What If The NHL Were Still Six Teams?

May 1, 2009


By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter…

The summer is a time for many NHL columnist to make predictions and re-write all the “Best player in category X” lists. So, keeping with the theme, I wondered the other day: What if the NHL was still made up of the “Original Six” Teams, how would the rosters look?

In order to get an idea of what each teams roster would look like I decided to do a draft. Here are the parameters I set for the draft and the order in which the teams will pick.

First, in order to qualify for the draft you must have been on an NHL roster in 2008-09. Sure, it would have been great to include the likes of John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchesne, but it is far too difficult to project the value of these players without having watched them play a single NHL game. So, for the purpose of this article, I have left all 2008-09 NHL draft picks out of my Original Six draft lottery.

Each team will draft a total of 21 players, consisting of two Goaltenders, four Centres, four Left Wingers, four Right Wingers and Seven Defensemen.

Each team will be allowed to draft one player in each draft round. I will do my best to select the most valuable player left on the table. Obviously, the draft order will differ greatly from the readers, everyone sees things very differently, so please try to resist the “How the hell could you take Crosby over Ovechkin comments”….

Draft order-

In order to determine the draft order I threw six pieces of paper into a hat and started picking. Here is the draft order I came up with-

1. Boston Bruins- Offense

2. Detroit Red Wings- Defense

3. Toronto Maple Leafs- Two-way

4. Chicago Blackhawks- Offense

5. New York Rangers- Defense

6. Montreal Canadiens- Two-way

In order to make the draft as fair as possible, I decided to tweak the draft order. In the first round of the draft the Boston Bruins will draft first, then 2-6 will follow. In the second round of the draft the Montreal Canadiens will draft first and 5-1 will follow. The first selection will rotate accordingly from there, working from #4 back to #6, and so on.

Each team will be built with the intention of picking the best player available. That said, as everyone who drafts a roster for their pool knows, consideration will have to be given to positional players at some point, so the “best” player available may not be chosen in the end.

With that in mind, I decided to attach a philosophical approach to each teams intended style of play (See notes attached to each team above). This will bring some validity to the order the players are chosen.

Teams marked as “Offense” will put a premium on players that bring great offensive talent. Teams marked “Defense” will put an emphasis on players that bring a great defensive skill set and those marked “Two-way” will look to choose players that can play 200 feet of the ice.

Clearly, there will be a few players that, on their own merits will not fit the bill of the teams overall intentions, but the final roster should look like the intended product.

***Please Note: Obviously this is purely a fantasy article, so take it for what it’s worth.

Boston Bruins- Offense

1. Alex Ovechkin (L)

2. Ryan Getzlaf (C)

3. Joe Thornton (C)

4. Mike Green (D)

5. Marian Hossa (R)

6. Dany Heatley (L)

7. Niklas Backstrom (C)

8. Andrei Markov (D)

9. Niklas Backstrom (G)

10. Sheldon Souray (D)

11. Alexei Kovalev (L)

12. Thomas Vanek (L)

13. Jason Pominville (R)

14. Bryan McCabe (D)

15. Brad Boyes (R)

16. Derek Roy (C)

17. J.P. Dumount (R)

18. Francois Beauchemin (D)

19. Mikka Kiprusoff (G)

20. Pavol Kubina (D)

21. Jack Johnson (D)

Detroit Red Wings- Defense

1. Sidney Crosby (C)

2. Jeff Carter (C)

3. Scott Niedermayer (D)

4. Tim Thomas (G)

5. Corey Perry (R)

6. Daniel Sedin (L)

7. Dennis Wideman (D)

8. Jonathan Toews (C)

9. Brad Richards (C)

10. Drew Doughty (D)

11. Martin Havlat (R)

12. Loui Eriksson (L)

13. Ryan Smyth (L)

14. Kevin Bieska (D)

15. Devon Setoguchi (R)

16. Pavol Demitra (R)

17. Paul Kariya (L)

18. John-Michael Liles (D)

19. Ryan Whitney (D)

20. Mathias Ohlund (D)

21. J.S Giguere (G)

Toronto Maple Leafs- Two-way

1. Pavol Datsyuk (C)

2. Niklas Lidstrom (D)

3. Martin Brodeur (G)

4. Henrik Zetterberg (C)

5. Chris Pronger (D)

6. Brent Burns (D)

7. Jonathan Toews (C)

8. Dan Boyle (D)

9. Milan Lucic (L)

10. Bobby Ryan (L)

11. Johan Franzen (L)

12. Brad Stuart (D)

13. Brenden Morrow (L)

14. Jamie Langenbrunner (R)

15. Daniel Briere (R)

16. Teemu Selanne (R)

17. Patrick Sharp (R)

18. Willie Mitchell (D)

19. David Krejci (C)

20. Robyn Regehr (D)

21. Jonas Hiller (G)

Chicago Blackhawks- Offense

1. Evgeni Malkin (C)

2. Vincent Lecavalier (C)

3. Ilya Kovalchuk (L)

4. Rick Nash (L)

5. Steve Mason (G)

6. Martin St. Louis (R)

7. Niklas Kronwall (D)

8. Brian Rafalski (D)

9. Jason Spezza (C)

10. Mark Streit (D)

11. Mike Cammalleri (C)

12. Rob Blake (D)

13. Patrick Elias (L)

14. Vyacheslav Kozlov (L)

15. Alexander Frolov (R)

16. David Backes (R)

17. Milan Hedjuk (R)

18. Alexander Edler (D)

19. Evgeni Nabokov (G)

20. Filip Kuba (D)

21. Keith Ballard (D)

New York Rangers- Defense

1. Roberto Luongo (G)

2. Zdeno Chara (D)

3. Mike Richards (C)

4. Jay Boumeester (D)

5. Marc Savard (C)

6. Patrick Kane (R)

7. Shea Weber (D)

8. Tomas Kaberle (D)

9. Patrick Marleau (L)

10. Brent Burns (D)

11. Mike Knuble (R)

12. Brian Campbell (D)

13. Alexander Semin (L)

14. Dan Cleary (R)

15. David Booth (R)

16. Ray Whitney (L)

17. Mikko Koivu (C)

18. Kim Johnsson (D)

19. Cam Ward (G)

20. Anze Kopitar (C)

21. Ryan Malone (L)

Montreal Canadiens- Two-way

1. Jarome Iginla (R)

2. Eric Staal (C)

3. Zach Parise (L)

4. Henrik Lundqvist (G)

5. Dion Phaneuf (D)

6. Henrik Sedin (C)

7. Duncan Keith (D)

8. Jordan Staal (C)

9. Shane Doan (R)

10. Sergei Gonchar (D)

11. Simon Gagne (L)

12. Mike Ribeiro (C)

13. Ales Hemsky (R)

14. Scott Hartnell (L)

15. Brian Gionta (R)

16. Ryan Clowe (L)

17. Cam Barker (D)

18. Marc-Andre Fleury (G)

19. Paul Martin (D)

20. Jaroslav Spacek (D)

21. Marc Staal

Obviously, given the parameters of the draft, some very talented players are absent from any of the six rosters. While it is impossible to agree on all of my selections, I think the rosters are a good representation of what the NHL would look like if their were only six teams.

