Monday, September 29, 2008

How Probably Became Certainly

This just in:

News Flash!!!

"well, we're probably not going to win the Stanley Cup, there's a news flash for you"

Thanks Mr. Wilson. We'll be following this story all season long to see how it develops, but early on, the projection looks accurate. We should start seeing regular updates from multiple sources from this point on, right up to the moment "probably" becomes "certainly". However, many questions remain, and the media (y'know, the guys in the colourful baggy pants, big shoes, and painted faces, trying to see how many of them they can fit into one car) and Leaf fans (y'know, the guys in the dark blue power-suits, blogging away in their fabulous corner offices, 42 stories up at King and Bay, while the economy goes to hell) will endeavor to present a clearer picture in time.

Questions And Developments

How will "probably" become "certainly"? Will the Leafs be so far out of it by January that making the playoffs will be a statistical impossiblity? Could they maybe keep pace with the other playoff-doubtfuls for most of the season, missing out on the post-season by just a few points? Is a playoff appearance and then an early first round exit going to be the route to not winning the Cup? Or could we see a surprising playoff charge through mutiple rounds, unlikely heroes and stunning upsets, before finally falling to a cruel and controversial fate? Will it be heartbreak or ho-hum? There are so many paths towards not winning the Cup, each more unremarkable and forgetable then the next, and yet every step will be recorded and detailed until a specific direction is chosen.

Well, maybe we should just wait and see.

" ... "!

This is different.

Smooooth sailing.

Peaceful. Relaxing.

What time is it now, anyways?


I'm bored.

I know! Maybe we could fill the mindless gaps between things that happen with mindless speculation about what might happen next, or why what just happened keeps happening, again and again! Sounds interesting, and it might even be fun.

Analysis And More Questions

Looking ahead to the 2009-2010 season, for which hope has not yet been extinguished, our failed veterans will have had one more year of defeat under their belts, and the fans, one more year of No Cup to celebrate. Who will emerge as a leading culprit for this inability to challenge for a championship next? Which position will be declared the most inept? How many of these youngsters will blossom and how many of the veterans will be around for another journey? Who should we sign as a free-agent? Third-liners for draft picks - is that crazy or what? Wow, I couldn't be having more fun unless there was actually something happening. But since there isn't, this is what I'll do until something actually is.

And now - A Way Around Asking Ron Wilson Questions He Doesn't Like

Several players with little or no NHL experience (Schenn, Earl, Mitchell, Frogren) have performed well at camp so far, but look like they might have dry-scalps. Is the roster going to be flexable enough to allow these players to gain more NHL experience or is there a type of shampoo-conditioner that you can recommend?

Justin Pogge had a tough night the other night, but he still looks like an exciting prospect with marquee potential. Are we looking at a "star of the future" here, or is there something worth looking forward to in the new Will Farrel movie, Land of the Lost, due out in June?

Championships, in any sport, are hard to come by, but the stated goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs is "to win the Stanley Cup. Period." However, having conceeded that as a most unlikely scenario for this season, what will be the goals we hope to achieve, as we try to measure success against failure, and will you be appearing again at Woodbine Racetrack in the near future?

I know this post is ridiculous and doesn't make any sense, and to be honest, I'm not even sure what my angle is here. I like Ron Wilson. I think he looks great and he talks tough. He has the right attitude as far as I'm concerned, and there's lots to be excited about right now if you're a Leaf fan. I only hope he warms up to being asked questions about the Leafs a little bit, because, well, someday, I'd like to sit down and interview Ron Wilson for real. I've already put one unrealistic fantasy - winning the Cup -to sleep for the year. I'd like to hold on to the other for just a little longer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Blood Of My Chief, Vol. IV


Fire! Smoke!

Drums! Bagpipes! Lasers! An Explosion!!!

The time has come, mere moments from this year's first pre-season game, to conclude our "tale of Magnificence and Misery - a blogger's history of Maple Leaf Captains". This will be the fourth and final instalment, for now, as we begin a new chapter, not yet written, while our 17th Chief remains undetermined. My personal thoughts on this volume's only entry range from mock indignation to childish adoration to direct ultimatum. Or simply put, The Good, The Bad, And The Brutal. What needed to be said has been said. There is nothing left but to move on. The tribe can wait no longer. Our season begins, and so we present, at last, The Blood Of My Chief, Vol. IV!!!

Mats Sundin 1997-2008
Drafted by Quebec in the first round, Mats Sundin is the first European to be selected 1st overall. On June 28th, 1994, Sundin was acquired by Toronto in a draft-day blockbuster which saw the current Leaf Captain, Wendel Clark, traded to the Nordiques along with Sylvain Lefebvre. In 1997, after the departure of Doug Gilmour, Sundin became the 16th Captain, and the first European player to ever wear the C in the NHL.

