NFL Insider - Vikings Must Move On

July 31, 2009

by Greg Riot… Vikings Must Move On; This Is Going To Be Awkward

Brett Favre is out of the picture (kind of…) so now Brad Childress and the Vikings must choose to move on with what they’ve got. Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels said that there are “no hard feelings” but I don’t believe that for a second. Jackson has been reamed by the media and the Minnesota sports betting faithful for his wild inconsistency, while Rosenfels has been a career back-up.

This is why this situation sucks. Every facet of the Vikings’ attack is pretty strong. They have an incredible defensive line, especially if the Williams’ brothers escape this whole debacle cleanly and while the secondary definitely needs some work, the offense has no worries.

That is until this whole Brett Favre thing happened.

Tavaris Jackson was benched after Week 2 in 2008 after two back-to-back losses against Green Bay and Indianapolis. The Vikings had no issues getting down the field with Chester Taylor spelling Adrian Peterson. But it was its inability to score in the red zone that had people calling for Jackson’s head. A one-dimensional offense is all-too-easy to stop in the redzone because of the lack of space. With Jackson over throwing, under throwing, or getting sacked, the Vikings failed to beat the Packer and Colts, and Jackson saw himself sitting on the bench to start Week 3.

Jackson did not start again until Week 14 when the wheels came off the “Gus Bus” and Tavaris was inserted back in to the lineup. In four games, Jackson tossed 8 touchdowns and just one pick while breaking 230+ yards twice. Things were looking good for the once dispassionate Jackson, who seemed to be back in favor with the coaching staff.

Unfortunately for Jackson, that momentum train came screeching to a halt against the Philadelphia Eagles over Wildcard Weekend and the Tavaris Jackson of old came out of hiding. The Vikings moved the chains as well as they could, but Jackson failed to mount any significant aerial offense. He threw 15-for-35, gaining just 164 yards and a pick with no touchdowns. If it wasn’t for Adrian Peterson’s two touchdowns, the Vikings would’ve been laughed off the field. Instead, with the Vikings out of the playoffs again, attention turned to Jackson who many consider the weak link of the bunch, including yours truly.

That’s why Brad Childress and the Vikings jumping all over Sage Rosenfels when he hit the market was absolutely ridiculous. A week later, Jay Cutler came out wanting a trade and Brett Favre emerged. Childress was left combing his mustache as he made no bones about desiring Favre over every other quarterback he has on the roster. After all the posturing and pandering for Favre, Childress was jilted and is know left with the three ugly step sisters instead of the Cinderella he actually wanted. In a case where Childress was hoping Favre’s foot would fit in to the glass slipper, all that happened was a case of the “other shoe dropping”.

Now Tavaris is fighting for his career against the nine-year product of Iowa State, Sage Rosenfels, who has never played more than nine games in a season, and never threw for more than 1,684 passing yards in a season. In 2007 he threw for 15 touchdowns, but that was more due to Andre Johnson than Sage Rosenfels. John David Booty is the rookie in this whole mess, and he may get handed the keys to Childress’s car should either of the men ahead of him falter. But that’s a story we’ll save if it ever happens.

For now the battle is not just between Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. It’s between the team and Brad Childress. Nobody will admit it, for fear of the man in the rimmed glasses and the awesome mustache, but going so feverishly after Favre has either demoralized Jackson or destroyed his confidence. Should he falter at all, Rosenfels will be forced to intervene and we all know that story doesn’t have a happy ending.

The Vikings are amongst the mid-level favorites to win the Superbowl, and are a modest +750 to win the NFC. There’s no doubting Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen’s defensive line, Bernard Berrian’s ability to torch secondaries or Childress’s coaching strategies. It’s whether Tavaris Jackson and Childress can get along after this Brett Favre mess. Of course, if Tavaris didn’t suck so much that his coach was forced to go after a living legend approaching his fourth decade, this wouldn’t have been a problem…and if Childress even entertains going after Vick, you can say goodbye to the potential we once coveted in Jackson.

Miguel Cotto Warns Freddie Roach, ” This Fight Will Be A War ”

July 31, 2009

by Stoker MacIntosh… According to the Google translation from this website: www.primerahora.com in Caguas, PR, Miguel Cotto is ready for a war.

The No. 9 ranked boxer in the world—who recently graced the cover of Ring Magazine—stated that he plans to vacate the 147-lb title.

This news comes as no surprise, due to this alphabet governing body’s chairman, Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel, who is insisting that Cotto must defend the belt against Manny Pacquiao on November 14, or be stripped of it.

“The weight of 145-pounds is not a category,” Cotto said defiantly. “If the WBO is upset with the decision, we will give them back their belt. I have no problem with that.”
Cotto spoke to the above-credited website during a show in Caguas to introduce his new line of clothing.

“The WBO has the authority to name him as a champion if I gave them the title,” Cotto continued, but “‘Paco’ Valcarcel, better than anyone, knows that 145-pounds is not a division.”

During the negotiations for the Nov. super-fight between Cotto and Pacquiao, Filipino representatives insisted that Cotto cut down to a 143-pound catch-weight.

It was listed as one of the earlier conditions named in the fight.
However, that didn’t hold water and the fight was finally signed in at a mid-weight limit of 145, and at that time no title was involved.

“If Pacquiao wants a fight for the title, it will be 147-pounds. I won the title in the Welterweight and that’s 147-pounds,” said Cotto.

“It may be better if I vacate the title, then other sanctioning organizations can get involved,” the champion, Cotto, concluded.

The Puerto Rican slugger also informed his native news website that he will be returning to the gym as early as next week to begin light work in preparation for his upcoming commitment to Pacquiao.

“We still have a long time, but I want to make things lighter. It will not be five days a week, but two or three,” said Cotto.

