by Peter Toth… “For those about to nap, we sa-lute you” AZ-DZ, (Slept like a) Rock Group from the 80z.
If Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs does in fact choose to hang up his jock strap, fans will surely be wondering what he might be doing in all his spare time.
This IQ-lowering 79-part series delves into the black hole of possibilities available to the Big Swede in this post-NHL stage of his life, story continues with “Cat Napping“, a pastime practiced on the ice by a few members of the Leafs defense in past seasons.“For those about to nap, we sa-lute you” AZ-DZ, (Slept like a) Rock Group from the 80z.
“Hello my name is Mats, and I’m a napaholic. I haven’t had a nap for over 18 yearszzzzz…”
Now that he’s retired, Mats can spend the rest of his afternoons cat napping.
In his morning schedule he usually pencils in activities from parts one and two of this series, but after a hearty lunch of his favorite meal, köttbullar
and kroppkaka, (huh, huh, he said “kaka”) followed by hot and spicy Jamaican beef patties flown in from the small bakery at Bathurst subway station in Toronto, (all washed down with blåbärssoppa naturally), Mats is ready to catch a few Z’s.
After lunch, his favorite place to rest is usually the traditional Swedish Ikea futon (Is it a sofa? Is it a bed? Who cares, it’s very uncomfortable - and yes, I know futons are Japanese, so just play along).
Before settling in, the required pick-ball-flick-scratch-scratch-and-yawn routine must be adhered to (Mats being a man who likes his routine - I mean, come on, 14 years with the Leafs?) along with an adjustment of “Little Mats” (a la Dave Stieb).
The nap itself usually lasts ten to 30 minutes (as per recommendations by sleep experts) and involves very pleasant alpha-level dreaming of waterfalls, meadows, and stanley, er sorry, butter cups.
The end of Mats’s siesta always comes to an abrupt end, as in the last two minutes of play in his dream, he is always blind-sided to the head by a high stick. He passes out. As Mats regains consciousness, the image of Pavel Kubina, standing over him and asking him if he’s alright, comes slowly into focus.
Instantly Mats wakes up in a cold sweat and leaps from his futon, screaming in a high-pitched soprano: “GIMME MY ‘C’ BACK, BITCH!”
Ah, ain’t retirement grand?
by Long John Silver…
Buona Sera …
Can smell the Pizzeria’s and the Cappuccino’s, can FEEL home. Hmmmm, Dolce Patria!
Tomorrow and they after, a little piece of my heart will travel across the pond and come back, to Northern Italy. It’s been some time since I have written in my beloved BR-F1 home, but on a Friday night with a Guinness in hand … thought I will let you know what traveling to Monza holds, if you decide to take such a trip.
And you all should, you live closer to it than I do (you at least don’t need to cross the pond). As F-1 enthusiasts, trust me, it does not really matter whether you don your silver, blue, BMW outfits or even rock a Force India flag … it’s like going to Brazil and watching soccer, or going to OZ or India and watching cricket. The atmosphere – incomparable, the sheer energy – electrifying. Your entire being resonates.
I love backpacking, since am a student my finances are shoe-string. I do spend most of my money in actually getting to the place; hence more often than not I don’t have much left when I get there. But you can survive anywhere … from Milan, Melbourne to Manhattan, if you know what to do and where to go.
I love the track in itself, I love driving on it (Yes – GP4), the grandstand is at full throttle of course – so everyone loves that. There is a short cut you can take to clock the fastest time, but am sure you all know that by now too.
In addition to the two lesmos, it’s a thrill to take the ‘Parabolica’ at full throttle, one of my most favorite corners in the year, other than Turn 8 at Istanbul Park (Mike – should I thank Tilke and incur your wrath?). You have to nudge the car a little to the outside when approaching Parabolica, and then can gain significantly or lose chunks of time in that corner alone. The adrenaline when you drive at the Parabolica, is exhilarating.
The Spiritual HOME of Ferrari and us, Tifosis - Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, was originally built in 1922 and completed in less than six months. The original track was more than 10 km. c was born in Milano, almost anything significant in the history of Scuderia Ferrari transpires in Monza.