In many ways, the words "Magnificence and Misery" perfectly sum up the last season that Sundin would Captain the Blue and White. After being eliminated from the playoffs for a third straight year, and missing the final three games due to injury (or was it despair?), many of Sundin's remarkable achievements from that campaign have gone uncelebrated under the noise of the Muskoka Deconstruction Project.

Sundin began the season by breaking an 83-year old record held by Babe Dye, with a 16 game home point streak. During that stretch, in which he tallied 8G and 17A, Sundin surpassed Darryl Sittler for all-time Leaf leader in points and goals, on the same play no less (Oct. 11 vs NYI). Two nights later (Oct. 13 vs. Pit), he goes ahead of Sittler again, this time in assists, for 2nd all-time on the Leafs behind only Borje Salming.

On November 27th at home against Montreal, Sundin delivers yet another dramatic moment, tying the game with 18 seconds to go, for his 400th goal as a Maple Leaf.

On February 7th, this time in Montreal, Sundin becomes the 30th player in NHL history to collect 1,300 points.

If you're fascinated by numerology, dig this: On March 6th in Boston, Sundin played in his 1,300th career game, and scored his 30th goal of the season. Coincidence? Sundin has scored 20 goals or more in 13 consecutive seasons as a Leaf. Now add up all those numbers - 1+3+0+0+3+0+2+0+1+3 = 13. His number is 13. Coincidence?

Sundin is the first Swedish player to reach 1,000 points. On October 14, 2006, he became the first Swedish player to score 500 goals in the NHL. It was an incredibly dramatic goal that came in overtime, with the Leafs short-handed, for his 3rd goal of the night. Simply doesn't get better then that.

Overtime is where Mats has truly dominated. Sundin is tied with Jaromir Jagr for the NHL record for most regular season overtime goals with 15, and also shares the record for the fastest overtime goal ever scored - 6 seconds (at St. Louis, Dec. 30/1995). He also has two overtime goals in the playoffs for the Leafs.

In 981 games as a Maple Leaf, Sundin has scored 420 goals, 567 assists, for 987 points, leaving him just 13 shy of 1,000 (coincidence?). He has Captained the Leafs to franchise records in wins (45 - 3 times, '99, '00, '04) and points (103 - 2004), their first division title in 37 years (2000), and has taken the team as far as the Conference Finals twice ('99, '02). He is, in fact, one of the greatest leaders this team or city has ever seen, and in his absence this season, he will be deeply missed by those that crave the excitement that only Sundin can generate. He leadership will also be missed (for a time), for such is the weight of carrying the C on a Maple Leaf sweater that currently none on the roster are ready to assume it.

One of the greatest players to ever wear the Blue and White, Mats Sundin is already a legend, and proudly served the Leafs and their fans through an incredible career, whose legacy, perhaps, has not yet been fully written. His name deserves reverence, along with those of the other Chiefs of our tribe, Gilmour, Clark, Vaive, Sittler, Keon, Armstrong, and so on, down to Hap Day. They are the unique individuals who understood the honour and privilege they carried, and did so with grace and courage, as each had done before them.
Eventually, the time will come to celebrate the brilliant contribution of Mats Sundin to our tribe, but now is not that moment. Today we move forward into a new era, a new beginning, without a Chief to guide us, but there may yet be one in our midst. There is hope that new leaders will present themselves this season, and that a player with the stature and respect worthy of carrying the C for the Maple Leafs will eventually emerge.

So concludes The Blood Of My Chief. I hope you all enjoyed. Please see the Footnote.

The Blood Of My Chief: A Footnote

Despite the earth-shattering success and popularity of The Blood Of My Chief series, a fifth instalment is not currently scheduled. Vol. V, tentatively titled Anyone Can Bleed, has been cancelled until further notice due to a lack of interest. Recently our publishers became aware of the comments made by Leaf head coach Ron Wilson, printed below alongside our reaction.

"I don't know if at the moment, we need a Captain, or how important that is."


"You don't have to put a C on anybody. You put that on the lineup sheet so the referees know. You don't have to let the whole world know."

Ah... okay. Um....

"I'm not worried about whether the fans need a captain or the media need a Captain."

But -

"Not one minute have I worried about who the Captain is or whether that's an important issue right now. It's not."

Yes, sir.

"It's not about the Captain or all this other stuff."

Yes, of course. Sorry, sir.

So there'll be no Captain this season, at least for now, and all this other stuff, like The Blood Of My Chief and my blog and conventional wisdom that says having a Captain is important, can all go suck a tasty lemon. Besides, it's really not a very original idea.

Footnote to the Footnote: Anyone Can Bleed would make a good name for Leafs blog.