Here is what each lineup would look like….

Boston Bruins-

Left Wing- Centre- Right Wing-

Alex Ovechkin Ryan Getzlaf Marian Hossa

Dany Heatley Joe Thornton Brad Boyes

Alex Kovalev Niklas Backstrom J.P. Dumount

Thomas Vanek Derek Roy Jason Pominville

Defense-

Mike Green Andrei Markov

Sheldon Souray Bryan McCabe

Pavol Kubina Francois Beauchemin

Jack Johnson

Goalies-

Niklas Backstrom

Mikka Kiprusoff

Detroit Red Wings-

Left Wing- Centre- Right Wing-

Daniel Sedin Sidney Crosby Corey Perry

Paul Kariya Jeff Carter Martin Havlat

Loui Eriksson Jonathan Toews Pavol Demitra

Ryan Smyth Brad Richards Devon Setoguchi

Defense-

Scott Niedermayer Dennis Wideman

Drew Doughty Kevin Bieska

Mathias Ohlund John-Michael Liles

Ryan Whitney

Goalies-

Tim Thomas

J.S Giguere

Toronto Maple Leafs-

Left Wing- Centre- Right Wing-

Bobby Ryan Pavol Datsyuk Daniel Briere

Johan Franzen Henrik Zetterberg Teemu Selanne

Brenden Morrow Jonathan Toews Patrick Sharp

Milan Lucic David Krejci Jamie Langenbrunner

Defense-

Nik Lidstrom Chris Pronger

Dan Boyle Brent Burns

Willie Mitchell Robyn Regehr

Brad Stuart

Goalies-

Martin Brodeur

Jonas Hiller

Chicago Blackhawks-

Left Wing- Centre- Right Wing-

Ilya Kovalchuk Evgeni Malkin Martin St. Louis

Rick Nash Vincent Lecavalier Alexander Frolov

Patrick Elias Jason Spezza David Backes

Vyacheslav Kozlov Mike Cammalleri Milan Hedjuk

Defense-

Niklas Kronwall Brian Rafalski

Mark Streit Rob Blake

Alexander Edler Keith Ballard

Filip Kuba

Goalies-

Steve Mason

Evgeni Nabokov

New York Rangers-

Left Wing- Centre- Right Wing-

Patrick Marleau Mike Richards Patrick Kane

Ray Whitney Marc Savard Mike Knuble

Alexander Semin Mikko Koivu Dan Cleary

Ryan Malone Anze Kopitar David Booth

Defense-

Zdeno Chara Jay Bouwmeester

Shea Weber Brent Burns

Tomas Kaberle Brian Campbell

Kim Johnsson

Montreal Canadiens-

Left Wing- Centre- Right Wing-

Zach Parise Eric Staal Jarome Iginla

Simon Gagne Henrik Sedin Shane Doan

Scott Hartnell Mike Ribiero Ales Hemsky

Ryan Clowe Jordan Staal Brian Gionta

Defense-

Dion Phaneuf Duncan Keith

Sergei Gonchar Cam Barker

Paul Martin Marc Staal

Jaroslav Spacek

Goalies-

Henrik Lundquist

Marc-Andre Fleury

Floyd Mayweather Jr: The King Returns to Reclaim His Throne

April 30, 2009

By Stoker MacIntosh… His friends call him “little” Floyd but to most of the boxing world he is known as Floyd Mayweather Jr, possibly the greatest welterweight boxer of all time.

This phenomenal fighter may not be the most popular guy in the fight game but, love him or hate him, most fans are willing to give the former world champion the respect he deserves.

A few months ago I wrote an article asking the question that I felt was in the minds of fans at the time, which was: Will Manny Pacquiao bring Mayweather out of retirement?

That specific question remains un-answered, but according to boxrec.com part of it has come to fruition, Mayweather is scheduled to come out of retirement to face Juan Manual Marquez on July 14 of this year.

It seems the “pretty boy” wants no part of Manny Pacquiao however, and I’m wondering if its the same reason he ducked/avoided Antonio Margarito?

Mayweather won’t take a fight unless he feels he can get the lions share of the money and also dominate his opponent for 12 rounds; ”Pacman” is a south paw pressure fighter who can also box, which would be Floyd’s worst nightmare.

My opinion, for what its worth, is that little Floyd wants to come back not necessarily to fight Pacquiao, but mainly because of the overwhelming media attention that the “Pacman” has received.

Mayweather could possibly be feeling a bit resentful or jealous, knowing there is someone better out there playing around in his weight class who he hasn’t beaten.

Someone who is more popular and has completely stolen the lime-light from any other boxer in recent history, including Mayweather.

It’s my personal opinion though, that if he ever does face Manny Pacquiao it would be an easy victory for “little Floyd.”

However, if my hunch is right, I feel Pacquiao will lose this upcoming fight to Hatton and that in itself will quickly dispell any subsequent fight between them.

To be completely honest, I’d rather see him rematch Hatton than waste his time with Pacquiao who I feel is highly over-rated.

Mayweather has had great victories against Zab Judah, De La Hoya, and Hatton…I say that he should now fight only the top guys to prove he is exactly what he says he is, the best boxer of his era.

And let me say this, if he does fight Marquez, that’s a hell of a great start, Marquez is thought by many including myself to be the true No. 1 pound for pound fighter in the world.

I had Marquez beating Pacquiao in both their fights, not just the second one which is also a popular belief.

Let’s say that the “Pretty Boy” does somehow manage to get past Marquez, and Hatton beats Pacquiao, maybe we will see a Mayweather Hatton rematch, although quite honestly–even though his boxing has improved under Floyd Sr–I wouldn’t give Hatton much chance for victory this time around either.

The Pride of Puerto Rico Miguel “Angel” Cotto  would be a  great test for Mayweather, it would be much harder for Mayweather to use his defensive ability against a crippling body puncher such as Cotto.

How about the power-punching and tough as nails New York boxer Luis Collazo?

Collazo, in my opinon, would match up nicely with Mayweather, and let’s not forget that many people feel Collazo was robbed of wins in his fights with Hatton and Andre Berto.

Another big name super-fight being thrown around is Sugar Shane Mosley vs Mayweather.

Wow! What a fight that would be, Mosley is riding a wave of popularity nowadays and is one of a rare breed of fighters, along with Bernard Hopkins who has seemingly defied the effects of father time.