Michael Schumacher announced his retirement after winning here, in 2006. His famous overtake maneuver against Hakkinen is etched in the annals of history now too. Traditionally though, Ferrari have always done exceptionally well in Monza … and so they should for they owe it to us.
You get here on a Friday; the circuit is about a little less than an hour from the Milan airport. We spent the first night in Milan in a Backpacker home. I absolutely love Cappuccino, dry red vino and women (don’t us all?). Milan was vintage for me, I fell in love with it the first time. Northern Italy is also cooler than Southern Italy; Hence it should bode well for all of you across the channel.
The vintage Italian red wine is dry – called Chianti. Went out with for a wonderful lunch in one of the Pizzerias’ on the Friday noon, spent the rest of the day walking the streets of Milan, the Pinacoteca di Brera museum (the first one below is the heart of the museum, the next two are sculptures) was lovely … am also a sucker for Leonardo da Vinci’s work – visited that museum in Milan too.
You might be from any cultural background, but you will consummately appreciate the architecture in Milan, the churches are incredibly serene and beautiful, almost beyond belief. The Duomo was one of the most beautiful churches I have seen until now, am privileged for it to our last stop in Milan that evening (the altar of the Duomo is down below). Since am a bit of a metal head, I absolutely fell in love with a sort of a gothic setting in the night (the picture below the altar) too.
As the sun set behind the mountains, the evening lights were elegantly romantic. The lights – were enchanting and not gaudy. One of my regrets was not finding the time to visit the San Siro football stadium, home for both AC Milan and Inter-Milan. Spent the night walking the streets with my mates. The women – devilishly enchanting. On Saturday morning, started my trip with my mates to Monza.
Once you’ve coaxed yourself into leaving Milan … as you get closer and closer to Monza you can see increasing number of race fans (most of them donned in Scarlet, yes), but you as a race fan will be treated wonderfully where ever you go in Monza.
The passion from the Tifosis for Ferrari and motorsport in general, is almost tangible that you can touch it. After all - this is the home that changed Schumacher, a cold calculating German into one of their own. He could not even foresee donning any other clothes, other than Scarlet. Such is the PASSION.
Get there very early in the morning and soak up the sun shine, savor the qualifying. If you have the time, just walk as much as you can to imbibe the atmosphere. There is that maniacal overwhelming (almost choking) incredibly energy around you, and all positive energy, that you will hardly be able to stand still in one place.
On Saturday night, we did not want to go back to the Milan or stay in a hotel. So we camped out with fellow Tifosis just beneath the bank near the second chicane. Boisterous and rambunctious, especially because Michael had a chance of a podium next day – but it was all a part of the trip. Would not trade that for any 7 star hotel (not that Monza had any, in the first place).
The Chianti and Pizza’s were on the house, you just need to get into the campsite, but you probably won’t get much rest in there. We camped out until 0500 morning. I saw many fans from all around the world, the Tifosis’ will rag on you a bit (especially if you are close to Ferrari in the championship that year), but once you have a beer with them … they are some of the warmest people you can meet. I would strongly suggest staying in the campsite over any other hotel.
Mark - you probably get ragged on more in here, than you would there. Saw a number of Alonso fans, for he was in the hunt for the championship. To me, it was either Milan or Sao Paolo that I wanted to visit that year, for it was Michael’s last season as everyone knows it. We decided Europe … Sara, Peter and Paul – want me to look for tickets to Milan, for all of you?
You can catch a glimpse of Lake Como in here too, it’s quite beautiful and gorgeous under the lights, but prohibitively expensive (George Clooney stays in a penthouse on the hills, in here), hence I did not want to spend time in there.
The next day was quite lovely, for Alonso’s engine blew and Michael won – to ice the cake he announced his retirement. It was beautiful to see him live the last time in Monza. Innately satisfying. We camped out and spent the night in the campsite again, but this time all the Italians went home, it was only me and the other visitors who were there.