Friday, September 19, 2008

They Be Doin' What Now?

If You haven't seen DownGoesBrown's series, Is This The Worst It's Ever Been?, you should really check it out. Really helps put things in perspective, and you'll feel better after you cry. One line that jumped out at me from Part Two was this:

"... the greatest five-man defensive unit of all time..."

Unless I've lost my mind from playing too much on-line poker this week, he can only be talking about The Fantastic Five from the '93 playoff drive; Jamie Macoun, Bob Rouse, Sylvain Lefebvre, Dave Ellett, and everyone's favorite underdog, Todd Gill.

For 21 playoff games, these 5 were Felix the Cat's claws, blocking shots, clearing pucks, and swinging fists. Collectively, their greatest talent was not scoring goals or thrilling rushes through the neutral zone, it was smashing players like Dino Ciccarelli and Brett Hull into the boards, knocking them to the ice, and then standing over them and not letting them get up until long after the play had moved up the ice. That's Pat Burns hockey. "Pay attention to detail" means "put your knee on his back".

Fond memories indeed, but this post is not about reflection. Instead, we look forward to the future. Seeing nothing there, we take a sideways glance at the present - oh, here's something interesting! After learning that Gill was still very much involved in hockey as a coach in the CJHL, I was curious to see what the other Super-Buds of the Buds' Blue and White Blue-Line (wow that's awkward) were up to now. So I called up my good friend, Ric Nattress, and he said he didn't know who I was, but he's not as out-of-the-loop as I thought, and after some quick research (did you know they have internet on computers now?) I barely have enough material for a new post. No, not another one. This one.

Todd Gill
The guy who taught me that anyone (even you, Wozniewski!) can have a career in the NHL as long as they just work hard and never give up, is now teaching that lesson to NHL hopefuls in the CJHL. Todd Gill is currently the head coach of the Brockville Braves. So far this year they're not off to a good start, losing both of their first two games, and being outscored 10-1. Fear not, however, for Todd Gill is a former CJHL Coach of the Year (2007), and one thing he has never, ever done or will ever do, is accept failure and stop trying. The Braves may not be the most talented team in the Yzerman Division, but I'm guessing they play with heart. Pylons of heart.

* Update - minutes after this post was published I learned that the Braves had won their 3rd game, beating Cornwall 12-4. So now their GF vs. GA stands at 13-14. Heart. Pylons...

For more great writing about Todd Gill you may have to really look around, but one of my earliest and sloppiest pieces is here if you wanna read about how Todd Gill would make a far better coach for the Leafs then Ron Wilson.

Bob Rouse
Wow, is that really Bob Rouse? The guy whose beautiful tape-to-tape pass completely fooled Tim Cheveldae, allowing little Nikki "the Stick" to score the most important goal in our modern Leaf history? Yep, that's the guy.

"Gilmour to Bobby Rouse - shot! SCOOOORESSSSS! ... Nikolai! Borschevsky! Has scored for Toronto! Leafs win! Leafs win!"

Sorry. Don't know where I drifted off to just then. Currently, Bob Rouse is an assistant coach with the Chilliwack Bruins (WHL), and has been since last year. The 'Wackers (I wonder if they like being called that) open their season Saturday at home against the Kamloops Blazers.

Sylvain Lefebvre

One thing we know for sure, wherever Sylvain Lefebvre is, Rob Brown isn't. Who'll ever forget that magnificent moment when we heard those brilliant words "Brown really got corked by Lefebvre with a straight right-hand!" 15 years later, that iconic phrase is now a popular website,, but I'm not providing a link because it's disgusting what they do there.

Our buddy Sylvain, who was the model stay at home defenceman that The Cat seemingly couldn't do without, is today working in tandem with another former Leaf, Joe Sacco. Together they form the coaching duo for the Lake Erie Monsters, the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, whose hilarious marketing slogan is: It's Alive! Sacco, the head coach, is in his third year with the Avalanche orginization, and has been credited with being a "key figure in the development process" of current Leaf defencman, Jeff Finger. Hopefully, he's been taught how to play hockey like Sylvain Lefebvre.

Dave Ellett

On the left in the picture above is Dave "the Ankle of Death" Ellett, one of 5 members forming an ownership group , and the Governor for the new CHL franchise, the New Mexico Scorpians. It must be weird being out there in the desert, but it's probably part of Ellett's secret plan of one day sneaking up on Wayne, drugging him, and driving out to the desert with the Great One in the trunk of his car. That's when Wayne has a mysterious "scorpion accident" and isn't seen again for some time. Eventually, an autopsy will reveal that Greztky died in the desert from scorpion venom, but that won't explain the missing foot. Bizarre.

The New Mexico Scorpions sounds like a really cool name for a hockey club, and I wish them, and Ellett, and his secret little plan, the best of luck.

