Mats Sundin’s Retirement Plans: Online Poker!

September 20, 2008

by Peter Toth…

Well, here we are, Part 79, the final installment of the series. If you missed parts five through 78, don’t worry.

The e-book with all 79 parts will soon be available for purchase through the TOsports.ca Gift Shop. Reserve now, as this is a limited e-printing of 1000 copies, and they won’t last. What a great xmas e-stocking stuffer!

Ok, enough self-promotion of non-existent virtual products. Lets get down to the nitty-gritty.

Part 79 - Playing Online Poker

If Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs does in fact choose to mothball his woolly hockey socks, as it appears he has, fans will surely be wondering what he might be doing in all his spare time.

This IQ-insulting 79-part series delves into the multitude of not so strenuous opportunities available to the Big Swede in this post-NHL stage of his life.

Part 79 continues with “Playing Online Poker“.

Now that he’s retired, Mats can spend the rest of his days playing Texas Hold ‘Em on-line.

I actually had this installment prepared to go before the parts on

nose-picking and groin-scratching, but the idea seemed too ludicrous at the time, even for this idiotic series.But lo and behold, and viola. PokerStars.com just recently announced that Sundin will become an “international celebrity ambassador” for the leading on-line poker game room.

A long time card player, Sundin said, “I have always enjoyed playing poker and partnering with PokerStars gives me the opportunity to challenge myself and explore the full potential of my game. I believe the fighting spirit I’ve developed as a hockey pro will really help me at the tables.”

At least now we know what he’s been doing all these months - going all in!

Nary a peep out of the Big Swede all this time. He’s obviously been holed up in the basement of his summer cottage playing on-line poker 24-7!

He might not be able to lace up his own skates for the girth of his waist, but man can he read the bluff of those pre-teen poker stars playing on their dad’s MasterCard.

“I am very proud to become an ambassador for PokerStars. It means I will be more able to fulfill my personal ambition of working with charities around the world and I will be donating 100 percent of the money I earn from playing poker to charity,” he said. “For me, the combination of excitement and challenge in poker, plus the potential to support good causes is a win-win situation.”

Mr. Sundin, Mr. Sundin, And what about the money you LOSE?

Hmmm.

Furthermore, Mats Sundin recently told reporters in Sweden that he will not be making up his mind until AFTER the start of the season.

Can’t miss the WSOP!

And then, once Mats puts his favorite charity into the red by a few million buckaroos, it will be “Hello, Canucks? Uh, remember that table-and-offer thing you guys had going a few months back? I’ve, uh, come to a decision…”

LATEST NEWS…

Mats Sundin devoted six-and-a-half hours to playing in a Pokerstars on-line poker tournament.

That’s approximately, you guessed it, six-and-a-half hours more than he has devoted to deciding where he will be playing hockey this upcoming season.

From Pokerbonusblog.net:

“We are very impressed with Mats play,” says Johan Bondesson at Pokerstars.

Mats Sundin, who signed up with Pokerstars a couple a weeks ago and played his first tournament (EPT in Barcelona), played for six and a half hours before it was time to leave the tables.

Mats ended before Poker Pros like William Thorson, Daniel Negreanu and Scotty Nguyen and his sponsor was very impressed by that.

“I did not think I was gonna be disappointed, but I am,” said a laughing Mats Sundin after he was eliminated.

On the question “Will he play in more tournaments?” He said “Absolutely!”

So while NHL clubs are dropping out of the “Super-Swede-Sweepstakes,” (try saying that one fast, three times) “The Big Kotbullar” is having a gay-old-time chasing straight flushes.”

At this pace, come 2009, no club will want him.

Yeah right!

There will be ten new teams lined up at his knocker.

The Scandinavian King is sitting pretty (last I heard he plays on-line poker wearing nothing but his Fruit-o’-the-Looms and really dark sunglasses - but come to think of it, don’t we all?), finally doing what he wants (if his fiancee lets him, naturally), taking his sweet time, without a care in the world.

Hell, he deserves it. And, we’re just jealous. Power to ya buddy!

I just hope he didn’t invest his millions into Lehman (no, not Gary) Brothers stock.

