Doc struggles again, Jays swept

August 31, 2009

Get well soon, Doc

by Jeremy Visser… Where have you gone, Roy Halladay? Doc dropped his third straight start yesterday and fell to 3-7 since June 29 as the Jays were bombed 7-0 in Boston. The loss was Toronto’s sixth in six games at Fenway in 2009 and their 12th in the last 16 games overall.

Halladay’s not the kind of guy you’d think would get easily rattled, but it’s pretty apparent all the garbage that’s been thrown around the past couple months has messed up his routine. His last seven times out, Doc has given up 65 hits in 49 innings and at least seven hits in each outing. He hasn’t reached the seventh inning in any of his last three starts after going that far 20 times in his first 22 appearances this season.

It doesn’t get much easier for Doc and the Jays — they’re headed to Texas for four games in three days (doubleheader Tuesday) against a Rangers team that likely isn’t pleased with the way Toronto let the Red Sox walk all over them this weekend. Texas is three-and-a-half games back of Boston for the wild card, and sends rookie Derek Holland to the hill to face Brett Cecil in the opener tonight.

That’s what I’m saying, guy…

Will North America Ever Join the “Football” Party?

August 31, 2009

by Jeremy Gibson… I recently became a convert to the beautiful game. It might not seem like much, but for a guy who grew up making fun of soccer players, playing baseball, and addicted to the Leafs and NHL Hockey on Super Nintendo, this was stunning. Though I have never played the game (poor coordination will not allow it) the intrigue of the English Premier League, Champions League, and World Cup eventually overtook me. I am now hooked.

This new sports addiction has made me add the Sports Illustrated soccer section to my list of daily internet reading. Last week I came across a very interesting article entitled “Can soccer become part of North American Identity” by Tim Vickery (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/tim_vickery/08/18/france/index.html). In brief, he discusses how soccer is not only supremely popular in Europe and South America, but has become ingrained in their culture. He ends by posing a question: In the same way that soccer talks to the British and the South Americans and tells us much about who they are, can the game conceivably become important to the identity of North Americans?

Unfortunately, Mr. Vickery does not write further, leaving his question unanswered. He does not surmise whether millions of North American children will one day strive to become the next Dwayne De Rosario or Landon Donovan, instead of LeBron James or Albert Pujols. He does not comment on whether entire cities will depend on Toronto FC or Real Salt Lake the way they do on the Leafs or the Yankees.

To put it bluntly, the answer to his question is no. Soccer will never become a part of our national identity the way it has for Europeans or South Americans. It will never match football or baseball in the US, or hockey in Canada. There are some obvious reasons. The media coverage is poor, both on television and in the sports pages. The quality of play is lacking as the top players in the world continue to migrate to Europe. MLS has nothing like Steven Gerrard, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Didier Drogba (a half-inspired David Beckham notwithstanding). The national teams, especially in Canada, can not seriously complete on an international scale. Sure there is a chance that if those issues are rectified, soccer might be able to challenge for a place in our collective conscience. But I will argue that even if MLS highlights lead off every Sportscentre episode, even if the top five players in the world all play in North America, and even if Canada makes and competes in the World Cup, it will not be enough. Here are some less obvious reasons why:

1. Goal Scoring

Let’s face it, North Americans love offense. Many will claim that they love the beauty of well-pitched 1-0 baseball game, but the majority of fans love scoring. It has been drilled into our minds that low scoring games are boring. The New Jersey Devils / Anaheim Mighty Ducks 2003 Stanley Cup Final is widely considered one of the worst ever, despite going seven games, because it was too defensive. For Toronto baseball fans, two of the most intense, nail-biting games in Blue Jays history were the 2-1 and 3-2 triumphs in the 1992 World Series. But the 15-14 slugfest in 1993 is remembered more fondly.

North American sports leagues have a history of trying to ignite offense. Think of basketball introducing a shot clock and a 3-point line, baseball lowering the pitchers mound, and hockey cracking down on obstruction. Soccer by nature is a low scoring sport. The field is huge, the players are trained to defend, and the clock never stops running. These are ingrained in the very fabric of the sport, and can not be changed or modified in anyway. While a European might marvel at the beauty of a nil-nil draw, a North American will yawn, and turn off the TV.

2. Champions League

The Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association of Football (CONCACAF), has recently introduced a Champions League based upon the wildly popular and successful European tournament. This year, Toronto FC won the Nutrilite Canadian Championship to qualify, before falling just short of the group stages. While the idea is fantastic and the concept noble, it can never match the passion of the European version. The territory is too big, and the teams too sparse. If Toronto would have advanced to the group stage, it no doubt would have created a stir of excitement in the city. However, their next hurdle would have been overcoming teams from Honduras, Panama, and Mexico among others. How many of the Red Patch Boys would really be willing to make the 3,400 KM flight for an away match in Metapan, El Salvador? Contrast that to a Chelsea fan who can grab a cheap flight, or a short train ride from London to Rome, Madrid, Munich, or Marseille, and you see a world of difference. With the region’s premier competition (through no fault of its own) being so lackluster, it makes identification with the sport itself that much more difficult.

3. Ties

“Tie game? What the hell?” That is my favourite line from any episode ever aired of The Simpsons. It happened in “Lisa on Ice”, the episode where Bart faces off against Lisa in a hockey game. The game finished in a tie to the outrage of the packed arena, eventually igniting a brawl. Sadly, that is the view most North Americans have on ties – they are unsatisfactory endings with no winners. It is impossible to tie in baseball or basketball. Hockey abolished ties with the introduction of the shootout in 2005. Ties in football are possible, but are extremely rare and definitely frowned upon, if last season is any indication. The Bengals and Eagles played to a 13-13 tie and sports websites exploded the next day with articles about how to fix overtime in order to prevent ties from ever occurring again.

Unfortunately, ties and soccer go hand-in-hand. Last season, 25.5% of games in the English Premier League, 21.8% of games in the Spanish Premier League, and 27.1% of games in North America’s own MLS ended in draws. Many European fans view ties as both strategy and challenge. Can a powerful Chelsea team breakdown a lowly Hull side who are clearly playing for a single point? For North Americans, however, ties are seen as a waste – nothing gained, only lost.

4. Playoffs

Sports fans rarely remember regular season champions. The playoffs are where the excitement begins. The Stanley Cup, the World Series, and the Superbowl – every fan dreams of seeing their team hoist one of those trophies. But soccer is different. Unless it is an international tournament (Champions League, World Cup), soccer has no use for playoffs. There is no such thing as a five-month tune-up for a two-month playoff round. That doesn’t make sense. Soccer places all value on the regular season. When San Jose loses to Atlanta in November of the NHL season, the loss isn’t as critical because everything starts fresh in the playoffs. But when Manchester United slips up in January against West Ham? That could be the difference between the title and the runner-up spot. Every game means something and a playoff system would ruin that philosophy. MLS has attempted to North Americanize their version of the game by introducing a playoff system, but for a true soccer fan, that only demeans the value of the first thirty games.

