Spring Cottage Life Show

January 4, 2011

Wanna catch a great show? Come and visit, its a BLAST. I go every year and suggest you do too.

Whether you are looking for a boat, deck, dock, water toy or water system, there’s more than 475 exhibitors to enjoy. Plus, there’s dozens of free seminars, cooking demos, and feature areas to enjoy.

Friday, March 30: 11am-8pm
Saturday, March 31: 9am-6pm
Sunday, April 1: 10am-5pm

TOsports website is Down for Maintenance… We’re working on it and should be back soon, very soon!!

February 3, 2010

We got Hacked, yes Hacked! I guess now we’re in the same league as the FBI, BBC and Microsoft. Must be the work of a Sens or maybe even a Habs fan… the douchebag!!

Team Canada II: What If Canada Sent a Second Hockey Team?

January 18, 2010

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter… For years, many Canadian fans have debated whether Canada could send more than one team to the Olympics and be successful. With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to draft Team Canada II.

Obviously, any and all players chosen by Steve Yzerman and Co. are off the table. That said, Canada is deep in talent at every conceivable position, so there will be no problem drafting a second team.

For the purposes of this exercise I will draft 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies. Much like Team Canada itself, I will put an emphasis on building a “team,” not simply throwing out the players with the best statistics.

Criteria for the players will include, offensive stats, plus/minus rating, face-off percentages, checking abilities, special teams ability, skating, past participation in the program/Olympics, speed, and leadership.

Goalies:

Cam Ward: Through 30 games, Ward has a record of 9-15-5, posting a 2.88 goals against average and a .907 save percentage, not bad considering your team (Carolina Hurricanes) is sitting with a 14-24-7 record.

The Hurricanes are ranked 29th overall in both goals for and goals against, leading me to believe that, despite his team’s misfortunes, Ward’s numbers are solid.

Ward is a former Stanley Cup winner (2005-06) and a Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2005-06) to boot. He is more than capable of stealing a game and he has the ability to get hot in stretches—as seen in the 2008-09 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Ward most recently represented Canada at the 2006-07 and 2007-08 World Cup, winning gold in 2007 and silver in 2008. Ward posted combined totals of nine wins and one loss with a 2.39 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

When everything is all said and done, Ward gets the nod as Team Canada II’s starting goalie.

Dwayne Roloson: With a record of 18-7-6 through 31 games with the New York Islanders, Roloson, who just might be the NHL’s most underrated goaltender, is a must-have for Team Canada II.

The Islanders have a 20-19-6 record on the season; the fact that Roloson has accounted for 18 of those wins is phenomenal. Simple math tells us that Roloson has started in goal for 90 percent of his team’s wins.

With a save percentage of .913, Roloson ranks fourth overall, his 2.70 goals against average ranks him seventh overall, making Roloson a prime candidate to assume the No. 2—if not No. 1 goaltending assignment for Team Canada II.

Forwards:

Left Wing-                Centre-                       Right Wing-

Mike Cammalleri     Steven Stamkos       Shane Doan
Patrick Sharp           Vincent Lecavalier   Nathan Horton
Alex Burrows           Jeff Carter                 Brad Richards
Ryan Smyth             Jordan Staal              Scottie Upshall

The first line of Mike Cammalleri, Steven Stamkos, and Shane Doan combines grit (Doan), scoring prowess (Stamkos) and the ability to create offense (Cammalleri).

Stamkos, while young, has already established himself as an elite NHL player, and with the additions of veterans Doan and Cammalleri, would be capable of leading Team Canada II offensively.

The second line of Patrick Sharp, Vincent Lecavalier and Nathan Horton combines hard work (Sharp), scoring ability (Lecavalier & Horton) and grit (Horton). Sharp, Lecavalier and Horton all have their fair share of supporters and critics; I am relying on their Canadian pride, heart, and integrity to get them through, emerging as a solid unit rather than individual players.

The third line of Alex Burrows, Jeff Carter, and Brad Richards is capable of providing offense and shutting the opposition down. All three players are comfortable on any line and in any situation. It is this versatility that makes this line so important.

The fourth line of Ryan Smyth, Jordan Staal, and Scottie Upshall would be an absolute nightmare to compete against.

Smyth, Staal and Upshall represent three of the hardest working players in the entire NHL and, much like the third liners, are not opposed to playing on any line and/or in any situation.

