Dem Bums!

September 29, 2008

by Brady RynykIn baseball, every game counts, and with 162 games in the regular season, it all came down to the final game in September to determine what team would take the National League wildcard and what team would be cleaning out  their lockers Monday morning and preparing for a long off-season. After the firing of Mets manager Willie Randolph in mid-June, the team slowly began to turn their season around, finally getting some contribution from the teams overpaid and less then productive players like Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltron. It finally seemed the guidance of Randolph’s part-time replacement Jerry Manuel finally had the team rallying in the right direction. By August it finally looked as though they were on pace to take control of the NL East, and then September rolled around. The teams seemingly metamorphosis into the club of 2007, which also collapsed after being well ahead in the NL throughout the regular season, not to mention an injury plague that saw the team lose their closer. Surprisingly The Mets remained confidently optimistic about their wildcard and division chances as regular season games dwindled away. Even after losing control of the division, players like Dave Wright went onto comment on how their situation was “what was fun about baseball,” even after losing series’ to the Braves, Nationals, Phillies and Cubs.  But after finishing with only 5 wins in their last 17 games, the Mets were in for a serious wake-up call.

Entering the last game of the season and what would prove to be the final game hosted at Shea Stadium, The Mets sent lefty pitcher Oliver Perez (playing on 3 days rest) to the mound to keep the teams hopes alive. After a modest start, dropping 6 Marlins on strikeouts, the lack of rest became to show up on the mound. Perez had to get some defensive stops to help bail him out of several jams throughout the first half of the game, and as a result the jello-armed pitcher would leave the game in the top of the sixth after loading up the bases (with only 1 out). The Metropolitans would luckily escape from the inning with only little damage as Perez’ replacement, Smith would walk in the Marlins second run of the game to give the Fish a 2-0 lead, and the dead silence from the stands left little hope for the team to muster up a win. It wasn’t until late in the game when things momentarily took a turn for the better as Carlos Beltron breathed new life back into the hometown crowd after hitting a two run bomb which had the fans erupt as if the team had actually won the game.  However the resurgence was short lived as the Mets season took a fatal turn for the worse in the top of 8th: Bullpen reliever Scott Schoenweis took the mound, and quickly allowed Wes Helms to go yard with a solo jack to give back the lead to Florida. At that point the obvious anxiety and distress from skipper Jerry Manuel set in as he had clearly seen enough, promptly giving the reliever the hook for Louis Iella who would fair no better.  On a 79mph/hr full count pitch over the heart of the plate the weak armed tosser would hand over a solo homerun to Dan Ugla.  The run would give the Marlins back-to-back bombs and a comfy 2 run cushion, which silenced the Shea faithful, almost sealing the fait of Mets. The team would assemble two pathetic efforts before two sad pop fly’s closed out the game, the Mets season and Shea Stadium.

After the game, the players outlook on the season wasn’t as jovial as it had been in the weeks that had just past.  The once undaunted third baseman, David Wright finally gave the media a glimmer of reality over the teams “failed opportunity” going on to say, “we weren’t good when we needed to be good… [and] we shot ourselves in the foot.”

It is the clubs second straight September collapse, it is now certain that David Wright and his team-mates no longer think this kind of baseball is fun. It is back to the drawing board for the team; but it is the lager questions need to be addressed. Like General Manager, Oscar Minaya’s premature 4-yr contract extension. The teams aging roster, which put its faith in the hands of fading pitchers like El Dukie – Orlando Hernandez, and injury ridden Perdro Martinez.  The loss of the teams closer, Billy Wagner for the entire upcoming season – who might not even be the same pitcher even after the surgery.  The lack of offensive production from the NL’s highest payroll, which averaged only 4½  runs a game in the month of September. Not to mention the circulating rumours of an inharmonious clubhouse between some the team’s player ethnicities. The only thing the team is left to look forward to is their new start, in the new City Field Stadium which will hopefully wash away all the painful memories and history of ‘Dem Bums.

The games that are worth looking forward to.

September 29, 2008

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1196/986845695_b74f80ca72_o.jpgby Murray Crawford… In 82 games the ones that are actually worth watching can vary on the quality of the team you cheer for.  The better the team the more important dates on the schedule.  Thus the problem of the Leafs, they won’t be competitive and won’t have quality games, exceptions are the Sens and Habs just because those are always entertaining everyone gets up for those.

Everyone loves a good rivalry, Islanders fans will always hate the Rangers, Leafs and Sens are natural rivals.  But there are still emerging rivalries in the NHL, scheduling be dammed rivalries are born from two good quality teams who take pride in beating each other, not 8 games a season.  So here they are the top 5 Rivalries in the NHL.

5 – Washington vs. Carolina.  They may be competing for one playoff spot again, but don’t think anyone has forgotten about last season.  Washington pulled off the upset and not only knocked off the ’Canes to take the division lead but did it at the end of the season.  Carolina made off-season moves to strengthen it’s D, Washington gambled on Jose Theodore, either way they don’t like each other and the division will be their spoils.