5. Relegation

May 24, 2009, Kingston Communications Stadium in Hull, England. Manchester United, the Premier League champions, defeated Hull City 1-0 in the final game of the season. But it was Hull fans that flooded the field, celebrating as if they had just won the Champions League. Why? Because despite the loss, Hull had managed to survive the relegation drop and live to fight another season in the Premier League. Never in all my years of watching sports have I witnessed such an outpouring of pure joy on the heels of a loss. And that is precisely why soccer can never become a part of the North American identity.

In our sports, a team finishing dead last is rewarded with the first overall draft pick. In soccer, last place means you are kicked out of the league, sent to battle lesser teams in lower divisions. It means you lose millions in television revenues and ticket sales, as world renowned teams will no longer play in your stadium. It is a crippling loss, and is one that can never happen over here. I am a Toronto FC fan. I celebrate their victories, and feel gutted by their losses. But never do I have to fear that my team will be relegated. Never do I have to worry that they will spend a year battling Harrisburg, Rochester, or Charleston for the right to move back into the first division. That is the difference between soccer to a European or South American and soccer to a North American: I can live by my team but never die by them.

Toronto Raptors: Marco Belinelli a Shooting Star

August 31, 2009

by Stephen Brotherston… Marco Belinelli, the 18th pick of the Golden State Warriors in 2007, came to the NBA at the age of 21 after five professional seasons in the top division in Italy.

Belinelli was highly coveted by the Raptors who were reported trying to obtain an additional draft pick to select him.  No deal materialized and the Italian player fell to Golden State.

Contrary to ESPN’s Hollinger scouting report that states “Belinelli…Euroleague translations predicted: …a decent scoring rate with a bad shooting percentage”, both Brian Colangelo and Maurizio Gherardini knew this kid could shoot!

In Belinelli’s last two seasons playing for Fortitudo Pallacanestro Bologna in Italy, Marco averaged 14 ppg and shot 52 percent for two and shot seven threes per game making 37.5 percent of them.  Scouting reports described Belinelli as being able to hit threes from anywhere on the floor.

Marco Belinelli has been described as a good ball handler with a good first step and the ability to finish at the rim.  An excellent catch-and-shoot player and effective off the curl with beautiful form on his high arcing shot.  He can also score with a hand in his face when he’s hot. Marco has good court vision and the ability to make difficult passes.

But Belinelli has not shot well off the dribble and sometimes shows poor judgement in his shot selection.  He should be a good defender with his lateral quickness and long arms and he does get steals, but he seems to lack the necessary focus so far.

In his first year with GSW, Belinelli never made it out of Don Nelson’s doghouse.  Despite an amazing summer league where he averaged 22 ppg, Marco couldn’t crack a bench deep in wing players and ended up playing in only 33 games for an average of just seven minutes per game.   The only bright spot being Belinelli did hit 39 percent of his three pointers.

The depth at Golden State’s wing position didn’t change but the next season did provide some opportunities due to injury and personal issues.  In the 42 games Belinelli got to play, he managed 8.9 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.9 steals in 21 minutes.  He also kept up his three point shooting percentage at 39.7 percent.

Last year, Belinelli ranked eighth in scoring amongst rookie and sophomore shooting guards.

Nelson finally gave Belinelli a real chance to play in the middle of the season.  For 20 games between Dec. 6, 2008 and Jan. 11, 2009 Belinelli played an average of 29 minutes per game.

During this time he averaged 13.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3 apg and 1.1 steals.  His two point shooting averaged 47.7 percent and he shot three pointers at 37.6 percent.

Toronto fans should remember how he burned the Raptors for 23 points and 6 assists connecting on 5-of-8 from 3 on Dec. 29.

Unfortunately for Marco, he turned an ankle on Jan. 11 only saw significant minutes after this while Monta Ellis was away on personal leave at the end of February.

For that 20 game stretch last season, Marco Belinelli’s scoring averaged more than any other rookie or sophomore shooting guard except Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo.

One thing is certain; the Toronto Raptors have picked up a shooting guard who can score the ball!

The Maple Leafs Are Promoting Hockey in Toronto

August 30, 2009

by Tommy G… It’s been 25 years since a new public ice facility has been built in the Toronto area.  That’s going to change this September during the grand opening of the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence.

The Centre will replace the Lakeshore Lions Arena, which was built in 1951, and it will continue to be operated by the Lakeshore Lions Club.

The MasterCard Centre is a shared initiative between MLSE, MasterCard, and the Lakeshore Lions Club. It is a state-of-the-art building with three NHL size ice-pads and one Olympic size pad.

The building will be open to the public, but it will also be used for Maple Leafs and Marlies practices. On top of that, it will be home to Hockey Canada’s Ontario Regional Offices and the Hockey Hall of Fame’s archives and research facilities.

This is an excellent opportunity to promote hockey in Toronto where basketball and soccer have stolen a huge chunk of the market.

The Maple Leafs are finally realizing that their influence in Toronto is losing potency.  Hockey must learn to share with other sports and entertainment and fight for its position.

The Leafs will also be going from a $400,000 community investment, in the past three years, to $2.3 million in the next five years.

The money will be used to refurbish outdoor, city owned rinks. Brian Burke didn’t lie when he said that the Maple Leafs will increase their community influence in Toronto.

The Maple Leafs want to give every youth in the city a chance to develop their love for hockey. MLSE has had a revelation that, through community involvement, Toronto can truly become the hockey mecca and not just in name.

MLSE’s recent hockey related investments make me believe that they want to create a “hockey factory” in the Toronto area.  The Leafs want potential players that will stay loyal to the team and/or city that fostered their development.

This is a fantastic outreach program, and creating a facility where the grassroots community can skate and play hockey, on the same surface as the Maple Leafs, is an excellent marketing plan.

Not only does it promote hockey development, but it also brings NHL players closer to the public.  The accessibility to players and hockey archives allows people to study the game and mesh with the NHL community.

Suddenly, players become human in our minds and a new generation of hockey fans may develop from MLSE’s public participation.

NHL Season Preview: Edmonton Oilers

August 30, 2009

by Bryan Thiel… Fans of the Northwest division and residents of its cities are fortunate to have some of the most heated rivalries in the league.

The most prominent of which is probably the battle of Alberta.

Geographic rivalries are always the best: the teams are close enough that they can play each other frequently, the fans get in on it with barbs back and forth about which city is more likely to have cockroaches or Chaka Khan turn down an invitation (You didn’t think we’d forget the NHL awards THAT quickly, did you?), and sometimes friendly bets are made.

If Alan Bass still lived in Canada, you’d better believe that he’d be wearing a pink Carey Price jersey after Luca Sbisa was made part of the Chris Pronger trade.

Sidenote: To those of you offended by the Chaka Khan barbs: I get that she can sing, it’s not about that. It’s about why she was at the NHL awards. THAT I don’t get.

Anyhow, Colorado and Minnesota are out of the way…onwards and upwards!

Edmonton Oilers

2008/09 Record: 38-35-9, 85 points, 11 in West

Additions: Nikolai Khabibulin—G (4 years/FA),

Subtractions: Kyle Brodziak—F (Trade w/Minnesota), Dwayne Roloson—G (FA), Dany Sabourin—G (FA), Ales Kotalik—F (FA)

The Edmonton Oilers are going to try something completely different.

