NHL Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

March 5, 2009

By Rafal Ladysz…


Calgary Flames

May as well start out with a bang. Calgary acquired Olli Jokinen from Phoenix and Jordan Leopold from Colorado. These are two moves that will ensure the Flames will be considered a contender in the Western Conference when the playoffs arrive.

First, Jokinen will no longer be the longest active NHLer without a game of experience in the postseason. Calgary will most likely place him on the second line because you don’t want to jeopardize the chemistry between Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri.

This gives Mike Keanan another scoring threat, especially on the power play where Jokinen can unload from the blue line. Leopold will begin his second stint with the Flames, and he adds to a defense that already has offensive capabilities.

With his previous experience in Calgary, the 28-year-old should have no problem fitting in and perhaps surpassing the 33 points he produced there in 2003-2004.

Pittsburgh Penguins

There’s no substitute for experience come April. The Penguins picked up Bill Guerin who will serve as Miroslav Satan’s replacement should he be dealt. Pittsburgh has looked like a new squad under Dan Bylsma even without Sidney Crosby—again.

Chris Kunitz has already made a mark in a Penguins uniform, registering five points (three goals, two assists) in his first three games.

Ryan Whitney was a good puck-moving defender, but Sergei Gonchar has already shown he’s capable of leading the way even after a lengthy absence. It appears as though the Pittsburgh Penguins are back to their old ways.

Buffalo Sabres

Calling the Sabres a winner after today may be a bit of a gamble. After all, they re-signed Tim Connolly to a two-year, $9 million contract. A healthy Connolly would definitely be worth this value as he is a play making genius.

An 82-game healthy? It’s a nice dream. Reality may have other thoughts.

Also, Buffalo addressed its goaltending needs and grabbed Mikael Tellqvist out of Phoenix. The veteran has been a dependable back-up throughout his career, and will assist Patrick Lalime between the pipes.

Anything is possible. Wade Dubielewicz leading the Islanders to a playoff berth two years ago is living proof.

Finally, Dominic Moore was added to give the team some energy. He has already set personal bests offensively with the Maple Leafs, and will give the Sabres a capable center who can hopefully continue his great year.

Boston Bruins

This latest losing streak must have gotten the Bruins to think. Mark Recchi has been added for the playoff drive, and he has shown that he can be the man to get them to the promised land like he did with Carolina in 2005/2006.

Steve Montador was shipped from Anaheim, and he gives Boston a rough defender who can chip in with offense from time-to-time. The native of British Columbia also brings experience to the table being part of the Calgary group that reached game seven of the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup Finals.

Boston is certainly ready and waiting for their first round opponent.

New York Rangers

Here’s a team that’s in dire need of offense. Nik Antropov should be able to help in the goal-scoring department, and his size will be valued on a Rangers team boasting plenty of smaller players.

Derek Morris resembles the style of Montador, and will give the opposition second thoughts about running over Henrik Lundqvist in goal. The defense is struggling to put pucks into the net as well.

Morris did produce some great statistics in Colorado and Calgary. Dmitri Kalinin, Nigel Dawes, and Peter Prucha were sent to Phoenix in exchange.

Florida Panthers

Ultimately, they are winners for hanging on to Jay Bouwmeester. In the long run, they will be made to suffer when the defender is signed elsewhere as a free agent in July. However, the fact is, this city needs to make the playoffs for their fans and owners.

Florida has been one of those questionable markets for an NHL team, and a postseason appearance would take off some of the heat for the time being. Steve Eminger will play for his third team just this season.

He has shown decent offensive flair with Tampa Bay, and Florida’s defense is that much stronger. Bouwmeester, Bryan McCabe, Keith Ballard, and Eminger. Not bad at all.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Pascal Leclaire wasn’t expecting to see much action with Steve Mason now becoming the team’s saviour. Leclaire is now an Ottawa Senator and Antoine Vermette joins a Columbus group that, like Florida, needs to establish themselves in the playoff picture.

