Toronto Maple Leafs’ Game Stats Mostly Positive in 7-4 Win over Buffalo

September 23, 2008

by Mark Makuch…

Positives:

23 blocked shots (11 for Buffalo).

Four blocked shots by Jeff Finger (that’s what he’s here for, people!).

One giveaway not by a goalie.

Five hits by Ryan Hollweg.

Three hits by Jason Blake, who was also a plus-three on the night—this guy needs to be feisty to be effective.

No goals allowed on 15 shots in the second by Justin Pogge.

One short-handed goal by Dominic Moore, who also won 73 percent on face offs.

Five even-strength goals.

Negatives:

Kulemin was a minus-one and took no shots

Stajan only won 38 percent of his faceoffs.

Only three for seven on the PK.

Who is Anthony Kim and Where Did He Come From?

September 23, 2008

by Andrew Pargoff…

Who is Anthony Kim, you ask? Kim was born in 1985 in Los Angeles, but he now calls Dallas home.

Kim has been thrust into the spotlight this past week for his part in the U.S. Ryder Cup team breaking its winless streak.

It was hard not to take a liking to Kim after seeing his swagger on the course. He was never one to keep his emotions tucked away. Whenever he would hit a big shot, his emotions would be well-worn on his sleeve. Fist pumps galore!

Kim was never afraid to let the crowd, his teammates, or his opponents know how he felt. The crowd fed off of that. Players like Kim celebrating get the crowd into it. So does  Boo Weekly riding the pony off the tee box on one hole. The U.S. team had their share of players who kept the spectators loose, which I’m sure they appreciated.

Back to the bigger story, Anthony Kim earned his PGA Tour Card in 2007 after qualifying school. He won the AT&T National and the Wachovia Championship this year. He also tied for seventh place in The Open Championship.

Kim has had an impressive year, earning over $3 million. What would cap that off better than sending the Europeans out empty handed? Nothing.

Kim definitely played a role with his superb play all weekend, winning while paired with Phil Mickelson, and on Sunday when he squared off with Sergio Garcia and won 5 and 4.

So here’s to you, Anthony Kim. Keep ‘em coming. It’s good to get to see the up-and-coming players in golf. Vijay is old, Ernie Els is getting up there, Phil is just Phil.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim Retires: Big Man Coach Next?

September 23, 2008

by Shawn Schwaller…

After 12 years in the NBA, Sacramento Kings power forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim is retiring.

For the last year-and-a-half, Rahim was attempting to recover from two arthroscopic knee surgeries, but it was too much for his 31-year-old body to handle.

Rahim averaged 18.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists throughout his career. His career totals are 15,028 points and 6,239 rebounds.

He played for Vancouver, Portland, Atlanta, and Sacramento—which partially describes why he only reached the playoffs once. He was selected with the third overall pick in the 1996 draft by the Grizzlies.

Rahim also played for the US Men’s basketball team in the 2000 Olympics.

Although the Kings will need to pay Rahim his salary this coming season, part of his $29 million contract might be removed from the team’s payroll in 2009-2010, saving the Kings $6.6 million.

Essentially, this could be a very good thing for the Kings, as they are currently in a rebuilding phase. The removal of Rahim’s contract could provide even more room for the Kings to spend.

As of now, the Kings only have $52,196,715 on the books for the 2009-2010 season, so Rahim’s contract would take another $6.6 million from that total. In 2010-2011, the Kings only have $23,563,005 on the books.

The Sacramento Kings will be big spenders in the summer of 2010, a year that will offer a number of free agents to choose from.

Over a phone interview with Sacramento Bee sports writer Sam Amick, Rahim exclaimed that “for me, there will always be a part that’s stuck in a state of nostalgia, always hoping I could be young and playing and running up and down the court…” but “it was progressively getting worse, and I couldn’t do the things you have to do to play in the NBA. Mentally, I could still do it and still see myself doing it, but physically I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Sam Amick also reported that Rahim was playing in his “prime” when the Kings signed him in 2005. New Jersey was the first to attempt to sign him but declined after a team doctor detected floating particles in his knee area.

In fact, the only reason the Kings signed him was because New Jersey reneged on their side of the bargain after their team physicians determined his knees were bad.