Gone is long-time head coach Craig MacTavish. In his place is one of the best in the business, Pat Quinn.

Quinn, who was blessed with a very talented Canadian World Junior Squad last year, has a big job ahead of him: Not only is he going to have to motivate some of the underachievers left on this Oilers roster, but he’ll have to prove the doubters wrong once again, and show them that he can work with kids.

FOUR MORE YEARS!! FOUR MORE YEARS!!

I understand the logic in bringing in Nikolai Khabibulin. You have a goalie in Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers who is still green to the NHL game, but (given a few years) could be the stalwart for this team. Due to the fact he’s not ready, you go and bring in a veteran presence to help show him the ropes and keep the seat warm for him.

But four years worth of him?

Last year, the ‘Bulin wall was outstanding. He only lost eight games in regulation, meaning that he earned the Chicago Blackhawks at least a point in 32 others. He also posted his finest season goals-against and save-percentage wise (2.33/.919) since he was with Tampa Bay in 2001/02.

Signing a 36-year-old who has been bothered by various lower body injuries as well as a wonky back over the past few years to a four-year deal worth an annual $3.75 million cap hit is troubling.

If Deslauriers can take the next step in his game over the next few years, the Oilers may simply be worried about making sure Khabi gets playing time so that money doesn’t just take up space in the books.

Although he’s just a veteran of ten NHL games, Deslauriers has shown a flair for the dramatic, going 2-1-0 in games where he’s faced 35 shots or more. Although he had great moments and not-so-great moments in his first NHL season last year, Deslauriers is in a position to finally lay the foundation of a career in Edmonton.

This year, the Oilers are set with Khabibulin between the pipes (Ensuring he stays healthy). If he performs anywhere near the way he did in Chicago, the Oilers are set.

If not, Deslauriers will be learning on the fly.

A good defense provides lots of offense…

The Edmonton Oilers have a surprisingly offensive core on their back end.

While many will know the names of Sheldon Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky—Souray, of course, carries a cannon from the point and a big frame that’s useful in the defensive zone while Visnovsky is a great all-around power play quarterback—Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov get lost in the shuffle.

Both Souray and Visnovsky are capable of 50-point seasons (we’ve seen 23 goals from Souray), but Gilbert and Grebeshkov are no slouches either, raking in 45 and 39 points respectively last year. The trick is to keep them healthy so they can reach their potential.

Gilbert found the back of the net fewer times this past season (five goals compared to 13 the year before). It wasn’t for lack of trying, as he took more shots. What fans did see develop out of Gilbert’s game, though, was his puck-moving ability. He ranked ninth out of defensemen league-wide, with 40 assists.

Grebeshkov, meanwhile, finally found an NHL home in Edmonton. He has bettered his all-around play the past two years in the City of Champions. Offensively, his ceiling may fall to the 33-37 point plateau (and he is smaller, so he’ll have a little bit of trouble handling the bigger forwards), but a healthy Visnovsky may help push his point total a little more.

Along with the four offensive dynamos on the back end, the Oilers have a great physical presence in long-time Oiler Steve Staios. Although Staios’ numbers have slipped a little bit his past few years in Edmonton, he still provides that tough defenseman that each team needs. The 36-year old’s ice time took a step backwards last year, so it’ll be interesting to see if his role reduces a little with the younger faces stepping in.

Ladislav Smid is one of those younger faces. Instead of being shipped off to Ottawa in a potential trade for Dany Heatley, Smid has a chance to take the next step in his development in Edmonton. He’ll try to put all of his tools together at the NHL level, while Jason Strudwick will provide that insurance from the seven-hole.

There are a few youngsters who could get some looks from the Oilers this year on the back end.

Theo Peckham played 15 games at the NHL level last year and seemed to thrive once he got his feet under him as well as a little more responsibility (Peckham was a +2 and had eight penalty minutes in games he played 14:00 or more).

Before Matt Nickerson headed over to the Finnish league for three seasons, he seemed to have a bit of offensive flair in that big frame. Now, Nickerson will have to prove he can readjust to the North American speed and style, but he’s probably off to Springfield first.

Taylor Chorney is another fresh face to watch. His combined -33 (68 games in the AHL, two in the NHL) is an eyesore, so Taylor’s defensive game is going to have to catch up in Springfield.


Stortini, Linguini, Bikini…Nope, I’m not Vince the Slap-Chop guy….

There are a lot of forwards who are getting a fresh start with the introduction of Pat Quinn as head coach, one of them being Rob Schremp.

Schremp, who has all of the talent in the world, had to work himself out of Mac-T’s dog house ever since the moment he was drafted by Edmonton it seemed. After a near point-per-game season in the AHL with Springfield, and three assists in four games for the Oilers last year (which boosted Schremp’s confidence), he may finally be in a situation to get a legitimate shot.

Why shouldn’t he be? Looking up and down the roster, the Oilers are more over-priced than they are talented.

Dustin Penner’s production dropped by six goals and 10 points last year, making his $4-million-plus contract even that more immobile. While there are many people (not just Oilers fans) hoping that Penner can turn it around, unless the power forward can get back to the 27-goal plateau he once reached in Anaheim, the Oilers are going to be saddled with the hard-to-move contract for its duration.

Then there’s Shawn Horcoff, who is due to make $7-million in salary this season. Horcoff has been wrongfully cast as a No. 1 center in Edmonton, but does provide solid point production in the 50-point neighborhood.

That definitely won’t be good enough for the long haul, however, so the Oilers are going to need one of Sam Gagner or Andrew Cogliano to step up to the first line sooner rather than later.

Two of the shiftiest Edmonton forwards are newly-acquired Patrick O’Sullivan and Ales Hemsky. O’Sullivan, who was brought in at the trade deadline last year, has a ton of potential. He’d begun to scratch the surface of it with the Kings the past few years. Once he got to Edmonton last year, he struggled with six points in 19 games.

Paired opposite Hemsky, O’Sullivan could revamp his production. Hemsky has led the Oilers in scoring three of the past four years, and has totaled 192 assists in that time. If O’Sullivan can rediscover his goal-scoring touch from the OHL, then this pair could be dangerous with Gagner or Cogliano lining up between them.

Speaking of those two, early last season, both were victims of sophomore slumps. Although they picked up their performances by the end of the season, it was too little too late. While the growing pains will continue, both players should bounce back this season and approach the 50-point plateau, while being paired with creative line mates could boost that production a little more.

While the Oilers have plenty of depth with heart-and-soul captain Ethan Moreau, Fernando Pisani, Robert Nilsson and Zach Stortini, there are still a handful of youngsters that are going to make the Oilers fun to watch.

Jordan Eberle is the name that keeps getting thrown around the most, and with good reason. The 19-year old may be small but he brings a ton of energy to the ice, along with the willingness to dig for the puck and work hard. As it stands he could make this team on attitude alone but the talent is undoubtedly there.