"Crazy Legs" Jamie Macoun

Good ol' "Crazy Legs" Macoun seems to be the least involved in hockey of The Fantastic Five but he is still around. Mostly he's been appearing in Calgary, popping up at charity Golf tournaments, participating in the Juno Cup (an exhibition hockey game involving Canadian rock stars for the Juno's, whatever that is), and being the primary organizer for an NHL Alumni 3-on-3 Pond Hockey tournament. Sounds like an awesome idea. It seems to be a Calgary thing, but the list of former Leafs participating is impressive: Lanny, Tiger, Jeff Brown, Gary Valk, and Ric Nattress.

Speaking of Ric Nattress, who I really only consider a distant acquaintance now, maybe he, and not Mironov is really the missing guy from this group. Continuing on the theme of Leafs That Should Have Been, imagine if Nattress had not departed in the summer of '92, but instead was part of this group for the '93 run. Wow. No way the series with L.A. goes anywhere near 7 games. And just think, then Dave Ellett wouldn't have to invest all his money in a crazy desert hockey franchise scheme just for the chance of catching Gretzky with his back turned.

Ric Nattress

Ric Nattress is currently the head coach for the Stoney Creek Warriors of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL). Nattress was born and raised in Hamilton, so the Niagara area is very much in his comfort zone. The Warriors season began exactly two weeks ago, with Leaf legend and local deity Wendel Clark on hand to drop the puck. No doubt, Clark's inspirational presence and sheer omnipotence has helped the Warriors to a 4 and 0 start this season. It's quite possible, in fact, that if Wendel intentionally dropped the puck at the right angle, Stoney Creek might run the table and have an undefeated season.

So, there ya have it. A "Where are they now?" for the "greatest five man defensive unit of all-time" and the one That Should Have Been there. Thanks everybody.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Poker Face Puppet

First of all, credit where it's due. Nice work by TorontoSportsMedia, PuckDaddy, and Mirtle. I've been kinda late reacting to this, possibly due to a mix of denial and apathy, but in case anybody's wondering what El General thinks, here it comes:

I've always admired Mats Sundin, though not unconditionally. There have always been conditions. One of those conditions, the first, is to continually bring respect to the Maple Leaf uniform. Beware readers: I may have turned a corner here.


Poker? Seriously, poker. P-O-K-E-R. Mats Sundin is playing poker. Yes, poker. Not hockey. Not sticks and skates and pucks and speed and courage and honour. Nope. Poker. A game you play with a deck of cards and plastic coloured chips. Not Crazy Eights, but close. It's poker. A game that just isn't fun unless you play for money. I would've thought Go Fish was more Sundin's style.

"I have always enjoyed playing poker and partnering with PokerStars gives me the opportunity to challenge myself and explore the full potential of my game."

PokerStars. Not Bob Gainey. He only gave Sundin the opportunity to join a glorious franchise for their historic 100th season. Only the challenge of being a key component on a team with the most potential to rival Pittsburgh for a spot in the Cup Final. That's all.

"It means I will be more able to fulfill my personal ambition of working with charities around the world and I will be donating 100 percent of the money I earn from playing poker to charity."

Gosh, what a beautiful sweetheart. Another way Mats could fulfill his ambition of working with charities around the world would be to play for the Vancouver Canucks. They're sorta needy and unfortunate. Then Sundin could donate 100 percent of 10 million dollars to charity and it would really be win-win, except, of course, when the Canucks lose, which they would still do often, even with Sundin.

"I believe the fighting spirit I've developed as a hockey pro will really help me at the tables."

That's not a "fighting spirit". It's called a "Country Club atmosphere", and it seems to be floating on Sundin's shoulders wherever he goes. But yes, that Country Club atmosphere he's cultivated will certainly help him at the tables.

Thank goodness Sundin is no longer Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It would be an odd situation, to say the least, to have the leader of the league's most prestigous team openly endorsing online gambling. To be fair, is just poker and has no links to slots, horse-racing, or sports-wagering. The ultra chic design seems to suggest that this is a place for up-scale, mature online gamblers, not teenagers and college students. The frequent player points program seems to encourage and reward dedication to this popular online activity. Just like death will reward me for my dedication to smoking cigarettes.

Thankfully, most of the young people who admire Sundin are not the least bit impressionable. Unlike Mats, they are more then capable of making up their own minds and making their own decisions. By the way, how's that coming? Any progress?

"I will not make up my mind before the season starts. That's how I feel right now. If I would feel like retiring, I would say it."

Of course. Take your time. What about poker? Will Mats play in any more tournaments?