4 – Edmonton vs. Anaheim.  Yes Edmonton appears twice but these two teams have some honest hatred for each other. Kevin Lowe may be gone but Edmonton still hates Brian Burke and Brian Burke doesn’t exactly like Edmonton.  Oh and Chris Pronger jumped ship because his wife told him to.  You want mutual hatred from two teams who play each other often enough, and could potentially in the playoffs; it’s a fun time.

3 – Detroit vs. Chicago. This one is old, but the two have never been any good at the same time, possibly in the mid-90s but Chicago wasn’t at Detroit’s level.  Right now they aren’t in the same league but Chicago’s up and coming talent coupled with Detroit’s dominance of the division, there’s a rivalry brewing.  Chicago will be the little guy trying to unseat the king and Detroit will claw to their power.  It’ll be a fun one to watch develop.

2 – Edmonton vs. Calgary.  Ok I had to start with this one, they’re at about the same skill level and same competitiveness right now, and they aren’t afraid to mix it up when they face each other.  And the two cities are natural enemies.  The only thing that would have made this the best is if Ryan Smyth had signed with Calgary instead of Colorado, oh well stay up late Saturday night and watch them play, it’s worth it.

1 – Pittsburgh vs. Montreal. Both are peaking at the same time, both have the potential to face each other in the playoffs (even the conference final) and both are exciting to watch.  High scoring, solid young goaltending and the best of it all George Laraque played for Pittsburgh and now plays for Montreal.  When the best fighter in the league jumps ship in a rivalry there’s bound to be extra fireworks.

So when the Leafs game is moved to Leafs TV and your options are to either shell out the extra money for the channel or go to the bar to catch it, I suggest turning to a nationally televised game that doesn’t involve the Leafs, trust me there are better games out there.

Raptors Taking The Gamble For Success

September 29, 2008

by James Borbath… The Toronto Raptors head into this season looking very different than the team that lost in 5 games to the Orlando Magic. It was clear to anyone that watched that series that changes were needed and were coming to Toronto. Some of the media suggested that the first change that would come would be the firing of Sam Mitchell. But that was not the case. Bryan Colangelo instead decided to re-build the team that Mitchell had to coach. If anyone questioned that Bryan was behind his head coach it should be a clear message that is the truth. Colangelo has decided to stick with Sam despite a lot of speculation on a couple of occasions.

So, with coach Mitchell remaining the question became how do you address the flaws in this Raptor roster? The answer would be the trade for Jermaine O’Neal. If this move works out it is a pretty brilliant one. This is one of those trades that will be highly successful or a complete failure. There really is no in between. But in the view of Bryan Colangelo it was a risk worth taking. There is also the fall back of having a huge amount of cap space in 2010. Despite what people thought about T.J Ford in Toronto the rest of the NBA did not seem to share that opinion. Five offers according to Colangelo came his way for his unhappy point guard. He said the O’Neal offer was the best of the bunch and he and the Raptors made the move. It would also cost them Rasho Nesterovic and seldom used Maceo Baston and trading down into the second round from the number 17 pick in the 1st round.

Jawai vs Hibbert

This would produce the other gamble of this deal that is not talked about as much. Nathan Jawai instead of Roy Hibbert or someone else the Raptors could have selected at number 17. Jawai is a raw talent from Australia that has about 5 years of experience playing basketball at all. He could turn out to be a steal of the draft. The Raptors historically have had little to no success with picks from the second round. It will be another second round pick that will be the back-up point guard behind Jose Calderon.  But as far as Nathan Jawai he will not have the pressure to contribute right away at least not from the Raptors.  But the people in Australia have higher expectations for Nathan and most important of all he does for himself.  When people look back on this trade how Jawai does in comparison to Roy Hibbert will also be a factor to consider in who won this trade between Pacers and Raptors.

When you compare Hibbert and Jawai it is interesting. Some of the skills people question about Hibbert are strengths in the game of Nathan Jawai. I have no doubt that Roy Hibbert is going to have a productive NBA Career.  But based on my own personal opinion and the great amount of research I had done on Hibbert leading up to the draft, I do not think he will ever be a star in the NBA. I also did a tremendous amount of research about Nathan Jawai. Based on that and my own opinion I think there is a chance that Nathan could be something special. You have to take into account how young in his basketball life Jawai is in comparison to Roy Hibbert. In Roy’s time at Georgetown I learned in my research how much he developed in his time there. He is much closer to the max level of what he can be as a basketball player than Nathan Jawai. The gamble that Jawai can become that special player is a small part of the larger gamble that Bryan Colangelo is taking. This is part of this deal that most will overlook but it could be a key to evaluating it in the future.

Can J.O Have A Rebirth In Toronto?

But the thing that will be the focus for most is can Jermaine O’Neal be healthy and productive for the Raptors. He says that he was a man playing on one leg with the Pacers for a year and a half. He says that he is healthy and ready to put the Pacers behind him. The Raptors did their homework and seem to agree that he is indeed healthy and ready to go. There is also the mental aspect of what went on with the Pacers. O’Neal who was the leader of that franchise watch it explode on his watch. The Ron Artest brawl that happened in Detroit was the start of the Pacers fall from grace. A team that was thought to be a contender prior to that night fell from contender to not even in playoffs. The blame for that fell at the feet of O’Neal. In Toronto the buck stops with Chris Bosh and that should be a good thing. O’Neal can focus on helping someone else lead rather than lead himself.