It will be interesting to see what takes place in the coming months, but with the absence of De La Hoya, Margarito, and Calzaghe, its great to see a big name fighter return, to the greatest sport on earth.

All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire. Aristotle

Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, and zoologist (384 BC - 322 BC)

In Praise of Alexei Ponikarovsky

April 30, 2009

By Mark Makuch… I have to admit that I used to bash Alexei Ponikarovsky. “Doesn’t use his size!” “Misses too many chances!” “Never able to elevate his game!” If there was anyone the Leafs should trade, if you asked me, it was him.

Until this year.

Let’s face it: Ponikarovsky will never be a star scoring machine. He’s basically a 20-plus goal scorer and has proven that the last four years, along with a consistent 12 percent shooting accuracy. He did come through with career numbers, driven by a big increase in assists (up to 38 from his next highest of 24 in 06-07).

But what was most impressive to me was how he emerged after the departure of Nik Antropov. Instead of wilting and fading, as many suspected he would, he rose to the occasion. In the remaining 18 games after the trade deadline, he had 22 points, with two four-point games. He ended the year as a six-plus player, the only Leaf forward to be a plus-player (call-ups notwithstanding) this season. He also provided critical leadership to his Russian line mates Grabovski and Kulemin, who became much better defensive players by the end of the year.

What emerged for me was a very smart two-way player, who was also capable of putting up some unexpectedly decent numbers, and who could be a leader, too.

As the Leafs turn the corner on their rebuilding phase, the Kulemin-Grabovski-Ponikarovsky line looks to be very much a keeper. He’s fast, smart, defensively capable, and has enough skill to hurt you. They are a bona fide NHL second line, and together cost less than Jason Blake’s salary. For a team that had no real top six forwards at the start of the year, that is huge progress. And much of the credit for that progress should be Ponikarovski’s.

Wilson and Burke still have their work cut out for them. Only a monster draft move by Burke or some crafty free-agent signings will get the Leafs a true top line. But the signs are there that this team is moving in the right direction, with Ponikarovski as a key driver. Once a classic underachiever, he is now a much more valuable player.

Top Ten Toronto Sports Personalities - Yes Cherry, No Tortorella

April 30, 2009

By Martin Avery… “I don’t enjoy hockey-obsessed Canadians. People (in Toronto) are talking about hockey 24 hours a day.” - Sean Avery

Toronto has a ton of hockey talk, with all kinds of talk radio hosts, newspaper columnists, and team play-by-play and color analysts (tv and radio). It is, after all, the home of Hockey Night in Canada and TSN, and is responsible for broadcasting Don Cherry to the world.

It was Don Cherry who very famously said, “Anybody who says they don’t like fighting in the NHL have to be out of their minds.”

Hockey Night in Canada is the home of this quote: “Hello Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland.” It’s an institution in Canada, and also with American hockey fans. It was satirized brilliantly in the Mike Myers hockey movie called “The Love Guru.”

Hockey Night in Canada is a television broadcast of National Hockey League games in Canada, produced by CBC Sports. Hockey Night has consistently been among the highest-rated programs on Canadian television, and is the world’s oldest sports-related television program still on the air.

The intermission highlight on HNIC is “Coach’s Corner”, a segment featuring Don Cherry and Ron MacLean.

TSN is The Sports Network, a Canadian English-language cable television specialty channel, and Canada’s leading English language sports television channel. TSN is owned by CTV Specialty Television, a joint venture of CTVglobemedia and ESPN.

My favorite Toronto sportscasters are Jay Kell and Trent Leuders, played by Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan, on a fictional version of Hockey Night in Canada in the Mike Myers hockey movie called “The Love Guru.”

In 2009, the film won three Golden Raspberry Awards, for worst film (beating “Disaster Movie” and “Meet the Spartans”), worst actor (Mike Myers), and worst screenplay.

They appear at different times in the movie, starting with this introduction:

Trent Lueders: “I’m Trent Lueders.”
Jay Kell: “And I’m Jay Kell. Tonight is all about champions. But before we get going, I’d like to start by thanking my own personal champions. The fans who supported me with their cards and letters during my recent addiction to peyote buttons and Frangelico. I’ve already apologized to my friends, my family, and my god. And now, I’d like to apologize to Dame Judi Dench for my vicious and brutal attack. I’m sorry, Judi, you did not deserve that, and I hope the staples come out soon. Over to you, Trent.”
Trent Lueders: (brief pause, eyebrow raised) “Thanks, Jay!”

TSN added NHL coach John Tortorella to their coverage of the 2008-2009 season, but left the network to coach the New York Rangers. He hated a part of the show he was on that included a quiz, apparently, and he said, on the air, very famously, “Enough is enough. He’s embarrassed himself, he’s embarrassed the [Stars'] organization, he’s embarrassed the league and he’s embarrassed his teammates, who have to look out for him. Send him home. He doesn’t belong in the NHL.”

He was talking about the hockey star Sean Avery, who he had to coach as one of his conditions of employment for taking the job with the Rangers.

Tortorella was head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for seven years, is the all-time leader in wins by an American-born NHL head coach. In 2003-2004, he guided the Lightning to the franchise’s first and only Stanley Cup title and was named NHL Coach of the Year.

Tortorella promised to be the same person behind the NHL on TSN desk as he was behind an NHL bench.

”I have not been groomed for public speaking, but that’s part of the job as an NHL head coach,” said Tortorella.  ”It’s tough to contain your emotions in the heat of the battle, but I don’t know how to communicate any other way but honestly.  And sometimes that gets me in trouble.”

Here’s my top ten list, but it’s not in order, really.

1. Roy MacGregor is my favourite sportswriter. He is the acclaimed and bestselling author of Home Team: Fathers, Sons, and Hockey, and A Life in the Bush (winner of the U.S. Rutstrum Award for Best Wilderness Book and the CAA Award for Biography), as well as two novels, Canoe Lake and The Last Season, as well as the popular Screech Owls mystery series for young readers.

A regular columnist for The Globe and Mail since 2002, MacGregor has written for publications including the National Post (1998–2002), the Ottawa Citizen (1986–1998), Maclean’s magazine, and the Toronto Star.

Here’s another chunk of dialogue from The Love Guru.

Trent Lueders: “Tonight, game one of the Stanley Cup Finals. L.A. Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s gonna get ugly.”
Jay Kell: “Ugly. You wanna hear ugly? At Promises, I shivved a guy with a sharpened toothbrush because he bogarted the rehab toilet hooch that I’d made from apples and pantyhose. That was ugly. Over to you, Trent.”
Trent Lueders: (brief pause) “Thanks, Jay.”

2. Brian McFarlane is another guy I like a lot. I met him once, when he was a special guest at the launch of a book I wrote about a Canadian Olympic athlete (Alexdra Orlando: In Pursuit Of Victory). He said, “That’s great. You should write about hockey.”