After thanking him for his service to the Kings and for being a good citizen in Sacramento, General Manager Geoff Petrie exclaimed “It is our intention to find a new role for Shareef with the organization as he begins the next phase of his professional life.”

It just so happen that the Kings have been shopping for a big man coach. Looks like they may have found him.

A short video remix of Rahim’s career can be viewed in the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCVEQEjlQPk

Wake Up with Jessica Michibata

September 23, 2008

The Great T.O. Sports Magazine photo shoot went well, very well!!… 2000+ pictures! We’re looking for volunteers to select a few that will grace our Magazine and a few, say 50 that will be randomly posted on TOsports.ca! Send your email to if you’ve got some time to do this! NOME SAME!! Thanks to everyone for working so hard that day, and to Roger from Axis Grill in the Junction for supplying the food and drinks after! Cool!!

BT’s 2008/09 NHL Season Preview: Anaheim Ducks

September 23, 2008

by Bryan Thiel…

The Anaheim Ducks were a year removed from their first Stanley Cup championship in team history entering last season, and they had hoped to repeat.

But after running into a few injury problems and having to deal with the ‘will-they, won’t-they?’ situation floating above the heads of the organization, Teemu Selanne, and Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks needed to scratch and claw their way to fourth in the conference.

As they entered the playoffs as defending champs, everyone said that the playoffs were “a new season” where “anything could happen”. You know, all the normal cliches.

Well anything did happen, and the surprising Dallas Stars knocked off the defending champs.

Now the ball is in Anaheim’s court—either step up and compete with San Jose and Dallas and battle their way back to supremacy in the Pacific Division, or writhe in the middle of the standings, where they could be vulnerable to the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes.

I, for one, think this team will do all it can to step up and compete in the startingly tough Pacific.

Roster Additions: Joakim Lindstrom-F (Trade), Brian Sutherby-F (F.A.), Brendan Morrison-F (F.A.), Josh Green-F (F.A.), Eric Bougeniecki-F (F.A.), Steve Montador-D (F.A.)

Roster Subtractions:
Marc-Andre Bergeron-D (Trade), Teemu Selanne-F (Status Unknown), Joe Dipenta-D (Europe), Jason King-F (Europe), Geoff Platt-F (F.A.), Jean-Sebastian Aubin-G (F.A.), Doug Weight-F (F.A.), Bruno St. Jacques-F (F.A.), Todd Bertuzzi-F (Buyout)

How did 2007-08 go? 47-27-8, 97 points, fourth in conference, second in Pacific Division, lost in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.

2008-09 Goal:
First in division, make the conference finals.

Let’s Break’er Down…

The team with the Mighty Mascot could be at it again.

After inheriting a team that was built for a Cup run, Brian Burke added the flashier pieces (the Prongers and Niedermayers—well, one of them) to the puzzle, and brought California it’s first Stanley Cup.

Now that we’re a few years removed, Burke is driven to prove the naysayers wrong, and bring the team a fruitful season in what may be his last on the beach

Getzlaf your lazy butt, BT, and put Ryan in the Top 50!

Lately, we’ve been starting with the assortment of goaltenders that litter that Pacific division.

However—as I’ve already widely acknowledged—in my Top 50 Players article I missed out on Ryan Getzlaf, who’s fast becoming the main man in Anaheim.

Don’t get me wrong, the legendary Teemu Selanne is still the be-all, end-all of the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, but he’s fading into history.  He was weighted down with thoughts of retirement last season, and his production may take a hit this year—despite playing a full season—because of his age.

We may be exposed to a more San Jose/Colorado-level of production from Selanne this season, rather than his recent 90-point resurgence.

But back to Getzlaf. To start with, he’s a big kid at 6′4″. He plays a solid game, and he’s consistently improved over his three seasons in the NHL. Last season was Getzlaf’s first in which he posted better than a point-per-game average, and he looks to be developing into a good playmaker who can net 24 to 27 goals per season.

Lining up behind Getzlaf will be a favorite from the Brian Burke-Vancouver Canucks experiment—Brendan Morrison.