The Reason Why Was D

The whole reason for the gamble that the Raptors have taken is the need to get better on defense. A healthy O’Neal is going to go a long way in doing that. A big body like Nathan Jawai could also impact down the line. Not to mention the star player of the team just won a gold medal and it was based on a new found defensive intensity on his part.

More D = Less O?

The question becomes how much offense have they given up to get better on defense? Jose Calderon no matter what you think can not produce the combined numbers with Roko Ukic that he had with T.J Ford. What Raptors fans can expect from Roko Ukic is a real unknown and that is part of this gamble as well. Jose Calderon is not super human and there will be points that this offense will be in the hands of a player that has not played a single minute in the NBA. A fast learning curve for Roko Ukic is going to be needed. In fact he must out perform what Claderon did as a rookie for the Raptors to feel confident they have their point guard situation on solid ground. The fact people are wondering if a Marbury reunion with both Bryan Colangelo and Sam Mitchell is being talked about says not everyone is convinced in the fan base. The artist formerly known as Starbury is expected to be bought out by the Knicks by the end of the weak. If Colangelo is still in gambling mood that would be a big one.  But there has been no indication that the Raptors intend to do anything to it’s roster prior to the opening game vs Sixers.

The real thing that may decide the amount of success on offense is the guys on the wing. A new look on the inside should give more open and easier looks from the outside. This should mean more chances for Jason Kapono and Anthony Parker from the outside.  While guys like Jamario Moon and maybe even Joey Graham to drive to the basket. You also have Hassan Adams as part of this group and combo guard Will Solomon.  Who ever steps up to the challenge could become a guy that will see his point totals rise. The smart money goes on the shooters in Parker and Kapono.  The Raptors Offense should look more like the one Kapono played in with another O’Neal in Miami. While Anthony Parker can have a chance to be a bigger part of the offense to if he steps up to the plate. There is also that Bargnani fellow. He may even play some time at the 3 spot according to Bryan Colangelo.  Sam Mitchell was not as willing to say that.

Regardless of where he appears on the floor, this is a key season for perhaps Colangelo’s biggest gamble of all Andrea Bargnani. Jermaine O’Neal said that Bargnani will be a key to this team being successful. He has worked with Andrea a bit in Las Vegas.  It seems pretty clear to almost everyone if Andrea Bargnani breaks through this season the Raptors chances at success take a dramatic rise. He is truly the ultimate X-Factor in all of this. He is said to be bigger and worked on some basic post moves to add to his key weapon of long range shooting. After last season I really have no idea what to expect from Andrea. But for those who want to see the positive side of the fence, the pressure to perform should be less on Bargnani. He also will get to see a lot second team units from the Raptors opposition on a consistent basis. These are all good signs for Andrea to rebuild his confidence. That has been a very fragile thing over his first couple seasons in the NBA.

The Health Question

There are a lot of gambles for the Toronto Raptors including the reduced number of bodies. Only 13 players makes you very worried if the injury bug enters into the Raptors this year. A injury to Jose Calderon would be a death blow for this team. For as much as the talk is about the health of O’Neal the health of Calderon will be key. Thankfully Jose has had a fairly good run in the NBA as far as that goes. But the injury in the Olympics at least for me brought the fear that if Jose is not healthy this team is in serious trouble.  But that is a bridge we all will hope this team does not have to cross.  I am looking forward to seeing how all this looks on a basketball court. That day is fast approaching.  CAN’T WAIT!!!

There’s more James here at his Dino Nation Blog

EAGLES AND KANGAROOS TO MEET ON BIG STAGE… AGAIN

September 29, 2008

by Daniel Eddy… The Toronto Eagles today booked themselves a shot at their third Premiership in a row, when they defeated the Broadview Hawks by 57 points. The two clubs who played in last year’s final match (Toronto & Etobicoke) will meet again to decide who takes out the 2008 OAFL Grand Final.

After their shock loss last weekend to the Kangaroos, the Eagles came out a more focused group and were determined to not go out of the finals in straight sets. The game was all but over at quarter time with Toronto leading by 30 points. The next three quarters were a lot more even as Broadview started to be more attacking at the ball, but they could never get close enough to really threaten on the scoreboard. Tarquin Netherway was the standout up forward for the winners with 4 goals, while Lachlan McDonald kicked 3.

All attention now turns to the Grand Final which promises to be a tremendous event, this year being hosted by the Etobicoke club on their home ground, Humber College’s South Campus in Toronto. Festivities kick off at 11am with the main game to be played at 2pm. Please see the official Grand Final poster (attached) for details, and visit our website at www.ontariofooty.com for further updates throughout the week. All our league sponsors and the media are invited to attend this big day, and family and friends are always welcome.

The official score from today’s Preliminary Final was:

Sat Sept. 27th -        Preliminary Final
Toronto Eagles        Def.    Broadview Hawks
14.9.93                              5.6.36

How We Remember the Late Paul Newman

September 29, 2008

by  Shane House…

When I was on NHL.com yesterday, I read the terrible news that the great Paul Newman had passed away at the age of 83.  One of the great, iconic actors has died.