He is adamant that—after completing a promotional tour of three US. City’s in September—he will remain in Tampa, Florida for the remainder of his training camp.
Also, Cotto uncharacteristically used the Public Relations opportunity to take a poke at Pacquiao’s famous trainer, Freddie Roach.
“Tell Roach I have some news,” he began.
“I am not Oscar De la Hoya at the end of my career, I am also not the overrated  Ricky Hatton.
“The man who he will be facing November 14 is a younger and much tougher opponent, and Pacquiao should prepare for a war,” said a very confident Cotto.
Roach has gone on record in the past, stating that he would rather Manny not be involved in any more wars.
Experts have speculated that the trainer’s statement was due to the amount of physical punishment dealt to his fighter in two controversial but winning battles against Juan Manuel Marquez.
It’ll be very interesting to see just how Roach plans to keep his fighter from receiving more of the same from Cotto—a fighter who has made his career from winning tough slug-fests, and delivery rib-busting body shots on the inside.

Anger is natural. It’s part of the force. You just have to learn to hang out with it.” - T Amos

Argos prepare for new-look Bombers

July 31, 2009

by Jeremy Visser…

Kerry Joseph insists this weekend's matchup with Michael Bishop isn't personal

In a week when much of the talk centered around off-the-field controversy, the Argos will certainly be more than happy to get back to business against Winnipeg this weekend. Three days after dealing disgruntled receiver Arland Bruce III to Hamilton, Toronto is back in action against the Blue Bombers Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

The Argos and Bombers met last Friday in Winnipeg and the Argos escaped with a 19-5 win on the heels of a strong defensive effort, which limited the Bombers to just 66 passing yards. Things may be a little more difficult this time around, though — on Monday, Winnipeg announced the signing of former-Argo quarterback Michael Bishop, who bounced around between starting and second-string roles before being dealt to Saskatchewan last August. Though the match-up with Kerry Joseph, who Bishop was embroiled in a quarterback controversy with last season, provides an interesting sideplot, the Argo pivot was quick to dismiss any talk of a personal battle earlier this week.

“I’m not playing against Bishop,” said Joseph. “I’m playing against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I’m glad to see him get the opportunity, but I’m not playing against him.”

Meanwhile, the Argos’ defense realizes it has its work cut out. After making quick work of three Winnipeg quarterbacks last week, Bishop is expected to be more of a challenge.

“The ball is going to go in the air,” said Toronto cornerback Jordan Younger. “He has a strong belief in his arm and is going to try to make plays, and that gives us an opportunity to go out and prove what we can do.

“We have to be locked down a little more. You can’t cut the field down because of his arm strength. He has the ability to make all the throws — short side, wide side and deep.”

Toronto’s offense will have a challenge of its own Saturday, as head coach Bart Andrus’ seach to establish a rotation at wide receiver continues in light of the Bruce trade. The Argos signed Chad Lucas, who was cut by the St. Louis Rams last week, and added Cory Rodgers, a former-B.C. Lion, from the practice roster. Also, Andrus bumped leading receiver Reggie McNeal from the starting lineup after a handful of dropped passes in recent weeks.

“We’ve got some guys in that we want to take a look at,” Andrus said this week. “This game is about production, and we’re going to go with the lineup that we believe gives us the best opportunity to make plays and win.”

Despite the difficulties from a passing standpoint, the Argos have had no shortage of production from running back Jamal Robertson, who’s second in the league in rushing with 341 yards this season and picked up 101 and a touchdown against Winnipeg last week. Robertson also carried the ball 24 times against the Bombers after getting just 29 touches in the first three games.

The Argos will look to make it two in a row against Winnipeg Saturday at Rogers Centre.

Raps bring in a shooter, dump George

July 31, 2009

Belinelli: Cooler than Jason Kapono

by Jeremy Visser… Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo finalized another move yesterday in his attempt to revamp the squad, dealing pear-shaped loser Devean George (who has lost a lot of hair) to the Warriors for three-point gunner Marco Belinelli, who I’m guessing may be friends with Andrea Bargnani.

I love it, I love it, I love it. Belinelli struggled with injuries last season but was solid when healthy for Golden State, averaging 8.9 points and shooting 40% from downtown in 42 games. He had a particularly hot stretch in December, when he saw some time in the Warriors’ starting five and averaged 14.1 points while becoming the darling of a lot of fantasy leagues. Belinelli is also a former first round pick — 18th overall in 2007.

Overall, a nice little move by Colangelo to bring in a sharpshooter that should make anyone crazy enough to miss Jason Kapono…well, not miss him. Also, plus 10 for ensuring George never suited up in a game for Toronto.

That’s what I’m saying, guy…

CFL: Busy Without Palying Any Games

July 30, 2009

by TJ Zwarych… Despite no games being played, the Eastern Conference of the CFL was very busy. First off, after being told to stay home from practice and a game, the Toronto Argonauts have traded receiver Arland Bruce to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for rights to defensive lineman Corey Mace, a 3rd round pick in the 2010 draft and a conditional pick in the 2011 draft. The Argonauts have been dying to get rid of Bruce for awhile now after he was fined by the CFL for his Michael Jackson tribute touchdown celebration and by his team after forgetting his playbook in a plane. It was the last straw for the team when Bruce publicly criticized coach Bart Andrus and quarterback Kerry Joseph. Before the suspension, Bruce was leading the team with receiving yards and catches, he also lead the Argos in these categories the previous three seasons.
In other news, two days after signing quarterback Michael Bishop, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have released quarterback Richie Williams and former Lion defensive tackle Tryone Williams. Many thought Richie Williams was the best quarterback the Blue Bombers had, but coach Mike Kelly had him as their third quarterback and was quick to get rid of him after the signing of Bishop. In his only three seasons in Hamilton, Richie Williams backed up many different quarterback as well as being a starter and never in one season had a QB efficiency rating of under 80.

What free agent would you pick up for your team?

  • Before joining the Bombers, Tryone Williams was part of one of the best defensive lines in league history (Cam Wake, Tyrone Williams, Aaron Hunt and Brent Johnson) with the BC Lions. Williams had 27 sacks in his seven years with the Lions but has yet to record one with season. Williams has had only one season with under 40 tackles and that was his rookie season. Currently, Williams is on pace for 9 tackles this season, but has not had very much playing time.

