Geoff Ogilvy’s Flawless Play Lands Him in Accenture Match Play Finals

February 28, 2009

by Martin Fitzpatrick… Just a week ago, close friends and fellow Scottsdale residents Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey made the three-hour drive together from Scottsdale to Tucson to check out The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.

Rarely has a three-hour drive paid off as much as it has Ogilvy and Casey.

The two close friends will face off against each other in tomorrow’s 36-hole final match to determine the winner of the year’s first World Golf Championship event.

From his first tee shot of the day, Ogilvy went on what is beginning to become one of his trademark streaks of completely flawless golf.

Ogilvy calmly and quietly went about eliminating teen-age phenom Rory McIlroy in the quarterfinals before knocking off Stewart Cink in the semi-finals.

Incredibly, Ogilvy made just one bogey all day while shooting 14-under par over 33 holes.

Although a fairly consistent player over the past few years, Ogilvy has been prone to go on streaks that are nothing short of astonishing.

Over the course of three events in 2008, which included a win at the WGC-CA Championship, Ogilvy did not card a bogey in more than 160 holes.

When Geoff Ogilvy is in the midst of one of his remarkable streaks, there are very few players on the face of the planet that can hope to beat him.

However, flawless play like this inevitably does not last forever and Ogilvy’s streaks tend not to last more than a week or two as if the golf gods decide that they have seen enough of a player perfecting a game that was never meant to be perfected.

Paul Casey took a far less dominant road to tomorrow’s final match against Ogilvy.

Casey defeated Sean O’Hair 4&3 in his morning match.

Although Casey did finish 15 holes at three-under par, he was lent a large helping hand from the food poisoning O’Hair had suffered on Friday night and was still suffering from during his quarter final match on Saturday.

Casey did not play anywhere near his best golf in his afternoon semi-final match against fellow Brit Ross Fisher.

Fortunately for Casey, Fisher spent more time navigating through the cacti than he did in the fairway and Casey was able to finish him off with a birdie on the 17th.

Ogilvy, who won the event back in 2006, heads into tomorrow’s final match with 16-2 career record in the Accenture World Match Play event.

Ogilvy’s career World Match Play winning percentage of 87.5 is better than that of even Tiger Woods, albeit Woods has played almost double the number of matches.

If Ogilvy’s current streak continues into tomorrow, Paul Casey will surely have his hands full.

Marquez v. Diaz: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

February 28, 2009

by Stoker Dafire… When ring announcer Michael Buffer utters his famous five words tonight in Houston, Texas, two of the world’s top lightweights will be called to battle.

Juan Diaz’s IBO Championship and the vacant WBA and WBO titles will be on the line when he faces Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night at the Toyota Center.

Marquez (49-4-1, 36 KOs) is a former featherweight and super featherweight champion fighting for only the second time at his new weight of 135 pounds.

He beat Joel Casamayor by technical knockout last September in his lightweight debut but needs a victory over Diaz to have a chance of lining up another bout with nemesis Manny Pacquiao.

The two fought to a draw in May 2004, and Pacquiao got the controversial decision in the rematch last March.

But first comes Diaz.

“If I win,” Marquez said, “it could mean great things for me, even more important fights.”

The Houston-born Diaz (34-1, 17 KOs) is trying to win back the WBA and WBO belts he lost to Nate Campbell last March. Campbell was stripped of the titles earlier this month when he came in overweight for his fight with Ali Funeka.

“This is the type of fight I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” Diaz said. “They’re going to have to carry me out (on) a stretcher in order for me to lose that fight on Saturday night.”

Marquez, 35 years old and thereby 10 years Diaz’s elder, is a national hero in Mexico, but he agreed to fight in Diaz’s hometown.

Marquez admits that Diaz is a high-volume puncher who brings an awkward style.

He just smiles when reminded of Diaz’s apparent advantages.

“I feel very confident because I have been training very hard,” Marquez said. “I know I have a difficult fight, but (it’s) not impossible to win.”

Diaz rebounded from his loss to Campbell by beating Mick Katsidis in Houston last September. Marquez is a steep upgrade in class, a 15-year professional known for accurate punches and knockout power.

Diaz said his plan is to wear down Marquez and pounce in the late rounds.

“He’s a great, legendary fighter,” Diaz said. “He’s very smart in there, but he’s also 35 years old. I’m 25. I believe my youth is going to carry me to the victory.”

Marquez was 134 1/4 pounds whereas Diaz was 134 1/2 at Friday’s weigh-in.

Before they face off on Saturday night, unbeaten WBA featherweight champion Chris John will make his North American debut against Houston native Rocky Juarez, a silver medalist at the 2000 Olympic Games.

John (42-0-1, 22 KOs) has boxed mostly in his native Indonesia. He wants to put on a show for the national television audience on Saturday and hopes to land more fights (not to mention bigger paychecks) in America.

“It’s the most important fight of his life,” said Craig Christian, John’s trainer. “If he loses here, they won’t want him back. He wants to fight here all the time.

“He wants to put on his best performance for the American public so, hopefully, they’ll want him back.”

John won the belt with a 12-round decision over Osamu Sato in Japan in June 2004.