Vermette has struggled for the better part of the year, but has come to life recently. The 26-year-old can easily become a 20 goal, 20 assist guy in Columbus.

There’s also his speed, and penalty-killing abilities that make him perhaps the last piece of the puzzle for the Blue Jackets.


Toronto Maple Leafs

It was no secret that Toronto would be a seller this year. Brian Burke is re-modeling this team and released Antropov, and Moore, who had become a favourite within the Maple Leafs organization.

Another blow for this team is losing Vesa Toskala for the year just when he was playing his best hockey of the season. looked shaky from day one in October when Tyler Kennedy beat him with a routine shot less than a minute in.

In a more bizarre move, Olaf Kolzig has also joined Toronto. Leafs fan have something to look forward to for a change—the future.

Anaheim Ducks

Kunitz, Samuel Pahlsson, Travis Moen, and Kent Huskins are all heading elsewhere, except for Kunitz who obviously already went to Pittsburgh before today. They picked up defenders and young prospects in return.

Obviously, this team doesn’t look bound for another Cup, and some major re-shaping is taking place. The main components are still here though. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger, and Scott Niedermayer are going nowhere.

Phoenix Coyotes

With Jokinen gone, Shane Doan is once again the lone offensive stud Wayne Gretzky has. Scottie Upshall, Nigel Dawes, Matthew Lombardi, and Nigel Dawes will add to the team’s young bunch.

Morris’ exit also leaves the defense even more vulnerable to conceding goals if it’s possible. For five months, this team had its second superstar next to Doan, and already Jokinen has found a new home.

What else can you say? The Coyotes are in a real tough position.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Considering the playoffs are out of reach, the Lightning did make some moves that will pay off in the future. Recchi and Eminger parted ways, and Tampa Bay brought in some youngsters who can help build the team eventually.

Kolzig’s absence means Mike Smith won’t have a mentor so to speak during the rough patches. Led by Lecavalier, and St. Louis, they are building for the future. Out with old, in with the new.

Colorado Avalanche

Losers for the fact that they traded Leopold for a guy they could have picked up on waivers. Lawrence Nycholat was grabbed by Calgary and eventually shipped to Colorado in the Leopold deal.

Smart work by the Flames owners. Absolutely stupid thinking by the Avalanche.

Tennis Players Who Changed the Game: Boris Becker

December 10, 2008

by Rafal Ladysz… Boom Boom, Der Bomber, Baron von Slam. Which ever nickname you knew Boris Becker by wasn’t of importance. What is of significance is the career of the best German-born player to step onto the tennis court.

His game orbited around a fast, well placed serve. It’s these serves that earned him the previously mentioned nicknames. The unusual rocking motion on his serve, combined with a willingness to dive for volleys on any surface brought smiles aplenty to the fans.

Becker also had a strong forehand and a great return of serve to offer. At times, he would try to outhit his opponents from the baseline, rather than using the patented serve and volley.

Remember John McEnroe’s outbursts during games? You would see similar displays from Becker. However, unlike McEnroe, the rage didn’t assist Becker’s performance.

He generally swore at himself after bad plays, and broke a tennis racket here and there. To his credit, he never lashed out at an opponent during these moments.

It was only a year after turning professional in 1984 that Becker had taken the tennis world by awe. He became the first unseeded player and German to win the Wimbledon singles title.

The title earned him the dignified honor of being the youngest male to ever win a Grand Slam singles title at the age of 17. It wasn’t until 1989 that the record was broken by Michael Chang at the French Open.

Becker defeated No. 1 seed Ivan Lendl in the 1986 Wimbledon Final to make it two for two. A third consecutive title deceived him in 1987 after a shocking second round exit.

In a Davis Cup match the same year, the German edged McEnroe in a match that lasted six hours and 39 minutes. Tie breakers weren’t held at the time in the tournament, and Becker won 4-6, 15-13, 8-10, 6-2, 6-2.

He fell short at Wimbledon in 1988, losing to Stefan Edberg in the finals. The Swede was responsible for his exit in the 1989 French Open as well, with a semi-final victory.