One team that is in need of both a backup quarterback and a defensive tackle is the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Many fans have been calling for the pulling of Darian Durant but the Riders have no one who can back him up so that would be stupid of them. Richie Williams would be perfect for pushing Darian Durant to play his best and if he doesn’t to fill in. Six foot 4 three hundred pound Tyrone Williams would also be a great fit in the Riders defensive line as they are in desperate need for some size and strength in the middle to stop the run and replace Chunky Adams.
This has been a very busy week for teams in the Eastern Conference and these transactions should benifit other teams.

Carlos Delfino Vs. Linas Kleiza: Who Is the Deadliest Warrior? Part Deux

July 30, 2009

by Brandon Marsdin… It’s Part Deux of the Carlos Delfino Vs. Linas Kleiza Deadliest Warrior saga. This time around we’re covering Kleiza, and it’s going to be in French…

Just kidding.

Let’s get started, shall we?

It’s a battle of the combo guard-forward vs. combo forward-forward, SG/SF vs. SF/PF, Kleiza vs. Delfino. Who will come out victorious?

Linas Kleiza’s season stats are as follows:

2005-06 season: team: Denver Nuggets, 3.5 PPG, .2 BPG, .2 SPG, 1.9 RPG, .2 APG played 61 games out of 82 and averaged 8.5 minutes a game.

2006-07 season: team: Denver Nuggets, 7.6 PPG, .2 BPG, .4 SPG, 3.4 RPG, .6 APG played 79 out of 82 games and averaged 18.8 minutes a game.

2007-08 season: team: Denver Nuggets, 11.1 PPG, .2 BPG, .6 SPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 APG played 79 out of 82 games and averaged 23.9 minutes a game.

2008-09 season: team: Denver Nuggets, 9.9 PPG, .2 BPG, .4 SPG, 4 RPG, .8 APG played 82 out of 82 games and averaged 22.2 minutes a game.

Per 36 minutes it looks a little something like this:

2005-06 season: 14.8 PPG, .9 BPG, .7 SPG, 8 RPG, 1 APG

2006-07 season: 14.5 PPG, .3 BPG, .7 SPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.1 APG

2007-08 season: 16.8 PPG, .4 BPG, .8 SPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.8 APG

2008-09 season: 16 PPG, .3 BPG, .6 SPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.3 APG

During the playoffs it looks like this:

2005-06 POs: 2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, .7 APG; played three games and averaged 3.6 minutes.

2006-07 POs: 1.6 PPG, 1.6 RPG, .4 APG; played five games and averaged 13.2 minutes.

2007-08 POs: 14 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .8 APG; played four games and averaged 30.5 minutes.

2008-09 POs: 6.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, .5 APG; played 14 games and averaged 15 minutes.

His career averages are the following:

Per game: 8.3 PPG, .2 BPG, .4 SPG, 3.5 RPG, .7 APG

Per 36 minutes: 15.8 PPG, .4 BPG, .7 SPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.4 APG

Playoffs: 6.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, .5 APG

Now for the YouTube clips:

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIgVD11HZZU&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s628k7pKk34&feature=fvw

STRENGTHS

He has good size and strength for a wing, much like his teammate Carmelo Anthony, and he fits well with the Nuggets’ system, which is the same as the Raptors’ run n’ gun. He has really good range and uses his size to his advantage on both defence and offence.

WEAKNESSES

He still has a long way to go if he wants to be relied on for 30-plus minutes a game. He lacks the speed to keep up or get past other wingers, and he really doesn’t help at times with weak defense.

Before you guys make your decision, take into account that Delfino will be 27 and Kleiza 25 this year. Delfino is a better defender, and I think they’re just about the same as far as rebounds. But as of now, Kleiza is the one who is more efficient with his range and has more power, and they’re both very intense players.

By stats, I’m pretty sure Delfino wins. But by potential and maturity, who knows?

Don’t forget to say who and why in the comments section, please. I’ve also made improvements to the Carlos Delfino article.

2009 NHL Offseason: Northeast Division Review (So Far….)

July 30, 2009

by Bryan Thiel… With the NHL offseason almost halfway over, many are pondering how well their favorite teams did and where they can go from here.

Boston Bruins

On the Beantown Express: From Dallas, Steve Begin (F-$850,000/1 year); From New York, Derek Morris (D-$3.3mil/1 year); From Carolina, Patrick Eaves (F-Trade/Expected Buyout); From Pittsburgh, Danny Sabourin (G-1 year)

Off the Tracks: To Minnesota, Shane Hnidy (D-$750,000/1 year); To Buffalo, Steve Montador (D-$3.1mil/2 years); To Carolina, Aaron Ward (D-Trade)

Your invitation is in the mail: Phil Kessel. Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli may not comment on rumors (ever) but your name won’t stop getting brought up. Many thought the Aaron Ward trade meant you were re-signing, but Morris was brought in instead.

Then again Ward didn’t even know he was on the market, so Kessel may not be the only Bruin interesting teams.

So what’s set? The Boston Bruins haven’t done much in the offseason to change where the team was at, but then again they didn’t need to. They were able to replace a bit of the defensive depth that they lost in Steve Montador and Shane Hnidy signing elsewhere by bringing in Derek Morris after the Aaron Ward trade, but the losses won’t be felt deeply as neither played a full season in Boston.

With Tim Thomas returning the picture in net is still rock solid, and Tuukka Rask is there (as well as Danny Sabourin) in case something goes amiss.

Looking at the forwards, the biggest question free agent-wise was whether or not Mark Recchi would come back or not. Thanks to what he acknowledged may be his last pro contract, the B’s have no pressing unrestricted concerns with a roster that’s fairly set.

Where do we go from here? As everyone knows, Phil Kessel still needs to be traded, or signed, or whatever is going to happen to him. While the Bruins have dealt with all of their other RFAs this offseason, Kessel is the last to sign and has the most buzz surrounding him.