Everybody has memories of Paul Newman—mostly from movies, mind you, but those still count. Like in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Robert Redford says, “I can’t swim!”  Paul Newman looks at him after laughing and says, “You can’t swim! The fall will probably kill ya!”

When I was 11, I barely knew who Paul Newman was. I thought he was some old actor that my parents always talked about from way back in the day.

One day, I remember telling my mom that I wanted her to rent me D2: The Mighty Ducks. When she returned from the local store, she handed me a movie and said, “Sorry, honey, they didn’t have

The Mighty Ducks, so I got you this.”  She then handed me a movie with a picture of a guy holding a “for sale” sign.It was Slap Shot.

At first, I was angry because I couldn’t watch Charlie Conway or Gordon Bombay, but out of that I discovered the great Reg Dunlop, as played by Paul Newman.

As I watched the movie, I was lost in watching the Hanson brothers destroy every team that tried to score.  I saw Denis Lemieux go on his rants saying things like “Trade me right f$%@ing now!”

But the biggest things I remember is Paul Newman giving those great speeches, talking about old time hockey and Eddie Shore.

After the movie, I was proud to say how much I liked the movie. I asked my mom and dad who that was and they said Paul Newman.

The next day, when I came home from school, I looked in our movie cabinet, searching for a movie that had Paul Newman. After about three minutes of digging around, I found The Hustler. As I watched Fast Eddie Nelson go through the struggles of trying to beat the great Minnesota Fats, I realized then and there that Paul Newman was a great actor.

I later on saw him in other great movies like The Sting, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, and coming back as Fast Eddie Nelson in The Color of Money, but I will never forget how I felt when I watched Slap Shot for the first time.

You will be missed, Paul Newman, and may you.

I encourage anybody who has a memory of Paul Newman to leave it as a comment so everybody can enjoy.

End It Boxing, It’s Over

September 29, 2008

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Feb-26-Sun-2006/photos/2mosley.jpgby Jamie Uyeyama… Let’s get a quick show of hands: How many of you were excited for Mosley vs Mayorga this weekend?

How many of you even knew they were fighting?

That’s how far boxing has fell. People barely even know it exists anymore. It’s sad how far a once great sport has fallen. But it has fallen and fallen hard. Somewhere around the time when boxing got too greedy for its own good, young people stopped wanting to be boxers. That’s always the beginning of the end.

Mosley vs Mayorga is the symbol for everything that is wrong with boxing. It is the main event in a night of fights that should all be considered undercards. It’s a hasbeen and a never was squaring off in the ring. It’s the kind of fight that would be on the “May Not Be Telivised” portion of a UFC card. That’s what all the main events seem like these days with boxing. Unless Mayweather or De La Hoya (who is only a name now, not a great fighter) are fighting then no one other than boxing purists seem to care.

Really the only true fans that remain are the boxing purists. Mixed martial arts has completely usurped boxing’s place in the athletic world. If boxing is the sweet science then MMA is Physics, Calculus, and Organic Chem combined. Boxing is the past and MMA is the future.

I don’t care what happens in the fight and I don’t even know when the next “big” fight is either. It’s bad news for boxing because nobody else cares either.

For more you can check out his blog Top Cheddar at www.topcheddar.com

BT’s 2008-09 NHL Season Preview: New York Islanders

September 29, 2008

by Bryan Thiel…

Preface: We’re in the home stretch now, and I think I’m panicking.

My original goal was to have the season previews done by October 4—the opening of the NHL season overseas.

Well, as I’ve been taking Saturdays off from the previews this month, I took last weekend off, and I’ll be away next weekend attending the University of Western Ontario’s homecoming, I’d have to do two today, two tomorrow, one Friday, and then one per day every day next week to make it in time.

I guess we’ll see what happens…

Roster Additions: Mark Streit-D (F.A.), Doug Weight-F (F.A.)

Roster Subtractions:
Bryan Berard-D (F.A.), Josef Vasicek-F (Europe), Miroslav Satan-F (F.A.), Wade Dubielewicz-G (Europe), Ruslan Fedotenko-F (F.A.)

How did 2007-08 go?
35-38-9, 79 points, 13th in Conference, fifth in Atlantic

2008-09 Goal:
Top twelve in conference.

Let’s break’er down…

Dee Karl and I both have the 2002 Playoffs entrenched in our minds. We don’t know it, but we became almost like brother and sister during that year—a very estranged brother and sister mind you.

There was the hit on Michael Peca: Like a brother and sister, I loved it, she hated it.

There was the hit on Kenny Johnnson: Like a brother and sister, I loved it, she hated it.

There was the fact the Leafs won the series: Like a brother and sister, I was elated, while she was crushed at the idea that that could have been her team’s year too.

Then Martin Gelinas happened, and we reunited in our sorrows. I don’t like Martin Gelinas very much.

Some people might think that what I just told you was only written to fill space before we get to the actual breakdown.

They’d be right.

Little Ricky, how’s your hip?

“Attention ladies and gentlemen. Now entering the third year of a fifteen-year contract, your starting goaltender for the 2008-09 season….RICK DIPIETRO!!!”

That should be something along the lines of the introduction the Rick receives entering this season.