2008 NFL Pulse: Early Hot & Cold Teams

September 20, 2008

by Derek Lofland… It is never too early to start looking at teams that have really set themselves up well and teams that have really buried themselves into a deep hole.  Remember 0-2 or 2-0 doesn’t guarantee anything in this early stages of the season.

In 2007, the San Diego Chargers started 1-3 before rebounding to an 11-5 season and AFC Championship title. The New York Giants started 0-2, yet rebounded to finish 10-6 and win the Lombardi Trophy.  Meanwhile the 49ers started 2-0 en route to a 5-11 season.

Still it is possible to set yourself up for a good season or set yourself up for a disaster by how you play the first couple of weeks.  The Cowboys, Packers, Colts, and Patriots were the four teams that earned first round byes in 2007. All of them started the season 4-0.  A bad September can ruin your entire season.  Just ask the New Orleans Saints who never really recovered from a 0-4 start last year.

What you have to remember is that with only 16 games, each game is a big deal.  We have already played 12.5 percent of the NFL schedule. When 12-4 is sometimes not good enough to secure home field you can’t afford to start the season 0-2 and expect to be hosting home playoff games. Every loss hurts.

I decided to make a list of 10 teams and divided them up into three areas.

Teams that have set themselves up to have a good season, teams that have really dug themselves a hole, and teams that have started off slow, but could rebound.

Here is what I came up with:

Early Season Winners:

Green Bay Packers (2-0)

It doesn’t get any better than this. The Packers were worried about how their team would respond with a new quarterback under the biggest microscope the NFL has ever seen.  Not only have they played well, but also Rodgers has looked great.

Both wins being in the division is a huge plus. To have one third of your division games played and be 2-0 is a big deal. They have an early two-game lead on Minnesota and Detroit and a one-game lead on “Da Bears.”

Green Bay gets a tough game against Dallas next week. After that, they play the Buccaneerss away, Falcons, and at the Seahawks. Those games won’t be cupcakes, but none of those teams are among the elite teams early in the season.

The Packers have an excellent chance of heading into their October 19 game with the Colts sitting at 5-1 or 4-2 with no losses in the division.  That would be an excellent scenario for a team many thought would be in chaos.

Green Bay is not guaranteed a playoff season. They have a very poor backup quarterback situation with two rookies.  Even New England who lost Brady had a backup that had been on their team for three seasons. Ryan Grant has been slow to start the season.  They will need him to be healthy.

The Packers couldn’t have scripted this start any better.  Great start for the Green and Gold.

Denver Broncos (2-0)

Same situation as the Packers.  They knocked off their biggest rival in the division in San Diego and they also beat Oakland.  A 2-0 record in the division is a very nice start to the season.

Jay Cutler is playing lights out and Brandon Marshall looks to be in fine form. The back by committee is working well and they have found their second receiver in Eddie Royal.  The one concern is the defense, but the season has gone very well early in the year.

The Broncos play three of their next four games at home.  They play New Orleans, @ Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and Jacksonville.  Other than New Orleans, none of the other teams have very explosive offenses at this point. The schedule sets up well for Denver continuing their early season success.  5-1 or 4-2 with a 3-0 record in the division is very realistic.

Arizona Cardinals (2-0)

Arizona had to start fast with San Francisco and Miami on the schedule and they did just that.  Kurt Warner looks like the MVP quarterback from St. Louis of yesteryear.

Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are both playing very well.  The defense is playing well. Things look good in the Desert.

The schedule is a little tougher for the Cardinals in the next four weeks.  They play @ Washington, @ NY Jets, Buffalo, and Dallas. Arizona could realistically go 3-1 in that span or 1-3.

They would seem to be a big underdog at Dallas and the other games could go either way.  It’s important that they build on their good start and continue to take care of the football.  The NFC West doesn’t appear to have a dominant team in the division right now so as long as they don’t take too big of a dive they should still be in good shape as we approach mid-season.

Carolina Panthers (2-0)

When the Panthers suspended Steve Smith for the first two games of the season for a fight with his teammate, Ken Lucas, in practice many people thought the Panthers were headed for a disaster. They had to play @ San Diego and the Bears, which both have very good defenses.

