The Raycrap Report Vol. 3: Dear Vesa Toskala,

January 10, 2009

by Navin Vaswani…
Raycroft won again the other night, Vesa. No, I’m not kidding around. Check the box score, bro. That’s seven wins for him this season. Yep, half as many as you have. And you’ve started 34 games compared to his nine.
You know what else? His 2.71 GAA blows your 3.27 out the frame. But fuck the goals against average. We all know it’s the save percentage that really matters. Well, the news isn’t good on that front either, my friend. Raycroft’s sporting a .894 to your .885. Almost a full percentage point better than you.
No, Vesa, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care if the Avalanche are scoring goals for him. In his last five games, Raycroft’s allowed only 11 goals, and won them all. Where has that type of consistency been from you? Where, dammit?
This is tough for me, man. You have to know that. Here I am, the guy telling peoplenot to boo Bryan McCabe, now comparing you to Andrew Raycroft, the one guy I hate with every fibre of my being.

You’ve let me down, Vesa. I’ve been one of your biggest supporters, and one of your ardent defenders, but how long can I carry on this charade? After 34 games this season with you between the pipes, I don’t think I can say that you’re a legitimate N.1 goalie. I’m sorry.
It makes me sick to my stomach that the Leafs are, once again, one of the worst defensive teams in the league. It makes me nauseous to see that the team is killing penalties at an absolutely unacceptable 73 percent success rate. As much as I complain about Ron Wilson not being able to change the defensive and penalty killing fortunes of this team, I know that a big part of those dastardly numbers are, well, weak goaltending. Like Will Smith said, “Yo fault.”
Look, I’m not saying Raycroft is a N.1 goalie. Even my Dadima knows he’s not. But I don’t care how many more games you play than that rat bastard, your numbers, especially your save percentage, have to be better than his.
It’s time to look in the mirror, my Finnish friend. If your groin is hurt, tell Ron Wilson you need some time, and let the God damn injury heal. There’s no point trotting you out there every night if you’re going to give us pathetic goaltending. I mean, we’ve got Curtis Joseph for that.
You were supposed to be one of the few bright spots on this team this season, Vesa. You were supposed to be one of our “assets.” Half the season is in the books, and you’re having the worst season of your career, bar none. It’s time to start giving a damn.
With love,
eyebleaf

Dear Mats Sundin: A Letter

January 9, 2009

by Navin Vaswani…

Dear Mats,

It’s tough to play in an NHL game after eight and a half months on the sidelines, isn’t it? I know, you’re used to your regular four-month layoff (zing!).

On a more serious note, it was great to see you again. You looked good. I’ve got to admit, though, it was a bit strange seeing you in that jersey. It just didn’t look right. I’m sure, deep down, it didn’t feel right for you either. But we’ll both get used to it. Eventually. Together.

I guess Alain Vigneault was really trying to make you feel at home, sticking you between Kyle Wellwood and Mason Raymond. I guess he thinks that since you’ve played with shitty wingers almost your entire career, save Alexander Mogilny, there’s no reason for that to change.
Hopefully Vigneault will come to his bloody senses, and at least have you lined up with Pavol Demitra on Friday.
All in all, it was an uneventful debut. It’s going to take you a few games to find your legs, and your timing. But your new team won, and that’s all that matters.
Things are alright here in Toronto, Mats. Don’t worry about us. You focus on things in Van-City. I’m sure you’re wondering why the hell we traded for Brad May. So am I. I’m beginning to think that May is, in fact, Brian Burke’s illegitimate son.
Anyway, take it easy, buddy. I’ll see you on February 21st.
Your boy for life,
eyebleaf