Nevertheless, it was Becker who defeated Edberg in the Wimbledon Final that season, followed by a triumph over Lendl in the U.S Open Final.

For the second straight year, he helped West Germany score a Davis Cup victory defeating Andre Agassi in the semi-finals. He met Edberg yet again in the Wimbledon Final of 1990. It was a five-setter that Becker couldn’t prevail in.

Agassi eliminated him from the U.S Open semi-final to ensure no back-to-back trophies. The Australian Open Final was unfamiliar territory for Becker in 1991. Surprisingly, he took down Lendl to become the World’s No. 1 player.

Agassi refreshed his U.S Open win in 1990 with another semi-final display that saw the conclusion of Becker’s tournament at the French Open. Boom Boom reached his fourth consecutive Wimbledon Final that year, losing unexpectedly to Michael Stich.

In the 1995 Wimbledon semi-final match, Becker gained some retribution over Agassi with a solid win. A guy named Pete Sampras was awaiting in the finals and brushed Becker aside in four sets.

He earned a final Grand Slam title in 1996 at the Australian Open. Becker defeated Chang and gave a memorable speech following the victory. He listed his sponsors and mentioned that he didn’t have the whole day left.

Classily, he concluded by mentioning his days were numbered, and that Chang was still a youngster. Becker was most comfortable playing on fast surfaces, in particular, grass courts.

Although he was the No. 1 player for only 12 weeks, Boris Becker advanced the game of tennis in his own way.

Milan Baros Finds New Home In Turkey

December 9, 2008

by Rafal Ladysz… It wasn’t too long ago when Milan Baros was considered a top striker in Europe. He began his club football in FC Banik Ostrava of the Gambrinus liga (Czech League). Following a four-year stint with the Czech club, he joined Liverpool in 2002.

In the 2002-2003 season, the 27-year-old scored twice in his EPL debut in a match against the Bolton Wanderers. Baros ended the season with 12 goals, and expectations increased the following year.

A broken ankle kept him out of action for six months, resulting in only a two-goal campaign. Following his performance at Euro 2004, you could say that Baros was at the top of his game.

He scored five goals in the tournament, and was awarded the Golden Boot. Among the highlights were a tremendous performance in a come-from-behind victory over the Netherlands, and two goals in as many minutes in a quarterfinal match against Denmark.

Baros’ goalscoring displays continued when he returned to Anfield. Michael Owen and Emile Heskey were sold, and Djibril Cisse was on the sidelines with a long-term injury. The Czech international was now the go-to guy for the Reds and showed it with his 13 strikes.

Playing mostly all of Liverpool’s games as a lone striker, Baros was instrumental in the 2005 Champions League title win. Embarassingly, he dropped the trophy during a celebration.

The team decided not to fix the dent because it added character to the trophy. His days were numbered with Rafael Benitez in the 2005-2006 season. Baros seemed destined for a move to Lyon, rejoining former Liverpool manager Gerrard Houllier.

Fans still cheered his name despite his moving to Aston Villa in August 2005. Popular chap, yes. An eight-goal debut season didn’t attain the support for Villa fans, especially with an apparent lack of effort shown on the pitch.

Injuries and the emergence of Gabriel Agbonlahor meant the dropping of Baros. He was sold to Lyon in a part exchange deal for John Carew. Overall, he totalled 14 goals in 51 appearances for Aston Villa.

France didn’t treat the striker too kindly, and Gerard Houllier’s departure resulted in less playing time under Alain Perrin. His arrest while driving a Ferrari F430 at 271km/h didn’t help matters.

In another attempt to rescue his career, Baros joined Portsmouth in January of 2008. It was not to be, with no goals in 16 contests.

The only bright spot was his FA Cup performances, earning the game-deciding penalty kick in the quarter final against Manchester United, and assisting Nwankwo Kanu’s winning goal in the semi finals against West Brom.

Portsmouth decided against signing Baros permanently, and he returned to Lyon. Euro 2008 was next, and Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner tried Baros as a striker to regain the magic he had in the 2004 tournament.