His signing may come at a cost as Marc Savard is set to become an UFA next season (and if Kessel costs too much Savard may not fit in under the cap), but as we go deeper and deeper into the offseason Kessel just becomes more and more of a concern.

Just because I can: I’ve always wanted to know how to talk like a Bostonian—it’s simply magic. It’s because of that accent that I can tolerate No-Mah Gah-Ciapara and Kevin Mill-ah. Actually, that was one of the reasons why I started to adore Kevin Millar, is how the natives said his name.

Now, with this handy dandy Boston guide, I know how to talk like all of those Bruins fans. Finally, something on the Internet worthwhile that doesn’t involve some sort of combination of money and Hugh Hefner.

How the team is doing: If the Phil Kessel situation can get resolved, then the Boston Bruins offense is back and intact, with a lot of the young players only getting stronger with a year of NHL competition under their belts.

Although Manny Fernandez has been left to walk the free agency road, Tuukka Rask is there and ready to get started, and the defense will be moving the puck even more with the addition of Morris.

So long as the Bruins don’t suffer from a hangover to start the year, the few additions should pay immediate dividends with (currently) no big-ticket exits to worry about.

Buffalo Sabres

Say hello to: From Anaheim, Joe Dipenta (D-$550,000/1-year); From Boston, Steve Montador (D-$3.1mil/2-years)

Adios: To Montreal, Jaroslav Spacek (D-$11.5mil/3-years)

Your invitation is in the mail: Tim Kennedy, Chris Butler, Nathan Gerbe. Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff is hoping for some of the youngsters in the Sabres’ system to step it up in camp and earn some spots.

So what’s set? The team. Lindy Ruff has brushed aside the fans who’ve wrung their hands at the lack of goings-on in Sabreland this offseason. The man has faith, you should too.

The one thing that could be added is another experienced top-four defenseman to the back end, but if the kids can step up on the blueline the Sabres should be set.

Where do we go from here? If I wanted to beat my initial two-word answer from the last segment I could: Health. Basically, the Sabres need to stay healthy this year.

Tim Connolly is…well…North America’s Marian Gaborik; Maxim Afinogenov is probably the third-ever player to have a terrible, injury-riddled season in a contract year and not receive an inflated offer; while Patrick Kaleta is hoping to recover from the head problems that dogged his second half.

Although those are just three instances (and no one cares about Max because he’s not on the team anymore), Buffalo’s biggest problem will remain to be the health of the team and they’re supporting cast. If they can stay on the ice, Ruff has good reason to have faith in this team.

Just because I can: Have you ever googled a player’s name and halfway through the first page you get “Patrick Kaleta’s Girlfriend?”

Seriously? People are searching for this?

What bothers me more is that it’s on the first page of google results! Like this is relevant to anything happening in the world of hockey…

Let me know when the “Kaley Cuoco’s Boyfriend” page is up and running. Then tell her that I can solve that problem for her. Seriously. My email is at the end.

How the team is doing: Losing Spacek’s 45-points from the back end hurts, and there’s no way to expect Montador or DiPenta (Back from Sweden) to replace that production in full, so one of the kids (Nathan Paetsch or Andrej Sekra) may have to do some extra pulling.

If Miller stays healthy though and the defense can stick, Buffalo has the offense to go places and could be a surprise in the Northeast.

Montreal Canadiens

Bonjour: From Buffalo, Jaroslav Spacek (D-$11.5mil/3 years); From Pittsburgh, Hal Gill (D-$4.5mil/2 years); From Calgary, Mike Cammalleri (F-$30mil/5 years); From New Jersey, Brian Gionta (F-$25mil/5 years); From New York, Paul Mara (D-$1.675mil/1 year); From San Jose, Travis Moen ($4.5mil/3 years); From Vancouver, Curtis Sanford (G-1 year); From New York, Scott Gomez (F-Trade)

Au revoir: To Carolina, Tom Kostopolous (F-$2.75mil/3 years); To Anaheim, Saku Koivu (F-$3.25mil/1 year); To Ottawa, Alex Kovalev (F-$10mil/2 years); To Toronto, Mike Komisarek (D-$22.5mil/4 years); To New York, Chris Higgins (F-Trade)

Your invitation is in the mail: Despite writing an article about this just last week, many are still wondering if Jaroslav Halak will be in the Bleu, Blanc et rouge come September.

So what’s set? Undoubtedly Carey Price will be back, so that’s the first real settling point for the Canadiens. From there, the bodies ahead of him on the blueline received their finishing touches with the signing of Paul Mara. Both Mara and Gill bring big-time size to the Canadiens’ blue line which will be hoping to make Prices’ job easy this season.

For the most part the Habs have a solid rotation of forwards already in the mix. They added a lot more speed with the acquisitions of Cammalleri and Gionta, and Scott Gomez will be given a chance to create some magic alongside them. Travis Moen brings great size to the forwards so they won’t be such a pushover.

Where do we go from here? Figuring out whether these final trade rumors for Montreal are true or not are the biggest issue in the offseason.

If Gainey is in fact going after another forward, then it puts the young players on the hot seat with uncertain futures, but if he isn’t then all of this just becomes speculation on the part of everyone else and the Canadiens are ready for the season.

Just because I can: The Montreal Canadiens just have to be different. First it was this whole “100th Anniversary” thing which was a year too early because they were established in 1909, meaning this December marks 100 years and now it’s the fact (well this wasn’t recently changed, but the point should be made) that they now list the ‘Francais’ option before the ‘English’ option on their website.

On normal Canadian team sites, ‘English’ is on the left and ‘French’ on the right.

That’s it. All American teams located south of Michigan now need to list Spanish first. Or Spanish at all.

How the team is doing: In a year that was filled with a tragic downfall and disappointment, the Canadiens’ took the opportunity to overhaul their roster in free agency.

While many are wondering if that last top forward will come via trade, the Habs (although still lacking size up front) have made changes to get faster up front and are emphasizing defense in front of Carey Price.

There’s no argument that Montreal made a lot of changes and really tried to shake up a roster that underachieved on last year’s loft expectations, but their ability to gel together quickly and put those bad memories to bed is still up in the air.