Morrison comes into Anaheim after a heavy season, injury-wise. He suffered a debilitating injury to his wrist, forcing him to miss 38 games, and then closer to the end of the year, Morrison tore his ACL.

With the Ducks, he’s not going to be expected to take on a large role like he was in Vancouver. If he can gather 50 points and finish in the neighborhood of 20 goals this season, then Morrison may have found his niche in California.

To go along with the signings, the Ducks were also able to retain RFA of the Year Cory Perry. Perry, like Getzlaf, has been consistently improving over the past three seasons, and established himself last year as a threat to score 30 goals. With a fourth NHL season under his belt, it doesn’t seem unlikely that Perry could break through with a 70-point campaign this season.

One of the players he may help along the way is Chris Kunitz, who could become a solid 25-goal man over the next few seasons, and could benefit from a strong finisher on his line.

Last season, 21-year-old Bobby Ryan was expected to fill the hole left by the departed Dustin Penner. Well, a limited offensive output didn’t help Ryan’s NHL prospects, and he was sent back to the AHL, where he put up 49 points in 48 games. This season, Ryan is once again expected to step into the Anaheim lineup and produce—hopefully at a better clip than his 10 points in 23 games from last season.

Bringing in a bit of a veteran presence this season will be Todd Marchant and Rob Niedermayer.  While neither player will be the offensive dynamo the Ducks need—and Anaheim would be lucky to see either of them top 25 points—they’ll provide the team with two solid two-way players, and some strong leadership on and off the ice.

Sami Pahlsson will provide his usual 15 to 25 points from the lower potion of the roster, while Ryan Carter will need to work on developing some consistent scoring panache at the NHL level.

One interesting player to watch this season may be Geoff Platt. The Anaheim system may be the perfect home for Platt, as following an early-season trade last year Platt’s offensive numbers took a hefty spike in the AHL, leading to a brief audition with the Ducks and a solid playoff run with Portland.

As far as other parts, Joakim Lindstrom could provide a bit of depth, as well as some scoring prowess if he can handle the rigors of the NHL. Josh Green could provide some size, speed and grit.  And Eric Bougenicki and Brian Sutherby provide some emergency insurance in the event of injuries.

Oh, and there’s also Brad May. He can play on the fourth line.

And George Parros, wo fights people while growing an amusing mustache, which is a combination of that of a ’60s cop and a ’90s pornstar. Then take the offspring of that combination, and mix it with Tom Selleck, and hide it from every razor in the world.

I forget what we were talking about.

Ken Armer’s Take (Yea….he’s doing the Ducks too….jealous?): The Ducks have much the same squad up front they did last season. Teemu Selanne is as good as gold for returning.  Morrison will be a good addition, but won’t fill the hole left from the Andy McDonald trade last season.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are fast becoming household names in the hockey world, quite a great accomplishment from the black hole of hockey that is California.

Finally, this year is the year of Bobby Ryan. If he disappoints this year he may become a terminal AHLer or turn into trade bait. He must impress out of camp, and lock up his second-line spot with the Ducks. If he can produce in the pros his numbers could be fantastic if he plays on the same line with Selanne.

Probing and Pronger’ing into where Schneider might go…

Alright, so I wanted to save this until we found out what’s going on with Mathieu Schneider, but the good folks in Anaheim don’t want to tell me, so I guess we’ll just ignore him.

Granted, we could speculate what they get in return, but seeing as I had to sort through 25 different forwards, and J.S. Giguere won’t be going anywhere unless he gets “giggy” with a coach’s wife, I’m pretty sure the Ducks don’t need a forward or another goalie.

Hello, fifth-round draft pick.

Anyhow, let’s get to the rest of the defense. While Schneider isn’t showing up to camp (at least this past weekend he didn’t), Scott Niedermayer decided to this season. Last year the Ducks were forced to suspend Niedermayer for missing out on camp while he was dealing with his retirement talks, but he’s postponed those until this upcoming season is finished—and with it, his contract.

Niedermayer still brings all of the tools every defenseman should have to the game, and is still one of the best, but this could be one of his better years. Why? Well, last year was shrouded in doubt and decision. This year, Niedermayer may have a renewed fire to go out on top, meaning he could have one of his best seasons ever.