All he found was a yellow card in a match against Turkey. The fact that he didn’t play in the match and wasn’t on the pitch during the booking just made matters worse.

Milan Baros’ career had hit rock bottom and there was no indication if there would be any recovery. This past summer, Turkish champions Galatasaray S.K. obtained him from Lyon.

Baros is currently the leading scorer on the Turkish club with eight goals in nine league matches. He’s doing his part in the UEFA Cup as well with four goals in six matches. Former Liverpool teammate Harry Kewell has also find a new gear alongside Baros in Galatasaray.

The Turkish League is growing and becoming considerably respectable. It may not be the EPL or La Liga, but Milan Baros is loving life in Turkey.

Ruud van Nistelrooy Done for the Season With Knee Injury

November 15, 2008

http://www.irancartoon.com/LI%20WENJIE/van-nistelrooy.jpgby Rafal Ladysz… Real Madrid have confirmed that Ruud van Nistelrooy will miss the remainder of the Primera Liga season due to a knee injury.

Van Nistelrooy visited the United States this week to see specialist Dr. Richard Steadman about his injured right knee. After undergoing an exploratory arthroscopic operation to determine the extent of the problem, it has been decided that surgery will be required.

Madrid said in a statement on their website: ”The estimated time he will be out is from six to nine months, depending on the recovery.’

It’s the same knee that Steadman operated on in 2000 when the Dutchman suffered ligament damage while playing for PSV Eindhoven.

The 32-year-old was hoping the latest problem would only keep him sidelined for a few months at the most. However, today’s confirmation that he will need surgery means he will now most likely miss the remainder of the season.

The Madrid statement confirmed: ”Following an exploratory arthroscopic operation on Wednesday, it was determined that Ruud van Nistelrooy had a partially torn meniscus in his right knee.

”Real Madrid’s medical staff, Dr Steadman, and the player decided to surgically repair the damaged knee.”

Van Nistelrooy most recently played for Madrid in last week’s shocking 2-0 home defeat to Juventus in Champions League action. He was substituted nine minutes from the finish.

Losing the retired Holland international is a further blow for Madrid and their coach Bernd Schuster, who has found himself under pressure after some poor results.

The pressure has mounted so much that there are even suggestions in the Spanish press that Schuster could be fired if Madrid don’t win their next La Liga match at Real Valladolid.

Van Nistelrooy joined Madrid in 2006 from Manchester United and in his first season at the Bernabeu netted 25 league goals to finish as the Primera Liga’s leading scorer.

Madrid won the title that year, and they successfully defended it last season when Van Nistelrooy, despite sitting out part of the campaign with an ankle problem, netted 16 more goals.

I don’t know who’s more disappointed about the injury: Schuster, or Nistelrooy who was having a great season with seven goals in 10 matches.

Alexander Semin Walking the Walk and Now Talking the Talk

November 10, 2008

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2133/2111121757_8edb7af64a.jpgby Rafal Ladysz… The Washington Capitals still have an Alexander the Great. Instead of Ovechkin, the last name reads Semin currently. He emerged into the NHL scene during the 2003-2004 season, scoring 10 goals and assisting on 12 in 52 games played.

I didn’t notice Semin that year. It was the last year before the lockout and Ovechkin wasn’t on the roster yet. In other words, the Capitals were the lowest of the low, and attention was hard to come by for them.

The talented young Russian could have played in the post-lockout season, but there were some road bumps.

There was some confusion about Semin’s obligations to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. It requires all Russian men to serve two years, but it allows soldiers who are hockey players to play for professional hockey teams in Russia during their period of service.

However, they are not allowed to play for teams in other countries. Translation: No NHL action for Semin just yet. The 24-year-old played his second year with Lada during the 2005-2006 NHL season.

Lada is located in the military district into which Semin was drafted, and they were the only team with whom he could complete his military duty. It took some time for the papers and controversy to get cleared up, but he returned to the NHL.