Chris Gomez though seems to have a lot of confidence early on: “When you play the Montreal Canadiens, you’re going to know you were in a game.

Ottawa Senators

Here to Capitalize: From Montreal, Alex Kovalev (F-$10mil/2 years)

Now just a lower case: Mike Comrie (F-Still unsigned…seriously, someone needed to go here)

Your invitation is in the mail: Dany Heatley. After such a tumultuous two months, many are wondering if the recent addition of Kovalev is enough to help entice Heaters to stay.

Word is that his reported stubbornness has soured a few teams though, so he may have no other option than to concede to Bryan Murray and Cory Clouston and patch things up.

So what’s set? This offseason there hasn’t been any hectic additions to the Ottawa Senators’ crease. While Brian Elliot is still without a contract, Pascal Leclaire is preparing to have a shot at the starting role after being acquired by the team during last year’s trade deadline.

The Senators are also loaded up with contracts on the back end so there’s no flex room on the defense, and in looking at their forwards their only addition (Chris Neil was re-signed) was their best one, as Alex Kovalev may finally provide this team with the secondary scoring they’ve so desperately needed over the past few seasons.

Where do we go from here? See: Boston Bruins, Phil Kessel. It seems that, although there are no glaring needs that have yet to be addressed for some of these teams, most of their questions stem around a player (or players) who don’t want to be there.

The Senators have to figure out what to with Dany Heatley. Whether they’re going to trade the beleaguered sniper out of the conference for the future’s building blocks, or if they’re going to hang on to him and hope that one of the highest producing lines in the NHL can turn into a Fab Foursome with Kovalev.

Just because I can: In talking with Alan Bass, there’s a surprise coming up in his articles that discuss “Twins”. This got us talking though. What if the Sedin twins (let’s face it…the world’s most famous twins—eat your heart out Olsens) married twins? Isn’t that a little more than strange?

Even worse, what if each couple had their own set of twins? All of the sudden the NHL would be overrun with two sets of Swedish, hockey-playing twins that are good for 75-90 points a year.

Brian Burke may pass while trying to acquire all of them.

How the team is doing: It’s hard to progress when you’re in a situation like the Senators because of all the heat that the Heatley situation is causing. That being said it’s been a fairly luke-warm summer for Ottawa with nothing of consequence really happening.

If they do finally end up trading Heatley, the Sens should really go after another big-minutes defense (because so many are available, right?) that could finally give them that top-pairing presence they’ve lacked since Zdeno Chara left, along with another scoring forward.

Toronto Maple Leafs

In through here: From Anaheim, Francois Beauchemin (D-$11.4mil/3 years); From Montreal, Mike Komisarek (D-$22.5mil/4 years); From New York, Colton Orr (F-$4mil/4 years), From Atlanta, Garnett Exelby (D-trade)/Colin Stuart (F-Trade); From Europe, Rickard Wallin (F-One year deal); From Europe, Jonas Gustavsson (G-$810,000/1 year)

Exit stage left: Martin Gerber (G-Europe), Jamie Sifers (D-Minnesota), Jamie Heward (D-Unsigned)

Your invitation is in the mail: Any defenseman not signed this offseason (White, Kaberle, Van Ryn, Finger, ect.). With 10 NHL-calibre defensemen on the roster (I count 11 but no one else seems to like Phil Oreskovic), someone has to go.

Well, we thought that last year and no one was traded until November, when Toronto finally got rid Carlo Colaiacovo. Right after I figured out how to spell his name right on one try.

While Kaberle is listed as the Leafs’ Most Valuable Trading Chip (Although MVTC doesn’t quite roll off the tounge), Ian White may be the first to go of anyone. A defenseman who can put up 30 points and maybe play forward for $950,000?

That is certainly attractive.

So what’s set? The defense. When you go out and add Komisarek, Exelby and Beauchemin to Kaberle, White, Luke Schenn,  Jonas Frogren, Jeff Finger and Mike Van Ryn (All from memory), you’ve got a plan.

Or you just had a driving urge to tell the rest of the Northeast to “keep your head up.” Either way, the only thing that changes with this come fall is depth chart order.

Where do we go from here? So long as Vesa Toskala is healthy and Gustavsson is at least three quarters as advertised, the Leafs should be fine between the pipes.

The funny thing is, this team was one of only seven in the East to score 250 goals or more and people are clamoring about scoring. Granted Dominic Moore and Nik Antropov are gone, but the Leafs also scored four or more goals five times after Mar. 19 (10 games).

Would another forward of the top-six variety be a great addition? Definitely. Is it entirely necessary? Some would lead you to believe it would be, but others would rather see how the kids (Jiri Tlusty, Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson, Nikolai Kulemin, or Viktor Stalberg) can progress this season.

And one of those people happens to be Brian Burke.

Just because I can: Thanks to Wikipedia, I was reminded that Andy Wozniewski was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2009 NHL Trade Deadline. Granted the former-Leaf (and at that time St Louis Blue) never played a game for the Penguins and never got a ring, but there’s something about seeing him there and them winning that makes me sad.

Oh wait. It’s that I’ve been waiting for that since 1967. Yeah. I forgot.

How the team is doing: Brian Burke has addressed the defense (worst goals-against in the league last year), addressed the goaltending (A healthy Toskala and a promising Swede could make the season competitive and fun between the pipes), and dragged sandpaper across the eyes of the upper-management of this team.

They’ll sell tickets, but only because 18,000 people are hoping that someone gets one square in the kisser. They’ll score some goals, but only if (at this rate) the kids really step up. They’ll win some games, but only because they’ll have beaten everyone else into submission.

G…Good God…It’s the WWE for 41 nights at the Air Canada Centre!

Quick Update: This was written prior to the Wayne Primeau/Anton Stralman/Colin Stuart trade. I feel the Leafs got shafted in this one, but I’m also very high on Stralman. Not a great trade anyhow as the only way the Leafs win is by adding a 2nd round pick. Wayne Primeau will not burn out the red light in Toronto.

