a rock star or find his game, Dmitri Kalinin received 4 years and $20 million, Paul Mara re-upped and Nikolai Zheredev and Dan Fritsche came over from Columbus via trade. The verdict? New Yorkers gotta be sweat’in the Redden and Naslund signings, but I feel they will both find their games and perform admirably. A very strong off-season for the Rangers, they get an “Eh”…sorry; they get an “A”. Good.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS:

The Flyers were a little less busy then 2007/08, in fact the Flyers off season was pretty dismal. Jeff Carter was re-signed, so was Joffrey Lupul. Both of these players are key to the future success of the Flyers, so Flyer fans can take some solace in those signings. Free agent wise the Flyers pretty much took a pass. Looks like its status quo for Philly. For sitting on their butts I give the Flyers a “B-”. Sometimes it’s better to do little rather than signing the wrong guy to a bad contract. Indifferent.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS:

After trading away the fifth overall pick in the entry draft fans just knew the Islanders would redeem themselves with some awesome free agent signings…or not! The Islanders made two moves worth mentioning; they signed Doug Weight to a one year $1.75 Mil deal and Mark Streit to a 4 year $20.5 mil deal. Mark Streit for four years and $20 million? Are you serious? As for the Doug Weight signing, well it’s a waste of money if you ask me, the real question is when will he retire, not how will he play, he’s a dud. When will this franchise return to the glory years? The Islanders get an “F” for “Forget about it!” Ugly.
NORTHEAST DIVISION-

BUFFALO SABRES:

Buffalo has gotten used to losing key assets in the off season, 2008-09 was different. The biggest move was extending Goalie Ryan Miller’s contract. He’s the key piece to the Sabres success; if Miller goes the Sabres would have been finished! Patrick Lalime was brought in to backup Miller and a trade with San Jose brought in veteran defensemen Craig Rivet. Paul Gaustad and Daniel Paille were re-signed and all Buffalo really lost was Steve Bernier. For Buffalo that’s an “A” off-season, but the reality is the Sabres only earned a “C”. Indifferent. Did I mention the Sabres suck?

OTTAWA SENATORS:

Every off season is the same, the Senators need a goalie. 2008/09 was no different, either were the results. Ray Emery went to play in Russia, leaving the starting goaltending job to Martin Gerber. Stay tuned, something has to give; Gerber simply will not take you to the Promised Land. In other moves the Senators brought in pesky forward Jarkko Ruutu and hard hitting defensemen Jason Smith. I like both of these moves, toughness has always been a question mark for the Senators, Smith and Ruutu will upgrade that department. Alex Auld was brought in to be the backup to Gerber; Auld is a capable backup, but not much else. The loss of Wade Redden will be felt, but at the price he was asking it was better to let him walk. Overall the Senators get a “B” for “better get a goalie…quick!” Good…if they get a goalie.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS:

The Leafs did exactly what they needed to do- sell, dismantle and get younger. Bryan McCabe was sent to Florida for Mike Van Ryan, Darcy Tucker and Kyle Wellwood were bought out of their contracts; Mats Sundin will likely follow them out of town. Curtis Joseph is back, Niklas Hagman signed as an UFA as did defensemen Jeff Finger. So what are we left with? Addition by subtraction. The Leafs needed to get younger and start the rebuilding process, G.M. Cliff Fletcher has achieved this. Still, Jeff Finger 4 years and $14 mil? Really? Time will tell if that was a mistake, but for now I like what the Leafs did…nothing! The Leafs get a “C”. Good- yet Ugly.

BOSTON BRUINS:

Riddle me this Bruins fans, do the Bruins ever have a great off-season? Ummmmmm, No! Michael Ryder was brought in to supply some offence, not bad, but Ryder has had his ups and downs the past few seasons. Other notable signings by the Bruins? Nothing to speak of, ouch! Looks like starting goaltender Tim Thomas will have to stand on his head, good thing he’s used to that! I gave the Bruins a “D”. Bad.