He settled for a technical draw against Jose Rojas in December 2004 but has won eight title defenses since, including a 12-round decision over Hiroyuki Enoki in Japan last October.

Christian expects Juarez to come straight at John and try to corner him. Christian said John is the more versatile fighter and will be able to adjust to whatever strategy Juarez throws at him.

“Through the blood, sweat, and the pain we fought like giants on ward to victory.”

- Anonymous

Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky Remain with Maple Leafs on the Way to the Cup

February 28, 2009

by Graeme Boyce… Well, with Trade Deadline looming, I’m beginning to believe that neither Nik Antropov nor Alexei Ponikarovsky are moving any time soon, though I’d love to see the former shipped out in exchange for Pronger.  Apparently it’s a sellers market.  In my humble opinion, and I’ve said it before, Brian Burke should package a gutsy blockbuster trade, which would include Tomas Kaberle and Scott Niedermayer.

Nonetheless, after having stopped by a few Leafs-friendly pubs this past week, many fans are without too much difficulty entertaining the prospect of a Maple Leafs team that does not feature the so-called Twin Towers.  As the team closes out a disastrous year, injuries to Van Ryn and Finger will put the pressure on the young blueliners: Sifers and Schenn, and certainly Stralman if Kubina ships out.

Speaking of bringing it up a notch, Ian White has had a really good year, and I wouldn’t trade him, but he’d admittedly be an asset to any playoff bound team, not to mention both Dominic Moore and Matt Stajan.  But I wouldn’t trade them either. Notwithstanding the Leafs’ vikings Frogren and Hagman, who have been instrumental in the Leafs victories lately, playing with a ton ‘o spunk night after night, I’d trade the Euros.  Surely Bates Battaglia couldn’t do any worse.

Since Kaberle’s injury, the team hasn’t really fared that badly.  Although Grabovski isn’t ending the season on a high note, unless something radical happens…so, as a truly talented youngster, Burke should trade him now along with Kulemin.  There’s been nothing wrong with their play this year but I’d just be curious what they might fetch and get the deal done, in addition to some Marlies.

If the Maple Leafs had an NHL calibre goalie the team would be in the playoffs this year.  It’s uncanny how many opposing teams can tie the Maple Leafs in the dying moments of a game. Some might argue the team’s defense was letting the goalies down on a talent-starved team, but it’s not true.  Any shot, at any time, can end up in the Leafs net with Toskala or Cujo between the pipes.

The Maple Leafs with Wilson at the helm but without bonafide all-stars, like Pittsburgh, are winning on any given night.  But take out a few Euros and bring up a few players like Kris Newbury and Ben Ondrus, and trade Toskala for any decent goalie.  Well, with the injuries to Mitchell and Hagman, the choices are few and far between.

It seems management enjoys and is stocking the new winning team with Americans… like Tim Stapleton, augmenting the power duo of Blake and Stemniak.  Trade ‘em all, I say.  I’m ready.  But the more the team gels, and continues to win, albeit in an  unnecessary overtime or in—aghast—a shootout, I’m wondering if Burke is contemplating status quo.  He says teams trading at the deadline make costly mistakes. Whew, now we know he won’t make any mistakes.

Ottawa is coming to town.  I relish the though of swiping one or two Senators in exchange for Kaberle, for example, in fact fresh after the game and after Kaberle has returned from his injury.

The one thing going for the Leafs is they are playing under the cap, and substantially, which would truly be attractive when augmenting the pitch along with endorsement fees for a superstar player.

Porter’s Weekly Leafland Talk: Will The Leafs Turn Into The Marlies

February 28, 2009

by Jack Porter… Just three days away from the NHL’s trade deadline, questions of who’s going where are being asked across Toronto. One question that’s not being asked however is, who will fill up the Maple Leaf’s roster for the remainder of the season.

Today I’m going to be the first to put this question out there. So for the sake of argument let’s assume that all the players speculated to be traded are in fact gone. Goodbye Kaberle, Kubina, Antropov, Blake, Ponikarovsky, Moore, Stralman, Finger, Stajan, White and Toskala.

With these subtractions the lines look bleak for Toronto and the only players that should bring back a roster player are Kaberle and Antropov so I’ll go with the most rumored deals for these players to fit new players into the Toronto roster.

The rumored Kaberle deal shakes down like this:

Kaberle

To The Flyers For:

Joffery Lupul (the roster player)

James Van Riemsdyk

1st Round Pick

The rumored Antropov deal:

Antropov

To the Penguins* For:

Alex Goligoski

1st round pick

* This trade may be out of the picture because of the recent Ryan Whitney trade but it is still a possibility.

Forwards

Hagman   ——-   Lupul

Kulemin Grabovski Stempniak

——-   Devereux ——-

May      Mitchell    Mayers

Defense

Schenn Goligoski

Van Ryn Sifers

Frogren ——-

Goaltenders

——-

Joseph

The lines are bare for the Leafs with three openings at forward, one at defense and one at the goaltending position. Right away let’s get rid of the easy one, Pogge joins Cujo as co-starters for the Buds

Goaltenders

Pogge

Joseph

At defense there was a lot of depth but with Kronwall being pick up off waivers by the Capitals early this season and White, Stralman and Finger traded there is a gapping hole where young defenseman used to be. The Marlies have two defenseman the Leafs could call upon in Phil Oreskovic or Richard Petiot. Petiot has 14 points for the baby buds while Oreskovic is an impressive plus 18. Both men stand 6′3 in height, but the advantage will go to the defensively sound Oreskovic. The Leafs defense post deadline should look something like this.