CFL Week Five Predictions

July 30, 2009

By English Paul…

Record:    8-8

Well another week is in the books and once again there were various talking points.  This really is turning into an exciting season for the CFL.  Now if they could just arrange to expand the league by another two franchises, we might be on to something good here………

Luckily for me, I managed to recover from a two-week slump and was just a Saskatchewan meltdown away from going a perfect 4-0.  It really has been tough to predict the winners this season, something I’m sure ‘Cfler’ now appreciates after going 1-2 with their picks in week four.

All times eastern

Montreal Alouettes (4-0) at Edmonton Eskimos (2-2)
Thursday, 9:00pm kick-off.  Montreal favoured by 7 points

Two more touchdown passes for Anthony Calvillo moved him ahead of Ron Lancaster into sole possession of second place all-time with 335, trailing only Damon Allen (394.)  The game was not quite as straightforward as the first three weeks, but the Alouettes still had enough in the tank to defeat Hamilton.

While Calvillo continues to light up the skies, the defence once again put in a sterling effort, holding the Ti-Cats to eight points.  If they continue to play up to the same level as the offence, the Alouettes are poised to finally win another Grey Cup.

After starting the season sluggishly, Edmonton looked to be on the way to another loss, trailing 22-0 to Saskatchewan in the second quarter.  However, spearheaded by Calvin McCarty’s game leading 76 yards rushing and two touchdown runs, the Esmkimos’ came back to shock the home crowd with a stunning 38-33 win.

This comeback is the type of result which can galvanise a team and kick-start a season which began with high hopes.  However, I still think Montreal will be too strong and I fancy them to remain unbeaten with the road victory.

BC Lions (1-3) at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-2)
Friday, 7:30pm kick-off.  BC favoured by 2 points

It’s time to hold my hand up and admit I made a mistake with Hamilton, who are better than expected.  Yes, they may have lost to Montreal last week, but the 21-8 final represents the nearest anyone has been to the Alouettes so far this season.  If anything, the game was closer than the score indicates.

Despite being in line to start last week, Kevin Glenn began on the bench before once again replacing Quinton Porter in the second half.  On both occasions, Glenn has been more productive and for my money, should be the new starting quarterback.  Who-ever gets the nod will be looking forward to the benefit of throwing to Arland Bruce III.  How much he will feature on Friday is anyone’s guess.

While it was no surprise to see the B.C. Lions fall to the Calgary Stampeders, everyone was shocked by their lethargic performance, losing 48-10 at home.  Calgary appears to have the Lions number, having now beaten them five straight times.

After taking an early 7-4 lead, the Lions completely capitulated, yielding 34 unanswered points.  There is no way that Wally Buono will allow his team to play so poorly two weeks in a row.

B.C. will no doubt use their shock week two loss at home to Hamilton as motivation.  However, the fans will be left scratching their heads again as the Ti-Cats will prove they are for real with a home win.

Winnipeg Blue-Bombers (1-3) at Toronto Argonauts (2-2)
Saturday, 1:00pm kick off.  Toronto favoured by 5.5 points

Toronto finally managed to win their second game of the season, 19-5 over Winnipeg.   This was despite the absence of Arland Bruce III which surely affected Kerry Joseph, who threw for a season-low 144 yards.  With the news that Bruce has now been traded to Hamilton, Joseph will obviously have to adjust without the services of one of the best wide receivers in the CFL.

However, all is not lost.  Another part of the reason for the low passing yardage can be attributed to the Argonauts renewed endeavour to run the ball, resulting in Jamal Robertson rushing for over 100 yards.   Together with an impressive defensive effort, allowing only 8 first downs, Toronto looked more like an NFL team with the manner of their victory.

Led by Stefan LeFors, Winnipeg once again produced little offence.  The addition of former Argo Michael Bishop is an interesting one.  He definitely represents an upgrade at the position, but will take time to learn the playbook.  You also cannot discount his history of erratic play, frequently alternating between killing the opposition and his own team.

As a whole the Blue Bombers offence has to go back to the drawing board after their anaemic start to the season.  This will mean relying on a defence which has not performed too badly considering the lack of support.

Despite the loss of Bruce, there’s nothing to suggest that Toronto will have any problems in discarding an uninspired Winnipeg team for the second straight week.

Saskatchewan Roughriders (2-2) at Calgary Stampeders (2-2)
Saturday, 9:00pm kick off.  Calgary favoured by 9.5 points

There’s no denying the Calgary are now firmly back in their grove after a second straight blow-out win.  A 48-10 road victory over the B.C. Lions cannot be easily dismissed.

Henry Burris is rounding back into form, but it’s the running game and defence which are standing out at the moment for the Stampeders.  The bulk of the 200 plus rushing yards were supplied by Joffrey Reynolds and the defence produced five sacks together with two interceptions.  Suddenly, a Grey Cup rematch with Montreal looks possible.

Interestingly, this week’s match has Calgary facing the team favoured to replace them as the Western Division representatives come November.  However, after a 2-0 start to the season, successive weeks have seen Saskatchewan get blown out by Montreal and give up a 22-0 lead against Edmonton.

The backbone of the Roughriders team, the defence, just hasn’t been the same this season.  Losing the likes of defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall and perennial All-Star Maurice Lloyd hasn’t helped.  The defence needs to rediscover their identity or the team has no chance of competing for a second Grey Cup in three years.

Its backs to the wall time for Saskatchewan but unfortunately for their fans, Calgary will prove too much to handle.

Paul Taylor can be contacted at:

Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Roger Federer Is Still the One

July 30, 2009

by J.A. Allen…

 The Top 10

1. Roger Federer—ATP Ranking: No. 1

Last Four Tournaments Played: Wimbledon [Winner] 2000 pts, Roland Garros [Winner] 2000 pts, Madrid [Winner] 1000 pts, and Rome [Semifinalist] 360 pts. Total pts 5360.

Roger Federer’s world has been enriched by the stork depositing a
double bundle on the happy couple—while his tennis fortunes have also
been twice blessed. He sits as No. 1 atop the ATP rankings, as well as
our power rankings. 