Over the past few years, DiPietro has looked like he can be the goalie to take the Islanders back to their glory days. Going into last season he was working on back-to-back 30-win campaigns, and one of the best save percentages (.919) of his career.

Last season, though, injury problems—like seemingly every year before—caught up with DiPietro. After suffering through various lower body ailments and a late-season neck injury in 2006-07, DiPietro hoped he could stay healthy. Well, a knee injury and a hip surgery later, DiPietro was shelved for the season with a mediocre save percentage (.902) and fairly high goals-against average of 2.81.

If DiPietro can stay healthy, then the Isles have a goalie capable of 30 wins, and consistent enough to post a goals-against average in the neighborhood of 2.30, while keeping his save percentage around .910.

If DiPietro can’t stay healthy, though, the load will fall to former Canadien Yann Danis, who’ll be barely adequate as a spot-starter, while Joe MacDonald may only be effective for four or five games.

Granted, Wad Dubielewicz wasn’t the most experienced option, but he was certainly a commodity proven—to an extent—to have as DiPietro insurance. Now, if No. 39 gets hurt, his team will be in trouble.

Ollie Ollie Oxen-Campoli!

On the back end, the Isles’ defense is a mix of youngsters who need to prove themselves, and mediocre NHL defenders.

Granted, the Islanders went out and signed the 61-point-producing Mark Streit, but 34 of those points also came on the power play. Although his strong skating will come in handy, don’t expect Streit to produce at the same rate this year—especially with the possibility of him being a one-hit, 30 year-old wonder—or be what the Islanders need to survive in their own end of the ice.

Both Brendan Witt and Andy Sutton provide a big, physical presence on the back end for the Islanders, but neither will put up a ton of points. If they can be consistent on the back end and play some steady D, then the Isles may be in an adequate position.

Radek Martinek is another fairly underwhelming veteran defenseman, who could rack up between 13 and 17 assists this season, with a few goals to go along with it.

Chris Campoli is one young defenseman that I’m excited to watch this season. Campoli really came into his own in 2005-06, when he registered nine goals and 34 points over the course of his first full NHL campaign. Following a year split between the AHL and the NHL, Campoli looked to be back on track for the Islanders, with 18 points in the first 46 games of last season, before his time was cut short by shoulder surgery.

Campoli looked to be getting back on track last season, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him come in close to the 30-point plateau once again this year.

Bruno Gervais is another young D-man who could turn in a solid season on the Island. He’s poised, and can move the puck fairly well—but he still has a little ways to go before he develops into a consistent NHL-calibre defenseman. Granted, the concussion late last season didn’t help, but if Gervais can overcome that, look for him to continue his improvement from last season.

Freddy Meyer is also another quality late-pairing guy who can provide some consistency for the Islanders from the blue line.

The Islanders also have two young defensemen who could benefit from seeing regular NHL time this season.

Dustin Kohn is a big-bodied kid who’ll benefit from filling out a little still. He’s developed a solid offensive game in the WHL with Brandon and Calgary, and also had a solid debut in the AHL with 12 points and plus-nine rating in 62 games.

Jack Hillen, the puck-moving defenseman coming out of the WCHA, really came into his own last season with Colorado College, and could surprise people for a few games this season, despite his small stature.

Okposo or Ocho Cinco? Oh, and Oso Cinco is five bears in Spanish, I think

The New York Islanders have three veteran forwards that—if this were 2000-2003—would give them one of the top line combos in the NHL, and a quality two-way center.

After Mike Sillinger’s solid 59-point campaign in 2006-07, people wondered if his fall-off would be imminent the following season, or if he could maintain some semblance of that form.

Unfortunately, Sillinger fell hard, posting 26 points and a minus-10 rating. With the influx of young talent in Long Island, don’t expect ‘Sills’ to really step it up this season, especially with a reduced role.

Bill Guerin and Doug Weight got their wish—to play together one more time. After spending 2006-07 together in St Louis, Guerin fled to be the leader of a young Islanders team, while Weight split the year between the Blues and Ducks.

Weight was fairly ineffective last season, netting only 11 points with St Louis, and just 14 points with the Ducks, while Guerin was a little more successful, posting a 23-goal season—but that came along with a minus-15.

All three of those players are hitting the “over the hill” period of their careers, so if you’re expecting hard-core contributions from them on the scoresheet, you might be disappointed.

As far as other names go, I’m really intrigued by Trent Hunter. Over the past four years, Hunter has been the definition of inconsistent. In 2003-04 Hunter scored 25 goals, tied up neatly with 51 total points. The season after the lockout, Hunter posted a measly 35-point season, with only 16 goals. Hunter followed up the next season with a 20-goal season, but had another 35-point showing thanks to a poor showing in the assists column.

Last season, Hunter became a bit more of a playmaker, but struggled to sore goals finishing with 12 (41 points overall). I personally believe that this will be the season Hunter puts it back together, and we maybe see another 50-, or even 60-point season from the much-maligned winger.

Mike Comrie is the other big scoring threat on this team who hadn’t been born by the time the Watergate scandal got President Nixon indicted. Last season, Comrie posted a solid 49-point season, and could be inching his way back to the 60-point range, as he’ll spend his second-consecutive full season in the same system—something he hasn’t done since his Edmonton days.