...(sigh) I'm not sure Mats should come back to Toronto anymore. He can go play in Vancouver and build a Country Club out there. We're trying to get serious about winning hockey games, not card games. If you get more excited at the prospect of holding a Royal Flush then you do touching the Stanley Cup, then there is something seriously wrong with you. That sure as hell ain't leadership.
...(sigh) I've had another moment to think about it - I didn't realize it was this bad - Mats Sundin has lost his mind and no one can help him. This is going to get worse. Michael Jackson worse.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Meet The D-Men: How Many Do We Need?

The first edition of Maple Leafs Nations: Meet The D-Men is now outdated and needs revision. Specifically, my prediction was wrong and Bryan McCabe has been sent packing and is no longer a Maple Leaf. That leaves Kaberle and Kubina as the top two defenceman without a doubt. From there, it's wide open. Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo are next in seniority with the team, but they will be challenged for playing time and possibly a spot on the roster. Jeff Finger, with his enormous high-profile contract will definitely be in the mix and should see substantial playing time. Expectations are high this year for Stralman to get increased playing time and opportunities to develop his offensive game. That's six defenceman already. I think it's doubtful that Kronwall will see any action with the big club this year, based partly on his past performance, but also due to the additions that Cliff has made and the heavy competition there will be for the remaining spots. Schenn is the future, and I'm not expecting to see him in a Leaf uniform this year, but maybe next.

In this episode of Meet The D-Men, we try to get more familiar with the recent additions to the Leafs' blue line, Josef Boumedienne, Jonas Frogren, and Mike Van Ryn. The only player I'm not covering is Richard Petiot, whose NHL career consists of 2 games with L.A. in 2006. Otherwise, he has spent the last three seasons in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs. His AHL numbers don't impress and I think he has no chance of making the team unless Carlo somehow explodes one day and takes out himself and 3 other defenceman at the same time. Don't laugh, it could happen.

Josef Boumedienne

I'd like to see Boumedienne crack the line-up. He's got a scary look in his eyes that kinda reminds me of Danny Markov. He's also got an interesting backround:

He scored a goal in his first NHL game, for the New Jersey Devils, but that was the only game he played for them. They traded him that season (2001-02) to Tampa Bay where he appeared in 3 games without a point. This will be his 4th NHL team, although most of his career has been spent in the minors. He has not played in the NHL since 2004. That year for Washington he had 14 points in 37 games plus 30 PIMs, which isn't bad.

After playing a few seasons in Europe, Boumedienne returned to North America and had a very productive season with the AHL Hershey Bears, scoring 42 points in 52 games to go along with 81 PIMs.

Born in Sweden, Boumedienne played for the Swedish juniors, but his mother is from Finland and his father is from Algeria. He shares a last name with a former Algerian President (who I think looks just like legendary Leaf coach and scout, Tom Watt), and has expressed interest in playing for the Algerian national team. I didn't even know they had a team, or ice, for that matter, but check out their cool jerseys.Jonas Frogren
Drafted by Calgary in 1998, Jonas Frogren has yet to play a game in the NHL. His entire professional career has been in the Swedish Elite League, playing all nine seasons with the same club, Farjestads BK Karlstad. Judging by his statistics, 1 point in 47 games last year, he's strictly a stay at home kinda guy, so it's interesting that he's making the big jump to North America.

Above is a funny picture of him modelling a motorcycle helmet for some reason. Below are pictures of things I'd like to see him doing in a Leafs' uniform.
Slammin' little pukes like St. Louis into the boards.
Knockin' guys down in front with no effort at all.
Givin' Jason Spezza a stick in the face any time he gets anywhere near Toskala or Cujo. I like the way Frogren looks, in pictures at least. We'll see how he handles the Big Show if he's given the chance.

Mike Van Ryn
Van Ryn comes to Toronto from Florida in the much-celebrated Bryan McCabe deal, so he'll have some pretty big red rubber clown shoes to fill. Probably Van Ryn is the front runner of this group to crack the starting line up, but his big salary could be conveniently sent down to the minors to clear up cap room if need be (hello Sundin mid-season return, bye-bye Van Ryn). Van Ryn had a pretty decent year with the Panthers the year before the lock-out, his first full season as a pro. After the lock-out, his next two seasons were almost as productive, though his goal total did drop from 13 in 2004, to 8 in 2006, to just 4 in 2007. Last year, Van Ryn played just 20 games because of injury problems, tallying only 2 assists. He says he feels "comfortable here already", but first he'll have to prove himself in training camp, and then continue proving himself throughout the season.
The biggest question I have for Mike Van Ryn, is why does every picture of him on the internet show him getting intimate with a bottle of water?

It's a strange thing to be unique for, but I guess the Leafs have seen stranger.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

General Images: Exclusive Festival Cup Photos!