The next day we took the trip to Maranello, to visit the Fiorano track and the Ferrari track. That culminated the trip, a casual fan will not see why I basically forced my friends to go here, but my trip would have never been complete without watching the Fiorano track and the Ferrari Museum. There is one small twist left …
We boarded the flight back to JFK from Milan and we hadn’t checked in the three dry red vintage chianti’s we bought for mates back home. The security personnel was like, no alcohol on the plane, leave it here … (and he told it with a smirk in a heavy Italian accent).
With three hours to go the plane, against the flight crew’s strong disapproval, myself, Robert, Patrick, Estelle and Marion all loaded up on the Chianti in the airport lounge. Boarded the flight back to JFK, happy, satisfied and incredibly thrilled ….
When coming back, the trip across the pond did not seem so long – I wonder why?
Here is a Chianti to everyone who read this one – it’s on the house of course …
Hugs – from an F-1 Fan and A Tifosi … Grazie Mille!
PS: Buona Fortuna Kimi ‘e Felipe ‘e Ferrari!
by Bryan Thiel…
Preface: So I just played NHL 09 for the Xbox 360 tonight.
Granted, I own a PS2 so unless I go out and buy a PS3 I know it won’t be that great, but it was still awesome.
Go out and buy it. Now. If you’re reading this article, then you aren’t playing enough NHL 09.
EA Sports. It’s in the game.
So with the preview of the St Louis Blues out of the way, we move our way over to the most underrated team in the Central Division, and perhaps the most over-looked, consistently-in-the-playoffs team in the league, the Nashville Predators.
A few weeks ago, I talked to Jason Bukala—a Predator’s scout—and he told me that the Preds are going to be better than the prognosticators think.
Although I agree, realistically, before the games start, I can’t believably place them above the “big three” in this division.
But because we don’t know about the massive sophomore slump that could overtake the Chicago Blackhawks, or the fact that Columbus may have another year where they don’t gel as a squad, or Detroit could suffer a debilitating injury, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Nashville hop up into the top three of the division and the playoffs once again.
I’m just saying…don’t forget about the Nashville Predators.
Roster Additions: Tristan Grant-F (Trade), Ryan Jones-F (Trade)
Roster Subtractions: Martin Gelinas-F (Free Agent), Jan Hlavac-F (Free Agent), Josh Langfeld-F (Free Agent), Janne Niskala-D (Trade), Darcy Hordichuck-F (Trade), Chris Mason-G (Trade)
How did 2007/08 go? 41-32-9, 91 points, eighth in conference, second in division
2008/09 Goal: Return to playoffs, 5th-7th in conference
Let’s break’er down…
Who expected the Nashville Predators to make the playoffs last year? Seriously. I should see no hands raised in this classroom, because we all thought they were done.
Then again, the first ten years of a franchises existence, it seems to be really hard to take them seriously because of the novelty of them being the “new team”.
Well if we’re counting playoff appearances as gold records, then the New Kids on the Block have four gold records. The first time they make it past the 1st round? We’ll call that Platinum. After that? Who knows.
The only people that seem to believe in this team though, are the players themselves, the management, and the fans. I guess anonymity comes in handy, especially when you’re the most unpredictable team in NHL history.
This year’s tender is…
As a single person, you have to have the guts to play Russian Roulette and risk your own life. As an NHL franchise, you may as well be playing it when you continually switch your starting goaltender.
Two years ago, Tomas Vokoun was shipped to the Panthers after leading the team to the playoffs and a 110 point season. If any other team did this, it would make news. Then again what other team would do something like this.
Once it got closer to the season, people began to wonder if Chris Mason could carry the load.
Well, after getting his shot in 2007/08, it appeared as though Mason couldn’t. After facing trouble with minor injuries and inconsistency, Mason ended up splitting time with Dan Ellis, and the Predators returned (however unlikely) to the playoffs for a fourth straight season, only to be dispatched by Detroit.
For the third straight season however, a new starter will grab the rains in the city where Catfish litter the ice at playoff time.
If the waning moments of last season and the playoffs are any indication though, Ellis may be in the ‘Ville for the long haul.
Ellis’ stats are eerily similar to those that Mason posted the year before (when he was dubbed Vokoun’s successor), as he won 23 of 44 games with a .924 save percentage and a 2.34 goals against average. If it was even possible though, Ellis got even better come playoffs, against the league’s best team.