Defense

Schenn Goligoski

Van Ryn Sifers

Frogren  Oreskovic

Up front is where the most open spots lie, with three open spots the Leafs should get a really good look at some of the talent playing for their AHL affiliate. Some might think an obvious call up is Jeremy Williams, but there is a very good reason why he won’t be called up. Williams will have to go through re-entry waivers to join the Leafs and GM Brian Burke won’t take that gamble with one of the club’s best young players. Its likely shoot-out hero Tim Stapleton will remain with Toronto and Jiri Tlusty will likely be recalled. The final spot will likely be fought over between Alex Foster, Ryan Hamilton and Bates Battaglia. With Burke wanting to see what the future holds for the Leafs Battaglia will likely be the first name to hit the cutting room floor. After that the choice between Foster and Hamilton comes. Foster is having a great year with the Marlies scoring 28 points while Hamilton has a decent 19 points. Although Foster does have more points I think the spot will go to Hamilton, Burke traded away a good young player in Robbie Earl for Hamilton and he’ll want to see if it was a smart decision. With those call ups the forward lines should look like this.

Forwards

Hagman Stapleton Lupul

Kulemin Grabovski Stempniak

Tlusty Devereux Hamilton

May Mitchell Mayers

So with D-Day looming, I hope you’ve got some insight now into what the Leafs will look like after the hectic day of trading.

Message to 31 teams: Don’t mortgage the farm for Cassel

February 28, 2009

by Michael Seff… It almost might work out in what looked like the worst of circumstances for the resident cheaters of the NFL. Sacrificing one year of making the playoffs may let them earn some depth and security for years to come. Why? Because their so-called “system”, the one whose legitimacy has still yet to be verified, allowed a mediocre quarterback to look like an elite one. Matt Cassel is just that, mediocre. But he will be making the most money in a one-year tender for a franchise player in league history next year, because the Patriots used their franchise tag on him. That means that if some team is foolish enough to try and snag him, they will owe the Patriots two first-round draft picks. Meanwhile, it’s not like the Patriots won’t be in good hands at quarterback without him.

So if a team like, say, the Minnesota Vikings finally wakes up and realizes Tarvaris Jackson can’t cut it at this level and decides to sell out for Cassel, they will be handing the Patriots two first-round draft picks for a player who shouldn’t even command one seventh-rounder. It will also save the Patriots plenty of salary cap money, rather than keep them financially constrained. The money freed up by Cassel’s possible departure could allow them to land a malcontent like Julius Peppers and turn him into the second coming of Corey Dillon.

So to those other 31 teams, even those with dicey quarterback situations, please, please don’t fork over more than $14 million for the product of a strong offensive system whose receivers push off and whose line cut-blocks as if it was going out of style. Save the money and the draft picks and keep Cassel where he belongs, on the New England bench chewing up valuable cap space.

More from Mike: Pitching Ideas

Justin Pogge: Sylvester the Cat or Tweety Bird?

February 28, 2009

by Melissa Hashemian… If there’s one thing I learned in life it’s that things are always better after the battle, so keep fighting and don’t look back. It may sound like a cliche line, but it seemed to really help me during some of the rough moments in my life.

I just hope rookie netminder Justin Pogge got the memo from someone as well.

Pogge has had quite the rollercoaster ride with the Toronto Maple Leafs since being acquired in 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He’s unfortunately experienced the type of rollercoaster that has undergone many mechanical issues however.

After receiving gold with the Canadian Juniors in ‘05-’06, Justin Pogge was deemed as the Leafs’ hopeful star of the future and turned pro in ‘06-’07 with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate the Toronto Marlies. He spent the following two seasons with the Marlies posting impressive stats, yet still did not gain any respectable starts with the Maple Leafs.

He registered 19 wins and a 3.03 GAA in his rookie season with the frandchise and followed that up with 26 wins and an impressive .908 Saving Percentage the next year.

Many argued that the 6′3″ goaltender needed to play games for the Leafs in order to successfully build the confidence and skills required to do well in the NHL.

Although it would have helped immensely, Pogge was still negated any opportunity to play and continued to protect the two posts in the minors.

Yes, the Leafs’ staff should have given him a few starts during those two years, and yes they should have allowed him to display his talent. After all that’s the reason why he was drafted in the first place wasn’t it?

Did the organization really think putting Pogge in a few games was really going to jeopardize their chances of making the playoffs?

The Leafs haven’t had a playoff berth in three consecutive seasons so having Pogge couldn’t have brought them any lower in the standings.

With Brian Burke taking over the general manager position after Cliff Fletcher’s departure, fans were eager to witness Justin Pogge’s debut as a Maple Leaf.

So he laced up his skates and put on his goalie pads for the first time in the Leafs’ dressing room as he got ready to take on the Atlanta Thrashers.