Without Smith it didn’t look like they’d have much of a chance.

The Panthers didn’t blow the roof off the house with their offense, but they scored a very respectable 26 and 20 points in those two games.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart has been a great running back combo. Jake Delhomme hasn’t played great, but has made the big plays when it matters.

The Panthers have a very nice schedule coming up as well. They play @ Minnesota, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay. I would not be surprised if Carolina is 5-1 headed into a big showdown with the New Orleans Saints on October 19.

Early Season Disasters:

Seattle Seahawks (0-2)

Part of their problems have been injuries and part of it has been very poor play.  Let’s start with the injuries.

No offense can afford to have three receivers go on IR (Nate Burleson, Logan Payne, and Ben Obomanu).

No offense can afford to have three receivers go IR when Seneca Wallace, Maurice Morris, Deion Branch, and Bobby Engram are already out.  Rob Sims was lost for the season on the offensive line.  It’s no wonder that Hasselbeck is struggling out of the gate.

Billy McMullen, Keary Colbert and Koren Robinson were added to the team to give them some skill position talent.  Still the offense scored 24 of the team’s 31 points last week.

The defense and special teams have not held up their end of the bargain.  The Seahawks gave up two special teams touchdowns to the Bills.  The 49ers scored 33 points on the Seahawks.

Patrick Willis helped with that by returning an interception 86 yards for a touchdown, but there is no doubt the Hawks’ defense is not playing as well as it did last season.  San Francisco scored three points in eight quarters against the Hawks in 2007.

It really doesn’t get any easier for Seattle. They play the Rams, which is a must win.  If they lose this game, their season may be done.  They get a bye and then play @ NY Giants and Green Bay Packers.  Those two teams are playing much better than the Hawks.  Then the Seahawks play @ Tampa Bay.

If Seattle can beat the Rams and Buccaneers and pull the upset against either NY or Green Bay, they can get back to .500 and should be in position to contend in the division.

However, they need to start getting players back faster than new ones are getting injured. Based on how the season has started it is not unrealistic to think the Hawks will be 2-4 or 1-5.  That is not something we have seen in a long time.

Cleveland Browns (0-2)

This team had high hopes for 2008 and just has not lived up to expectations.  They are 0-2 at home, which is never a good sign, although both losses were to good teams like Pittsburgh and Dallas.

What is of concern is how poorly the offense has played, which was supposed to be the strength of this team.  The Browns have only scored 16 points this year.  You can blame some of that on the weather in Week Two, but the weather was fine against Dallas and Cleveland struggled to score points in that game too.

Braylon Edwards has five catches for 46 yards on the season.  The Browns will not win five games if he doesn’t start playing better.

The Browns have to win their next two games @ Baltimore and @ Cincinnati.  Those are not very strong football teams and are divisional games.  The Browns can’t go into their bye week 1-3 or 0-4 with a losing record against the division.  They can’t expect to make up ground after the bye when they play New York Giants, @Washington, and @ Jacksonville.

It also doesn’t help that the Steelers have started strong at 2-0 and won at Cleveland.  If I was going to name another team that set themselves up well, the Steelers would have been it.  There just wasn’t enough room to talk about every team.

The Browns can still recover from this mess, but they have set themselves up very poorly.  Given how bad they have looked on offense it doesn’t leave a lot of hope that they will pull out of this anytime soon.

Minnesota Vikings (0-2)

The Vikings are a team in desperate need of a win.  The loss at Green Bay was not awful.  The home loss against Indianapolis was inexcusable.  They settled for five field goals and blew a 15-0 lead in that ball game.

The Vikings have already benched QB Tarvaris Jackson and made the move to start Gus Frerotte.  It is a bad sign that the Jackson experiment only made it to Week Two.  Frerotte has played well at times in his career, but realistically this is a band-aid at best.

Things don’t get any easier for the Vikings.  They play Carolina, @ Tennessee, @ New Orleans, and Detroit.  This is realistically set up for a 1-5 start if they don’t start stopping the pass and getting some production in their passing game.  The Vikings have their work cut out for them in the next four weeks.