Federer has not taken the court since the record-setting win during
the Wimbledon final against Andy Roddick. The hard court season will
not get underway for the world No. 1 until the Rogers Cup in early
August. We will see if those late night feedings and diaper changes
have affected the Federer serve! 

 

2. Robin Soderling—ATP Ranking: No. 12

Last Four Tournaments Played: German Open [R3] 45 pts, Swedish Open [Winner] 250 pts, Wimbledon [R16] 180 pts, Roland Garros [Runner-Up] 1,200 pts. Total pts 1675.

Robin Soderling stumbled at the German Open, falling to Nicolas
Almagro in the third round, but won the Swedish Open in fine fashion.
He took over the No. 2 spot from Rafael Nadal because Nadal has been
inactive for almost two months. 

That’s a lot of points that Rafa could not defend; Soderling benefits.

Soderling continues to make believers out of tennis prognosticators
who expect his streak to end abruptly. Hard courts are the Swede’s best
surface. 

 

3. Andy Roddick—ATP Ranking: No. 6

Last Four Tournaments Played: Wimbledon [Finalist] 1200 pts, Queens [Semifinalist] 90 pts, Roland Garros [R16] 180 pts, Madrid [Quarterfinalist] 180 pts. Total pts 1650.

Too bad for promoters that Andy Roddick failed to appear at
Indianapolis because of a nagging hip injury. This was the same injury
that kept him out of Davis Cup competition the week following
Wimbledon. 

So far, not many in the ATP top 10 are playing in the early weeks of
the hard court season. After the blazing spotlight of a sizzling
Wimbledon final, Roddick retains the No. 3 spot in our power rankings. 

We wait to see how severe the injury is and what scars remain hidden
from his devastating loss to Federer at Wimbledon as he returns to
action in Washington, DC.

 

4. Andy Murray—ATP Ranking: No. 3

Last Four Tournaments Played: Wimbledon [Semifinalist] 720 pts, Queens [Winner] 250 pts, Roland Garros [Quarterfinalist] 360 pts, Madrid [Quarterfinalist] 180 pts. Total pts 1510.

Last year during the hard court season—the summer of unending angst
for Federer fans—Andy Murray made his charge up the proverbial hill all
the way to the finals of the US Open. 

Returning to Miami for practice on the hard courts this week, Murray
cannot help but remember the importance of the ATP Rogers Cup and
Cincinnati Tennis Tournaments. These hard court Masters events should
bring life back to Andy’s game as he readies himself for a shot at the
Big Apple’s US Open title.

 

5. Juan Martin del Potro—ATP Ranking: No. 5

Last Four Tournaments Played: Wimbledon [R64] 45 pts, Roland Garros [Semifinalist] 720 pts, Madrid [Semifinalist] 360 pts, Rome [Quarterfinalist] 180 pts. Total pts 1405.

Last year’s winner of the L.A. Open, Juan Martin del Potro, isn’t
playing the tournament this week. In fact, del Potro hasn’t played
tennis since the Davis Cup tie with Czech R. 

He plans to return to action next week in Washington, DC. Last year,
del Potro won four hard court tournaments, helping to propel him into
the top 10. Whether he can repeat those wins and retain his ranking is
the question at this point. Like Nadal, he has many points to defend
(or lose).

 

6. Fernando Gonzalez—ATP Ranking: No. 11

Last Four Tournaments Played: Wimbledon [R32] 90 pts, Roland Garros [Semifinalist] 720 pts, Rome [Semifinalist] 360 pts, Barcelona [Semifinalist] 180 pts. Total pts 1350.

Fernando Gonzalez has been playing great tennis of late—well, when
he is playing. Like so many of the top players, Gonzalez has been lying
low until the Legg-Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC. 

Gonzo can climb back into the top 10 of the ATP rankings by doing
well on the hard courts, where he traditionally shines. He is firmly
ensconced in the power ranking top 10 already.

 

7. Tommy Haas—ATP Ranking: No. 22

Last Four Tournaments Played: Wimbledon [Semifinalist] 720 pts, Halle [Winner] 250 pts, Roland Garros [R16] 180 pts, Madrid [R32] 70 pts. Total pts 1220.

Tommy Haas is in action this week as the headliner at the L.A. Open.
It is his first outing after his sterling Wimbledon and French Open
runs. Haas has made the most of his return to form and is playing the
best tennis of his career. The hard court season offers an opportunity
to continue his fantastic run.

Coming off an injury-riddled campaign, the German has nothing to defend; whatever he does is gravy to his ATP ranking.    

 

8. Nikolay Davydenko—ATP Ranking: No. 9

Last Four Tournaments Played: German Open [Winner] 500 pts, Mercedes Cup [Quarterfinalist] 45 pts, Wimbledon [R32] 90 pts, Roland Garros [Quarterfinalist] 360 pts. Total pts 995. 

Davydenko won his first tournament of the year after suffering
through the several months of 2009 with injuries. This win sends him
back into the ATP Top 10, where he has been a fixture over the past few
years. The way back has been difficult, but Davydenko has persevered.
Hard courts will be better than grass for the Russian. 

 

9. Novak Djokovic—ATP Ranking: No. 4

Last Four Tournaments Played: Wimbledon [Quarterfinalist] 360 pts, Halle [Runner-Up] 150 pts, Roland Garros [R32] 90 pts, Madrid [Semifinalist] 360 pts. Total pts 960.

The Djoker is mild. Gone are the bravado and the ego. We have only
seen the shell of this former Slam winner so far this year. He admitted
that he could not overcome his nerves when facing Tommy Haas at
Wimbledon. 

Come on, Djokovic—Tommy Haas? Soon he will be replaced by del Potro
or even Roddick as the world No. 4 player. Get it together quickly,
Djokovic—now, while the asphalt is hot, and the season seesaws with
injured and distracted players.    