Blake Comeau and Frans Nielsen may be primed to start their ascension through the Islanders’ ranks. Blake and Nielsen are both solid playmakers who are going to have to continue to work hard as they make their way through the organization.  But they could easily pair up with a guy with a goal-scoring mentality—possibly Trent Hunter?—and create a pretty flashy second line.

In his brief Islanders’ career, Sean Bergenheim is starting to develop into a strong third-line player, who—if he adds some bulk and finds a little more offense—could really become a fan favorite on the Isle.

One hockey name you might recognize on this roster though might be that of Tambellini—Jeff Tambellini (yes, the son of Steve). Once a pick of the L.A. Kings, Jeff does what he can to work beyond his size and perform both offensively and defensively once he steps on the ice. If his scoring rounds into form at he NHL level, Tambellini could be great if surrounded by the right players.

The biggest gem in this equation though, is Kyle Okposo. The 20-year old had a solid debut with the Islanders last season (five points, plus-three in nine games), and is in the forefront of the Islanders’ plans in the future.

Although his production could tail off to 30 or 40 points his first full season (or two) in the NHL, Okposo will be the name and the face of this franchise going forward—and a feisty leader the Isles may not have seen since Brian Trottier.

So what’s it all mean?

The New York Islanders have struggled to find consistency the past few seasons. They’ve had their highs, they’ve had their lows, and they’ve also been mired in between.

If the Isles do end up locking up a top-five pick in the draft next season (and not trading it to Toronto—although I did appreciate that), then drafting a big, strong centerman could be the key to moving up in the division. Or a stud defenseman.

Either way, the Islanders have depth (Especially in the likes of Richard Park, Jon Sim, and Ben Walter, all of whom I neglected to mention), but the quality just isn’t there yet to compete.

With a few more pieces and a few more years though, the Isles could find their way back up the standings.

And I mean, they’ve got the time—DiPietro is there for another 13 years.

Fifth in Atlantic

But that’s all nice and dandy in knowing what I think, but what about the aforementioned Dee Karl?

Frankly, her knowledge of this team puts me to shame. Just sit back and enjoy this…trust me:

Yes, all eyes are on Rick DiPietro, our Bionic Goalie. But truth be told, he has the makings of a Hall of Famer. When he’s on—he’s DEAD on! When he isn’t, well, let’s just forget about those games.

Jon Sim will be a man possessed. I saw him so many nights standing in the tunnel in a suit, eyes burning to be on the ice with the team. He will fly and and surprise. No two ways about it. Trent Hunter is just “damn good” as is Richard Park, our short-handed goal scorer. They are consummate hockey players who produce when they’re needed.

You touched on a few of my personal favorites, and considering that I AM the Seventh Woman, I am allowed to have favorites and not just be objective. Campoli and Gervais needed each other. They are BOTH home-grown talents that deserve a year without injury so they can shine. One always looks for the other.

I hope that Scott Gordon realizes it. Bruno and Chris are like matched bookends. They don’t even need to see each other. They just know where the other is. They will be very important to the Islanders this year.

My boy Sean (Bergenheim)—as I have been calling him since he’s 18 and was our first-round draft pick—has come very far, and with luck and ice time, will continue to impress. Hell, the man impressed Scotty Bowman.

He’s got the feet, he just needs to work on his hands. And by the way… he can’t bulk up any more than he has. He’s a brick wall on the ice. (Campoli could use a few cheeseburgers though, since he’s been out so long.)

Jack Hillien could be one of Garth Snow’s best pickups. I just loved the way he skates. So close to the ice. He is unique.

You hit the nail on the head with Kyle. He will be the face of the franchise. I hope they are not pushing him too much. Blake Comeau has a great shot and a great attitude, and he clearly may overshadow Jeff (I’ve got the Islander bloodlines) Tambellini. But that’s why it’s a game. Every day things change.

Joey MacDonald may not be the best back-up goaltender for certain situations, but I’d take him in a brawl any day. He’s got a fire that will scorch if it has to.

Guerin and Weight… well… we’ll have to wait. They are both excellent hockey players. And they are warriors. If they have to play through pain, they will.

Witt is in a class by himself, and Comrie, to me, is an enigma. Sorry. We can only hope that Hilliary Duff is in the barn every night, because he seems to play better when she’s there. But to be fair to the man, he played hurt last season.

Our most important asset this season will be Scott Gordon. The Islanders have found themselves an “x’s and o’s” coach who can teach, instruct and plan. When they tell me that there are now THREE computer monitors on the coach’s desk, I can tell this is a man that has an attention to detail that we were so lacking.

No, we have no superstars on the NY Islanders. But what you will end up seeing is hockey as hockey should be played. With passion and desire. Hey… in this game, some days WILL beats SKILL. And that’s what I’ll hope for.

Ladies and gentlemen…your Islanders virtuoso!

Halladay fought the good fight, and won…

September 29, 2008

by Navin Vaswani… Yesterday, I sang the praises of A.J. Burnett and how wonderful he was against the Red Sox and Yankees this season. Now, it’s time to lavish praise on his brother in arms in the fight against the evil empires, Roy Halladay.