He recorded his first NHL win on Dec. 22, 2008 with a score of 6-2, and posted a .905 Saving Percentage, stopping 19 out of 21 shots. He came out and gave a solid performance against the Thrashers, demonstrating what fortitude and dedication really look like.

After the win, Pogge gained the recognition needed to continue receiving starts and in return playing well. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end as the next start he got resulted in his first NHL loss against the Minnesota Wild (6-1).

After that, he received three more starts against Buffalo (twice) and Columbus which all sadly resulted in three more losses (one in an shootout).

He played excellent games however against the two teams and exhibited a good deal of athleticism and composure in net.

Many of my fellow supportors beg to differ nontheless. Many fans were left dissapointed and stunned by Pogge’s performance or “lack there of.”

Despite being boasted about after his stellar performance in Atlanta, the rookie became a ridiculed target on the dart board and was sarcastically cheered for when he lost in the shootout against Columbus.

Surprised?

Leave it to Leaf fans to love a player when they do well and hate them when they do bad. It’s completely appalling how people can start off with cheers then end off with insults.

The Fort Mcmurray, Alberta native is still learning and adapting to the game believe it or not and a lot of people don’t seem to remember that he’s still fairly young. He’s only 22.

That’s the thing about young players, they can flip a switch at any time and start doing well, so it would be a foolish move to let them go because of a few slip ups.

Toronto fans need to learn the art of patience and loyalty in order to fully accept some of the younger stars who don’t necessarily fulfill their highest of expectations.

Do we really want him to become another Brad Boyes who was givin’ up on in ‘02-’03 at a young age but then become a 40 goal scorer?

Luckily Burke’s a smarter man than Ferguson ever was, thus he’s bound to put hockey before business, rather than the other way around.

Pogge’s still got a lot to offer the game; he’s a regular Tweety Bird-type.

While he still tries to be eaten, Tweety manages to get away from Sylvester safely. And just like the bird Justin Pogge does the same with some of the demanding Leafs fans.

He’s clever enough to ignore the hungry fans and not let it weaken or destroy his confidence. Instead, he stands in front of the net and puts up a new fight every time he gets the opportunity to play.

Hopefully we don’t allow these games to cloud our judgement on who this teams’ valuable assets are and to give some of these younger players a break from time to time.

If we don’t, we’re just going to be left with a few feathers.

Second Half Let Down: Part 2

February 28, 2009

by Murry Crawford… While Kevin Buchanan broke out, the Toronto Rock broke down late in their game against the Minnesota Swarm, losing 13 – 10 on Feb. 27 at the Air Canada Centre.

The loss, the Rock’s third straight and sixth on the season, puts them in a must win scenario Saturday night in Rochester. If they lose against the Knighthawks they are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

To make matters worse this was the second straight game where the Rock held a lead at the end of the first half, only to implode and lose the game.

“Third quarter we lost 5 – 1,” head coach Jamie Batley said. “Obviously that was the problem tonight. We just didn’t put the ball in the net. We had lots of chances.”

Buchanan, in his third career game, scored five goals to lead the Swarm to a win.

Pretty good for a 22-year-old rookie, who wasn’t even on the active roster to start the season, and coming into tonight had only two career goals.

“I did my normal routine,” Buchanan said. “I was loose, goofy. I hit my first shot, it gave me a little confidence and it started rolling from there.”

Listed as a generous 5-10 roster his six points were ample support for the Swarm’s victory

Toronto’s offense came from a diverse group of forwards, with Luke Wiles, Kasey Beirnes and Chris Driscoll scoring two each. Absent from the scoring sheet was Jason Crosbie, who only managed one assist.

“We worked as a unit for the first 40 minutes,” Crosbie said. “Then we started not doing it (working as a unit), and they started (working as a unit) and then you (the Rock) start clutching sticks. It’s just a psychological thing right now with us.”

The fourth quarter saw the Swarm take complete control of the situation. Taking a four goal lead at one point and heading into the final minutes they were up 12 – 8.

The only answer from the Rock was a couple of goals from Kasey Beirnes. His first of the game, ending a 20-minute scoring drought for the Rock, made it a little closer. Followed by his second of the game, which brought the Rock to within two, 12 – 10.

But Aaron Wilson silenced any Rock comeback with his second of the game at 13:49 was the final nail in the Rock’s coffin.

The Swarm didn’t get their first lead of the game until the third quarter. Kevin Ross’ goal put the Rock in a one-goal deficit, down 9-8.

“We get in this position where we stop,” Crosbie said. “We don’t know what’s going on right now. We come out, got lots of confidence and we get in this position where we stop.”

The Rock now head to Rochester on very short rest. They play their second game in as many nights against the Knighthawks. Toronto has never beaten Rochester in the regular season, and three times in franchise history, to win the NLL championship all three times.

“We have to get goals offensively five-on-five and we’re not getting them,” Batley said. “We got goals in transition, power play we got some goals we only got a few five-on-five. We need more especially if we’re going to get quality shots. I think we got quality shots but we just didn’t put it in.”