Detroit Lions (0-2)

This is a team that started well in 2007 going 6-2, before limping to a 7-9 record.  They played great in the preseason going 4-0.  The thought was that without Mike Martz and a commitment to running the ball the Lions could finally get over the hump.

Given the quarterback situations in Minnesota and Chicago and the quarterback controversy in Green Bay, Detroit was considered a dark horse by some to contend for this division behind the veteran play of Jon Kitna.

The problem is the Lions are still the Lions. They can’t stop the run or the pass. Michael Turner set an Atlanta franchise record with 220 yards rushing with two rushing touchdowns and Aaron Rodgers passed for 328 yards and three touchdowns.

The Lions rank 32nd in points allowed, 31st in yards allowed, 32nd in rushing yards allowed, 32nd in rushing yards per attempt, and 23rd in passing yards allowed.  Kitna is still throwing big picks.  He has 538 yards passing with four touchdowns, but also has four picks including two that Green Bay returned for touchdowns.

Detroit now plays three of their next four games on the road.  They play @ San Francisco, Chicago, @ Minnesota, and @ Houston.  While none of those four teams are elite clubs, Detroit isn’t going to beat anyone if their defense continues to play this bad.   Mike Martz may be gone, but the problems from last year still remain.

Still Okay:

San Diego Chargers (0-2)

San Diego fans can’t be happy that the Chargers are sitting at 0-2, again. Norv Turner’s squad is limping out of the gate again.  However, the Chargers could just as easily be 2-0.

They lost on a last second play to the Panthers.  They had a tough call go against them in Denver and lost that game with :24 seconds left.  Phillip Rivers is as hot as any QB in the NFL and is tied for the league lead with six touchdown passes.

The Chargers have a tough game with the NY Jets coming up this week.  The worry is that Brett Favre could go off in that game like he did last year against the Chargers.  After that they play @ Oakland and @ Miami before drawing the Patriots at home.

There is no reason to think this team can’t be 3-2 heading into the Patriots game.
It’s unfortunate for the Chargers they are 0-2, but they can recover from this.  Other than Denver, the AFC West is in rebuilding mode.  They still get Denver in San Diego.

They have a good team and are playing well in spots.  They just need to have something go their way.  They are a lot better off than some of the other 0-2 teams.   At least they don’t have to worry about reinventing themselves like the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, or Cleveland Browns.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)

This is another team that just hasn’t caught a lot of breaks.  They have a really bad injury problem on the offensive line and at the receiver spots.  They only lost by seven to Tennessee and by four to Buffalo.

Those teams are a combined 4-0.  They were in both those games in the fourth quarter.  The offense just isn’t scoring enough points to win.

The big problem has been the lack of running game.  David Garrard is not good enough to carry the team with no running game.

The Jags are 25th in rushing attempts, 27th in rushing yards, and 29th in yards per attempt.  They have one rushing touchdown.  It seems impossible to think that keeps up for the entire year with Fred Taylor and MJD running the ball.

The Jaguars caught a break playing the Colts with no Bob Sanders.  The Colts have not stopped the run well and that injury makes things worse.  This could be a good week for the Jaguars to get the running game going and build an offensive identity.  If they win that game, they are even with the other favorite in the division with a 1-2 record.

The schedule isn’t great the next four weeks. The Jags play @ Indy, Houston, Pittsburgh, and @ Denver.  Then they get their bye and three games against Cleveland, @ Cincinnati, and @ Detroit.  That should be enough to pull them out of the slump.

If they can just get to 2-4 or 3-3 heading into their bye, they should be able to get back above .500 by Week 10.  If they can be healthy at that point they could make another strong second half push like they did last season.

What are your thoughts on your favorite team?  Do you feel good about their start?  Like their chances for a big year or just hoping they can get a victory before the season ends.

Wake Up with Gina Carano

September 20, 2008

by The Captain… 24 hours before the great, one and only, T.O. Sports Magazines Front Cover Photo Shoot! 12 smokin’ hot babes are coming together, it’s like words colliding. Just telling you boys to be careful driving, if you do see The Cinnamon Girls, don’t cause an accident. Just want to say this ahead of time, I don’t want any crybabies suing now… and if you do, I’m calling Gina to come over and kick your ass, and she would too!