He was the son of the prolific writer Leslie McFarlane who wrote many of the early Hardy Boys young adult mystery novels.

He is perhaps best known as a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada for 25 years.

McFarlane was also a color commentator on Toronto Maple Leafs local telecasts until 1980, when he made on-air comments that were critical of Leafs owner Harold Ballard. He was subsequently banned from the Maple Leaf Gardens press box. For Hockey Night in Canada, he was moved off Toronto games from this point on.

McFarlane is often incorrectly cited as the creator of the cartoon character Peter Puck. The cartoon puck, which appeared on both NBC’s Hockey Game of the Week and CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada during the 1970s, was actually the creation of NBC executive Donald Carswell. After the network stopped carrying NHL hockey, McFarlane purchased the rights to Peter Puck from NBC’s production partner, Hanna-Barbera.

McFarlane currently resides in the Toronto area and plays hockey with NHL oldtimers at the arena in Pickering — which is Sean Avery’s hometown.

Here’s another piece from The Love Guru:

Trent Lueders: “It’s a bench-clearing brawl! Remember, kids, this is not how you play hockey. It’s just ugly.”
Jay Kell: “I like it.”

3. Gord Stellick can be heard on The Fan 590 and Toronto Sports Radio every day from Noon to one, on THE FAN, and simulcast on Rogers Sportsnet, with Daren Millard and Nick Kypreos.

Stellick currently co-hosts The Fan 590 Morning Show with Don Landry, and also appears on Hockey Central on Rogers Sportsnet.

Stellick was the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs from April 1988 until August 1989. At the age of 30, he was the youngest GM in NHL history.

He resigned on August 11, 1989, citing interference from Maple Leaf’s owner Harold Ballard.

Stellick co-wrote, with Damien Cox, the book ‘67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory and the End of an Empire, about the last season the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.

Okay, one more piece from The Love Guru:

Trent Lueders: “Game three here in Los Angelas. The L.A. Kings have beaten the Leafs. They are one game away from a Stanley Cup victory. They can’t be happy in the Leafs’ Locker room right now.”
Jay Kell: “I’m sorry, I blacked out for a second. Have they dropped the puck?”
4. Mike Brophy discusses all the latest breaking news and hot topics in the hockey world, featuring the biggest names in the game.

A former senior writer for The Hockey News, Brophy covers the NHL for the Hockeycentral panel as the Insider. Brophy contributes in-studio, on-the-air, and on-the-web as part of Sportsnet’s extensive hockey coverage.

Brophy provides analysis as part of Hockeycentral, Connected pre-game and intermission coverage, while contributing to sportsnet.ca with columns, blogs, features and breaking news. Finally, he co-hosts Hockeycentral at Noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays on Sportsnet Ontario and the FAN 590 in Toronto.

Trent Lueders: “Well, here we go, game seven. It all comes down to this, ladies and gentlemen. Who do you like tonight, Jay? Jay?”
Jay Kell: “I like the Christmas babies, Trent! And I like the way my skin feels when I’m wearing my rainbow jacket! (He makes robotic sounds and acts like a robot) By your command.”
Trent Lueders: “You’re back on drugs, aren’t you?”

5. Stephen Brunt is a well-known sports journalist. He makes frequent appearances on sports talk radio shows such as Prime Time Sports and has been the lead sports columnist for The Globe and Mail since 1989.

He has authored several books including Facing Ali, a series of stories about boxers who fought Muhammad Ali, and the #1 Canadian best seller Searching for Bobby Orr.

He is also on the Toronto sports talk show Prime Time Sports, a syndicated show on the Fan 590.

6. Bob McKenzie is a Canadian hockey commentator who has covered hockey since joining TSN in the late 1980s.

McKenzie provides analysis for NHL on TSN telecasts, as well as for international hockey events, notably the annual IIHF World U-20 Hockey Championship. McKenzie was editor-in-chief of The Hockey News for nine years and a hockey columnist for The Toronto Star for six years.

Before becoming a full time TSN analyst, he was the Editor-in-Chief for the Hockey News.

7. Dave Hodge currently works for TSN, and has worked in the past for the CBC and CFRB 1010 radio in Toronto.

Joining the CBC, he hosted Hockey Night in Canada from 1971 until 1987, working 15 Stanley Cup Finals. He was often joined in the studio by colorful analysts, such as Howie Meeker and Don Cherry.

On March 14, 1987, Hodge was the in-studio host as the CBC carried a game between the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs, which ended early. The network then switched over to a regional game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens for the end of the third period. It ended in a tie just before 11:00 PM Eastern Time, meaning it would require overtime.

CBC executives, however, decided that only viewers in Quebec, who had seen the game from the start, would get to continue watching after 11:00, while the rest of the network would cut away. “That’s the way things go these days in sports and at this network,” Hodge said in disgust, flipping his pencil in the air. “We’ll leave you in suspense. Good night from Hockey Night in Canada.”

Hodge was replaced the following week by western correspondent Ron MacLean and eventually fired from the network.

After the CBC, he was hired by Can-West Global to host their coverage of the 1987 and 1988 Stanley Cup playoffs, which included some games in the finals.

Currently, Hodge hosts a Sunday morning show called The Reporters, as well as providing commentary for the network’s NHL coverage.

8. Damien Cox is a long-time columnist for the Toronto Star, Canada’s biggest newspaper. He has covered the Toronto Maple Leafs for over 15 years, as well as the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, and many other international hockey events.

Cox has also worked extensively in radio and television in the past decade and has been a frequent contributor to The Hockey News and ESPN.com, among other publications and media outlets. For three years, he was co-host of Prime Time Sports, heard daily on The Fan 590 in Toronto, and on the Rogers radio network across Canada.

Cox has been named three times to The Hockey News’ “100 People of Power and Influence in Hockey.”

In 2004, Cox co-wrote the book ‘67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the End of an Empire with Gord Stellick.

Cox wrote his second book in 2005 when he helped New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur co-author his autobiography, entitled Brodeur: Beyond The Crease.

Eight and nine go to Jay Kell and Trent Lueders.

10. Don Cherry and Brian Williams are doing the 25th season of Grapeline available exclusively on THE FAN Radio Network.

Don “Grapes” Cherry, co-hosts the “Coach’s Corner” intermission segment (with Ron MacLean) on the long running Canadian sports program Hockey Night in Canada.

Additionally, he recently joined ESPN in the United States as a commentator during the latter stages of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He is known for his outspoken manner, flamboyant dress, and staunch patriotism, amongst other things.

Cherry was a National Hockey League player and coach. He played one game with the Boston Bruins, and later coached them during the days of Bobby Orr.

He is also well-known as an author, syndicated radio commentator for The Fan Radio Network, creator of the Rock’em Sock’em Hockey video series, and was voted as the seventh greatest Canadian in history.