Ryan Potulny has some potential as well, especially with the way he’s produced in the AHL as of late, while Gilbert Brule has the talent, but it’s figuring out what happened to the once highly touted center. Once he comes over from Sweden, recent draftee Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson is going to be fun to watch on this Oilers team as well.

So what’s it all mean…

The defense is there for the Oilers, and now it’s just waiting on the other areas.

Khabibulin may not be the long-term answer for this team, but if he can stay healthy, he’ll help them stay competitive for the immediate future, while the offense may just take a little while to mesh.

The Oilers are relying on a lot of young forwards, as well as some underachievers, so there are going to be growing pains, but they’ll be able to capitalize on some weaker division opponents, while also playing the Vancouver’s and Calgary’s tough.

3rd in Northwest

NBA Legend: Wilt Chamberlain, The Unstoppable Force!

August 29, 2009

by Stephen Brotherston…

Wilton Norman “Wilt” Chamberlain (August 8, 1936 – October 12, 1999) also known as “Wilt The Stilt”, “The Big Dipper”, amongst other nicknames, played 14 remarkable seasons in the NBA from 1959 to 1973.

Physically, Wilt Chamberlain was as big as any of the league’s giant centers and more athletically gifted than most.  At 7’ in socks, weighing 275 lbs when he entered the NBA, and 300 lbs later on.  Wilt was credited with being able to bench press 500 lbs, run a 440 yard sprint in 49 seconds, and high jump 6’ 6’’.

Perhaps he was most famous for scoring 100 points in a game, but that single amazing scoring accomplishment should be considered as only the inevitable highlight of the game’s most unstoppable offensive player.

Wilt’s famous quotes and his contemporaries unbelievable stories about him are worthy of their own re-telling.  There are many stories of Wilt stopping altercations by picking up players weighing over 230 lbs like they were children and advising them that there would no more of that.

Suffice it to say Wilt was perhaps the strongest athlete to ever suit up for an NBA game and his life was as colourful as any who has ever played.

Even after 35 years, many of Wilt Chamberlain’s personal bests still represent the highest ever achieved in the NBA and it is highly unlikely that many of them will ever be surpassed.

One has to wonder just how much higher Chamberlain’s stats could have been if it were not for the NBA’s rule that prevented players from entering the league until after 4 seasons of college ball.

Wilt would have been an obvious candidate to jump straight to the NBA out of high school.  In his freshman year at Kansas, already 7’ tall and 225 lbs, Wilt led his freshman team to victory against the varsity squad, scoring 42 points.

It could be argued that Wilt Chamberlain would have easily added 10,000 points and 6,000 rebounds to his already unbelievable career totals by playing 4 more years at the start of his NBA career.

The NBA did not officially include block shots and steals until after Chamberlain’s retirement thus denying him the opportunity to hold official records for those stats or some of the numerous special statistical categories that we follow today.  Chamberlain and his contemporaries would have likely held many of those records to the present day.

Following are some of the astounding statistics in points, rebounds, assists, special stats, and minutes played held by one of the greatest players to ever grace the NBA.

Chamberlain, A Scoring Machine

Over Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA career, Wilt scored 31,419 points, 4th in league history and averaged 30.1 points per games, effectively tied for 1st with Michael Jordan (a slight percentage point advantage to Michael).

Chamberlain led the NBA in scoring for 7 consecutive years, a feat that has only been matched by Jordan.  Wilt’s season, total points, and points per game were as follows:

  1. 1959-60          2,707            37.6
  2. 1960-61          3,033            38.4
  3. 3. 1961-62          4,029            50.4
  4. 4. 1962-63          3,586            44.8
  5. 1963-64          2,948            36.9
  6. 1964-65          2,534            34.7
  7. 1965-66          2,649            33.5
  • 1966-67          1,956            24.1
  • 1967-68          1,992            24.3
  • 1968-69          1,664            20.5
  • 1969-70          328               27.3
  • 1970-71          1,696            20.7
  • 1971-72          1,213            14.8
  • 1972-73          1,084            13.2

Chamberlain’s 1961-62 and 1962-63 seasons’ scoring remains the highest offensive output to ever be recorded in the NBA. Wilt’s 1961-62 season surpassed Michael Jordan’s best season (and 3rd all-time) by almost 1,000 points.  No player has ever approached the 4,000 point in a season mark since and no one reasonably expects this standard to ever be surpassed.

The closest present day player to Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record is Kobe Bryant at 7th with 2,832 points in 2005-06. Shaquille O’Neal’s best season was in 1993-94 with 2,377 points, good for 57th all-time.

Chamberlain’s individual game scoring records are equally spectacular.  Including the record holding 100 point game, Wilt Chamberlain scored 60 or more points a record 32 times.  Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan are tied for 2nd surpassing 60 points 5 times each.

When Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game, it took several days for the accomplishment to sink in.  Everyone had expected Wilt to break his own record of 78 points set early that season and scoring 60 or more points in a game had become something less than special.

Wilt scored over 50 points, 118 times, set the rookie record for points in a game at 58 and still holds the highest rookie scoring average of 37.6.

Chamberlain holds multiple NBA records for consecutive game scoring too.

40+ points, 14 games

30+ points, 65games

20+ points, 126 games

Chamberlain was more than volume shooter; Wilt was a skilled finisher and always shot a high percentage, averaging 54% for his career.  Wilt holds an NBA record with 18 consecutive field goals.

In his final 2 seasons, Wilt Chamberlain set records for field goal percentages that still stand.  In 1971-72, Chamberlain made over 68% of his shots from the field, good for 2nd best all-time.  In his final season, he bettered this making 72.7% of his shots, the highest mark ever achieved.

Wilt “The Stilt” Rebounds

Being tall doesn’t hurt, but being tall and athletic makes prolific rebounding numbers possible.  Wilt Chamberlain collected 23,924 rebounds over his career, averaging 22.9 boards a game, both NBA records.

Playing in an era with one of best rebounders in league history, Chamberlain led the league in rebounds for 11 of his 14 seasons.  Only the Celtics Bill Russell managed to break Chamberlain’s dominance in 1963-64 and again in 1964-65.

Chamberlain played in only 12 regular season games in 1969-70 due to a serious knee injury thus losing the rebounding battle to HOF player Elvin Hayes who had “only” 1,386 boards.

Chamberlain’s rebounding numbers, by season, rebounds, and rebounds per game were as follows:

  • 1959-60          1,941            27.0
  • 1960-61          2,149            27.2
  • 1961-62          2,052            25.7
  • 1962-63          1,946            24.3
  • 1963-64          1,787            22.3
  • 1964-65          1,673            22.9
  • 1965-66          1,943            24.6
  • 1966-67          1,957            24.2
  • 1967-68          1,952            23.8
  • 1968-69          1,712            21.1
  • 1969-70          221               18.4
  • 1970-71          1,493            18.2
  • 1971-72          1,572            19.2
  • 1972-73          1,526            18.6

Wilt Chamberlain holds the 7 highest rebounding season totals by any player in the NBA (shown in bold).  He also holds the rookie rebounding record of 45 boards in a game.

Playing against one another for most of their careers, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell combined for the 18 highest rebounding seasons ever.