Or he could sit at the 50-to-55-point range, which is most guys’ best year. What a choice, eh?

Pairing up with Scotty will be the “dirtiest player in the game”—sorry, Rick Flair—Chris Pronger. I’m not going to get into a shouting match over Pronger because really, I could care less about the stompings, the boardings, and all the rest.

The fact is, is that he’s everything you’d want as a number-one defenseman. He’s big, he’s physical, and he shoots. And he’s the last guy you’d want to meet outside a bar after you hit on his wife. Especially if you’re in Edmonton. He doesn’t like it there.

The late-blooming Francois Beauchemin has also made a name for himself in Anaheim, proving to finally be a key cog in an NHL defense. I would expect production more along the lines of the 2005-06 Beachemin (36 points) as the Ducks suffered through injury troubles last season, coupled with the fact that the 28-year-old will be coming into his own over the next few seasons.

Ottawa natives Kent Huskins and Sean O’Donnell will also be seen patrolling the blue line for the Ducks this season. O’Donnell has turned into a trusty defensive defenseman over the years, as the last minus season he posted was a  minus-13 for the Kings in 1996.

Huskins, meanwhile, had an astounding season last year, with a plus-23 and 19 points. If he flies under the radar once again, Huskins could put together two of the most underrated and surprising back-to-back seasons in a while.

Steve Montador may also be a reliable, late-pairing pickup, but it’ll depend how the rest of the young defensemen in Anaheim that are on the cusp of the NHL do in training camp.

If Brian Salcido is NHL-ready, then the Ducks will be working in a shiny, new, offensive defenseman coming off of a 50-point AHL season, who can also play steadily in his own end.

John de Gray could one day become a solid stay-at-home defender in the NHL, while Stu Bickel would provide some serious grit coming out of the WCHA. Brett Festerling could also be a good, late-pairing puck-mover.

Ken’s take: The Ducks still can claim one of the best defensive corps in the NHL, even if you take into account the eventual loss of Schneider. Neidermayer will return to true form after a half-season hiatus last season. A young defenseman will likely earn a spot out of camp, but the Ducks are no slouch on the blue line.

Gettin’ Giggy on a Hill(er) top….weird…

There’s really no doubt who’s between the pipes for the Ducks.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere has a Stanley Cup ring, a Conn Smythe trophy, and four 30-win season in the past five. Last year saw Giggy post his lowest GAA (2.12) ever, coupled with a very strong .922 save percentage.

While it’s possible that Giggy slips a bit back to earth (.913-to-.917 save percentage, a 2.30 GAA), he’s still going to be back there supplying a consistent effort night-in, night-out.

If Giggy needs a break though, then Jonas Hiller is a solid backup.

Hiller went 10-7 last season, but his athleticism and quickness could definitely help him improve on his win/loss ratio.

Ken’s take: One of the best goalie tandems in the NHL, Hiller is more than capable of starting in net in place of Giggy for even half the season. J.S. Giguere will likely have a better year with Scott Niedermayer back in front of him for a full 82 games.

So what’s it all mean?

The Ducks have weapons—but the question is, do they have enough?

They have a defense that has a few different guys that have the ability to put the puck in the net, and J.S. Giguere will stop his fair share of shots, but it’s up to the forwards to show that, while there are a lot of two-way threats up and down the lineup, there are also names who can score and score often for the Ducks.

If the Ducks can score, then they’ll be neck-and-neck with San Jose, waiting for the Dallas Stars to slip up.

If it’s the Ducks that slip up, then they better watch out for the Coyotes.

Third in Pacific

The Tiger Bowl Reminds Me Why I’m a Fan

September 23, 2008

by Justin Goar…

For me, the first time it happened was in 1997.

I was in the student section in Tiger Stadium. Auburn got up 14-0 before LSU came back with two scores to tie it up, mainly behind the running of Cecil Collins. It was a back and forth slugfest that went down to the wire and had the Auburn Tigers finish on top 31-28.

As I sat in my seat when the clock hit triple zeroes, I actually put my frustration aside for a few moments and marveled at the fact that I saw just an incredible football game.  It was awful to swallow that loss, but the game couldn’t have been more entertaining.