Tennis: For A Few Good Laughs On A Saturday

September 20, 2008

by Long John Silver…

Just for a good laugh on a Saturday, these are some of the hundreds of clips, I have buried in my laptop…and these are sure to crack you up. Try ‘em

  • A-ROD on “The Weakest Link,” the name of the alphabet that sounds like referring to a sheep, do you know?
  • A montage of Rafa’s funniest responses, “Unbelievable, unbelievable leftie leg…like Beckham.”
  • This is a famous Ivanisevic confession during the Wimbledon 2001 that he won, eventually. “There are always three Goran’s on court. The GOOD Goran, The BAD Goran, and The 911 Goran (who tries to make peace between the other two…a tennis version of ‘LJ’ in TO).” Watch the last part of the clip about which Goran came to the fore when it came to women?
  • This is pretty funny, the poor lil’ umpire cannot pronounce the overly complicated word “Ivanisevic.” Goran goes up to him, and, ah! well, you watch the rest.
  • Steffi will you marry me?
  • How can you have a montage of laughable tennis clips, without the JESTER (De-Joker) himself? The famed impersonations (I think the one about Rafa, ROD and especially, Rodge is priceless, he does not do Rodge in public? Any guesses why?). The flip of the hair for Rodge, priceless.
  • The famous GE commercial I adore for no reason.
  • Ofcourse, you cannot have a tennis montage without my adorable nutcase. YES! Marat did challenge this…and Rodge’s responding smile, Priceless!
  • I don’t know why I find this funny, it’s anything but funny to a normal person. LOVE the way MA-SHA says “Up your ‘ffin A**.”
  • This one again is incredibly funny, the ENTIRE cauldron of Israeli crowd shrieks with MA-SHA…to rattle her, FED Cup against Israel.
  • This I think will enter the TOP 10 of all time. Roland Garros Center Court: “Marat takes his pants down…LITERALLY.” After all that stupid work – he lost the point due to a code violation (am not sure the ladies would agree it’s actually code violation?)
  • Typical A-ROD response, the frat comedy that is spontaneous, “Who Farted?”
  • For all you boys, may be one days tennis will be evolve? And shed old traditions
  • A collection of the best scenes from OZ Open 2008. For some reason, I love the way ROD disembowels chair umpires, adds to the theater when he gets un-nerved. I digg this line, “Do you have ears? Connected to your head…USE THEM.”
  • Even umpires have patience thresholds don’t they?, well this one certainly did…(is it me or does he looks like Mr. Bean?)

Hope you liked them. Cheers, have a lovely weekend.

PS: Bonus clip. Just for shits and giggles, no connection whatsoever with Tennis. “Kenwood - Even Wakes Up Dead People and Makes Them Wanna Rock Out.”

BT’s 2008/09 NHL Season Preview: The Dallas Stars

September 20, 2008

by Bryan Thiel…

The Dallas Stars went on an inspired playoff run last season that no one thought they could accomplish.

If it wasn’t for the Detroit Red Wings, it almost looked to be the Stars’ year.

But the Stars aren’t letting their opportunity pass them by. Without getting overly frivolous in the offseason, the Stars added some exciting pieces that could really make this season a special one.


Roster Additions:
Sean Avery-F (F.A), Toby Petersen-F (F.A.), Fabian Brunnstrom-F (F.A.)

Roster Subtractions:
Johan Holmqvist-G (Europe), Niklas Hagman-F (F.A.), Mattias Norstrom (Retired), Stu Barnes-F (Retired), Anti Miettinen-F (Free Agent)

How did 2007/08 go?
45-30-7, 97 points, fifth in conference, third in Pacific, lost in Western Conference Finals (Western).

2008/09 Goal:
First in division, appear in Stanley Cup Finals

Let’s break’er down…

Now, I’ve got to do two things here: I’ve got to give an inspirational little speech about the Dallas Stars (Like I did for the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes) and I have to introduce Ken Armer for the Community Leader’s View from the Pressbox.

That’s right. I have connections. The NHL Community is writing stuff in my article.

Anyhow, motivating thing to say about the Stars….

It could be worse; They could be the New York Islanders.