For comparison: Dennis Rodman at 28th for his 1991-92 season with 1,530 boards; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is 48th with 1,383 rebounds in 1975-76; at 119th was Dwight Howard 2 seasons ago with 1,161; and Shaq’s best season places him 141st with 1,122 boards in 1992-93.

Chamberlain also set some astounding individual game rebounding marks.  Wilt set the all-time individual mark of 55 rebounds against the Boston Celtics on November 24, 1960.

Between 1959 and 1967, Chamberlain tore down 40 or more boards in a game on 15 separate occasions.  Bill Russell is the only other player to have ever breached the 40 rebounds in a game barrier in the NBA.

Assists and Special Stats From the Big Dipper

In the 1967-68 season in Philadelphia, Wilt Chamberlain set another NBA record unlikely to be to matched.  Wilt Chamberlain led the NBA in assists with 702, beating out HOF point guard Lenny Wilkens.

While there is nothing particularly outstanding amount the number of assists, it was the only time a center has led the NBA in assists.  Also, it is likely the first, and possibly the last time any player will, over the course of their career, lead the league in scoring, rebounding, and assists in different seasons (or at all).

Special stats are the sizzle that stirs the drink for many NBA fans.  Double-doubles, triple doubles, and quad-doubles are the expected flavours.  How about double double-doubles, or triple double-doubles, or quadruple double-doubles. (better than 20 and 20, 30 and 30, or 40 and 40, in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks)

Wilt Chamberlain made double-doubles, yawn.  He made them so often he ended every single season of his NBA career with a double-double average in scoring and rebounding, or better.

For his career, Wilt averaged 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds over 1,045 games, a double double-double average.  No other player in NBA history has even come close to averaging a double double-double.  (Only 2 players have ever averaged more than 20 rebounds per game over a career.)

The NBA didn’t officially record stats like block or steals when Wilt Chamberlain played and the NBA doesn’t provide double-double stats for players from the era either.  However, logic would tell you Karl Malone’s 779 double-double record would be in serious jeopardy if someone were to count the double-doubles made by players from earlier years.

Chamberlain is the only NBA player to ever record a quadruple double-double (40 & 40) and he did it eight times.

The triple-double represents a unique challenge to the players of Wilt Chamberlain’s era as the NBA didn’t officially count blocks or steals.  However, as Chamberlain’s game developed, he became a real triple-double threat.

In the 1967-68 season, Wilt managed 9 consecutive triple-doubles, an NBA record and 31 triple-doubles, second only to Oscar Robertson’s NBA single season record of 41. Chamberlain sits in 4th place all-time with 78 triple-doubles, an amazing accomplishment for a center of any era.

On February 2, 1968, in a game against Detroit, Wilt Chamberlain managed a double triple-double of 22 points, 21 assists, and 25 rebounds, a stat line unlikely to be ever seen again.

Chamberlain was known for his ability to reject a shot.  It is unfortunate that we only have unofficial stats with which to give us an idea of his unique abilities.

Unofficially, in Wilt Chamberlain’s first NBA game his stat line was 43 points, 28 rebounds, and 17 blocks*.  Unofficially, in game 5 of the NBA finals in 1972, Wilt, at the age of 35 and playing with a fractured wrist, led his team to the championship playing all 48 minutes with 24 points, 29 rebounds, and 10 blocks*.  Unofficial* means this information is not readily available and not verifiable by using NBA provided stats.  But it should be apparent; Wilt’s full stat line is grossly understated by today’s standards.

Chamberlain, The Marathon Man

An often overlooked aspect of Wilt’s game is just how many minutes he actually played.  Most impressive is the 48.5 minute per game average from the 1961-62 season.  Wilt played 79 complete games for 3,882 minutes during that regular season, a record that still stands.  He ended the season playing 47 complete games in a row.

Chamberlain led the league in minutes played for 8 seasons (bolded).  But he always played more minutes than anyone would expect a modern player to average over a season.  Over the course of his career, Chamberlain averaged 45.8 minutes per game.

His career minutes played and average minutes per game were:

  • 1959-60          3,338            46.4
  • 1960-61          3,773            47.8
  • 1961-62          3,882            48.5
  • 1962-63          3,806            47.6
  • 1963-64          3,689            46.1
  • 1964-65          3,301            45.2
  • 1965-66          3,737            47.3
  • 1966-67          3,682            45.5
  • 1967-68          3,836            46.8
  • 1968-69          3,669            45.3
  • 1969-70          505               42.1
  • 1970-71          3,630            44.3
  • 1971-72          3,469            42.3
  • 1972-73          3,542            43.2

The closest modern day players to rack up these types of minutes are: 34th, Latrell Sprewell’s 3,533 minutes in 1993-94; and, the 47th place, Allen Iverson’s 3,485 minutes in 2002-03.

Comparisons between players for minutes per game stats are not provided by the NBA prior to 1986.  However, the players with the most minutes in their careers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (57,446 minutes, 36.8 minutes per game) and Karl Malone (54,852 minutes, 37.2 minutes per game) did not come close to averaging the minutes per game played by Wilt Chamberlain (48.5), Bill Russell(42.3), or Oscar Robertson(42.2).  In only 13 seasons of work, Wilt Chamberlain is 4th all-time in minutes played.

And, Wilt never fouled out of a game in his NBA career!

The oft made compliant about the stats from Chamberlain’s era is the speed of the game was much faster providing the stars more opportunity to obtain better stats.  Outside of Chamberlain and Russell, no one has ever averaged 20 rpg over a career and only 3 other players have ever done it in a season, from any era.

The pace may have been faster, but one would have expected this to have a negative effect on scoring from the center position.  Russell only averaged 15 ppg over his career, but Chamberlain was different.  An athletic center that could and did play complete games at that accelerated pace.  Would we expect any of our modern day centers to play complete games, high pace or not?!

Summarizing the “Big Dipper”

The NBA’s Wilt Chamberlain (1959-1973) at a glance.

The NBA’s rookie leader with season averages of 37.6 ppg and 27 rpg.  And single game highs of 58 points and 45 rebounds.

A career double double-double of 30.1 ppg and 22.9 rpg.

Only player to average over 50 ppg and score over 4,000 points in a season.

Only player to score 100 points in a game.  Scored 60 or more points 32 times.

Owns the best field goal percentage for any season of 72.7%.

Holds the rebounding records of 55 in a game, 2,149 in a season, and 23,924 in a career.

Holds the record for consecutive triple-doubles at 9.

Has the only double triple-double of 22 points, 21 assists, and 25 rebounds.

Has the only quadruple double-double (8 times).

Only center to lead the NBA in assists.

Played 79 complete games in a season.

Won his second NBA Championship with a fractured wrist, playing all 48 minutes and had an (unofficial) triple-double.

Never fouled out, ever!