If you missed the summary of the game, my last post has it covered and then some. (I found greener!) As Damien might say, maybe you'll laugh your head off, but then maybe you won't.

The Event
The Festival Cup for Right To Play.

The Opening Face-Off
That really is Mats and that really is Dougie shaking hands at centre ice. Breathtaking.

The first and only star of the game. Still has it.

A Fight!!!
Tim Robbins (see Bob Roberts, and The Player, awesome movies), wearing an Obama '08 jersey, beats up a McCain supporter on team Republican, whoops, I mean, team Red.
Gettin' pounded at a charity game is a bit sad.

The Reunion
Beautiful picture of Sundin and Sir Gary Roberts getting reacquainted during the warm up skate. Two of the most outstanding gentlemen and hockey players to ever play for Toronto. Weird that Sundin has the wrong team's socks on.

The Captain
Despite the fact that the red team squandered a 6-2 lead and lost, 9-8 in a shootout, it was great to see the former Leaf Captain. In fact, it was strikingly like old times. I personally have a great deal of admiration and respect for Sundin as an athelete, and as a person, and I really appreciate the comments he made while he was in town:

"The fans in Toronto certainly deserve to have a team that competes for the Stanley Cup every year. Whatever happens to me — whether I'm not going to play anymore or whatever happens — I think Toronto's always the team in my heart."

Pure class. We know what it's like to come back. We feel it, too.

"... it definitely feels like coming home, for sure."

The Festival's In Town

It wasn't much of a hockey game. "Exhibition" game would be a poor description. This was a charity game. For a good cause, for sure, but it had the energy of an old-timers skill's competition. At one point in the third period, Cujo attempted to stick-handle the length of the ice and made it all the way to the opposing blue line before he was checked off the puck. He also made it back to his crease before anybody threatened the open goal. It was that kind of a game. It was all for a good cause.

I didn't recognize most of the "celebrities" or even some of the NHL low-stars like Wojtek Wolski. Mostly it looked like a bunch of half-baked, pudgy, goofballs floating around the ice. Imagine 40 Kyle Wellwoods and you've got it.

There were a few surprises: Alan Thicke was no-show. It was better that way.

Gilmour left early, sometime in the first period. He wore the "C" for the white team, but I didn't see him at all in the 2nd or 3rd or even after the game.

A wonderful surprise was Sir Gary Roberts wearing the red sweater alongside Sundin, also in red and wearing the "C" in place of Luc Robitaille. It was good to see Sir Gary. I thought of Norte.

Stajan was awful. Does that count as a surprise? I know it was a charity game, but he did nothing to be noticed except when he was dumb, lazy, or clumsy. I'm sorry brothers and sisters, but it doesn't look good. Even Spezza was better and Spezza really sucks. The best player was Draper, I thought, and Avery was allright, but here's what a monkey he is: He deliberately shoots the puck at the goalie after the whistle, then whirls around with a smile on his face, ready to punch someone, in a charity game. He was booed even more then Spezza and Spezza really sucks.

I did take pictures, and I'll post them as soon as I can. Too sleepy.


I didn't keep record of the times for any of these events. At one point, my wife asked me if they were even keeping score. I looked up and said "yes", but was genuinely surprised to see that they were actually stopping the clock between plays.

1st period

Kypreos and Joe Thornton assist on the opening goal. Didn't catch who scored it.

Roberts fires the puck at Cujo really hard. (He ends up doing this several times throughout the game, each time getting a loud ovation.)

Avery misses the net on a penalty shot. The booing begins.

Sundin assists on Luc Robitaille's goal, red team takes a 3-1 lead.

D.B. Sweeny, who sounds like a Boston Bruin, but isn't, makes it 4-1.

2nd period

Popcorn and a soda costs $9.25!

Sir Gary Roberts scores from Sundin and Kypreos to make it 6-2.

Tim Robbins, wearing an Obama '08 jersey, scores on a penalty shot, when the referees pulled the net to the left of the unsuspecting goaltender, helping Robbins and team white on their comeback. It wasn't as bad as the Fraser call, but it was close.

Avery makes a nice pass and someone else scores (how often has that happened? Ladies?) and it's 6-4.

3rd period

Wojtek Wolski scores his second to make it 6-5, Cujo with an assist. Will Wojtek Wolski stwike for a hat-twick. We'll have to wait and see.

Despite really sucking, Spezza ties it, 6-6.

A beautiful pass from Robitaille to smooth skating Jennifer Botterill makes it 7-6, red. A lot of nice features on that line, especially Robitaille, around the eyes.

Spezza ties it again. Stajan is nowhere. Here's what should have happened:

"As Spezza was about to score his second goal of the game late in the third, Stajan catches him with his head down and nails him to the ice. The full impact of his shoulder knocked Spezza's helmet flying, and his consciousness from his body, which lay motionless for some time. What began as a night of charity and goodwill has become Matt Stajan's greatest showcase of his will to succeed and deliver."