It was in the 2006-2007 season that Semin emerged onto everyone’s radar. The native of Krasnoyarsik gave Ovechkin plenty of support offensively with 38 goals and 35 assists in 77 games.

On numerous occasions, he showed off that flashy wrist shot of his to world. “The other Alex” was the nickname given to him eventually, as he was branded one of the NHL’s promising future stars.

Last season, Semin was limited to 63 games due to injury. It wasn’t until the latter part of the year that he began to find that offensive edge of his. Still, he managed 26 goals to go along with 16 assists for a decent year.

In the playoffs, the youngster showcased his talent for the first time in postseason action like many of his teammates. Washington exited in a tough first round, seven-game series with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Semin totaled eight points (three goals, five assists) in the seven matches.

We are not even a quarter of the way through this season yet. Evgeni Malkin is the leading point producer with 22 in the early-going. Take a guess as to who’s right behind him with 21 points.

That’s right, it’s Alexander Semin with 11 goals and 10 assists. With Ovechkin struggling to find his goals, “The other Alex” is turning heads with his performances night-in and night-out.

I can’t say enough about his shot. It’s one of the quickest wristers I have ever seen and the accuracy on it is just mesmerizing. Last night, he wired home an empty netter against the New York Rangers from his own end.

Say what you will, but I think that was an intentional shot on goal, and not a clearance attempt. We all knew he had the talent, but now Semin has also got the words to go along with it.

The Washington sniper told a Russian reporter his thoughts about Sidney Crosby.

“What’s so special about Crosby? I don’t see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, a good pass. But there’s nothing else. Even if you compare him to Patrick Kane from Chicago, Kane is a much more interesting player. The way he moves, his deking abilities, his thinking on the ice and his anticipation of the play is so superb.

“I think that if you take any player, even if he is ‘dead wood,’ and start promoting him, you’ll get a star,” Semin added. “Especially if he scores 100 points. No one is going to care about anyone else. No one is going to care whether he possesses great skill.

“Let’s say you put someone in front of the net and let him deflect pucks in, and he scores 50 goals, everyone will say ‘Wow!’ and then hand him a $10-million-per-year contract.”

Plenty of Canadians will be sending hate mail to Semin for these comments. If you ask me, they shouldn’t get themselves so worked up over it. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and Crosby even made that clear.

Credit should be given to Semin for saying what’s on his mind, unlike most NHL players who are following orders by not pouring gasoline on the fire.

He has talent and now the attitude to go along with it. If injuries can be avoided, it could be a year that concludes with trophies for Alexander Semin. He is clearly the next great Russian superstar to join the group in the National Hockey League.

Writers should begin thinking about new nicknames for this star because “The other Alex” is history as far as I’m concerned.

How about, “The great twenty-eight”? I know, I came up with it myself.

UEFA Champions League: Shockers and Heartbreakers Highlight Week 4

November 9, 2008

by Rafal Ladysz… I believe it’s safe to say that this was the most unpredictable week in the UEFA Champions League thus far.

Where to begin?

Once again, just when it looks like Roma are history, they respond with a major performance. Mirko Vucinic insured that the Giallorossi would leave with all three points against Chelsea.

First, the Montenegro international finished off some nice passing from Francesco Totti and Matteo Brighi by firing a 25-yard effort past Petr Cech.

Then, Vucinic stripped John Mikel Obi in his own half, ran into Chelsea territory, got away from Mikel again, and fired it past Cech once more.

With the win secured, Deco’s late red card was just the icing on the cake.

Meanwhile, Inter head coach Jose Mourinho must have been steaming with the number of errors Milan saw again Anorthosis Famagusta.

Every goal in the match was the result of mistakes and the Nerrazurri were fortunate to earn a point through Julio Cruz’ 80th minute equalizer.

Werder Bremen. I just don’t understand this team. They have some great talent, but Panthinaikos just made it look too simple in disposing the German squad 3-0. Diego’s magic was missing and Werder look destined for an early exit.

If you lose 5-0, I’m not so sure a draw in the next match is redemption.