What A Surprise…

December 15, 2008

by Navin Vaswani… You know the memo about that whole “global financial crisis” thing? The New York Yankees didn’t get it. Their fax machine is broken, and they haven’t checked their email in forever.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, everyone’s favourite former Toronto Blue Jay A.J. Burnett is Bronx bound. Five years, $82.5 million. As David Putty would say: “yeah that’s right.”
In three days, the Yankees have shelled out $243.5 million dollars for Burnett and Fat. Fat. Sabathia.
That’s a quarter of a billion dollars. That’s fucked up. But business as usual in New York, I guess.
I ain’t mad at A.J. It was probably best that we go our separate ways, and I said goodbye a long time ago. And let’s not kid ourselves, he ain’t no fool. You and I both know we have taken that deal as well. A.J. had to follow the money, and I’m happy for him. The Burnett clan will be taken care of for many a generation.
It’s the Yankees who are foolish. It’s the Yankees who deserve to be punished by the baseball Gods for offering an injury plagued soon-to-be 32-year-old a five-year deal.
It’s nothing personal, and I wish A.J. all the luck in the world, but I want him to be an even bigger bust than Carl Pavano was in pinstripes. I want Burnett to struggle. Badly. I want the bright lights of New York to mess with him. I want A.J. to hit that disabled list, and hit it early and often.
As I watch the Yankees spend crazy ducats while the Jays shop at the free agency thrift store (see Clement, Matt) and shed payroll, I’m reminded why I hate New York, the entire Steinbrenner family (yes, even the grandchildren), and everything the Yankees stand for.
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to Roy Halladay vs. A.J. Burnett, Blue Jays vs. Yankees, at the Rogers Centre next summer. I’m definitely going to be there. And I’ll probably be booing. Here’s hoping Doc teaches A.J. a lesson or two, or ten.
I think Stoeten of Drunk Jays Fans stardom said it best about our friends down in the Big Apple, and pardon the language:
“Honestly…Yankees, Yankee fans, friends and relatives of Yankees fans, please, for the love of fucking Christ, go fuck the fucking fuck out of your fucking selves.”
Amen, Stoeten, you crazy mother sucker. Can’t anybody put it any better than that.
See you on the other side, Allan James.
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Superstar Dreaming in Toronto

December 13, 2008

 

by Navin Vaswani… I watched a lot of Joe Thornton this past week—last Tuesday, when his Sharks spanked our Maple Leafs, and the other night on Hockey Night in Canada.

Thornton’s, umm…pretty damn good.

I don’t think the folks in San Jose understand just how lucky they are to have him. I don’t think Joe Thornton is fully appreciated down south.
Imagine Thornton in a Leafs uniform.
As days go by, I find myself longing for a superstar. As I turn the page on the Mats Sundin years, I find myself longing for a player who can simply dominate the game. 
You know, a Thornton—or a Jarome Iginla, Vinny Lecavalier, Henrik Zetterberg, or Alex Ovechkin.
Don’t get me wrong—the Sundin years were tremendous. There wasn’t a more consistent mother sucker than Mats to ever wear the blue and white. Sundin was who he was—a point-per-game performer. And considering the talent that he was surrounded with, that’s an accomplishment in itself.
I mean, he made Mike Johnson a 20-goal scorer, for crying out loud.
But while Sundin was a “superstar,” he wasn’t a “superstar superstar”—you know what I’m saying?
I want a guy on the Leafs who can challenge for the Art Ross, and the Hart. I want a guy who simply, well, runs shit.
I want Joe Thornton.
And I’ll be honest, I cried myself to sleep last night. Matt Stajan, after all, leads the Leafs in scoring.
Last I checked, he ain’t no Thornton.

 

Tomas Kaberle Disrespect

December 6, 2008

by Navin Vaswani… Tomas Kaberle was utterly disrespected and embarrassed by coach Ron Wilson the other night. And I’m not fucking happy about it.

For those of you that missed the  quasi-late contest between the Leafs and the Phoenix Coyotes, Kaberle was in uniform, but didn’t see a shift - not one - in the first period.
Apparently Ron Wilson was trying to send a message to his beleaguered defenceman. And it didn’t work. Wilson’s experiment was, as my good friend MF37 called it in an email after the game, an “epic failure.” Kaberle saw 13:45 of action in periods two and three, and was downright awful. Can you blame him? Kabby was singled out by his coach in front of his teammates, and all of us watching on television. Wilson’s brilliant plan backfired.
Before you get your panties all tied up in a knot, let me be the first to admit that Kaberle hasn’t been playing up to the standards expected of him this season. He’s performed poorly. On numerous occasions over the last couple of months, after another puck has found its way into the back of the Maple Leafs’ net, I’ve texted my brother asking him, “what was Kaberle doing on that play?!?”
But that doesn’t give Wilson the right to humiliate Tomas in front of all of his teammates. Believe me, I get that Wilson is trying to send his message of accountability far and wide, but why wasn’t Kaberle banished to the press box, much like Matt Stajan and Jason Blake were earlier in the season?