The white team goes ahead for the first time with 2:45 remaining, 8-7, on Craig Simpson's goal. The collapse is complete for team red, and its Captain, Sundin, and I start to think about what Ron Wilson said about leadership.

A Too Many Men On The Ice penalty gives red a chance to tie the game. With the extra attacker, Sundin and Draper assist on Derek Roy's goal to make it 8-8. Yawn.

Craig Simpson appears to score for team white with 5 seconds left, but the goal is waived off and disallowed. Total bullshit. (The whole game I'm practically in a panic about Dougie, 'cause he hasn't come out of the dressing room since the 1st.)

Oh no. A Shootout.

Washington's Mike Green scores for team white.
Joe Thornton scores for team red.
Spezza scores but he still really, really sucks.
For red, Derek Roy scores.
For white, funny Tim Robbins scores.
Red: Sweet Jennifer Botterill scores. It's 3-3.
The guy from Blue Rodeo misses.
Here comes D.B. Sweeney: He misses.
Sundin! Out of nowhere! In alone against Joseph...! Misses with the back hand. Anti-climax.
Then somebody for the white team misses.
Then Luc Robitaille misses.
Then someone else misses. Then who cares? Another miss. Shoot-outs suck. They're so boring and retarded. Ah, finally someone scored! Some guy for the white team, doesn't even matter.
And now Joseph makes an easy save and it's over. Joe Bowen, whose comedy stylings kept us entertained throughout the entire evening, announces Cujo as the player of the game. They give him a funny little trophy and everyone crowds around and has their picture taken with it.

And then it's over, and suddenly Sundin is gone. I didn't even see him go or say goodbye. He just vanished. Maybe he was mad about missing on the shootout. Maybe he was concerned about Dougie. Or maybe he just never stopped to consider that this might be the last time he skates off the ice at the ACC because, well, he doesn't need to. It won't be.

Welcome back to Toronto, Mats. One step at a time.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Wilson vs. McCabe Is A First Round TKO

Welcome to Florida, Bryan McCabe. We know your family is gonna love the Sunshine State. Hockey fans in Florida must be really excited to have you on their team and many of them will want to know, how do you feel about the Panthers' chances this season?
"That's why I came here, I really, truly believe they have an opportunity to absolutely make the playoffs and hopefully make a run for the ultimate prize," he said.

Really, absolutely? Truly an opportunity? Making a run at hopefully making the playoffs is what hockey is all about! When you say the "ultimate prize", you mean the Stanley Cup, right? It could be a funny euphemism.
Travel back in time with me now Leaf fans to a date in early June when Ron Wilson was first hired and Paul Hunter(Star) and I(general borschevsky) had strangely similar conversations with the new Leaf head coach.

"I can't guarantee that we're going to make the playoffs this season... The only thing I can guarantee is this team will not accept defeat."

Refreshing honesty. And I liked the part about not accepting defeat. Should we dare to ask? Excuse me, Mr. Wilson, uhm, some of the cool Leaf fans were talking over at this site and I was there and I heard them wondering if you thought we could maybe, hopefully make an "ultimate prize" run for a playoff opportunity or something like that?

"Making the playoffs is not our goal. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Period."

Wow. Man, that is powerful. When you said "Period" it was like you punched me in the eye. It's like - The Wendel Truth, if there is such a thing.

Wait a minute, back to McCabe, is he still there? Hey Bryan, remember the night you scored a goal into your own net, in overtime, no less? I know, sorry to bring it up again, but I'm trying to make a point.
"I try my best. Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. That's the game of hockey. ... I just try to brush it off. I'm not the only one who gets booed."

Oh, for sure. Guys like Sean Avery, Daniel Alfredsson, Gary Bettman - they get booed all the time. Don't take it personal, it just means everyone hates you. And it's beside the point right now. It doesn't matter who put the puck in the net that night. It could have been you, it should have been someone on the other team, but the point is, goals like that can't happen. Third period breakdowns like that can't happen. Ugly collapse after ugly collapse is a reflection of poor leadership and a ... sorry, what's that? Ron Wilson would like to get in here? Yes, Mr. Wilson, you were mentioning something on this subject just the other day, weren't you? Go ahead, Ron.
"The team has struggled in third periods, and rarely does that come from a coach - that comes usually from your top players. ... I've seen this team. I experienced it live last year [during a 3-2 Leafs collapse in San Jose] - a team with a 2-0 lead blowing it in the 3rd period. And if you look at the Leafs last year, there were about 20 times when they did that ... And that's a direct reflection of leadership."