We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt if it occurs against Barcelona at the Estadio Camp Nou. FC Basel earned a point after Eren Derdiyok took a pass well, and hit a thunderous shot past Victor Valdes.

Although they sit in the basement of Group C, a very respectable point is on their resume.

Oh, how fortunate we are. Atletico Madrid were basically cheated out of a big win at Anfield. Mariano Pernia and Steven Gerrard both leaped for a floating ball in the box only to make contact with one another.

A penalty was rewarded and Gerrard buried it. You love to see these calls happen for your team, but to see it happen against you is just agonizing. Tough break for Los Rojiblancos.

Poor, poor Celtic. Scott McDonald’s opening score was a floating beauty and Celtic had a glimmer of hope to achieve victory. Ryan Giggs brought them back to reality though with a late header after Artur Boruc saved a Cristiano Ronaldo effort.

Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.

Arsenal picked up the win against Manchester United earlier today in EPL action. A much needed result to see them get some respect returned. Still, Fenerbahce managed to hold the Gunners to a scoreless draw at the Emirates Stadium earlier in the week.

Arsene Wenger, what’s your next move?

If there was any question about Juventus’ title hopes, it’s now long gone after a 2-0 win against Real Madrid. Alessandro Del Piero was the man of the match once again for the Bianconeri. His first strike was a fine low shot into the left corner.

The second was a trademark Del Piero free-kick which left Iker Casillas frozen.

From Ukraine with pain.

A fitting title for Dynamo Kiev’s late letdown to FC Porto. Artem Milevskiy put the hosts in front, before Rolando levelled the match for Porto. Lucho Gonzalez potted a late header and was sent off for his celebration with a second yellow card.

The least of his worries I’m sure.

Toronto Maple Leafs Create New Identity WIthout Mats Sundin

November 7, 2008

by Rafal Ladysz… The re-building process was going to take place with the Toronto Maple Leafs one way or another. Unfortunately, former GM, John Ferguson Jr. wasn’t quite able to grasp that and Cliff Fletcher made more changes in one summer than his predecessor did in the previous three seasons.

Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood, Hal Gill, Bryan McCabe, Chad Kilger, and Wade Belak were all sent to new teams. Mats Sundin still hasn’t decided where he wants to play, and you know what, the Leafs look fine without him.

I know, who would have thought it? I’m not claiming that Sundin was the issue because he clearly came through for this squad on so many occasions the last few years. It’s hard not to notice how much better the younger guys are playing without him in the lineup.

Without him, there’s clearly no high expectations in Leaf Land. It may very well be the dose they need right now. No expectations means no pressure. The Leafs are 5-4-4 this season after 13 games.

Last year, they were 5-5-3 at this point. Only a one point increase. Character is a word this team hasn’t known the definition of for quite some time. This year, it’s already been shown that this squad has it.

Four different matches have already seen this young bunch erase two-goal deficits and win three of them. Toronto was able to force overtime last season, but they just couldn’t put the finishing touch on the games.

While the postseason may be out of reach yet again in April, the signs are there that Toronto is heading in the right direction. Recognition has to be given to general manager, Cliff Fletcher, who wasted little time in reconstructing this organization.

New head coach Ron Wilson will bench his best players if they are not producing. That much is for certain. Ask Jason Blake. Mikhail Grabovski has been a great pickup. The energy he’s shown every game is admirable and he’s finally being rewarded with some points.

Matt Stajan has gotten it into gear after being a healthy scratch early on. Niklas Hagman is finding some chemistry with Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin, who possibly has the best shot on this Leafs team.

Hagman’s snow-job on Marty Brodeur in the shootout against the Devils last week was a clever distraction method. It’s something you certainly wouldn’t have seen the previous year from a Leafs player. Even Brodeur had a smile on his face afterwards.

Mike Van Ryn is another guy who’s proving he wasn’t a useless acquisition. His shot is possibly even better than Bryan McCabe’s, and he hasn’t produced costly giveaways either.

Also, the move to put Ian White as a forward is just pure genious in my opinion. It’s no secret that White has turned the puck over constantly on defense in the past.