MONTREAL CANADIENS:

Early rumors had Mats Sundin coming to play for les Rouge, Blanc and Bleu, that looks like a pipe dream now. Montreal lost Michael Ryder, signed Georges Larouque to a 3 year $4.5 mil deal, traded for Alex Tanguay, signed back up goalie Jarolslav Halak and also lost defensemen Mark Streit. Result? Montreal missed the boat and will likely pay this season. The Canadiens desperately need a centre; sadly they seem to have missed out on one. The verdict? I gave the Canadiens a “C”. Indifferent.
SOUTHEAST DIVISION-

ATLANTA THRASHERS:

Atlanta won’t ruffle any feathers with their off-season signings. Defensemen Ron Hainsey was signed to a 5 year $22.5 mil deal, Forward Jason Williams signed a one year $2.2 mil deal, Marty Reasoner was signed and both goalies- Kari Lethonen and Johan Hedberg were re-signed, scare anyone? I thought not! The Thrashers are kind of in a wait and see mode. Hainsey is a decent signing, but in order for the Thrashers to be competitive the goaltending has to be better, as does the Defense, frankly they are no better than they were. I gave the Thrashers a “C” for ‘C’ ya on the golf course in May”. Indifferent.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTENING:

“The times they are a changing”; especially in Tampa Bay. There were plenty of key signings, the least of which was the signing of first pick overall rookie forward Steven Stamkos. Look for Stamkos to make the team and be a 50+ point guy right out of the gate. Ryan Malone signed for 7 years $31.5 mil, Gary Roberts will provide great leadership at one year and $1mil, Vaclav Prospal was signed to an extension after he was acquired, Mark Recchi and Olaf Kolzig signed one year $1.5 mil contracts and Radim Vrbata was inked to a three year $9 mil contract. Kolzig will provide great backup goaltending and might just challenge starting goalie Mike Smith for the number one job. Sure the Bolts lost Dan Boyle, but they received Matt Carle in return and saved a little money along the way, making many of these moves possible. The Bolts are very deep, question is will they be able to gel in good time? My prediction? Tampa will not only contend they will be a top 10 team, not bad coming from the basement. I gave the Bolts an “A” for “Awesome job!” Good.

CAROLINA HURRICANES:

Defensemen Jani Pitkanin was the highlight of the Hurricanes off-season, the Canes gave up talented forward Erik Cole to get him. It will be a while before we can rate this trade, but heart and soul guys are tough to find, they will miss Cole. Darcy Hordichuk, Josef Malichar, Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason and Goaltender Michael Leighton were also signed to contracts. Lot’s of movement, just not much substance. The Canes should have been better than their results last season, a little help would have made it easier in 2008/09; looks like they will have to go about making the playoffs the hard way- with good ‘ol fashioned hard work. I gave the Hurricanes a “D”. Bad- but the team will be “OK”…

FLORIDA PANTHERS:

The trading of Olli Jokinen for Defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton should solidify an already decent defensive core for the Panthers. Jay Bouwmeester was also resigned, but only for one year, causing many to believe the Panthers may shop him at the deadline for a top six forward. Corey Stillman at three years and $10.6 mil makes little sense, Rotislav Olesz at six years and $18.75 mil is also asking for trouble. The addition of Bryan McCabe will be huge for the Panthers, look for him to rebound, find his game and possibly be called upon to Captain this young squad. Settle in Florida fans, there are going to be a lot of 2-1, 3-2, 3-1 games; unfortunately the Panthers will be on the losing end of most of them. Because the Panthers are clearly in rebuild mode I gave Florida a “C+” for “what you ‘C’ is what you get”. Indifferent.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS:

Possibly the most exciting team to watch in last year’s playoffs, you couldn’t help but want the Capitals to do well, could you? The 2008/09 off-season was a very important one for Washington’s organization and their patient fans. How did management reward them? Longtime starting goalie Olaf Kolzig was let go, they missed out on Goaltender Cristobal Huet and ended up with a former playoff MVP in net. Jose Theodore. Theodore is coming off a great season with Colorado, he will be Washington’s starting goalie next season and the caps couldn’t be happier about it. Theodore should see plenty of pucks; all he has to do is keep it close most nights a la goaltender Grant Fuhr when he played in Edmonton. My gut tells me Theodore will be up for the challenge; he should start 70 games and might just see 35-40 wins for his efforts. In other moves the Capitals brought back Sergei Fedorov for one year and re-signed Defenseman Mike Green (a monster talent) and Forward Brooks Laich to four and three year contracts respectively. Not exactly what Capitals fans were hoping for, but at least they got a good goalie. The Capitals were already a good team; they should have enough talent to win the Division. A defenseman would have been a big addition, but the Caps failed to bring one home. I’ll give the Capitals a “B” for “Better hope Theodore keeps the puck out”. Good.

Wake Up With Katie Downes

September 3, 2008

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3225/2505707083_9bc4447a9f.jpg?v=0http://www.perfectpeople.net/photo-picture-image-media/Katie-Downes-293x330-20kb-media-4213-media-121631-1189108566.jpg












Katie Elizabeth Downes (born 16 May 1984 in Liverpool, England) is a glamour model and has appeared as a Page Three girl of The Sun newspaper, Nuts magazine and other such publications. She is 4ft-11in tall with a natural breast size of 30D and has blonde hair and blue eyes. As the old saying goes “smokin’ hot babes and good things come in small packages”!