I honestly would have had no problem with that. I do have a problem with Kaberle, one of Toronto’s leaders, suiting up and sitting on the bench for 40 minutes, freezing his Czech Republican ass off.
It was a disgusting move on Wilson’s part. A part of me honestly believes that embarrassing Kaberle was a way to force his hand. A way to make sure that he agrees to waive his no trade clause when he’s inevitably asked to do so.
Kabby’s only human, just like you and I. He feels pain. Imagine how he felt setting on the bench. Surely his Maple Leafs career was flashing before his very eyes. Imagine how he felt in the dressing room in the first intermission. Surely he was thinking about the no-trade in his clause in his contract. Imagine how he felt trying to look his teammates in the eye. Kabby deserved more than that.
Unbelievably, it actually got worse for Tomas. It wasn’t enough for Wilson to bench him, and then have him play like the second coming of Andy Wozniewksi. Nope, Wilson had to take a shot at him after the game as well. When asked if he was trying to send a message to #15, Wilson said yes, and that Kabby sent a message back with his -3 performance. In my humble and pissed off opinion, Wilson set Kaberle up to fail last night, and then had the nerve to call him out in the media. Stay classy, Ron, you asshole.
I’ve also got to voice my disappointment in some of my fellow Leafs fans over at PPP, who seem to, as MF37 put it, take a “perverse delight” in seeing my main man Kaberle struggle, and get benched. You guys know who you are. I guess it pleases you to see another member of our beloved team reach his lowest value in terms of a trade. Bring on more of the Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger references, fellas. That shit never gets old.
Clearly it’s Tomas Kaberle’s fault that Toronto can’t keep the puck out of their own net. Clearly it’s Kabby’s fault that Toskala’s sporting a pathetic .882 save percentage. Clearly it’s Tomas’ fault the Leafs can kill only 75 percent of their penalties.
I love how Ron Wilson preaches to the choir about accountability, while he coaches the worst defensive team in hockey. Where’s his accountability?
I’m off Wilson. Huge.

Deep Thoughts - Dark Days

December 5, 2008

by Navin Vaswani… It’s been a rough 48 hours in Toronto; my city, and my home. Teams are losing, owners are dying, hard-working people are getting laid off, and coaches are getting fired. Me? I blame the economy.

Farewell SMitch
Bryan Colangelo finally dropped the hammer. You know, no word of a lie, I woke up Wednesday morning knowing that Mitchell was in the final hours of his tenure as lead Raptor. After Tuesday night’s epic fail, the writing was on the proverbial wall.
This one falls into the “You can’t fire the players so you’ve got to fire the coach” category, period. Colangelo had to do something, especially after the Denver Nuggets ran roughshod all over his team. That might have been the most embarrassing 48 minutes in Toronto basketball history.
There are a lot of people in Toronto who are happy today, and celebrating Mitchell’s departure. I read a lot of shit on Facebook last night - “Good riddance Uncle Sam,” “This is where I become a Raptors fan,” “Finally! I can start cheering for the Raps again!” - and to these people I say: you’re an idiot, your anger and frustration is aimed at the wrong person.
Bryan Colangelo is the one to blame. Yes, the same Bryan Colangelo whom I have perfomed verbal fellatio on many times in this very space. Like I said, the honeymoon is over.
Just look at the Toronto roster. Even with Chris Bosh playing like a man possessed, Jose Calderon playing like, well, Jose Calderon, and Andrea Bargnani playing decent ball, the team still stinks. The worry about Colangelo’s prized off-season possession Jermain O’Neal was that he can’t stay healthy and, surprise surprise, he can’t. And the problem on the wing has been evident since opening night.