In a herculean effort, Ellis stiffled Detroit’s offense, as he only allowed more than four goals in a game once after facing 40 shots in the final three games and 39 and 38 shots in games one and two respectively.
It won’t be easy for Ellis though, as looking over his shoulder is Pekka Rinne who is 45-25 in his AHL career, with a goals against average of 2.34 and a save percentage of .920—yet another Nashville goalie you can’t count out.
Fishing out of the blue…
A few years ago, the only way I would have figured out who played on Nashville’s defense would be to collect the hockey cards. Then again, I’m not sure Topps or anyone else is aware of the surprisingly stout blueline in Nashville, which features power-play point man Dan Hamhuis, Shea Webber, and Gary Suter’s nephew Ryan—all three of which can utilize their offensive skills on the power play, while using their size (all are around the 6′1/200 lbs mark) to clear out their own end.
Hamhuis is still working on adapting his offensive game to the NHL, but he’s consistently shown up for the Preds, and if he has a Hamhuis kind of year, he could edge the 40-point barrier, and knock in as many as 50.
I know I said St Louis had the best up-and-coming blueline combo in Alex Pietrangelo and Erik Johnson, but not far behind them are Webber and Suter. If Weber can stay healthy, then he easily grabs 40 points—this year it could even be 50—and Suter has also been looking strong in his first two NHL seasons, and he too could exhibit a 40-point presence.
Providing a bit of depth will be the Gregs, de Vries and Zanon. ‘Zanon the Cannon’ built his reputation last season by doing the dirty work of block shots, and play tough shifts against some of the gritiest grit opposing teams could throw at the Preds. de Vries meanwhile brings the much-needed and highly valued aura of experience when the calender reads April and the Predators are hoping to eye some playoff hockey.
That means that, for the two final spots on the blue line, Ville Koistinen, Kevin Klein, Cody Franson, and Alexander Sulzer will be expected to provide some “hot ’n heavy” competition on the back-end—some with their offense, and others with their defense.
To Russia with love…
Alexander Radulov is now where his heart is—at home in Mother Russia. What that means for the Preds though, is that they’ll have to look towards other names within the organization to replace the younger Radulov’s 58 points, as well as his potential.
Despite the loss, it’s hard to expect more from J.P. Dumont and Jason Arnott—the team’s highest scoring forwards with 72 points apiece last year—as Arnott is getting older (but he’s still a quality leader), and Dumont will just continue to reproduce numbers in the 60-70 range unless surrounded with high-level talent.
Although it may be too late in the game to expect this, Radek Bonk is a player who could potentially alleviate the offensive stress. Although Bonk is used more in a defensive mindset now, he does have a history on the offensive: There were eight seasons when Bonk was with the Ottawa Senators that he played in 60 or more games. Four times (all within his last five years) he tallied 50 or more points (his final season in Canada’s capital he netted 44).
Since Bonk left Ottawa? Well, in those three seasons, Bonk was a bust, never collecting more than 30 points. For Nashville this season, 35 would be ideal—just don’t count the chickens before they hatch.
Two of Nashville’s other elder statesmen will be looking to rebound from off years however, as both David Legwand and Steve Sullivan are hoping for better showings—that is if one of them shows up at all.
Entering last season, David Legwand had high expectations. In 2006/07 he set a career-high with 63 points, and seemed primed to break through the 70-point barrier. However, Legwand stalled and ended the season with 44 points, his lowest total—overlooking the injury shortened 2005 season—since his 30 point 2001 campaign.
Sullivan meanwhile, will just be looking to be able to get on the ice after being sidelined for the past season and a quarter with back troubles. Before the injuries, Sullivan was a quick, feisty scorer capable of putting up 60-70 points in a season. Now the question is how effective the former Leaf can be if he comes back.
The supporting cast in Nashville carries a bit of familiarity with it.
Predators’ fans recognize the names of Jordin Tootoo, Martin Erat, and Vernon Fiddler, and they know what to expect. The ever-evolving Erat has turned into a consistent 60-point threat—that is if he can stay off the injured list long enough to get to sixty—while Tootoo will offer an annoying, grating presence on the ice.