She recently played a cameo role in the movie Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo as a window washer., and yes I need my windows washed, really I do! On March 23, 2006 Katie Downes featured in the ITV1 programme ‘Poor Little Rich Girls’ in which she swapped lives with a toilet cleaner, and boy do I ever need my toilet cleaned! Come on over girl The Captain luves ya!!

Mats Sundin, Toronto Maple Leafs Nation Is Breaking Up with You

September 3, 2008

by  Anthony Kern…

Dear Mats,

First things first—thank you.

Thank you for the memories.  Thank you for sharing your unequaled excitement every time you scored a goal. Thank you for being a role model to me when I was wee little Leafs fan, and for continuing to be a role model to all young Leafs fans.

Thank you for your loyalty to a club that was hardly, if ever, loyal to you. Thank you for, in my opinion, being the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf—and Leafs captain—of all time.

That being said, and in light of your most recent comments, I feel that it is finally time for us to part ways.

Today you made it all but official that you don’t plan to be back when you said, after being asked if you would make a decision before training camp starts:

“The way it looks right now, probably not. I want to make sure that I’m ready to mentally and physically play. Where I am right now is that I’m not ready to make that decision.”

Mats, you said yourself that you believe that the “journey” to the Stanley Cup starts at the beginning of training camp—not somewhere in between. And you said that it was this very “journey” that defined a player’s season.

So, Mats, don’t become something you never were in the hockey world—a hypocrite. And more importantly, Mats, in the words of the Backstreet Boys, “quit playing games with my heart.”

I loved you, Mats—and I supported you when it seemed like all of Toronto was calling for your head. I even supported you through this long, drawn-out, bitter offseason. I still even support you at this very moment, and I trust you’ll make the right decision—but it cannot involve us, the Leafs Nation.

You see, Mats, there is one thing I love—one thing that we love more than you.  Our true love lies with the crest on the front of that blue and white sweater. The crest that carries so much history with it, the crest that carries within itself joy and heart ache, The Maple Leaf.

So, in honour of our first and true love, on behalf of Leafs Nation I bid you adieu.  It is time for us, fans and players alike, to move on and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel—Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Love,

Leafs Nation

BT’s 2008/09 NHL Season Preview: The Minnesota Wild

September 3, 2008

http://assets.espn.go.com/photo/2007/0927/nhl_g_backstrom_580.jpgby Bryan Thiel…

Preface: After starting yesterday with the Edmonton Oilers, we’re moving further into the Northwest division with last year’s division champion Minnesota Wild.

Now even though there was no division leader for the Oil, I still sought one out. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that far with the Wild, and seeing as I’m still waiting out on the other three teams, I figured to go ahead with Minnesota.

First of all, I’d like to apologize for the laziness on behalf of Ken Armer and myself—but this job ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and finding 30 CL’s in the half year we’ve both been on the job is hard.

Second of all, consider this an open tryout for Community Leadership of the Wild. Publish your own “CL Review” in the comment section, and if you’d like to be considered for the position, go to my profile (or Ken’s….but he’s got school and working very hard at it while I’m a slacker, so maybe give him a break) and we’ll discuss it!

So without much further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2008/09 Minnesota Wild preview!

A lot of people believe, including myself, that Winnipeg should:

A) Have never lost the Jets, and

B) Despite losing the Jets, they should be awarded a new NHL franchise, especially to capitalize on the booming Canadian hockey market.

But lost in all of our passion over one city regaining a franchise, we’ve overlooked Minnesota who, despite losing the North Stars in 1993, have regained their franchise, and developed one of the most passionate fan bases in the United States.

Whenever I’ve watched a game in Minnesota (albeit on television), be it the regular season, or the post season, the building has always seemed loud, and like a very tough arena for opposition teams to play in.

In that light, I’d like to congratulate the people in Minnesota and thank them. You’re the kind of fans that make this sport truly enjoyable.

Now on to business…

Roster Additions: Anti Miettinen-F (F.A.), Andrew Brunette-F (F.A.), Owen Nolan-F (F.A.), Corey Locke-F (Trade/Sign), Marc-Andre Bergeron-D (Trade), Marek Zidlicky-D (Trade)

Roster Subtractions: Mark Parrish-F (Buyout), Brian Rolston-F (F.A), Keith Carney-D (F.A.), Ryan Jones-D (Trade), Shawn Belle-D (Trade)

How did 2007/08 go?
44-28-10, 98 points, third in conference, first in Northwest, lost in first round of 2008 playoffs (Western Conference)

2007/08 Goal: First in Northwest, Conference Finals
Let’s Break’er Down!