Really, what can I say about Roy Halladay that I haven’t said already? He is the greatest pitcher I’ve ever known. Doc picked up his 20th win of the season the other night and when it was all said and done, I wanted to take him in my arms, much like how A.J. did (pictured, yo).

What a performance from Halladay this season. Simply outstanding. He reached the 20 win plateau for the second time in his career and did it with another complete game gem last night, throwing only 96 pitches. For the good Doctor, anything less than a complete game masterpiece would have been uncivilized. It was his ninth complete game of the season and if that statistic doesn’t blow you away, it should. It really should. No, seriously, it should.
Halladay finishes the season with a 20-11 record, 2.78 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 206 strikeouts, and an opponents batting average of .237. He walked only 39 batters all season. In 246 innings. If that statistic doesn’t blow you away, it should. It really should. No, seriously, it should.
To put things in perspective, because that’s what I do around here, let’s compare Halladay’s 2008 season with his 2003 Cy Young Award winning campaign:
2003:
22-7 W/L, 36 games started, 266 innings pitched, 96 earned runs, 26 home runs, 32 walks, 204 strikeouts, 3.25 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .247 opponents batting average, nine complete games and two shutouts.
2008:
20-11 W/L, 33 games started, 246 innings pitched, 76 earned runs, 18 home runs, 39 walks, 206 strikeouts, 2.78 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .237 BAA, nine complete games and two shutouts.
You know, it’s hard to argue against Cliff Lee winning the Cy Young. He’s had a phenomenal season. So, here’s what I propose: they split the award. Co-winners, know what I’m saying? If Lee is deserving of the award, and he is, equally so is our Doc. It’s been well documented that Halladay has faced stiffer competition and, well, just go back a paragraph and have another look at Doc’s 2008 stats. He shaved almost half a run off his ERA from 2003, and threw nine complete games to Lee’s four. Nine complete games! Nine! I’m truly starting to believe The Ack over at The Tao of Stieb when he says that Halladay is a pitching machine from the future, sent back in time to save all of humanity.
Speaking of that stiffer competition, check out the layout below to see how Doc fared against the evil empires this season:
Doc vs NYY in 2008 (including last night’s bonerific start)
Games started: 6
W/L: 5-1
Innings pitched: 45
ERA: 2.40
WHIP: 0.91
Hits: 34
Runs: 12
Earned Runs: 12
Walks: 7
Strikeouts: 31
Opponents Batting Average: .211
Pretty impressive, eh? Two of those starts were complete games, and one was a two-hit shutout which I had the pleasure of being in the ball park for.
Halladay vs Boston Red Sox in 2008
Games started: 5
W/L: 3-2
Innings pitched: 38.2
ERA: 2.56
WHIP: 0.98
Hits: 32
Runs: 12
Earned runs: 11
Walks: 6
Strikeouts: 24
Opponents Batting Average: .224
Doc threw two complete games against the Sox, both in Fenway Park. One of them was actually a 1-0 loss; damn flaccid offence. Actually, of the nine complete games Doc tossed, three of them were losses. The three losses came during a stretch of four consecutive complete games Halladay threw in April. Yep, you read that right: four consecutive complete games. If that statistic doesn’t blow you away, it should. It really should. No, seriously, it should.
I think I began to truly appreciate Doc’s greatness this year. He is a superstar in every sense of the word, and I’m a better person for having had the chance to watch him, live and on the tube, every five days. When I grow up, I want to be just like Harry Leroy Halladay III.
Doc, along with his best friend forever A.J. Burnett, fought the good fight against the evil empires. And although we’re again on the outside looking in at the post-season, my boys, Doc and A.J., they triumphed over evil. For that, I salute them, especially Doc. A.J. is who he is today because of Roy Halladay.
Thanks Doc, for one hell of a season.
check out  Navins blog

Calgary Flames Look Good…Real Good!

September 29, 2008

by Daniel Sallows

As a Calgary Flames fan, I have had to endure numerous seasons of missing the playoffs, followed by a winning goal that never was (in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003-04), to mediocre play in the regular season leading up to a first-round exit.

This season, however, there is optimism the team has not had since that fabulous run of 2004. Yes, it is still exhibition—and I know I shouldn’t jump the gun, because even the no-name Canucks hold a 3-0 preseason record.

That being said it is hard not to get just a little excited after watching this new Flames team pick apart the Florida Panthers 8-2 on Friday night, all the while without their captain Jarome Iginla in the lineup.

If Todd Bertuzzi and Mike Cammalleri stay on either side of speedster Matthew Lombardi, than the Flames may just have a genuine second-line threat—which is something the team has lacked in numerous years. If Friday night’s game is any indication, Keenan would be smart to keep that line intact.

That would leave Iginla and Daymond Langkow to play with either Rene Bourque, Curtis Glencross, or David Moss, whom all scored in the whitewash of the Panthers as well.

I didn’t agree with Sutter trading Tanguay for basically peanuts, but the moves he made this summer was nothing short of brilliant.

If anything, this year’s installment of the Calgary Flames is deeper than any they have iced in the last 13 years.

With eight more-than-capable defencemen in Adrian Aucoin, Anders Eriksson, Mark Giordano, Dion Phaneuf, Robin Regehr, Cory Sarich, James Vandermeer, and Rhett Warrener, this team is not done making trades to improve just yet.