It makes you respect the game. It makes you respect your opponent, and it made me respect the LSU-Auburn series.

Eleven years later, little has changed, and this game continues to be a gift that keeps giving to the world of college football.

Whether you’re an indifferent fan in some other part of the country, or say, a Bama fan that wanted both teams to lose, you have to respect the show these two teams put on when they play each other.

It’s mega-physical without being dirty (except for maybe one infamous play from last year). That goes a long way in my book. You had LSU players popping pads and helmets on defense, and I don’t think I need to illustrate the way Auburn hits outside of looking at the play that left LSU QB Andrew Hatch seeing stars like he was on the red carpet.

But there was never any pushing or shoving and not too much jawing (outside the normal amount these days). With that in mind, between the whistles these guys still hit each other like the other side owes them money.

Cut out all the drama of recent years, the earthquakes, the magic, the fire, the cigars, and for 60 football minutes these guys put on a show.

I would hope that some Auburn fans had the same moment of appreciation for this series on Saturday that I had in ’97 in the face of a frustrating loss. But I know it’s easier said than done.

Before watching the game with my buddy Scott, I was pacing nervously—we both were. And I thought out loud, how cool it would be to not care, for a college football game to not matter this much?

There are people all over this country who don’t care about this game. They’re at work or on a date or hanging with their family or watching Three’s Company reruns on TV Land. A clash of college football titans takes place, and they are none the wiser.

The point is, their heart rate doesn’t hinge on every play, every bounce, and every turn of the game. They won’t go to bed heartbroken because they lost or on Cloud Nine because they won. Their mood for the rest of the week at work or at home won’t depend on the outcome of a three-hour contest played by college kids.

Why do I do this to myself???!!!

After LSU kneeled it out to end the game, the four of us went outside for a conversation. If you replaced the words, you could have believed in our demeanor that we’d just robbed a bank without getting caught or escaped a bus crash with our lives.

As we hurriedly spit out the night’s cliffhangers, re-ran the highlights verbally, and second guessed decisions made, I stopped for a moment and realized out loud again…

“Oh yeah, this is why we do this. This feeling right here and right now is why we care.”

I’ve been on the good side and the bad side of this rivalry through the years, and I’ve suffered through heartbreaking losses to many other teams besides Auburn in my day. As bad as losing is, it makes winning that much better.

It’s the yin and yang. You can’t know true happiness without knowing true despair and vice versa. It proves we’re alive. LSU and Auburn fans won’t have to check for a pulse anytime these two teams crack heads.

Whether it’s the agonizing torture of a loss or the internal high of a great win, the fans of this Tiger Bowl definitely know we’re alive.

For those of you that can’t understand why we in the SEC boast about our conference, it’s because of games like this. It’s the Cocktail Party, it’s the Third Saturday in October, it’s an environment filled with electricity and intensity that many think they possess but very few actually deliver.

If you’re lucky enough to be one of those non-SEC venues that can re-create Saturday night’s atmosphere (you know who you are), then you know what I’m talking about.

I don’t hold any love for Auburn, but I respect them as a team that LSU has to get past every year in order to have a shot. It’s like two boxers that know each other too well and take turns beating each other. That’s all this is—it’s Rocky and Apollo dancing around the ring at the end of Rocky III. Cue up Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”

My hat’s off to the orange and blue and the purple and gold for leaving it all out on the field Saturday night—and also to the fans on both sides who make this game what it is every year in both Auburn and Baton Rouge.

It’s great to be an LSU Tiger. It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger.http://www.lsu.edu/now/photos/nc2007/21.jpg

It’s great to be a fan.

In The Pocket - Upset

September 23, 2008

by Daniel Reiter… Sitting in Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday watching the Bills and Raiders duke it out to an intoxicated sell out crowd of Bill’s faithful, I couldn’t help but wish I was sitting in Gillette Stadium watching the Miami Dolphin’s offense dissect the New England Patriots.