Not even Red Auerbach himself could get the Raptors to meet the lofty, yet extremely unrealistic, expectations that have been placed on them.
Coaching, in my humble opinion, can only go so far. The Raptors plain and simple can’t defend. The team is allowing more than 100 points a game, and I don’t think that’s because of Mitchell’s defensive schemes. Sam isn’t the one out on the court falling for every single God damn pump fake.
Is Jay Triano the answer? I love him, but only to the Jeapordy question “Who was the first Canadian head coach of an NBA team?”
On an aside, anyone else kind of miss T.J. Ford, and 48 minutes of glorious point guard play? I do. Largely because Will Soloman is the devil.
I’m going to miss Sam. I’ll miss his personality, his candor. He was good people. It’s unfortunate the SMitch era had to come to an end this way, and that Raptors fans are taking petty parting shots at him as he leaves town. They don’t speak for all of us, Sam.
And I would also like to point out that, for the record, the fellas over at The Passion That Frustrates Us All saw SMitch’s firing coming from a mile away. Bastards.
Man, that 2007 division title feels like it was 10 years ago, doesn’t it?
R.I.P. Mr. Rogers
Toronto Blue Jays owner, Ted Rogers, had his contract expire early Tuesday morning. He was 75 years old. May the media mogul rest in peace.
Uncle Teddy was a shrewd businessman, and God knows his family is well taken care of. I mean, have you ever stopped to think how much money Rogers Wireless makes just off the mysterious System Access Fee?
In all seriousness, there were times years ago when the fate of the Blue Jays was in question. Were it not for Rogers and his deep pockets, this city could very well have lost its baseball team. So, thank you, Uncle Ted. May the family name continue to prosper.
Holiday Cheer
Hours after the team’s owner checked out for the afterlife, the Blue Jays showed 24 front-office employees the door. Yes, the Christmas spirit is alive and well down at the Rogers Centre. Make sure to swing by the Cable Box when you’re out singing Oh Holy Night.
Fucking economy. I’m scared.
“They Are Who We Thought They Were!”
Really, is there a more apt quote than that from Dennis Green about the San Jose Sharks? That’s one sexy hockey team. I won’t lie, I fantasized about them last night.

Go West, Mats Sundin

December 2, 2008

by Navin Vaswani… Like the Pet Shop Boys said, life is peaceful there.

Peaceful, as in, across the country from the Toronto media, and a few bitter Maple Leafs fans. And that jersey looks familiar. Blue and white, with just a touch of green.

I know what you’re thinking—”Here we go again.” But as Sundin’s Secretary of Defence, I’ve got to weigh in once more on everyone’s favourite former captain.
Now that the man, the myth, and the legend known as Brian Burke has officially landed in town—”it’s one small step for man, but one giant leap for the Maple Leafs”—Sundin is back in the news. Apparently, the Leafs don’t exactly fit the profile of team he’s looking to join.
Well, no shit.
Mats is 37. He’ll be 38 in February. It’s December. I don’t see him suiting up for game action until January. He’s looking for a place to play for four months. Of course he’s not coming to Toronto. Why would he? The Leafs are terrible.
Once again, however, Leafs fans are chastising him. Now that it’s looking like his Leafs career is truly over, the vultures are back, and circling. Chemmy, one of the great Pension Plan Puppeteers, had this to say after Burke said Sundin likely won’t be coming back to the nest:

“Fuck Sundin. Way to not take a deadline trade, like an asshole.”

That comment gets to me. I mean, really gets to me. That sense of entitlement. That Sundin, because he was asked, owed it to us, all of us Toronto Maple Leafs fans out there, to accept a trade out of town when he didn’t want to go.