Other Notables: Dustin Penner, Mike Knuble, Wayne Simmonds, Mason Raymond, Kris Versteeg, Rene Bourque

Defensemen

Mike Green                    Dion Phaneuf
Jay Bouwmeester        Rob Blake
Willie Mitchell                Marc Staal
Kyle Quincey

Other Notables: Ed Jovanovski, Cam Barker, Jeff Shultz, Brian Campbell

Blessed with speed, power, scoring ability and leadership, Team Canada II looks good on the back end with the likes of Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester, Rob Blake, Willie Mitchell, Marc Staal, and Kyle Quincey leading the way.

Green and Phaneuf bring a great combination of size, skill and offensive ability, while Bouwmeester and Blake bring great skating ability (Bouwmeester), size and leadership (Blake).

Willie Mitchell and Marc Staal would be tasked with shutting down the opposition while Kyle Quincey can fill just about any role in the event that there is an injury.

Power Play:

1st unit:

Cammalleri—Stamkos—Horton

Green—Phaneuf

2nd unit:

Sharp—Lecavalier—Carter

Blake—Bouwmeester

Penalty Kill:

1st unit:

Smyth—Staal—

Staal—Mitchell

2nd unit:

Doan—Upshall

Phaneuf—Bouwmeester

As with any tournament, special teams are going to be a huge factor in any teams success at the Olympics. As such, I chose the power play units with an emphasis put on scoring goals and offensive creativity.

Alternatively, the penalty kill units were put together with the sole purpose of shutting down the opposition in mind. Both Brad Richards and Jordan Staal have a reputation for scoring short-handed goals, which, while not a huge factor in my selections, will give the opposition something to think about nonetheless.

There you have it, Team Canada II. Disagree with my selections? Left somebody out? There are bound to be 50 different takes on this list, all of them legitimate in their own way. Let me hear your opinions in the comment box!

Until next time,

Peace!

Ritter’s Rant: NHL in Saskatoon? Penguins PP is Brutal & More

December 17, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter… NHL commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t get everything right, and in some cases, NHL fans feel he needs to have his head examined.  With that said, Bettman’s announcement that he would like to see a second Winter Classic game added in Canada is refreshing and by all accounts, a no-brainer.

I still like the idea of hosting a Winter Classic in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at the Canad Inns Stadium—home of the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers—but I am not so sure the aforementioned Bettman will allow that to happen. More likely, a Winter Classic would be held in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary.

Word has it the NHL would look to hold the second Winter Classic a week or two after the traditional New Year’s day game, which, to me, goes against tradition. Bettman would never do that (go against tradition), would he? Best bet, Calgary gets a game with the Vancouver Canucks being the opponent.

The Ice Edge Group wants to include Saskatoon in their plans to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes. Seems Ice Edge has its sight on playing five games in Saskatoon as part of the Coyotes regular season schedule, something the NHL is surely to frown upon.

On the surface, it may appear as if the Ice Edge Group may be delusional, that said, clearly Ice Edge believes they can make a considerable amount of money off the proposed five-game deal, something the Coyotes rarely do at their current home in Glendale.

The reality is the Phoenix Coyotes are losing upwards of $5 million every month, which equates to roughly $35 million in loses for 2009-10. The current situation in Phoenix does not work, so creative thinking like bringing the NHL to Saskatchewan may be one of many ideas the NHL will have to consider if they want to turn this sinking ship around.

Which leads me to this question: If the Ice Edge Group believes the Coyotes cannot work on its own merit out in Phoenix, why the HE-double-hockey-sticks are they considering purchasing the team?

I have to admit, I got pretty hot over the idea of the NHL considering changing the names of the historic trophies. Seems our friends from the South are having trouble identifying with the likes of Lord Stanley, Jack Adams, Georges Vezina, and the like.

Just one question: Does anyone think the NFL would ever consider changing the name of the Vince Lombardi Trophy? Suck it up Sally! Know the game, know the trophies, and most importantly, know your history!

Bruce Boudreau was 100 percent right in calling out Colorado Avalanche forward David Koci for his ugly hit on Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green. Clearly, Koci had Green in his sights for a long time and from my point of view, had every intention of trying to injure Green. It was a cowardly act, and one that should not go unpunished by the NHL.

For the record, Koci has two career NHL goals in 97 games, what a waste of a roster spot.