Before last week’s game long-time Toronto Rock Dan Ladouceur retired from the game, he spent his entire career with the Toronto Rock and was on all five championship teams … This week the Rock acquired goalie Chris Palidwor from Colorado, he was the backup against Minnesota … It was Minnesota’s first game in Toronto since last season’s brawl that saw former coach Greg Clark suspended indefinitely after a post game incident with Swarm player Sean Pollock.

Toronto Football Club- TFC fans can smell the pitch thawing!

February 27, 2009

By Louis ”King of Roncesvalles” Pisano…
BMO field the home of the Toronto Football Club is under preparation for the third season of MLS play. Being such a multicultural, diverse city, Toronto, and its Football club has people from all over the world cheering for the same team, and uniting under one front, consisting of the colour red, not communism! The Red Patch Boys are preparing to don their scarves and tuning up their voices, which usually consists of quite a few pints, to sing The Reds Go Marching In, I’m Going Crazy, Toronto Till I Die and Dicho24. All the dollar stores will soon be sold out of red and white streamers as the fans who intend on having seats in the corners get ready to throw them at the opposing players on corner kicks. I haven’t seen this much support for any Toronto team period!

Supporters of the TFC definitely have some positives to be excited about this season. The acquisition of rugged defender, and Canadian product, Adrian Serioux  from FC Dallas in exchange for our natural 2010 first round pick and  some dough.  Manager Mo Johnson said “This is another great signing for our team”. This defensive signing along with the trade made on Dec 12th 2008 for Dwayne DE Rosario 4-time MLS cup winner and 3-time All Star begins to shore up some of the holes and soft spots in the armour of this team who should now be more of a threat in the MLS.

Midfielder Amado Guevara should continue his stellar play for the team, and will I’m sure thrill fans with some spectacular goals this season.  Veteran Danny Dichio, who’s song is sung at 23:13 of every game for having scored the first goal every for this TFC franchise, and in doing so created this tradition, will continue to bring his leadership skills and pot a few for Toronto fans
.
One position for the team, that will have to be decided upon, is that of the keeper. Stephan Frei a Swiss product has impressed coaches after being drafted by Toronto 13th over in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and was named MVP at the 2009 MLS player combine. There’s one battle internally for the team that will just bring about a positive outcome, no matter which guy is in net.

The beginning of the season for the TFC, sees the team play the first two games on the road, at Kansas City on March 21st, and then in Columbus March 28th before returning to Toronto for their home opener Saturday April 4th at BMO field where I’m sure the words will ring through the stadium, Toronto ‘till I die, Toronto ‘till I die, I know I am I’m sure I am, Toronto ‘till I die!
(Obviously the words to the song Toronto ‘till I die)

Picks, Players, and Prospects: The Trade Deadline Edition of the Power Poll

February 27, 2009

by Bryan Thiel… Well I decided to revive the Power Poll for a special occasion: The NHL Trade Deadline.

The scoring system awards two points for a win, and then adds in the differential of goals-for vs. goals against.

This week we took a look at who each team might be trading (which is for a majority of clubs because they either feature a tradeable player or are on the fringe of decided whether they’re buying or selling) or in a few cases, what the team needs.

We also tossed in a few speculations just for fun.

30. New York Islanders—(-19 points, Last week: -20 points): The New York Islanders could’ve been making a few moves at the deadline, but after getting ravaged by the injury bug, it’s hard to finger who might be moved.

Both Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger had potential (being free agents this offseason) but a season-ending injury for Sillinger and a sprained MCL for Weight means the probability for a deal is low (for Sillinger there’s nothing, but Weight could go for cheap).

Richard Park was on an affordable contract up after next season, but he’s also hurt, so that leaves Bill Guerin as the stereotypical “tradeable” forward: A veteran presence on the cheap with a hunger for another Stanley Cup ring. Given the right offer, Andy Sutton could be gone as well ($3.5 million next year, then free agency).

In other “if the right offer comes along” scenarios, Yann Danis or Joey MacDonald might perk the interest of teams looking for goaltending depth, while Mark Streit’s future is a bit up in the air.

29. Tampa Bay Lightning—(-1 points Last week, 2 points):
Two of the biggest pieces in Tampa’s “rebuilding” project could be traded. Actually, let me rephrase that, two of the OLDEST pieces in Tampa’s rebuilding project could be traded in Gary “I get $10,000 for every game played” Roberts, and Mark Recchi.

After a huge couple of weeks of rumors, the Lightning continue to try to put the Vincent Lecavalier rumors to rest.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs—8 (Last week, 4 points):
No one is safe on the Maple Leafs’ roster, not even Luke Schenn (Alright he is, but any Leafs fan will admit the thought of Brian Burke entertaining the idea of swapping Schenn for a lottery pick for even five seconds has them mumbling ‘here we go again’).

Nik Antropov, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina, Dominic Moore, Matt Stajan, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Jason Blake, and almost anyone else you can think of are all “maybes” right now to go at the deadline. Toronto is potentially the most interesting team to watch this trade deadline, but remember: potential doesn’t mean results.

When the Leafs don’t win, it’s disappointing. When they don’t make trades? Well, some will be disappointed.

27. Atlanta Thrashers—10 points (Last week: 10 points):
Niclas Havelid remains on the block and Ilya Kovalchuk is off it for this season.