If Mikka Kiprusoff can rebound from a mediocre year, the defense-rich Flames play to their capabilities, and the roster stays healthy, there is no reason why this season’s installment will not make a run in the playoffs.

We may just hear Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire” blaring come June, and Jarome Iginla hoisting the Stanley Cup he has longed for—and deserves.

Is Sport a Reflection of Life…or a Mirage?

September 29, 2008

by Long John Silver …

Haven’t we all at various points in time claimed that sport is a reflection of life? I am sure I have many times, and the claim does have a certain degree of authenticity to it. On the other hand, here is why that reflection sometimes is a mere mirage.

When a top tennis athlete steps between the lines, it becomes an all-consuming entity. One wonders how can someone like Federer (who embraces serenity) play scintillating tennis in a chaotic, constant evening bustle of New York?

Fair question…it is because once Federer steps on the court he probably is completely unaware of what transpires outside the lines.

Kind of like how a writer is completely unaware of his ambiance, when he/she is in the process of writing.

When you are involved in something you enjoy consummately, everything else ceases to exist or fails to intrude even remotely. In a similar way, I am sure it’s the same for the rest of the top-level athletes.

In such a vacuum, every second on court is an opportunity for them to create something, which for a split-second defies reality.

Here are two examples: Federer and Nadal. In real life, we are faced with realities day in and day out and are reminded of our limitations. Top-level athletes are no more or no less human than you and me.

But for those few hours between the lines, they create something that tingles your senses to go “How did he do that?” Those few hours every day presents them with an opportunity to create something novel, refreshing, and however terse it might be…for those few fleeting moments, something “unrealistic.”

Those two seconds make an individual superhuman, sort of how Federer or Nadal felt at the conclusion of the two points presented above.

That’s the feeling that normal human beings will not experience, those two seconds of unconstrained, infinite, amorphous and boundless sensation of being c.

The second reason is less abstract than the first one: “living in denial.” Conventional wisdom professes it is to be avoided at any cost, for at best it can exacerbate the situation. Acceptance is the first step to addressing the problem and arriving to an acceptable solution.

Common problems such as marriage issues, addiction, reckless spending, for all of these and many more, accepting that there is a problem in the first step to solving the problem. Living in denial is not accepting the mere existence of the problem.

Think about the case of top-level athletes. Living in denial is an extremely important tool in their repertoire.

Consider someone like Lleyton Hewitt. He held an 8-1 record against Federer, and now it stands at 8-11.

In the past four years, Federer has had many victories against Hewitt, with each victory different from the previous one. He has beaten, out-slugged, grinded, whipped and completely decimated him.

Each victory has been different, but the end result has been the same. Hewitt almost has less than a 0.001 percent (in non-geek math terms, it’s a zero) probability of beating Federer.

It’s like saying, I can hope to come up with something equivalent to E=mc2, in my future. Sure, I have a non zero (the same 0.001%) probability too, but what the odds it will actually happen?

The next time they meet, what are the probabilities that Hewitt will swallow a huge dose of reality and think along those lines, though? He has to live in denial; it’s imperative he does. There really isn’t much point in stepping onto the court, if he believes he cannot beat Federer.

Of course, one can always counter-argue the easier option. It’s not that Hewitt lives in denial, but he sincerely swallows the reality where he knows he will not beat Federer.

Somehow after watching the south Australian for eight years, I fail to believe that. He lives in denial (which in this case is terrific for his chances as a top level tennis player) trying to draw any possible inspiration from the fact that he has indeed beaten Federer eight times previously…and then he steps on the court.

There really isn’t any other option for him. I am not claiming that living in denial will have the intended effect, but accepting reality is even worse.

Reversing roles, Federer himself has displayed such thought processes many times before. He turned around his losing records against Hewitt (from 1-8) and Nalbandian. Embracing reality would have done him no good.

Other than the fact that he improved in leaps and bounds as a tennis player, a minuscule part of him must have lived in denial until he managed to turn the rivalry around. That little voice deep inside that says, “You will eventually beat him.”

Here is one for the future. How many of you seriously think Federer can beat Nadal at Roland Garros on a day, when all things are equal, and both of them are playing their best.

If it was me, I am not sure I would invest any money on Federer (I would love for him to pull it off, though) but logic does not recommend such an investment.

Given the way the 2008 final was a clinical rout, do you really think that Federer will embrace reality the next time he meets Nadal in the Roland Garros final? There is no real possibility he would do that.

The only attitude that he needs to embrace (if and) when he plays Nadal in the 2009 Roland Garros final is, “I am not going to allow myself to think of last years’ final. I know I can beat Nadal on clay. Let’s get the job done today; let’s hit some of those winners.

It makes sense to me, that’s precisely what he must and should be thinking: live in denial. If I were him, that’s precisely what I would do.

“Feeling Super-Human” and “Living in Denial” are certainly two characteristics of sport that do not reflect life.

In two such unique cases, Sport does not mirror, nor is a reflection of Life; it is merely a Mirage.

P.S: Mate, if you love tennis to any extent that I do, you would love this article in the New York Times. Take my word for it; its a must read for every tennis junkie. It’s long, but it’s worth its weight in GOLD.

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