Is there a team in the NHL that gets less respect than the Nashville Predators? Through 34 games, the Predators have amassed a record of 20-11-3, good enough for 43 points. More importantly, the Predators sit second in the Central Division, just two points behind the Chicago Blackhawks and eighth overall in the NHL. Well done!

Tell me again, why is it, year after year, that the Pittsburgh Penguins always seem to have one of the worst power plays in the League? The Penguins, a team that features Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Sergei Gonchar, currently sit 29th overall on the PP with a success rate of just 13.9 percent. Pathetic…

In case you didn’t know, Gabe Morency (formally of The Score ) recently launched his new Web site. Louis Pisano and I will be throwing down our second installment of our podcast “Get The Puck Out ” this Saturday, Dec. 19, from 6p.m. to 7p.m.

The live podcast will be broadcast in studio from Toronto featuring some betting analysis, team analysis, player updates, and more puck talk than you can imagine.

Be sure to call in and let your opinion be known. You can catch Morency (Monday through Friday from 4p.m.-6p.m. EST) and “Get The Puck Out” (Saturdays from 6p.m.-7p.m.) at www.morencysports.com.

To phone in, call . SPORTS RAGE—it’s the “Evolution of the Ragulation”…..Don’t miss it, puckheads!

Until next time,

Peace!

Analyze This: How To Improve the NHL

December 10, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter… Over the years, many fans have chimed in with their thoughts on how to improve the National Hockey League. Needless to say, the NHL is not perfect, but with a little tweak here and there I think the League, and the game could be better.

Clearly, I am not NHL commissioner Gary Bettman so I suspect many of my thoughts on how to improve the NHL will likely fall on deaf ears. That said, much like any fan, I feel the game can be improved so I felt compelled to throw out a few ideas.

First, I would instigate a no-touch icing rule. Far too many NHL players are sustaining injury as a result of racing into the boards for the puck. Fact is, the players of today are too big, too fast, and when you consider that many NHL players livelihoods are on the line every shift, it is too much to ask the players to hold up on an icing play.

For the most part, there are very few occasions in a game that a race for the puck to get an icing call actually has an impact on the end result. We have reached a point where the risk of getting injured is far outweighing the reward of getting that coveted icing call. Numerous players have been brought off the ice on a stretcher because they ended up on the wrong end of a bad hit on an icing call, and it is my opinion that one day soon a player may very well be paralyzed as a result of a insignificant race for the puck. Simply put, it’s not worth it.

I grew up watching hockey in the 1980’s. When I look back at my O-Pee-Chee card collection one thing stands out, the equipment was much smaller then. Look at the size of the shoulder pads today, NHL players look more like football players, and from my point of view, the extra bulk is not necessary and, in fact, is dangerous.

Many of the so-called “head shots” everyone is so concerned about are not a result of an errant elbow, they are a direct result of a player’s bloated shoulder pads getting caught underneath an unsuspecting player’s chin leading to head trauma and more than a few missing teeth.

Due to the security that the over-sized shoulder pads offer a player, many NHL players play with recklessness—void of fear and unafraid of the consequences to themselves or their opponents. There is no accountability.

The fact is, hockey players were just fine when they were equipped with what I will call “reasonably” sized shoulder pads. There is no reason for today’s players to use the massive shoulder pads, and there is no reason for the shoulder pads to be as hard as they are.

Simply put, by definition, these are supposed to be “shoulder pads”, not highly sophisticated manufactured plastics. Bring back the pads…

Sticking with the equipment theme, another area of concern is (and you knew this was coming), the size of the goaltenders equipment. I shudder every time I look out onto the ice and see “the Michelin Man” in the net. Simply put, the goaltender’s equipment has reached the point of ridiculousness, and until the NHL gets serious about it, they are allowing the goaltenders to cheat their way through their careers.

Seriously, look back at some of the photos over the past three decades, the increases in size to both the pads and the gloves are a joke! Despite the NHL’s recent implementation of a more standardized equipment size for goalies, there seems to be little to no real changes being made. Most goalies stand between 6-0 and 6-4 these days, add to that the mammoth equipment and the shooters have very little chance of scoring, which, in my opinion, hurts the game.

Visors. Every NHL player should be required to wear a visor, end of story. Look around at today’s NHL and what you will observe is that almost every superstar wears a visor; if Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Jarome Iginla can wear a visor and get the results they do than every NHL player can and should be wearing one.