However, Fiddler, Tootoo, and Jerred Smithson may want to consider putting up a few goals and assists this season, as the Preds are going to need some secondary scoring if they expect to tango with the Conference’s best once again this April.
So what does it all mean?
The Nashville Predators aren’t impressive—that is to say that there’s really nothing that blows me away about them. That being said, they aren’t a team that needs to blow someone away, they just need to continue to be their old, hard-working selves, and take advantage of the breaks as they get them.
No one knows how they do it, but it could be just as simple as Head Coach Barry Trotz having his players do the little things right in the powerhouse Western Conference.
Going into the season, there doesn’t seem to be enough skill on this roster to compete with the likes of the revamped Columbus Blue Jackets, or the Chicago Blackhawks (Suddenly everyone’s favorite), but by no means, as we’ve learned, does that mean Nashville is done.
If I truly believed that the Predators weren’t going to challenge in the playoff race this year, I’d say I would eat this article if they did. Fact is, I believe they can make the playoffs. But before the season, I guess you got to put everyone somewhere. Just don’t quote me on fourth.
These cats are dangerous though folks. You can quote me on that.
Fourth in Central Division
by Desmond D… The Jays have finally lost while this is my first post in a long time. A lot has changed in the past 2 months. For one, the Jays actually played exciting/meaningful games in the month of September. The Canadian National Soccer team also played a meaningful game and promptly disappointed many with a loss to Mexico. What looked like a promising year for Canadian soccer took a turn for the worst as Canada’s World Cup chances are looking bleak.
Back to the Jays though, who have had an up and down year. On the bright side, fans can have an optimistic view at 2009 seeing the kind of streak this ball-club is capable of. The pessimistic side to this point is that the Jays can only play solid baseball once the pressure is off. I tend to agree with that point to a certain extent. I don’t think the whole Jays team is like this, just a few players. Alex Rios for one is one of the most “unclutch” players the Jays have. But it is nice to see him hitting for power again. His SLG% is relatively high this year because he’s still hitting extra base-hits. But if he starts off next year the same way he did in 2008, JP is going to hear it every Wednesday.
Speaking of Ricciardi, where does he stand for next year? Some fans support him and some do not. At the beginning of the year, I was extremely against every move he made. Not signing Barry Bonds was at the top of that list. I still believe that if the Jays had Bonds they’d have 7-9 more wins this year. Just look at all the one run games the Jays have been in. But as much as I disagreed with his stance on a lot of things, I think JP should be back in 09. If he is let go, this team will go into semi-rebuilding mode. No one else wants this team to be a success more than Ricciardi. He started to make Toronto a contending team back in late 2005 and has only made improvements since then. Simply put, I do not think there is any other guy who could do a better job then him with the group of guys he has now. Besides, this team will be known as “JP’s team” until around 2010, maybe longer with Hill, Rios and Wells signed longterm.
The one thing JP won’t do is chase after AJ this off-season. Not including Doc, Burnett is my favourite pitcher on the Jays. His stuff is probably top 3 in the Majors, yes even better than Halladay’s. And now in a contract year he finally puts it to good use. The Yankees have flat out said they’re interested in Burnett and seeing how things have gone this year, there’s no doubt they’ll shell out Bronx Bombers money for him. Another top team I see in the Burnett sweepstakes is St. Louis who lost out on Burnett in 2005 because the Jays offered him the opt out clause, something the Cards would not do. If Burnett chooses to stay, the Jays will be EXTREMELY deep with their rotation. JP has said about a million times, “we’re prepared either way,” in terms of AJ staying/going.
If he leaves, the Jays have an abundance of starting pitching to look at in 09. In addition to Doc, Marcum, McGowan and Litsch, the Jays have to give David Purcey a spot right? Well its not that easy. Remember the guy who was taken right ahead of Troy Tulowitzki? He’s pitching fairly well in Syracuse and may get a look in Spring Training. Then there’s Brett Cecil. He is easily one of the top prospects pitching wise in all of baseball right now. Being a left-hander, the Jays will definitely give him a shot to take a rotation spot. Casey Janssen will also be returning to the team in Spring of 09 but its likely he’ll start out in the bullpen. Because McGowan will start 09 on the DL, it is highly possible one of their top prospects will get a look.