For a long time, the Minnesota Wild have been dependant upon their defensive brand of hockey to hold them to one or two goal leads, and for a very long time it’s been successful.

With the improvements in Edmonton however, the added firepower in Calgary, and the loss of offensive weapons Pavol Demitra, Mark Parrish, and Brian Rolston, the Minnesota Wild may be in for more of a challenge than their defense-first style can handle.

Why have one when you can have two?

Every year it seems that a different goalie tandem will be manning the pipes for the Minnesota Wild. It used to be Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez, but when Roloson left, Niklas Backstrom took his place, and now Josh Harding and Backstrom are preparing for their second straight year as the top tandem in Minny.

So far in his young career, Harding has proven to own the number one ability that he was drafted for. Despite posting an 11-15 record last season and owning a slightly high 2.94 goals against average, Harding has stopped pucks with regularity, posting a .916 save percentage in 36 career NHL games.

Alongside him, Backstrom has been nearly unflappable in his two career NHL seasons. His 2.31 GAA from last season is actually higher than that of his rookie season (1.97), while each season he’s had a save percentage over .920. As he’s coming off his first 30-win season, Backstrom will look to repeat that same success, although with Harding’s continuing development, Backstrom could see a game total closer to his 41 of 2006/07 rather than the 58 he saw last season.

If Harding starts to really come into his own however, one has to wonder whether or not the Wild will shop Backstrom to help them out in other areas of their roster.

They always said three was company…

I just wonder if they were referring to the scoring threats employed by Minnesota when they said that.

In losing Demitra, Parrish, and Rolston, the Wild have lost a quality second line that could create some offense—a necessity when playing on a goal-starved team (The Wild were 18th in the NHL in goals scored last year and ninth in the West).

The main threat that everyone will always talk about, no matter who leaves, is Marian Gaborik. Gaborik is an accomplished scorer as he’s potted 30 or more goals in five of his past six seasons (the one season he didn’t he was holding out and began playing that season in Slovakia), and he’s also improving his play-making game, gathering a career-high 41 assists.

Joining Gaborik as the team’s official scorers will be Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. In an injury-shortened season, Saku’s little brother was on pace to eclipse his 2006/07 career-high of 54 points if he were to play in 70 or more games, so if he stays healthy this year he could easily reach 25 goals and 65 points if he were to play alongside Gaborik.

Bouchard meanwhile, is starting to look like he’s cut from the same mold as Adam Oates—one of the most underrated passers of this generation. With 50 assists last season, Bouchard displayed excellent vision and play-making ability, and if his linemates are able to convert on the chances he gives them, there’s no telling how high his numbers could reach.

After those three, Andrew Brunette is the most lethal scorer, and although I like Bouchard, he’s no Joe Sakic, so don’t expect Brunette to be potting 20 goals or 80 points like he did while in Colorado.

Of the rest of the forwards, only James Sheppard, Corey Locke, and Cal Clutterbuck have some scoring potential, but they’re going to have to earn their playing time to prove they can put up points.

Invoking a sense of a two-way game amongst the forwards has to be at the top of Lemaire’s list this season, because if the team isn’t going to be putting many pucks in the net, they’re certainly going to have to be adept at keep the opposing forwards from doing the same thing.

I’ve got this Brent Burning sensation on my Kim Johnsson…

In a twist not many people saw coming, Brent Burns is the best at his position on the Minnesota Wild. If you’re familiar with him from Brampton of the OHL, you’d think it’d be at right wing, but today? Brent Burns is Minnesota’s top offensive defenseman.

Last year Burns was able to post a career-high 43 points, and a sparkling plus 12, thriving on the blueline alongside Kurtis Foster and Martin Skoula. Skoula had a tough year both offensively and defensively, posting career-lows in categories across the board, while Foster kept putting his shot to good use from the point, netting seven goals, and improving his play in his own end.

Although one might think that the addition of Marek Zidlicky will help the defense as a whole, there’s one player in particular his addition may help. If the offensive-minded Zidlicky—who posted 43 points last season—can work with Kim Johnsson and help Nick Schultz harness the offensive talents that have dogged him at the NHL level, then the Wild may have four top-scoring defensemen, along with the bullet shot Foster owns.

The problem, yet again, is that the Wild need a break from the defensive style every so often.