You know why he didn’t want to go? Because he believed that the team—his team—could still make the playoffs. Yeah, what an asshole.
Of course, fans like Chemmy will argue that at issue is not the fact that Sundin is not returning, but that he is looking for short-term employment elsewhere. Mats did say, after all, that he did not want to be a rental player, and that he wanted to be a part of the “journey” from day one.
I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t much defend those statements. No matter where Sundin signs, he will be a rental player. And he will not have been a part of the journey since day one.
But, hey, that’s life. Things change. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we plan for them to work out. Deal with it. Let it go.
Perhaps Sundin really did think he would return to Toronto. Perhaps he believed he really was ready for retirement. The truth is, we’ll never know.
None of this, however, tarnishes Sundin’s legacy in these eyes. And it shouldn’t in yours. Mats went down with the sinking ship. Don’t forget that.
And Brian Burke is right. Sundin’s a better man for staying on the sidelines this season instead of collecting a paycheck when his heart isn’t in the game.
My good friend MF37 over at Bitter Leaf Fan Page has, amidst all the Sundin fallout, been asking a great question—where’s the hatred for Darcy Tucker? I was as big a Tucker fan as they came, but I’m beginning to ask myself that question as well. Why are people still all over Sundin, when Tucker also didn’t waive his no-trade clause, and saddled the Leafs with a cap hit?
Tucker, while a warrior, was a perpetual minus hockey player. He had become a one-trick pony on the power play, and a liability five-on-five. The Leafs are now paying $1 million a year against the salary cap for him not to play in Toronto, and will be until 2013. Yet everyone’s still pissed at Sundin, who only went about his point-per-game business for, oh, the last 15 God damn years, because he wouldn’t leave.
It’s unbelievable, really, how fans in this town think sometimes.
I’ve got no issues with Sundin joining Montreal, New York, or Chicago. But I want him to become a Canuck. Although the fellas at CoxBloc would probably disagree, Vancouver’s a wonderful city. A laid-back Toronto, some say.
The Canucks are sitting atop the Northwest Division, and Sundin would look great between the Sedin sisters. When Roberto Luongo comes back from his injury, the Canucks could really use Mats’ offence down the stretch.
It pains me that I never got to properly say goodbye to Mats, but it’s cool. I want him to go west. I want him to try and win that Cup. I’m truly beginning to think that, thanks to a few petty, bitter fans in this city, we don’t deserve him anyway.

It’s Official: I’m Depressed

November 23, 2008

[winter+sucks.jpg] by Navin Vaswani… The onset of winter has me, once again, questioning why I live in this God forsaken city. I hate when Mother Nature whores it up tundra style in fucking November. To add to my malaise, it’s official: Manny Ramirez will not become a Toronto Blue Jay this winter.
The dream is dead. J.P. Ricciardi killed it. I know, it was the longest of long shots to begin with and, deep down, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. But, well, still. I could have done without J.P. flat out saying “We won’t be involved with Manny,” and completely ruining my afternoon. Asshole.
Alright, so Manny won’t be donning powder blue. But J.P. will sign one of Jason Giambi or Milton Bradley instead, right?
Apparently not. We’re not going after those guys either.
This is where I get confused. I hate Jason Giambi. With a passion. I hate his steroid-abusing ways, and the fact that he only came clean after he got caught. I hate the stache. I hate that he was a Yankee. But, I’d welcome him to Toronto with open arms. That’s how much I want his bat (that’s what she said).