Ronald McDonald MacLean is best known as the host of Hockey Night in Canada and for being Don Cherry’s straight man.

Don Cherry is also famous for saying, “The greatest hockey player who ever lived: Bobby Orr, and I love him.”

What? No May 15th Fight For Kim Couture and Miesha Tate?

April 30, 2009

By Dorothy Willis… Wowie! Talk about interesting!

Some new sh*t just hit the fan, or fans perhaps would be more accurate.

Apparently I am not the only MMA loving female to ever make a gaffe. Unfortunately, Brian Oswald was not there to help correct Miesha before she released a bombshell blog on her MySpace page.

Miesha excused releasing the news that her proposed fight with Kim Couture was off due to “marital problems that Kim was having,” as a mistake.

Kim of course is the 35-year-old second wife of legendary MMA fighter Randy         “the Natural” Couture and works alongside him in his gym and other businesses.

Apparently there have been rumors around the gym of some sort of discord which has lead to Kim pulling out of the fight and Strikeforce having to scramble to find a replacement in the 135 pound weight class to face Miesha.

Poor shagrinned Miecha says she had no idea that releasing the news the way she did would result in such an uproar.

I am not at all familiar with Ms. Tate as a fighter, but in a cat fight I would say that she has the ”catty” part down to an art form, wouldn’t you?

Where Have You Gone, Lawrence Taylor?

April 30, 2009

By Bryn Swartz… I love football history. I love reading about it, writing about it, and learning about it. I have a whole slew of players from the Eagles that I would have loved to see play—Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Eric Allen, Randall Cunningham, and Seth Joyner.

But if there was one player throughout NFL history that I could watch, it would be an outside linebacker for the New York Giants.

Lawrence Taylor.

The legend of Lawrence Taylor began in the 1970s, when the 15-year-old catcher switched from baseball to football. Taylor is one of four future NFL players to attend Lafayette High School in Virginia. He attended the University of North Carolina on a football scholarship.

At UNC, Lawrence Taylor, who had been recruited as a defensive end, switched to linebacker. He became one of the most dominant players in the country.

His assistant coach, Bobby Cale, recalls, “As a freshman playing on special teams, he’d jump a good six or seven feet in the air to block a punt, then land on the back of his neck. He was reckless, just reckless.”

LT tallied 16 sacks in his final season, earning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year honors. His jersey number has since been retired by UNC, and he is widely considered to be one of the greatest players in college football history.

A poll was taken before the draft and 26 of the 28 general managers in the NFL announced that they would draft LT if they had the first overall pick. However, the New Orleans Saints, who had the first pick, were one of the two teams not interested in Taylor.

Instead they selected running back George Rogers, and LT was drafted with the second pick by the New York Giants.

Although he had a clean slate entering the NFL draft, Taylor caused some controversy from the day he was drafted.

Before the draft, LT had made it clear that he was asking for a salary of $250,000 per year, an absolutely insurmountable figure for a rookie. Taylor’s teammates were furious and several threatened to leave the team if Taylor received his money.

Almost immediately after training camp began, Taylor had developed a reputation. His teammates began calling him Superman and teams around the league began hearing about the “rookie from UNC.”

He was so feared that his own quarterback, Phil Simms, could hardly wait for the regular season to begin so Taylor would stop hitting him in practice.

Taylor’s rookie season was one of the most memorable by a defensive player in NFL history. He earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, as well as Defensive Player of the Year honors. The Giants won six more games than the previous season, including an upset win in the playoffs.

Taylor’s second season was even better than his first. He again captured Defensive Player of the Year honors, giving him one of the most prestigious honors for the second consecutive season.

For the next eight seasons, Taylor became the most dominating defensive player in the history of the National Football League.

Seven times, Taylor posted double-digit sack totals, including a career high of 20.5 in 1986.

He earned a Pro Bowl selection every single season, giving him 10 in a row after the 1990 season.

Taylor was named First-Team All-Pro from 1983-1986, and 1988-1989, as well as his first two seasons. His eight First-Team All-Pro selections are an NFL record for a linebacker.

His 1986 season will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, seasons ever by a defensive player. Taylor posted 20.5 sacks, an all-time single season record for a linebacker, and the fifth highest single season total in NFL history.

Taylor not only won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award for the third time in his career, he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. He became just the second defensive player to capture the award, and the first to do so unanimously.

In the playoffs, the Giants steamrolled the San Francisco 49ers 49-3 and the Washington Redskins 17-0. They continued their dominance in the Super Bowl, crushing the Denver Broncos, 39-20.

Taylor missed four games in the 1987 season due to the player’s strike, but still led the team with 12 sacks, in just 12 games.

Taylor’s first brush with controversy came during the 1988 season. He was suspended for 30 days for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for the second time.

Taylor missed the first four games of the season, instead undergoing rehab for his cocaine addiction. He returned in typical dominating fashion, posting 15.5 sacks in the season’s final 12 games.

One of Taylor’s most memorable games came near the season’s end, when he recorded seven tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles in a game with playoff implications.

Even more incredibly, Taylor played through a torn pectoral muscle so serious that he was forced to wear a shoulder harness for the remainder of the season. Giants’ head coach Bill Parcells called the game “the greatest game I ever saw.”

Taylor continued playing through pain during the 1989 season. He played the final five games of the season with a fractured tibia. He still managed to post 15 sacks and lead the Giants to a 12-win season. He was also named defensive co-captain, an honor he shared with teammate Carl Banks.

Taylor said that “playing in pain was simply a matter of tricking yourself into believing that you aren’t hurt.”

Taylor’s controversy continued into the 1990 season. He held out of training camp until three days before the start of the season, arguing for a larger contract. He still turned in a great season, posting 10.5 sacks and leading the Giants to a 13-3 record, including a 10-0 start.

In the postseason, the Giants annihilated the Bears, 31-3, and squeaked by the 49ers, 15-13, to face the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl. The Giants came away with a 20-19 victory, thanks to a missed 47-yard field goal by Scott Norwood on the final play of the game.

The 1991 season was the most disappointing of Taylor’s career, to date. He ended his record-setting streak of 10 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. He missed two games due to injury, for only the second time in his career. And he had to adjust to a new head coach, as the two-time Super Bowl champion Bill Parcells was replaced with Ray Handley.

Taylor suffered through two more disappointing seasons, as he ruptured his Achilles tendon in early November of 1992, costing him the final seven games of the season. The Giants were 5-4 when Taylor played, and 1-6 without him. Taylor considered retiring after the 1992 season, but expressed his desire to play for new head coach, Dan Reeves.

Taylor was determined to end his final season without an injury, and he managed to play in all 16 games during the 1993 campaign. He posted only six sacks and was no longer the same player he had been through the entire decade of the 1980’s. The Giants did, however, lead the entire NFL in total defense.