Maybe if Bryan Little keeps up his chemistry with Kovalchuk it will not only entice Ilya to stay, but it may also prompt the Thrashers to see what kind of a market there is for someone like Vyacheslav Kozlov—a player who can put up points under the right circumstances and isn’t terribly priced with one-year, $3.85 million left for a potential 65-point player.

Then you have to wonder if Colby Armstrong will go back to Pittsburgh despite Chris Kuntiz’s recent trade to the Steel City.

26. Ottawa Senators—24 points (Last week, 25 points):
The Jason Spezza rumors have cooled down a bit, but if the right deal comes along Spezza could be on the first flight out of Ottawa.

Chris Neil’s name keeps popping up here and there and why shouldn’t it? Despite a recent calf-injury, Neil brings years of experience and the intangible that seems to triple in value come this time of year: sandpaper.

Word is teams are looking at Christoph Schubert, and while an extension may be in the works for Filip Kuba, if that can’t be reached he may be on his way out, while I’m sure the Sens would pay someone to take Martin Gerber off of their hands for the last three months of his contract, although he may fall victim to re-entry waivers.

25. Phoenix Coyotes—25 points (Last week, 23 points):
If you hadn’t heard yet, Oli Jokinen is available.

Well that lasted all of eight months.

Rumblings out of Phoenix also indicate that Derek Morris could be had as well as Ed Jovanovski (for a fair price of course), while Ken Klee could be a name who moves to his fourth team this season.

24. Colorado Avalanche—33 points (Last week, 29 points):
Ryan Smyth’s name continues to surface in the rumor well, and Ian Laperriere’s name has come up as well.

Jordan Leopold is the most likely candidate for an Avalanche trade, and it’ll be interesting to see who takes a stab at him (rumors have it that Calgary is likely to).

There’s also probably some interest in players like Brian Willsie and Tyler Arnason, but it’ll be hard for the Avs to get much quality in return.

23. Nashville Predators—34 points (Last week, 28):
The biggest name coming out of Predators camp right now? Ville Koistinen. And that’s only because he’s started to voice his displeasure with his recent benchings.

Aside from that, there are a few soon-to-be free agents on the roster, and while Greg de Vries and Radek Bonk may make attractive depth additions to teams, Nashville has been historically quiet when it comes to moves of consequence (Other than that guy named Forsberg and Steve Sullivan—who will most likely stay in Nashville), plus the fact they’re only three points out of the race and also have a habbit of creeping up in the waning weeks makes them less than likely to wheel and deal with the best of them.

22. Los Angeles Kings—36 points (Last week, 41 points):
As far as the Kings go, they should also be a fairly interesting team to watch at the deadline. While some of their players (Kyle Calder, Derek Armstrong) are heading to free agency, the Kings are just four points out of the playoffs, meaning they may not want to tinker too much with the roster.

The other problem, is that Calder and Armstrong aren’t going to fetch the Kings much other than roster space for their younger players, which in itself is valuable. If the Kings do decide to sell, Sean O’Donnell could be an interesting player to watch.

21. St Louis Blues—40 points (Last week, 35):
While all the talk is of Keith Tkachuk, it might be interesting to see if the Blues move someone off of their defense like Jay McKee. While the one year at $4-million remaining on his deal is a little much, McKee would be a great depth addition to any team’s defense, and he brings over 700 regular season and 51 playoff games experience to his new team.

You have to remember that this Blues team is also without Alex Pietrangelo or Erik Johnson right now, so it’ll be intriguing to see if space is made on the blueline now, or over the offseason for those two.

20. New York Rangers—42 points (Last week, 46 points):
The Rangers are almost an unpredictable team right now: A new coach, a new attitude, but the same old results. It’s tough to tell who stays and who goes right now, just as hard as it is to tell the likelihood as to whether or not John Tortorella will let Sean Avery on his team.


19. Edmonton Oilers—45 points (Last week, 44 points):
Recent reports have the Oilers and Sens teaming up as trade partners, but there are also some other teams interested in Oiler players. Erik Cole has been the most frequent name to come up, but I’d be interested to see if anyone tries to get the services of Rob Schremp from the Oilers.

After all, they aren’t using him.

18. Carolina Hurricanes—46 points (Last week, 32):
The Hurricanes are in fairly solid position when it comes to contract statuses with only a few players approaching free agency.

Considering the recent injury to Ryan Miller in Buffalo and the limited resources they have to sell at the NHL level, the ‘Canes may have to be wary of who and what they trade if they want to keep those playoff aspirations.

17. Dallas Stars—52 points (Last week, 51):
If the Stars had remained where they were when they started the season, we’d all be pegging them as sellers and saying good-bye to Jere Lehtinen, or we may have them re-flipping Darryl Sydor, or even Sergei Zubov if he hadn’t have broken his hip.

Now? The eighth-place Stars are positioned to be buyers at the deadline with the only thing they’re hoping to shed themselves being Sean Avery.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets—53 points (Last week, 46 points):
Saints be praised, the Columbus Blue Jackets are buyers at this year’s Trade Deadline.