The same goes for Milton Bradley. The man is a lunatic, but, I can’t say no to that 2008 163 OPS+.
J.P. Ricciardi certainly has more will power than I.
OK, the kids, Adam Lind and Travis Snider, will play left field and DH. That’s cool. All part of the plan. J.P. will use the money he’s got at his disposal and plug some holes in the rotation, via free agency. Brad Penny, perhaps. Or Derek Lowe. A flier on Jon Garland. Maybe even Pedro Martinez, or Randy Johnson.
Right?
Wrong. None of those guys are on J.P.’s radar. Nobody is. Clearly J.P.’s radar is broken because he’s got to be shitting me when he says that he, the Jays, and, by cause and effect, me, are going to be sitting out the free agent frenzy.
There is one, uh, minor exception. A contract, on lovely Blue Jays stationary and worth $54 million over four years, is currently lost amongst more lucrative offers atop A.J. Burnett’s agent’s desk. But I simply can’t imagine Burnett signing on Toronto’s dotted line. He’ll take more money, and a chance to play with Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera, in the new Yankee Stadium. No hard feelings. I’d take the fattest cheque, too.
I do truly wish for Burnett to stay in the AL East. I want the Jays to face him. A lot. I want the Jays to beat him. I want Roy Halladay to beat him. Ideally, I want him to watch Toronto make the playoffs. And I want to watch him inevitably hit the disabled list (seriously, no hard feelings).
If it were up to me, I’d take all that A.J. money, plus some more, pack it in suitcases, and show up at ManRam’s door. Make like Jerry Maguire, you know, and show him the money. Make him an offer he can’t refuse.
J.P.’s got to do something. A winter watching on the sidelines is not acceptable, and will not be tolerated. It just might make Richard Griffin’s head explode.
For once, I find myself hoping that Ricciardi is actually lying this time.

Ron Wilson Hates Alex Steen

November 21, 2008

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2008/01/08/steen_alexander_getty_260.jpgby Navin Vaswani… Ian White played 17:04 in the other night’s loss to the first-place (!) Boston Bruins. In stark contrast, Alex Steen saw only 09:58 of ice time.

As much as Matt Stajan has made strides this season, Alex Steen has regressed. It’s cause for concern.
I understand that Steen isn’t being put in offensive situations, but in a rebuilding year where development is priority number one, shouldn’t he be? Steen’s got the potential to be a top six forward and in order for him to become one, he’s got to play.
So what’s the deal, why isn’t Steen playing more? Did he call Ron Wilson a pimp, or something? I’d love to hear coach explain. As great as Wilson has been, the facts don’t lie, and this Leafs team isn’t all that good. Sure, we can score, but the defence sucks and the penalty killing is atrocious. It pains me to say it, but Damien Cox is on to something, and Wilson doesn’t deserve a free ride.

No way, not when the team is killing penalties only 72% of the time (I just threw up in my mouth). And, yes, I know, the goaltending has been pretty awful. But still. I think it’s time we put down our Wilson Kool-Aid cups.

I’m not sure what the options are when it comes to Alex. I don’t think he can be sent to the minors. Frankly, I don’t want him to be. The guy can play in the NHL, and is paid accordingly to do so. I think it’s simply a case of him not being used appriopriately. I mean, I can’t imagine Steen was signed to a two-year, $3.4 million contract to play on the fourth line.
It’s amazing that only three years ago Steen and Kyle Wellwood were seen as the cornerstones of the Leafs franchise moving forward. Now Welly, lost for bloody nothing in return, is scoring goals out west and Steen’s playing less than 10 minutes a game. It’s screwed up. Who’s to blame—players or coaches and management? I’ll let you decide, but I’m pretty confident you know which way I’m leaning.
I don’t want the Leafs to give up on Steen. They’ll regret it if they do. But he’s got to play, and it’s as simple as that. I doubt his confidence has ever been lower. As much as I love Jason Blake, he played 18 minutes last night.

Wouldn’t it make sense for Steen to see that amount of ice time, and get his confidence back where it needs to be? Steen surely needs the minutes more than Blake does, and definitely has a brighter future with the Leafs, three or four years down the road, than No. 55.

Play Steen, Ron Wilson. Play the heck out of him. Losses be damned.
And Vesa, how about some freaking saves? Jesus.

I Used To Like Kevin Garnett

November 16, 2008

by Navin Vaswani… Peep this from last Monday night:
It’s one thing to talk trash. Bring the heat, KG. Jose Calderon can handle it. It’s another to clap in his face, and point and wave a finger at him like a pompous (m)asshole.
Good on Jose for getting right back into KG’s grill after the fact, because that was some bullshit.
It’s obvious that the city of Boston has had an impact on Garnett. In just over a year he’s gone from being a loveable loser, to a champion, and now, much like his New England brethren, to a douchebag.
Way to keep it classy, KG.
Anything less in Boston would have been uncivilized.

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