Of the five that were on the team last season (Foster, Skoula, Johnsson, Schultz, and Burns), three of them combined to score 44 percent of their points on the powerplay. Neither Skoula nor Schultz had a point on the powerplay last season and more of the defensemen will have to follow suit and increase their even-strength scoring if the Wild want balance this season.


So what does this all mean?

We get it: defense comes first in Minnesota and scoring comes second.

Unfortunately, the West is a conference that is stockpiled with tough, lock-down defenses. The difference between those teams and the Wild? Those other teams can sport an offense that can score on the oppositions lock-down defense.

I just don’t think the Wild have that.

Third in Northwest

Remember, this can be your audition for the Minnesota Wild’s Community Leadership! All you have to do is write your thoughts on my preview, whether you agree, disagree, or anything else you can come up with!

Coming up tomorrow: Whichever Northwest team rep gets back to me first!

Untill then…

Colossal Retardation

September 3, 2008

http://images.tsn.ca/images/stories/20080612/casey-t_79587.jpgby Jon Dwyer… Hamilton Ti-Cats head coach Charlie Taaffe’s decision to allow Jeff Piercy determine the fate of Monday nights Labour Day classic, leaving Jesse Lumsden idle on the other side of the offensive-line, was nothing short of colossal retardation. In a city where the combined IQ of the fan base is most likely a negative number I suppose I shouldn’t be terribly shocked, but as a McMaster University alumni its painful to see my surrogate team leave such a talented player (a former MAC Marauders running back) helpless. The guy is an immovable force, plain and simple…at 3rd down & 8 Taaffe might of well have asked Mike Weir to run the ball.

Why do coaches occasionally defy logic? With a coaching career that spans nearly four decades, Taaffe is the Shake-&-Bake of seasoned coaches. Yet, his decision to ignore the talents of a franchise player like Lumsden, who trained his entire career for moments such as these, is emblematic of his fall from grace in the NCAAF and perhaps the reason why he landed in the CFL. After coaching South Carolina’s military college “The Citadel” to an 11-2 record, the best in the schools history, Taaffe was suspended for the entirety of the 1996 season after being charged with drunk driving for the second time. The following year he ended up with the Montreal Allouettes where he temporarily proved himself regaining a position in the NCAAF until midway through the 2006 season when Taaffe was momentarily rejoiced by dimwitted Hamilton fans as the one to take them to the promise land…most likely because they made the punch and he likes to drink it.

I guess his drunken ass was sent to Montreal because New Brunswick doesn’t have a team…zinggg!

When franchise players aren’t utilized the psychological impact cannot only strain the relationship with the coach, but other members on the roster as well. The tricky thing with people who are very good at something is the level of expectation i.e. baggage, that accompanies them; when expectations are let down in a situation where one has repeatedly performed, they tend to rebel against those who’ve held them back. Not knowing Lumsden all that well though acquaintances with a lot of guys who played with him at MAC, he’s the kind of guy who would never compromise the team or his own integrity by having a blow up with the coach. A true sportsmen like his father before him (former CFL fullback and TSN analyst Neil Lumsden), Jesse is a Canadian athlete in that his conduct is inline with that of an NHL player, rather then the pageantry of so many pro-football players.

But patience is a virtue that wears thin…and its not like he has a huge salary to comfort him from his team’s mediocrity like Mats Sundin.

Regardless of the outcome in this specific situation Taaffe would have been scrutinized even if Jeff Piercy levitated across the field, slapped a cheerleaders ass and ran the ball in for the game-winning touchdown. Hamilton is virtually a talent-less team and after three shitty seasons you’d think the availability of a healthy, era defining running back would be a no brainer; a simple 43-yard field goal or give it to the team MVP…

I guess not.

Then why did Taaffe go against the grain and disregard the obvious choice(s)?

There is an objective nature all teams seek when coaches are hired, its obvious they not brought in for their reputation of being fickle individuals who cant make hard decisions; sport thrives on the ingenuity of the leader. However, there has to be a leader both on and off the field. Ultimately, all Taaffe’s decision did was eliminate the presence of leaders. I guarantee every player on that field thought either one of two things; Nick Setta should be kicking a field goal right now to put us into overtime, or, Jesse Lumsden needs that ball to get us a first down. When the play was called and everyone realized that none of the aforementioned was going to happen…they were a group of men left to their own devices…

And that’s a big problem in professional sports.

Anyways, who gives a shit…it’s the Ti-Cats.

ARRRRRRRRRR-GOOOOOOOOOOOOOSS

GO BOATMEN!