Depending on who you ask, the Jackets are either into Sabres’ centre Tim Connolly or they aren’t. The prospect of him sliding into a Columbus lineup featuring Rick Nash, Kristian Huselius, R.J. Umberger, and youngsters Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard (if they can retain Connolly—if they get him) oozes offensive gratuity.

As for selling? Well the Jackets may be able to use Christian Backman or Rostislav Klesa (there are a few rumors out there that have him leaving Columbus although I doubt it) to pry another top-six forward away from any dealing team.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins—55 points (last week, 49 points):
Well, I was going to say Ryan Whitney, but then the Pittsburgh Penguins went and ruined everything. I doubt the Penguins sell much off in the coming days, but I’m intrigued to see if Colby Armstrong comes back to the Penguins.

14. Anaheim Ducks—57 points (Last week, 53 points):
Chris Kunitz. I had that one too!

Aside from that and the potential trading of Chris Pronger, it’s hard to see the Ducks doing much else of consequence, although trading Pronger is doing something of fairly large consequence.

Word is the Ducks are waiting on Scott Niedermayer’s decision on whether or not he’ll return next season to decide what to do with Pronger.

But hey, why not do something dishonest? If Niedermayer says he wants to retire, trade him too! You double the assets you get back for two top-of-the-line defensemen, and you stick the rest of the league with a cruel joke!

I’m kidding of course, but wouldn’t that be a great way to intensify a rivalry?

13. Florida Panthers—62 points (Last week, 67 points):
The Panthers are still in a playoff spot, and that may very well determine what they do in the coming days.

Jay Bouwmeester isn’t coming back to Florida, and no matter what Jacques Martin says, the prospect of even getting a draft pick for Bouwmeester outweighs getting nothing.

Obviously anyone in the league is going to be interested in Bouwmeester’s services, but Martin needs to decide if a package of lesser assets for the future, or one year of Bouwmeester will help the Cats more.

12. Montreal Canadiens—67 points (Last week, 59 points):
If Alexei Kovalev keeps playing the way he has been, the Canadiens may not be trading him.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Canadiens swing a barn-burner of a deal though. They have a lot of soon-to-be free agents and some young talent they could parlay into some immediate help. Plus it might further stimulate a team who, despite winning their last two, are still 3-6-1 in their last ten.

11. Vancouver Canucks—68 points (Last week, 67 points):
Aside from some injury-insurance, the Canucks are expecting a fairly quiet trade deadline. Nothing much happening here and nothing much to sell as the ‘Nucks seem content to take their chances with the Sedins and Mattias Ohlund resigning with the team.

Then again, what other option do the Canucks have?

10. Buffalo Sabres—72 points (Last week, 67 points): While Tim Connolly is definitely an asset to the Buffalo Sabres, it’s not like they’ve never played without him in the lineup.

Of all the teams attempting to cope with giving up an impact player at the deadline, the Sabres may be the best prepared because of Connolly’s injury history. That, and if the Sabres can get something for the pending free agent, (players, prospects, or picks) the Sabres should be sitting pretty.

9. Minnesota Wild—75 points (Last week, 69 points):
The big name worth watching on the Wild front is Marian Gaborik. Despite his hip injury, Gaborik is skating on his own (soon to be with the team) and he (like the injured Tomas Kaberle) still has a few interested parties after him.

Niklas Backstrom is also a possibility, and while the Wild are working on an extension, it’s hard to fathom a playoff team forfeiting a goalie of Backstrom’s caliber unless the Wild are prepared to flirt with the idea of missing the playoffs.

8. Calgary Flames—89 points (Last week, 78 points):
Some have said that the Flames are interested in Martin Gerber, and who can blame them when Curtis McElhinney still has yet to win a game this season. To his credit though, he’s only played two full games in the past two months (including one relief appearance), and even that’s tough when you’re supposed to be a back-up goaltender.

Other than that, the Flames are another team looking for a bit of depth.

7. Philadelphia Flyers—90 points (Last week, 78):
The Flyers are rumored to be interested in Jay Bouwmeester, but they’re also getting Danny Briere back from injury finally and cap space is at a bit of a premium with only $2.8 million available.

If the Flyers can make room they may also be interested in something off of L.A.’s or Anaheim’s roster.

6. Washington Capitals—103 points (Last week, 103 points):
At this point, it’s hard to decipher who exactly the second-highest scoring team in the league would target or trade for.

Aside from a few unrestricted free agents at the end of the year, there isn’t much change for the Caps, so maybe adding one or two more depth forwards, or maybe a goaltending prospect as insurance through trade is the route the Caps want to go.

5. New Jersey Devils—107 points (Last week, 108 points):
The New Jersey Devils may be in the perfect situation. Not only are they getting all-world goalie Martin Brodeur back from injury, but they didn’t have to risk losing either Kevin Weekes or Scott Clemmensen to waivers.

Because of Clemmensen’s “emergency status”
from when Brodeur was first injured, he didn’t have to clear waivers on his way to the NHL, nor does he have to clear them on the way back down, and Kevin Weekes stays right where he is in the backup role.

Whether this recent demotion (and his recent performance) have done anything for Clemmensen’s trade value, we’ll have to wait and see if the Devils capitalize on this, or if they let him walk this summer via free agency.