I’m betting I hear about that one soon enough.

Let’s go to the Zubov to see the Giraffes…

The Dallas Stars have a very familiar and comfortable defense.

The first name that you’re going to recognize for the Stars is Sergei Zubov. He’s been with the Stars since 1996, and he’s always brought the same tangibles: A strong offensive presence from the back end, a good level-headed leader, and a sharp hockey mind.

Although Zubov is older now (38) and he missed almost half of last season due to injury, I wouldn’t expect his performance to fall off too much—he’s almost like a poor-man’s Nick Lidstrom. Almost.

Philippe Boucher is another one of those veteran guys that you just know what he brings to the table. At 35, Boucher is done surprising people with his big slap shot, but if he can play a full season (He also missed over half the season due to injury), he’ll be able to score more than two goals, and lay the body into his opponents a little more often.

Trevor Daley however, will benefit from seeing a bit more time on the ice this season. Over the past two seasons, Daley has really started to produce offensively (12 points in 2006/07, 24 points in 2007/08), and his defensive play has gotten better as well. As he starts to mature on the ice, he’ll begin to fill the shoes of Zubov and Boucher as a solid veteran presence for this team on the back end.

Matt Niskanen is a player that the Stars hold in high regard. Despite being a little on the smaller size for being 6′0 tall, Niskanen has some strong offensive instincts, as well as the ability to become a quality defender in his own right so watch out—Niskanen’s debut season of a +22 and 26 points may only be just the beginning.

Both Nicklas Grossman and Mark Fistric will be given more opportunity to use their larger bodies at the NHL level, but both could use an adjustment period, despite quality showings last year (seven assists for Grossman while Fistric had two, and both were plus players). Outside of the speed issue that both will face playing in the big leagues, Grossman may still need a bit of an adjustment to the North American game.

Dan Jancevski (who was a stalwart on London’s defense in the OHL), is a quality depth option for the Stars, and he could even start to take hold with some minor offensive output if given the chance, while Stephane Robidas will provide a little additional offense from the third pairing.

Ivan Vishnekskiy is another name that Dallas fans may come to know in the near future, but the 2006 First-round pick may still take some seasoning in the AHL before he can bring his well-rounded game to the NHL.


Ken’s Take: There are two keys to the Stars defense, depth and health. For the Stars to improve on last season veteran injuries to Zubov and Boucher must be at a minimum. Regardless of being hit with the injury bug or not the Stars depth must continue to grow.

The Stars hold one of the most talent-filled and deep blue-lines in the NHL and further maturity by young defensemen will only make this corps more dangerous.

*MEMO FROM BT: I wrote this a few days ago, and the injuries to Boucher and Zubov hit the wire yesterday, which is the danger of doing this during training camp. The bright side is that Boucher is only day-to-day and Zubov will only miss four weeks—not too much of a hindrance.

Marty Turco, His nickname is “Turks.” Not as great as “Eddie the Eagle” but I guess it’s a start…

For the past seven regular seasons, Marty Turco has been all the Dallas Stars could have hoped and dreamed of, and maybe even more. Since he started as Ed Belfour’s backup in Big D, Turco has been able to join the select group of current starting NHL goalies, who have never posted a season under .500.

Marty is working on five straight 30 win seasons, while the highest his goals-against average has ever been is 2.55 (his lowest was 1.72 in 2002).

Since the 2002/03 season, the Stars haven’t missed the playoffs with Turco as their backstop either.

But when you got to post season hockey, Turco turned into a different story. Although he appeared fairly solid in the playoffs his first time (2002/03), Turco quickly went downhill the next two trips. He ended up going 2-8 and his playoff stats were abhorrent, with a save percentage almost averaging less than .850, and a GAA over 3.30.

But then he faced Vancouver in the first round of the 2006/07 season. He didn’t win, but he did the next best thing—if that’s possible in the playoffs—in shutting out the Canucks three times that series, basically giving Dallas every opportunity to win.

Coming into this season, the expectations were raised on Turco and, despite splitting time a little more often this past season, Turco turned in an excellent post season once again, coming within smelling distance of the Stanley Cup finals.