Thanks to:

http://www.nba.com/history/players/chamberlain_bio.html

http://www.apbr.org/wilt.html

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/c/chambwi01.html

http://www.sportingnews.com/archives/wilt/index.html

http://www.answers.com/topic/wilt-chamberlain

http://www.answers.com/topic/list-of-national-basketball-association-players-with-60-or-more-points-in-a-game

http://www.answers.com/topic/list-of-national-basketball-association-players-with-40-or-more-rebounds-in-a-game

http://www.answers.com/topic/triple-double#NBA_triple-double_facts

http://www.lakersuniverse.com/players/wilt_chamberlain_profile.htm

http://wiltfan.tripod.com/index1.html

Brothersteve’s Green & Red Raptor Blog

Back from Extinction: A Toronto Raptors Season Preview

August 29, 2009

by Sean Bafaro…2008/2009 Statistics:

Record: 33-49, Fourth in Atlantic Division, 13th in Eastern Conference.

Scored 99 points per game and gave up 101.9 points per game.

Additions:

Hedo Turkoglu (via sign and trade), DeMar DeRozan (via draft), Marco Belinelli (via trade), Antoine Wright (via trade), Reggie Evans (via trade), Rasho Nesterovic (via free agency), Jarrett Jack (via free agency), Amir Johnson (via trade), Sonny Weems (via trade)

Losses:

Shawn Marion (via sign and trade), Anthony Parker (via free agency), Roko Ukic (via trade), Carlos Delfino (via trade), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (via free agency),  Kris Humphries (via trade), Nathan Jawai (via trade), Jason Kapono (via trade), Joey Graham (not re-signed)

Projected Lineup:

PG: Jose Calderon/Jarrett Jack/Quincy Douby

SG: DeMar DeRozan/Marco Belinelli/Antoine Wright

SF: Hedo Turkoglu/Antoine Wright/DeMar DeRozan

PF: Chris Bosh/Reggie Evans/Amir Johnson

C: Andrea Bargnani/Rasho Nesterovic/Patrick O’Bryant

After the Raptors missed the playoffs and plummeted down the Eastern Conference standings during the 2008-09 NBA season, Bryan Colangelo promised that there would be changes made to the rosterbut nobody expected the complete overhaul that occurred.

Colangelo brought in nine new players through the NBA draft, trades, and free agency,  and he said goodbye to nine familiar faces. The Raptors have been the busiest team this offseason and are hoping that the moves made will catapult them back into the upper-echelon of the Eastern Conference.

The Raptors will once again turn to All-Star power forward Chris Bosh to lead the team.

Bosh has experienced his fair share of ups and downs as the franchise player for the Toronto Raptors. He led them to their first Atlantic Division title just three seasons ago, but the Raptors have regressed each season since then.

However, this season is different for Bosh and the Raptors.

Bosh’s contract is up at the end of the season and he will look to prove to everybody around the league that he is worthy of a max contract and is capable of leading his team to the playoffs. Look for Bosh to step up his game this season on both ends of the floor.

No longer will Bosh have to put the Raptors on his back night in and night out as he now has legitimate help on the offensive end of the floor to lighten the load on him.

This will enable Bosh to play more aggressively on the offensive end, and more importantly, defensively as well. No longer will he have to be passive defensively because of the fear of getting into foul trouble. With the help that he now has at the offensive end of the floor, we just may see Bosh play with the tenacity on the defensive end of the floor that we saw him play with during the Olympics.

One of the biggest problems for the Raptors last season was their lack of a creative offensive wing player, and they added one of the best in the league during the offseason in Hedo Turkoglu.

Turkoglu gives the Raptors another offensive option, playmaker, and perhaps most importantly of all, a reliable option in the clutch, which is something that the Raptors severely lacked last season.

Having Turkoglu on the roster gives them a lot of options offensively as he is a very capable ball handler, perhaps one of the best point-forwards in the league today, and as a 6’10″ small forward, he creates plenty of mismatch opportunities.

At times last season the Raptors became very predictable on the offensive end of the floor due to their lack of creative ball handlers, but with Turkoglu in the lineup, that is no longer the case.

Turkoglu was a crucial piece in the Orlando Magic’s run to the NBA Finals last season and the Raptors are counting on Turkoglu to help take them to the next level, in the same way he helped the Magic.

The ninth overall draft pick from USC, DeMar DeRozan, along with Marco Belinelli and Antoine Wright, give the Raptors a deep shooting guard rotation, which is something that they have not had the luxury of over the past couple of seasons. The best thing about this trio of shooting guards is that they all bring something different to the table.

Belinelli is the most offensively gifted of the three and he will give the Raptors another option whenever he is on the floor. He is a very good shooter and is also able to create his own shot off of the dribble, which will be a welcome attribute to the lineup.

Defensively, he isn’t great, but he is not a complete liability either.

Wright is a physical, hard-nosed defender that will certainly be given the task of guarding the opposing teams best perimeter player ever game. The Raptors have struggled guarding players at the point of attack, and having a defensive-minded player like Wright will go a long way to help fix this problem.

DeRozan is a very good athlete and possess a lot of raw talent. It will take him time to adjust to the much quicker, stronger, and more athletic NBA game. He will have his fair share of ups and downs during the course of the season, but having depth at the 2-guard gives the Raptors the luxury of bringing him along slowly.

This year when the Raptors are struggling at the wing positions, they have the option of going to their bench and inserting a new face into the game. They also won’t have to ask players to play outside of their games and do things that they really aren’t capable of doing. Toronto did not have the luxury of either of these things last season because of its limited depth at the wing positions.

Former first overall pick Andrea Bargnani was given a five-year, $50 million contract extension this offseason as a result of his solid play down the stretch of last season. He is undoubtedly going to look to prove that he was worth the long-term investment that the Raptors put in him was worth it and improve on his play from last season.

Jarrett Jack gives the Raptors a reliable backup point guard behind Jose Calderon. Calderon was hampered by a hamstring injury for the majority of last season and when he was not on the floor, the Raptors struggled mightily without a reliable backup point guard.

Jack is a physical player that isn’t a pure point guard in the sense that he will look for his own shot quite a bit, but that change of pace and contrast in styles proved to be incredibly successful for the Raptors when T.J. Ford was with the team. One thing that Jack gives the team that they will be very pleased with is his physical defense on opposing guards.

The Raptors got bullied around inside last season and in order to help bring some interior defense, toughness and rebounding, the Raptors added Reggie Evans and Rasho Nesterovic through a trade and free agency respectively.

Evans is a rugged rebounder that has a knack for getting under opposing players’ skin. He is a very good agitator and is a great energy big man. He does not back down from anybody and is not afraid to get physical.

Nesterovic is a veteran that has been around the block. He has a very good understanding of the game, plays good positional defense and is a very good veteran presence. He is back for his second tour of duty with the Raptors and will be an excellent backup center.

Rounding out the Raptors roster is power forward Amir Johnson, swingman Sonny Weems, center Patrick O’Bryant, and guards Marcus Banks and Quincy Douby.

Toronto is going to be one of the most offensively gifted teams in the entire NBA next season and will look to push the pace. They have gifted offensive players at every position and will have absolutely no problems scoring the ball.

However, the key for the Raptors next season is not going to be how many points they score, but rather how many points they allow their opposition to score. The Raptors are certainly not going to turn any heads with stellar, lockdown defensive play next season.

With the talent that this team has on the offensive end of the floor, as long as they are able to play average defense throughout the course of the game, they will put themselves in position to win the basketball game.