 

10. Juan Carlos Ferrero—ATP Ranking: No. 36

Last Four Tournaments Played: Wimbledon [Quarterfinalist] 360 pts, Queen’s Club [Semifinalist] 90 pts, Roland Garros [R64] 45 pts, Madrid [R64] 25 pts. Total pts 520.

Ferrero is playing this week in Croatia on clay. He has enjoyed some
relative success of late and has seen mild resurgence. Hard courts
remain a favorite surface, although clay is Ferrero’s surface of
choice.   

 

Outside Looking In

Rafael Nadal

The former world No. 1 is ready to return to the hard courts for the
Rogers Cup in early August. He held on to the No. 1 ranking less than
one year, and he will be fighting to get it back.

 

Fernando Verdasco

He pulled a calf muscle playing in the Swedish Open, forcing him to
retire. After making a strong statement earlier in the year, the hunky
Spaniard has been slowed a bit by injury and bad luck, running into the
streaky players early in major tournaments.

 

Lleyton Hewitt

Lleyton Hewitt has fought his way back from the abyss by refusing to
give up. He fought off Roddick in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon before
falling to him in five tough sets. Hewitt is not done by any stretch of
the imagination.

Kelly “the Ghost” Pavlik: Real Demons, Or Merely Ghost Stories?

July 30, 2009

by Stoker MacIntosh… The Associated Press is reporting today that police in Youngstown, OH are investigating an alcohol-fueled assault which took place last weekend at a night club.

The plot thickens as we learn that the man involved is none other than Ring Magazine’s 160 lb. boxing world champion, Kelly “the Ghost” Pavlik.

This is the second time in as many months that the champ has made the headlines for issues unrelated to his boxing skills. There has been some talk of Pavlik fighting Paul Williams this fall, but that news unfortunately has taken a back seat to other unsubstantiated rumors of late.

Internet sites last month were insinuating that he has had some sort of alcohol-related issues, and likewise, had been in and out of rehab for treatment of the illness.

At the time of the rumors, Pavlik, in his own defense, went on record to discredit and dispel such rumors, stating that he lives in a small town, and everything he does is magnified. The world’s only true middleweight champion also stated that he has the odd beer, but other than that, everything is perfectly kosher.

This latest report, not unlike the alcohol rumor, has also been shot down immediately upon landing.

In essence, the story goes as follows: the Ghost and his trainer, Jack Loew, assaulted a man in a nightclub last weekend in Pavlik’s hometown of Youngstown. No charges have been filed, and it is almost a certainty that none are forthcoming.

The assault complaint, it seems, was filed by a friend of Pavlik’s, 45-year-old Ronald Cappitte. As yet, he has turned up no corroborating evidence.

Cappitte alleges he walked up to Pavlik at a bar about 11 p.m. Saturday, said, “Hi,” and was punched in the groin, unprovoked. That was allegedly the end of the assault

According to the AP article, the police report reads quite differently. It states that Cappitte fell, got up, and was punched repeatedly in the body by Pavlik and by trainer Jack Loew.

Loew said the incident “got blown out of proportion.”

He said Kelly and Cappitte have been friends for years.

“They were goofing around and the next thing I know he lunges at Kelly and grabs him by the neck, and Kelly thinks they’re still playing. He’s laughing around. And my wife says to me, ‘Jack, I don’t think this kid (Cappitte) is playing around anymore.’ And I stepped between them.”

Loew said he and Pavlik had just arrived at the East Side Civic’s Club. The two had been at an amateur boxing show that was a fundraiser for Pavlik’s gym, the South Side Boxing Club, where the boxer trains.

“There was not one punch thrown,” Loew said. “We were having a great time. We just got there. I’m 49-years old. I got no use to be rumbling on bar floors. Things are going too good for me these days to be doing that.”

Loew said several other people at the bar got into a scuffle after he pulled Pavlik away.

John D’Altorio, Sr., one of Pavlik’s publicists and friends, said Pavlik and Cappitte were “horsing around” and things got a little out of hand. He said Pavlik frequents the club and is very popular.

As for Loew, “Jack was trying to break things up,” D’Altorio said.

Pavlik has held the middleweight title since September 2007 and has successfully defended it twice, most recently in February with a ninth-round TKO over Marco Rubio in Youngstown.

So, what shall we think here?

This man has only fought once, so far, this year, and if the Williams fight doesn’t come to fruition, it would further mean that either he or his promoter, Bob Arum, have turned down opportunities to fight two top contenders.

Nothing is particularity strange about that, it happens all the time in boxing.

However, Pavlik was scheduled to defend his title against Sergio Mora last month, but had to pull out of the fight supposedly due to a mysterious staph infection in his right hand.

What also concerns me a bit—and many of his fans also—is why his name was noticeably absent during a recent 168-lb., 6-man fight tournament, scheduled this fall.

Surely, one reason could have been that Pavlik is the 160-lb. champ; however, he had no problem moving up in weight to 170 in facing Bernard Hopkins last fall.

And, in his statement to the press regarding the issue, he certainly didn’t try to make it sound like he “wasn’t” snubbed by the organizers.

Pavlik said something to the effect of “let them ruin their career’s fighting in this tournament, let them fight for peanuts, I’m staying with HBO, then whoever wins, they can bring him to me and I will beat him.”

Correct me here, but doesn’t that sound like a man who is just a tad bitter, perhaps, over not being included?

Certainly these aforementioned red flags, do not add up to him being an alcoholic, and even if he was, that would be his personal business, and an issue which only he himself could address.

The news of his alleged assault is from The Associated Press; the rest of this is me chasing ghost stories.

And, as told in many of those horrid tales, this also could simply be a case of the wind blowing against the shutters.

Or, there’s also a chance that some long forgotten demons are only now ready to reveal themselves, and maybe they will serve as haunting reminders to us that our boxing heroes, and even Pavlik, the Ghost, are certainly not immortal.

I will let the readers decide that for themselves.

“For though they were precious shining lights in their time, yet God has not revealed his whole will to them. And were they now living, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as they had received.” Rev. Dr. Robert Merrill Bartlett

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