Despite his age (33), Turco is primed for yet another solid season, and, along with the team ahead of him, Turco and youngster Tobias Stephan may take Dallas right through to the Cup final this season.

Ken’s Take: For multiple years Stars fans looked for a scapegoat to end the playoff exit woes, and the organization responded by increasing Turco’s contract. This increased faith paid off last season and places one of the best clutch goalies in the NHL in front of one of the most talented teams.

Not since Eddie “The Eagle” has a goalie in Dallas been so highly respected and been such a key to the team’s success. It only makes sense since Turco learned from one of the best in Belfour

Morrow’ver Modano, this is Brendan’s town now!

As Sergei Zubov is the most familiar face on the blue line, as is Mike Modano up front.

Quite possibly one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) American hockey players to ever live, Modano is looking forward to wrapping up his Hall of Fame career with another championship with the Dallas Stars.

Although Modano’s age is starting to limit his production (just 57 points last season), Modano still provides a little bit of goal-scoring capability (He’s only scored fewer than 20 goals once since 1994), and strong, experienced leadership.

Along those same lines will be Jere Lehtinen. The three-time Selke winner may have been trying to improve his offense the past few seasons, but whether his totals fall
back to earth this season or not (15-20 goals most likely), the Stars still feature one of the most experienced two-way players the NHL has.

Two of the biggest sources of offense for the Stars this season though, will be Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro, signed to a five-year extension in January, had a career year last season with Dallas gathering 83 points, and 27 goals. What’s even better about his career season is that Ribeiro was fairly consistent throughout, as his longest point-less streak was only three games.

While Ribeiro looks to continue to build off that success this season, Brad Richards will just look to keep the momentum going this season. After coming over at the trade deadline last season, Richards immediately integrated himself into the environment in Dallas. Although the goal totals were slightly down (20 compared to a more recent 25), Richards provided a great playmaking, and two-way presence for the Stars.

In twelve regular season games, Richards gathered 11 points, and was even better during the playoffs with 15 points in 18 games, really giving hope to Dallas faithful that this season, Richards will be back in the 70-90 point range.

The Stars also feature two of the most talked about players in the NHL. Sean Avery shocked some with his decision to move to Dallas. Many had thought a move back to the Western conference was in the cards for the super-pest, but many thought it would be to the California coastline—not big D.

Be that as it may however, 1/2 General Manager Brett Hull got the man he wanted—A pest with offensive potential that makes his team one of the most hated to play.

At different ends of the dynamic spectrum though, the fairly reserved Fabian Brunnstrom settled on Dallas after numerous stops at various NHL cities this past spring. While not many know what to expect from Brunnstrom in his first NHL season, if he one day starts to produce like he did in the Swedish Elite League (37 points in 54 games), then he’ll be well-worth the money.

Word is though, he may be even better.

Steve Ott is one who is cut from the same cloth as Avery, although his offense will be a little less prominent than his pest-like tendencies, while Landon Wilson, Krys Barch, and Toby Petersen were brought in for some seasoned, NHL depth.

On the youth front, Loui Ericksson will be looking to capitalize on a strong season which saw him broach the 30-point plateau, and his production is only expected to go up. Konstantin Pushkarev and BJ Crombeen may also see some time at the NHL this season, with Crombeen bringing his hard-working attitude to the lower lines, while Pushkarev could be a surprise this year if he can stay healthy and consistent at the NHL level.

But we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the heart and soul of this team, and Coach Carbonneau’s son-in-law Brenden Morrow. Morrow has quickly become one of the top leaders in the Western Conference these past few seasons, and if he spends a full season with Richards this year, he could be in line to crack 80 points, especially if he repeats his 30-goal campaign.

Ken’s Take: The Stars have so many offensive weapons spread over all four lines they clearly appear to be the only team capable of knocking off Detroit. The playoff experience gained last year may mean a Cup-kissing finale for the Stars and their power packed offense this year.

So what does it all mean?

The Stars really have all the pieces to be a powerhouse in the Western Conference, and they could be right there at the top with Detroit this year.

Although the Sharks have added to their defense, the Stars have a lot of weapons up
front, and I’m not sure there’s a complete enough package in the Pacific (or an experienced enough package) that can compete night-in, night-out with the Stars.