Now that the pitching scene is out of the way, what about the Jays achilles heel? The offense has shown signs of life in September but is this just an illusion? Probably not. Lyle Overbay seems to have finally recovered from a John Danks fastball while V-Dub is hitting the ball like it’s 2006. The aforementioned Alex Rios is slowly getting his power back and Aaron Hill may be ready for the start of next season. Rod Barajas is doing as well as you could have hoped for a catcher while Scott Rolen hopefully gets surgery in the offseason. That leaves 3 positions. Left-Field, DH and Shortstop. Currently, Adam Lind, Travis Snider and John McDonald occupy the roles. If JP is smart, he’ll leave Lind and Snider alone. These guys are pure hitters and can rack up some big numbers if giving the chance. The Shortstop position is really the only weakness from an offensive standpoint. Defensively Johnny Mac is a wizard. But if AJ does opt out, the Jays will have some money to go after some free agent shortstops.
At the top of the list has to be Rafael Furcal (who also serves as the proto-typical lead off man they have been looking for since JP got here) and Orlando Cabrera (who beat out Johnny Mac for the gold glove last year). Both are extremely capable with the bat and may come cheaper than expected. Furcal has been injured for a huge chunk of the season but was on a tear before he went down. The Dodgers have also said they are very interested in retaining him. As for Cabrera, he’s had a somewhat off year in terms of average. A .300 plus hitter for the Angels in 2007, hes been sitting around the .270 mark for most of the year. Cabrera will be cheaper than Furcal because he is 3 years older (Cabrera is 33 while Furcal is 30). Also on the radar will be Edgar Renteria who has a team option with the Tigers for 12 million. If the Tigers let him walk, it’ll only cost them 3 million. Renteria is probably hoping for the buy-out so he can get out of the American League. His two years of non-National League baseball have been atrocious. He’d have to get a lot of money from an AL team to stay. From a fan’s perspective, you would hope the Jays go after Furcal because of the speed and offense he brings to the position. Just think about him and Hill at the top of the order followed by Rios, Wells and Lind.
So with this all in mind, what do I think the Jays will do? JP has a tendency to trust veteran players over the youth so as much as I hate to say it I think Snider will spend most of 2009 in Triple A honing his skills and developing better strike-zone awareness (that is the only part of his game that needs some polishing). Look for a guy like Raul Ibanez to sign on. Hopefully for only 1 year though. The Jays were offering what was believed to be Brandon League and David Purcey for him at the trade deadline but Seattle declined. At the shortstop position, Furcal may be wishful thinking but I think a platoon similar to earlier this year will work with Scutaro/McDonald taking the reigns. Lind should stay in left-field but would likely split time with Ibanez. On the pitching front, I think JP will sign a pitcher. I’ve always seen Derek Lowe in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform for some reason and think he might get the money Burnett leaves. Something like a 4 year 45 million dollar deal could be reasonable.
Here’s my lineup card for your 2009 Toronto Blue Jays:
SS Scutaro (can see Cabrera here but I see Lowe more likely for JP)
I tried to stay as “right, left, right” as possible but it probably wont. Say it aint so Joe… I feel really bad for Inglett because he has proven he can start.
1 - Roy Halladay
2 - Derek Lowe
3 - Shaun Marcum
4 - David Purcey
5 - Jesse Litsch
McGowan, Cecil and Romero are going to start in 2009. Knowing the Jays, someone in the starting 5 will get injured and one of these guys will take their place. McGowan will come back in May while I see Cecil and Romero starting in September at the latest.
CL - Ryan
SU - Downs
SU - League
RP - Accardo
RP - Janssen
RP - Carlson
Ah the bullpen. The one thing that can be counted on for next year. As much as I’d like to see BJ traded, it probably wont happen. Maybe he’ll turn back into “Bazooka BJ” (credit to Jamie Campbell) of 2006.
Prediction: 1st in AL East, 95-67
Yes, you read that right… as long as everyone can stay healthy *knock on wood*.
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