In the postseason, the Giants defeated the Vikings, 17-10, before the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers throttled the Giants, 44-3.

Taylor retired after the game, saying, “I think it’s time for me to retire. I’ve done everything I can do. I’ve been to Super Bowls. I’ve been to the playoffs. I’ve done things that other people haven’t been able to do in this game before. After 13 years, it’s time for me to go.”

Throughout his career, Taylor’s on-field success was almost overshadowed by his off-field antics. Only after his career was over did Taylor admit that he had been using drugs as early as 1982, his second season in the National Football League.

Taylor had originally failed a drug test for cocaine in 1987, but the NFL didn’t reveal this information, as was policy, until he failed his second test the following year.

Taylor gave up drugs in 1988, because a third failed drug test would have ended his career.

However, he began using drugs again immediately after his retirement. He was arrested twice over the next five years for trying to buy cocaine from undercover police officers. Taylor admitted that “things had gotten so bad that my house was almost like a crack house.”

Taylor’s story has a happy ending though. He has lived a clean lifestyle since 1998 and is currently pursuing a career as an actor.

His impact on the game is what Taylor should be remembered for. It could be argued that no player, certainly no defensive player, has ever changed the game as much as LT.

Taylor is credited with changing the position of outside linebacker from “read and react” to an attacking, aggressive position.

As he recalls, “A linebacker was just a linebacker. He would cover a little, stop the run, stop the pass. I would make so many mistakes in the pass coverage. I would supposed to be covering here, and I wouldn’t. My answer to everything was just to rush the quarterback. See what happens.”

Taylor also is credited with being the first to chop the ball out of the quarterback’s hands upon impact. His theory was simple: “If you’re going to take down the quarterback, why not take the ball also?” Taylor forced 34 fumbles over his career, the majority of them taken from quarterbacks.

Taylor was so dominant as a linebacker that future Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins literally invented new offensive formations to contain LT.

Gibbs invented the two-tight end offense and the position of h-back to account for Taylor’s blitzing. Instead of having a running back try to block the blitzing Taylor, Gibbs utilized offensive linemen, usually the left tackle, to contain Taylor.

Taylor was fearless, reckless, and intimidating. He was probably the most intense player to ever play in the National Football League.

“What makes LT so great, what makes him so aggressive, is his total disregard for his body,” says Bill Belichick, the Giants’ defensive coordinator during Taylor’s tenure.

From sending prostitutes to the hotel rooms of his opponents’ the night before a game in an attempt to tire them out, to submitting his teammates’ urine to pass drug tests, to playing through unbelievable injuries to help the Giants win football games, Lawrence Taylor is truly one of a kind.

“I live my life on the fast lane. I always have and I always will,” says Taylor.

The comparisons to Lawrence Taylor still exist. Nearly every great defensive player in college football is compared to the Giants’ legend.

Ray Lewis. Brian Urlacher. Julius Peppers.

In reality, we will probably never again see one like No. 56.

Lawrence Taylor.

The greatest defensive player in NFL history.

The Math of Winning, Tennis and Sports

April 30, 2009

By Long John Silver… Success at top level sport is a function of many parameters, hence it’s hard to quantify them all. But let us try and boil it down to a linear equation.

The probability of success P(S) in any sport is a function of individual talent, strength and capacity (am including psychological strength in this parameter), technological availability, team or coaches and most importantly, a little lady luck.

So let us think about it, and assign constants to them

Individual capacity (x), technological availability (y), team you play in or the coaches you have at your disposal (z) and luck (L, capital L intended).

So let us consider the difference in each of the above mentioned parameters among athletes (if we consider ‘a’ to represent the individual capacity (x), it is fair to say Federer has a higher a, than Karlovic).

Probability of Success P(S) = (a.x), hence in this department Federer comes ahead of Karlovic. Same principle applies for other categories.

“a” for Federer is way higher than someone like Karlovic. “b” for Ferrari is way higher when compared to a low ranked racing team such as “Minardi,” with their higher financial capacity Ferrari can afford cutting edge expensive technology to go F-1 racing every other Sunday.

“c” for David Beckham is much higher than for someone else, because Becks has his Man-United and AC Milan team support which are top notch and they increase the probability of him winning more games.

Someone like Sampras had Annacone who was much better than other coaches, at the least he adds something positive to the probability of success to Sampras. He might add something very small and insignificant, but higher than zero, is still better than zero.

Since there is no way to quantify luck in sport, let us assume that “L” remains constant across all sports. So what makes tennis unique? Consider the entire equation

P(S) = (a.x) + (b.y) + (c.z) + L

We always have this argument in racing (F-1), that machinery is way more important than driving ability. But in reality, success is a combination of both at the very core.

At the beginning of his career, Schumacher raced for a below-par Ferrari. In terms of racing, success might just be 20 percent dependent on driver ability (0.2 is the highest co-efficient for “a”), and 70 percent dependent on technology (highest b possible is 0.7, since Ferrari were so mediocre at the very beginning let us assign b = 0.5 for their technology).

What does this tell us in simple language, even though success is only 20 percent dependent on the driver and 70 percent on the technology, someone like Schumacher can still make a below par technology Ferrari win on a particular day, because his “a” is higher than anyone else on the grid.

That’s why they pay him the millions of bucks, not because he changes the core of the sport, but because he changes the balance of probability of success, more than any other driver on the grid.

It’s because in a technology driven sport such as F-1, success is dependent on both technology and individual ability, and some like Schumacher who can increase the probability of winning even by a very small margin by sheer driving ability is treasured and revered.

The “exclusivity” essence of technology is as different as chalk and cheese for tennis and racing. Ferrari has more finance, and hence they can afford all the technology they want. Low budget teams cannot afford such expensive technology.

Hence Ferrari just by sheer virtue of their almost infinite budget can increase the probability of their success, indirectly excluding the other teams from using high end technology.

In tennis however, there might be a difference but in general all athletes get the equipment they need. Hence the parameter “b” is definitely not as crucial as it’s in other sports.

All the top players get the technology they need, and tennis is more slanted towards individual ability than technology. Give Karlovic the best coach in the world and the best ‘K-Factor’ ultra light graphite stick in the world, am still sure he won’t be able to win in London or NY. Tennis is much more of the individual ability sport.

Take a moment to think about it?

Let us look at term “c.” In tennis, the role of a coach is quite significant, but not imperative. Unlike soccer, where even if someone like Rooney or Messi as brilliant as they are play for a mediocre team, will not win much.

Hence “c” is more crucial in team sports, but here is the crux. Whatever the coach brings to the table is still a positive, hence having a coach for most probabilities will increase the probability of your success. 0.0001 is still higher than 0.

Let us just think about why Rodge is so hesitant to hire a coach mathematically. He must think the mere existence of “c” is somehow going to negatively affect a, b, or L hence decreasing his probability of winning? right?