I do not buy the argument that the visors are dangerous.  I also don’t buy the argument that visors restrict a player’s vision, and with all the recent improvements, we no longer see the visor fogging up as they once did. Therefore, visors should be mandatory.

This brings us to helmets. Recently, NHL legend Mark Messier got behind the Cascade M11 Helmet, which is designed to absorb impact, protect the head, and most importantly, significantly reduce the risk of a player getting a concussion. Far too many NHL players have had their careers cut short by concussions, and while not the only reason, poor helmet choice is a factor for many players.

Again, if a piece of equipment can protect you from a career-ending injury such as a concussion, then why not make it mandatory. Here is a quirky stat I came across the other day: The first testicular guard, or “cup” was used in hockey in 1874. The first helmet was used in 1974. It took 100 years for NHL players to realize that the brain was also important!

If left to figure it out for themselves, it may very well be another 100 years before NHL players start wearing the “right” equipment. Again, if the NHL made it mandatory, they could speed things up significantly and save a few careers in the process.

Mouthguards. Many NHL players are already using mouthguards. They offer a considerable amount of protection against concussions, and when combined with the proper helmet, they can significantly reduce the likelihood of a player ever getting a concussion. Once again, mouthguards should be mandatory.

Let the goalies play the darn puck! When I look back at when former Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall became the first goaltender to score a (uninterrupted) goal, I thought his ability to handle the puck would revolutionize the NHL game.

For a while, it did as many NHL goaltenders adapted to playing the puck and, in some cases such as the New Jersey Devils Martin Brodeur, playing the puck gave his team such an advantage that opposing teams had to devise a way to deal with the dangers that Brodeur’s puck-handling ability posed.

Eventually the NHL stepped in and instigated rule changes that essentially took away any advantage the goaltenders had from playing the puck, most notably those annoying red lines at the side of the nets behind the goal-line. It was asinine for the NHL to adopt a rule change based on the abilities of a few NHL goaltenders.

Let’s face it, there are very few goalies that were ever a threat with the puck and for that reason, the NHL should have left things as they were. Get rid of the lines!

Clearly, not everyone will agree with my recommendations, as former Toronto Raptors TV announcer Chuck Swirsky used to say, “That’s why they have chocolate and vanilla, baby!” Let your thoughts be known in the comment box. What changes would you make?

In case you didn’t know, Gabe Morency (formally of The Score ) recently launched his new Web site. Louis Pisano and I will be throwing down our podcast “Get The Puck Out ” starting this Saturday, Dec. 12, from 6p.m. to 7p.m.

The live podcast will be broadcast in studio from Toronto featuring some betting analysis, fantasy advice, trivia, team analysis, player updates, and more puck talk than you can imagine.

Be sure to call in and let your opinion be known. You can catch Morency (Monday through Friday from 4p.m.-6p.m. EST) and “Get The Puck Out” (Saturdays from 6p.m.-7p.m.) at www.morencysports.com.

To phone in, call . SPORTS RAGE—it’s the “Evolution of the Regulation”…..Don’t miss it, puckheads!

Until next time,

Peace!

Raptors Lose, Turkoglu Still A Trainwreck

December 2, 2009

by Jeremy Visser… Raptors loss is an easy one to stomach, you know, since they were playing such a great team. Oh wait, they were facing the Wizards? The Washington Wizards? Oh, okay…I guess this means the Raptors officially blow. In case you missed it, crunch time superstar Hedo Turkododo disappeared for the 19th straight fourth quarter and Toronto fell 106-102 at the ACC.

Honestly, I don’t even know what else to say at this point. Turkoglu, for one, has been a travesty, and not just in crunch time. And what happened to Chris Bosh not settling for jumpers this season? That was about all he did tonight, finishing 7-of-22. Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani were the only effective Raptors on the offensive end tonight, each finishing with 20. Still, it would’ve been nicer to see Calderon attack the basket more considering he was doing it with ease.

If nothing else came from this one, I’m at least happy Jay Triano has apparently realized that Antoine Wright sucks — the “defensive stopper” only saw seven minutes of action, which limited his production to one missed shot, one turnover and one Gilbert Arenas blow-by. Hey Antoine, you’re horrible whether you’re wearing a headband or not.