4. Chicago Blackhawks—117 points (Last week, 106 points):
I guess the biggest question you could ask is whether or not Nikolai Khabibulin is still on the market, or if there are even teams interested in him, now that he’s working his way back from injury.

Although there’s not much the ‘Hawks could get for him now that he’s injured, it would be interesting to see where the ‘Hawks go (be it offense or defense) now that they’re buyers for the first time in a long time.

3. Detroit Red Wings—134 points (Last week, 119 points):
Call up Ville Leino and all of the sudden the Detroit Red Wings may not need to do anything at the trade deadline.

Alright, eyeing up another goalie may be a good idea given the tumultuous few weeks Chris Osgood has been having and the unfortunate events of Ty Conklin’s past in the playoffs, but the Wings remain to be one of the most skilled teams in the league, deadline day additions or not.

2. San Jose Sharks—139 points (Last week, 127 points):
Once Jeremy Roenick gets his sea legs back, he may be the only addition the Sharks need so long as their big guns (Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton) can stay healthy down the stretch.

Possibly the most amazing thing about the Sharks is that they’ve lost only nine games the entire season. Maybe the Sharks could use another finisher (imagine a healthy Marian Gaborik on this roster….like it would ever happen), but aside from that they’re looking like they’re more playoff-ready every game.

1.Boston Bruins—146 points (Last week, 142 points):
There are a few rumors surrounding the Bruins but two big rumors heading into the deadline are: That they’re targeting Keith Tkachuk (although St Louis may or may not be sellers) and that they’re shopping Manny Fernandez. Both situations will be interesting to monitor, but given the choice I’d take Fernandez over the heir-apparent Tuukka Rask.

Not that Rask isn’t a quality netminder, but Fernandez’s experience will be invaluable when backing up Tim Thomas in the playoffs, and he’s rested enough to give Thomas a rest heading into the stretch run.

What’s next for the Raptors

February 27, 2009

By Brady Rynyk…

There has been much hype and optimism surrounding The Raptors newly acquired pick-up, Shawn Marion, but his impact on the team seems a little more then premature.  Since acquiring the 4 time All-Star from The Miami Heat, The Raptors have split there last four games with two close wins over The New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves – 2 teams with sub-500 records, while losing in significant fashion to The Cleveland Cavillers and to The Knicks.

Despite Marion’s seemingly limitless potential to play within the relatively young Raptors system, it is more then apparent that there are more pieces missing from puzzle. After the recent pick-up for The Raptors, it is pretty clear that general manager Bryan Colangelo is certainly trying to recreate some of the desert magic he once had when he orchestrated one of the most explosive NBA offences when he was with The Phoenix Suns.

Colangelo, who originally drafted Marion ninth overall in 1999, and is aware of what The Matrix is capable of doing on the court, is attempted to right the failed experiment of the summer when the team traded T.J Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston and 1st round pick Roy Hibbert to Indiana for Jermaine O’Neal (and the 41st pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Nathan Jawai). In addition to Marion, the Raptors also picked up Marcus Banks, the one time NCAA co-defensive player of the year when he was at UNLV. Although Banks a one-time first round pick himself, seems to show potential within the raptors organization, he has played for as many teams as the amount of years he has played in the league since being drafted in 2003 – leading to speculation that he might not the player he appears to be on paper.

Calangelo was recently quoted as saying, “This is a win-win for both Toronto and Miami and we wish J.O. and Jamario the best,” after the making the trade over All-Star weekend.  The only problem is that along with unloading Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon to the Heat, The Raptors also agreed to part with yet another first round pick between 2010 and 2015.  To make matters worse, under the conditions of the Marion trade, the draft pick is lottery protected, so the first time The Raptors make the playoffs after this season, their pick goes to Miami. And if the Raptors don’t make the play-off’s next season, they will have to part with another draft pick to Miami.

So for a team that is trying desperately to build a strong supporting cast around Chris Bosh so the big man will not opt-out of his contract in the summer of 2010, the team is not left with many options in terms of picking up any fresh talent from the pool of potential rookies in the off-season. Prospects which may include, Georgetown’s Greg Monroe, UConn’s center Hasheem Thabeet, Ricky Rubio (Spain), Arizona State’s shooting guard James Harden, Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin, Davidson’s Stephen Curry, Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague, Pitt’s Dejaun Blair, or even North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson – all players that could seemingly make an immediate impact on the team for the 2009-10 season.

As a result the team is left, with impending decisions to make over the summer, because it is almost certain that the Raptors need to add at least one more big time contributor to the team in order to make a push in the up coming season.
Rumoured to be up for grabs in the up coming off-season are big time players like, the apparent unhappy Amare Stoudemire, Horents’ Tyson Chandler, Bucks Richard Jefferson, Bulls Kirk Hinrich, or even ex-raptor’s Marcus Camby and yes Vince Carter.  All players who can play and up-tempo style of game and could all potentially fit well into The Raptor system, putting them into contention within the eastern conference.
But more then likely it would appear that the team will not have enough ingredients for a full course meal and nothing to buy them with, thus making it a more then likely scenario that Bosh will be cut loose, and the team will have to start the rebuilding process all over again - AGAIN.

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