Needless to say, it’ll be fun to watch.

1st in Pacific

Hockey’s Back

September 20, 2008

by Navin Vaswani… You see that guy? No, not Dan Cleary, fool. The psycho fan. While I’m not sure it’s even possible, I might be more excited than him. Hockey’s back, bitches.

That’s right friends. After a long, long off-season, apparently not long enough for some people, training camp opened the other day. Players won’t be hitting the ice as physicals and fitness tests are the order of the day but, well, still. Hockey is back.
A New Era
For the first time since the lockout-shortened 1995 season, Mats Sundin will not break camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He won’t be there tomorrow, and that’s pretty fucked up. While I have made peace with Sundin’s summer of indecision and will support any decision he eventually makes, it’s going to be strange seeing the Leafs prepare for the new season without their captain, without their voice, and without their leader.
If Mats comes back, great. If he goes elsewhere, I hope he finds happiness and a ring along the way. What I don’t want is for Sundin to be the topic of discussion at camp. He shouldn’t be. He’s not here. The douchebags who cover the Leafs main stream media need to let the Sundin story die, because it’s no longer a story. When the man makes up his mind, he’ll let us know. The post-Mats Sundin era officially begins today. It’s time to look forward, and no longer back.
I’m looking forward to getting a look at some of the new kids on the block. Is Nikolai Kulemin the real deal? Will Jeff Finger absolutely crumble trying to play up to his new contract? Will Mikhail Grabovski prove to be an addition over Kyle Wellwood? God knows it won’t take much.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Jason Blake responds after living through a year of hockey player hell in Toronto. I’m looking forward to seeing Niklas Hagman in a Leafs uniform - can he put up another 27 goals? I’m looking forward to finding out whether this is the year Alex Steen becomes a star, and whether Nik Antropov can play another another season relatively injury free (he played 72 games last season, tying his career high).
I’m looking forward to seeing the development of Anton Stralman and Jiri Tlusty. And looking forward to less - actually, zero - nudey Tlusty pictures. I’m looking forward to seeing hometown boy Jamal Mayers suit up in the blue and white, and seeing Pavel Kubina pick up where he left off last season. I’m looking forward to watching the Poni Express ride again, and another magical season from the greatest defenceman in the league Tomas Kaberle, hopefully the next captain of our beloved team.
Speaking of the captaincy, the next person who brings up Matt Stajan in the discussion is getting a kick to the groin. Stajan is shit. He is not captain material. He never will be. I’m afraid he’ll never be anything more than a third-liner (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
I’m looking forward to seeing how Vesa Toskala does between the pipes. He was awful in camp and the pre-season last year, and this team needs him like a crackhead needs a hit: every fucking night. He must be consistently consistent.
I’m also looking forward to seeing Curtis Joseph back in a Leafs uniform. No hard feelings, bud.
Most of all, I’m looking forward to some defence.
“Everyone in Toronto - from the fans to the media to the players - seems to be concerned with who is going to score. I’m more concerned with preventing goals.”
- Ron Wilson
Damn. Imagine that.
Unbridled Optimism
I’m excited about the Leafs’ chances this season, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. I think they’ll be better than a lot of people expect them to be. Just like I have the last three years (and we all know how those season’s ended).
Honestly, though, I’m thinking we can fight for that last playoff spot again, you know, like we normally do. Last season, the Leafs finished with 83 points (Florida had 85, how fucked up is that?) carrying the deadly virus known as Andrew Raycroft, who, lest you have forgotten, won only two games all year. Think about it, Raycrap actually started on opening night last year. Raycrap. On opening night. With Vesa Toskala on the bench. Against Ottawa. I still can’t believe it.
With expectations, both internal and external, for this year’s Maple Leafs so low they are actually below the ground, I figure I might as well call them to surprise the world and squeak into the playoffs. If I’m right, I’m the smartest mother fucker on the planet. If I’m wrong, my awful reputation credibility as a pathetic homer only improves. It’s a win-win situation. To tax the saying from the Toronto Blue Jays blog-o-sphere: PLAYOFFS!
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