Anyway, this one drops Toronto to 7-12 with a road date in Atlanta tomorrow, followed by a back-to-back in Washington and Chicago on Friday and Saturday. So yeah, it’s gonna get uglier.

Ritter’s Rant: Surfing The NHL and Exciting News!

December 1, 2009

by Mark Ritter… Selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the No. 32 pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft, Stefan Legein has had a lot of ups and downs in his somehow uneventful professional hockey career.

Sure, there were the headlines when he announced he was quitting hockey in the summer of 2008, and more recently, he made another splash when he was traded from the Blue Jackets to the Philadelphia Flyers in October of 2009.

Well, through 19 games split between the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch (Blue Jacket’s AHL affiliate) and the Adirondack Phantoms (Flyers’ AHL affiliate), Legein has amassed a grand total of six goals and one assist.

In 13 games with the Phantoms Legein has a disturbing plus/minus rating of -10, and by all accounts, looks to be a very average prospect. To sum it all up: when it comes to Legein, don’t believe the hype.

In all likelihood he will never see NHL action.

Nazim Khadri, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first round draft pick (seventh overall) at the 2009 NHL entry draft has been struggling to find his game with the London Knights of the OHL.

Through 24 games he has registered 15 goals, 13 assists and has a plus/minus rating of +12. His 28 points ranks him 37th overall amongst all OHL scorers, hardly the output the Leafs were hoping for.

Through 21 games, New York Rangers pest Sean Avery has four goals and 11 points. More importantly for the Rangers, Avery has managed to stay out of the headlines and, to everyone’s surprise, has managed to avoid a suspension form Colin Campbell and the NHL this season. Who’da thunk it?

If Steve Yzerman and team Canada do decide to go with a Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley as its first line, that leaves the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, and Rick Nash to play second fiddle to the three red hot San Jose Sharks.

The thing is, how do you tell Sidney Crosby, the only player amongst Canada’s top six forwards to win a Stanley Cup, that he is going to have to play second fiddle to Thornton, a player who has a suspect resume when the chips are down? Crosby should be Canada’s No. 1 centre, period.

Leading the NHL with an average of 3.44 goals per game is (you guessed it) the Atlanta Thrashers. Obviously, Ilya Kovalchuk and his 14 goals have a lot to do with the Thrashers success, but you cannot underestimate the contributions of Rich Peverley (10 goals) and left-for-dead free agent signee Maxim Afinogenov, who, with 10 goals on the season has served notice that he is back.

Tell me again how the Nashville Predators are getting it done with their roster? Through 25 games the Preds are 15-9-1 and sit ninth overall in the NHL standings, ahead of such teams as the Boston Bruins (10th), Detroit Red Wings (17th), Vancouver Canucks (19th), Philadelphia Flyers (20th), and the New York Rangers (21st).

The Predators, who are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, do not have a single double-digit scorer on the entire team, have the 25th ranked power play, and average 2.52 goals scored per game, are ranked 28th overall in offense. I guess defense can win games after all. The Preds are 10th overall in that department.

At .729 percent, the New Jersey Devils own the NHL’s best winning percentage. You knew with Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise in the lineup that the Devils would be good, but I don’t think anyone thought they’d be this good.

Worst plus/minus rating in the NHL is none other than the Carolina Hurricanes Rod Brind’Amour. Funny, wasn’t he in the same position last season? With all due respect Mr. Brind’Amour, don’t you think it’s time you hung them up?

Here is an update on the Martin Havlat watch: 19 games played, two goals (both on the power play) scored, six assists and a plus/minus rating of -14…yikes!

There are always key games to look back on when a team turns the corner towards playing well. Friday night’s game, a 6-4 victory over the Florida Panthers, will be that game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sticking with the Leafs, Saturday night was brutal without the Buds on hockey night in Canada. Heads up: it will happen again on Saturday, Jan. 16. Make plans now. You don’t want to be stuck home with the wife watching chick flicks!

In case you didn’t know, starting Dec. 5 Gabe Morency (formally of The Score ) will be launching his new website. Louis Pisano and I will be throwing down our Podcast “Get The Puck Out ” every Saturday from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

The Live Podcast will be broadcast in studio from Toronto featuring some betting analysis, fantasy advice, trivia, team, player updates, and more puck talk than you can imagine.