Unfortunately for him, most of those turnovers turned into goals for the opposition. He’s always had that offensive edge, and he should strive knowing that he doesn’t have to worry about the defensive end.

His first goal came in his first game back in the lineup. It’s the mindset, realizing that Sundin can’t bail these guys out anymore. As a team, they look better without him.

Nothing against the Swede. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game. A change of scenery is just the answer sometimes. The leadership role may not be clearly pasted on one individual, but the whole team is playing.

This wasn’t the case in the post-lockout years with Sundin.

Young guys who haven’t been given the chance in the past are now getting solid ice time and skating hard for every puck. Dominic Moore was a guy that gave it his all every shift last year, and it hasn’t changed this season.

So, while Sundin continues to ponder his decision, the Leafs continue to fight for every point. Who knows, an eighth place spot may be awaiting them in the postseason.

In this league, you can’t depend on coming back from from two or three-goal deficits to win every night. Toronto has to learn how to come out of the gates better. Today, they got down again, and weren’t able to overcome a three-goal deficit in Boston.

When they do, it’ll be another step in the right direction for this organization.

Ronaldo Eyes Return To Brazil

October 30, 2008

by Rafal Ladysz…

You don’t have to follow soccer to know the name.

One of the legends of the game, Ronaldo has decided to quit European football for a move to Brazil. A possible contract may be in store at Flamengo.

The 32-year-old is returning to the game after recovering from a career-threatening knee injury eight months ago with AC Milan.

He told SporTV: ”If everything is okay, I want to stay (at Flamengo). I’ve been in Europe for 16 years. Flamengo are my favourite, but I don’t want to play there as a favour. I want to deserve to play there.”

With Ronaldo, it’s not necessarily a matter of talent. Injuries have slowed his career down, and returning to top form could be too much to ask for the striker.

He said that if he cannot get back into good shape, retiring might be his only remaining option.

“I could hang up the boots…If I think I am not fine, I will retire. It’s useless if you are physically fit but you are not fast. I already lost some weight, but I must lose more.”

The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year has played for PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and A.C Milan. His career is somewhat parallel to Henrik Larsson’s, who played for several big name clubs before returing to his homeland at Helsingborg, which was his childhood team.

Larsson still plays for the Swedish national team, and Ronaldo too has hopes of returning to the international stage for Brazil.

”I am a wounded soldier who is recovering, but not dead. The national team is part of my life. I have big history with it, with a number of titles and defeats. I am making a big sacrifice and I do dream of the national team.”

With 62 goals, he is currently the third highest all-time goal scorer for Brazil, trailing only Zico and Pele.

The last time we saw him in the yellow jersey he was a bit overweight at the 2006 World Cup. If he can get at least half of his game back and stay healthy, I don’t see why a move to Flamengo is out of the question.

However, it will be a tall order for Ronaldo to fill. Whether or not we see him on the pitch again, the Brazilian has ensured that his name goes down in history as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

Tennis Players That Changed the Game: Mats Wilander

October 27, 2008

by Rafal Ladysz… This is a player that I’m not too familiar with. It’s never easy being overshadowed by the great Bjorn Borg. However, Wilander is a Swede sensation in his own right. The tennis world got their first glimpse of his tremendous talent at the 1982 French Open.

Being an unseeded player, Wilander had to face the second seed, Ivan Lendl, in the fourth round. Following his upset against Lendl, he would go on to defeat the No. 3 (Guillermo Villas), No. 4 (Jose Luis Clerc), and No. 5 (Vitas Gerulaitis) seed on his way to the title.

At 17 years of age, Wilander was the youngest male to ever win the French Open. Since then, this record has been broken by Boris Becker and Michael Chang. In 1982, he finished as the seventh ranked player in the world.

Wilander’s second Grand Slam title came in 1983 at the Australian Open. He defeated John McEnroe in the semifinals and Lendl in the finals to achieve glory again. The following year, he successfully defended his Australian Open title, but lost to Lendl in the semifinals of the French.