Okay, that's it. Stop and get back to your corners. I've seen more then enough. TKO in the first round. Don't bother getting up, McCabe. This one was over before it began.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

This Is How We Say Goodbye

Exciting news, everyone! Important things are happening and they're happening quickly:

Bryan McCabe is officially no longer a Maple Leaf.

Mats Sundin is back in town for a charity hockey game.

Jaredoflondon has magical powers!

Who is the "interesting mystery personality" that has just been added to the growing list of famous names scheduled to attend the Festival Cup?

And why has no one heard of the Festival Cup before?

So, Cliff had a plan to make the 16th Captain more comfortable, and now Sundin has come back to witness the "final execution" of that masterplan, that is - the realization of a once-considered impossible challenge of dispatching Bryan McCabe to anywhere for anything.

If you admire Sundin and you still want to see him return to the NHL as a Maple Leaf, don't give up hope. The door is still open. For all other teams, however, time has run out. Sundin is nowhere near being ready for opening night, so that eliminates any "group" considering itself a contender.

"I never believed in rental players to start with," Sundin told reporters. "I think if you want to be part of the team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup or a team that is going far in the playoffs, my opinion has always been that you want to be there from training camp or the start of the season to be part of the group."

We know Sundin is not, and will never, ever be, a rental player for a contending team. That leaves only the Leafs and other teams that suck, and I can't imagine him finishing his brilliant career with a half-season on some crappy team, unless for some reason, it's what he dreams about it.

"My dream and the best scenario would be if I ended my career as a Toronto Maple Leaf."

Remember the Dream, Mats. One last time, one more year. Dream.
Here's how it goes down: Cliff says to Mats, "This is what I'm going to do...", then he whispers in Mats' ear. Mats says, "Wow, the whole team! That would be comfortable! Sounds too good to be true and I've been fooled by you guys once before. Call me when it's done. Until then, I'm going fishing." Fletcher's a responsible guy and he can't chase Sundin the way he deserves, so he does the next best thing: he trades the right to do it to Bob Gainey. It's a test of faith, but also a way of flattering Sundin the way he ought to be, by letting someone else do it. Gainey goes to Sweden, Vancouver perpetuates its own fantasy, and meanwhile Fletcher keeps himself busy improving the hockey club.

Sundin never had any desire to play for anyone else, but he also had no desire to waste an entire summer training and conditioning for a team he's not employed to, that owes him no commitment, and may not follow up on its promises. Cliff went to work while Sundin went fishing. Essentially, he retired at that point. Now that Cliff's work is done, Sundin can begin to see if his body is ready for another NHL season, and if his spirit is willing to return to that level. Friday, at the Festival Cup, is Step One.

I'm sure by now everyone is dying of anticipation, wondering who is the "interesting mystery personality" attending the Festival Cup, but first let me point out some important names that have already been announced. Curtis Joseph, Doug Gilmour, Matt Stajan, will all be playing, but there's also Joe Nieuwendyk, not officially participating, but he'll be hangin' around the building somewhere. Both Cujo and Joe are good friends with Sundin and are likely to encourage him one way or another.For Stajan, the game possibly represents a passing of the torch. It is beginning to look more and more like Matt Stajan is being groomed to be the next Captain of the Maple Leafs. While Kaberle has been invisible this summer, Stajan has introduced Leaf fans to a free (promotional) exhibition contest, and is now representing the Leafs at a high profile charity event. One thing is clear: Mats Sundin is no longer the Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, nor will he be on opening night. Sundin may yet return, but the Blood Of My Chief waits for no one. Along with a new "A", there will be a 17th Captain wearing the "C" for that first game. With the departure of McCabe, and the indefinite absence of Sundin, Stajan will have a letter on the front of his sweater, it's just a question of which one.

Exclusive Leafs(sort of)-Hockey-Fan-Related Minor Announcement

And now finally, the moment you've all be waiting for! About to be revealed for the very first time, the "interesting mystery personality" whose name has been added to the exciting list of celebrities and hockey players appearing at the Festival Cup! Joining Mats Sundin, Cujo, Stajan, Doug Gilmour, along with Sean Avery, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza and Steve Stamkos, will be, from Hollywood; Luc Robitaille, Tim Robbins, Alan Thicke and... (if you guessed Kirk Cameron, boy, you are so close!) In fact, the latest addition to this exciting list of names is none other then me, Leaf-blogger extraordinaire, general borschevsky! The guy who's typing what your eyes are reading. Yep, just your usual general borschevsky will be in attendance at the Festival Cup. I will not be participating in the actual game, but I will be surveying and recording the action and events in my mind (or with a notepad, I haven't decided yet) and will post the results as soon as I can. So, probably long after you've already read about it somewhere else.

Thanks for dropping by everybody. Lots more to come!