Be sure to call in and let your opinion be known. Check back with “Ritter’s Rant” on TOsports for further details and the call-in number. The inaugural show is set for Dec. 12. Don’t miss it, puckheads!

You can catch Morency and “Get The Puck Out” at www.morencysports.com , the site launches Dec. 5.

Until next time,

Peace!

Ritter’s Rant: Devils Are Blessed, Pogge Playing Well, Jokes, and More

November 23, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter… Joke of the1Despite the San Jose Sharks leading the League with 16 wins, there is another team that has caught my eye and may very well be the best team in the NHL, that team would be the New Jersey Devils.

A franchise that, outside of Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise, remains faceless, the Devils continually get it done in all aspects of the game, which in many NHL circles, is quite a surprise.

Through 21 games, the Devils have a record of 14-6-1, are ranked 20th in offense averaging 2.62 goals per game, and rank first amongst all NHL teams averaging 2.24 goals against per game. Somehow, some way, the Devils always get it done. Maybe it’s divine intervention?

Former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Justin Pogge was shipped off to the Anaheim Ducks this offseason, sparking many Leaf fans to cry “Here we go again, another blue-chip prospect gets traded away by Leafs management, surely he’ll come back to haunt us”…So, what’s up with Pogge?

As a member of the ECHL Bakersfield Condors, Pogge has put together a record of 5-2-0 record, with a 2.50 GAA, and a .905 SV percentage—not bad, right?

Well, to be honest, I am not so sure what Pogge’s statistics mean as I am not up on my ECHL reading. One thing I do know is that there are five goalies in the ECHL that have a better GAA and 12 goalies that have a better SV percentage than Pogge.

None of these goalies are household names and if I ran over any one of them with my car, outside of family and loved ones, they wouldn’t be missed. Pogge, “is what we thought he was,” and that’s all I have to say about that.

Up until Saturday night’s 2-1 overtime victory against the mighty Washington Capitals, things were looking pretty bleak in Leafland. Here is one fans take on how embarrassing things are getting—Check out this forwarded joke:

David was in his fifth grade class when the teacher asked the 
children what their Fathers did for a living.

All the typical answers came up—fireman, policeman, salesman, etc. David was being uncharacteristically quiet and so the teacher asked
 him about his father.

“My Father’s an exotic dancer in a gay bar and
 takes off all his clothes in front of other men. Sometimes, if the offers really good, he’ll go out to the alley with
 some guy and make love with him for money.”

The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the 
other children to work on some coloring, and took little David aside to
 ask him, “Is that really true about your Father?’

’

“No,” said David, “He plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but I was 
too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids.”

And, keeping with the Leafs, here’s some food for thought: If you are Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, do you trade Niklas Hagman or hang on to him??? For the record, Hagman has eight goals and 12 points through 20 games and has a plus/minus rating of minus six.

Martin Havlat, Minnesota Wild free agent signee: 19 games played, two goals, eight points, and a plus/minus rating of -14. In a word, unacceptable…

Currently down with the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies, Christian Hanson had a hat-trick Friday night, leads the Marlies in scoring and, by all accounts, pays the price every night.

Just a thought here…with so many players on the Leafs roster struggling offensively, what the heck is Hanson doing playing with the Marlies?

Didn’t Leafs GM Brian Burke say something to the effect of “regardless of contract status, if a player does not meet expectations, we will not hesitate to send players down and give a more deserving player a chance.” Sure Mr. Burke, sure…Call Hanson up already!!!!!

Any day now, New Jersey Devils goaltending legend Martin Brodeur will break the all-time NHL shutout record. Does this solidify his place as the NHL’s best goaltender ever? Discuss amongst yourselves…

They say five minutes into the game most NHL coaches know which players “have it” and which ones do not in that game. What do you think goes through Leafs head coach Ron Wilson’s head when night after night there are just three or four players on his “have it” list?

There are a couple of great players, who despite some major struggles in 2008-09, seem to be back on track and are making their way back to being all-star caliber players, most notably, Daniel Briere of the Philadelphia Flyers and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins.

Both Briere and Bergeron have struggled with various injuries, leading some to suggest they would never be the same. Through 16 games, Briere has eight goals and 12 points. Through 22 games played, Bergeron has registered seven goals. Admittedly, both players have a ways to go, but you gotta believe that, for the most part, they’re back!

Ray Emery, Vezina Trophy candidate…never mind….