In 1985, Wilander earned his second French Open title and beat who? That’s right, Ivan Lendl. Fellow Swede, Stefan Edberg defeated Wilander in the finals of the Australian Open that year.

For the next two years, Wilander didn’t add to his Grand Slam trophy case but still managed to finish with the No. 3 ranking on both occasions. It was in 1988 that Wilander was on top of the tennis world.

In January, he won his third Australian Open title, getting the better of Edberg in the semifinals and Pat Cash in the final. His third French Open title also came to him before he defeated Lendl once again to win the U.S. Open for the first time.

In doing so, he ended Lendl’s reign of three years as the No. 1 ranked player. Wilander was the top ranked player for only 20 weeks before Lendl took it back. Still, he certainly made his mark.

Wilander’s career would take a downward spiral over the next few years. He briefly returned as a top 10 player in 1990 but finished the year as the No. 41 ranked player.

The best result that would come in the remaining Grand Slams of his career was a semifinal appearance at the Australian Open in 1990. Edberg defeated Wilander easily in straight sets.

Two years ago, after Roger Federer lost to Rafael Nadal at the French Open, Wilander made these comments.

“Federer, today, unfortunately came out with no balls…You don’t find too many champions in any sport in the world without heart or balls. He might have them, but against Nadal, they shrink to a very small size and it’s not once, it’s every time.”

This is how I came about realizing who Mats Wilander is. Along with his seven Grand Slam singles titles, he won a doubles title at Wimbledon.

Even though the Wimbledon title eluded him in singles competition, two of his Australian Open victories came while the tournament was played on grass. Along with Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors, this makes Wilander one of the three men to have won a Grand Slam singles title on grass, clay, and hard courts.

Personally, I hope we haven’t heard the last of Mats Wilander. His comments on Federer’s performance against Nadal were hysterical and also true in a way. I think he and John McEnroe would make a great pairing in commentary.

Whether or not they would get along is another story.

One On One With former Leaf Warren Rychel

October 25, 2008

by Rafal Ladysz… On the ice, he was a feared instigator. Off the ice, he’s now the general manager of the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League. Warren Rychel has made the transition from player to GM in fine fashion.

I recently had the chance to sit down with this former fighter. Rychel spent eight years in the NHL, playing with the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, and the former Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Even as a player, the thoughts of working in an office for a team flashed through his mind.

“You always get that feeling when you’re a player and that competition,” he said. “The inner feeling in you that now you can do that. It’s not quite like playing, but it’s still inside you.”

Although many will remember him for his scraps, Rychel had some memorable offensive contributions, mainly in the playoffs. In the 1991 postseason, Rychel was called up to play for the Blackhawks with only two games of NHL experience.

He scored a goal along with three assists in just three matches, helping Chicago advance to the finals. Two years later, he played his first full NHL season with the Los Angeles Kings.

In 23 playoff games, he recorded six goals and seven helpers, including two game winners, to once again help his team reach the Stanley Cup finals. However, it wasn’t until 1996 that he won the Cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

“That was a great time, but I want to try to bring a championship to Windsor.” he said.

Among his acquisitions as GM are Taylor Hall, Eric Wellwood (brother of former Spitfire, Kyle Wellwood), Ryan Ellis, and Josh Bailey, who is currently with the New York Islanders.

Rob Gagnon, the game day and media coordinator for the Spitfires, believes Rychel has done a great job as general manager.

“With the drafts that he’s made over the last couple of years, I think people have seen the progress we have made,” he said. “Really, I think his biggest accomplishment has been how many of his picks have been successful.”

Before his move to Windsor, Rychel was a scout for the Phoenix Coyotes.

“That really helped me get into this job,” he said. “Scouting, putting guys in order, and evaluating players was huge going into the general manager’s role.”

Last season, the Spitfires finished with 94 points, their second highest total in team history. They currently sit in first place in the OHL with a 13-1 record. Rychel couldn’t be happier with his role as GM.

“To do something you love, and do it all day long is great,” he said. “It’s the labour of love for me and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

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