After a very disappointing season last year, the Raptors look to bounce back and once again be a playoff basketball team. They have made the necessary moves in order to surround Chris Bosh with talent, they have addressed plenty of team needs through trades and free agency and have generated an excitement among Raptors nation.

On paper the Toronto Raptors are a playoff team, but will that translate onto the court?

We will have our answer soon enough.

2009/10 NHL Season Preview: Minnesota Wild

August 29, 2009

by Bryan Thiel…

That’s like “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, just without ridiculously powerful/cool/scary animals or a narrator with a mysterious, sexy voice.

On second thought: Next year, 2010/11 NHL Previews—The book on tape narrated by Alyssa Milano.

Finally…I can be lazy, yet feel enlightened.

In the meantime, few days back it was the Colorado Avalanche as we move up the Northwest ladder.

Minnesota Wild

2008/09 Record: 40-33-9, 89 points, 9th in West

Additions: Greg Zanon—D (3 years/$5.8 million), Martin Havlat—F (6 years/$30 million), Shane Hnidy—D (1 year/$750k), Kyle Brodziak—F (Trade w/Edmonton), Wade Dubielewicz—G (FA)

Subtractions: Marc-Andre Bergeron—D (FA), Martin Skoula—D (FA), Dan Fritsche—F (FA), Kurtis Foster—D (FA), Marian Gaborik—F (FA), Stepane Veilleux—F (FA)

For years, the Wild were the little team with the big trap: Sure, they didn’t have the top-end scoring talent of other teams, but with a dependable goaltending duo and a defense that was cheap and effective, they didn’t need to win games 5-4 or 6-5.

However, with Jacques Lemaire out of the picture, the Wild are looking to instill a wide open style of play which will feature a full-on offensive attack.

Things are definitely going to be looking a little different in Minnesota this season.

With a “Strom-Back” you can certainly accomplish a lot…

A big reason for the Wild’s ninth place finish last year was the play of goaltender Niklas Backstrom.

A personal favorite of mine for the Vezina last year, Backstrom was bettered only by Boston’s Tim Thomas in save percentage and goals-against average of goalies with 35 wins or more, as he became the first-ever goalie in Wild history to play more than 60 games in a season (71).

For a team that survived on the tandem goaltender system for so long, finding that one constant between the pipes will undoubtedly help them move forward. It helps even more when that one constant has the skill of Backstrom, who will be a constant Vezina threat for the foreseeable future.

Backing up Backstrom (For right now at least) is Josh Harding, who is no slouch.

Although Harding’s 3-9-1 record does little to impress, consider the fact that Harding was able to polish off a 2.21 goals-against and a .929 save percentage in 19 games. The Regina-native posted another impressive stat, as in just five of his 19 games played, he allowed three goals or more after facing at least 30 shots.

Although Harding will not get the Lion’s share of the work in Minny while Backstrom steals headlines and hearts, Harding will continue to put that skill on display that once had him pegged as Minnesota’s goalie of the future.

His longevity in Wild Country is beginning to sound as if it is on its last legs, as with the acquisition of backup Wade Dubielewicz, Harding becomes a valuable, tradable commodity.

Hav-at you!

Whether he played six, 16, or 60 games, there’s no doubt that Marian Gaborik was talented, and that the Minnesota Wild are going to miss his offensive gifts.

Despite being as fragile as an ice cream cone, Gaborik brought with him undeniable skill, with no more proof necessary than his 18 points over the final 11 games of last season.

Saddled with the job of replacing him will be recent acquisition Martin Havlat. While Havlat’s offensive gifts were on full display in Chicago this past season (In—surprise surprise—a contract year) he’s another star-crossed wonder who has not only had trouble staying healthy, but meeting expectations as well.

Before Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane came along to the Windy city, Havlat was supposed to be “the guy.” Due to a variety of injuries, Havlat never evolved into “the guy.”

With the expectations much the same in Minnesota, it’ll be interesting to see how Havlat reacts.

The biggest building block currently for the Wild is Mikko Koivu, as the younger Koivu brother put up a career-best 67 points last year.

Although the replication of those totals becomes a little easier with a wide-open style (And while Havlat can’t match Gaborik in pure skill, he surely is no slouch talent-wise), Koivu will need more help than just Havlat going forward.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard is a player who owns the creativity and the skill set to thrive in the new culture, but the big question for him revolves around his health.

Another one of those “small forwards,” Bouchard can be dominated by the more physically imposing players on the ice, and his stature leaves him prone to more serious injuries…like the concussion that ended his season last year.

If he can stay healthy, Bouchard, Koivu, and Havlat make for a dangerous trio Minnesota can start with.

After that, the offense is really nothing special. Owen Nolan and Andrew Brunette represent two forwards who, although they can still put up a few points, have left their best years behind them.

More employed for their leadership, they’ll be expected to help bring along the younger forwards like Russian returnee Peter Kalus or Edmonton import Kyle Brodziak.

The Wild will look to James Sheppard for more of an improvement than the five points he bumped his totals up from last season (From 19 in 2007/08 to 24 in 2008/09), while Benoit Pouliot is really the other youngster worth seeing improvement from this season.

After that its depth options galore with Antti Miettinen, Eric Belanger, Derek Boogard, and Craig Weller, while bigger offensive contributions from Colton Gillies and Cal Clutterbuck certainly wouldn’t be turned down if they were provided.

Zanon the Cannon and the Zidlicky the…

Is it wrong that the only thing I can think of to rhyme with Zidlicky is dirty? Actually. There’s no “PG” rating on these…I can do whatever I want!

Editor’s Note: Bryan Thiel CANNOT do whatever he wants. The preceding paragraph was henceforth deleted.

For Minnesota, it’s important that power play quarterback Marek Zidlicky is back.

Zidlicky led all Wild defensemen in points last year with 42 and 10 of his 12 goals on the season came on the power play.

Despite his ice-time bouncing back and forth from the low twenties to just over 25 minutes per game throughout points in the season, Zidlicky is undoubtedly the veteran fall-back on this defense, and he’ll have to play like it this season.

Without Marc-Andre Bergeron (Who came up a goal and three points shy of tying his career-highs of 14 goals and 32 points last year), the Wild have an offensive hole that could be filled by Brent Burns.

The big question for Burns, who was in the middle of a career season, is how much he has recovered from the concussion that ended his season last year.

Since shifting to the back end, Burns has been a great source of offense for the Wild, as well as a responsible defensive player, but if the season-ending injury has taken anything off of his game, then the Wild have a big question on their minds moving forward.

Helping out defensively will be former Nashville Predator Greg Zanon who brings plenty of experience in a gritty, defensive role, while spending a lot of time on the penalty-kill last year. The Wild have both Kim Johnsson and Nick Schultz returning to the team as well, and the three defenders look to cement the already solid squad.

Both Johnsson and Schultz are very mobile in their own end of the ice (while Johnsson can also push the puck up the ice offensively), giving the Wild a solid three-man rotation on the penalty kill—a penalty kill that was second-best in the league last year.