Don’t get me wrong being at just about any NFL game is always a great experience unto itself, unless you live in Kansas City these days, but just to be witness to an upset between 2 teams from opposite ends of the spectrum last season would have been magical.  The questions are certainly mounting now that the game is over with Miami coming out on top 38-13.  Is New England really that bad without Tom Brady?  Did they just underestimate the Dolphins?  Have the Dolphins improved that much and just starting to gel?

For starters Matt Cassel is obviously not Tom Brady, but he did have 2 good outings in the first 2 games after Brady went down.  Cassel is learning, and watching Tom Brady make it look so easy for 3 seasons now may not have given him the right impression of what it takes to be an NFL QB.  The Dolphin defense clearly got to Cassel sacking him 3 times and forcing a fumble which was recovered by the Phins.  Cassel was also intercepted by defensive end Randy Starks who scrambled for 8 yards the other way.  All things considered it would be easy to place the blame of this loss on Cassel considering he is the one big question mark for the Patriots this season.

The Patriot offense was without star running back Laurence Maroney who injured his shoulder last week and has struggled so far this season averaging only 3.7 yards/carry and no touchdowns.  Backup and former Dolphin Sammy Morris had trouble picking up the slack on Sunday rushing for only 27 yards averaging only 3 yards/carry, certainly not enough to help an offense that looks to be quickly losing faith in its QB.

Randy Moss must be shaking his head this season more than anyone.  After 3 games he has 12 catches for 163 yards and only one touchdown.  Last season after 3 games he had 22 catches for 403 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The Patriots also scored 38 points in each of their first 3 games last year, and astonishingly scored at least 34 points in each of their first 8 games.  They haven’t scored more than 20 points in any of their games this season and are clearly not playing with the same confidence they had last year.

The blame of this loss should probably be placed on the Patriot defense that looked like they forgot altogether that they were playing in a football game.  They gave up 461 total net yards to an offense that could barely put together a first down in their two previous games.  The Patriot secondary made Chad Pennington look as good as he was before that serious knee injury a few years back completing 17 or 20 passes for 226 yards and no interceptions.  The big story of the day was running back Ronnie Brown who rushed in 4 Dolphin touchdowns for a team record and completed passes to tight end Anthony Fasano for the 5th.  He gave the Patriot defense fits all day long as they illustrated perfectly how not to tackle an NFL running back.  Brown was almost averaging 7 yards/carry by the end of the game and even the problematic Ricky Williams managed to rush for 98 yards averaging just over 5 yards/carry.

The strangest part of the Patriots defensive woes was the fact that they could not adjust their defense to stop the one play that was killing them.  The Dolphins had 6 direct snaps to Brown with Pennington lined up as a receiver resulting in four touchdowns.  From what has already been seen this season the Patriots defense is fundamentally sound and should have easily been able to stop this play the second time they saw it.  Perhaps they were expecting something different every time, or they were demoralized from the momentum of the Dolphins offense.  The bottom line was that they sucked and the Dolphins executed their game plan perfectly.

This game was destined to be memorable with Dolphin defensive lineman Joey Porter predicting victory over the Brady-less Patriots during the week prior to the game.  Porter then backed it up on the field with 2 sacks and a forced fumble which was recovered.

So Patriot fans blame the defense this week and give Cassel a break.  Hell, take a look at Trent Edwards of the Bills on Sunday.  He threw most of his passes behind his receivers and only came up big when it really mattered and was almost too late.  The Bills could have had the game in the bag early against a weaker Raiders team if he played a little better.  He ended up spending too much time in the pocket only to get rushed out and forced to ground the ball more than was necessary.  At least he was avoiding the sack.

To avoid beating a dead horse with stats the crowd around me was calling for his head until the fourth quarter when he led the comeback.  He played about as good as Cassel did but came out on top because the rest of his team showed up to play and not just stand around like a bunch of pylons on I-93 just south of Boston.

Quick note to Bill Belichick:  Next week is a bye week so you have 2 weeks to talk your players out of the depression they must be in right now.  The Dolphins are better than last year and the Patriots are worse than last year, no big surprise here.  One thing to avoid should be Buffalo Bills syndrome (i.e. continuously changing up your quarterback, eventually settling on the wrong choice and before you know it 8 post seasons have gone by without you) – up until this year of course as right now the Bills are leading their division.