Well, do you think hiring a coach is going to decrease is ability, technological availability or luck? The answer is a pretty straight forward one. Uncle Toni, Stefanki and Roche might not do much, but they do something that increases the probability of success for Nadal, Roddick and Hewitt. You think Rodge is losing out because of his stubbornness?

In terms of luck, we all need luck. From sport, career, romance, future, money … who does not want luck? It has the ability to tilt the entire result even if all the other factors go in the right direction. As much as I believe I my own ability, I always believe in a touch of ‘four leaf clover’

I’ll leave you with this, tennis is a sport in which individual ability counts for much more than a technology driven sport…and a coach however infinitesimal his contribution is, only increases the probability of success. Let’s face it, if you feel otherwise you can always fire him, then why will not you hire one?

I don’t know the answer to that, but may be you all do?

What makes tennis unique is also the role of technology in the sport, as significant as it is, it is not a parameter that governs results among players of one specific generation. That is why inter-generational comparisons are a slippery slope, as “b” differs and tends in the positive direction with each successive generation.

Math and sport have a lot more in common than you and I might think. I do love em both.

Ritters Rant

April 30, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter…

It’s game seven of a first round playoff match, you are down by a goal with less than two minutes left in the third period and Martin Brodeur is in net for the opposition, you have no chance of winning, right? Well, given Brodeur’s past performance’s the above statement would seem to ring true more times than not, but not Tuesday night. The Carolina Hurricanes must be congratulated for their dramatic come from behind win over Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. I have never seen a turnaround like the one I witnessed by the Canes, I mean, in a matter of 2 minutes the Devils went from preparing to win the series to preparing for overtime to preparing for a tee-off time. As unthinkable as the final result was, it sure was entertaining, what a great script for the NHL and the Hurricanes.

Just a thought…Why was it that just because it was the Montreal Canadiens 100th anniversary season did the majority of Hab fans assume they would win the Stanley Cup this year? It was almost as if the Canadiens fans thought winning the Cup this season was an entitlement of sorts. Take it from me, a Toronto Maple Leaf fan, an anniversary does not entitle your team to win the Cup, heck, Leafs fans have endured the 10th, 20th, 30th, and 40th anniversary of winning the Cup and came up short every time.

The Calgary Flames loss in the first round was nothing short of disturbing if you are a Flames fan. Never mind which players are to blame for the loss, I wrote all year long that I felt that Flames Head Coach “Iron” Mike Keenan needed to be fired. His tumultuous relationship with Goaltender Mikka Kipprusoff and his inability to raise the level of play of his “Best players” is inexcusable and, in my mind anyways, should signal the end of Keenan’s reign in Calgary. My candidates for a replacement? Pat Quinn- Whom I feel would work well with Iginla and Kipprussoff-, Tom Renney and Guy Carbonneau.

How does Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils not get consideration for the NHL’s MVP? Without Parise the New Jersey Devils go nowhere.

Looking for a reason the Carolina Hurricanes won their first round series against the New Jersey Devils? I’ll give you three, first and foremost I feel the Devils underestimated the Hurricanes experience factor, the Hurricanes had great momentum heading into the series and Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward stood on his head.

If you are the GM of the San Jose Sharks do you blow the team up or head back into the 2009/10 season with the “Usual suspects”? Sure, the Anaheim Ducks may have been the best #8 seed the NHL playoffs have ever seen, but there is no excuse for the Sharks heartless performance. It says here big changes are coming and I am not just talking about player movement. The Sharks ownership needs to look at everything, including the GM position, in my mind nobody is safe in San Jose, and it’s about frigg’in time.

I get the feeling that the Vancouver Canucks are going to be this years “Sleeper”. Nobody outside of Vancouver is talking about them, which may bode well for the Canucks. As for the whole “The Canucks will be rusty after such a long layoff” argument, I don’t buy it, and in my mind it will serve the Canucks well as they had several players nursing injuries at the end of the first round. Imagine if Mats Sundin comes back, that lineup gets all the more dangerous, if I am a member of the Chicago Blackhawks I am worried.

In my mind, here are the MVP’s for each of the advancing teams for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs- Pittsburgh Penguins- Evgeni Malkin (F), Washington Capitals- Semion Varlamov (G), Detroit Red Wings- Chris Osgood (G), Anaheim Ducks- Jonas Hiller (G), Chicago Blackhawks- Nikolai Khabibulin (G), Vancouver Canucks- Roberto Luongo (G), Boston Bruins- Michael Ryder (F), Carolina Hurricanes- Can Ward (G). Notice a reoccurring theme here? My pick’s are almost entirely made up of goaltenders, which bodes well for those teams, after all, they say “Goaltending wins Stanley Cups”.

Until next time,

Peace!

How To Rebuild The Habs

April 29, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter…

For Montreal Canadien fans the first round loss to the Boston Bruins is still every bit as painful today as it was Wednesday evening. Fear not disgruntled Hab fans, with 10 Free Agents on the current roster, Montreal is set to make major changes over the summer. Needless to say, it will be a tough battle for Free Agent talent this off-season, the crop is weak and “Impact” players will come at a premium. The Canadiens will have their work cut out for them, Montreal is a tough place to play and with the team in a state of flux many Free Agents will take a pass on joining the Canadiens. Let’s take a look at the Habs key areas of concern and what options are available.

Clearly, goaltending (Or lack thereof) was a factor in the Canadiens demise. Sophomore goaltender Carey Price endured much of the brunt of the blame for Montreal’s collapse in the second half of the regular season and their loss to the Boston Bruins in the playoffs, but it’s not all his fault. Price, who is after all “Just a kid”, is in dire need of a mentor, someone who can be his confidant, someone who can make him a better goalie, someone who can help him choose the right path when tempted by the “Ballet” and other venues in Montreal, most importantly, someone who can take the reins when/if Price needs a break or loses his focus. With that in mind I would look for Montreal to move backup goalie Jaraslav Halak in the off-season, replacing him with a Veteran goaltender. Free agent options would include, Scott Clemmensen (NJ), Dwayne Roloson (EDM), Marty Biron (PHI) and Manny Fernandez (Bos). The trade market could prove interesting, Toronto Maple Leaf goaltender Vesa Toskala might be available, he would make a great mentor, but might demand too much playing time for the habs’ liking. Other goaltenders such as Nashville Predators Dan Ellis, Washington Capitals backup Brent Johnson, or (And I might be dreaming here) how about Anaheim Ducks J.S. Giguere? Could Giguere be available in light of the emergence of Jonas Hiller??? Time will tell, they are all solid options, Gainey will have to decide where the fit is.