The addition of Shane Hnidy is little more than a depth move, while the same can be said for John Scott, who brings little offense and will take some seasoning to keep up with the NHL.

The rookie that everyone talks about on the Wild’s defense is Tyler Cuma, but Cuma does have his work cut out for him. Although there’s some wiggle-room in the lower pairings of this defense, Cuma will have to prove that his offensive game can translate to the NHL quickly if he’s going to stick out of camp.

So What’s It All Mean…

The Wild will eventually benefit from the more open system being implemented, especially when some of their younger forwards are ready.

Right now there’s not a lot to work with and it’ll take the turnover of the veterans (Nolan, Brunette, etc.) and implementation of the quicker, younger talent to really get that system into place.

If Brent Burns can return from injury and show no ill-effects, the team has their stud defenseman back and can build for the future on the back end with Cuma and Burns.

Barring a huge year from the Koivu/Havlat tandem or a monumental return from Burns, the brightest spot will continue to be Nicklas Backstrom and the penalty kill.

Then again, when you’re beginning to build a system that’s going to feature more emphasis on the offense, having a great penalty kill and one of the best between the pipes is a great place to start.

Some teams can’t even get that far.

4th in Northwest

Ah Creepin’ on the Come-Up: Five NHL Players You Better Get to Know

August 29, 2009

by Daniel Sallows… Every now and then, in the middle of $7 million-dollar players demanding trades, there is a feel good story in the NHL.

There are players who have battled their way into the league against the odds. They were undrafted, told they were too small or too old, or whatever the case may be.

Here are five names you will want to keep on your radar next season. They are five guys that are going have breakout years that will make you jump off the couch and spill your beers.

5. Andrew Ebbett (Anaheim Ducks)

Undrafted out of the University of Michigan, the 5′9″,172-pound Ebbett plays a lot bigger than he looks.

He has a pure natural vision that helped him rack up 24 assists in just 48 games last season for the Ducks, all while playing limited minutes.

If Anaheim gives the 26-year-old Ebbett a chance at more quality minutes, look for him to improve on the eight goals and 32 points he put up last season.

4. Adam Pardy (Calgary Flames)

A late-round pick by the Flames in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the 6′4″, 211-pound Pardy just kept getting better as the season went on, becoming one of Calgary’s top four defensemen.

Don’t be surprised to see the 25-year-old Pardy paired with Regehr or Bouwmeester on one of the top two units this season, as he has all the makings of a quality NHL defensemen.

3. Mike Santorelli (Nashville Predators)

Drafted 178th overall by the Preds in 2004, the 23-year-old Santorelli will definetly get a longer look at making Nashville this season.

He has produced everywhere he has landed, and it won’t be any different once he sticks in the NHL.

Santorelli has all the makings of a legitimate point-producing center. He has great vision, and he can also snipe as well. He racked up 30 goals in 41 games at Northern Michigan and 27 goals and 70 points in 70 games with the Milwaukee Admirals.

This kid has as good of a chance at being a quality player in the NHL as Lady Gaga does at coming out with a new dance hit–it’s only a matter of time, people.

2. Michal Repik (Florida Panthers)

There hasn’t been much to cheer about in Florida over the past few years, but the swift skating soft hands of Michal Repik will give the fans just that this upcoming season.

With two goals in five apperaences last season for the Panthers, and with Richard Zednik not coming back into the fold, Repik is poised to get a shot on one of the top two lines.

With two other swift Czech youngsters in Michael Frolik and Rotislav Olesz, we just might see Repik on a wing making up the best Czech line since Jagr, Lang, and Straka.

1. Leafs Tyler Bozak (Toronto Maple Leafs)

When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed the free agent Bozak to a incentive-based contract that mirrors that of a top-five pick, they were solidifying what was already known to hockey fans of the University of Denver.

Bozak is a tenacious forward with all the makings of a solid NHL-er, which is why many teams were recruiting his services.

With a Leafs team that isn’t deep up front, Bozak should be able to get some quality minutes that will enable him to succeed.

Argos’ late push falls short in loss to Stamps

August 29, 2009

Jeremaine Copeland's late TD sealed Toronto's fate

by Jeremy Visser… The way things have gone for the Argos this season, you had to figure a late fourth quarter lead wasn’t safe Friday. Henry Burris connected with Jeremaine Copeland for an eight-yard touchdown with 46 seconds remaining, giving Calgary a 23-20 win and handing the Argos a club-record 10th straight loss at home.

Toronto grabbed a 20-16 lead when Cody Pickett found P.K. Sam in the corner of the end zone with 4:22 to play and even forced a turnover on Calgary’s ensuing possession, but a two-and-out of their own gave Burris a chance to lead the Stampeders downfield. The Argos’ final push ended when head coach Bart Andrus opted for a hail mary on the game’s final play as opposed to a Justin Medlock 57-yard field goal attempt.

“The distance bothered me,” Andrus said afterward of the decision to keep Medlock on the sidelines. “I watched him kick in pre-game and wasn’t sure if 57 was in his range. I just wasn’t comfortable with it.”

Medlock’s only miss of the season was an identical 57-yarder late against Winnipeg on August 1 in a game Toronto lost 13-12. That kick had the distance but hit the left upright, and all 20 of his other attempts in 2009 have been successful. After the game, Medlock said he was prepared to kick and insisted the deep attempt would’ve been in his range.

“I was ready and waiting to kick,” Medlock said. “I thought it was in my range. I wanted a chance, but it didn’t happen.”

The Argos got another solid performance from Cody Pickett, who completed 32-of-45 attempts for 311 yards in his second start, though most of his throws were toward the sidelines as opposed to downfield. He found Sam, who was making his season debut, twice for touchdowns.

“It’s good for me to get my feet wet,” Sam said of his performance. “But we came up short.

“I told the guys I’d rather win and not have a catch. I haven’t won a game as an Argo. All the stats are fine, but as a team it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Sam played six games in 2008 with Toronto and rejoined the team after being released by the Buffalo Bills early this month. His 75 receiving yards Friday were second on the team to Jamal Robertson, who had 91 on 11 receptions.

Similar to their loss to B.C. two weeks ago, the Argos’ defense was dominant in the first half, holding Burris to just 75 passing yards in a 3-3 tie. The second half was a different story, though — Burris threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns and running back Joffrey Reynolds shredded Toronto’s front line, finishing with 114 yards, 63 of which came after halftime. Burris rushed for 32 yards of his own and was able to get out of the pocket and do damage outside the hash marks.

“We wanted Burris to beat us with his arm,” Argos linebacker Zeke Moreno said after the game. “When he’s a double threat, that’s when he makes big plays. We wanted to contain him and make him a drop-back passer, and we did a good job of that in the first half and kind of got away from that in the second half.”

Moreno had a key interception early in the third quarter — one of three Calgary turnovers — but it wasn’t enough in the end. The loss was Toronto’s fourth straight overall and dropped their record to 2-6 — worst in the CFL.

“We’re making strides,” Pickett said afterward, “but we just need to find a way to get wins. We’re all competitors and hate losing, but we need to try and find the positives and go forward next week and get a win.”

That’s what I’m saying, guy…

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