Until next time,

Peace!

Toronto Maple Leafs Take Bullet to the Head

November 21, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter… Blessed with a 3-0 lead after one period of play, the Toronto Maple Leafs looked poised to avoid having the Carolina Hurricanes leap frog them in the standings for the “coveted” 29th overall spot in the NHL, the position the Leafs occupied before tonight’s “epic” battle against the ‘Canes.

Well, Leaf fans, apparently your beloved Maple Leafs didn’t get the memo from environment Canada about the impending Hurricane, forgot to batten down the hatches and, as a result, got blown away by a potent offensive attack in the form of Hurricanes Brandan Sutter, Tim Gleason, Tuomo Ruutu and others.

The improbable storm that was the Carolina Hurricanes on this evening was yet another reminder of just how far off the Leafs are from being considered a legitimate threat to any NHL opponent.

Brandon Sutter, who played a helluva game tonight, single-handily willed the Hurricanes back into the game with his unrelenting checking and tremendous work in the neutral zone, which helped his teammates gain valuable space on the ice.

On the score sheet, the Hurricanes’ Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu were the heroes on the night. Gleason, who had two goals in 16 games heading into tonight’s tilt, scored two goals in the second period, while Ruutu had four assists on the night.

The Leafs’ penchant for horrific defense, poor goaltending, terrible turnovers, inability to stop a shot in the shoot-out, and mental lapses that would give a 100-year-old retiree a run for his money, all conspired to hand the Leafs their fifth straight loss, bringing their overall record to 3-11-6 on the season.

In case you didn’t catch on earlier, the loss means the Leafs are now the sole occupants of last place in the NHL standings, a place where many prognosticators are becoming more and more comfortable penciling in the Leafs to finish the season.

For Leafs head coach Ron Wilson, the other night serves as yet another reminder that his squad is glaringly unprepared on a nightly basis and conceivably unable to muster up enough confidence to kick an opponent when it is down.

Simply put, the Leafs gave this game away and, while the Hurricanes deserved some props for their hard work in the second and third periods, there is no excuse for the Leafs’ disinterested, undisciplined, effortless play.

Veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who is playing with a broken finger, played as if it was his first NHL game. Throwing pucks into the slot area, forcing pucks up the middle, and causing countless turnovers, simply put, he was brutal.

Luke Schenn, the Leafs’ poster boy of the 2008-09 season, continued to play a very tentative game and looked very slow out on the ice. His decision making has been questionable for most of the season, as has his hockey sense, which seems to have regressed horribly.

After fighting back from 3-0 and and 4-2 deficits to tie the game at four goals apiece, the Hurricanes fell behind yet again when Leafs defenseman Ian White snapped one past Hurricanes goaltender Manny Legace, making it 5-4 Maple Leafs.

With only 30 seconds left in the third period, the Leafs looked to have dodged a bullet…and then it happened…the Leafs gave up the tying goal with just three seconds left.

Nothing was solved in overtime, which led to the teams to decide the game in a shoot-out.

Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu made a fool of rookie goaltender Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson, scoring a beauty of a goal to start the shoot-out. Next up, Toronto’s Phil Kessel, who tried to go high and missed.

Jussi Jokinen took the next shot for the ‘Canes and, as Rutuu did before him, made Gustavsson look silly with another crafty goal. Next up, the ever-intimidating Lee Stempniak, who, despite his “exceptional” offensive prowess, neglected to take much of a shot, if any at all.

The Hurricanes won 6-5, handing the Maple Leafs another loss.

Looking ahead, the NHL schedule will not get any easier for the Leafs. Tonight, Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals visit the ACC, followed by a matchup against the New York Islanders led by rookie sensation John Tavares.

Let’s face it: If the Leafs can’t keep an injury-plagued Hurricanes squad off the score sheet, they are likely going to get slaughtered by the Capitals, who, through 21 games, are averaging 3.67 goals per game, tops in the NHL.

To say the Leafs “pooped the bed”  would be an understatement. Why is it I feel the storm has just begun???

Until next time,

Peace!

Being a Sports Fan in Toronto: A Look back at the Last Decade

November 18, 2009

By English Paul…

Back in 2006/07, when I spent a year living in Toronto, it was heaven. I was in a world-class city, which offered everything I needed. And to top it all off, I had a wide range of professional sports teams on my doorstep.