Montreal’s forwards did a great job the first half of the season, but the second half of the season exposed the Canadiens forwards as “Soft” and unwilling to pay the price. The Robert  Lang injury was a big factor in Montreal’s poor play as was the injury to Alex Tanguay, but it was the off-on play of Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu that sucked the life out of this team. If you ask me both of these players need to find a new address next season, Montreal is no place for “Underachievers” and koivu and Kovalev were just that this season. Boston was able to take away Montreal’s quickness with a steady dose of hit’s. When Montreal tried to play that game with Boston they got their collective heads handed to them, Montreal GM Bob Gainey will need to look at signing players that can “Bang”, have leadership skills and can still score, a daunting task indeed! Some notable free agents to consider are, Brian Gionta (NJ), Mike Knuble (PHI), Brendan Shanahan (NJ), Dominic Moore (Tor/BUF), Tim Connolly (BUF), and Montreal’s own Robert Lang and Alex Tanguay. Connolly would be a great addition, but at what price?

Defense was perhaps the Canadiens biggest weakness all season long. The Canadiens need depth here and fast. Junior prospect P.K. Subban might be an option next season, but nothing is for certain when it comes to youngsters making their mark on an NHL blueline. There are some slim pickings available via free agency, but there are a few names that stick out- Montreal’s own Mike Komisarek will be sought after by many teams, Jay Bouwmeester (FLA), will be a hot commodity, Francois Beauchemin (ANA), Marc-Andre Bergeron (MIN), and the rising star that is Johnny Oduya (NJ) is also a good option for the Habs. Making numerous changes to Montreal’s defense will be paramount to this teams success in 2009/10, if free agency doesn’t work out expect the Canadiens to trade away some prospects in order to fill the void.

Probably the biggest debate this off-season will be that of who will be the Head Coach of this team when the 2009/10 season begins? Early candidates are Don Lever- an up and coming AHL coach who finished this season as the Canadiens as an Assistant Coach after Guy Cabonneau was fired, Jaques Lemaire- a two-time Jack Adams Trophy winner, 11 time Stanley Cup winner and one-time Montreal Head Coach (1983-1985), Bob Hartley- a french speaking task-master who won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2000-01, or perhaps a guy like Larry Robinson- who won a Stanley Cup in 2000 with the New Jersey Devils and is currently a Special Assignment Coach with the Devils. One thing is clear, whoever takes over as the Canadiens Head Coach will need to implement some strong changes which may include significant changes to the style of play this team uses going forward, and he better be prepared for a tremendous amount of scrutiny if he fails to deliver in 2009/10. Don Lever seems to be the odds on favorite to win the job, but dark horses like Hartley and Lemaire should be given plenty of consideration.

In a nutshell the Canadiens, while not in need of a total overhaul, will need to consider numerous changes in order to facilitate the transformation that is needed both on and off the ice. It will be an interesting off-season for all the Hab fans out there, good luck…but not too much good luck….ya dig?

Until next time,

Peace!

The Toronto Argonauts, The Edmonton Eskimos and The Salary Cap

April 29, 2009

By English Paul…

CFL fans around the country are wondering how the Eskimos and Argonauts have continued to sign new players like there’s no tomorrow.  Some supporters are even claiming that the league turns a blind eye to certain teams when it comes to the Salary Cap.

To suggest this is ridiculous and yet again shows that people like giving their opinions without considering the facts in full.

There’s no denying both teams have made a lot of moves during the off-season.  Starting with Edmonton, it’s the signing of big-name free agents such as Jesse Lumsden and Maurice Lloyd and the resigning of Jason Mass, which has most raised eyebrows.

However, for every player that has signed or resigned with the Eskimos, they have lost someone of comparable value.

Take centre John Comiskey, Edmonton’s most outstanding lineman of 2008.  Comiskey may have been resigned, but the Eskimos lost offensive tackle Joe McGrath to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  The former second overall CFL draft-pick was a regular starter and Edmonton’s most outstanding lineman in 2006.

Signing CFL All-Star defensive back Jason Goss to a contract extension was a good move.  But it also became a necessity after the retirement of Shannon Garrett, a long-time standout for the Eskimos in his eight years with the team.

Most devastating of all though, is what transpired at the linebacker position.  Everyone has concentrated on the signing of CFL West All-Star Lloyd.  While there’s no doubting his talent and ability, consider what the Eskimos have lost.

Agustin Barrenechea, Edmonton’s leading tackler last season; signed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  Siddeeq Shabaaz, tied second on the team for tackles and sacks in 2008; picked up by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.  Kenny Onatolu, 60 tackles and 3 sacks; gone to the Minnesota Vikings.  Suddenly, it becomes clearer how Edmonton could afford the acquisition of Lloyd.

It’s a similar story in Toronto, where opposing fans are outraged by what appears to be the Argonauts signing any player they want with little regard for the salary cap.

This includes the resigning of 2007 Most Outstanding Player Kerry Joseph to a two year extension and Willie Pile, who led the team in tackles during 2008.  Add the capture of highly coveted offensive linemen Rob Murphy and Dominic Picard with CFL all-star Zeke Moreno and this has fans of opposing teams in uproar.

Again though, look at the sacrifices made by the Boat Men in order to secure these players.  Mike O’Shea has been released.  While getting older, the second leading tackler in CFL history can still play.  He was second on the team in tackles last year and the Argos’ will miss his leadership.

Dominique Dorsey, the best all-around multi-purpose threat in the CFL has signed for the Washington Redskins.  Starting cornerback and 2006-07 All-star Byron Parker?  Gone to the Philadelphia Eagles.  That’s two more of Toronto’s higher salaries off the books.

Perhaps the best player to illustrate the point is Kenny Wheaton.  Here’s a player who was let go, despite being a perennial East Division All-Star (2005-08.)

Why release a player who tied for the team lead in interceptions during 2008, especially when Parker left for the Eagles?  Simply put, the Argonauts couldn’t afford to pay his salary with all the signings they were making.  Better to bring a younger player in, who can be developed and paid less.

The 2009 Salary Cap has been frozen at $4.2 million and there are penalties in place for exceeding the limit.  Teams are fined $1 for every dollar they go over, up to $100,000.  The penalty then increases to $2 for every $1 between $100,000 and $300,000, together with the loss of a first round draft pick.

Finally, if a club is $300,000 or more above the cap, they are fined $3 for every dollar and lose first and second round draft picks.

The CFL audits all eight teams on a regular basis, enforcing the rules where necessary.  Last year, Montreal and Saskatchewan were penalized for exceeding the 2007 salary cap by $108,285 and $76,552 respectively, with the Alouettes also losing their first round draft pick.

By no means is the system foolproof and there’s always room for improvement.  The Roughriders have recently been penalised again for exceeding the 2008 cap by $87,147.

However, researching the facts proves that teams do make sacrifices when signing new players and are aware of the consequences of trying to break the rules.  As such, let’s stop with the conspiracy theories once and for all.

Paul Taylor can be contacted at:

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