Whether it was going to see the Raptors, Blue Jays, Argonauts or whoever, I was guaranteed to have an entertaining time, win or lose. However, one thing, which I noticed throughout it all, was the sports fans in Toronto appeared to have a natural feeling of impending doom.

I never fully appreciated this at the time. How could I?

During my time in Toronto, the Blue Jays finished second in their division, ahead of the Boston Red Sox no less, with 87 wins; the Raptors won their first ever divisional title and went to the playoffs for the first time in five years and the Argonauts and Rock both qualified for the postseason.

On top of this the Maple Leafs just missed out on a playoff spot by one point and T.F.C. debuted in the MLS as professional soccer came to Southern Ontario.

Now I realise that each of these scenarios could have been better, but I don’t consider the above to be a bad return overall. And yet, the average Toronto fan had a glass-half-empty mentality about what was happening in their city. It is only now that I realise why.

Since that wonderful year in Toronto, I have seen the Raptors and Argonauts win totals drop each season, the Maple Leafs and T.F.C. miss the playoffs every year, the Rock fail to register a winning record and the Blue Jays continually fail to deliver on the promises made by J.P. Riccardi and company.

And this point has really been rammed home of late: The Maple Leafs suffered their worst ever start to a season with only one win in the first 13 games; TFC, on the verge of a first playoff spot in team history, suffered their biggest-ever defeat on the final day of the season to the worst team in the MLS.

The Argonauts secured the worst record in the CFL, going 1-13 after a 2-2 start. And even though it’s still early in the season, the Raptors have not been immune to the bad vibe following up an impressive season-opening win against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a typical collapse against the woeful Memphis Grizzlies.

With the end of the decade upon us, all of these ‘fun facts’ got me thinking about which of Toronto’s professional teams has been the most successful during the last ten years.

NB: For the NBA and NHL, I started off with the 1999/00 season up to the end of the 2008/09 campaign. Also, in terms of overall records, I have put NHL/CFL ties and overtime losses together in the totals.

Overall record (win percentage):

Argonauts: 80-96-3 (44.7%)

Blue Jays: 805-814 (49.7%)

Maple Leafs: 365-267-106 (49.6%)

Raptors: 372-448 (45.4%)

Rock: 91-63 (59.1%)

TFC: 25-41-24 (27.8%)

Best Season:

Argonauts: 2004. 10-7-1. Won the Grey Cup

Blue Jays: 2006. 87-75. Finished second in the division

Maple Leafs: 2001/02. 43-25-14.Lost 4-2 in Eastern Conference finals.

Raptors: 2000/01. 47-35. Lost 4-3 in Eastern Conference semi-finals

Rock: 2005. 12-4. NLL champions

TFC: 2009. 10-11-9. Finished 1 point off a playoff spot

Playoff appearances / Divisional titles / Championships:

Argonauts: 6 / 2 / 1

Blue Jays: 0 / 0 / 0

Maple Leafs: 5 / 1 / 0

Raptors: 5 / 1 / 0

Rock: 8 / 6 / 4

TFC: 0 / 0 / 0

Average home attendance and win-loss record:

Argonauts: 24,120 45-44-1

Blue Jays: 24,581 441-370

Maple Leafs: 19,328 192-122-55

Raptors: 18,551 220-190

Rock: 15,467 51-27

TFC: 20,183 19-12-14

Overall, it’s safe to say that the Rock easily had the most success during this decade, with the Argonauts the only other team to clinch a championship in their sport.

I’m sure a lot of people out there are thinking ‘Lacrosse and Canadian Football don’t count. How hard is it to win a championship in leagues with as few teams as the NLL and CFL have?’

To these people, I would remind them that the Maple Leafs were winning their Stanley Cups back in the days when the NHL only had six teams. I’m not saying this to stir things up though. Just be happy that we have had some winners in Toronto over the last ten years.

Apart from this, the main thing that really stands out is the home attendances and the win-loss record. When you think that Toronto has more professional sports teams than anywhere else in Canada and indeed a lot of cities North America, the people of Southern Ontario should be proud of themselves.

Each of the six franchises has a very respectable average and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that not one team has lost more than they won during the last decade.

Hopefully, despite the recession, these attendance figures can continue into the next decade. Who knows, maybe Toronto can also transfer this success to the playing field as well.

Paul Taylor can be contacted at:

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